« ForrigeFortsæt »
by his band, his linen and lace, &c. It is not then, a mere superficial matter, a mere harness, to have many hands employed in our service.
14. Strange indeed! they would have me not pay respect to that man dressed in embroidery, and followed by seven or eight lacqueys. Why he would horse-whip me if I did not. Now, this custom is a matter of compulsion ; it does not exist between two horses, when one is better caparisoned than the other.
It is droll in Montaigne, that he does not see the dif. ference between admiring what we see, and asking the reason of it.
15. The people have some wise notions : for example, the having chosen amusement and hunting, in preference to poetry. Your half-learned gentry laugh at them, and delight in pointing out their folly in this; but for reasons which they cannot perceive, the people are right. It is well also to distinguish men by externals, as by birth or property. The world strives to shew how unreasonable this is; but it is perfectly reasonable.
16. Rank is a great advantage, as it gives to a man of eighteen or twenty years of age, a degree of acceptance, publicity, and respect, which another can scarcely obtain by merit at fifty. There is a gain then, of thirty years without difficulty.
17. There are men, who, to shew us that we are wrong, in not esteeming them more highly, never fail to bring forward the names of those persons of quality who think well of them. I would answer them, “Shew us the merit by which you have gained their esteem, and we will esteem you as they do.”
18. If a man stands at the window to see those who pass, and I happen to pass by, can I say that he placed himself there to see me? No: for he did not think of me particularly. But if a man loves a woman for her beauty, Does he love her ?. No: for the small-pox which destroys her beauty without killing her, causes his love to cease. And if any one loves me for my judgment or my memory, Does he really love me? No: for I can lose these qualities without ceasing to be. Where then is this me, if it is neither in the body nor the soul? And how are we to love the body or the soul, except it be for those qualities which do not make up this me, because they are perishable ? For can we love the soul of a person abstractedly, and some qualities that belong to it? That cannot be; and it would be unjust. Then they never love the person, but only the qualities ; or, if they say that they love the person, they must say also, that the combination of qualities constitutes the person.
19. Those things about which we are most anxious, are very often a mere nothing; as, for instance, the concealment of our narrow circumstances. This evil of poverty is a mere nothing, that imagination has magnified to a mountain. Another turn of thought would induce us to tell it without difficulty.
20. Those who have the power of invention are but few. Those who have not are many, and consequently, the strongest party. And generally, we see that they refuse to the inventors the praise that they deserve, and that
they seek by their inventions. If they persist in seeking it, and treat contemptuously those who have not this talent, they will gain nothing but a few hard names, and they will be treated as visionaries. A man should take care, therefore, not to plume himself upon this adyan, tage, great as it is ; and he should be content to be es, teemed by the few, who really can appreciate his merits,
DETACHED MORAL THOUGHTS.
THERE are plenty of good maxims in the world ; we fail only in applying them. For instance, it is without doubt that we should expose life to defend the public good; and many do this: but scarcely any one does this for religion. It is necessary that there be inequality in the state of man; but that being granted, the door is opened, not only to the highest domination, but to the highest degree of tyranny. It is needful to allow some relaxation of mind; but this opens the door to the loosest dissipations. The limits should be marked ; they are not laid down. The laws would prescribe them, but the human mind will not endure it.
?. The authority of reason is far more imperious than that of a master : for he who disobeys the one, is unhappy; but he who disobeys the other, is a fool.
3. Why would you kill me? Why? do you not live across the water? My friend, if you lived on this side, I should be an assassin ; it would be unjust to kill you in this way; but since you live on the other, I am brave, and the act is just.
4. Those who live irregularly, say to those who live discreetly, that it is they who swerve from the dictates of nature, and that they themselves live according to it; as those who are in a vessel believe that the people on shore are receding from them. Both parties use similar language. There should be a fixed point to decide the
The port settles the question for those in the vessel, but where shall we find this fixed point in morals? *
5. As fashion makes pleasure, so does it justice. If men really knew what justice is, they would never have admitted this commonest of all maxims throughout the world, that each should follow the custom of his own country. Real equity would have subjugated all nations, by its native brilliancy; and legislators would not have taken in the stead of this invariable rule of right, the fancies and caprices of Persians and Germans, &c. It would have been set up in all the states of the earth, and at all times.
6. Justice is that which is by law established ; and hence all our established laws are to be necessarily accounted just, because they are established.
7. The only universal rules are, the laws of the land in ordinary matters. In extraordinary matters, the majority carries it. Why is this?
Why is this? From the power that exists in it.
* The answer of M. Pascal would be, In the Holy Scriptures.
And hence, also, kings who possess an extrinsic force, do not follow even the majority of their ministers.
8. Undoubtedly an equality of rights is just ; but not being able to compel men to be submissive to justice, legislators have made them obedient to force. Unable to fortify justice, they have justified force; so that justice and force uniting, there might be peace, for that is the sovereign good,-summum jus, summa injuria.
The power of the plurality is the best way ; because it is a visible power; and it has force to command obedience. Yet this is the counsel only of inferior men.
If they could, they should have put power into the hands of justice; but since power will not let itself be used as men please, because it is a palpable quality, while justice is an intellectual quality, of which they may dispose as they please, they have placed justice in the hands of
power, and now they call that justice which power requires to be observed.
9. It is just, that whatever is just should be observed. It is necessary that whatever is the strongest should be obeyed. Justice without power is inefficient : power without justice is tyranny. Justice without power is gainsayed, because there are always wicked men. Power without justice is soon questioned. Justice and power must be brought together, so that whatever is just may be powerful, and whatever is powerful may be just.
Justice may be disputed; but power speaks pretty plainly, and without dispute. So that it needs but to give power to justice; but seeing that it was not possible to make justice powerful, they have made the powere ful just.