Page images
PDF
EPUB

or that it existed without power. The freemen of England are specified in it, a melancholy demonstration that there were men who were not free. We perceive, from the thirty-seventh article, that the pretended freemen owed service to their lord. Liberty of such a description had but too strong a similarity to bondage. By the twenty-first article, the king ordains, that henceforward his officers shall not take away the horses and ploughs of freemen, without paying for them. This regulation was considered by the people as true liberty, because it freed them from a greater tyranny. Henry VII. a successful warrior and politician, who pretended great attachment to the barons, but who cordially hated and feared them, granted them permission to alienate their lands. In consequence of this, the villeins, who by their industry and skill accumulated property, in the course of time became purchasers of the castles of the illustrious nobles who had ruined themselves by their extravagance, and, gradually, nearly all the landed property of the kingdom changed masters.

The house of commons now advanced in power every day. The families of the old nobility became extinct in the progress of time; and, as in England, correctly speaking, peers only are nobles, there would scarcely have been any nobles in the country, if the kings had not, from time to time, created new barons, and kept up the body of peers, whom they had formerly so much dreaded, to counteract that of the commons, now become too formidable. All the new peers, who compose the upper house, receive from the king their title and nothing more, since none of them have the property of the lands of which they bear the names. One is duke of Dorset, without possessing a single foot of land in Dorsetshire; another is an earl under the name of a certain village, yet scarcely knowing where that village is situated. They have power in the parliament, and nowhere else.

You hear no mention, in this country, of the high, middle, and low courts of justice, nor of the right of

chase over the lands of private citizens, who have no right to fire a gun on their own estates.*

A man is not exempted from paying particular taxes because he is a noble or a clergyman. All imposts are regulated by the house of commons, which, although subordinate in rank, is superior in credit to that of the lords. The peers and bishops may reject a bill sent up to them by the commons, when the object is to raise money, but they can make no alteration in it: they must admit it or reject it, without restriction. When the bill is confirmed by the lords, and assented to by the king, then all classes of the nation contribute. Every man pays, not according to his rank (which would be absurd) but according to his revenue. There is no arbitrary taille or capitation, but a real tax on lands. These were all valued in the reign of the celebrated king William. The tax subsists still unaltered, although the rents of lands have considerably increased: thus no one is oppressed, and no one complains. The feet of the cultivator are not bruised and mutilated by wooden shoes; he eats white bread; he is well clothed. He is not afraid to increase his farming-stock, nor to roof his cottage with tiles, lest the following year should, in consequence, bring with it an increase of taxation. There are numerous farmers who have an income of about five or six hundred pounds sterling, and still disdain not to cultivate the land which has enriched them, and on which they enjoy the blessing of freedom.

SECTION VIII. The reader well knows that in Spain, near the coast of Malaga, there was discovered, in the reign of Philip II. a small community, until then unknown, concealed in the recesses of the Alpuxarras mountains. This chain of inaccessible rocks is intersected by luxuriant valleys, and these valleys are still cultivated by the descendants of the Moors, who were forced, for their own happiness, to become christians, or at least to appear such.

* The game-laws in England are certainly less tyrannical thạn in some other countries, but far from being worthy of a people who consider themselves free.-French Ed.

Well observed; and as to the “ less tyrannical," it is probable that, in the way of comparison, they are now 80.-T.

more

Among these Moors, as I was stating, there was, in the time of Philip, a small society, inhabiting a valley to which there existed no access but through caverns. This valley is situated between Pitos and Portugos. The inhabitants of this secluded abode were almost unknown to the Moors themselves. They spoke a language that was neither Spanish nor Arabic, and which was thought to be derived from the ancient Carthaginians.

This society had but little increased in numbers; the reason alleged for which was that the Arabs, their neighbours, and before their time the Africans, were in the practice of coming and taking from them the young women.

These poor and humble, but nevertheless happy people, had never heard any mention of the christian, or the jewish religion; and knew very little about that of Mahomet, not holding it in any estimation. They

from time immemorial, milk and fruits to a statue of Hercules. This was the amount of their religion. As to other matters, they spent their days in indolence and innocence. They were at length discovered by a familiar of the inquisition. The grand inquisitor had the whole of them burnt. This is the sole event of their history.

The hallowed motives of their condemnation were, that they had never payed taxes, although, in fact, none had ever been demanded of them, and they were totally unacquainted with money; that they were not possessed of any bible, although they did not understand latin; and that no person had been at the pains of baptising them. They were all invested with the San-benito, and broiled to death with becoming ceremony.

It is evident that this is a specimen of the true system of government; nothing can so completely con

offered up,

1

tribute to the content; harmony, and happiness of society.*

GOURD OR CALABASH.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

man.

This fruit grows in America on the branches of a tree as high as the tallest oaks.

Thus, Matthew Garo, who is thought so wrong in Europe for finding fault with gourds creeping on the ground, would have been right in Mexico. He would have been still more in the right in India, where cocoas are very elevated. This proves that we should never hasten to conclusions. What God has made, he has .made well no doubt; and has placed his gourds on the ground in our climates, lest, in falling from on high, they should break Matthew, Garo's nose.

The calabash will only be introduced here to show that we should mistrust the idea that all was made for

There are people who pretend that the turf is only green to refresh the sight. It would appear, however, that it is rather made for the animals who nibble it, than for man to whom dog-grass and trefoil are useless. If nature has produced the trees in favour of some species, it is difficult to say to which she has given the preference. Leaves, and even bark, nourish a prodigious multitude of insects: birds eat their fruits, and inhabit their branches, in which they build their industriously-formed nests, while the flocks repose under their shades.

The author of the Spectacle de la Nature pretends that the sea has a flux and reflux, only to facilitate the going out and coming in of our vessels. It appears that eyen Matthew Garo reasoned better; the Mediterranean, on which so many vessels sail, and which only has a tide in three or four places, destroys the opinion of this philosopher.

Let us enjoy what we have, without believing ourselves the centre and object of all things.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

* Yes, and the countrymen of Voltaire are doing their best .. to restore it to Spain.-T.

GRACE. In persons and works, grace signifies, not only that which is pleasing, but that which is attractive; so that the ancients imagined that the goddess of beauty ought never to appear without the graces. Beauty never dis. pleases, but it may be deprived of this secret charm, which invites us to regard it, and sentimentally attracts and fills the soul. Grace in figure, carriage, action, and discourse, depends on its attractive merit. A beautiful woman will have no grace, if her mouth be shut without a smile, and if her eyes display no sweetness. The serious is not always graceful, because unattractive, and approaching too near to the severe, which repels.

A well-made man, whose carriage is timid or constrained, gait precipitate or heavy, and gestures awkward, has no gracefulness, because he has nothing gentle or attractive in his exterior. The voice of an orator which wants flexibility or softness, is without grace.

It is the same in all the arts. Proportion and beauty may not be graceful. It cannot be said that the pyramids of Egypt are graceful; it cannot be said that the colossus of Rhodes is as much so as the Venus of Gnidus. All that is merely strong and vigorous exhibits not the charm of grace.

It would show but small acquaintance with Michael Angelo and Caravaggio to attribute to them the grace of Albano. The sixth book of the Eneid is sublime; the fourth has more grace. Some of the gallant odes of Horace breathe gracefulness, as some of his epistles cultivate reason.

It seems, in general, that the little and pretty of all kinds are more susceptible of grace than the large. A funeral oration, a tragedy, or a sermon, are badly praised, if they are only honoured with the epithet of graceful.

It is not good for any kind of work to be opposed to grace, for its opposite is rudeness, barbarity, and dry

« PreviousContinue »