Page images

falling into all the evils which accompany ignorance and folly.

15 In idleness and sloth, man, devoured by listless dulness, gives himself up to the dominion of sense, whose empire, as it increases and extends from day to day, renders him intemperate, gluttonous, luxurious, enervate, cowardly, base, and despicable. The certain effects of all which vices are, the ruin of his fortune, the wasting of his health, and the termination of his life in the anguish of disease, poverty and disgrace.

16 If I understand you, it would appear that poverty is a vice. No; it is not a vice; but still less is it a virtue; for it is much more frequently injurious than useful; it is even commonly the result of vice, or its first occasion; for every individual vice conducts towards indigence; even to the privation of the necessaries of life; and when a man is in want of the necessaries, he is on the point of endeavoring to procure them by vicious methods; that is, methods hurtful to society.

17 All the private virtues, on the contrary, tend to procure for man an abundance of subsistence; and when he has more than he can consume, it becomes more easy for him to give to others, and to perform actions useful to society.

18 Why do you rank cleanliness in the class of virtues ? Because it is really one of the most important, as it has a powerful influence on the health and preservation of the body. Cleanliness, as well in our garments as in our dwellings, prevents the pernicious effects of dampness, of bad smells, and of contagious vapors arising from substances abandoned to putrify. Cleanliness keeps up a free perspiration, renews the air, refreshes the blood, and even animates and enlivens the mind.

19 Whence we see that persons, attentive to the cleanliness of their persons and their habitations, are, in general, more healthy, and less exposed to diseases, than those who live in filth and nastiness; and it may moreover be remarked, that cleanliness brings with it, throughout every part of domestic discipline, habits of order and arrangement, which are among the first and best methods and elements of happiness.

20 Is uncleanliness then, or filthiness, a real vice? Yes; as real as drunkenness, or as sloth, from which, for the most part, it derives its origin. Uncleanliness is a secondary, and often a first cause of a multitude of slight disorders, and even of dangerous sicknesses.

21 It is well known in medicine, that it generates the itch,

the scald head, the leprosy, no less certainly than the same disorders are produced by corrupted or acrid aliments; that it contributes to the contagious power of the plague and of malignant fevers; that it even gives birth to them in hospitals and prisons; that it occasions rheumatism by incrusting the skin with dirt, and checking perspiration; not to mention the disgraceful inconvenience of being devoured by insects, the unclean appendage of abject misery.

22 Thus all the individual or private virtues have, for their more or less direct, and more or less proximate end, the preservation of the man who practises them; while, by the preservation of each individual, they tend to insure that of the family and of society at large, which is nothing more than the united sum of those individuals.

SECTION VI. Of domestic virtues; economy, parental affection, conju

gal love, filial love, brotherly love. 1 What do you mean by domestic virtues ? I mean the practice of those actions which are useful to a family, that is, to a number of persons living under one roof. What are those virtues ? Economy, parental affection, conjugal love, filial love, brotherly love, and the fulfilment of the reciprocal duties of master and servant.

2 What is economy ? Taken in its most extensive signification, it is the proper administration of whatever concerns the existence of the family or household; but as subsistence holds the first rank among these circumstances, the word economy has been restricted to the employment of our money in procuring for us the primary wants of life.

3 Why is economy a virtue ? Because the man who enters into no useless expense, generally possesses a superabundance, which constitutes real wealth, and by means of which he procures for himself and his family, all that is truly useful and convenient; without taking into the account, that, by this means he ensures to himself resources against accidental and unforeseen losses; so that himself and his family live in a tranquil and pleasant state of ease, which is the basis of all human happiness.

4 Are dissipation and prodigality then vices? Yes: for they bring a man at last to the want of the necessaries of life; he falls into poverty, misery, and abject disgrace; so that even his acquaintance, fearful of being obliged to restore to him what he has squandered with them or upon them, fly

from him as a debtor from his creditor, and he is left abandoned by all the world.

5 What is parental affection ? The assiduous care which a parent takes to bring up his children in the habit of

every action useful to themselves and to society. In what respect is parental tenderness a virtue, with respect to parents ? In as much as the parents who bring up their children in good habits, lay up for the whole course of their lives those enjoyments and aids which are grateful to us at all times, and ensure against old age, those supports and consolations which are required by the wants and calamities of that period of life.

6 Why do you say that conjugal love is a virtue ? Because the concord and union which are the consequences of the affection subsisting between married persons, establish in the bosom of their family a multitude of habits which contribute to its prosperity and conservation; united by the bonds of marriage, they love their household and quit it rarely; they superintend every part of its administration; they attend to the education of their children; they keep up the respectfulness and fidelity of their domestics; they prevent all disorder and dissipation; and by the whole of their good conduct, live in ease and reputation: while those married persons who have no affection for each other, fill their dwelling with quarrels and distress; excite war among their children and among their domestics, and lead them both into every kind of vicious habit; so that each wastes, pillages, and robs in their several

way: : their revenues are absorbed without return; debts follow debts; the discontented parties fly each other and recur to lawsuits, and the whole family falls into disorder, ruin, disgrace, and the want of the necessaries of life.

→ What is filial love? It is, on the part of children, the practice of such actions as are useful to themselves and to their parents.

What motives does the law of nature present to enforce filial love? Three chief motives : 1st, Sentiment, for from our earliest infancy, the affectionate solicitudes of our parents, produce in us the mild habits of attachment. 2d, The sense of justice: for children owe their parents à return, and, as it were, a reparation for the troubles, and even for the expenses which they have occasioned them. 3d, Personal interest; for if we act ill towards our progenitors, we offer our own children examples of rebellion and ingratitude.

8 Why is brotherly love a virtue? Because the concord and union which result from the mutual affection of brethren, establish the power, safety, and preservation of families. Brethren in union mutually defend each other from all oppression, assist each other in their mutual wants, support each other under misfortune, and thus secure their common existence; while brethren in a state of disunion, each being abandoned to his personal strength, fall into all the inconveniences of insulation from society, and of individual feeble


9 This truth was ingeniously expressed by that king of Scythia, who, on his death-bed having called his children round him, ordered them to break a bundle of arrows; when the young men, though in full vigor, were not able to accomplish this, he took the bundle in his turn, and having untied it, broke each separate arrow with his fingers: Behold, said he, the effect of union; united in a body, you will be invincible, taken separately, you will be broken like reeds.

SECTION VII. Of the social virtues; of justice, liberty, charity, probity,

simplicity of manners, patriotism. 1 What is society ? Every aggregated peunion of men living together under the regulations of a contract tacit or expressed for their common preservation. Are the social duties many in number? Yes: we may count as many as there are actions useful to society; but they may be all reduced to one principle. What is this fundamental principle ? Justice, which itself alone comprehends all the social virtues.

2 Why do you say that justice is the fundamental, and almost only virtue of social life? Because it alone embraces the practice of all those actions which are useful to society; and that every virtue, under the name of charity, humanity, probity, love of country, sincerity, generosity, simplicity of manners, and modesty, are but varied forms, and diversified applications of this axiom: “Do unto another only that which thou wouldst he should do unto thee;" which is the definition of justice.

3 How does the law of nature ordain justice ? By means of three physical attributes which are inherent in the organization of man. What are these attributes ? Equality, liberty, property. In what sense is equality a physical attribute of man? Because all men having equally eyes, hands, mouth, ears, and being alike under the necessity of making use of them for their life's sake, are by this very fact equally entitled to life, and to the use of the elements which contribute to its support. They are all equal before God.

4 Why is liberty called a physical attribute of man? Because all men possessing senses fitted and sufficient for their preservation; no one having need of the eye of another man in order to see, of his ear to hear, of his mouth to eat, or of his foot to walk, they are all made by this means, naturally independent and free.

5 How is property a physical attribute of man? Since every man is formed equal and similar to his fellows, and consequently free and independent, every one is the absolute master, the entire proprietor of his body, and the products of his labor.

6 How is justice derived from these three attributes ? From this circumstance, that men being equal, free, and owing nothing to each other, have no right to demand any thing of their fellows, but in proportion as they return for it something equivalent; in proportion as the balance of what is given to what is paid, remains in equilibrium; and it is this equality, this equilibrium which is called justice and equity.

7 Unfold to me how the social virtues are derived from the law of nature. How is charity, or the love of our neighbor a precept or application of this law ? By reason of the laws of equality and reciprocity. Thus, by attacking the existence of another, we make an attack upon our own in consequence of the law of reciprocity. On the contrary, when we do good to our neighbor, we have ground and reason to expect an exchange of good, an equivalent. *

8. Charity then is nothing more than justice? Yes: it is nothing more than justice, with this single difference, that strict justice, confines itself to the assertion, “Do not to others the evil which thou wouldst not they should do unto thee:” and that charity, or the love of our neighbor goes farther, even to say, Do unto others the good which you wish to receive from them.

9 Does the law of nature prescribe probity ? Yes: for probity is nothing more than a respect paid to our own rights through the medium of the rights of others; a respect derived from a prudent and well-made calculation of our own interests, compared with those of others.

* In addition to the mercantile object of doing good to others for the purchase of an equivalent,

“Beneficence regardless of herself,
Of pride, ambition, policy, or pelf,
Enjoys, in blest return for one poor mite,
A mineman empire of sublime delight."-Lathrop.


« PreviousContinue »