Page images

10 But does not this calculation, which includes the complicated interests and rights of the social state, demand such light, and such knowledge of things, as to render it a science of difficult acquisition? Yes: and a science so much the more delicate, as the man of probity pronounces sentence in his own cause.


11 Is probity then a mark of an enlarged and correct mind? Yes for the man of probity almost always neglects some present interest for the sake of one which is future; while on the other hand, the knave is willing to lose a great interest to come for the sake of some trifling one which is present. 12 Knavery then is a sign of false judgment and narrowness of mind? Yes and rogues may be defined to be ignorant or foolish speculators, for they know not their own interests; and though they affect wariness and cunning, their artifices seldom fail to expose them, and make them known for what they are; to deprive them of the confidence and esteem of others, and of all the advantages which might thence result to their social and physical existence. They neither live in peace with themselves, nor with others, and incessantly alarmed by their conscience and their enemies, they enjoy no other real happiness than that of escaping from the executioner.

13 How can a man, according to the law of nature, repair any injury which he has committed? By conferring a proportionable benefit upon those whom he has injured. Is sincerity enjoined by the law of nature? Yes: for lying, perfidy, and perjury, excite amongst men, distrust, dissension, hatred, revenge, and a multitude of evils, which tend to the destruction of society: whilst sincerity and good faith establish confidence, concord, peace, and the other infinite advantages, which are the necessary result of such a happy state of things.

14 Does it prescribe mildness and modesty? Yes: for an assuming and rude deportment while it alienates from us the hearts of other men, infuses into them a disposition to do us disservice: ostentation and vanity, by wounding their selflove and exciting their jealousy, prevent us from attaining the point of real utility.

15 You have classed among the social virtues, simplicity of manners; what do you mean by that expression? I mean confining our wants and desires, to what is really useful for the existence of the individual and his family: that is to say, the man of simple manners has few wants, and is content with little.

16 How is this virtue recommended to us? By the numerous advantages, which it bestows both upon the individual, and upon society at large; for the man who has few wants, liberates himself at once from a crowd of cares, troubles and toils, avoids a number of disputes and quarrels, which arise from the eager desire of gain; is free from the cares of ambition, the inquietudes of possession, and the fears of loss.

17 Again, if this virtue of simplicity, were extended to a whole people, it secures abundance to them; every thing which they do not immediately consume, becomes to them a source of trade and commerce to a very great extent; they labor, they manufacture, and sell their productions to greater advantage than others; and attain the summit both of external and internal prosperity. What vice is the direct opposite of this virtue? Cupidity and luxury.

18 Is luxury a vice both in the individual and in society at large? Yes and to such an extent, that, it may be said to include in it the seeds of all others; for the man who makes many things necessary to his happiness, imposes at the same time upon himself all the cares, and submits to all the means of acquiring them, whether they be just or unjust.

19 Has he already one enjoyment, he wishes for another, and in the midst of superfluities, he is never rich; a commodious habitation will not satisfy him; he must have a superb hotel; he is not content with a plentiful table; he must have rare and costly meats; he must have splendid furniture, expensive apparel, and a long, useless train of footmen, horses, carriages and women; he must be constantly at the gaming table, or at places of public entertainment. Now, to support these expenses, a great deal of money is requisite; he begins by borrowing, becomes bankrupt, is at war with mankind, ruins others, and is himself ruined.

20 Again, if we consider the effects of luxury upon a nation, it produces the same ravages upon a large scale; in consequence of its consuming within itself all its productions, it is poor in the midst of abundance; it has nothing to sell to the foreigner; and becomes a tributary for every thing which it imports: it loses its respectability, its strength, and its means of defence and preservation abroad; whilst at home it is undermined, and the bond of union between its members dissolved.

21 All its citizens being greedy after enjoyments, are perpetually struggling with each other for the attainment of them; all are either inflicting injuries, or have the disposition

to do so and hence arise those actions and habits of usurpation, which compose what is called moral corruption, or intestine war between the members of the same society.

22 Luxury produces rapacity, rapacity the invasion of others by violence, or by breach of public faith; so that the ancient moralists had an accurate perception of truth when they declared that all the social virtues were founded upon a simplicity of manners, a limitation of wants: and we may take as a certain scale of the virtues or vices of a man, the proportion which his expenses bear to his revenue.

23 What do you mean by the word country? I understand by that word, a community of citizens who, united by fraternal sentiments and reciprocal wants, unite their individual forces, for the purposes of general security, the reaction of which upon each of them, assumes the beneficial and protecting character of paternity.

24 In society, the members of it form a bank of interest; in a country they constitute a family of tender attachments; by means of which, charity, and the love of our neighbor, are extended to a whole nation. No member of this family can pretend to the enjoyment of any advantages, except in proportion to his exertions; and he can only attain the means of being generous or disinterested, in proportion as his expenses are confined within the limits of his acquisitions or pos


25 What is your deduction from these principles? I conclude from these principles, that all the social virtues consist in the performance of actions useful both to the society and to the individual: that they may be all traced to the physical object of the preservation of man: that nature having implanted in our bosoms the necessity of this preservation, imposes all the consequences arising from it as a law, and prohibits as a crime whatever counteracts the operation of this principle:

26 That we are happy, in exact proportion to the obedience we yield to those laws which nature has established with a view to our preservation: that the following axioms are founded upon our natural organization. Preserve thyself. Instruct thyself. Moderate thyself. Live for thy fellow ereatures in order that they may live for thee.




Duties that relate to man, considered as an individual. 1 Commune with thyself, O man! and consider wherefore thou wert made. Contemplate thy powers; contemplate thy wants and thy connections; so shalt thou discover the duties of life, and be directed in all thy ways. Proceed not to speak or to act before thou hast weighed thy words, and examined the tendency of every step thou shalt take; so shall disgrace fly far from thee, and in thy house shall shame be a stranger; repentance shall not visit thee, nor sorrow sit upon thy cheek.

2 The thoughtless man bridleth not his tongue; he speaketh at random, and is entangled in the foolishness of his own words. As one that runneth in haste, and leapeth over a fence, may fall into a pit on the other side, which he doth not see; so is the man that plungeth suddenly into an action, before he has considered the consequences thereof.

3 As a plain garment best adorneth a beautiful woman, so a decent behavior is the greatest ornament of wisdom. But, behold the vain man, and observe the arrogant; he clotheth himself in rich attire, he walketh in the public street, he casteth round his eyes, and courteth observation.

4 Since the days that are past are gone forever, and those that are to come may not come to thee, it behoveth thee, O man! to employ the present time, without regretting the loss of that which is past, or too much depending on that which is to come. This instant is thine; the next is in the womb of futurity, and thou knowest not what it may bring forth.

5 Whatsoever thou resolvest to do, do it quickly. Defer not till the evening what the morning may accomplish. Idleness is the parent of want and pain; but the labor of virtue bringeth forth pleasure. The hand of diligence defeateth want; prosperity and success are the industrious man's attendants.

6 He riseth up early, and lieth down late; he exerciseth his mind with contemplation, and his body with action, and preserveth the health of both. The slothful man is a burden to himself, his hours hang heavy on his head; he loitereth about, and knoweth not what he would do. His days pass away like the shadow of a cloud, and he leaveth behind him no mark of remembrance.

7 His body is diseased for want of exercise; he wisheth for action, but hath not power to move; his mind is in darkness; his thoughts are confused; he longeth for knowledge, but hath no application. He would eat of the almond, but he hateth the trouble of breaking its shell.

8 His house is in disorder, his servants are wasteful and riotous, and he runneth on towards ruin; he seeth it with his eyes, he heareth it with his ears, he shaketh his head and wisheth, but hath no resolution; till ruin cometh upon him like a whirlwind, and shame and repentance descend with him to the grave.

9 The fool is not always unfortunate, nor the wise man always successful; yet never had a fool a thorough enjoyment, never was a wise man wholly unhappy.

10 Perils, and misfortunes, and want, and pain, and injury, are more or less the certain lot of every man that cometh into the world. It behoveth thee, therefore, O child of calamity! early to fortify thy mind with courage and patience, that thou mayest support, with a becoming resolution, thy allotted portion of human evil.

11 Forget not, O man! that thy station on earth is appointed by the wisdom of the Eternal, who knoweth thy heart, who seeth the vanity of thy wishes, and who often in mercy denieth thy requests. Yet, for all reasonable desires, for all honest endeavors, his benevolence hath established, in the nature of things, a probability of success.

12 The uneasiness thou feelest, the misfortunes thou bewailest, behold the root from whence they spring, even thine own folly, thine own pride, thine own distempered fancy. Murmur not, therefore, at the dispensations of God, but correct thine own heart; neither say within thyself, if I had wealth, power or leisure, I should be happy; for know, they all of them bring to their several possessors their peculiar inconveniences.

13 The poor man seeth not the vexations and anxieties of the rich; he feeleth not the difficulties and perplexities of power; neither knoweth he the wearisomeness of leisure; and therefore it is that he repineth at his own lot. But envy not the appearance of happiness in any man; for thou knowest not his secret griefs.

14 To be satisfied with a little is the greatest wisdom; and he that increaseth his riches, increaseth his cares; but a contented mind is a hidden treasure, and trouble findeth it not. Yet, if thou sufferest not the allurements of fortune

« PreviousContinue »