Page images

life; peopled by so many beings that give inspiration and consequently immortality, as the trunks of the trees distil honey when the bees have inhabited them. Insensibly the night falls. The grave-digger finishes his work, the noise of the shovel ceases, and I am asked to retire. But I prayed to remain another hour, in the bosom of night and of the shadows. I wish to submerge myself in the melancholy of nothingness, to anticipate my being in that place of silence and external repose, by long contemplation of the dust of the departed here where so many generations sleep forgotten.

There I remained leaning against a tomb, resting my forehead upon the marble, my eyes fixed on the picture of death and on the monsters of the Universal Judgment, illuminated by the last splendors of the expiring day, awaiting the greater sadness which the darkness of night would bring upon me.

But no! the fresh breeze of the sea comes to awaken me from my melancholy dreams; the sweet flowers of May raised their blossom before drooping; from the heat, a penetrating and intoxicating aroma, full of life and fragrance, diffused itself in the air; the winged glowworms began to hover between the shades of the cloister and the lines of the tombs like wandering stars, while the full moon rose above the horizon, floating majestically in ether, with her pale blue rays lighting up the faces of the funereal statues; and a nightingale, hidden in the thick branches of the highest cypress, chanted his song of love as a serenade to the dead and a supplication to the living.




ENTLEMEN,—The political oath is dead throughout

Europe. Nominally it is still enforced. Custom

preserves a worn-out institution of which the spirit has long since expired. Just as we still see the light of far distant suns long after they have been extinguished.

It is undeniable that if the political oath was a great and worthy institution it would merit the fate of all great and worthy institutions and be as immortal as compassion, charity, and beneficence.

There is a proper place for the oath; it belongs solely to the great and solemn functions of life, so let it not be contaminated by the strife of party politics.

Witness the stress laid upon oaths in every secret society; the more idolatrous a religion is, the more complicated its system of oaths, the greater the mystery, the more frequent the invocation to the supernatural; you see this in all secret societies, because there injustice and mystery are the rule; but you do not see it in public societies, because there law and order prevail.

Compare the mysteries of Eleusis and those for admission to the temple of the goddess Isis; compare any of the pagan liturgies with the command not to take the name of God in vain, and tell me, as Catholics, as believers in the Bible, as Christians, that it is not necessary to abolish the oath.

The modern social order is an evolution of natural law, and the natural law has as its characteristic note liberty of

conscience, and liberty of conscience rejects the useless multiplication of oaths. Why then should you civil and political legislators exact irrational formulas? Be satisfied with external obedience and respect for the law, which is the only thing you can demand by reason of the authority which the nation has given you and the only thing that we, as free and true citizens, can promise.

But you will reply that we have abolished the oath that con firms a promise. And here let me say a few words regarding this absurd concession.

Laws are not made for imaginary people, but for those that really exist. The idealist suggests that we content ourselves with pure law, but in truth we must derive our inspiration from reality.

Now, gentlemen, there is a contrast, a deep contrast between the expression of external respect for the official religion and the profound indifference that there is in most souls and in the majority of consciences.

Go to the house of a sceptic, a freethinker, of any kind of a rationalist, go to that house and you will see expression of outward respect. The unbeliever scoffs at the efficacy of baptism, but although he disbelieves, he will have all his children baptized with due form and ceremony. At the table, where the

soup and fish are steaming, he will ridicule the lenten discipline and criticise the proclamation of the Bull, but he will take goo

good care to join his family in refrain-. ing from meat on Friday, through love for his wife, through consideration for his daughter, through respect for his mother, and even through fear of his mother-in-law; he will not communicate at Easter, oh, no, because he is secretly afraid of committing a profanation; but he will secretly bribe the priest or the sacristan of the parish to obtain the

the certificate


that he has received his Easter communion, so that he may place it in the family prayer-book or present it to the pastor on his Easter visit.

He will work here in the Congress and in the cabinet that education, may be freed from priestly influence, that marriage may be merely a civil ceremony, that the cemetery ought to be under the control of the laity; but nevertheless in his last will and testament he will request that he be buried in the shadow of the cross, under which rest his ancestors; for although he has really given up his faith and his religion, he has breathed it in from the very air; he has become so accustomed to it that it has permeated his whole being, and he wishes to die in that faith whose dies iræs and misereres have taught him the terrors of death and whose prayers and psalms have given him assurance of immortality.

Well, gentlemen, do you wish some one to make promises. No one shall promise anything, I least of all. So then, instead of abolishing the oath, you have made it more burden


Gentlemen, I am going now to differ from my friend the Marquis de Pédal. Do you think that any people could be more interested in the improvement of the moral conscience and even the religious conscience than the Republican party?

I have said a thousand times that as soon as material ties are broken moral ones become more binding. If this is true is it necessary to strengthen them either in Congress, in the committees, or in our public ceremonies, jubilees, and festivals in which all unite in their supplications to one God, whom they implore to guard them and to protect their rights.

And here, gentlemen, I call your attention—the attention

of all Liberals to the fact that I have the same regret my friend the Marquis de Pédal has for the religious crisis, for the philosophical crisis through which the human mind is passing, for that cloud of sophism and error which at this very moment threatens all that we have loved and adored on the face of this planet. I also, gentlemen, protest against that philosophy which proclaims mere materialism and which worships blind force.

I cannot endure the thought that the immensity of space is only a funeral shroud, under the gloomy folds of which humanity lies as inert and soulless as stone.

I cannot endure the thought that time is only an eternal river, without beginning and without end, on the surface of which we behold human beings idly drifting toward a bottomless abyss, in which they are at last to be swallowed up.

I cannot bear to think of dwelling in a universe without ideals, without law and order, governed by chance and bounded by oblivion, that ogre which devours human souls and consigns them to nothingness.

Gentlemen, I abhor these errors, and lifting my arms toward heaven, I implore God to enlighten these blinded people who ask him nothing less than the proof of his existence; as if fundamental truth could be demonstrated and as if mathematical axioms were not undemonstrable postulates, without which other demonstrable truths would not exist.

God is seen in the light, is felt in the heat; we are conscious of him throughout our whole being; and the more weak and sinful we are, the more we deserve his mercy; the more wretched and miserable this world is, the more we need the aid of his divine Providence.

Gentlemen, now that I have protested against these doc

« PreviousContinue »