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Nurse half a year's wages
ing my master's
ing my master's, trymmed with blacke silke and goulde .. lace
Taffuta to face a doublet
silke and silver lace To four workmen Threede
How feelingly may we quote the old saying, on this occasion, tempora mutantur !
Art. XV. On the Influence attributed to Philosophers, Free-Masons,
and to the Illuminati, on the Revolution of France. By J. J. Mounier. Translated from the Manuscript, and corrected under the Inspection of the Author, by J. Walker, A. M. late of St. John's College, Cambridge. 8vo. pp. 260. sewed., Wallis. 1801. T RUE Philosophy smiles at the puny efforts which have been
made to sully the brightness of her fame, or to injure her immortal constitution. Impotent men may employ the quivers of their rage against her, even to the last arrow : but it will be to little purpose; for she may be compared to those spiritual substances described by the poet, which cannot,
" in their liquid texture, mortal wound
} Her eremies may rejoice in the supposition of having inficted on her a hideous, if not a fatal wound: but soon “th' ethereal substance closes, not long divisible ;" and her beauteous form, un' injured by such endeavours, secures to itself the love and ad. miration of future ages. We may venture to predict that not many years will elapse before it will become a source of wonder, that, at the conclusion of the eighteenth century, and in the most enlightened parts of Europe, attempts should have been made, and for the moment with some success, indiscriminately to reprobate Philosophy as the parent of the most enormous crimes and outrages. Such, however, was the fact. Individuals, alarmed at the progress of free inquiry, endeavoured to vilify and bring into disrepute the term which expresses an elevation above vulgar errors and prejudices; and though, in order to cover the design, the epithet Modern was added, the tendency of their arguments and the causes of their lamentstion most clearly evinced that they would cheerfully have subscribed to the banishment of all Philosophy from the world.
When we recover from alarm, and the mind, undisturbed by fear or passion, contemplates the past through a clear and colourless medium, we shall despise those writings which taught us to lament that the night of ignorance was gone, and to attribute our vices and our miseries to the diffusion of the lights of science: history will blush while it makes the record ; and it will caution posterity against a similar insanity. By a speedy recovery from our delirium, we may acquire some credit; and in such an attempt, the work of M. Mounier, now before us, is calculated to afford no inconsiderable assistance. Though time itself would have exonerated Philosophy from all the obloquy with which she has been loaded, in consequence of the French Revolution, M. Mounier did not deem it proper to leave her character to be cleared by this slow operation. He Jabours to obtain a present verdict of acquital from the vile charge exhibited against her; and to shew the real causes which produced that great change which some contemplate with agonics of alarm, and others with extacies of enthusiasm.
Having been a member of the first National Assembly, and having preferred the situation of an Emigrant to that of implicating himself in the subsequent excesses of the Revolution, M. Mounier's evidence is intitled to peculiar respect; being, as the translator observes, that of a man whose talents, virtue, and moderation, are universally acknowleged.'
Previously to those discussions which bear directly on his subject, the author thus vindicates the cause of Philosophy in general :
• What is the fate of nations who are without men sufficiently courageous to raise themselves above vulgar opinions, or to investigate the prejudices of the multitude ? What was Europe before the philosophers of Greece had disseminated the precepts of morality ånd, of legislation which the Romans were eager to adopt? And
when the despotism of the Emperors, and afterwards the domination of the barbarians, had again thrown this part of the world into the shades of ignorance, what mitigated by degrees the ferocity of manners, the slavery of the people, and the tyranny of the feudal system, but the restoration of philosophy, that is, the efforts of some men of genius to tread in the steps of the ancient philosophers, and to add to the light which they had transmitted to us?"
Since all science partakes of the imperfection of our state of existence, it is as easy to paint it in odious colours, by taking certain confined views of it, as it would be to misrepresent religion itself: but the Logician proscribes the practice of aguing ab abush in usum. The present writer's observations are to a similar effect :
Instead therefore of proscribing philosophers, enlightened men ought to turn to account every thing just and useful which their meditations may furnish. They ought to guard the young against the poison of false doctrines; and when their age and their education enable them to judge for themselves, they ought to exercise them in separating with discernment truth from error, and in refuting the declamations which, under a seducing appearance, disguise false paradoxes. I acknowledge that corrupt and passionate men will easily buffer themselves to be misled by a blind respect for the sophism of some celebrated philosophers. This inconvenience is inevitable; but, without philosophy, they would be misled still oftener. For one false opinion to which philosophy has given rise, you may reckon a thousand baneful prejudices which she has overcome. Let us not destroy the plant which nourishes us, because it also nourishes penomous animals. Suppose even that we had reason to lay to the account of philosophy all the evils produced by the Revolution of France, must we therefore never mention it but with horror ? and must we therefore put a stop, for the future, to the investigation of truth? Will not this woeful experience be a serious subject of meditation for the philosophers themselves? What should we say of a inan who, because his eyes have deceived him, should condemn himself to become blind, in order to avoid being deceived a second time?'
Supposing, however, that true science is not implicated in the errors and vice of mad speculatists, and that Philosophy may be vindicated on this ground, M. Mounier will not in the present instance avail himself af. such justification. In opposition to those who have asserted that the philosophers began the destruction of the antient form of government in France, he contends that 'the Revolution was produced by circumstances with which they had no connection ;' and the proof of liis position rests on the following statement :
« The fall of the ancient government was preceded by a slow and gradual diminution of the authority of the Monarch. The higher courts of justice were become the rivals of the Throne, after having been the instruments of its power-they had succeeded in forming themselves into independent bodies, in reserving to themselves the choice of their members, as well as the investigation of the charges brought against them. The edicts published by the Prince did not become laws but by their approbation. They observed these laws only so far as they thought proper; they themselves made laws without waiting for the King's approbation ; they punished such of his agents as refused to acknowledge their supremacy. They could, without danger, violate all the forms which protected innocence, when they were deciding, for tlieir own interest, against persons who exposed themselves to their batred, by contesting the legitimacy of their powers. It is well known that one of the objects most generally interesting to the multitude, is that of the diminution of taxes. The Parliaments had therefore acquired great popularity by their resistance to the new taxes; and the royal authority had in proportion lost its popularity under Louis XV, by the bad management of the revenue, by the oppressive taxes and scandalous morals of that Prince and of the greatest part of his courtiers. He resolved to put an end to the power of the courts of justice ; but it was in order to save a guilty person—nd the public opinion was in their favour. Louis XVI. yielding to the entreaties of those who surrounded him, was su imprudent as to re-establish the tribunals on their former foots ing: this triumph gave them greater influence and rendered them more insolent. It was not impossible for the royal authority to get rid of them a second time. It was necessary for the Prince to adopt the same measures which, in the same centuries, had destroyed the independence of the possessors of fiefs : it was necessary to conciliate the affection of the people, to protect, on all occasions, the liberty of individuals against arbitrary decisions, to diminish the taxes, and retrench useless expences. Unfortunately Louis XVI, with the purest intentions, liad no firmness in the execution of his plans.'
• If the Prince had conducted himself with firmness and pruderce, the Monarchy, till that time simple in appearance, but in reality aristocratical, might have escaped destruction, but it was necessarily to receive a mixture of democracy; and its fall was inevitable, if, in such a crisis, it injudiciously struggled against the wishes of the people. The Ministers resolved to allay the storm :--they undertook to restore the king to unlimited power, by absurd and odious laws, which contained some salutary regulations. They saw the clergy, the nobility, the metropolis, the majority of the towns in France, all the tribunals, and even a great number of courtiers, declare against them. They ordered the troops to march :--the officers requested the soldiers to protect the discontented; and the public opinion condemned to inIamy those who declared for obedience. All means of coercion died away, in the hands of the agents of the Monarch. He was obliged to yield: he was obliged solemnly to promise the convocation of the States-General, and to dismiss the Ministers, become the objects of the hatred of all Frenchmen.
• Thus we find a Revolution rendered necessary, by causes which have not the slightest connexion with philosophers.'
Science, which is the emanation of truth, must be inimical to despotism, and to whatever tends to brutify the human species: but, if for this reason it is to be proscribed, how will Christianity itself escape condemnation, which, in this view, still more than Philosophy, has served the cause of Liberty? It is fortunate that her enemies are such as approve of monastic vows, and can make no distinction between free inquiry and absolute atheism.
While M. Mounier endeavours to establish his position respecting the innocence of philosophy, he does not undertake the vindication of any bad man who may have called himself a philosopher :
• There is (says he) a material difference in saying that it has occasioned the Revolution of France, and all the misfortunes which have followed it, or in acknowledging that some philosophers, misled by their passions and fallacious systems, have placed themselves among the number of the factious; and that the chiefs of those factions have employed, after the fall of the ancient government, the errors of some philosophers, in order to destroy the religious senti. ments and the morality of the people.'
The justification of modern philosophers thus concludes: • They have contributed to spread among all classes the hatred of arbitrary power ; but philosophy has no connexion whatever with the circumstances which have produced it. The crimes and mis. fortunes which have accompanied it, have been chiefly the effects of the composition of the orders, of the imprudences of the Court, of the ignorance of political principles, and of the corruption of man
I acknowledge that these causes have given greater import. ance to the false theories of several celebrated authors : but, in assigning a part to the errors of modern philosophy in the calamities of which we are witnessess, it is also just to assign a very great part to the errors of those who are not philosophers—to the resistance of those who endeavour to maintain the ancient abuses, and to revive the prejudices destroyed by the knowledge of the
age: • It is likewise just to acknowledge, that the labours of the philosophers have had great influence on the changes which justice authorised, which reason distinguishes in the midst of so many errors and crimes, and which can only be condemned by fanaticism or ignorance.'
We need scarcely add that M. Mounier ridicules those writers who have attributed the French Revolution to the con. spiracies either of Free-Masons or of the German Illuminati. As well may they ascribe the vegetation of the universe to the light and heat emitted by a rush-light. Were the absurdities which have been published and countenanced on this subject mere reveries, they would be intitled to some indulgence : but stupid falsehoods, fabricated for the purpose of enflaming the passions and blinding the judgment of mankind, it would ac