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Title: Protestantism and Catholicity - Compared in their effects on the civilization of Europe
Author: Balmes, Jaime Luciano
Language: English
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    Second Edition.

    No. 178 MARKET STREET.
    _Sold by Booksellers generally._

 ENTERED, according to the Act of Congress, in the year eighteen
 hundred and fifty, by JOHN MURPHY & CO., in the Clerk's Office of the
 District Court of Maryland.


Among the many and important evils which have been the necessary
result of the profound revolutions of modern times, there appears a
good extremely valuable to science, and which will probably have a
beneficial influence on the human race,--I mean the love of studies
having for their object man and society. The shocks have been so rude,
that the earth has, as it were, opened under our feet; and the human
mind, which, full of pride and haughtiness, but lately advanced on a
triumphal car amid acclamations and cries of victory, has been alarmed
and stopped in its career. Absorbed by an important thought, overcome
by a profound reflection, it has asked itself, "What am I? whence do I
come? what is my destination?" Religious questions have regained their
high importance; and when they might have been supposed to have been
scattered by the breath of indifference, or almost annihilated by the
astonishing development of material interests, by the progress of the
natural and exact sciences, by the continually increasing ardour of
political debates,--we have seen that, so far from having been stifled
by the immense weight which seemed to have overwhelmed them, they have
reappeared on a sudden in all their magnitude, in their gigantic form,
predominant over society, and reaching from the heavens to the abyss.

This disposition of men's minds naturally drew their attention to the
religious revolution of the sixteenth century; it was natural that they
should ask what this revolution had done to promote the interests of
humanity. Unhappily, great mistakes have been made in this inquiry.
Either because they have looked at the facts through the distorted
medium of sectarian prejudice, or because they have only considered
them superficially, men have arrived at the conclusion, that the
reformers of the sixteenth century conferred a signal benefit on the
nations of Europe, by contributing to the development of science, of
the arts, of human liberty, and of every thing which is comprised in
the word _civilization_.

What do history and philosophy say on this subject? How has man,
either individually or collectively, considered in a religious,
social, political, or literary point of view, been benefited by the
reform of the sixteenth century? Did Europe, under the exclusive
influence of Catholicity, pursue a prosperous career? Did Catholicity
impose a single fetter on the movements of civilization? This is the
examination which I propose to make in this work. Every age has its
peculiar wants; and it is much to be wished that all Catholic writers
were convinced, that the complete examination of these questions is
one of the most urgent necessities of the times in which we live.
Bellarmine and Bossuet have done what was required for their times; we
ought to do the same for ours. I am fully aware of the immense extent
of the questions I have adverted to, and I do not flatter myself that I
shall be able to elucidate them as they deserve; but, however this may
be, I promise to enter on my task with the courage which is inspired
by a love of truth; and when my strength shall be exhausted, I shall
sit down with tranquillity of mind, in expectation that another, more
vigorous than myself, will carry into effect so important an enterprise.


The work of Balmes on the comparative influence of Protestantism
and Catholicity on European civilization, which is now presented to
the American public, was written in Spanish, and won for the author
among his own countrymen a very high reputation. A French edition
was published simultaneously with the Spanish, and the work has
since been translated into the Italian and English languages, and
been widely circulated as one of the most learned productions of the
age, and most admirably suited to the exigencies of our times. When
Protestantism could no longer maintain its position in the field of
theology, compelling its votaries by its endless variations to espouse
open infidelity, or to fall back upon the ancient church, it adopted
a new mode of defence, in pointing to its pretended achievements as
the liberator of the human mind, the friend of civil and religious
freedom, the patron of science and the arts; in a word, the active
element in all social ameliorations. This is the cherished idea and
boasted argument of those who attempt to uphold Protestantism as a
system. They claim for it the merit of having freed the intellect of
man from a degrading bondage, given a nobler impulse to enterprise
and industry, and sown in every direction the seed of national and
individual prosperity. Looking at facts superficially, or through the
distorted medium of prejudice, they tell us that the reformers of the
16th century contributed much to the development of science and the
arts, of human liberty, and of every thing which is comprised in the
word _civilization_. To combat this delusion, so well calculated to
ensnare the minds of men in this materialistic and utilitarian age, the
author undertook the work, a translation of which is here presented
to the public. "What do history and philosophy say on this subject?
How has man, either individually or collectively, considered in a
religious, social, political, or literary point of view, been benefited
by the reform of the 16th century? Did Europe, under the exclusive
influence of Catholicity, pursue a prosperous career? Did Catholicity
impose a single fetter on the movements of civilization?" Such is the
important investigation which the author proposed to himself, and
it must be admitted that he has accomplished his task with the most
brilliant success? Possessed of a penetrating mind, cultivated by
profound study and adorned with the most varied erudition, and guided
by a fearless love of truth, he traverses the whole Christian era,
comparing the gigantic achievements of Catholicity, in curing the evils
of mankind, elevating human nature, and diffusing light and happiness,
with the results of which Protestantism may boast; and he proves, with
the torch of history and philosophy in his hand, that the latter, far
from having exerted any beneficial influence upon society, has retarded
the great work of civilization which Catholicity commenced, and which
was advancing so prosperously under her auspicious guidance. He does
not say that nothing has been done for civilization by _Protestants_;
but he asserts and proves that _Protestantism_ has been greatly
unfavorable, and even injurious to it.

By thus exposing the short-comings, or rather evils of Protestantism,
in a social and political point of view, as Bossuet and others had
exhibited them under the theological aspect, Balmes has rendered a
most important service to Catholic literature. He has supplied the
age with a work, which is peculiarly adapted to its wants, and which
must command a general attention in the United States. The Catholic,
in perusing its pages, will learn to admire still more the glorious
character of the faith which he professes: the Protestant, if sincere,
will open his eyes to the incompatibility of his principles with the
happiness of mankind: while the scholar in general will find in it a
vast amount of information, on the most vital and interesting topics,
and presented in a style of eloquence seldom equalled.

"The reader is requested to bear in mind that the author was a native
of Spain, and therefore he must not be surprised to find much that
relates more particularly to that country. In fact, the fear that
Protestantism might be introduced there seems to have been the motive
which induced him to undertake the work. He was evidently a man of
strong national as well as religious feeling, and he dreaded its
introduction both politically and religiously, as he considered that it
would be injurious to his country in both points of view. He thought
that it would destroy the national unity, as it certainly did in other

"A very interesting part of the work is that where he states the
relations of religion and political freedom; shows that Catholicity
is by no means adverse to the latter, but, on the contrary, highly
favorable to it; and proves by extracts from St. Thomas Aquinas
and other great Catholic divines, that they entertained the most
enlightened political views. On the other hand, he shows that
Protestantism was unfavorable to civil liberty, as is evidenced by the
fact, that arbitrary power made great progress in various countries
of Europe soon after its appearance. The reason of this was, that the
moral control of religion being taken away, physical restraint became
the more necessary." The author, on this subject, naturally expresses
a preference for monarchy, it being a cherished inheritance from his
forefathers; but, it will be noticed that the principles which he lays
down as essential to a right administration of civil affairs, regard
the substance and not the form of government; are as necessary under a
republican as under the monarchical system; and, if duly observed, they
cannot fail to ensure the happiness of the people. This portion of the
volume will be read with peculiar interest in this country, and ought
to command an attentive consideration.

In preparing this edition of the work from the English translation by
Messrs. Hanford and Kershaw, care has been taken to revise the whole of
it, to compare it with the original French, and to correct the various
errors, particularly the mistakes in translation. A biographical notice
of the illustrious writer has also been prefixed to the volume, to give
the reader an insight into his eminent character, and the valuable
services he has rendered to his country and to society at large.

BALTIMORE, November 1, 1850.


James Balmes was born at Vich, a small city in Catalonia, in Spain,
on the 28th of August, 1810. His parents were poor, but noted for
their industry and religion, and they took care to train him from his
childhood to habits of rigid piety. Every morning, after the holy
sacrifice of mass, his mother prostrate before an altar dedicated to
St. Thomas of Aquin, implored this illustrious doctor to obtain for
her son the gifts of sanctity and knowledge. Her prayers were not

From seven to ten years of age, Balmes applied himself with great
ardor to the study of Latin. The two following years were devoted to a
course of rhetoric, and three years more were allotted to philosophy;
a ninth year was occupied with the prolegomena of theology. Such was
the order of studies in the seminary of Vich. While thus laboring to
store his mind with knowledge, Balmes preserved an irreproachable line
of conduct. Called to the ecclesiastical state, he submitted readily
to the strict discipline which this vocation required, and he was seen
nowhere but under the parental roof, at the church, in some religious
community, or in the episcopal library. At the age of fourteen he was
admitted to a benefice, the revenue of which, though small, enabled
him to complete his education. In 1826, he went to the University
of Cervera, which at that time was the centre of public instruction
in that part of Spain. It numbered four colleges, in all of which
an enlightened piety prevailed, affording the young Balmes a most
favorable opportunity of developing his rare qualities. Here, the frame
and habit of his mind were observable to all, in his deep and animated
look, in his grave and modest demeanor, and in his method of study. He
would read a few pages over a table, his head resting upon his hands;
then, wrapt in his mantle, he would spend a long time in reflection.
"The true method of study," he used to say, "is to read little, to
select good authors, and to think much. If we confined ourselves to
a knowledge of what is contained in books, the sciences would never
advance a step. We must learn what others have not known. During my
meditations in the dark, my thoughts ferment, and my brain burns like a
boiling cauldron."

Devoted to the acquisition of knowledge, he cultivated retirement as
a means of facilitating the attainment of his object. His thirst for
learning was so intense, that it held him under absolute sway, and he
found it necessary at a later period to offer a systematic resistance
to its exclusive demands. Pursuing his favorite method of study,
Balmes remained four years at the University of Cervera, reading no
other works than the Sum of St. Thomas, and the commentaries upon it
by Bellarmine, Suarez and Cajetan. If he made any exception from this
rule, it was in favor of Chateaubriand's _Génie du Christanisme_.
"Every thing," said he, "is to be found in St. Thomas; philosophy,
religion, politics: his writings are an inexhaustible mine." Having
thus strengthened his mind by a due application to philosophical and
theological studies, he proceeded to enlarge his sphere of knowledge
by reading a greater variety of authors. In taking up a work, he first
looked at the table of contents, and when it suggested an idea or fact
which seemed to open before him a new path, he read that part of the
volume which developed this idea or fact; the rest was overlooked.
In this way, he accumulated a rich store of varied erudition. At
the age of twenty-two he knew by memory the tabular contents of an
extraordinary number of volumes; he had learned the French language;
he spoke and wrote Latin better than his native tongue, and had been
admitted successively to the degrees of bachelor and licentiate in
theology. The virtues of his youth, far from having been weakened
by these studies, had acquired greater strength and maturity. As he
approached the solemn period of his ordination, he became still more
remarkable for the gravity and modesty of his deportment. He prepared
himself for his elevation to the priesthood by a retreat of one hundred
days. After his promotion to the sacerdotal dignity, which took place
in his native city, he returned to the University of Cervera, where he
continued his studies, and performed the duties of assistant professor.
Here also he began to manifest his political views; but, always with
that discretion and moderation for which the Spanish clergy have been
with few exceptions distinguished during the last twenty years. At that
period Spain was agitated by two conflicting parties, that of Maria
Christina and the other of Don Carlos. Balmes avoided all questions
which were rather calculated to encourage the spirit of faction than
promote the general interest of the country. In 1835 he evinced this
circumspection in a remarkable degree, when the doctorate which had
been conferred upon him, required him to deliver an address in honor
of the reigning monarch. Maria Christina was then the queen regent,
and civil war was about to commence in the mountains of Catalonia; but
Balmes performed his task without allusion to politics, and without
offending the adherents of either party.

After two years of study at Cervera, where he applied himself to
theology and law, our author returned to Vich, where he determined
to spend four years more in retirement, for the purpose of maturing
his character and knowledge. In this solitude, he devoted himself to
history, poetry and politics, but principally to mathematics, of which
he obtained a professorship in 1837. During all these literary labors,
Balmes was actuated by a lively faith, and a sincere, unassuming piety.
Religious meditation, intermingled with scientific reflections, was
the constant occupation of his mind; he did not neglect, however, the
exterior practices of devotion. Besides the celebration of the holy
sacrifice, he frequently visited the blessed sacrament, and paid his
homage to the B. Virgin in some solitary chapel. The _Following of
Christ_, the _Sum_ of the angelic doctor, and the Holy Scriptures,
were always in his hands, and he took pleasure in reading the ascetic
writers of his own country. In this way did he prepare himself, until
the age of thirty, to become one of the most solid and gifted minds
of our time, and to act the important part to which he was called by
Divine Providence.

The first literary effort of Balmes before the public, was a prize
essay which he wrote on clerical celibacy. This was soon followed by
another production of his pen, entitled "Observations on the Property
of the Clergy, in a social, political, and commercial point of view,"
which was elicited by the clamoring of the revolutionary army under
Espartero for the spoliation of the clergy. The learning, philosophy
and eloquence of the writer in this work, excited the wonder and
admiration of the most distinguished statesmen in the country. Some
months after, he published his "Political Considerations on the
Condition of Spain," in which he had the courage to defend the rights
of both parties in the country, and to suggest means of a conciliatory
nature for restoring public order and tranquillity.

Amidst these political efforts, Balmes did not lay aside his peculiar
functions as a minister of God. The edification of the faithful, the
religious instruction of youth, and the defence of the faith against
the assaults of heresy and rationalism, were constant objects of his
attention. During the same year, 1840, he translated and published
the "Maxims of St. Francis of Sales for every day in the year;" he
also composed a species of catechism for the instruction of young
persons, which was very extensively circulated. At the same time he
undertook the preparation of the present work, in order to counteract
the pernicious influence exerted among his countrymen by Guizot's
lectures on European civilization, and to neutralize the facilities
offered under the regime of Espartero for the success of a Protestant
Propagandism in Spain. The occasion and object of this work rendered it
expedient that it should be published simultaneously in Spanish and in
French, and with this view our author visited France, and afterwards,
to extend his observations, passed into England.

On his return to Barcelona, towards the close of 1842, Balmes became a
collaborator in the editing of the _Civilizacion_, a monthly periodical
of great merit, devoted to literary reviews, and to solid instruction
on the current topics of the day. His connection with this work lasted
only eighteen months. He then commenced a review of his own, entitled
the _Sociedad_, a philosophical, political, and religious journal,
which acquired a great reputation during the one year of its existence.
Driven soon after into retirement by the disturbances of the times,
Balmes composed another philosophical work, _El Criterio_, which is a
course of logic adapted to every capacity.

From the national uprising that overthrew the government of Espartero,
there arose a general feeling of patriotic independence, which called
for the cessation of civil strife, and the harmonizing of the two
parties that divided the nation. Many of the adherents of Maria
Christina, who were the nobility and the bourgeoisie, recognized the
excesses of the revolutionary faction which they had called to their
aid, while the Carlists were not all in favor of absolute monarchy, and
numbered an imposing majority among the lower classes. All these men of
wise and moderate views longed to see a remedy applied to the wounds
of their afflicted country; and with one accord they turned their
eyes upon Balmes, as the only individual capable of conducting this
important affair. He had already, in his _Political Considerations_,
indicated the principal idea of his policy for putting an end to the
national evils; it was a matrimonial alliance between the Queen and
the son of Don Carlos. Under these circumstances he commenced in
February, 1844, a new journal, entitled _Pensamiento de la Nacion_,
the object of which was to denounce the revolutionary spirit as the
enemy of all just and peaceful government, and to inspire the Spanish
people with a proper reverence for the religious, social and political
inheritance received from their ancestors, and with a due respect for
the reasonable ameliorations of the age. In this spirit the different
questions of the day were discussed with energy and calmness, and
especially the project of an alliance between the Queen and the son
of Don Carlos, which Balmes considered of the utmost importance.
This measure, such as he proposed it, was, to use the language of
his biographer, "the reconciliation of the past and the future, of
authority and liberty, of monarchy and representative government."
Such was the patriotism, dignity and force, with which our author
conducted his hebdomadal, that it won the esteem of a large portion of
the most distinguished men among the Carlists, while it also acquired
favor among an immense number in the opposite party. To support its
views, a daily journal, the _Conciliador_, was started by a body of
young but fervid and brilliant writers, and nothing it would seem was
wanting to insure a triumph for the friends of Spain. Prudence, energy,
moderation, reason and eloquence, with a majority of the people on
their side, deserved and should have commanded success; but they could
not prevail against diplomatic influence and court intrigue. Balmes
learned with equal surprise and affliction, in the retirement of his
native mountains, that the government had resolved to offer the Queen
in marriage to the infant Don Francisco, and the infanta to the Duke
of Montpensier. This was a severe stroke to the sincere and ardent
patriotism of Balmes. He might have resisted this policy with the power
and eloquence of his pen, but he preferred a silent resignation to the
heat of political strife, and the _Pensamiento de la Nacion_, although
a lucrative publication, was discontinued on the 31st of December, 1846.

During that same year, our author collected into one volume his
various essays on politics, as well for his own vindication as for
the diffusion of sound instruction on the condition of Spain. The
following year he completed his "Elementary course of Philosophy."
But his physical strength was not equal to these arduous labors. To
re-establish in some degree his declining health, he travelled in Spain
and France, and remained several weeks in Paris. The intellectual and
moral corruption which was gnawing at the very vitals of the French
nation, and threatened all Europe with its infection, filled him with
increased anxiety. He predicted the dissolution of society, and a
return to barbarism, unless things would take some unexpected turn
through the special interposition of Providence. This last hope was
the only resource left, in his opinion, for the salvation of society
and civilization, and he exulted when he beheld Pius IX opening a new
career for Italy, and consecrating the aspirations and movements of all
who advocated legitimate reform and rational liberty. The political
ameliorations, however, of the sovereign Pontiff appeared to the
opponents of liberalism in Spain, at variance with the great opposition
which Balmes had always exhibited to the revolutionary spirit. Hence,
it became necessary for him to pay the just tribute of his admiration
to the illustrious individual who sat in the chair of Peter, and to
proclaim the eminent virtues of the prince and the pontiff. This he
did with surpassing eloquence, in a brochure entitled _Pius IX_, the
brilliant style of which is only equalled by its wisdom of thought. In
this work, he sketches with graphic pen, the acts of the papal policy,
showing that the holy see is the best guide of men in the path of
liberty and progress, that Pius IX shows a profound knowledge of the
evils that afflict society, and possesses all the energy and firmness
necessary to apply their proper remedy. Balmes was full of hope for the
future, in contemplating the course of the great head of the church,
and he cherished this hope to the last moment of his life. His essay on
the policy of Pius IX was the last production of his pen. His career
in literature was brief, but brilliant and effective. Eight years only
had elapsed since his appearance as a writer, and he had labored with
eminent success in every department of knowledge. The learned divine,
the profound philosopher, the enlightened publicist, he has stamped
upon his age the impress of his genius, and bequeathed to posterity
a rich legacy in his immortal works. In the moral as well as in the
intellectual point of view, his merit may be summed up in those words
of _Wisdom_: "Being made perfect in a short space, he fulfilled a long
time." chap. iv.

This distinguished ecclesiastic, the boast of the Spanish clergy and
the Catalan people, died at Vich, his native city, on the 9th of July,
1848, in the same spirit of lively faith and fervent piety which had
always marked his life. His funeral took place on the 11th, with all
the pomp that could be furnished by the civil and ecclesiastical
authorities. The municipality decreed that one of the public places
should be named after him.

Balmes was little below the middle height, and of weak and slender
frame. But the appearance of feeble health which he exhibited, was
combatted by the animation of his looks. His forehead and lips bore
the impress of energy, which was to be seen also in his eyes, black,
deep-set, and of unusual brightness. The expression of his countenance
was a mixture of vivacity, openness, melancholy and strength of mind.
A careful observer of all his sacerdotal duties, he found in the
practices of piety, the vigor which he displayed in his intellectual
labors. The distribution of his time was extremely methodical, and his
pleasures consisted only in the society of his friends. To the prospect
of temporal honors and the favor of the great, he was insensible;
neither did he seek after ecclesiastical dignities or literary
distinctions. His aim was the diffusion of truth, not the acquisition
of a great reputation. These qualities, however, with his eminent
talents, varied erudition, and invaluable writings, have won for him a
universal fame.




 What ought to be attributed to the genius of its founders--Different
 causes assigned for it--Errors on this subject--Opinions of Guizot--Of
 Bossuet--True cause of Protestantism to be found in the social
 condition of European nations,                                   28


 Divinity of the Catholic Church proved by its relations with the human
 mind--Remarkable acknowledgment of M. Guizot--Consequences of that
 acknowledgment,                                                  38


 Protestantism contains a principle of dissolution--It tends naturally
 to destroy all faith--Dangerous direction given to the human
 mind--Description of the human mind,                             42


 Instinct of faith--This instinct extends to all the
 sciences--Newton, Descartes--Observations on the history of
 philosophy--Proselytism--Present condition of the human mind,    46


 Important error committed by Protestantism, with regard to the
 religious government of the human mind,                          50


 Two opposite evils, fruits of Protestantism--Origin of fanaticism--The
 Church has prepared the history of the human mind--Private
 interpretation of the Bible--Passage from O'Callaghan--Description of
 the Bible,                                                       53


 Connexion between fanaticism and religious feeling--Impossibility of
 destroying it--Means of diminishing it--The Church has used these
 means, and with what result?--Observations on the pretended Catholic
 fanatics--Description of the religious excitement of the founders of
 orders in the Church,                                            57


 Lamentable symptoms of these from the beginning of
 Protestantism--Remarkable religious crisis in the latter part of the
 seventeenth century--Bossuet and Leibnitz--The Jansenists--Their
 influence--Dictionary of Bayle--The epoch when that work
 appeared--State of opinions among the Protestants,               60


 Important question with regard to the continuance of
 Protestantism--Religious indifference with respect to man collectively
 and individually--European societies with relation to Mahometanism and
 idolatry--How Catholicity and Protestantism are capable of defending
 the truth--Intimate connexion between Christianity and European
 civilization,                                                    64


 Doctrines of Protestantism divided into positive and negative--Singular
 phenomenon: one of the principal dogmas of the founders of
 Protestantism repugnant to European civilization--Eminent service which
 Catholicity has done to civilization by defending free will--Nature of
 error--Nature of truth,                                          68


 Present state of religious ideas in Europe--Victories of
 religion--State of science and literature--Condition of modern
 society--Conjectures on the future influence of Catholicity--Is
 it probable that Protestantism will be introduced into
 Spain?--England--Her connexion with Spain--Pitt--Nature of religious
 ideas in Spain--Situation of Spain--How she may be regenerated,  70


 Commencement of the parallel--Liberty--Vague meaning of the
 word--European civilization chiefly due to Catholicity--East
 and West--Conjectures on the destinies of Catholicity amid the
 catastrophies that may threaten in Europe--Observations on
 philosophical studies--Fatalism of a certain modern historical school,


 Condition, religious, social, and scientific, of the world at
 the appearance of Christianity--Roman law--The influence of
 Christian ideas thereon--Evils of the political organization of the
 empire--System adopted by Christianity; her first care was to change
 ideas--Christianity and Paganism with regard to the teaching of moral
 doctrines--Protestant preaching,                                 84


 The Church was not only a great and productive school, but she was
 also a regenerating association--What she had to do--Difficulties
 which she had to overcome--Slavery--By whom was it abolished?--Opinion
 of M. Guizot--Immense number of the slaves--Caution necessary in the
 abolition of slavery--Was immediate abolition possible?--Refutation of
 the opinion of M. Guizot,                                        90


 The Catholic Church not only employs her doctrines, her maxims, and
 her spirit of charity, but also makes use of practical means in
 the abolition of slavery--Point of view in which this historical
 fact ought to be considered--False ideas of the ancients on the
 subject--Homer, Plato, Aristotle--Christianity began forthwith to
 combat these errors--Christian doctrines on the connexion between
 master and slave--The Church employs herself in improving the
 condition of slaves,                                             94


 1st. She zealously defends the liberty of the
 enfranchised--Manumission in the churches--Effects of this
 practice--2d. Redemption of captives--Zeal of the Church in practising
 and extending the redemption of captives--Prejudices of the Romans on
 this point--The zeal of the Church for this object contributes, in an
 extraordinary degree, to the abolition of slavery--The Church protects
 the liberty of the free,                                        102


 3d. System of the Church with regard to slaves belonging to
 Jews--Motives which actuated the Church in the enfranchisement of
 her own slaves--Her indulgence to them--Her generosity towards
 the freed--The slaves of the Church considered as consecrated to
 God--Salutary effects of this way of viewing them--4th. Liberty is
 granted to those who wish to embrace the monastic state--Effects of
 this practice--Conduct of the Church with regard to the ordination of
 slaves--Abuses introduced in this respect checked--Discipline of the
 Spanish Church on this point,                                   106


 Doctrine of St. Augustin on this subject--Importance of this
 doctrine with respect to the abolition of slavery--Refutation of
 M. Guizot--Doctrine of St. Thomas on the same subject--Marriage
 of slaves--Regulation of canon law on that subject--Résumé of the
 means employed by the Church in the abolition of slavery--Refutation
 of M. Guizot--The abolition of slavery exclusively due to
 Catholicity--Protestantism had no share therein,                111


 Picture of modern civilization--Civilizations not
 Christian--Civilization is composed of three elements: the individual,
 the family, and the society--The perfectness of these three elements
 depends on the perfectness of doctrines,                        115


 Distinction between the individual and the citizen--Of the
 individuality of barbarians according to M. Guizot--Whether
 in antiquity individuality belonged exclusively to the
 barbarians--Twofold principle of the feeling of personal
 independence--This feeling infinitely modified--Picture of barbarian
 life--True character of individuality among the barbarians--Avowal of
 M. Guizot--The feeling of individuality, according to the definition
 of M. Guizot, belongs in a certain way to all the ancient nations,


 Respect for _man_ unknown to the ancients--What has been seen
 in modern revolutions--Tyranny of public power over private
 interests--Explanation of a twofold phenomenon, which presents itself
 to us in antiquity and in modern societies not Christian--Opinion of
 Aristotle--Remarkable characteristic of modern democracy,       126


 The feeling of true independence was possessed by the faithful of the
 primitive Church--Error of M. Guizot on this point: 1st, dignity of
 conscience sustained by the Christian society; 2d, feeling of duty;
 language of St. Cyprian; 3d, development of the interior life; 4th,
 defence of free will by the Catholic Church--Conclusion,        131


 Woman ennobled by Catholicity alone--Practical means employed by
 the Church to raise woman--Christian doctrine on the dignity of
 woman--Monogamy--Different conduct of Catholicity and Protestantism on
 this point--Firmness of Rome with respect to marriage--Effects of that
 firmness--Doctrine of Luther--Indissolubility of marriage--Of divorce
 among Protestants--Effects of Catholic doctrine with regard to this
 sacrament,                                                      135


 Pretended rigor of Catholicity with respect to unhappy marriages--Two
 systems of governing the passions--Protestant system--Catholic
 system--Examples--Passion of gambling--Explosion of the passions
 in time of public troubles--Of the passion of love--Its
 inconstancy--Marriage alone is not a sufficient control--What is
 wanted to make it a control--Of the unity and fixity of Catholic
 doctrine--Conclusion,                                           140


 Of the ennoblement of woman by virginity--Conduct of Protestantism on
 this point--Close analysis of the heart of woman--Of virginity with
 respect to population--England--Serious thoughts required for the mind
 of woman--Salutary influence of monastic customs--General method of
 appreciation,                                                   146


 The life of feudal lords according to M. Guizot--The passions and
 faith in chivalry--Chivalry did not ennoble woman, it supposed her
 to be ennobled--Of the respect of the Germans for woman--Analysis
 of a passage of Tacitus--Reflections on that historian--It is
 difficult thoroughly to understand the manners of the Germans--Action
 of Catholicity--Important distinction between Christianity and
 Catholicity--That the Germans of themselves were incapable of giving
 dignity to woman,                                               150


 What the public conscience is--Influence of the feelings on the
 public conscience in general--Education contributes to form the
 conscience--State of the public conscience in modern times--What has
 been able to form the public conscience in Europe--Successive contests
 maintained by Christian morality,                               157


 Institution of censors according to Montesquieu--Two kinds of
 prejudice in the author of the _Esprit des Lois_--He assigns
 honor as the principle of monarchies, and virtue as that of
 republics--Explanation of the feeling of honor--What is required
 to strengthen this feeling--The censorial power replaced by the
 religious--Examples--Contrasts,                                 161


 Catholicity considered as a creed--As an institution--Ideas, in
 order to be efficacious, must be realized in an institution--What
 Protestantism has done to destroy Christian morality--What it has
 done to preserve it--What is the real power of preaching among
 Protestants--Of the sacrament of penance with relation to the public
 conscience--Of the degree to which the Catholic religion raises
 morality--Of unity in the soul--Unity simplifies--Of the great
 number of moralists within the bosom of the Catholic Church--Of the
 peculiar force of ideas--Distinction between ideas with respect to
 their peculiar force--Whether the human race is a faithful depositary
 of the truth--How the truth has been preserved among the Jews--The
 native power of Schools--Institutions are required, not only to
 teach, but also to apply doctrines--Of the press with relation to the
 preservation of ideas--Of intuition--Of discourses,             165


 Wherein gentleness of manners consists--Difference between gentle
 and effeminate manners--Influence of the Catholic Church in
 softening manners--Pagan and Christian societies--Slavery--Paternal
 authority--Public games--Reflections on Spanish bull-fights,    172


 Elements adapted to perpetuate harshness of manners in the bosom of
 modern society--Conduct of the Church in this respect--Remarkable
 canons and facts--St. Ambrose and the Emperor Theodosius--The Truce of
 God--Very remarkable regulations of the ecclesiastical authority on
 this subject,                                                   175


 Difference between Protestantism and Catholicity with respect to
 public beneficence--Paradox of Montesquieu--Remarkable canons of the
 Church--Injury done by Protestantism to the development of public
 beneficence--The value of philanthropy,                         184


 The question of intolerance has been examined with bad faith--What
 tolerance is--Tolerance of opinions--Of error--Tolerance in the
 individual--With religious men--With unbelievers--Two kinds of
 religious men--Two kinds of unbelievers--Tolerance in society--What
 is its origin?--Source of the tolerance which prevails in society at
 present,                                                        189


 Intolerance is a general fact in history--Dialogues with the
 partisans of universal tolerance--Does there exist a right
 of punishing doctrines?--Researches into the origin of that
 right--Disastrous influence of Protestantism and infidelity in this
 matter--Of the importance which Catholicity attaches to the sin of
 heresy--Inconsistency of certain timid Voltairians--Another reflection
 on the right of punishing doctrines--Résumé,                    196


 Institutions and legislation founded on intolerance--Causes of the
 rigor displayed in the early times of the Inquisition--Three epochs in
 the history of the Inquisition in Spain: against the Jews and Moors;
 against the Protestants; against the unbelievers--Severities of the
 Inquisition--Causes of those severities--Conduct of the Popes in that
 matter--Mildness of the Roman Inquisition--The intolerance of Luther
 with respect to the Jews--The Moors and Moriscoes,              203


 New Inquisition attributed to Philip II.--Opinion of M.
 Lacordaire--Prejudice against Philip II.--Observations on the work
 called _Inquisition Dévoilée_--Rapid _coup d'œil_ at the
 second epoch of the Inquisition--Trial of Carranza--Observation on
 this trial, and on the personal qualities of the illustrious
 accused--Why there is so much partiality against Philip II.--Reflections
 on the policy of that monarch--Singular anecdote of a preacher who was
 compelled to retract--Reflections on the influence of the spirit of the
 age,                                                            210


 Conduct of Protestantism with respect to religious
 institutions--Whether these institutions have been of importance
 in history--Sophism on the subject of the real origin of religious
 institutions--Their correct definition--Of association among the early
 faithful--The faithful dispersed in the deserts--Relations between the
 Papacy and religious institutions--Of an essential want of the human
 heart--Of Christian pensiveness--Of the need of associations for the
 practice of perfection--Of vows--A vow is the most perfect act of
 liberty--True notion of liberty,                                219


 Character of religious institutions in a historical point of view--The
 Roman empire--The barbarians--The early Christians--Condition of the
 Church when Christianity ascended the throne of the Cæsars--Life of
 the fathers of the desert--Influence of the solitaries on philosophy
 and manners--The heroism of penance saves morality--The most
 corrupting climate chosen for the triumph of the most austere virtues,


 Influence of monasteries in the East--Why civilization triumphed
 in the West and perished in the East--Influence of the Eastern
 monasteries on Arabian civilization,                            234


 Peculiar character of religious institutions in the West--St.
 Benedict--Struggle of the monks against the decline of things--Origin
 of monastic property--The possessions of the monks serve to
 create respect for property--Population becomes spread over the
 country--Science and letters in cloisters Gratian--arouses the study
 of law,                                                         238


 Character of the military orders--Opinion of the Crusades--The
 foundation of the military orders is a continuation of the Crusades,


 Transformation of the monastic spirit in the thirteenth
 century--Religious institutions arise every where--Character of
 European opposed to that of other civilizations--Mixture of various
 elements in the spirit of the thirteenth century--Semi-barbarous
 society--Christianity and barbarism--A delusion common in the study
 of history--Condition of Europe at the beginning of the thirteenth
 century--Wars become more popular--Why the intellectual movement
 began in Spain sooner than in the rest of Europe--Ebullition of
 evil during the course of the twelfth century--Tanchème--Eon--The
 Manichees--Vaudois--Religious movement at the beginning of the
 thirteenth century--The mendicant and preaching orders--The character
 of these orders--Their influence--Their relations with the Papacy,


 Multitude of Christians reduced to slavery--Religious orders for the
 redemption of captives were necessary--The Order of the Trinity and
 that of Mercy--St. Peter Armengol,                              256


 Effects of Protestantism on the progress of civilization in the world,
 beginning with the sixteenth century--What enabled civilization,
 during the middle ages, to triumph over barbarism--Picture of Europe
 at the beginning of the sixteenth century--The civilizing missions
 of the 16th century interrupted by the schism of Luther--Why the
 action of the Church on barbarous nations has lost power during
 three centuries--Whether the Christianity of our days is less
 adapted to propagate the faith than that of the early ages of the
 Church--Christian missions in the early times of the Church--What the
 real mission of Luther has been,                                260


 Their importance in the history of European civilization--Causes of
 the hatred which has been excited against them--Character of the
 Jesuits--Contradiction of M. Guizot on this subject--Whether it be
 true, as M. Guizot says, that the Jesuits have destroyed nations in
 Spain--Facts and dates--Unjust accusations against the Company of
 Jesus,                                                          268


 Present state of religious institutions--Picture of society--Inability
 of industry and commerce to satisfy the heart of man--Condition
 of minds with respect to religion--Religious institutions will
 be necessary to save existing society--Nothing fixed in that
 society--Means are wanting for social organization--The march of
 European nations has been perverted--Physical means of restraining the
 masses--Moral means are required--Religious institutions reconcilable
 with the advancement of modern times,                           274


 Rousseau--The Protestants Divine law--Origin of power--False
 interpretation of the divine law--St. John Chrysostom--On paternal
 authority--Relations between paternal authority and civil power,


 Doctrines of theologians on the origin of society--The character
 of Catholic theologians compared to that of modern writers--St.
 Thomas--Bellarmin--Suarez--St. Alphonsus de Liguori--Father
 Concina--Billuart--The _Compendium_ of Salamanca,          288


 On the divine law--Divine origin of civil power--In what manner
 God communicates this power--Rousseau--On pacts--The right of life
 and death--The right of war--Power must necessarily emanate from
 God--Puffendorf--Hobbes,                                        298


 _Direct_ or _indirect_ communication of civil power--The
 distinction between the two opinions important in some respects; in
 others, not so--Why Catholic theologians have so zealously maintained
 the doctrine of mediate communication,                          305


 Influence of doctrines on society--Flattery lavished on power--Danger
 of this flattery--Liberty of speech on this point in Spain during the
 last three centuries--Mariana--Saavedra--In the absence of religion
 and morality, the most rigorous political doctrines are incapable
 of saving society--Why the conservative schools of our days are
 powerless--Seneca--Cicero--Hobbes--Bellarmin,                   311


 Of the faculties of civil power--Calumnies of the enemies of the
 Church--Definition of _law_ according to St. Thomas--General reason
 and general will--The venerable Palafox--Hobbes--Grotius--The
 doctrines of certain Protestants favorable to despotism--Justification
 of the Catholic Church,                                         317


 Of resistance to the civil power--Parallel between Protestantism
 and Catholicity on this point--Unfounded apprehensions of certain
 minds--Attitude of revolutions in this age--The principle
 inculcated by Catholicity on the obligation of obeying the lawful
 authorities--Preliminary questions--Difference between the two
 powers--Conduct of Catholicity and Protestantism with regard to the
 separation of the two powers--The independence of the spiritual
 power a guarantee of liberty to the people--Extremes which meet--The
 doctrine of St. Thomas on obedience,                            324


 Governments existing merely _de facto_--Right of resistance to
 these governments--Napoleon and the Spanish nation--Fallacy of the
 doctrine establishing the obligation of obedience to mere _de facto_
 governments--Investigation of certain difficulties--Accomplished
 facts--How we are to understand the respect due to accomplished facts,


 On resistance to lawful authority--The doctrines of the Council
 of Constance on the assassination of a king--A reflection on the
 inviolability of kings--Extreme cases--Doctrine of St. Thomas of
 Aquin, Cardinal Bellarmin, Suarez, and other theologians--The Abbé
 de Lamennais' errors--He is wrong in imagining that his doctrine,
 condemned by the Pope, is the same as St. Thomas of Aquin's--A
 parallel between the doctrines of St. Thomas and those of the Abbé
 de Lamennais--A word on the temporal power of the Popes--Ancient
 doctrines on resistance to power--Language of the Counsellors of
 Barcelona--The doctrine of certain theologians on the case of the
 Sovereign Pontiff's falling into heresy in his private capacity--Why
 the Church has been calumniously accused of being sometimes favorable
 to despotism, and sometimes to anarchy,                         336


 The Church and political forms--Protestantism and liberty--Language of
 M. Guizot--The state of the question better defined--Europe at the end
 of the fifteenth century--Social aristocracy, and democracy,    343


 The idea entertained of monarchy at this period--The application of
 this idea--Difference between monarchy and despotism--The nature of
 monarchy at the commencement of the sixteenth century--Its relations
 with the Church,                                                346


 The nobility and the clergy--The differences between these two
 aristocracies--The nobility and monarchy--Differences between them--An
 intermediate class between the throne and the people--The causes of
 the fall of the nobility,                                    348


 The opinion entertained of democracy--The prevailing doctrines
 of that epoch--The doctrines of Aristotle neutralised by the
 teaching of Christianity--On castes--A passage from M. Guizot on
 castes--Influence of the celibacy of the clergy in preventing an
 hereditary succession--The consequences resulting from a married
 clergy--Catholicity and the people--Development of the industrial
 classes in Europe--The Hanseatic Confederation--_Establishment of
 the trades-corporations of Paris_--Industrial movement in Italy and
 Spain--Calvinism and the democratic element--Protestantism and the
 democrats of the sixteenth century,                             350


 Value of political forms--Catholicity and liberty--Monarchy was
 essential--Character of European monarchy--Difference between
 Europe and Asia--Quotation from Count de Maistre--An institution
 for the limiting of power--Political liberty not indebted to
 Protestantism--Influence of Councils--The aristocracy of talent
 encouraged by the Church,                                       356


 Monarchy in the sixteenth century is strengthened in Europe--Its
 preponderance over free institutions--Why the word _liberty_ is a
 scandal to some people--Protestantism contributed to the destruction
 of popular institutions,                                        361


 Two sorts of democracy--Their parallel march in the history
 of Europe--Their characters--Their causes and effects--Why
 absolutism became necessary in Europe--Historical
 facts--France--England--Sweden--Denmark--Germany,               364


 Contest between monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy--How monarchy
 came to prevail--Fatal effects of the weakening of the political
 influence of the clergy--Advantages which might have arisen from this
 influence to popular institutions--Relations of the clergy with all
 powers and classes of society,                                  370


 Parallel between the political doctrines of the eighteenth century,
 those of modern publicists, and those which prevailed in Europe before
 the appearance of Protestantism--Protestantism has prevented the
 homogeneity of European civilization--Historical proofs,        374


 Catholicity and politics in Spain--Real state of the question--Five
 causes contributed to the overthrow of popular institutions in
 Spain--Difference between ancient and modern liberty--The _Communeros_
 of Castille--The policy of her kings--Ferdinand the Catholic and
 Ximenes--Charles V.--Philip II.,                                377


 Political liberty and religious intolerance--Europe was developed
 under the exclusive influence of Catholicity--Picture of Europe from
 the eleventh to the fourteenth century--Condition of the social
 problem at the end of the fifteenth century--Temporal power of the
 Popes--Its character, origin, and effects,                      382


 It is false that unity of faith is opposed to political
 liberty--Impiety is allied with liberty or despotism, according to
 circumstances--Modern revolutions--Difference between the revolution
 of the United States and that of France--Pernicious effects of the
 French revolution--Liberty impossible without morality--Remarkable
 passage from St. Augustin on forms of government,               388


 Catholicity in its relations with intellectual development--What
 is the influence of the principle of submission to
 authority--What are the effects of this principle with
 respect to all the sciences--Parallel between ancients and
 moderns--God--Man--Society--Nature,                             392


 Historical investigation of the influence of Catholicity on the
 development of the human mind--Refutation of one of M. Guizot's
 opinions--John Erigena--Roscelin and Abelard--St. Anselm,       398


 Religion and the human intellect in Europe--Difference between the
 intellectual development of the nations of antiquity and those
 of Europeans--Causes that have accelerated this development in
 Europe--Origin of the spirit of subtilty--Service which the Church
 rendered to the human mind by her opposition to the subtilties of the
 innovators--Parallel between Roscelin and St. Anselm--Reflections on
 St. Bernard--St. Thomas of Aquin--Advantage of his dictatorship in the
 schools--Advent of St. Thomas in the middle ages of immense advantage
 to me human mind,                                               404


 Progress of the human mind from the eleventh century to our own
 times--Different phases--Protestantism and Catholicity in their
 relations to learning, to criticism, to the learned languages, to the
 foundation of universities, to the progress of literature and the
 arts, to mysticism, to high philosophy, to metaphysics, to ethics, to
 religious philosophy, and to the philosophy of history,         412


 Summary of the work--The author submits it to the judgment of the
 Roman Church,                                                   419






   1   421. Gibbon and Bossuet's History of the Variations.

   2   421. Intolerance of Luther and the other Coryphæi of

   3   421. Origin of the name Protestantism.

   4   422. Observations on names.

   5   422. Of abuses in the Church.

   6   423. Of the unity and harmonious action of Catholicism--Happy
            idea of St. Francis of Sales.

   7   423. Acknowledgments of the most distinguished Protestants with
            regard to its weakness--Luther, Melancthon, Beza, Calvin,
            Grotius, Papin, Puffendorf and Leibnitz--Of a posthumous
            work by Leibnitz on religion.

   8   424. On human knowledge--Louis Vives.

   9   425. On mathematics--Eximeno, a Spanish Jesuit.

  10  425. Heresies of the early ages--their character.

  11  425. Superstition and fanaticism of Protestantism--Luther's devil,
           Zwinglius's phantom, Melancthon's prognostics, Mathias
           Harlem, the Tailor of Leyden, King of Sion; Hermann, Nicholas
           Hacket, and others, visionaries and fanatics.

  12  427. Visions of Catholics--St. Theresa, her visions.

  13  428. Bad faith of the founders of Protestantism--Passages proving
           this--Ravages committed by incredulity after that
           time--Gruet--Remarkable passages from Montaigne.

  14  429. Extravagance of the early heresies, a proof of the state of
           knowledge in those times.

  15  430. Canons and other documents which shew the solicitude of the
           Church to improve the lot of slaves, and the various means
           which she used to complete the abolition of slavery.
           § 1. Canons intended to improve the lot of slaves.
           § 2. Canons intended to defend the freed, and to protect
                those who were recommended to the Church.
           § 3. Canons and other documents relating to the redemption
                of captives.
           § 4. Canons relating to the protection of the freed.

      436. § 5. Canons concerning the slaves of Jews.
           § 6. Canons concerning the enfranchisement of the slaves of
                the Church.
           § 7. Conduct of the Church with regard to modern
                slavery--Apostolic letters of St. Gregory XVI.--Slave
                trade--Doctrine, conduct, and influence of the Church
                with regard to the abolition of the trade, and of
                slavery in the Colonies--Passage from Robertson.

  16  442. Doctrines of Plato and Aristotle touching infanticide--Their
           doctrine on the rights of society.

  17  444. Degradation of woman in ancient times, especially in Rome.

  18  444. The Germans of Tacitus judged according to subsequent events.

  19  445. Corruption of ancient manners.

  20  445. Different opinions of religion and philosophy on the power of
           ideas--How far it is true that every idea requires an

  21  446. Christianity is still in our days the source of mildness of

  22  447. Influence of the Church on barbarian legislation--Councils of
           Toledo--What the indulgence of the criminal code among the
           barbarians proves.

  23  449. Constant intervention of the Church in the administration of
           public beneficence--Regulations of the Council of Trent on
           this subject--Property of hospitals considered as that of the

  24  450. Reference to the following note.

  25  450. Distinction between civil and religious intolerance--Error of
           Rousseau on this point--False doctrine of the _Contrat

  26  452. Passages from old laws relative to the Inquisition--Pragmatic
           sanction of Ferdinand and Isabella--Laws of Philip II. and
           III.--Pragmatic sanction of Ferdinand and Isabella concerning
           the relations of the Spanish Inquisition with Rome--Passage
           from Don Antonio Perez, which mentions the anecdote of the
           preacher at Madrid--Letter from Phillip II. to Arias Montano,
           on the subject of the library of the Escurial.

  26  456. (_Appendix._) A few words on Puigblanch, Villeneuve, and

  27  458. Religious institutions in an historical point of view--Last
          _coup-d'œil_ at their origin and development--Details with
           respect to the vow of chastity which virgins and widows made
           in the early ages of the Church.

  28  459. Remarkable texts explaining the passage of St. Paul in the
           13th chapter of his Epistle to the Romans--Cicero--Horace.

  29  462. A remarkable fact.

  30  463. Quotations from P. Fr. John de Ste.-Marie, and from
           P. Zeballos.

  31  470. St. Thomas reminds princes of their duties.

  32  471. The opinion of D. Felix d'Amat, bishop of Palmyra, on the
           obedience due to _de facto_ governments.

  33  471. Remarkable passages from St. Thomas and Suarez, on the
           disputes which may arise between governors and the
           governed--Father Marquez on the same subject.

  34  475. Charter of _Hermandad_ between the kingdoms of Leon and
           Galicia and that of Castille, for the preservation and
           defence of their _fueros_ and liberties.

  35  476. A remarkable passage from Capmany on the organization of the
           industrial classes--The origin and salutary effects of the
           institution of trades-corporation.

  36  480. Reflections of Count de Maistre on the causes which render
           the celebration of General Councils less frequent.

  37  480. Indication of historical sources for the confirmation of
           certain facts.

  38  480. Texts of St. Thomas on political forms--Other texts of
           St. Thomas to prove that the law, and not the will of man,
           should govern--Opinions of P. Mariana--Opinions of the
           venerable Palafox on the subject of imposts, taken from his
           Memoir to the King--Severe language of the same author
           against tyranny and those who advise or excuse it--Passage
           from P. Marquez on the right of levying tributes in general;
           its particular application to Castile--The opinion of the
           same author relative to the right of the supreme authority to
           the property of its subjects--A case in which, according to
           him, that authority may dispose of this property.

  39  484. Reference to historical sources to ascertain the march of the
           development of monarchical power in the different provinces
           of Spain.

  40  484. A just observation of Count de Maistre on the conduct of the
           Popes compared to that of other sovereigns.

  41  485. Passages in which St. Anselm expounds his views on religious
           subjects--Intellectual movement arising in the bosom of the
           Church without transgressing the bounds of faith--Another
           passage proving that the demonstration applied by Descartes
           to the existence of God had been discovered by
           St. Anselm--Corroborative Documents in support of a
           refutation of M. Guizot's errors on the doctrines of Abelard.




There is a fact in existence among civilized nations, very important
on account of the nature of the things which it affects--a fact of
transcendent importance, on account of the number, variety, and
consequence of its influences--a fact extremely interesting, because it
is connected with the principal events of modern history. This fact is

Like a clap of thunder, it attracted at once the attention of all
Europe; on one side it spread alarm, and on the other excited the most
lively sympathy: it grew so rapidly, that its adversaries had not time
to strangle it in its cradle. Scarcely had it begun to exist, and
already all hope of stopping, or even restraining it, was gone; when,
emboldened by being treated with respect and consideration, it became
every day more daring; if exasperated by rigour, it openly resisted
measures of coercion, or redoubled and concentrated its forces, to
make more vigorous attacks. Discussions, the profound investigations
and scientific methods which were used in combating it, contributed to
develop the spirit of inquiry, and served as vehicles to propagate its

By creating new and prevailing interests, it made itself powerful
protectors; by throwing all the passions into a state of fury, it
aroused them in its favor. It availed itself, by turns, of stratagem,
force, seduction, or violence, according to the exigencies of times and
circumstances. It attempted to make its way in all directions; either
destroying impediments, or taking advantage of them, if they were
capable of being turned to account.

When introduced into a country, it never rested until it had obtained
guarantees for its continued existence; and it succeeded in doing so
everywhere. After having obtained vast establishments in Europe--which
it still retains--it was transported into other parts of the world, and
infused into the veins of simple and unsuspecting nations.

In order to appreciate a fact at its just value, to embrace it in
all its relations, and to distinguish properly between them, it is
necessary to examine whether the constituting principle of the fact can
be ascertained, or at least whether we can observe in its appearance
any characteristic trait capable of revealing its inward nature.
This examination is very difficult when we have to do with a fact of
the kind and importance of that which now occupies our attention. In
matters of this sort, numbers of opinions accumulate in the course of
time, in favor of all which arguments have been sought. The inquirer,
in the midst of so many and such various objects, is perplexed,
disconcerted, and confounded; and if he wish to place himself in a
more advantageous point of view, he finds the ground so covered with
fragments, that he cannot make his way without risk of losing himself
at every step.

The first glance which we give to Protestantism, whether we consider
its actual condition, or whether we regard the various phases of its
history, shows us that it is very difficult to find any thing constant
in it, any thing which can be assigned as its constituent character.
Uncertain in its opinions, it modifies them continually, and changes
them in a thousand ways. Vague in its tendencies, and fluctuating in
its desires, it attempts every form, and essays every road. It can
never attain to a well-defined existence; and we see it every moment
enter new paths, to lose itself in new labyrinths.

Catholic controversialists have pursued and assailed it in every
way; ask them what has been the result? They will tell you that they
had to contend with a new Proteus, which always escaped the fatal
blow by changing its form. If you wish to assail the doctrines of
Protestantism, you do not know where to direct your attacks, for
they are unknown to you, and even to itself. On this side it is
invulnerable, because it has no tangible body. Thus, no more powerful
argument has ever been urged, than that of the immortal Bishop of
Meaux--viz. "You change; and that which changes is not the truth." An
argument much feared by Protestantism, and with justice; because all
the various forms which are assumed to evade its force, only serve to
strengthen it. How just is the expression of that great man! At the
very title of his book, Protestantism must tremble: The History of the
Variations! A history of variations must be a history of error. (See
note [1] at the end of the vol.)

These unceasing changes, which we ought not to be surprised at finding
in Protestantism, because they essentially belong to it, show us
that it is not in possession of the truth; they show us also, that
its moving principle is not a principle of life, but an element of
dissolution. It has been called upon, and up to this time in vain, to
fix itself, and to present a compact and uniform body. How can that be
fixed, which is, by its nature, kept floating about in the air? How can
a solid body be formed of an element, the essential tendency of which
is towards an incessant division of particles, by diminishing their
reciprocal affinity, and increasing their repellent force?

It will easily be seen that I speak of the right of private judgment in
matters of faith, whether it be looked upon as a matter of human reason
alone, or as an individual inspiration from heaven.

If there be any thing constant in Protestantism, it is undoubtedly
the substitution of private judgment for public and lawful authority.
This is always found in union with it, and is, properly speaking,
its fundamental principle: it is the only point of contact among the
various Protestant sects,--the basis of their mutual resemblance. It is
very remarkable that this exists, for the most part, unintentionally,
and sometimes against their express wishes.

However lamentable and disastrous this principle may be, if the
coryphæi of Protestantism had made it their rallying point, and had
constantly acted up to it in theory and practice, they would have
been consistent in error. When men saw them cast into one abyss after
another, they would have recognised a system,--false undoubtedly;
but, at any rate, a system. As it is, it has not been even that: if
you examine the words and the acts of the first Reformers, you will
find that they made use of this principle as a means of resisting
the authority which controlled them, but that they never dreamed of
establishing it permanently; that if they labored to upset lawful
authority, it was for the purpose of usurping the command themselves;
that is to say, that they followed, in this respect, the example
of revolutionists of all kinds, of all ages, and of all countries.
Everybody knows how far Luther carried his fanatical intolerance; he
who could not bear the slightest contradiction, either from his own
disciples or anybody else, without giving way to the most senseless
fits of passion, and the most unworthy outrages. Henry VIII. of
England, who founded there what is called the liberty of thinking, sent
to the scaffold those who did not think as he did; and it was at the
instigation of Calvin that Servetus was burnt alive at Geneva.

I insist upon this point, because it seems to me to be of great
importance. Men are but too much inclined to pride; and if they heard
it constantly repeated, without contradiction, that the innovators
of the sixteenth century proclaimed the freedom of thought, a secret
interest might be excited in their favor; their violent declamations
might be regarded as the expressions of a generous movement, and
their efforts as a noble attempt to assert the rights of intellectual
freedom. Let it be known, never to be forgotten, that if these men
proclaimed the principle of free examination, it was for the purpose of
making use of it against legitimate authority; but that they attempted,
as soon as they could, to impose upon others the yoke of their own
opinions. Their constant endeavour was, to destroy the authority which
came from God, in order to establish their own upon its ruins. It is
a painful necessity to be obliged to give proofs of this assertion;
not because they are difficult to find, but because one cannot adduce
the most incontestable of them without calling to mind words and deeds
which not only cover with disgrace the founders of Protestantism, but
are of such a nature, that they cannot be mentioned without a blush on
the cheek, or written without a stain upon the paper.[2]

Protestantism, when viewed in a mass, appears only a shapeless
collection of innumerable sects, all opposed to each other, and
agreeing only in one point, viz. in protesting against the authority
of the Church. We only find among them particular and exclusive names,
commonly taken from the names of their founders; in vain have they made
a thousand efforts to give themselves a general name expressive of a
positive idea; they are still called after the manner of philosophical
sects. Lutherans, Calvinists, Zuinglians, Anglicans, Socinians,
Arminians, Anabaptists, all these names, of which I could furnish an
endless host, only serve to exhibit the narrowness of the circle in
which these sects are enclosed; and it is only necessary to pronounce
them, to show that they contain nothing universal, nothing great.

Everybody who knows any thing of the Christian religion must be
convinced by this fact alone, that these sects are not truly Christian.
But what occurred when Protestantism attempted to take a general name,
is singularly remarkable. If you examine its history, you will see
that all the names which it attempted to give itself failed, if they
contained any positive idea, or any mark of Christianity; but that it
adopted a name taken by chance at the Diet of Spires; a name which
carries with it its own condemnation, because it is repugnant to the
origin, to the spirit, to the maxims, to the entire history of the
Christian religion; a name which does not express that unity--that
union which is inseparably connected with the Christian name; a name
which is peculiarly becoming to it, which all the world gives to it by
acclamation, which is truly its own--viz. _Protestantism_.[3]

Within the vast limits marked out by this name, there is room for
every error and for every sect. You may deny with the Lutherans the
liberty of man, or renew with the Arminians the errors of Pelagius. You
may admit with some that real presence, which you are free to reject
with the Calvinists and Zuinglians; you may join with the Socinians
in denying the divinity of Jesus Christ; you may attach yourself to
Episcopalians, to Puritans, or, if you please, to the extravagances
of the Quakers; it is of no consequence, for you always remain a
Protestant, for you protest against the authority of the Church; your
field is so extensive, that you can hardly escape from it, however
great may be your wanderings; it contains all the vast extent that we
behold on coming forth from the gates of the Holy City.[4]



What, then, were the causes of the appearance of Protestantism in
Europe, of its development, and of its success? This is a question
well worthy of being examined to the bottom, because it will lead us
to inquire into the origin of this great evil, and will put us in a
condition to form the best idea of this phenomenon, so often but so
imperfectly described.

It would be unreasonable to look for the causes of an event of this
nature and importance, in circumstances either trivial in themselves,
or circumscribed by places and events of a limited kind. It is a
mistake to suppose that vast results can be produced by trifling
causes; and if it be true that great events sometimes have their
commencement in little ones, it is no less certain that the commencing
point is not the cause; and that to be the commencement of a thing, and
to be its real cause, are expressions of a widely different meaning.
A spark produces a dreadful conflagration, but it is because it falls
upon a heap of inflammable materials. That which is general must have
general causes; and that which is lasting and deeply rooted must have
lasting and profound causes.

This law is true alike in the moral as in the physical order; but its
applications cannot be perceived without great difficulty, especially
in the moral order, where things of great importance are sometimes
clothed in a mean exterior; where each effect is found allied with so
many causes at once, connected with them by ties so delicate, that,
possibly, the most attentive and piercing eye may miss altogether, or
regard as a trifle, that which perhaps has produced very great results:
trifling things, on the other hand, are frequently so covered with
glitter, tinsel, and parade, that it is very easy to be deceived by
them. We are always too much inclined to judge by appearances.

It will appear from these principles, that I am not disposed to
give great importance to the rivalry excited by the preaching of
indulgences, or to the excesses which may have been committed by some
inferiors in this matter; these things may have been an occasion, a
pretext, a signal to commence the contest, but they were of too little
importance in themselves to put the world in flames. There would be,
perhaps, more apparent plausibility in seeking for the causes of
Protestantism in the characters and positions of the first reformers;
but this also would be unsatisfactory.

People lay great stress on the violence and fury of the writings and
speeches of Luther, and show how apt this savage eloquence was to
inflame men's minds, and drag them into the new errors by the deadly
hatred against Rome with which it inspired them. Too much stress also
is laid on the sophistical art, the order and elegance of the style
of Calvin; qualities which served to give an appearance of regularity
to the shapeless mass of new errors, and make them more acceptable
to men of good taste. The talents and other qualities of the various
innovators are described in the same way with more or less truth.

I will not deny to Luther, Calvin, and the other founders of
Protestantism, the titles on which their sad celebrity is founded;
but I venture to assert that we cannot attribute to their personal
qualities the principal influence upon the development of this evil,
without palpably mistaking and underrating the importance of the evil
itself, and forgetting the instructions of universal history.

If we examine these men with impartiality, we shall find that their
qualities were not greater than those of other sectarian leaders, if
so great. Their talents, their learning, and their knowledge, have
passed through the crucible of criticism, and there is, even among
Protestants, no well-instructed and impartial person who does not now
consider the extravagant eulogiums which have been lavished upon them,
as the exaggerations of party. They are classed among the number of
those turbulent men who are well fitted to excite revolutions; but
the history of all times and countries, and the experience of every
day, teach that men of this kind are not uncommon, and that they
arise everywhere when a sad combination of events affords them a fit

When causes more in proportion to Protestantism, by their extent
and importance, are sought for, two are commonly pointed out: the
necessity of reform, and the spirit of liberty. "There were numerous
abuses," says one party; "legitimate reform was neglected: this
negligence produced revolution." "The human intellect was in fetters,"
says another; "the mind longed to break its chains; Protestantism
was only a grand effort for the freedom of human thought, a great
movement towards liberating the human mind." It is true, that these
two opinions point out causes of great importance and of wide extent:
both are well adapted to make partisans. The one, by establishing the
necessity of reform, opens a wide field for the censure of neglected
laws and relaxed morals; this theme always finds sympathy in the heart
of man,--indulgent towards its own defects, but stern and inexorable
towards the faults of others. With respect to the other opinion, which
raises the cry of the movement of religious liberty and the freedom of
the human mind, it is sure to be widely adopted: there are always a
thousand echoes to a cry which flatters our pride.

I do not deny that a reform was necessary; to be convinced of this, I
need only glance at history, and listen to the complaints of several
great men, justly regarded by the Church as among the most cherished
of her sons. I read in the first decree of the Council of Trent, that
one of the objects of the Council was the reform of the Christian
clergy and people; I learn from the mouth of Pius IV., when confirming
the said Council, that one of the objects for which it was assembled,
was the correction of morals, and the re-establishment of discipline.
Notwithstanding all this, I am not inclined to give to abuses so
much influence as has been attributed to them. I must also say, that
it appears to me that we give a very bad solution of the question,
when, to show the real cause of the evil, we insist on the fatal
results produced by these abuses. These words also, "a new movement
of liberty," appear to me altogether insufficient. I shall say, then,
with freedom, in spite of my respect for those who entertain the first
opinion, and my esteem for the talents of those who refer all to the
spirit of liberty, that I cannot find in either that analysis, at once
philosophical and historical, which, without wandering from the ground
of history, examines facts, clears them up, shows their inward nature,
their relations and connections.

If men have wandered so much in the definition and explanation of
Protestantism, it is because they have not sufficiently observed that
it is not only a fact common to all ages of the history of the Church,
but that its importance and its particular characteristics are owing
to the epoch when it arose. This simple consideration, founded on
the constant testimony of history, clears up every thing; we have no
longer to seek in the doctrines of Protestantism for any thing singular
or extraordinary; all its characteristics prove that it was born in
Europe, and in the sixteenth century. I shall develop these ideas, not
by fanciful reasonings or gratuitous suppositions, but by adducing
facts which nobody can deny.

It is indisputable that the principle of submission to authority in
matters of faith has always encountered a vigorous resistance in the
human mind. I shall not point out here the causes of this resistance;
I propose to do so in the course of this work; I shall content myself
at present with stating this fact, and reminding those who may be
inclined to call it in question, that the history of the Church has
always been accompanied by the history of heresies. This fact has
presented different phases according to the changes of time and place.
Sometimes making a rude mixture of Judaism and Christianity, sometimes
combining the doctrines of Jesus Christ with the dreams of the East, or
corrupting the purity of faith by the subtilties and chicaneries of
Grecian sophistry; this fact presents us with as many different aspects
as there are conditions of the mind of man. But we always find in it
two general characteristics, which clearly show that it has always had
the same origin, notwithstanding the variation in its object and in the
nature of its results: these two characteristics are, hatred of the
authority of the Church, and the spirit of sect.

In all ages sects have arisen, opposing the authority of the Church,
and establishing as dogmas the errors of their founders: it was
natural for the same thing to happen in the sixteenth century. Now,
if that age had been an exception to the general rule, it seems to
me, looking at the nature of the human mind, that we should have
had to answer this very difficult question, How is it possible that
no sect appeared in that age? I say, then, error having once arisen
in the sixteenth century, no matter what may have been its origin,
occasion, and pretext--a certain number of followers having assembled
around its banner--Protestantism forthwith presents itself before me
in all its extent, with its transcendent importance, its divisions,
and subdivisions; I see it, with boldness and energy, making a general
attack on all the doctrines and discipline taught and observed
by the Church. In place of Luther, Zuinglius, and Calvin, let us
suppose Arius, Nestorius, and Pelagius; in place of the errors of the
former, let them teach the errors of the latter; it will all lead
to the same result. The errors will excite sympathy; they will find
defenders; they will animate enthusiasts; they will spread, they will
be propagated with the rapidity of fire, they will be diffused, they
will throw sparks in all directions; they will all be defended with
a show of knowledge and erudition; creeds will change unceasingly; a
thousand professions of faith will be drawn up; the liturgy will be
altered,--will be destroyed; the bonds of discipline will be broken; we
shall have to sum up all in one word, Protestantism.

How did it happen that the evil in the sixteenth century was
necessarily so extensive, so great, and so important? It was because
the society of that time was different from any other that had preceded
it; that which at other times would only have produced a partial fire,
necessarily caused in the sixteenth century a frightful conflagration.
Europe was then composed of a number of immense states, cast, so to
speak, in the same mould, resembling each other in ideas, manners, laws
and institutions, drawn together incessantly by an active communication
which was kept up alternately by rival and common interests; knowledge
found in the Latin language an easy means of diffusion; in fine, most
important of all, there had become general over all Europe a rapid
means of disseminating ideas and feelings, a creation which had flashed
from the human mind like a miraculous illumination, a presage of
colossal destinies, viz. the press.

Such is the activity of the mind of man, and the ardour with which it
embraces all sorts of innovation, that when once the standard of error
was planted, a multitude of partisans were sure to rally round it. The
yoke of authority once thrown off, in countries where investigation
was so active, where so many discussions were carried on, where ideas
were in such a state of effervescence, and where all the sciences
began to germinate, it was impossible for the restless mind of man
to remain fixed on any point, and a swarm of sects was necessarily
produced. There is no middle path; either civilized nations must remain
Catholic, or run through all the forms of error. If they do not attach
themselves firmly to the anchor of truth, we shall see them make a
general attack upon it, we shall see them assail it in itself, in all
that it teaches, in all that it prescribes. A man of free and active
mind will remain tranquil in the peaceful regions of truth, or he will
seek for it with restlessness and disquietude. If he find only false
principles to rest on,--if he feel the ground move under his feet,
he will change his position every moment, he will leap from error to
error, and precipitate himself from one abyss to another. To live amid
errors, and be contented with them, to transmit error from generation
to generation, without modification or change, is peculiar to those
who vegetate in debasement and ignorance; there the mind of man is not
active, because it is asleep.

From the point of view where we have now placed ourselves, we can see
Protestantism such as it is. From this commanding position we see
every thing in its place, and it is possible for us to appreciate
its dimensions, to perceive its relations, calculate its influence,
and explain its anomalies. Men there assume their true position; as
they are seen in close proximity with the great mass of events, they
appear in the picture as very small figures, for which others may
be substituted without inconvenience; which may be placed nearer or
farther off, and the features and complexion of which are not of any
consequence. Of what importance, then, are the energy of character, the
passion, and boldness of Luther, the literary polish of Melancthon, and
the sophistical talents of Calvin? We are convinced, that to lay stress
upon all this, is to lose our time, and explain nothing.

What were these men, and the other coryphæi of Protestantism? Was
there any thing really extraordinary about them? We shall find men
like them everywhere. There are some among them who did not surpass
mediocrity; and it may be said of almost all, that if they had not
obtained an unhappy celebrity, they would hardly have been celebrated
at all. Why, then, did they effect such great things? They found a mass
of combustibles, and they set them on fire. Certainly this was not
difficult, and yet it was all they did. When I see Luther, mad with
pride, commit those extravagances which were the subject of so many
lamentations on the part of his friends--when I see him grossly insult
all who oppose him, put himself in a passion, and vomit forth a torrent
of impure words against all those who do not humble themselves in his
presence, I am scarcely moved by any other feeling than pity. This man,
who had the extraordinary mania of calling himself the _Notharius Dei_,
became delirious; but he breathed, and his breath was followed by a
terrible conflagration: it was because a powder-magazine was at hand on
which he threw a spark. Nevertheless, like a man blinded by insanity,
he cried out, "Behold my power! I breathe, and my breath puts the world
in flames!"

But, you will ask me, what was the real influence of abuses? If we take
care not to leave the point of view where we now are, we shall see
that they were an occasion, and that they sometimes afforded food, but
that they did not exercise all the influence which has been attributed
to them. Do I wish, then, to deny, or to excuse them? Not at all.
I can appreciate the complaints of some men, who are worthy of the
most profound respect; but while lamenting the evil, these men never
pretended to detail the consequences. The just man when he raises his
voice against vice, the minister of the sanctuary when he is burning
with zeal for the house of the Lord, express themselves in accents so
loud and vehement, that they must not always be taken literally. Their
whole hearts are opened, and, inflamed as they are with a zealous love
of justice, they make use of burning words. Men without faith interpret
their expressions maliciously, exaggerating and misrepresenting them.

It appears to me to be clear, from what I have just shown, that the
principal cause of Protestantism is not to be found in the abuses
of the middle ages. All that can be said is, that they afforded
opportunities and pretexts for it. To assert the contrary would be to
maintain that there were always numerous abuses in the Church from
the beginning, even in the time of her primitive fervor, and of that
proverbial purity of which our opponents have said so much; for even
then there were swarms of sects who protested against her doctrines,
denied her divine authority, and called themselves the true Church. The
case is the same, and the inference cannot be denied. If you allege the
extent and rapid propagation of Protestantism, I will remind you that
such was also the case with other sects; I will repeat to you the words
of St. Jerome, with regard to the ravages of Arianism: "All the world
groans, and is full of astonishment at finding itself Arian." I will
repeat, again, that if you observe any thing remarkable and peculiar
belonging to Protestantism, it ought not to be attributed to abuses,
but to the epoch when it appeared.

I believe I have said enough to give an idea of the influence which
abuses could exert; yet, as it is a subject which has occupied much
attention, and on which many mistakes have been made, it will be well
to revert to it once more, to make our ideas on the subject still
clearer. That lamentable abuses had crept in during the course of the
middle ages, that the corruption of manners had been great, and that,
consequently, reform was required, is a fact which cannot be denied.
This fact is proved to us, with respect to the eleventh and twelfth
centuries, by irreproachable witnesses, such as St. Peter Damien, St.
Gregory VII., and St. Bernard. Some centuries later, even after many
abuses had been corrected, they were still but too considerable, as
is witnessed by the complaints of men who were inflamed with a desire
of reform. We cannot forget the alarming words addressed by Cardinal
Julian to Pope Eugenius IV., on the subject of the disorders of the
clergy, especially those of Germany.

Having fully avowed the truth on this point, and my opinion that the
cause of Catholicity does not require dissimulation or falsehood to
defend it, I shall devote a few words to examining some important
questions. Are we to blame the court of Rome or the bishops for these
great abuses? I venture to think that they were to be attributed to
the evils of the time alone. Let us call to mind the events which had
taken place in the midst of Europe; the dissolution of the decrepit
and corrupt empire of Rome; the irruption and inundation of northern
barbarians; their fluctuations, their wars, sometimes with each
other, and sometimes with the conquered nations, and that for so many
ages; the establishment and absolute reign of feudalism, with all its
inconveniences, its evils, its troubles, and disasters; the invasion of
the Saracens, and their dominion over a large portion of Europe; now,
let any reflecting man ask himself whether such revolutions must not of
necessity produce ignorance, corruption of morals, and the relaxation
of all discipline. How could the ecclesiastical society escape being
deeply affected by this dissolution, this destruction of the civil
society? Could she help participating in the evils of the horrible
state of chaos into which Europe was then plunged?

But were the spirit and ardent desire of reforming abuses ever wanting
in the Church? It can be shown that they were not. I will not mention
the saints whom she did not cease to produce during these unhappy
periods; history proves their number and their virtues, which, so
vividly contrasting with the corruption of the age, show that the
divine flames which descended on the Apostles had not been extinguished
in the bosom of the Catholic Church. This fact proves much; but there
is another still more remarkable, a fact less subject to dispute, and
which we cannot be accused of exaggerating; a fact which is not limited
to individuals, but which is, on the contrary, the most complete
expression of the spirit by which the whole body of the Church was
animated; I mean, the constant meeting of councils, in which abuses
were reproved and condemned, and in which sanctity of morals and the
observance of discipline were continually inculcated. Happily this
consoling fact is indisputable; it is open to every eye; and to be
aware of it, one only needs to consult a volume of ecclesiastical
history, or the proceedings of councils. There is no fact more worth
our attention; and I will add, that perhaps all its importance has not
been observed.

Let us remark what passes in other societies: we see that in proportion
to the change of ideas and manners, laws everywhere undergo a rapid
modification; and if manners and ideas come to be directly opposed
to laws, the latter, reduced to silence, are soon either abolished or
trodden under foot. Nothing of this sort has happened in the Church.
Corruption has extended itself everywhere to a lamentable degree; the
ministers of religion have allowed themselves to be carried away by
the stream, and have forgotten the sanctity of their vocation; but the
sacred fire did not cease to burn in the sanctuary; the law was there
constantly proclaimed and inculcated; and, wonderful spectacle! the men
who themselves violated it frequently assembled to condemn themselves,
to censure their own conduct, and thus to render more public and more
palpable the contrast which existed between their instructions and
their actions. Simony and incontinence were the prevailing vices;
if you open the canons of councils, you will find them everywhere
anathematized. Nowhere do you find a struggle so prolonged, so
constant, so persevering, of right against wrong; you always see,
throughout so many ages, the law, opposed face to face to the irregular
passions, maintain itself firm and immovable, without yielding a
single step, without allowing them a moment of repose or peace until
they were subjugated. And this constancy and tenacity of the Church
were not useless. At the commencement of the sixteenth century, at the
time when Protestantism appeared, we find abuses comparatively less
numerous, morals perceptibly improved, discipline become more strict,
and observed with sufficient regularity. The time when Luther declaimed
was not like that when St. Peter Damien and St. Bernard deplored the
evils of the Church. The chaos was reduced to form; order, light, and
regularity had made rapid progress; and an incontestable proof that
the Church was not then plunged in such ignorance and corruption as
is alleged, is, that she produced the great assemblage of saints who
shed so much lustre on the age, and the men who displayed their eminent
wisdom at the Council of Trent. Let us remember that great reforms
require much time; that they met with much resistance both from the
clergy and laity; that for having undertaken them with firmness, and
urged them with vigour, Gregory VII. has been charged with rashness.
Let us not judge of men without regard to times and places; and let
us not pretend to measure every thing according to our own limited
ideas; ages move in an immense orbit, and the variety of circumstances
produces situations so strange and complicated that we can hardly form
an idea of them.

Bossuet, in his History of the Variations, after having differently
classed the spirit which guided certain men, before the thirteenth
century, in their attempts at reform, and having cited the threatening
words of Cardinal Julian on the subject of abuses, adds: "It is thus
that, in the fifteenth century, this cardinal, the greatest man of
his times, deplored these evils, and foresaw their fatal effects; by
which he seems to have predicted those that Luther was about to bring
on all Christianity, and in the first place on Germany; and he was
not deceived when he thought that the neglect of reformation, and the
increased hatred against the clergy, was about to produce a sect more
dangerous to the Church than the Bohemians." (_Hist. des Variat._
liv. i.) It is inferred from these words that the illustrious Bishop
of Meaux found one of the principal causes of Protestantism in the
omission of a legitimate reform made in time. Nevertheless, we must
not suppose from this that Bossuet meant, in any degree, to excuse
the promoters of it, or that he had any idea of sanctioning their
intentions; on the contrary, he ranked them as turbulent innovators,
who, far from promoting the real reform which was desired by wise and
prudent men, only served to render it more difficult, by introducing,
by the means of their erroneous doctrines, the spirit of disobedience,
schism, and heresy.

In spite of the authority of Bossuet, I cannot persuade myself to look
upon abuses as one of the principal causes of Protestantism; but it is
not necessary to repeat what I have said in support of this opinion. It
may not, however, be useless to repeat, that the authority of Bossuet
is misapplied when used to justify the intentions of the reformers,
since the illustrious prelate is the first to declare them highly
culpable, and to observe, that if abuses were in existence, their
intention was not to correct them, but rather to make them a pretext
for abandoning the faith of the Church, throwing off the yoke of lawful
authority, breaking the bands of discipline, and introducing thereby
disorder and licentiousness.

How, indeed, can we attribute to the reformers the real spirit of
reform, when almost all of them proved the contrary by the ignominy
of their own conduct? If they had condemned, by the austerity of
their morals, or by devoting themselves to a severe asceticism, the
relaxations of which they complained, there might be a question whether
their extravagances were not the effects of exaggerated zeal, and if
some excess in the love of virtue had not drawn them into error. But
they did nothing of the kind. Let us hear on this point an eye-witness,
a man who certainly cannot be accused of fanaticism, since the
connection which he had with the leaders of Protestantism has rendered
him culpable in the eyes of many. Behold what Erasmus said, with his
usual wit and bitterness: "The reform, as far as it has gone, has been
limited to the secularization of a few nuns and the marriage of a few
priests; and this great tragedy finishes with an event altogether
comic, since every thing is wound up, as in comedies, by a marriage."

This shows to conviction the true spirit of the innovators of the
sixteenth century. It is clear that, far from wishing the reformation
of abuses, they wished rather to increase them. This bare consideration
of facts has led M. Guizot, on this point, into the path of truth,
when he rejects the opinion of those who pretend, that the Reformation
was "an attempt conceived and executed simply with the intention of
reconstructing a pure and primitive Church. The Reformation," he said,
"was not a mere attempt at religious amelioration, or the fruit of a
Utopian humanity and virtue." (_Histoire Générale de la Civilisation en
Europe_, douzième leçon.)

We shall have now no difficulty in appreciating at its just value
the explanation which the same writer gives of this phenomenon. "The
Reformation," says M. Guizot, "was a great attempt at the liberation of
human thought--an uprising of the mind of man." This attempt, according
to M. Guizot, arose out of the energetic movement given to the human
mind, and the state of inaction into which the Roman Church had
fallen; it arose from this, that the human mind advanced rapidly and
impetuously, while the Church remained stationary. Explanations of this
kind, and this one in particular, are very apt to draw admirers and
proselytes; these ideas are high, and placed on a level so lofty and
extended, that they cannot be looked at closely by the generality of
readers; and, moreover, they appear in brilliant imagery, which blinds
the sight and prejudices the judgment.

That which restrains freedom of thought, as understood by M. Guizot
and other Protestants is, authority in matters of faith: it was, then,
against this authority that the uprising of the mind declared itself;
or, in other words, the mind rebelled, because it advanced, while the
Church, immovable in her doctrines, was, according to the expression of
M. Guizot, "in a stationary state."

Whatever may be the disposition of mind of M. Guizot towards the dogmas
of the Catholic Church, he ought, as a philosopher, to have seen that
it was a great mistake to point out as the distinctive characteristic
of one period, that which had been at every time a glorious title
for the Church. For more than eighteen hundred years the Church has
been stationary in her dogmas, and it is no equivocal proof that she
possesses the truth: the truth is unchangeable, because it is one.

What the Church was in the sixteenth century, she had been before, and
she has been since. She had nothing particular, she adopted no new
characteristic. The reason, then, by which it is attempted to explain
this phenomenon, viz. the uprising of the mind, cannot advance the
explanation a single step; and if this be the reason why M. Guizot
compares the Church to governments grown old, we will tell him that
she has had this old age from her cradle. M. Guizot, as if he had
himself felt the weakness of his reasoning, presents his thoughts in
groups, and as it were _pêle-mêle_; he parades before his readers ideas
of different kinds, without taking pains to classify or distinguish
them; one would be inclined to think that he meant to distract them
by variety, and confound them by mixture. Judging, indeed, from the
context of his discourse, the epithets _inert and stationary_, which
he applies to the Church, do not appear, according to his intention,
to relate to matters of faith; and he gives us to understand that
he speaks rather of the pretensions of the Church with regard to
politics and state economy. He has taken pains, elsewhere, to repel as
calumnies, the charges of tyranny and intolerance which have been so
often made against the court of Rome.

We find here an incoherence of ideas which was not to be expected in so
clear a mind; and as many persons may scarcely be inclined to believe
how far this incoherence extends, it is necessary to give his words
literally: they will show us into what inconsistencies great minds can
fall when they are placed in a false position.

"The government of the human mind, the spiritual power," says M.
Guizot, "had fallen into an inert and stationary condition. The
political influence of the Church, of the court of Rome, was much
diminished; European society no longer was ruled by it; it had passed
under the control of lay governments. Nevertheless, the spiritual
power preserved all its pretensions, all its _éclat_, all its external
importance. There happened in this respect, what has more than once
happened to old governments. The greater part of the complaints made
against it were hardly better founded."

It is evident that M. Guizot, in this passage, does not point out
any thing which is at all connected with liberty, any thing which is
not quite of another kind: why does he not do so? The court of Rome,
he tells us, had seen its political influence diminished, and yet it
preserved its pretensions; the direction of European society no longer
belonged to it, but Rome kept its pomp and its external importance. Is
any thing here meant besides the rivalries of which political affairs
had been the subject? Did M. Guizot forget what he himself said some
pages before, viz. that it did not appear to him to be reasonable to
assign the rivalry of kings with the ecclesiastical power as the cause
of Protestantism, and that such a cause was not adequate to the extent
and importance of the event?

Although all this has no direct connection with freedom of thought,
still, if any one be inclined to attribute the uprising of the mind
to the intolerance of the court of Rome, let him listen to M. Guizot:
"It is not true," says he, "that in the sixteenth century the court of
Rome was very tyrannical; that abuses, properly so called, were then
more numerous, more crying, than they had been at other times; never,
perhaps, on the contrary, had the ecclesiastical power been more easy,
more tolerant, more disposed to let things go their own way. Provided
that it was not itself called in question, provided that the rights
which it had formerly enjoyed were allowed in theory, that the same
existence was secured, and the same tributes were paid to it, it would
willingly have allowed the human mind to remain at peace, if the human
mind had done the same in respect to it."

Thus M. Guizot seems to have forgotten what he had urged with the view
of showing that the Protestant Reformation was a great attempt at the
liberation of human thought--a rebellion of the mind of man. He does
not allege any thing which was an obstacle to the freedom of man's
thoughts; and he himself acknowledges that there was nothing to provoke
this rebellion, as, for example, intolerance or cruelty; he has himself
just told us that the ecclesiastical government of the sixteenth
century, far from being tyrannical, was easy and tolerant, and that,
if left to itself, it would willingly have allowed the human mind to
remain tranquil.

It is, then, evident, that the great attempt at the liberation of
the human mind is, in M. Guizot's mouth, only a vague, undefined
expression,--a brilliant veil with which he seems to have wished
to cover the cradle of Protestantism, even at the risk of being
inconsistent with his own opinions. He reverts to the political
rivalries which he before rejected. Abuses have no importance in his
eyes; he cannot find in them the real cause; and he forgets what he had
just asserted in the preceding lecture, viz. that if necessary reform
had been made in time, the religious revolution might have been avoided.

He tries to give a picture of the obstacles to the liberty of thought,
and endeavours to rise to the general considerations which embrace
all the importance and influences of the human mind; but he stops at
_éclat_, at _external importance_, and _political rivalries_; he lowers
his flight to the level of tributes and services.

This incoherence of ideas, this weakness of reasoning, and
forgetfulness of assertions previously made, will appear strange
only to those who are accustomed rather to admire the high flights
of talented men than to study their aberrations. It is true that M.
Guizot was in a position in which it was very difficult to avoid being
dazzled and deceived. If it be true that we cannot observe attentively
what passes on the ground around us without narrowing our view of
the horizon,--if this method leads the observer to form a collection
of isolated facts rather than compare general maxims, it is not less
certain that, by extending our observations over a larger space, we
run the risk of many illusions. Too great generalization borders on
hypothesis and fancy. The mind, when taking an immoderate flight in
order to get a general view of things, no longer sees them as they
really are; perhaps sometimes even loses sight of them altogether.
Therefore it is that the loftiest minds should frequently remember the
words of Bacon: "We do not want wings, but lead." Too impartial not to
confess that abuses had been exaggerated,--too good a philosopher not
to see that they could not have had so great an effect,--M. Guizot,
who was prevented by his sense of dignity and decency from joining the
crowd who incessantly raise the cry of cruelty and intolerance, has
made an effort to do justice to the Church of Rome; but, unfortunately,
his prejudices against the Church would not allow him to see things in
their true light. He was aware that the origin of Protestantism must be
sought in the human mind itself; but, knowing the age and epoch when he
was speaking, he thought it was necessary to propitiate his audience by
frequent appeals to liberty, in order that his discourse might be well
received. This is the reason why, after having tempered the bitterness
of his reproaches against the Church by a few soft words, he reserves
all that is noble, grand, and generous for the ideas which produced the
Reformation, and throws on the Church all the shadows of the picture.

While acknowledging that the principal cause of Protestantism is to
be found in the human mind, it is easy to abstain from these unjust
comparisons; and M. Guizot might have avoided the inconsistency to
which we have alluded. He might have discovered the origin of the fact
in the character of the human mind; he might, at the same time, have
shown the greatness and importance of it, while simply explaining the
nature and position of the societies in which it appeared. In fine, he
might have observed that it was no _extraordinary effort_, but a mere
repetition of what has happened in every age; and a phenomenon, the
character of which depended on the particular state of the atmosphere
in which it was produced.

This way of considering Protestantism as an ordinary event, increased
and developed by the circumstances in which it arose, appears to me to
be as philosophical as it is little attended to. I shall support it by
another observation, which will supply us with reasons and examples at
the same time.

The state of modern society for three hundred years has been such,
that all the events that have occurred have acquired a character of
generalization, and consequently an importance, which distinguishes
them from all the events of a similar kind which occurred at other
times and in a different social state. If we examine the history of
antiquity, we shall see that all the events therein occurring were
isolated in some sort from each other; this was what rendered them
less beneficial when they were good, and less injurious when they were
bad. Carthage, Rome, Sparta, Athens, all these nations more or less
advanced in the career of civilization, each followed its own path, and
progressed in a different way. Ideas, manners, political constitutions,
succeeded each other, without our being able to perceive any influence
of the ideas of one nation on those of another, or of the manners
of one nation on those of another; we do not find any evidence of a
tendency to bring nations to one common centre.

We also remark that, except when forced to intermix, ancient nations
could be a long time in close proximity without losing their
peculiarities, or suffering any important change by the contact.

Observe how different is the state of things in Europe in modern times.
A revolution in one country affects all others; an idea sent forth
from the schools agitates nations and alarms governments. Nothing is
isolated, every thing is general, and acquires by expansion a terrible
force. It is impossible to study the history of one nation without
seeing all the others make their appearance on the stage; and we cannot
study the history of a science or an art without discovering a thousand
connections with objects which do not belong to science or to art.

All nations are connected, objects are assimilated, relations increase.
The affairs of one nation are interesting to all the others, and
they wish to take part in them. This is the reason why the idea of
_non-intervention_ in politics is, and always will be, impracticable;
it is, indeed, natural for us to interfere in that in which we are

These examples, although taken from things of a different kind, appear
to me very well calculated to illustrate my idea of the religious
events of that period. Protestantism, it is true, is thereby stripped
of the philosophic mantle by which it has been covered from its
infancy; it loses all right to be considered as full of foresight,
magnificent projects, and high destinies, from its cradle, but I do not
see that its importance and extent are thereby diminished; the fact
itself, in a word, is unimpaired, but the real cause of the imposing
aspect in which it has presented itself to the world is explained.

Every thing, in this point of view, is seen in its just dimensions;
individuals are scarcely perceived, and abuses appear only what they
really are--opportunities and pretexts; vast plans, lofty and generous
ideas, and efforts at independence of mind, are only gratuitous
suppositions. Thence ambition, war, the rivalry of kings, take their
position as causes more or less influential, but always in the second
rank. All the causes are estimated at their real value; in fine, the
principal causes being once pointed out, it is acknowledged that the
fact was sure to be accompanied in its development by a multitude of
subordinate agents. There remains still an important question in this
matter, viz. what was the cause of the hatred, or rather the feeling of
exasperation, on the part of sectarians against Rome? Was it owing to
some great abuse, some great wrong on the part of Rome? There is but
one answer to make, viz. that in a storm, the waves always dash with
fury against the immovable rock which resists them.

So far from attributing to abuses all the influence which has been
assigned to them on the birth and development of Protestantism, I am
convinced, on the contrary, that all imaginable legitimate reforms,
and the greatest degree of willingness on the part of the Church
authorities to comply with every exigence, would not have been able to
prevent that unhappy event.

He has paid little attention to the extreme inconstancy and fickleness
of the human mind, and studied its history to little purpose, who does
not recognise in the event of the sixteenth century one of those great
calamities which God alone can avert by a special intervention of his



The proposition contained in the concluding lines of the last
chapter suggests a corollary, which, if I am not mistaken, offers
a new demonstration of the divine origin of the Catholic Church.
Her existence for eighteen centuries, in spite of so many powerful
adversaries, has always been regarded as a most extraordinary thing.
Another prodigy, too little attended to, and of not less importance
when the nature of the human mind is taken into account, is, _the unity
of the Church's doctrines, pervading, as it does, all her various
instructions, and the number of great minds which this unity has always
enclosed within her bosom_.

I particularly call the attention of all thinking men to this point;
and although I cannot hope to develop this idea in a suitable manner,
I am sure they will find in it matter for very serious reflection.
This method of considering the Church may perhaps recommend itself to
the taste of some readers on another account, viz. because I shall lay
aside Revelation, in order to consider Catholicity, not as a Divine
religion, but as a school of philosophy.

No one who has studied the history of letters can deny that the Church
has, in all ages, possessed men illustrious for science. The history of
the Fathers of the first ages of the Church is nothing but the history
of the most learned men in Europe, in Africa, and in Asia; the list
of learned men who preserved, after the irruption of the Barbarians,
some remains of ancient knowledge, is composed of churchmen. In modern
times you cannot point out a branch of human knowledge, in which a
considerable number of Catholics have not figured in the first rank.
Thus there has been, for eighteen hundred years, an uninterrupted
chain of learned men, who were Catholics, that is, men united in the
profession of the doctrines taught by the Catholic Church. Let us
lay aside for a moment the divine characteristics of Catholicity, to
consider it only as a school or sect; I say, that in the fact which I
have pointed out, we find a phenomenon so extraordinary, that its equal
cannot be found elsewhere, and that no effort of reason can explain it,
according to the natural order of human things.

It is certainly not new in the history of the human mind for a
doctrine, more or less reasonable, to be professed for a time by a
certain number of learned and enlightened men; this has been shown
in schools of philosophy both ancient and modern. But for a creed to
maintain itself for many ages, by preserving the adhesion of men of
learning of all times and of all countries--of minds differing among
themselves on other points--of men opposed in interests and divided by
rivalries, is a phenomenon new, unique, and not to be found anywhere
but in the Catholic Church. It always has been, and still is, the
practice of the Church, while one in faith and doctrine, to teach
unceasingly--to excite discussion on all subjects--to promote the study
and examination of the foundations on which faith itself reposes--to
scrutinize for this purpose the ancient languages, the monuments of the
remotest times, the documents of history, the discoveries of scientific
observation, the lessons of the highest and most analytic sciences, and
to present herself with a generous confidence in the great lyceums,
where men replete with talents and knowledge concentrate, as in a
focus, all that they have learned from their predecessors, and all that
they themselves have collected: and nevertheless we see her always
persevere with firmness in her faith and in the unity of her doctrines;
we see her always surrounded by illustrious men, who, with their
brows crowned with the laurels of a hundred literary contests, humble
themselves, tranquil and serene, before her, without fear of dimming
the brightness of the glory which surrounds their heads.

We ask those who see in Catholicity only one of the innumerable
sects by which the earth has been covered, to point out elsewhere a
similar fact; to explain to us how the Church has been able to show
us a phenomenon, constantly existing, so opposed to the ever-varying
spirit of the human mind; let them tell us by what secret talisman
the Sovereign Pontiffs have been able to do what other men have found
impossible. Those men, who bowed their heads at the command of the
Vatican, who have laid aside their own opinions to adopt those of a
man called the Pope, were not simple and ignorant men. Look at them
attentively; you will see in the boldness of their mien their knowledge
of their own intellectual power; you will read in their bright and
penetrating eyes the flame of genius which burns in their breasts. They
are the same men who have filled the highest places in the academies
of Europe; who have spread their fame over the world, and whose names
have been handed down to future generations. Examine the history of all
ages, search all the countries of the world, and if you find anywhere
such an extraordinary combination of knowledge in union with faith, of
genius in submission to authority, and of discussion without breach
of unity, you will have made an important discovery, and science will
have to explain a new phenomenon. But you know well that you cannot
do so. This is the reason why you have recourse to new stratagems in
order to cast a shade on the brightness of this fact; for you feel that
impartial reason and common sense must draw from it the conclusion that
there is in the Catholic Church something which is not to be found

These facts, say our adversaries, are certain; the reflections which
they suggest are dazzling at first sight; but if we examine the subject
thoroughly, we shall see the difficulties they raise disappear. This
phenomenon, which we have seen realized in the Catholic Church, and
which is not found elsewhere, only proves that there has always been
in the Church a fixed system, which has been developed with uniform
regularity. The Church knew that union is the source of strength; that
union cannot exist without unity of doctrine; and that unity cannot
be preserved without submission to authority. This simple observation
established, and constantly maintained, the principle of submission.
Such is the explanation of the phenomenon. The idea, we grant, is
profoundly wise, the scheme is grand, the system is extraordinary;
but they do not prove any thing in favor of the Divine origin of

This is the best reply which they can make; it is easy to show that
the difficulty remains entire. Indeed, if it be true that there has
existed a society on earth which has been for eighteen centuries guided
by one fixed and constant principle--a society which has known how
to bind to this principle eminent men of all ages and countries, the
following questions must be asked of our adversaries:--Why has the
Church alone possessed this principle, and monopolized this idea? If
other sects have been in possession of it, why have they not acted on
it? All the philosophic sects have disappeared, one after another; the
Church alone remains. Other religions, in order to preserve some sort
of unity, have been compelled to shun the light, to avoid discussion,
to hide themselves in the thickest shades. Why has the Church preserved
her unity while seeking the light, while publishing her books in open
day, while lavishing all sorts of instruction, and founding everywhere
colleges, universities, and establishments of every description, where
all the splendor of knowledge and erudition has been concentrated?

It is not enough to say that there was a plan--a system; the difficulty
lies in the existence of this plan and this system; it consists in
explaining how they were conceived and executed. If we had to do with
a small number of men, in limited circumstances, times, and countries,
for the execution of a limited project, there would be nothing
extraordinary; but we have to do with a period of eighteen hundred
years, with all the countries of the world, with circumstances the
most varied, the most different, and the most opposed to each other;
we have to do with a multitude of men who did not meet together, or
act in concert. How is all this to be explained? If it were a plan and
a system devised by man, we should ask, What was the mysterious power
of Rome which enabled her to unite around her so many illustrious men
of all times and of all countries? How did the Roman Pontiff, if he be
only the chief of a sect, manage to fascinate the world to this extent?
What magician ever did such wonders? Men have long declaimed against
his religious despotism; why has no one been found to wrest the sceptre
from his grasp? why has not a pontifical throne been raised capable of
disputing the pre-eminence with his, and of maintaining itself with
equal splendor and power? Shall we attribute it to his temporal power?
This power is very limited. Rome was not able to contend in arms with
any of the other European powers. Shall we attribute it to the peculiar
character, to the knowledge or the virtues of the men who have occupied
the Papal throne? There has been, during these eighteen hundred years,
an infinite variety in the characters and in the talents and virtues of
the Popes. For those who are not Catholics, who do not see in the Roman
Pontiff the vicar of Jesus Christ,--the rock on which He has built His
Church,--the duration of this authority must be the most extraordinary
phenomenon; and it is certainly one of the questions most worthy of
being examined by the science which devotes itself to the history of
the human mind; how there existed for many centuries an uninterrupted
series of learned men, always faithful to the doctrines of the Roman

M. Guizot himself, in comparing Protestantism with the Roman Church,
seems to have felt the force of this truth; and its light appears to
have made him confused in his remarks. Let us listen again to this
writer, whose talents and renown have dazzled, on this point, so
many readers, who do not examine the solidity of proofs when they
are clothed in brilliant images, and who applaud all kinds of ideas
when they are conveyed to them in a torrent of enchanting eloquence;
men who, pretending to intellectual independence, subscribe, without
inquiry, to the decisions of the leaders of their school; who receive
their doctrines with submission, and dare not even raise their heads to
ask for the titles of their authority. M. Guizot, like all the great
men among Protestants, was aware of the immense void which exists amid
its various sects, and of the force and vigour which is contained in
Catholicity; he has not been able to free himself from the rule of
great minds,--a rule which is explicitly confirmed by the writings of
the greatest men of the Reformation. After pointing out the inconstant
progress of Protestantism, and the error which it has introduced into
the organization of intellectual society, M. Guizot proceeds thus:
"People have not known how to reconcile the rights and necessities of
tradition with those of liberty; and the cause of it undoubtedly has
been, that the Reformation did not fully understand and accept either
its principles or its effects." What sort of a religion must that
be which does not fully understand and accept its principles or its

Did a more formal condemnation of the Reformation ever issue out of the
mouth of man? could any thing of the kind ever be said of the sects
of philosophers, ancient or modern? Can the Reformation, then, after
this, pretend to direct men or society? "Thence arises," continues
M. Guizot, "a certain air of inconsistency and narrowness of spirit,
which has often given advantages over it to its opponents. The latter
knew very well what they did and what they wished; they ascended to
the principles of their conduct, and avowed all their consequences.
There never was a government more consistent, more systematic than
that of the Church of Rome." But whence was the origin of a system so
consistent? When we consider the fickleness and inconstancy of the
human mind, do not this system, this consistency, and these fixed
principles, speak volumes to the philosopher and man of good sense?

We have observed those terrible elements of dissolution which have
their source in the mind of man, and which have acquired so much force
in modern society; we have seen with what fatal power they destroy
and annihilate all institutions, social, political, and religious,
without ever succeeding in making a breach in the doctrines of
Catholicity,--without altering that system, so fixed and so consistent.
Is there no conclusion to be drawn from all this in favour of
Catholicity? To say that the Church has done that which no schools, or
governments, or societies, or religions could do, is it not to confess
that she is wiser than every thing human? And does it not clearly prove
that she does not owe her origin to human thought, and that she is
derived from the bosom of the Creator? This society--formed, you say,
by men--this government, directed by men, has endured for eighteen
hundred years; it extends to all countries, it addresses the savage in
the forest, the barbarian in his tent, the civilized man in the most
populous cities; it reckons among its children the shepherd clothed
in skins, the laborer, the powerful nobleman; it makes its laws heard
alike by the simple mechanic at his work, and the man of learning in
his closet absorbed in the profoundest speculations. This government
has always had, according to M. Guizot, a full knowledge of its actions
and its wishes; it has always been consistent in its conduct. Is not
this avowal its most convincing apology, its most eloquent panegyric;
and shall it not be considered a proof that it contains within itself
something more than human?

A thousand times have I beheld this prodigy with astonishment; a
thousand times have my eyes been fixed upon that immense tree which
extends its branches from east to west, from north to south; I see
beneath its shade a multitude of different nations, and the restless
genius of man reposing in tranquillity at its feet.

In the East, at the period when this divine religion first appeared,
I see, amidst the dissolutions of all sects, the most illustrious
philosophers crowd to hear her words. In Greece, in Asia, on the banks
of the Nile, in all the countries where, a short time before, swarmed
innumerable sects, I see appear on a sudden a generation of great men,
abounding in learning, in knowledge, in eloquence, and all agreeing in
the unity of Catholic doctrine.

In the West, a multitude of barbarians throw themselves on an empire
falling to decay; a dark cloud descends upon an horizon charged with
calamities and disasters; there, in the midst of a people submerged in
the corruption of morals, and having lost even the remembrance of their
ancient grandeur, I see the only men who can be called worthy heirs of
the Roman name, seek, in the retirement of their temples, an asylum
for the austerity of their morals; it is there that they preserve,
increase, and enrich the treasure of ancient knowledge. But my
admiration reaches its height, when I observe that sublime intellect,
worthy heir of the genius of Plato, which, after having sought the
truth in all the schools, in all the sects, and with indomitable
boldness run through all human errors, feels itself subjugated by
the authority of the Church, and transforms the freethinker into the
great Bishop of Hippo. In modern times the series of great men who
shone in the times of Leo X. and Louis XIV. passes before my eyes.
I see the illustrious race still continue throughout the calamities
of the eighteenth century; and in the nineteenth I see fresh heroes,
who, after having followed error in all directions, come to hang their
trophies at the gates of the Catholic Church. What, then, is this
prodigy? Has a sect or religion like it ever before been seen? These
men study every thing, dispute on every thing, reply to every thing,
know every thing; but always agreeing in unity of doctrine, they bend
their noble and intellectual brows in respectful obedience to faith. Do
we not seem to behold another planetary system, where globes of fire
revolve in their vast orbits in the midst of immensity, always drawn
to their centre by a mysterious attraction? That central force, which
allows no aberration, takes from them nothing of their extent, or of
the grandeur of their movement; but it inundates them with light, while
giving to their motion a more majestic regularity.[6]



This fixedness of idea, this unanimity of will, this wisdom and
constancy of plan, this progress with a firm step towards a definite
object and end; and, in fine, this admirable unity, acknowledged in
favor of Catholicism by M. Guizot himself, have not been imitated by
Protestantism, either in good or evil. Protestantism, indeed, has not
a single idea, of which it can say: "This is my own." It has attempted
to appropriate to itself the principle of private judgment in matters
of faith; and if several of its opponents have been too willing to
accord it, it was because they were unable to find therein any other
constitutive element; it was also because they felt that Protestantism,
in boasting of having given birth to such a principle, labored to
throw disgrace on itself, like a father who boasts of having unworthy
and depraved sons. It is false, however, that Protestantism produced
this principle of private judgment, since it was itself the offspring
of that principle. That principle, before the Reformation, was formed
in the bosom of all sects; it is the real germ of all errors; in
proclaiming it, Protestants only yielded to a necessity which is common
to all the sects separated from the Church.

There was therein no plan, no foresight, no system. The mere resistance
to the authority of the Church included the necessity of unlimited
private judgment, and the establishment of the understanding as supreme
judge; even had the coryphæi of Protestantism wished from the first to
oppose the consequences and applications of this right, the barrier was
broken, and the torrent could not have been confined.

"The right of examining what we ought to believe," says a celebrated
Protestant, (_Germany_, by Mad. de Staël, part iv. chap. 2), "is the
foundation of Protestantism. The first Reformers did not think thus;
they thought themselves able to place the pillars of Hercules of the
mind according to their own lights; but they were mistaken in hoping to
make those who had rejected all authority of this kind in the Catholic
religion submit to their decisions as infallible." This resistance on
their part proves, that they were not led by any of those ideas, which,
although erroneous, show, in some measure, nobleness and generosity of
heart; and that it is not of them that the human mind can say: "They
have erred, but it was in order to give me more liberty of action."
"The religious revolution of the sixteenth century," says M. Guizot,
"did not understand the true principles of intellectual liberty; it
liberated the human mind, and yet pretended to govern it by law."

But it is in vain for man to struggle against the nature of things:
Protestantism endeavored, without success, to limit the right of
private judgment. It raised its voice against it, and sometimes
appeared to attempt its total destruction; but the right of private
judgment, which was in its own bosom, remained there, developed
itself, and acted there in spite of it. There was no middle course for
Protestantism to adopt: it was compelled either to throw itself into
the arms of authority, and thus acknowledge itself in the wrong, or
else allow the dissolving principle to exert so much influence on its
various sects, as to destroy even the shadow of the religion of Jesus
Christ, and debase Christianity to the rank of a school of philosophy.

The cry of resistance to the authority of the Church once raised, the
fatal results might be easily imagined; it was thus easy to foresee
that that poisoned germ, in its development, must cause the ruin of all
the Christian truths; and what could prevent its rapid development in
a soil where fermentation was so active? Catholics were not wanting to
proclaim loudly the greatness and imminence of the danger; and it must
be allowed that many Protestants foresaw it clearly. No one is ignorant
that the most distinguished men of the sect gave their opinions on
this point, even from the beginning. Men of the greatest talent never
found themselves at ease in Protestantism. They always felt that there
was an immense void in it; this is the reason why they have constantly
inclined either towards irreligion or towards Catholic unity.

Time, the best judge of opinions, has confirmed these melancholy
prognostics. Things have now reached such a pass, that those only who
are very ill instructed, or who have a very limited grasp of mind, can
fail to see that the Christian religion, as explained by Protestants,
is nothing more than an opinion--a system made up of a thousand
incoherent parts, and which is degraded to the level of the schools
of philosophy. If Christianity still seems to surpass these schools
in some respects, and preserves some features which cannot be found
in what is the pure invention of the mind of man, it ought not to be
a matter of astonishment. It is owing to that sublimity of doctrine
and that sanctity of morality which, more or less disfigured, always
shines while a trace is preserved of the words of Jesus Christ. But
the feeble light which struggles with darkness after the sun has sunk
below the horizon, cannot be compared to that of day: darkness advances
and spreads; it extinguishes the expiring reflection, and night comes
on. Such is the doctrine of Christianity among Protestants. A glance
at these sects shows us that they are not purely philosophical, but it
shows us at the same time that they have not the characters of true
religion. Christianity has no authority therein; and is there like a
being out of its proper element,--a tree deprived of its roots: its
face is pale and disfigured like that of a corpse. Protestantism talks
of faith, and its fundamental principle destroys it; it endeavors to
exalt the gospel, and its own principle, by subjecting that gospel to
private judgment, weakens its authority. If it speak of the sanctity
and purity of Christian morality, it is reminded that some of its
dissenting sects deny the divinity of Jesus Christ; and that they all
may do so according to the principle on which it rests. The Divinity
of Jesus Christ once doubted, the God-made man is reduced to the rank
of a great philosopher and legislator; He has no longer the authority
necessary to give to His laws the august sanction which renders them
so holy in the eyes of men; He can no longer imprint upon them the
seal which raises them above all human thoughts, and His sublime
instructions cease to be lessons flowing from the lips of uncreated

If you deprive the human mind of the support of authority of some
kind or other, on what can it depend? Abandoned to its own delirious
dreams, it is forced again into the gloomy paths which led the
philosophers of the ancient schools to chaos. Reason and experience
are here agreed. If you substitute the private judgment of Protestants
for the authority of the Church, all the great questions respecting
God and man remain without solution. All the difficulties are left;
the mind is in darkness, and seeks in vain for a light to guide it in
safety: stunned by the voices of a hundred schools, who dispute without
being able to throw any light on the subject, it relapses into that
state of discouragement and prostration in which Christianity found it,
and from which, with so much exertion, she had withdrawn it. Doubt,
pyrrhonism, and indifference become the lot of the greatest minds; vain
theories, hypothetical systems, and dreams take possession of men of
more moderate abilities; the ignorant are reduced to superstitions and

Of what use, then, would Christianity have been on the earth, and what
would have been the progress of humanity? Happily for the human race,
the Christian religion was not abandoned to the whirlwind of Protestant
sects. In Catholic authority she has found ample means of resisting the
attacks of sophistry and error. What would have become of her without
it? Would the sublimity of her doctrines, the wisdom of her precepts,
the unction of her counsels, have been now any thing more than a
beautiful dream, related in enchanting language by a great philosopher?
Yes, I must repeat, without the authority of the Church there is no
security for faith; the divinity of Jesus Christ becomes a matter
of doubt; His mission is disputed; in fact, the Christian religion
disappears. If she cannot show us her heavenly titles, give us full
certainty that she has come from the bosom of the Eternal, that her
words are those of God Himself, and that He has condescended to appear
on earth for the salvation of men, she has then lost her right to
demand our veneration. Reduced to the level of human ideas, she must,
then, submit to our judgment like other mere opinions; at the tribunal
of philosophy she may endeavor to maintain her doctrines as more or
less reasonable; but she will always be liable to the reproach of
having wished to deceive us, by passing herself off as divine when she
was only human; and in all discussions on the truth of her doctrines,
she will have this fatal presumption against her, viz. that the account
of her origin was an imposture.

Protestants boast of their independence of mind, and reproach the
Catholic religion with violating the most sacred rights, by demanding
a submission which outrages the dignity of man. Here extravagant
declamation about the strength of our understanding is introduced with
good effect; and a few seductive images and expressions, such as "_bold
flights_" and "_glittering wings_," &c., are enough to delude many

Let the human mind enjoy all its rights; let it boast of possessing
that spark of divinity called the intellect; let it pass over all
nature in triumph, observing all the beings by which it is surrounded,
and congratulate itself on its own immense superiority, in the midst
of the wonders with which it has known how to embellish its abode;
let it point out, as proofs of its strength and grandeur, the changes
which are everywhere worked by its presence; by its intellectual
force and boldness it has acquired the complete mastery over nature.
Let us acknowledge the dignity and elevation of our minds to show
our gratitude to our Creator, but let us not forget our weakness and
defects. Why should we deceive ourselves by fancying that we know what
we are really ignorant of? Why forget the inconstancy and variableness
of our minds, and conceal the fact, that with respect to many things,
even of those with which we are supposed to be acquainted, we have but
confused ideas? How delusive is our knowledge, and what exaggerated
notions we have of our progress in information? Does not one day
contradict what another had affirmed? Time runs its course, laughs at
our predictions, destroys our plans, and clearly shows how vain are our

What have those geniuses who have descended to the foundations of
science, and risen by the boldest flights to the loftiest speculations,
told us? After having reached the utmost limits of the space which it
is permitted to the human mind to range over,--after having trodden the
most secret paths of science, and sailed on the vast ocean of moral
and physical nature, the greatest minds of all ages have returned
dissatisfied with the results. They have seen a beautiful illusion
appear before their eyes,--the brilliant image which enchanted them
has vanished; when they thought they were about to enter a region
of light, they have found themselves surrounded with darkness, and
they have viewed with affright the extent of their ignorance. It is
for this reason that the greatest minds have so little confidence
in the strength of the human intellect, although they cannot but be
fully aware that they are superior to other men. The sciences, in the
profound observation of Pascal, have two extremes which meet each
other: the first is, the pure natural state of ignorance in which men
are at their birth; the other extreme is, that at which great minds
arrive when, having reached the utmost extent of human knowledge, they
find that they know nothing, and that they are still in the same state
of ignorance as at first. (_Pensées_, 1 partie, art. 6.)

Catholicism says to man, "Thy intellect is weak, thou hast need of a
guide in many things." Protestantism says to him, "Thou art surrounded
by light, walk as thou wilt; thou canst not have a better guide than
thyself." Which of the two religions is most in accordance with the
lessons of the highest philosophy?

It is not, therefore, surprising that the greatest minds among
Protestants have all felt a certain tendency towards Catholicism, and
have seen the wisdom of subjecting the human mind, in some things,
to the decision of an infallible authority. Indeed, if an authority
can be found uniting in its origin, its duration, its doctrines, and
its conduct, all the characteristics of divinity, why should the mind
refuse to submit to her; and what has it to gain by wandering, at the
mercy of its illusions, on the most serious subjects, in paths where it
only meets with recollections of errors, with warnings and delusions?

If the human mind has conceived too great an esteem for itself, let
it study its own history, in order to see and understand how little
security is to be found in its own strength. Abounding in systems,
inexhaustible in subtilties; as ready in conceiving a project as
incapable of maintaining it; full of ideas which arise, agitate, and
destroy each other, like the insects which abound in lakes; now raising
itself on the wings of sublime inspiration, and now creeping like a
reptile on the face of the earth; as able and willing to destroy the
works of others, as it is impotent to construct any durable ones of
its own; urged on by the violence of passion, swollen with pride,
confounded by the infinite variety of objects which present themselves
to it; confused by so many false lights and so many deceptive
appearances, the human mind, when left entirely to itself, resembles
those brilliant meteors which dart at random through the immensity of
the heavens, assume a thousand eccentric forms, send forth a thousand
sparks, dazzle for a moment by their fantastic splendour, and disappear
without leaving even a reflected light to illuminate the darkness.

Behold the history of man's knowledge! In that immense and confused
heap of truth, error, sublimity, absurdity, wisdom, and folly, are
collected the proofs of my assertions, and to that do I refer any one
who may be inclined to accuse me of having overcharged the picture.[7]



The truth of what I have just advanced with respect to the weakness
of our intellect, is proved by the fact that the hand of God has
placed at the bottom of our souls a preservative against the excessive
changeability of our minds, even in things which do not regard
religion. Without this preservative all social institutions would be
destroyed, or rather never would have had existence; without it the
sciences would not have advanced a step, and when it had disappeared
from the human heart, individuals and society would have been swallowed
up by chaos. I allude to a certain tendency to defer to authority--to
the _instinct of faith_, if I may so call it--an instinct which we
ought to examine with great attention, if we wish to know any thing of
the human mind, and the history of its development.

It has often been observed that it is impossible to comply with the
most urgent necessities, or perform the most ordinary acts of life,
without respecting the authority of the statement of others; it is easy
to understand that, without this faith, all the treasures of history
and experience would soon be dissipated, and that even the foundation
of all knowledge would disappear.

These important observations are calculated to show how vain is the
charge against the Catholic religion, of requiring nothing but faith;
but this is not my only object here; I wish to present the matter under
another aspect, and place the question in such a position as to make
this truth gain in extent and interest, without losing any thing of its
immovable firmness. In looking over the history of human knowledge, and
glancing at the opinions of our contemporaries, we constantly observe
that the men who boast the most of their spirit of inquiry and freedom
of thought, only echo the opinions of others. If we examine with
attention that great study which, under the name of science, has made
so much noise in the world, we shall observe that it contains at bottom
a large portion of authority; and that if a perfectly free spirit of
inquiry were to be introduced into it, even with respect to points
of pure reason, the greatest part of the edifice of science would be
destroyed, and very few men would remain in possession of its secrets.

No branch of knowledge, whatever may be the clearness and exactitude
of which it boasts, is an exception to this rule. Do not the natural
and exact sciences, rich as they are in evident principles, rigorous
in their deductions, abounding in observation and experience, depend,
nevertheless, for a great many of their truths, upon other truths of a
higher nature; the knowledge of which necessarily requires a delicacy
of observation, a power of calculation, a clear and penetrating _coup
d'œil_, which belongs to few?

When Newton proclaimed to the scientific world the fruit of his
profound calculations, how many of his disciples could flatter
themselves that they were able to confirm them by their own
convictions? I do not except from this question many of those who, by
laborious efforts, had been able to comprehend something of this great
man; they had followed the mathematician in his calculations, they
had a full knowledge of the mass of facts and experience which the
naturalist exposed to their view; they had listened to the reasons on
which the philosopher rested his conjectures; in this way they thought
that they were _fully convinced_, and that they did not owe their
assent to any thing but the force of reason and evidence. Well, take
away the name of Newton, efface from the mind the profound impression
made by the authority of the man who made so extraordinary a discovery,
and has employed so much genius in supporting it,--take away, I repeat
it, the shade of Newton, and you will directly see, in the minds of his
disciples, their principles vacillate, their reasonings become less
convincing and exact, and their observations appear less in accordance
with the facts. Then, he who thought himself a perfectly impartial
observer, a perfectly independent thinker, will see and understand to
how great an extent he was enthralled by the force of authority, by
the ascendency of genius; he will find that, on a variety of points,
he _assented_ without being _convinced_; and that, instead of being
a perfectly independent philosopher, he was only an obedient and
accomplished pupil.

I appeal with confidence to the testimony, not of the ignorant, not
of those who have only a smattering of scientific knowledge, but of
real men of learning, of those who have devoted much time to the
various branches of study. Let them look into their own minds, let
them examine anew what they call their scientific convictions, let
them ask themselves, with perfect calmness and impartiality, whether,
even on those subjects in which they consider themselves the most
advanced, their minds are not frequently controlled by the ascendency
of some author of the first rank. I believe they will be compelled to
acknowledge that, if they strictly applied the method of Descartes
even to some of the questions which they have studied the most, they
would find that they believe rather than are convinced. Such always
has been, and such always will be, the case. It is a thing deeply
rooted in the nature of our minds, and it cannot be prevented. Perhaps
the regulation is a matter of absolute necessity; perhaps it contains
much of that instinct of preservation which God, with so much wisdom,
has diffused throughout society; perhaps it is intended to counteract
the many elements of dissolution which society contains within its
bosom. Undoubtedly, it is often very much to be regretted that men
servilely follow in the footsteps of others, and injurious consequences
not unfrequently are the result. But it would be still worse, if men
constantly held themselves in an attitude of resistance to all others,
for fear of deception. Woe to man and to society, if the philosophic
mania of wishing to submit all matters to a rigorous examination were
to become general in the world; and woe to science, if this rigorous,
scrupulous, and independent scrutiny were extended to every thing.

I admire the genius of Descartes, and acknowledge the signal services
which he has rendered to science; but I have more than once thought
that, if his method of doubting became general for any time, society
would be destroyed. And it seems to me that, among learned men
themselves, among impartial philosophers, this method would do great
harm; at least, it may be supposed that the number of men devoid of
sense in the scientific world would be considerably increased.

Happily there is no danger of this being the case. If it be true that
there is always in man a certain tendency towards folly, there is
also always to be found there a fund of good sense which cannot be
destroyed. When certain individuals of heated imaginations attempt to
involve society in their delirium, society answers with a smile of
derision; or if it allows itself to be seduced for a moment, it soon
returns to its senses, and repels with indignation those who have
endeavored to lead it astray. Passionate declamation against vulgar
prejudice, against docility in following others and willingness to
believe all without examination, is only considered as worthy of
contempt by those who are intimately acquainted with human nature.
Are not these feelings participated in by many who belong not to the
vulgar? Are not the sciences full of gratuitous suppositions, and have
they not their weak points, with which, however, we are satisfied, as
if they afforded a firm basis to rest upon?

The right of possession and prescription is also one of the
peculiarities which the sciences present to us; and it is well worthy
of remark that, without ever having borne the name, this right has been
acknowledged by a tacit but unanimous consent. How can this be? Study
the history of the sciences, and you will find at every step this right
acknowledged and established. How is it, amid the continual disputes
which have divided philosophers, that we see an old opinion make a
long resistance to a new one, and sometimes succeed in preventing its
establishment? It is because the old opinion was in possession, and
was strengthened by the right of prescription. It is of no importance
that the words were not used, the result was the same; this is the
reason why discoverers have so often been despised, opposed, and even

It is necessary to make this avowal, although it may be repugnant to
our pride, and may scandalize some sincere admirers of the progress of
knowledge. These advances have been numerous; the field over which the
human mind has exercised itself, and its sphere of action, are immense;
the works by which it has proved its power are admirable; but there is
always in all this a large portion of exaggeration, and it is necessary
to make a considerable allowance, especially in the moral sciences.
It cannot justly be inferred, from these exaggerated statements, that
our intellect is capable of advancing in every path with perfect ease
and activity; no deduction can be drawn from it to contradict the fact
which we have just established, viz. the mind of man is almost always
in subjection, even imperceptibly, to the authority of other men.

In every age there appear a small number of privileged spirits, who,
by nature superior to all the rest, serve as guides in the various
careers; a numerous crowd, who think themselves learned, follow them
with precipitation, and, fixing their eyes on the standard which has
been raised, rush breathlessly after it; and yet, strange as it is,
they all boast of their independence, and flatter themselves that they
are distinguishing themselves by pursuing the new path; one would
imagine that they had discovered it, and that they were walking in it
guided by their own light and inspirations. Necessity, taste, or a
thousand other circumstances, lead us to cultivate this or that branch
of knowledge; our own weakness constantly tells us that we have no
creative power; that we cannot produce any thing of our own, and that
we are incapable of striking out a new path; but we flatter ourselves
that we share some part of the glory belonging to the illustrious
chief whose banner we follow; we sometimes will succeed in persuading
ourselves, in the midst of these reveries, that we do not fight under
anybody's standard, and that we are only rendering homage to our own
convictions, when, in reality, we are the proselytes of others.

Herein common sense shows itself to be wiser than our weak reason; and
thus language, which gives such deep expression to things, where we
find, without knowing whence they come, so much truth and exactitude,
gives us a severe admonition on the subject of these vain pretensions.
In spite of us, language calls things by their right names, and knows
how to class us and our opinions according to the leader that we
follow. What is the history of science but the history of the contests
of a small number of illustrious men? If we glance over ancient and
modern times, and bring into view the various branches of knowledge,
we shall see a number of schools founded by a philosopher of the first
rank, and then falling under the direction of another whose talents
have made him worthy to succeed the founder. Thus the thing goes on,
until circumstances having changed, or the spirit of vitality being
gone, the school dies a natural death, unless a man of bold and
independent mind appears, who takes the old school and destroys it, in
order to establish his own doctrines on the ruins.

When Descartes dethroned Aristotle, did he not immediately take his
place? Then philosophers pretended to independence--an independence
which was contradicted by the very name they bore, that of Cartesians.
Like nations who, in times of rebellion, cry out for liberty, dethrone
their old king, and afterwards submit to the first man who has the
boldness to seize the vacant throne.

It is thought in our age, as it has been in times gone by, that the
human mind acts with perfect independence, owing to declamation against
authority in scientific matters, and the exaltation of the freedom of
thought. The opinion has become general that, in these times, the
authority of any one man is worth nothing; it has been thought that
every man of learning acts according to his own convictions alone.
Moreover, systems and hypotheses have lost all credit, and a great
desire for examination and analysis has become prevalent. This has
made people believe not only that authority in scientific matters is
completely gone, but that it is henceforth impossible.

At first sight there appears to be some truth in this; but if we look
attentively around us, we shall observe that the number of leaders
is only somewhat increased, and the time of their command somewhat
shortened. Our age is truly one of commotions, literary and scientific
revolutions, like those in politics, where nations imagine that they
possess more liberty because the government is placed in the hands of
a greater number of persons, and because they find more facility in
getting rid of their rulers. They destroy those men to whom but a short
time before they have given the names of fathers and liberators; then,
the first transport being passed, they allow other men to impose upon
them a yoke in reality not less heavy. Besides the examples afforded
us by the history of the past century, at the present day we see only
great names succeed each other, and the leaders of the human mind take
each other's places.

In the field of politics, where one would imagine the spirit of
freedom ought to have full scope, do we not see men who take the
lead; and are they not looked upon as the generals of an army during
a campaign? In the parliamentary arena, do we see any thing but two
or three bodies of combatants, performing their evolutions under
their respective chiefs with perfect regularity and discipline? These
truths are well understood by those who occupy these high positions!
They are acquainted with our weakness, and they know that men are
commonly deceived by mere words. A thousand times must they have been
tempted to smile, when, contemplating the field of their triumphs,
and seeing themselves surrounded by followers who, proud of their own
intelligence, admire and applaud them, they have heard one of the most
ardent of their disciples boast of his unlimited freedom of thought,
and of the complete independence of his opinions and his votes.

Such is man, as shown to us by history and the experience of every
day. The inspiration of genius, that sublime force which raises the
minds of some privileged men, will always exercise, not only over the
ignorant, but even over the generality of men who devote themselves
to science, a real fascination. Where, then, is the insult which the
Catholic religion offers to reason when, presenting titles which prove
her divinity, she asks for that faith which men grant so easily to
other men in matters of various kinds, and even in things with which
they consider themselves to be the best acquainted? Is it an insult to
human reason to point out to him a fixed and certain rule with respect
to matters of the greatest importance, while, on the other hand, she
leaves him perfectly free to think as he pleases on all the various
questions which God has left to his discretion? In this the Church
only shows herself to be in accordance with the lessons of the highest
philosophy. She shows a profound knowledge of the human mind, and she
delivers it from all the evils which are inflicted by its fickleness,
its inconstancy, and its ambition, combined as these qualities are with
an extraordinary tendency to defer to the opinions of individuals.
Who does not see that the Catholic Church puts thereby a check on the
spirit of proselytism, of which society has had so much reason to
complain? Since there is in man this irresistible tendency to follow
the footsteps of another, does she not confer an eminent service on
humanity, by showing it a sure way of following the example of a God
incarnate? Does she not thus take human liberty under her protection,
and at the same time save from shipwreck those branches of knowledge
which are the most necessary to individuals and to society?[8]



The progress of society, and the high degree of civilization and
refinement to which modern nations have attained, will no doubt be
urged against the authority which seeks to exercise jurisdiction over
the mind. In this way men will attempt to justify what they call the
emancipation of the human mind. For my own part, this objection seems
to have so little solidity, and to be so little supported by facts,
that, from the progress of society, I should, on the contrary, conclude
that there is the more need of that living rule which is deemed
indispensable by Catholics.

To say that society in its infancy and youth may have required
this authority as a check, but that this check has become useless
and degrading since the human mind has reached a higher degree of
development, is completely to mistake the connection which exists
between the various conditions of our mind and the objects over which
this authority extends. The true idea of God, the origin, the end, and
the rule of human conduct, together with all the means with which God
has furnished us to attain to our high destiny, such are the subjects
with which faith deals, and with respect to which Catholics contend
that it is necessary to have an infallible rule. They maintain that
without this it would be impossible to avoid the most lamentable
errors, and to protect truth from the effects of human passions.

This consideration will suffice to show, that private judgment would
be much less dangerous among nations still less advanced in the career
of civilization. There is, indeed, in a young nation, a great fund of
natural candor and simplicity, which admirably disposes it to receive
with docility the instructions contained in the sacred volume. Such
a people will relish those things which are easily to be understood,
and will bow with humility before the sublime obscurity of those pages
which it has pleased God to cover with a veil of mystery. Moreover, the
condition of this people, as yet exempt from the pride of knowledge,
would create a sort of authority, since there would be found within its
bosom only a small number of men able to examine divine revelation; and
thus a centre for the distribution of instruction would be naturally

But it is far otherwise with a nation far advanced in the career of
knowledge. With the latter, the extension of knowledge to a greater
number of individuals, by augmenting pride and fickleness, multiplies
sects, and ends by revolutionizing ideas and corrupting the purest
traditions. A young nation is devoted to simple occupations; it remains
attached to its ancient customs; it listens with respect and docility
to the aged, who, surrounded by their children and grand-children,
relate with emotion the histories and the maxims which they have
received from their ancestors. But when society has reached a great
degree of development, when respect for the fathers of families and
veneration for gray hairs have become weakened; when pompous titles,
scientific display, and grand libraries make men conceive a high idea
of their intellectual powers; when the multitude and activity of
communications widely diffuse those ideas, which, when put in motion,
have an almost magical power of affecting men's minds, then it is
necessary,--it is indispensable to have an authority, always living,
always ready to act whenever it is wanted,--to cover with a protecting
ægis the sacred deposit of truths which are the same in all times and
places; truths without the knowledge of which man would be left to the
mercy of his own errors and caprices from the cradle to the grave;
truths on which society rests as its surest foundation; truths which
cannot be destroyed without shaking to pieces the whole social edifice.
The literary and political history of Europe for the last three
hundred years affords but too many proofs of this. Religious revolution
broke out at the moment when it was capable of doing the most harm: it
found society agitated by all the activity of the human mind, and it
destroyed the control when it was most necessary.

Undoubtedly, it is necessary to guard against depreciating the mind of
man by charging it with faults which it has not, or by exaggerating
those which it has; but it is no less improper to puff it up by
exalting its strength too much. The latter would be injurious to it
in several ways, and would be little likely to advance its progress;
it would also, if properly understood, be little conformable to that
gravity and discretion which ought to distinguish true science. Indeed,
to merit the name, science ought to show the folly of being vain of
what does not rightly belong to it; it ought to know its limits, and
have sufficient candor and generosity to acknowledge its weakness.

There is a fact in the history of science, which, by revealing the
intrinsic weakness of the mind, palpably shows the flattery of those
unmeasured eulogies which are sometimes lavished on it, and also
demonstrates to us how dangerous it would be to abandon it to itself
without any guide. This fact is, the obscurity which increases in
proportion as we approach the first principles of science; so that
even in those sciences the truth, evidence, and exactness of which are
considered the best established, it seems that no firm ground is to be
obtained when we attempt to go to the bottom of them; and the mind, not
finding any security, recoils in the fear of meeting with something to
throw doubt and uncertainty on the truths of which it was convinced.

I do not participate in the ill-humor of Hobbes against the
mathematics. Devoted to their progress, and deeply convinced as I am of
the advantages which their study confers on the other sciences and on
society, I shall not attempt to underrate their merit, or deny any of
their great claims; but who can say that they are an exception to the
general rule? Have they not their weak points and their darksome paths?

It is true that, when we confine ourselves to the explanation of the
first principles of these sciences, and the deduction from them of the
most elementary propositions, the mind is on firm ground, where no
fear of making a false step occurs to it. I put aside at present the
obscurity which would be found in ideology and metaphysics, if they
were to discuss certain points according to the writings of the most
distinguished philosophers. Let us confine ourselves to the circle to
which the mathematics are naturally confined. Who that has studied
them is ignorant that you may reach a point in their theories, where
the mind finds nothing but obscurity? The demonstration is before
our eyes; it has been developed in all its parts; and yet the mind
wavers, feeling within itself a kind of uncertainty which it cannot
well describe. It sometimes happens that, after reasoning a long time,
the truth rushes upon us like the light of day; but it is not until we
have walked in darkness for a long period. When we fix our attention
upon those thoughts which wander in our minds like moving lights, on
those almost imperceptible emotions which, on these occasions, arise,
and then die away in the soul, we observe that the mind, in the midst
of its fluctuations, seeks instinctively for the anchor which is to be
found in the authority of another. To reassure ourselves completely, we
then invoke the authority of some great mathematicians, and we rejoice
that the fact is placed beyond a doubt by the series of great men who
have always viewed it in the same light. But perhaps our ignorance and
pride will not admit the truth of these reflections. Let us, then,
study these sciences, or at least read their history, and we shall
be convinced that they afford numerous proofs of the weakness of the

Did not the extraordinary invention of Newton and Leibnitz find many
opponents in Europe? Were there not required to establish it, both the
sanction of time and the touchstone of experience, which made manifest
the truth of their principles and the exactness of their reasonings?
Do you believe that, if this invention were again, for the first time,
to make its appearance in the field of science, even fortified with
all the proofs which have been brought forward to strengthen it, and
surrounded with all the light which so many explanations have shed upon
it,--do you believe, I say, that it would not need a second time the
right of prescription, to regain its tranquil and undisturbed empire?

It is easy to suppose that the other sciences have no little share in
this uncertainty arising from the weakness of the human mind; as I do
not imagine that this assertion will be called in question, I pass on
to a few remarks on the peculiar character of the moral sciences.

The fact has not been sufficiently attended to, that there is no study
more deceptive than that of the moral sciences; I say deceptive,
because this study, seducing the mind by an appearance of facility,
draws it into difficulties which it is no easy matter to overcome. It
may be compared to those tranquil waters which, although apparently
but shallow, are in reality unfathomably deep. Familiarized from our
infancy with the language of this science, surrounded by its continual
applications, and having before our eyes its truths under a palpable
form, we possess a certain facility of speaking readily on many parts
of the subject; and we have the rashness to suppose that it would not
be difficult to master its highest principles and its most delicate
relations. But wonderful as it is, scarcely have we quitted the path
of common sense, and attempted to go beyond those simple impressions
which we have received from our mothers, when we find ourselves in a
labyrinth of confusion. If the mind gives itself up to subtilties, it
ceases to listen to the voice of the heart, which speaks to it with
equal simplicity and eloquence; if it does not repress its pride,
and attend to the wise counsels of good sense, it will be guilty
of despising those salutary and necessary truths, which have been
preserved by society to be transmitted from generation to generation:
it is then, while groping its way in the dark, that it falls into the
wildest extravagances, the lamentable effects of which are so often
exemplified in the history of the sciences.

If we observe attentively, we shall find something of the same kind
in all the sciences. The Creator has taken care to supply us with
knowledge necessary for the purposes of life, and for the attainment
of our destiny; but it has not pleased Him to gratify our curiosity by
discovering to us what was not necessary. Nevertheless, in some things
He has communicated to the mind a power which renders it capable of
constantly adding to its knowledge; but, with respect to moral truths,
it has been left sterile. What man is required to know, has been deeply
engraven on his heart, in characters simple and intelligible; or is
contained in the sacred volume; and moreover, he has had pointed out
to him, in the authority of the Church, a fixed rule, to which he can
apply to have his doubts explained. With respect to the rest, man
has been placed in such a position, that if he attempt to enter into
matters which are too subtle, he only wanders backwards and forwards
in the same road, at the extremities of which he finds on the one side
skepticism, on the other pure truth.

Perhaps some modern ideologists will urge, in opposition to this,
the result of their own analytical labours. "Before men began to
analyze facts," they will say, "and while they indulged in fanciful
systems, and satisfied themselves with verbal disputes without critical
examination, all this might be true; but now that we have explained
all the ideas of moral good and evil, in so perfect a way, and have
separated the prejudice in them from the true philosophy; now that
the whole system of morality is based upon the simple principles of
pleasure and pain, and we have given the clearest ideas of these
things, such, for example, as the sensations produced in us by an
orange; to maintain your assertion, is to be ungrateful towards
science, and to underrate the fruit of our labours."

I am aware of the labours of some moral ideologists, and I know with
what deceptive simplicity they develop their theories, by giving to
the most difficult things an easy turn, which affects to make them
intelligible to the most limited minds. This is not the place to
examine these analytical investigations, and their results. I shall,
however, remark that, in spite of their promised simplicity, it
does not appear that either society or science makes much progress
through their means, and that these opinions, although but a short
time broached, are already superannuated. This is not a matter of
astonishment to us; for it was easy to perceive that, in spite of
their positiveness, if I may be allowed to use the expression, these
ideologists are as hypothetical as many of their predecessors, who
are loaded by them with sarcasms and contempt. They are a poor,
narrow-minded school, devoid of the truth, and not even adorned by the
brilliant dreams of great men; a proud and deluded school, who fancy
they explain a fact, when they only obscure it; and prove a thing, when
they only assert it; and imagine that they analyze the human heart,
when they take it to pieces.

If such is the human mind; if such is its inability in matters of
science, whether physical or moral, that it has not advanced a single
step beyond the limit prescribed by a beneficent Providence; what
service has Protestantism rendered to modern society, by impairing the
force of authority, that power which could alone present an effectual
barrier to man's unhappy wanderings?[9]



In rejecting the authority of the Church, and in adopting this
resistance as its only principle, Protestantism was compelled to seek
its whole support in man; thus to mistake the true character of the
human mind, and its relations with religious and moral truth, was to
throw itself, according to circumstances, into the opposite extremes of
fanaticism and indifference.

It may seem strange that these opposite errors should emanate from
the same source; and yet nothing is more certain. Protestantism, by
appealing to man alone in religious matters, had only two courses to
adopt; either to suppose men to be inspired by Heaven for the discovery
of truth, or to subject all religious truths to the examination of
reason. To submit religious truths to the judgment of reason was
sooner or later to produce indifference; on the other hand, private
inspiration must engender fanaticism.

There is a universal and constant fact in the history of the human
mind--viz. its decided inclination to invent systems in which the
reality of things is completely laid aside, and where we only see
the workings of a spirit which has chosen to quit the ordinary path
in order to give itself up to its own inspirations. The history
of philosophy is little else than a perpetual repetition of this
phenomenon, which the human mind shows, in some shape or other, in all
things which admit of it. When the mind has conceived a peculiar idea,
it regards it with that blind and exclusive predilection which is found
in the love of the father for his children. Under the influence of this
prejudice, the mind developes its ideas and accommodates facts to suit
it; that which at first was only an ingenious and extravagant idea,
becomes the germ of important doctrines; and if it arise in a person of
an ardent disposition, fanaticism, the cause of so much madness, is the

The danger is very much increased when the new system applies to
religious matters, or is immediately connected with them. The
extravagances of a diseased mind are then looked upon as inspirations
from Heaven; the fever of delirium as a divine flame; and a mania of
being singular as an extraordinary vocation. Pride, unable to brook
opposition, rises against all that it finds established; it insults
all authority; it attacks all institutions; it despises everybody; it
conceals the grossest violence under the mantle of zeal, and ambition
under the name of apostleship. The dupe of himself rather than an
impostor, the wretched maniac sometimes becomes deeply persuaded that
his doctrines are true, and that he has received the commands of
Heaven. As there is something extraordinary and striking in the fiery
language of the madman, he communicates to those who listen to him a
portion of his insanity, and makes, in a short time, a considerable
number of proselytes. The men capable of playing the first part in
this scene of madness are not numerous, it is true; but unhappily the
majority of men are foolish enough to be easily led away. History and
experience sufficiently prove that the crowd are easily attracted, and
that to form a party, however criminal, extravagant, or ridiculous, it
is only necessary to raise a standard.

I wish to take this opportunity of making an observation which I have
never seen pointed out--viz. that the Church, in her contest with
heresy, has rendered an important service to the science which devotes
itself to the examination of the true character, tendency, and power
of the human mind. The zealous guardian of all great truths, she has
always known how to preserve them unimpaired; she was fully acquainted
with the weakness of the mind of man, and its extreme proneness to
folly and extravagance; she has followed it closely in all its steps,
has watched it in all its movements, and has constantly resisted it
with energy, when it attempted to pollute the pure fountain of which
she is the guardian. During the long and violent contests which she
has had with it, the Church has made manifest its incurable folly; she
has exhibited it on every side, and has shown it in all its forms.
Thus it is that, in the history of heresies, she has made an abundant
collection of facts, and has painted an extremely interesting picture
of the human mind, where its characteristic physiognomy is faithfully
represented; a picture which will doubtless be of great service in the
composition of the important work which is yet unwritten--viz. the true
history of the human mind.[10]

Certain it is that the ravings and extravagances of fanaticism have not
been wanting in the history of Europe for the last three hundred years.
Their monuments still remain; in whatever direction we turn our steps,
we find bloody traces of the fanatical sects produced by Protestantism,
and engendered by its fundamental principle. Nothing could confine this
devastating torrent, neither the violent character of Luther, nor the
furious efforts which he made to oppose every one who taught doctrines
different from his own. Impiety succeeded impiety, extravagance
extravagance, fanaticism fanaticism. The pretended Reformation was soon
divided into as many sects as there were found men with the ingenuity
to invent and the boldness to maintain a system of their own. This was
necessarily the case; for besides the danger of leaving the human mind
without a guide on all questions of religion, there was another cause
fruitful in fatal results, I mean the private interpretation of the
sacred books.

It was then found that the best things may be abused, and that these
divine volumes, which contain so much instruction for the mind, and so
much consolation for the heart, are full of danger to the proud. How
great will this be, if you add to the obstinate resolution of resisting
all authority in matters of faith, the false persuasion that the
meaning of the Scriptures is everywhere clear, and that, in all cases,
the inspirations of Heaven may be expected to solve every doubt? What
will happen to those who turn over their pages with a longing desire
to find some text which, more or less tortured, may seem to authorize
their sophisms, subtilties, and absurdities?

There never was a greater mistake than that which was committed by the
Protestant leaders, when they placed the Bible in the hands of all
for self-interpretation; never was the nature of that sacred volume
more completely lost sight of. It is true that Protestantism had no
other method to pursue, and that every objection which it could make
to the private interpretation of the sacred text would be a striking
inconsistency, an apostasy from its own principles, and a denial
of its own origin; but at the same time, this is its most decided
condemnation. What claim, indeed, can that religion have to truth and
sanctity whose fundamental principle contains the germ of sects the
most fanatical--the most injurious to society?

It would be difficult to collect into so narrow a space, in opposition
to this essential error of Protestantism, so many facts and convincing
proofs of this, as are contained in the following lines, written by
a Protestant, O'Callaghan, which, I have no doubt, my readers will
thank me for quoting here. "Led away," says O'Callaghan, "by their
spirit of opposition to the Church of Rome, the first Reformers
loudly proclaimed the right of interpreting the Scriptures according
to each one's private judgment; but in their eagerness to emancipate
the people from the authority of the Pope, they proclaimed this right
without explanation or restriction: and the consequences were fearful.
Impatient to undermine the papal jurisdiction, they maintained without
exception, that each individual has an incontestable right to interpret
the Scriptures for himself; and as this principle, carried to the
fullest extent, was not sustainable, they were obliged to rely for
support upon another, viz. that the Bible is an easy book, within the
comprehension of all minds, and that the divine revelations contained
in it are always clear to all; two propositions which, whether we
consider them together or apart, cannot withstand a serious attack.

"The private judgment of Muncer found in the Scriptures that titles
of nobility and great estates are impious usurpations, contrary to
the natural equality of the faithful, and he invited his followers
to examine if this were not the case. They examined into the matter,
praised God, and then proceeded by fire and sword to extirpate the
impious and possess themselves of their properties. Private judgment
made the discovery in the Bible that established laws were a permanent
restriction on Christian liberty; and, behold, John of Leyden, throwing
away his tools, put himself at the head of a mob of fanatics, surprised
the town of Munster, proclaimed himself king of Sion, and took fourteen
wives at a time, asserting that polygamy is Christian liberty, and the
privilege of the saints. But if the criminal madness of these men in
another country is afflicting to the friends of humanity and of real
piety, certainly the history of England, during a great part of the
seventeenth century, is not calculated to console them. During that
period an immense number of fanatics appeared, sometimes together
and sometimes in succession, intoxicated with extravagant doctrines
and mischievous passions, from the fierce ravings of Fox to the more
methodical madness of Barclay; from the formidable fanaticism of
Cromwell to the silly profanity of 'Praise God Barebones.' Piety,
reason, and good sense seemed to be extinct on earth, and to be
succeeded by an extravagant jargon, a religious frenzy, and a zeal
without discretion. All quoted the Scriptures, all pretended to have
had inspirations, visions, and spiritual ecstasies, and all, indeed,
had equal claims to them. It was strongly maintained that it was proper
to abolish the priesthood and the royal dignity, because priests
were the ministers of Satan, and kings the delegates of the whore
of Babylon, and that the existence of both were inconsistent with
the reign of the Redeemer. The fanatics condemned science as a Pagan
invention, and universities as seminaries of antichristian impiety.
Bishops were not protected by the sanctity of their functions, or kings
by the majesty of the throne; both, as objects of contempt and hatred,
were mercilessly put to death by these fanatics, whose only book was
the Bible, without note or comment. During this time, the enthusiasm
for prayer, preaching, and the reading of the sacred books was at
the highest point; everybody prayed, preached, and read, but nobody
listened. The greatest atrocities were justified by the Scriptures; in
the most ordinary transactions of life, scriptural language was made
use of; national affairs, foreign and domestic, were discussed in the
phraseology of Holy Writ. There were scriptural plots, conspiracies,
and proscriptions; and all this was not only justified but even
sanctified by quotations from the word of God. These facts, attested
by history, have often astonished and alarmed men of virtue and piety,
_but the reader, too much imbued with his own ideas, forgets the lesson
to be learnt by this fatal experience; namely, that the Bible without
note or comment was not intended to be read by rude and ignorant men_.

"The majority of mankind must be content to receive the instructions
of others, and are not enabled to trust themselves. The most important
truths in medicine, in jurisprudence, in physics, in mathematics, must
be received from those who drink at the fountain head. The same plan
has in general been pursued with respect to Christianity; and whenever
the departure from it has been wide enough, '_society has been shaken
to its foundation_.'"

These words of O'Callaghan do not require any comment. It cannot be
said that they are hyperbolical or declamatory, as they are only a
simple and faithful narration of acknowledged facts. The recollection
of these events should suffice to prove the danger of placing the
sacred Scriptures, without note or comment, into the hands of all,
as Protestantism does, under the pretence, that the authority of the
Church is useless for understanding the holy books; and that every
Christian has only to listen to the dictates which generally emanate
from his passions and heated imagination. By this error alone, if it
had committed no other, Protestantism is self-reproved and condemned;
for it is a religion which has established a principle destructive to
itself. In order to appreciate the madness of Protestantism on this
point, and to see how false and dangerous is the position which it
has assumed with regard to the human mind, it is not necessary to be
a theologian, or a Catholic; it is enough to have read the Scriptures
with the eyes of a philosopher or a man of literature. Here is a
book which comprises, within a limited compass, the period of four
thousand years, and advances further towards the most distant future,
by embracing the origin and destiny of man and the universe--a book
which, with the continued history of a chosen people, intermingles, in
its narrations and prophecies, the revolutions of mighty empires--a
book which, side by side with the magnificent pictures of the power and
splendor of Eastern monarchs, describes, in simple colors, the plain
domestic manners, the candor, and innocence of a young nation--a book
in which historians relate, sages proclaim their maxims of wisdom,
apostles preach, and doctors instruct--a book in which prophets,
under the influence of the divine Spirit, thunder against the errors
and corruptions of the people, and announce the vengeance of the God
of Sinai, or pour forth inconsolable lamentations on the captivity
of their brethren, and the desolation and solitude of their country;
where they relate, in wonderful and sublime language, the magnificent
spectacles which are presented to their eyes; where, in moments of
ecstasy, they see pass before them the events of society and the
catastrophes of nature, although veiled in mysterious figures and
visions of obscurity--a book, or rather a collection of books, where
are to be found all sorts of styles and all varieties of narrative,
epic majesty, pastoral simplicity, lyric fire, serious instruction,
grave historical narrative, and lively and rapid dramatic action; a
collection of books, in fine, written at various times and in various
languages, in various countries, and under the most peculiar and
extraordinary circumstances. Must not all this confuse the heads of
men who, puffed up with their own conceit, grope through these pages
in the dark, ignorant of climates, times, laws, customs, and manners?
They will be puzzled by allusions, surprised by images, deceived by
expressions; they will hear the Greek and Hebrew, which was written in
those remote ages, now spoken in a modern idiom. What effects must all
these circumstances produce on the minds of readers who believe that
the Bible is an easy book, to be understood without difficulty by all?
Persuaded that they do not require the instructions of others, they
must either resolve all these difficulties by their own reflections,
or trust to that individual inspiration which they believe will not be
wanting to explain to them the loftiest mysteries. Who, after this,
can be astonished that Protestantism has produced so many absurd
visionaries and furious fanatics?[11]



It would be unjust to charge a religion with falsehood, merely because
fanatics are to be found within its bosom. This would be to reject
all, because none are to be found exempt from them. A religion, then,
is not to be condemned because it has them, but because it produces
them, urges them on, and opens a field for them. If we observe closely,
we shall find at the bottom of the human heart an abundant source
of fanaticism; the history of man affords us many proofs of this
incontestable truth. Imagine whatever delusion you please, relate the
most extravagant visions, invent the most absurd system, if you only
take care to give to all a religious coloring, you may be sure that you
will have enthusiastic followers, who will heartily devote themselves
to the propagation of your doctrines, and will espouse your cause
blindly and ardently; in other words, you will have under your standard
a troop of fanatics.

Philosophers have devoted many pages to declamation against fanaticism;
they have, as it were, assumed the mission of banishing it from the
earth. They have tired mankind with philosophical lectures, and have
thundered against the monster with all the vigor of their eloquence.
They used the word, however, in so wide a sense as to include all kind
of religion. But, if they had confined themselves to attacking real
fanaticism, I believe they would have done much better if they had
devoted some time to the examination of this matter in an analytic
spirit, and had treated it, after so doing, maturely, calmly, and
without prejudice.

Inasmuch as these philosophers were aware that fanaticism is a natural
infirmity of the human mind, they could, if they were men of sense and
wisdom, have had little hope of banishing the accursed monster from
the world by reasoning and eloquence; for I am not aware that, up to
the present time, philosophy has remedied any of the important evils
that afflict humanity. Among the numerous errors of the philosophy of
the eighteenth century, one of the principal was the mania for types;
there was formed in the mind a type of the nature of man, of society,
in a word, of every thing; and every thing that could not be adjusted
to this type, every thing that could not be moulded into the required
form, was so subjected to the fury of philosophers, as to make it
certain, at least, that the want of pliability did not go unpunished.

But do I mean to deny the existence of fanaticism in the world? There
is much of it. Do I deny that it is an evil? It is a very great one.
Can it be extirpated? It cannot. How can its extent be diminished, its
force weakened, and its violence checked? By directing man wisely. Can
this be done by philosophy? We shall presently see. What is the origin
of fanaticism? We must begin by defining the real meaning of the word.
By fanaticism is meant, taking the word in its widest signification,
the strong excitement of a mind powerfully acted on by a false or
exaggerated opinion. If the opinion be true, if it be confined within
just limits, there is no fanaticism; or, if there _be_ any, it is only
with respect to the means employed in defending the opinion. But in
that case there is an erroneous judgment, since it is believed that
the truth of the opinion authorizes the means; that is to say, there
is already error or exaggeration. If a true opinion be sustained by
legitimate means, if the occasion be opportune, whatever may be the
excitement or effervescence of mind, whatever may be the energy of the
efforts and the sacrifices made, then there is enthusiasm of mind and
heroism of action, but no fanaticism. Were it otherwise, the heroes of
all times and countries might be stigmatized as fanatics.

Fanaticism, in this general sense, extends to all the subjects which
occupy the human mind; thus there are fanatics in religion, in
politics, even in science and literature. Nevertheless, according
to etymology and custom, the word is properly applied to religious
matters only; therefore the word, when used alone, means fanaticism
in religion, whilst, when applied to other things, it is always
accompanied by a qualifying epithet; thus we say political fanatics,
literary fanatics, &c.

There is no doubt that in religious matters men have a strong tendency
to give themselves to a dominant idea, which they desire to communicate
to all around them, and propagate everywhere. They sometimes go so far
as to attempt this by the most violent means. The same fact appears,
to a certain extent, in other matters; but it acquires in religious
things a character different from what it assumes elsewhere. It is
there that the human mind acquires increased force, frightful energy,
and unbounded expansion; there are no more difficulties, obstacles, or
fetters; material interests entirely disappear; the greatest sufferings
acquire a charm; torments are nothing; death itself is a seductive

This phenomenon varies with individuals, with ideas, with the manners
of the nation in whose bosom it is produced; but at bottom it is always
the same. If we examine the matter thoroughly, we shall find that the
violences of the followers of Mahomet, and the extravagant disciples of
Fox, have a common origin.

It is with this passion as with all others; when they produce great
evils, it is because they deviate from their legitimate objects, or
because they strive at those objects by means which are not conformable
to the dictates of reason and prudence. Fanaticism, then, rightly
understood, is nothing but misguided religious feeling; a feeling which
man has within him from the cradle to the tomb, and which is found to
be diffused throughout society in all periods of its existence. Vain
have been the efforts made up to this time to render men irreligious;
a few individuals may give themselves up to the folly of complete
irreligion; but the human race always protests against those who
endeavor to stifle the sentiment of religion. Now this feeling is so
strong and active, it exercises so unbounded an influence on man,
that no sooner has it been diverted from its legitimate object, and
quitted the right path, than it is seen to produce lamentable results;
then it is that two causes, fertile in great disasters, are found in
combination, complete blindness of the understanding and irresistible
energy of the will.

In declaiming against fanaticism, many Protestants and philosophers
have thought proper to throw a large share of blame on the Catholic
Church; certainly they ought to have been more moderate in this respect
if their philosophy had been good. It is true the Church cannot boast
of having cured all the follies of man; she cannot pretend to have
banished fanaticism so completely as not to have some fanatics among
her children; but she may justly boast that no religion has taken more
effectual means of curing the evil. It may, moreover, be affirmed,
that she has taken her measures so well, that when it does make its
appearance, she confines it within such limits that it may exist for a
time, but cannot produce very dangerous results.

Its mental errors and delirious dreams, which, if encouraged, lead men
to the commission of the greatest extravagances and the most horrible
crimes, are kept under control when the mind possesses a salutary
conviction of its own weakness and a respect for infallible authority.
If they be not extinguished at their birth, at least they remain in a
state of isolation, they do not injure the deposit of true doctrine,
and the ties which unite all the faithful as members of the same body
are not broken. With respect to revelations, visions, prophecies, and
ecstasies, as long as they preserve a private character and do not
affect the truths of faith, the Church, generally speaking, tolerates
them and abstains from interference, leaving the discussion of the
facts to criticism, and allowing the faithful an entire liberty of
thinking as they please; but if the affair assumes a more important
aspect, if the visionary calls in question points of doctrine, she
immediately shows her vigilance. Attentive to every voice raised
against the instructions of her Divine Master, she fixes an observant
eye on the innovator. She examines whether he be a man deceived in
matters of doctrine or a wolf in sheep's clothing; she raises her
warning voice, she points out to all the faithful the error or the
danger, and the voice of the Shepherd recalls the wandering sheep; but
if he refuse to listen to her, and prefer to follow his own caprices,
she separates him from the flock, and declares him to resemble the
wolf. From that moment all those who are sincerely desirous of
continuing in the bosom of the Church, can no more be infected with the

Undoubtedly, Protestants will reproach Catholics with the number of
visionaries who have existed in the Church; they will recall the
revelations and visions of a great number of saints who are venerated
on our altars; they will accuse us of fanaticism,--a fanaticism, they
will say, which, far from being limited in its effects to a narrow
circle, has been able to produce the most important results. "Do
not the founders of religious orders alone," they will say, "afford
us a spectacle of a long succession of fanatics, who, self-deluded,
exercised upon others, by their words and example, the greatest
fascination that was ever seen?"

As this is not the place to enlarge upon the subject of religious
communities, which I propose to do in another part of this work,
I shall content myself with the observation, that even supposing
that all the visions and revelations of our saints and the heavenly
inspirations with which the founders of religious orders believed
themselves to have been favored were delusions, our opponents would
not be in any way justified in throwing on the Church the reproach of
fanaticism. And, first, it is easy to see that, as far as individual
visions are concerned, as long as they are thus limited, there may
be delusion, or, if you will, fanaticism; but this fanaticism will
not be injurious to any one, or create confusion in society. If a
poor woman believe herself to be peculiarly favoured by Heaven, if
she fancy that she hears the words of the Blessed Virgin, that she
converses with angels who bring her messages from God, all this may
excite the credulity of some and the raillery of others, but certainly
it will not cost society a drop of blood or a tear. As to the founders
of religious orders, in what way are they subject to the charge of
fanaticism? Let us pass in silence the profound respect which their
virtues deserve, and the gratitude which humanity owes them for the
inestimable benefits conferred; let us suppose that they were deceived
in all their inspirations; we may certainly call this delusion, but
not fanaticism. We do not find in them either frenzy or violence;
they are men diffident in themselves, who, when they believe that
they are called by Heaven to a great design, never commence the work
without having prostrated themselves at the feet of the Sovereign
Pontiff; they submit to his judgment the rules for the establishment
of their orders, they ask his instruction, listen to his decision with
docility, and do nothing without having obtained his permission. How,
then, do these founders of orders resemble the fanatics, who, putting
themselves at the head of a furious multitude, kill, destroy, and leave
everywhere behind them traces of blood and ruin? We see in the founders
of religious orders men who, deeply impressed with an idea, devote
themselves to realize it, however great may be the sacrifice. Their
conduct constantly shows a fixed idea, which is developed according to
a preconcerted plan, and is always highly social and religious in its
object: above all, this is submitted to authority, maturely examined
and corrected by the counsels of prudence. An impartial philosopher,
whatever may be his religious opinions, may find in all this more or
less illusion and prejudice, or prudence and address; but he cannot
find fanaticism, for there is nothing there which resembles it.[12]



The fanaticism of sects, which is excited, kept alive, and nourished in
Europe, by the private judgment of Protestantism, is certainly an evil
of the greatest magnitude; yet it is not so mischievous or alarming as
the infidelity and religious indifference for which modern society is
indebted to the pretended Reformation. Brought on by the scandalous
extravagances of so many sects of _soi-disant_ Christians, infidelity
and religious indifference, which have their root even in the very
principle of Protestantism, began to show themselves with alarming
symptoms in the sixteenth century; they have acquired with time great
diffusion, they have penetrated all the branches of science and
literature, have produced an effect on languages, and have endangered
all the conquests which civilization had gained during so many ages.

Even during the sixteenth century, and amid the hot disputes and
religious wars which Protestantism had enkindled, infidelity spread in
an alarming manner; and it is probable that it was even more common
than it appeared to be, as it was not easy to throw off the mask at
a period so near to the time when religious convictions had been
so deeply rooted. It is very likely that infidelity was propagated
disguised under the mantle of the Reformation, and that sometimes
enlisting under the banner of one sect and sometimes of another, it
labored to weaken them all, in order to set up its own throne on the
general ruin of faith.

It does not require a great effort of logic to pass from Protestantism
to Deism; from Deism to Atheism, there is but a step; and there must
have been, at the time when these errors were broached, a large number
of persons with reasoning powers enough to carry them out to the
fullest extent. The Christian religion, as explained by Protestants,
is only a kind of philosophic system more or less reasonable; as,
when fully examined, it has no divine character. How, then, can it
govern a reflecting and independent mind? Yes, one glance at the first
exhibitions of Protestantism must have been enough to incline all those
to religious indifference who, naturally disinclined to fanaticism,
had lost the anchor of the Church's authority. When we consider the
language and conduct of the sectarian leaders of that time, we are
strongly inclined to suspect that they laughed at all Christian faith;
that they concealed their indifference or their Atheism under strange
doctrines which served as a standard, and that they propagated their
writings with very bad faith, while they disguised their perfidious
intention of preserving in the minds of their partisans sectarian

Thus, listening to the dictates of good sense, the father of the
famous Montaigne, although he had seen as yet only the preludes of
the Reformation, said, "that this beginning of evil would easily
degenerate into execrable Atheism." A very remarkable testimony,
which has been preserved to us by his son himself, who was certainly
neither weak nor hypocritical. (_Essais de Montaigne_, liv. ii. chap.
12.) When this man pronounced so wise a judgment on the real tendency
of Protestantism, did he imagine that his own son would confirm the
justness of his prediction? Everybody knows that Montaigne was one of
the first skeptics that became famous in Europe. It was requisite, at
that time, for men to be cautious in declaring themselves Atheists or
indifferentists, among Protestants themselves; and it may readily be
imagined that all unbelievers had not the boldness of Gruet; yet we may
believe the celebrated theologian of Toledo, Chacon, who said at the
beginning of the last third of the sixteenth century, "that the heresy
of the Atheists, of those who believed nothing, had great strength in
France and in other countries."

Religious controversy continued to occupy the attention of all the
savants of Europe, and during this time the gangrene of infidelity made
great progress. This evil, from the middle of the seventeenth century,
assumed a most alarming aspect. Who is not dismayed at reading the
profound thoughts of Pascal on religious indifference? and who has not
felt, in reading them, the emotion which is caused in the soul by the
presence of a dreadful evil?

Things were now much advanced, and unbelievers were not far from being
in a position, to take their rank among the schools who disputed for
the upper hand in Europe. With more or less of disguise, they had
already for a long time shown themselves under the form of Socinianism;
but that did not suffice, for Socinianism bore at least the name of a
religious sect, and irreligion began to feel itself strong enough to
appear under its own name. The last part of the seventeenth century
presents a crisis which is very remarkable with respect to religion;--a
crisis which perhaps has not been well examined, although it exhibits
some very remarkable facts; I allude to a lassitude of religious
disputes, marked by two tendencies diametrically opposed to each other,
and yet very natural: one towards Catholicity and the other towards

Every one knows how much disputing there had been up to this time
on religion; religious controversies were the prevailing taste, and
it may be said that they formed the principal occupation not only
of ecclesiastics, both Catholic and Protestant, but even of the
well-educated laity. This taste penetrated the palaces of kings and
princes. The natural result of so many controversies was to disclose
the radical error of Protestantism: then the mind, which could not
remain firm on such slippery ground, was obliged, either to adopt
authority, or abandon itself to Atheism or complete indifference. These
tendencies made themselves very perceptibly felt; thus it was that at
the very time when Bayle thought Europe sufficiently prepared for his
infidelity and skepticism, there was going on an animated and serious
correspondence for the reunion of the German Protestants with the
Catholic Church. Men of education are acquainted with the discussions
which took place between the Lutheran Molanus, abbot of Lockum, and
Christopher, at first Bishop of Tyna, and afterwards of Newstad. The
correspondence between the two most remarkable men at that time in
Europe of both communions, Bossuet and Leibnitz, is another monument
of the importance of these negotiations. The happy moment was not yet
come; political considerations, which ought to have vanished in the
presence of such lofty interests, exercised a mischievous influence
on the great soul of Leibnitz, and he did not preserve, throughout
the progress of the discussions and negotiations, the sincerity, good
faith, and elevation of view, which he had evinced at the commencement.
The negotiation did not succeed, but the mere fact of its existence
shows clearly enough the void which was felt in Protestantism; for we
cannot believe that the two most celebrated men of that communion,
Molanus and Leibnitz, would have advanced so far in so important a
negotiation, unless they had observed among themselves many indications
of a disposition to return to the bosom of the Church. Add to this,
the declaration of the Lutheran university of Helmstad in favor of
the Catholic religion, and the fresh attempts at a reunion made by a
Protestant prince, who addressed himself to Pope Clement XI., and you
have strong reasons for believing that the Reformation felt itself
mortally wounded. If God had been willing to permit that so great a
result should appear to have been effected in any way by human means,
the deep convictions prevalent among the most distinguished Protestants
might perhaps have greatly contributed to heal the wounds which had
been inflicted upon religious unity by the revolutionists of the
sixteenth century.

But the profound wisdom of God had decided otherwise. In allowing men
to pursue their own opposite and perverse inclinations, He was pleased
to chastise them by means of their own pride. The tendency towards
unity was no longer dominant in the next century, but gave place to a
philosophic skepticism, indifferent towards all other religions, but
the deadly enemy of the Catholic. It may be said that at that time
there was a combination of the most fatal influences to hinder the
tendency towards unity from attaining its object. Already were the
Protestant sects divided and subdivided into numberless parties, and
although Protestantism was thereby weakened, yet, nevertheless, it
was diffused over the greater part of Europe; the germ of doubt in
religious matters had inoculated the whole of European society. There
was no truth which had escaped attack; no error or extravagance which
had not had apostles and proselytes; and it was much to be feared that
men would fall into that state of fatigue and discouragement which is
the result of great efforts made without success, and into that disgust
which is always produced by endless disputes and great scandals.

To complete the misfortune, and to bring to a climax the state of
lassitude and disgust, there was another evil, which produced the
most fatal results. The champions of Catholicity contended, with
boldness and success, against the religious innovations of Protestants.
Languages, history, criticism, philosophy, all that is most precious,
rich, and brilliant in human knowledge, had been employed in the
noblest way in this important struggle; and the great men who were
most prominent among the defenders of the Church seemed to console
her for the sad losses which she had sustained by the troubles of
another age. But while she embraced in her arms these zealous sons,
those who boasted the most of being called her children, she observed
in some of them, with surprise and dread, an attitude of disguised
hostility; and in their thinly veiled language and conduct she could
easily perceive that they meditated giving her a fatal blow. Always
asserting their submission and their obedience, but never submitting or
obeying; continually extolling the authority and divine origin of the
Church, and carefully concealing their hatred of her existing laws and
institutions under cover of professed zeal for the re-establishment of
ancient discipline; they sapped the foundations of morality, while they
claimed to be its earnest advocates; they disguised their hypocrisy and
pride under false humility and affected modesty; they called obstinacy
firmness, and wilful blindness strength of mind. This rebellion
presented an aspect more dangerous than any heresy; their honeyed
words, studied candor, respect for antiquity, and the show of learning
and knowledge, would have contributed to blind the best informed, if
the innovators had not been distinguished by the constant and unfailing
characteristic of all erroneous sects, viz. hatred of authority.

They were seen from time to time struggling against the declared
enemies of the Church, defending, with great display of learning,
the truth of her sacred dogmas, citing, with respect and deference,
the writings of the holy fathers, and declaring that they adhered
to tradition, and had a profound veneration for the decisions of
councils and Popes. They particularly prided themselves on being called
Catholics, however much their language and conduct were inconsistent
with the name. Never did they get rid of the marvellous infatuation
with which they denied their existence as a sect; and thus did they
throw in the way of ill-informed persons the unhappy scandal of a
dogmatical dispute, going on apparently within the bosom of the Church
herself. The Pope declared them heretics; all true Catholics bowed to
the decision of the Vicar of Jesus Christ; from all parts of the world
a voice was unanimously raised to pronounce anathema against all who
did not listen to the successor of St. Peter; but they themselves,
denying and eluding all, persisted in considering themselves as a body
of Catholics oppressed by the spirit of relaxation, abuse, and intrigue.

This scandal gave the finishing stroke to the leading of men astray,
and the fatal gangrene which was infecting European society soon
developed itself with frightful rapidity. The religious disputes,
the multitude and variety of sects, the animosity which they showed
against each other, all contributed to disgust with religion itself
whoever were not held fast by the anchor of authority. To establish
indifference as a system, atheism as a creed, and impiety as a fashion,
there was only wanting a man laborious enough to collect, unite, and
present in a body all the numerous materials which were scattered
in a multitude of works; a man who knew how to give to all this a
philosophical complexion suitable to the prevailing taste, and who
could give to sophistry and declamation that seductive appearance,
that deceptive form and dazzling show, by which the productions of
genius are always marked, in the midst even of their wildest vagaries.
Such a man appeared in the person of Bayle. The noise which his famous
dictionary made in the world, and the favor which it enjoyed from
the beginning, show how well the author had taken advantage of his
opportunity. The dictionary of Bayle is one of those books which,
considered apart from their scientific and literary merit, always serve
to denote a remarkable epoch, because they present, together with the
fruits of the past, the clear perception of a long future. The author
of such a work is not distinguished so much on account of his own
merit, as because he has known how to become the representative of
ideas previously diffused in society, but floating about in a state of
uncertainty; and yet his name recalls a vast history, of which he is
the personification. The publication of Bayle's work may be regarded
as the solemn inauguration of the chair of infidelity in Europe. The
sophists of the eighteenth century found at hand an abundant repository
of facts and arguments; but to render the thing complete, there was
wanting a hand capable of retouching the old paintings, of restoring
their faded colors, and of shedding over all the charms of imagination
and the refinement of wit; there was wanting a guide to lead mankind
by a flowery path to the borders of the abyss. Scarcely had Bayle
descended into the tomb, when there appeared above the literary horizon
a young man, whose great talents were equalled by his malice and
audacity; Voltaire.

It was necessary to draw the reader's attention to the period which
I have just described, to show him how great was the influence
exercised by Protestantism in producing and establishing in Europe the
irreligion, atheism, and fatal indifference which have caused so many
evils in modern society. I do not mean to charge all Protestants with
impiety; and I willingly acknowledge the sincerity and firmness of
many of their most illustrious men, in struggling against the progress
of irreligion. I am not ignorant that men sometimes adopt a principle
and repudiate its consequences, and that it would, therefore, be very
unjust to class them with those who openly accept those consequences;
but on the other hand, however painful it may be to Protestants to avow
that their system leads to atheism, it is nevertheless a fact which
cannot be denied. All that they can claim of me on this point is, not
to criminate their intentions; after that, they cannot complain if,
guided by the instructions of history and philosophy, I develop their
fundamental principle to the fullest extent.

It would be useless to sketch, even in the most rapid manner, what
has passed in Europe since the appearance of Voltaire: the events
are so recent, and have been so often discussed, that all that I
could say would be only a useless repetition. I shall better attain
my object by offering some remarks on the actual state of religion
in Protestant countries. Amid so many revolutions, and when so many
heads were turned; when all the foundations of society were shaken,
and the strongest institutions were torn out of the soil in which they
had been so deeply rooted; when even Catholic truth itself could not
have been sustained without the manifest aid of the arm of the Most
High, we may imagine the fate of the fragile edifice of Protestantism,
exposed, like all the rest, to so many and such violent attacks. No one
is ignorant of the numberless sects which abound in Great Britain, of
the deplorable condition of faith among the Swiss Protestants, even on
the most important points. That there might be no doubt as to the real
state of the Protestant religion in Germany, that is, in its native
country, where it was first established as in its dearest patrimony,
the Protestant minister, Baron Starck, has taken care to tell us, that
"_in Germany there is not one single point of Christian faith which
has not been openly attacked by the Protestant ministers themselves_."
The real state of Protestantism appears to me to be truly and forcibly
depicted by a curious idea of J. Heyer, a Protestant minister. Heyer
published, in 1818, a work entitled _Coup d'œil sur les Confessions
de Foi_; not knowing how to get out of the difficulty in which all
Protestants found themselves placed when they had to choose a symbol,
he proposed the simple expedient of _getting rid of all symbols_.

The only way that Protestantism has of preserving itself, is to violate
as much as possible its own fundamental principle, by withdrawing the
right of private judgment, inducing the people to remain faithful
to the opinions in which they have been educated, and carefully
concealing from them the inconsistency into which they fall, when
they submit to the authority of a private individual, after having
rejected the authority of the Catholic church. But things are not
taking this course; and in spite of the efforts of some Protestants
to follow it, Bible Societies, working with a zeal worthy of a better
cause, in promoting among all classes the private interpretation of
the Bible, would suffice to keep alive always the spirit of inquiry.
This diffusion of the Bible operates as a constant appeal to private
judgment, which, after perhaps causing many days of sorrow and mourning
to society, will eventually destroy the remains of Protestantism. All
this has not escaped the notice of its disciples; and some of the
most remarkable among them have raised their voices to point out the



After having clearly shown the intrinsic weakness of Protestantism,
it is natural to ask this question: If it be so feeble, owing to
the radical defects of its constitution, why has it not by this
time completely disappeared? If it bear in its own breast the seeds
of death, how has it been able so long to withstand such powerful
adversaries, as Catholicity, on the one hand, and irreligion
or Atheism, on the other? In order to resolve this question
satisfactorily, it is necessary to consider Protestantism in two points
of view; as embodying a fixed creed, and as expressing a number of
sects, who, in spite of their numerous mutual differences, agree in
calling themselves Christians, and preserve a shadow of Christianity,
although they reject the authority of the Church. It is necessary
to consider Protestantism in this double point of view, since its
founders, while endeavoring to destroy the authority and dogmas of the
Roman Church, were compelled to form a system of doctrines to serve as
a symbol for their followers. Considered in the first aspect, it has
almost entirely disappeared; we should rather say it scarcely ever had
existence. This truth is sufficiently evident from what I have said of
the variations and actual condition of Protestantism in the various
countries of Europe; time has shown how much the pretended Reformers
were deceived, when they fancied that they could fix the columns of
Hercules of the human mind, to repeat the expression of Madame de Staël.

Who now defends the doctrines of Luther and Calvin? Who respects the
limits which they prescribed? What Protestant Church distinguishes
itself by the ardor of its zeal in preserving any particular dogmas?
What Protestant now holds the divine mission of Luther, or believes the
Pope to be Antichrist? Who watches over the purity of doctrine, and
points out errors? Who opposes the torrent of sectarianism?

Do we find, in their writings, or in their discourses, the energetic
tones of conviction, or the zeal of truth? In fine, what a wide
difference do we find when we compare the Protestant Church with the
Catholic! Inquire into the faith of the latter, and you will hear from
the mouth of Gregory XVI., the successor of St. Peter, the same that
Luther heard from Leo X. Compare the doctrine of Leo X. with that of
his predecessors, you will always find it the same up to the Apostles,
and to Jesus Christ himself. If you attempt to assail a dogma, if you
try to attack the purity of morals, the voice of the ancient Fathers
will denounce your errors, and in the middle of the nineteenth century
you will imagine that the old Leos and Gregories are risen from the
tomb. If your intentions are good, you will find indulgence; if your
merits are great, you will be treated with respect; if you occupy an
elevated position in the world, you will have attention paid to you.
But if you attempt to abuse your talents by introducing novelty in
doctrine; if, by your power, you aspire to demand a modification of
faith; and if, to avoid troubles or prevent schism, or conciliate
any one, you ask for a compromise or even an ambiguous explanation;
the answer of the successor of St. Peter will be, "Never! faith is a
sacred deposit which we cannot alter; truth is immutable; it is one:"
and to this reply of the Vicar of Jesus Christ, which with a word will
banish all your hopes, will be added those of the modern Athanasiuses,
Gregories of Nazianzen, Ambroses, Jeromes, and Augustins. Always
the same firmness in the same faith, the same unchangeableness, the
same energy in preserving the sacred deposit intact, in defending it
against the attacks of error, in teaching it to the faithful in all
its purity, and in transmitting it unaltered to future generations.
Will it be said that this is obstinacy, blindness, and fanaticism?
But, eighteen centuries gone by, the revolutions of empires, the most
fearful catastrophes, an infinite variety of ideas and manners, the
most severe persecutions, the darkness of ignorance, the conflicts of
passion, the lights of knowledge,--none of these have been able to
enlighten this blindness, to bend this obstinacy, or extinguish this
fanaticism. Certainly a reflecting Protestant, one of those who know
how to rise above the prejudices of education, when fixing his eyes on
this picture, the truth of which he cannot but acknowledge, if he is
well informed on the question, will feel strong doubts arise within him
as to the truth of the instruction he has received; he will at least
feel a desire of examining more closely this great prodigy which the
Catholic Church presents to us. But to return.

We see the Protestant sects melting away daily, and this dissolution
must constantly increase; nevertheless, we have no reason to be
astonished that Protestantism, inasmuch as it consists of a number of
sects who preserve the name and some remains of Christianity, does
not wholly disappear; for how could it disappear? Either Protestant
nations must be completely swallowed up by irreligion or atheism, or
they must give up Christianity and adopt one of the religions which are
established in other parts of the world. Now both these suppositions
are impossible; therefore this false form of Christianity has been and
will be preserved, in some shape or other, until Protestants return to
the bosom of the Church.

Let us develop these ideas. Why cannot Protestant nations be completely
swallowed up by irreligion and atheism, or indifference? Because such
a misfortune may happen to an individual, but not to a nation. By
means of false books, erroneous reasonings, and continual efforts,
some individuals may extinguish the lively sentiments of their hearts,
stifle the voice of conscience, and trample under foot the dictates of
common sense; but a nation cannot do so. A people always preserves a
large fund of candor and docility, which, amid the most fatal errors
and even the most atrocious crimes, compels it to lend an attentive
ear to the inspirations of nature. Whatever may be the corruption of
morals, whatever may be the errors of opinion, there will never be
more than a small number of men found capable of struggling for a long
time against themselves, in the attempt to eradicate from their hearts
that fruitful germ of good feelings, that precious seed of virtuous
thoughts, with which the beneficent hand of the Creator has enriched
our souls. The conflagration of the passions, it is true, produces
lamentable prostration, and sometimes terrible explosions; but when
the fire is extinguished, man returns to himself, and his mind becomes
again accessible to the voice of reason and virtue. An attentive study
of society proves that the number of men is happily very small who
are, as it were, steeled against truth and virtue; who reply with
frivolous sophistry to the admonitions of good sense; who oppose with
cold stoicism the sweetest and most generous inspirations of nature,
and venture to display, as an illustration of philosophy, firmness,
and elevation of mind, the ignorance, obstinacy, and barrenness of
an icy heart. The generality of mankind, more simple, more candid,
more natural, are consequently ill-suited to a system of atheism, or
indifference. Such a system may take possession of the proud mind of
a learned visionary; it may be adopted, as a convenient opinion, by
dissipated youth; and in times of agitation, it may influence a few
fiery spirits; but it will never be able to establish itself in society
as a normal condition.

No, by no means. An individual may be irreligious, but families and
society never will. Without a basis on which the social edifice must
rest; without a great creative idea, whence will flow the ideas of
reason, virtue, justice, obligation, and right, which are as necessary
to the existence and preservation of society as blood and nourishment
are to the life of the individual, society would be destroyed; without
the sweet ties by which religious ideas unite together the members of
a family, without the heavenly harmony which they infuse into all its
connections, the family would cease to exist, or at least would be only
a rude and transient union, resembling the intercourse of animals.
God has happily gifted all his creatures with a marvellous instinct
of self-preservation. Guided by that instinct, families and society
repudiate with indignation those degrading ideas which, blasting by
their fatal breath all the germs of life, breaking all ties, upsetting
all laws, make both of them retrograde towards the most abject
barbarism, and finish by scattering their members like dust before the

The repeated lessons of experience ought to have convinced certain
philosophers that these ideas and feelings, engraven on the heart of
man by the finger of the Author of nature, cannot be eradicated by
declamation or sophistry. If a few ephemeral triumphs have occasionally
flattered their pride, and made them conceive false hopes of the result
of their efforts, the course of events has soon shown them, that to
pride themselves on these triumphs was to act like a man who, on
account of having succeeded in infusing unnatural sentiments into the
hearts of a few mothers, would flatter himself that he has banished
maternal love from the world. Society (I do not mean the populace or
the commonalty)--society will be religious, even at the risk of being
superstitious; if it does not believe in reasonable things, it will in
extravagant ones; and if it have not a divine religion, it will have a
human one: to suppose the contrary, is to dream; to struggle against
this tendency, is to struggle against an eternal law; to attempt to
restrain it, is to attempt to restrain with a weak arm a body launched
with an immense force--the arm will be destroyed, but the body will
continue its course. Men may call this superstition, fanaticism, the
result of error; but to talk thus can only serve to console them for
their failure.

Since, then, religion is a real necessity, we have therein an
explanation of the phenomenon which history and experience present
to us, namely, that religion never wholly disappears, and that when
changes take place, the two rival religions, during their struggles,
more or less protracted, occupy successively the same ground. The
consequence is, that Protestantism cannot entirely disappear unless
another religion takes its place. Now, as in the actual state of
civilization, no religion can replace it but the Catholic, it is
evident that Protestant sects will continue to occupy, with more or
less variation, the countries which they have gained.

Indeed, how is it possible, in the present state of civilization among
Protestant nations, that the follies of the Koran, or the absurdities
of idolatry, should have any chance of success among them? The spirit
of Christianity circulates in the veins of modern society; its seal
is set upon all legislation; its light is shed upon all branches of
knowledge; its phraseology is found in all languages; its precepts
regulate morals; habits and manners have assumed its form; the fine
arts breathe its perfume, and all the monuments of genius are full
of its inspirations. Christianity, in a word, pervades all parts of
that great, varied, and fertile civilization, which is the glory of
modern society. How then, is it possible for a religion entirely to
disappear which possesses, with the most venerable antiquity, so many
claims to gratitude, so many endearing ties, and so many glorious
recollections? How could it give place, among Christian nations, to
one of those religions which, at the first glance, show the finger
of man, and indicate, as their distinctive mark, degradation and
debasement? Although the essential principle of Protestantism saps
the foundations of the Christian religion, although it disfigures its
beauty, and lowers its sublimity, yet the remains which it preserves of
Christianity, its idea of God, and its maxims of morality, raise it far
above all the systems of philosophy, and all the other religions of the

If, then, Protestantism has preserved some shadow of the Christian
religion, it was because, looking at the condition of the nations who
took part in the schism, it was impossible for the Christian name
wholly to disappear; and not on account of any principle of life
contained in the bosom of the pretended Reformation. On the other
hand, consider the efforts of politicians, the natural attachment of
ministers to their own interests, the illusions of pride which flatter
men with the freedom they will enjoy in the absence of all authority,
the remains of old prejudices, the power of education, and such like
causes, and you will find a complete solution of the question. Then
you will no longer be surprised that Protestantism continues to retain
possession of many of those countries where it unfortunately became
deeply rooted.



The best proof of the extreme weakness of Protestantism, considered
as a body of doctrine, is the little influence which its positive
doctrines have exercised in European civilization. I call its positive
doctrines those which it attempts to establish as its own; and I
distinguish them thus from its other doctrines, which I call negative,
because they are nothing but the negation of authority. The latter
found favor on account of their conformity with the inconstancy and
changeableness of the human mind; but the others, which have not the
same means of success, have all disappeared with their authors, and are
now plunged in oblivion. The only part of Christianity which has been
preserved among Protestants, is that which was necessary to prevent
European civilization from losing among them its nature and character;
and this is the reason why the doctrines which had too direct a
tendency to alter the nature of this civilization have been repudiated,
we should rather say, despised by it.

There is a circumstance here well worthy of attention, and which has
not perhaps been noticed, viz. the fate of the doctrine held by the
first reformers with respect to free-will. It is well known that one
of the first and most important errors of Luther and Calvin consisted
in denying free-will. We find this fatal doctrine professed in the
works which they have left us. Does it not seem that this doctrine
ought to have preserved its credit among the Protestants, and that they
ought to have fiercely maintained it, since such is commonly the case
with errors which serve as a nucleus in the formation of a sect? It
seems, also, that Protestantism being widely spread, and deeply rooted
in several countries of Europe, this fatalist doctrine ought to have
exercised a strong influence on the legislation of Protestant nations.
Wonderful as it is, such has not been the case; European moralists have
despised it; legislation has not adopted it as a basis; civilization
has not allowed itself to be directed by a principle which sapped all
the foundations of morality, and which, if once applied to morals and
laws, would have substituted for European civilization and dignity the
barbarism and debasement of Mahometanism.

There is no doubt that this fatal doctrine has perverted some
individuals; it has been adopted by sects more or less numerous; and
it cannot be denied that it has affected the morality of some nations.
But it is also certain, that, in the generality of the great human
family, governments, tribunals, administration, legislation, science,
and morals, have not listened to this horrible doctrine of Luther,--a
doctrine which strips man of his free will, which makes God the author
of sin, which charges the Creator with the responsibility of all the
crimes of His creatures, and represents Him as a tyrant, by affirming
that His precepts are impossible; a doctrine which monstrously
confounds the ideas of good and evil, and removes all stimulus to good
deeds, by teaching that faith is sufficient for salvation, and that all
the good works of the just are only sins.

Public opinion, good sense, and morality here side with Catholicity.
Those even who in theory embrace these fatal religious doctrines,
usually reject them in practice; this is because Catholic instruction
on these important points has made so deep an impression on them;
because so strong an instinct of civilization has been communicated
to European society by the Catholic religion. Thus the Church, by
repudiating the destructive errors taught by Protestantism, preserved
society from being debased by these fatalist doctrines. The Church
formed a barrier against the despotism which is enthroned wherever the
sense of dignity is lost; she was a fence against the demoralization
which always spreads whenever men think themselves bound by blind
necessity, as by an iron chain; she also freed the human mind from
the state of abjection into which it falls whenever it thinks itself
deprived of the government of its own conduct, and of the power of
influencing the course of events. In condemning those errors of Luther,
which were the bond of Protestantism at its birth, the Pope raised
the alarm against an irruption of barbarism into the order of ideas;
he saved morality, laws, public order, and society; the Vatican, by
securing the noble sentiment of liberty in the sanctuary of conscience,
preserved the dignity of man; by struggling against Protestant ideas,
by defending the sacred deposit confided to it by its Divine Master,
the Roman See became the tutelary divinity of future civilization.

Reflect on these great truths, understand them thoroughly, you who
speak of religious disputes with cold indifference, with apparent
mockery and pity, as if they were only scholastic puerilities. Nations
_do not live on bread alone_; they live also on ideas, on maxims,
which, converted into spiritual aliment, give them greatness, strength,
and energy, or, on the contrary, weaken them, reduce them, and condemn
them to stupidity. Look over the face of the globe, examine the periods
of human history, compare times with times, and nations with nations,
and you will see that the Church, by giving so much importance to the
preservation of these transcendent truths, by accepting no compromise
on this point, has understood and realized better than any other
teacher, the elevated and salutary maxim, that truth ought to reign in
the world; that on the order of ideas depends the order of events, and
that when these great problems are called in question, the destinies of
humanity are involved.

Let us recapitulate what we have said; the essential principle of
Protestantism is one of destruction; this is the cause of its incessant
variations, of its dissolution and annihilation. As a particular
religion it no longer exists, for it has no peculiar faith, no positive
character, no government, nothing that is essential to form an
existence; Protestantism is only a negative. If there is any thing to
be found in it of a positive nature, it is nothing more than vestiges
and ruins; all is without force, without action, without the spirit of
life. It cannot show an edifice raised by its own hands; it cannot,
like Catholicity, stand in the midst of its vast works and say, "These
are mine." Protestantism can only sit down on a heap of ruins, and say
with truth, "I have made this pile."

As long as sectarian fanaticism lasted, as long as this flame,
enkindled by furious declamation, was kept alive by unhappy
circumstances, Protestantism showed a certain degree of force, which,
although it was not the sign of vigorous life, at least indicated
the convulsive energy of delirium. But that period has passed, the
action of time has dispersed the elements that fed the flame, and
none of the attempts which have been made to give to the Reformation
the character of a work of God, have been able to conceal the fact
that it was the work of human passions. Let us not be deceived by the
efforts which are now being made; what is acting under our eyes is
not living Protestantism, it is the operation of false philosophy,
perhaps of policy, sometimes of sordid interest disguised under the
name of policy. Every one knows how powerful Protestantism was in
exciting disturbances and causing disunion. It is on this account that
evil-minded men search in the bed of this exhausted torrent for some
remains of its impure waters, and knowing them to contain a deadly
poison, present them to the unsuspecting in a golden cup.

But it is in vain for weak man to struggle against the arm of the
Almighty, God will not abandon His work. Notwithstanding all his
attempts to deface the work of God, man cannot blot out the eternal
characters which distinguish truth from error. Truth in itself is
strong and robust: as it is the ensemble of the relations which unite
things together, it is strongly connected with them, and cannot be
separated either by the efforts of man or by the revolution of time.
Error, on the contrary, the lying image of the great ties which bind
together the compact mass of the universe, stretches over its usurped
domain like those dead branches of the forest which, devoid of sap,
afford neither freshness nor verdure, and only serve to impede the
advance of the traveller.

Confiding men, do not allow yourselves to be seduced by brilliant
appearances, pompous discourse, or false activity. Truth is open,
modest, without suspicion, because it is pure and strong; error is
hypocritical and ostentatious, because it is false and weak. Truth
resembles a woman of real beauty, who, conscious of her charms,
despises the affectation of ornament; error, on the contrary, paints
and ornaments herself, because she is ugly, without expression,
without grace, without dignity. Perhaps you may be pleased with its
laborious activity. Know, then, that it has no strength but when it
is the rallying cry of a faction; then, indeed, it is rapid in action
and fertile in violent measures. It is like the meteor which explodes
and vanishes, leaving behind it nothing but darkness, death, and
destruction; truth, on the contrary, like the sun, sends forth its
bright and steady beams, fertilizes with its genial warmth, and sheds
on every side life, joy, and beauty.



In order to judge of the real effect which the introduction of
Protestant doctrines would have had in Spain, we shall do well, in
the first place, to take a survey of the present state of religion
in Europe. In spite of the confusion of ideas which is one of the
prevailing characteristics of the age, it is undeniable that the spirit
of infidelity and irreligion has lost much of its strength, and that
where it still exists it has merged into indifference, instead of
preserving its systematic form of the last century. With the lapse
of time declamation ceases; men grow tired of continually repeating
the same insulting language; their minds resist the intolerance and
bad faith of sects; systems betray their emptiness, opinions their
erroneousness, judgments their precipitation, and reasonings their want
of exactitude. Time shows their counterfeit intentions, their deceptive
statements, the littleness of their ideas, and the mischievousness of
their projects; truth begins to recover its empire, things regain their
real names, and, thanks to the new direction of the public mind, that
which before was considered innocent and generous is now looked upon
as criminal and vile. The deceitful masks are taken off, and falsehood
is discovered surrounded by the discredit which ought always to have
accompanied it.

Irreligious ideas, like all those which are prevalent in an advanced
state of society, would not, and could not be confined to mere
speculation; they invaded the domain of practice, and labored to gain
the upper hand in all branches of administration and politics. But the
revolution which they produced in society became fatal to themselves;
for there is nothing which better exposes the faults and errors of
a system, and undeceives men on the subject, than the touchstone
of experience. There is in our minds a certain power of viewing
an object under a variety of aspects, and an unfortunate aptitude
for supporting the most extravagant proposition by a multitude of
sophisms. In mere disputation, it is difficult for the most reasoning
minds to keep clear of the snares of sophistry. But when we come to
experience, it is otherwise; the mind is silent, and facts speak; and
if the experience has been on a large scale, and applied to objects of
great interest and importance, it is difficult for the most specious
arguments to counteract the convincing eloquence of the result. Hence
it is that a man of much experience obtains an instinct so sure and
delicate, that when a system is but explained he can point out all its
inconveniences. Inexperience, presumptuous and prejudiced, appeals to
argument in support of its doctrines; but good sense, that precious and
inestimable quality, shakes its head, shrugs its shoulders, and with a
tranquil smile leaves its prediction to be tested by time.

It is not necessary now to insist on the practical results of those
doctrines of which infidelity was the motto; we have said enough on
that subject. Suffice it to say, that those same men who seem to belong
to the last century by their principles, interests, recollections, or
for other reasons, have been obliged to modify their doctrines, to
limit their principles, to palliate their propositions, to cool the
warmth and passion of their invectives; and when they wish to give a
mark of their esteem and veneration for those writers who were the
delight of their youth, they are compelled to declare "that those men
were great philosophers, but philosophers of the cabinet;" as if in
reality what they call the knowledge of the cabinet was not the most
dangerous ignorance.

It is certain that these attempts have had the effect of throwing
discredit on irreligion as a system. If people do not regard it with
horror, at least they look upon it with mistrust. Irreligion has
labored in all the branches of science, in the vain hope that the
heavens would cease to relate the glories of God, that the earth would
disown Him who laid its foundations, and that all nature would give
testimony against the Lord who gave it existence and life. These same
labors have banished the scandalous division which had begun between
religion and science; so that the ancient accents of the man of Hus
have again resounded, without dishonor to science, in the mouths of
men in the nineteenth century; and what shall we say of the triumphs
of religion in all that is noble, tender, and sublime on earth? How
grand are the operations of Providence displayed therein! Admirable
dispensation! The mysterious hand which governs the universe seems to
hold in reserve for every great crisis of society an extraordinary
man. At the proper moment this man presents himself; he advances,
himself ignorant whither he is going, but he advances with a firm step
towards the accomplishment of the high mission for which Providence has
destined him.

Atheism was bathing France in a sea of tears and blood; an unknown man
silently traverses the ocean. While the violence of the tempest rends
the sails of his vessel, he listens attentively to the hurricane--he
is lost in the contemplation of the majesty of the heavens. Wandering
in the solitudes of America, he asks of the wonders of creation the
name of their Author; the thunder on the confines of the desert, the
low murmuring of the forests, and the beauties of nature answer him
with canticles of love and harmony. The view of a solitary cross
reveals to him mysterious secrets; the traces of an unknown missionary
awaken important recollections which connect the new world with the
old; a monument in ruins, the hut of a savage, excite in his mind
thoughts which penetrate to the foundations of society and to the
heart of man. Intoxicated with these spectacles, his mind full of
sublime conceptions, and his heart inundated with the charms of so
much beauty, this man returns to his native soil. What does he find
there? The bloody traces of Atheism; the ruins and ashes of ancient
temples devoured by the flames or destroyed by violence; the remains of
a multitude of innocent victims, buried in the graves which formerly
afforded an asylum to persecuted Christians. He observes, however, that
something is in agitation; he sees that religion is about to redescend
upon France, like consolation upon the unfortunate, or the breath of
life upon a corpse. From that moment he hears on all sides a concert of
celestial harmony; the inspirations of meditation and solitude revive
and ferment in his great soul; transported out of himself, and ravished
into ecstasy, he sings with a tongue of fire the glories of religion,
he reveals the delicacy and beauty of the relations between religion
and nature, and in surpassing language he points out to astonished men
the mysterious golden chain which connects the heavens and the earth.
That man was Chateaubriand.

It must, however, be confessed, that the confusion which has been
introduced into ideas cannot be corrected in a short time, and that it
is not easy to eradicate the deep traces of the ravages of irreligion.
Men's minds, it is true, are tired of the irreligious system; society,
which had lost its balance, is generally ill at ease; the family feels
its ties relaxed, and individuals sigh after a ray of light, a drop
of hope and consolation. But where shall the world find the remedy
which is wanting? Will it follow the best road--the only road? Will
it re-enter the fold of the Catholic Church? Alas! God alone knows
the secrets of the future; He alone has clearly unfolded before His
eyes the great events which are no doubt awaiting humanity. He alone
knows what will be the result of that activity, of that energy, which
again urges men to the examination of great political and religious
questions; and He alone knows what, to future generations, will be
the result of the triumphs obtained by religion, in the fine arts, in
literature, in science, in politics, in all the operations carried on
by the human mind.

As to us, carried away as we are by the rapid and precipitate course
of revolution, hardly have we time to cast a fleeting glance upon
the chaos in which our country is involved. What can we confidently
predict? All that we can be sure of is, that we are in an age of
disquietude, of agitation, of transition; that the multiplied examples
and warnings of so many disappointed expectations, the fruits of
fearful revolutions and unheard-of catastrophes, have everywhere thrown
discredit upon irreligious and disorganizing doctrines, without having
established the legitimate empire of true religion. Hearts sick of so
many misfortunes are willingly open to hope; but minds are in a state
of great uncertainty as to the future: perhaps they even anticipate
a new series of calamities. Owing to revolutions, to the efforts of
industry, to the activity and extension of commerce, to the progress
and prodigious diffusion of printing, to scientific discoveries, to the
ease, rapidity, and universality of communication, to the taste for
travelling, to the dissolving action of Protestantism, of incredulity,
and skepticism, the human mind certainly now presents one of the most
singular phases of its history. Reason, imagination, and the heart are
in a state of agitation, of movement, and of extraordinary development,
and show us at the same time the most singular contrasts, the most
ridiculous extravagances, and the most absurd contradictions. Observe
the sciences, and you will no longer find those lengthened labors,
that indefatigable patience, that calm and tranquil progress, which
characterized these studies at other epochs; but you will find there
a spirit of observation, and a tendency to place questions in that
transcendental point of view where may be discovered the relations
subsisting between them, the ties by which they are connected, and
the way in which they throw light upon each other. Questions of
religion, of politics, of legislation, of morals, of government, are
all mingled, stand prominently forward, and give to the horizon of
science a grandeur and immensity which it did not previously possess.
This progress, this confusion, this chaos, if you like to call it so,
is a fact which must be taken into account in studying the spirit of
the age, in examining the religious condition of the time; for it is
not the work of a single man, or the effect of accident; it is the
result of a multitude of causes, the fruit of a great number of facts;
it is an expression of the present state of intelligence; a symptom
of strength and disease, an announcement of change and of transition,
perhaps a sign of consolation, perhaps a presage of misfortune. And
who has not observed the fertility of imagination and unbounded reach
of thought in that literature, so various, so irregular, and so vague,
but at the same time so rich in fine images, in delicate feeling, and
in bold and generous thought? You may talk as much as you please of the
debasement of science, of the falling off in study. You may speak in
a tone of derision of the _lights of the age_, and turn with regret to
ages more studious and more learned; there will be some exaggeration,
truth and error, in all this, as there always is in declamation of
this kind; but whatever may be the degree of utility belonging to the
present labors of the human mind, never, perhaps, was there a time
when it displayed more activity and energy, never was it agitated by
a movement so general, so lively, so various, and never, perhaps, did
it desire, with a more excusable curiosity and impatience, to raise
a part of the veil which covers the boundless future. What will be
able to govern elements so powerful and so opposite? What can calm
this tempestuous sea? What will give the union, the connection, the
consistency necessary to form, out of these repulsive and discordant
elements, a whole compact and capable of resisting the action of time?
Will this be done by Protestantism, with its fundamental principle
which establishes and diffuses and sanctions the dissolving principle
of private interpretation in matters of religion, and realizes this
unhappy notion by circulating among all classes of society copies of
the Bible?

Nations numerous, proud of their power, vain of their knowledge,
rendered dissipated by pleasure, refined by luxury, continually exposed
to the powerful influence of the press, and possessing means of
communication which would have appeared fabulous to their ancestors;
nations in whom all the violent passions have an object, all intrigues
an existence, all corruptions a veil, all crimes a title, all errors an
advocate, all interests a support; nations which, warned and deceived,
still vacillate in a state of dreadful uncertainty between truth and
falsehood; sometimes looking at the torch of truth as if they meant to
be guided by its light, and then again seduced by an _ignis fatuus_;
sometimes making an effort to rule the storm, and then abandoning
themselves to its violence; modern nations show us a picture as
extraordinary as it is interesting, where hopes, fears, prognostics,
and conjectures have free scope, and nobody can pretend to predict with
accuracy, and the wise man must await in silence the dénouement marked
out in the secret decrees of God, where alone are clearly written the
events of all time, and the future destinies of men.

But it may be easily understood that Protestantism, on account of its
essentially dissolving nature, is incapable of producing any thing in
morals or religion to increase the happiness of nations, for it is
impossible for this happiness to exist as long as men's minds are at
war on the most important questions which can occupy them.

When the observer, amid this chaos and obscurity, seeks for a ray of
light to illuminate the world--for a powerful principle capable of
putting an end to so much confusion and anarchy, and of bringing back
men's minds to the path of truth, Catholicity immediately presents
herself to him, as the only source of all these benefits. When we
consider with what _éclat_ and with what power Catholicity maintains
herself against all the unprecedented attempts which are made to
destroy her, our hearts are filled with hope and consolation; and we
feel inclined to hail this divine religion, and to congratulate her on
the new triumph which she is about to achieve on earth.

There was a time when Europe, inundated by a torrent of barbarians,
saw at once overwhelmed all the monuments of ancient civilization
and refinement. Legislators and their laws, the empire and its power
and splendor, philosophers and the sciences, the arts and their
_chef-d'œuvres_, all disappeared; and those immense regions, where
had flourished all the civilization and refinement that had been
gained during so many ages, were suddenly plunged into ignorance and
barbarism. Nevertheless, the spark of light which had appeared to the
world in Palestine, continued to shine amid the chaos: in vain did
whirlwinds threaten to extinguish it; kept alive by the breath of the
Eternal, it continued to shine. Ages rolled away, and it appeared with
greater brilliancy; and when, perchance, the nations only expected a
beam of light to guide them in the darkness, they found a resplendent
sun, everywhere diffusing life and light: and who shall say that there
is not reserved for her in the secrets of the Eternal, another triumph
more difficult, but not less useful, not less brilliant? If in other
times that religion instructed ignorance, civilized barbarism, polished
rudeness, softened ferocity, and preserved society from being always
the prey of the fiercest brutality and the most degrading stupidity,
will it be less glorious for her to correct ideas, to harmonize and
refine feelings, to establish the eternal principles of society, to
curb the passions, to remove animosities, to remove excesses, to
govern all minds and hearts? How honorable will it be to her, if,
while regulating all things, and unceasingly stimulating all kinds
of knowledge and improvement, she can inspire with a proper spirit
of moderation that society which so many elements, devoid of central
attraction, threaten every moment with dissolution and death!

It is not given to man to penetrate the future; but in the same way as
the physical world would be broken up by a terrible catastrophe, if it
were deprived for a moment of the fundamental principle which gives
unity, order, and concert to the various movements of the system; in
the same way, if society, full as it is of motion, of communication,
and life, were not placed under the direction of a constant and
universal regulating principle, we could not fix our eyes on the lot of
future generations without the greatest alarm.

There is, however, a fact which is consoling in the highest degree,
viz. the wonderful progress which Catholicity has made in different
countries. It is gaining strength in France and Belgium: the obstinacy
with which it is combated in the north of Europe shows how much it
is feared. In England its progress has been recently so great that
it would not be credited without the most irresistible evidence; and
in the foreign missions it has shown an extent of enterprise and
fruitfulness, worthy of the time of its greatest ascendency and power.

When other nations tend towards unity, shall we commit the gross
mistake of adopting schism? at a time when other nations would be happy
to find within their bosoms a vital principle capable of restoring the
power which incredulity has destroyed, shall Spain, which preserves
Catholicity, and alone possesses it full and complete, allow the germ
of death to be introduced into her bosom, thereby rendering impossible
the cure of her evils, or rather entailing on herself complete and
certain ruin? Amid the moral regeneration towards which nations are
advancing, seeking to quit the painful position in which they have
been placed by irreligious doctrines, is it possible to overlook the
immense advantage which Spain still preserves over most of them? Spain
is one of those least affected by the gangrene of irreligion; she still
preserves religious unity, that inestimable inheritance of a long
line of ages. Is it possible to overlook the advantage of that unity
if properly made use of, that unity which is mixed up with all our
glories, which awakens such noble recollections, and which may be made
so wonderful an instrument in the regeneration of social order?

If I am asked my opinion of the nearness of the danger, and if I think
the present attempts of Protestants have any probability of success,
I must draw a distinction in my reply. Protestantism is extremely
weak, both on account of its own nature, and of its age and decaying
condition. In endeavoring to introduce itself into Spain, it will
have to contend with an adversary full of life and strength, and
deeply rooted in the soil. This is the reason why I think that its
direct action is not to be feared; and yet, if it should succeed in
establishing itself in any part of our country, however limited may
be its domain, it is sure to produce fearful results. It is evident
that we shall then have in the midst of us a new apple of discord, and
it is not difficult to foresee that collisions will frequently arise.
Protestantism in Spain, besides its intrinsic weakness, will labor
under the disadvantage of not finding its natural aliment. Hence it
will be obliged to take advantage of any support that is offered; it
will immediately become the point of reunion for the discontented; and
although failing in its intended object, it will succeed in becoming
the nucleus of new parties and the banner of factions. Scandal, strife,
demoralization, troubles, and perhaps catastrophes,--such will be the
immediate and infallible results of the introduction of Protestantism
among us. On this point I appeal to the candid opinion of every man who
is well acquainted with Spain. But this is not all: the question is
enlarged, and acquires an incalculable importance, if we consider it
with reference to foreign politics. What a lever will be afforded to
foreigners for all kinds of attempts in our unhappy country! How gladly
will those, who are perhaps on the look-out for such an aid, avail
themselves of it!

There is in Europe a nation remarkable for her immense power, and
worthy of respect on account of the great progress which she has made
in the arts and sciences; a nation that holds in her hands powerful
means of action in all parts of the world, and knows how to use them
with wonderful discretion and sagacity. As that nation has taken the
lead in modern times in passing through all the phases of political and
religious revolution, and has seen, during fearful convulsions, the
passions in all their nakedness, and crime in all its forms, she is
better acquainted than all others with their causes.

Not misled by the vain names under which, at such periods, the lowest
passions and the most sordid interests disguise themselves, she is too
much on her guard to allow the troubles which have inundated other
countries with tears and blood, to be easily excited within herself.
Her internal peace is not disturbed by the agitation and heat of
disputes; although she may expect to have to encounter, sooner or
later, difficulties and embarrassments, she enjoys, in the mean time,
the tranquillity which is secured to her by her constitution, her
manners, her riches,--and, above all, by the ocean which surrounds
her. Placed in so advantageous a position, that nation watches the
progress of others, for the purpose of attaching them to her car by
golden chains, if they are simple enough to listen to her flattery; at
least she attempts to hinder their advance, when a noble independence
is about to free them from her influence. Always attentive to her own
aggrandizement, by means of commerce and the arts, and by a policy
eminently mercantile, she hides her self-interest under all sorts of
disguises; and although religion and politics, where she has to do
with another people, are quite indifferent to her, she knows how to
make an adroit use of these powerful arms, to make friends, to defeat
her enemies, and to enclose all within the net of commerce, which she
is always extending in all quarters of the world. Her sagacity must
necessarily have perceived how much progress she will have made in
adding Spain to the number of her colonies, when she has persuaded
the Spanish people to fraternize with her in religion; not so much on
account of the sympathy which such a fraternization would establish
between them, as because she would find therein a sure method of
stripping the Spanish people of that peculiar character and grave
appearance which distinguishes them from all others, by depriving
them of the only national and regenerative idea which remains to them
after so many convulsions; from that moment, in truth, Spain, that
proud nation, would be rendered accessible to all kinds of foreign
impressions, docile and pliable in bending to all opinions, and subject
to the interests of her astute protectors. Let it not be forgotten
that there is no other nation that conceives her plans with so much
foresight, prepares them with so much prudence, executes them with so
much ability and perseverance. As she has remained since her great
revolutions, that is, since the end of the seventeenth century, in a
settled condition, and entirely free from the convulsions undergone
since that time by other European nations, she has been able to follow
a regular political system, both internal and external; and her
politicians have been formed to the perfect science of government, by
constantly inheriting the experience and views of their predecessors.
Her statesmen well know how important it is to be prepared beforehand
for every event. They deeply study what may aid or impede them in
other nations. They go out of the sphere of politics: they penetrate
to the heart of every nation over which they propose to extend their
influence: they examine what are the conditions of its existence; what
is its vital principle; what are the causes of the strength and energy
of every people.

During the autumn of 1805, Pitt gave a dinner in the country to some
of his friends. While thus engaged, a despatch was brought to him
announcing the surrender of Mack at Ulm, with 40,000 men, and the march
of Napoleon on Vienna. Pitt communicated the fatal news to his friends,
who cried out, "All is lost; there is no longer any resource against
him." "There is one still left," replied the minister, "if I can excite
a national war in Europe; and that war must begin in Spain." "Yes,
gentlemen," he added, "Spain will be the first country to commence
the patriotic war which shall give liberty to Europe." Such was the
importance attributed by this profound statesman to a national idea;
he expected from it what the strength of all the governments could not
effect, the downfall of Napoleon, and the liberation of Europe. But it
not uncommonly happens that the march of events is such, that these
same national ideas, which one time were the powerful auxiliaries of
ambitious cabinets, become, at another, the greatest obstacles; and
then, instead of encouraging, it becomes their interest to extinguish
them. As the nature of this work will not allow me to enter into the
details of politics, I must content myself with appealing to the
judgment of those who have observed the line of conduct pursued by
England during our war and revolution, since the death of Ferdinand
VII. If we consider what the interests of that powerful nation require
for the future, we may conjecture the part which she will take.

The means of saving a nation, by delivering it from interested
protectors, and of securing her real independence, are to be found in
great and generous ideas, deeply rooted in the people; in feelings
engraved on their hearts by the action of time, by the influence of
powerful institutions, by ancient manners and customs; in fine, in that
unity of religious thought, which makes a whole people as one man. Then
the past is united with the present, the present is connected with the
future; then arises in the mind that enthusiasm which is the source of
great deeds; then are found disinterestedness, energy, and constancy;
because ideas are fixed and elevated, because hearts are great and

It is not impossible that during one of the convulsions which disturb
our unhappy country, men may arise amongst us blind enough to attempt
to introduce the Protestant religion into Spain. We have had warnings
enough to alarm us; we have not forgotten events which showed plainly
enough how far some would sometimes have gone, if the great majority
of the nation had not restrained them by their disapprobation. We
do not dread the outrages of the reign of Henry VIII.; but what we
do fear is, that advantage may be taken of a violent rupture with
the Holy See, of the obstinacy and ambition of some ecclesiastics,
of the pretext of establishing toleration in our country, or some
other pretext, to attempt to introduce amongst us, in some shape or
other, the doctrines of Protestantism. We certainly have no need of
importing toleration from abroad; it already exists amongst us so
fully, that no one is afraid of being disturbed on account of his
religious opinions. What would be thus introduced and established in
Spain, would be a new system of religion, provided with every thing
necessary for gaining the upper hand; and for weakening, and, if
possible, destroying Catholicity. Then would resound in our ears, with
a force constantly increasing, the fierce declamation which we have
heard for several years; the vain threatenings of a party who are
delirious, because they are on the point of expiring. The aversion with
which the nation regards the pretended Reformation, we have no doubt,
would be looked upon as rebellion; the pastorals of bishops would be
treated as insidious persuasions, and the fervent zeal of our priests
as sedition; the unanimity of Catholics to preserve themselves from
contagion would be denounced as a diabolical conspiracy, devised by
intolerance and party spirit, and executed by ignorance and fanaticism.
Amid the efforts of the one party, and the resistance of the other,
we should see enacted, in a greater or less degree, the scenes of
times gone by; and although the spirit of moderation, which is one of
the characteristics of this age, would not allow the perpetration of
excesses which have stained the annals of other nations, they would
not be without imitators. We must not forget that, with respect to
religion in Spain, we cannot calculate on the coldness and indifference
which other nations would now display on a similar occasion. With the
latter, religious feelings have lost much of their force, but in Spain
they are still deep, lively, and energetic; and if they were to come
into open and avowed opposition to each other, the shock would be
violent and general. Although we have witnessed lamentable scandals,
and even fearful catastrophes in religious matters, yet, up to this
time, perverse intentions have been always concealed by a mask, more
or less transparent. Sometimes the attack was made against a person
charged with political machinations; sometimes against certain classes
of citizens, who were accused of imaginary crimes. If, at times, the
revolution exceeded its bounds, it was said that it was impossible to
restrain it, and thus the vexations, the insults, the outrages heaped
upon all that was most sacred upon earth, were only the inevitable
results, and the work of a mob that nothing could restrain. There
has always been more or less of disguise; but if the dogmas of
Catholicity were attacked deliberately, and with _sang froid_; if
the most important points of discipline were trodden under foot; if
the most august mysteries were turned into ridicule, and the most
holy ceremonies treated with public contempt; if church were raised
against church, and pulpit against pulpit, what would be the result?
It is certain that minds would be very much exasperated; and if, as
might be feared, alarming explosions did not ensue, at least religious
controversy would assume a character so violent that we should believe
ourselves transferred to the sixteenth century.

It is a common thing among us for the principles which prevail in
politics to be entirely opposed to those which rule in society; it may
then easily happen that a religious principle, rejected by society,
may find support among influential statesmen. We should then see
reproduced, under more important circumstances, a phenomenon which
we have witnessed for so many years, viz. governments attempting to
alter the course of society by force. This is one of the principal
differences between our revolution and those of other countries; it
is, at the same time, a key which explains the greatest anomalies.
Everywhere else revolutionary ideas took possession of society, and
afterwards extended themselves to the sphere of politics; with us they
first ruled in the political sphere, and afterwards strove to descend
into the social sphere; society was far from being prepared for such
innovations; this was the cause of shocks so violent and so frequent.
It is on account of this want of harmony that the government of Spain
exercises so little influence over the people; I mean by influence,
that moral ascendency which does not require to be accompanied by
the idea of force. There is no doubt that this is an evil, since it
tends to weaken that authority which is indispensably necessary for
all societies. But on more than one occasion it has been a great
benefit. It is no slight advantage that in presence of a senseless and
inconstant government there is found a society full of calmness and
wisdom, and that that society pursues its quiet and majestic march,
while the government is carried away by rashness. We may expect much
from the right instinct of the Spanish nation, from her proverbial
gravity, which so many misfortunes have only augmented, and from
that fact, which teaches her so well how to discern the true path to
happiness, by rendering her deaf to the insidious suggestions of those
who seek to lead her astray. Although for so many years, owing to a
fatal combination of circumstances, and a want of harmony between
the social and political order, Spain has not been able to obtain a
government which understands her feelings and instincts, follows her
inclinations, and promotes her prosperity, we still cherish the hope
that the day will come when from her own bosom, so fertile in future
life, will come forth the harmony which she seeks, and the equilibrium
which she has lost. In the mean time, it is of the highest importance
that all men who have a Spanish heart in their breasts, and who do
not wish to see the vitals of their country torn to pieces, should
unite and act in concert to preserve her from the genius of evil.
Their unanimity will prevent the seeds of perpetual discord from being
scattered upon our soil, will ward off this additional calamity, and
will preserve from destruction those precious germs, whence may arise,
with renovated vigor, our civilization, which has been so much injured
by disastrous events.

The soul is overwhelmed with painful apprehensions at the thought
that a day may come when religious unity will be banished from among
us; that unity which is identified with our habits, our customs, our
manners, our laws; which guarded the cradle of our monarchy in the
cavern of Covadonga, and which was the emblem on our standard during
a struggle of eight centuries against the formidable crescent; that
unity which developed and illustrated our civilization in times of the
greatest difficulty; that unity which followed our terrible _tercios_,
when they imposed silence upon Europe; which led our sailors when they
discovered the new world, and guided them when they for the first time
made the circuit of the globe; that unity which sustains our soldiers
in their most heroic exploits, and which, at a recent period, gave the
climax to their many glorious deeds in the downfall of Napoleon. You
who condemn so rashly the work of ages; you who offer so many insults
to the Spanish nation, and who treat as barbarism and ignorance the
regulating principle of our civilization, do you know what it is you
insult? Do you know what inspired the genius of Gonzalva, of Ferdinando
Cortez, of the conqueror of Lepanto? Do not the shades of Garcilazo,
of Herrara, of Ercilla, of Fray Luis de Leon, of Cervantes, of Lope de
Vega, inspire you with any respect? Can you venture to break the tie
which connects us with them, to make us the unworthy posterity of these
great men? Do you wish to place an impassable barrier between their
faith and ours, between their manners and ours, to make us destroy all
our traditions, and to forget our most inspiring recollections? Do you
wish to preserve the great and august monuments of our ancestors' piety
among us only as a severe and eloquent reproach? Will you consent to
see dried up the most abundant fountains to which we can have recourse
to revive literature, to strengthen science, to reorganize legislation,
to re-establish the spirit of nationality, to restore our glory, and
replace this nation in the high position which her virtues merit, by
restoring to her the peace and happiness which she seeks with so much
anxiety, and which her heart requires?



After having placed Catholicity and Protestantism in contrast, in a
religious point of view, in the picture which I have just drawn; after
having shown the superiority of the one over the other, not only in
certainty, but also in all that regards the instincts, the feelings,
the ideas, the characteristics of the human mind, it seems to me proper
to approach another question, certainly not less important, but much
less understood, and in the examination of which we shall have to
contend against strong antipathies, and to dissipate many prejudices
and errors. Amid the difficulties by which the question that I am
about to undertake is surrounded, I am supported by a strong hope
that the interest of the subject, and its analogy with the scientific
taste of the age, will invite a perusal; and that I shall thereby
avoid the danger which commonly threatens those who write in favor
of the Catholic religion, that of being judged without being heard.
The question may be stated thus: "When we compare Catholicity and
Protestantism, which do we find the most favorable to real liberty, to
the real progress of nations, to the cause of civilization?" Liberty!
This is one of those words which are as generally employed as they are
little understood; words which, because they contain a certain vague
idea, easily perceived, present the deceptive appearance of perfect
clearness, while, on account of the multitude and variety of objects
to which they apply, they are susceptible of a variety of meanings,
and, consequently, are extremely difficult to comprehend. Who can
reckon the number of applications made of the word liberty? There is
always found in this word a certain radical idea, but the modifications
and graduations to which the idea is subject are infinite. The air
circulates with liberty; we move the soil around the plant, to enable
it to grow and increase with liberty; we clean out the bed of a stream
to allow it to flow with liberty; when we set free a fish in a net,
or a bird in a cage, we give them their liberty; we treat a friend
with freedom; we have free methods, free thoughts, free expressions,
free successions, free will, free actions; a prisoner has no liberty;
nor have boys, girls, or married people; a man behaves with greater
freedom in a foreign country; soldiers are not free; there are men
free from conscription, from contributions; we have free votes, free
acknowledgments, free interpretation, free evidence; freedom of
commerce, of instruction, of the press, of conscience; civil freedom,
and political freedom; we have freedom just, unjust, rational,
irrational, moderate, excessive, limited, licentious, seasonable,
unseasonable. But I need not pursue the endless enumeration. It seemed
to me necessary to dwell upon it for a moment, even at the risk of
fatiguing the reader; perhaps the remembrance of all this may serve to
engrave deeply on our minds the truth, that when, in conversation, in
writing, in public discussions, in laws, this word is so frequently
employed as applied to objects of the highest importance, it is
necessary to consider maturely the number and nature of the ideas which
it embraces in the particular case, the meaning that the subject needs,
the modifications which the circumstances require, and the precaution
demanded in the case.

Whatever may be the acceptation in which the word liberty is taken, it
is apparent that it always implies the absence of a cause restraining
the exercise of a power. Hence it follows that, in order to fix in
each case the real meaning of the word, it is indispensable to pay
attention to the circumstances as well as to the nature of the power,
the exercise of which is to be prevented or limited, without losing
sight of the various objects to which it applies, the conditions of
its exercise, as also the character, power, and extent of the means
which are employed to restrain it. To explain this matter, let it be
proposed to form a judgment on the proposition, "Man ought to enjoy
liberty of thought."

It is here affirmed that freedom of thought in man ought not to be
restrained; but do you speak of physical force exercised directly
on thought itself? In that case the proposition is entirely vain;
for as such an application of force is impossible, it is useless to
say that it ought not to be employed. Do you mean to say that it is
not allowable to restrain the expression of thought; that is to say,
that the liberty of manifesting thought ought not to be hindered or
restrained? You have, then, made a great step, you have placed the
question on a different footing. Or if you do not mean to say that
every man, at all times, in all places, and on all subjects, has a
right to give utterance to all that comes into his head, and that
in any way he may think proper, you must then specify the things,
the persons, the places, the times, the subjects, the conditions; in
short, you must note a variety of circumstances, you must prohibit
altogether in some cases, limit in others, bind in some, loosen in
others; in fine, make so many restrictions, that you will make little
progress in establishing your general principle of freedom of thought,
which at first appeared so simple and so clear. Even in the sanctuary
of thought, where human sight does not extend, and which is open to
the eye of God alone, what means the liberty of thought? Is it owing
to chance that laws are imposed on thought to which it is obliged to
submit under pain of losing itself in chaos? Can it despise the rules
of sound reason? Can it refuse to listen to the counsels of good sense?
Can it forget that its object is truth? Can it disregard the eternal
principles of morality? Thus we find, in examining the meaning of the
word liberty, even as applied to what is certainly freer than any
thing else in man, viz. thought--we find such a number and variety of
meanings that we are forced to make many distinctions, and necessity
compels us to limit the general proposition, if we wish to avoid saying
any thing in opposition to the dictates of reason and good sense, the
eternal laws of morality, the interests of individuals, and the peace
and preservation of society. And what may not be said of so many claims
of liberty which are constantly propounded in language intentionally
vague and equivocal?

I avail myself of these examples to prevent a confusion of ideas; for
in defending the cause of Catholicity, I have no need of pleading for
oppression, or of applauding tyranny, or of approving the conduct of
those who have trodden under foot men's most sacred rights. Yes, I
say, sacred; for after the august religion of Jesus Christ has been
preached, man is sacred in the eyes of other men on account of his
origin and divine destiny, on account of the image of God which is
reflected in him, and because he has been redeemed with ineffable
goodness and love by the Son of the Eternal. This divine religion
declares the rights of man to be sacred; for its august Founder
threatens with eternal punishment not only those who kill a man, those
who mutilate or rob him, but even those who offend him in words:
"He who shall say to his brother, Thou fool, shall be in danger of
hell-fire." (Matt. v. 22.) Thus speaks our divine Lord.

Our hearts swell with generous indignation, when we hear the religion
of Jesus Christ reproached with a tendency towards oppression. It is
true that, if you confound the spirit of real liberty with that of
demagogues, you will not find it in Catholicity; but, if you avoid a
monstrous misnomer, if you give to the word liberty its reasonable,
just, useful, and beneficial signification, then the Catholic religion
may fearlessly claim the gratitude of the human race, _for she has
civilized the nations who embraced her, and civilization is true

It is a fact now generally acknowledged, and openly confessed, that
Christianity has exercised a very important and salutary influence on
the development of European civilization; if this fact has not yet
had given to it the importance which it deserves, it is because it
has not been sufficiently appreciated. With respect to civilization,
a distinction is sometimes made between the influence of Christianity
and that of Catholicity; its merits are lavished on the former, and
stinted to the latter, by those who forget that, with respect to
European civilization, Catholicity can always claim the principal
share; and, for many centuries, an exclusive one; since, during a very
long period, she worked alone at the great work. People have not been
willing to see that, when Protestantism appeared in Europe, the work
was bordering on completion; with an injustice and ingratitude which
I cannot describe, they have reproached Catholicity with the spirit
of barbarism, ignorance, and oppression, while they were making an
ostentatious display of the rich civilization, knowledge, and liberty,
for which they were principally indebted to her.

If they did not wish to fathom the intimate connection between
Catholicity and European civilization, if they had not the patience
necessary for the long investigations into which this examination would
lead them, at least it would have been proper to take a glance at the
condition of countries where the Catholic religion has not exerted all
her influence during centuries of trouble, and compare them with those
in which she has been predominant. The East and the West, both subject
to great revolutions, both professing Christianity, but in such a way
that the Catholic principle was weak and vacillating in the East, while
it was energetic and deeply rooted in the West; these, we say, would
have afforded two very good points of comparison to estimate the value
of Christianity without Catholicity, when the civilization and the
existence of nations were at stake. In the West, the revolutions were
multiplied and fearful; the chaos was at its height; and, nevertheless,
out of chaos came light and life. Neither the barbarism of the nations
who inundated those countries, and established themselves there, nor
the furious assaults of Islamism, even in the days of its greatest
power and enthusiasm, could succeed in destroying the germs of a rich
and fertile civilization. In the East, on the contrary, all tended
to old age and decay; nothing revived; and, under the blows of the
power which was ineffectual against us, all was shaken to pieces. The
spiritual power of Rome, and its influence on temporal affairs, have
certainly borne fruits very different from those produced, under the
same circumstances, by its violent opponents.

If Europe were destined one day again to undergo a general and fearful
revolution, either by a universal spread of revolutionary ideas or by
a violent invasion of social and proprietary rights by pauperism; if
the colossus of the North, seated on its throne amid eternal snows,
with knowledge in its head, and blind force in its hands, possessing
at once the means of civilization, and unceasingly turning towards
the East, the South, and the West that covetous and crafty look which
in history is the characteristic march of all invading empires; if,
availing itself of a favorable moment, it were to make an attempt on
the independence of Europe, then we should perhaps have a proof of
the value of the Catholic principle in a great extremity; then we
should feel the power of the unity which is proclaimed and supported
by Catholicity, and while calling to mind the middle ages, we should
come to acknowledge one of the causes of the weakness of the East and
the strength of the West. Then would be remembered a fact, which,
though but of yesterday, is falling into oblivion, viz. that the nation
whose heroic courage broke the power of Napoleon was proverbially
Catholic; and who knows whether, in the attempts made in Russia against
Catholicity, attempts which the Vicar of Jesus Christ has deplored
in such touching language--who knows whether there be not the secret
influence of a presentiment, perhaps even a foresight of the necessity
of weakening that sublime power, which has been in all ages, when the
cause of humanity was in question, the centre of great attempts? But
let us return.

It cannot be denied that, since the sixteenth century, European
civilization has shown life and brilliancy; but it is a mistake to
attribute this phenomenon to Protestantism. In order to examine the
extent and influence of a fact, we ought not to be content with the
events which have followed it; it is also necessary to consider whether
these events were already prepared; whether they are any thing more
than the necessary result of anterior facts; and we must take care
not to reason in a way which is justly declared to be sophistical
by logicians, _post hoc, ergo propter hoc_: after that, therefore
on account of it. Without Protestantism, and before it, European
civilization was already very much advanced, thanks to the labors and
influence of the Catholic religion; the greatness and splendor which it
subsequently displayed were not owing to it, but arose in spite of it.

Erroneous ideas on this matter have arisen from the fact, that
Christianity has not been deeply studied; and that, without entering
into a serious examination of Church history, men have too often
contented themselves with taking a superficial view of the principles
of brotherhood which she has so much recommended. In order fully to
understand an institution, it is not enough to remain satisfied with
its leading ideas; it is necessary to follow all its steps, see how it
realizes its ideas, and how it triumphs over the obstacles that oppose
it. We shall never form a complete idea of an historical fact, unless
we carefully study its history. Now the study of Church history in
its relations with civilization, is still incomplete. It is not that
ecclesiastical history has not been profoundly studied; but it may be
said that since the spirit of social analysis has been developed, that
history has not yet been made the subject of those admirable labors
which have thrown so much light upon it in a critical and dogmatical
point of view.

Another impediment to the complete comprehension of this matter is,
that an exaggerated importance is given to the intentions of men, and
the great march of events is too much neglected. The greatness of
events is measured, and their nature judged of, by the immediate means
which produces them, and the objects of the men whose actions are
treated of; this is a very important error. The eye ought to range over
a wider field; we ought to observe the successive development of ideas,
the influence which they have exercised on events, the institutions
which have sprung from them; but it is necessary to see all these
things as they are in themselves, that is, on a large scale, without
stopping to consider particular and isolated facts. It is an important
truth, which ought to be deeply engraven on the mind, that when one
of those great facts which change the lot of a considerable portion
of the human race is developed, it is rarely understood by those who
take part in it, and figure as the principal actors. The march of
humanity is a grand drama; the parts are played by persons who pass
by and disappear: man is very little; God alone is great. Neither the
actors who figured on the scene in the ancient empires of the East, nor
Alexander invading Asia and reducing numberless nations into servitude,
nor the Romans subjugating the world, nor the barbarians overturning
the empire and breaking it in pieces, nor the Mussulmen ruling Asia and
Africa and menacing the independence of Europe, knew, or could know,
that they were the instruments in the great designs whereof we admire
the execution.

I mean to show from this, that when we have to do with Christian
civilization, when we collect and analyze the facts which distinguish
its march, it is not necessary, or even often proper, to suppose that
the men who have contributed to it in the most remarkable manner
understood, to the full extent, the results of their own efforts. It
is glory enough for a man to be pointed out as the chosen instrument
of Providence, without the necessity of attributing to him great
ability or lofty ambition. It is enough to observe that a ray of
light has descended from heaven and illumined his brow; it is of
little importance whether he foresaw that this ray, by reflection,
was destined to shed a brilliant light on future generations. Little
men are commonly smaller than they think themselves, but great men
are often greater than they imagine; if they do not know all their
grandeur, it is because they are ignorant that they are the instruments
of the high designs of Providence. Another observation which we ought
always to have present in the study of these great events is, that we
should not expect to find there a system, the connection and harmony
of which are apparent at the first _coup d'œil_. We must expect to
see some irregularities and objects of an unpleasant aspect; it is
necessary to guard against the childish impatience of anticipating the
time; it is indispensable to abandon that desire which we always have,
in a greater or less degree, and which always urges us to seek every
thing in conformity with our own ideas, and to see every thing advance
in the way most pleasing to us.

Do you not see nature herself so varied, so rich, so grand, lavish
her treasures in disorder, hide her inestimable precious stones and
her most valuable veins of metal in masses of earth? See how she
presents huge chains of mountains, inaccessible rocks, and fearful
precipices, in contrast with her wide and smiling plains. Do you not
observe this apparent disorder, this prodigality, in the midst of which
numberless agents work, in secret concert, to produce the admirable
whole which enchants our eyes and ravishes the lover of nature? So
with society; the facts are dispersed, scattered here and there,
frequently offering no appearance of order or concert; events succeed
each other, act on each other, without the design being discovered; men
unite, separate, co-operate, and contend, and nevertheless time, that
indispensable agent in the production of great works, goes on, and all
is accomplished according to the destinies marked out in the secrets of
the Eternal.

This is the march of humanity; this is the rule for the philosophic
study of history; this is the way to comprehend the influence of those
productive ideas, of those powerful institutions, which from time to
time appear among men to change the face of the earth. When in a study
of this kind we discover acting at the bottom of things a productive
idea, a powerful institution, the mind, far from being frightened
at meeting with some irregularities, is inspired, on the contrary,
with fresh courage; for it is a sure sign that the idea is full of
truth, that the institution is fraught with life, when we see them
pass through the chaos of ages, and come safe out of the frightful
ordeals. Of what importance is it that certain men were not influenced
by the idea, that they did not answer the object of the institution,
if the latter has survived its revolutions, and the former has not
been swallowed up in the stormy sea of the passions? To mention the
weaknesses, the miseries, the faults, the crimes of men, is to make the
most eloquent apology for the idea and the institution.

In viewing men in this way, we do not take them out of their proper
places, and we do not require from them more than is reasonable. We
see them enclosed in the deep bed of the great torrent of events,
and we do not attribute to their intellects, or to their will, any
thing that exceeds the sphere appointed for them; we do not, however,
fail to appreciate in a proper manner the nature and the greatness
of the works in which they take part, but we avoid giving to them an
exaggerated importance, by honoring them with eulogiums which they do
not deserve, or reproaching them unjustly. Times and circumstances
are not monstrously confounded; the observer sees with calmness and
_sang froid_ the events which pass before his eyes; he speaks not of
the empire of Charlemagne as he would of that of Napoleon, and is not
hurried into bitter invectives against Gregory VII. because he did not
adopt the same line of political conduct as Gregory XVI.

Observe that I do not ask from the philosophical historian an impassive
indifference to good and evil, to justice and injustice; I do not claim
indulgence for vice, nor would I refuse to virtue its eulogy. I have
no sympathy with that school of historic fatalism, which would bring
back to the world the destiny of the ancients; a school which, if it
acquired influence, would corrupt the best part of history, and stifle
the most generous emotions. I see in the march of society a plan, a
harmony, but not a blind necessity; I do not believe that events are
mingled up together indiscriminately in the dark urn of destiny, nor
that fatalism holds the world enclosed in an iron circle. But I see a
wonderful chain stretching over the course of centuries, a chain which
does not fetter the movements of individuals or of nations, and which
accommodates itself to the ebb and flow which are required by the
nature of things; at its touch great thoughts arise in the minds of
men: this golden chain is suspended by the hand of the Eternal, it is
the work of infinite intelligence and ineffable love.



In what condition did Christianity find the world? This is a question
which ought to fix all our attention, if we wish to appreciate
correctly the blessings conferred by that divine religion on
individuals and on society, if we are desirous of knowing the real
character of Christian civilization. Certainly at the time when
Christianity appeared, society presented a dark picture. Covered with
fine appearances, but infected to the heart with a mortal malady,
it presented an image of the most repugnant corruption, veiled by
a brilliant garb of ostentation and opulence. Morality was without
reality, manners without modesty, the passions without restraint, laws
without authority, and religion without God. Ideas were at the mercy
of prejudices, of religious fanaticism, and philosophical subtilties.
Man was a profound mystery to himself; he did not know how to estimate
his own dignity, for he reduced it to the level of brutes; and when
he attempted to exaggerate its importance, he did not know how to
confine it within the limits marked out by reason and nature: and it
is well worthy of observation, that while a great part of the human
race groaned in the most abject servitude, heroes, and even the most
abominable monsters, were elevated to the rank of gods.

Such elements must, sooner or later, have produced social dissolution.
Even if the violent irruption of the barbarians had not taken place,
society must have been overturned sooner or later, for it did not
possess a fertile idea, a consoling thought, or a beam of hope, to
preserve it from ruin.

Idolatry had lost its strength; it was an expedient exhausted by time
and by the gross abuse which the passions had made of it. Its fragile
tissue once exposed to the dissolving influence of philosophical
observation, idolatry was entirely disgraced; and if the rooted force
of habit still exercised a mechanical influence on the minds of
men, that influence was neither capable of re-establishing harmony
in society, nor of producing that fiery enthusiasm which inspires
great actions--enthusiasm which in virgin hearts may be excited by
superstition the most irrational and absurd. To judge of them by the
relaxation of morals, by the enervated weakness of character, by the
effeminate luxury, by the complete abandonment to the most repulsive
amusements and the most shameful pleasures, it is clear that religious
ideas no longer possessed the majesty of the heroic age; no longer
efficacious, they only exerted on men's minds a feeble influence, while
they served in a lamentable manner as instruments of dissolution. Now
it was impossible for it to be otherwise: nations who had obtained
the high degree of cultivation of the Greeks and Romans; nations
who had heard their great sages dispute on the grand questions of
divinity and man, could not continue in the state of simplicity which
was necessary to believe with good faith the intolerable absurdities
of which Paganism is full; and whatever may have been the disposition
of mind among the ignorant portion of the people, assuredly those who
were raised above the common standard did not believe them--those
who listened to philosophers as enlightened as Cicero, and who daily
enjoyed the malicious railleries of their satirical poets.

If religion was impotent, was there not another means, viz. knowledge?
Before we examine what was to be hoped from this, it is necessary to
observe, that knowledge never founded a society, nor was it ever able
to restore one that had lost its balance. In looking over the history
of ancient times, we find at the head of some nations eminent men
who, thanks to the magic influence which they exercised over others,
dictated laws, corrected abuses, rectified ideas, reformed morals, and
established a government on wise principles; thus securing, in a more
or less satisfactory manner, the happiness and prosperity of those
who were confided to their care. But we should be much mistaken if we
imagined that these men proceeded according to what we call scientific
combinations. Generally simple and rude, they acted according to the
impulses of their generous hearts, only guided by the wisdom and good
sense of the father of a family in the management of his domestic
affairs: never did these men adopt for their rule the wretched
subtilties which we call theories, the crude mass of ideas which we
disguise under the pompous name of science. Were the most distinguished
days of Greece those of Plato and Aristotle? The proud Romans, who
conquered the world, certainly had not the extent and variety of
knowledge of the Augustan age; and yet who would exchange the times or
the men?

Modern times also can show important evidences of the sterility of
science in creating social institutions; which is the more evident as
the practical effects of the natural sciences are the more visible. It
seems that in the latter sciences man has a power which he has not in
the former; although, when the matter is fully examined, the difference
does not appear so great as at the first view.

Let us briefly compare their respective results.

When man seeks to apply the knowledge which he has acquired of the
great laws of nature, he finds himself compelled to pay respect to
her; as, whatever might be his wishes, his weak arm could not cause
any great _bouleversement_, he is obliged to make his attempts limited
in extent, and the desire of success induces him to act in conformity
with the laws which govern the bodies he has to do with. It is quite
otherwise with the application made of the social sciences. There man
is able to act directly and immediately on society itself, on its
eternal foundations; he does not consider himself necessarily bound
to make his attempts on a small scale, or to respect the eternal laws
of society; he is able, on the contrary, to imagine those laws as
he pleases, indulge in as many subtilties as he thinks proper, and
bring about disasters which humanity laments. Let us remember the
extravagances which have found favor, with respect to nature, in the
schools of philosophy, ancient and modern, and we shall see what would
have become of the admirable machine of the universe, if philosophers
had had full power over it. Descartes said, "Give me matter and motion,
and I will form a world!" He could not derange an atom in the system of
the universe. Rousseau, in his turn, dreamed of placing society on a
new basis, and he upset the social state. It must not be forgotten that
science, properly so called, has little power in the organization of
society: this ought to be remembered in modern times, when it boasts so
much of its pretended fertility. It attributes to its own labors what
is the fruit of the lapse of ages, of the instinctive law of nations,
and sometimes of the inspirations of genius; now neither this instinct
of nations nor genius at all resembles science.

But without pushing any further these general considerations, which
are, nevertheless, very useful in leading us to a knowledge of man,
what could be hoped from the false light of science which was preserved
in the ruins of the ancient schools at the time we are speaking of?
However limited the knowledge of the ancient philosophers, even the
most distinguished, may have been on these subjects, we must allow that
the names of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle command some degree of
respect, and that amid their errors and mistakes they give us thoughts
which are really worthy of their lofty genius. But when Christianity
appeared, the germs of knowledge planted by them had been destroyed;
dreams had taken the place of high and fruitful thoughts, the love of
disputation had replaced that of wisdom, sophistry and subtilties had
been substituted for mature judgment and severe reasoning. The ancient
schools had been upset, others as sterile as they were strange had
been formed out of their ruins; on all sides there appeared a swarm
of sophists like the impure insects which announce the corruption
of a dead body. The Church has preserved for us a very valuable
means of judging of the science of that time, in the history of the
early heresies. Without speaking of what therein deserves all our
indignation, as, for example, their profound immorality, can we find
any thing more empty, absurd, or pitiable?[14]

The Roman legislation, so praiseworthy for its justice and equity, its
wisdom and prudence, and much as it deserves to be regarded as one of
the most precious ornaments of ancient civilization, was yet incapable
of preventing the dissolution with which society was threatened.
Never did it owe its safety to jurisconsults; so great a work is
beyond the sphere of action of jurisprudence. Let us suppose the laws
as perfect as possible, jurisprudence carried to the highest point,
jurisconsults animated by the purest feelings and guided by the most
honest intentions, what would all this avail if the heart of society is
corrupt, if moral principles have lost their force, if manners are in
continual opposition with laws? Let us consider the picture of Roman
manners such as their own historians have painted them; we shall not
find even a reflection of the equity, justice, and good sense which
made the Roman laws deserve the glorious name of written reason.

To give a proof of impartiality, I purposely omit the blemishes from
which the Roman law was certainly not exempt, for I do not desire
to be accused of wishing to lower every thing which is not the work
of Christianity. Yet I must not pass over in silence the important
fact, that it is by no means true that Christianity had no share in
perfecting the jurisprudence of Rome; I do not mean merely during the
period of the Christian emperors, which does not admit of a doubt, but
even at a prior period. It is certain that some time before the coming
of Jesus Christ the number of the Roman laws was very considerable,
and that their study and arrangement already occupied the attention of
many of the most illustrious men. We know from Suetonius (_In Cæsar._
c. 44) that Julius Cæsar had undertaken the extremely useful task of
condensing into a small number of books those which were the most
select and necessary among the immense collection of laws; a similar
idea occurred to Cicero, who wrote a book on the methodical digest of
the civil law (_de jure civili in arte redigendo_), as Aulus Gellius
attests. (_Noct. Att._ lib. i. c. 22.) According to Tacitus, this work
also occupied the attention of the Emperor Augustus. Certainly these
projects show that legislation was not in its infancy; but it is not
the less true that the Roman law, as we possess it, is in great part
the product of later ages. Many of the most famous jurists, whose
opinions form a considerable part of the law, lived long after the
coming of Jesus Christ. As to the constitutions of the emperors, their
very names remind us of the time when they were digested.

These facts being established, I shall observe that it does not follow
that because the emperors and jurists were pagans, the Christian
ideas had no influence on their works. The number of Christians was
immense in all places; the cruelty alone with which they had been
persecuted, the heroic courage which they had displayed in the face
of torments and death, must have drawn upon them the attention of the
whole world; and it is impossible that this should not have excited,
among men of reflection, curiosity enough to examine what this new
religion taught its proselytes. The reading of the apologies for
Christianity already written in the first ages with so much force of
reasoning and eloquence, the works of various kinds published by the
early Fathers, the homilies of Bishops to their people, contain so
much wisdom, breathe such a love for truth and justice, and proclaim
so loudly the eternal principles of morality, that it was impossible
for their influence not to be felt even by those who condemned the
religion of Christ. When doctrines having for their object the greatest
questions which affect man are spread everywhere, propagated with
fervent zeal, received with love by a considerable number of disciples,
and maintained by the talent and knowledge of illustrious men, these
doctrines make a profound impression in all directions, and affect
even those who warmly combat them. Their influence in this case is
imperceptible, but it is not the less true and real. They act like the
exhalations which impregnate the atmosphere; with the air we inhale
sometimes death, and sometimes a salutary odor which purifies and
strengthens us.

Such must necessarily have been the case with a doctrine which was
preached in so extraordinary a manner, propagated with so much
rapidity, and the truth of which, sealed by torrents of blood, was
defended by writers such as Justin, Clement of Alexandria, Irenæus,
and Tertullian. The profound wisdom, the ravishing beauty of these
doctrines, explained by the Christian doctors, must have called
attention to the sources whence they flowed; it was natural that
curiosity thus excited should put the holy Scriptures into the hands
of many philosophers and jurists. Would it be strange if Epictetus had
imbibed some of the doctrines of the Sermon on the Mount, and if the
oracles of jurisprudence had imperceptibly received the inspiration
of a religion whose power, spreading in a wonderful manner, took
possession of all ranks of society? Burning zeal for truth and justice,
the spirit of brotherhood, grand ideas of the dignity of man, the
continued themes of Christian instruction, could not remain confined
among the children of the Church. More or less rapidly they penetrated
all classes; and when, by the conversion of Constantine, they acquired
political influence and imperial authority, it was only the repetition
of an ordinary phenomenon; when a system has become very powerful
in the social order, it ends by exerting an empire, or at least an
influence, in the political.

I leave these observations to the judgment of thinking men with perfect
confidence; I am sure that if they do not adopt them, at least they
will not consider them unworthy of reflection. We live at a time
fruitful in great events, and when important revolutions have taken
place; therefore we are better able to understand the immense effects
of indirect and slow influences, the powerful ascendency of ideas, and
the irresistible force with which doctrines work their way.

To this want of vital principles capable of regenerating society,
to all those elements of dissolution which society contained within
itself, was joined another evil of no slight importance,--the vice
of its political organization. The world being under the yoke of
Rome, hundreds of nations differing in manners and customs were
heaped together in confusion, like spoils on the field of battle,
and constrained to form a factitious body, like trophies placed upon
a spear. The unity of the government being violent, could not be
advantageous; and moreover, as it was despotic, from the emperor down
to the lowest proconsul, it will be seen that it could not produce
any other result than the debasement and degradation of nations, and
that it was impossible for them to display that elevation and energy
of character which are the precious fruit of a feeling of self-dignity
and love for national independence. If Rome had preserved her ancient
manners, if she had retained in her bosom warriors as celebrated for
the simplicity and austerity of their lives as for the renown of their
victories, some of the qualities of the conquerors might have been
communicated to the conquered, as a young and robust heart reanimates
with its vigor a body attenuated by disease. Unfortunately such was not
the case. The Fabiuses, the Camilluses, the Scipios, would not have
acknowledged their unworthy posterity; Rome, the mistress of the world,
like a slave, was trodden under the feet of monsters who mounted to the
throne by perjury and violence, stained their sceptres with corruption
and cruelty, and fell by the hands of assassins. The authority of the
Senate and people had disappeared; only vain imitations of them were
left, _vestigia morientis libertatis_, as Tacitus calls them, vestiges
of expiring liberty; and this royal people, who formerly disposed of
kingdoms, consulships, legions, and all, then thought only of two
things, food and games,

                      "Qui dabat olim
    Imperium, fasces, legiones, omnia, nunc se
    Continet, atque duas tantum res anxius optat,
    Panem et Circenses."--JUVENAL, _Satire_ X.

At length, in the plenitude of time Christianity appeared; and without
announcing any change in political forms, without intermeddling in
the temporal and earthly, it brought to mankind a twofold salvation,
by calling them to the path of eternal felicity, but at the same time
bountifully supplying them with the only means of preservation from
social dissolution, the germ of a regeneration slow and pacific,
but grand, immense, and lasting, and secure from the revolutions of
ages; and this preservative against social dissolution, this germ
of invaluable improvements, was a pure and lofty doctrine, diffused
among all mankind, without exception of age, sex, and condition, as
the rain which falls like a mild dew on an arid and thirsty soil. No
religion has ever equalled Christianity in knowledge of the hidden
means of influencing man; none has ever, when doing so, paid so high
a compliment to his dignity; and Christianity has always adopted the
principle, that the first step in gaining possession of the whole man
is that of gaining his mind; and that it is necessary, in order either
to destroy evil or to effect good, to adopt intellectual means: thereby
it has given a mortal blow to the systems of violence which prevailed
before its existence; it has proclaimed the wholesome truth, that in
influencing men, the weakest and most unworthy method is force; a
fruitful and beneficial truth, which opened to humanity a new and happy
future. Only since the Christian era do we find the lessons of the
sublimest philosophy taught to all classes of the people, at all times
and in all places. The loftiest truths relating to God and man, the
rules of the purest morality, are not communicated to a chosen number
of disciples in hidden and mysterious instructions; the philosophy of
Christianity has been bolder; it has ventured to reveal to man the
whole naked truth, and that in public, with a loud voice, and that
generous boldness which is the inseparable companion of the truth.
"That which I tell you in the dark, speak ye in the light; and that
which you hear in the ear, preach ye upon the housetop." (Matt. x. 27.)

As soon as Christianity and Paganism met face to face, the superiority
of the former was rendered palpable, not only by its doctrines
themselves, but by the manner in which it propagated them. It might
easily be imagined that a religion so wise and pure in its teachings,
and which, in propagating them, addressed itself directly to the mind
and heart, must quickly drive from its usurped dominion the religion
of imposture and falsehood. And, indeed, what did Paganism do for
the good of man? What moral truths did it teach? How did it check
the corruption of manners? "As to morals," says St. Augustine, "why
have not the gods chosen to take care of those of their adorers, and
prevent their irregularities? As to the true God, it is with justice
that He has neglected those who did not serve Him. But whence comes
it that those gods, the prohibition of whose worship is complained of
by ungrateful men, have not established laws to lead their adorers to
virtue? Was it not reasonable that, as men undertook their mysteries
and sacrifices, the gods, on their side, should undertake to regulate
the manners and actions of men? It is replied, that no one is wicked
but because he wishes to be so. Who doubts this? but the gods ought not
on that account to conceal from their worshippers precepts that might
serve to make them practise virtue. They were, on the contrary, under
the obligation of publishing those precepts aloud, of admonishing and
rebuking sinners by their prophets; of publicly threatening punishment
to those who did evil, and promising rewards to those who did well.
Was there ever heard, in the temples of the gods, a loud and generous
voice teaching any thing of the kind?" (_De Civit._ lib. ii. c. 4.)
The holy doctor afterwards paints a dark picture of the infamies and
abominations which were committed in the spectacles and sacred games
celebrated in honor of the gods--games and shows at which he had
himself assisted in his youth; he continues thus: "Thence it comes
that these divinities have taken no care to regulate the morals of the
cities and nations who adore them, or to avert by their threats those
dreadful evils which injure not only fields and vineyards, houses and
properties, or the body which is subject to the mind, but the mind
itself, the directress of the body, which was drenched with their
iniquities. Or if it be pretended that they did make such menaces,
let them be shown and proved to us. But let there not be alleged a
few secret words whispered in the ears of a small number of persons,
and which, with a great deal of mystery, were to teach virtue. It
is necessary to point out, to name the places consecrated to the
assemblies--not those in which were celebrated games with lascivious
words and gestures; not those feasts called _fuites_, and which
were solemnized with the most unbridled license; but the assemblies
where the people were instructed in the precepts of the gods for the
repression of avarice, moderating ambition, restraining immodesty;
those where these unfortunate beings learn what Perseus desires them
to know, when he says, in severe language, 'Learn, O unhappy mortals,
the reason of things, what we are, why we come into the world, what
we ought to do, how miserable is the term of our career, what bounds
we ought to prescribe to ourselves in the pursuit of riches, what use
we ought to make of them, what we owe to our neighbor, in fine, the
obligations we owe to the rank we occupy among men.' Let them tell us
in what places they have been accustomed to instruct the people in
these things by order of the gods; let them show us these places, as
we show them churches built for this purpose wherever the Christian
religion has been established." (_De Civit._ lib. ii. c. 6.) This
divine religion was too deeply acquainted with the heart of man ever
to forget the weakness and inconstancy which characterize it; and
hence it has ever been her invariable rule of conduct unceasingly
to inculcate to him, with untiring patience, the salutary truths on
which his temporal well-being and eternal happiness depend. Man easily
forgets moral truths when he is not constantly reminded of them; or
if they remain in his mind, they are there like sterile seeds, and do
not fertilize his heart. It is good and highly salutary for parents
constantly to communicate this instruction to their children, and that
it should be made the principal object of private education; but it
is necessary, moreover, that there should be a public ministry, never
losing sight of it, diffusing it among all classes and ages, repairing
the negligences of families, and reviving recollections and impressions
which the passions and time constantly efface.

This system of constant preaching and instruction, practised at all
times and in all places by the Catholic Church, is so important for
the enlightenment and morality of nations, that it must be looked
upon as a great good, that the first Protestants, in spite of their
desire to destroy all the practices of the Church, have nevertheless
preserved that of preaching. We need not be insensible on this account
to the evils produced at certain times by the declamation of some
factious or fanatical ministers; but as unity had been broken, as
the people had been precipitated into the perilous paths of schism,
we say that it must have been extremely useful for the preservation
of the most important notions with respect to God and man and the
fundamental maxims of morality, that such truths should be frequently
explained to the people by men who had long studied them in the sacred
Scriptures. No doubt the mortal blow given to the hierarchy by the
Protestant system, and the degradation of the priesthood which was the
consequence, have deprived its preachers of the sacred characteristics
of the Holy Spirit; no doubt it is a great obstacle to the efficacy of
their preachers, that they cannot present themselves as the anointed
of the Lord, and that they are only, as an able writer has said, _men
clothed in black, who mount the pulpit every Sunday to speak reasonable
things_; but at least the people continue to hear some fragments of
the excellent moral discourses contained in the sacred Scriptures,
they have often before their eyes the edifying examples spread over
the Old and New Testament, and, what is still more precious, they are
reminded frequently of the events in the life of Jesus Christ,--of
that admirable life, the model of all perfection, which, even when
considered in a human point of view, is acknowledged by all to be the
purest sanctity _par excellence_, the noblest code of morality that was
ever seen, the realization of the finest _beau idéal_ that philosophy
in its loftiest thoughts has ever conceived under human form, and which
poetry has ever imagined in its most brilliant dreams. This we say is
useful and highly salutary; for it will always be salutary for nations
to be nourished with the wholesome food of moral truths, and to be
excited to virtue by such sublime examples.



Although the Church attached the greatest importance to the propagation
of truth, although she was convinced that to destroy the shapeless
mass of immorality and degradation that met her sight, her first care
should be to expose error to the dissolving fire of true doctrines,
she did not confine herself to this; but, descending to real life,
and following a system full of wisdom and prudence, she acted in such
a manner as to enable humanity to taste the precious fruit which the
doctrines of Jesus Christ produce even in temporal things. The Church
was not only a _great and fruitful school; she was also a regenerative
association_; she did not diffuse her general doctrines by throwing
them abroad at hazard, merely hoping that they would fructify with
time; she developed them in all their relations, applied them to all
subjects, inoculated laws and manners with them, and realized them in
institutions which afforded silent but eloquent instructions to future
generations. Nowhere was the dignity of man acknowledged, slavery
reigned everywhere; degraded woman was dishonored by the corruption of
manners, and debased by the tyranny of man. The feelings of humanity
were trodden under foot, infants were abandoned, the sick and aged were
neglected, barbarity and cruelty were carried to the highest pitch
of atrocity in the prevailing laws of war; in fine, on the summit of
the social edifice was seen an odious tyranny, sustained by military
force, and looking down with an eye of contempt on the unfortunate
nations that lay in fetters at its feet.

In such a state of things it certainly was no slight task to remove
error, to reform and improve manners, abolish slavery, correct the
vices of legislation, impose a check on power, and make it harmonize
with the public interest, give new life to individuals, and reorganize
family and society; and yet nothing less than this was done by the
Church. Let us begin with slavery. This is a matter which is the more
to be fathomed, as it is a question eminently calculated to excite
our curiosity and affect our hearts. What abolished slavery among
Christian nations? Was it Christianity? Was it Christianity alone,
by its lofty ideas on human dignity, by its maxims and its spirit of
fraternity and charity, and also by its prudent, gentle, and beneficent
conduct? I trust I shall prove that it was. No one now ventures to
doubt that the Church exercised a powerful influence on the abolition
of slavery; this is a truth too clear and evident to be questioned.
M. Guizot acknowledges the successful efforts with which the Church
labored to improve the social condition. He says: "No one doubts that
she struggled obstinately against the great vices of the social state;
for example, against slavery." But, in the next line, and as if he
were reluctant to establish without any restriction a fact which must
necessarily excite in favor of the Catholic Church the sympathies of
all humanity, he adds: "It has been often repeated that the abolition
of slavery in the modern world was entirely due to Christianity. I
believe that this is saying too much; slavery existed for a long time
in the bosom of Christian society without exciting astonishment or much
opposition." M. Guizot is much mistaken if he expects to prove that the
abolition of slavery was not due exclusively to Christianity, by the
mere representation that slavery existed for a long time amid Christian
society. To proceed logically, he must first see whether the sudden
abolition of it was possible, if the spirit of peace and order which
animates the Church could allow her rashly to enter on an enterprise
which, without gaining the desired object, might have convulsed the
world. The number of slaves was immense; slavery was deeply rooted in
laws, manners, ideas, and interests, individual and social; a fatal
system, no doubt, but the eradication of which all at once it would
have been rash to attempt, as its roots had penetrated deeply and
spread widely in the bowels of the land.

In a census of Athens there were reckoned 20,000 citizens and 40,000
slaves; in the Peloponnesian war no less than 20,000 passed over to
the enemy. This we learn from Thucydides. The same author tells us,
that at Chio the number of slaves was very considerable, and that
their defection, when they passed over to the Athenians, reduced their
masters to great extremities. In general, the number of slaves was so
very great everywhere that the public safety was often compromised
thereby. Therefore it was necessary to take precautions to prevent
their acting in concert. "It is necessary," says Plato (_Dial._ 6,
_de Leg._), "that slaves should not be of the same country, and that
they should differ as much as possible in manners and desires; for
experience has many times shown, in the frequent defections which have
been witnessed, among the Messenians, and in other cities that had a
great number of slaves of the same language, that great evils commonly
result from it." Aristotle in his Government (b. i. c. 5) gives
various rules as to the manner in which slaves ought to be treated; it
is remarkable that he is of the same opinion as Plato, for he says:
"That there should not be many slaves of the same country." He tells
us in his Politics (b. ii. c. 7), "That the Thessalians were reduced
to great embarrassments on account of the number of their Penestes,
a sort of slaves; the same thing happened to the Spartans on account
of the Helotes. The Penestes have often rebelled in Thessaly; and the
Spartans, during their reverses, have been menaced by the plots of the
Helotes." This was a difficulty which required the serious attention
of politicians. They did not know how to prevent the inconveniences
induced by this immense multitude of slaves. Aristotle laments the
difficulty there was in finding the best way of treating them; and we
see that it was the subject of grave cares; I will transcribe his own
words: "In truth," he says, "the manner in which this class of men
ought to be treated is a thing difficult and full of embarrassment; for
if they are treated mildly, they become insolent, and wish to become
equal to their masters; if they are treated harshly, they conceive
hatred, and conspire."

At Rome, the multitude of slaves was such that when, at a certain
period, it was proposed to give them a distinctive dress, the Senate
opposed the measure, fearing that if they knew their own numbers the
public safety would be endangered; and certainly this precaution was
not vain, for already, a long time before, the slaves had caused great
commotions in Italy. Plato, in support of the advice which I have just
quoted, states, "That the slaves had frequently devastated Italy with
piracy and robbery." In more recent times Spartacus, at the head of
an army of slaves, was the terror of that country for some time, and
engaged the best generals of Rome. The number of slaves had reached
such an excess, that many masters reckoned them by hundreds. When the
Prefect of Rome, Pedanius Secundus, was assassinated, four hundred
slaves who belonged to him were put to death. (_Tac. Ann._ b. xiv.)
Pudentila, the wife of Apulcius, had so many that she gave four hundred
to her son. They became a matter of pomp, and the Romans vied with each
other in their number. When asked this question, _quod pascit servos_,
how many slaves does he keep, according to the expression of Juvenal
(_Sat._ 3, v. 140), they wished to be able to show a great number. The
thing had reached such a pass that, according to Pliny, the cortege of
a family resembled an army.

It was not only in Greece and Italy that this abundance of slaves was
found; at Tyre they arose against their masters, and, by their immense
numbers, they were able to massacre them all. If we turn our eyes
towards barbarous nations, without speaking of some the best known, we
learn from Herodotus that the Scythians, on their return from Media,
found their slaves in rebellion, and were compelled to abandon their
country to them. Cæsar in his Commentaries (_de Bello Gall._ lib. vi.)
bears witness to the multitude of slaves in Gaul. As their number was
everywhere so considerable, it is clear that it was quite impossible
to preach freedom to them without setting the world on fire. Unhappily
we have, in modern times, the means of forming a comparison which,
although on an infinitely smaller scale, will answer our purpose. In
a colony where black slaves abound, who would venture to set them at
liberty all at once? Now how much are the difficulties increased,
what colossal dimensions does not the danger assume, when you have
to do, not with a colony, but with the world? Their intellectual and
moral condition rendered them incapable of turning such an advantage
to their own benefit and that of society; in their debasement, urged
on by the hatred and the desire of vengeance which ill-treatment had
excited in their minds, they would have repeated, on a large scale, the
bloody scenes with which they had already, in former times, stained
the pages of history; and what would then have happened? Society,
thus endangered, would have been put on its guard against principles
favoring liberty; henceforth it would have regarded them with prejudice
and suspicion, and the chains of servitude, instead of being loosened,
would have been the more firmly riveted. Out of this immense mass of
rude, savage men, set at liberty without preparation, it was impossible
for social organization to arise; for social organization is not the
creation of a moment, especially with such elements as these; and in
this case, since it would have been necessary to choose between slavery
and the annihilation of social order, the instinct of preservation,
which animates society as well as all beings, would undoubtedly have
brought about the continuation of slavery where it still existed, and
its re-establishment where it had been destroyed. Those who complain
that Christianity did not accomplish the work of abolishing slavery
with sufficient promptitude, should remember that, even supposing a
sudden or very rapid emancipation possible, and to say nothing of the
bloody revolutions which would necessarily have been the result, the
mere force of circumstances, by the insurmountable difficulties which
it would have raised, would have rendered such a measure absolutely
useless. Let us lay aside all social and political considerations, and
apply ourselves to the economical question. First, it was necessary to
change all the relations of property. The slaves played a principal
part therein; they cultivated the land, and worked as mechanics; in a
word, among them was distributed all that is called labor; and this
distribution being made on the supposition of slavery, to take away
this would have made a disruption, the ultimate consequences of which
could not be estimated. I will suppose that violent spoliations had
taken place, that a repartition or equalization of property had been
attempted, that lands had been distributed to the emancipated, and
that the richest proprietors had been compelled to hold the pickaxe
and the plough; I will suppose all these absurdities and mad dreams
to be realized, and I say that this would have been no remedy; for we
must not forget that the production of the means of subsistence must
be in proportion to the wants of those they are intended to support,
and that this proportion would have been destroyed by the abolition of
slavery. The production was regulated, not exactly according to the
number of the individuals who then existed, but on the supposition that
the majority were slaves; now we know that the wants of a freeman are
greater than those of a slave.

If at the present time, after eighteen centuries, when ideas have
been corrected, manners softened, laws ameliorated; when nations
and governments have been taught by experience; when so many public
establishments for the relief of indigence have been founded; when so
many systems have been tried for the division of labor; when riches are
distributed in a more equitable manner; if it is still so difficult to
prevent a great number of men from becoming the victims of dreadful
misery, if that is the terrible evil, which, like a fatal nightmare,
torments society, and threatens its future, what would have been the
effect of a universal emancipation, at the beginning of Christianity,
at a time when slaves were not considered by the law as _persons_,
but as _things_; when their conjugal union was not looked upon as a
marriage; when their children were property, and subject to the same
rules as the progeny of animals; when, in fine, the unhappy slave
was ill-treated, tormented, sold, or put to death, according to the
caprices of his master? Is it not evident that the cure of such evils
was the work of ages? Do not humanity and political and social economy
unanimously tell us this? If mad attempts had been made, the slaves
themselves would have been the first to protest against them; they
would have adhered to a servitude which at least secured to them food
and shelter; they would have rejected a liberty which was inconsistent
even with their existence. Such is the order of nature: man, above
all, requires wherewith to live; and the means of subsistence being
wanting, liberty itself would cease to please him. It is not necessary
to allude to the individual examples of this, which we have in
abundance; entire nations have given signal proofs of this truth.
When misery is excessive, it is difficult for it not to bring with it
degradation, stifle the most generous sentiments, and take away the
magic of the words independence and liberty. "The common people," says
Cæsar, speaking of the Gauls (lib. vi. _de Bello Gall._), "are almost
on a level with slaves; of themselves they venture nothing; their
voice is of no avail. There are many of that class, who, loaded with
debts and tributes, or oppressed by the powerful, give themselves up
into servitude to the nobles, who exercise over those who have thus
delivered themselves up the same rights as over slaves." Examples of
the same kind are not wanting in modern times; we know that in China
there is a great number of slaves whose servitude is owing entirely to
the incapacity of themselves or their fathers to provide for their own

These observations, which are supported by facts that no one can deny,
evidently show that Christianity has displayed profound wisdom in
proceeding with so much caution in the abolition of slavery.

It did all that was possible in favor of human liberty; if it did
not advance more rapidly in the work, it was because it could not do
so without compromitting the undertaking--without creating serious
obstacles to the desired emancipation. Such is the result at which we
arrive when we have thoroughly examined the charges made against some
proceedings of the Church. We look into them by the light of reason,
we compare them with the facts, and in the end we are convinced that
the conduct blamed is perfectly in accordance with the dictates of the
highest wisdom and the counsels of the soundest prudence. What, then,
does M. Guizot mean, when, after having allowed that Christianity
labored with earnestness for the abolition of slavery, he accuses it
of having consented for a long time to its continuance? Is it logical
thence to infer that it is not true that this immense benefit is due
exclusively to Christianity? That slavery endured for a long time in
presence of the Church is true; but it was always declining, and it
only lasted as long as was necessary to realize the benefit without
violence--without a shock--without compromitting its universality and
its continuation. Moreover, we ought to subtract from the time of its
continuance many ages, during which the Church was often proscribed,
always regarded with aversion, and totally unable to exert a direct
influence on the social organization. We ought also, to a great extent,
to make exception of later times, as the Church had only begun to exert
a direct and public influence, when the irruption of the northern
barbarians took place, which, together with the corruption which
infected the empire and spread in a frightful manner, produced such
a perturbation, such a confused mass of languages, customs, manners,
and laws, that it was almost impossible to make the regulating power
produce salutary fruits. If, in later times, it has been difficult
to destroy feudality; if there remain to this day, after ages of
struggles, the remnants of that constitution; if the slave-trade,
although limited to certain countries and circumstances, still merits
the universal reprobation which is raised throughout the world against
its infamy; how can we venture to express our astonishment--how can
we venture to make it a reproach against the Church, that slavery
continued some ages after she had proclaimed men's fraternity with each
other, and their equality before God?



Happily the Catholic Church was wiser than philosophers; she knew
how to confer on humanity the benefit of emancipation, without
injustice or revolution. She knew how to regenerate society, but not
in rivers of blood. Let us see what was her conduct with respect to
the abolition of slavery. Much has been already said of the spirit of
love and fraternity which animates Christianity, and that is sufficient
to show that its influence in this work must have been great. But
perhaps sufficient care has not been taken in seeking the positive
and practical means which the Church employed for this end. In the
darkness of ages, in circumstances so complicated or various, will it
be possible to discover any traces of the path pursued by the Catholic
Church in accomplishing the destruction of that slavery under which a
large portion of the human race groaned? Will it be possible to do any
thing more than praise her Christian charity? Will it be possible to
point out a plan, a system, and to prove the existence and development
of it, not by referring to a few expressions, to elevated thoughts,
generous sentiments, and the isolated actions of a few illustrious men,
but by exhibiting positive facts, and historical documents, which show
what were the _esprit de corps_ and tendency of the Church? I believe
that this may be done, and I have no doubt that I shall be able to do
it, by availing myself of what is most convincing and decisive in the
matter, viz. the monuments of ecclesiastical legislation.

In the first place, it will not be amiss to remember what I have
already pointed out, viz. that when we have to do with the conduct,
designs, and tendencies of the Church, it is by no means necessary to
suppose that these designs were conceived in their fullest extent by
the mind of any individual in particular, nor that the merit and all
the prudence of that conduct was understood by those who took part
in it. It is not even necessary to suppose that the first Christians
understood all the force of the tendencies of Christianity with respect
to the abolition of slavery. What requires to be shown is, that the
result has been obtained by the doctrines and conduct of the Church, as
with Catholics, (although they know how to esteem at their just value
the merit and greatness of each man,) individuals, when the Church is
concerned, disappear. Their thoughts and will are nothing; the spirit
which animates, vivifies, and directs the Church, is not the spirit of
man, but that of God himself. Those who belong not to our faith will
employ other names; but at least we shall agree in this, that facts,
considered in this way, above the mind and the will of individuals,
preserve much better their real dimensions; and thus the great chain of
events in the study of history remains unbroken. Let it be said that
the conduct of the Church was inspired and directed by God; or that it
was the result of instinct; that it was the development of a tendency
contained in her doctrines; we will not now stay to consider the
expressions which may be used by Catholics, or by philosophers; what we
have to show is, that this instinct was noble and well-directed; that
this tendency had a great object in view, and knew how to attain it.

The first thing that Christianity did for slaves, was to destroy the
errors which opposed, not only their universal emancipation, but even
the improvement of their condition; that is, the first force which
she employed in the attack was, according to her custom, the _force
of ideas_. This first step was the more necessary, as the same thing
applies to all other evils, as well as to slavery; every social evil is
always accompanied by some error which produces or foments it. There
existed not only the oppression and degradation of a large portion of
the human race, but, moreover, an accredited error, which tended more
and more to lower that portion of humanity. According to this opinion,
slaves were a mean race, far below the dignity of freemen: they were a
race degraded by Jupiter himself, marked by a stamp of humiliation, and
predestined to their state of abjection and debasement. A detestable
doctrine, no doubt, and contradicted by the nature of man, by history
and experience; but which, nevertheless, reckoned distinguished men
among its defenders, and which we see proclaimed for ages, to the
shame of humanity and the scandal of reason, until Christianity came
to destroy it, by undertaking to vindicate the rights of man. Homer
tells us (_Odys._ 17) that "Jupiter has deprived slaves of half the
mind." We find in Plato a trace of the same doctrine, although he
expresses himself, as he is accustomed to do, by the mouth of another;
he ventures to advance the following: "It is said that, in the mind
of slaves, there is nothing sound or complete; and that a prudent man
ought not to trust that class of persons; which is equally attested by
the wisest of our poets." Here Plato cites the above-quoted passage
of Homer (_Dial._ 8, _de Legibus_). But it is in the Politics of
Aristotle that we find this degrading doctrine in all its deformity
and nakedness. Some have wished to excuse this philosopher, but in
vain; his own words condemn him without appeal. In the first chapter
of his work, he explains the constitution of the family, and attempts
to state the relations of husband and wife, of master and slave; he
states that, as the wife is by nature different from the husband, so
is the slave from the master. These are his words: "Thus the woman and
the slave are distinguished by nature itself." Let it not be said that
this is an expression that escaped from the pen of the writer; it was
stated with a full knowledge, and is a _résumé_ of his theory. In the
third chapter, where he continues to analyze the elements which compose
the family, after having stated "that a complete family is formed of
free persons and slaves," he alludes particularly to the latter, and
begins by combating an opinion which he thinks too favorable to them:
"There are some," he says, "who think that slavery is a thing out of
the order of nature, since it is the law itself which makes some free
and others slaves, while nature makes no distinction." Before combating
this opinion, he explains the relations between master and slave, by
using the comparison of artist and instrument, and that of the soul
and body; he continues thus: "If we compare man to woman, we find that
the first is superior, therefore he commands; the woman is inferior,
therefore she obeys. The same thing ought to take place among all men.
_Thus it is that those among them who are as inferior with respect to
others, as the body is with respect to the soul, and the animal to man;
those whose powers principally consist in the use of the body, the only
service that can be obtained from them, they are naturally slaves._"
We should imagine, at first sight, that the philosopher spoke only of
idiots; his words would seem to indicate this; but we shall see, by
the context, that such is not his intention. It is evident that if he
spoke only of idiots, he would prove nothing against the opinion which
he desires to combat; for the number of them is nothing with respect to
the generality of men. If he spoke only of idiots, of what use would be
a theory founded on so rare and monstrous an exception?

But we have no need of conjectures as to the real intention of the
philosopher, he himself takes care to explain it to us, and tells us at
the same time for what reason he ventures to make use of expressions
which seem, at first, to place the matter on another level. His
intention is nothing less than to attribute to nature the express
design of producing men of two kinds; one born for slavery, the other
for liberty. The passage is too important and too curious to be
omitted. It is this: "Nature has taken care to create the bodies of
free men different from those of slaves; the bodies of the latter are
strong, and proper for the most necessary labors: those of freemen, on
the contrary, well formed, although ill adapted for servile works, are
proper for civil life, which consists in the management of things in
war and peace. Nevertheless, the contrary often happens. To a free man
is given the body of a slave; and to a slave the soul of a free man.
There is no doubt that, if the bodies of some men were as much more
perfect than others, as we see is the case in the image of the Gods,
all the world would be of opinion that these men should be obeyed by
those who had not the same beauty. If this is true in speaking of the
body, it is still more so in speaking of the soul; although it is not
so easy to see the beauty of the soul as that of the body. Thus it
cannot be doubted that there are some men born for liberty, as others
are for slavery; a slavery which is not only useful to the slaves
themselves, but, moreover, just." A miserable philosophy, which, in
order to support that degraded state, was obliged to have recourse to
such subtilties, and ventured to impute to nature the intention of
creating different castes, some born to command and others to obey; a
cruel philosophy, which thus labored to break the bonds of fraternity
with which the Author of nature has desired to knit together the
human race, pretending to raise a barrier between man and man, and
inventing theories to support inequality; not that inequality which is
the necessary result of all social organization, but an inequality so
terrible and degrading as that of slavery.

Christianity raises its voice, and by the first words which it
pronounces on slaves, declares them equal to all men in the dignity
of nature, and in the participation of the graces which the Divine
Spirit diffuses upon earth. We must remark the care with which St.
Paul insists on this point; it seems as if he had in view those
degrading distinctions which have arisen from a fatal forgetfulness
of the dignity of man. The Apostle never forgets to inculcate to
the faithful that there is no difference between the slave and the
freeman. "For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body,
whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free." (1 Cor. xii. 13.)
"For you are all children of God, by faith in Jesus Christ. For as
many of you as have been baptized in Christ have put on Christ. There
is neither Jew nor Greek; _there is neither bond or free_; there is
neither male or female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal.
iii. 26-28.) "Where there is neither Gentile nor Jew, circumcision
nor uncircumcision, barbarian or Scythian, bond or free; but Christ
is all and in all." (Colos. iii. 11.) The heart dilates at the sound
of the voice thus loudly proclaiming the great principles of holy
fraternity and equality. After having heard the oracles of Paganism
inventing doctrines to degrade still more the unhappy slaves, we seem
to awake from a painful dream, and to find ourselves in the light of
day in the midst of the delightful reality. The imagination delights
to contemplate the millions of men who, bent under degradation and
ignominy, at this voice raised their eyes towards Heaven, and were
animated with hope.

It was with this teaching of Christianity as with all generous and
fruitful doctrines; they penetrate the heart of society, remain
there as a precious germ, and, developed by time, produce an immense
tree which overshadows families and nations. When these doctrines
were diffused among men, they could not fail to be misunderstood and
exaggerated. Thus there were found some who pretended that Christian
freedom was the proclamation of universal freedom. The pleasing words
of Christ easily resounded in the ears of slaves: they heard themselves
declared children of God, and brethren of Jesus Christ; they saw that
there was no distinction made between them and their masters, between
them and the most powerful lords of the earth; is it, then, strange
that men only accustomed to chains, to labor, to every kind of trouble
and degradation, exaggerated the principles of Christian liberty, and
made applications of them which were neither just in themselves, nor
capable of being reduced to practice? We know, from St. Jerome, that
many, hearing themselves called to Christian liberty, believed that
they were thereby freed. Perhaps the Apostle alluded to this error
when, in his first epistle to Timothy, he said, "Whosoever are servants
under the yoke, let them count their masters worthy of all honor; lest
the name of the Lord and His doctrines be blasphemed." (1 Timothy vi.
1.) This error had been so general, that after three centuries it was
still much credited; and the Council of Gangres, held about 324, was
obliged to excommunicate those who, under pretence of piety, taught
that slaves ought to quit their masters, and withdraw from their
service. This was not the teaching of Christianity; besides, we have
clearly shown that it would not have been the right way to achieve
universal emancipation. Therefore this same Apostle, from whose mouth
we have heard such generous language in favor of slaves, frequently
inculcates to them obedience to their masters; but let us observe, that
while fulfilling this duty imposed by the spirit of peace and justice
which animates Christianity, he so explains the motives on which the
obedience of slaves ought to be based, he calls to mind the obligations
of masters in such affecting and energetic words, and establishes so
expressly and conclusively the equality of all men before God, that
we cannot help seeing how great was his compassion for that unhappy
portion of humanity, and how much his ideas on this point differed
from those of a blind and hardened world. There is in the heart of
man a feeling of noble independence, which does not permit him to
subject himself to the will of another, except when he sees that the
claims to his obedience are founded on legitimate titles. If they are
in accordance with reason and justice, and, above all, if they have
their roots in the great objects of human love and veneration, his
understanding is convinced, his heart is gained, and he yields. But
if the reason for the command is only the will of another, if it is
only man against man, these thoughts of equality ferment in his mind,
then the feeling of independence burns in his heart, he puts on a
bold front, and his passions are excited. Therefore, when a willing
and lasting obedience is to be obtained, it is necessary that the man
should be lost sight of in the ruler, and that he should only appear
as the representative of a superior power, or the personification of
the motives which convince the subject of the justice and utility of
his submission; thus he does not obey the will of another because it is
that will, but because it is the representative of a superior power, or
the interpreter of truth and justice; then man no longer considers his
dignity outraged, and obedience becomes tolerable and pleasing.

It is unnecessary to say that such were not the titles on which was
founded the obedience of slaves before Christianity: custom placed them
in the rank of brutes; and the laws, outdoing it if possible, were
expressed in language which cannot be read without indignation. Masters
commanded because such was their pleasure, and slaves were compelled
to obey, not on account of superior motives or moral obligations,
but because they were the property of their masters, horses governed
by the bridle, and mere mechanical machines. Was it, then, strange
that these unhappy beings, drenched with misfortune and ignominy,
conceived and cherished in their hearts that deep rancor, that violent
hatred, and that terrible thirst for vengeance, which at the first
opportunity exploded so fearfully? The horrible massacre of Tyre,
the example and terror of the universe, according to the expression
of Justin; the repeated revolts of the Penestes in Thessaly, of the
Helotes in Sparta; the defections of the slaves of Chio and Athens; the
insurrection under the command of Herdonius, and the terror which it
spread in all the families of Rome; the scenes of blood, the obstinate
and desperate resistance of the bands of Spartacus; was all this any
thing but the natural result of the system of violence, outrage, and
contempt with which slaves were treated? Is it not what we have seen
repeated in modern times, in the catastrophes of the negro colonies?
Such is the nature of man, whoever sows contempt and outrage will
reap fury and vengeance. Christianity was well aware of these truths;
and this is the reason why, while preaching obedience, it took care
to found it on Divine authority. If it confirmed to masters their
rights, it also taught them an exalted sense of their obligation.
Wherever Christian doctrines prevailed, slaves might say: "It is true
that we are unfortunate; birth, poverty, or the reverses of war have
condemned us to misfortune; but at least we are acknowledged as men and
brethren; between us and our masters there is a reciprocity of rights
and obligations." Let us hear the Apostle: "You, slaves, obey those who
are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in
the simplicity of your hearts, as to Jesus Christ himself. _Not serving
to the eye, as it were pleasing men_, but, as the servants of Christ,
doing the will of God from the heart. With a good will serving, as
to the Lord, and not to men. Knowing that whatsoever good things any
man shall do, the same shall he receive from the Lord, _whether he be
bond or free_. And you, masters, do the same thing to them, forbearing
threatenings, knowing that the Lord both of them and you is in heaven,
and _there is no respect of persons with Him_." (Eph. vi. 5-9.) In the
Epistle to the Colossians he inculcates the same doctrine of obedience
anew, basing it on the same motives; for, to console the unfortunate
slaves, he tells them: "You shall receive of the Lord the reward of
inheritance: serve ye the Lord Christ. For he that doth wrong shall
receive for that which he hath done wrongfully, and there is no respect
of persons with God" (Colos. iii. 24, 25); and lower down, addressing
himself to masters: "Masters, do to your servants that which is just
and equal, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven." (iv. 1.)

The diffusion of such beneficent doctrines necessarily tended to
improve greatly the condition of slaves; their immediate effect was to
soften that excessive rigor, that cruelty which would be incredible if
it were not incontrovertibly proved. We know that the master had the
right of life and death, and that he abused that power even to putting
a slave to death from caprice, as Quintus Flaminius did in the midst of
a festival. Another caused one of these unfortunate beings to be thrown
to the fishes, because he broke a glass of crystal. This is related of
Vedius Pollio; and this horrible cruelty was not confined to the circle
of a few families subject to a master devoid of compassion; no, cruelty
was formed into a system, the fatal but necessary result of erroneous
notions on this point, and of the forgetfulness of the sentiments of
humanity. This violent system could only be supported by constantly
trampling upon the slave; and there was no cessation of tyranny until
the day when he, with superior power, attacked his master and destroyed
him. An ancient proverb said, "So many slaves, so many enemies." We
have already seen the ravages committed by men thus rendered savage by
revenge, whenever they were able to break their chains; but certainly,
when it was desired to terrify them, their masters did not yield to
them in ferocity. At Sparta, on one occasion when they feared the
ill-will of the Helotes, they assembled them all at the temple of
Jupiter, and put them to death. (_Thucyd._ b. iv.) At Rome, whenever
a master was assassinated, all his slaves were condemned to death.
We cannot read in Tacitus without a shudder (_Ann._ l. xiv. 43) the
horrible scene which was witnessed when the prefect of the town,
Pedanius Secundus, was assassinated by one of his slaves. Not less than
four hundred were to die; all, according to the ancient custom, were
to be led to punishment. This cruel and pitiable spectacle, in which
so many of the innocent were to suffer death, excited the compassion
of the people, who raised a tumult to prevent this horrid butchery.
The Senate, in doubt, deliberated on the affair, when an orator named
Cassius maintained with energy that it was necessary to complete the
bloody execution, not only in obedience to the ancient custom, but also
because without it it would be impossible to preserve themselves from
the ill-will of the slaves. His words are all dictated by injustice and
tyranny; he sees on all sides dangers and conspiracies; he can imagine
no other safeguards than force and terror. The following passage is
above all remarkable in his speech, as showing in a few words the ideas
and manners of the ancients in this matter: "Our ancestors," says the
senator, "always mistrusted the character of slaves, even of those who,
born on their possessions and in their houses, might be supposed to
have conceived from their cradle an affection for their masters; but as
we have slaves of foreign nations, differing in customs and religion,
this rabble can only be restrained by terror." Cruelty prevailed, the
boldness of the people was repressed, the way was filled with soldiers,
and the four hundred unfortunate beings were led to punishment.

To soften this cruel treatment, to banish these frightful atrocities,
ought to have been the first effect of the Christian doctrines; and
we may rest assured that the Church never lost sight of so important
an object. She devoted all her efforts to improve as much as possible
the condition of slaves; in punishments she caused mildness to be
substituted for cruelty; and what was more important than all, she
labored to put reason in the place of caprice, and to make the
impetuosity of masters yield to the calmness of judges; that is to say,
she every day assimilated the condition of slaves more and more to that
of freemen, by making right and not might reign over them. The Church
never forgot the noble lesson which the Apostle gave when writing to
Philemon, and interceding in favor of a fugitive slave named Onesimus;
he spoke in his favor with a tenderness which this unhappy class had
never before inspired: "I beseech thee," he says to him, "for my son
Onesimus. Receive him as my own bowels; no more as a slave, but as a
most dear brother. If he hath wronged thee in any thing, or is in thy
debt, put that to my account." (Epis. to Phil.) The Council of Elvira,
held in the beginning of the fourth century, subjects the woman who
shall have beaten her slave so as to cause her death in three days to
many years of penance; the Council of Orleans, held in 549, orders
that if a slave guilty of a fault take refuge in a church, he is to be
restored to his master, but not without having exacted from the latter
a promise, confirmed by oath, that he will not do him any harm; that if
the master, in violation of his oath, maltreat the slave, he shall be
separated from the communion of the faithful and the sacraments. This
canon shows us two things: the habitual cruelty of masters, and the
zeal of the Church to soften the treatment of slaves. To restrain this
cruelty, nothing less than an oath was required; and the Church, always
so careful in these things, yet considered the matter important enough
to justify and require the invocation of the sacred name of God.

The favor and protection which the Church granted to slaves rapidly
extended. It seems that in some places the custom was introduced of
requiring a promise on oath, not only that the slave who had taken
refuge in the church should not be ill-treated in his person, but
even that no extraordinary work should be imposed on him, and that he
should wear no distinctive mark. This custom, produced no doubt by
zeal for humanity, but which may have occasioned some inconveniences
by relaxing too much the ties of obedience, and allowing excesses on
the part of slaves, appears to be alluded to in a regulation of the
Council of Epaone (now Abbon, according to some), held about 517. This
Council labors to stop the evil by prescribing a prudent moderation;
but without withdrawing the protection already granted. It ordains,
in the 39th canon, "That if a slave, guilty of any atrocious offence,
takes refuge in a church, he shall be saved from corporal punishment;
but the master shall not be compelled to swear that he will not impose
on him additional labor, or that he will not cut off his hair, in order
to make known his fault." Observe that this restriction is introduced
only in the case when the slave shall have committed a heinous offence,
and even in this case all the power allowed to the master consists in
imposing on the slave extraordinary labor, or distinguishing him by
cutting his hair.

Perhaps such indulgence may be considered excessive; but we must
observe that when abuses are deeply rooted, they cannot be eradicated
without a vigorous effort. At first sight it often appears as if the
limits of prudence were passed; but this apparent excess is only the
inevitable oscillation which is observed before things regain their
right position. The Church had therein no wish to protect crime, or
give unmerited indulgence; her object was to check the violence and
caprice of masters; she did not wish to allow a man to suffer torture
or death because such was the will of another. The establishment of
just laws and legitimate tribunals, the Church has never opposed;
but she has never given her consent to acts of private violence. The
spirit of opposition to the exercise of private force, which includes
social organization, is clearly shown to us in the 15th canon of the
Council of Merida, held in 666. I have already shown that slaves
formed a large portion of property. As the division of labor was made
in conformity with this principle, slaves were absolutely necessary
to those who possessed property, especially when it was considerable.
Now the Church found this to be the case; and as she could not change
the organization of society on a sudden, she was obliged to yield
to necessity, and admit slavery. But if she wished to introduce
improvements in the lot of slaves in general, it was good for her to
set the example herself: this example is found in the canon I have
just quoted. There, after having forbidden the bishops and priests
to maltreat the servants of the Church by mutilating their limbs,
the Council ordains that if a slave commit an offence, he shall be
delivered to the secular judges, but so that the bishops shall moderate
the punishment inflicted on him. We see by this canon that the right
of mutilation exercised by private masters was still in use; and
perhaps it was still more strongly established, since we see that
the Council limits itself to interdicting that kind of punishment to
ecclesiastics, without saying any thing as to laymen. No doubt, one of
the motives for this prohibition made to ecclesiastics, was to prevent
their shedding human blood, and thus rendering themselves incapable
of exercising their lofty ministry, the principal act of which is the
august sacrifice in which they offer a victim of peace and love; but
this does not in any way detract from the merit of the regulation, or
at all diminish its influence on the improvement of the condition of
slaves. It was the substitution of public vengeance for private; it
was again to proclaim the equality of slaves and freemen with respect
to the effusion of their blood; it was to declare that the hands which
had shed the blood of a slave, had contracted the same stain as if they
had shed that of a freeman. Now, it was necessary to inculcate these
salutary truths on men's minds in every way, for they ran in direct
contradiction to the ideas and manners of antiquity; it was necessary
to labor assiduously to destroy the shameful and cruel exceptions which
continued to deprive the majority of mankind of a participation in the
rights of humanity. There is, in the canon which I have just quoted,
a remarkable circumstance, which shows the solicitude of the Church
to restore to slaves the dignity and respect of which they had been
deprived. To shave the hair of the head was among the Goths a very
ignominious punishment; which, according to Lucas de Tuy, was to them
more cruel than death itself. It will be understood, that whatever was
the force of prejudice on this point, the Church might have allowed
the shaving of the hair without incurring the stain which was attached
to the shedding of blood. Yet she was not willing to allow it, which
shows us how attentive she was to destroy the marks of humiliation
impressed on slaves. After having enjoined priests and bishops to
deliver criminal slaves to the judges, she commands them "not to allow
them to be shaved ignominiously." No care was too great in this matter;
to destroy one after another the odious exceptions which affected
slaves, it was necessary to seize upon all favorable opportunities.
This necessity is clearly shown by the manner in which the eleventh
Council of Toledo, held in 675, expresses itself. This Council, in its
6th canon, forbids bishops themselves to judge crimes of a capital
nature, as it also forbids them to order the mutilation of members.
Behold in what terms it was considered necessary to state that this
rule admitted of no exception; "not even," says the Council, "with
respect to the slaves of the Church." The evil was great, it could not
be cured without assiduous care. Even the right of life and death,
the most cruel of all, could not be extirpated without much trouble;
and cruel applications of it were made in the beginning of the sixth
century, since the Council of Epaone, in its 34th canon, ordains that
"the master who, _of his own authority_, shall take away the life of
his slave, shall be cut off for two years from the communion of the
Church." After the middle of the ninth century, similar attempts were
still made, and the Council of Worms, held in 868, labored to repress
them, by subjecting to two years of penance the master who, of his own
authority, shall have put his slave to death.



While improving the condition of slaves and assimilating it as much
as possible to that of freemen, it was necessary not to forget the
universal emancipation; for it was not enough to ameliorate slavery, it
was necessary to abolish it. The mere force of Christian notions, and
the spirit of charity which was spread at the same time with them over
the world, made so violent an attack on the state of slavery, that they
were sure sooner or later to bring about its complete abolition. It
is impossible for society to remain for a long time under an order of
things which is formally opposed to the ideas with which it is imbued.
According to Christian maxims, all men have a common origin and the
same destiny; all are brethren in Jesus Christ; all are obliged to
love each other with all their hearts, to assist each other in their
necessities, to avoid offending each other even in words; all are equal
before God, for they will all be judged without exception of persons.
Christianity extended and took root everywhere--took possession of
all classes, of all branches of society; how, then, could the state
of slavery last--a state of degradation which makes man the property
of another, allows him to be sold like an animal, and deprives him of
the sweetest ties of family and of all participation in the advantages
of society? Two things so opposite could not exist together; the
laws were in favor of slavery, it is true; it may even be said that
Christianity did not make a direct attack on those laws. But, on the
other hand, what did it do? It strove to make itself master of ideas
and manners, communicated to them a new impulse, and gave them a
different direction. In such a case, what did laws avail? Their rigor
was relaxed, their observance was neglected, their equity began to be
doubted, their utility was disputed, their fatal effects were remarked,
and they gradually fell into desuetude, so that sometimes it was not
necessary to strike a blow to destroy them. They were thrown aside
as things of no use; or, if they deserved the trouble of an express
abolition, it was only for the sake of ceremony; it was a body interred
with honor.

But let it not be supposed, after what I have just said, that in
attributing so much importance to Christian ideas and manners, I mean
that the triumph of these ideas and manners was abandoned to that
force alone, without that co-operation on the part of the Church which
the time and circumstances required. Quite the contrary: the Church,
as I have already pointed out, called to her aid all the means the
most conducive to the desired result. In the first place, it was
requisite, to secure the work of emancipation, to protect from all
assault the liberty of the freed--liberty which unhappily was often
attacked and put in great danger. The causes of this melancholy fact
may be easily found in the remains of ancient ideas and manners, in
the cupidity of powerful men, the system of violence made general by
the irruptions of the barbarians, in the poverty, neglect, and total
want of education and morality in which slaves must have been when they
quitted servitude. It must be supposed that a great number of them did
not know all the value of liberty; that they did not always conduct
themselves, in their new state, according to the dictates of reason and
the exigences of justice; and that, newly entered on the possession
of the rights of freemen, they did not know how to fulfil all their
new obligations. But these different inconveniences, inseparable
from the nature of things, were not to hinder the consummation of an
enterprise called for both by religion and humanity, and it was proper
to be resigned to them from the consideration of the numerous motives
for excusing the conduct of the enfranchised; the state which these
men had just quitted had checked the development of their moral and
intellectual faculties.

The liberty of newly-emancipated slaves was protected against the
attacks of injustice, and clothed with an inviolable sanctity, from
the time that their enfranchisement was connected with things which
then exercised the most powerful ascendency. Now the Church, and all
that belonged to her, was in this influential position; therefore
the custom, which was then introduced, of performing the manumission
in the churches, was undoubtedly very favorable to the progress of
liberty. This custom, by taking the place of ancient usages, caused
them to be forgotten; it was, at the same time, a tacit declaration of
the value of human liberty in the sight of God, and a proclamation,
with additional authority, of the equality of men before Him; for the
manumission was made in the same place where it was so often read,
that before Him there was no exception of persons; where all earthly
distinctions disappeared, and all men were commingled and united by
the sweet ties of fraternity and love. This method of manumission more
clearly invested the Church with the right of defending the liberty of
the enfranchised. As she had been witness to the act, she could testify
to the spontaneity and the other circumstances which assured its
validity; she could even insist on its observance, by representing that
the promised liberty could not be violated without profaning the sacred
place, without breaking a pledge which had been given in the presence
of God himself. The Church did not forget to turn these circumstances
to the advantage of the freed. Thus we see that the first Council of
Orange, held in 441, ordains, in its 7th canon, that it was necessary
to check, by ecclesiastical censures, whoever desired to reduce to any
kind of servitude slaves who had been emancipated within the enclosure
of the church. A century later we find the same prohibition repeated in
the 7th canon of the fifth Council of Orleans, held in 549.

The protection given by the Church to freed slaves was so manifest and
known to all, that the custom was introduced of especially recommending
them to her. This recommendation was sometimes made by will, as the
Council of Orange, which I have just quoted, gives us to understand;
for it orders that the emancipated who had been recommended to the
Church by will, shall be protected from all kinds of servitude, by
ecclesiastical censures.

But this recommendation was not always made in a testamentary form. We
read in the sixth canon of the sixth Council of Toledo, held in 589,
that when any enfranchised persons had been recommended to the Church,
neither they nor their children could be deprived of the protection of
the Church: here they speak in general, without limitation to cases in
which there had been a will. The same regulation may be seen in another
Council of Toledo, held in 633, which simply says, that the Church will
receive under her protection only the enfranchised of individuals who
shall have taken care to recommend them to her.

In the absence of all particular recommendation, and even when the
manumission had not been made in the Church, she did not cease to
interest herself in defending the freed, when their liberty was
endangered. He who has any regard for the dignity of man, and any
feeling of humanity in his heart, will certainly not find it amiss
that the Church interfered in affairs of this kind; indeed, she acted
as every generous man should do, in the exercise of the right of
protecting the weak. We shall not be displeased, therefore, to find
in the twenty-ninth canon of the Council of Agde in Languedoc, held
in 506, a regulation commanding the Church, in case of necessity, to
undertake the defence of those to whom their masters had given liberty
in a lawful way.

The zeal of the Church in all times and places for the redemption of
captives has no less contributed to the great work of the abolition
of slavery. We know that a considerable portion of slaves owed their
servitude to the reverses of war. The mild character which we see in
modern wars would have appeared fabulous to the ancients. Woe to the
vanquished! might then be said with perfect truth; there was nothing
but slavery or death. The evil was rendered still greater by a fatal
prejudice, which was felt with respect to the redemption of captives--a
prejudice which was, nevertheless, founded on a trait of remarkable
heroism. No doubt the heroic firmness of Regulus is worthy of all
admiration. The hair stands upon our head when we read the powerful
description of Horace; the book falls from our hands at this terrible

    "Fertur pudicæ conjugis osculum
    Parvosque natos, ut capitis minor,
    Ab se removisse, et virilem
    Torvus humi posuisse vultum."--Lib. iii. od. 5.

Nevertheless, if we lay aside the deep impression which such heroism
produces on us, and the enthusiasm at all that shows a great soul, we
must confess that this virtue bordered on ferocity; and that, in the
terrible discourse of Regulus, that is a cruel policy, against which
the sentiments of humanity would strongly recoil, if the mind were not,
as it were, prostrated at the sight of the sublime disinterestedness of
the speaker. Christianity could not consent to such doctrines; it could
not allow the maxim to be maintained that, in order to render men brave
in battle, it was necessary to deprive them of hope. The wonderful
traits of valor, the magnificent scenes of force and constancy, which
shine in every page of the history of modern nations, eloquently show
that the Christian religion was not deceived; gentleness of manners
may be united with heroism. The ancients were always in excess, either
in cowardice or ferocity; between these two extremes there is a middle
way, and that has been taught to mankind by the Christian religion.
Christianity, in accordance with its principles of fraternity and love,
regarded the redemption of captives as one of the worthiest objects of
its charitable zeal. Whether we consider the noble traits of particular
actions, which have been preserved to us by history, or observe the
spirit which guided the conduct of the Church, we shall find therein
one of the most distinguished claims of the Christian religion to the
gratitude of mankind.

A celebrated writer of our times, M. de Chateaubriand, has described
to us a Christian priest who, in the forests of France, voluntarily
made himself a slave, who devoted himself to slavery for the ransom
of a Christian soldier, and thus restored a husband to his desolate
wife, and a father to three unfortunate orphan children. The sublime
spectacle which Zachary offers us, when enduring slavery with calm
serenity for the love of Jesus Christ, and for the unhappy being for
whom he has sacrificed his liberty, is not a mere fiction of the
poet. More than once, in the first ages of the Church, such examples
were seen; and he who has wept over the sublime disinterestedness and
unspeakable charity of Zachary, may be sure that his tears are only
a tribute to the truth. "We have known," says St. Clement the Pope,
"many of ours who have devoted themselves to captivity, in order to
ransom their brethren." (_First Letter to the Corinth._ c. 55.) The
redemption of captives was so carefully provided for by the Church
that it was regulated by the ancient canons, and to fulfil it, she
sold, if necessary, her ornaments, and even the sacred vessels. When
unhappy captives were in question, her charity and zeal knew no bounds,
and she went so far as to ordain that, however bad might be the state
of her affairs, their ransom should be provided for in the first
instance. (_Caus._ 12, 5, 2.) In the midst of revolutions produced by
the irruption of barbarians, we see that the Church, always constant
in her designs, forgot not the noble enterprise in which she was
engaged. The beneficent regulations of the ancient canons fell not
into forgetfulness or desuetude, and the generous words of the holy
Bishop of Milan, in favor of slaves, found an echo which ceased not to
be heard amid the chaos of those unhappy times. We see by the fifth
canon of the Council of Mâcon, held in 585, that priests undertook
the ransom of captives by devoting to it the Church property. The
Council of Rheims, held in 625, inflicts the punishment of suspension
from his functions on the bishop who shall have destroyed the sacred
vessels; but with generous foresight, it adds, "for any other motive
than the redemption of captives;" and long afterwards, in the twelfth
canon of the Council of Verneuil, held in 844, we find that the
property of the Church was used for that merciful purpose. When the
captive was restored to liberty, the Church did not deprive him of
her protection; she was careful to continue it, by giving him letters
of recommendation, for the double purpose of protecting him from new
trouble during his journey, and of furnishing him with the means of
repairing his losses during his captivity. We find a proof of this
new kind of protection in the second canon of the Council of Lyons,
held in 583, which ordains that bishops shall state in the letters of
recommendation which they give to captives, the date and price of their
ransom. The zeal for this work was displayed in the Church with so
much ardor, that it went so far as to commit acts of imprudence which
the ecclesiastical authority was compelled to check. These excesses,
and this mistaken zeal, prove how great was the spirit of charity.
We know by a Council, called that of St. Patrick, held in Ireland in
the year 451 or 456, that some of the clergy ventured to procure the
freedom of captives by inducing them to run away. The Council, by its
thirty-second canon, very prudently checks this excess, by ordaining
that the ecclesiastic who desires to ransom captives must do so with
his own money; for to steal them, by inducing them to run away, was to
expose the clergy to be considered as robbers, which was a dishonor to
the Church. A remarkable document, which, while showing us the spirit
of order and equity which guides the Church, at the same time enables
us to judge how deeply was engraved on men's minds the maxim, that _it
is holy, meritorious, and generous to give liberty to captives_; for
we see that some persons had persuaded themselves that the excellence
of the work justified seizing them forcibly. The disinterestedness of
the Church on this point is not less laudable. When she had employed
her funds in the ransom of a captive, she did not desire from him any
recompense, even when he had it in his power to discharge the debt.
We have a certain proof of this in the letters of St. Gregory, where
we see that that Pope reassures some persons who had been freed with
the money of the Church, and who feared that after a time they would
be called upon to pay the sum expended for their advantage. The Pope
orders that no one, at any time, shall venture to disturb either them
or their heirs, seeing that the sacred canons allow the employment of
the goods of the Church for the ransom of captives. (L. 7, ep. 14.)

The zeal of the Church for so holy a work must have contributed in
an extraordinary way to diminish the number of slaves; the influence
of it was so much the more salutary, as it was developed precisely
at the time when it was most needed, that is, in those ages when the
dissolution of the Roman empire, the irruption of the barbarians, the
fluctuations of so many peoples, and the ferocity of the invading
nations, rendered wars so frequent, revolutions so constant, and the
empire of force so habitual and prevailing. Without the beneficent and
liberating intervention of Christianity, the immense number of slaves
bequeathed by the old society to the new, far from diminishing, would
have been augmented more and more; for wherever the law of brute force
prevails, if it be not checked and softened by a powerful element,
the human race becomes rapidly debased, the necessary result of which
is the increase of slavery. This lamentable state of agitation and
violence was in itself very likely to render the efforts which the
Church made to abolish slavery useless; and it was not without infinite
trouble that she prevented what she succeeded in preserving on one
side, from being destroyed on the other. The absence of a central
power, the complication of social relations, almost always badly
determined, often affected by violence, and always deprived of the
guarantee of stability and consistency, was the reason why there was
no security either for things or persons, and that while properties
were unceasingly invaded, persons were deprived of their liberty. So
that it was at that time necessary to fight against the violence of
individuals, as had been formerly done against manners and legislation.
We see that the third canon of the Council of Lyons, held about 566,
excommunicates those who unjustly retain free persons in slavery; in
the seventeenth canon of the Council of Rheims, held in 625, it is
forbidden, under the same penalty, to pursue free persons in order to
reduce them to slavery: in the twenty-seventh canon of the Council of
London, held in 1102, the barbarous custom of dealing in men, like
animals, is proscribed: and in the seventh canon of the Council of
Coblentz, held in 922, he who takes away a Christian to sell him is
declared guilty of homicide; a remarkable declaration, when we see
liberty valued at as high a price as life itself. Another means of
which the Church availed herself to abolish slavery was, to preserve
for the unfortunate who had been reduced to that state by misery, a
sure means of quitting it.

We have already remarked above that indigence was one of the causes
of slavery, and we have seen that this was frequently the cause among
the Gauls, as is evidenced by a passage of Cæsar. We also know that
by virtue of an ancient law, he who had fallen into slavery could not
recover his liberty without the consent of his master; as the slave
was really property, no one could dispose of him without the consent
of his master, and least of all himself. This law was in accordance
with Pagan doctrines, but Christianity regarded the thing differently;
and if the slave was still in her eyes a property, he did not cease
to be a man. Thus on this point the Church refused to follow the
strict rules of other properties; and when there was the least doubt,
at the first favorable opportunity she took the side of the slave.
These observations make us understand all the value of the new law
introduced by the Church, which ordained that persons who had been
sold by necessity should be able to return to their former condition
by restoring the price which they had received. This law, which is
expressly laid down in a French Council, held about 616 at Boneuil,
according to the common opinion, opened a wide field for the conquests
of liberty; it supported in the heart of the slave a hope which urged
him to seek and put into operation the means of obtaining his ransom,
and it placed his liberty within the power of any one who, touched with
his unhappy lot, was willing to pay or lend the necessary sum. Let us
remember what we have said of the ardent zeal which was awakened in
so many hearts for works of this kind; let us call to mind that the
property of the Church was always considered as well employed when it
was used for the succor of the unfortunate, and we shall understand the
incalculable influence of the regulation which we have just mentioned.
We shall see that it was to close one of the most abundant sources of
slavery, and prepare a wide path to universal emancipation.



The conduct of the Church with respect to the Jews also contributed
to the abolition of slavery. This singular people, who bear on their
forehead the mark of proscription, and are found dispersed among all
nations, like fragments of insoluble matter floating in a liquid, seek
to console themselves in their misfortune by accumulating treasures,
and appear to wish to avenge themselves for the contemptuous neglect
in which they are left by other nations, by gaining possession of
their wealth by means of insatiable usury. In times when revolutions
and so many calamities must necessarily have produced distress, the
odious vice of unfeeling avarice must have had a fatal influence. The
harshness and cruelty of ancient laws and manners concerning debtors
were not effaced, liberty was far from being estimated at its just
value, and examples of persons who sold it to relieve their necessities
were not wanting; it was therefore important to prevent the power of
the wealthy Jews from reaching an exorbitant extent, to the detriment
of the liberty of Christians. The unhappy notoriety which, after so
many centuries, attaches to the Jews in this matter, proves that this
danger was not imaginary; and facts of which we are now witnesses
are a confirmation of what we advance. The celebrated Herder, in his
_Adrastus_, ventures to prognosticate that the children of Israel, from
their systematic and calculating conduct, will in time make slaves of
all Christians. If this extraordinary and extravagant apprehension
could enter the head of a distinguished man, in circumstances which are
certainly infinitely less favorable to the Jews, what was to be feared
from this people in the unhappy times of which we speak? From these
considerations, every impartial observer, every man who is not under
the influence of the wretched desire of taking the part of every kind
of sect, in order to have the pleasure of accusing the Catholic Church,
even at the risk of speaking against the interests of humanity; every
observer who is not one of those who are less alarmed by an irruption
of Caffres than by any regulation by which the ecclesiastical power
appears in the smallest degree to extend the circle of its prerogative;
every man, I say, who is neither thus bitter, little, nor pitiful, will
see, not only without being scandalized, but even with pleasure, that
the Church, with prudent vigilance, watched the progress of the Jews,
and lost no opportunity of favoring their Christian slaves, until they
were no longer allowed to have any.

The third Council of Orleans, held in 538, by its 13th canon, forbids
Jews to compel Christian slaves to do things contrary to the religion
of Jesus Christ. This regulation, which guarantied the liberty of the
slave in the sanctuary of conscience, rendered him respectable even in
the eyes of his master: it was besides a solemn proclamation of the
dignity of man, it was a declaration that slavery could not extend
its dominion over the sacred region of the mind. Yet this was not
enough; it was proper also that the recovery of their liberty should
be facilitated to the slaves of Jews. Three years only pass away; a
fourth Council is held at Orleans; let us observe the progress which
the question had made in so short a time. This Council, by its 30th
canon, allows the Christian slaves who shall take refuge in the church
to be ransomed, on paying to their Jewish master the proper price.
If we pay attention, we shall see that such a regulation must have
produced abundant results in favor of liberty, as it gave Christian
slaves the opportunity of flying to the churches, and there imploring,
with more effect, the charity of their brethren, to gain the price of
their ransom. The same Council, in its 31st canon, ordains that the
Jew who shall pervert a Christian slave shall be condemned to lose
all his slaves; a new sanction given to the security of the slave's
conscience--a new way opened to liberty. The Church constantly advanced
with that unity of plan--that admirable consistency--which even her
enemies have acknowledged in her. In the short interval between the
period alluded to and the latter part of the same century, her progress
was more perceptible. We observe, in the canonical regulations of
the latter period, a wider scope, and, if we may so speak, greater
boldness. In the Council of Mâcon, held in 581 or 582, canon 16, Jews
are expressly forbidden to have Christian slaves; and it is allowed to
ransom those who are in their possession for twelve sous. We find the
same prohibition in the 14th canon of the Council of Toledo, held in
589; so that at this time the Church shows what her desire is; she is
unwilling that a Christian should be in any way the slave of a Jew.
Constant in her design, she checked the evil by all the means in her
power; if it was necessary, limiting the right of selling slaves, when
there was danger of their falling into the hands of Jews. Thus we see
that, by the 9th canon of the Council of Châlons, held in 650, it is
forbidden to sell slaves out of the kingdom of Clovis, lest they should
fall into the power of Jews. Yet the intention of the Church on this
point was not understood by all, and her views were not seconded as
they ought to have been; but she did not cease to repeat and inculcate
them. In the middle of the seventh century there were found clergy and
laity who sold their Christian slaves to Jews. The Church labored to
check this abuse. The tenth Council of Toledo, held in 657, by its 7th
canon, forbids Christians, and especially clerics, to sell their slaves
to Jews; the Council adds these noble words: "They cannot be ignorant
that these slaves have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ;
wherefore they ought rather to buy than sell them."

This ineffable goodness of a God made man, who had shed His blood for
the redemption of all men, was the powerful motive which urged the
Church to interest herself with so much zeal in the enfranchisement
of slaves; and, indeed, was it not enough to inspire horror for so
degrading an inequality, to think that these same men, reduced to
the level of brutes, had been, as well as their masters, as well as
the most powerful monarchs upon earth, the objects of the merciful
intentions of the Most High? "Since our Redeemer, the Creator of all
things," said Pope S. Gregory, "has deigned, in His goodness, to assume
the flesh of man, in order to restore to us our pristine liberty,
by breaking, through the means of His Divine grace, the bonds of
servitude, which held us captives, it is a salutary deed to restore to
men, by enfranchisement, their native liberty; for, in the beginning,
nature made them all free, and they have only been subjected to the
yoke of servitude by the law of nations." (L. 5, lett. 72.)

During all times the Church has considered it very necessary to
limit, as much as possible, the alienation of her property; and it
may be said that the general rule of her conduct in this point was
to trust very little to the discretion of any one of her ministers
individually; she thus endeavored to prevent dilapidations, which
otherwise would have been frequent. As her possessions were dispersed
on all sides, and intrusted to ministers chosen from all classes of
the people, and exposed to the various influences which the relations
of blood, friendship, and a thousand other circumstances, the effects
of difference of character, knowledge, prudence, and even of times and
places, always exercise, the Church showed herself very watchful in
giving her sanction to the power of alienation; and, when requisite,
she knew how to act with salutary rigor against those ministers
who, neglecting their duty, wasted the funds confided to them. We
have seen that, in spite of all this, she was not stopped by any
consideration when the ransom of captives was in question; it may be
also shown that, with respect to property in slaves, she saw things in
a different light, and changed her rigor into indulgence. When slaves
had faithfully served the Church, the Bishops could grant them their
liberty, and add a gift to assist them in maintaining themselves.
This judgment as to the merit of slaves appears to have been confided
to the discretion of the Bishops; and it is evident that such a
regulation opened a wide door to their charity; at the same time,
it stimulated the slaves to behave themselves, so as to deserve so
precious a recompense. As it might happen that the succeeding Bishop
might raise doubts as to the sufficiency of the motives which induced
his predecessor to give liberty to a slave, and attempt afterwards
to call it in question, it was ordained that they should respect the
appointments of their predecessors on this point, and leave to the
enfranchised not only their liberty, but also the gratuity which had
been given to them in lands, vineyards, or houses: this is prescribed
in the 7th canon of the Council of Agde in Languedoc, held in the year
506. Let it not be objected that manumission is forbidden by the canons
of this Council in other places; they speak only in general terms, and
allude not to cases where slaves had merited well. Alienations or
mortgages made by a Bishop who left no property were to be revoked.
This regulation itself shows that it alludes to cases in which the
Bishops had acted against the canons. Yet if he had given liberty to
any slaves, the rigor of the law was mitigated in their favor, and
it was ordained that the enfranchised should continue to enjoy their
liberty. This is ordained by the 9th canon of the Council of Orleans,
held in 541. This canon only imposes on the enfranchised the obligation
of lending their services to the Church; services which were evidently
only those of the enfranchised. On the other hand, she recompensed them
with the protection which she always granted to men in this condition.

As another proof of the indulgence of the Church with respect to
slaves, may be cited the 10th canon of the Council of Celchite,
in England, held in 816, the result of which must have been to
enfranchise, in a few years, all the English slaves of the Churches
existing in the countries where the Council was observed. Indeed, this
canon ordained that, at the death of a Bishop, all his English slaves
should be set at liberty; it added, that each of the other Bishops and
Abbots might enfranchise three slaves on the occasion, by giving each
of them three sous. Such regulations smoothed the way more and more,
and prepared circumstances and men's minds, so that, some time later,
was witnessed that noble scene, where, at the Council of Armagh, in
1172, liberty was given to all the English who were slaves in Ireland.

The advantageous conditions enjoyed by the slaves of the Church were so
much the more valuable, because a regulation newly introduced prevented
their losing them. If they could have passed into the hands of other
masters, in this case they would have lost the benefits which they
derived from living under the rule of so kind a mistress. But happily,
it was forbidden to exchange them for others; and if they left the
power of the Church, it was for freedom. We have a positive proof of
this regulation in the decretals of Gregory IX. (l. 3, t. 19, chaps.
3 and 4). It should be observed that in this document the slaves of
the Church are regarded as consecrated to God; thereon is founded the
regulation which prevents their passing into other hands and leaving
the Church, except as freemen. We also see there that the faithful, for
the good of their souls, had the custom of offering their slaves to
God and the Saints. By placing them thus in the power of the Church,
they put them out of common dealing and prevented their again falling
into profane servitude. It is useless to enlarge on the salutary effect
which must have been produced by these ideas and manners, in which we
see religion so intimately allied with the cause of humanity; it is
enough to observe, that the spirit of that age was highly religious,
and that which was attached to the cause of religion was sure to ride
in safety.

Religious ideas, by constantly developing their strength and directing
their action to all branches, were intended in a special manner to
relieve men by all possible means from the yoke of slavery. On this
subject we may be allowed to remark a canonical regulation of the time
of Gregory the Great. In a Council at Rome, held in 595, and presided
over by that Pope, a new means of escaping from their degraded state
was offered to slaves, by deciding that liberty should be given to all
those who desired to embrace the monastic life. The words of the holy
Pope are worthy of attention; they show the ascendency of religious
motives, and how much these motives preponderated over considerations
and interests of a worldly nature. This important document is found in
the letters of St. Gregory; it may be read in the notes at the end of
the volume.

To imagine that such regulations would remain barren, is to mistake
the spirit of those times: on the contrary, they produced the most
important effects. We may form an idea of them by reading in the decree
of Gratian (_Distin._ 54, c. 12), that they led to scandal; slaves fled
from the houses of their masters and took refuge in monasteries, under
pretext of religion. It was necessary to check this abuse, against
which complaints arose on all sides. Without waiting to consider what
these abuses themselves indicate, is it difficult to imagine that
these regulations of the Church must have had valuable results? They
not only gained liberty for a great many slaves, but also raised them
very much in the eyes of the world, for they placed them in a state
which every day gained importance and acquired an immense prestige and
a powerful influence. We may form an idea of the profound change which
took place every day in the organization of society, thanks to these
various means, by fixing our attention for a moment on what resulted
with respect to the ordination of slaves. The discipline of the Church
on this point was in accordance with her doctrines. The slave was a man
like other men, and he could be ordained as well as the greatest noble.
Yet while he was subject to the power of his master, he was devoid of
the independence necessary for the dignity of the sacred ministry;
therefore it was required that he should not be ordained until he had
been previously set at liberty. Nothing could be more just, reasonable,
and prudent, than the limit thus placed on a discipline otherwise
so noble and generous--a discipline which was in itself an eloquent
protest in favor of the dignity of man. The Church solemnly declared
that the misfortune of being a slave did not reduce him below the level
of other men, for she did not think it unworthy of her to choose her
ministers from among those who had been in servitude. By placing in so
honorable a sphere those who had been slaves, she labored with lofty
generosity to disperse the prejudices which existed against those
who were placed in that unhappy condition, and created strong and
effective ties between them and the most venerated class of freemen.
The abuse which then crept in of conferring orders on slaves, without
the consent of their masters, is above all worthy of our attention;
an abuse, it is true, altogether contrary to the sacred canons, and
which was checked by the Church with praiseworthy zeal, but which is
not the less useful in enabling the observer duly to appreciate the
profound effect of religious ideas and institutions. Without attempting
in any way to excuse what was blamable therein, we may very well make
use of the abuse itself, by considering that it frequently happens
that abuses are only exaggerations of a good principle. Religious
ideas accord but ill with slavery, although supported by laws; thence
the incessant struggle, repeated under different aspects, but always
directed towards the same end, viz. universal emancipation. It appears
to us that we may now the more confidently avail ourselves of this kind
of argument, as we have seen the most dreadful attempts at revolution
treated with indulgence, on account of the principles with which the
revolutionists were imbued and the objects which they had in view;
objects which, as every one knows, were nothing less than an entire
change in the organization of society. The abuse to which we have
alluded, is attested by the curious documents which are found collected
in the decree of Gratian (_Dist._ 54, c. 9, 10, 11, 12). When we
examine these documents with attention, we find, 1st, that the number
of slaves thus freed was very considerable, since the complaints on
this subject were almost universal: 2d, that the Bishops were generally
in favor of the slaves; that they carried their protection very far;
that they labored in all ways to realize these doctrines of equality;
indeed, it is affirmed in these documents that there was hardly a
Bishop who could not be charged with this reprehensible compliance: 3d,
that slaves were aware of this spirit of protection, and were eager
to throw off their chains and cast themselves into the arms of the
Church: 4th, that this combination of circumstances must have produced
in men's minds a movement very favorable to liberty; and that this
affectionate communication established between slaves and the Church,
then so powerful and influential, must soon have weakened slavery, and
rapidly have promoted the advance of nations towards that liberty which
completely triumphed a few centuries later. The Church of Spain, whose
civilizing influence has received so many eulogiums from men certainly
but little attached to Catholicity, equally displays her lofty views
and consummate prudence on this point. Charitable zeal in favor of
slaves was so ardent, the tendency to raise them to the sacred ministry
so decided, that it was necessary to allow free scope to this generous
impulse, while reconciling it as much as possible with the sacredness
of the ministry. Such was the twofold object of the discipline
introduced into Spain, by virtue of which it was allowed to confer
sacred orders on the slaves of the Church, on their being previously
enfranchised. This is ordered by the 74th canon of the fourth Council
of Toledo, held in 633; it is also inferred from the 11th canon of the
ninth Council of Toledo, which ordains that Bishops shall not introduce
the slaves of the Church among the clergy without having previously
given them their liberty.

It is remarkable that this regulation was extended by the 18th canon
of the Council of Merida, in 666, which gives to parish-priests the
right of selecting clerks among the slaves of their own church, with
the obligation of maintaining them according to their means. This wise
discipline prevented, without any injustice, all the difficulties that
might have ensued from the ordination of slaves; while it was a very
mild way of effecting the most beneficent results, since in conferring
orders on the slaves of the Church, it was easy to choose from among
them such as were most deserving by their intellectual and moral
qualifications. At the same time, it was affording the Church a most
favorable and honorable mode of liberating her slaves, by enrolling
them among her ministers. Finally, the Church by her generous conduct
towards slaves, gave a salutary example to the laity. We have seen that
she allowed the parochial clergy, as well as the bishops, the privilege
of setting them free; and this must have rendered it less painful for
laymen to emancipate their slaves, when circumstances seemed to call
the latter to the sacred ministry.



Thus did the Church, by a variety of means, break the chains of
slavery, without ever exceeding the limits marked out by justice and
prudence: thus did she banish from among Christians that degrading
condition, so contrary to their exalted ideas on the dignity of
man, and their generous feelings of fraternity and love. Wherever
Christianity shall be introduced, chains of iron shall be turned into
gentle ties, and humiliated men shall raise their ennobled heads. With
what pleasure do we read the remarks of one of the greatest men of
Christianity, S. Augustine, on this point (_De Civit. Dei_, l. xix. c.
14, 15, 16). He establishes in a few words the obligation incumbent
upon all who rule--fathers, husbands, and masters--to watch over the
good of those who are under them: he lays down the advantage of those
who obey, as one of the foundations for obedience; he says that the
just do not rule from ambition or pride, but from duty and the desire
of doing good to their subjects: "Neque enim dominandi cupiditate
imperant, sed officio consulendi, nec principandi superbia, sed
providendi misericordia;" and by these noble maxims he proscribes all
opinions which tend to tyranny, or found obedience on any degrading
notions; but on a sudden, as if this great mind apprehended some reply
in violation of human dignity, he grows warm, he boldly faces the
question; he rises to his full height, and, giving free scope to the
noble thoughts that ferment in his mind, he invokes the idea of nature
and the will of God in favor of the dignity of man thus menaced. He
says: "Thus wills the order of nature; thus has man been created by
God. He has given him to rule over the fishes of the sea, the birds of
the air, and the reptiles that crawl on the face of the earth. _He has
ordained that reasoning creatures, made according to His own image,
shall rule only over creatures devoid of reason. He has not established
the dominion of man over man, but that of man over the brute._" This
passage of S. Augustine is one of those bold features which shine forth
in writers of genius, when grieved by the sight of a painful object,
they allow their generous ideas and feelings to have free scope, and
cease to restrain their daring energies. Struck by the force of the
expression, the reader, in suspense and breathless, hastens to read the
succeeding lines; he fears that the author may be mistaken, seduced
by the nobleness of his heart, and carried away by the force of his
genius. But, with inexpressible pleasure, he finds that the writer
has in no degree departed from the path of true doctrine, when, like
a brave champion, he has descended into the arena to defend the cause
of justice and humanity. Thus does S. Augustine now appear to us: the
sight of so many unfortunate beings groaning in slavery, victims of the
violence and caprice of their masters, afflicted his generous mind. By
the light of reason and the doctrines of Christianity, he saw no reason
why so considerable a portion of the human race should be condemned
to live in such debasement; wherefore, when proclaiming the doctrines
of submission and obedience, he labors to discover the cause of such
ignominy; and not being able to find it in the nature of man, he seeks
for it in sin, in malediction. "The primitive just men," says he, "were
rather established as pastors over their flocks, than as kings over
other men; whereby God gives us to understand what was called for by
the order of creation, and what was required by the punishment of sin;
for the condition of slavery has, with reason, been imposed on the
sinner. Thus we do not find the word slave in the Scriptures before
the day when the just man, Noah, gave it as a punishment to his guilty
son; whence it follows that this word came from sin, and not from
nature." This manner of considering slavery as the offspring of sin,
as the fruit of the Divine malediction, was of the highest importance.
By protecting the dignity of human nature, that doctrine completely
destroyed all the prejudices of natural superiority which the pride of
free men could entertain. Thereby also, slavery was deprived of all
its supposed value as a political principle or means of government:
it could only be regarded as one of the numberless scourges inflicted
on the human race by the anger of the Most High. Henceforth slaves
had a motive for resignation, while the absolute power of masters was
checked, and the compassion of all free men was powerfully excited.
All were born in sin, all might have been in a state of slavery. To
make a boast of liberty would have been like the conduct of a man
who, during an epidemic, should boast of having preserved his health,
and imagine that on that account he had a right to insult the unhappy
sick. In a word, the state of slavery was a scourge, nothing more; like
pestilence, war, famine, or any thing else of the kind. The duty of
all men was to labor to remedy and abolish it. Such doctrines did not
remain sterile. Proclaimed in the face of day, they were heard in all
parts of the Catholic world; and not only were they put in practice, as
we have seen by numberless examples, but they were carefully preserved
as a precious theory, throughout the confusion of the times. After the
lapse of eight centuries, we see them repeated by one of the brightest
lights of the Catholic Church, S. Thomas Aquinas (I. p. q. xcvi. art.
4). That great man does not see in slavery either difference of race or
imaginary inferiority or means of government; he only considers it as a
scourge inflicted on humanity by the sins of the first man.

Such is the repugnance with which Christians have looked upon slavery:
we see from this, how false is the assertion of M. Guizot: "It does
not seem that Christian society was surprised or much offended by
it." It is true there was not that blind disturbance and irritation
which, despising all barriers and paying no attention to the rules of
justice or the counsels of prudence, ran with foolish haste to efface
the mark of degradation and ignominy. But if that disturbance and
irritation are meant which are caused by the sight of oppression and
outrages committed against man, sentiments which can well accord with
longanimity and holy resignation, and which, without checking for a
moment the action of charitable zeal, nevertheless avoid precipitating
events, preferring mature arrangement in order to secure a complete
result; how can this perturbation of mind and holy indignation be
better proved to have existed in the bosom of the Church than by the
facts and doctrines which we have just quoted? What more eloquent
protest against the continuance of slavery can you have than the
doctrine of these two illustrious doctors? They declare it, as we
have just seen, to be the fruit of malediction, the chastisement of
the prevarication of the human race; and they only acknowledge its
existence by considering it as one of the great scourges that afflict

I have explained, with sufficient evidence, the profound reasons which
induced the Church to recommend obedience to slaves, and she cannot be
reproached on that account with forgetting the rights of humanity. We
must not suppose on that account that Christian society was wanting
in the boldness necessary for telling the whole truth; but it told
only the pure and wholesome truth. What took place with respect to the
marriages of slaves is a proof of what I advance. We know that their
union was not regarded as a real marriage, and that even that union,
such as it was, could not be contracted without the consent of their
masters, under pain of being considered as void. Here was a flagrant
violation of reason and justice. What did the Church do? She directly
reprobated so gross a violation of the rights of nature. Let us hear
what Pope Adrian I. said on this subject: "According to the words of
the Apostles, as in Jesus Christ we ought not to deprive either slaves
or freemen of the sacraments of the Church, so it is not allowed in
any way to prevent the marriage of slaves; and if their marriages have
been contracted in spite of the opposition and repugnance of their
masters, nevertheless they ought not to be dissolved in any way." (_De
Conju. Serv._, lib. iv. tom. 9, c. 1.) And let it not be supposed that
this regulation, which secured the liberty of slaves on one of the
most important points, was restricted to particular circumstances;
no, it was something more; it was a proclamation of their freedom in
this matter. The Church was unwilling to allow that man, reduced to
the level of the brute, should be forced to obey the caprice or the
interest of another, without regard to the feelings of his heart. St.
Thomas was of the same opinion, for he openly maintains that, with
respect to the contracting of marriage, slaves are not obliged to obey
their masters (2^a. 2, q. 104, art. 5).

In the hasty sketch which I have given, I believe that I have kept the
promise which I made at the beginning, not to advance any proposition
without supporting it by undeniable documents, and not to allow myself
to be misled by enthusiasm in favor of Catholicity, so as to concede
to it that to which it is not entitled. By passing, rapidly it is
true, the course of ages, we have shown, by convincing proofs, which
have been furnished by times and places the most various, that it
was Catholicity that abolished slavery, in spite of ideas, manners,
interests, and laws, which opposed obstacles apparently invincible;
and that it has done so without injustice, without violence, without
revolutions,--with the most exquisite prudence and the most admirable
moderation. We have seen the Catholic Church make so extensive, so
varied, and so efficacious an attack on slavery, that that odious chain
was broken without a single violent stroke. Exposed to the action of
the most powerful agents, it gradually relaxed and fell to pieces. Her
proceedings may be thus recapitulated:--

First, she loudly teaches the truth concerning the dignity of man; she
defines the obligations of masters and slaves; she declares them equal
before God, and thus completely destroys the degrading theories which
stain the writings even of the greatest philosophers of antiquity.
She then comes to the application of her doctrines: she labors to
improve the treatment of slaves; she struggles against the atrocious
right of life and death; she opens her temples to them as asylums,
and when they depart thence, prevents their being ill-treated; she
labors to substitute public tribunals for private vengeance. At the
same time that the Church guarantees the liberty of the enfranchised,
by connecting it with religious motives, she defends that of those
born free; she labors to close the sources of slavery, by displaying
the most active zeal for the redemption of captives, by opposing the
avarice of the Jews, by procuring for men who were sold, easy means of
recovering their liberty. The Church gives an example of mildness and
disinterestedness; she facilitates emancipation, by admitting slaves
into monasteries and the ecclesiastical state; she facilitates it by
all the other means that charity suggests; and thus it is that, in
spite of the deep roots of slavery in ancient society--in spite of
the perturbation caused by the irruptions of the barbarians--in spite
of so many wars and calamities of every kind, which in great measure
paralyzed the effect of all regulating and beneficent action--yet
we see slavery, that dishonor and leprosy of ancient civilization,
rapidly diminish among Christians, until it finally disappears. Surely
in all this we do not discover a plan conceived and concerted by men.
But we do observe therein, in the absence of that plan, such unity of
tendencies, such a perfect identity of views, and such similarity in
the means, that we have the clearest demonstration of the civilizing
and liberating spirit contained in Catholicity. Accurate observers will
no doubt be gratified in beholding, in the picture which I have just
exhibited, the admirable concord with which the period of the empire,
that of the irruption of the barbarians, and that of feudality, all
tended towards the same end. They will not regret the poor regularity
which distinguishes the exclusive work of man; they will love, I repeat
it, to collect all the facts scattered in the seeming disorder, from
the forests of Germany to the fields of Bœotia--from the banks of
the Thames to those of the Tiber. I have not invented these facts;
I have pointed out the periods, and cited the Councils. The reader
will find, at the end of the volume, in the original and in full,
the texts of which I have just given an abstract--a _résumé:_ thus
he may fully convince himself that I have not deceived him. If such
had been my intention, surely I should have avoided descending to the
level ground of facts; I should have preferred the vague regions of
theory; I should have called to my aid high sounding and seductive
language, and all the means the most likely to enchant the imagination
and excite the feelings; in fine, I should have placed myself in one
of those positions where a writer can suppose at his pleasure things
which have never existed, and made the best use of the resources of
imagination and invention. The task which I have undertaken is rather
more difficult, perhaps less brilliant, but certainly more useful.

We may now inquire of M. Guizot what were the _other causes_, the
_other ideas_, the _other principles of civilization_, the great
development of which, to avail myself of his words, was necessary
"to abolish this evil of evils, this iniquity of iniquities." Ought
he not to explain, or at least point out, these causes, ideas, and
principles of civilization, which, according to him, assisted the
Church in the abolition of slavery, in order to save the reader the
trouble of seeking or divining them? If they did not arise in the bosom
of the Church, _where_ did they arise? Were they found in the ruins
of ancient civilization? But could these remains of a scattered and
almost annihilated civilization effect what that same civilization,
in all its vigor, power, and splendor, never did or thought of
doing?--Were they in the _individual independence of the barbarians_?
But that individuality, the inseparable companion of violence, must
consequently have been the source of oppression and slavery. Were they
found in the _military patronage_ introduced, according to M. Guizot,
by the barbarians themselves; patronage which laid the foundation
of that aristocratical organization which was converted at a later
period into feudality? But what could this patronage--an institution
likely, on the contrary, to perpetuate slavery among the indigent in
conquered countries, and to extend it to a considerable portion of the
conquerors themselves--what could this patronage do for the abolition
of slavery? Where, then, is the idea, the custom, the institution,
which, born out of Christianity, contributed to the abolition of
slavery? Let any one point out to us the epoch of its formation, the
time of its development; let him show us that it had not its origin
in Christianity, and we will then confess that the latter cannot
exclusively lay claim to the glorious title of having abolished that
degraded condition; and he may be sure that this shall not prevent our
exalting that idea, custom, or institution which took part in the great
and noble enterprise of liberating the human race.

We may be allowed, in conclusion, to inquire of the Protestant
churches, of those ungrateful daughters who, after having quitted the
bosom of their mother, attempt to calumniate and dishonor her, where
were you when the Catholic Church accomplished in Europe the immense
work of the abolition of slavery? and how can you venture to reproach
her with sympathizing with servitude, degrading man, and usurping his
rights? Can you, then, present any such claim entitling you to the
gratitude of the human race? What part can you claim in that great work
which prepared the way for the development and grandeur of European
civilization? Catholicity alone, without your concurrence, completed
the work; and she alone would have conducted Europe to its lofty
destinies, if you had not come to interrupt the majestic march of its
mighty nations, by urging them into a path bordered by precipices,--a
path the end of which is concealed by darkness which the eye of God
alone can pierce.[15]



WE have seen that European civilization owes to the Catholic Church its
finest ornament, its most valuable victory in the cause of humanity,
the abolition of slavery. It was the Church that, by her doctrines,
as beneficent as elevated, by a system as efficacious as prudent,
by her unbounded generosity, her indefatigable zeal, her invincible
firmness, abolished slavery in Europe; that is to say, she took the
first step towards the regeneration of humanity, and laid the first
stone for the wide and deep foundation of European civilization; we
mean the emancipation of slaves, the abolition for ever of so degrading
a state,--universal liberty. It was impossible to create and organize
a civilization full of grandeur and dignity, without raising man from
his state of abjection, and placing him above the level of animals.
Whenever we see him crouching at another's feet, awaiting with anxiety
the orders of his master or trembling at the lash; whenever he is
sold like a beast, or a price is set upon his powers and his life,
civilization will never have its proper development, it will always be
weak, sickly, and broken; for thus humanity bears a mark of ignominy on
its forehead.

After having shown that it was Catholicity that removed that obstacle
to all social progress, by, as it were, cleansing Europe of the
disgusting leprosy with which it was infected from head to foot,
let us examine what it has done towards creating and erecting the
magnificent edifice of European civilization. If we seriously reflect
on the vitality and fruitfulness of this civilization, we shall find
therein new and powerful claims on the part of the Catholic Church to
the gratitude of nations. In the first place, it is proper to glance at
the vast and interesting picture which European civilization presents
to us, and to sum up in a few words its principal perfections; thereby
we shall be enabled the more easily to account to ourselves for the
admiration and enthusiasm with which it inspires us.

The individual animated by a lively sense of his own dignity, abounding
in activity, perseverance, energy, and the simultaneous development
of all his faculties; woman elevated to the rank of the consort of
man, and, as it were, recompensed for the duty of obedience by the
respectful regards lavished upon her; the gentleness and constancy of
family ties, protected by the powerful guarantees of good order and
justice; an admirable public conscience, rich in maxims of sublime
morality, in laws of justice and equity, in sentiments of honor
and dignity; a conscience which survives the shipwreck of private
morality, and does not allow unblushing corruption to reach the height
which it did in antiquity; a general mildness of manners, which in
war prevents great excesses, and in peace renders life more tranquil
and pleasing; a profound respect for man, and all that belongs to
him, which makes private acts of violence very uncommon, and in all
political constitutions serves as a salutary check on governments;
an ardent desire of perfection in all departments; an irresistible
tendency, sometimes ill-directed, but always active, to improve the
condition of the many; a secret impulse to protect the weak, to succour
the unfortunate--an impulse which sometimes pursues its course with
generous ardor, and which, whenever it is unable to develop itself,
remains in the heart of society, and produces there the uneasiness
and disquietude of remorse; a cosmopolitan spirit of universality, of
propagandism, an inexhaustible fund of resources to grow young again
without danger of perishing, and for self-preservation in the most
important junctures; a generous impatience, which longs to anticipate
the future, and produces an incessant movement and agitation, sometimes
dangerous, but which are generally the germs of great benefits,
and the symptoms of a strong principle of life; such are the great
characteristics which distinguish European civilization; such are the
features which place it in a rank immensely superior to that of all
other civilizations, ancient and modern.

Read the history of antiquity; extend your view over the whole world;
wherever Christianity does not reign, and where the barbarous or
savage life no longer prevails, you will find a civilization which in
nothing resembles our own, and which cannot be compared with it for
a moment. In some of these states of civilization, you will perhaps
find a certain degree of regularity and some marks of power, for
they have endured for centuries; but how have they endured? Without
movement, without progress; they are devoid of life; their regularity
and duration are those of a marble statue, which, motionless itself,
sees the waves of generations pass by. There have also been nations
whose civilization displayed motion and activity; but what motion and
what activity? Some, ruled by the mercantile spirit, never succeeded
in establishing their internal happiness on a firm basis; their only
object was to invade new countries which tempted their cupidity, to
pour into their colonies their superabundant population, and establish
numerous factories in new lands: others, continually contending and
fighting for a few measures of political freedom, forgot their social
organization, took no care of their civil liberty, and acted in the
narrowest circle of time and space; they would not be even worthy
of having their names preserved for posterity, if the genius of the
beautiful had not shone there with indescribable charm, and if the
monuments of their knowledge, like a mirror, had not preserved the
bright rays of Eastern learning: others, great and terrible, it is
true, but troubled by intestine dissensions, bear inscribed upon their
front the formidable destiny of conquest; this destiny they fulfilled
by subjugating the world, and immediately their rapid and inevitable
ruin approached: others, in fine, excited by violent fanaticism, raged
like the waves of ocean in a storm; they threw themselves upon other
nations like a devastating torrent, and threatened to involve Christian
civilization itself in their deafening uproar; but their efforts were
vain; their waves broke against insurmountable barriers; they repeated
their attempts, but, always compelled to retire, they fell back again,
and spread themselves on the beach with a sullen roar: and now look at
the Eastern nations; behold them like an impure pool, which the heat
of the sun is about to dry up; see the sons and successors of Mahomet
and Omar on their knees at the feet of the European powers, begging a
protection, which policy sometimes affords them, but only with disdain.
Such is the picture presented to us by every civilization, ancient
and modern, except that of Europe, that is, the Christian. It alone
at once embraces every thing great and noble in the others; it alone
survives the most thorough revolutions; it alone extends itself to all
races and climates, and accommodates itself to forms of government
the most various; it alone, in fine, unites itself with all kinds of
institutions, whenever, by circulating in them its fertile sap, it can
produce its sweet and salutary fruits for the good of humanity. And
whence comes the immense superiority of European civilization over all
others? How has it become so noble, so rich, so varied, so fruitful;
with the stamp of dignity, of nobility, and of loftiness; without
castes, without slaves, without eunuchs, without any of those miseries
which prey upon other ancient and modern nations? It often happens
that we Europeans complain and lament more than the most unfortunate
portion of the human race ever did; and we forget that we are the
privileged children of Providence, and that our evils, our share of
the unavoidable patrimony of humanity, are very slight, are nothing
in comparison with those which have been, and still are, suffered by
other nations. Even the extent of our good fortune itself renders us
difficult to please, and exceedingly fastidious. We are like a man of
high rank, accustomed to live respected and esteemed in the midst of
ease and pleasure, who is indignant at a slighting word, is filled with
disquietude and affliction at the most trifling contradiction, and
forgets the multitude of men who are plunged in misery, whose nakedness
is covered with a few rags, and who meet with a thousand insults and
refusals before they can obtain a morsel of bread to satisfy the
cravings of hunger.

The mind, when contemplating European civilization, experiences so
many different impressions, is attracted by so many objects that at
the same time claim its attention and preference, that, charmed by the
magnificent spectacle, it is dazzled, and knows not where to commence
the examination. The best way in such a case is to simplify, to
decompose the complex object, and reduce it to its simplest elements.
_The individual, the family, and society_; these we have thoroughly to
examine, and these ought to be the subjects of our inquiries. If we
succeed in fully understanding these three elements, as they really are
in themselves, and apart from the slight variations which do not affect
their essence, European civilization, with all its riches and all its
secrets, will be presented to our view, like a fertile and beautiful
landscape lit up by the morning sun.

European civilization is in possession of the principal truths with
respect to the individual, to the family, and to society; it is to
this that it owes all that it is and all that it has. Nowhere have the
true nature, the true relations and object of these three things been
better understood than in Europe; with respect to them we have ideas,
sentiments, and views which have been wanting in other civilizations.
Now, these ideas and feelings, strongly marked on the face of European
nations, have inoculated their laws, manners, institutions, customs,
and language; they are inhaled with the air, for they have impregnated
the whole atmosphere with their vivifying aroma. To what is this owing?
To the fact, that Europe, for many centuries, has had within its bosom
a powerful principle which preserves, propagates, and fructifies the
truth; and it was especially in those times of difficulty, when the
disorganized society had to assume a new form, that this regenerating
principle had the greatest influence and ascendency. Time has passed
away, great changes have taken place, Catholicity has undergone vast
vicissitudes in its power and influence on society; but civilization,
its work, was too strong to be easily destroyed; the impulse which had
been given to Europe was too powerful and well secured to be easily
diverted from its course. Europe was like a young man gifted with a
strong constitution, and full of health and vigor; the excesses of
labor or of dissipation reduce him and make him grow pale; but soon the
hue of health returns to his countenance, and his limbs recover their
suppleness and vigor.



THE individual is the first and simplest element of society. If the
individual is not well constituted, if he is ill understood and ill
appreciated, there will always be an obstacle to the progress of
real civilization. First of all, we must observe, that we speak here
only of the individual, of man as he is in himself, apart from the
numerous relations which surround him when we come to consider him
as a member of society. But let it not be imagined from this, that
I wish to consider him in a state of absolute isolation, to carry
him to the desert, to reduce him to the savage state, and analyze
the individuality as it appears to us in a few wandering hordes, a
monstrous exception, which is only the result of the degradation of our
nature. Equally useless would it be to revive the theory of Rousseau,
that pure Utopianism which can only lead to error and extravagance.
We may separately examine the pieces of a machine, for the better
understanding of its particular construction; but we must take care not
to forget the purpose for which they are intended, and not lose sight
of the whole, of which they form a part. Without that, the judgment we
should form of them would certainly be erroneous. The most wonderful
and sublime picture would be only a ridiculous monstrosity, if its
groups and figures were considered in a state of isolation from its
other parts; in this way, the prodigies of Michael Angelo and Raffael
might be taken for the dreams of a madman. Man is not alone in the
world, nor is he born to live alone. Besides what is he in himself,
he is a part of the great scheme of the Universe. Besides the destiny
which belongs to him in the vast plan of creation, he is raised, by the
bounty of his Maker, to another sphere, above all earthly thoughts.
Good philosophy requires that we should forget nothing of all this. It
now remains for us to consider the individual and individuality.

In considering man, we may abstract from his quality of citizen,--an
abstraction which, far from leading to any extravagant paradoxes, is
likely to make us thoroughly understand a remarkable peculiarity of
European civilization, one of the distinctive characteristics, which
will be alone sufficient to enable us to avoid confounding it with
others. All will readily understand that there is a distinction to
be made between the man and the citizen, and that these two aspects
lead to very different considerations; but it is more difficult to
say how far the limits of this distinction should extend; to what
extent the feeling of independence should be admitted; what is the
sphere which ought to be assigned to purely individual development; in
fine, whatever is peculiar to our civilization on this point. We must
justly estimate the difference which we find herein between our state
of society and that of others; we must point out its source, and its
result; we must carefully weigh its real influence on the advance of
civilization. This task is difficult; I repeat it,--for we have here
various questions, great and important, it is true, but delicate and
profound, and very easily mistaken,--it is not without much trouble
that we can fix our eyes with certainty on these vague, indeterminate,
and floating objects, which are connected together by no perceptible

We here meet with the famous _personal independence_, which, according
to M. Guizot, was brought by the barbarians from the North, and played
so important a part, that we ought to look upon it as one of the
chief and most productive principles of European civilization. This
celebrated publicist, analyzing the elements of this civilization,
and pointing out the share which the Roman empire and the Church had
therein, in his opinion, finds a remarkable principle of productiveness
in the feeling of individuality, which the Germans brought with
them, and inoculated into the manners of Europe. It will not be
useless to discuss the opinion of M. Guizot on this important and
delicate matter. By thus explaining the state of the question, we
shall remove the important errors of some persons, errors produced
by the authority of this writer, whose talent and eloquence have
unfortunately given plausibility and semblance of truth to what is in
reality only a paradox. The first care we ought to take, in combating
the opinions of this writer, is not to attribute to him what he has
not really said; besides, as the matter we are treating of is liable
to many mistakes, we shall do well to transcribe the words of M.
Guizot at length. "What we require to know," he says, "is the general
condition of society among the barbarians. Now it is very difficult,
now-a-days, to give an account of it. We can understand, without too
much trouble, the municipal system of Rome, and the Christian Church;
their influence has continued down to our times; we find traces of
them in many institutions and existing facts. We have a thousand means
of recognising and explaining them. The manners, the social condition
of the barbarians, have entirely perished; we are compelled to divine
them, by the most ancient historical documents, or by an effort of

What has been preserved to us of the manners of the barbarians is,
indeed, little; this is an assertion which I will not deny. I will not
dispute with M. Guizot about the authority which ought to belong to
facts which require to be filled up by an effort of the imagination,
and which compel us to have recourse to the dangerous expedient of
divining. As for the rest, I am aware of the nature of these questions;
and the reflections which I have just made, as well as the terms which
I have used, prove that I do not think it possible to proceed with
rule and compass in such an examination. Nevertheless, I have thought
it proper to warn the reader on this point, and combat the delusion
into which he might be led by a doctrine which, when fully examined,
is, I repeat it, only a brilliant paradox. "There is a feeling, a
fact," continues M. Guizot, "which it is above all necessary to
understand well, in order to represent to ourselves with truth what a
barbarian was: this is, the pleasure of individual independence--the
pleasure of playing amid the chances of the world and of life, with
power and liberty; the joys of activity without labor; the taste
for an adventurous destiny, full of surprises, vicissitudes, and
perils. Such was the ruling feeling of the barbarian state, the moral
necessity which put these masses of men in motion. To-day, in the
regular society in which we live, it is difficult to represent to
one's self this feeling, with all the influence which it exercised
over the barbarians of the fourth and fifth centuries. There is
only one work, in my opinion, in which this character of barbarism
is described with all its force, viz. _The History of the Conquest
of England by the Normans_, of M. Thierry--the only book where the
motives, the inclinations, the impulses which actuate man in a social
state bordering on barbarism, are felt and described with a truth
really Homeric. Nowhere do we see so clearly what a barbarian was,
and what was his life. We also find something of this, although in a
very inferior degree, in my opinion, in a manner much less simple,
much less true, in the romances of Mr. Cooper on the American savages.
There is in the life of the savages of America, in the relations and
feelings which exist in those forests, something which reminds one,
to a certain extent, of the manners of the ancient Germans. No doubt
these pictures are a little ideal, a little poetical; the unfavorable
side of barbarian life and manners is not displayed in all its crudity.
I do not speak merely of the evils which these manners produce in
the individual social condition of the barbarian himself. In this
passionate love of personal independence, there was something more
rude and coarse than one would imagine from the work of M. Thierry;
there was a degree of brutality, of indolence, of apathy, which is not
always faithfully described in his pictures. Nevertheless, when one
examines the thing to the bottom, in spite of brutality, coarseness,
and this stupid _egotism_, the taste for individual independence is a
noble moral feeling, which draws its power from the moral nature of
man: it is the pleasure of feeling himself a man--the sentiment of
personality, of spontaneous action in his free development. Gentlemen,
it was by the German barbarians that this feeling was introduced
into the civilization of Europe; it was unknown to the Roman world,
unknown to the Christian Church, unknown to almost all the ancient
civilizations:--when you find liberty in the ancient civilizations,
it is political liberty, the liberty of the citizen. It is not with
his personal liberty that the man is prepossessed, but with his
liberty as a citizen. He belongs to an association--he is devoted to
an association--he is ready to sacrifice himself for an association.
It was the same with the Christian Church: there prevailed a feeling
of great attachment to the Christian corporation--of devotion to its
laws--a strong desire of extending its empire; the religious feeling
produced a reaction on the man himself--on his soul--an internal
struggle to subdue his own will, and make it submit to the demands of
his faith. But the feeling of personal independence, the taste for
liberty showing itself at any hazard, with hardly any other object than
its own satisfaction--this feeling, I repeat, was unknown to the Roman
and Christian society. It was brought in by the barbarians, and placed
in the cradle of modern civilization. It has played so great a part,
it has produced such noble results, that it is impossible not to bring
it to light as one of the fundamental elements thereof." (_Histoire
Générale de la Civilisation en Europe_, leçon 2.) This feeling of
personal independence, exclusively attributed to a nation--this
vague, undefinable feeling--a singular mixture of nobleness and
brutality, of barbarism and civilization--is in some degree poetical,
and is very likely to seduce the fancy; but, unfortunately, there
is in the contrast, intended to increase the effect of the picture,
something extraordinary, I will even say contradictory, which excites
the suspicion of cool reason that there is some hidden error which
compels it to be on its guard. If it be true that this phenomenon
ever existed, what was its origin? Will it be said that it was the
result of climate? But how can it be imagined that the snows of the
north protected what was not found in the ardent south? How comes it
that the feeling of personal independence was wanting precisely in
those southern countries of Europe, where the feeling of political
independence was developed with so much force? and would it not be a
strange thing, not to say an absurdity, if these different climates had
divided these two kinds of liberty between them, like an inheritance?
It will be said, perhaps, that this feeling arose from the social
state. But in that case, it cannot be made the characteristic mark
of one nation: it must be said, in general terms, that the feeling
belonged to all the nations who were in the same social condition as
the Germans. Besides, even according to this hypothesis, how could
that which was peculiar to barbarism have been a germ, a fruitful
principle of civilization? This feeling, which must have been effaced
by civilization, could not even preserve itself in the midst thereof,
much less contribute to its development. If its perpetuation in some
form was absolutely necessary, why did not the same thing take place
in the bosom of other civilizations? Surely the Germans were not the
only people who passed from barbarism to civilization. But I do not
pretend to say that the barbarians of the north did not present some
remarkable peculiarity in this point of view; and I do not deny that
we find in European civilization a feeling of personality, if I may so
speak, unknown to other civilizations. But what I venture to affirm
is, that it is little philosophical to have recourse to mysteries and
enigmas to explain the _individuality_ of the Germans, and that it
is useless to seek in their barbarism the cause of the superiority
which European civilization possesses in this respect. To form a clear
idea of this question, which is as complicated as it is important,
it is first of all necessary to specify, in the best way we can, the
real nature of the barbarian _individuality_. In a pamphlet which I
published some time ago, called _Observations Sociales, Politiques,
et Economiques, sur les Biens du Clergé_, I have incidentally touched
upon this individuality, and attempted to give clear ideas on this
point. As I have not changed my opinion since that time, but, on the
contrary, as it has been confirmed, I will transcribe what I then
said, as follows: "What was this feeling? Was it peculiar to those
nations? Was it the result of the influence of climate, of a social
position? Was it perchance a feeling formed in all places and at all
times, but which is here modified by particular circumstances? What
was its force, its tendency? How far was it just or unjust, noble or
degrading, profitable or injurious? What benefits did it confer on
society; what evils? How were these evils combated, by whom, by what
means, and with what result? These questions are numerous, but they
are not so complicated as they appear at first sight; when once the
fundamental idea shall be cleared up, the others will be understood
without difficulty, and the theory, when simplified, will immediately
be confirmed and supported by history. There is a strong, active,
an indestructible feeling in the human heart which urges men to
self-preservation, to avoid evils, and to attain to their well-being
and happiness. Whether you call it self-love, instinct of preservation,
desire of happiness or of perfection, egotism, _individuality_, or
whatever name you give to it, this feeling exists; we have it within
us. We cannot doubt of its existence; it accompanies us at every step,
in all our actions, from the time when we first see the light till we
descend into the tomb. This feeling, if you will observe its origin,
its nature, and its object, is nothing but a great law of all beings
applied to man; a law which, being a guarantee for the preservation and
perfecting of individuals, admirably contributes to the harmony of the
universe. It is clear that such a feeling must naturally incline us
to hate oppression, and to suffer with impatience what tends to limit
and fetter the use of our faculties. The cause is easily found; all
this gives us uneasiness, to which our nature is repugnant; even the
tenderest infant bears with impatience the tie that fastens him in his
cradle; he is uneasy, he is disturbed, he cries.

"On the other hand, the individual, when he is not totally devoid
of knowledge of himself, when his intellectual faculties are at all
developed, will feel another sentiment arise in his mind which has
nothing in common with the instinct of self-preservation with which
all beings are animated, a sentiment which belongs exclusively to
intelligence; I mean, the feeling of dignity, of value of ourselves,
of that fire which, enkindled in our hearts in our earliest years, is
nourished, extended, and supported by the aliment afforded to it by
time, and acquires that immense power, that expansion which makes us
so restless, active, and agitated during all periods of our life.
The subjection of one man to another wounds this feeling of dignity;
for even supposing it to be reconciled with all possible freedom and
mildness, with the most perfect respect for the person subjected, this
subjection reveals a weakness or a necessity which compels him in some
degree to limit the free use of his faculties. Such is the second
origin of the feeling of personal independence. It follows from what
I have just said, that man always bears within himself a certain love
of independence, that this feeling is necessarily common to all times
and countries, for we have found its roots in the two most natural
feelings of man--viz. _the desire of well-being and the consciousness
of his own dignity_. It is evident that these feelings may be modified
and varied indefinitely, on account of the infinity of situations in
which the individual may be placed, morally and physically. Without
leaving the sphere which is marked out for them by their very essence,
these feelings may vary as to strength or weakness on the most
extensive scale; they may be moral or immoral, just or unjust, noble
or vile, advantageous or injurious. Consequently they may contribute
to the individual the greatest variety of inclinations, of habits, of
manners; and thereby give very different features to the physiognomy
of nations, according to the particular and characteristic manner in
which they affect the individual. These notions being once cleared up
by a real knowledge of the constitution of the heart of man, we see
how all questions which relate to the feeling of individuality must be
resolved; we also see that it is useless to have recourse to mysterious
language or poetical explanations, for in all this there is nothing
that can be submitted to a rigorous analysis. The ideas which man
forms of his own well-being and dignity, the means which he employs to
promote the one and preserve the other, these are what will settle the
degrees of energy, will determine the nature and signalize the tendency
of all these feelings; that is to say, all will depend on the physical
and moral state of society and the individual. Now, supposing all other
circumstances to be equal, give a man true ideas of his own well-being
and dignity, such as reason and above all the Christian religion teach,
and you will form a good citizen; give false, exaggerated, absurd
ideas, such as are entertained by perverted schools and promulgated
by agitators at all times and in all countries, and you spread the
fruitful seeds of disturbance and disorder.

"In order to complete the clearing up of the important point which
we have undertaken to explain, we must apply this doctrine to the
particular fact which now occupies us. If we fix our attention on
the nations who invaded and overturned the Roman empire, confining
ourselves to the facts which history has preserved of them, to the
conjectures which are authorized by the circumstances in which they
were placed, and to the general data which modern science has been
able to collect from the immediate observation of the different tribes
of America, we shall be able to form an idea of what was the state of
society and of the individual among the invading barbarians. In their
native countries, among their mountains, in their forests covered
with frost and snow, they had their family ties, their relationships,
their religion, traditions, customs, manners, attachment to their
hereditary soil, their love of national independence, their enthusiasm
for the great deeds of their ancestors, and for the glory acquired
in battle; in fine, their desire of perpetuating in their children a
race strong, valiant, and free; they had their distinctions of family,
their division into tribes, their priests, chiefs, and government.
Without discussing the character of their forms of government, and
laying aside all that might be said of their monarchy, their public
assemblies, and other similar points, questions which are foreign to
our subject, and which besides are always in some degree hypothetical
and imaginary, I shall content myself with making a remark which
none of my readers will deny, viz. that among them the organization
of society was such as might have been expected from rude and
superstitious ideas, gross habits, and ferocious manners; that is to
say, that their social condition did not rise above the level which
had naturally been marked out for it by two imperious necessities:
first, that complete anarchy should not prevail in their forests; and
second, that in war they should have some one to lead their confused
hordes. Born in rigorous climates, crowding on each other by their
rapid increase, and on that account obtaining with difficulty even
the means of subsistence, these nations saw before their eyes the
abundance and the luxuries of ample and well-cultivated regions; they
were at the same time urged on by extreme want, and strongly excited
by the presence of plunder. There was nothing to oppose them but the
feeble legions of an effeminate and decaying civilization; their own
bodies were strong, their minds full of courage and audacity; their
numbers augmented their boldness; they left their native soil without
pain; a spirit of adventure and enterprise developed itself in their
minds, and they threw themselves on the Empire like a torrent which
falls from the mountains, and inundates the neighboring plains. However
imperfect was their social condition, and however rude were its ties,
it sufficed, nevertheless, in their native soil, and amid their ancient
manners; if the barbarians had remained in their forests, it may be
said that that form of government, which answered its purpose in its
way, would have been perpetuated; for it was born of necessity, it was
adapted to circumstances, it was rooted in their habits, sanctioned by
time, and connected with traditions and recollections of every kind.
But these ties were too weak to be transported without being broken.
These forms of government were, as we have just seen, so suited to the
state of barbarism, and consequently so circumscribed and limited,
that they could not be applied without difficulty to the new situation
in which these nations found themselves almost suddenly placed. Let
us imagine these savage children of the forest precipitated on the
south; their fierce chiefs precede them, and they are followed by
crowds of women and children; they take with them their flocks and
rude baggage; they cut to pieces numerous legions on their way; they
form intrenchments, cross ditches, scale ramparts, ravage the country,
destroy forests, burn populous cities, and take with them immense
numbers of slaves captured on the way. They overturn every thing that
opposes their fury, and drive before them multitudes who flee to
avoid fire and sword. In a short time see these same men, elated with
victory, enriched by immense booty, inured by so many battles, fires,
sackings, and massacres, transported, as if by enchantment, into a new
climate, under another sky, and swimming in abundance, in pleasure,
in new enjoyments of every kind. A confused mixture of idolatry and
Christianity, of truth and falsehood, is become their religion; their
principal chiefs are dead in battle; families are confounded in
disorder, races mixed, old manners and customs altered and lost. These
nations, in fine, are spread over immense countries, in the midst of
other nations, differing in language, ideas, manners, and usages;
imagine, if you can, this disorder, this confusion, this chaos, and
tell me whether the ties which formed the society of these nations are
not destroyed and broken into a thousand pieces, and whether you do
not see barbarian and civilized society disappear together, and all
antiquity vanish without any thing new taking its place? And at this
moment, fix your eyes upon the gloomy child of the North, when he feels
all the ties that bound him to society suddenly loosened, when all
the chains that restrained his ferocity break; when he finds himself
alone, isolated, in a position so new, so singular, so extraordinary,
with an obscure recollection of his late country and without affection
for that which he has just occupied; without respect for law, fear of
man, or attachment to custom. Do you not see him, in his impetuous
ferocity, indulge without limit his habits of violence, wandering,
plunder, and massacre? He confides in his strong arm and activity of
foot, and led by a heart full of fire and courage, by an imagination
excited by the view of so many different countries and by the hazards
of so many travels and combats, he rashly undertakes all enterprises,
rejects all subjection, throws off all restraint, and delights in
the dangers of fresh struggles and adventures. Do you not find here
the mysterious individuality, the feeling of personal independence,
in all its philosophical reality and all the truth which is assigned
to it by history? This brutal individuality, this fierce feeling of
independence, which was not reconcileable with the well-being or with
the true dignity of the individual, contained a principle of eternal
war and a continually wandering mode of life, and must necessarily
produce the degradation of man and the complete dissolution of society.
Far from containing the germ of civilization, it was this that was best
adapted to reduce Europe to the savage state; it stifled society in its
cradle; it destroyed every attempt made to reorganize it, and completed
the annihilation of all that remained of the ancient civilization."

The observations which have just been made may be more or less well
founded, more or less happy, but at least they do not present the
inexplicable inconsistency, not to say contradiction, of allying
barbarism and brutality with civilization and refinement; they do
not give the name of an eminent and fruitful principle of European
civilization to that which a little further on is pointed out as one
of the strongest obstacles to the progress of social organization.
As M. Guizot, on this last point, agrees with the opinion which I
have just stated, and shows the incoherence of his own doctrines, the
reader will allow me to quote his own words. "It is clear," he says,
"that if men have no ideas extending beyond their own existence, if
their intellectual horizon is limited to themselves, if they give
themselves up to the caprices of their own passions and wills, if they
have not among them a certain number of common notions and feelings,
around which they rally; it is clear, I say, that no society can be
possible among them; that such individual, when he enters into any
association, will be a principle of disturbance and dissolution.
Whenever individuality almost absolutely prevails, or man only
considers himself, or his ideas do not extend beyond himself, or he
obeys only his own passions, society, I mean one with any thing of
extent or permanency, becomes almost impossible. Now such was the moral
condition of the conquerors of Europe at the period of which we speak.
I have pointed out, in the last lecture, that we owe the energetic
feeling of individual liberty and humanity to the Germans. Now, in a
state of extreme rudeness and ignorance, this feeling is egotism in all
its brutality, in all its unsociability. From the fifth to the eighth
century, such was the case among the Germans. They consulted only their
own interests, their own passions, their own wills; how could this
accord with the social state? It was attempted to make them enter it;
they attempted it themselves; they soon left it from some sudden act,
some sally of passion or misunderstanding. Every moment we see society
attempted to be formed; every moment we see it broken by the act of
man, by the want of the moral conditions necessary for its subsistence.
Such, gentlemen, were the two prevailing causes of the state of
barbarism. As long as they lasted, barbarism continued." (_Histoire
Générale de la Civilisation en Europe_, leçon 3.)

With respect to his theory of _individuality_, M. Guizot has met with
the common fate of men of great talents. They are forcibly struck
by a singular phenomenon, they conceive an ardent desire of finding
its cause, and they fall into frequent errors, led away by a secret
tendency always to point out a new, unexpected, astonishing origin.
In his vast and penetrating view of European civilization, in his
parallel between this and the most distinguished ones of antiquity, he
discovered a very remarkable difference between the individuals of the
former and of the latter. He saw in the man of modern Europe, something
nobler, more independent than in the Greek or Roman; it was necessary
to point out the origin of this difference. Now this was not an easy
task, considering the peculiar situation in which the philosophical
historian found himself. From the first glance which he took at the
elements of European civilization, the Church presented herself to him
as one of the most powerful and the most influential agents on the
organization of society; and he saw issue from her the impulse which
was most capable of leading the world to a great and happy future. He
had already expressly acknowledged this, and had paid homage to the
truth in magnificent language; in order to explain this phenomenon,
should he again have recourse to Christianity, to the Church? This
would have been conceding to her the whole of the great work of
civilization; and M. Guizot was desirous, at all hazards, of giving her
coadjutors. Therefore, fixing his eyes upon the barbarian hordes, he
expects to discover in the swarthy brows, the savage countenances, and
the menacing looks of these children of the forest, a type, somewhat
rude but still very just, of the noble independence, the elevation, and
dignity which the European bears in his features.

After having explained the mysterious personality of the Germans, and
shown that, far from being an element of civilization, it was a source
of disorder and barbarism; it is besides necessary to examine the
difference which exists between the civilization of Europe and other
civilizations, with respect to the feeling of dignity; it is necessary
to determine with precision what modifications have been undergone by
a feeling, which, considered by itself, is, as we have seen, common to
all men. In the first place, there is no foundation for this assertion
of M. Guizot, _that the feeling of personal independence, the taste
for liberty, displaying itself at all hazards, with scarcely any other
object than its own satisfaction, was unknown to Roman society_. It
is clear that in such a comparison, it is not meant to allude to the
feeling of independence in the savage state, in the state of barbarism;
for as well might it be said that civilized nations could not have the
distinctive character of barbarism. But laying aside that circumstance
of ferocity, we will say that the feeling was very active, not only
among the Romans, but also among the other most celebrated nations of
antiquity. "When you find in ancient civilization," says M. Guizot,
"liberty, it is political liberty, the liberty of the citizen. It
is not with his personal liberty that the man is prepossessed, it
is with his liberty as a citizen; he belongs to an association, he
is devoted to an association, he is ready to sacrifice himself for
an association." I will not deny that this spirit of sacrifice for
the benefit of an association did exist among ancient nations; I
acknowledge also that it was accompanied by remarkable peculiarities,
which I intend to explain further on; yet it may be doubted whether
_the taste for liberty, with scarcely any other object than its own
satisfaction_, was not more active with ancient nations than with
us. Indeed, what was the object of the Phœnicians, the Greeks of the
Archipelago and of Asia Minor, the Carthaginians, when they undertook
those voyages which, for such remote times, were as bold and perilous
as those of our most intrepid sailors? Was it, indeed, to sacrifice
themselves for an association that they sought new territories with
so much ardour, in order to amass there money, gold, and all kinds of
articles of value? Were they not led by the desire of acquiring _to
gratify themselves_? Where, then, is the association? Where do you find
it here? Do you see any thing but the individual, with his passions and
tastes, and his ardour in satisfying them? And the Greeks--those Greeks
so enervated, so voluptuous, so spoiled by pleasures, had they not the
most lively feeling of personal independence, the most ardent desire
of living with perfect freedom, with no other object but to gratify
themselves? Their poets singing of nectar and of love; their free
courtesans receiving the homage of the most illustrious citizens, and
making sages forget their philosophical moderation and gravity; and the
people celebrating their festivals amid the most fearful dissoluteness;
did they also only sacrifice on the altars of association? Had they
not the desire of gratifying themselves? With respect to the Romans,
perhaps it would not be so easy to demonstrate this, if we had to
speak of what are called the glorious times of the Republic; but we
have to deal with the Romans of the empire, with those who lived at
the time of the irruption of the barbarians; with those Romans, greedy
of pleasures, and devoured by that thirst for excess of which history
has preserved such shameful pictures. Their superb palaces, their
magnificent villas, their delicious baths, their splendid festive
halls, their tables loaded with riches, their effeminate dresses, their
voluptuous dissipation; do they not show us individuals who, without
thinking of the association to which they belonged, only thought of
gratifying their own passions and caprices; lived in the greatest
luxury, with every delicacy and all imaginable splendour; had no
care but to enjoy society, to lull themselves asleep in pleasure, to
gratify all their passions, and give way to a burning love of their own
satisfactions and amusements?

It is not easy, then, to imagine why M. Guizot exclusively attributes
to the barbarians _the pleasure of feeling themselves men, the feeling
of personality, of human spontaneousness in its free development_. Can
we believe that such sentiments were unknown to the victors of Marathon
and Platæa, to those nations who have immortalized their names by so
many monuments? When, in the fine arts, in the sciences, in eloquence,
in poetry, the noblest traits of genius shone forth on all sides,
had they not among them the pleasure of feeling themselves men, the
feeling and the power of the free development of all their faculties?
and in a society where glory was so passionately loved, as we see it
was among the Romans, in a society which shows us men like Cicero
and Virgil, and which produced a Tacitus, who still, after nineteen
centuries, makes every generous heart thrill with emotion, _was there
no pleasure in feeling themselves men, no pride in appreciating their
own dignity? Was there no feeling of the spontaneousness of man in his
own free development?_ How can we imagine that the barbarians of the
north surpassed the Greeks and Romans in this respect? Why, then, these
paradoxes, this confusion of ideas? Of what avail are these brilliant
expressions meaning nothing? Of what use are these observations, of a
false delicacy, where the mind at first sight discovers vagueness and
inexactitude; and where it finds, after a complete examination, nothing
but incoherency and revery?



IF we profoundly study this question, without suffering ourselves to
be led into error and extravagance, by the desire of passing for deep
observers; if we call to our aid a just and cool philosophy, supported
by the facts of history, we shall see that the principal difference
between the ancient civilizations and our own with respect to the
individual is, that, in antiquity, _man, considered as man, was not
properly esteemed_. Ancient nations did not want either _the feeling of
personal independence, or the pleasure of feeling themselves men_; the
fault was not in the heart, but in the head. What they wanted was the
comprehension of the dignity of man; the high idea which Christianity
has given us of ourselves, while, at the same time, with admirable
wisdom, it has shown us our infirmities. What ancient societies wanted,
what all those, where Christianity does not prevail, have wanted, and
will continue to want, is the respect and the consideration which
surround every individual, _every man, inasmuch as he is a man_. Among
the Greeks the Greeks are every thing; strangers, barbarians, are
nothing: in Rome, the title of Roman citizen makes the man; he who
wants this is nothing. In Christian countries, the infant who is born
deformed, or deprived of some member, excites compassion, and becomes
an object of the tenderest solicitude; it is enough that he is man,
and unfortunate. Among the ancients, this human being was regarded
as useless and contemptible; in certain cities, as for example at
Lacedæmon, it was forbidden to nourish him, and, by command of the
magistrates charged with the regulation of births, horrible to relate!
he was thrown into a ditch. He was a _human being_; but what matter?
He was a human being who would be of no use; and society, without
compassion, did not wish to undertake the charge of his support. If
you read Plato and Aristotle, you will see the horrible doctrine which
they professed on the subject of abortion and infanticide; you will see
the means which these philosophers imagined, in order to prevent the
excess of population; and you will be sensible of the immense progress
which society has made, under the influence of Christianity, in all
that relates to man. Are not the public games, those horrible scenes
where hundreds of men were slaughtered to amuse an inhuman multitude,
an eloquent testimony to the little value attached to man, when he was
sacrificed with so much barbarism for reasons so frivolous?

The right of the strongest was exercised among the ancients in a
horrible manner; and this is one of the causes to which must be
attributed the state of annihilation, so to speak, in which we see the
individual with respect to society. Society was strong, the individual
was weak; society absorbed the individual, and arrogated to itself
all imaginable rights over him; and if ever he made opposition to
society, he was sure to be crushed by it with an iron hand. When we
read the explanation which M. Guizot gives us of this peculiarity of
ancient civilizations, we might suppose that there existed among them a
patriotism unknown to us; a patriotism which, carried to exaggeration,
and stripped of the feeling of personal independence, produced a kind
of annihilation of the individual in presence of society. If he had
reflected deeply on the matter, M. Guizot would have seen that the
difference is not in the feelings of antiquity, but in the immense
fundamental revolution which has taken place in ideas; hence he would
easily have concluded, that the difference observed in their feelings
must have been owing to the differences in the ideas themselves.
Indeed, it is not strange that the individual, seeing the little esteem
in which he was held, and the unlimited power which society arrogated
to itself over his independence and his life, (for it went so far
as to grind him to powder, when he opposed it,) on his side formed
an exaggerated idea of society and the public authority, so as to
annihilate himself in his own heart before this fearful colossus. Far
from considering himself as a member of an association the object of
which was the safety and happiness of every individual, the benefits
of which required from him some sacrifices in return, he regarded
himself as a thing devoted to this association, and compelled, without
hesitation, to offer himself as a holocaust on its altars. Such is
the condition of man; when a power acts upon him, for a long time,
unlimitedly, his indignation is excited against it, and he rejects it
with violence; or else he humbles, he debases, he annihilates himself
before the strong influence which binds and prostrates him. Let us see
if this be not the contrast which ancient societies constantly afford
us; the blindest submission and annihilation on the one hand, and, on
the other, the spirit of insubordination, of resistance, showing itself
in terrible explosions. It is thus, and thus only, that it is possible
to understand how societies, whose normal condition was confusion and
agitation, present us with such astonishing examples as Leonidas with
his three hundred Spartans perishing at Thermopylæ, Sævola thrusting
his hand into the fire, Regulus returning to Carthage to suffer and
die, and Marcus Curtius, all armed, leaping into the chasm which had
opened in the midst of Rome. All these phenomena, which at first sight
appear inexplicable, are explained when we compare them with what has
taken place in the revolutions of modern times. Terrible revolutions
have thrown some nations into confusion; the struggle of ideas and
interests, inflaming their passions, has made them forget their true
social relations, during intervals of greater or less duration. What
has happened? At the same time that unlimited freedom was proclaimed,
and the rights of individuals were incessantly extolled, there arose
in the midst of society a cruel power, which, concentrating in its own
hands all public authority, inflicted on them the severest blows. At
such periods, when the formidable maxim of the ancients, the _salus
populi_, that pretext for so many frightful attempts was in full force,
there arose, on the other hand, that mad and ferocious patriotism which
superficial men admire in the citizens of ancient republics.

Some writers have lavished eulogiums on the ancients, and, above
all, on the Romans. It seemed as if, to gratify their ardent wishes,
modern civilization must be moulded according to the ancient. They
made absurd attempts; they attacked the existing social system with
unexampled violence; they labored to destroy, or at least to stifle,
Christian ideas concerning the individual and society, and they
sought their inspiration from the shades of the ancient Romans. It is
remarkable that, during the short time that the attempt lasted, there
were seen, as in ancient Rome, admirable traits of strength, of valor,
of patriotism, in fearful contrast with cruelties and crimes without
example. In the midst of a great and generous nation there appeared
again, to affright the human race, the bloody spectres of Marius and
Sylla; so true it is that man is everywhere the same, and that the same
order of ideas in the end produces the same order of events. Let the
Christian ideas disappear, let old ones regain their force, and you
will see that the modern world will resemble the ancient one. Happily
for humanity, this is impossible. All the attempts hitherto made to
produce such a result have been necessarily of short continuance,
and such will be the case in future. But the bloody page which these
criminal attempts have left in history offers an abundant subject
for reflection to the philosopher who desires to become thoroughly
acquainted with the intimate and delicate relations between ideas and
facts. There he will see fully exhibited the vast scheme of social
organization, and he will be able to appreciate at its just value the
beneficial or injurious influence of the various religious and the
different philosophical systems.

The periods of revolutions, that is to say, those stormy times when
governments are swallowed up one after another like edifices built upon
a volcanic soil, have all this distinctive character, _the tyranny of
the interests of public authority over private interests_. Never is
this power feebler, or less lasting; but never is it more violent,
more mad. Every thing is sacrificed to its safety or its vengeance;
the shade of its enemies pursues it and makes it continually tremble;
its own conscience torments it and leaves it no repose; the weakness
of its organization, its instable position, warn it at every step
of its approaching fall, and in its impotent despair it makes the
convulsive efforts of one dying in agony. What, then, in its eyes are
the lives of citizens, if they excite the slightest, the most remote
suspicion? If the blood of thousands of victims could procure for it
a moment of security, and add a few days to its existence, "Perish
my enemies," it says; "this is required for the safety of the state,
that is, for mine!" Why this frenzy, this cruelty? It is because the
ancient government, having been overturned by force, and the new having
been enthroned in the same way, the idea of right has disappeared from
the sphere of power. Legitimacy does not protect it, even its novelty
betrays its little value; every thing forebodes its short existence.
Stripped of the reason and justice which it is obliged to invoke in
its own support, it seeks for both in the _very necessity of power_, a
social necessity, which is always visible, and it proclaims that the
safety of the people is the supreme care. Then the property and lives
of individuals are nothing; they are annihilated in the presence of the
bloody spectre which arises in the midst of society; armed with force,
and surrounded by guards and scaffolds, it says, "I am the public
power; to me is confided the safety of the people; it is I who watch
over the interests of society."

Now, do you know what is the result of this absolute want of respect
for the individual, of this complete annihilation of man in presence of
the alarming power which claims to represent society? It is that the
feeling of association reappears in different directions; no longer a
feeling directed by reason, foresight, and beneficence, but a blind,
instinctive feeling, which urges man not to remain alone, without
defence, in the midst of a society which is converted into a field of
battle and a vast conspiracy; men then unite either to sustain power,
when, influenced by the whirlwind of revolution, they are identified
with it, and regard it as their only rampart, or to overturn it, if,
some motive having urged them into the opposite ranks, they see their
most terrible enemy in the existing power, and a sword continually
suspended over their heads. These men belong to an association, are
devoted to an association, are ready to sacrifice themselves for it,
for they cannot live alone; they know, they comprehend, at least
instinctively, that the individual is nothing; for as the restraints
that maintain social order have been broken, the individual no longer
has a tranquil sphere where he can live in peace and independence,
confident that a power founded on legitimacy and guided by reason and
justice watches over the preservation of public order and the respect
due to individual rights. Then timid men are alarmed and humbled, and
begin to represent that first scene of servitude where the oppressed
is seen to kiss the hand of the oppressor, and the victim to reverence
the executioner. Daring men resist and contend, or rather, conspiring
in the dark, they prepare terrible explosions. No one then belongs to
himself; the individual is absorbed on all sides, either by the force
which oppresses or by that which conspires. The tutelary divinity of
individuals is justice; when justice vanishes, they are no more than
imperceptible grains of dust carried away by the wind, or drops of
water in the stormy waves of ocean. Imagine to yourself societies where
this passing frenzy does not prevail, it is true, but which are yet
devoid of true ideas on the rights and duties of individuals, and of
those of public authority; societies where there are some wandering,
uncertain, obscure, imperfect notions thereon, stifled by a thousand
prejudices and errors; societies under which, nevertheless, public
authority is organized under one form or another, and has become
consolidated, thanks to the force of habit, and the absence of all
other government better calculated to satisfy urgent necessities; you
will then have an idea of the ancient societies, we should rather
say, societies without Christianity, and you will understand the
annihilation of the individual before the force of public power, either
under an Asiatic despotism or the turbulent democracy of the ancient
republics. And what you will then see will be precisely what you have
observed in modern societies at times of revolution, only with this
difference, that in these the evil is transitory and noisy, like the
ravages of the tempest, while among the ancients it was the normal
state, like the vitiated atmosphere which injures and corrupts all that
breathe it.

Let us examine the cause of these two opposite phenomena, the lofty
patriotism of the Greeks and Romans, and the state of prostration and
political degradation in which other nations lay, and in which those
still lie who are not under the influence of Christianity; what is the
cause of this individual abnegation which is found at the bottom of
two feelings so contrary? and why do we not find among any of those
nations that individual development which is observed in Europe, and
which with us is connected with a reasonable patriotism, from which the
feeling of a legitimate personal independence is not excluded? It is
because in antiquity man did not know himself, or what he was; it is
because his true relations with society were viewed through a thousand
prejudices and errors, and consequently were very ill understood. This
will show that admiration for the patriotism, disinterestedness, and
heroic self-denial of the ancients has been sometimes carried too far,
and that these qualities, far from revealing in the men of antiquity a
greater perfection of the individual, a superior elevation of mind to
that of the men of modern times, rather indicate ideas less elevated
and feelings less independent than our own. Perhaps some blind admirers
of the ancients will be astonished at these assertions. Let them
consider the women of India throwing themselves on the funeral-pile
after the death of their husbands, and slaves putting themselves to
death because they could not survive their masters, and they will see
that personal self-denial is not an infallible sign of elevation of
mind. Sometimes man does not understand his own dignity; he considers
himself devoted to another being, absorbed by him, and then he regards
his own existence only as a secondary thing, which has no object but to
minister to the existence of another. We do not wish to underrate the
merit which rightly belongs to the ancients; we do not wish to lower
their heroism, as far as it is just and laudable, any more than we
wish to attribute to the moderns an egotistical individuality, which
prevents their sacrificing themselves for their country: our only
object is to assign to every thing its place, by dissipating prejudices
which are excusable up to a certain point, but do lamentable mischief
by falsifying the principal features of ancient and modern history.

This annihilation of the individual among the ancients arose also
from the weakness and imperfection of his moral development, and from
his want of a rule for his own guidance, which compelled society to
interfere in all that concerned him, as if public reason was called
upon to supply the defect of private reason. If we pay attention,
we shall observe that in countries where political liberty was the
most cherished, civil liberty was almost unknown. While the citizens
flattered themselves that they were very free, because they took part
in the public deliberations, they wanted that liberty which is most
important to man, that which we now call civil liberty. We may form
an idea of the thoughts and manners of the ancients on this point, by
reading one of their most celebrated writers, Aristotle. In the eyes
of this philosopher, the only title which renders a man worthy of the
name of citizen, seems to be the participation in the government of the
republic; and these ideas, apparently very democratic and calculated
to extend the rights of the most numerous class, far from proceeding,
as one would suppose, from an exaggeration of the dignity of man, was
connected in his mind with a profound contempt for man himself. His
system was to reserve all honor and consideration for a very limited
number; the classes of citizens who were thus condemned to degradation
and nullity were all laborers, artisans, and tradesmen. (_Pol._ l.
vii. c. 9, 12; l. viii. c. 1, 2; l. iii. c. 1.) This theory supposed,
as may be seen, very curious ideas on individuals and society, and
is an additional confirmation of what I have said respecting the
eccentricities, not to say monstrosities, which we see in the ancient
republics. Let us never forget that one of the principal causes of
the evil was the want of an intimate knowledge of man; it was the
little value which was placed upon his dignity as man; the individual,
deprived of guides to direct him, could not conciliate esteem; in a
word, there was wanting the light of Christianity, which was alone
capable of illuminating the chaos.

The feeling of the dignity of man is deeply engraven on the heart of
modern society; we find everywhere, written in striking characters,
this truth, that man, by virtue of his title of man, is respectable
and worthy of high consideration; hence it is that all the schools of
modern times that have foolishly undertaken to exalt the individual, at
the imminent risk of producing fearful perturbations in society, have
adopted as the constant theme of their instructions, this dignity and
nobility of man. They thus distinguish themselves in the most decided
manner from the democrats of antiquity; the latter acted in a narrow
sphere, without departing from a certain order of things, without
looking beyond the limits of their own country; in the spirit of modern
democrats, on the contrary, we find a tendency to invade all branches,
an ardent propagandism which embraces the whole world. They never
invoke mean ideas; _man, his reason, his imprescriptible rights_, these
are their perpetual theme. Ask them what is their design, and they will
tell you that they desire to level all things, to avenge the sacred
cause of humanity. This exaggeration of ideas, the pretext and motive
for so many crimes, shows us a valuable fact, viz. the immense progress
which Christianity has given to ideas with relation to the dignity
of our nature. When they have to mislead societies which owe their
civilization to Christianity, they find no better means than to invoke
the dignity of human nature. The Christian religion, the enemy of all
that is criminal, could not consent to see society overturned, under
the pretence of defending and raising the dignity of man; this is the
reason why a great number of the most ardent democrats have indulged in
insults and sarcasms against religion. On the other hand, as history
loudly proclaims that all our knowledge and feeling of what is true,
just, and reasonable on this point, is due to the Christian religion,
it has been recently attempted to make a monstrous alliance between
Christian ideas and the most extravagant of democratic theories. A
celebrated man has undertaken this enterprise; but true Christianity,
that is, Catholicity, rejects these adulterous alliances; it ceases
to acknowledge its most eminent apologists when they have quitted the
path of eternal truth. De Lamennais now wanders in the darkness of
error, embracing a deceitful shadow of Christianity; and the voice of
the supreme Pastor of the Church has warned the faithful against being
dazzled by the illusion of a name illustrious by so many titles.[16]



IF we give a just and legitimate meaning to the word individuality,
taking the feeling of personal independence in an acceptation which is
not repugnant to the perfection of the individual, and does not oppose
the constitutive principles of all society; moreover, if we seek the
various causes which have influenced the development of this feeling,
without speaking of that which we have already pointed out as one of
the most important, viz. the true notion of man, and his connections
with his fellows, we shall find many of them which are quite worthy of
attention in Catholicity. M. Guizot was greatly deceived when, putting
the faithful of the Church in the same rank with the ancient Romans,
he asserted that both were equally wanting in the feeling of personal
independence. He describes the faithful as absorbed by the association
of the Church, entirely devoted to her, ready to sacrifice themselves
for her; so that, according to him, it was the interests of the
association which induced them to act. There is an error here; but as
this error has originated in a truth, it is our duty to distinguish the
ideas and the facts with much attention.

There is no doubt that from the cradle of Christianity the faithful
have had an extreme attachment to the Church, and it was always well
understood among them, that they could not leave the communion of
the Church without ceasing to be numbered among the true disciples
of Jesus Christ. It is equally undeniable that, in the words of M.
Guizot, "There prevailed in the Christian Church a feeling of strong
attachment to the Christian corporation, of devotion to its laws, and
an ardent desire to extend its empire;" but it is not true that the
origin and source of all these feelings was the spirit of association
alone, to the exclusion of all development of real individuality.
The Christian belonged to an association, but that association was
regarded by him as a means of obtaining eternal happiness, as the ship
in which he was embarked, amid the tempests of the world, to arrive
safe in the port of eternity: and although he believed it impossible
to be saved out of the Church, he did not understand from that that
he was devoted to the Church, but to God. The Roman was ready to
sacrifice himself for his country; the Christian, for his faith. When
the Roman died, he died for his country; the faithful did not die for
the Church, but for God. If we open the monuments of Church history,
and read the acts of the martyrs, we shall then see what passed in
that terrible moment, when the Christian, fully arousing himself,
showed in the presence of the instruments of torture, burning piles,
and the most horrible punishments, the true principle which acted on
his mind. The judge asks his name; he declares it, and adds, "I am a
Christian." He is asked to sacrifice to the gods. "We only sacrifice to
one God, the Creator of heaven and earth." He is reproached with the
disgrace of following a man who has been nailed to the cross; for him
the ignominy of the cross is a glory, and he loudly proclaims that the
Crucified is his Saviour and his God. He is threatened with tortures;
he despises them, for they are passing, and rejoices in being able to
suffer something for his Master. The cross of punishment is already
prepared, the pile is lighted before his eyes, the executioner raises
the fatal axe to strike off his head; what does it matter to him? all
this is but for a moment, and after that moment comes a new life of
ineffable and endless happiness. We thus see what influenced his heart;
it was the love of his God and the interest of his eternal happiness.
Consequently, it is utterly false that the Christian, like men of the
ancient republics, destroyed his individuality in the association to
which he belonged, allowing himself to be absorbed in that association
like a drop of water in the immensity of ocean. The Christian belonged
to an association which gave him the rule of his faith and conduct;
he regarded that association as founded and directed by God himself;
but his mind and his heart were raised to God, and when following the
voice of the Church, he believed that he was engaged with his own
individual affair, which was nothing less than his eternal happiness.
This distinction is quite necessary in an affair which has relations
so various and delicate that the slightest confusion may produce
considerable errors. Here a hidden fact reveals itself to us, which
is infinitely precious, and throws much light upon the development
and perfecting of the individual in Christian civilization. It is
absolutely necessary that there should be a social order to which
the individual must submit; but it is also proper that he should not
be absorbed by society to such an extent that he cannot be conceived
but as forming part of it, and remains deprived of his own sphere
of action. If this were the case, never would true civilization be
completely developed; as it consists in the simultaneous perfecting of
the individual and of society, it is necessary, for its existence, that
both should have a well determined sphere, where their peculiar and
respective movements may not check and embarrass each other.

After these reflections, to which I especially call the attention of
all thinking men, I will point out a thing which has, perhaps, not yet
been remarked; it is, that Christianity has eminently contributed to
create that individual sphere in which man, without breaking the ties
which connect him with society, is free to develop all his peculiar
faculties. From the mouth of an Apostle went forth that generous
expression which strictly limits political power: "We ought to obey
God rather than man." (Acts v. 29.) "Obedire oportet Deo magis quam
hominibus." The Apostle thereby proclaims that the individual should
cease to acknowledge power, when power exacts from him what he believes
to be contrary to his conscience. It was among Christians that this
great example was witnessed for the first time; individuals of all
countries, of all ages, of both sexes, of all conditions, braving
the anger of authority, and all the fury of popular passions, rather
than pronounce a single word contrary to the principles which they
professed in the sanctuary of conscience; and this, not with arms in
their hands, in the midst of popular commotions, where their impetuous
passions are excited, which communicate to the mind temporary energy,
but in the solitude and obscurity of dungeons, amid the fearful
calmness of the tribunals, that is, in that situation where man, alone
and isolated, cannot show force and dignity without revealing the
elevation of his ideas, the nobleness of his feelings, the unalterable
firmness of his conscience, and the greatness of his soul. Christianity
engraved this truth deeply on the heart of man, that individuals
have duties to perform, even when the whole world is aroused against
them; that they have an immense destiny to fulfil, and that it is
entirely their own affair, the responsibility of which rests upon
their own free will. This important truth, unceasingly inculcated by
Christianity at all times, to both sexes, to all conditions, must have
powerfully contributed to excite in man an active and ardent feeling of
personality. This feeling, with all its sublimity, combining with the
other inspirations of Christianity, all full of dignity and grandeur,
has raised the human mind from the dust, where ignorance and rude
superstitions, and systems of violence, which oppressed it on all
sides, had placed and retained it. How strange and surprising to the
ears of Pagans must have been those energetic words of Justin, which
nevertheless expressed the disposition of mind of the majority of the
faithful, when, in his Apology, addressed to Antoninus Pius, he said,
"As we have not placed our hopes on present things, we contemn those
who kill us, death being, moreover, a thing which cannot be avoided."

This full and entire self-consciousness, this heroic contempt of
death, this calm spirit of a man who, supported by the testimony of
intimate feeling, sets at defiance all the powers of earth, must have
tended the more to enlarge the mind, as they did not emanate from
that cold stoical impassibility, the constant effort of which was to
struggle against the nature of things without any solid motive. The
Christian feeling had its origin in a sublime freedom from all that
is earthly, in a profound conviction of the holiness of duty, and in
that undeniable maxim, that man, in spite of all the obstacles which
the world places in his way, should walk with a firm step towards
the destiny which is marked out for him by his Creator. These ideas
and feelings together communicated to the soul a strong and vigorous
temper, which, without reaching in any thing the savage harshness of
the ancients, raised man to all his dignity, nobleness, and grandeur.
It must be observed that these precious effects were not confined to a
small number of privileged individuals, but that, in conformity with
the genius of the Christian religion, they extended to all classes; for
one of the noblest characters of that divine religion is the unlimited
expansion which it gives to all that is good; it knows no distinction
of persons, and makes its voice penetrate the obscurest places of
society. It was not only to the elevated classes and philosophers,
but to the generality of the faithful, that St. Cyprian, the light of
Africa, addressed himself, when, summing up in a few words all the
grandeur of man, he marked with a bold hand the sublime position where
our soul ought to maintain itself with constancy. "Never," he says,
"never will he who feels himself to be the child of God admire the
words of man. _He falls from his noblest state who can admire any thing
but God._" (_De Spectaculis._) Sublime words, which make us boldly
raise our heads, and fill our hearts with noble feelings; words which,
diffusing themselves over all classes, like a fertilizing warmth, were
capable of inspiring the humblest of men with what previously seemed
exclusively reserved for the transports of the poet:

    Os homini sublime dedit, cœlumque tueri
    Jussit, et erectos ad sidera tollere cultus.

The development of the moral life, the interior life, that life
in which man, reflecting on himself, is accustomed to render a
circumstantial account of all his actions, of the motives which actuate
him, of the goodness or the wickedness of those motives, and the
object to which they tend, is principally due to Christianity, to its
unceasing influence on man in all his conditions, in all situations, in
all moments of his life. Such a progress of the individual life in all
that it has most intimate, most active, and most interesting for the
heart of man, was incompatible with that absorption of the individual
by society, with that blind self-denial, in which man forgot himself,
to think only of the association of which he formed a part. This moral
and interior life was unknown to the ancients, because they wanted
principles for supporting, rules for guiding, and inspirations for
exciting and nourishing it. Thus at Rome, where the political element
tries its ascendency over minds, when enthusiasm becomes extinguished
by the effect of intestine dissensions, when every generous feeling
becomes stifled by the insupportable despotism which succeeds to the
last agitations of the republic, we see baseness and corruption develop
themselves with fearful rapidity. The activity of mind which before
occupied itself in debates of the Forum and the glorious exploits
of war, no longer finding food, gave itself up to sensual pleasures
with an abandonment which we can hardly imagine now-a-days, in spite
of the looseness of morals which we so justly deplore. Thus we see
among the ancients only these two extremes, either the most exalted
patriotism, or the complete prostration of the faculties of the soul,
which abandons itself without reserve to the dictates of its irregular
passions; there man was the slave either of his own passions, of
another man, or of society.

Since the moral tie which united men to Catholic society has been
broken, since religious belief has been weakened, in consequence of
the individual independence which Protestantism has proclaimed in
religious matters, it has unhappily become possible for us to conceive,
by means of examples found in European civilization, what man still
deprived of real knowledge of himself, his origin and destiny, must
have been. We will indicate in another place the points of resemblance
which are found between ancient and modern society in the countries
where the influence of religious ideas is enfeebled. It is enough now
to remark, that if Europe had completely lost Christianity, according
to the insane desires of some men, a generation would not have passed
away without there being revived among us the individual and society
such as they were among the ancients, except the modifications which
the difference of the material state of the two civilizations would
necessarily produce.

The doctrine of free will, so loudly proclaimed by Catholicity, and
sustained by her with such vigour, not only against the old Pagan
teaching, but particularly against sectarians at all times, and
especially against the founders of the pretended Reformation, has
also contributed more than is imagined to develop and perfect the
individual, to raise his ideas of independence, nobleness, and dignity.
When man comes to consider himself as constrained by the irresistible
force of destiny, and attached to a chain of events over which he has
no control--when he comes to suppose that the operations of his mind,
those active proofs of his freedom, are but vain illusions--he soon
annihilates himself; he feels himself assimilated to the brute; he
ceases to be the prince of living beings, the ruler of the earth; he
is nothing more than a machine fixed in its place, which is compelled
to perform its part in the great system of the universe. The social
order ceases to exist; merit and demerit, praise and blame, reward
and punishment, are only unmeaning words. If man enjoys or suffers,
it is only in the same way as a shrub, which is sometimes breathed
upon softly by the zephyrs, and sometimes blasted by the north wind.
How different it is when man is conscious of his liberty! Then he is
master of his destiny; good and evil, life and death, are before his
eyes; he can choose, and nothing can violate the sanctuary of his
conscience. There the soul is enthroned, there she is seated, full of
dignity, and the whole world raging against her, the universe falling
upon her fragile body, cannot force her will. The moral order is
displayed before us in all its grandeur; we see good in all its beauty,
and evil in all its deformity; the desire of doing well stimulates,
and the fear of doing ill restrains us; the sight of the recompense
which can be obtained by an effort of free will, and which appears
at the end of the path of virtue, renders that path more sweet and
peaceful, and communicates activity and energy to the soul. If man is
free, there remains something great and terrible, even in his crime, in
his punishment, and even in the despair of hell. What is man deprived
of liberty and yet punished? What is the meaning of this absurd
proposition, a chief dogma of the founders of Protestantism? This man
is a weak and miserable victim, in whose torture a cruel omnipotence
delights; a God who has created him in order to see him suffer; a
tyrant with infinite power, that is, the most dreadful of monsters. But
if man is free, when he suffers, he suffers because he has deserved
it; and if we contemplate him in the midst of despair, plunged into
an ocean of horrors, his brow furrowed by the just lightnings of the
Eternal, we seem to hear him still pronounce those terrible words with
a haughty bearing and proud look, _non serviam, I will not obey_.

In man, as in the universe, all is wonderfully united; all the
faculties of man have delicate and intimate relations with each other,
and the movement of one chord in the soul makes all the others vibrate.
It is necessary to call attention to this reciprocal dependence of all
our faculties on each other, in order to anticipate an objection which
may be made. We shall be told, all that has been said only proves that
Catholicity has developed the individual in a mystical sense. No, the
observations which I have made show something more than this; they
prove that we owe to Catholicity the clear idea and lively feeling
of moral order in all its greatness and beauty; they prove that we
owe her the real strength of what we call conscience, and that if the
individual believes himself to be called to a mighty destiny, confided
to his own free will, and the care of which belongs entirely to him, it
is to Catholicity he owes that belief; they prove that Catholicity has
given man the true knowledge which he has of himself, the appreciation
of his dignity, the respect which is paid to him as man; they prove
that she has developed in our souls the germs of the noblest and most
generous feelings; for she has raised our thoughts by the loftiest
conceptions, dilated our hearts by the assurance of a liberty which
nothing can take away, by the promise of an infinite reward, eternal
happiness, while she leaves in our hands life and death, and makes us
in a certain manner the arbiters of our own destiny. In all this there
is more than mere mysticism; it is nothing less than the development
of the entire man; nothing less than the true, the only noble, just,
and reasonable individuality; nothing less than the collected powerful
impulses which urge the individual towards perfection in every sense;
it is nothing less than the first, the most indispensable, the most
fruitful element of real civilization.



WE have seen what the individual owes to Catholicity; let us now see
what the family owes her. It is clear that the individual, being the
first element of the family, if it is Catholicity which has tended
to perfect him, the improvement of the family will thus have been
very much her work; but without insisting on this inference, I wish
to consider the conjugal tie in itself, for which purpose it is
necessary to call attention to woman. I will not repeat here what she
was among the Romans, and what she is still among the nations who
are not Christians; history, and still more the literature of Greece
and Rome, afford us sad or rather shameful proofs on this subject;
and all the nations of the earth offer us too many evidences of the
truth and exactness of the observation of Buchanan, viz. that wherever
Christianity does not prevail, there is a tendency to the degradation
of woman. Perhaps on this point Protestantism will be unwilling to
give way to Catholicity; it will assert that in all that affects
woman the Reformation has in no degree prejudiced the civilization
of Europe. We will not now inquire what evils Protestantism has
occasioned in this respect; this question will be discussed in another
part of the work; but it cannot be doubted, that when Protestantism
appeared, the Catholic religion had already completed its task as far
as woman is concerned. No one, indeed, is ignorant that the respect
and consideration which are given to women, and the influence which
they exercise on society, date further back than the first part of
the 16th century. Hence it follows that Catholicity cannot have had
Protestantism as a coadjutor; it acted entirely alone in this point,
one of the most important of all true civilization; and if it is
generally acknowledged that Christianity has placed woman in the rank
which properly belongs to her, and which is most conducive to the good
of the family and of society, this is a homage paid to Catholicity; for
at the time when woman was raised from abjection, when it was attempted
to restore her to the rank of companion of man, as worthy of him, those
dissenting sects that also called themselves Christians did not exist,
and there was no other Christianity than the Catholic Church.

It has been already remarked in the course of this work, that when
I give titles and honours to Catholicity, I avoid having recourse
to vague generalities, and endeavour to support my assertions by
facts. The reader will naturally expect me to do the same here, and
to point out to him what are the means which Catholicity has employed
to give respect and dignity to woman; he shall not be deceived in his
expectation. First, and before descending to details, we must observe
that the grand ideas of Christianity with respect to humanity must
have contributed, in an extraordinary manner, to the improvement of
the lot of woman. These ideas, which applied without any difference
to woman as well as to man, were an energetic protest against the
state of degradation in which one-half of the human race was placed.
The Christian doctrine made the existing prejudices against woman
vanish for ever; it made her equal to man by unity of origin and
destiny, and in the participation of the heavenly gifts; it enrolled
her in the universal brotherhood of man, with his fellows and with
Jesus Christ; it considered her as the child of God, the coheiress of
Jesus Christ; as the companion of man, and no longer as a slave and
the vile instrument of pleasure. Henceforth that philosophy which had
attempted to degrade her, was silenced; that unblushing literature
which treated women with so much insolence found a check in the
Christian precepts, and a reprimand no less eloquent than severe in the
dignified manner in which all the ecclesiastical writers, in imitation
of the Scriptures, expressed themselves on woman. Yet, in spite of
the beneficent influence which the Christian doctrines must have
exercised by themselves, the desired end would not have been completely
attained, had not the Church undertaken, with the warmest energy, to
accomplish a work the most necessary, the most indispensable for the
good organization of the family and society, I mean the reformation of
marriage. The Christian doctrine on this point is very simple: _one
with one exclusively, and for ever_. But the doctrine would have been
powerless, if the Church had not undertaken to apply it, and if she had
not carried on this task with invincible firmness; for the passions,
above all those of man, rebel against such a doctrine; and they would
undoubtedly have trodden it under foot, if they had not met with an
insurmountable barrier, which did not leave them the most distant hope
of triumph. Can Protestantism, which applauded with such senseless joy
the scandal of Henry VIII., and accommodated itself so basely to the
desires of the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, boast of having contributed
to strengthen that barrier? What a surprising difference! During many
centuries, amid circumstances the most various, and sometimes the
most terrible, the Catholic Church struggles with intrepidity against
the passions of potentates, to maintain unsullied the sanctity of
marriage. Neither promises nor threats could move Rome; no means could
obtain from her any thing contrary to the instructions of her Divine
Master: Protestantism, at the first shock, or rather at the first
shadow of the slightest embarrassment, at the mere fear of displeasing
a prince who certainly was not very powerful, yields, humbles itself,
consents to polygamy, betrays its own conscience, opens a wide door
to the passions, and gives up to them the sanctity of marriage, the
first pledge for the good of the family, the foundation-stone of true

Protestant society on this point, wiser than the miscalled reformers
who attempted to guide it, with admirable good sense repudiated the
consequences of the conduct of its chiefs; although it did not preserve
the doctrines of Catholicity, it at least followed the salutary impulse
which it had received from them, and polygamy was not established
in Europe. But history records facts which show the weakness of the
pretended reformation, and the vivifying power of Catholicity. It tells
us to whom it is owing that the law of marriage, that palladium of
society, was not falsified, perverted, destroyed, amid the barbarous
ages, amid the most fearful corruption, violence, and ferocity, which
prevailed everywhere, as well at the time when invading nations passed
pell-mell over Europe, as in that of feudality, and when the power of
kings had already been preponderant,--history will tell what tutelary
force prevented the torrent of sensuality from overflowing with all
its violence, with all its caprices, from bringing about the most
profound disorganization, from corrupting the character of European
civilization, and precipitating it into that fearful abyss in which the
nations of Asia have been for so many centuries.

Prejudiced writers have carefully searched the annals of ecclesiastical
history for the differences between popes and kings, and have taken
occasion therein to reproach the Court of Rome with its intolerant
obstinacy respecting the sanctity of marriage; if the spirit of
party had not blinded them, they would have understood that, if this
intolerant obstinacy had been relaxed for a moment, if the Roman
Pontiff had given way one step before the impetuosity of the passions,
this first step once made, the descent into the abyss would have
been rapid; they would have admired the spirit of truth, the deep
conviction, the lively faith with which that august see is animated;
no consideration, no fear, has been able to silence her, when she
had occasion to remind all, and especially kings and potentates, of
this commandment: "They shall be two in one flesh; man shall not
separate what God has joined." By showing themselves inflexible on
this point, even at the risk of the anger of kings, not only have the
popes performed the sacred duty which was imposed on them by their
august character as chiefs of Christianity, but they have executed a
political _chef d'œuvre_, and greatly contributed to the repose and
well-being of nations. "For," says Voltaire, "the marriages of princes
in Europe decide the destiny of nations; and never has there been a
court entirely devoted to debauchery, without producing revolutions and
rebellions." (_Essai sur l'Histoire générale_, t. iii. c. 101.)

This correct remark of Voltaire will suffice to vindicate the pope,
together with Catholicity, from the calumnies of their wretched
detractors: it becomes still more valuable, and acquires an immense
importance, if it is extended beyond the limits of the political order
to the social. The imagination is affrighted at the thought of what
would have happened, if these barbarous kings, in whom the splendor
of the purple ill disguised the sons of the forest, if those haughty
seigneurs, fortified in their castles, clothed in mail, and surrounded
by their timid vassals, had not found a check in the authority of
the Church; if at the first glance at a new beauty, if at the first
passion which, when enkindled in their hearts, would have inspired
them with a disgust for their legitimate spouses, they had not had the
always-present recollection of an inflexible authority. They could,
it is true, load a bishop with vexations; they could silence him with
threats or promises; they might control the votes of a particular
Council by violence, by intrigue, by subornation; but, in the distance,
the power of the Vatican, the shadow of the Sovereign Pontiff, appeared
to them like an alarming vision; they then lost all hope; all struggles
became useless; the most violent endeavors would never have given them
the victory; the most astute intrigues, the most humble entreaties,
would have obtained the same reply: "One with one only, and for ever."

If we read but the history of the middle ages, of that immense scene
of violence, where the barbarian, striving to break the bonds which
civilization attempted to impose on him, appears so vividly; if we
recollect that the Church was obliged to keep guard incessantly and
vigilantly, not only to prevent the ties of a marriage from being
broken, but even to preserve virgins (and even those who were dedicated
to God) from violence; we shall clearly see that, if she had not
opposed herself, as a wall of brass, to the torrent of sensuality,
the palaces of kings and the castles of seigneurs would have speedily
become their seraglios and harems. What would have happened in the
other classes? They would have followed the same course; and the women
of Europe would have remained in the state of degradation in which
the Mussulman women still are. As I have mentioned the followers of
Mohammed, I will reply in passing to those who pretend to explain
monogamy and polygamy by climate alone. Christians and Mohammedans
have been for a long time under the same sky, and their religions have
been established, by the vicissitudes of the two races, sometimes in
cold and sometimes in mild and temperate climates; and yet we have not
seen the religions accommodate themselves to the climates; but rather,
the climates have been, as it were, forced to bend to the religions.
European nations owe eternal gratitude to Catholicity, which has
preserved monogamy for them, one of the causes which undoubtedly have
contributed the most to the good organization of the family, and the
exaltation of woman. What would now be the condition of Europe, what
respect would woman now enjoy, if Luther, the founder of Protestantism,
had succeeded in inspiring society with the indifference which he
shows on this point in his commentary on Genesis? "As to whether we
may have several wives," says Luther, "the authority of the patriarchs
leaves us completely free." He afterwards adds that "_it is a thing
neither permitted nor prohibited, and that he does not decide any
thing thereupon_." Unhappy Europe! if a man, who had whole nations as
followers, had uttered such words some centuries earlier, at the time
when civilization had not yet received an impulse strong enough to make
it take a decided line on the most important points, in spite of false
doctrines. Unhappy Europe! if at the time when Luther wrote, manners
had not been already formed, if the good organization given to the
family by Catholicity had not been too deeply rooted to be torn up by
the hand of man. Certainly the scandal of the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel
would not then have remained an isolated example, and the culpable
compliance of the Lutheran doctors would have produced bitter fruits.
What would that vacillating faith, that uncertainty, that cowardice
with which the Protestant Church was seen to tremble at the mere demand
of such a prince as the Landgrave, have availed, to control the fierce
impetuosity of barbarous and corrupted nations? How would a struggle,
lasting for ages, have been sustained by those who, at the first
menace of battle, gave way, and were routed before the shock?

Besides monogamy, it may be said that there is nothing more important
than the indissolubility of marriage. Those who, departing from the
doctrine of the Church, think that it is useful in certain cases to
allow divorce, so as to dissolve the conjugal tie, and permit each
of the parties to marry again, still will not deny that they regard
divorce as a dangerous remedy, which the legislator only avails himself
of with regret, and only on account of crime or faithlessness; they
will see, also, that a great number of divorces would produce very
great evils, and that in order to prevent these in countries where the
civil laws allow the abuse of divorce, it is necessary to surround this
permission with all imaginable precaution; they will consequently grant
that the most efficacious manner of preventing corruption of manners,
of guarantying the tranquillity of families, and of opposing a firm
barrier to the torrent of evils which is ready to inundate society,
is to establish the indissolubility of marriage as a moral principle,
to base it upon motives which exercise a powerful ascendency over the
heart, and to keep a constant restraint on the passions, to prevent
them from slipping down so dangerous a declivity. It is clear that
there is no work more worthy of being the object of the care and zeal
of the true religion. Now, what religion but the Catholic has fulfilled
this duty? What other religion has more perfectly accomplished so
salutary and difficult a task? Certainly not Protestantism, for it
did not even know how to penetrate the depth of the reasons which
guided the conduct of the Church on this point. I have taken care to
do justice in another place to the wisdom which Protestant society has
displayed in not giving itself up entirely to the impulse which its
chiefs wished to communicate to it. But it must not be supposed from
this that Protestant doctrines have not had lamentable consequences in
countries calling themselves reformed. Let us hear what a Protestant
lady, Madame de Staël, says in her book on Germany, speaking of a
country which she loves and admires: "Love," she says, "is a religion
in Germany, but a poetical religion which tolerates very freely all
that sensibility can excuse. It cannot be denied that in the Protestant
provinces the facility of divorce is injurious to the sanctity of
marriage. _They change husbands as quietly as if they were arranging
the incidents of a drama_: the good nature of the man and woman
prevents the mixture of any bitterness with their easy ruptures; and
as there is among the Germans more imagination than real passion, the
most curious events take place with singular tranquillity. Yet it is
thus that manners and characters lose all consistency; the paradoxical
spirit destroys the most sacred institutions, and there are no well
established rules on any subject." (_De l'Allemagne_, p. 1, c. 3.)
Misled by their hatred against the Roman Church, and excited by their
rage for innovation in all things, the Protestants thought they had
made a great reform in secularizing marriage, if I may so speak, and in
rejecting the Catholic doctrine, which declared it a real sacrament.
This is not the place to enter upon a dogmatical discussion of this
matter; I shall content myself with observing, that by depriving
marriage of the august seal of a sacrament, Protestantism showed that
it had little knowledge of the human heart. To consider marriage, not
as a simple civil contract, but as a real sacrament, was to place it
under the august shade of religion, and to raise it above the stormy
atmosphere of the passions; and who can doubt that this was absolutely
necessary to restrain the most active, capricious, and violent passion
of the heart of man? The civil laws are insufficient to produce such
an effect. Motives are required, which, being drawn from a higher
source, exert a more efficacious influence. The Protestant doctrine
overturned the power of the Church with respect to marriage, and gave
up matters of this kind exclusively to the civil power. Some one will
perhaps think that the increase of the secular power on this point
could not but serve the cause of civilization, and that to drive the
ecclesiastical authority from this ground was a magnificent triumph
gained over exploded prejudices, a valuable victory over unjust
usurpation. Deluded man! If your mind possessed any lofty thought, if
your heart felt the vibration of those harmonious chords which display
the passions of man with so much delicacy and exactness, and teach the
best means of directing them, you would see, you would feel, that to
place marriage under the mantle of religion, and to withdraw it as much
as possible from profane interference, was to purify, to embellish,
and to surround it with the most enchanting beauty; for thus is that
precious treasure, which is blasted by a look, and tarnished by the
slightest breath, inviolably preserved. Would you not wish to have the
nuptial bed veiled and strictly guarded by religion?



But it will be said to Catholics, "Do you not see that your doctrines
are too hard and rigorous? They do not consider the weakness and
inconstancy of the human heart, and require sacrifices above its
strength. Is it not cruel to attempt to subject the most tender
affections, the most delicate feelings, to the rigor of a principle?
Cruel doctrine, which endeavors to hold together, bound to each other
by a fatal tie, those who no longer love, who feel a mutual disgust,
who perhaps hate each other with a profound hatred! When you answer
these two beings who long to be separated, who would rather die than
remain united, with an eternal Never, showing them the divine seal
which was placed upon their union at the solemn moment, do you not
forget all the rules of prudence? Is not this to provoke despair?
Protestantism, accommodating itself to our infirmity, accedes more
easily to the demands, sometimes of caprice, but often also of
weakness; its indulgence is a thousand times preferable to your rigor."
This requires an answer; it is necessary to remove the delusion which
produces these arguments, too apt, unhappily, to mislead the judgment,
because they begin by seducing the heart. In the first place, it
is an exaggeration to say that the Catholic system reduces unhappy
couples to the extremity of despair. There are cases in which prudence
requires that they should separate, and then neither the doctrines
nor the practice of the Catholic Church oppose the separation. It is
true that this does not dissolve the conjugal tie, and that neither
of the parties can marry again. But it cannot be said that one of
them is subject to tyranny; they are not compelled to live together,
consequently they do not suffer the intolerable torment of remaining
united when they abhor each other. Very well, we shall be told, the
separation being pronounced, the parties are freed from the punishment
of living together; but they cannot contract new ties, consequently
they are forbidden to gratify another passion which, perhaps, their
heart conceals, and which may have been the cause of the disgust or the
hatred whence arose the unhappiness or discord of their first union.
Why not consider the marriage as altogether dissolved? Why should not
the parties become entirely free? Permit them to obey the feelings of
their hearts, which, newly fixed on another object, already foresee
happier days. Here, no doubt, the answer seems difficult, and the force
of the difficulty becomes urgent; but, nevertheless, it is here that
Catholicity obtains the most signal triumph; it is here it clearly
shows how profound is its knowledge of the heart of man, how prudent
its doctrines, and how wise and provident its conduct. Its rigor,
which seems excessive, is only necessary severity; this conduct, far
from meriting the reproach of cruelty, is a guarantee for the repose
and well-being of man. But it is a thing which it is difficult to
understand at first sight; thus we are compelled to develop this
matter by entering into a profound examination of the principles which
justify by the light of reason the conduct pursued by the Catholic
Church; let us examine this conduct, not only in respect to marriage,
but in all that relates to the direction of the heart of man.

In the direction of the passions there are two systems, the one of
compliance, the other of resistance. In the first of these they are
yielded to as they advance; an invincible obstacle is never opposed to
them; they are never left without hope. A line is traced around them
which, it is true, prevents them from exceeding a certain boundary; but
they are given to understand that if they come to place their foot upon
this limit, it will retire a little further; so that the compliance
is in proportion to the energy and obstinacy of their demands. In the
second system, a line is equally marked out to the passions which they
cannot pass; but it is a line fixed, immovable, and everywhere guarded
by a wall of brass. In vain do they attempt to pass it; they have not
even the shadow of hope; the principle which resists them will never
change, will never consent to any kind of compromise. Therefore, no
resource remains but to take that course which is always open to man,
that of sin. The first system allows the fire to break out, to prevent
an explosion; the second hinders the beginning of it, in the fear of
being compelled to arrest its progress. In the first, the passions are
feared and regulated at their birth, and hopes of restraining them when
they have grown up are entertained; in the second, it is thought that,
if it is difficult to restrain them when they are feeble, it will be
still more so when they are strengthened. In the one, they act on the
supposition that the passions are weakened by indulgence; in the other,
it is believed that gratification, far from satiating, only renders
them every day more devouring.

It may be said, generally speaking, that Catholicity follows the second
of these systems; that is to say, with respect to the passions, her
constant rule is to check them at the first step, to deprive them of
all hope from the first, and to stifle them, if possible, in their
cradle. It must be observed, that we speak here of the severity with
respect to the passions themselves, not with respect to man, who
is their prey; it is very consistent to give no truce to passion,
and to be indulgent towards the person under its influence; to be
inexorable towards the offence, and to treat the offender with extreme
mildness. With respect to marriage, this system has been acted on by
Catholicity with astonishing firmness; Protestantism has taken the
opposite course. Both are agreed on this point, that divorce, followed
by the dissolution of the conjugal tie, is a very great evil; but
there is this difference between them, that the Catholic system does
not leave even the hope of a conjuncture in which this dissolution
will be permitted; it forbids it absolutely, without any restriction;
it declares it impossible: the Protestant system, on the contrary,
consents to it in certain cases. Protestantism does not possess the
divine seal which guaranties the perpetuity of marriage, and renders it
sacred and inviolable; Catholicity does possess this seal, impresses
it on the mysterious tie, and from that moment marriage remains under
the shadow of an august symbol. Which of the two religions is the most
prudent in this point? Which acts with the most wisdom? To answer this
question, let us lay aside the dogmatical reasons, and the intrinsical
morality of the human actions which form the subject of the laws which
we are now examining; and let us see which of the two systems is the
most conducive to the difficult task of managing and directing the
passions. After having considered the nature of the human heart, and
consulted the experience of every day, it may be affirmed that the best
way to repress a passion is to leave it without hope; to comply with
it, to allow it continual indulgences, is to excite it more and more;
it is to play with fire amid a heap of combustibles, by allowing the
flame to be lit, from time to time, in the vain confidence of being
always able to put out the conflagration. Let us take a rapid glance
at the most violent passions of the heart of man, and observe what
is their ordinary course, according to the system which is pursued
in their regard. Look at the gambler, who is ruled by an indefinable
restlessness, which is made up of an insatiable cupidity and an
unbounded prodigality, at the same time. The most enormous fortune
will not satisfy him; and yet he risks all, without hesitation, to the
hazard of a moment. The man who still dreams of immense treasures amid
the most fearful misery, restlessly pursues an object which resembles
gold, but which is not it, for the possession thereof does not satisfy
him. His heart can only exist amid uncertainty, chances, and perils.
Suspended between hope and fear, he seems to be pleased with the rapid
succession of lively emotions which unceasingly agitate and torment
him. What remedy will cure this malady--this devouring fever? Will you
recommend to him a system of compliance? will you tell him to gamble,
but only to a certain amount, at certain times, and in certain places?
What will you gain by this? Nothing at all. If these means were good
for any thing, there would be no gambler in the world who would not be
cured of his passion; for there is no one who has not often marked out
for himself these limits, and often said to himself, "You shall only
play till such an hour, in such a place, and to such an amount." What
is the effect of these palliations--of these impotent precautions--on
the unhappy gambler? That he miserably deceives himself. The passion
consents, only in order to gain strength, and the better to secure the
victory: thus it gains ground; it constantly enlarges its sphere; and
leads its victim again into the same, or into greater excesses. Do
you wish to make a radical cure? If there be a remedy, it must be to
abstain completely; a remedy which may appear difficult at first, but
will be found the easiest in practice. When the passion finds itself
deprived of all hope, it will begin to diminish, and in the end will
disappear. No man of experience will raise the least doubt as to the
truth of what I have said; every one will agree with me, that the only
way to destroy the formidable passion of gambling is to deprive it at
once of all food, to leave it without hope.

Let us pass to another example, more analogous to the subject which I
intend to explain. Let us suppose a man under the influence of love.
Do you believe that the best way to cure his passion will be to give
him opportunities, even though very rare, of seeing the object of
his passion? Do you think that it will be salutary to authorize him
to _continue_, while you forbid him to _multiply_, these dangerous
interviews? Will such a precaution quench the flame which burns in his
heart? You may be sure that it will not. The limits will even augment
its force. If you allow it any food, even with the most parsimonious
hand, if you permit it the least success, you see it constantly
increase, until it upset every thing that opposes it. But take away
all hope, send the lover on a long journey, or place before him an
impediment which precludes the probability, or even the possibility,
of success; then, except in very rare cases, you will obtain at
first distraction, and then forgetfulness. Is not this the daily
teaching of experience? Is it not the remedy which necessity every
day suggests to the fathers of families? The passions resemble fire.
They are extinguished by a large quantity of water; but a few drops
only render them more ardent. Let us raise our thoughts still higher;
let us observe the passions acting in a wider field, in more extended
regions. Whence comes it that so many strong passions are awakened
at times of public disturbance? It is, because then they all hope to
be gratified; it is, because the highest ranks, the oldest and most
powerful institutions, having been overturned, and replaced by others,
which were hitherto imperceptible, all the passions see a road open
before them, amid the tempest and confusion; the barriers apparently
insurmountable, the sight of which prevented their existence, or
strangled them in the cradle, do not exist; as all is then unprotected
and defenceless, it is only required to have boldness and intrepidity
enough to stand amid the ruins of all that was old.

Regarding things in the abstract, there is nothing more strikingly
absurd than hereditary monarchy, the succession secured to a family
which may at any time place on the throne a child, a fool, or a wretch:
and yet in practice there is nothing more wise, prudent, and provident.
This has been taught by the long experience of ages, it has been shown
by reason, and proved by the sad warnings of those nations who have
tried elective monarchy. Now, what is the cause of this? It is what
we are endeavoring to explain. Hereditary monarchy precludes all the
hopes of irregular ambition; without that, society always contains a
germ of trouble, a principle of revolt, which is nourished by those
who conceive a hope of one day obtaining the command. In quiet times,
and under an hereditary monarchy, a subject, however rich, however
distinguished he may be for his talent or his valour, cannot, without
madness, hope to be king; and such a thought never enters his head.
But change the circumstances,--admit, I will not say, the probability,
but the possibility of such an event, and you will see that there will
immediately be ardent candidates.

It would be easy to develop this doctrine more at length, and apply
it to all the passions of man; but enough has been said to show that
the first thing to be done when you have to subdue a passion, is to
oppose to it an insurmountable barrier, which it can have no hope of
passing. Then the passion rages for a little time, it rebels against
the obstacle that resists it; but when it finds that to be immovable,
it recedes, it is cast down, and, like the waves of the sea, it falls
back murmuring to the level which has been marked out for it.

There is a passion in the heart of man, a passion which exerts a
powerful influence on the destinies of his life, and too often, by its
deceitful illusions, forms a long chain of sadness and misfortune. This
passion, which has for its necessary object the preservation of the
human race, is found, in some form, in all the beings of nature; but,
inasmuch as it resides in the soul of an intelligent being, it assumes
a peculiar character in man. In brutes, it is only an instinct, limited
to the preservation of the species; in man, the instinct becomes a
passion; and that passion, enlivened by the fire of imagination,
rendered subtile by the powers of the mind, inconstant and capricious,
because it is guided by a free will, which can indulge in as many whims
as there are different impressions for the senses and the heart, is
changed into a vague, fickle feeling, which is never contented, and
which nothing can satisfy. Sometimes it is the restlessness of a man
in a fever; sometimes the frenzy of a madman; sometimes a dream, which
ravishes the soul into regions of bliss; sometimes the anguish and
the convulsions of agony. Who can describe the variety of forms under
which this deceitful passion presents itself? Who can tell the number
of snares which it lays for the steps of unhappy mortals? Observe it
at its birth, follow it in its career, up to the moment when it dies
out like an expiring lamp. Hardly has the down appeared on the face of
man, when there arises in his heart a mysterious feeling, which fills
him with trouble and uneasiness, without his being aware of the cause.
A pleasing melancholy glides into his heart, thoughts before unknown
enter his mind, seductive images pervade his imagination, a secret
attraction acts on his soul, unusual gravity appears in his features,
all his inclinations take a new direction. The games of childhood no
longer please him; every thing shows a new life, less innocent, less
tranquil; the tempest does not yet rage, the sky is not darkened, but
clouds, tinged with fire, are the sad presage of what is to come.
When he becomes adolescent, that which was hitherto a feeling, vague,
mysterious, incomprehensible, even to himself, becomes, from that
time, more decided; objects are seen more clearly, they appear in
their real nature; the passion sees, and seizes on them. But do not
imagine that it becomes more constant on that account. It is as vain,
as changeable, as capricious as the multitude of objects which by
turns present themselves to it. It is constantly deluded, it pursues
fleeting shadows, seeks a satisfaction which it never finds, and
awaits a happiness which it never attains. With an excited imagination,
a burning heart, with his whole soul transported, and all his faculties
subdued, the ardent young man is surrounded by a brilliant chain of
illusions; he communicates these to all that environs him; he gives
greater splendor to the light of heaven, he clothes the earth with
richer verdure and more brilliant coloring, he sheds on all the
reflection of his own enchantment.

In manhood, when the thoughts are more grave and fixed, when the heart
is more constant, the will more firm, and resolutions more lasting;
when the conduct which governs the destinies of life is subjected
to rule, and, as it were, confirmed in its faith, this mysterious
passion continues to agitate the heart of man, and it torments him
with unceasing disquietude. We only observe that the passion is become
stronger and more energetic, owing to the development of the physical
organization; the pride which inspires man with independence of life,
the feeling of greater strength, and the abundance of new powers,
render him more decided, bold, and violent; while the warnings and
lessons of experience have made him more provident and crafty. We
no longer see the candor of his earlier years. He now knows how to
calculate; he is able to approach his object by covert ways, and to
choose the surest means. Woe to the man who does not provide in time
against such an enemy! His existence will be consumed by a fever of
agitation; amid disquietudes and torments, if he does not die in the
flower of his age, he will grow old still ruled by this fatal passion;
it will accompany him to the tomb, surrounding him, in his last days,
with those repulsive and hideous forms which are exhibited in a
countenance furrowed by years, and in eyes which are already veiled by
the shades of death.

What plan should be adopted to restrain this passion, to confine it
within just limits, and prevent its bringing misfortune to individuals,
disorder to families, and confusion to society? The invariable rule
of Catholicity, in the morality which she teaches, as well as in the
institutions which she establishes, is repression; Catholicism does not
allow a desire she declares to be culpable in the eyes of God; even a
look, when accompanied by an impure thought. Why this severity? For two
reasons; on account of the intrinsic morality which there is in this
prohibition; and also, because there is profound wisdom in stifling the
evil at its birth. It is certainly easier to prevent a man's consenting
to evil desires, than it is to hinder his gratifying them when he has
allowed them to enter his inflamed heart. There is profound reason in
securing tranquillity to the soul, by not allowing it to remain, like
Tantalus, with the water at his burning lips. "Quid vis videre, quod
non licet habere?" Why do you wish to see that which you are forbidden
to possess? is the wise observation of the author of the admirable
Imitation of Christ; thus summing up, in a few words, all the prudence
which is contained in the holy severity of the Christian doctrine.

The ties of marriage, by assigning a legitimate object to the passions,
still do not dry up the source of agitation and the capricious
restlessness which the heart conceals. Possession cloys and disgusts,
beauty fades and decays, the illusions vanish, and the charms
disappear; man, in the presence of a reality which is far from reaching
the beauty of the dreams inspired by his ardent imagination, feels new
desires arise in his heart; tired with what he possesses, he entertains
new illusions; he seeks elsewhere the ideal happiness which he thought
he had found, and quits the unpleasing reality which thus deceives his
brightest hopes.

Give, then, the reins to the passions of man; allow him in any way to
entertain the illusion that he can make himself any new ties; permit
him to believe that he is not attached for ever, and without recall, to
the companion of his life; and you will see that disgust will soon take
possession of him, that discord will be more violent and striking,
that the ties will begin to wear out before they are contracted, and
will break at the first shock. Proclaim, on the contrary, a law which
makes no exception of poor or rich, weak or powerful, vassals or kings,
which makes no allowance for difference of situation, of character,
health, or any of those numberless motives which, in the hands of
passions, and especially those of powerful men, are easily changed into
pretexts; proclaim that this law is from heaven, show a divine seal
on the marriage tie, tell the murmuring passions that if they will
gratify themselves they must do so by immorality; tell them that the
power which is charged with the preservation of this divine law will
never make criminal compliances, that it will never dispense with the
infraction of the divine law, and that the crime will never be without
remorse; you will then see the passions become calm and resigned; the
law will be diffused and strengthened, will take root in customs; you
will have secured the good order and tranquillity of families for ever,
and society will be indebted to you for an immense benefit. Now this is
exactly what Catholicity has done, by efforts which lasted for ages;
it is what Protestantism would have destroyed, if Europe had generally
followed its doctrine and example, if the people had not been wiser
than their deceitful guides.

Protestants and false philosophers, examining the doctrines and
institutions of the Catholic Church through their prejudices and
animosity, have not understood the admirable power of the two
characteristics impressed at all times and in all places on the
ideas and works of Catholicity, viz. _unity and fixity_; _unity_ in
doctrines, and _fixity_ in conduct. Catholicity points out an object,
and wishes us to pursue it straight forward. It is a reproach to
philosophers and Protestants, that after having declaimed against unity
of doctrine, they also declaimed against fixity of conduct. If they had
reflected on man, they would have understood that this fixity is the
secret of guiding and ruling him, and, when desirable of restraining
his passions, of exalting his mind when necessary, and of rendering
him capable of great sacrifices and heroic actions. There is nothing
worse for man than uncertainty and indecision; nothing that weakens
and tends more to make him useless. Indecision is to the will what
skepticism is to the mind. Give a man a definite object, and if he will
devote himself to it, he will attain it. Let him hesitate between two
different ways, without a fixed rule to guide his conduct; let him be
ignorant of his intention; let him not know whither he is going, and
you will see his energy relax, his strength diminish, and he will stop.
Do you know by what secret great minds govern the world? Do you know
what renders them capable of heroic actions? And how all those who
surround them are rendered so? It is that they have a fixed object,
both for themselves and for others; it is that they see that object
clearly, desire it ardently, strive after it directly, with firm hope
and lively faith, without allowing any hesitation in themselves or in
others. Alexander, Cæsar, Napoleon, and the other heroes of ancient
and modern times, no doubt exercised a fascinating influence by the
ascendency of their genius; but the secret of this ascendency, the
secret of their power, and of that force of impulse by which they
surmounted all, was the unity of thought, the fixity of plan, which
produced in them that invincible, irresistible character which gave
them an immense superiority over other men. Thus Alexander passed the
Granicus, undertook and completed his wonderful conquest of Asia; thus
Cæsar passed the Rubicon, put Pompey to flight, triumphed at Pharsalia,
and made himself master of the world; thus did Napoleon disperse
those who parleyed about the fate of France, conquered his enemies at
Marengo, obtained the crown of Charlemagne, alarmed and astonished the
world by the victories of Austerlitz and Jena.

Without unity there is no order, without fixity there is no stability;
and in the moral as in the physical world, without order and stability
nothing prospers. Protestantism, which has pretended to advance the
individual and society by destroying religious unity, has introduced
into creeds and institutions the multiplicity and fickleness of private
judgment; it has everywhere spread confusion and disorder, and has
altered the nature of European civilization by inoculating it with
a disastrous principle which has caused and will continue to cause
lamentable evils. And let it not be supposed, that Catholicity, on
account of the unity of her doctrines and the fixity of her conduct,
is opposed to the progress of ages. There is nothing to prevent that
which is _one_ from advancing, and there may be movement in a system
which has some fixed points. The universe whose grandeur astonishes
us, whose prodigies fill us with admiration, whose beauty and variety
enchant us, is united, is ruled by laws constant and fixed. Behold some
of the reasons which justify the strictness of Catholicity, behold why
she has not been able to comply with the demands of a passion which,
once let loose, has no boundary or barrier, introduces trouble into
hearts, disorder into families, takes away the dignity of manners,
dishonors the modesty of women, and lowers them from the noble rank
of the companions of men. I do not deny that Catholicity is strict
on this point; but she could not give up this strictness without
renouncing at the same time the sublime functions of the depository of
sound morality, the vigilant sentinel which guards the destinies of



We have seen, in the fifteenth chapter, with what jealousy Catholicity
endeavors to veil the secrets of modesty; with what perseverance she
imposes the restraint of morality on the most impetuous passion of
the human heart. She shows us all the importance which belongs to
the contrary virtue, by crowning with peerless splendor the total
abstinence from sensual pleasure, viz. virginity. Frivolous minds,
and principally those who are inspired by a voluptuous heart, do not
understand how much Catholicity has thus contributed to the elevation
of woman; but such will not be the case with reflecting men who are
capable of seeing that all that tends to raise to the highest degree
of delicacy the feeling of modesty, all that fortifies morality, all
that contributes to make a considerable number of women models of the
most heroic virtue, equally tends to place women above the atmosphere
of gross passion. Woman then ceases to be presented to the eyes of man
as the mere instrument of pleasure; none of the attractions with which
nature has endowed her are lost or diminished, and she has no longer to
dread becoming an object of contempt and disgust, after having been the
unhappy victim of profligacy.

The Catholic Church is profoundly acquainted with these truths; and
while she watched over the sanctity of the conjugal tie, while she
created in the bosom of the family this admirable dignity of the
matron, she covered with a mysterious veil the countenance of the
Christian virgin, and she carefully guarded the spouses of the Lord in
the seclusion of the sanctuary. It was reserved for Luther, the gross
profaner of Catharine de Boré, to act in defiance of the profound
and delicate wisdom of the Church on this point. After the apostate
monk had violated the sacred seal set by religion on the nuptial bed,
his was the unchaste hand to tear away the sacred veil of virgins
consecrated to God: it was worthy of his hard heart to excite the
cupidity of princes, to induce them to seize upon the possessions
of these defenceless virgins, and expel them from their abodes. See
him everywhere excite the flame of sensuality, and break through all
control. What will become of virgins devoted to the sanctuary? Like
timid doves, will they not fall into the snares of the libertine? Is
this the way to increase the respect paid to the female sex? Is this
the way to increase the feeling of modesty and to advance humanity?
Was this the way in which Luther gave a generous impulse to future
generations, perfected the human mind, and gave vigor and splendor to
refinement and civilization? What man with a tender and sensitive heart
can endure the shameless declamation of Luther, especially if he has
read the Cyprians, the Ambroses, the Jeromes, and the other shining
lights of the Catholic Church, on the sublime honor of the Christian
virgin? Who, then, will object to see, during ages when the most savage
barbarism prevailed, those secluded dwellings where the spouses of the
Lord secured themselves from the dangers of the world, incessantly
employed in raising their hands to heaven, to draw down upon the earth
the dews of divine mercy? In times and countries the most civilized,
how sad is the contrast between the asylums of the purest and loftiest
virtue, and the ocean of dissipation and profligacy! Were these abodes
a remnant of ignorance, a monument of fanaticism, which the coryphæi of
Protestantism did well to sweep from the earth? If this be so, let us
protest against all that is noble and disinterested; let us stifle in
our hearts all enthusiasm for virtue; let every thing be reduced to the
grossest sensuality; let the painter throw away his pencil, the poet
his lyre; let us forget our greatness and our dignity; let us degrade
ourselves, saying, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die!"

No; true civilization can never forgive Protestantism for this immoral
and impious work; true civilization can never forgive it for having
violated the sanctuary of modesty and innocence, for having employed
all its efforts to destroy respect for virginity; thus treading under
foot a doctrine professed by all the human race. It did not respect
what was venerated by the Greeks in the priestesses of Ceres, by the
Romans in their vestals, by the Gauls in their druidesses, by the
Germans in their prophetesses. It has carried the want of respect for
modesty farther than was ever done by the dissolute nations of Asia,
and the barbarians of the new world. It is certainly a disgrace for
Europe to have attacked what was respected in all parts of the world,
to have treated as a mistaken prejudice the universal belief of the
human race, sanctioned, moreover, by Christianity. What invasion of
barbarians was equal to this attack of Protestantism on all that ought
to be most inviolable among men? It has set the fatal example in modern
revolutions of the crimes which have been committed.

When we see, in warlike rage, the barbarity of the conquerors remove
all restraint from a licentious soldiery, and let them loose against
the abodes of virgins consecrated to God, there is nothing but what
may be conceived. But when these holy institutions are persecuted by
system, when the passions of the populace are excited against them, by
grossly assailing their origin and object, this is more than brutal and
inhuman. It is a thing which cannot be described, when those who act in
this way boast of being Reformers, followers of the pure Gospel, and
proclaim themselves the disciples of Him who, in His sublime councils,
has pointed out virginity as one of the noblest virtues that can adorn
the Christian's crown. Now, who is ignorant that this was one of the
works to which Protestantism devoted itself with the greatest ardor?

Woman without modesty will be an incentive to sensuality, but will
never attract the soul by the mysterious feeling which is called love.
It is very remarkable, that although the most urgent desire of the
heart of woman is to please, yet as soon as she forgets modesty she
becomes displeasing and disgusting. Thus it is wisely ordained that
what wounds her heart the most sharply, becomes the punishment of her
fault. Hence, every thing that maintains in woman the delicate feeling
of modesty, elevates her, adorns her, gives her greater ascendency
over the heart of man, and creates for her a distinguished place in
the domestic as well as in the social order. These truths were not
understood by Protestantism when it condemned virginity. It is true
this virtue is not a necessary condition of modesty, but it is its
_beau idéal_ and type of perfection; and certainly we cannot destroy
this model, by denying its beauty, by condemning its imitation as
injurious, without doing great injury to modesty itself, which,
continually struggling against the most powerful passion of the heart
of man, cannot be preserved in all its purity, unless it be accompanied
by the greatest precautions. Like a flower of infinite delicacy, of
ravishing colours, of the sweetest perfume, it can scarcely support
the slightest breath of wind; its beauty is destroyed with extreme
facility, and its perfume readily evaporates.

But you will perhaps urge against virginity the injury which it does to
population; you will consider the offerings which are made on the altar
by this virtue as so much taken from the multiplication of the human
race. Fortunately the observations of the most distinguished political
economists have destroyed this delusion, originated by Protestantism,
and supported by the incredulous philosophy of the 18th century. Facts
have shown, in a convincing manner, two truths of equal importance in
vindicating Catholic doctrines and institutions; 1, that the happiness
of nations is not necessarily in proportion to the increase of their
population; 2, that the augmentation and diminution of the population
depend on many concurrent causes; that religious celibacy, if it be
among them, has an insignificant influence.

A false religion and an illegitimate and egotistical philosophy have
attempted to assimilate the secrets of this increase of the human race
to that of other living beings. All idea of religion has been taken
away; they have seen in humanity only a vast field where nothing was to
be left sterile. Thus they have prepared the way for the doctrine which
considers individuals as machines from which all possible profit should
be drawn. No more was thought of charity, or the sublime instructions
of religion with respect to the dignity and destinies of man; thus
industry has become cruel, and the organization of labor, established
on a basis purely material, increases the present, but fearfully
menaces the future well-being of the rich.

How profound are the designs of Providence! The nation which has
carried these fatal principles to the fullest extent now finds itself
overcharged with men and products. Frightful misery devours her most
numerous classes, and all the ability of her rulers will not be able to
avoid the rock she is running on, urged by the power of the elements to
which she has abandoned herself. The eminent professors of Oxford who,
it seems, begin to see the radical vices of Protestantism, would find
here a rich subject for meditation, if they would examine how far the
pretended reformers of the 16th century have contributed, in preparing
the critical situation in which England finds herself, in spite of her
immense progress.

In the physical world all is disposed by number, weight, and measure;
the laws of the universe show infinite calculation--infinite geometry;
but let us not imagine that we can express all by our imperfect signs,
and include every thing in our limited combinations; let us, above all,
avoid the foolish error of assimilating too much the moral and the
physical world--of applying indiscriminately to the first what only
belongs to the second, and of upsetting by our pride the mysterious
harmony of the creation. Man is not born simply for multiplication of
his species; this is not the only part which he is intended to perform
in the great machine of the universe; he is a being according to the
image and likeness of God--a being who has his proper destiny--a
destiny superior to all that surrounds him on earth. Do not debase him,
do not level him with the earth, by inspiring him with earthly thoughts
alone; do not oppress his heart, by depriving him of noble and elevated
sentiments--by leaving him no taste for any but material enjoyments.
If religious thoughts lead him to an austere life--if the inclination
to sacrifice the pleasures of this life on the altar of the God whom
he adores takes possession of his heart--why should you hinder him?
What right have you to despise a feeling which certainly requires
greater strength of mind than is necessary for abandoning one's self to

These considerations, which affect both sexes, have still greater force
when they are applied to the female. With her lively imagination,
her feeling heart, and ardent mind, she has greater need than man of
serious inspiration, of grave, solemn thoughts, to counterbalance the
activity with which she flies from object to object, receiving with
extreme facility impressions of every thing she touches, and, like a
magnetic agent, communicating them in her turn to all that surrounds
her. Allow, then, a portion of that sex to devote itself to a life of
contemplation and austerity; allow young girls and matrons to have
always before their eyes a model of all the virtues--a sublime type
of their noblest ornament, which is modesty. This will certainly not
be without utility. Be assured, these virgins are not taken away from
their families, nor from society--both will recover with usury what you
imagine they have lost.

In fact, who can measure the salutary influence which the sacred
ceremonies with which the Catholic Church celebrates the consecration
of a virgin to God, must have exercised on female morals! Who can
calculate the holy thoughts, the chaste inspirations which have gone
forth from those silent abodes of modesty, erected sometimes in
solitary places, and sometimes in crowded cities! Do you not believe
that the virgin whose heart begins to be agitated by an ardent passion,
that the matron who has allowed dangerous feelings to enter her soul,
have not often found their passions restrained by the remembrance of
a sister, a relative, a friend, who, in one of these silent abodes,
raises her pure heart to Heaven, offering as a holocaust to the Divine
Son of the blessed Virgin all the enchantments of youth and beauty?
All this cannot be calculated, it is true; but this, at least, is
certain, that no thought of levity, no inclination to sensuality has
arisen therefrom. All this cannot be estimated; but can we estimate
the salutary influence exercised by the morning dew upon plants? can
we estimate the vivifying effect of light upon nature? and can we
understand how the water which filters through the bowels of the earth
fertilizes it by producing fruits and flowers?

There is, then, an infinity of causes of which we cannot deny the
existence and the power, but which it is nevertheless impossible to
submit to rigorous examination. The cause of the impotence of every
work exclusively emanating from the mind of man is, that his mind is
incapable of embracing the _ensemble_ of the relations which exist in
facts of this kind; it is impossible for him to appreciate properly the
indirect influences--sometimes hidden, sometimes imperceptible--which
act there with an infinite delicacy. This is the reason why time
dispels so many illusions, belies so many prognostics, proves the
weakness of what was reckoned strong, and the strength of what was
considered weak. Indeed, time brings to light a thousand relations, the
existence of which was not suspected, and puts into action a thousand
causes which were either unknown or despised: the results advance in
their development, appearing every day in a more evident manner, until
at length we find ourselves in such a situation that we can no longer
shut our eyes to the evidence of facts, or any longer evade their force.

One of the greatest mistakes made by the opponents of Catholicity is
this. They can only see things under one aspect; they do not understand
how a force can act otherwise than in a straight line; they do not see
that the moral world, as well as the physical, is composed of relations
infinitely varied, and of indirect influences, sometimes acting with
more force than if they were direct. All form a system correlative and
harmonious, the parts of which it is necessary to avoid separating,
more than is absolutely needful for becoming acquainted with the hidden
and delicate ties which connect the whole. It is necessary, moreover,
to allow for the action of time, that indispensable element in all
complete development, in every lasting work.

I trust I shall be pardoned for this short digression, necessary for
the inculcation of the great truths which have not been sufficiently
attended to in examining the great institutions founded by Catholicity.
Philosophy is now compelled to withdraw propositions advanced too
boldly, and to modify principles applied too generally. It would
have avoided this trouble and mortification by being cautious and
circumspect in its investigations. In league with Protestantism,
it declared deadly war against the great Catholic institutions; it
loudly appealed against moral and religious centralization. And now
a unanimous shout is raised from all quarters of the world in favour
of the principle of unity. The instinct of nations seeks for it;
philosophers examine the secrets of science to discover it. Vain
efforts! No other foundation can be established than that which is
already laid; duration depends upon solidity.



An indefatigable zeal for the sanctity of marriage, and an anxious
solicitude to carry the principle of modesty to the highest degree
of delicacy, are the two rules which have guided Catholicity in her
efforts for the elevation of woman. These are the two great means she
has employed in attaining her object, and hence comes the influence
and importance of women in Europe. M. Guizot is, therefore, wrong in
saying that "it is to the development, to the necessary preponderance
of domestic manners in the feudal system, that this change, this
improvement in their condition is chiefly owing." I will not discuss
the greater or less influence of the feudal system on the development
of European manners. Undoubtedly when the feudal lord "shall have his
wife, his children, and scarcely any others in his house, they alone
will form his permanent society; they alone will share his interests,
his destiny. It is impossible for domestic influence not to acquire
great power." (_Leçon 4._) But if the lord, returning to his castle,
found one wife there, and not many, to what was that owing? Who forbade
him to abuse his power by turning his house into a harem? Who bridled
his passions and prevented his making victims of his timid vassals?
Surely these were the doctrines and morals introduced into Europe,
and deeply rooted there by the Catholic Church; it was the strict
laws which she imposed as a barrier to the invasions of the passions;
therefore, even if we suppose that feudality did produce this good, it
is still owing to the Catholic Church.

That which has no doubt tended to exaggerate the influence of feudality
in all that raises and ennobles women, is a fact that appears very
evidently at that period, and is dazzling at first sight. This is the
brilliant spirit of chivalry, which, rising out of the bosom of the
feudal system, and rapidly diffusing itself, produced the most heroic
actions, gave birth to a literature rich in imagination and feeling,
and contributed in great measure to soften and humanize the savage
manners of the feudal lords. This period is particularly distinguished
for the spirit of gallantry; not the gallantry which consists generally
in the tender relations of the two sexes, but a greatly exaggerated
gallantry on the part of man, combining, in a remarkable way, the most
heroic courage with the most lively faith and the most ardent religion.
God and his lady; such is the constant thought of the knight; this
absorbs all his faculties, occupies all his time, and fills up all
his existence. As long as he can obtain a victory over the infidels,
and is supported by the hope of offering at the feet of his lady the
trophies of his triumph, no sacrifice costs him any thing, no journey
fatigues, no danger affrights, no enterprise discourages him. His
excited imagination transports him into a world of fancy; his heart
is on fire; he undertakes all, he finishes all; and the man who has
just fought like a lion on the plains of Spain, or of Palestine, melts
like wax at the name of the idol of his heart; then he turns his eyes
amorously towards his country, and is intoxicated with the idea that
one day, sighing under the castle of his beloved, he may obtain a
pledge of her affection, or a promise of love. Woe to any one who is
bold enough to dispute his treasure, or indiscreet enough to fix his
eyes on those battlements. The lioness who has been robbed of her cubs
is not more terrible, the forest torn to pieces by the hurricane is
not more agitated than his heart; nothing can stop his vengeance, _he
must destroy his rival or die_. In examining this mixture of mildness
and ferocity, of religion and passion, which, no doubt, has been
exaggerated by the fancies of chroniclers and troubadours, but which
must have had a real type, we shall observe that it was very natural
at that time, and that it is not so contradictory as it appears at
first sight. Indeed, nothing was more natural than violent passions
among men whose ancestors, not long before, had come from the forests
of the north to pitch their bloody tents on the site of ruined cities;
nothing was more natural than that there should be no other judge than
strength of arm among men whose only profession was war, and who lived
in an embryo society, where there was no public law strong enough to
restrain private passions. Nothing, too, was more natural to those
men than a lively sense of religion, for religion was the only power
which they acknowledged; she had enchanted their imaginations by the
splendour and magnificence of her temples, by the majesty and pomp of
her worship. She had filled them with astonishment, by placing before
their eyes the most sublime virtue, by addressing them in language as
lofty as it was sweet and insinuating; language, no doubt, imperfectly
understood by them, but which, nevertheless, convinced them of the
holiness and divinity of the Christian mysteries and precepts, inspired
them with respect and admiration, and also exercising a powerful
influence on their minds, enkindled enthusiasm and produced heroism.
Thus we see that all that was good in this exalted sentiment emanated
from religion; if we take away faith, we shall find nothing but the
barbarian, who knew no other law than his spear, and no other rule of
conduct than the inspirations of his fiery soul.

The more we penetrate into the spirit of chivalry and examine in
particular the feelings which it professed towards women, the more
we shall see that, instead of raising them, it supposes them already
raised and surrounded by respect. Chivalry does not give a new place
to women; it finds them already honoured and respected; and indeed,
if it were not so, how could it imagine a gallantry so exaggerated,
so fantastical? But if we imagine to ourselves the beauty of a virgin
covered by the veil of Christian modesty; if we imagine this charm
increased by illusion, we shall then understand the madness of the
knight. If we imagine, at the same time, the virtuous matron, the
companion of man, the mother of a family, the only woman in whom were
concentrated all the affections of husband and children, the Christian
wife, we shall understand why the knight was intoxicated at the mere
idea of obtaining so much happiness, why his love was more than a
sensual feeling, it was a respect, a veneration, a worship.

It has been attempted to find the origin of this kind of worship in
the manners of the Germans; on the strength of some expressions of
Tacitus, the social amelioration of woman's lot has been attributed
to the respect with which the barbarians surrounded her. M. Guizot
rejects this assertion, and justly combats it by observing that what
Tacitus tells us of the Germans was not exclusively applicable to
them, since "phrases similar to those of Tacitus, and sentiments and
customs analogous to those of the ancient Germans, are met with in the
statements of many observers of savage or barbarous nations." Yet in
spite of this wise remark, the same opinion has been maintained: it is
necessary, then, to combat it again.

The passage of Tacitus is this: "Inesse quin etiam sanctum aliquid
et providum putant, nec aut consilia eorum aspernantur, aut responsa
negligunt. Vidimus sub Divo Vespasiano Velledam diu apud plerosque
numinis loco habitare." (_De Mor. Germ._) "They go so far as to think
that there is in women something holy and prophetical; they do not
despise their counsels, and they listen to their predictions. In the
time of the divine Vespasian, we have seen the greater part of them
for a long time regard Velleda as a goddess." It seems to me that it
is mistaking the passage of Tacitus, to extend its meaning to domestic
manners, and to see in it a trait of married life. If we attend to
the historian's words, we shall see that such an explanation is far
from his idea. His words only relate to the superstition which made
the people attribute to some women the prophetic character. Even the
example chosen by Tacitus serves to show the truth and justness of
this observation. "Velleda," he says, "was regarded as a goddess." In
another part of his works, Tacitus explains his idea by telling us, of
this same Velleda, "that this girl of the nation of Bructeres enjoyed
great power, owing to an ancient custom among the Germans, which made
them look upon many women as prophetesses, and, in fine, with the
progress of superstition, as real divinities." "Ea virgo nationis
Bructeræ late imperitabat, vetere apud Germanos more quo plerasque
fœminarum fatidicas et augescente superstitione arbitrantur deas."
(_Hist. 4._) The text which I have just quoted proves to demonstration
that Tacitus speaks of superstition and not of family regulations,
very different things; as it might easily happen that some women were
regarded as divinities, while the rest of their sex only occupied a
place in society inferior to that which belonged to them. At Athens,
great importance was given to the priestesses of Ceres; at Rome to the
Vestals, the Pythonesses; and the history of the Sibyls shows that it
was not peculiar to the Germans to attribute the prophetical character
to women. It is not for me now to explain the cause of these facts;
it is enough for my purpose to state them; perhaps, on this point,
physiology might throw light on the philosophy of history.

When Tacitus, in the same work, describes the severity of the manners
of the Germans with respect to marriage, it is easy to observe that
the order of superstition and the order of the family were among them
very different. We have no longer here any thing of the _sanctum et
providum_; we find only a jealous austerity in maintaining the line
of duty; and we see woman, instead of being regarded as a goddess,
given up to the vengeance of the husband, if she has been unfaithful.
This curious passage proves that the power of man over woman was not
much limited by the customs of the Germans. "Accisis crinibus," says
Tacitus, "nudatam coram propinquis expellit domo maritus, ac per omnem
vicum verbere agit." "After having cut off her hair, the husband drives
her from his house in presence of her relations, and beats her with
rods ignominiously through the village." Certainly this punishment
gives us an idea of the infamy which was attached to adultery among
the Germans; but it was little calculated to increase the respect
entertained for them publicly; this would have been greater had they
been stoned to death.

When we read in Tacitus the description of the social state of the
Germans, we must not forget that some traits of their manners are
purposely embellished by him, which is very natural for a writer of his
sentiments. We must not forget that Tacitus was indignant and afflicted
at the sight of the fearful corruption of manners at that time in Rome.
He paints, it is true, in glowing colours, the sanctity of marriage
among the Germans; but who does not see that, when doing so, he had
before his eyes matrons who, according to Seneca, reckoned their years
not by the succession of consuls, but by change of husbands, and women
without a shadow of modesty, given up to the greatest profligacy?
We can easily see to whom he alludes when he makes these severe
remarks: "Nemo enim illic vitia ridet, nec corrumpere et corrumpi
sæculum vocatur." "There vice is not laughed at, and corruption is
not called the fashion." A strong expression, which describes the
age, and explains to us the secret joy with which Tacitus cast in the
face of Rome, so refined and so corrupted, the pure image of German
manners. That which sharpened the raillery of Juvenal andenvenomed
his bitter satires, excited the indignation of Tacitus, and drew from
his grave philosophy these severe reprimands. Other information which
we possess shows us that the pictures of Tacitus are embellished, and
that the manners of this people were far from being as pure as he
wishes to persuade us. Perhaps they may have been strict with respect
to marriage; but it is certain that polygamy was not unknown among
them. Cæsar, an eye-witness, relates, that the German king Ariovistus
had two wives (_De Bello Gallico_, l. i.); and this was not a solitary
instance, for Tacitus himself tells us that a few of them had several
wives at once, not on account of sensuality, but for distinction.
"Exceptis admodum paucis, qui non libidine, sed ob nobilitatem,
pluribus nuptiis ambiuntur." This distinction, _non libidine sed ob
nobilitatem_, is amusing; but it is clear that the kings and nobles,
under one pretence or another, allowed themselves greater liberty than
the severe historian would have approved of.

Who can tell what was the state of morality among those forests? If we
may be allowed to conjecture by analogy, from the resemblance which
may naturally be supposed to exist among the different nations of
the North, what an idea might we conceive of it from certain customs
of the Britons, who, in bodies of ten or twelve, had their wives in
common; chiefly brothers with brothers, and fathers with sons; so
that they were compelled to distinguish the families conventionally,
by giving the children to him who had first married the woman! It is
from Cæsar, an eye-witness, that we also learn this: "Uxores habent
(Britanni) deni duodenique inter se communes, et maxime fratres cum
fratribus et parentes cum liberis; sed si qui sunt ex his nati, eorum
habentur liberi a quibus primum virgines quæque ductæ sunt." (_De Bello
Gallico_, l. v.)

However this may have been, it is at least certain that the principle
of monogamy was not so much respected among the Germans as people
have been willing to suppose; an exception was made in favour of the
nobles, that is, of the powerful; and that was enough to deprive the
principle of all its force, and to prepare its ruin. In such a matter,
to establish an exception to the law in favour of the powerful, is
almost to abrogate it. It may be said, I admit, that the powerful
will never want means of violating it; but it is one thing for the
powerful to violate the law, and another for the law itself to retire
before them, leaving the way open: in the first case, the employment
of force does not destroy the law--the very shock which breaks it,
makes its existence felt, and visibly shows the wrong and injustice;
in the second case, the law prostitutes itself, if I may so speak; the
passions have no need of force to open for themselves a passage, the
law itself opens the door for them. From that time it remains degraded
and disgraced; its own baseness has undermined the moral principle
on which it was founded; and, owing to its own fault, it becomes
itself the subject of animadversion to those who are still compelled
to observe it. Thus the right of polygamy, once recognised among the
Germans in favour of the great, must, with time, have become general
among the other classes of the people; and it is very probable that
this was the case when the conquest of more productive countries, the
enjoyment of more genial climates, and some improvement in their social
condition furnished them more abundantly with the means of gratifying
their inclinations. An evil so great could only be withstood by the
inflexible severity of the Catholic Church. Nobles and kings still had
a strong inclination towards the privileges which we have seen their
predecessors enjoying before they embraced the Christian religion.
Thence it came that, in the first centuries after the irruption of
the barbarians, the Church had so much trouble in restraining their
violent inclinations. Would not those who have endeavored to find among
the Germans so large a portion of the constitutive elements of modern
civilization have shown more wisdom, if they had recognised, in the
manners which we have been examining, one of the causes which made the
struggles between the secular princes and the Church so frequent?

I do not see why we should seek in the forests of the barbarians for
the origin of one of the finest attributes of our civilization, or why
we should give to those nations virtues of which they showed so little
evidence when they invaded the countries of the south.

Without monuments, without history--almost without any index as to
their social condition--it is difficult, not to say impossible, to
know any thing certain with respect to their manners; but I ask, what
must have been their morality, in the midst of such ignorance, such
superstition, and such barbarism?

The little that we know about these nations has been necessarily taken
from the Roman historians; and unfortunately this is not one of the
purest sources. It almost always happens that observers, especially
when they are conquerors, only give some slight notions with regard
to the political state of a people, and are almost silent as to their
social and domestic condition. In order to form an idea of this part of
the condition of a nation, it is necessary to mingle with them, and be
intimate with them; now this is generally prevented by their different
states of civilization, especially when the observers and the observed
are exasperated against each other by long years of war and slaughter.
Add to this, that, in such cases, the attention is particularly
attracted by what favors or opposes the designs of the conquerors,
who for the most part attach no great importance to moral subjects;
this will show us how it is that nations who are observed in this way
are only superficially known, and why such statements with respect to
religion and manners are unworthy of much confidence.

The reader will judge whether these reflections are out of place in
estimating the value of what the Romans have told us about the state
of the barbarians. It is enough to fix our eyes on the scenes of blood
and horror prevailing for centuries, which show us, on the one hand,
the ambition of Rome, which, not content with the empire of the then
known world, wished to extend its power over the most distant forests
of the North; and, on the other, the indomitable spirit of barbarian
independence, breaking in pieces the chains which were attempted
to be imposed upon them, and destroying, by their bold incursions,
the ramparts which the skill of the Roman generals labored to raise
against them. See, then, what we ought to think of barbarian society,
as described by Roman historians. What shall we think, if we consult
the few traits which the barbarians themselves have left us, of
their manners and maxims with respect to their social condition? It
is always risking much to seek in barbarism for the origin of one
of the most beautiful results of civilization, and to attribute to
vague and superstitious feelings what, during centuries, forms the
normal state of the most advanced nations. If these noble sentiments,
which are represented to us as emanating from the barbarians, really
existed among them, how did they avoid perishing in the midst of their
migrations and revolutions? How did they alone remain, when every thing
relating to the social condition of the barbarians disappeared?

These sentiments would not have been preserved in a stationary state,
but we should have seen them stripped of their superstition and
grossness, purified, ennobled, and made reasonable, just, salutary,
chivalrous, and worthy of civilized nations. Such assertions have,
from the first sight, the character of bold paradoxes. Certainly, when
we have to explain great phenomena in the social order, it is rather
more philosophical to seek for their origin in ideas which for a long
time have exercised a powerful influence on society, in manners and
institutions emanating from them, in laws, in fine, which have been
recognised and respected for many centuries as established by Divine

Why, then, attempt to explain the respect in which women are held in
Europe, by the superstitious veneration which barbarous nations offered
in their forests to Velleda, Aurinia, and Gauna? Reason and good sense
tell us that the real origin of this wonderful phenomenon is not to
be found there, and that we must seek elsewhere for the causes which
have contributed to produce it. History reveals to us these causes,
and renders them palpable to us, by showing us facts which leave no
doubt as to the source whence this powerful and salutary influence
emanated. Before Christianity, woman, oppressed by the tyranny of man,
was scarcely raised above the rank of slavery; her weakness condemned
her to be the victim of the strong. The Christian religion, by its
doctrines of fraternity in Jesus Christ, and equality before God,
destroys the evil in its root, by teaching man that woman ought not
to be his slave, but his companion. From that moment the amelioration
of woman's lot was felt wherever Christianity was spread; and woman,
as far as the degradation of ancient manners allowed, began to gather
the fruit of a doctrine which was to make a complete change in her
condition, by giving her a new existence. This is one of the principal
causes of the amelioration of woman's lot: a sensible, palpable cause,
which is easily shown without making any gratuitous supposition, a
cause which is not founded on conjecture, but which appears evident on
the first glance at the most notorious facts of history.

Moreover, Catholicity, by the severity of its morality, by the lofty
protection which it affords to the delicate feeling of modesty,
corrected and purified manners; thus it very much elevated woman, whose
dignity is incompatible with corruption and licentiousness. In fine,
Catholicity itself, or the Catholic Church, (and observe, I do not say
Christianity,) by its firmness in establishing and preserving monogamy
and the indissolubility of the marriage tie, restrained the caprices
of man, and made him concentrate his affections on one wife, who could
not be divorced. Thus woman passed from a state of slavery to that of
the companion of man. The instrument of pleasure was changed into the
mother of a family, respected by her children and servants. Thus was
created in the family identity of interests; thus was guarantied the
education of children, which produced the close intimacy which among
us unites husband and wife, parents and children. The atrocious right
of life and death was destroyed; the father had not even the right
to inflict punishments too severe; and all this admirable system was
strengthened by ties strong but mild, was based on the principles
of sound morality, sustained by prevailing manners, guarantied and
protected by the laws, fortified by reciprocal interests, sanctioned by
time, and endeared by love. This is the truly satisfactory explanation
of the enigma; this is the origin of the honor and dignity of woman
in Europe; thence we have derived the organization of the family,--an
inestimable benefit which Europeans possess without appreciating it,
without being sufficiently acquainted with it, and watching over its
preservation as they ought.

In treating of this important matter, I have purposely distinguished
between Christianity and Catholicity, in order to avoid a confusion in
words, which would have entailed a confusion in things. In reality,
the true, the only Christianity is Catholicity; but, unfortunately,
we cannot now employ these words indiscriminately, not only on
account of Protestantism, but also on account of the monstrous
philosophico-Christian nomenclature which ranks Christianity among
philosophical sects, as if it were nothing more than a system imagined
by man. As the principle of charity plays a great part wherever the
religion of Jesus Christ is found, and as this principle is evident
even to the eyes of the incredulous, philosophers who have wished
to persevere in their incredulity without incurring the scandalous
epithet of disciples of Voltaire, have adopted the words fraternity
and humanity, to make them the theme of their instructions; they have
consented to give to Christianity the chief glory of originating
its sublime ideas and generous sentiments: thus they appear not to
contradict the history of the past as the philosophy of the age gone by
in its madness did; but they pretend to accommodate all to the present
time, and prepare the way for a greater and happier future. For these
philosophers Christianity is not a divine religion; by no means. With
them it is an idea, fortunate, magnificent, and fruitful in grand
results, but purely human; it is the result of long and painful human
labors. Polytheism, Judaism, the philosophy of the East, of Egypt,
of Greece, were all preparatory to that great work. Jesus Christ,
according to them, only moulded into form an idea which was in embryo
in the bosom of humanity. He fixed and developed it, and, by reducing
it to practice, made the human race to take a step of great importance
in the path of progress into which it has entered. But, He is always,
in the eyes of these philosophers, nothing more than a philosopher
of Judea, as Socrates was of Greece, and Seneca of Rome. Still we
should rejoice that they grant to Him this human existence, and do not
transform Him into a mythological being, by considering the Gospel
narrative as a mere allegory.

Thus, at the present time, it is of the first importance to distinguish
between Christianity and Catholicity, whenever we have to bring
to light and present to the gratitude of mankind the unspeakable
benefits for which they are indebted to the Christian religion. It is
necessary to show that what has regenerated the world was not an idea
thrown at hazard among all those who have struggled for preference
and pre-eminence; but that it was a collection of truths sent from
Heaven, transmitted to the human race by a God made Man, by means of
a society formed and authorized by Himself, in order to perpetuate to
the end of time the work which His word had established, which His
miracles had sanctioned, and which He had sealed with His blood. It is
consequently necessary to exhibit this society, that is, the Catholic
Church, realizing in her laws and institutions the inspirations and
instructions of her Divine Master, and accomplishing the lofty mission
of leading men towards eternal happiness, while ameliorating their
condition here below, and consoling them in this land of misfortune. In
this way we form a correct idea of Christianity, if we may so speak,
or rather we show it as it really is, not as men vainly represent it.
And observe, that we ought never to fear for the truth, when the facts
of history are fully and searchingly examined. If in the vast field
into which our investigations lead us, we sometimes find ourselves in
obscurity, walking for a long time in dark vaults which the rays of
the sun do not visit, and where the soil under our feet threatens to
swallow us up, let us fear nothing, let us advance with courage and
confidence; amid the darkest windings we shall discover at a distance
the light that shines upon the end of our journey; we shall see truth
seated on the threshold, placidly smiling at our terrors and anxieties.

To philosophers, as well as to Protestants, we would say, if
Christianity were not realized in a visible society, always in contact
with man, and provided with the authority necessary for teaching and
guiding him, it would be only a theory, like all others that have
been and still are seen on the earth; consequently it would be either
altogether sterile, or at least unable to produce any of those great
works which endure unimpaired for ages. Now one of these is undoubtedly
Christian marriage, and the family organization which has been its
immediate consequence. It would have been vain to advance notions
favorable to the dignity of woman and tending to improve her lot, if
the sanctity of marriage had not been guarantied by a power generally
acknowledged and revered. That power is continually struggling against
the passions which labor to overcome it; what would have happened if
they had had to contend with no other obstacle than a philosophic
theory, or a religious idea without reality in society, and without
power to obtain submission and obedience?

We have, then, no need of recurring to that extravagant philosophy
which seeks for light in the midst of darkness, and which, on seeing
order arise out of chaos, has conceived the singular notion of
affirming that it was produced by it. If we find in the doctrines, in
the laws of the Catholic Church the origin of the sanctity of marriage
and the dignity of woman, why should we seek for it in the manners of
brutal barbarians, who had no veil for modesty and the privacy of the
nuptial couch? Let us hear Cæsar speaking of the Germans: "Nulla est
occultatio, quod et promiscui in fluminibus perluuntur, et pellibus aut
rhenorum tegumentis utuntur, magna corporis parte nuda." (_De Bello
Gall._, l. vi.)

I have been obliged to oppose authority to authority; I was under the
necessity of destroying the fantastical systems into which men have
been seduced by an over love of subtilty, by the mania of finding
extraordinary causes for phenomena, the origin of which may easily
be discovered when we have recourse, in good faith and sincerity, to
the concurring instructions of philosophy and history. It was highly
necessary, in order to clear up one of the most delicate questions in
the history of the human race, and to find the source of one of the
most fruitful elements of European civilization. My task was nothing
less than to explain the organization of families, that is, to fix one
of the poles on which the axis of society turns.

Let Protestantism boast of having introduced divorce, of having
deprived marriage of the beautiful and sublime character of a
sacrament, of having withdrawn from the care and protection of the
Church the most important act of human life; let it rejoice in having
destroyed the sacred asylums of virgins consecrated to God; let it
declaim against the most angelic and heroic virtue; let us, after
having defended the doctrine and conduct of the Catholic Church at
the tribunal of philosophy and history, conclude by appealing to
the judgment, not indeed of high philosophy, but of good sense and



When enumerating, in the twentieth chapter, the characteristics
which mark European civilization, I pointed out, as one of them, "an
admirable public conscience, rich in sublime maxims of morality, in
rules of justice and equity, in sentiments of honor and dignity, a
conscience which survives the shipwreck of private morality, and does
not allow the open corruption to go so far as it did in ancient times."
We must now explain more at length in what this public conscience
consists, what is its origin, what are its results, showing at the
same time what share Catholicity and Protestantism have had in its
formation. This delicate and important question is, I will venture to
say, untouched; at least I do not know that it has yet been attempted.
Men constantly speak of the excellence of Christian morality, and on
this point all the sects, all the schools of Europe are agreed; but
they do not pay sufficient attention to the way in which that morality
has become predominant, by first destroying Pagan corruption, then by
maintaining itself for centuries in spite of the ravages of infidelity,
so as to form an admirable public conscience; a benefit which we now
enjoy without appreciating it as we ought, and without even thinking
of it. In order fully to comprehend this matter, it is above all
necessary to form a clear idea of what is meant by conscience.
Conscience in the general, or rather ideological sense of the word,
means the knowledge which each man has of his own acts. Thus we say
that the soul is conscious of its thoughts, of the acts of its will,
and of its sensations; so that the word conscience, taken in this
sense, expresses a perception of what we do and feel. Applied to the
moral order, this word signifies the judgment which we ourselves form
of our actions as good or evil. Thus, when we are about to perform an
action, conscience points it out to us as good or bad, and consequently
lawful or unlawful; and it thus directs our conduct. The action being
performed, it tells us whether we have done well or ill, it excuses
or condemns us, it rewards us with peace of mind, or punishes us with

This explanation being given, we shall easily understand what is
meant by public conscience; it is nothing but the judgment formed of
their actions by the generality of men. It results from this that,
like private conscience, the public conscience may be right or wrong,
strict or relaxed; and that there must be differences on this point
among societies of men, the same as there are among individuals; that
is to say, that, as in the same society we find men whose consciences
are more or less right or wrong, more or less strict or relaxed, we
must also find societies superior to others in the justice of the
judgment which they form on actions, and in the delicacy of their moral

If we observe closely, we shall see that individual conscience is the
result of widely different causes. It is an error to suppose that
conscience resides solely in the intelligence; it is also rooted in the
heart. It is a judgment, it is true; but we judge of things in a very
different way according to the manner in which we feel them. Add to
this, that the feelings have an immense influence on moral ideas and
actions; the result is, that conscience is formed under the influence
of all the causes which forcibly act on our hearts. Communicate to two
children the same moral principles, by teaching them from the same book
and under the same master; but suppose that one in his own family sees
what he is taught constantly practised, while the other sees there
nothing but indifference to it; suppose, moreover, that these two
children grow up with the same moral and religious conviction, so that
as far as the intellect is concerned there is no difference between
them; nevertheless, do you believe that their judgment of the morality
of actions will be the same? By no means; and why? Because the one has
only convictions, while the other has also feelings. In the one, the
doctrine enlightens the mind; while, in the other, example engraves it
constantly on the heart. Thus what one regards with indifference, the
other looks upon with horror; what the one does with negligence, the
other performs with the greatest care; and the same subject that to one
is of slight interest, is to the other of the highest importance.

Public conscience, which, in fact, is the sum of private consciences,
is subject to the same influences as they are; so that mere instruction
is not enough for it, and it requires the concurrence of other
causes to act on the heart, as well as the mind. When we compare
Christian with pagan society, we instantly see that the former must be
infinitely superior to the latter on this point; not only on account
of the purity of its morality, and the strength of the principles and
motives sanctioning it, but also because it follows the wise course of
continually inculcating this morality, and impressing it strongly on
the mind by constant repetition. By this constant repetition of the
same truths, Christianity has done what other religions never could do;
none of them, indeed, have ever succeeded in organizing and putting
into practice so important a system. But I have said enough on this
point in the fourteenth chapter; it is useless to repeat it here; I
pass on to some observations on the public conscience in Europe.

It cannot be denied that, generally speaking, reason and justice
prevail in that public conscience. If you examine laws and actions,
you will not find those shocking acts of injustice or those revolting
immoralities which are to be met with among other nations. There
are certainly evils, and very grave ones, but they are at least
acknowledged, and called by their right names. We do not hear good
called evil, or evil good; that is to say, society, in certain things,
is like those persons of good principles and bad morals who are
the first to acknowledge that their conduct is blamable, and that
their words and deeds contradict each other. We often lament the
corruption of morals, the profligacy of our large towns; but what is
all the corruption and profligacy of modern society compared with
the debauchery of the ancients? It certainly cannot be denied that
there is a fearful extent of dissoluteness in some of the capitals of
Europe. The records of the police, as well as those of the benevolent
establishments where the fruits of crime are received, show shocking
demoralization. In the highest classes dreadful ravages are caused by
conjugal infidelity, and all sorts of dissipation and disorder; yet
these excesses are very far from reaching the extent which they did
among the best-governed nations of antiquity, the Greeks and Romans. So
that our society, which we so bitterly lament, would have appeared to
them a model of modesty and decorum. Need we call to mind the infamous
vices then so common and so public, and which have scarcely a name
among us now, whether it be because they are so rarely committed, or
because the fear of public conscience forces them to hide themselves
in the dark places, and, so to speak, in the bowels of the earth?
Need we recall to mind the infamies which stain the writings of the
ancients as often as they describe the manners of their times? Names
illustrious in science and in arms have passed down to posterity
with stains so black that we cannot consent to describe them. Now,
how corrupt must have been the state of the other classes, when such
degradation was attributed to men who, by their elevated positions or
other circumstances, were the lights of society!

You talk of the avarice which is so prevalent now-a-days; but look at
the usurers of antiquity who sucked the blood of the people everywhere;
read the satirical poets, and you will see what was the state of
manners on this point; consult, in fine, the annals of the Church, and
you will see what pains she took to diminish the effects of this vice;
read the history of ancient Rome, and you will find the _cursed thirst
for gold_, and lenders without mercy, who, after having impudently
robbed, carried in triumph the fruits of their rapine to live with
scandalous ostentation, and buy votes again to raise them to command.
No, in European civilization, among nations taught and elevated by
Christianity, such evils would not be long tolerated. If we suppose
administrative disorder, tyranny, and corruption of morals carried as
far as you please, still public opinion would raise its voice and frown
on the oppressors. Partial injustice may be committed, but rapine will
never be formed into a shameless system, or be regarded as the rule of
government. Rely upon it, the words _justice_, _morality_, _humanity_,
which constantly resound in our midst, are not vain words; this
language produces great results; it destroys immense evils. These ideas
impregnate the atmosphere we breathe; they frequently restrain the
arm of criminals, and resist with incredible force materialistic and
utilitarian doctrines; they continue to exert an incalculable influence
on society. We have among us a feeling of morality which mollifies and
governs all; which is so powerful that vice is compelled to assume the
appearance of virtue, and cover itself with many veils, in order to
escape becoming the subject of public execration.

Modern society, it would seem, ought to have inherited the corruption
of the old, since it was formed out of its ruins, at a time when its
morals were most dissolute. We must observe, that the irruption of the
barbarians, far from improving society, contributed, on the contrary,
to make it worse; and this, not only on account of the corruption
belonging to their fierce and brutal manners, but also on account of
the disorder introduced among the nations they invaded, by violating
laws, throwing their manners and customs into confusion, and destroying
all authority. Whence it follows, that the improvement of public
opinion among modern nations is a very singular fact; and that this
progress can only be attributed to the influence of the active and
energetic principle which has existed in the bosom of Europe for so
many centuries.

Let us observe the conduct of the Church on this point--it is perhaps
one of the most important facts in the history of the middle ages.
Imagine an age when corruption and injustice most unblushingly raised
their heads, and you will see that, however impure and disgusting
the fact may be, the law is always pure; that is to say, that reason
and justice always found some one to proclaim them, even when they
appeared to be listened to by nobody. The state of ignorance was the
darkest, licentious passions were uncontrolled; but the instructions
and admonitions of the Church were never wanting; it is thus that,
amidst the darkest night, the lighthouse shines from afar, to guide the
mariners in safety.

When in reading the history of the Church we see on all sides assembled
councils proclaiming the principles of the gospel morality, while
at every step we meet with the most scandalous proceedings; when we
constantly hear inculcated the laws which are so often trodden under
foot, it is natural to ask, of what use was all this, and of what
benefit were instructions thus unheeded? Let us not believe that these
proclamations were useless, nor lose courage if we have to wait long
for their fruits.

A principle which is proclaimed for a long time in society will in
the end acquire influence; if it is true, and consequently contains
an element of life, it will prevail in the end over all that opposes
it, and will rule over all around it. Allow, then, the truth to
speak--allow it to protest continually; this will prevent the
prescription of vice. Thus vice will preserve its proper name; and you
will prevent misguided men from deifying their passions, and placing
them on their altars after having adored them in their hearts. Be
confident that this protest will not be useless. Truth in the end will
be victorious and triumphant; for the protests of truth are the voice
of God condemning the usurpations of His creatures. This is what really
happened; Christian morality, first contending with the corrupt manners
of the empire, and afterwards with the brutality of the barbarians,
had for centuries rude shocks to sustain; but at last it triumphed
over all, and succeeded in governing legislation and public morals.
We do not mean to say that it succeeded in raising law and morals
to the degree of perfection which the purity of the gospel morality
required, but at least it did away the most shocking injustice; it
banished the most savage customs; it restrained the license of the most
shameless manners; it everywhere gave vice its proper name; it painted
it in its real colors, and prevented its being deified as impudently
as it was among the ancients. In modern times, it has had to contend
against the school which proclaims that private interest is the only
principle of morals; it has not been able, it is true, to prevent this
fatal doctrine from causing great evils, but at least it has sensibly
diminished them. Unhappy for the world will be the day when men shall
say without disguise, "_My own advantage is my virtue_; _my honor is
what is useful to myself_; _all is good or evil, according as it is
pleasing or displeasing to me_." Unhappy for the world will be the day
when such language will no longer be repudiated by public conscience.
The opportunity now presenting itself, and wishing to explain so
important a matter as fully as possible, I will make some observations
on an opinion of Montesquieu respecting the censors of Greece and Rome.
This digression will not be foreign to the purpose.



Montesquieu has said that republics are preserved by virtue, and
monarchies by honor. He observes, moreover, that honor renders the
censors, who were required among the ancients, unnecessary among us.
True it is, that in modern times there are no censors charged with
watching over the public morals; but the cause of this is not as stated
by this famous publicist. Among Christian nations, the ministers of
religion are the natural censors of public morals. The plenitude of
this office belongs to the Church, with this difference, that the
censorial power of the ancients was purely civil, while that of the
Church is a religious power, which has its origin and sanction in
divine authority. The religion of Greece and Rome neither did, nor
could, exercise this censorial power over morals. To be convinced of
this, it is enough to read the passage from St. Augustine, quoted
in the fourteenth chapter--a passage so interesting on this matter,
that I will venture to ask the reader to peruse it again. This is the
reason why we find among the Greeks and Romans censors who are not seen
among Christian nations. These censors were an addition to the Pagan
religion, the impotence of which they clearly showed--a religion which
was mistress of society, and yet could not fulfil one of the first
duties of all religions--that of watching over the public morals. What
I assert is so perfectly true, that in proportion as the influence of
religion and the ascendency of its ministers have been lowered among
modern nations, the ancient censors have reappeared in some sort in the
institution of police. When moral means are wanting, it is necessary to
have recourse to physical ones; violence is substituted for persuasion,
and instead of a zealous and charitable missionary, delinquents fall
into the hands of the ministers of public justice.

Much has been already written of the system of Montesquieu, with
respect to the principles on which the different forms of government
are based; but perhaps sufficient attention has not been paid to
the phenomenon which has served to mislead him. As this question is
intimately connected with the point which I have just touched upon, in
relation to the existence of the censorial authority, I shall explain
myself at some length. In the time of Montesquieu, the Christian
religion was not so fully understood as it now is with respect to its
social importance; and although on this point the author of the _Esprit
des Lois_ has done homage to her, it is well to remember what were his
antichristian prejudices during his youth, and also that this work is
still far from rendering to the true religion what is due to her. The
ideas of an irreligious philosophy which, some years later, misled so
many fine intellects, had begun at that time to gain the ascendant,
and Montesquieu had not sufficient strength of mind to make a decided
opposition to the prejudices which threatened universal dominion. To
this cause we must add another, which, although distinct from the last,
yet had the same origin, viz. a prejudice in favor of all that was old,
and a blind admiration for every thing Roman or Grecian. It seemed to
the philosophers of that time, that social and political perfection
had reached their greatest height among the ancients, that there was
nothing to be added to or taken from it, and that even in religion the
fables and festivals of antiquity were a thousand times preferable to
the faith and worship of the Christian religion. In the eyes of the
new philosophers, the heaven of the Apocalypse could not sustain a
comparison with that of the Elysian fields; the majesty of Jehovah was
inferior to that of Jupiter; all the loftiest Christian institutions
were a legacy of ignorance and fanaticism; the most holy and beneficent
institutions were the work of tortuous and interested views--the
vehicle and expression of sordid interests; public authority was
only an atrocious tyranny; and the only noble, just, and salutary
institutions were those of Paganism. There every thing was wise, and
evinced profound designs highly advantageous to society; the ancients
alone had enjoyed social advantages, and had succeeded in organizing
public authority, with guarantees for the liberty of citizens. Modern
nations should bitterly lament not being able to mingle in the
agitation of the forum, being deprived of such orators as Demosthenes
and Cicero,--having no Olympic games, or contests of athletæ; in fine,
they must always regret a religion which, although full of illusion
and falsehood, gave to all nature a dramatic interest, gave life to
fountains, rivers, cascades, and seas, peopled the fields, the meadows,
and the woods with beautiful nymphs, gave to man gods as the companions
of his hearth, and above all, knew how to render life pleasant and
charming, by giving full scope to all the passions, and deifying them
under the most enchanting forms.

How, in the midst of such prejudices, was it possible to discover the
truth in modern institutions? Every thing was in the most deplorable
state of confusion; all that was established was condemned without
appeal, and every one who attempted to defend it was considered a fool
or a knave. Religion and political constitutions, which seemed destined
soon to disappear, could reckon on no other support than the prejudices
or the interests of governments. Lamentable aberration of the human
mind! What would these writers now say if they could arise from their
tombs? And yet a century has not yet elapsed since the epoch when their
school began to acquire its influence. They have, for a long time,
ruled the world at their pleasure; and they have only shed torrents of
blood, heaping lesson upon lesson, and deception upon deception, in the
history of humanity.

But let us return to Montesquieu. This publicist, who was so much
affected by the atmosphere in which he lived, and who had no small
share in perverting the age, saw the facts which are here so apparent;
he recognised the results of that public opinion which has been
created among European nations by the influence of Christianity. But
while observing the effects, he did not ascertain the real causes,
and labored in every way to accommodate them to his own system. In
comparing ancient with modern society, he discovered between them a
remarkable difference in the conduct of men; he observed that we see
accomplished among us the noblest and most heroic actions, while we
avoid a great part of the vices which defile the ancients; but, on the
other hand, Montesquieu, like others, could not help seeing that men
among us have not always that high moral aim which ought to be the
motive of their laudable conduct. Avarice, ambition, love of pleasure,
and other passions, still reign in the world, and are easily discovered
everywhere. Still these passions do not reach the excess they did among
the ancients; there is a mysterious power which restrains them; before
giving way to their impulses, they throw a cautious glance around
them, and do not indulge in certain excesses unless they are sure of
being able to do so in secret. They have great dread of being seen by
man; they can only live in solitude and darkness. The author of the
_Esprit des Lois_ asked himself what is the cause of this phenomenon.
Men, he said to himself, often act, not from moral virtue, but from
respect for the judgment which other men will pass upon their actions;
this is to act from honor. Now, this is the case in France and in the
other monarchies of Europe; it must be, therefore, the distinctive
characteristic of monarchical governments; it must be the base of that
form of government, the distinction between a republic and despotism.
Let us hear the author himself: "Dans quel governement," says he,
"faut il des censeurs? Il en faut dans une république, où le principe
du governement est la vertu. Ce ne sont pas seulement les crimes qui
detruisent la vertu, mais encore les negligences, les fautes, une
certaine tiédeur dans l'amour de la patrie, des exemples dangereux,
des semences de corruption; ce qui ne choque point les lois, mais les
élude; ce qui ne les détruit pas, mais les affaiblit. Tout cela doit
être corrigé par les censeurs. * * * Dans les monarchies il ne faut
point de censeurs, elles sont fondées sur l'honneur; et la nature de
l'honneur est d'avoir pour censeur tout l'univers. Tout homme qui y
manque est soumis aux reproches de ceux mêmes qui n'en ont point."
(_De l'Esprit des Lois_, liv. v. chap. 19.) Such is the opinion of
this publicist. But if we reflect on the matter, we shall see that
he was wrong in transferring to politics, and explaining by simply
political causes, a fact purely social. Montesquieu points out, as
the distinguishing characteristic of monarchies, what is the general
characteristic of all modern European society; he seems not to have
understood why the institution of censors was not necessary in Europe,
any more than he did the real reason why they were required among the
ancients. Monarchical forms have not exclusively prevailed in Europe.
Powerful republics have existed there; and there are still some not to
be despised. Monarchy itself has undergone numerous modifications; it
has been allied sometimes with democracy, sometimes with aristocracy;
sometimes its power has been very limited, and sometimes it has been
unbounded; and yet we always find this restraint which Montesquieu
speaks of, and which he calls honor; that is, a powerful influence
stimulating to good deeds and deterring from bad, and all this from
respect for the judgments which other men will pass.

"Dans les monarchies," says Montesquieu, "il ne faut point de censeurs,
elles sont fondées sur l'honneur; et la nature de l'honneur est d'avoir
pour censeur tout l'univers;" remarkable words, which reveal to us the
ideas of the writer, and at the same time show us the origin of his
mistake. They will assist us in solving the enigma. In order to explain
this point as fully as the importance of the subject requires, and
with as much clearness as the multitude and intricacy of its relations
demand, I shall endeavour to convey my ideas with as much precision as

Respect for the judgment of others is a feeling innate in man;
consequently it is in his nature to do or avoid many things on account
of this judgment. All this is founded on the simple fact of self-love:
this is nothing but love of our own good fame, the desire of appearing
to advantage, and the fear of appearing to disadvantage, in the eyes
of our fellows. These things are so simple and clear, that they do
not require or even admit of proofs or comments. Honor is a stimulant
more or less active, or a restraint more or less powerful, according
to the degree of severity which we expect in the judgments of others.
Thus it is that the miser, when among the generous, makes an effort to
appear liberal; the prodigal restrains himself in the presence of the
lovers of strict economy; in meetings where decorum generally reigns we
see that even libertines control themselves, while men whose manners
are usually correct allow themselves certain freedoms in licentious
societies. Now the society in which we live is, as it were, one vast
company. If we know that strict principles prevail there, if we hear
everywhere proclaimed the rules of sound morality, if we think that the
generality of the men with whom we live give the right name to every
action, without allowing the irregularity of their conduct to falsify
their judgment, we see ourselves surrounded on all sides by witnesses
and judges who cannot be corrupted; and this checks us at every step
when we wish to do evil, and urges us on when we wish to do good. It
will be far otherwise if we have reason to expect indulgence from
the society in which we move. In this case, and supposing us all to
entertain the same convictions, vice will not appear to us so horrible,
crime so detestable, or corruption so disgusting; our ideas with regard
to the morality of our conduct will be very different, and in the end
our actions will show the fatal influence of the atmosphere in which we
live. It follows from this, that, in order to infuse into our hearts a
feeling of honor strong enough to produce good, it is necessary that
principles of sound morality should regulate society, and that they
should be generally and fully believed. This being granted, social
habits will be formed, which will regulate manners; and even if these
habits do not succeed in hindering the corruption of a great number of
individuals, they will, nevertheless, be sufficient to compel vice to
adopt certain disguises, which, although hypocritical, will not fail
to add to the decorum of manners. The salutary effects of these habits
will still continue after the faith on which their moral principles are
based has been considerably weakened, and society will still gather in
abundance the beneficent fruits of the despised or forgotten tree. This
is the history of the morality of modern nations: although lamentably
corrupt, they are still not so bad as the ancients. They preserve in
their legislation, and in their morals, a fund of morality and dignity
which the ravages of irreligion have not been able to destroy. Public
opinion never dies; every day it censures vice, and extols the beauty
and advantages of virtue; it reigns over governments and nations,
and exercises the powerful ascendency of an element which is found
universally diffused.

"Outre l'Aréopage," says Montesquieu, "il y avait à Athènes des
gardiens des mœurs et des gardiens des lois. A Lacédémone, tous les
vieillards étaient censeurs. A Rome, deux magistrats particuliers
avaient la censure. Comme le Senat veille sur le peuple, il faut que
des censeurs aient les yeux sur le peuple et sur le Senat. Il faut
qu'ils rétablissent dans la république tout ce qui a été corrompu,
qu'ils notent la tiédeur, jugent les négligences, et corrigent les
fautes, comme les lois punissent les crimes." (_De l'Esprit des Lois_,
liv. v. chap. 7.) In describing the duties of the censors of antiquity,
the author seems to state the functions of religious authority. To
penetrate where the civil laws do not extend; to correct, and in some
measure to chastise, what they leave unpunished; to exercise over
society an influence more delicate and minute than that which belongs
to legislation,--such are the objects of the censorial power; and who
does not see that that power has been replaced by religious authority?
and that if the former has been unnecessary among modern nations, it is
owing to the existence of the latter, or to the influence which it has
exercised for many centuries?

It cannot be denied that religious authority has for a long time
gained a decided ascendency over men's minds and hearts; this fact is
written in every page of the history of Europe. As to the results of
that influence, so calumniated and ill understood, we meet with them
every day,--we who see the principles of justice and sound morality
still reigning over public conscience, in spite of the ravages which
irreligion and immorality have committed among individuals.

The powerful influence of public conscience will be best explained
by some examples. Let us suppose that the richest of nobles, or the
most powerful of monarchs, indulged in the abominable excesses of a
Tiberius, a Nero, or the other monsters who disgraced the imperial
throne, what would happen? We will not predict; but we are confident
that the universal shout of indignation and horror would be so
loud, and the monster would be so crushed under the load of public
execration, that it appears to us impossible for him to exist. It seems
to us an anachronism, an impossibility at this time. Even if we admit
that there might be men immoral enough to commit such enormities,
sufficiently perverted in mind and heart to exhibit such depravity,
we see that it would be an outrage against universal morals, and that
such a spectacle could not stand for a moment in presence of public
opinion. I could draw numberless contrasts, but I shall content myself
with one, which, while it reminds us of a fine trait in ancient
history, exhibits, with the virtue of a hero, the manners of the
time and the melancholy condition of the public conscience. Let us
suppose that a general of modern Europe captures by assault a town in
which a distinguished lady, the wife of one of the principal leaders
of the enemy, falls into the hands of the soldiers. The beautiful
prisoner is brought to the general; what should be his conduct? Every
one will immediately say, that she ought to be treated with the most
delicate attention, that she ought to be immediately set at liberty
and allowed to rejoin her husband. Such conduct appears to us so
strictly obligatory, so much according to the order of things, and so
conformable to our ideas and sentiments, that there certainly does
not appear to us to be any peculiar merit in adopting it. We should
say that the general had performed a strict and sacred duty, which he
could not evade without covering himself with shame and ignominy. We
certainly should not immortalize such an action in history; we should
allow it to pass unnoticed in the ordinary course of events. Now,
this is what Scipio did with respect to the wife of Mardonius at the
taking of Carthagena; and ancient history records this generosity as
an eternal monument of his virtues. This parallel explains better than
any commentary the immense progress of morality and public conscience
under the influence of Christianity. Now, such conduct, which among
us is considered as simple, natural, and strictly obligatory, does
not flow from the honor belonging to monarchies, as Montesquieu
asserts, but from more lofty notions of human dignity, from a clearer
knowledge of the true state of society, from a morality the purer
and more powerful because it is established on eternal foundations.
This, indeed, is found and felt everywhere, it governs the good and
is respected even by the bad; this is what would stop the licentious
man, who, in a case of this sort, would be inclined to indulge his
cruelty or his other passions. The author of the _Esprit des Lois_
would doubtless have perceived these truths if he had not been
prejudiced by the favorite distinction established at the beginning of
his work, and which throughout bound him to an inflexible system. We
know what a preconceived system is--one that serves as the mould for
a work. Like the bed of Procrustus, ideas and facts, right or wrong,
are accommodated to the system; what is too much is taken away, and
what is wanting is added. Thus Montesquieu finds in political motives,
founded on the republican form of government, the reason for the power
exercised over Roman women by their husbands. The cruel rights given to
fathers over their children, the unlimited paternal power established
by the Roman laws, also appeared to him to flow from political causes,
as if it were not evident that these two regulations of the ancient
Roman law were owing to causes purely domestic and social, altogether
independent of the form of government.[19]



We have defined the nature of public conscience; we have pointed out
its origin and effects. It now remains to examine whether Protestantism
has had any share in forming it, and whether it is fairly entitled
to the glory of having been of any service to European civilization
on this point. We have already shown that the origin of this public
conscience is to be found in Christianity. Now Christianity may be
considered under two aspects--as a doctrine, and as an institution
intended to realize that doctrine; that is to say, Christian morality
may be considered in itself, or as taught and inculcated by the Church.
To form the public conscience, and make Christian morality regulate
it, it was not enough to announce this doctrine; there was still
required a society, not only to preserve it in all its purity, that it
might be transmitted from generation to generation, but to preach it
incessantly to man, and apply it continually to all the acts of life.
We must observe that ideas, however powerful they may be, have only
a precarious existence until they are realized, and become embodied,
as it were, in an institution which, while it is animated, moved, and
guided by them, serves them as a rampart against the attacks of other
ideas and other interests. Man is formed of body and soul; the whole
world is a collection of spiritual and corporeal beings--a system of
moral and physical relations; thus it is that all ideas, even the
greatest and the loftiest, begin to fall into oblivion when they have
no outward expression--no organ by which they make themselves heard and
respected. They are then confounded and overwhelmed amid the confusion
of the world, and in the end disappear altogether. Therefore, all
ideas that are to have a lasting influence on society, necessarily
tend to create an institution to represent them, in which they may be
personified; not satisfied with addressing themselves to the mind,
and with descending to practice by indirect means, they seek to give
form to matter, they present themselves to the eyes of humanity in a
palpable manner. These observations, which I submit with confidence to
the judgment of sensible men, contain a condemnation of the Protestant
system. So far from the pretended Reformation being able to claim
any part in the salutary events which we are explaining, we should
rather say that, by its principles and conduct, it would have been an
obstacle in their way, if, as was happily the case, Europe had not
been of adult age in the sixteenth century, and consequently almost
incapable of losing the doctrines, feelings, habits, and tendencies
which the Catholic Church had communicated to it during an education
of so many centuries. Indeed, the first thing that Protestantism did
was to attack authority, not by a mere act of resistance, but by
proclaiming resistance to be a real right, by establishing private
judgment as a dogma. From that moment Christian morality remained
without support, for there was no longer a society which could claim
the right of explaining and teaching it; that is to say, it was reduced
to the level of those ideas which, not being represented or supported
by an institution, and not having any authorized organ to explain them,
possessed no direct means of acting on society, and had no means of
protection when attacked.

But I shall be told that Protestantism _has_ preserved the institution
which realizes this idea; for it has preserved its ministers, worship,
and preaching--in a word, all that truth requires in dealing with man.

I will not deny that there is some truth in this, and I will repeat
what I have not hesitated to affirm in the fourteenth chapter of this
work, "That we ought to regard it as a great good, that the first
Protestants, in spite of their desire to upset all the practices of
the Church, have yet preserved that of preaching." I added in the
same place: "It is not necessary to deny on this account the evils
produced at certain times by the declamation of some ministers, either
furious or fanatical; but as unity was broken, and as the people had
been hurried into the perilous path of schism, we say that it must
have been very conducive to the preservation of the most important
ideas concerning God and man, and the fundamental maxims of morality,
for such truths to be frequently explained to the people by men who
had long studied them in the Holy Scriptures." I repeat here what I
there said: preaching practised among Protestants must have had very
good effects; but this only amounts to saying, that it did not do so
much mischief as was to be feared from its own principles. On this
point, they were like men of immoral opinions, who are not so bad as
they would be, were their hearts in accordance with their minds: they
had the good fortune to be inconsistent. Protestantism had proclaimed
the abolition of authority, and the right of private judgment without
limit; but in practice it did not quite act up to these doctrines.
Thus, it devoted itself with ardor to what it called gospel preaching,
and its ministers were called gospellers. So that, at the very time
when they just established the principle that every individual had the
free right of private judgment, and ought to be guided by reason or
private inspiration alone, without listening to any external authority,
Protestant ministers were seen spreading themselves everywhere, and
claiming to be the legitimate organs of the divine word.

The better to understand the strange nature of such a doctrine, we must
remember the maxims of Luther with respect to the priesthood. We know
that this heresiarch, embarrassed by the hierarchy which constitutes
the ministry of the Church, pretended to overturn it at one blow, by
maintaining that all Christians are priests, and that, to exercise the
sacred ministry, a simple appointment is necessary, which adds nothing
essential or characteristic to the quality of priests, which is the
universal patrimony of all Christians. It follows from this doctrine,
that the Protestant preacher wanting a mission is not distinguished
from other Christians by any characteristic; he cannot, consequently,
speak to them with any authority; he is not allowed, like Jesus Christ,
to speak _quasi potestatem habens_ (as having authority); he is nothing
more than an orator who addresses the people with no other right than
what he derives from his education, knowledge, or eloquence.

This preaching without authority, which, in reality and according to
the preacher's own principles, was only human, although it committed
the glaring inconsistency of pretending to be divine, may, no doubt,
have contributed something to the preservation of good moral principles
when they were already everywhere established; but it would certainly
have been unable to establish them in a society where they were
unknown, especially if it had had to struggle with other principles
directly opposed to it, and supported by ancient prejudices, by deeply
rooted passions, and by strong interests.

Yes, we repeat it, this preaching would have been unable to introduce
its principles into such a society; unable to preserve them in
safety amid the most alarming revolutions and the most unexampled
catastrophes; unable to impart them to barbarous nations, who, proud of
their triumph, listened to no other voice than that of their ferocious
instinct; unable to make the conquerors and the conquered bow before
these principles, to mould the most different nations into one people,
by stamping on their laws, institutions, and manners the same seal,
in order to form from them that admirable society, that assemblage of
nations, or rather that one great nation, which is called Europe. In
a word, Protestantism, from its very constitution, would have been
incapable of realizing what the Catholic Church has done.

Moreover, this attempted preaching preserved by Protestantism is, at
bottom, an effort to imitate the Church that it may not remain unarmed
in the presence of so redoubtable an adversary. It required a means of
influencing the people,--a channel open to communicate, at the will
of each usurper of religious authority, different interpretations of
the Bible; this is the reason why, in spite of violent declamation
against all that emanated from the chair of St. Peter, it preserved the
valuable practice of preaching.

But the best way to feel the inferiority of Protestantism in regard
to the knowledge and comprehension of the means proper to extend and
strengthen morality, and make it prevail in all the acts of life, is
to observe, that it has interrupted all communication between the
conscience of the faithful and the direction of the priest; it only
leaves to the latter a general direction, which, owing to its being
extended over all at the same time, is exerted with effect over none.
If we confine ourselves to the consideration of the abolition of the
sacrament of Penance among Protestants, we may rest assured that they
have thereby given up one of the most legitimate, powerful, and gentle
means of rendering human conduct conformable to the principles of sound
morality. Its action is legitimate; for nothing can be more legitimate
than direct and intimate communication between the conscience of
man who is to be judged by God, and the conscience of the man who
represents God on earth;--an action which is powerful, because this
intimate communication, established between man and man, between soul
and soul, identifies, as it were, the thoughts and affections; because,
in the presence of God alone, to the exclusion of every other witness,
admonitions have more force, precepts more authority, and advice more
unction and sweetness to penetrate into the inmost soul;--an action
full of gentleness, for it supposes the voluntary manifestation of the
conscience which seeks guidance--a manifestation which is commanded,
it is true, by authority, but which cannot be enforced by violence, as
God alone is the judge of its sincerity;--an action, I repeat, which
is gentle, for the minister is compelled to the strictest secrecy;
all imaginable precautions have been taken by the Church to prevent a
betrayal, and man may rest with tranquillity in the assurance that the
secrets of his conscience will never be revealed.

But you will ask me, do you believe all this is necessary to establish
and preserve a good state of morality? If morality is to be any thing
more than a mere worldly probity, which is exposed to destruction at
the first shock of interest, or easily seduced by the passions; if it
is to be a morality delicate, strict, and profound, extending over all
the acts of life, guiding and ruling the heart of man, and transforming
it into that _beau idéal_ which we admire in Catholics who are really
devoted to the observances and practices of their religion; if this is
the morality which you mean, it is necessary, undoubtedly, that, placed
under the inspection of religious authority, it should be directed and
guided by a minister of the sanctuary, by a faithful communication
of the secrets of our hearts and the numberless temptations which
continually assail our weak nature. This is the doctrine of the
Catholic Church; and I will add, that it is pointed out by experience
and taught by philosophy. I do not mean to say, that Catholics alone
are capable of performing virtuous actions; this would be to contradict
the experience of every day. I only wish to prove the efficacy of a
Catholic institution which is despised by Protestants. I speak of the
great influence which this institution has in infusing into our hearts,
and preserving in them, a morality which is cordial, constant, and
applicable to all the acts of our souls.

No doubt, there is in man a monstrous mixture of good and evil; I know
that it is not given him to attain in this life to that ineffable
degree of perfection which consists in a perfect conformity with
Divine truth and holiness--a perfection which he will not be able even
to conceive until the moment when, stripped of his mortal body, he
will be plunged into the pure ocean of light and love. But we cannot
be permitted to doubt that man, in this earthly abode, in the land
of misery and darkness, can, nevertheless, attain to the universal,
delicate, and profound state of morality which I have just described;
and, however much the present corruption of the world may be a too
legitimate subject of affliction, it must be allowed that we still
find, in our own days, a considerable number of honorable exceptions
in the multitude of persons who conform to the strict rule of gospel
morality in their conduct, their wishes, and even in their thoughts and
inmost affections. To attain to this degree of morality (and observe,
I do not say of evangelical perfection, but of mere morality), it is
necessary that the religious principle should be visibly present to the
eyes of the soul, that it should act continually upon her, urging on
or restraining her in an infinite variety of circumstances which, in
the course of life, occur to mislead from the path of duty. The life of
man is, as it were, a chain composed of an infinite variety of acts,
which cannot be constantly in accordance with reason and the eternal
law, unless it remains constantly in the hands of a fixed and universal
regulator. And let it not be said that such a state of morality is a
_beau idéal_, the existence of which would bring such confusion into
the acts of the soul, and complication of the whole life, as in the
end to make it insupportable. No, this is not a mere fancy; it is a
reality which is frequently seen by our eyes, not only in the cloister
and the sanctuary, but amid the confusion and distractions of the
world. That which establishes a fixed rule cannot bring confusion
into the acts of the soul, or complicate the affairs of life. Quite
the contrary; instead of confusion, it serves to distinguish and
illuminate; instead of complicating, it puts in order and simplifies.
Establish this rule, and you will have unity; and with unity general

Catholicity is always distinguished by its extreme vigilance with
respect to morality, by its care in regulating all the acts of life,
and even the most secret movements of the heart. Superficial observers
have declaimed against the prolixity of moralists--against the minute
and detailed study which they make of human actions considered under
a moral aspect; they should have observed, that if Catholicity is
the religion in the bosom of which has appeared so great a number
of moralists, by whom all human actions have been examined in the
greatest detail, it is because this religion has for its object to
moralize for the whole man, as it were, in all his relations with
God, with his neighbor, and with himself. It is clear that such
an enterprise requires a more profound and attentive examination
than would be necessary, if it had only to give to man an imperfect
morality, stopping at the surface of actions, and not penetrating
to the bottom of the heart. With respect to Catholic moralists, and
without attempting to excuse the excess into which some among them have
fallen, either by too great subtility, or by a spirit of party and
dispute (excesses which cannot be imputed to the Catholic Church, since
she has testified her displeasure when she has not expressly condemned
them), it must be observed, that this abundance, this superfluity, if
you will, of moral studies, has contributed more than people think to
direct minds to the intimate study of man, by furnishing a multitude of
facts and observations to those who have subsequently wished to devote
themselves to this important science. Now, can there be a more worthy
or more useful object for our labors? In another part of this work,
I propose to develop the relations of Catholicity with the progress
of science and literature; I shall not, therefore, enter more fully
on the matter now. Still I may be allowed briefly to observe, that
the development and education of the human mind have been principally
theological; and that on this point, as well as on many others,
philosophers are more indebted to theologians than they seem to imagine.

Let us return to the comparison of the Protestant and Catholic
influence on the formation and preservation of a sound public
conscience. We have showed that Catholicity, having constantly
maintained the principle of authority which Protestantism rejects, has
given to moral ideas a force and influence which Protestantism could
not. Protestantism, indeed, by its nature and fundamental principles,
has never given to these ideas any other support than they might have
derived from a school of philosophy. But you will perhaps ask me, do
you not acknowledge the force of these ideas; a force peculiar to them,
and inherent in their nature, and which frequently changes the face of
the world, by deciding its doctrines? Do you not know that they always,
in the end, force a passage, in spite of every obstacle, and of all
resistance? Have you forgotten the teaching of all history; and do you
pretend to deprive human thought of that vital, creative force, which
renders man superior to all that surrounds him? Such is the common
panegyric on the strength of ideas; thus we see them transformed every
moment into all-powerful beings, whose magical wand is capable of
changing every thing at their pleasure.

However this may be, I am full of respect for human thought, and allow
that there is much truth in what is called the force of an idea; yet
I must beg leave to offer a few observations to these enthusiasts,
not directly to combat their opinion, but to make some necessary
modifications. In the first place, ideas, in the point of view in
which we are now considering them, must be divided into two orders;
some flattering our passions, the others checking them. It cannot be
denied that the former have an immense expansive force. They have
a motion of their own; they act in all places; they exert a rapid,
violent power; one would say that they overflow with life and activity.
The latter have great difficulty in making their way; they advance
slowly, they cannot pursue their career without an institution to
secure their stability. And why? Because it is not the ideas themselves
which act in the former case, but the passions which accompany them,
and assume their names; thus masking what is repulsive in them at
first sight. In the latter case, on the contrary, it is the truth
that speaks. Now, in this land of misfortune, the truth is but little
attended to; for it leads to good; and the heart of man, as the
Scripture says, is inclined to evil from his youth. Those who vaunt so
much the native force of ideas, should point out to us, in ancient or
modern history, one idea which, without going out of its own circle,
that of the purely philosophical order, is entitled to the glory of
having materially contributed to the amelioration of individuals and

It is commonly said that the force of ideas is immense; that once shown
among men, they will fructify sooner or later; that once deposited in
the bosom of humanity, they will remain there as a precious legacy,
and contribute wonderfully to the improvement of the world, to the
perfection towards which the human race advances. No doubt these
assertions contain some truth; as man is an intelligent being, all that
immediately affects his mind must certainly influence his destiny.
Thus no great change is worked in society without being first realized
in the order of ideas; all that is established contrary to our ideas,
or without them, must be weak and passing. But it is by no means to
be supposed that every useful idea contains in itself a conservative
force capable of dispensing with all institutions; that is to say, with
support and defence, even during times of social disorder: between
these two propositions there is a gulf which cannot be closed without
contradicting all history. Now humanity, considered by itself, and
given up to its own strength, as it appears to philosophers, is not
so safe a depositary as people wish to suppose. Unhappily we have
melancholy proofs of this truth: we see too clearly that the human
race, far from being a faithful trustee, has but too much imitated the
conduct of a foolish spendthrift. In the cradle of the human race, we
find great ideas on the unity of God, on man, on relations of man with
God and their fellowmen. These ideas were certainly true, salutary,
and fruitful: and yet, what did man do with them? Did he not lose them
by modifying, mutilating, and distorting them in the most deplorable
way? Where were they when Jesus Christ came into the world? What had
humanity done with them? One nation alone preserved them; but in what
way? Fix your attention on the chosen people, the Jews, and you will
see that there was a continual struggle between truth and error;
you will see that, by an inconceivable blindness, they incessantly
inclined to idolatry; they had a constant tendency to substitute the
abominations of the Gentiles for the sublime law of Mount Sinai. And
do you know how the truth was preserved among this people? Observe
it well; it was supported by the strongest institutions that can be
imagined; it was armed with all the means of defence with which an
inspired legislator could surround it. It will be said that they were
a hard-hearted nation, in the language of the Scriptures; unhappily,
since the fall of our first parent, this hardness of heart is become
the patrimony of humanity; _the heart of man is inclined to evil from
his youth_; ages before the existence of the Jews, God had covered the
earth with the waters of heaven, and had blotted out man from the face
of the world; _for all flesh had corrupted its way_. We must conclude
from this, that the preservation of great moral ideas requires powerful
institutions; it is evident, therefore, that they cannot be abandoned
to the fickleness of the human mind without being disfigured, or even
lost. I will say, moreover, that institutions are not only necessary
to teach, but also to apply them. Moral ideas, especially those which
openly contradict the passions, are never reduced to practice without
great efforts; now the ideas themselves do not suffice to make these
great efforts, and means of action are required capable of connecting
ideas with facts; this is one of the reasons of the impotence of
philosophical schools when they attempt to construct any thing. They
are often powerful in destroying; momentary action is enough for this,
and this action may be easily acquired in a moment of enthusiasm. But
when they wish to establish and reduce their conceptions to practice,
they are impotent; their only resource is what is called the force of
ideas. Now, as ideas constantly vary and change--an inconstancy of
which these schools themselves afford the first example--it happens
that what we hear them announce one moment as an infallible means of
human progress, is the next reduced to a mere object of curiosity.

These last observations anticipate the objection that may be urged
against us with respect to the immense force which printing has
given to ideas. But this is so far from being a preserver, that it
may be said to be the best destroyer of all opinions. If we measure
the immense orbit which the human mind has passed through since that
important discovery, we shall see that the _consummation_ of opinions
(if I may be allowed the expression) is increased in a prodigious
degree. The history of the human race, especially since the press
has become periodical, appears to be the representation of a rapid
drama, where the decorations change every moment, where the scenes
succeed each other, scarcely allowing the spectator to catch any of
the author's words. Half of this century has not yet passed away,
and already it seems as if many centuries had elapsed, so great has
been the number of schools which have been born and are dead, of
reputations which, after being raised to the highest pitch of renown,
have been soon forgotten. This rapid succession of ideas, so far from
contributing to increase their force, necessarily renders them weak and
unproductive. The natural order in the progress of ideas is this: at
first to make their appearance, then to be realized in an institution
representing them, and in fine to exert their influence on facts by
means of an institution in which they are personified. Now, it is
necessary that during these transformations, which essentially require
time, ideas should preserve their credit, if they are to produce any
favorable result. But when they succeed each other too rapidly, time
is wanting for their successive transformations; new ideas strive to
discredit the old ones, and consequently to render them useless. This
is the reason why the strength of ideas, that is, of philosophy, was
never so little to be relied on as now, to produce any thing durable
and consistent in the moral order: in this respect, the gain to modern
society may well be questioned. More is conceived, but less matured;
what the mind gains in extent, it loses in depth, and the pretension
in theory makes a sad contrast with the impotence of practice. Of what
importance is it that our predecessors were not so ready as we are in
_improvising_ a discussion on great social and political questions, if
they nevertheless organized and founded such admirable institutions?
The architects who raised the astonishing monuments of ages which we
call barbarous, were certainly not so learned or so cultivated as
those of our time; and yet who has the boldness even to commence what
they have finished? Thus it is in the social and political order. Let
us remember that great thoughts are produced rather by intuition than
by reasoning; in practice, success depends more upon the invaluable
quality called tact, than upon enlightened reflection; and experience
often teaches that he who knows much, sees little. The genius of Plato
would not have been the best guide for Solon or Lycurgus; and all the
knowledge of Cicero would not have succeeded in doing what was done
by the tact and good sense of two unlettered men like Romulus and



A certain general gentleness of manners, which in war prevents great
atrocities, and in peace renders life more quiet and agreeable:--such
is one of the valuable qualities which I have pointed out as forming
the distinguishing characteristics of European civilization. This is a
fact which does not require proof; we see and feel it everywhere when
we look around; it is evident to all who open the pages of history,
and compare our times with any others. Wherein does this gentleness
of manners in modern times consist? what is the cause of it? what has
favoured it? what has opposed it? These interesting questions directly
apply to our present subject; for they lead straight to the examination
of other questions, such as the following: has Catholicity contributed
in any way to this gentleness of manners; or, on the other hand, has
it opposed or retarded it? in fine, what part has Protestantism played
in the work, for good or evil? First of all, we must determine wherein
gentleness of manners consists. Although we have here to deal with an
idea which every one sees, or rather feels, we must still endeavor
to explain and analyze it by a definition as complete and exact as
possible. Gentleness of manners consists _in the absence of force_; so
that manners will be more or less gentle according as force is less
or more employed. Thus, we must not confound gentle with charitable
manners; the latter work good, the former only exclude the idea of
force. We must also distinguish gentle manners from those that are
pure, and conformable to reason and justice. Immorality is often
gentle, when, instead of resorting to force, it makes use of seduction
and stratagem. This gentleness of manners consists in directing the
human mind, not by violence which constrains the body, but by reasons
which address themselves to the intellect, or by appeals to the
passions. Thus it is that gentle manners are not always under the
influence of reason; but their rule is always intellectual, although
they are often made the slaves of the passions by golden chains of
their own formation.

If gentleness of manners consists in not making use, in human
transactions, of other means than those of conviction, persuasion,
or seduction, it is clear that the most advanced society--that is,
that in which intelligence has been most developed--should always
participate more or less in this social advantage. There the mind
rules, because it is strong; while material force disappears, because
the body has less strength. Moreover, in societies very much advanced,
where relations and interests are necessarily much multiplied, there
is an indispensable want of means capable of acting in a universal and
lasting manner, and applicable to all the details of life. These means
are, unquestionably, moral and intellectual: the mind operates without
destruction, while force dashes violently against obstacles, and breaks
itself to pieces, if it cannot overturn them. Thus it is the cause
of continual commotions, which cannot subsist in a society which has
numerous and complicated relations, without throwing into confusion and
destroying society itself.

We always observe in young nations a lamentable abuse of force. Nothing
is more natural: the passions ally themselves with force, because they
resemble it; they are energetical as violence, and rude as its shocks.
When society has reached a great degree of development, the passions
are divorced from force, and become allied with the intelligence; they
cease to be violent, in order to become artful. In the first case, if
it is the people who struggle, they make war on, they contend with, and
destroy each other; in the second case, they contend with the arms of
industry, commerce, and contraband. Governments attack, in the first
case, by arms and invasions; and in the second by diplomacy. In the
first epoch, warriors are every thing; in the second, they are nothing;
they have not a very important part to play when negotiation, and not
fighting, is required. When we look at ancient civilization, we observe
a remarkable difference between the character of its manners and the
gentleness of ours. Neither the Greeks nor Romans ever regarded this
precious quality in the light in which we regard it, for the honor of
European civilization. Those nations became enervated, but they did
not become gentle; we may say that their manners were made effeminate,
but they were not softened; for we see them make use of force on all
occasions, when neither vigor of body nor energy of mind was required.
There is nothing more worthy of observation than this peculiarity of
ancient civilization, especially of that of Rome. Now this phenomenon,
which at first sight appears to us to be very strange, has very deep
causes. Besides the principal of these causes, which is, the want of
an element of civilization such as that which modern nations have had
in Christian charity, we shall find among the ancients, if we descend
to the details of their social organization, certain causes which
necessarily hindered this gentleness of manners being established among

In the first case, slavery, one of the constituent elements of their
social and domestic organization, was an eternal obstacle to the
introduction of this precious quality. The man who has the power of
throwing another to the fishes, and of punishing with death the crime
of breaking a glass; he who during a feast, to gratify his caprice,
can take away the life of one of his brethren; he who can rest upon
a voluptuous couch, surrounded by the most sumptuous magnificence,
while he knows that hundreds of men, crowded together in dark vaults,
work incessantly for his cupidity and his pleasures; he who can hear
without emotion the lamentations of a crowd of unhappy beings imploring
a morsel of bread to pass through the night's misery which is to unite
their labors and fatigues of the evening with those of the morning,
such a man may have effeminate, but he cannot have gentle manners; his
heart may become enervated, but it will not cease to be cruel. This
was precisely the situation of the free man in ancient society: the
organization of which we have just stated the results was regarded as
indispensable; they could not even conceive the possibility of any
other order of things. What removed this obstacle? was it not the
Catholic Church, by abolishing slavery, after having ameliorated the
cruel lot of slaves? Those who revert to the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th,
and 19th chapters of this work, with the notes appended to them, will
find the truth of this demonstrated by incontestable reasons and

In the second place, the right of life and death, given by the laws to
the paternal power, introduced into families an element of severity
which could not but produce injurious effects. Happily, the hearts of
fathers were continually contending against the power thus granted
by law: but if this feeling did not prevent some deeds the perusal
of which makes us shudder, must we not suppose that, in the ordinary
course of life, cruel scenes constantly reminded the members of
families of this atrocious right with which the chief was invested?
Will not he who is possessed of the power of killing with impunity, be
frequently hurried into acts of cruel despotism? Now this tyrannical
extension of the rights of paternal authority, carried far beyond the
limits pointed out by nature, was taken away by the force of laws and
manners which were much aided by the influence of Catholicity (see the
24th chap. of this work). To the two causes which I have just pointed
out, may be added another perfectly analogous, viz. the despotism which
the husband exercised over his wife, and the little respect which was
paid to her. Public spectacles were, among the Romans, another element
of severity and cruelty. What could be expected of a people whose
principal amusement is to look coolly upon homicide--who took pleasure
in witnessing the slaughter in the arena of hundreds of men fighting
against each other, or against wild beasts?

As a Spaniard, I feel called upon here to insert a paragraph, in
reply to the observations which will be made against me on this
point: I allude to the Spanish bull-fights. I shall naturally be
asked, Is it not in a Christian and Catholic country that the custom
of making men fight against animals is preserved? The objection,
however plausible it may seem, can be answered. In the first place,
to avoid any misunderstanding, I declare that this popular amusement
is, in my opinion, barbarous, and ought, if possible, to be completely
extirpated. But after this full and explicit avowal, let me be
permitted to make a few observations, to screen the honor of my
country. In the first place, it must be remarked, that there is in the
human heart a secret taste for risks and dangers; in order to make
an adventure interesting, it is necessary that the hero should be
encompassed with great and multiplied perils; if a history is to excite
curiosity to a high degree, it must not be an uninterrupted chain of
peaceful and happy events. We wish to find ourselves frequently in the
presence of extraordinary and surprising facts; and, however unpleasant
may be the avowal, our hearts, while they feel the tenderest compassion
for the unfortunate, seem to require the contemplation of scenes of a
more violent and exciting character. Hence the taste for tragedies:
hence the love of scenes in which the actors incur great risks, in
appearance or in reality. It is not my duty here to explain the
origin of this phenomenon; it is enough for me here to point out its
existence to show foreigners who accuse us of being barbarians, that
the taste of the Spanish people for bull-fights is only the application
to a particular case, of an inclination inherent everywhere in the
heart of man. Those who, with respect to this custom of the Spanish
people, affect so much humanity, would do well to answer the following
questions: To what is owing the pleasure taken by the multitude in
every exhibition, when the actors run any risk in one way or another?
Whence comes it that all would willingly be present at the bloodiest
battle, if they could do so without danger? Whence comes it that
everywhere an immense multitude assembles to witness the agonies and
the last convulsions of a criminal on the gibbet? Whence comes it, in
fine, that foreigners, when at Madrid, render themselves accomplices
in the barbarity of Spaniards by assisting at these bull-fights? I
say this, not in any degree to excuse a custom which appears to me to
be unworthy of a civilized people, but to show that in this point, as
well as in almost all that relates to the Spanish people, there are
exaggerations which ought to be reduced within reasonable limits. Let
us add an important observation, which is the best excuse that can be
made for this reprehensible exhibition: instead of fixing our attention
on the spectacle itself, let us consider the evils that flow from
it. Now, I ask, how many men die in Spain in bull-fights? The number
is extremely small, and altogether insignificant in proportion to
the frequency of these spectacles; so that if a comparison were made
between the accidents which occur in consequence of this amusement
and those that happen in other sports, such as horse-races and others
of the same kind, we should perhaps find that bull-fights, however
barbarous they may be in themselves, still do not deserve all the
anathemas with which foreigners have loaded them. To return to our
principal object, how, we ask, is it possible to compare an amusement
which, perhaps, may not cost the life of one man during many years,
to those terrible shows in which death was a necessary condition for
the pleasure of the spectators? After the triumph of Trajan over the
Dacians, the public games lasted twenty-three days, and the fearful
number of six thousand gladiators was slain. Such were the amusements
at Rome, not only of the populace, but of the highest classes;
such were the horrible spectacles required by a people who added
voluptuousness to the most atrocious cruelty. This is a most convincing
proof of what I have said, viz. that manners may be effeminate without
being gentle, and that the brutality of unbounded luxury is not
inconsistent with the instinct of blood-thirsty ferocity.

It is impossible that such spectacles should be tolerated among modern
nations, however corrupt their manners may be. The principle of charity
has extended its empire too universally for such excesses to be
renewed. This charity, it is true, does not induce men to do all the
good to each other that they ought; but, at least, it prevents their
coldly perpetrating evil, and assisting quietly at the slaughter of
their brethren to gratify the pleasure of the moment. Christianity, at
its birth, cast into society the seed of this aversion to homicide.
Who is not aware of the repugnance of Christians for the shows of the
Gentiles--a repugnance prescribed and kept alive by the admonitions
of the early pastors of the Church? It was an acknowledged fact, that
Christian charity prohibited the being present at games where homicide
formed part of the spectacle. "As for us," said one of the apologists
of the early ages, "we make little difference between committing murder
and seeing it committed."[21]



Modern society ought, it would seem, to be distinguished for severity
and cruelty, since it was formed from that of the Romans and
barbarians, from both of whom it should have inherited these qualities.
Who is not aware of the fierce manners of the northern barbarians? The
historians of that time have left us statements that make us shudder
when we read them. It was believed that the end of the world was at
hand; and, indeed, it was excusable to consider the last catastrophe
as near, when so many other melancholy ones had already been heaped
upon humanity. The imagination cannot figure to itself what would have
happened to the world at this crisis, if Christianity had not existed.
Even supposing that society would have been organized anew under one
form or another, it is certain that private and public relations would
have remained in a state of lamentable disorder, and that legislation
would have been unjust and inhuman. Thus the influence of the Church on
civil legislation was an inestimable benefit; thus even the power of
the clergy in temporal things was one of the greatest safeguards of the
highest interests of society.

Attacks are often made upon this temporal power of the clergy and this
influence of the Church in worldly affairs. But, in the first place, it
should be remembered, that this power and influence were brought about
by the very nature of things; that is to say, they were natural, and,
consequently, to assail them is to declaim in vain against the force of
events, of which no man could hinder the realization. This power and
influence, besides, were legitimate; for when society is in danger,
nothing can be more legitimate than that that which can save it should
save it. Now, at the time we speak of, the Church alone could save
society. The Church, which is not an abstract being, but a real and
substantial society, acted upon civil society by real and substantial
means. If the purely material interests of society were in question,
the minister of the Church ought, in some way or other, to take part
in the direction of those interests. These reflections are so natural
and simple, that their truth must be seen by good sense. All those who
know any thing of history are now generally agreed on this point; and
if we are not aware how much it generally costs the human mind to enter
upon the path of truth, and, above all, how much bad faith there has
been in the examination of these questions, we shall have a difficulty
in understanding that so much time should have been required to bring
the world to agree on a thing which is apparent to those who read
history. But let us return to our subject. This extraordinary mixture
of the cruelty of a cultivated but corrupted people with the atrocious
ferocity of a barbarous one, proud of its triumphs, and intoxicated
with blood during long wars, placed in European society a germ of
severity and cruelty which fermented there for ages, and the remains of
which we find at a late period. The precept of Christian charity was in
men's heads, but Roman cruelty and barbarian ferocity still prevailed
in their hearts; ideas were pure and beneficent, since they proceeded
from a religion of love, but they encountered a terrible resistance
in the habits, manners, institutions, and laws, for all these were
more or less disfigured by the two mixed principles which I have just
pointed out. If we reflect upon the constant and obstinate struggle
between the Catholic Church and the elements which contended with her,
we shall clearly see that Christian ideas could never have prevailed
in legislation and manners, if Christianity had been a religious idea
abandoned to human caprice, as Protestants imagine; it was necessary
for it to be realized in a powerful institution, in a strongly
constituted society, such as we find in the Catholic Church. In order
to give an idea of the efforts made by the Church, I will point out
some of the regulations which she made for the purpose of improving
manners. Private animosities were very violent at the time of which we
speak; and right was decided by force, and the world was threatened
with becoming the patrimony of the strongest. Public law did not
exist, or was hurried away and confounded by outrages which its feeble
hand could never prevent or repress; it was altogether powerless in
rendering manners pacific, and in subjecting men to reason and justice.
Then we see that the Church, besides the instruction and the general
admonitions inseparable from her sacred mission, adopted at that time
certain measures calculated to restrain the torrent of violence which
ravaged and destroyed every thing. The Council of Arles, celebrated in
the middle of the fifth century, between 443 and 452, ordains, in its
50th canon, that the Church should be interdicted to those who have
public animosities, until they were reconciled. The Council of Angers,
celebrated in 453, proscribes, by its 3d canon, acts of violence and
mutilation. The Council of Agde, in Languedoc, celebrated in 506,
ordains, in its 31st canon, that enemies who would not be reconciled
should be admonished by the priests, and excommunicated if they did not
follow their apostolical counsels.

The Franks at that time had the custom of going armed, and they always
entered the churches with their arms. It will be understood that such
a custom must have produced great evils; the house of prayer was often
converted into an arena of blood and vengeance. In the middle of the
seventh century, the Council of Chalons-sur-Saone, in its 17th canon,
pronounces excommunication against all laymen who excite tumults,
or draw their swords to strike any one in the churches or in their
precincts. Thus, we see the prudence and foresight which dictated the
29th canon of the third Council of Orleans, celebrated in 538, which
forbids any one to be present at mass or vespers, armed. It is curious
to observe the uniformity of design and plan pursued by the Church.
In countries the most distant from each other, and at times when
communication could not be frequent, we find regulations analogous to
those which we have pointed out. The Council of Lerida, held in 546,
ordains, by its 7th canon, that he who shall have sworn not to be
reconciled with his enemy, shall be deprived of the participation of
the body and blood of Jesus Christ until he has done penance for his
oath and been reconciled.

Centuries passed away, acts of violence continued, the precept of
fraternal charity, which obliges us to love even our enemies, always
met with open resistance in the harsh character and fierce passions
of the descendants of the barbarians; but the Church did not cease to
preach the divine command; she continually inculcated and labored
to render it efficacious by means of spiritual penalties. More than
four hundred years had elapsed since the celebration of the Council
of Arles, where we have seen the church forbidden to those who were
openly at variance; we then see the Council of Worms, held in 868,
pronouncing, in its 41st canon, excommunication against enemies who
refused to be reconciled. It will suffice to have some idea of the
disorders of that time, to know whether it was possible to appease the
violence of animosities during this long period. One would fancy that
the Church would have been wearied of inculcating a precept which the
unhappy state of circumstances so often rendered fruitless; but such
was not the case: she continued to speak as she had spoken for ages;
she never lost her confidence that her words would produce fruit in the
present, and would be productive in the future. Such is her system;
one would think that she heard these words constantly repeated, "Cry
out, cry out without ceasing; raise thy voice like a trumpet." It is
then that she triumphs over all resistance; when she cannot exert
her power over the will of a nation, she makes her voice heard with
indefatigable diligence in the sanctuary. There she assembles seven
thousand who have not bent the knee to Baal; and while she endeavors to
confirm them in faith and good works, she protests, in the name of God,
against those who resist the Holy Spirit. Let us imagine that, amid
the dissipation and distraction of a populous city, we enter a sacred
place, where seriousness and moderation reign, in the bosom of silence
and religious retirement; there a minister of the sanctuary, surrounded
by a chosen number of the faithful, utters from time to time some
serious and solemn words. This is the personification of the Church in
times disastrous from weakened faith and corrupted morals. One of the
rules of conduct of the Catholic Church has been, not to bend before
the powerful. When she has proclaimed a law, she has proclaimed it for
all, without distinction of rank. In the time of the power of those
petty tyrants, who, under different names, persecuted the people, this
conduct of the Church contributed in an extraordinary degree to render
the ecclesiastical laws popular; for nothing was more likely to make
a law tolerable to the people than to show that it applied to nobles,
and even to kings. In the times of which we speak, hatred and violence
among plebeians were severely proscribed; but the same law extended
to great men and to royalty. A short time after the establishment
of Christianity in England, we find a very curious example in that
country, applicable to this question. It is nothing less than
excommunication pronounced against three kings in the same year, and
in the same town; all these were compelled by the Councils to do
penance for the crimes which they had committed. The town of Llandaff,
in Wales, within the metropolitan see of Canterbury, witnessed the
celebration of three Councils, in the year 560. In the first, Monric,
king of Glamorgan, was excommunicated for having put to death King
Cinétha, although he had sworn the peace on the sacred relics; in the
second, King Morcant was excommunicated for having put to death Friac,
his uncle, in whose favor he had equally sworn the peace; in the third,
King Guidnert was excommunicated for having put to death his brother,
the competitor for the throne.

Thus, these barbarian chiefs, just changed into kings, and prone to
slaughter, are compelled to acknowledge the authority of a superior
power, and to expiate by penance the murder of their relatives and
the violation of sacred engagements; it is useless to point out how
much this must have contributed to the improvement of manners. "It was
easy," the enemies of the Church will say--those who endeavor to lower
the merit of her acts--"it was easy to preach gentleness of manners,
to impose the observance of divine precepts on chiefs whose power was
limited, and who had only the name of kings; it was easy to manage
those petty barbarian chiefs, who, rendered fanatical by a religion of
which they understood nothing, humbly bowed before the first priest who
ventured to menace them on the part of God. But of what importance
was that? What influence could it have on the course of great events?
The history of European civilization presents a vast theatre, where
events must be studied on a large scale, and where none but the most
important scenes exercised any influence on the spirit of nations." Let
us observe, that these petty barbarian kings were the origin of the
principal families which now occupy the most important thrones of the
world. To place the germ of real civilization in their hearts, was to
graft the tree which was one day to overshadow the earth. But without
staying to show the futility of such reasoning, and as our opponents
desire great scenes capable of influencing European manners on a
large scale, let us open the history of the Church in the first ages,
and we shall soon find a page which redounds to the eternal honor of
Catholicity. The whole of the known world was subject to an emperor,
whose name, then universally venerated, will continue to be respected
by the remotest posterity. In an important city, the rebellious
inhabitants put to death the commander of the garrison; the emperor,
transported with anger, orders them to be exterminated. Returning to
himself, he revokes the order; but it was too late, the order was
executed, and thousands of victims had been involved in the horrible
carnage; at the news of this dreadful catastrophe, a bishop quits the
court of the emperor, leaves the city, and writes to him in this grave
language: "I dare not offer the sacrifice if you attempt to be present
at it; the blood of one innocent person would suffice to forbid me; how
much more the massacre of a large number." The emperor, confident in
his power, takes no notice of this letter, and goes towards the church.
When he arrives at the door, he finds himself in the presence of a
venerable man, who, with a grave and stern countenance, stops him and
forbids him to enter the church. "Thou hast imitated David in crime,"
he says, "imitate him also in penance." The emperor yields, humbles
himself, and submits to the regulations of the bishop, and religion and
humanity gain an immortal triumph. This unhappy city was Thessalonica;
the emperor was Theodosius; the prelate was St. Ambrose, Archbishop of

We find face to face, in this sublime fact, force and justice
personified. Justice triumphs over force; but why? Because he who
represents justice, represents it in the name of Heaven; because
the sacred vestments and the imposing attitude of the man who stops
the emperor reminds Theodosius of the divine mission of the holy
bishop, and of the office which he holds in the sacred ministry. Put
a philosopher in the place of the bishop, and tell him to arrest the
proud culprit by an injunction of doing penance, and you will see
whether human wisdom can do as much as the Catholic priest speaking
in the name of God. Put, if you please, a bishop of the Church, who
has acknowledged spiritual supremacy in the civil power, and you will
see whether in his mouth words have the same effect in obtaining so
glorious a triumph. The spirit of the Church was always the same; her
arms were always directed towards the same end; her language was always
equally strict, equally strong, whether she spoke to the Roman plebeian
or a barbarian, whether she addressed her admonitions to a patrician of
the empire or to a noble German. She was no more afraid of the purple
of the Cæsars than of the frowns of the long-haired kings. The power
which she possessed during the middle ages was not exclusively owing
to her having preserved alone the light of science and the principles
of government; but it was also owing to the invincible firmness, which
no resistance and no attack could destroy. What would Protestantism
have effected in such difficult and dangerous circumstances? Without
authority, without a centre of action, without security for her own
faith, without confidence in her resources, what means would she
have had to assist her in restraining the torrent of violence--that
impetuous torrent, which, after having inundated the world, was about
to destroy the remains of ancient civilization, and opposed to all
attempts at social reorganization an obstacle almost insurmountable?
Catholicity, with its ardent faith, its powerful authority, its
undivided unity, its well-compacted hierarchy, was able to undertake
the lofty enterprise of improving manners; and it brought to the
undertaking that constancy which is inspired by conscious strength, and
that boldness which animates a mind secure of triumph.

We must not, however, imagine that the conduct of the Church, in her
mission of improving manners, always brought her into collision with
force. We also see her employ indirect means, limit her demands to what
she could obtain, and ask for as little, in order to obtain as much as
possible. In a capitulary of Charlemagne, given at Aix-la-Chapelle in
813, and consisting of twenty-six articles, which are nothing more than
a sort of confirmation and _résumé_ of the five Councils held a little
before in France, we find in an appendix of two articles the method of
proceeding judicially against those who, under pretext of the right
called _faida_, excited tumults on Sundays, holidays, and also working
days. We have already seen above that they had recourse to the holy
relics, to give greater authority to the oaths of peace and friendship
taken by kings towards each other--an august act, in which Heaven was
invoked to prevent the effusion of blood, and to establish peace on
earth. We see in the capitulary which we have just quoted, that the
respect for Sundays and holidays was made use of to bring about the
abolition of the barbarous custom, which authorized the relations of
a murdered man to avenge his death in the blood of the murderer. The
deplorable state of European society at that time is vividly painted
by the means which the ecclesiastical power was compelled to use, to
diminish in some degree the disasters occasioned by the prevailing
violence. Not to attack, not to maltreat any one, not to have recourse
to force to obtain reparation or to gratify a desire of vengeance,
appears to us to be so just, so reasonable, and so natural, that
we can hardly imagine another way of acting. If, now, a law were
promulgated, to forbid one to attack one's enemy on such or such a day,
at such or such an hour, it would appear to us the height of folly and
extravagance. But it was not so at that time; such prohibitions were
made continually, not in obscure hamlets, but in great towns, in very
numerous assemblies, when bishops were present in hundreds, and where
counts, dukes, princes, and kings were gathered together. This law, by
which authority was glad to make the principles of justice respected,
at least on certain days,--principally on the great solemnities,--this
law, which now would appear to us so strange, was, in a certain way,
and for a long period, one of the chief points of public and private
law in Europe. It will be understood that I allude to the truce of God,
a privilege of peace very necessary at that time, as we see it very
often renewed in various countries. Of all that I might say on this
point, I shall content myself with selecting a few of the decisions
of Councils at the time. The Council of Tubuza, in the diocese of
Elne, in Roussillon, held by Guifred, Archbishop of Narbonne, in 1041,
established the truce of God, from the evening of Friday until Monday
morning. Nobody during that time could take any thing by force, or
revenge any injury, or require any pledge in surety. Those who violated
this decree were liable to the same legal composition as if they had
merited death; in default of which, they were excommunicated and
banished from the country.

The practice of this ecclesiastical regulation was considered so
advantageous, that many other Councils were held in France during the
same year, on the same subject. Moreover, care was taken frequently
to repeat the obligation, as we see by the Council of Saint Gilles,
in Languedoc, held in 1042, and by that of Narbonne, held in 1045. In
spite of these, repeated efforts did not obtain all the desired fruit;
this is indicated by the changes which we observe in the regulations
of the law. Thus we see that, in the year 1047, the truce of God was
fixed for a less time than in 1041; the Council of Telugis, in the same
diocese of Elne, held in 1047, only ordains that it is forbidden to
any one in all the _comté_ of Roussillon to attack his enemy between
the hours of none on Sunday and prime on Monday; the law was then
much less extensive than in 1041, when, as we have seen, the truce of
God was extended from Friday evening till Monday morning. We find in
the same Council a remarkable regulation, the object of which was to
preserve from all attack men who were going to church or returning
from it, or who were accompanying women. In 1054, the truce of God
had gained ground; we see it extended, not only from Friday evening
till Monday morning after sunrise, but over considerable periods of
the year. Thus we see that the Council of Narbonne, held by Archbishop
Guifred, in 1045, after having included in the truce of God the time
from Friday evening till Monday morning, declares it obligatory during
the following periods: from the first Sunday of Advent till the octave
of the Epiphany; from Quinquagesima Sunday till the octave of Easter;
from the Sunday preceding the Ascension till the octave of Pentecost;
the festival days of Our Lady, of St. Peter, of St. Laurence, of
St. Michael, of All Saints, of St. Martin, of St. Just and Pasteur,
titularies of the Church of Narbonne, and all fasting days, under pain
of anathema and perpetual banishment. The same Council gives some other
regulations, so beautiful that we cannot pass them over in silence,
when we are engaged in showing the influence of the Catholic Church in
improving manners. The 9th canon forbids the cutting of olive-trees;
a reason for it is given, which, in the eyes of jurists, will not
appear sufficiently general or adequate, but which, in the eyes of
the philosophy of history, is a beautiful symbol of the beneficial
influence exercised over society by religion. This is the reason
given by the Council: "It is," it says, "_that the olive-trees may
furnish matter for the holy chrism, and feed the lamps that burn in
the churches_." Such a reason was sure to produce more effect than any
that could be drawn from Ulpian and Justinian. It is ordained in the
10th canon that shepherds and their flocks shall enjoy at all times the
security of the truce; the same favor is extended by the 11th canon to
all houses within thirty paces of the churches. The 18th canon forbids
those who have a suit, to take any active steps, to commit the least
violence, until the cause has been judged in presence of the bishop and
lord of the place. The other canons forbid the robbing of merchants and
pilgrims, and the commission of wrong against any one, under pain of
being separated from the Church, if the crime be committed during the
time of the truce.

In proportion as we advance in the 11th century, we see the salutary
practice of the truce of God more and more inculcated; the Popes
interpose their authority in its favor. At the Council of Gironne, held
by Cardinal Hugues-le-Blanc, in 1068, the truce of God is confirmed
by the authority of Alexander II., under pain of excommunication; the
Council held in 1080, at Lillebonne, in Normandy, gives us reason
to suppose that the truce was then generally established, since it
ordains, by its first canon to bishops and lords, to take care that it
was observed, and to inflict on offenders against it censures and other
penalties. In the year 1093, the Council of Troja, in Apulia, held
by Urban II., continues the truce of God. To judge of the extent of
this canonical regulation, we should know that this Council consisted
of sixty-five bishops. The number was much greater at the Council of
Clermont, in Auvergne, held by the same Urban II., in 1095; it reckoned
no less than thirteen archbishops, two hundred and twenty bishops, and
a great number of abbots. The first canon of this Council confirms the
truce for Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday; it wishes, moreover,
that it should be observed on all the days of the week, with respect to
monks, clergy, and women. The canons 29 and 30 ordain, that if a man
pursued by an enemy take refuge near a cross, he should be in safety,
as if he had found asylum in a church. The sublime sign of redemption,
after having given salvation to the world, by drinking on Calvary the
blood of the Son of God, had already proved a refuge, during the sack
of Rome, to those who fled from the fury of the barbarians; centuries
later, we find it erected on the roads, to save the unfortunate, who,
by embracing it, escaped their enemies, who were thus deterred from

The Council of Rouen, held in 1096, extending still further the benefit
of the truce, ordains the observance of it from the Sunday before
Ash Wednesday till the second feast after the octave of Pentecost,
from sunset on Wednesday preceding Advent to the octave of Epiphany,
and every week from Friday after sunset till the Monday following at
sunrise; in fine, on all the feasts and vigils of the Virgin and the
Apostles. The 2d canon of the same Council secures perpetual peace to
all clergy, monks, and nuns, to women, to pilgrims, to merchants and
their servants, to oxen and horses of labor, to carmen and laborers;
it gives the same privileges to all lands that belong to sacred
institutions; all such persons, animals, and lands are protected from
the attacks of pillage and all kinds of violence. At this time the
law felt itself stronger; it could now call for obedience in a firmer
tone; we see, indeed, that the third canon of the same Council enjoins
upon all who have reached the age of twelve, to engage by oath to
observe the truce; in the fourth canon, all who refuse to take this
oath are excommunicated. Some years after, in 1115, the truce, instead
of comprising certain stated parts of the year, embraces whole years;
the Council of Troja in Apulia, held in that year by Pope Pascal,
establishes the truce for three years.

The Popes pursued with ardor the work thus commenced; they sanctioned
it with their authority, and extended the observance of the truce by
means of their influence, then universal and powerful over all Europe.
Although the truce was apparently only a testimony of respect paid to
religion by the violent passions, which, in her favor, consented to
suspend their hostilities, it was, in reality, a triumph of right over
might, and one of the most admirable devices ever used to improve the
manners of a barbarous people. The man who, during four days of the
week, and during long periods of the year, was compelled to suspend the
exercise of force, was necessarily led to more gentle manners; he must,
in the end, entirely renounce it. The difficulty is not, to convince
a man that he does ill, but to make him lose the habit of doing so;
and it is well known that habits are engendered by the repetition of
acts, and are lost when they cease for a time. Nothing is more pleasing
to the Christian soul than to see the Popes laboring to maintain and
extend this truce. They renew the command of it with a power the more
efficacious and universal according to the number of bishops who assist
at the Councils where their supreme authority presides. At the Council
of Rheims, opened by Pope Calixtus II. in person, in 1119, a decree
confirming the truce is promulgated. Thirteen archbishops, more than
two hundred bishops, and a great number of abbots and ecclesiastics,
distinguished for their rank, assisted at this Council. The same
command is renewed at the General Council of Lateran, held under the
care of the same Pontiff, Calixtus II., in 1123. There were assembled
more than three hundred archbishops and bishops, and more than six
hundred abbots. In 1130, the Council of Clermont, in Auvergne, held by
Innocent II., insists on the same point, and repeats the regulations
concerning the observance of the truce. The Council of Avignon,
held in 1209, by Hugh, Bishop of Riez, and Milon, notary of Pope
Innocent III., both legates of the Holy See, confirms the laws before
enacted on the subject of the peace and the truce, and condemns the
rebellious who dare to infringe them. In the year 1215, at the Council
of Montpellier, assembled by Robert de Courçon, and presided over by
Cardinal Benavent, in his office as legate of the province, all the
regulations established at different times for the public safety, and
more recently to secure peace between lord and lord, and town and town,
are renewed and confirmed.

Those who have regarded the intervention of the ecclesiastical power
in civil affairs as a usurpation of the rights of public authority,
should tell us how it is possible to usurp that which does not exist,
and how a power which is unable to exercise the authority which ought
to belong to it, can reasonably complain when that authority passes
into the hands of those who have force and skill to make use of it.
At that time, the public authority did not at all complain of these
pretended usurpations. Governments and nations looked upon them as
just and legitimate; for, as we have said above, they were natural and
necessary, they were brought about by the force of events, they were
the result of the situation of affairs. Certainly, it would now seem
extraordinary to see bishops provide for the security of roads, publish
edicts against incendiaries, against robbers, against those who cut
down olive-trees and commit other injuries of the kind; but, at the
time we are speaking of, this proceeding was very natural, and more,
it was necessary. Thanks to the care of the Church, to that incessant
solicitude which has been since so inconsiderately blamed, the
foundations of the social edifice, in which we now dwell in peace, were
laid; an organization was realized which would have been impossible
without the influence of religion and the action of ecclesiastical
authority. If you wish to know whether any fact of which you have to
judge is the result of the nature of things, or the fruit of well
contrived combinations, observe the manner in which it appears, the
places where it takes its rise, the times which witness its appearance;
and if you shall find it reproduced at once in places far distant from
each other, by men who can have had no concert, be assured that it is
not the result of human contrivance, but of the force of events. These
conditions are found united in a palpable manner in the action of the
ecclesiastical power on public affairs. Open the Councils of those
times, and everywhere the same facts meet your eyes; thus, to quote a
few examples, the Council of Palentia, in the kingdom of Leon, held in
1129, decrees, in its 12th canon, exile or seclusion in a monastery,
against those who attack the clergy, monks, merchants, pilgrims, and
women. Let us pass into France; the Council of Clermont, in Auvergne,
held in 1130, pronounces, in its 13th canon, excommunication against
incendiaries. In 1157, the Council of Rheims, in the 3d canon, orders
to be respected, during war, the persons of the clergy, of monks,
women, travellers, laborers, and vine-dressers. Let us pass into
Italy; the 11th Council of Lateran, a General Council, convoked in
1179, forbids, in its 22d canon, to maltreat or disturb monks, clergy,
pilgrims, merchants, peasants, either travelling or engaged in the
labors of agriculture, and animals laboring in the fields. In its 24th
canon, the same Council excommunicates those who make slaves of, or
rob, Christians on voyages of commerce, or for other lawful purposes;
those who plunder the shipwrecked are subjected to the same penalty,
unless they make restitution. Let us go to England; there the Council
of Oxford, held in 1222, by Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury,
forbids, by its 20th canon, any one to have robbers in their service.
In Sweden, the Council of Arbogen, held in 1396, by Henry, Archbishop
of Upsala, directs, by its 5th canon, that church-burial shall
be refused to pirates, ravishers, incendiaries, highway robbers,
oppressors of the poor, and other malefactors; so that in all parts,
and at the same periods, we see the same fact appear, viz. the
Church struggling against injustice and violence, and endeavoring to
substitute in their stead the empire of law and justice.

In what spirit must they read the history of the Church, who do not
feel the beauty of the picture presented to us by the multitude of
regulations, scarcely indicated here, all tending to protect the weak
against the strong? The clergy and monks, on account of the weakness
consequent on their peaceful profession, find in the canons which
we have just quoted peculiar protection; but the same is granted to
females, to pilgrims, to merchants, to villagers, travelling, or
engaged in rural labors, and to beasts of labor--in a word, to all that
is weak; and observe, that this protection is not a mere passing effort
of generosity, but a system practised in widely different places,
continued for centuries, developed and applied by all the means that
charity suggests--a system inexhaustible in resources and contrivances,
both in producing good and in preventing evil. And surely it cannot be
said that the Church was influenced in this by views of self-interest:
what interested motive could she have in preventing the spoliation of
an obscure traveller, the violence inflicted on a poor laborer, or the
insult offered to a defenceless woman? The spirit which then animated
her, whatever might be the abuses which were introduced during unhappy
times, was, as it now is, the spirit of God himself--that spirit which
continually communicates to her so marked an inclination towards
goodness and justice, and always urges her to realize, by any possible
means, her sublime desires. I leave the reader to judge whether or not
the constant efforts of the Church to banish the dominion of force
from the bosom of society were likely to improve manners. I now speak
only of times of peace; for I need not stay to prove that during the
time of war that influence must have had the happiest results. The _væ
victis_ of the ancients has disappeared from modern history, thanks
to the divine religion which knew how to inspire man with new ideas
and new feelings--thanks to the Catholic Church, whose zeal for the
redemption of captives has softened the fierce maxims of the Romans,
who, as we have seen, had considered it necessary to take from brave
men the hope of being redeemed from servitude, when by the chances of
war they had fallen into the hands of their enemies. The reader may
revert to the seventh chapter of this work, and the third paragraph of
the fifteenth note, where there are, in the original text, numerous
documents that may be quoted in support of our assertion; he will thus
be better able to judge of the gratitude which is due to the charity,
disinterestedness, and indefatigable zeal of the Catholic Church in
favor of the unfortunate, who groaned in bondage in the power of their
enemies. We must also consider that, slavery once abolished, the system
was necessarily improved; for if those who surrendered could no longer
be put to death, or be kept in slavery, the only thing to be done was,
to retain them for the time necessary to prevent their doing mischief,
or until they were ransomed. Now, this is the modern system, which
consists in retaining prisoners till the end of the war, or until they
are exchanged.

Although the amelioration of manners, as I have said above, consists,
properly speaking, in the exclusion of force, we must yet avoid
considering this exclusion of force in the abstract, and believing that
such an order of things was possible, by virtue of the mere development
of mind. All is connected in this world; it is not enough, to
constitute the real improvement of manners, that they avoid violence as
much as possible; they must also be benevolent. As long as they are not
so, they will be less gentle than enervated; the use of force will not
be banished from society, but it will remain artificially disguised.
It will be understood, then, that we are obliged here to take a survey
of the principle whence European civilization has drawn the spirit of
benevolence which distinguishes it; we shall thus succeed in showing
that the gentleness of our present manners is principally owing to
Catholicity. There is, besides, in the examination of the principle
of benevolence, so much importance of its own, independently of its
connection with the question which now occupies us, that we cannot
avoid devoting some pages to it, in the course of an analytical review
of the elements of our civilization.[22]



Never will manners be perfectly gentle without the existence of public
beneficence; so that gentleness of manners and beneficence, although
distinct, are sisters. Public beneficence, properly so called, was
unknown among the ancients. Individuals might be beneficent there,
but society was without compassion. Thus, the foundation of public
establishments of beneficence formed no part of the system of
administration among ancient nations. What, then, did they do with
the unfortunate? We will answer with the author of the _Génie de
Christianisme_, that they had no resources but infanticide and slavery.
Christianity having become predominant everywhere, we see the authority
of the Church employed in destroying the remains of cruel customs. In
the year 442, the Council of Vaison, establishing a regulation for the
legitimate possession of foundlings, decrees ecclesiastical censure
against those who disturb by importunate reproaches charitable persons
who have received children. The Council adopts this measure with the
view of protecting a beneficent custom; for, adds the canon, _these
children were exposed to be eaten by dogs_. There were still found
fathers unnatural enough to kill their children. The Council of Lerida,
held in 546, imposes seven years of penance on those who commit such
a crime; and that of Toledo, held in 589, forbids, in the 17th canon,
parents to commit this crime. Still, the difficulty did not consist in
correcting these excesses; crimes thus opposed to the first notions of
morality--so much in contradiction to the feelings of nature--tended
to their own extirpation. The difficulty consisted in finding proper
means to organize a vast system of beneficence, to provide constant
succor, not only for children, but for old men, for the sick, for the
poor incapable of living by their own labor; in a word, for all the
necessitous. Familiarized as we are with such a system universally
established, we see nothing in it but what is simple and natural; we
can hardly find any merit in it. But let us suppose for a moment that
such institutions do not exist; let us transport ourselves to the times
when there was not even the first idea of them, what continued efforts
would there not be required to establish and organize them!

It is clear that by the mere extension of Christian charity in the
world the various wants of humanity must have been more frequently
succored, and with more efficacy, than they were before; and this
even if we suppose that the exercise of charity was limited to purely
individual means. Assuredly, there would always have been a great
number of the faithful who would have remembered the doctrines and
example of Jesus Christ. Our Saviour did not content Himself with
teaching us by his discourses the obligation of loving our neighbor
as ourselves, nor with a barren affection, but by giving food to
the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothes to the naked; by visiting
the sick and prisoners. He showed us in his own conduct a model of
the practice of charity. He could have shown in a thousand ways the
power which belonged to Him in heaven and on earth; his voice could
have controlled all the elements, stopped the motions of the stars,
and suspended all the laws of nature; but He delighted above all in
displaying his beneficence; He only attested his divinity by miracles
which healed or consoled the unfortunate. His whole life is summed
up in the sublime simplicity of these two words of the sacred text:
_pertransiit benefaciendo; He went about doing good_.

Whatever good might be expected from Christian charity when left to
its own inspiration, and acting in a sphere purely individual, it
was not desirable to leave it in this state. It was necessary to
realize it in permanent institutions, and not to leave the consolation
of the unfortunate to the mercy of man and passing circumstances;
this is the reason why there was so much wisdom and foresight in the
idea of founding establishments of beneficence. It was the Church
that conceived and executed this idea. Therein she only applied to a
particular case her general rule of conduct; which is, never to leave
to the will of individuals what can be connected with an institution:
and observe, that this is one of the causes of the strength inherent
in all that belongs to Catholicity. As the principle of authority
in matters of faith preserves to her unity and constancy therein,
so the rule of intrusting every thing to institutions secures the
solidity and duration of all her works. These two principles have an
intimate connection; for if you examine them attentively, the one
supposes that she distrusts the intellect of man, the other, that she
distrusts his individual will and capacity. The one supposes that man
is not sufficient of himself to attain to, and preserve the knowledge
of, certain truths; the other, that he is so feeble and capricious,
that it is unwise to leave to his weakness and inconstancy the care
of doing good. Now, neither one nor the other is injurious to man;
neither one nor the other lowers his proper dignity. The Church only
tells him, that he is, in reality, subject to error, inclined to
evil, inconstant in his designs, and very miserable in his resources.
These are melancholy truths; but the experience of every day attests
them, and the Christian religion explains them, by establishing, as a
fundamental dogma, the fall of man in the person of our first parent.
Protestantism, following principles diametrically opposite, applies the
same spirit of individuality to the will as to the intelligence; it
is even the natural enemy of institutions. Without going further than
our present subject, we see that its first step, on its appearance,
was to destroy what existed, without in any way replacing it. Will
it be believed that Montesquieu went so far as to applaud this work
of destruction? This is another proof of the fatal influence exerted
over minds by the pestilential atmosphere of the last century: "Henri
VIII.," says Montesquieu, "voulant réformer l'église d'Angleterre,
détruisit les moines: nation paresseuse elle-même, et qui entretenait
la paresse des autres, parceque, practiquant l'hospitalité, une
infinité de gens oisifs, gentilhommes et bourgeois, passoient leur vie
à courir de couvent en couvent. _Il ôta encore les hôpitaux, où le bas
peuple trouvait sa subsistence_, comme les gentilhommes trouvaient la
leur dans les monastères. Depuis ce changement, l'esprit de commerce
et d'industrie s'établit en Angleterre." (_De l'Esprit des Lois_, liv.
xxiii. chap. 19.) That Montesquieu should praise this conduct of Henry
VIII., and the destruction of monasteries, for the miserable reason,
that it was good to deprive the idle of the hospitality of the monks,
is a notion which ought not to astonish us, as such vulgar ideas were
in accordance with the taste of the philosophy which had then begun to
prevail. It attempted to find profound economical and political reasons
for all that was in opposition to the institutions of Catholicity; and
this was not difficult, for a prejudiced mind always finds in books,
as well as in facts, what it seeks. We might inquire of Montesquieu,
however, what is become of the property of the monasteries? As these
rich spoils were in great part given to the same nobles who found
hospitality with the monks, we might observe to him, that it was a
singular way of diminishing the idleness of people, to give them as
their own the property which they had previously enjoyed as guests.
It cannot be denied, that to take to the houses of the nobles the
property which had supported the hospitality which the monks showed
them, was certainly to save them the trouble of _running from monastery
to monastery_. But what we cannot tolerate is, to hear vaunted as a
political _chef-d'œuvre_, the _suppression of the hospitals where the
poor people found their subsistence_. What! are these your lofty views,
and is your philosophy so devoid of compassion, that you think the
destruction of the asylums of misfortune proper means for encouraging
industry and commerce? The worst of it is, that Montesquieu, seduced by
the desire of offering new and piquant observations, goes so far as
to deny the utility of hospitals, pretending that, in Rome, they make
all live in comfort except those who labor. He does not wish to have
them in rich nations or in poor ones. He supports this cruel paradox by
a reason stated in the following words: "Quand la nation est pauvre,"
says he, "la pauvreté particulière dérive de la misère générale, et
elle est, pour ainsi dire, la misère générale. Tous les hôpitaux du
monde ne sauraient guérir cette pauvreté particulière; _au contraire
l'esprit de paresse qu'ils inspirent augmente la pauvreté générale,
et par conséquent la particulière_." Thus, hospitals are represented
as dangerous to poor nations, and consequently condemned. Let us now
listen to what is said of rich ones: "J'ai dit que les nations riches
avaient besoin d'hôpitaux, parceque la fortune y était sujette a mille
accidents; mais _on sent que les recours passagers vaudraient bien
mieux que les établissements perpétuels_. Le mal est momentané; il faut
donc des secours de même nature, et qui soient applicables à l'accident
particulier." (_De l'Esprit des Lois_, liv. xxiii. chap. 19.) It is
difficult to find any thing more empty or more false. Undoubtedly, if
we were to judge, by these passages, of the _Esprit des Lois_, the
merit of which has been so much exaggerated, we should be compelled to
condemn it in terms more severe than those employed by M. de Bonald,
when he called it "the most profound of superficial works." Happily for
the poor, and for the good order of society, Europe in general has not
adopted these maxims; and on this point, as on many others, prejudices
against Catholicity have been laid aside, in order to continue, with
more or less modification, the system which she taught. We find in
England herself a considerable number of establishments of beneficence;
and it is not believed in that country that it is necessary, in order
to excite the activity of the poor, to expose them to the danger
of dying of hunger. We should always remember that the system of
public establishments for beneficence, now general in Europe, would
not have existed without Catholicity; indeed, we may rest assured,
that if the religious schism had taken place before the foundation
and organization of this system, European society would not now have
enjoyed these establishments which do it so much honor, and are so
precious an element of good government and public tranquillity. It is
one thing to found and maintain an establishment of this kind, when a
great number of similar ones already exist,--when governments possess
immense resources, and strength sufficient to protect all interests;
but it is a very different thing to establish a multitude of them in
all places, when there is no model to be copied, when it is necessary
to _improvise_ in a thousand ways the indispensable resources,--when
public authority has no _prestige_ or force to control the violent
passions that struggle to gain every thing that they can feed on. Now,
in modern times, since the existence of Protestantism, the first only
of these things has been done; the second was accomplished centuries
before by the Catholic Church; and let it be observed, that what has
been done in Protestant countries in favor of public beneficence, has
been done by administrative acts of the government, acts which were
necessarily inspired by the view of the happy results already obtained
from similar institutions. But Protestantism, by itself, considered as
a separate Church, has done nothing, and it could do nothing; for in
all places where it preserves any thing of hierarchical organization,
it is the mere instrument of the civil power; consequently it
cannot there act by its own inspirations. Such is the vice of its
constitution. Its prejudice against the religious institutions, both
of men and women, make it sterile in this respect. Thus, indeed,
it is deprived of one of the most powerful elements possessed by
Catholicity to accomplish the most arduous and laborious works of
charity. For the great works of charity, it is necessary to be free
from worldly attachments and self-love; and these qualities are found
in an eminent degree in persons who are devoted to charity in religious
institutions. There they commence with that freedom which is the root
of all the rest--the absence of self-love. The Catholic Church has
not been instigated to this by the civil power; she has considered
it as one of her own peculiar duties to provide for the unfortunate.
Her bishops have always been looked upon as the protectors and the
natural inspectors of beneficent establishments. Therefore there was
a law which placed hospitals under the charge of the bishops; and
thence it comes that that class of charitable institutions has always
occupied a distinguished place in canonical legislation. The Church,
from remote times, has made laws concerning hospitals. Thus, we see
the Council of Chalcedon place under the authority of the bishop the
clergy residing in Ptochüs,--that is, as explained by Zonarus, in the
establishments destined to support and provide for the poor: "Such,"
he says, "as those where orphans and the old and infirm are received
and cared for." The Council makes use of this expression, _according to
the tradition of the holy Fathers_; thereby indicating that regulations
had been made of old by the Church concerning establishments of this
kind. The learned also know what the ancient _diaconies_ were,--places
of charity, where poor widows, orphans, old men, and other unfortunate
persons, were received.

When the irruption of the barbarians had introduced everywhere the
reign of force, the possessions which hospitals already had, and those
which they afterwards gained, were exposed to unbounded rapacity. The
Church did all she could to protect them. It was forbidden to take
them, under the severest penalties; those who made the attempt were
punished as murderers of the poor. The Council of Orleans, held in
549, forbids, in its 13th canon, taking the property of hospitals; the
15th canon of the same Council confirms the foundation of a hospital
at Lyons, a foundation due to the charity of King Childebert and
Queen Ultrogotha. The Council takes measures to secure the safety and
good management of the funds of that hospital; all violating these
regulations are anathematized as guilty of homicide of the poor.

We find, with respect to the poor, in very ancient Councils,
regulations of charity and police at the same time, quite similar
to measures now adopted in certain countries. For example, parishes
are enjoined to make a list of their poor, to maintain them, &c. The
Council of Tours, held in 566 or 567, by its 5th canon orders every
town to maintain its poor; and the priests in the country, as well as
the faithful, to maintain their own, in order to prevent mendicants
from wandering about the towns and provinces. With respect to lepers,
the 21st canon of the Council of Orleans, before quoted, prescribes
to bishops to take particular care of these unfortunate beings in all
dioceses, and to furnish them with food and clothing out of the Church
funds; the Council of Lyons, held in 583, in its 6th canon ordains
that the lepers of every town and territory shall be supported at the
expense of the Church under the care of the bishop. The Church had
a register of the poor, intended to regulate the distribution which
was made to them of a portion of the ecclesiastical property; it
was expressly forbidden to demand any thing from the poor for being
inscribed in this book of charity. The Council of Rheims, held in
874, in the second of its five articles forbids receiving any thing
from the poor thus inscribed, and that under pain of deposition. Zeal
for improving the condition of prisoners, a kind of charity which has
been so much displayed in modern times, is extremely ancient in the
Church. We must observe that in the sixth century there was already
an inspector of prisons; the archdeacon or the provost of the church
was obliged to visit prisoners on all Sundays; no class of criminals
was excluded from the benefit of this solicitude. The archdeacon was
bound to learn their wants, and to furnish them, by means of a person
recommended by the bishop, with food and all they stood in need of.
This was ordered by the 20th canon of the Council of Orleans, held
in 549. It would be too long to enumerate even a small part of the
ordinances which attest the zeal of the Church for the comfort and
consolation of the unfortunate; besides, it would be beyond my purpose,
for I have only undertaken to compare the spirit of Protestantism
with that of Catholicity with respect to works of charity. Yet, and as
the development of this question has naturally led me to state several
historical facts, I shall allude to the 141st canon of the Council of
Aix-la-Chapelle, enjoining upon prelates to found, according to the
example of their predecessors, a hospital to receive all the poor that
the revenues of the Church were able to support. Prebendaries were
bound to give to the hospital the tenth of their fruits; one of them
was appointed to receive the poor and strangers, and to watch over the
administration of the hospital. Such was the rule of prebendaries.
In the rule destined for the canonesses, the same Council ordains
that a hospital shall be established close to the house, and that it
shall itself contain a place reserved for poor women. Therefore, were
there seen, many centuries later, in various places, hospitals near
to prebendal churches. As we approach our own times, we everywhere
see innumerable institutions founded for charity. Ought we not to
admire the fruitfulness with which there arise, on all sides, as many
resources as are necessary to succour all the unfortunate? We cannot
calculate with precision what would have happened if Protestantism had
not appeared, but at least there is a conjecture authorized by reasons
of analogy. If the development of European civilization had been fully
carried out under the principle of religious unity, if the so-called
Reformation had not plunged Europe into continual revolutions and
reactions, there would certainly have been produced in the bosom of the
Catholic Church some general system of beneficence, which, organized
on a grand scale and in conformity with the new progress of society,
would have been able to prevent or effectually to remedy the sore of
pauperism, that cancer of modern nations. What was not to be expected
from all the intelligence and all the resources of Europe, working in
concert to obtain this great result? Unhappily, the unity of faith was
broken; authority, the proper centre, past, present, and future, was
rejected. From that time Europe, which was destined to become a nation
of brothers, was changed into a most fiercely-contested battle-field.
Hatred, engendered by religious differences, prevented any united
efforts for new arrangements; and the necessities which arose out of
the bosom of the social and political organization, which was for
Europe the fruit of so many centuries of labor, could not be provided
for. Bitter disputes, rebellions, and wars were acclimatized among us.

Let us remember that the Protestant schism not only prevented the
union of all the efforts of Europe to attain the end in question, but,
moreover, it has been the reason why Catholicism has not been able to
act in a regular manner even in those countries where it has preserved
its complete empire, or a decided predominance. In these countries it
has been compelled to hold itself in an attitude of defence; it has
been obliged, by the attacks of its enemies, to employ a great part of
its resources in defending its own existence: it is very probably for
this reason that the state of things in Europe is entirely different
from what it would have been on a contrary supposition; and perhaps
in the latter case there would not have existed the sad necessity of
exhausting itself in impotent efforts against an evil, which, according
to all appearances, and unless hitherto unknown means can be devised,
appears without remedy. I shall be told that the Church in this case
would have had an excessive authority over all that relates to charity,
and would have unjustly usurped the civil power. This is a mistake;
the Church has never claimed any thing that is not quite conformable
to her indelible character of protector of all the unfortunate. During
some centuries, it is true, we hardly hear any other voice or perceive
any other action than hers, in all that relates to beneficence;
but we must observe that the civil power during that time was very
far from possessing a regular and vigorous administration, capable
of doing without the aid of the Church. The latter was so far from
being actuated by any motives of ambition, that her double charge of
spiritual and temporal things imposed on her all sorts of sacrifices.

Three centuries have passed away since the event of which we now
lament the fatal results. Europe during this period has been submitted
in great part to the influence of Protestantism, but it has made no
progress thereby. I cannot believe that these three centuries would
have passed away under the exclusive influence of Catholicity, without
producing in the bosom of Europe a degree of charity sufficient
to raise the system of beneficence to the height demanded by the
difficulties and new interests of society. If we look at the different
systems which ferment in minds devoted to the study of this grave
question, we shall always find there _association_ under one form or
another. Now association has been at all times one of the favorite
principles of Catholicity, which, by proclaiming unity in faith,
proclaims it also in all things; but there is this difference, that
a great number of associations which are conceived and established
in our days are nothing but an agglomeration of interests; they want
unity of will and of aim, conditions which can be obtained only by
means of Christian charity. Yet these two conditions are indispensably
necessary to accomplish great works of beneficence, if any thing else
is required than a mere measure of public administration. As to the
administration itself, it is of little avail when it is not vigorous;
and unfortunately, in acquiring the necessary vigor, its action becomes
somewhat stiff and harsh. Therefore it is that Christian charity is
required, which, penetrating on all sides like a balsam, softens all
that is harsh in human action. I pity the unfortunate who in their
necessities find only the succor of the civil authorities, without the
intervention of Christian charity. In reports presented to the public,
philanthropy may and will exaggerate the care which it lavishes on the
unfortunate, but things will not be so in reality. The love of our
brethren, when it is not founded on religious principle, is as fruitful
in words as it is barren in deeds. The sight of the poor, of the sick,
of impotent old age, is too disagreeable for us long to bear it, unless
we are urged to it by very powerful motives. Even much less can we hope
that a vague feeling of humanity will suffice to make us encounter, as
we should, the constant cares required to console these unfortunate
beings. When Christian charity is wanting, a good administration will
no doubt enforce punctuality and exactitude--all that can be demanded
of men who receive a salary for their services: but one thing will be
wanting, which nothing can replace and money cannot buy, viz. love.
But it will be asked, have you no faith in philanthropy? No; for as M.
de Chateaubriand says, philanthropy is only the false coin of charity.
It was then perfectly reasonable that the Church should have a direct
influence in all branches of beneficence, for she knew better than any
others how to make Christian charity active, by applying it to all
kinds of necessities and miseries. Therein she did not gratify her
ambition, but found food for her zeal; she did not claim a privilege,
but exerted a right. In fine, if you will persevere in calling such a
desire ambition, you cannot deny at least that it was ambition of a
new kind. An ambition truly worthy of glory and reward, is that which
claims the right of succoring and consoling the unfortunate.[23]



The question of the improvement of manners, treated in the preceding
chapters, naturally leads me to another, sufficiently thorny in itself,
and rendered still more so by innumerable prejudices. I allude to
toleration in matters of religion. The word Catholicity, to certain
persons, is the synonyme of intolerance; and the confusion of ideas
on this point has become such, that no more laborious task can be
undertaken than to clear them up. It is only necessary to pronounce the
word intolerance, to raise in the minds of some people all sorts of
black and horrible ideas. Legislation, institutions, and men of past
times, all are condemned without appeal, the moment there is seen the
slightest appearance of intolerance. More than one cause contributes
to this universal prejudice. Yet, if called upon to point out the
principal one, we would repeat the profound maxim of Cato, who, when
accused at the age of eighty-six of certain offences of his past life,
committed at times long gone by, said, "It is difficult to render an
account of one's own conduct to men belonging to an age different from
that in which one has lived." There are some things of which one cannot
accurately judge without, not only a knowledge of them, but also a
complete appreciation of the times when they occurred. How many men are
capable of attaining to this? There are few who are able to succeed
in freeing their minds from the influence of the atmosphere which
surrounds them; but there are fewer still who can do the same with
their hearts. The age in which we live is precisely the reverse of the
ages of intolerance; and this is the first difficulty which meets us in
discussing questions of this kind. The prejudice and bad faith of some
who have applied themselves to this subject, have contributed also in
a considerable degree to erroneous opinions. There is nothing in the
world which cannot be undervalued by showing only one side of it; for
thus considered, all things are false, or rather are not themselves.
All bodies have three dimensions; only to look at one is not to form an
idea of the body itself, but of a quantity very different from it. Take
any institution, the most just and useful that can be imagined, then
all the inconveniences and evils which it has caused, taking care to
bring together into a few pages what in reality was spread over a great
many ages; then your history will be disgusting, hideous, and worthy
of execration. Let a partisan of democracy describe to you in a narrow
compass, and by means of historical facts, all the inconveniences and
evils of monarchy, the vices and the crimes of kings; how will monarchy
then appear to you? But let a partisan of monarchy paint to you, in his
turn, by the same method of historical facts, democracy and demagogues;
and what will you then think of democracy? Assemble in one picture all
the evils occasioned to nations by a high degree of development of the
social state; civilization and refinement will then appear detestable.
By seeking and selecting in the annals of the human mind certain
traits, the history of science may be made the history of folly, and
even of crime. By heaping together the fatal accidents that have
occurred to masters of the healing art, their beneficent profession may
be represented as a career of homicide. In a word, every thing may be
falsified by proceeding in this way. God himself would appear to us as
a monster of cruelty and tyranny, if, taking away his goodness, wisdom,
and justice, we only attended to the evils which we see in a world
created by his power and governed by his providence.

Having laid down these principles, let us apply them. The spirit of the
age, particular circumstances, and an order of things quite different
from ours, are all forgotten, and the history of the religious
intolerance of Catholics is composed by taking care to condense into a
few pages, and paint in the blackest colours, the severity of Ferdinand
and Isabella, of Philip II., of Mary of England, of Louis XIV., and
every thing of the kind that occurred during three centuries. The
reader who receives, almost at the same moment, the impression of
events which occurred during a period of three hundred years,--the
reader, accustomed to live in society where prisons are being converted
into houses of recreation, and where the punishment of death is
vigorously opposed, can he behold the appearance of darksome dungeons,
the instruments of punishment, the _san-benitos_ and scaffolds, without
being deeply moved? He will bewail the unfortunate lot of those who
perish; he will be indignant against the authors of what he calls
horrible atrocities. Nothing has been said to this candid reader of the
principles and conduct of Protestants at the same time; he has not been
reminded of the cruelty of Henry VIII. and of Elizabeth of England.
Thus all his hatred is directed against Catholics, and he is accustomed
to regard Catholicity as a religion of tyranny and blood. But will a
judgment thus formed be just? Will this be a sentence passed with a
full knowledge of the cause? What would impartiality direct us to do,
if we met with a dark picture, painted in the way we have described,
of monarchy, democracy, or civilization, of science, or of the healing
art? What we should do, or rather what we ought to do, is to extend
our view further, to examine the subject in its different phases; to
inquire into its good as well as its evil: this would be to look upon
these evils as they really are, that is, spread at great distances over
the course of centuries; this would weaken the impression they had
made upon us: in a word, we should thus be just, we should take the
balance in hand to weigh the good and evil, to compare the one with
the other, as we ought always to do when we have duly to appreciate
things in the history of humanity. In the case in question, we should
act in the same way, in order to provide against the error into which
we may be led by the false statements and exaggerations of certain men,
whose evident intention it has been to falsify facts by representing
only one side of them. The Inquisition no longer exists, and assuredly
there is no probability of its being re-established; the severe laws in
force on this matter in former times no longer exist; they are either
abrogated or they are fallen into desuetude: no one, therefore, has an
interest in representing this institution in a false point of view. It
may be imagined that some men had an interest in this while they were
engaged in destroying their ancient laws, but that once attained, the
Inquisition and its laws are become a historical fact, which ought to
be examined here with attention and impartiality. We have here two
questions, that of principle, and that of its application; in other
words, that of intolerance, and that of the manner of showing it.
We must not confound these two things, which, although very closely
connected, are very different. I shall begin with the first.

The principle of universal toleration is now proclaimed, and all kind
of intolerance is condemned without appeal. But who takes care to
examine the real meaning of these words? who undertakes to analyze
the ideas which they contain by the light of reason, and explain them
by means of history and experience? Very few. They are pronounced
mechanically; they are constantly employed to establish propositions of
the highest importance, without even the suspicion that they contain
ideas, the right or wrong comprehension and application of which is
every thing for the preservation of society. Few persons consider
that these words include questions as profound as they are delicate,
and the whole of a large portion of history; very few observe that,
according to one solution given to the problem of toleration, all the
past is condemned, and all the present overturned; nothing is left
thereby to build on for the future but a moving bed of sand. Certainly,
the most convenient way in such a case is, to adopt and employ these
words such as we already find them in circulation, in the same way as
we take and circulate the current coin, without considering whether
it be composed of alloy or not. But what is the most convenient is
not always the most useful; and, as when receiving coins of value,
we carefully examine them, so we ought to weigh words the meaning of
which is of such paramount importance. Toleration--what is the meaning
of this word? It means, properly speaking, the patience with which
we suffer a thing which we judge to be bad, but which we think it
desirable not to punish. Thus, some kinds of scandals are tolerated;
prostitutes are tolerated; such and such abuses are tolerated; so that
the idea of toleration is always accompanied by the idea of evil.
When toleration is exercised in the order of ideas, it always supposes
a misunderstanding, or error. No one will say that he tolerates the
truth. We have an observation to make here. The phrase _to tolerate
opinions_ is commonly used: now, opinion is very different from error.
At first sight, the difficulty appears great; but if we examine the
thing well, we shall be able to explain it. When we say that we
tolerate an opinion, we always mean an opinion contrary to our own. In
this case, the opinion of another is, according to us, an error; for
it is impossible to have an opinion on any point whatever--that is, to
think that a thing is or is not, is in one way or in another--without
thinking at the same time that those who judge otherwise are deceived.
If our opinion is only an opinion--that is, if our judgment, although
based on reasons which appear to us to be good, has not attained to a
degree of complete certainty--our judgment of another will be only a
mere opinion; but if our conviction has become completely established
and confirmed--that is, if it has attained to certainty--we shall be
sure that those who form a judgment opposed to ours are deceived.
Thence it follows, that the word toleration, applied to opinions,
always means the toleration of an error. He who says, yes, thinks no
is false; and he who says, no, thinks yes is a mistake. This is only
an application of the well-known principle, _that it is impossible
for the same thing to be and not to be at the same time_. But, we
shall be asked, What do you mean when you use these words, 'to respect
opinions?' is it always understood that we respect errors? No; for
these words can have two different and equally reasonable meanings.
The first is founded on the feebleness of the conviction of the person
from whom the respect comes. When on any particular point we have only
just formed an opinion, it is understood that we have not reached
certainty; consequently, we know that there are reasons on the other
side. In this sense, we may well say that we respect the opinions of
others: we express thereby our conviction that it is possible that we
are deceived--that it is possible the truth is not on our side. In the
second meaning, to respect opinions is to respect, sometimes those who
profess them, sometimes their good faith, sometimes their intentions.
Thus, when we say that we respect prejudices, it is clear that we do
not mean a real respect professed in this place. We see thus, that the
expression 'to respect the opinions of others' has a very different
meaning, according as the person from whom the respect comes has or has
not assured convictions in the contrary sense.

In order the better to understand what toleration is, what its origin
and its effects, it is necessary, before we examine it in society,
to reduce it to its simplest element. Let us analyze toleration
considered in the individual. An individual is called tolerant, when
he is habitually in a disposition of mind to bear without irritation
or disturbance opinions contrary to his own. This toleration will
bear different names, according to the different matters to which it
relates. In religious matters, tolerance as well as intolerance may be
found in those who have religion as well as in those who have none; so
that neither of these situations, with respect to religion, necessarily
implies the one or the other. Some people imagine that tolerance is
peculiar to the incredulous, and intolerance to the religious; but they
are mistaken. Who is more tolerant than St. Francis de Sales? who more
intolerant than Voltaire?

Tolerance in religious men--that tolerance which does not come from
want of faith, and which is not inconsistent with an ardent zeal
for the preservation and propagation of the faith--is born of two
principles, charity and humility. Charity, which makes us love all
men, even our greatest enemies; charity, which inspires us with
compassion for their faults and errors, and obliges us to regard them
as brothers, to employ all the means in our power to withdraw them from
being fatally deceived; charity, which forbids us ever to regard them
as deprived of the hope of salvation as long as they live. Rousseau
has said, that "it is impossible to live in peace with those that
one believes to be damned." We do not, and we cannot, believe in the
condemnation of any man as long as he lives; however great may be his
iniquity, the mercy of God and the value of the blood of Jesus Christ
are still greater. We are so far from thinking with the philosopher
of Geneva, "that to love such people would be to hate God," that no
one could maintain such a doctrine among us without ceasing to belong
to our faith. The other source of tolerance is Christian humility:
humility, which inspires us with a profound sense of our weakness,
and makes us consider all that we have as given by God; humility,
which makes us consider our advantages over our neighbor as so many
more powerful motives for acknowledging the liberality of Providence;
humility, which, placing before our eyes the spectacle of humanity
in its proper light, makes us regard ourselves and all others as
members of the great family of the human race, fallen from its ancient
dignity by the sin of our first parent; humility, which shows us the
perverse inclinations of our hearts, the darkness of our minds, and the
claims which man has to pity and indulgence in his faults and errors;
humility, that virtue sublime even in its abasement. "If humility is so
pleasing to God," is the admirable observation of St. Theresa, "it is
because it is the truth." This is the virtue which renders us indulgent
towards all men, by never allowing us to forget that we ourselves,
perhaps, more than any others, have need of indulgence.

Yet for a man to be tolerant, in the full extent of the word, it is
not enough for him to be humble and charitable; this is a truth which
experience teaches and reason explains to us. In order perfectly to
clear up a point, the obscurity of which produces the confusion which
almost always prevails in these questions, let us make a comparison
between two men equally religious, whose principles are the same,
but whose conduct is very different. Let us suppose two priests both
distinguished for learning and eminent virtue. The one has passed
his life in retirement, surrounded by pious persons, and having no
intercourse with any but Catholics: the other has been a missionary
in countries where different religions are established, he has been
obliged to live and converse with men of creeds different from his
own; he has been under the necessity of witnessing the establishment
of temples of a false religion close to those of the true one. The
principles of Christian charity will be the same with both these
priests; both will look upon faith as a gift of God, which he has
received, and must preserve; their conduct, however, will be very
different, if they meet with a man of a faith different from their
own, or of none at all. The first, who, never having had intercourse
with any but the faithful, has always heard religion spoken of with
respect, will be horrified, will be indignant, at the first word he
shall hear against the faith or ceremonies of the Church; it will be
impossible, or nearly so, for him to remain calm during a conversation
or discussion on the question: the second, accustomed to such things,
to hear his faith impugned, to dispute with men of creeds opposed to
his own, will remain tranquil; he will engage in a discussion with
coolness, if it be necessary; he will skilfully avoid one, if prudence
shall advise such a course. Whence comes this difference? It is not
difficult to discover. The second of these priests, by intercourse
with men, by experience, by contradiction, has obtained a clear notion
of the real condition of men's minds in the world; he is aware of the
fatal combination of circumstances which has led a great number of
unfortunate persons into error, and keeps them there; he knows how,
in some measure, to put himself in their place; and the more lively
is his sense of the benefit conferred upon him by Providence, the
more mild and indulgent he is towards others. The other may be as
virtuous, as charitable, and as humble as you please; but how can you
expect of him that he will not be deeply moved, and give utterance
to his indignation, the first time that he hears that denied which
he has always believed with the most lively faith? He has up to this
time met with no opposition in the world, but a few arguments in
books. Certainly he was not ignorant that there existed heretics and
unbelievers, but he has not frequently met with them, he has not heard
them state their hundred different systems, and he has not witnessed
the erroneous creeds of men of all sorts, of different characters, and
the most varied minds; the lively susceptibility of his mind, which
has never met with resistance, has not been blunted; for this reason,
although endowed with the same virtues, and, if you will, with the same
knowledge as the other, he has not acquired that penetration, that
vivacity, so to speak, with which a man of practised intellect enters
into the minds of those with whom he has to deal, discerns the reasons,
seizes the motives which blind them and hinder them from obtaining a
knowledge of the truth.

Thus tolerance, in a person who is religious, supposes a certain
degree of gentleness of mind, the fruit of intercourse with men, and
the habits thereby engendered; yet this quality is consistent with
the deepest conviction, and the purest and most ardent zeal for the
propagation of the truth. In the moral, as in the physical world,
friction polishes, use wears away, and nothing can remain for a long
time in an attitude of violence. A man will be indignant, once, twice,
a hundred times, when he hears his manner of thinking attacked; but it
is impossible for him to remain so always; he will, in the end, become
accustomed to opposition; he will, by habit, bear it calmly. However
sacred may be his articles of belief, he will content himself with
defending and putting them forward at convenient opportunities; in all
other cases, he will keep them in the bottom of his soul, as a treasure
which he is desirous to preserve from any thing that may injure them.
Tolerance, then, does not suppose any new principles in a man, but
rather a quality acquired by practice; a disposition of mind, into
which a man finds himself insensibly led; a habit of patience, formed
in him by constantly having to bear with what he disapproves of.

Now, if we consider tolerance in men who are not religious, we shall
observe that there are two ways of being irreligious. There are men who
not only have no religion, but who have an animosity against it, either
on account of some fatal error they entertain, or because they find it
an obstacle to their designs. These men are extremely intolerant; and
their intolerance is the worst of all, because it is not accompanied
by any moral principle which can restrain it. A man thus circumstanced
feels himself, as it were, continually at war with himself and the
human race; with himself, because he must stifle the cries of his own
conscience: with the human race, because all protest against the mad
doctrine that pretends to banish the worship of God from the earth.
Therefore we find among men of this kind much rancor and spleen;
therefore their words are full of gall; therefore they have constantly
recourse to raillery, insult, and calumny.

But there is another class of men who, although devoid of religion,
are not strongly prejudiced against the faith. They live in a kind of
skepticism, into which the reading of bad books, or the observations
of a superficial and frivolous philosophy, have led them; they are
not attached to religion, but they are not its enemies. Many of them
acknowledge the importance of religion for the good of society, and
some of them even feel within themselves a certain desire to return
to the faith; in their moments of recollection and meditation, they
remember with pleasure the days when they offered to God an obedient
spirit and a pure heart; and at the sight of the rapid course of life,
they perhaps love to cherish the hope of becoming reconciled with the
God of their fathers, before they descend into the grave. These men
are tolerant; but, if carefully examined, their tolerance is not a
principle or a virtue, it is only a necessity resulting from their
position. It is difficult to be indignant at the opinions of others,
when we have none of our own--when, consequently, we do not come
into collision with any. It is difficult to be violently opposed to
religion, when we consider it as a thing necessary for the welfare of
society; there can be no hatred or rancor towards faith in a soul which
desires its mercy, and which, perhaps, fixes its eyes upon it as the
last beam of hope amid the terrors of an alarming future. Tolerance, in
this case, is nothing strange; it is natural and necessary. Intolerance
would be inconceivable and extravagant, and could arise only from a bad

In applying these remarks to society instead of individuals, it must
be observed that tolerance, as well as intolerance, may be considered
in government, or in society. It sometimes happens that government and
society are not agreed; while the former maintains one principle, the
reverse may prevail in the latter. As governments are composed of a
limited number of individuals, all that has been said of tolerance,
considered individually, may be applied to them. Let us not forget,
however, that men placed in authority are not free to give themselves
up without limit to the impulses of their own opinions or feelings;
they are often forced to immolate their own feelings on the altar of
public opinion. They may, owing to peculiar circumstances, oppose or
impede that opinion for a time; but it will soon stop them, and force
them to change their course.

As sooner or later government becomes the expression of the ideas
and feelings of society, we shall content ourselves with considering
tolerance in the latter; we shall observe that society, with respect to
tolerance, follows the same path as individuals. This is with it not
the effect of a principle, but of a habit. Men of different creeds, who
live together for a long time in the same society, end by tolerating
each other; they are led to this by growing weary of collision with
each other, and by the wish for a kind of life more quiet and peaceful.
But when men, thus divided in creed, find themselves face to face for
the first time, a shock more or less rude is the inevitable result. The
causes of this phenomenon are to be found in human nature itself; it is
one of those necessities against which we struggle in vain.

Some modern philosophers have imagined that society is indebted to them
for the spirit of toleration which prevails there; they have not seen
that it is much rather a fact slowly brought about by the force of
circumstances, than it is the fruit of their doctrines. Indeed, what
have they said that is new? They have recommended universal fraternity;
but this has always been one of the doctrines of Christianity. They
have exhorted men of all the different religions to live in peace
together; but before they had opened their mouths to tell them this,
men began to adopt this course in many countries of Europe; for,
unhappily, religions in many countries were so numerous and different,
that none of them could pretend to exclusive dominion. It is true
that some infidel, philosophers have a claim, and a deplorable one,
in support of their pretensions with respect to the development of
toleration; it is, that, by their efforts to disseminate infidelity
and skepticism, they have succeeded in making general, in nations and
governments, that false toleration which has nothing virtuous, but is
indifference with respect to all religions. Indeed, why is tolerance
so general in our age? or, rather, in what does our tolerance consist?
If you observe well, you will find that it is nothing but the result
of a social condition perfectly similar to that of the individual
who has no creed, but who does not hate creeds, because he considers
them as conducive to the public good, and cherishes a vague hope of
one day finding a last asylum therein. All that is good in this is
in no degree owing to the infidel philosophers, but may rather be
said to be a protest against them. Indeed, when they could not obtain
the supreme command, they lavished calumnies and sarcasms on all
that is most sacred in heaven and on earth; and, when they did raise
themselves to power, they overturned with indescribable fury all
that existed, and destroyed millions of victims in exile or on the
scaffolds. The multitude of religions,--infidelity, indifference, the
improvement of manners, the lassitude produced by wars,--industrial
and commercial organization, which every day becomes more powerful in
society,--communication rendered more frequent among men by means of
travelling,--the diffusion of ideas by the press;--such are the causes
which have produced in Europe that universal tolerance which has taken
possession of all, and has been established in fact when it could not
by law. These causes, as it is easy to observe, are of different kinds;
no doctrine can pretend to an exclusive influence; they are the result
of a thousand different influences, which act simultaneously on the
development of civilization.[24]



How much, during the last century, was said against intolerance! A
philosophy less superficial than that which then prevailed would have
reflected a little more on a fact which may be appreciated in different
ways, but the existence of which cannot be denied. In Greece, Socrates
died drinking hemlock. Rome, whose tolerance has been so much vaunted,
tolerated, indeed, foreign gods; but these were only foreign in name,
since they formed a part of that system of pantheism which was the
foundation of the Roman religion; gods, who, in order to be declared
gods of Rome, only needed the mere formality, as it were, of receiving
the name of citizens. But Rome did not admit the gods of Egypt any
more than the Jewish or Christian religion. She had, no doubt, many
false ideas with respect to these religions; but she was sufficiently
acquainted with them to know that they were essentially different
from her own. The history of the Pagan emperors is the history of
the persecution of the Church; as soon as they became Christians, a
system of penal legislation was commenced against those who differed
from the religion of the state. In subsequent centuries, intolerance
continued under various forms; it has been perpetuated down to our
times, and we are not so free from it as some would wish to make us
believe. The emancipation of Catholics in England is but of recent
date; the violent disputes of the Prussian government with the Pope,
on the subject of certain arbitrary acts of that government against
the Catholic religion, are of yesterday; the question of Argau, in
Switzerland, is still pending; and the persecution of Catholicity by
the Russian government is pursued in as scandalous a manner as at any
former period. Thus it is with religious sects. As to the toleration of
the _humane_ philosophers of the 18th century, it was exemplified in

Every government professing a religion is more or less intolerant
towards those which it does not profess; and this intolerance is
diminished or destroyed, only when the professors of the obnoxious
religions are either feared on account of their great power, or
despised on account of their weakness. Apply to all times and countries
the rule which we have just laid down, you will everywhere find it
exact; it is an abridgment of the history of governments in their
relations with religions. The Protestant government of England has
always been intolerant toward Catholics; and it will continue to be so,
more or less, according to circumstances. The governments of Russia
and Prussia will continue to act as they have done up to this time,
with the exception of modifications required by difference of times;
in the same way, in countries where Catholicity prevails, the exercise
of the Protestant worship will always be more or less interfered with.
I shall be told of the instance of France as a proof of the contrary;
in that country, where the immense majority profess the Catholic
religion, other worships are allowed, without any disposition on the
part of the state to disturb them. This toleration will perhaps be
attributed to public opinion; it comes, I think, from this, that no
fixed principle prevails there in the government: all the policy of
France, internal and external, is a constant compromise to get out
of difficulties in the best possible way. This is shown by facts;
it appears from the well-known opinions of the small number of men
who, for some years, have ruled the destinies of France. It has been
attempted to establish in principle universal toleration, and refuse
to government the right of violating consciences in religious matters;
nevertheless, in spite of all that has been said, philosophers have
not been able to make a very clear exposition of their principle,
still less have they been able to procure its general adoption as a
system in the government of states. In order to show that the thing is
not quite so simple as has been supposed, I will beg leave to ask a
few questions of these _soi-disant_ philosophers. If a religion which
required human sacrifices were established in your country, would you
tolerate it? No. And why? Because we cannot tolerate such a crime.
But then you will be intolerant; you will violate the consciences of
others, by proscribing, as a crime, what in their eyes is a homage to
the Divinity. Thus thought many nations of old, and so think some now.
By what right do you make your conscience prevail over theirs?--It
matters not; we shall be intolerant, but our intolerance will be for
the good of humanity.--I applaud your conduct; but you cannot deny that
it is a case in which intolerance with respect to a religion appears to
you a right and a duty. Still further: if you proscribe the exercise
of this atrocious worship, would you allow the doctrine to be taught
which preaches as holy and salutary the practice of human sacrifices?
No; for that would be permitting the teaching of murder. Very well,
but you must acknowledge that this is a doctrine with respect to
which you have a right to be, and are obliged to be, intolerant. Let
us pursue our subject. You are aware, no doubt, of the sacrifices
offered in antiquity to the goddess of Love, and the infamous worship
which was paid to her in the temples of Babylon and Corinth. If such
a worship reappeared among you, would you tolerate it? No; for it is
contrary to the sacred laws of modesty. Would you allow the doctrine
on which it was based to be taught? No; for the same reason. This,
then, is another case in which you believe you have the right and the
obligation to violate the consciences of others; and the only reason
you can assign for it is, that you are compelled to do so by your own
conscience. Moreover, suppose that some men, over-excited by reading
the Bible, desired to establish a new Christianity, in imitation of
Mathew of Haarlem or John of Leyden; suppose that these sectaries began
to propagate their doctrines, to assemble together in bodies, and that
their fanatical declamation seduced a portion of the people, would you
tolerate this new religion? No; for these men might renew the bloody
scenes of Germany in the 16th century, when, in the name of God, and
to fulfil, as they said, the order of the Most High, the Anabaptists
invaded all property, destroyed all existing power, and spread
everywhere desolation and death. This would be to act with as much
justice as prudence; but you cannot deny that you would thereby commit
an act of intolerance. What, then, becomes of universal toleration,
that principle so evident, so predominant, if you are compelled at
every step to limit, and I will say more, to lay it aside, and act in a
way diametrically opposite to it? You will say that the security of the
state, the good order of society, and public morality compel you to act
in this way. But then, what sort of a principle is it that, in certain
cases, is in opposition to the interests of morality and to society,
and to the safety of the state? Do you think that the men against whom
you declaim did not intend also to protect these interests, by acting
with that intolerance which is so revolting to you?

It has been acknowledged at all times and in all countries, as an
incontestable principle, that the public authority has, in certain
cases, the right of prohibiting certain acts, in violation of the
consciences of individuals who claim the right of performing them.
If the constant testimony of history were not enough, at least the
dialogue which we have just held ought to convince us of this truth;
we have seen that the most ardent advocates of tolerance may well be
compelled, in certain cases, to be intolerant. They would be obliged to
be so in the name of humanity, of modesty, of public order; universal
toleration, then, with respect to doctrines and religions--that
toleration which is proclaimed as the duty of every government--is an
error; it is a theory which cannot be put in practice. We have clearly
shown that intolerance has always been, and still is, a principle
recognised by all governments, and the application of which, more or
less indulgent or severe, depends on circumstances, and above all, on
the particular point of view in which the government considers things.

A great question of right now presents itself--a question which seems,
at first sight, to require to be solved by condemning all intolerance,
both with respect to doctrines and acts; but which, when thoroughly
examined, leads to a very different result. If we grant that the
mind is incapable of completely removing the difficulty by means of
direct reasoning, it is not the less certain that indirect means, and
the reasoning called _ad absurdum_, are here sufficient to show us
the truth, at least as far as it is necessary for us to know it as
a guide for human prudence, always uncertain. The question is this:
"By what right do you hinder a man from professing a doctrine, and
acting in conformity with it, if he is convinced that it is true, and
that he only fulfils his duty, or exercises a right, by acting as
it prescribes?" In order to prevent the prohibition being vain and
ridiculous, there must be a penalty attached to it; now, if you inflict
this penalty, you punish a man who, according to his own conscience,
is innocent. Punishment by the hand of justice supposes culpability;
and no one is culpable without being so first in his conscience.
Culpability has its root in the conscience; and we cannot be
responsible for the violation of a law, unless that law has addressed
us through our conscience. If our conscience tells us that an action is
bad, we cannot perform it, whatever may be the injunctions of the law
which prescribes it; on the contrary, if conscience tells us that an
action is a duty, we cannot omit it, whatever may be the prohibitions
of the law. This is, in a few words, and in all its force, the whole
argument that can be alleged against intolerance in regard to doctrines
and facts emanating from them. Let us now see what is the real value of
these observations, apparently so conclusive.

It is apparent that the admission of this principle would render
impossible the punishment of any political crime. Brutus, when
plunging his dagger into the heart of Cæsar; Jacques Clement, when he
assassinated Henry III., acted, no doubt, under the influence of an
excitement of mind, which made them view their attempts as deeds of
heroism; and yet, if they had both been brought before a tribunal,
would you have thought them entitled to impunity--the one on account
of his love of country, and the other on account of his zeal for
religion? Most political crimes are committed under a conviction of
doing well; and I do not speak merely of those times of trouble, when
men of parties the most opposed are fully persuaded that they have
right on their side. Conspiracies contrived against governments in
times of peace are generally the work of some individuals who look
upon them as illegal and tyrannical; when working to overthrow them,
they are acting in conformity with their own principles. Judges punish
them justly when they inflict on them the penalties appointed by
legislators; and yet, neither legislators when they decree the penalty,
nor the judges when they inflict it, are, or can be, ignorant of the
condition of mind of the delinquent who has violated the law. It may be
said, that compassion and indulgence with respect to political crimes
increase every day, for these reasons. I shall reply, that if we lay
down the principle that human justice has not the right to punish,
when the delinquent acts according to his conviction, we must not
only mitigate our punishments, but even abolish them. In this case,
capital punishment would be a real murder, a fine a robbery, and
other penalties so many acts of violence. I shall remark in passing,
that it is not true that severity towards political crimes diminishes
as much as it is said to do; the history of Europe of late years
affords us some proofs to the contrary. We do not now see those cruel
punishments which were in use at other times; but that is not owing
to the conscience of the criminal being considered by the judge, but
to the improvement of manners, which, being everywhere diffused, has
necessarily influenced penal legislation. It is extraordinary that so
much severity has been preserved in laws relating to political crimes,
when so great a number of legislators among the different nations of
Europe knew well that they themselves, at other times, had committed
the same crimes. And there is no doubt that more than one man, in the
discussion of certain penal laws, has inclined to indulgence, from the
presentiment that these very laws might one day apply to himself. The
impunity of political crimes would bring about the subversion of social
order, by rendering all government impossible. Without dwelling longer
on the fatal results which this doctrine would have, let us observe,
that the benefit of impunity in favor of the illusions of conscience
would not be due to political crimes alone, but would be applicable
also to those of an ordinary kind. Offences against property are crimes
of this nature; and yet we know that many at former periods regarded,
and that unfortunately some still regard, property as a usurpation and
an injustice. Offences against the sanctity of marriage are ordinarily
considered crimes; and yet have there not been sects in whose sight
marriage was unlawful, and others who have desired, and still
desire, a community of women? The sacred laws of modesty and respect
for innocence have alike been regarded by some sects as an unjust
infringement of the liberty of man; to violate these laws, therefore,
was a meritorious action. At the time when the mistaken ideas and blind
fanaticism of the men who professed these principles were undoubted,
would any one have been found to deny the justice of the chastisement
which was inflicted on them when, in pursuance of their doctrines, they
committed a crime, or even when they had the audacity to diffuse their
fatal maxims in society?

If it were unjust to punish the criminal for acting according to his
conscience, all imaginable crimes would be permitted to the atheist,
the fatalist, the disciple of the doctrine of private interest; for by
destroying, as they do, the basis of all morality, these men do not
act against their consciences; they have none. If such an argument
were to hold good, how often would we have reason to charge tribunals
with injustice, when they inflict any punishment on men of this class.
By what right, we would say to magistrates, do you punish this man,
who, not admitting the existence of God, does not acknowledge himself
culpable in his own eyes, or consequently in yours? You have made a
law, by virtue of which you punish him; but this law has no power over
the conscience of this man, for you are his equals; and he does not
acknowledge the existence of any superior, to give you the power of
controlling his liberty. By what right do you punish another, who is
convinced that all his actions are the effect of necessary causes,
that free-will is a chimera, and who, in the action which you charge
on him as a crime, believes that he had no more power of restraining
himself than the wild beast, when he throws himself upon the prey
before his eyes, or upon any other animal that excites his fury? With
what justice do you punish him, who is persuaded that all morality is
a lie; that there is no other principle than individual interest; that
good and evil are nothing but this interest, well or ill understood?
If you make him undergo any punishment, it will not be because he is
culpable in his own conscience; you will punish him for being deceived
in his calculation, for having ill-understood the probable result of
the action which he was about to commit. Such are the necessary and
inevitable deductions from the doctrine, which refuses to the public
authority the power of punishing crimes committed in consequence of an
error of the mind.

But I shall be told that the right of punishment only extends to
actions, and not to doctrines; that actions ought to be subject to the
law, but that doctrines are entitled to unbounded liberty. Do you mean
doctrines shut up in the mind and not outwardly manifested? It is clear
that not only the right, but also the possibility of punishing them is
wanting, for God alone can tell the secrets of the heart of man. If
avowed doctrines are meant, then the principle is false; and we have
just shown that those who maintain it in theory, find it impossible to
reduce it to practice. In fine, we shall be told that, however absurd
in its results may be the doctrine which we have been combating, it
is still impossible to justify the punishment of an action which was
ordered or authorized by the conscience of the man who committed it.
How is this difficulty to be solved? How is this great obstacle to be
removed? Is it lawful in any case to treat as culpable the man who is
not so at the tribunal of his own conscience?

Although this question seems entirely to turn upon some point on which
men of all opinions are agreed, there is nevertheless a wide difference
in this respect between Catholics on one side and unbelievers and
Protestants on the other. The first lay it down as an incontestable
principle, _that there are errors of the understanding which are
faults_; the others, on the contrary, think, _that all errors of the
understanding are innocent_. The first consider error in regard to
great moral and religious truths, as one of the gravest offences which
man can commit against God; their opponents look upon errors of this
kind with great indulgence, and they ought to do so in order to be
consistent. Catholics admit the possibility of invincible ignorance
with respect to some very important truths; but with them this
possibility is limited to certain circumstances, out of which they
declare man to be culpable: their opponents constantly extol liberty of
thought, without any other restriction than that imposed by the taste
of each one in particular; they constantly affirm that man is free to
hold the opinions which he thinks proper; they have gone so far as to
persuade their followers that there are no culpable errors or opinions,
that man is not obliged to search into the secret recesses of his soul,
to make sure that there are no secret causes which induce him to reject
the truth; they have in the end monstrously confounded physical with
moral liberty of thought; they have banished from opinions the ideas of
lawful and unlawful, and have given men to understand that such ideas
are not applicable to thought. That is to say, in the order of ideas,
they have confounded right with fact, declaring, in this respect, the
uselessness and incompetency of all laws, divine and human. Senseless
men! as if it were possible for that which is most noble and elevated
in human nature to be exempt from all rule; as if it were possible for
the element which makes man the king of the creation, to be exempted
from concurring in the ineffable harmony of all parts of the universe
with themselves and with God; as if this harmony could exist, or even
be conceived in man, unless it were declared to be the first of human
obligations to adhere constantly to truth.

This is one of the profound reasons which justify the Catholic Church,
when she considers the sin of heresy as one of the greatest that man
can commit. You, who smile, with pity and contempt at these words,
_the sin of heresy_; you, who consider this doctrine as the invention
of priests to rule over consciences, by retrenching the liberty of
thought; by what right do you claim the power of condemning heresies
which are opposed to your orthodoxy? By what right do you condemn those
societies that profess opinions hostile to property, public order,
and the existence of authority? If the thought of man is free, if you
cannot attempt to restrain it without violating sacred rights, if it
is an absurdity and a contradiction to wish to oblige a man to act
against his conscience, or disobey its dictates--why do you interfere
with those men who desire to destroy the existing state of society?
Why baffle, why oppose those dark conspiracies, which, from time to
time, send one of their members to assassinate a king? You invoke your
convictions to declare unjust and cruel the intolerance which has been
practised at certain times against your enemies; but you must remember
that such societies and such men can also invoke their convictions. You
say that the doctrines of the Church are human inventions; they say
that the doctrines prevailing in society are also human inventions. You
say that the ancient social order was a monopoly; they say the present
social order is a monopoly. In your eyes, the ancient authorities
were tyrannical; in theirs the present ones are so. You pretended to
destroy what existed, in order to found new institutions conducive to
the good of humanity; to-day these men hold the same language. You
have proclaimed holy the war which was waged against ancient power;
they proclaim holy the war against present power. When you availed
yourselves of the means which offered themselves, you pretended that
necessity rendered them legitimate; they declare to be not less
legitimate the only means which they possess, that of combinations, of
preparing for their opportunity, and of hastening it by assassinating
great men. You have pretended to make all opinions respected, even
atheism, and you have taught that nobody has a right to prevent your
acting in conformity with your principles; but the fanatics in question
have also their horrible principles and their dreadful convictions.
Do you require a proof of this? See them amid the gayety of public
celebrations, glide, pale and gloomy, among the joyful multitude,
choose the fitting moment to cast desolation over a royal family, and
cover a nation with mourning, while they accumulate on their own heads
the public execration, certain, moreover, of finishing their lives
on the scaffold. But our adversaries will say, such convictions are
inexcusable. Yours are so also. All the difference is, that you have
contrived your ambitious and fatal systems amid ease and pleasure,
perhaps in opulence, and under the shadow of power, while they have
conceived their abominable doctrines in the bosom of obscurity,
poverty, misery, and despair.

Indeed, the inconsistency of some men is shocking to the last degree.
To ridicule all religions, to decry the spirituality and immortality
of the soul, and the existence of God, to overturn all morality, and
sap its deepest foundations, all this they have considered excusable,
and we may even say, worthy of praise; moreover, the writers who have
undertaken this fatal task are worthy of apotheosis; men must expel
the Divinity from his temples to place there the names and busts of
the leaders of their schools; under the vaults of splendid basilicas,
where repose the ashes of Christians awaiting the resurrection, they
must raise the mausoleum of Voltaire and Rousseau, in order that future
generations, when they descend into their dark and silent abodes, may
receive the inspirations of their genius. But have they, then, a right
to complain that property, and domestic life, and social order are
attacked? Property is sacred; but is it more sacred than God? However
great may be the importance of the truths relating to the family and
to society, are they of a superior order to the eternal principles of
morality, or rather, are they any thing more than the application of
these principles?

But let us resume the thread of our discourse. When the principle,
that there are culpable errors, is once established (a principle which
in practice, if not in theory, must be received by all men, but which
Catholicity alone can logically maintain in theory), it is easy to see
the reason of the punishments which human power decrees against the
propagation and teaching of certain doctrines; and we can understand
why it is legitimate to punish, without considering the conviction
that animated the culprit, the actions which are the result of his
doctrines. The law shows that this mortal error has existed, or can
exist; but in this case it declares the error itself to be culpable;
and if man adduces the testimony of his own conscience, the law
reminds him that it is his duty to rectify his conscience. Such is, in
truth, the foundation of a legislation which has appeared so unjust; a
foundation which it is necessary to point out, in order to vindicate
a great many human laws from a deep disgrace; for it would be a great
disgrace to claim the right of punishing a man who was really innocent.
Such an absurd right is so far from belonging to human justice, that it
does not belong even to God. The infinite justice of God would cease to
be what it is, if it could punish the innocent.

Perhaps another origin will be assigned for the right which governments
possess, of punishing the propagation of certain doctrines and the
actions committed in consequence of them, when the criminal has acted
from the deepest conviction. "Governments," it may be said, "act in
the name of society, which, like every being, possesses the right of
self-defence. There are certain doctrines which menace its existence;
it has, therefore, of necessity and right, the power of resisting those
who promulgate them." Such a reason, however plausible it may appear,
is liable to this grave objection, that it destroys at one blow the
idea of punishment and justice. To wound an aggressor in self-defence
is not to chastise but to resist him. If we consider society in this
point of view, the criminal led to punishment will no longer be a real
criminal, but the unfortunate victim of a rash and unequal struggle.
The voice of the judge condemning him will no longer be the august
voice of justice; his sentence will only be the act of society avenging
the attack made upon it. The word punishment will then assume quite
a different meaning; the gradations of it will depend entirely upon
calculations, and not on justice. We must remember this; if we suppose
that society, by virtue of the right of self-defence, inflicts a
punishment upon the man whom it considers quite innocent, it no longer
judges or condemns, but fights and struggles. That which is perfectly
suitable with respect to the relations between one society and another,
is in no way suitable to society in its relations with individuals. It
then appears like a combat between a giant and a pigmy. The giant takes
the pigmy in his hand, and crushes him against a stone.

The doctrine which I have just explained evidently shows the value
of the much vaunted principle of universal toleration; it has been
demonstrated that that principle is as impracticable in fact as it is
unsustainable in theory; consequently all the accusations made against
the Catholic Church on the subject of intolerance are overturned. It
has been clearly shown that intolerance is in some measure the right of
all public power; this has always been acknowledged; it is acknowledged
still, generally speaking, when philosophers, the partisans of
tolerance, attain to power. No doubt, governments have a thousand times
abused this principle; no doubt, more than once the truth has been
persecuted in virtue of it; but what do men not abuse? Their duty,
then, as good philosophers, was not to establish principles that cannot
be sustained, and are extremely dangerous; not to declaim to satiety
against the times and institutions which have preceded us; but to
endeavor to propagate sentiments of mildness and indulgence, and, above
all, not to impugn important truths, without which society cannot be
sustained, and which cannot be destroyed without abandoning the world
to the empire of force, and, consequently, to despotism and tyranny.

Men have attacked dogmas; but they have not been willing to see that
morality was intimately connected with dogmas, and that it was itself a
dogma. By proclaiming unbounded liberty of thought, they have asserted
the impeccability of the mind; error has ceased to figure among the
faults of which men can be guilty. They have forgotten that, in order
to _will_, it was necessary to _know_; and that to _will rightly_, it
was necessary to _know truly_. If we examine the greater part of the
errors of our hearts, we shall see that they have their source in a
misunderstanding; is it possible, then, that it should not be the duty
of man to preserve his mind from error? But since it has been said
that opinions are of little importance, that man is free to choose such
as please him, even in matters of religion and morality, truth has lost
its value; its intrinsic worth is no longer what it was in the eyes of
man; and too many consider themselves exempt from attempting to attain
it,--a deplorable condition of mind, which is one of the greatest evils
afflicting society.[25]



I find myself naturally led to make a few observations on the
intolerance of certain Catholic princes, on the Inquisition, and in
particular on that of Spain. I must make a rapid examination of the
charges against Catholicity on account of its conduct during the last
centuries. The dungeons, the burnings of the Inquisition, and the
intolerance of some Catholic princes, have furnished the enemies of
the Church with one of their most effective arguments in depreciating
her, and rendering her the object of odium and hatred; and it must
be allowed that they have, in attacks of this kind, many advantages,
which give them good prospects of success. Indeed (as we have said
above, for the generality of readers, who, without undertaking to
examine things to the bottom, naïvely allow themselves to be led away
by a subtle writer; as we have said, for all those who have sensitive
hearts, and are prompt to pity the unfortunate), what is more likely to
excite indignation than the exhibition of dark dungeons, instruments
of torture, _san-benitos_, and burnings? Imagine what effect must be
produced, amid our toleration, our gentle manners, our humane penal
codes, by the sudden exhibition of the severities, the cruelties of
another age; the whole exaggerated and grouped into one picture,
where are shown all the melancholy scenes which occurred in different
places, and were spread over a long period of time. They take care to
remind us that all this was done in the name of the God of peace and
love; thereby the contrast is rendered more vivid, the imagination
is excited, the heart becomes indignant; and the result is, that the
clergy, magistrates, kings, and popes of those remote times, appear
like a troop of executioners, whose pleasure consists in tormenting
and desolating the human race. Writers, who have ventured to act in
this way, have certainly not added to their reputation for delicacy of
conscience. There is a rule which orators and writers ought never to
forget, viz. that it is not allowable to excite the passions, until
they have convinced the reason, unless it had been convinced before.
Besides, there is a degree of bad faith in appealing to the feelings
with respect to matters which ought to be examined by the light of
reason alone, if they are to be examined properly. In such a case we
ought not to begin by moving, but by convincing; to do otherwise is to
deceive the reader.

I am not going to write the history of the Inquisition, or of the
different systems which various countries have adopted with respect
to religious intolerance; this would be impossible within my narrow
limits; besides, it would lead me away from the object of my work.
Ought we to draw from the Inquisition in general, that of Spain in
particular, or from the greater or less intolerance of the legislation
of some countries, an accusation against Catholicity? Can it, in
this respect, be put in comparison with Protestantism? Such are the
questions I have to examine.

Three things at first present themselves to the eyes of the observer:
1st, the legislation and institutions proceeding from the principle of
intolerance; 2d, the use which has been made of this legislation and
these institutions; 3d, the intolerant acts which have been committed
illegally. With respect to the latter, I must say at once that they
have nothing to do with the question. The Massacre of St. Bartholomew,
and other atrocities committed in the name of religion, ought not to
trouble the apologists of religion: to render her responsible for
all that has been done in her name, would be to act with manifest
injustice. Man is endowed with so strong and lively a sense of the
excellence of virtue, that he endeavors to cover the greatest crimes
with her mantle;--would it be reasonable to banish virtue from the
earth on that account? There are, in the history of mankind, terrible
periods, where a fatal giddiness seizes upon the mind; rage, inflamed
by disorder, blinds the intellect and changes the heart; evil is
called good, and good evil; the most horrible attempts are made under
the most respectable names. Historians and philosophers, in treating
of such periods, should know what ought to be their line of conduct;
strictly accurate in the narration of such facts, they ought to
beware of drawing from them a judgment as to the prevailing ideas and
institutions. Society then resembles a man in a state of delirium;
we should ill judge of the ideas, character, and conduct of such a
man, from what he says and does in that deplorable condition. What
party, in those calamitous times, can boast of not having committed
great crimes? If we fix our eyes on the period just mentioned, do we
not see the leaders of both parties assassinated by treason? Admiral
Coligny died by the hands of the assassins who began the massacre of
St. Bartholomew; but the Duke of Guise had been also assassinated
by Poltrot, before Orleans. Henry III. was assassinated by Jacques
Clement; but this same Henry III. had treacherously murdered the other
Duke of Guise in the corridors of his palace, and his brother, the
Cardinal, in the tower of Moulins; this same Henry III. had taken
part in the massacre of St. Bartholomew. We see atrocities committed
by the Catholics; but did not their opponents also commit them? Let
us throw a veil over these catastrophes, over these afflicting proofs
of the misery and perversity of the human heart. The tribunal of
the Inquisition, considered in itself, is only the application to a
particular case of that doctrine of intolerance, which, to a greater
or less degree, is that of every existing power. Thus, we have only to
examine the character of that particular application, and see whether
its enemies are correct in their charges against it. In the first
place, we must observe that those who extol antiquity, sadly falsify
history, if they pretend that intolerance only appeared after the time
when, according to them, the Church had degenerated from her primitive
purity. As for myself, I see that from the earliest times, when the
Church began to exert political influence, heresy began to figure in
the codes as a crime; and I have never been able to discover a period
of complete tolerance. I must here make an important remark, which
shows one of the causes of the rigor displayed in later centuries.
The Inquisition was first directed against the Manichean heretics;
that is, against the sectaries who at all times were treated with
the greatest severity. In the 11th century, when the punishment of
fire had not yet been applied to the crime of heresy, the Manicheans
were excepted from this rule. Even in the time of the Pagan emperors,
these sectaries were treated with extreme rigor. In the year 296, we
see Diocletian and Maximilian, by an edict, condemning to different
punishments the Manicheans who had not abjured their dogmas, and
consigning their leaders to the fire. These sectaries have always been
considered as great criminals; and to punish them has always been
judged necessary, not only for the interests of religion, but even for
the morals and good order of society. This was one of the causes of
the rigor of the Inquisition at its commencement: if we add to this,
the turbulent character of the sects which, under various names, arose
in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries, we shall have two of the causes
that contributed to produce those scenes which now we can scarcely
credit. In studying the history of those centuries, and fixing our
attention on the troubles and disasters which ravaged the south of
France, we clearly see that it was not a dispute as to a particular
dogma, but that the whole social system was compromised. The sectaries
of those times were precursors of those of the 16th century; with this
difference, that the latter, if we except the frantic Anabaptists, were
less democratic, less apt to address the multitude. Amid the cruelties
of those times, when long ages of violence and revolution had given an
excessive preponderance to brute force, what could be expected from
governments incessantly menaced with such imminent danger? It is clear
that the laws, and their application, must savour of the times.

As to the Spanish Inquisition, which was only an extension of that
which was established in other countries, we must divide it, with
respect to its duration, into three great periods;--we omit the time of
its existence in the kingdom of Aragon, before its introduction into
Castille. The first of these comprehends the time when the Inquisition
was principally directed against the relapsed Jews and Moors, from
the day of its installation under the Catholic sovereigns, till the
middle of the reign of Charles V. The second extends from the time
when it began to concentrate its efforts to prevent the introduction
of Protestantism into Spain, until that danger entirely ceased; that
is, from the middle of the reign of Charles V. till the coming of
the Bourbons. The third and last period is that when the Inquisition
was limited to repress infamous crimes, and exclude the philosophy
of Voltaire; this period was continued until its abolition in the
beginning of the present century. It is clear that, the institution
being successively modified according to circumstances at these
different epochs,--although it always remained fundamentally the
same,--the commencement and termination of each of these three periods
which we have pointed out cannot be precisely marked; nevertheless,
these three periods really existed in its history, and present us with
very different characters.

Every one knows the peculiar circumstances in which the Inquisition
was established in the time of the Catholic sovereigns; yet it is
worthy of remark, that the Bull of establishment was solicited by Queen
Isabella; that is, by one of the most distinguished sovereigns in our
history,--by that queen who still, after three centuries, preserves the
respect and admiration of all Spaniards. Isabella, far from opposing
the will of the people in this measure, only realized the national
wish. The Inquisition was established chiefly against the Jews; the
Papal Bull had been sent in 1478; now, before the Inquisition published
its first edict, dated Seville, in 1481, the Cortes of Toledo, in 1480,
had adopted severe measures on the subject. To prevent the injury
which the intercourse between Jews and Christians might occasion to
the Catholic faith, the Cortes had ordered that unbaptized Israelites
should be obliged to wear a distinctive mark, dwell in separate
quarters, called _Juiveries_, and return there before night. Ancient
regulations against them were renewed; the professions of doctor,
surgeon, shopkeeper, barber, and tavern-keeper, were forbidden them.
Intolerance was, therefore, popular at that time. If the Inquisition be
justified in the eyes of friends to monarchy, by conformity with the
will of kings, it has an equal claim to be so in the eyes of lovers of

No doubt the heart is grieved at reading the excessive severities
exercised at that time against the Jews; but must there not have
been very grave causes to provoke such excesses? The danger which
the Spanish monarchy, not yet well established, would have incurred
if the Jews, then very powerful on account of their riches and their
alliances with the most influential families, had been allowed to act
without restraint, has been pointed out as one of the most important
of these causes. It was greatly to be feared that they would league
with the Moors against the Christians. The respective positions of the
three nations rendered this league natural: this is the reason why it
was looked upon as necessary to break a power which was capable of
compromising anew the independence of the Christians. It is necessary
also to observe, that at the time when the Inquisition was established,
the war of eight hundred years against the Moors was not yet finished.
The Inquisition was projected before 1474; it was established in
1480, and the conquest of Granada did not take place till 1492. Thus
it was founded at the time when the obstinate struggle was about
to be decided; it was yet to be known whether the Christians would
remain masters of the whole peninsula, or whether the Moors should
retain possession of one of the most fertile and beautiful provinces;
whether these enemies, shut up in Granada, should preserve a position,
excellent for their communication with Africa, and a means for all the
attempts which, at a later period, the Crescent might be disposed to
make against us. Now, the power of the Crescent was very great, as was
clearly shown by its enterprises against the rest of Europe in the next
century. In such emergencies, after ages of fighting, and at the moment
which was to decide the victory for ever, have combatants ever been
known to conduct themselves with moderation and mildness? It cannot be
denied that the system of repression pursued in Spain, with respect
to the Jews and the Moors, was inspired, in great measure, by the
instinct of self-preservation: we can easily believe that the Catholic
princes had this motive before them when they decided on asking for the
establishment of the Inquisition in their dominions. The danger was not
imaginary: it was perfectly real. In order to form an idea of the turn
which things might have taken if some precaution had not been adopted,
it is enough to recollect the insurrections of the last Moors in later

Yet it would be wrong, in this affair, to attribute all to the policy
of royalty; and it is necessary here to avoid exalting too much the
foresight and designs of men; for my part, I am inclined to think that
Ferdinand and Isabella naturally followed the generality of the nation,
in whose eyes the Jews were odious when they persevered in their creed,
and suspected when they embraced the Christian religion. Two causes
contributed to this hatred and animadversion. First, the excited state
of religious feeling then general in all Europe, and especially in
Spain; 2d, the conduct by which the Jews had drawn upon themselves the
public indignation.

The necessity of restraining the cupidity of the Jews, for the sake
of the independence of the Christians, was of ancient date in Spain:
the old assemblies of Toledo had attempted it. In the following
centuries the evil reached its height; a great part of the riches of
the peninsula had passed into the hands of the Jews, and almost all the
Christians found themselves their debtors. Thence the hatred of the
people against the Jews; thence the frequent troubles which agitated
some towns of the peninsula; thence the tumults which more than once
were fatal to the Jews, and in which their blood flowed in abundance.
It was difficult for a people accustomed for ages to set themselves
free by force of arms, to resign themselves peacefully and tranquilly
to the lot prepared for them by the artifices and exactions of a
strange race, whose name, moreover, bore the recollection of a terrible

In later times, an immense number of Jews were converted to the
Christian religion; but the hatred of the people was not extinguished
thereby, and mistrust followed these converts into their new state. It
is very probable that a great number of these conversions were hardly
sincere, as they were partly caused by the sad position in which the
Jews who continued in Judaism were placed. In default of conjectures
founded on reason in this respect, we will regard as a sufficient
corroboration of our opinion, the multitude of Judaizing Christians
who were discovered as soon as care was taken to find out those who
had been guilty of apostacy. However this may be, it is certain that
the distinction between _new and old_ Christians was introduced;
the latter denomination was a title of honor, and the former a
mark of ignominy; the converted Jews were contemptuously called
_marranos_,--impure men, pigs. With more or less foundation, they were
accused of horrible crimes. In their dark assemblies they committed,
it was said, atrocities which could hardly be believed, for the honor
of humanity. For example, it was said that, to revenge themselves on
the Christians and in contempt of religion, they crucified Christian
children, taking care to choose for the purpose the greatest day
among Christian solemnities. There is the often-repeated history of
the knight of the house of Guzman, who, being hidden one night in the
house of a Jew whose daughter he loved, saw a child crucified at the
time when the Christians celebrated the institution of the sacrifice
of the Eucharist. Besides infanticide, there were attributed to the
Jews, sacrileges, poisonings, conspiracies, and other crimes. That
these rumors were generally believed by the people is proved by the
fact, that the Jews were forbidden by law to exercise the professions
of doctor, surgeon, barber, and tavern-keeper; this shows what degree
of confidence was placed in their morality. It is useless to stay to
examine the foundations for these sinister accusations. We are not
ignorant how far popular credulity will go, above all when it is under
the influence of excited feelings, which makes it view all things
in the same light. It is enough for us to know that these rumors
circulated everywhere and with credit, to understand what must have
been the public indignation against the Jews, and consequently how
natural it was that authority, yielding to the impulse of the general
mind, should be urged to treat them with excessive rigor.

The situation in which the Jews were placed is sufficient to show, that
they might have attempted to act in concert to resist the Christians;
what they did after the death of St. Peter Arbues shows what they
were capable of doing on other occasions. The funds necessary for the
accomplishment of the murder, the pay of the assassins, and the other
expenses required for the plot, were collected by means of voluntary
contributions imposed on themselves by all the Jews of Aragon. Does not
this show an advanced state of organization, which might have become
fatal if it had not been watched.

In alluding to the death of St. Peter Arbues, I wish to make an
observation on what has been said on this subject, as proving the
unpopularity of the establishment of the Inquisition in Spain.
What more evident proof, we shall be told, can you have than the
assassination of the Inquisitor? Is it not a sure sign that the
indignation of the people was at its height, and that they were quite
opposed to the Inquisition? Would they otherwise have been hurried
into such excesses? If by 'the people' you mean the Jews and their
descendants, I will not deny that the establishment of the Inquisition
was indeed very odious to them; but it was not so with the rest of the
nation. The event we are speaking of gave rise to a circumstance which
proves just the reverse. When the report of the death of the Inquisitor
was spread through the town, the people made a fearful tumult to
avenge his death. They spread through the town, they went in crowds in
pursuit of the _new Christians_, so that a bloody catastrophe would
have ensued, had not the young Archbishop of Saragossa, Alphonsus of
Aragon, presented himself to the people on horseback, and calmed them
by the assurance that all the rigor of the laws should fall on the
heads of the guilty. Was the Inquisition as unpopular as it has been
represented; and will it be said that its adversaries were the majority
of the people? Why, then, could not the tumult at Saragossa have been
avoided in spite of all the precautions which were no doubt taken
by the conspirators, at that time very powerful by their riches and

At the time of the greatest rigor against the Judaizing Christians,
there is a fact worthy of attention. Persons accused, or threatened
with the pursuit of the Inquisition, took every means to escape the
action of that tribunal: they left the soil of Spain and went to
Rome. Would those who imagine that Rome has always been the hotbed of
intolerance, the firebrand of persecution, have imagined this? The
number of causes commenced by the Inquisition, and summoned from Spain
to Rome, is countless, during the first fifty years of the existence
of that tribunal; and it must be added, that Rome always inclined to
the side of indulgence. I do not know that it would be possible to
cite one accused person who, by appealing to Rome, did not ameliorate
his condition. The history of the Inquisition at that time is full of
contests between the Kings and Popes; and we constantly find, on the
part of the Holy See, a desire to restrain the Inquisition within the
bounds of justice and humanity. The line of conduct prescribed by the
court of Rome was not always followed as it ought to have been; thus we
see the Popes compelled to receive a multitude of appeals, and mitigate
the lot that would have befallen the appellants, if their cause had
been definitely decided in Spain. We also see the Pope name the judge
of appeal, at the solicitation of the Catholic sovereigns, who desired
that causes should be finally decided in Spain: the first of these
judges was Dr. Inigo Manrique, Archbishop of Seville. Nevertheless, at
the end of a short time, the same Pope, in a Bull of the 2d of August,
1483, said that he had received new appeals, made by a great number
of the Spaniards of Seville, who had not dared to address themselves
to the judge of appeal for fear of being arrested. Such was then the
excitement of the public mind; such was, at that time, the necessity
of preventing injustice, or measures of undue severity. The Pope
added, that some of those who had had recourse to his justice had
already received the absolution of the Apostolical Penitentiary, and
that others were about to receive it; he afterwards complained that
indulgences granted to divers accused persons had not been sufficiently
respected at Seville; in fine, after several other admonitions, he
observed to Ferdinand and Isabella, that mercy towards the guilty was
more pleasing to God than the severity which it was desired to use; and
he gave the example of the good Shepherd following the wandering sheep.
He ended by exhorting the sovereigns to treat with mildness those who
voluntarily confessed their faults, desiring them to allow them to
reside at Seville, or in some other place they might choose; and to
allow them the enjoyment of their property, as if they had not been
guilty of the crime of heresy.

Moreover, it is not to be supposed that the appeals admitted at Rome,
and by virtue of which the lot of the accused was improved, were
founded on errors of form and injustice committed in the application
of the law. If the accused had recourse to Rome, it was not always
to demand reparation for an injustice, but because they were sure of
finding indulgence. We have a proof of this in the considerable number
of Spanish refugees convicted at Rome of having fallen into Judaism.
Two hundred and fifty of them were found at one time; yet there was not
one capital execution. Some penances were imposed on them, and when
they were absolved, they were free to return home, without the least
mark of ignominy. This took place at Rome in 1498.

It is a remarkable thing that the Roman Inquisition was never known to
pronounce the execution of capital punishment, although the Apostolic
See was occupied during that time by Popes of extreme rigor and
severity in all that relates to the civil administration. We find
in all parts of Europe scaffolds prepared to punish crimes against
religion; scenes which sadden the soul were everywhere witnessed. Rome
is an exception to the rule; Rome, which it has been attempted to
represent as a monster of intolerance and cruelty. It is true, that
the Popes have not preached, like Protestants, universal toleration;
but facts show the difference between the Popes and Protestants. The
Popes, armed with a tribunal of intolerance, have not spilled a drop of
blood; Protestants and philosophers have shed torrents. What advantage
is it to the victim to hear his executioners proclaim toleration? It
is adding the bitterness of sarcasm to his punishment. The conduct
of Rome in the use which she made of the Inquisition, is the best
apology of Catholicity against those who attempt to stigmatize her as
barbarous and sanguinary. In truth, what is there in common between
Catholicity and the excessive severity employed in this place or that,
in the extraordinary situation in which many rival races were placed,
in the presence of danger which menaced one of them, or in the interest
which the kings had in maintaining the tranquillity of their states,
and securing their conquests from all danger? I will not enter into a
detailed examination of the conduct of the Spanish Inquisition with
respect to Judaizing Christians; and I am far from thinking that the
rigor which it employed against them was preferable to the mildness
recommended and displayed by the Popes. What I wish to show here is,
that rigor was the result of extraordinary circumstances,--the effect
of the national spirit, and of the severity of customs in Europe at
that time. Catholicity cannot be reproached with excesses committed
for these different reasons. Still more, if we pay attention to the
spirit which prevails in all the instructions of the Popes relating
to the Inquisition; if we observe their manifest inclination to
range themselves on the side of mildness, and to suppress the marks
of ignominy with which the guilty, as well as their families, were
stigmatized, we have a right to suppose that, if the Popes had not
feared to displease the kings too much, and to excite divisions which
might have been fatal, their measures would have been carried still
further. If we recollect the negotiations which took place with respect
to the noisy affair of the claims of the Cortes of Aragon, we shall see
to which side the court of Rome leaned.

As we are speaking of intolerance with regard to the Judaizers, let us
say a few words as to the disposition of Luther towards the Jews. Does
it not seem that the pretended reformer, the founder of independence of
thought, the furious declaimer against the oppression and tyranny of
the Popes, should have been animated with the most humane sentiments
towards that people? No doubt the eulogists of this chieftain of
Protestantism ought to think thus also. I am sorry for them; but
history will not allow us to partake of this delusion. According to
all appearances, if the apostate monk had found himself in the place
of Torquemada, the Judaizers would not have been in a better position.
What, then, was the system advised by Luther, according to Seckendorf,
one of his apologists? "Their synagogues ought to be destroyed, their
houses pulled down, their prayer-books, the Talmud, and even the books
of the Old Testament, to be taken from them; their rabbis ought to
be forbidden to teach, and be compelled to gain their livelihood by
hard labor." The Inquisition, at least, did not proceed against the
Jews, but against the Judaizers; that is, against those who, after
being converted to Christianity, relapsed into their errors, and added
sacrilege to their apostacy, by the external profession of a creed
which they detested in secret, and which they profaned by the exercise
of their old religion. But Luther extended his severity to the Jews
themselves; so that, according to his doctrines, no reproach can be
made against the sovereign who expelled the Jews from their dominions.

The Moors and the Mooriscoes no less occupied the attention of the
Inquisition at that time; and all that has been said on the subject
of the Jews may be applied to them with some modifications. They were
also an abhorred race--a race which had been contended with for eight
centuries. When they retained their religion, the Moors inspired
hatred; when they abjured it, mistrust; the Popes interested themselves
in their favor also in a peculiar manner. We ought to remark a Bull
issued in 1530, which is expressed in language quite evangelical: it is
there said, that the ignorance of these nations is one of the principal
causes of their faults and errors; the first thing to be done to render
their conversion solid and sincere was, according to the recommendation
contained in this Bull, to endeavor to enlighten their minds with sound

It will be said that the Pope granted to Charles V. the Bull which
released him from the oath taken in the Cortes of Saragossa in the year
1519; an oath, by which he had engaged not to make any change with
respect to the Moors; whereby, it is said, the Emperor was enabled to
complete their expulsion. But, we must observe, that the Pope for a
long time resisted that concession; and, that if he at length complied
with the wishes of the Emperor, it was only because he thought that the
expulsion of the Moors was indispensable to secure the tranquillity of
the kingdom. Whether this was true or not, the Emperor, and not the
Pope, was the better judge; the latter, placed at a great distance,
could not know the real state of things in detail. Moreover, it was not
the Spanish monarch alone who thought so; it is related that Francis
I., when a prisoner at Madrid, one day conversing with Charles V., told
him that tranquillity would never be established in Spain, if the Moors
and Mooriscoes were not expelled.



It has been said that Philip II. founded a new Inquisition in Spain,
more terrible than that of the Catholic sovereigns; at the same
time the Inquisition of Ferdinand and Isabella receives a certain
degree of indulgence, which is refused to that of their successors.
At the very outset, we find an important historical mistake in this
assertion. Philip did not establish a new Inquisition; he maintained
that which the Catholic sovereigns had left him, and which Charles
V., his father and predecessor, had particularly recommended to him
by will. The Committee of the Cortes of Cadiz, in the project for the
abolition of the tribunal of the Inquisition, excuses the conduct of
the Catholic sovereigns, and blames with severity that of Philip II.;
it attempts to make all the fault and odium fall on that prince. An
illustrious French writer, very recently treating of this important
question, has allowed himself to be led into the same errors, with
that candor which sometimes accompanies genius. "There were," says M.
Lacordaire, "in the Spanish Inquisition, two solemn periods, which
must not be confounded; the one at the end of the fifteenth century,
under Ferdinand and Isabella, before the Moors were expelled from
Granada, their last asylum; the other, in the middle of the sixteenth,
under Philip II., when Protestantism threatened to propagate itself in
Spain. The Committee of the Cortes has perfectly distinguished these
two epochs; and while it stigmatizes the Inquisition of Philip II.,
expresses itself with moderation with respect to that of Ferdinand and
Isabella." After these words the writer quotes a text, where it is
affirmed that Philip II. was the real founder of the Inquisition; if
that institution attained in the end to a high degree of power, it was
owing, it says, to the refined policy of that prince. We read, a little
further on, that Philip II. was the inventor of the _auto-da-fé_, to
terrify heretics; and that the first of these bloody spectacles was
seen at Seville in 1559. (_Mémoire pour le rétablissement de l'Ordre
des Frères Precheurs_, chap, vi.) Setting aside the historical mistake
with respect to the _auto-da-fés_, it is well known that neither the
_san-benitos_ nor the fagots were the invention of Philip II. Such
mistakes easily escape a writer who is satisfied with alluding to a
fact incidentally; if we bring forward this one, it is because it
contains an accusation against a monarch to whom, for a long time,
too little justice has been done. Philip II. continued the work which
had been begun by his predecessors; if they are excused, he ought not
to be treated with greater severity. Ferdinand and Isabella directed
the Inquisition against the apostate Jews; why could not Philip II.
avail himself of it against Protestants? But I shall be told he abused
his right and carried rigor to excess. Certainly there was not more
indulgence in the times of Ferdinand and Isabella. Are the numerous
executions at Seville and other places forgotten? Or what Mariana
says in his history, and the public measures taken by the Popes for
the purpose of checking the excessive severity? The words quoted
against Philip II. are taken from the work called _La Inquicitión sin
mascura_ (the Inquisition unveiled,) published in Spain in 1811. We
may judge of the value of this authority, when we know that the author
of the book was distinguished till his death by a deep hatred to the
Spanish kings. The book bears the name of Nathanael Jomtob; but the
real author is a well-known Spaniard, who, in his latter writings,
seems to have undertaken to avenge, by his unbounded exaggerations
and furious invectives, all that he had previously attacked; a writer
who assails, with an intolerable partiality, all that presents itself
before him--religion, country, classes of society, individuals, and
opinions--insulting and tearing to pieces all, as if he had been
seized with a sally of passion, and not even sparing the men of his
own party. Is it, then, surprising that this writer regarded Philip
II. as Protestants and philosophers do, that is, as a monarch placed
on the earth for the disgrace and misfortune of humanity,--a monster
of Machiavellianism, anxious to diffuse darkness, in order to maintain
himself in safety in his cruelty and perfidy? I will not undertake
to justify, on all points, the policy of Philip II.; I will not deny
that there are exaggerations in the eulogiums which some Spanish
writers have given to that prince. But, on the other hand, it cannot be
doubted, that Protestants and the political enemies of Philip II. have
ever been careful to denounce him. And do you know why Protestants have
done this? It is because it was he who prevented Protestantism from
penetrating into Spain; it was he who, at that period of agitation,
maintained the cause of Catholicity. Let us set aside the great events
of the rest of Europe, of which each one will judge as he pleases;
let us limit ourselves to Spain. We do not fear to assert, that the
introduction of Protestantism into that country was imminent and
inevitable without the system which he pursued. Whether Philip used
the Inquisition for political purposes, in certain cases, is not the
question we have to examine here; but at least it must be acknowledged
that it was not a mere instrument of ambitious projects; it was an
institution strengthened and maintained in presence of an imminent

It appears, from the proceedings of the Inquisition at this time,
that Protestantism began to spread in an incredible manner in Spain;
eminent ecclesiastics, monks, nuns, seculars of distinction, in a word,
individuals of the most influential classes, were attached to the new
errors. Could the efforts of Protestants to introduce their creed
into Spain remain altogether unproductive, when they employed every
stratagem in their ardor to introduce their books? They went so far as
to place their prohibited writings in casks of Champagne and Burgundy
wine, with so much art as to deceive the custom-house men: thus wrote
the Spanish Ambassador at Paris.

To perceive the whole danger, it is enough to observe with attention
the state of minds in Spain at this time; besides, incontestable
facts come in support of conjectures. The Protestants, taking great
care to declaim against abuses, represented themselves as reformers,
and labored to draw to their side all who were animated by an ardent
desire for reform. This desire for reform had existed for a long time
in the Church; but with some it was inspired by bad intentions; in
other words, the specious name of reform concealed the real intention
of many, which was to destroy. At the same time, with some sincere
Catholics, this desire, although pure in principle, went to imprudent
zeal, and reached an ill-regulated ardor. It is probable that such
zeal, carried to too great an extent, was, with many, changed into
acrimony; thence a certain facility in receiving the insidious
suggestions of the enemies of the Church. Many people who had begun
with indiscreet zeal, perhaps fell into exaggeration, then into
bitterness, and finally into heresy. Spain was not exempt from this
disposition of mind, from whence the course of events might have drawn
very bitter results, if Protestantism had obtained any footing on our
soil. We know that the Spaniards at the Council of Trent distinguished
themselves by their reforming zeal, and their boldness in expressing
their opinions. Let us remark, moreover, that religious discord being
once introduced into a country, minds are excited by disputes, they are
irritated by frequent shocks, and it sometimes happens that respectable
men precipitate themselves into excesses which they would have abhorred
a short time before. It is difficult to say with precision what would
have happened if the rigor had been at all relaxed on this point.
Certain it is, that, when reading some passages of Luis Vives, of Arias
Montanus, of Carranza, and of the consultation of Melchior Cano, we can
fancy we find, at the bottom of their minds, a sort of disquietude and
agitation, which may best be compared to those heavy murmurings which
announce from afar the commencement of a tempest.

The famous trial of the Archbishop of Toledo, Fray Bartolomé de
Carranza, is one of the facts which are most frequently cited to show
the arbitrary nature of the proceedings of the Spanish Inquisition.
We certainly cannot see without emotion, shut up in prison for many
years, one of the most learned men in Europe, the Archbishop of Toledo,
honored with the intimate confidence of Philip II. and the Queen of
England, allied in friendship with the most distinguished men of the
time, and known to all Christendom by the brilliant part which he had
played at the Council of Trent. The process lasted seventeen years;
and although the cause was carried to Rome, where the Archbishop must
have found powerful friends, a declaration of innocence in his favor
could not be obtained. Without staying to notice the many incidents
of a cause so long and so complicated, without insisting on the more
or less reason which the discourses and writings of Carranza may have
afforded for suspicions against his faith, I am quite certain, in my
own mind, that, in his own conscience and before God, he was perfectly
innocent. Here is a proof that places my opinion beyond a doubt. A
short time after the judgment was given, he fell ill; his malady was
supposed to be mortal, and the sacraments were administered to him.
At the moment of receiving the Viaticum, in the presence of a large
concourse, he declared, in the most solemn manner, that he had never
left the Catholic faith, that his conscience acquitted him of all the
accusations made against him; and he confirmed his declaration by
calling to witness God, in whose presence he was, whom he was about to
receive under the most sacred species, and before whose awful tribunal
he was in a few moments to appear. This pathetic act drew tears from
all present; all suspicions against him were dissipated as by a breath,
and a new sympathy was added to that which his continued misfortunes
had excited. The Sovereign Pontiff did not doubt the sincerity of the
declaration, as a magnificent epitaph was placed upon his tomb, which
certainly would not have been allowed if there had been the least doubt
of it. It certainly would be rash to refuse to believe a declaration so
explicit from the mouth of such a man as Carranza, expiring, and in the
presence of Jesus Christ Himself.

After having paid this tribute to the knowledge, virtues, and
misfortunes of Carranza, it remains for us to examine whether, whatever
may have been the purity of his conscience, it can be justly said that
his trial was a perfidious intrigue, carried on by envy and hatred.
This is not the place to examine the immense procedure in this case;
but since allusion has been made to it to condemn Philip II. and the
adversaries of Carranza, I wish, in my turn, to make some observations,
to endeavor to place the affair in its proper light. In the first
place, is it not astonishing that a trial devoid of all foundation
should have had so extraordinary a duration? At least there must have
been some appearance of it. Besides, if the cause had been decided in
Spain, the length of the trial might not have been so extraordinary.
But it was not so; the cause remained pending in Rome many years. Were
the judges so blind or so wicked that they could not discover the
calumny, or that they wanted the virtue to destroy it, supposing it
to have been as clear and evident as it has been pretended? It may be
replied to this, that the intrigues of Philip II., who was determined
on the destruction of the Archbishop, prevented the truth from
appearing; in proof of this assertion, have we not the difficulties
which the king made to allow the prisoner to be transferred to Rome?
It was necessary, it is said, for Pius V. to effect this by the threat
of excommunication. I will not deny that Philip II. attempted to
aggravate the situation of the Archbishop, and wished for a sentence
little favorable to the illustrious accused. Yet, before deciding
that the conduct of the king was criminal, we must know whether he
acted thus from personal resentment, from conviction, or from the
suspicion that the Archbishop inclined towards Lutheranism. Carranza,
before his disgrace, was highly favored and esteemed by Philip, as
appears from the missions which were confided to him in England, and
from his elevation to the first ecclesiastical dignity in Spain. How,
then, can we presume that so much good-will was converted on a sudden
into personal and violent hatred? Is it not, at least, necessary that
history should afford a fact in support of this conjecture? Now, I find
this nowhere in history, nor am I aware that others have done so. If
Philip took so decided a part against the Archbishop, it was evidently
because he believed, or strongly suspected him of being heretical. In
that case, Philip may have been rash, imprudent--all that you please;
but it cannot be said that, in the pursuit, he was moved by the spirit
of vengeance, or by low animosity.

Other men of the time were equally accused. Among the rest, Melchior
Cano. Carranza himself seemed to be suspicious; he bitterly complained
that Melchior Cano had ventured to say that the Archbishop was as
heretical as Luther. But Salazar de Mendoza, when relating the fact in
the life of Carranza, asserts that Cano, hearing this, openly denied
it, saying, that he had said nothing of the kind. Indeed, the mind
is easily inclined to believe him; men with intellects as favored as
his, have, in their own dignity, too powerful a preservative against
baseness, to allow them to be suspected of playing the infamous part of

I do not believe that it is necessary to seek for the cause of the
misfortunes of Carranza in private hatred or jealousy; it is found
in the critical circumstances of the time, and in the character of
this illustrious man himself. The grave symptoms which produced alarm
lest Protestantism might make proselytes in Spain; the efforts of
the Protestants to introduce their books and emissaries there; the
experience of what happened in other countries, and particularly in
the kingdom of France, created so much dread in men's minds, rendered
them so fearful and mistrustful, that the least suspicion of error,
above all, in persons elevated in dignity or distinguished for their
knowledge, occasioned disquietude and apprehension. We are aware of
the hot disputes which took place with respect to the Polyglot of
Antwerp and Arias Montanus, and we are not ignorant of the sufferings
of the famous Fray Luis de Leon, and some other illustrious men of that
time. Another conjuncture which contributed to push things to extremes
was, the political situation of Spain with respect to strangers.
The Spanish monarchy had too many enemies and rivals for her not to
have reason to fear that heresy, in the hands of her adversaries,
would become a means of introducing discord and civil war into her
bosom. These causes united, naturally rendered Philip suspicious and
mistrustful; the hatred of heresy combining in his mind with the desire
of self-preservation, he showed himself severe and inexorable with
respect to all that could affect the purity of the Catholic faith in
his empire.

On the other hand, it must be acknowledged that the character of
Carranza was not exactly what was required, in such critical times,
to avoid all dangerous wanderings. We perceive, in reading his
commentaries on the Catechism, that he was a man of acute penetration,
of vast erudition, of profound learning, of severe character, and of a
heart generous and frank. He spoke his thoughts without circumlocution,
without regard to the displeasure which his words might give to this
person or that. When he believed that he had discovered an abuse,
he pointed it out and condemned it openly, wherein he resembled his
supposed adversary, Melchior Cano, in more features than one. The
accusations against him in the trial were founded, not only on his
writings, but also on some of his sermons and private conversations.
I know not to what extent he exceeded the just limits; but I hesitate
not to affirm, that a man who wrote in the tone which we find in his
works, must have expressed himself _viva voce_ with great force, and
perhaps with excessive boldness. It must be added, to speak the whole
truth, that when treating of justification, in his commentaries on
the Catechism, he does not explain himself with all the clearness
desirable, and is wanting in the simplicity required by the unhappy
circumstances of the times. Men versed in this delicate matter know how
delicate certain points are. These points were then the subject of the
errors of Germany; and it may be easily imagined how much the attention
must have been fixed on the words of Carranza, and how alarming the
least shadow of ambiguity must have been. It is certain that, at Rome
he was not acquitted of all the accusations; he was compelled to abjure
a series of propositions, with respect to which he was judged liable
to suspicion; and some penances were imposed on him. Carranza on his
death-bed protested his innocence; but he took care to declare that
he did not regard the sentence of the Pope as unjust. The explanation
of the enigma is this: the innocence of the heart is not always
accompanied by the prudence of the lips.

I have dwelt upon this famous cause because it involves considerations
which strikingly exhibit the spirit of the age. These considerations
have, besides, the advantage of showing the truth in its proper light,
and prevent every thing being explained according to the wretched
measure of the malice of men. There is unhappily a tendency to explain
all in this way; and it may be truly said, that men too often give a
just foundation for it; yet, whenever there is no evident necessity
to do so, we ought to abstain from condemnation. The picture of the
history of humanity is sombre enough in itself; let us not take
pleasure in darkening it still more by new stains. We often call crime
that which was only ignorance. Man is inclined to evil; but he is not
less subject to error, and error is not always culpable.

Moreover, I believe that to Protestants themselves were owing the rigor
and anxious mistrust which the Inquisition of Spain displayed at that
time. They excited a religious revolution; and it is a constant law,
that all revolutions either destroy the power assailed, or render it
more harsh and severe. What before was looked upon as indifferent, is
now considered as suspected; and what, in all other circumstances,
would only have appeared a fault, is now regarded as a crime. Men are
in continual dread of seeing liberty converted into licentiousness;
and as revolutions destroy all, while they profess to reform,
whoever ventures to speak of reform, runs the risk of being blamed
as a disturber. Even prudent conduct is stigmatized as hypocritical
caution; frank and sincere language is termed insolence and dangerous
suggestion; reserve is a concealment full of cunning; even silence
itself assumes a meaning--it becomes alarming dissimulation. We have
seen so many things come to pass in our days, that we are placed in
an incomparable situation easily to understand the various phases of
the history of humanity. It is an undoubted fact, that Protestantism
produced a reaction in Spain. Its errors and excesses were the
reason why the ecclesiastical and civil power infinitely restrained
the liberty which had been previously enjoyed in all that related to
religion. Spain was preserved from the Protestant doctrines, when all
the probabilities were in favor of their being introduced there, in one
way or another. It is clear that this could not be obtained without
extraordinary efforts. Spain, at that time, appears to me like a place
besieged by a powerful enemy, where the leaders continually watched,
not only against attacks from without, but also against treason from
within. I will confirm these observations by an example, which will
serve for many others. Let us remember what took place with respect
to Bibles in the vulgar tongue; we shall then have an idea of what
passed with relation to all the rest, according to the natural order
of things. I have before me a testimony of what I have just said, as
respectable as it is worthy of interest--that of Carranza himself.
Hear what he says in his prologue to his commentaries on the Christian
Catechism: "Before the heresies of Luther had come from the infernal
regions to the light of this world, I do not know that the Holy
Scriptures in the vulgar tongue were anywhere forbidden. In Spain,
Bibles were translated into it by order of the Catholic sovereigns,
at the time when the Moors and Jews were allowed to live among the
Christians according to their own law. After the expulsion of the Jews
from Spain, the judges of religion found that some of those who had
been converted to our holy faith instructed their children in Judaism,
and taught them the ceremonies of the law of Moses by means of those
Bibles in the vulgar tongue, which they took care to have printed in
Italy, in the town of Ferrara. This is the real cause why Bibles in the
vulgar tongue were forbidden in Spain; but the possession and reading
of them were always allowed to colleges and monasteries, as well as
to persons of distinction above all suspicion." Carranza continues to
give, in a few words, the history of these prohibitions in Germany,
France, and other countries; then he adds: "In Spain, which was, and
still is, by the grace and goodness of God, pure from the cockle, care
was taken to forbid generally all the translations of the Scriptures in
the vulgar tongue, in order to prevent strangers having an opportunity
of holding controversy with simple and ignorant persons, and also
because they had, and still have, experience of certain particular
cases, and of the errors which began to arise in Spain from the
ill-understood reading of certain passages of the Bible. What I have
just stated is the real history of what took place; this is why the
Bible in the vulgar tongue was prohibited."

This curious passage of Carranza shows us, in a few words, the progress
of things. At first there was no prohibition; but the abuse committed
by the Jews provoked one, although still confined, as we have just
seen, within certain limits. Afterwards came the Protestants, upsetting
all Europe by means of their Bibles; Spain is threatened with the
introduction of the new errors; it is discovered that some persons
have been misled by the false interpretation of certain passages of
the Bible; they are compelled to take away this weapon from these
strangers, who attempt to use it to seduce simple people: from that
time the prohibition becomes rigorous and general.

To return to Philip II., let us not forget that this monarch was one
of the firmest defenders of the Catholic Church; and that in him was
personified the policy of the faithful ages, amid the vertigo which,
under the impulse of Protestantism, had taken possession of European
policy. If the Catholic Church, amid these great perturbations, could
reckon on a powerful protection from the princes of the earth, it was
in great measure owing to Philip II. This age was critical and decisive
in Europe. If it is true that he was unfortunate in Flanders, it is
not less undoubted that his power and ability afforded a counterpoise
to the Protestant power, which prevented it making itself master of
Europe. Even supposing that the efforts of Philip had only the result
of gaining time, by breaking the first shock of the Protestant policy,
this was not a slight service rendered to the Catholic Church, then
attacked on so many sides. What would have happened to Europe, if
Protestantism had been introduced into Spain as into France? if the
Huguenots had been able to count on the assistance of the Peninsula?
And what would have happened in Italy, if she had not been held in
respect by the power of Philip? Would not the sectaries of Germany have
succeeded in introducing their errors there? Here I appeal to all men
who are acquainted with history, whether, if Philip had abandoned his
much-decried policy, the Catholic religion would not have run the risk
of finding itself, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, under
the hard necessity of existing only as a tolerated religion in the
generality of the kingdoms of Europe? Now, we know what this toleration
is worth to the Catholic Church; England has told us for centuries;
Prussia shows us at this moment, and Russia adds her testimony in
a manner still more lamentable. Such is the point of view in which
we must consider Philip II. One is forced to allow that, considered
in this way, that prince is a great historical personage,--one of
those who have left the deepest marks on the policy of the age which
followed,--one of those who exert the greatest influence after them on
the course of events.

Spaniards, who anathematize the founder of the Escurial, have you,
then, forgotten our history, or do you esteem it of no value? Do you
stigmatize him as an odious tyrant? Do you not know that, in denying
his glory, in covering it with ignominy, you efface a feature of your
own glory, and throw into the mud the diadem which encircled the brows
of Ferdinand and Isabella? If you cannot pardon Philip II. for having
sustained the Inquisition,--if that reason alone obliges you to load
his name with execration, do the same with his illustrious father,
Charles V.; and, going back to Isabella of Castille, write also on
the list of the tyrants and scourges of humanity that name which
was venerated by both worlds, and which is the emblem of the glory
and power of the Spanish monarchy. They all took part in the fact
which excites your indignation; do not curse some, while you lavish
hypocritical indulgence on the others. If that indulgence is found in
your words, it is that the feeling of nationality which beats in your
bosom compels you to partiality--to inconsistency; you recoil when you
are about to efface the glories of Spain with a stroke of the pen--to
wither all her laurels--to deny your country. We have nothing left,
unfortunately, but great recollections; let us at least avoid despising
them: these recollections are, in a nation, like the titles of ancient
nobility in a fallen family; they raise the mind, they fortify the soul
in adversity; and, nourishing hope in the bottom of the heart, they
serve to prepare what is to come.

The immediate effect of the introduction of Protestantism into Spain
would have been, as in other countries, civil war; and this war
would have been more fatal to us than to other people, because the
circumstances were much more critical for us. The unity of the Spanish
monarchy could not have resisted the shocks and disturbances of
intestine dissension; the different parts were so heterogeneous among
themselves, and were so slightly united, that the least blow would
have parted them. The laws and manners of the kingdoms of Navarre and
Aragon were very different from those of Castille; a lively feeling
of independence, supported by frequent meetings of their own Cortes,
was kept alive in the hearts of those unconquered nations; they would
certainly have availed themselves of the first opportunity to shake
off a yoke which was not pleasing to them. Moreover, in the other
provinces, factions were not wanting to distract the country. The
monarchy would have been miserably divided at a time when it was
necessary to make head in the affairs of Europe, Africa, and America.
The Moors were still in sight of our coasts; the Jews had not had time
to forget Spain: certainly both would have availed themselves of the
conjuncture to raise themselves by means of our discords. On the policy
of Philip depended not only the tranquillity, but perhaps even the
existence of the Spanish monarchy. He is now accused of having been a
tyrant; if he had pursued another course, he would have been taxed with
incapacity and weakness.

One of the most unjust attacks of the enemies of religion against
her friends is, to attribute bad faith to them, to accuse them of
having in every thing false intentions, tortuous and interested views.
When they speak of the Machiavellianism of Philip II., they suppose
that the Inquisition, while apparently only religious in its object,
was, in reality, an obedient instrument of policy in the hands of a
crafty monarch. Nothing is more specious to the man in whose eyes
history is only a matter for piquant and malicious observations; but
nothing is more false according to facts. Some people, seeing in the
Inquisition an extraordinary tribunal, have not been able to imagine
the existence of that exceptional tribunal, without supposing, in the
monarch who sustained and encouraged it, profound reasons, and views
carried much further than appears on the surface of things. They have
not been willing to see that an epoch has its spirit, its own manner
of regarding things, its own system of action, both in doing good
and in preventing evil. During those times, when all the nations of
Europe appealed to fire and sword to decide questions of religion,
when Protestants and Catholics burnt their adversaries, when England,
France, and Germany assisted at the bloodiest scenes, to bring a
heretic to the scaffold was a natural and customary thing, which gave
no shock to prevailing ideas. We feel our hair grow stiff on our heads
at the mere idea of burning a man alive. Placed in society where the
religious sentiment is considerably diminished; accustomed to live
among men who have a different religion, and sometimes none at all; we
cannot bring ourselves to believe that it could be at that time quite
an ordinary thing to see heretics or the impious led to punishment.
But, if we read the authors of the time, we shall see the immense
difference on this point between their manners and ours; and we shall
remark, that our language of moderation and toleration would not even
have been understood by the man of the sixteenth century.

Do you know what Carranza himself, who suffered so much from the
Inquisition, thought of this matter? Every time that he has occasion
to touch on this point in the work which I have quoted, he expresses
the ideas of his time, without even staying to prove them; he gives
them as undoubted principles. In England, with Queen Mary, he did not
fear to express his opinions as to the rigor with which heretics ought
to be treated; and he was certainly far from suspecting that his name
would one day be made use of to attack this intolerance. Kings and
peoples, ecclesiastics and seculars, were all agreed on this point.
What would be said now-a-days of a king who would carry with his own
hands the wood to burn heretics, and would condemn blasphemers to
have their tongues pierced with a hot iron? Now, the first of these
things is related of St. Ferdinand, and we know that the second was
done by St. Louis. We now exclaim in seeing Philip II. assisting at
an _auto-da-fé_; but, if we consider that the court, the great men,
all that was most select in society, surrounded the king on these
occasions, we shall understand that, if this spectacle is horrible
and intolerable to us, it was not so in the eyes of those men, widely
different from us in ideas and feelings. And let it not be said that
they were forced there by the will of the monarch,--that they were
compelled to obey: this was not the effect of the monarch's will; it
was only a consequence of the spirit of the age. No monarch would have
been sufficiently powerful to perform such a ceremony, if the spirit
of the age had been opposed to it; besides, no monarch is so hard and
insensible as not to feel the influence of the times in which he lives.
Suppose the most absolute despot of our time, Napoleon, at the height
of his power, or the present Emperor of Russia, and see whether they
could thus violate the manners of the age.

An anecdote is related which is little adapted to confirm the opinion
of those who assert that the Inquisition was a political instrument in
the hands of Philip. As it paints in a curious and interesting manner
the customs and ideas of the age, I will insert it here. Philip II.
held his court at Madrid; a certain preacher, in a sermon delivered in
presence of the king, advanced, that _sovereigns had an absolute power
over the persons as well as over the property of their subjects_. The
proposition was not of a nature to displease a king; the preacher at
one blow relieved kings from all control over the exercise of their
power. Now, it seems that at that time all men were not in such abject
subjection to despotic control as we have been led to believe; some
one was found to denounce to the Inquisition the words in which the
preacher had not been ashamed to flatter the absolute power of kings.
Surely the orator had chosen a secure asylum; and our readers may well
suppose that this denunciation coming into collision with the power of
Philip, the Inquisition would have maintained a prudent silence. Yet
it was not so: the Inquisition made an inquiry, found the proposition
contrary to sound doctrine, and the preacher, who was perhaps far from
expecting such a reward, had divers penances imposed on him, and was
condemned to retract publicly his proposition in the same place where
he had made it. The retractation took place with all the ceremonies
of a juridical proceeding; the preacher declared that he retracted
his proposition as erroneous; he explained the reasons by reading,
as he had been directed, the following words, well worthy of remark:
"_Indeed, messieurs, kings have no other power over their subjects
than that which is given to them by the divine and human law; they
have none proceeding from their own free and absolute will._" This is
related by D. Antonio Perez, as may be seen at length in the note which
corresponds to the present chapter. We know, moreover, that he was not
a fanatical partisan of the Inquisition.

This took place at the time which some persons never mention without
stigmatizing it with the words obscurantism, tyranny, and superstition.
Yet I doubt whether, at a time nearer to us--that, for example, when it
is asserted that light and liberty dawned on Spain under the reign of
Charles III.--a public and solemn condemnation of despotism would have
been carried so far. This condemnation, at the time of Philip II., did
as much honor to the tribunal which ordered it as to the monarch who
consented to it.

With respect to knowledge, it is a calumny to say that a design was
formed to maintain and perpetuate ignorance. Certainly the conduct
of Philip does not indicate such a design, when we see this prince,
not content with favoring the great enterprise of the Polyglot of
Antwerp, recommending to Arias Montanus to devote to the purchase of
chosen works, printed or manuscript, the money which would revert to
the printer Plantinus, to whom the king had advanced a large sum to
aid in the enterprise. This chosen collection was to be placed in the
library of the monastery of the Escurial, which was then built. The
king had also charged _Don Francis de Alaba, his ambassador in France,
to collect in that kingdom the best books which it was possible for him
to procure_, as he himself says in his letter to Arias Montanus. No;
the history of Spain, with respect to intolerance in religious matters,
is not so black as it has been represented. When foreigners reproach us
with cruelty, we will reply that, when Europe was stained with blood
by civil wars, Spain was at peace. As to the number of persons who
perished on the scaffold or died in exile, we challenge the two nations
who claim to be at the head of civilization, France and England, to
show us their statistics on that subject at the same time, and to
compare them with ours: we do not fear the comparison.

In proportion as the danger of the introduction of Protestantism into
Spain diminished, so did the rigor of the Inquisition. We may observe,
moreover, that the procedure of that tribunal always became milder,
in accordance with the spirit of criminal legislation in the other
countries of Europe. Thus we see the _auto-da-fé_ becoming more rare
as we approach our own times, so that, at the end of the last century,
the Inquisition was only a shadow of what it had been. It is useless
to insist on this point, which nobody denies, and on which we are in
unison with the most ardent enemies of that tribunal; and this it is
which, in our eyes, proves, in the most convincing manner, that we must
seek in the ideas and manners of the time, what people have attempted
to find in the cruelty, in the wickedness, or in the ambition of men.
If the doctrines of those who plead for the abolition of the punishment
of death are carried into effect, posterity, when reading the
executions of our time, will be seized with the same horror with which
we view the punishment of times past, and the gibbet and the guillotine
will figure in the same rank as the ancient Quemaderos.[26]



Religious institutions are another of those points whereon
Protestantism and Catholicity are in complete opposition to each
other: the first abhors, the second loves them; the one destroys them,
the other establishes and encourages them. One of the first acts of
Protestantism, whenever it is introduced, is to attack religious
institutions by its doctrines and its acts; it labors to destroy them
immediately; one would say that the pretended Reformation cannot behold
without irritation those holy abodes, which continually remind it of
the ignominious apostacy of its founder. Religious vows, especially
that of chastity, have been the subject of the most cruel invectives
on the part of Protestants; but it must be observed, that what is said
now, and what has been repeated for three centuries, is only the echo
of the first voice which was raised in Germany; and what was that
voice? It was the voice of a monk without modesty, who penetrated into
the sanctuary and carried away a victim. All the pomp of learning
employed to combat a sacred dogma is insufficient to hide so impure an
origin. Through the excitement of the false prophet we perceive the
impure flames which devour his heart.

Let us observe in passing, that the same thing took place with respect
to the celibacy of the clergy. Protestants, from the beginning, could
not endure this; they threw off the mask, and condemned it without
disguise; they attempted to combat it with a certain ostentation of
learning; but, at the bottom of all their declamation, what do we find?
The clamor of a priest who has forgotten his duty; who strives against
the remorse of his conscience, and endeavors to hide his shame by
diminishing the horror of the scandal by the allegations of falsehood.
If such conduct had been pursued by the Catholics, all the arms of
ridicule would have been employed to cover them with contempt, to stamp
it, as it deserves, with the brand of infamy; but it was a man who
declared deadly war against Catholicity: that was enough to turn away
the contempt of philosophers, and find indulgence for the declamation
of a monk whose first argument against celibacy was, to profane his
vows and consummate a sacrilege.

The rest of the disturbers of that age imitated the example of
so worthy a master. All demanded and required from Scripture and
philosophy a veil to cover their weakness and baseness. Just
punishment! blindness of the mind was the result of corruption of the
heart; impudence sought and obtained the companionship of error. Never
is the mind more vile than when, to excuse a fault, it becomes the
accomplice of it; then it is not deceived, but prostituted.

This hatred of religious institutions has been inherited by philosophy
from Protestantism. This is the reason why all revolutions, excited and
guided by Protestants or philosophers, have been signalized by their
intolerance towards the institutions themselves, and by their cruelty
towards those who belonged to them. What the law could not do was
completed by the dagger and the torch of the incendiary. What escaped
the catastrophe was left to the slow punishment of misery and famine.
On this point, as well as on many others, it is manifest that the
infidel philosophy is the daughter of the Reformation. It is useless
to seek for a more convincing proof of this than the parallel of the
histories of both, in all that relates to the destruction of religious
institutions; the same flattery of kings, the same exaggeration of the
civil power, the same declamation against the pretended evil inflicted
on society, the same calumnies; we have only to change the names and
the dates. And we must also remark this peculiarity, that, in this
matter, the difference which, apparently, ought to have resulted from
the progress of toleration and the softening of manners in recent
times, has scarcely been felt.

But is it true that religious institutions are as contemptible as
they have been represented? is it true that they do not even deserve
attention, and that all the questions relating to them can be solved
by merely pronouncing the word fanaticism? Does not the man of
observation, the real philosopher, find in them any thing worthy of
attracting his attention? It is difficult to believe that such was the
nullity of these institutions, whose history is so grand, and which
still preserve in their existence the promise of a great future. It is
difficult to believe that such institutions are not worthy of attention
in the highest degree, and that their study is wholly devoid of lively
interest and solid profit. We see them appear at every epoch of Church
history; their memorials and monuments are found every moment under
our feet; they are preserved in the regions of Asia, in the sands of
Africa, in the cities and solitudes of America; in fine, when, after
so much adversity, we see them more or less prosperous in the various
countries of Europe, sending forth again fresh shoots in those lands
where their roots had been the most deeply torn up, there naturally
arises in the mind a spirit of curiosity to examine this phenomenon,
to inquire what is the origin, the genius, and the character of these
institutions. Those who love to descend into the heart of philosophical
questions discover, at first sight, that there must be there an
abundant mine of the most precious information for the science of
religion, of society, and of man. He who has read the lives of the
ancient fathers of the desert without being touched, without feeling
profound admiration, and being filled with grave and lofty thoughts; he
who, treading under his feet with indifference the ruins of an ancient
abbey, has not called up in fancy the shades of the cenobites who lived
and died there; he who passes coldly through the corridors and cells
of convents half-demolished, and feels no recollections, and not even
the curiosity to examine,--he may close the annals of history, and may
cease to study the beautiful and the sublime. There exist for him no
historical phenomena, no beauty, no sublimity; his mind is in darkness,
his heart is in the dust.

With the intention of hiding the intimate connection which subsists
between religious institutions and religion herself, it has been said
that she can exist without them. This is an incontrovertible truth, but
abstract and wholly useless--a barren and isolated assertion, which
can throw no light upon science, nor serve as any practical guide--an
insidious truth, which only tends entirely to change the whole state
of the question, and persuade men that when religious institutions are
concerned, religion has nothing to do with the matter. There is here a
gross sophism, which is too much employed, not only on this question,
but on many others. This consists in replying to all difficulties by
a proposition perfectly true in itself, but which has nothing to do
with the question. By this means, attention is turned another way; the
palpable truth which is presented to the mind makes men wander from the
principal object, and induces them to take that for a solution which
is only a distraction. With respect, for example, to the support of
the clergy and divine worship, it is said, "Temporals are altogether
different from spirituals." When the ministers of religion are
systematically calumniated, "Religion," they say, "is one thing, and
her ministers are another." If it is wished to represent the conduct
of Rome for many centuries as an uninterrupted chain of injustice,
of corruption, and of invasion of right, all reply is anticipated by
saying, "The supremacy of the Sovereign Pontiff has nothing to do with
the vices of Popes or their ambition." Reflections perfectly just, and
truths palpable, no doubt, which are very useful in certain cases,
but which writers of bad faith cunningly employ to conceal from the
reader the real object they have in view. Such are the jugglers who
attract the attention of the simple multitude on one side, while their
companions perform their criminal operations on the other.

Because a thing is not necessary to the existence of another, it does
not follow that the first does not originate in the second,--does not
find in the spirit of the latter its peculiar and permanent existence,
and that a system of intimate and delicate relation does not subsist
between them. The tree can subsist without flowers and fruits; these
can certainly fall without destroying the trunk; but as long as the
tree shall exist, will it ever cease to give proofs of its vigor and
its beauty, and to offer its flowers to the eye, and its fruits to
the taste? The stream may constantly flow in its crystal bed without
the green margin which embellishes its sides; but while its source is
not dried up--as long as the fertilizing water penetrates the ground,
can its favored banks remain dry, barren, without color and ornament?
Let us apply these images to our subject. It is certain that religion
can exist without religious communities, and that their ruin does not
necessarily entail that of religion herself. More than once it has
been seen that in countries where religious institutions have been
destroyed, the Catholic faith has been long preserved. But it is not
less certain, that there is a necessary dependence between them and
religion; that is, that she has given being to them, that she animates
them with her spirit, and nourishes them with her substance: this
is the reason why they immediately germinate wherever the Catholic
faith takes root; and if they have been driven from a country where
she continues to exist, they will reappear. Without alluding to the
examples of other countries, do we not see this phenomenon take place
in France in a remarkable manner? The number of convents of men and
women which are again established on the French soil is already very
considerable. Who would have told the men of the Constituent Assembly,
the Legislative Assembly, the Convention, that half a century should
not elapse without seeing religious institutions reappear and flourish
in France, in spite of all their efforts to destroy even their memory?
"If that happen," they would have said, "it will be because the
revolution which we are making will not be allowed to triumph--because
Europe will have again imposed despotism upon us; then, and then only,
will be witnessed in France--in Paris--in this capital of the Christian
world--the re-establishment of religious institutions, that legacy of
fanaticism and superstition, transmitted to us by the ideas and manners
of an age which has passed away, never to return."

Senseless men! your revolution _has_ triumphed; you _have_ conquered
Europe; the old principles of the French monarchy _have_ been erased
from legislation, institutions, and manners; the genius of war has led
your doctrines in triumph over Europe, and they were gilded by the
rays of your glory. Your principles, all your recollections have again
triumphed at a recent period; they still live in all their force and
pride, personified in some men who glory in being the heirs of what
they call the glorious Revolution of '89; and yet, in spite of so many
triumphs, although your revolution has only receded as much as was
necessary the better to secure its conquests, religious institutions
have again arisen--they extend, they are propagated everywhere, and
they regain an important place in the annals of our times. To prevent
this revival, it would have been necessary to extirpate religion;
it was not enough to persecute her; faith remained like a precious
germ covered by stones and thorns; Providence sends down a ray of
that divine star which softens stones, and gives life and fertility;
the tree rises again in all its beauty, in spite of the ruins which
hindered its growth and development, and its leaves are immediately
covered with charming blossoms:--behold the religious institutions
which you thought were for ever annihilated!

The example which we have just mentioned clearly shows the truth of
what we wish to establish, with respect to the intimate connection
which exists between religion and religious institutions. Church
history furnishes proofs in support of this truth. Besides, the mere
knowledge of religion, and of the nature of the institutions of which
we speak, would suffice to prove it to us, even if we had not history
and experience in our favor.

The force of general prejudice on this subject is such, that it is
necessary to descend to the root of things, to show the complete
mistake of our adversaries. What are religious institutions considered
generally? Putting aside the differences, the changes, the alterations
necessarily produced by variety of times, countries, and other
circumstances, we will say that a religious institute is a society
of Christians living together, under certain rules, for the purpose
of practising the Gospel precepts. We include, in this definition,
even the orders which are not bound by a vow. It will be seen that we
have considered the religious institution in its most general sense,
laying aside all that theologians and canonists say with respect to
the conditions indispensable to constitute or complete its essence. We
must, moreover, observe that we ought not to exclude from the honorable
denomination of religious institutes, those associations which possess
all the conditions except the vows. The Catholic religion is fertile
enough to produce good by means and forms widely different. In the
generality of religious institutions, she has shown us what man can do
by binding himself by a vow, for his whole life, to a holy abnegation
of his own will; but she has also wished to show us that, while leaving
him at liberty, she could attach him by a variety of ties, and make him
persevere until death, as if he had been obliged by a perpetual vow.
The congregation of the oratory of St. Philip Neri, which is found in
this latter category, is certainly worthy of figuring among religious
institutions as one of the finest monuments of the Catholic Church.
I am aware that the vow is comprised in the essence of religious
institutes, as they are commonly understood; but my only object now
is, to vindicate this kind of association against Protestants. Now we
know that they condemn indiscriminately, associations bound by vows
and those which only consist of the permanent and free adhesion of
the persons who compose them. All that has the form of a religious
community is regarded by them with a look of anger. When they
proscribed the religious orders, they included in the same fate those
which had vows and those which had not. Consequently, when defending
them, we must class them together. Moreover, this will not prevent our
considering the vow in itself, and justifying it before the tribunal of

I do not imagine that it is necessary to say more to show that the
object of religious institutions--that is, as we have just said, the
putting in practice of the Gospel counsels--is in perfect uniformity
with the Gospel itself. And let us well observe that, whatever may
be the name, whatever may be the form of the institutions, they have
always for their object something more than the simple observance
of the precepts; the idea of perfection is always included, then,
either in the active or the contemplative life. To keep the Divine
commandments is indispensable to all Christians who wish to possess
eternal life; the religious orders attempt a more difficult path; they
aim at perfection. This is the object of the men who, after having
heard these words from the mouth of their Divine Master: "If you wish
to be perfect, go sell all you have, and give it to the poor," have not
departed sorrowful, like the young man in the Gospel, but have embraced
with courage the enterprise of quitting all and following Jesus Christ.

We have now inquired whether association is the best means to carry
into execution so holy an object. It would be easy for me to show this
by adducing various texts of Scripture, where the true spirit of the
Christian religion, and the will of our Divine Master, are clearly
shown on this point; but the taste of our age, and the self-evidence
even of the truths in question, warn us to avoid, as much as possible,
all that savors of theological discussion. I will remove the question,
then, from this level, to consider it in a light purely historical
and philosophical; that is to say, without accumulating citations and
texts, I will prove that religious institutes are perfectly conformable
to the spirit of the Christian religion; and that consequently that
spirit has been deplorably mistaken by Protestants, when they have
condemned or destroyed them. If philosophers, while they do not admit
the truth of religion, still avow that it is useful and beautiful, I
will prove to them that they cannot condemn those institutions which
are the necessary result of it. In the cradle of Christianity, when men
preserved, in all their energy and purity, the sparks from the tongues
of the Holy Spirit; in those times, when the words and examples of its
Divine Founder were still fresh, when the number of the faithful who
had had the happiness of seeing and hearing Him was still very great in
the Church, we see the Christians, under the direction of the Apostles
themselves, unite, have all their property in common; thus forming only
one family, the Father of which was in heaven, and _which had only one
heart and one soul_.

I will not dispute as to the extent of this primitive proceeding;
I will abstain from analyzing the various circumstances which
accompanied it, and from examining how far it resembled the religious
institutions of latter times; it is enough to state its existence,
and show therefrom what is the true spirit of religion with respect
to the most proper means to realize evangelical perfection. I will
only allude to the fact, that Cassian, in the description which he
gives of the commencement of religious institutions, assigns as their
cradle the proceeding we have just mentioned, and which is reported
in the Acts of the Apostles. According to the same author, this kind
of life was never wholly interrupted; so that there were always some
fervent Christians who continued it; thus attaching, by a continued
chain, the existence of the monks to the primitive associations of
the apostolical times. After having described the kind of life of
the first Christians, and traced the alterations of the times that
followed, Cassian continues thus: "Those who preserved the apostolical
fervor in this way, recalling primitive perfection, quitted towns, and
the society of those who believed that they were allowed to live with
less severity; they began to choose secret and retired places, where
they could follow in private the rules which they remembered to have
been appointed by the Apostles for the whole body of the Church in
general. Thus commenced the formation of the discipline of those who
had quitted that contagion, as they lived separate from the rest of the
faithful; abstaining from marriage, and having no communication with
the world, even with their own families. In the progress of time, the
name of monks was given to them, in consideration of their singular and
solitary life." (_Collat._ 18, cap. 5.)

Times of persecution immediately followed, which, with some
interruptions, that may be called moments of repose, lasted till
the conversion of Constantine. There were, then, during this time,
some Christians who attempted to continue the mode of life of the
apostolical years. Cassian clearly indicates this in the passage
which we have just read. He omits to say that this primitive life was
necessarily modified, in its exterior form, by the calamities with
which the Church was afflicted at that period. In all that time we
ought not to look for Christians living in community; we shall find
them confessing Jesus Christ, with imperturbable calmness, on the rack,
amid all torments, in the circus, where they were torn to pieces by
wild beasts, on the scaffold, where they quietly gave up their heads to
the axe of the executioner. But observe what happened even during the
time of persecution; the Christians, of whom the world was not worthy,
pursued in the towns like wild beasts, wandered about in solitude,
seeking refuge in the deserts. The solitudes of the East, the sand and
rocks of Arabia, the most inaccessible places of the Thebaïd, receive
those troops of fugitives, who dwell in the abodes of wild beasts, in
abandoned graves, in dried-up cisterns, in the deepest caverns, only
asking for an asylum for meditation and prayer. And do you know the
result of this? These deserts, in which the Christians wandered, like
a few grains of sand driven by the wind, became peopled, as it were by
magic, with innumerable religious communities. There they meditated,
prayed, and read the Gospel; hardly had the fruitful seed touched the
earth, when the precious plant arose in a moment.

Admirable are the designs of Providence! Christianity, persecuted in
the towns, fertilizes and embellishes the deserts; the precious grain
requires for its development neither the moisture of the earth nor the
breeze of a mild atmosphere; when carried through the air on the wings
of the storm, the seed loses nothing of its vitality; when thrown on
a rock, it does not perish. The fury of the elements avails nothing
against the work of God, who has made the north wind His courser: the
rock ceases to be barren when He pleases to fertilize it. Did He not
make pure water spring forth at the mysterious touch of His Prophet's

When peace was given to the Church by the conqueror of Maxentius, the
germs contained in the bosom of Christianity were able to develop
themselves everywhere; from that moment the Church was never without
religious communities. With history in our hands, we may defy the
enemies of religious institutions to point out any period, however
short, when these institutions had entirely disappeared. Under some
form or in some country, they have always perpetuated the existence
which they had received in the early ages of Christianity. The fact
is certain and constant, and is found in every page of ecclesiastical
history; it plays an important part in all the great events in the
annals of the Church. It is found in the west and in the east, in
modern and in ancient times, in the prosperity and in the adversity of
the Church; when the pursuit of religious perfection was an honor in
the eyes of the world, as well as when it was an object of persecution,
raillery, and calumny. What clearer proof can there be that there is
an intimate connection between religious institutions and religion
herself? What more is required to show us that they are her spontaneous
fruit? In the moral and in the physical order of things, the constant
appearance of the one following the other, is regarded as a proof of
the reciprocal dependence of two phenomena. If these phenomena have
towards each other the relations of cause and effect--if we find in
the essence of the one all the principles that are required in the
production of the other, the first is called the cause and the other
the effect. Wherever the religion of Jesus Christ is established,
religious communities are found under some form or other; they are,
therefore, its spontaneous effect. I do not know what reply can be made
to so conclusive an argument.

By viewing the question in this way, the favor and protection which
religious institutions always found with the Pontiff is naturally
explained. It was his duty to act in conformity with the spirit which
animates the Church, of which he is the chief ruler upon earth; it is
certainly not the Pope who has made the regulation, that one of the
means most apt to lead men to perfection is to unite themselves in
associations under certain rules, in conformity with the instructions
of their Divine Master. The Eternal Lord thus ruled in the secrets of
His infinite wisdom, and the conduct of the Popes could not be contrary
to the designs of the Most High. It has been said that interested
views interposed; it has been said that the policy of the Popes found
in these institutions a powerful means of sustaining and aggrandizing
itself. But can you not see any thing but the sordid instruments of
cunning policy in the societies of the primitive faithful, in the
monasteries of the solitudes of the East, in that crowd of institutions
which have had for their object only the sanctification of their own
members and the amelioration of some of the great evils of humanity? A
fact so general, so great, so beneficent, cannot be explained by views
of interest and narrow designs; its origin is higher and nobler; and
he who will not seek for it in heaven ought at least to seek for it in
something greater than the projects of a man or the policy of a court;
he ought to seek for lofty ideas, sublime feelings, capable, if they do
not mount to heaven, at least of embracing a large part of the earth;
nothing less is here required than one of those thoughts which preside
over the destinies of the human race.

Some persons may be inclined to imagine private designs on the part
of the Popes, because they see their authority interfere in all the
foundations of later ages, and their approbation constitute the
validity of the rules of religious institutions; but the course
pursued in this respect by ecclesiastical discipline shows us that
the most active intervention of the Popes, far from emanating from
private views, has been called for by a necessity of preventing an
excessive multiplication of the religious orders in consequence of an
indiscreet zeal. This vigilance in preventing abuses was the origin
of this supreme intervention. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries
the tendency to new foundations was so strong that the most serious
inconveniences would have resulted from it, without a continual
watchfulness on the part of the ecclesiastical authority. Thus we see
the Sovereign Pontiff Innocent III. ordain, in the Council of Lateran,
that whoever wished to found a new religious house shall be bound to
adopt one of the approved rules and institutions.

But let us pursue our design. I can understand how those who deny the
truth of the Christian religion, and turn into ridicule the counsels of
the Gospel, bring themselves to deny all that is celestial and divine
in the spirit of the religious communities; but the truth of religion
once established, I cannot conceive how men who boast of following
its laws can declare themselves the enemies of these institutions
considered in themselves. How can he who admits the principle refuse
the consequence? How can he who loves the cause reject the effect? They
must either affect a religion hypocritically, or they profess without
comprehending it.

In default of any other proof of the anti-evangelical spirit which
guided the leaders of the pretended Reformation, their hatred to an
institution so evidently founded on the Gospel itself should suffice.
Did not these enthusiasts for reading the Bible _without note or
comment_--they who pretend to find all its passages so clear--did they
not remark the plain and easy sense of that multitude of passages which
recommend self-abnegation, the renunciation of all possessions, and the
privation of all pleasures? These words are plain--they cannot be taken
in any other signification--they do not require for their comprehension
a profound study of the sacred sciences, or that of languages; and
yet they have not been heard: we should rather say, they have not
been listened to. The intellect has understood, but the passions have
rejected them.

As to those philosophers who have regarded religious institutions as
vain and contemptible, if not dangerous, it is clear that they have
meditated but little on the human mind, and on the deep feelings of our
hearts, full as they are of mystery. As their hearts have felt nothing
at the sight of those numbers of men and women assembled for the
purpose of sanctifying themselves or others, or of relieving wants,
and consoling the unfortunate, it is but too clear that their souls
have been dried up by the breath of skepticism. To renounce for ever
all the pleasures of life; to live in solitude, there to offer one's
self, in austerity and penance, as a holocaust to the Most High: this,
certainly is a matter of horror to those philosophers who have only
viewed the world through their own prejudices. But humanity has other
thoughts; it feels itself attracted by those objects which philosophers
find so vain, so devoid of interest, so worthy of horror.

Wonderful are the secrets of our hearts! Although enervated by
pleasure, and involved in the whirlwind of amusement and mirth, we
cannot avoid being seized with deep emotion at the sight of austerity
and recollection of soul. Solitude, and even sadness itself, exert
an inexpressible influence over us. Whence comes that enthusiasm
which moves a whole nation, excites and makes it follow, as if by
enchantment, the steps of a man whose brow is marked by recollection,
whose features display austerity of life, whose clothes and manners
show freedom from all that is earthly, and forgetfulness of the world?
Now, it is a fact, proved by the history both of true and of false
religions; so powerful a means of attracting respect and esteem has
not remained unknown to imposture: licentiousness and corruption,
desirous of making their fortunes in the world, have more than once
felt the imperious necessity of disguising themselves under the
mantle of austerity and purity. What at first sight might appear the
most opposed to our feelings, the most repugnant to our tastes--this
shade of sadness diffused over the recollection and solitude of the
religious life--is precisely what enchants and attracts us the most.
The religious life is solitary and pensive; therefore it is beautiful,
and its beauty is sublime. Nothing is more apt than this sublimity to
move our hearts deeply, and make indelible impressions on them. In
reality, our soul has the character of an exile; it is affected by
melancholy objects only; it has not attained to that noisy joy which
requires to borrow a tint of melancholy only for the sake of a happy
contrast. In order to clothe beauty with its most seductive charms, it
is necessary that a tear of anguish should flow from her eyes, that
her forehead should assume an air of sadness, and her cheeks grow
pale with a melancholy remembrance. In order that the life of a hero
excite a lively interest in us, it is requisite that misfortune be his
companion, lamentation his consolation--that disaster and ingratitude
be the reward of his virtues. If you wish that a picture of nature
or art should strongly attract our attention, take possession of and
absorb the powers of our soul, it is necessary that a memorial of the
nothingness of man, and an image of death, should be presented to our
minds; our hearts should be appealed to by the feelings of a tranquil
sadness; we desire to see sombre tints on a monument in ruins--the
cross reminding us of the abode of the dead, the massive walls covered
with moss, and pointing out the ancient dwelling of some powerful man,
who, after having lived on earth for a short time, has disappeared.

Joy does not satisfy us, it does not fill our hearts; it intoxicates
and dissipates them for a few moments; but man does not find there
his happiness, because the joys of earth are frivolous, and frivolity
cannot attach a traveller who, far from his country, walks painfully
through the valley of tears. Thence it comes that, while sorrow and
tears are accepted--we should rather say, are carefully sought for by
art--whenever a deep impression is to be made upon the soul, joy and
smiles are inexorably banished. Oratory, poetry, sculpture, painting,
music, have all constantly followed the same rule; or, rather, have
always been governed by the same instinct. It certainly required a
lofty spirit and a heart of fire to declare _that the soul is naturally
Christian_. In these few words an illustrious thinker has known how to
express all the relations which unite the faith, morality, and counsels
of this divine religion, with all that is most intimate, delicate, and
noble in our hearts. Do you know Christian pensiveness; that grave and
elevated feeling which is painted on the forehead of the Christian,
like a memorial of sorrow on that of an illustrious proscribed one;
this feeling which moderates the enjoyments of life by the image of
the tomb, and lights up the depths of the grave with the rays of hope;
that pensiveness so natural and consoling, so grave and noble, which
causes diadems and sceptres to be trodden under foot like dust, and
the greatness and splendor of the world to be despised as a passing
illusion? This melancholy, carried to its perfection, vivified and
fertilized by grace, and subjected to a holy rule, is what presides
over the foundation of religious institutions, and accompanies them
as long as they preserve their primitive fervor, which they received
from men who were guided by divine light, and animated by the Spirit
of God. This holy melancholy, which carries with it freedom from all
earthly things, is the feeling which the Church wishes to instil into
and preserve in, the religious orders, when she surrounds their silent
abodes with a shade of retirement and meditation.

That amid the fury and the convulsions of parties, a mad and
sacrilegious hand, secretly excited by malice, should plunge a
fratricidal dagger into an innocent heart, or set fire to a peaceful
dwelling, may be conceived; for, unhappily, the history of man abounds
in crimes and frenzies; but that the essence of religious institutions
should be attacked, that their spirit should be considered narrow and
imbecile, that they should be deprived of the noble titles which give
honor to their origin, and the beauties which adorn their history,
can be allowed neither by the intellect nor by the heart. A false
philosophy, which dries up and withers all that it touches, has
undertaken so mad a task. But, setting aside religion and reason,
literature and the fine arts have rebelled against this attempt;
literature and the fine arts, which have need of old recollections,
and which are indebted for their wonders to lofty thoughts, to grave
and noble scenes, and deep and melancholy feelings; literature and the
arts, which delight in transporting the mind of man into regions of
light, in guiding the imagination through new and unknown paths, and in
ruling the heart by mysterious charms.

No; a thousand times no! As long as the religion of that God made man,
who had not where to repose his head, and who sat down by a well on
the wayside to rest, like an humble traveller, shall last; of that
God-man, whose appearance was announced to the nations by a mysterious
voice coming from the desert--by the voice of a man clothed in a
goat-skin, whose reins were bound with a leathern girdle, and who lived
on nothing but locusts and wild honey: as long as this divine religion
shall last, nothing will be more holy or more worthy of our respect
than those institutions, the true and original object of which is to
realize what Heaven intended to teach man by such eloquent and sublime
lessons. Times, vicissitudes, and revolutions, succeed each other; the
institution will change its form, will undergo alterations, will be
affected more or less by the weakness of men, by the corrosive action
of time, and the destructive power of events; but it will live--it will
never perish. If one society rejects it, it will seek an asylum in
another; driven from towns, it will take refuge in forests; if there
pursued, it will flee to the horrors of the desert. There will always
be, in some privileged hearts, an echo for the voice of that sublime
religion, which, holding in her hand a standard of sorrow and love--the
sacred standard of the sufferings and death of the Son of God--the
Cross, will proclaim to men: "Watch and pray, that you enter not into
temptation; if you assemble to pray, the Lord will be in the midst of
you; all flesh is but grass; life is a dream; above your heads is an
ocean of light and happiness; under your feet an abyss; your life on
earth is a pilgrimage, an exile." Then she marks his forehead with the
mysterious ashes, telling him, "Thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt

We shall perhaps be asked why the faithful cannot practise evangelical
perfection while living in the bosom of their families, without
assembling in communities? We shall reply, that we have no intention
of denying the possibility of that practice, even in the midst of the
world; and we willingly acknowledge that a great number of Christians
have done so at all times, and do so now; but this does not prove that
the surest and easiest means is not that of the life in community with
others who have the same object in view, and in retirement from all
the things of this world. Laying aside for a moment all consideration
of religion, are you not aware of the ascendency which the spirit of
repeated examples exerts on those with whom we live? Do you not know
how easily our spirit fails when we find ourselves alone in a difficult
enterprise? Do you not know that, in the greatest misfortunes, it is a
consolation to behold others participate in our sorrows? On this point,
as well as on all others, religion accords with sound philosophy, and
both unite in explaining to us the profound meaning contained in those
words of Scripture: "_Væ soli! Wo to him who is alone!_"

Before concluding this chapter, I wish to say a few words on the vows
which commonly accompany religious institutes. Perhaps they are one
of the principal causes of the violent antipathy of Protestantism
against these institutions. Vows render things fixed and stable; and
the fundamental principle of Protestantism does not admit of fixity
or stability. Essentially separating and anarchical, this principle
rejects unity and destroys the hierarchy; dissolving in its nature,
it allows the mind neither to remain in a permanent faith nor to be
subject to rule. For if virtue itself is only a vague entity, which
has no fixed foundation--a being which is fed on illusions, and which
cannot endure the application of any certain and constant rule, this
holy necessity of doing well, of constantly walking in the path
of perfection, must be incomprehensible to it, and in the highest
degree repugnant; this necessity must appear to it inconsistent with
liberty; as if man, by binding himself by a vow, lost his free will;
as if the sanction which a promise given to God imparts to a design,
at all diminished the merit of him who has the firmness necessary to
accomplish what he had the courage to promise.

Those who, to condemn this necessity which man imposes on himself,
invoke the rights of liberty against it, seem to forget that this
effort of man to make himself the slave of good, and secure his own
future, besides the sublime disinterestedness which it supposes, is the
vastest exercise which man can make of his liberty. By one act alone,
he disposes of his whole life, and by fulfilling the duties resulting
from that act, he continually fulfils his own will. But we shall be
told that man is so inconstant: this is the reason why, in order to
prevent the effects of this inconstancy, he finds himself penetrating
into the vicissitudes of the future, renders himself superior to them,
and governs them in advance. But, it will be said, in that case, good
is done from necessity: this is true; but do you not know that the
necessity of doing good is a happy one, and in some measure assimilates
man with God? Do you not know that Infinite Goodness is incapable of
doing evil, and Infinite Holiness can do nothing that is not holy?
Theologians explain why a created being is capable of sinning by
pointing out this profound reason. "It is," they say, "because the
creature is made out of nothing." When man forces himself, as far as
he can, to do well, when he thus fetters his will, he ennobles it, he
renders himself more like to God, he assimilates himself to the state
of the blessed, who have no longer the melancholy liberty of doing
evil, and who are under the happy necessity of loving God.

The name of liberty, from the time when Protestants and false
philosophers took possession of it, seems condemned to be ill
understood in all its applications. In the religious, moral, social,
and political order, it is enveloped in such obscurity, that we
can perceive the many efforts which have been made to darken and
misrepresent it. Cicero gives an admirable definition of liberty when
he says, that it consists in being the slave of law. In the same
way it may be said, that the liberty of the intellect consists in
being the slave of truth; and the liberty of the will in being the
slave of virtue; if you change this, you destroy liberty. If you take
away the law, you admit force; if you take away the truth, you admit
error; if you take away virtue, you admit vice. If you venture to
exempt the world from the external law, from that law which embraces
man and society, which extends to all orders, which is the divine
wisdom applied to reasonable creatures; if you venture to seek for an
imaginary liberty out of that immense circle, you destroy all; there
remains in society nothing but the empire of brute force, and in man
that of the passions; with tyranny, and consequently slavery.



I have just examined religious institutions in a general point of view,
by considering them in their relations with religion and the human
mind. I am now going to take a glance at the principal points of their
history. This examination, I think, will show us an important truth:
viz. that the appearance of these institutions under different forms
has been the expression and the fulfilment of great moral necessities,
and a powerful means, in the hands of Providence, of promoting not
only the spiritual good of the Church, but also the salvation and
regeneration of society. It will be understood that it is not possible
for me to enter into details, or pass in review the numerous religious
institutions which have existed; besides, this is not necessary for my
object. I shall limit myself, therefore, to running over the principal
phases of religious institutes, and making a few remarks on each of
them; I shall act like the traveller who, being unable to make a stay
in the country through which he passes, looks at it for a short time
from the highest points. I will begin with the solitaries of the East.

The Colossus of the Roman Empire threatened an approaching and stunning
fall: the spirit of life was rapidly becoming extinguished, and
there was no longer any hope of a breath to reanimate it. The blood
circulated slowly in its veins; the evil was incurable: the symptoms of
corruption everywhere manifested themselves, and this agony was exactly
coincident with the critical and formidable hour when it was necessary
to collect all its forces to resist the violent shock which was about
to destroy it. The barbarians appeared on the frontiers of the empire,
like the carnivorous animals attracted by the exhalations of a dead
body; and at this crisis society found itself on the eve of a fearful
catastrophe. All the world was about to undergo an alarming change; the
next day was not likely to resemble the last; the tree was about to be
torn up; but its roots were too deep for it to be extirpated without
changing the whole face of the soil where it was planted. The greatest
refinement had to contend with barbarian ferocity,--the effeminate
luxury of southern nations with the energy of the robust sons of
the forest; the result of the struggle could not be doubtful. Laws,
customs, manners, monuments, arts and sciences,--all the civilization
and refinement acquired during the course of many ages was all in
peril, all foreboded approaching ruin, all understood that God had
appointed an end to the power, and even the existence of the rulers of
the globe. The barbarians were only the instrument of Providence; the
hand which had given a mortal blow to the mistress of the world, the
queen of nations, was that formidable hand which touches mountains with
fire, and reduces them to ashes, which touches the rocks and melts them
like metal; it was the hand of Him who sends forth His fiery breath
upon the nations, and burns them up like straw.

The world must be the prey of chaos for a short time; but was not light
again to come upon it? Was mankind to be melted, like gold in the
furnace, in order to come out more brilliant and more pure? Were ideas
respecting God and man to be corrected? Were more delicate and exalted
notions of morality to be diffused? Was it reserved for the heart of
man to receive more grave and sublime inspirations, to emerge from its
corrupt state, and live in an atmosphere higher and more worthy of an
immortal being? Yes! Providence thus decreed, and His infinite wisdom
has brought about this end by ways which man could not understand.

Christianity was already spread over the face of the world; her
holy doctrines, rendered fruitful by grace, prepared the complete
regeneration of the world; but it was necessary that mankind should
again receive a new impulse from her divine hands, that the mind of
man should be moved by a new shock, that it might take its proper
flight, and raise itself at once to the exalted position which was
intended for it, and from which it was never to descend. History tells
us of the obstacles which opposed the establishment and development
of Christianity. According to the warlike expression of the Prophet,
God was compelled to assume His sword and buckler; by the strength of
wonderful prodigies, He broke the resistance of the passions, destroyed
every knowledge which raised itself against the knowledge of God,
scattered all the powers which rebelled against Him, and extinguished
the pride and obstinacy of hell. When, after three centuries of
persecution, victory declared itself throughout the world in favor of
the true religion; when the temples of the false gods were deserted,
and those idols which were not yet overthrown trembled on their
pedestals; when the sign of Calvary was inscribed on the Labarum of
the Cæsars, and the legions of the empire bowed religiously before
the Cross, then had the moment arrived for Christianity to realize,
in a permanent manner, in those sublime institutions conceived and
established by herself alone, the lofty counsels given three centuries
before in Palestine. The wisdom of philosophers had been vain; the time
was come to realize the wisdom of the Carpenter of Nazareth, of Him
who, without having consulted human learning, had proclaimed and taught
truths unknown to the most privileged of mortals.

The virtues of the Christians had already emerged from the obscurity of
the catacombs; they were to be resplendent in the light of heaven and
amid peace, as they had formerly shone in the depths of dungeons and
amid the flames. Christianity had obtained possession of the sceptre
of command, as of the domestic hearth; her disciples, who now were
multitudinous, no longer lived in a community of goods; it is clear
that entire continence, and complete freedom from all earthly things,
could no longer be the mode of life of the regenerated families. The
world was to continue; the duration of the human race was not to cease
at this point of its career; therefore, all Christians were not to
observe the lofty counsels which convert the life of man on earth into
the angelic. A great number of them were to belong to those who, in
order to obtain eternal life, were satisfied with keeping the precepts,
without aspiring to the sublime perfection which results from the
renouncement of all that is earthly, and the complete abnegation of
self. Yet the Founder of the Christian religion was unwilling that
the counsels which He had given to men should be for a moment without
some disciples amid the coldness and dissipation of the world. He had
not given them in vain; and, besides, the practice of them, although
confined to a limited number of the faithful, exerted on all sides a
beneficent influence which facilitated and secured the observance of
the precepts. The force of example exerts so powerful an ascendency
over the human heart, that it is often sufficient of itself to
triumph over the strongest and most obstinate resistance; there is
something in our hearts which inclines them to sympathize with all that
approaches them, whether good or evil; and there seems to be a secret
stimulus urging us to follow others, whatever direction they may take.
Therefore it is that there are so many advantages in the establishment
of religious institutions, in which the virtues and austerity of life
are given as an example to the generality of men, and make an eloquent
reproach to the errors of passion.

Providence desired to attain this great end by singular and
extraordinary means; the Spirit of God breathed on the earth, and
immediately the men and power to commence this great work appeared.
The frightful deserts of Thebaïd, the burning solitudes of Arabia,
Palestine, and Syria, show us men rudely clad, with a mantle of
goat-skin on their shoulders, and a plain cowl on their heads: behold
all the luxury with which they confound the vanity and pride of
worldlings! Their bodies, exposed to the rays of the most burning sun
and the most severe cold, besides being attenuated by long fasts,
resemble walking spectres who have arisen from the dust of their
sepulchres. The herbs of the earth are their only food, water their
only drink; the labor of their hands procures for them the scanty
resources they require. Under the direction of a venerable old man,
whose claims to rule are a long life passed in the desert, and hairs
grown white amid privations and austerities, they constantly keep
the profoundest silence; their lips are opened only to pronounce the
words of prayer; their voice is only heard to intone a hymn of praise
to God. For them the world has ceased to exist; the relations of
friendship, the sweet ties of family and relationship, are all broken
by a spirit of perfection, carried to an extent which surpasses all
earthly considerations. The cares of property do not disturb them;
before retiring to the desert, they have abandoned all to him who was
to succeed them; or they have sold all they had, and given the price to
the poor. The Holy Scriptures are the nourishment of their minds; they
learn by heart the words of that divine book; they meditate on them
unceasingly, beseeching the Lord to grant that they may understand them
aright. In their retired meetings, nothing is heard but the voice of
some venerable cenobite, explaining with naïve simplicity and touching
unction the sense of the sacred text; but always in such a way as to
draw profit for the purification of souls.

The number of these solitaries was so great that we could not credit
it, if it were not vouched for by eye-witnesses worthy of the highest
respect. As to their sanctity, spirit of penance, and purity of life,
we cannot doubt them after the testimonies of Rufinus, Palladius,
St. Jerome, St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustine, and all the other
illustrious men who distinguished themselves at that time. The fact
is singular, extraordinary, prodigious; but no one can question its
historical truth; it is attested by all who came to the desert from
all parts to seek for light in their doubts, cures for their evils,
and pardon for their sins. I could quote a thousand authorities to
prove what I have said; but I will content myself with one, which shall
suffice for all--that of St. Augustine. Hear how this holy doctor
describes the life of these extraordinary men: "These fathers, not only
very holy in their manners, but very learned in the Christian doctrine,
excellent men in all respects, do not govern with pride those whom they
justly call their sons, on account of the high authority of those who
command, and the ready will of those who obey. At the decline of day,
one of them, still fasting, quits his habitation, and all assemble to
hear their master. Each of these fathers _has at least three thousand
under his direction; for the number is sometimes much greater_. They
listen with incredible attention, in profound silence, manifesting
by their groans, or tears, or by their modest and tranquil joy, the
various feelings which the discourse excites in their souls." (St.
Augustin. lib. 1, _De Moribus Ecclesiæ_, cap. 31.)

But it will be said, Of what use were these men, except for their own
sanctification? what good did they do to society? what influence did
they exert on ideas? what change did they make in manners? If we admit
that this plant of the desert was beautiful and fragrant, yet what did
it avail? it remained sterile. It certainly would be an error to think
that so many thousands of solitaries did not exercise great influence.
In the first place, and to speak only of what relates to ideas, we must
observe, that the monasteries of the East arose within reach, and under
the eyes of, the schools of philosophy. Egypt was the country where the
cenobitic life flourished the most. Now every one is aware of the high
renown which the schools of Alexandria enjoyed a short time before.
On all sides of the Mediterranean--on that border of land which,
beginning in Libya, terminates in the Black Sea--men's minds were at
that time in a state of extraordinary motion. Christianity and Judaism,
the doctrines of the East and those of the West--all was collected
and accumulated in this part of the world; the remains of the ancient
schools of Greece were formed of the treasures, which the course of
ages and the passage of the most famous nations of the earth had
brought to those countries. New and gigantic events were come to throw
floods of light upon the character and the value of ideas; minds had
felt shocks which did not allow them any longer to be contented with
the quiet lessons contained in the dialogues of the ancient masters.
From these famous countries came the most eminent men of the early ages
of Christianity; and we know from their works the extent and elevation
of mind which man had attained at that time. Was it possible that a
phenomenon so extraordinary--a girdle of monasteries and hermitages,
embracing this zone of the world, and showing themselves in the face of
the schools of philosophy--should not exert great influence on men's
minds? The ideas of the solitaries passed incessantly from the desert
into the towns; since, in spite of all the care which they took to
avoid the contact of the world, the world sought and approached them,
and continually came to receive their inspirations.

When we see the nations crowd to the solitaries the most eminent for
their sanctity, to implore from their wisdom a remedy for suffering
and a consolation in misfortunes; when we see these venerable men
impart, together with the unction of the Gospel, the sublime lessons
which they had learned during long years of meditation and prayer in
the silence of solitude, it is impossible not to understand how much
these communications must have contributed to correct and elevate ideas
relating to religion and morality, and to amend and purify morals.
Let us not forget that the human mind was, as it were, materialized
by the corruption and grossness of the pagan religion. The worship of
nature, of sensible forms, was so deeply rooted that, in order to raise
minds to the conception of superior things, a strong and extraordinary
reaction was required; it was necessary in some measure to annihilate
matter in order to present to man only the mind. The life of the
solitaries was the best adapted to produce this effect. In reading the
history of these times, we seem to find ourselves transported out of
this world; the flesh has disappeared, and there remains nothing but
the spirit; and the force which has been employed in order to subdue
the flesh is such--they have insisted so much on the vanity of earthly
things--that reality itself is changed into illusion, and the physical
world vanishes to make way for the moral and intellectual; all the ties
of earth have been broken; man puts himself in intimate communication
with Heaven. Miracles multiply exceedingly in these lives; apparitions
continually appear; the abodes of the solitaries are arenas where
earthly means are nothing; good angels struggle against demons, heaven
against hell, God against Satan: the earth is there only to serve as
a field of battle; the body exists no longer except to be consumed as
a holocaust on the altars of virtue, in the presence of the demon who
struggles furiously to render it the slave of vice.

What has become of the idolatrous worship which Greece paid to
sensible forms, that adoration which it offered to nature by deifying
all that was delicious and beautiful, all that could interest the
senses and the heart? What a profound change! the same senses are
subjected to the most severe privations; they are most strictly
circumcised in heart; and man, who then scarcely attempted to raise
his mind above the earth, now keeps it constantly fixed on Heaven. It
is impossible to form an idea of what we are attempting to describe,
without having read the lives of these solitaries; to understand all
the effect of their great prodigies, it is necessary to have spent many
hours over these pages, where, so to speak, nothing is found which
follows the natural course of things. It is not enough to imagine pure
lives, austerities, visions, and miracles; it is necessary to see all
this collected together, and carried to the most wonderful extent in
the path of perfection.

If you refuse to acknowledge the action of grace in facts so
surprising; if you will not see any supernatural effect in this
religious movement; I say more, if you go so far as to suppose that the
mortification of the flesh and the elevation of the soul are carried
to blamable exaggeration, still you cannot help allowing that such a
reaction was very likely to spiritualize ideas, to awaken the moral and
intellectual forces in man, and to concentrate all within himself, by
giving him the sentiment of that interior, intimate, and moral life,
with which, until then, he had not been occupied. The forehead which,
till then, had been bent towards the earth, was raised towards the
Divinity; something nobler than material enjoyments was offered to the
mind, and the brutal excesses authorized by the example of the false
divinities of paganism, at length appeared an offence against the high
dignity of human nature.

In the moral order, the effect must have been immense. Man, until then,
had not even imagined that it was possible to resist the impetuosity
of his passions. There were found, it is true, in the cold morality of
a few philosophers, certain maxims intended to restrain the dangerous
passions; but this morality was only in the books, the world did not
regard it as practicable, and if some men attempted to realize it,
they did so in such a manner that, far from giving it credit, they
rendered it contemptible. What did it avail to abandon riches and
profess freedom from all earthly things, as some philosophers did, if
at the same time they appeared so vain, so full of themselves, that it
was evident that they only sacrificed on the altar of pride? It was to
overturn all the idols in order to place themselves on the altar, and
reign there without rival gods; this was not to direct the passions, to
subject them to reason, but to create a monster passion surpassing and
devouring all. Humility, the foundation-stone whereon the solitaries
raised the edifice of their virtue, placed them immediately in a
position infinitely superior to that of the ancient philosophers who
were distinguished for a life more or less severe. In fine, men were
taught to avoid vice and practise virtue, not for the futile pleasure
of being regarded and admired, but for superior motives founded on the
relations of man with God, and the destinies of eternity. From that
moment man knew that it was not impossible for him to triumph over
evil, in the obstinate struggle which he felt continually going on
within himself. At the sight of so many thousands of persons of both
sexes who followed a rule of life so pure and austere, mankind took
fresh courage, and were convinced that the paths of virtue were not
impracticable for them.

The generous confidence with which man was inspired by the sight of
such sublime examples, lost nothing of its strength in presence of the
Christian dogma, which does not allow actions meritorious of eternal
life to be attributed to man himself, and teaches him the necessity of
divine aid, if he wishes to escape the paths of perdition. This dogma,
which, on the other hand, accords so well with the daily lessons of
experience as to human frailty, far from destroying the strength of the
mind or diminishing its courage, on the contrary, animates it more and
more to persevere in spite of all obstacles. When man thinks himself
alone, when he does not feel himself supported by the powerful hand
of Providence, he walks with the tottering steps of infancy; he wants
confidence in himself, in his own strength; the object he has in view
seems too distant, the enterprise too arduous, and he is discouraged.
The dogma of grace, as it is explained by the Catholic Church, is not
that fatalist doctrine, the mother of despair, which has hardened the
heart among Protestants, as Grotius laments. It is a doctrine which,
leaving man all his free will, teaches him the necessity of superior
aid; but that aid will be abundantly furnished him by the infinite
goodness of God, who has shed His blood for him in torments and
ignominy, and has breathed out for him His last sigh on Mount Calvary.

It seems as if Providence had been pleased to choose a climate where
mankind could make a trial of their strength vivified and sustained by
grace. It was under a sky apparently the most fatal for the corruption
of the soul, in countries where the relaxation of the body naturally
leads to relaxation of mind, and where even the air that they breathed
inclined to pleasure,--it was there that the greatest energy of mind
was displayed, that the greatest austerities were practised, and the
pleasures of the senses were proscribed and banished with the greatest
severity. The solitaries fixed their abodes in deserts within the
influence of the balmy breezes of the neighboring lands; from their
mountains and sandy hills their eyes could distinguish the peaceful
and smiling countries which invited to pleasure and enjoyment; like
the Christian virgin who abandoned her obscure cave to go and place
herself in the hollow of a rock, whence she saw the palace of her
fathers overflowing with riches, pleasures, and delights, while she
herself lamented like a solitary dove in the holes of the rock. From
that time all climates were good for virtue; austerity of morals did
not at all depend on the proximity of the equatorial line; the morality
of man, like man himself, could live in all climates. When the most
perfect continence was practised in so wonderful a manner under the
sky which we have described, the monogamy of Christianity could well
be established and preserved. When, in the secrets of the Eternal,
the time had arrived for calling a people to the light of truth, it
mattered not whether they lived amid the snows of Scandinavia, or on
the burning plains of India. The spirit of the divine laws was not to
be confined within the narrow circle which the _Esprit des Lois_ of
Montesquieu has attempted to assign it.



The influence exercised by the lives of the solitaries of the East over
religion and morality is beyond a doubt; in truth it is not easy to
appreciate it in all its extent and in all its effects; but it is not
the less true and real on that account. It has not marked the doctrines
of humanity like those thundering events the effects of which are
often inadequate to their promises; but it is like a beneficial rain
which, diffusing itself gently over the thirsty earth, fertilizes the
meadows and the fields. If it were possible for man to comprehend and
distinguish the vast assemblage of causes which have contributed to
raise his mind, to give him a lively consciousness of his immortality,
and to render a return to his ancient degradation almost impossible,
perhaps it would be found that the wonderful phenomenon of the Eastern
solitaries had a considerable share in that immense change. Let us
not forget that from thence did the great men of the East receive
their inspiration; St. Jerome lived in a cave at Bethlehem, and the
conversion of St. Augustine was accompanied by a holy emulation excited
in his mind by reading the life of St. Anthony the Abbot.

The monasteries which were founded in the East and West in imitation
of these early establishments of the solitaries, were a continuation
of them, although with many differences, in consequence of times and
circumstances. Thence came the Basils, the Gregories, the Chrysostoms,
and so many distinguished men, the glory of the Church. If a miserable
spirit of dispute, ambition, and pride, sowing the seeds of discord,
had not prepared the rupture which was to deprive the East of the
vivifying influence of the Roman See, perhaps the ancient monasteries
of the East would have served, like those of the West, to prepare a
social regeneration, by forming one people out of the conquerors and
the conquered.

It is evident that the want of unity was one of the causes of the
weakness of the East; I will not deny that their position was very
different from ours; the enemy opposed to them did not at all resemble
the barbarians of the North; but I am not sure that it was easier to
subdue the latter than it was to rule the nations by whom the East
was conquered. In the East, the victory remained with the aggressors,
as with us; but a conquered nation is not dead; its defeat does not
take from it all the great advantages which are able, by giving it a
moral ascendency over the conquerors, to prepare, in silence, their
transformation, if not their expulsion. The northern barbarians
conquered the South of Europe; but the South, in its turn, triumphed
over them by the Christian religion; the barbarians were not driven
out, but they were transformed. Spain was conquered by the Arabs, and
the Arabs could not be transformed; but they were driven out in the
end. If the East had preserved unity, if Constantinople and the other
episcopal sees had remained subject to Rome like those of the West; in
a word, if all the East had been contented to be a member of a great
body, instead of having the ambitious pretensions of being a great body
itself, I consider it certain that, after the conquest of the Saracens,
a struggle, at once intellectual, moral, and physical, would have been
engaged in; a profound change would have been worked in the conquered
nation, or the struggle would have ended by the conquering barbarians
being driven back to their deserts.

It will be said that the transformation of the Arabs was the work of
ages. But was not that of the barbarians of the North so likewise?
Was this great work finished by their conversion to Christianity? A
considerable part of them were Arians; and besides, they understood
the Christian ideas so ill, they found the practice of Gospel morality
so difficult, that for a long time it was almost as difficult to treat
with them as with nations of a different religion. On the other hand,
let us not forget that the irruption of the barbarians was not a
solitary event; an event which, when once finished, did not recur; it
was continued for ages. But the force of the religious principle in the
West was such, that all the invading nations were compelled to retire,
or were forced to bend to the ideas and manners of the countries
they had recently acquired. The defeat of the hordes of Attila, the
victories of Charlemagne over the Saxons and the other nations beyond
the Rhine, the successive conversion of the various idolatrous nations
of the North by means of the missionaries sent from Rome,--in fine, the
vicissitudes and the final result of the invasions of the Normans, and
the ultimate triumph of the Christians of Spain over the Moors after
a war of eight centuries, are so many decisive proofs of what I have
just laid down--viz. that the West, vivified and fortified by Catholic
unity, had had the secret of assimilating and appropriating to itself
all that it was not able to reject, and the force to reject all that it
could not make its own.

This is what was wanting in the East: the enterprise was not more
difficult there than in the West. If the West alone was able to
liberate the Holy Sepulchre, the West and East together would never
have lost it; or, at least, after having freed it, they would have kept
it for ever. The same cause prevented the monasteries of the East from
attaining to the same vitality and energy which distinguished those of
the West; therefore, they have always been seen to grow weak with time,
without producing any thing great, and capable of preventing social
dissolution, of silently preparing and slowly elaborating regeneration
for posterity, after the calamities with which it pleased Providence
to afflict ancient times. He who has seen in history the brilliant
commencement of the Eastern monasteries, cannot behold without pain the
decline of their strength and splendor in the course of ages, after the
ravages caused by invasion, wars, and finally, the deadly influence
of the schism of Constantinople; the ancient abodes of so many men
illustrious for science and sanctity gradually disappeared from the
page of history like expiring lamps, or the dying fires of an abandoned

Immense injury was done to all the branches of human knowledge by
this decline, which, after having rendered the East barren, ended by
destroying it. If we pay attention, we shall see that, amid the great
shocks and revolutions which disturbed Europe, Africa, and Asia, the
natural refuge for the remains of ancient knowledge, was not the West,
but the East. It was not in our monasteries that the books, and other
intellectual riches, of which quieter and happier generations were one
day to enjoy the benefit, should naturally have been preserved; this,
it would seem, belonged to the monasteries of the eastern countries;
those lands, where the most different civilizations were brought
together and commingled as on neutral ground; those regions, where the
human mind had displayed the greatest activity, and taken the highest
flights; where the most abundant treasures of tradition and sciences,
and the beauties of art were accumulated; in a word, it was in this
vast mart of all the riches of the civilization and refinement of
all nations,--it was in this sanctuary and museum of antiquity, that
the intellectual patrimony of future generations ought to have been

Let it not, however, be supposed that the monasteries of the East were
of no service to the human mind; the science and literature of Europe
are still mindful of the impulse which was communicated to them, by
the arrival of the precious materials thrown upon the coasts of Italy,
after the taking of Constantinople: but even these riches, brought
to Europe by a few men, driven upon our shores by a tempest, came to
us, like the remains of a shipwrecked crew, who, after having with
difficulty saved their lives from the fury of the waves, have only
preserved in their benumbed hands some gold and a few precious stones.

For this reason, precisely, do we lament, because from the example
we have adduced, we are enabled the better to understand the immense
riches of the vessel which was lost; this makes us grieve the more
bitterly that the early times of the illustrious cenobites of the East
have not been brought down to our day by a continued chain. When we
see their works overflow with sacred and profane learning, when their
labors show us proofs of indefatigable activity, we think with sorrow
of the inestimable treasures which their libraries must have contained.

Yet, in spite of the justness of the melancholy reflections we have
here made, it must be allowed that the influence of these monasteries
never ceased to be extremely useful to the preservation of knowledge.
The Arabs, in the times of their success, showed themselves to
be intelligent and cultivated; and Europe, in many respects, is
indebted to them for much advancement. Bagdad and Grenada, during the
middle ages, are two brilliant centres of intellectual movement and
art, which serve not a little to diminish the sombre effect of the
barbarities of Islamism: they are two tranquil and pleasing features
in a frightful picture. If it were possible to follow the history of
intellectual development among the Arabs, through the transformations
and catastrophes of the East, perhaps we should find in the sciences
of the nations which they conquered or destroyed the origin of much
of their progress. It is certain that their own civilization did not
contain any vital principle favorable to the development of the mind;
we have a proof of this in their religious and social organization,
and in the small results which they obtained, after having been for so
many centuries peacefully established in the conquered countries. Their
whole system, with respect to letters and intellectual cultivation,
is founded on that stupid maxim, uttered by one of their chiefs, when
he condemned an immense library to the flames: "If these books are
contrary to the Alcoran, they should be burnt as pernicious; if they
are not contrary to it, they should be burnt as useless."

We read in Palladius, that the monks of Egypt did not content
themselves with working with rude and simple objects, but that they
devoted themselves to labors of all kinds. These thousands of men, who,
belonging to all classes and to all countries, embraced the solitary
life, must have brought to the desert a large treasure of knowledge.
We know how far the human mind can go when left to itself, and applied
to a fixed occupation; there is always some reason for thinking that a
great part of the valuable ideas on the secrets of nature, the utility
and properties of certain ingredients, the principles of some of the
arts and sciences, knowledge which formed the rich patrimony of the
Arabs at the time when they appeared in Europe, were nothing but the
remains of ancient learning, gathered by them in countries which had
formerly been inundated by men from all parts. We must remember that at
the time of the first invasions of the northern barbarians, when Spain,
the south of France, Italy, the north of Africa, and all the islands
adjacent to these countries, were ravaged by these terrible men, the
East became a refuge, an asylum, for all those who could undertake the
voyage. Thus the treasures of Western science accumulated every day
in these countries; this emigration from all the Western regions may
have contributed, in an extraordinary manner, to convey to the East the
remains of ancient knowledge, which afterwards came to us transformed
and disfigured by the hands of the Arabs.

Deeply convinced of the nothingness of the world by so long a
succession of heavy misfortunes, these unfortunate men felt the
religious sentiment strengthened in their hearts; the fugitives
assembled in the East listened with lively emotion to the energetic
words of the solitary of the cave of Bethlehem. A great many of them
retired into the monasteries, where they found relief for their wants,
and consolation for their souls; thus did the Eastern monasteries gain
a great addition of valuable knowledge and information of all sorts.

If European civilization one day become complete mistress of the
countries which now groan under the Mussulman yoke, perhaps it will
be given to the history of science to add a noble page to its labors,
when, through the obscurities of the times, and by means of manuscripts
discovered by curiosity or chance, she shall have found the thread
which shall lead to a knowledge of the connection of Arabian science
with that of antiquity. The succession of transformations will then be
displayed, and we shall understand how the science of the sons of Omar
has appeared to have a different origin in our eyes. The archives of
Spain contain, in documents relating to the dominion of the Saracens,
riches, the examination of which may be said not yet to be commenced;
perhaps they will throw some light on this point. There is no doubt
that they afford matter for careful investigation, extremely curious
for appreciating these two very different civilizations, the Mohammedan
and the Christian.



Let us now examine religious institutions, such as they appear in the
West, but laying aside those which, although established in various
parts of the West, were only a sort of ramification of the Eastern
monasteries. We observe that the religious establishments among us
added to the Gospel spirit, the principle of their foundation, a
new character, that of conservative, restorative, and regenerative
associations. The monks of the West were not content with sanctifying
themselves; from the first they influenced society. The light and
life which their holy abodes contained, labored to enlighten and
fertilize the chaos of the world. I do not know in history a nobler
or more consoling spectacle than that which is presented to us by the
foundation, existence, and development of the religious institutions
of Europe. Society had need of strong efforts to preserve its life
in the terrible crisis through which it had to pass. The secret of
strength is in the union of individual forces, in association; and it
is remarkable that this secret has been taught to European society as
if by a revelation from heaven. Every thing shakes, falls to pieces,
and perishes. Religion, morality, public authority, laws, manners,
sciences, and arts--every thing has sustained immense losses, every
thing goes to ruin; and judging of the future fate of the world
according to human probabilities, the evils are so great and numerous
that a remedy appears impossible.

The observer who, fixing his eyes upon those desolate times,
finds there St. Bennet giving life to and animating the religious
institutions, organizing them, giving them his wise rule and stability,
imagines that he sees an angel of light issuing from the bosom of
darkness. Nothing can be imagined better calculated to restore to
dissolved society a principle of life capable of reorganizing it, than
the extraordinary and sublime inspiration which guided this man. Who
does not know what at that time was the condition of Italy--I should
rather say, of the whole of Europe? What ignorance, what corruption,
what elements of social dissolution! What desolation everywhere! and it
is amid this deplorable state of things that the holy solitary appears,
the child of an illustrious family of Norcia, resolved to combat the
evil which threatens to invade the world. His arms are his virtues; the
eloquence of his example gives him an irresistible ascendency; elevated
above the whole age, burning with zeal, and yet full of prudence and
discretion, he founds that institution which is to remain amid the
revolution of ages, like the pyramids unmoved by the storms of the

What idea has there been more grand, more beneficent, more full of
foresight and wisdom? At a time when knowledge and virtue had no
longer an asylum, when ignorance, corruption, and barbarism rapidly
extended their conquests, was it not a grand idea to raise a refuge
for misfortune, to form a sacred deposit for the precious monuments
of antiquity, and to open schools of knowledge and virtue, where men
destined one day to figure in the vortex of the world might come
for instruction? When the reflecting man fixes his attention on the
silent abode of Monte Cassino, where the sons of the most illustrious
families of the empire are seen to come from all parts to that
monastery; some with the intention of remaining there for ever, others
to receive a good education, and soon to carry back to the world a
recollection of the serious inspirations which the holy founder had
received at Subiaco; when the monasteries of the order are seen to
multiply everywhere, to be established as great centres of activity
in all places--in the plains, in the forests, in the most uninhabited
countries; he cannot help bending, with profound veneration, before
the extraordinary man who has conceived such grand designs. If we are
unwilling to acknowledge in St. Bennet a man inspired by Heaven, at
least we ought to consider him as one of those geniuses who, from time
to time, appear on earth to become the tutelary angels of the human

Not to acknowledge the powerful effect of such institutions would
be to show but little intelligence. When society is dissolved, it
requires not words, not projects, not laws, but strong institutions, to
resist the shock of the passions, the inconstancy of the human mind,
and the destructive power of events; institutions which raise the
mind, pacify and ennoble the heart, and establish in society a deep
movement of reaction and resistance to the fatal elements which lead
it to destruction. If there exists, then, an active mind, a generous
heart, a soul animated by a feeling of virtue, they will all hasten to
seek a refuge in the sacred asylums; it is not always granted to them
to change the course of the world, but at least, as men of solitude
and sacrifice, they labour to instruct and calm their own minds, and
they shed a tear of compassion over the senseless generations who are
agitated by great disasters. From time to time they succeed in making
their voices heard amid the tumult, to alarm the hearts of the wicked
by accents which resemble the formidable warnings of Heaven; thus they
diminish the force of the evil while it is impossible to prevent it
entirely; by constantly protesting against iniquity, they prevent its
acquiring prescriptive right; in attesting to future generations, by a
solemn testimony, that there were always, amid darkness and corruption,
men who made efforts to enlighten the world and to restrain the torrent
of vice and crime, they preserve faith in truth and virtue, and they
reanimate the hopes of those who are afterwards placed in similar
circumstances. Such was the action of the monks in the calamitous times
of which we speak; such was their noble and sublime mission to promote
the interests of humanity.

Perhaps it will be said that the immense properties acquired by the
monasteries were an abundant recompense for their labors, and perhaps
also a proof that their exertions were little disinterested. No doubt,
if we look at things in the light in which certain writers have
represented them, the wealth of the monks will appear as the fruit of
unbounded cupidity, of cruelty, and perfidious policy; but we have the
whole of history to refute the calumnies of the enemies of religion;
and impartial philosophy, while acknowledging that all that is human
is liable to abuse, takes care to assume a higher position, to regard
things _en masse_, and to consider them in the vast picture where so
many centuries have painted their features. It therefore despises the
evil, which is only the exception, while it contemplates and admires
the good, which is the rule.

Besides the numerous religious motives which brought property into
the hands of the monks, there is another very legitimate one, which
has always been regarded as one of the justest titles of acquisition.
The monks cultivated waste lands, dried up marshes, constructed
roads, restrained rivers within their beds, and built bridges over
them; that is to say, in countries which had undergone another kind
of general deluge, they renewed, in some measure, what the first
nations had done to restore the revolutionized globe to its original
form. A considerable portion of Europe had never received cultivation
from the hands of men; the forests, the rivers, the lakes, the thorny
thickets, were as rough as they had been left by the hands of nature.
The monasteries which were founded here and there may be regarded as
the centres of action, which the civilized nations established in the
new countries, the faces of which they proposed to change by their
powerful colonies. Did there ever exist a more legitimate title for the
possession of large properties? Is not he who reclaims a waste country,
cultivates it, and fills it with inhabitants, worthy of preserving
large possessions there? Is not this the natural course of things? Who
knows how many cities and towns arose and flourished under the shadow
of the abbeys?

Monastic properties, besides their substantial utility, had another,
which perhaps has not been sufficiently noticed. The situation of a
great part of the nations of Europe, at the time we speak of, much
resembled the state of fluctuation and inconstancy in which nations are
found, who have not yet made any progress in the career of civilization
and refinement. The idea of property, one of the most fundamental in
all social organization, was but little rooted. Attacks on property at
that time were very frequent, as well as attacks on persons. The man
who is constantly compelled to defend his own, is also constantly led
to usurp the property of others; the first thing to do to remedy so
great an evil, was to locate and fix the population by means of the
agricultural life, and to accustom them to respect for property, not
only by reasons drawn from morality and private interest, but also
by the sight of large domains belonging to establishments regarded
as inviolable, and against which a hand could not be raised without
sacrilege. Thus religious ideas were connected with social ones, and
they slowly prepared an organization which was to be completed in more
peaceable times.

Add to this a new necessity, the result of the change which took place
at that time in the habits of the people. Among the ancients, scarcely
any other life than that of cities was known; life in the country, that
dispersion of an immense population, which in modern times forms a
new nation in the fields, was not known among the ancients; and it is
remarkable that this change in the mode of life was realized exactly
when the most calamitous circumstances seemed to render it the most
dangerous and difficult. It is to the existence of the monasteries
in fields and in retired places that we owe the establishment and
consolidation of this new kind of life, which, no doubt, would have
been impossible without the ascendency and the beneficial influence of
the powerful abbeys. These religious foundations joined all the riches
and the power of feudal lords with the mild and beneficent influence of
religious authority.

How much does not Germany owe to the monks! Did they not bring her
lands into cultivation, make her agriculture flourish, and cover her
with a numerous population? How much are not France, Spain, and England
indebted to them! It is certain that this latter country would never
have reached the high degree of civilization of which she now boasts,
if the apostolic labors of the missionaries who penetrated thither
in the sixth century had not drawn her out of the darkness of gross
idolatry. And who were these missionaries? Was not the chief of them
Augustine, a monk full of zeal, sent by a Pope who had also been a
monk, St. Gregory the Great? Where do you find, amid the confusion of
the middle ages, the great writers of knowledge and virtue, except
in those solitary abodes whence issue St. Isidore, the Archbishop of
Seville; the holy abbot St. Columbanus; St. Aurelian, Bishop of Arles;
St. Augustine, the Apostle of England; that of Germany, St. Boniface;
Bede, Cuthbert, Auperth, Paul, monks of Monte Cassino; Hincmar of
Rheims, brought up at the monastery of St. Denis; St. Peter Damiens,
St. Ives, Lanfranc, and so many others, who form a generation of
distinguished men, resembling in no respect the other men of their time.

Besides the service rendered to society by the monks in religion and
morals, they conferred inestimable benefits on letters and science.
It has already been observed more than once, that letters took refuge
in the cloisters, and that the monks, by preserving and copying the
ancient manuscripts, prepared the materials which were one day to
assist in the restoration of human learning. But we must not limit
their merit to that of mere copyists. Many of them advanced far in
science, many ages in advance of the times in which they lived. Not
content with the laborious task of preserving and putting into order
the ancient manuscripts, they rendered the most eminent service
to history by compiling chronicles. Thereby, while continuing the
tradition of the most important branches of study, they collected
the contemporary history, which, perhaps, without their labor would
have been lost. Adon, Archbishop of Vienne, brought up in the Abbey
of Ferrière, writes a universal history, from the beginning of the
world to his own time; Abbon, monk of St. Germain-des-Prés, composes
a Latin poem, in which he relates the siege of Paris by the Normans;
Aymon of Aquitaine writes the history of the French in four books;
St. Ives publishes a chronicle of their kings; the German monk Witmar
leaves us the chronicle of Henry I., of the Kings Otho and Henry II.,
which is much esteemed for its candor, and has been published many
times; Leibnitz has used it to throw light on the history of Brunswick.
Adhemar is the author of a chronicle, which embraces the whole time
from 829 to 1029. Glaber, monk of Cluny, has composed a much-esteemed
history of the events which happened in France from 980 to his own
time; Herman, a chronicle which embraces the six ages of the world
down to the year 1054. In fine, we should never finish if we were to
mention the historical labors of Sigebert, Guibert, Hugh, Prior of St.
Victor, and so many other illustrious men, who, rising above their
times, applied themselves to labors of this kind; of which we cannot
easily appreciate the difficulty and the high degree of merit, we who
live in an age when the means of knowledge are become so easy, when
the accumulated riches of so many ages are inherited, and when we
find on all sides wide and well-beaten paths. Without the existence
of religious institutions, without the asylum of the cloisters, these
eminent men would never have been formed. Not only had the sciences
and letters been lost sight of, but ignorance was so great, that
seculars who knew how to read and write were very rare. Surely such
circumstances were not well adapted to form men of merit enough to do
honor to advanced ages. Who has not often paused to contemplate the
distinguished triumvirate, Peter the Venerable, St. Bernard, and the
Abbot Suger? May it not be said that the twelfth century is elevated
above its rank in history, by producing a writer like Peter the
Venerable, an orator like St. Bernard, and a statesman like Suger?

These ages show us another celebrated monk, whose influence on the
progress of knowledge has not been rated at its just value by many
critics who love only to point out defects: I mean Gratian. Those who
have declaimed against him, eager to look for his mistakes, should
have placed themselves in the position of a compiler in the thirteenth
century, at a time when all resources were wanting, when the lights of
criticism were yet to be created; they would then have seen whether
the bold enterprise of the monk was not attended with more success
than there was reason to hope for. The profit which was drawn from the
collection of Gratian is incalculable. By giving in a small compass
a great part of what was most precious in antiquity with respect to
civil and canon law; by making an abundant collection of texts from the
holy fathers, applied to all kinds of subjects, he awakened a taste
for that species of research; he created the study of them; he made an
immense step towards satisfying one of the first necessities of modern
nations, the formation of civil and ecclesiastical codes. It will be
said that the errors of Gratian were contagious, and that it would have
been better to have recourse directly to the originals; but to read
the originals it was necessary to know them; it was necessary to be
informed of their existence, to be excited by the desire of explaining
a proposed difficulty, to have acquired a taste for researches of that
kind; all this was wanting before Gratian; all this was brought out by
his enterprise. The general favor with which his labors were received
is the most convincing proof of their merit; and if it be objected that
this favor was owing to the ignorance of the time, I will reply, that
we owe a tribute of gratitude to any one who throws a ray of light on
the darkness, however feeble and wavering this ray may be.



The rapid view which we have just taken of religious institutions from
the irruption of the barbarians to the twelfth century, has shown
us that the monastic foundations, during that time, were a powerful
support for that remaining portion of society which was ready to
fall to pieces in the universal ruin; an asylum for misfortune, for
virtue, and for knowledge; a storehouse for the precious monuments
of antiquity, and in some measure an assemblage of civilizing
associations, which labored in silence at the reconstruction of the
social edifice, by neutralizing the force of the dissolving principles
which had ruined its basis; they were, besides, a nursery for forming
the men who were required for the elevated posts in Church and State.
In the twelfth and the following centuries, these institutions take
a new form, and assume a character very different from that which we
have just pointed out. Their aim remains not less highly religious and
social; but the times are changed, and we must remember the words of
the Apostle, _omnia omnibus_. Let us examine the causes and the results
of these novelties.

Before going further, I will say a few words on the religious military
orders, the name of which sufficiently indicates their double character
of monk and soldier. The union of the monastic state with war: what
a monstrous mixture! will be the cry. In spite of the supposed
monstrosity, this union was in conformity with the natural and regular
order of things; it was a strong remedy applied to very great evils;
a rampart against imminent dangers; in a word, the expression of a
great European necessity. This is not the place to relate the annals of
the military orders, annals which, like the most illustrious history,
afford wonderful and interesting pictures, with that mixture of heroism
and religious inspiration which assimilates history with poetry. It is
enough to pronounce the names of the knights of the Temple, of St. John
of Jerusalem, of the Teutonic order, of St. Raymond, of the Abbot of
Fitero, of Calatrava, instantly to remind the reader of a long series
of marvellous events, forming one of the noblest pages in the history
of that time. Let us omit these narrations, which do not regard us; but
let us pause for a moment to examine the origin and spirit of these
famous institutions.

The Cross and the Crescent were enemies irreconcilable by nature, and
urged to the greatest fury by a long and bloody struggle. Both had
great power and vast designs; both were supported by brave nations,
full of enthusiasm and ready to throw themselves on each other; both
had great hopes of success founded on former achievements; on which
side will the victory remain? What course ought the Christians to
pursue in order to avoid the dangers which threaten them? Is it better
quietly to await the attack of the Mussulmen in Europe, or make a levy
_en masse_ to invade Asia and seek the enemy in his own country, where
he believes himself to be invincible? The problem was solved in the
latter way; the Crusades took place, and centuries have given their
suffrage as to the wisdom of that resolution. What avails a little
declamation affecting to favor the cause of justice and humanity? Let
no one allow himself to be dazzled; the philosophy of history taught
by the lessons of experience, enriched with a more abundant treasure
of knowledge, the fruit of a more attentive study of the facts, has
given a decisive judgment in this case; in this, as in other cases,
religion has retired in triumph from the tribunal of philosophy.
The Crusades, far from being considered as an act of barbarism and
rashness, are justly regarded as a _chef-d'œuvre_ of policy, which,
after having secured the independence of Europe, gave to the Christian
nations a decided preponderance over the Mussulmen. The military
spirit was thereby increased and strengthened among European nations;
they all received a feeling of fraternity, which transformed them into
one people; the human mind was developed in many ways; the state of
feudal vassals was improved, and feudality was urged towards its entire
ruin; navies were created, commerce and manufactures were encouraged;
thus society received from the Crusades a most powerful impulse in
the career of civilization. We do not mean to say, that the men who
conceived them, the Popes who excited, the nations who undertook, the
princes and lords who promoted them with their power, were aware of the
whole extent of their own works, or even had a glimpse of the immensity
of their results; it is enough that they settled the existing question
in the way the most favorable to the independence and prosperity of
Europe; this, I repeat, is enough. I would observe, moreover, that
we should attribute so much the more importance to things as human
foresight has had little share in the events; now these things are
nothing less than the principles and feelings of religion in connection
with the preservation and happiness of society, Catholicity covering
with her ægis and animating with her breath the civilization of Europe.

Such were the Crusades. Now, remember that this idea, so great and
generous, was conceived with a degree of vagueness, and executed with
that precipitation which is the fruit of the impatience of ardent
zeal; remember that this idea--the offspring of Catholicity, which
always converts its ideas into institutions--was to be realized in
an institution, which faithfully represented it, and served, as it
were, as its organ, in order that it might render itself felt, and
gain strength and fruitfulness for its support. After this, you will
look for some means of uniting religion and arms; and you will be
filled with joy when, under a cuirass of steel, you shall find hearts
zealous for the religion of Jesus Christ--when you shall see this new
kind of men, who devote themselves without reserve to the defence of
religion, while they renounce all that the world can offer--gentler
than lambs, bolder than lions, in the words of St. Bernard. Sometimes
they assembled in community, to raise their voices to Heaven in fervent
prayer; sometimes they boldly marched to battle, brandishing their
formidable lances, the terror of the Saracens. No; there does not exist
in the annals of history an event so colossal as the Crusades, and
you might search there in vain for an institution more generous than
the military orders. In the Crusades we see numberless nations arise,
march across deserts, bury themselves in countries with which they are
unacquainted, and expose themselves to all the rigors of climates and
seasons; and for what purpose? To deliver a tomb! Grand and immortal
movement, where hundreds of nations advance to certain death--not in
pursuit of a miserable self-interest--not to find an abode in milder
and more fertile countries--not from an ardent desire to obtain for
themselves earthly advantages--but inspired only by a religious idea,
by a jealous desire to possess the tomb of Him who expired on the cross
for the salvation of the human race! When compared with this, what
becomes of the lofty deeds of the Greeks, chanted by Homer? Greece
arises to avenge an injured husband; Europe to redeem the sepulchre of
a God.

When, after the disasters and the triumphs of the Crusades, we see the
military orders appear, sometimes fighting in the oriental regions,
sometimes in the islands of the Mediterranean, sustaining and repelling
the rude assaults of Islamism, which, emboldened by its victories,
again longs to throw itself on Europe, we imagine that we behold those
brave men, who, on the day of a great battle, remain alone upon the
field, one against a hundred, securing by their heroism, and at the
hazard of their lives, the safety of their companions in arms who
retire behind them. Honor and glory to the religion which has been
capable of inspiring such lofty thoughts, and has been able to realize
such great and generous enterprises!



Perhaps they who are the most opposed to religious communities may be
reconciled to the solitaries of the East, when they perceive in them a
class of men who, by practising the most sublime and austere counsels
of religion, have communicated a generous impulse to humanity, have
raised it from the dust where Paganism had held it, and made it wing
its flight towards purer regions. To accustom man to grave and strict
morality; to bring back the soul within itself; to give a lively
feeling of the dignity of his nature, of the loftiness of his origin
and his destiny; to inspire him, by means of extraordinary examples,
with confidence that the mind, aided by divine grace, can triumph over
the animal passions, and make man lead an angelic life upon earth:
these are benefits so signal, that a noble heart must show itself
grateful and full of lively interest for the men who have given them
to the world. As to the monasteries of the West, the benefits of their
civilizing influence are so visible, that no man who loves humanity can
regard them with animadversion; in fine, the military orders present
us with an idea so noble, so poetical, and realize in so admirable a
manner one of those golden dreams which cross the human mind in moments
of enthusiasm, that they must certainly find respectful homage in every
heart which beats at a noble and sublime spectacle.

There yet remains a more difficult task, that of presenting at the
tribunal of philosophy--that philosophy so indifferent in religious
matters--the other religious communities which are not comprised in
the sketch which I have just made. Judgments of great severity have
been passed upon those institutions which I have now to speak of; but
in such things justice cannot be prescriptive. Neither the applause
of irreligious men, nor the revolutions which upset all that stand in
their way, can prevent the truth being placed in its true light, and
folly and crime being stigmatized with disgrace.

The thirteenth century has just commenced; there appears a new kind of
men, who, under different titles, denominations, and forms, profess a
singular and extraordinary way of life. Some put on clothing of coarse
cloth; they renounce all wealth and property; they condemn themselves
to perpetual mendicity, spreading themselves over the country and
the towns for the sake of gaining souls for Jesus Christ. Others
bear on their dress the distinctive mark of the redemption of man,
and undertake the mission of releasing from servitude the numberless
captives who, from the misfortune of the times, have fallen into
the hands of the Mussulmen. Some erect the cross in the midst of a
people who eagerly follow them, and they institute a new devotion--a
constant hymn of praise to Jesus and to Mary; at the same time they
indefatigably preach the faith of the Crucified. Others go in search
of all the miseries of man, bury themselves in hospitals, in all the
asylums of misfortune, to succour and console. They all bear new
standards; all show equal contempt for the world; they all form a
portion separate from the rest of mankind; but they resemble neither
the solitaries of the East, nor the sons of St. Bennet. The new monks
arise not in the desert, but in the midst of society: their object is
not to live shut up in monasteries, but to spread themselves over the
fields and hamlets, to penetrate to the heart of the great masses of
the population, and to make their voices heard both in the cottage of
the shepherd and in the palace of the monarch. They increase on all
sides in a prodigious manner. Italy, Germany, France, Spain, England,
receive them; numerous convents arise as if by enchantment in the
villages and towns; the Popes protect them and enrich them with many
privileges; kings grant them the highest favors, and support them in
their enterprises; the people regard them with veneration, and listen
to them with respectful docility. A religious movement appears on all
sides; religious institutions, more or less resembling each other,
arise like the branches from the same trunk. The observer, when he sees
this immense and astonishing picture, asks himself, What are the causes
of so extraordinary a phenomenon? whence this singular movement? what
is its tendency? what will be its effects on society?

When a fact of such high importance is realized all at once in many
different countries, and lasts for centuries, it is a proof that there
existed very powerful means to produce it. It is vain to be entirely
forgetful of the views of Providence: no one can deny that such a fact
must have had its root in the essence of things; consequently it is
useless to declaim against the men and the institutions. Acknowledging
this, the true philosopher will not lose his time in anathematizing the
fact, but he will examine and analyze it. No declamation or invectives
against the monks can efface their history; they have existed for many
centuries, and centuries do not retrace their steps.

We will not inquire if there was here some extraordinary design of
Providence, and we will lay aside the reflections which religion
suggests to every true Catholic; we will confine ourselves to
considering the religious institutions of modern times in a purely
philosophical point of view; we can show that they were not only very
conformable to the well-being of society, but also perfectly adapted to
the situation in which it was placed; we can show that they displayed
neither cunning, malice, nor vile self-interest; that their object was
highly advantageous, and that they were at the same time the expression
and the fulfilment of great social necessities.

The question of its own accord assumes the position in which we have
just regarded it; and it is strange that men have not acknowledged all
the importance of the magnificent points of view which here present

In order the better to clear up this important matter, I will enter
upon an examination of the social condition of Europe at the time of
which we speak. As soon as we take the first glance at this epoch, we
observe that, in spite of the intellectual rudeness which one would
imagine must have kept nations in abject silence, there was at the
bottom of men's minds an anxiety which deeply moved and agitated them.
These times are ignorant; but it is an ignorance which is conscious
of itself and which longs for knowledge. There is felt a want of
harmony in the relations and institutions of society; but that want is
everywhere felt and acknowledged, and a continual agitation indicates
that this harmony is anxiously desired and ardently sought for. I know
not what singular character is stamped upon the nations of Europe,
but we do not find there the symptoms of death; they are barbarous,
ignorant, corrupt, any thing you please; but, as if they constantly
heard a voice calling them to light, to civilization, to a new life,
they incessantly labor to leave the fatal condition into which unhappy
circumstances have plunged them. They never sleep in tranquillity amid
the darkness; they never live without remorse amid the corruption of
manners. The echo of virtue continually resounds in their ears; flashes
of light appear in the darkness; a thousand efforts are made to advance
a step in the career of civilization; a thousand times they are vain;
but they are renewed as often as they are repulsed; the generous
attempt is never abandoned; they fail a thousand times; but they never
lose courage. Courage and ardour are never wanting. There is this
remarkable difference between the nations of Europe, and those nations
among whom the Christian religion has not yet penetrated, or from whose
bosom it has been banished. Ancient Greece falls, never to rise again;
the Republics of the shore of Asia disappear, and do not rise out of
their ruins. The ancient civilization of Egypt is broken to pieces by
the conquerors, and posterity has scarcely preserved a remembrance of
them. Certainly none of the nations on the coast of Africa can show us
signs which reveal the ancient country of St. Cyprian, of Tertullian
and St. Augustine. Still more; a considerable portion of Asia has
preserved Christianity, but a Christianity separated from Rome; and
this has been unable to establish or regenerate any thing. Political
power has aided and protected it, but the nation remains feeble; it
cannot stand erect; it is a dead body, incapable of advancing; it is
not like Lazarus, who has just heard the all-powerful voice: "Lazarus,
come forth; _Lazare veni foras_."

This anxiety, this agitation, this extreme eagerness towards a
greater and happier future, this desire for reformation in manners,
for enlargement and correction in ideas, for amelioration in
institutions--the distinctive characteristics of modern nations--made
themselves felt in a fearful manner at the time to which we allude. I
will say nothing of the military history of those times, which would
furnish us with abundant proofs of our assertion; I will confine
myself to facts which, owing to their religious and social character,
have the greatest analogy with the subject which now occupies us. A
formidable energy of mind, a great fund of activity, a simultaneous
development of the most ardent passions, an enterprising spirit, a
lively desire of independence, a decided inclination to employ violent
means, an extraordinary zeal for proselytism, ignorance combined with
a thirst for knowledge, even combined with enthusiasm and fanaticism
for all that bears the name of science; a high esteem for the titles
of nobility, and of illustrious blood, united with the spirit of
democracy, and a profound respect for merit, wherever it may be found;
a childlike candor, an excessive credulity, and, at the same time, the
most obstinate indocility; a tenacious spirit of resistance, fearful
stubbornness, corruption, and licentiousness of manners, allied with
admiration for virtue; a taste for the most austere practices, combined
with an inclination for the most extravagant habits and manners; such
are the traits which history exhibits among these nations.

So singular a mixture appears strange at first sight; and yet nothing
was more natural. Things could not be otherwise: societies are formed
under the influence of certain principles, and of certain particular
circumstances, which impart to them their genius, character, and
countenance. It is the same with society as with individuals;
education, instruction, temperament, and a thousand other physical
and moral circumstances, concur in forming a collection of influences
which produce qualities the most different, and sometimes the most
contradictory. This concurrence of different causes was shown in a
singular and extraordinary manner among the nations of Europe; it
is on this account that we observe there the most extravagant and
discordant effects. Let us recollect the history of those nations since
the fall of the Roman empire to the end of the Crusades; never did an
assemblage of nations present a combination of more varied elements,
and a spectacle of greater events. The moral principles which preside
over the development of these nations were in direct opposition to
their genius and situation. These principles were essentially pure,
unchangeable as the God who had established them; radiant with light,
because they emanated from the source of all light and life: the
nations, on the contrary, were ignorant, rude, fluctuating, like
the waves of the sea, and corrupted, as was to be expected of every
thing which was the result of an impure mixture. Wherefore a terrible
struggle took place between principles and facts; wherefore there were
witnessed the most extraordinary contradictions, according as good and
evil alternately preponderated. Never was the struggle between elements
which could not remain at peace, more clearly seen; the genii of good
and of evil seemed to descend into the arena, and to fight hand to hand.

The nations of Europe were not in their infancy, for they were
surrounded by old institutions. Full of the recollections of ancient
civilization, they preserved various remains of it. They were
themselves produced by the mixture of a hundred nations, differing in
laws, customs, and manners. They were not yet adult nations; as this
denomination cannot be applied either to individuals or to society
before they have reached a certain development, from which the nations
of Europe were still far removed. It is very difficult to find a word
to express this social state; it was neither a state of civilization,
nor that of barbarism; for a number of laws and institutions existed
there, which certainly did not deserve the epithet of barbarous. If we
call these nations semi-barbarous, perhaps we shall approach the truth.
Words are of little importance, if we have a clear idea of the things.

It cannot be denied that the European nations, owing to a long series
of revolutions, and the extraordinary mixture of races, of ideas, and
manners, of the conquerors with each other, and of the conquerors
with the nations conquered, had a large portion of barbarism, and a
fruitful germ of agitation and disorder. But the malignant influence
of these elements was combated by the action of Christianity, which
had obtained a decided preponderance over minds, and which, besides,
was supported by powerful institutions. Christianity, to accomplish
this difficult work, had the assistance of great material force. The
Christian doctrines, which penetrated on all sides, tended, like a
sweetening liquid, to soften and improve every thing; but, at every
step, the mind comes into collision with the senses, morality with
the passions, order with anarchy, charity with ferocity, and law
with fact. Thence a struggle, which, although general to a certain
extent in all times and countries, since it is founded on the nature
of man, was then more rude, violent, and clamorous. The two most
opposite principles, barbarism and Christianity, were then face to
face in the same arena, with no one between them. Observe these
nations with attention, read their history with reflection, and you
will see that those two principles are constantly struggling, and
constantly contending for influence and preponderance; thence the
most strange situations, and the most singular contrasts. Study the
character of the wars of that time, and you will hear the holiest
maxims constantly proclaimed; legitimacy, law, reason, and justice
are invoked; the tribunal of God is incessantly appealed to: this is
the influence of Christianity. But, at the same time, you will be
afflicted at the sight of numberless acts of violence, of cruelties,
atrocities, pillages, rapines, murders, fires, and disasters without
end: this is barbarism. If you look at the Crusades, you will observe
that grand ideas, vast plans, noble inspirations, social and political
views of the highest importance, fermented in men's heads; that all
hearts overflowed with noble and generous feelings, and that a holy
enthusiasm, transporting men out of themselves, rendered them capable
of heroic actions: this is the influence of Christianity. But, if you
examine the execution, you will see disorder, improvidence, want of
discipline in the armies, injuries, and acts of violence; you will
seek in vain for concert and harmony among those who take part in the
gigantic and perilous enterprise: there is barbarism. Youths, thirsting
for knowledge, crowd to the lectures of the famous masters, from the
most distant countries; Italians, Germans, English, Spanish, and
French are mingled and confounded around the chairs of Abelard, Peter
Lombard, Albertus Magnus, and St. Thomas of Aquin; a powerful voice
resounds in their ears, calling them to leave the shades of ignorance
and raise themselves to the regions of science; the love of knowledge
animates them; the longest journeys cannot stop them; the enthusiasm
for illustrious masters is carried to an indescribable extent: behold
the influence of Christianity; behold her constantly stirring and
illuminating the mind of man, never allowing him to repose tranquilly
in obscurity, and continually exciting him to new intellectual labors
and researches after truth! But behold these same youths, who exhibit
such noble dispositions, and inspire such legitimate and consoling
hopes; are they not also those licentious, restless, and turbulent
young men, giving way to the most deplorable acts of violence,
continually fighting in the streets, and forming in the midst of great
cities a small republic, an unruly democracy, where there is much
difficulty in maintaining law and good order? Behold here barbarism!

It is good, it is perfectly conformable to the spirit of religion, that
the guilty man who raises a repentant and humiliated heart to God,
should manifest his feeling and the affliction of his soul by external
acts; that he should labor to fortify his mind, and restrain his evil
inclinations, by employing the rigors of gospel austerity against his
flesh: all this is sovereignly reasonable, just, holy, and conformable
to the maxims of the Christian religion, which thus ordains for the
justification and sanctification of the sinner, to repair the injury
done to the souls of others by the scandal of a bad life. But that
penitents, half naked, should wander about loaded with chains, carrying
horror and alarm everywhere, as happened at this time, when we see
ecclesiastical authority compelled to repress the abuse: this marks the
spirit of rudeness and ferocity which always accompany the state of
barbarism. Nothing is more true, noble, and salutary for society, than
to imagine God always ready to defend innocence, to protect it against
injustice and calumny, and to raise it above humiliation and disgrace,
by restoring to it, sooner or later, the purity and lustre of which
they have attempted to deprive it. This supposition is an effect of
faith in Providence--that faith emanating from Christian ideas, which
represent to us God as embracing the whole world in his view, reaching
with his penetrating eye the deepest recesses of the heart, and not
even excluding the meanest of his creatures from his paternal love. But
who does not perceive the infinite distance which separates this pure
faith from the trials by fire, water, and single combat? Who does not
here discover rudeness confounding all things--the spirit of violence
laboring to subject every thing to a rigorous law--attempting, in some
measure, to oblige God himself to comply with our wants and caprices,
in order to interpose the testimony of his solemn miracles, whenever it
suits our pleasure or convenience to find out the truth?

I introduce these contrasts here in order to awaken the recollections
of those who have read history, and to enable me to establish, in a few
words, the simple and general formula which sums up all those periods:
"Barbarism tempered by religion; religion disfigured by barbarism."

In the study of history we constantly encounter a serious obstacle,
which renders it always difficult, and sometimes impossible, to
understand it perfectly. We make the mistake of referring every thing
to ourselves, and to the objects which surround us--a mistake which
is excusable, no doubt, since it has its root in our own nature,
but against which we must be carefully on our guard, if we wish to
avoid deplorable errors. We imagine the men of other times to be
like ourselves; without thinking of it, we communicate to them our
own ideas, manners, inclinations, and even temperaments; and, after
having fashioned men who exist only in our own imaginations, we desire
and demand that the real men should act in the same manner as these
imaginary men; and at the slightest discord between the historical
facts and our unreasonable suppositions, we cry out that it is strange
and monstrous, taxing with being strange and monstrous what was
perfectly regular and ordinary according to the epoch.

It is the same with respect to laws and institutions: when we do not
find them according to the types which we have under our eyes, we
declaim against the ignorance, iniquity, and cruelty of the men who
have conceived and established them. If we wish to form an exact idea
of an epoch, it is necessary to transport ourselves there--to make an
effort of imagination, in order, as it were, to live and converse with
its men; it is not enough to hear the recital of the events, it is
necessary to witness them, to become one of the spectators, one of the
actors, if possible; it is necessary to call forth generations from
the tomb, and make them act under our eyes. I shall be told that this
is very difficult. I grant it; but it is necessary, if we wish that
our knowledge of history should be something more than a mere notion
of names and dates. It is quite sure that we do not know an individual
well, unless acquainted with his ideas, character, and conduct. It is
the same with a society: if we are ignorant by what doctrines it was
guided, what was its manner of considering and feeling things, we shall
see the events only superficially--we shall know the words of the law,
but we shall not penetrate its spirit or genius; when contemplating
an institution, we shall see only the external frame-work, without
reaching the mechanism, or guessing the moving machinery. If we attempt
to avoid these defects, it is certain that the study of history becomes
the most difficult of all; but this knowledge has been wanting for a
long time. The secrets of man and the mysteries of society are, at the
same time, the most important subject which can be proposed to the
human mind, and the most arduous, the most difficult, and the least
accessible to the generality of intellects.

The individual in the times to which we allude was not the individual
of to-day; his ideas were very different, his manner of seeing and
feeling was not ours, his soul was of quite another temper from our
own; what is inconceivable to us, was perfectly natural to men of those
times; they took pleasure in what is now repugnant to us.

At the beginning of the thirteenth century, Europe had already
experienced the powerful shock of the Crusades; the sciences began
to germinate; the spirit of commerce was in some degree developed;
the taste for industry made itself felt; and the inclination of men
to enter into communication with other men, and of nations to mingle
with other nations, was every day extended and increased. The feudal
system, already shaken, was about to fall to pieces; the power of the
commonalty rapidly increased; the spirit of enfranchisement showed
itself everywhere; in fine, owing to the almost complete abolition of
slavery, and to the change effected by the Crusades in the condition
of vassals and serfs, Europe was covered with a numerous population
who knew not slavery, and who bore with difficulty the feudal yoke.
Yet this population was still far from possessing all that is
necessary to rise to the rank of free citizens. Modern democracy
already offered itself to the view, with its great advantages, its
numerous difficulties, its immense problems, which still embarrass
and disconcert us, after so many centuries of trial and experience.
The lords preserved in great measure their habits of barbarism and
ferocity, by which they had been unfortunately distinguished at
former periods; the royal power was far from having acquired that
force and _prestige_ necessary for ruling such opposite elements,
and to raise itself in the midst of society as a symbol of respect
for all interests--a centre of reunion for all forces, and a sublime
personification of reason and justice.

In the same century, wars began to assume a character more popular,
and consequently more vast and important; the agitations of the people
began to wear the aspect of political commotions. Already we discover
something more than the ambition of emperors attempting to impose their
yoke on Italy; we have no longer petty kings who contend for a crown
or a province, or counts or barons who, followed by their serfs, fight
with each other or with the neighboring municipalities, covering the
land with blood and rapine. We observe in the movements of that period
something more important and alarming. Numerous nations arise and crowd
around a banner on which, instead of the ensigns of a baron or of a
monarch, appears the name of a system of doctrines. No doubt, the lords
take part in the struggle, and their power raises them still far above
the crowd which surrounds and follows them; but the cause in question
is not that of these men; they are accounted something in the problems
of the times; but mankind looks beyond the horizon of castles. This
agitation and movement, produced by the appearance of new religious and
social doctrines, is the announcement and the beginning of that chain
of revolutions which Europe has to undergo.

The evil did not consist in the disposition of nations to carry out
their ideas, and refuse to take as their only guide the interests and
doctrines of a few tyrants. On the contrary, this was a great step
gained in the path of civilization; men thus showed that they felt and
understood their own dignity better, that they took a more extended
view, and had a better understanding of their own situation and
interests. This progress was the natural result of the higher flight
which was every day taken by the faculties of the mind. The Crusades
had greatly contributed to this new movement; from that great epoch
the different nations of Europe were accustomed no longer to fight for
the possession of a small territory, or to gratify private ambition or
revenge. The nations fought in support of a principle by laboring to
avenge the outrage offered to the true religion; in a word, they became
accustomed to be moved, to contend, to die, for an idea which, far from
being limited to a small territory, embraced heaven and earth. Thus,
we will observe in passing, that the popular movement, the movement in
ideas, began in Spain much sooner than in the rest of Europe, because
the war against the Moors had advanced the period of the Crusades for
that country. The evil, I repeat it, was not in the interest which
the people took in ideas, but in the imminent danger of seeing those
nations, on account of their rudeness and ignorance, allow themselves
to be abused and deceived by the first fanatic who came. At a moment
when the movement was so vast, the fate of Europe depended on the
direction which was about to be given to the universal activity: unless
I am deceived, the twelfth and thirteenth centuries were the critical
epochs, when, in the face of great probabilities on both sides, there
was decided the great question of knowing whether Europe, in its
twofold social and political relations, was to take advantage of the
benefits of Christianity, or permit all the promise of a better future
to be lost and annihilated.

When we fix our eyes on this period, we find, in different parts of
Europe, a certain germ and index of the greatest disasters; the most
horrible doctrines arise among the masses who begin to be agitated; the
most fearful disorders signalize the first step of these nations in the
career of life. Before this, we have discovered only kings and lords,
but now the people appear on the scene. Thus we see that some rays of
light and heat have penetrated this shapeless mass. At this sight the
heart is dilated and encouraged, presaging the new future which is
reserved for humanity. But, at the same time, the observer is alarmed,
for he is aware that this heat may produce excessive fermentation,
engender corruption, and multiply impure insects in the field which
promises soon to become an enchanting garden.

The extravagances of the human mind at this time appear under so
alarming an aspect, and with a turbulence of character so fearful, that
apprehensions apparently the most exaggerated are supported by facts,
and become terrible probabilities. Let me recall some of those facts
which so vividly paint the condition of minds at that time; facts which
besides are connected with the principal point which we are examining.
At the beginning of the twelfth century, we find the famous Tanchème,
or Tanquelin, teaching the maddest theories and committing the greatest
crimes; yet at Antwerp, in Zealand, in the country of Utrecht, and in
many other towns in the same countries, he draws after him a numerous
crowd. This wretched man advanced that he was more worthy of supreme
worship than Jesus Christ himself, "for," said he, "if Jesus Christ
had received the Holy Spirit, he (Tanchème) had received the plenitude
of that Holy Spirit." He added that the whole Church was comprised in
his own person and in his disciples. The pontificate, episcopate, and
priesthood were, according to him, mere chimeras. His instructions
and discourses were particularly addressed to women; the result of
his doctrines and proceedings was the most revolting corruption. Yet
the fanaticism which was excited by this abominable man went so
far that the sick eagerly drank the water in which he had bathed,
believing it to be the most salutary remedy for body and soul. Women
thought themselves happy to have obtained the favors of the monster;
mothers considered it an honor for their daughters to be selected as
the victims of his profligacy, and husbands were offended when their
wives were not stained with this disgrace. Tanchème, knowing all the
ascendency which he was able to exert over minds, was not backward in
making use of the fanaticism of his followers; one of the principal
virtues with which he labored to inspire them was liberality in favor
of his own interest.

One day when he was surrounded with a large concourse of people, he
had a picture of the Virgin brought to him; touching it with his
sacrilegious hand, he said that he took the Virgin as his wife. Then,
turning toward the spectators, he added, that as he had contracted
marriage with the Queen of Heaven, as they had just seen, it was their
duty to make the wedding presents. He immediately placed two boxes, one
on the right and the other on the left of the picture, to receive on
one side the offerings of the men, and on the other those of the women;
for the purpose of learning, as he said, which of the two sexes had the
greater affection for him. This artifice, as low and gross as it was
sacrilegious, seemed only calculated to excite the indignation of those
who were present; yet the results corresponded with the expectations
of the artful impostor. The women, always jealous of the affection of
Tanchème, surpassed in liberality; in a perfect frenzy, they stripped
themselves of their necklaces, golden rings, and most precious jewels.

When he felt himself strong enough, Tanchème did not content himself
with preaching; he was desirous of surrounding himself with an armed
troop, in order to give him in the eyes of the world a far different
appearance from that of an apostle. Three thousand men accompanied
him everywhere. Surrounded by this respectable escort, clothed in
magnificent apparel, and preceded by his standard, he moved with all
the pomp of a king. When he stopped to preach, the three thousand
satellites stood armed around him with drawn swords. It is evident,
the aggressive character of the heretical sects of succeeding ages was
already traced out.

Every one knows how numerous were the partisans of Eon. This unhappy
man was excited by hearing the frequent repetition of the words: "Per
eum qui judicaturus est vivos et mortuos:" and he became persuaded
and he asserted, that he himself was the judge who was to judge the
living and the dead. We are also aware of the troubles excited by the
seditious speeches of Arnauld of Brescia, the iconoclastic fanaticism
of Pierre de Bruis and Henri. If I did not fear to fatigue the
attention of my readers, it would be easy for me to relate here the
most revolting scenes which represent to the life the spirit of the
sects of those times, and the unfortunate predisposition which led
men's minds to novelty, to extravagant spectacles, and I know not what
fatal giddiness, whereby they were precipitated into the most strange
errors and the most deplorable excesses. At all events, I must say a
few words of the Cathari, Vaudois, Paterins of Arras, Albigenses, and
poor men of Lyons. These sects, besides the influence which they had
on the times of which we speak and on the later events of European
history, will be of great use in making us fathom more deeply the
question now before us. From the first ages of the Church, the sect
of the Manichees was remarkable for errors and extravagances. Under
different names, with more or less of followers, and with doctrines
more or less various, it continued from age to age until the eleventh
century, when it excited disturbances in France. From that time,
Heribert and Lisoy acquired an unhappy celebrity by their obstinacy and
fanaticism. In the time of St. Bernard, the sects called apostolical
were distinguished by their dislike to marriage; while, on the other
hand, they gave themselves up to the basest and most unbridled
licentiousness. Nevertheless, all these irregularities were favorably
received by the ignorance or the corruption of the people. This is
proved by the rapidity with which they gained the masses and spread
like a pestilence wherever they appeared. Besides the hypocrisy, which
is common to all the sects, that of the Manichees imagined an artifice
the most apt to seduce rude and ignorant people: they appeared with
the most rigid austerity and the most miserable clothes. Before the
year 1181, we see the Manichees bold enough to venture out of their
conventicles and openly teach their doctrines in the light of day. They
associated with the celebrated bandits called _Cottereaux_, and feared
not to commit all sorts of excesses, as they had seduced some knights
and had secured the protection of some seigneurs of the country of
Toulouse; they succeeded in exciting a formidable insurrection, which
could be repressed only by force of arms. An eye-witness, Stephen,
Abbot of St. Genevieve, at that time sent to Toulouse by the king,
describes to us in a few words the acts of violence committed by these
sectaries: "I have seen on all sides," he says, "churches burnt and
ruined to their foundations: I have seen the dwellings of men changed
into the dens of beasts."

About the same time, the Vaudois, or poor men of Lyons, became famous.
This last name was given to them on account of their extreme poverty,
their contempt for all riches, and the rags with which they were
covered. Their shoes also gave them the name of Sabatathes. They
were perverse imitators of another kind of poor, celebrated at that
time, and who were distinguished by their virtues, and particularly
by their spirit of humility and disinterestedness. These latter, who
formed a kind of association, comprising priests and laymen, attracted
the respect and esteem of real Christians, and obtained the Pope's
permission to teach publicly. The disciples showed a profound contempt
for Church authority; they afterwards entertained monstrous errors, and
in the end became a sect in opposition to religion, injurious to good
morals, and incompatible with public tranquillity.

These errors, which were the germs of so many calamities and troubles,
could not be extirpated; with time they became more and more rooted in
various countries, and the progress of things was so fatal, that at the
beginning of the thirteenth century the period of short-lived seditions
and isolated troubles was already long gone by, the errors had already
spread on a large scale, and appeared with formidable resources for the
contest. Already the south of France, agitated by civil discord, and
precipitated into a fearful war, was in a state of terrible conflict.
In the political organization of that time, the throne had not strength
enough to exercise a controlling power, the lords had still the means
of resisting kings and doing violence to the people. When a spirit of
disobedience, agitation, and movement is spread throughout the masses,
there is only one means of restraining them, that of religion; and this
very ascendency of religious ideas was taken advantage of by the wicked
and the fanatical; and to mislead the multitude they availed themselves
of violent declamation, where religion and politics formed a confused
mixture, and where the spirit of austerity and disinterestedness was
the subject of hypocritical affectation. The new errors were no longer
confined to subtile attacks on particular dogmas, they assailed the
fundamental ideas of religion, penetrated to the sanctuary of the
family, on the one side condemning marriage, and on the other promoting
infamous abominations: in fine, the evil was not limited to countries
which by a tardy and incomplete initiation into the doctrines of
Christianity, or for any other reason, had not fully participated in
the European movement. The arena principally chosen was the south; that
is, the country where the human mind was developed in the most prompt
and lively manner.

In the midst of such a concourse of unfortunate circumstances, all
attested and placed beyond a doubt by history, was not the future of
Europe very dark and tempestuous? Ideas and manners were in imminent
danger of taking a wrong direction; the bands of authority, the ties of
family, seemed ready to break asunder; the nations might be led away
by fanaticism or superstition; Europe was in danger of being replunged
into the chaos whence it had emerged with so much difficulty. At that
time the Crescent shone in Spain, it reigned in Africa, it triumphed
in Asia. Was Europe at such a moment to lose her religious unity, and
see new errors penetrate everywhere, sowing schism in all countries,
and with it discord and war? Were all the elements of civilization and
refinement created by Christianity to be dispersed and stricken with
sterility for ever? Were the great nations formed under the influence
of Catholicity, the laws and institutions impregnated with that divine
religion, to be corrupted, falsified, and destroyed by changes in the
ancient faith? In fine, was the course of European civilization to be
violently diverted, and were the nations who were already advancing
towards a peaceful, prosperous, and glorious future, to be condemned to
see their most flattering hopes dissipated in a moment, and miserably
to retrograde towards barbarism? Such was then the vast problem placed
before society; and I fear not to assert that the religious movement
which at that time displayed itself in so extraordinary a manner, and
the new religious institutions, so inconsiderately accused of folly
and extravagance, were a powerful means employed by Providence to
save religion and society. If the illustrious Spaniard, St. Dominic
de Guzman, and the wonderful man of Assisi, did not occupy a place
on our altars, there to receive the veneration of the faithful for
their eminent sanctity, they would deserve to have statues raised
to them by the gratitude of society and humanity. But what! are our
words an object of scandal to you, who have only read and considered
history through the deceitful medium of Protestant and philosophical
prejudices? Tell us, then, what you find reprehensible in these men,
whose establishments have been the subject of your endless diatribes,
as if they had been the greatest calamities of the human race? Their
doctrines are those of the Gospel; they are the same doctrines, to the
loftiness and sanctity whereof you have been compelled to render solemn
homage, and their lives are pure, holy, heroic, and conformable in
every thing to their teachings. Ask them what is the object they have
in view; that of preaching the Catholic truth to all men, they will
tell you; of making every effort, of exerting every energy to destroy
error and reform morals; of inspiring nations with the respect which is
due to all legitimate authorities, civil and ecclesiastical. That is to
say, you will find among them a firm resolution to devote their lives
to remedy the evils of Church and State.

They do not content themselves with barren wishes; they are not
satisfied with a few discourses and transitory efforts; they do not
confine their plans to their mere personal sphere, but, extending
their views to all countries and future times, they found institutions
whereof the members may spread themselves over the whole surface of
the world, and transmit to future generations the apostolical spirit
which has inspired them with their grand ideas. The poverty to which
they condemn themselves is extreme; the dress they wear is rude and
miserable; but do you not see the profound reasons for this conduct?
Remember that they propose to renew the gospel spirit, so much
forgotten in their time; that they frequently happen to meet face to
face the emissaries of the corrupt sects, who, endeavoring to imitate
Christian humility, and affecting an absolute disinterestedness, make
a parade of presenting themselves in public in the garb of beggars;
remember, in fine, that they go to preach to semi-barbarous nations,
and that to preserve them from the giddiness of error which has
begun to take possession of their heads, words are not enough, even
accompanied by a regular and uniform conduct; extraordinary examples,
a mode of life which bears with it the most powerful edification, and
sanctity clothed with an exterior adapted to make a lively impression
on the imagination, are required.

The number of the new religious is very considerable; they increase
without measure in all the countries where they are established;
they are found, not only in the country and in the hamlets, but they
penetrate into the midst of the most populous cities. Observe, that
Europe is no longer composed of a collection of small towns and
wretched cottages erected round feudal castles, and humbly obedient
to the authority or the influence of a proud baron; Europe no longer
consists of villages grouped round rich abbeys, listening with docility
to the instructions of the monks, and receiving with gratitude the
benefits conferred on them. A great number of vassals have already
thrown off the yoke of their lords; powerful municipalities arise
on all sides, and in their presence the feudal system is frequently
compelled to humble itself in alarm. Towns become every day more
populous--every day, from the effects of the emancipation which takes
place in the country, they receive new families. Reviving industry
and commerce display new means of subsistence, and excite an increase
of population. It results from all this that religion and morality
must act upon the nations of Europe on a larger scale; more general
means, issuing from a common centre, and freed from ordinary fetters,
are necessary to satisfy the new necessities of the time. Such are
the religious institutions of the time of which we speak; this is the
explanation of their astonishing number, of their numerous privileges,
and of that remarkable regulation which places them under the immediate
control of the Pope.

Even the character which marked these institutions--a character in
some degree democratic, not only because men of all classes are
there united, but also because of the special organization of their
government--was eminently calculated to give efficacy to their
influence over a democracy, fierce, turbulent, and proud of its recent
liberty, and consequently little disposed to sympathize with any thing
which might have been presented to it under aristocratic or exclusive
forms. This democracy found in these new religious institutions a
certain analogy with its own existence and origin. These men come from
the people, they live in constant communication with them, and, like
them, they are poor and meanly clad; and as the people have their
assemblies where they choose their municipal officers and bailiffs,
so do the religious hold their chapters, where they name their priors
and provincials. They are not anchorites living in remote deserts, nor
monks sheltered in rich abbeys, nor clergy whose functions and duties
are confined to any particular country. They are men without fixed
abodes, and who are found sometimes in populous cities and sometimes in
miserable hamlets--to-day in the midst of the old continent, to-morrow
on a vessel which bears them to perilous missions in the remotest
countries of the globe; sometimes they are seen in the palaces of
kings, enlightening their councils, and taking part in the highest
affairs of state; sometimes in the dwellings of obscure families,
consoling them in misfortune, making up their quarrels, and giving them
advice on their domestic affairs. These same men, who are covered with
glory in the chairs of the universities, teach catechism to children
in the humblest boroughs; illustrious orators who have preached in
courts, before kings and great men, go to explain the Gospel in obscure
villages. The people find them everywhere, meet them at every step, in
joy and in sorrow; these men are constantly ready to take part in the
happy festivities of a baptism which fills the house with joy, or to
lament a misfortune which has just covered it with mourning.

We can imagine without difficulty the force and ascendency of such
institutions. This influence on the minds of nations must have been
incalculable; the new sects which tended to mislead the multitude
by their pestilential doctrines, found themselves face to face with
an adversary who completely conquered them. They wished to seduce
the simple by the ostentation of great austerity and wonderful
disinterestedness; they desired to deceive the imagination, by striking
it with the sight of exterior mortification, of poor and mean clothing.
The new institutions united these qualities in an extraordinary
manner. Thus the true doctrine had the same attributes which error
had assumed. From among the classes of the people there come forth
violent declaimers, who captivate the attention and take possession of
the minds of the multitude by fiery eloquence. In all parts of Europe
we meet with burning orators, pleading the cause of truth, who, well
versed in the passions, ideas, and tastes of the multitude, know how to
interest, move, and direct them, making use, in defence of religion, of
what others attempt to avail themselves of in attacking her. They are
found wheresoever they are wanted to combat the efforts of sects. Free
from all worldly ties, and belonging to no particular church, province,
or kingdom, they have all the means of passing rapidly from one place
to another, and are found at the proper time wherever their presence is
urgently required.

The strength of association, known to the sectaries, and used by them
with so much success, is found in a remarkable degree in these new
religious institutions. The individual has no will of his own: a vow
of perpetual obedience has placed him at the disposal of another's
will; and this latter is in his turn subject to a third; thus there is
formed a chain, whereof the first link is in the hands of the Pope;
the strength of association, and that of unity, are thus united in
authority. There is all the motion, all the warmth of a democracy; all
the vigor, all the promptitude of monarchy.

It has been said that these institutions were a powerful support to
the authority of the Popes; this is certain: we may even add, that if
these institutions had not existed, the fatal schism of Luther would
perhaps have taken place centuries earlier. But, on the other hand,
we must allow that the establishment of them was not due to projects
of the papacy; the Sovereign Pontiffs did not conceive the idea of
them; isolated individuals, guided by superior inspiration, formed the
design, traced out the plan, and submitting that plan to the judgment
of the Holy See, asked for authority to realize their enterprise.
Civil institutions, intended to consolidate and aggrandize the power
of kings, emanate sometimes from monarchs themselves, sometimes from
some of their ministers, who, identifying themselves with their views
and interests, have formed and executed the idea of the throne. It is
not thus with the power of the Popes; the support of new institutions
contributes to sustain that power against the attacks of dissenting
sects; but the idea of founding the institutions themselves comes
neither from the Popes nor their ministers. Unknown men suddenly arise
among the people; nothing which has taken place affords reason to
suspect them of having any previous understanding with Rome; their
entire lives attest that they have acted by virtue of inspiration,
communicated to themselves, an inspiration which does not allow them
any repose, until they have executed what was prescribed to them. There
are not, there cannot be, any private designs of Rome; ambition has
no share. From this, all sensible men should draw one of these two
consequences: either the appearance of these new institutions was the
work of God, who was desirous of saving His Church by sustaining her
against new attacks, and protecting the authority of the Roman Pontiff;
or, Catholicity herself contained within her breast a saving instinct
which led her to create these institutions, which were required to
enable her to come triumphant out of the fearful crisis in which she
was engaged. To Catholics, these two propositions are identical: in
both we see only the fulfilment of the promise, "_On this rock I will
build my Church, and the gates of hell shall never prevail against
her._" Philosophers who do not regard things by the light of faith,
in order to explain this phenomenon, may make use of what terms they
please; but they will be compelled to acknowledge that wonderful wisdom
and the highest degree of foresight appear at the bottom of these
facts. If they persist in not acknowledging the finger of God, and in
seeing in the course of events only the fruit of well-concerted plans,
or the result of organization combined with art, at least they cannot
refuse a sort of homage to these plans and that organization. Indeed,
as they confess that the power of the Roman Pontiff, considered in
relations merely philosophical, is the most wonderful of all the powers
which have appeared on earth, is it not evident that the society called
the Catholic Church shows in her conduct, in the spirit of life which
animates her, and in the instinct which makes her resist her greatest
enemies, the most incomprehensible combination of phenomena which have
ever been witnessed in society? It is of little importance to the
truth, whether you call this instinct, mystery, spirit, or whatever
name you please. Catholicity defies all societies, all sects, and all
schools, to realize what she has realized, to triumph over what she
has triumphed over, and to pass through, without perishing, the crises
through which she has passed. A few examples, where the work of God was
more or less imitated, may be alleged against us; but the magicians
of Egypt, placed in the presence of Moses, came to an end of their
artifices; the envoy of God performed wonders which they could not; and
they were compelled to exclaim, "_The finger of God is here--the finger
of God is here!_"



When viewing the religious institutions produced by the Church during
the thirteenth century, we did not pause to consider one among them,
which, to the merit of participating in the glory of the others, adds a
peculiar character of beauty and sublimity, and which is inexpressibly
worthy of our attention: I speak of that institution, the object of
which was to redeem captives from the hands of the Infidels. If I
make use of this general designation, it is because I do not intend
to enter into a particular examination of the various branches which
compose it. I consider the unity of the object, and, on account of that
unity, I attribute unity to the institution itself. Thanks to the happy
change which has taken place in the circumstances which occasioned
its foundation, we can now scarcely estimate the institution at its
just value, and appreciate in a proper manner the beneficent influence
and the holy enthusiasm which it must have produced in all Christian

In consequence of the long wars with the Infidels, a very great number
of the faithful groaned in fetters, deprived of their liberty and
country, and often in danger of apostatizing from the faith of their
fathers. The Moors still occupied a considerable part of Spain; they
reigned exclusively on the coasts of Africa, and proudly triumphed in
the East, where the Crusaders had been vanquished. The Infidels thus
held the south of Europe closely confined, and were constantly able to
seize favorable moments, and procure multitudes of Christian slaves.
The revolutions and disorders of those times continually offered
favorable opportunities; both hatred and cupidity urged them to gratify
their revenge on the Christians taken unawares. We may be sure that
this was one of the severest scourges which the human race had to
endure at that time in Europe. If the word charity was to be any thing
more than a mere name, if the nations of Europe were not to allow their
bonds of fraternity and the ties which connected their common interests
to be destroyed, there was an urgent necessity for them to come to an
understanding, in order to remedy this evil. The veteran who, instead
of a reward for his long services to religion and his country, had
found slavery in the depths of a dungeon; the merchant who, ploughing
the seas to carry provisions to the Christian armies, had fallen
into the power of an implacable enemy, and paid by heavy chains for
the boldness of his enterprise; the timid virgin who, playing upon
the sea-shore, had been perfidiously carried away by the merciless
pirates, like a