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The System of Nature, Vol. 1 by Baron D'Holbach

Part 5 out of 6

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changes of form all the beings in Nature undergo: in consequence of
this, man has persuaded himself, that this privileged soul does not die:
its immortality, above all, appears indubitable to those who suppose it
spiritual: after having made it a simple being, without extent, devoid
of parts, totally different from any thing of which he has a knowledge,
he pretended that it was not subjected to the laws of decomposition
common to all beings, of which experience shews him the continual

Man, feeling within himself a concealed force, that insensibly produced
action, that imperceptibly gave direction to the motion of his machine,
believed that the entire of Nature, of whose energies he is ignorant,
with whose modes of acting he is unacquainted, owed its motion to an
agent analogous to his own soul; who acted upon the great macrocosm, in
the same manner that this soul acted upon his body. Man, having supposed
himself double, made Nature double also: he distinguished her from her
own peculiar energy; he separated her from her mover, which by degrees
he made spiritual. Thus Nature, distinguished from herself, was regarded
as the soul of the world; and the soul of man was considered as opinions
emanating from this universal soul. This notion upon the origin of the
soul is of very remote antiquity. It was that of the Egyptians, of the
Chaldeans, of the Hebrews, of the greater number of the _wise men of the
east._ It should appear that Moses believed with the Egyptians the
divine emanation of souls: according to him, _"God formed man of the
dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;
and man became a living soul:"_ nevertheless, the Catholic, at this day,
rejects this system of _divine emanation,_ seeing that it supposes the
Divinity divisible: which would have, been inconvenient to the Romish
idea of purgatory, or to the system of everlasting punishment. Although
Moses, in the above quotation, seems to indicate that the soul was a
portion of the Divinity, it does not appear that the doctrine of the
_immortality of the soul_ was established in any one of the books
attributed to him. It was during the Babylonish captivity, that the Jews
learned the doctrine of future rewards and punishments, taught by
Zoroaster to the Persians, but which the Hebrew legislator did not
understand, or, at least, he left his people ignorant on the subject. It
was in those schools, that Pherecydes, Pythagoras, and Plato, drew up a
doctrine so flattering to the vanity of human nature--so gratifying to
the imagination of mortals. Man thus believed himself a portion of the
Divinity; immortal, like the Godhead, in one part of himself:
nevertheless, subsequent religions have renounced these advantages,
which they judged incompatible with the other parts of their systems;
they held forth that the Sovereign of Nature, or her contriver was not
the soul of man, but, that, in virtue of his omnipotence, he created
human souls, in proportion as he produced the bodies which they must
animate; and they taught, that these souls once produced, by an effect
of the same omnipotence, enjoyed immortality.

However it may be with these variations upon the origin of souls, those
who supposed them emanating from the Divinity, believed that after the
death of the body, which served them for an envelope, they returned, by
refunding to their first source. Those who, without adopting the opinion
of divine emanation, admired the spirituality, believed the immortality
of the soul, were under the necessity to suppose a region, to find out
an abode for these souls, which their imagination painted to them, each
according to his fears, his hopes, his desires, and his prejudices.

Nothing is more popular than the doctrine of the _immortality of the
soul;_ nothing is more universally diffused than the expectation of
another life. Nature having inspired man with the most ardent love for
his existence, the desire of preserving himself for ever was a necessary
consequence; this desire was presently converted into certainty: from
that desire of existing eternally which Nature has implanted in him, he
made an argument, to prove that man would never cease to exist. Abady
says, "our soul has no useless desires, it naturally desires an eternal
life;" and by a very strange logic, he concludes that this desire could
not fail to be fulfilled. Cicero, before Abady, had declared the
immortality of the soul to be an innate idea in man; yet, strange to
tell, in another part of his works he considers Pherecydes as the
inventor of the doctrine. However this may be, man, thus disposed,
listened with avidity to those who announced to him systems so
conformable to his wishes. Nevertheless, he ought not to regard as
supernatural the desire of existing, which always was, and always will
be, of the essence man; it ought not to excite surprise, if he received
with eagerness an hypothesis that flattered his hopes, by promising that
his desire would one day be gratified; but let him beware how he
concludes that this desire itself is an indubitable proof of the reality
of this future life, with which at present he seems to be so much
occupied. The passion for existence is in man only a natural consequence
of the tendency of a sensible being, whose essence it is to be willing
to conserve himself: in the human being it follows the energy of his
soul--keeps pace with the force of his imagination--always ready to
realize that which he strongly desires. He desires the life of the body,
nevertheless this desire is frustrated; wherefore should not the desire
for the life of the soul be frustrated like the other? The partizans of
the doctrine of the immortality of the soul reason thus: "All men desire
to live for ever, therefore they will live for ever." Suppose the
argument retorted on them; would it be believed? If it was asserted,
"All men naturally desire to be rich; therefore all men will one day be
rich," how many partizans would this doctrine find?

The most simple reflection upon the nature of his soul, ought to
convince man that the idea of its immortality is only an illusion of the
brain. Indeed what is his soul, save the principle of sensibility? What
is it, to think, to enjoy, to suffer; is it not to feel? What is life,
except it be the assemblage of modifications, the congregation of
motion, peculiar to an organized being? Thus, as soon as the body ceases
to live, its sensibility can no longer exercise itself; when its
sensibility is no more, it can no longer have ideas, nor in consequence
thoughts. Ideas, as we have proved, can only reach man through his
senses; now, how will they have it, that once deprived of his senses, he
is yet capable of receiving sensations, of having perceptions, of
forming ideas? As they have made the soul of man a being separated from
the animated body, wherefore have they not made life a being
distinguished from the living body? Life in a body is the totality of
this motion; feeling and thought make a part of this motion: thus it is
reasonable to suppose, that in the dead man these motions will cease,
like all the others.

Indeed, by what reasoning will it be proved, that this soul, which
cannot feel, think, will, or act, but by aid of man's organs, can suffer
pain, be susceptible of pleasure, or even have a consciousness of its
own existence, when the organs which should warn it of their presence
are decomposed or destroyed? Is it not evident, that the soul depends on
the arrangement of the various parts of the body; on the order with
which these parts conspire to perform their functions; on the combined
motion of the whole? Thus the organic structure once destroyed, can it
be reasonably doubted the soul will be destroyed also? Is it not seen,
that during the whole course of human life this soul is stimulated,
changed, deranged, disturbed, by all the changes man's organs
experience? And yet it will be insisted, that this soul acts, thinks,
subsists, when these same organs have entirely disappeared!

An organized being may be compared to a clock, which once broken, is no
longer suitable to the use for which it was designed. To say, that the
soul shall feel, shall think, shall enjoy, shall suffer after the death
of the body; is to pretend that a clock, shivered into a thousand
pieces, will continue to strike the hour; shall yet have the faculty of
marking the progress of time. Those who say, that the soul of man is
able to subsist, notwithstanding the destruction of the body, evidently
support the position, that the modification of a body will be enabled to
conserve itself after the subject is destroyed: this on any other
occasion would be considered as completely absurd.

It will be said that the conservation of the soul after the death of the
body, is an effect of the Divine Omnipotence: but this is supporting an
absurdity by a gratuitous hypothesis. It surely is not meant by Divine
Omnipotence, of whatever nature it may be supposed, that a thing shall
exist and not exist at the same time: unless this be granted, it will be
rather difficult to prove, that a soul shall feel and think without the
intermediates necessary to thought.

Let them then, at least, forbear asserting, that reason is not wounded
by the doctrine of the immortality of the soul; or by the expectation of
a future life. These notions, formed to flatter man, to disturb the
imagination of the uninformed, who do not reason, cannot appear either
convincing or probable to enlightened minds. Reason, exempted from the
illusions of prejudice, is, without doubt, wounded by the supposition of
a soul, that feels, that thinks, that is afflicted, that rejoices, that
has ideas, without having organs; that is to say, destitute of the only
known medium, wanting all the natural means, by which, according to what
we can understand, it is possible for it to feel sensations, have
perceptions, or form ideas. If it he replied, other means are able to
exist, which are _supernatural_ or _unknown_, it may be answered, that
these means of transmitting ideas to the soul, separated from the body,
are not better known to, or more within the reach of, those who suppose
it, that they are of other men. It is, at least, very certain, it cannot
admit even of a controversy, that all those who reject the system of
innate ideas, cannot, without contradicting their own principles, admit
the doctrine of the immortality of the soul.

In defiance of the consolation that so many persons pretend to find in
the notion of an eternal existence; in despite of that firm persuasion
which such numbers of men assure us they have, that their souls will
survive their bodies, they seem so very much alarmed at the dissolution
of this body, that they do not contemplate their end, which they ought
to desire as the period of so many miseries, but with the greatest
inquietude; so true it is, that the real, the present, even accompanied
with pain, has much more influence over mankind, than the most beautiful
chimeras of the future; which he never views but through the clouds of
uncertainty. Indeed the most religious men, notwithstanding the
conviction they express of a blessed eternity, do not find these
flattering hopes sufficiently consoling to repress their fears; to
prevent their trembling, when they think on the necessary dissolution of
their bodies. Death was always, for mortals, the most frightful point of
view; they regard it as a strange phenomenon, contrary to the order of
things, opposed to Nature; in a word, as an effect of the celestial
vengeance, as the _wages of sin_. Although every thing proves to man
that death is inevitable, he is never able to familiarize himself with
its idea; he never thinks on it without shuddering; the assurance of
possessing an immortal soul but feebly indemnifies him for the grief he
feels in the deprivation of his perishable body. Two causes contribute
to strengthen his fears, to nourish his alarm; the one is, that this
death, commonly accompanied with pain, wrests from him an existence that
pleases him--with which he is acquainted--to which he is accustomed; the
other is the uncertainty of the state that must succeed his actual

The illustrious Bacon has said, that "men fear death for the same reason
that children dread being alone in darkness." Man naturally challenges
every thing with which he is unacquainted; he is desirous to see clearly
to the end, that he may guarantee himself against those objects which
may menace his safety; that he may also be enabled to procure for
himself those which may be useful to him; the man who exists cannot form
to himself any idea of non-existence; as this circumstance disturbs him,
for want of experience, his imagination sets to work; this points out to
him, either well or ill, this uncertain state: accustomed to think, to
feel, to be stimulated into activity, to enjoy society, he contemplates
as the greatest misfortune, a dissolution that will strip him of these
objects, that will deprive him of those sensations which his present
nature has rendered necessary to him; he views with dismay a situation
that will prevent his being warned of his own existence--that shall
bereave him of his pleasures--to plunge him into nothing. In supposing
it even exempt from pain, he always looks upon this nothing as an
afflicting solitude--as an heap of profound darkness; he sees himself in
a state of general desolation; destitute of all assistance; and he feels
keenly all the rigour of this frightful situation. But does not a
profound sleep help to give him a true idea of this nothing? Does not
that deprive him of every thing? Does it not appear to annihilate the
universe to him, and him to the universe? Is death any thing more than a
profound, a permanent steep? It is for want of being able to form an
idea of death that man dreads it; if he could figure to himself a true
image of this state of annihilation, he would from thence cease to fear
it; but he is not able to conceive a state in which there is no feeling;
he therefore believes, that when he shall no longer exist, he will have
the same feelings, the same consciousness of things, which, during his
existence, appear so sad to his mind; which his fancy paints in such
gloomy colours. Imagination pictures to him his funeral pomp--the grave
they are digging for him--the lamentations that will accompany him to
his last abode-the epicedium that surviving friendship may dictate; he
persuades himself that these melancholy objects will affect him as
painfully even after his decease, as they do in his present condition,
in which he is in full possession of his senses.

Mortal, led astray by fear! after thy death thine eyes will see no more;
thine ears will hear no longer; in the depth of thy grave thou wilt no
more be witness to this scene, which thine imagination, at present,
represents to thee under such dismal colours; thou wilt no longer take
part in what shall he done in the world; thou wilt no more be occupied
with what may befal thine inanimate remains, than thou wast able to be
the day previous to that which ranked thee among the beings of thy
species. To die is to cease to think; to lack feeling; no longer to
enjoy; to find a period to suffering; thine ideas will perish with thee;
thy sorrows will not follow thee to the silent tomb. Think of death, not
to feed thy fears--not to nourish thy melancholy--but to accustom
thyself to look upon it with a peaceable eye; to cheer thee up against
those false terrors with which the enemies to thy repose labour to
inspire thee! The fears of death are vain illusions, that must
disappear as soon as we learn to contemplate this necessary event under
its true point of view. A great man has defined philosophy to be _a
meditation on death;_ he is not desirous by that to have it understood
that man ought to occupy himself sorrowfully with his end, with a view
to nourish his fears; on the contrary, he wishes to invite him to
familiarize himself with an object that Nature has rendered necessary to
him; to accustom himself to expect it with a serene countenance. If life
is a benefit, if it be necessary to love it, it is no less necessary to
quit it; reason ought to teach him a calm resignation to the decrees of
fate: his welfare exacts that he should contract the habit of
contemplating with placidity, of viewing without alarm, an event that
his essence has rendered inevitable: his interest demands that he should
not brood gloomily over his misfortune; that he should not, by continual
dread, embitter his life; the charms of which he must inevitably
destroy, if he can never view its termination but with trepidation.
Reason and his interest then, concur to assure him against those vague
terrors with which his imagination inspires him, in this respect. If he
was to call them to his assistance, they would reconcile him to an
object that only startles him, because he has no knowledge of it;
because it is only shewn to him with those hideous accompaniments with
which it is clothed by superstition. Let him then, endeavour to despoil
death of these vain illusions, and he will perceive that it is only the
sleep of life; that this sleep will not be disturbed with disagreeable
dreams; that an unpleasant awakening is never likely to follow it. To
die is to sleep; it is to enter into that state of insensibility in
which he was previous to his birth; before he had senses; before he was
conscious of his actual existence. Laws, as necessary as those which
gave him birth, will make him return into the bosom of Nature, from
whence he was drawn, in order to reproduce him afterwards under some new
form, which it would he useless for him to know: without consulting him,
Nature places him for a season in the order of organized beings; without
his consent, she will oblige him to quit it, to occupy some other order.

Let him not complain then, that Nature is callous; she only makes him
undergo a law from which she does not exempt any one being she contains.
Man complains of the short duration of life--of the rapidity with which
time flies away; yet the greater number of men do not know how to employ
either time or life. If all are born and perish--if every thing is
changed and destroyed--if the birth of a being is never more than the
first step towards its end; how is it possible to expect that man, whose
machine is so frail, of which the parts are so complicated, the whole of
which possesses such extreme mobility, should be exempted from the
common law; which decrees, that even the solid earth he inhabits shall
experience change--shall undergo alteration--perhaps be destroyed!
Feeble, frail mortal! Thou pretendest to exist for ever; whit thou,
then, that for thee alone eternal Nature shall change her undeviating
course? Dost thou not behold in those eccentric comets with which thine
eyes are sometimes astonished, that the planets themselves are subject
to death? Live then in peace for the season that Nature permits thee; if
thy mind be enlightened by reason thou wilt die without terror!

Notwithstanding the simplicity of these reflections; nothing is more
rare than the sight of men truly fortified against the fears of death:
the wise man himself turns pale at its approach; he has occasion to
collect the whole force of his mind, to expect it with serenity. It
cannot then, furnish matter for surprise, if the idea of death is so
revolting to the generality of mortals; it terrifies the young--it
redoubles the chagrin of the middle-aged--it even augments the sorrow of
the old, who are worn down with infirmity: indeed the aged, although
enfeebled by time, dread it much more than the young, who are in the
full vigour of life; the man of many lustres is more accustomed to live
years as they roll over his head, confirm his attachment to existence;
nevertheless, long unwearied exertions weaken the powers of his mind;
labour, sickness, and pain, waste his animal strength; he has less
energy; his volition becomes faint, superstitious terrors easily appal
him; at length disease consumes him; sometimes with excruciating
tortures: the unhappy wretch, thus plunged into misfortune, has,
notwithstanding, scarcely ever dared to contemplate death; which he
ought to consider as the period to all his anguish.

If the source of this pusillanimity be sought, it will be found in his
nature, which attaches him to life; in that deficiency of energy in his
soul, which hardly any thing tends to corroborate, but which every thing
strives to enfeeble: which superstition, instead of strengthening,
contributes to bruise. Almost all human institutions, nearly all the
opinions of man, conspire to augment his fears; to render his ideas of
death more terrible; to make them more revolting to his feelings.
Indeed, superstition pleases itself with exhibiting death under the most
frightful traits: it represents it to man under the most disgusting
colours; as a dreadful moment, which not only puts an end to his
pleasures, but gives him up without defence to the strange rigour of a
pitiless decree, which nothing can soften. According to this
superstition, the most virtuous man has reason to tremble for the
severity of his fate; is never certain of being happy; the most dreadful
torments, endless punishments, await the victim to involuntary weakness;
to the necessary faults of a short-lived existence; his infirmities, his
momentary offences, the propensities that have been planted in his
heart, the errors of his mind, the opinions he has imbibed, even in the
society in which he was born without his own consent, the ideas he has
formed, the passions he has indulged above all, his not being able to
comprehend all the extravagant dogmas offered to his acceptance, are to
be implacably avenged with the most severe and never-ending penalties.
Ixion is for ever fastened to his wheel; Sisyphus must to all eternity
roll his stone without ever being able to reach the apex of his
mountain; the vulture must perpetually prey on the liver of the
unfortunate Prometheus: those who dare to think for themselves--those
who have refused to listen to their enthusiastic guides--those who have
not reverenced the oracles--those who have had the audacity to consult
their reason--those who have boldly ventured to detect impostors--those
who have doubted the divine mission of the Phythonissa--those who
believe that Jupiter violated decency in his visit to Danae--those who
look upon Apollo as no better than a strolling musician--those who think
that Mahomet was an arch knave--are to smart everlastingly in flaming
oceans of burning sulpher; are to float to all eternity in the most
excruciating agonies on seas of liquid brimstone, wailing and gnashing
their teeth: what wonder, then, if man dreads to be cast into these
hideous gulfs; if his mind loathes the horrific picture; if he wishes to
defer for a season these dreadful punishments; if he clings to an
existence, painful as it may be, rather than encounter such revolting

Such, then, are the afflicting objects with which superstition occupies
its unhappy, its credulous disciples; such are the fears which the
tyrant of human thoughts points out to them as salutary. In defiance Of
the exility of the effect which these notions produce oil the greater
number, even of those who say they are, or who believe themselves
persuaded, they are held forth as the most powerful rampart that can be
opposed to the irregularities of man. Nevertheless, as will be seen
presently, it will be found that these systems, or rather these
chimeras, so terrible to behold, operate little or nothing on the larger
portion of mankind, who dream of them but seldom, never in the moment
that passion, interest, pleasure, or example, hurries them along. If
these fears act, it is commonly on those, who have but little occasion
to abstain from evil; they make honest hearts tremble, but fail of
effect on the perverse. They torment sensible souls, but leave those
that are hardened in repose; they disturb tractable, gentle minds, but
cause no trouble to rebellious spirits: thus they alarm none but those
who are already sufficiently alarmed; they coerce only those who are
already restrained.

These notions, then, impress nothing on the wicked; when by accident
they do act on them, it is only to redouble the wickedness of their
natural character--to justify them in their own eyes--to furnish them
with pretexts to exercise it without fear--to follow it without scruple.
Indeed, the experience of a great number of ages has shewn to what
excess of wickedness, to what lengths, the passions of man have carried
him, when they have been authorized by the priesthood--when they have
been unchained by superstition--or, at least, when he has been enabled
to cover himself with its mantle. Man has never been more ambitious,
never more covetous, never more crafty, never more cruel, never more
seditious, than when he has persuaded himself that superstition
permitted or commanded him to be so: thus, superstition did nothing more
than lend an invincible force to his natural passions, which under its
sacred auspices he could exercise with impunity, indulge without
remorse; still more, the greatest villains, in giving free vent to the
detestable propensities of their natural wickedness, have under its
influence believed, that, by displaying an over-heated zeal, they
merited well of heaven; that they exempted themselves by new crimes,
from that chastisement which they thought their anterior conduct had
richly merited.

These, then, are the effects which what are called the _salutary_
notions of superstition, produce on mortals. These reflections will
furnish an answer to those who say that, "If heaven was promised equally
to the wicked as to the righteous, there would be found none incredulous
of another life." We reply, that, in point of fact, superstition does
accord heaven to the wicked, since it frequently places in this happy
abode the most useless, the most depraved of men. Is not Mahomet himself
enthroned in the empyrean by this superstition? If the calendar of the
Romish saints was examined, would it be found to contain none but
righteous, none but good men? Does not Mahometanism cut off from all
chance of future existence, consequently from all hope of reaching
heaven, the female part of mankind? Have the Jews exalted no one to the
celestial regions, save the virtuous? When the Jew is condemned to the
devouring flames, do not the men who thus torture an unhappy wretch,
whose only crime is adherence to the religion of his forefathers, expect
to be rewarded for the deed with everlasting happiness? Are they not
promised eternal salvation for their orthodoxy? Was Constantine, was St.
Cyril, was St. Athanasius, was St. Dominic, worthy beatification? Were
Jupiter, Thor, Mercury, Woden, and a thousand others, deserving of
celestial diadems? Is erring, feeble man, with all his imbecilities,
competent to form a judgment of the heavenly deserts of his fellows? Can
be, with his dim optics, with his limited vision, fathom the human
heart? Can he sound its depths, trace its meanderings, dive into its
recesses, with sufficient precision, to determine who amongst his race
is or is not possessed of the requisite merit to enjoy a blessed
eternity? Thus wicked men are held up as models by superstition, which
as we shall see, sharpens the passions of evil-disposed men, by
legitimating those crimes, at which, without this sanction, they would
shudder; which they would fear to commit; or for which, at least, they
would feel shame; for which they would experience remorse. In short, the
ministers of superstition furnish to the most profligate men the power
of indulging their inflamed passions, and then hold forth to them means
of diverting from their own heads the thunderbolt that should strike
their crimes, by spreading before them fresh incentives to intolerant
persecution, with the promise of a never-fading happiness.

With respect to the incredulous, without doubt, there may be amongst
them wicked men, as well as amongst the most credulous; but incredulity
no more supposes wickedness, than credulity supposes righteousness. On
the contrary, the man who thinks, who meditates, knows far better the
true motives to goodness, than he who suffers himself to be blindly
guided by uncertain motives, or by the interest of others. Sensible men
have the greatest advantage in examining opinions, which it is pretended
must have an influence over their eternal happiness: if these are found
false, if they appear injurious to their present life, they will not
therefore conclude, that they have not another life either to fear or to
hope; that they are permitted to deliver themselves up with impunity to
vice, which would do an injury to themselves, that would draw upon them
the contempt of their neighbour, which would subject them to the anger
of society: the man who does not expect another life, is only more
interested in prolonging his existence in this; in rendering himself
dear to his fellows, by cultivating virtue; by performing all his duties
with more strictness, in the only life of which be has any knowledge: he
has made a great stride towards felicity, in disengaging himself from
those terrors which afflict others, which frequently prevent their
acting. Such a man has nothing to fear, but every thing to hope; if,
contrary to what he is able to judge, there should be an hereafter
existence, will not his actions have been so regulated by virtue, will
he not have so comported himself in his present existence, as to stand a
fair chance of enjoying in their fullest extent those felicities
prepared for his species?

_Superstition_, in fact, takes a pride in rendering man slothful, in
moulding him to credulity, in making him pusillanimous. It is its
principle to afflict him without intermission; to redouble in him the
horrors of death: ever ingenious in tormenting him, it has extended his
inquietudes beyond even his own existence; its ministers, the more
securely to dispose of him in this world, invented, in future regions, a
variety of rewards and punishments, reserving to themselves the
privilege of awarding these heavenly recompences to those who yielded
most implicitly to their arbitrary laws; of decreeing punishment to
those refractory beings who rebelled against their power: thus,
according to them, Tantalus for divulging their secrets, must eternally
fear, engulphed in burning sulphur, the stone ready to fall on his
devoted head; whilst Romulus was beatified and worshipped as a god under
the name of Quirinus. The same system of superstition caused the
philosopher Callisthenes to be put to death, for opposing the worship of
Alexander; and elevated the monk Athanasius to be a saint in heaven. Far
from holding forth consolation to mortals, far from cultivating man's
reason, far from teaching him to yield under the hands of necessity,
superstition, in a great many countries, strives to render death still
more bitter to him; to make its yoke sit heavy; to fill up its retinue
with a multitude of hideous phantoms; to paint it in the most frightful
colours; to render its approach terrible: by this means it has crowded
the world with enthusiasts, whom it seduces by vague promises; with
contemptible slaves, whom it coerces with the fear of imaginary evils:
it has at length persuaded man, that his actual existence is only a
journey, by which he will arrive at a more important life: this
doctrine, whether it be rational or irrational, prevents him from
occupying himself with his true happiness; from even dreaming of
ameliorating his institutions, of improving his laws, of advancing the
progress of science, of perfectioning his morals. Vain and gloomy ideas
have absorbed his attention: he consents to groan under fanatical
tyranny--to writhe under political inflictions--to live in error--to
languish in misfortune--in the hope, when he shall be no more, of being
one day happier; in the firm confidence, that after he has disappeared,
his calamities, his patience, will conduct him to a never-ending
felicity: he has believed himself submitted to cruel priests, who are
willing to make him purchase his future welfare at the expence of every
thing most dear to his peace, most valuable to his existence here below:
they have pictured heaven as irritated against him, as disposed to
appease itself by punishing him eternally, for any efforts he should
make to withdraw himself from, their power. It is thus the doctrine of a
future life has been made fatal to the human species: it plunged whole
nations into sloth, made them languid, filled them with indifference to
their present welfare, or else precipitated them, into the most furious
enthusiasm, which hurried them on to such lengths that they tore each
other in pieces in order to merit the promised heaven.

It will be asked, perhaps, by what road has man been conducted to form
to himself these gratuitous ideas of another world? I reply, that it is
a truth man has no idea of a future life, they are the ideas of the past
and the present that furnish his imagination with the materials of which
he constructs the edifice of the regions of futurity. Hobbes says, "We
believe that, that which is will always be, and that the same causes
will have the same effects." Man in his actual state, has two modes of
feeling, one that he approves, another that he disapproves: thus,
persuaded that these two modes of feeling must accompany him, even
beyond his present existence, he placed in the regions of eternity two
distinguished abodes, one destined to felicity, the other to misery: the
one must contain those who obey the calls of superstition, who believe
in its dogmas; the other is a prison, destined to avenge the cause of
heaven, on all those who shall not faithfully believe the doctrines
promulgated by the ministers of a vast variety of superstitions. Has
sufficient attention been paid to the fact that results as a necessary
consequence from this reasoning; which on examination will be found to
have rendered the first place entirely useless, seeing, that by the
number and contradiction of these various systems, let man believe which
ever he may, let him follow it in the most faithful manner, still he
must he ranked as an infidel, as a rebel to the Divinity, because he
cannot believe in all; and those from which he dissents, by a
consequence of their own creed, condemn him to the prison-house?

Such is the origin of the ideas upon a future life, so diffused among
mankind. Every where may be seen an Elysium and a Tartarus; a Paradise
and a Hell; in a word, two distinguished abodes, constructed according
to the imagination of the enthusiasts who have invented them, who have
accommodated them to their own peculiar prejudices, to the hopes, to the
fears, of the people who believe in them. The Indian figures the first
of these abodes as one of in-action, of permanent repose, because, being
the inhabitant of a hot climate, he has learned to contemplate rest as
the extreme of felicity: the Mussulman promises himself corporeal
pleasures, similar to those that actually constitute the object of his
research in this life: each figures to himself, that on which he has
learned to set the greatest value.

Of whatever nature these pleasures may be, man apprehended that a body
was needful, in order that his soul might be enabled to enjoy the
pleasures, or to experience the pains in reserve for him: from hence the
doctrine of the _resurrection_; but as he beheld this body putrify, as
he saw it dissolve, as he witnessed its decomposition, after death, he
was at a loss how to form anew what he conceived so necessary to his
system he therefore had recourse to the Divine Omnipotence, by whose
interposition he now believes it will he effected. This opinion, so
incomprehensible, is said to have originated in Persia, among the Magi,
and finds a great number of adherents, who have never given it a serious
examination: but the doctrine of the resurrection appears perfectly
useless to all those, who believe in the existence of a soul that feels,
thinks, suffers, and enjoys, after a separation from the body: indeed,
there are already sects who begin to maintain, that the body is not
necessary; that therefore it will not be resurrected. Like Berkeley,
they conceive that "the soul has need neither of body nor any exterior
being, either to experience sensations, or to have ideas:" the
Malebranchists, in particular, must suppose that the rejected souls will
see every thing in the Divinity; will feel themselves burn, without
having occasion for bodies for that purpose. Others, incapable of
elevating themselves to these sublime notions, believed, that under
divers forms, man animated successively different animals of various
species; that he never ceased to be an inhabitant of the earth; such was
the opinion of those who adopted the doctrine of Metempsychosis.

As for the miserable abode of souls, the imagination of fanatics, who
were desirous of governing the people, strove to assemble the most
frightful images, to render it still more terrible: fire is of all
beings that which produces in man the most pungent sensation; not
finding any thing more cruel, the enemies to the several dogmas were to
be everlastingly punished with this torturing element: fire, therefore,
was the point at which their imagination was obliged to stop. The
ministers of the various systems agreed pretty generally, that fire
would one day avenge their offended divinities: thus they painted the
victims to the anger of the gods, or rather those who questioned their
own creeds, as confined in fiery dungeons, as perpetually rolling in a
vortex of bituminous flames, as plunged in unfathomable gulphs of liquid
sulphur, making the infernal caverns resound with their useless
groanings, with their unavailing gnashing of teeth.

But it will, perhaps, be enquired, how could man reconcile himself to
the belief of an existence accompanied with eternal torments; above all,
as many according to their own superstitions had reason to fear it for
themselves? Many causes have concurred to make him adopt so revolting an
opinion: in the first place, very few thinking men have ever believed
such an absurdity, when they have deigned to make use of their reason;
or, when they have accredited it, this notion was always counterbalanced
by the idea of the goodness, by a reliance on the mercy, which they
attributed to their respective divinities: in the second place, those
who were blinded by their fears, never rendered to themselves any
account of these strange doctrines, which they either received with awe
from their legislators, or which were transmitted to them by their
fathers: in the third place, each sees the object of his terrors only at
a favourable distance: moreover, superstition promises him the means of
escaping the tortures he believes he has merited. At length, like those
sick people whom we see cling with fondness, even to the most painful
life, man preferred the idea of an unhappy, though unknown existence, to
that of non-existence, which he looked upon as the most frightful evil
that could befal him; either because he could form no idea of it, or
because his imagination painted to him this non-existence this nothing,
as the confused assemblage of all evils. A known evil, of whatever
magnitude, alarmed him less (above all, when there remained the hope of
being able to avoid it), than an evil of which he knew nothing, upon
which, consequently, his imagination was painfully employed, but to
which he knew not how to oppose a remedy.

It will be seen, then, that _superstition_, far from consoling man upon
the necessity of death, only redoubles his terrors, by the evils with
which it pretends his decease will be followed; these terrors are so
strong, that the miserable wretches who believe strictly in these
formidable doctrines, pass their days in affliction, bathed in the most
bitter tears. What shall be said of an opinion so destructive to
society, yet adopted by so many nations, which announces to them, that a
severe fate may at each instant take them unprovided; that at each
moment they are liable to pass under the most rigorous judgment? What
idea can be better suited to terrify man--what more likely to discourage
him--what more calculated to damp the desire of ameliorating his
condition--than the afflicting prospect of a world always on the brink
of dissolution; of a Divinity seated upon the ruins of Nature, ready to
pass judgment on the human species? Such are, nevertheless, the fatal
opinions with which the mind of nations has been fed for thousands of
years: they are so dangerous, that if by a happy want of just inference,
he did not derogate in his conduct from these afflicting ideas, he would
fall into the most abject stupidity. How could man occupy himself with a
perishable world, ready every moment to crumble into atoms? How dream of
rendering himself happy on earth, when it is only the porch to an
eternal kingdom? Is it then, surprising, that the superstitions to which
similar doctrines serve for a basis, have prescribed to their disciples
a total detachment from things below--an entire renunciation of the most
innocent pleasures; have given birth to a sluggishness, to a
pusillanimity, to an abjection of soul, to an insociability, that
renders him useless to himself, dangerous to others? If necessity did
not oblige man to depart in his practice from these irrational systems--
if his wants did not bring him back to reason, in despite of these
superstitious doctrines--the whole world would presently become a vast
desert, inhabited by some few isolated savages, who would not even have
courage to multiply themselves. What are these, but notions which he
must necessarily put aside, in order that human association may subsist?

Nevertheless, the doctrine of a future life, accompanied with rewards
and punishments, has been regarded for a great number of ages as the
most powerful, or even as the only motive capable of coercing the
passions of man; as the sole means that can oblige him to be virtuous:
by degrees, this doctrine has become the basis of almost all religions
and political systems, so much so, that at this day it is said, this
prejudice cannot be attacked without absolutely rending asunder the
bonds of society. The founders of superstition have made use of it to
attach their credulous disciples; legislators have looked upon it as the
curb best calculated to keep mankind under discipline; religion
considers it necessary to his happiness; many philosophers themselves
have believed with sincerity, that this doctrine was requisite to
terrify man, was the only means to divert him from crime:
notwithstanding, when the doctrine of the immortality of the soul first
came out of the school of Plato; when it first diffused itself among the
Greeks, it caused the greatest ravages; it determined a multitude of
men, who were discontented with their condition, to terminate their
existence: Ptolemy Philadelphus, king of Egypt, seeing the effect this
doctrine, which at the present day is looked upon as so salutary,
produced on the brains of his subjects, prohibited the teaching of it
under the penalty of death.

It must, indeed, be allowed that this doctrine has been of the greatest
utility to those who have given superstitions to nations, who at the
same time made themselves its ministers; it was the foundation of their
power, the source of their wealth, the permanent cause of that
blindness, the solid basis of those terrors, which it was their interest
to nourish in the human race. It was by this doctrine the priest became
first the rival, then the master of kings: it is by this dogma that
nations are filled with enthusiasts inebriated with superstition, always
more disposed to listen to its menaces, than to the counsels of reasons,
to the orders of the sovereign, to the cries of Nature, or to the laws
of society. Politics itself was enslaved to the caprice of the priest;
the temporal monarch was obliged to bend under the yoke of the monarch
of superstition; the one only disposed of this perishable world, the
other extended his power into the world to come; much more important for
man than the earth, on which he is only a pilgrim, a mere passenger.
Thus the doctrine of another life placed the government itself in a
state of dependance upon the priest; the monarch was nothing more than
his first subject; he was never obeyed, but when the two were in accord.
Nature in vain cried out to man, to be careful of his present happiness;
the priest ordered him to be unhappy, in the expectation of future
felicity; reason in vain exhorted him to be peaceable; the priest
breathed forth fanaticism, fulminated fury, obliged him to disturb the
public tranquillity, every time there was a question of the supposed
interests of the invisible monarch of another life, and the real
interests of his ministers in this.

Such is the fruit that politics has gathered from the doctrine of a
future life; the regions of the world to come have enabled the
priesthood to conquer the present world. The expectation of celestial
happiness, and the dread of future tortures, only served to prevent man
from seeking after the means to render himself happy here below. Thus
error, under whatever aspect it is considered, will never be more than a
source of evil for mankind. The doctrine of another life, in presenting
to mortals an ideal happiness, will render them enthusiasts; in
overwhelming them with fears, it will make useless beings; generate
cowards; form atrabilarious or furious men; who will lose sight of their
present abode, to occupy themselves with the pictured regions of a world
to come, with those dreadful evils which they must fear after their

If it be insisted that the doctrine of future rewards and punishments is
the most powerful curb to restrain the passions of man, we shall reply
by calling in daily experience. If we only cast our eyes around, if for
a moment we examine what passes in review before us, we shall see this
assertion contradicted; we shall find that these marvellous speculations
do not in any manner diminish the number of the wicked, because they are
incapable of changing the temperament of man, of annihilating those
passions which the vices of society engender in his heart. In those
nations who appear the most thoroughly convinced of this future
punishment, may be seen assassins, thieves, crafty knaves, oppressors,
adulterers, voluptuaries; all these pretend they are firmly persuaded of
the reality of an hereafter; yet in the whirlwind of dissipation, in the
vortex of pleasure, in the fury of their passions, they no longer behold
this formidable future existence, which in those moments has no kind of
influence over their earthly conduct.

In short, in many of those countries where the doctrine of another life
is so firmly established, that each individual irritates himself against
whoever may have the temerity to combat the opinion, or even to doubt
it, we see that it is utterly incapable of impressing any thing on
rulers who are unjust, who are negligent of the welfare of their people,
who are, debauched, on courtezans who are lewd in their habits, on
covetous misers, on flinty extortioners who fatten on the substance of a
nation, on women without modesty, on a vast multitude of drunken,
intemperate, vicious men, on great numbers even amongst those priests,
whose function it is to preach this future state, who are paid to
announce the vengeance of heaven, against vices which they themselves
encourage by their example. If it be enquired of them, how they dare to
give themselves up to such scandalous actions, which they ought to know
are certain to draw upon them eternal punishment? They will reply, that
the madness of their passions, the force of their habits, the contagion
of example, or even the power of circumstances, have hurried them along;
have made them forget the dreadful consequences in which their conduct
is likely to involve them; besides, they will say, that the treasures of
the divine mercy are infinite; that repentance suffices to efface the
foulest transgressions; to cleanse the blackest guilt; to blot out the
most enormous crimes: in this multitude of wretched beings, who each
after his own manner desolates society with his criminal pursuits, you
will find only a small number who are sufficiently intimidated by the
fears of the miserable hereafter, to resist their evil propensities.
What did I say? These propensities are in themselves too weak to carry
them forward without the aid of the doctrine of another life; without
this, the law and the fear of censure would have been motives sufficient
to prevent them from rendering themselves criminal.

It is indeed, fearful, timorous souls, upon whom the terrors of another
life make a profound impression; human beings of this sort come into the
world with moderate passions, are of a weakly organization, possess a
cool imagination; it is not therefore surprising, that in such men, who
are already restrained by their nature, the fear of future punishment
counterbalances the weak efforts of their feeble passions; but it is by
no means the same with those determined sinners, with those hardened
criminals, with those men who are habitually vicious, whose unseemly
excesses nothing can arrest, who in their violence shut their eyes to
the fear of the laws of this world, despising still more those of the
other. Nevertheless, how many persons say they are, and even believe
themselves, restrained by the fears of the life to come? But, either
they deceive us, or they impose upon themselves, by attributing to these
fears, that which is only the effect of motives much nearer at hand;
such as the feebleness of their machine, the mildness of their
temperament, the slender energy of their souls, their natural timidity,
the ideas imbibed in their education, the fear of consequences
immediately resulting from criminal actions, the physical evils
attendant on unbridled irregularities: these are the true motives that
restrain them; not the notions of a future life: which men, who say they
are most firmly persuaded of its existence, forget whenever a powerful
interest solicits them to sin. If for a time man would pay attention to
what passes before his eyes, he would perceive that he ascribes to the
fear of the gods that which is in reality only the effect of peculiar
weakness, of pusillanimity, of the small interest found to commit evil:
these men would not act otherwise than they do, if they had not this
fear before them; if, therefore he reflected, he would feel that it is
always necessity that makes men act as they do.

Man cannot be restrained, when he does not find within himself motives
sufficiently powerful to conduct him back to reason. There is nothing,
either in this world or in the other, that can render him virtuous, when
an untoward organization--a mind badly cultivated--a violent
imagination--inveterate habits--fatal examples--powerful interests--
invite him from every quarter to the commission of crime. No
speculations are capable of restraining the man who braves public
opinion, who despises the law, who is careless of its censure, who turns
a deaf ear to the cries of conscience, whose power in this world places
him out of the reach of punishment; in the violence of his transports,
he will fear still less a distant futurity, of which the idea always
recedes before that which he believes necessary to his immediate
interests, consistent with his present happiness. All lively passions
blind man to every thing that is not its immediate object; the terrors
of a future life, of which his passions always possess the secret to
diminish to him the probability, can effect nothing upon the wicked man,
who does not fear even the much nearer punishment of the law; who sets
at nought the assured hatred of those by whom he is surrounded. Man,
when he delivers himself up to crime, sees nothing certain except the
supposed advantage which attends it; the rest always appear to him
either false or problematical.

If man would but open his eyes, even for a moment, he would clearly
perceive, that to effect any thing upon hearts hardened by crime, he
must not reckon upon the chastisement of an avenging Divinity, which the
self-love natural to man always shews him as pacified in the long run.
He who has arrived at persuading himself he cannot be happy without
crime, will always readily deliver himself up to it, notwithstanding the
menaces of religion. Whoever is sufficiently blind not to read his
infamy in his own heart, to see his own vileness in the countenances of
his associates, his own condemnation in the anger of his fellow-men, his
own unworthiness in the indignation of the judges established to punish
the offences he may commit: such a man, I say, will never feel the
impression his crimes shall make on the features of a judge, that is
either hidden from his view, or that he only contemplates at a distance.
The tyrant who with dry eyes can hear the cries of the distressed, who
with callous heart can behold the tears of a whole people, of whose
misery he is the cause, will not see the angry countenance of a more
powerful master: like another Menippus, he may indeed destroy himself
from desperation, to avoid reiterated reproach; which only proves, that
when a haughty, arrogant despot pretends to be accountable for his
actions to the Divinity alone, it is because he fears his nation more
than he does his God.

On the other hand, does not superstition itself, does not even religion,
annihilate the effects of those fears which it announces as salutary?
Does it not furnish its disciples with the means of extricating
themselves from the punishments with which it has so frequently menaced
them? Does it not tell them, that a steril repentance will, even at the
moment of death, disarm the celestial wrath; that it will purify the
filthy souls of sinners? Do not even the priests, in some superstitions,
arrogate to themselves the right of remitting to the dying the
punishment due to the crimes committed during the course of a disorderly
life? In short, do not the most perverse men, encouraged in iniquity,
countenanced in debauchery, upheld in crime, reckon, even to the last
moment, either upon the assistance of superstition, or upon the aid of
religion, that promises them the infallible means of reconciling
themselves to the Divinity, whom they have irritated; of avoiding the
rigorous punishments pronounced against their enormities?

In consequence of these notions, so favourable to the wicked, so
suitable to tranquillize their fears, we see that the hope of an easy
expiation, far from correcting man, engages him to persist, until death,
in the most crying disorders. Indeed, in despite of the numberless
advantages which he is assured flows from the doctrine of a life to
come, in defiance of its pretended efficacy to repress the passions of
men, do not the priests themselves, although so interested in the
maintenance of this system, every day complain of its insufficiency?
They acknowledge, that mortals, who from their infancy they have imbued
with these ideas, are not less hurried forward by their evil
propensities--less sunk in the vortex of dissipation--less the slaves to
their pleasures--less captivated by bad habits--less driven along by the
torrent of the world--less seduced by their present interest--which make
them forget equally the recompense and the chastisement of a future
existence. In a word, the interpreters of superstition, the ministers of
religion themselves, allow that their disciples, for the greater part,
conduct themselves in this world as if they had nothing either to hope
or fear in another.

In short, let it be supposed for a moment, that the doctrine of eternal
punishments was of some utility; that it really restrained a small
number of individuals; what are these feeble advantages compared to the
numberless evils that flow from it? Against one timid man whom this idea
restrains, there are thousands upon whom it operates nothing; there are
thousands whom it makes irrational; whom it renders savage persecutors;
whom it converts into fanatics; there are thousands whose mind it
disturbs; whom it diverts from their duties towards society; there are
an infinity whom it grievously afflicts, whom it troubles without
producing any real good for their associates.

Notwithstanding so many are inclined to consider those who do not fall
in with this doctrine as the enemies of society; it will be found on
examination that the wisest the most enlightened men of antiquity, as
well as many of the moderns, have believed not only that the soul is
material and perishes with the body, but also that they have attacked
without subterfuge the opinion of future everlasting punishments; it
will also be found that many of the systems, set up to establish the
immortality of the soul, are in themselves the best evidence that can be
adduced of the futility of this doctrine; if for a moment we only follow
up the natural the just inferences that are to be drawn from them. This
sentiment was far from being, as some have supposed, peculiar to the
Epicureans, it has been adopted by philosophers of all sects, by
Pythagoreans, by Stoics, by Peripatetics, by Academics; in short by the
most godly the most virtuous men of Greece and of Rome.

Pythagoras, according to Ovid, speaks strongly to the fact. Timaeus of
Locris, who was a Pythagorean, admits that the doctrine of future
punishments was fabulous, solely destined for the imbecility of the
uninformed; but little calculated for those who cultivate their reason.

Aristotle expressly says, that "man has neither good to hope nor evil to
fear after death."

Zeno, according to Cicero, supposed the soul to be an igneous substance,
from whence he concluded it destroyed itself.

Cicero, the philosophical orator, who was of the sect of Academics,
although he is not on all occasions, in accord with himself, treats
openly as fables the torments of Hell; and looks upon death as the end
of every thing for man.

Seneca, the philosopher, is filled with passages which contemplate death
as a state of total annihilation, particularly in speaking of it to his
brother: and nothing can be more decisive of his holding this opinion,
than what he writes to Marcia, to console him.

Seneca, the tragedian, explains himself in the same manner as the

The Platonists, who made the soul immortal, could not have an idea of
future punishments, because the soul according to them was a portion of
the divinity which after the dissolution of the body it returned to

Epictetus has the same idea. In a passage reported by Arrian, he says,
"but where are you going? It cannot be to a place of suffering: you will
only return to the place from whence you came; you are about to be again
peaceably associated with the elements from which you are derived. That
which in your composition, is of the nature of fire, will return to the
element of fire; that which is of the nature of earth, will rejoin
itself to the earth; that which is air, will re-unite itself with air;
that which is water, will resolve itself into water; there is no Hell,
no Acheron, no Cocytus, no Phlegethon."

In another place he says, "the hour of death approaches; but do not
aggravate your evil, nor render things worse than they are: represent
them to yourself under their true point of view. The time is come when
the materials of which you are composed, go to resolve themselves into
the elements from whence they were originally borrowed. What is there
that is terrible or grievous in that? Is there any thing in the world
that perishes totally?"

The sage and pious Antoninus says, "he who fears death, either fears to
be deprived of all feeling, or dreads to experience different
sensations. If you lose all feeling, you will no longer be subject
either to pain or to misery. If you are provided with other senses of a
different nature, you will become a creature of a different species."
This great emperor further says, "that we must expect death with
tranquillity, seeing, that it is only a dissolution of the elements of
which each animal is composed."

To the evidence of so many great men of _Pagan antiquity_, may be
joined, that of the author of Ecclesiastes, who speaks of death, and of
the condition of the human soul, like an _epicurean_; he says, "for that
which befalleth the sons of men, befalleth beasts; even one thing
befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all
one breath: so that a man hath no pre-eminence above a beast; for all is
vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust
again." And further, "wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better
than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his
portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him."

In short, how can the utility or the necessity of this doctrine be
reconciled with the fact, that the great _legislator of the Jews_; who
is supposed to have been inspired by the Divinity, should have remained
silent on a subject, that is said to be of so much importance? In the
third chapter of Genesis it, is said, "In the sweat of thy face shalt
thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast
thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."


_Education, Morals, and the Laws suffice to restrain Man.--Of the desire
of Immortality.--Of Suicide._

It is not then in an ideal world, existing no where perhaps, but in the
imagination of man, that he must seek to collect motives calculated to
make him act properly in this; it is in the visible world that will be
found incitements to divert him from crime; to rouse him to virtue. It
is in Nature,--in experience,--in truth, that he must search out
remedies for the evils of his species; for motives suitable to infuse
into the human heart, propensities truely useful to society; calculated
to promote its advantage; to conduce to the end for which it was

If attention has been paid to what has been said In the course of this
work, it will he seen that above all it is _education_ that will best
furnish the true means of rectifying the errors, of recalling the
wanderings of mankind. It is this that should scatter the Seeds in his
heart; cultivate the tender shoots; make a profitable use of his
dispositions; turn to account those faculties, which depend on his
organization: which should cherish the fire of his imagination, kindle
it for useful objects; damp it, or extinguish it for others; in short,
it is this which should make sensible souls contract habits which are
advantageous for society and beneficial to the individual. Brought up in
this manner, man would not have occasion for celestial punishments, to
teach him the value of virtue; he would not need to behold burning
gulphs of brimstone under his feet, to induce him to feel horror for
crime; Nature without these fables, would teach much better what he owes
to himself; the law would point out what he owes to the body politic, of
which he is a member. It is thus, that education grounded upon utility,
would form valuable citizens to the state; the depositaries of power
would distinguish those whom education should have thus formed, by
reason of the advantages which they would procure for their country;
they would punish those who should be found injurious to it; it would
make the citizens see, that the promises of reward which education held
forth, the punishments denounced by morals, are by no means vain; that
in a state well constituted, _virtue_ is the true, the only road to
happiness; _talents_ the way to gain respect; that _inutility_ conducts
to misfortune: that _crime_ leads to contempt.

A just, enlightened, virtuous, and vigilant government, who should
honestly propose the public good, would have no occasion either for
fables or for falsehoods, to govern reasonable subjects; it would blush
to make use of imposture, to deceive its citizens; who, instructed in
their duties, would find their interest in submitting to equitable laws;
who would be capable of feeling the benefit these have the power of
conferring on them; it would feel, that habit is sufficient to inspire
them with horror, even for those concealed crimes that escape the eyes
of society; it would understand that the visible punishments of this
world impose much more on the generality of men, than those of an
uncertain and distant futurity: in short, it would ascertain that the
sensible benefits within the compass of the sovereign power to
distribute, touch the imagination of mortals more keenly, than those
vague recompences which are held forth to them in a future existence:
above all, it would discover that those on whom these distant advantages
do operate, would be still more attached to virtue by receiving their
reward both here and hereafter.

Man is almost every where so wicked, so corrupt, so rebellious to
reason, only because he is not governed according to his Nature, nor
properly instructed in her necessary laws: he is almost in every climate
fed with superstitious chimeras; submitted to masters who neglect his
instruction or who seek to deceive him. On the face of this globe, may
be frequently witnessed unjust sovereigns, who, enervated by luxury,
corrupted by flattery, depraved by licentiousness, made wicked by
impunity, devoid of talents, without morals, destitute of virtue, are
incapable of exerting any energy for the benefit of the states they
govern; they are consequently but little occupied with the welfare of
their people; indifferent to their duties; of which indeed they are
often ignorant. Such governors suffer their whole attention to be
absorbed by frivolous amusement; stimulated by the desire of continually
finding means to feed their insatiable ambition they engage in useless
depopulating wars; and never occupy their mind with those objects which
are the most important to the happiness of their nation: yet these weak
men feel interested in maintaining the received prejudices, and visit
with severity those who consider the means of curing them: in short
themselves deprived of that understanding, which teaches man that it is
his interest to be kind, just, and virtuous; they ordinarily reward only
those crimes which their imbecility makes them imagine as useful to
them; they generally punish those virtues which are opposed to their own
imprudent passions, but which reason would point out as truly beneficial
to their interests. Under such masters is it surprising that society
should be ravaged; that weak beings should be willing to imitate them;
that perverse men should emulate each other in oppressing its members;
in sacrificing its dearest interests; in despoiling its happiness? The
state of society in such countries, is a state of hostility of the
sovereign against the whole, of each of its members the one against the
other. Man is wicked, not because he is born so, but because he is
rendered so; the great, the powerful, crush with impunity the indigent
and the unhappy; these, at the risk of their lives seek to retaliate, to
render back the evil they have received: they attack either openly or in
secret a country, who to them is a step-mother, who gives all to some of
her children, and deprives the others of every thing: they punish it for
its partiality, and clearly shew that the motives borrowed from a life
hereafter are impotent against the fury of those passions to which a
corrupt administration has given birth; that the terror of the
punishments in this world are too feeble against necessity; against
criminal habits; against dangerous organization uncorrected by

In many countries the morals of the people are neglected; the government
is occupied only with rendering them timid; with making them miserable.
Man is almost every where a slave; it must then follow of necessity,
that he is base, interested, dissimulating, without honour, in a word
that he has the vices of the state of which he is a citizen. Almost
every where he is deceived; encouraged in ignorance; prevented from
cultivating his reason; of course he must be stupid, irrational, and
wicked almost every where he sees vice applauded, and crime honoured;
thence he concludes vice to be a good; virtue, only a useless sacrifice
of himself: almost every where he is miserable, therefore he injures his
fellow-men in a fruitless attempt to relieve his own anguish: it is in
vain to shew him heaven in order to restrain him; his views presently
descend again to earth; he is willing to be happy at any price;
therefore, the laws which have neither provided for his instruction,
for his morals, nor his happiness, menace him uselessly; he plunges on
in his pursuits, and these ultimately punish him, for the unjust
negligence of his legislators. If politics more enlightened, did
seriously occupy itself with the instruction, with the welfare of the
people; if laws were more equitable; if each society, less partial,
bestowed on its members the care, the education, and the assistance
which they have a right to expect; if governments less covetous, and
more vigilant, were sedulous to render their subjects more happy, there
would not be seen such numbers of malefactors, of robbers, of murderers,
who every where infest society; they would not be obliged to destroy
life, in order to punish wickedness; which is commonly ascribable to the
vices of their own institutions: it would be unnecessary to seek in
another life for fanciful chimeras, which always prove abortive against
the infuriate passions; against the real wants of man. In short, if the
people were instructed, they would be more happy; politics would no
longer be reduced to the exigency of deceiving them, in order to
restrain them; nor to destroy so many unfortunates, for having procured
necessaries, at the expence of their hard-hearted fellow-citizens.

When it shall be desired to enlighten man, let him always have truth
laid before him. Instead of kindling his imagination by the idea of
those punishments that a future state has in reserve for him, let him be
solaced--let him be succoured; or, at least, let him be permitted to
enjoy the fruit of his labour--let not his substance be ravished from
him by cruel imposts--let him not be discouraged from work, by finding
all his labour inadequate to support his existence; let him not be
driven into that idleness, that will surely lead him on to crime: let
him consider his present existence, without carrying his views to that
which may attend him after his death; let his industry be excited--let
his talents be rewarded--let him be rendered active, laborious,
beneficent, and virtuous, in the world he inhabits; let it be shewn to
him, that his actions are capable of having an influence over his
fellow-men. Let him not be menaced with the tortures of a future
existence when he shall be no more; let him behold society armed against
those who disturb its repose; let him see the consequence of the hatred
of his associates; let him learn to feel the value of their affection;
let him be taught to esteem himself; let him understand, that to obtain
it, he must have virtue; above all, that the virtuous man in society has
nothing to fear, but every thing to hope.

If it be desired to form honest, courageous, industrious citizens, who
may be useful to their country, let them beware of inspiring man from
his infancy with an ill-founded dread of death; of amusing his
imagination with marvellous fables; of occupying his mind with his
destiny in a future life, quite useless to be known, which has nothing
in common with his real felicity. Let them speak of immortality to
intrepid, noble souls; let them shew it as the price of their labours to
energetic minds, who are solely occupied with virtue; who springing
forward beyond the boundaries of their actual existence--who, little
satisfied with eliciting the admiration, with gaining the love of their
contemporaries, are will also to wrest the homage, to secure the
affection of future races. Indeed, this is an immortality to which
genius, talents, above all virtue, has a just right to pretend; do not
therefore let them censure--do not let them endeavour to stifle so noble
a passion in man; which is founded upon his nature; which is so
calculated to render him happy; from which society gather the most
advantageous fruits.

The idea of being buried in total oblivion, of having nothing in common
after his death with the beings of his species; of losing all
possibility of again having any influence over them, is a thought
extremely painful to man; it is above all afflicting to those who
possess an ardent imagination. The _desire of immortality_, or of living
in the memory of his fellow men, was always the passion of great souls;
it was the motive to the actions of all those who have played a great
part on the earth. _Heroes_ whether virtuous or criminal, _philosophers_
as well as _conquerors, men of genius_ and _men of talents_, those
sublime personages who have done honor to their species, as well as
those illustrious villains who have debased and ravaged it, have had an
eye to posterity in all their enterprises; have flattered themselves
with the hope of acting upon the souls of men, even when they themselves
should no longer exist. If man in general does not carry his views so
far, he is at least sensible to the idea of seeing himself regenerated
in his children; whom he knows are destined to survive him; to transmit
his name; to preserve his memory; to represent him in society; it is for
them that he rebuilds his cottage; it is for them that he plants the
tree which his eyes will never behold in its vigour; it is that they may
be happy that he labours. The sorrow which embitters the life of those
rich men, frequently so useless to the world, when they have lost the
hope of continuing their race, has its source in the fear of being
entirely forgotten: they feel that the useless man dies entirely. The
idea that his name will be in the mouths of men, the thought that it
will be pronounced with tenderness, that it will be recollected with
kindness, that it will excite in their hearts favourable sentiments, is
an illusion that is useful; is a vision suitable to flatter even those
who know that nothing will result from it. Man pleases himself with
dreaming that he shall have power, that he shall pass for something in
the universe, even after the term of his human existence; he partakes by
imagination in the projects, in the actions, in the discussions of
future ages, and would be extremely unhappy if he believed himself
entirely excluded from their society. The laws in all countries have
entered into these views; they have so far been willing to console their
citizens for the necessity of dying, by giving them the means of
exercising their will, even for a long time after their death: this
condescension goes to that length, that the dead frequently regulate the
condition of the living during a long series of years.

Every thing serves to prove the desire in man of surviving himself.
_Pyramids, mausoleums, monuments, epitaphs,_ all shew that he is willing
to prolong his existence even beyond his decease. He, is not insensible
to the judgment of posterity; it is for him the philosopher writes; it
is to astonish him that the monarch erects sumptuous edifices, gorgeous
palaces; it is his praises, it is his commendations, that the great man
already hears echo in his ears; it is to him that the virtuous citizen
appeals from unjust laws; from prejudiced contemporaries--happy chimera!
generous illusion! mild vision! its power is so consoling, so bland,
that it realizes itself to ardent imaginations; it is calculated to give
birth, to sustain, to nurture, to mature enthusiasm of genius, constancy
of courage, grandeur of soul, transcendency of talent; its force is so
gentle, its influence so pleasing, that it is sometimes able to repress
the vices, to restrain the excesses of the most powerful men; who are,
as experience has shewn, frequently very much disquieted for the
judgment of their posterity; from a conviction that this will sooner or
later avenge the living of the foul injustice which they may be inclined
to make them suffer.

No man, therefore, can consent to be entirely effaced from the
remembrance of his fellows; some men have not the temerity to place
themselves above the judgment of the future human species, to degrade
themselves in his eyes. Where is the being who is insensible to the
pleasure of exciting the tears of those who shall survive him; of again
acting upon their souls; of once more occupying their thoughts; of
exercising upon them his power even from the bottom of his grave? Let
then eternal silence be imposed upon those superstitious beings, upon
those melancholy men, upon those furious bigots, who censure a sentiment
from which society derives so many real advantages; let not mankind
listen to those passionless philosophers who are willing to smother this
great, this noble spring of his soul; let him not be seduced by the
sarcasms of those voluptuaries, who pretend to despise an immortality,
towards which they lack the power to set forward; the desire of pleasing
posterity, of rendering his name agreeable to generations yet to come,
is a respectable, a laudable motive, when it causes him to undertake
those things, of which the utility may be felt, of which the advantages
may have an influence not only over his contemporaries, but also over
nations who have not yet an existence. Let him not treat as irrational,
the enthusiasm of those beneficent beings, of those mighty geniuses, of
those stupendous talents, whose keen, whose penetrating regards, have
foreseen him even in their day; who have occupied themselves for him;
for his welfare; for his happiness; who have desired his suffrage; who
have written for him; who have enriched him by their discoveries; who
have cured him of some of his errors. Let him render them the homage
which they have expected at his hands; let him, at least, reverence
their memory for the benefits he has derived from them; let him treat
their mouldering remains with respect, for the pleasure he receives from
their labours; let him pay to their ashes a tribute of grateful
recollection, for the happiness they have been sedulous to procure for
him. Let him sprinkle with his tears, let him hallow with his
remembrance, let him consecrate with his finest sensibilities, the urns
of Socrates, of Phocion; of Archimedes; of Anaxarchus; let him wash out
the stain that their punishment has made on the human species; let him
expiate by his regret the Athenian ingratitude, the savage barbarity of
Nicocreon; let him learn by their example to dread superstitious
fanaticism; to hold political intolerance in abhorrence; let him fear to
harrass merit; let him be cautious how he insults virtue, in persecuting
those who may happen to differ from him in his prejudices.

Let him strew flowers over the tombs of an Homer--of a Tasso--of a
Shakespeare--of a Milton--of a Goldsmith; let him revere the immortal
shades of those happy geniuses, whose songs yet vibrate on his ears;
whose harmonious lays excite in his soul the most tender sentiments; let
him bless the memory of all those benefactors to the people, who were
the delight of the human race; let him adore the virtues Of a Titus--of
a Trajan--of an Antoninus--of a Julian: let him merit in his sphere, the
eulogies of future ages; let him always remember, that to carry with him
to the grave the regret of his fellow man, he must display talents;
evince integrity; practice virtue. The funeral ceremonies of the most
powerful monarchs, have rarely been wetted with the tears of the people,
they have commonly drained them while living. The names of tyrants
excite the horror of those who bear them pronounced. Tremble then cruel
kings! ye who plunge your subjects into misery; who bathe them with
bitter tears--who ravage nations--who deluge the land with the vital
stream--who change the fruitful earth into a barren cemetery; tremble
for the sanguinary traits under which the future historian will paint
you, to generations yet unborn: neither your splendid monuments--your
imposing victories--your innumerable armies, nor your sycophant
courtiers, can prevent posterity from avenging their grandfathers; from
insulting your odious manes; from treating your execrable memories with
scorn; from showering their contempt on your transcendant crimes.

Not only man sees his dissolution with pain, but again, he wishes his
death may be an interesting event for others. But, as we have already
said, he must have talents--he must have beneficence--he must have
virtue, in order, that those who surround him, may interest themselves
in his condition; that those who survive him, may give regret to his
ashes. Is it, then, surprising if the greater number of men, occupied
entirely with themselves, completely absorbed by their own vanity,
devoted to their own puerile objects, for ever busied with the care of
gratifying their vile passions, at the expence, perhaps, of their family
happiness, unheedful of the wants of a wife, unmindful of the necessity
of their children, careless of the calls of friendship, regardless of
their duty to society, do not by their death excite the sensibilities of
their survivors; or that they should be presently forgotten? There is an
infinity of monarchs of which history does not tell us any thing, save
that they have lived. In despite of the inutility in which men for the
most part pass their existence, maugre the little care they bestow, to
render themselves dear to the beings who environ them; notwithstanding
the numerous actions they commit to displease their associates; the self
love of each individual, persuades him, that his death must he an
interesting occurrence: few men but think themselves an Euryalus in
friendship, all expect to find a Nisus, thus man's over-weening philauty
shews him to say thus the order of things are overturned at his decease.
O mortal! feeble and vain! Dost thou not know the Sesostris's, the
Alexanders, the Caesars are dead? Yet the course of the universe is not
arrested; the demise of those famous conquerors, afflicting to some few
favoured slaves, was a subject of delight for the whole human race. Dost
thou then foolishly believe that thy talents ought to interest thy
species, that they are of sufficient extent to put it into mourning at
thy decease? Alas! The Corneilles, the Lockes, the Newtons, the Boyles,
the Harveys, the Montesquieus, the Sheridans are no more! Regretted by a
small number of friends, who have presently consoled themselves by their
necessary avocations, their death was indifferent to the greater number
of their fellow citizens. Darest thou then flatter thyself, that thy
reputation, thy titles, thy riches, thy sumptuous repasts, thy
diversified pleasures, will make thy funeral a melancholy event! It will
be spoken of by some few for two days, and do not be at all surprised:
learn that there have died in former ages, in Babylon, in Sardis, in
Carthage, in Athens, in Rome, millions of citizens more illustrious,
more powerful, more opulent, more voluptuous, than thou art; of whom,
however, no one has taken care to transmit to thee even the names. Be
then virtuous, O man! in whatever station thy destiny assigns thee, and
thou shalt be happy in thy life time; do thou good and thou shalt be
cherished; acquire talents and thou shalt be respected; posterity shall
admire thee, if those talents, by becoming beneficial to their
interests, shall bring them acquainted with the name under which they
formerly designated thy annihilated being. But the universe will not be
disturbed by thy loss; and when thou comest to die, whilst thy wife, thy
children, thy friends, fondly leaning over thy sickly couch, shall be
occupied with the melancholy task of closing thine eyes, thy nearest
neighbour shall perhaps be exulting with joy!

Let not then man occupy himself with his condition that may be to come,
but let him sedulously endeavour to make himself useful, to those with
whom he lives; let him for his own peculiar happiness render himself
dutiful to his parents--faithful to his wife--attentive to his children
--kind to his relations---true to his friends--lenient to his servants;
let him strive to become estimable in the eyes of his fellow citizens;
let him faithfully serve a country which assures to him his welfare; let
the desire of pleasing posterity, of meriting its applause, excite him
to those labours that shall elicit their eulogies: let a legitimate
self-love, when he shall be worthy of it, make him taste in advance
those commendations which he is willing to deserve; let him learn to
love himself--to esteem himself; but never let him consent that
concealed vices, that sacred crimes, shall degrade him in his own eyes;
shall oblige him to be ashamed of his own conduct.

Thus disposed, let him contemplate his own decease with the same
indifference, that it will he looked upon by the greater number of his
fellows; let him expect death with constancy; wait for it with calm
resignation; let him learn to shake off those vain terrors with which
superstition, would overwhelm him; let him leave to the enthusiast his
vague hopes; to the fanatic his mad-brained speculations; to the bigot
those fears with which he ministers to his own melancholy; but let his
heart, fortified by reason, corroborated by a love of virtue, no longer
dread a dissolution that will destroy all feeling.

Whatever may be the attachment man has to life, whatever may be his fear
of death, it is every day witnessed, that habit, that opinion, that
prejudice, are motives sufficiently powerful to annihilate these
passions in his breast; to make him brave danger; to cause him to hazard
his existence. Ambition, pride, jealousy, love, vanity, avarice, the
desire of glory, that deference of opinion which is decorated with the
sounding title of _a point of honour_, have the efficacy to make him
shut his eyes to danger; to laugh at peril; to push him on to death:
vexation, anxiety of mind, disgrace, want of success, softens to him its
hard features; makes him regard it as a door that will afford him
shelter from the injustice of mankind: indigence, trouble, adversity,
familiarizes him with this death, so terrible to the happy. The poor
man, condemned to labour, inured to privations, deprived of the comforts
of life, views its approach with indifference: the unfortunate, when he
is unhappy, when he is without resource, embraces it in despair; the
wretched accelerates its march as soon as he sees that happiness is no
longer within his grasp.

Man in different ages, in different countries, has formed opinions
extremely various upon the conduct of those, who have had the temerity
to put an end to their own existence. His ideas upon this subject, as
upon all others, have taken their tone from his religion, have been
governed by his superstitious systems, have been modified by his
political institutions. The Greeks, the Romans, and other nations, which
every thing conspired to make intrepid, to render courageous, to lead to
magnanimity, regarded as heroes, contemplated as Gods, those who
voluntarily cut the thread of life. In Hindoostan, the Brahmin yet knows
how to inspire even women with sufficient fortitude to burn themselves
upon the dead bodies of their husbands. The Japanese, upon the most
trifling occasion, takes no kind of difficulty in plunging a dagger into
his bosom.

Among the people of our own country, religion renders man less prodigal
of life; it teaches that it is offensive to the Deity that he should
destroy himself. Some moralists, abstracting the height of religious
ideas, have held that it is never permitted to man to break the
conditions of the covenant that he has made with society. Others have
looked upon suicide as cowardice; they have thought that it was
weakness, that it displayed pusillanimity, to suffer, himself to be
overwhelmed with the shafts of his destiny; and have held that there
would be much more courage, more elevation of soul, in supporting his
afflictions, in resisting the blows of fate.

If nature be consulted upon this point, it will be found that all the
actions of man, that feeble plaything in the hands of necessity, are
indispensable; that they depend on causes which move him in despite of
himself--that without his knowledge, make him accomplish at each moment
of his existence some one of its decrees. If the same power that obliges
all intelligent beings to cherish their existence, renders that of man
so painful, so cruel, that he finds it insupportable he quits his
species; order is destroyed for him, he accomplishes a decree of Nature,
that wills he shall no longer exist. This Nature has laboured during
thousands of years, to form in the bowels of the earth the iron that
must number his days.

If the relation of man with Nature be examined, it will be found that
his engagement was neither voluntary on his part, nor reciprocal on the
part of Nature. The volition of his will had no share in his birth; it
is commonly against his will that he is obliged to finish life; his
actions are, as we have proved, only the necessary effects of unknown
causes which determine his will. He is, in the hands of Nature, that
which a sword is in his own hands; he can fall upon it without its being
able to accuse him with breaking his engagements; or of stamping with
ingratitude the hand that holds it: man can only love his existence on
condition of being happy; as soon as the entire of nature refuses him
this happiness; as soon as all that surrounds him becomes incommodious
to him, as soon as his melancholy ideas offer nothing but afflicting
pictures to his imagination; he already exists no longer; he is
suspended in the void; he quits a rank which no longer suits him; in
which he finds no one interest; which offers him no protection; which
overwhelms him with calamity; in which he can no more be useful either
to himself or to others.

If the covenant which unites man to society be considered, it will be
obvious that every contract is conditional, must be reciprocal; that is
to say, supposes mutual advantages between the contracting parties. The
citizen cannot be bound to his country, to his associates, but by the
bonds of happiness. Are these bonds cut asunder? He is restored to
liberty. Society, or those who represent it, do they use him with
harshness, do they treat him with injustice, do they render his
existence painful? Does disgrace hold him out to the finger of scorn;
does indigence menace him in an obdurate world? Perfidious friends, do
they forsake him in adversity? An unfaithful wife, does she outrage his
heart? Rebellious, ungrateful children, do they afflict his old age? Has
he placed his happiness exclusively on some object which it is
impossible for him to procure? Chagrin, remorse, melancholy, and
despair, have they disfigured to him the spectacle of the universe? In
short, for whatever cause it may be: if he is not able to support his
evils, he quits a world, which from henceforth, is for him only a
frightful desert he removes himself for ever from a country he thinks no
longer willing to reckon him amongst the number of her children--he
quits a house that to his mind is ready to bury him under its ruins--he
renounces a society, to the happiness of which he can no longer
contribute; which his own peculiar felicity alone can render dear to
him: and could the man be blamed, who, finding himself useless; who
being without resources, in the town where destiny gave him birth,
should quit it in chagrin, to plunge himself in solitude? Death appears
to the wretched the only remedy for despair; it is then the sword seems
the only friend, the only comfort that is left to the unhappy: as long
as hope remains the tenant of his bosom--as long as his evils appear to
him at all supportable--as long as he flatters himself with seeing them
brought to a termination--as long as he finds some comfort in existence,
however slender, he will not consent to deprive himself of life: but
when nothing any longer sustains in him the love of this existence, then
to live, is to him the greatest of evils; to die, the only mode by which
he can avoid the excess of despair. This has been the opinion of many
great men: Seneca, the moralist, whom Lactantius calls the divine Pagan,
who has been praised equally by St. Austin and St. Augustine, endeavours
by every kind of argument to make death a matter of indifference to man.
Cato has always been commended, because he would not survive the cause
of liberty; for that he would not live a slave. Curtius, who rode
voluntarily into the gap, to save his country, has always been held
forth as a model of heroic virtue. Is it not evident, that those martyrs
who have delivered themselves up to punishment, have preferred quitting
the world to living in it contrary to their own ideals of happiness?
When Samson wished to be revenged on the Philistines, did he not consent
to die with them as the only means? If our country is attacked, do we
not voluntarily sacrifice our lives in its defence?

That society who has not the ability, or who is not willing to procure
man any one benefit, loses all its rights over him; Nature, when it has
rendered his existence completely miserable, has in fact, ordered him to
quit it: in dying he does no more than fulfil one of her decrees, as he
did when he first drew his breath. To him who is fearless of death,
there is no evil without a remedy; for him who refuses to die, there yet
exists benefits which attach him to the world; in this case let him
rally his powers--let him oppose courage to a destiny that oppresses
him--let him call forth those resources with which Nature yet furnishes
him; she cannot have totally abandoned him, while she yet leaves him the
sensation of pleasure; the hopes of seeing a period to his pains.

Man regulates his judgment on his fellows, only by his own peculiar mode
of feeling; he deems as folly, he calls delirium all those violent
actions which he believes but little commensurate with their causes; or
which appear to him calculated to deprive him of that happiness, towards
which he supposes a being in the enjoyment of his senses, cannot cease
to have a tendency: he treats his associate as a weak creature, when he
sees him affected with that which touches him but lightly; or when he is
incapable of supporting those evils, which his self-love flatters him,
he would himself he able to endure with more fortitude. He accuses with
madness whoever deprives himself of life, for objects that he thinks
unworthy so dear a sacrifice; he taxes him with phrenzy, because he has
himself learned to regard this life as the greatest blessing. It is thus
that he always erects himself into a judge of the happiness of others--
of their mode of seeing--of their manner of feeling: a miser who
destroys himself after the loss of his treasure, appears a fool in the
eyes of him who is less attached to riches; he does not feel, that
without money, life to this miser is only a continued torture; that
nothing in the world is capable of diverting him from his painful
sensations: he will proudly tell you, that in his place he had not done
so much; but to be exactly in the place of another man, it is needful to
have his organization--his temperament--his passions--his ideas; it is
in fact needful to be that other; to be placed exactly in the same
circumstances; to be moved by the same causes; and in this case all men,
like the miser, would sacrifice their life, after being deprived of the
only source of their happiness.

He who deprives himself of his existence, does not adopt this extremity,
so repugnant to his natural tendency; but when nothing in this world has
the faculty of rejoicing him; when no means are left of diverting his
affliction; when reason no longer acts; his misfortune whatever it may
be, for him is real; his organization, be it strong, or be it weak, is
his own, not that of another: a man who is sick only in imagination,
really suffers considerably; even troublesome dreams place him in a very
uncomfortable situation. Thus when a man kills himself, it ought to be
concluded, that life, in the room of being a benefit, had become a very
great evil to him; that existence had lost all its charms in his eyes;
that the entire of nature was to him destitute of attraction; that it no
longer contained any thing that could seduce him; that after the
comparison which his disturbed imagination had made of existence with
non-existence, the latter appeared to him preferable to the first.

Many will consider these maxims as dangerous; they certainly account why
the unhappy cut the thread of life, in a manner not corresponding with
the received prejudices; but, nevertheless, it is a temperament soured
by chagrin, a bilious constitution, a melancholy habit, a defect in the
organization, a derangement in the mind; it is in fact necessity and not
reasonable speculations, that breed in man the design of destroying
himself. Nothing invites him to this step so long as reason remains with
him; or whilst he yet possesses hope, that sovereign balm for every
evil: as for the unfortunate, who cannot lose sight of his sorrows--who
cannot forget his pains--who has his evils always present to his mind;
he is obliged to take counsel from these alone: besides, what
assistance, what advantage can society promise to himself, from a
miserable wretch reduced to despair; from a misanthrope overwhelmed with
grief; from a wretch tormented with remorse, who has no longer any
motive to render himself useful to others--who has abandoned himself--
who finds no more interest in preserving his life? Frequently, those who
destroy themselves are such, that had they lived, the offended laws must
have ultimately been obliged to remove them from a society which they
disgraced; from a country which they had injured.

As life is commonly the greatest blessing for man, it is to be presumed
that he who deprives himself of it, is compelled to it by an invincible
force. It is the excess of misery, the height of despair, the
derangement of his brain, caused by melancholy, that urges man on to
destroy himself. Agitated by contrary impulsions, he is, as we have
before said, obliged to follow a middle course that conducts him to his
death; if man be not a free-agent, in any one instant of his life, he is
again much less so in the act by which it is terminated.

It will be seen then, that he who kills himself, does not, as it is
pretended, commit an outrage on nature. He follows an impulse which has
deprived him of reason; adopts the only means left him to quit his
anguish; he goes out of a door which she leaves open to him; he cannot
offend in accomplishing a law of necessity: the iron hand of this having
broken the spring that renders life desirable to him; which urged him to
self-conservation, shews him he ought to quit a rank or system where he
finds himself too miserable to have the desire of remaining. His country
or his family have no right to complain of a member, whom it has no
means of rendering happy; from whom consequently they have nothing more
to hope: to be useful to either, it is necessary he should cherish his
own peculiar existence; that he should have an interest in conserving
himself--that he should love the bonds by which he is united to others--
that he should be capable of occupying himself with their felicity--that
he should have a sound mind. That the suicide should repent of his
precipitancy, he should outlive himself, he should carry with him into
his future residence, his organs, his senses, his memory, his ideas, his
actual mode of existing, his determinate manner of thinking.

In short, nothing is more useful for society, than to inspire man with a
contempt for death; to banish from his mind the false ideas he has of
its consequences. The fear of death can never do more than make cowards;
the fear of its consequences will make nothing but fanatics or
melancholy beings, who are useless to themselves, unprofitable to
others. Death is a resource that ought not by any means to be taken away
from oppressed virtue; which the injustice of man frequently reduces to
despair. If man feared death less, he would neither be a slave nor
superstitious; truth would find defenders more zealous; the rights of
mankind would be more hardily sustained; virtue would be intrepidly
upheld: error would be more powerfully opposed; tyranny would be
banished from nations: cowardice nourishes it, fear perpetuates it. In
fact, _man can neither be contented nor happy whilst his opinions shall
oblige him to tremble_.


_Of Man's true Interest, or of the Ideas he forms to himself of
Happiness.--Man cannot be happy without Virtue._

Utility, as has been before observed, ought to be the only standard of
the judgment of man. To be useful, is to contribute to the happiness of
his fellow creatures; to be prejudicial, is to further their misery.
This granted, let us examine if the principles we have hitherto
established be prejudicial or advantageous, useful or useless, to the
human race. If man unceasingly seeks after his happiness, he can only
approve of that which procures for him his object, or furnishes him the
means by which it is to be obtained.

What has been already said will serve in fixing our ideas upon what
constitutes this happiness: it has been already shewn that it is only
continued pleasure: but in order that an object may please, it is
necessary that the impressions it makes, the perceptions it gives, the
ideas which it leaves, in short, that the motion it excites in man
should be analogous to his organization; conformable to his temperament;
assimilated to his individual nature:--modified as it is by habit,
determined as it is by an infinity of circumstances, it is necessary
that the action of the object by which he is moved, or of which the idea
remains with him, far from enfeebling him, far from annihilating his
feelings, should tend to strengthen him; it is necessary, that without
fatiguing his mind, exhausting his faculties, or deranging his organs,
this object should impart to his machine that degree of activity for
which it continually has occasion. What is the object that unites all
these qualities? Where is the man whose organs are susceptible of
continual agitation without being fatigued; without experiencing a
painful sensation; without sinking? Man is always willing to be warned
of his existence in the most lively manner, as long as he can be so
without pain. What do I say? He consents frequently to suffer, rather
than not feel. He accustoms himself to a thousand things which at first
must have affected him in a disagreeable manner; but which frequently
end either by converting themselves into wants, or by no longer
affecting him any way: of this truth tobacco, coffee, and above all
brandy furnish examples: this is the reason he runs to see tragedies;
that he witnesses the execution of criminals. In short, the desire of
feeling, of being powerfully moved, appears to be the principle of
curiosity; of that avidity with which man seizes on the marvellous; of
that earnestness with which he clings to the supernatural; of the
disposition he evinces for the incomprehensible. Where, indeed, can he
always find objects in nature capable of continually supplying the
stimulus requisite to keep him in activity, that shall be ever
proportioned to the state of his own organization; which his extreme
mobility renders subject to perpetual variation? The most lively
pleasures are always the least durable, seeing they are those which
exhaust him most.

That man should be uninterruptedly happy, it would be requisite that his
powers were infinite; it would require that to his mobility he joined a
vigor, attached a solidity, which nothing could change; or else it is
necessary that the objects from which he receives impulse, should either
acquire or lose properties, according to the different states through
which his machine is successively obliged to pass; it would need that
the essences of beings should be changed in the same proportion as his
dispositions; should be submitted to the continual influence of a
thousand causes, which modify him without his knowledge, and in despite
of himself. If, at each moment, his machine undergoes changes more or
less marked, which are ascribable to the different degrees of
elasticity, of density, of serenity of the atmosphere; to the portion of
igneous fluid circulating through his blood; to the harmony of his
organs; to the order that exists between the various parts of his body;
if, at every period of his existence, his nerves have not the same
tensions, his fibres the same elasticity, his mind the same activity,
his imagination the same ardour, &c. it is evident that the same causes
in preserving to him only the same qualities, cannot always affect him
in the same manner. Here is the reason why those objects that please him
in one season displease him in another: these objects have not
themselves sensibly changed; but his organs, his dispositions, his
ideas, his mode of seeing, his manner of feeling, have changed:--such is
the source of man's inconstancy.

If the same objects are not constantly in that state competent to form
the happiness of the same individual, it is easy to perceive that they
are yet less in a capacity to please all men; or that the same happiness
cannot be suitable to all. Beings already various by their temperament,
unlike in their faculties, diversified in their organization, different
in their imagination, dissimilar in their ideas, of distinct opinions,
of contrary habits, which an infinity of circumstances, whether physical
or moral, have variously modified, must necessarily form very different
notions of happiness. Those of a MISER cannot be the same as those of a
PRODIGAL; those of a VOLUPTUARY, the same as those of one who is
PHLEGMATIC; those of an intemperate, the same as those of a rational
man, who husbands his health. The happiness of each, is in consequence
composed of his natural organization, and of those circumstances, of
those habits, of those ideas, whether true or false, that have modified
him: this organization and these circumstances, never being the same in
any two men, it follows, that what is the object of one man's views,
must be indifferent, or even displeasing to another; thus, as we have
before said, no one can be capable of judging of that which may
contribute to the felicity of his fellow man.

_Interest_ is the object to which each individual according to his
temperament and his own peculiar ideas, attaches his welfare; from which
it will be perceived that this interest is never more than that which
each contemplates as necessary to his happiness. It must, therefore, be
concluded, that no man is totally without interest. That of the miser to
amass wealth; that of the prodigal to dissipate it: the interest of the
ambitious is to obtain power; that of the modest philosopher to enjoy
tranquillity; the interest of the debauchee is to give himself up,
without reserve, to all sorts of pleasure; that of the prudent man, to
abstain from those which may injure him: the interest of the wicked is
to gratify his passions at any price: that of the virtuous to merit by
his conduct the love, to elicit by his actions the approbation of
others; to do nothing that can degrade himself in his own eyes.

Thus, when it is said that _Interest is the only motive of human
actions;_ it is meant to indicate that each man labours after his own
manner, to his own peculiar happiness; that he places it in some object
either visible or concealed; either real or imaginary; that the whole
system of his conduct is directed to its attainment. This granted, no
man can be called disinterested; this appellation is only applied to
those of whose motives we are ignorant; or whose interest we approve.
Thus the man who finds a greater pleasure in assisting his friends in
misfortune than preserving in his coffers useless treasure, is called
generous, faithful, and disinterested; in like manner all men are
denominated disinterested, who feel their glory far more precious than
their fortune. In short, all men are designated disinterested who place
their happiness in making sacrifices which man considers costly, because
he does not attach the same value to the object for which the sacrifice
is made.

Man frequently judges very erroneously of the interest of others, either
because the motives that animate them are too complicated for him to
unravel; or because to be enabled to judge of them fairly, it is needful
to have the same eyes, the same organs the same passions, the same
opinions: nevertheless, obliged to form his judgment of the actions of
mankind, by their effect on himself, he approves the interest that
actuates them whenever the result is advantageous for his species: thus,
he admires valour, generosity, the love of liberty, great talents,
virtue, &c. he then only approves of the objects in which the beings he
applauds have placed their happiness; he approves these dispositions
even when he is not in a capacity to feel their effects; but in this
judgment he is not himself disinterested; experience, reflection, habit,
reason, have given him a taste for morals, and he finds as much pleasure
in being witness to a great and generous action, as the man of _virtu_
finds in the sight of a fine picture of which he is not the proprietor.
He who has formed to himself a habit of practising virtue, is a man who
has unceasingly before his eyes the interest that he has in meriting the
affection, in deserving the esteem, in securing the assistance of
others, as well as to love and esteem himself: impressed with these
ideas which have become habitual to him, he abstains even from concealed
crimes, since these would degrade him in his own eyes: he resembles a
man who having from his infancy contracted the habit of cleanliness,
would be painfully affected at seeing himself dirty, even when no one
should witness it. The honest man is he to whom truth has shewn his
interest or his happiness in a mode of acting that others are obliged to
love, are under the necessity to approve for their own peculiar

These principles, duly developed, are the true basis of morals; nothing
is more chimerical than those which are founded upon imaginary motives
placed out of nature; or upon innate sentiments; which some speculators
have regarded as anterior to man's experience; as wholly independant of
those advantages which result to him from its use: it is the essence of
man to love himself; to tend to his own conservation; to seek to render
his existence happy: thus interest, or the desire of happiness, is the
only real motive of all his actions; this interest depends upon his
natural organization, rests itself upon his wants, is bottomed upon his
acquired ideas, springs from the habits he has contracted: he is without
doubt in error, when either a vitiated organization or false opinions
shew him his welfare in objects either useless or injurious to himself,
as well as to others; he marches steadily in the paths of virtue when
true ideas have made him rest his happiness on a conduct useful to his
species; in that which is approved by others; which renders him an
interesting object to his associates. _Morals_ would be a vain science
if it did not incontestibly prove to man that _his interest consists in
being virtuous._ Obligation of whatever kind, can only be founded upon
the probability or the certitude of either obtaining a good or avoiding
an evil.

Indeed, in no one instant of his duration, can a sensible, an
intelligent being, either lose sight of his own preservation or forget
his own welfare; he owes happiness to himself; but experience quickly
proves to him, that bereaved of assistance, quite alone, left entirely
to himself, he cannot procure all those objects which are requisite to
his felicity: he lives with sensible, with intelligent beings, occupied
like himself with their own peculiar happiness; but capable of assisting
him, in obtaining those objects he most desires; he discovers that these
beings will not be favorable to his views, but when they find their
interest involved; from which he concludes, that his own happiness
demands, that his own wants render it necessary he should conduct
himself at all times in a manner suitable to conciliate the attachment,
to obtain the approbation, to elicit the esteem, to secure the
assistance of those beings who are most capacitated to further his
designs. He perceives, that it is man who is most necessary to the
welfare of man: that to induce him to join in his interests, he ought to
make him find real advantages in recording his projects: but to procure
real advantages to the beings of the human species, is to have virtue;
the reasonable man, therefore, is obliged to feel that it is his
interest to be virtuous. _Virtue is only the art of rendering himself
happy, by the felicity of others_. The virtuous man is he who
communicates happiness to those beings who are capable of rendering his
own condition happy; who are necessary to his conservation; who have the
ability to procure him a felicitous existence.

Such, then, is the true foundation of all morals; merit and virtue are
founded upon the nature of man; have their dependance upon his wants. It
is virtue alone that can render him truly happy: without virtue society
can neither be useful nor indeed subsist; it can only have real utility
when it assembles beings animated with the desire of pleasing each
other, and disposed to labour to their reciprocal advantage: there
exists no comfort in those families whose members are not in the happy
disposition to lend each other mutual succours; who have not a
reciprocity of feeling that stimulates them to assist one another; that
induces them to cling to each other, to support the sorrows of life; to
unite their efforts, to put away those evils to which nature has
subjected them; the conjugal bonds, are sweet only in proportion as they
identify the interest of two beings, united by the want of legitimate
pleasure; from whence results the maintenance of political society, and
the means of furnishing it with citizens. Friendship has charms only
when it more particularly associates two virtuous beings; that is to
say, animated with the sincere desire of conspiring to their reciprocal
happiness. In short, it is only by displaying virtue, that man can merit
the benevolence, can win the confidence, can gain the esteem, of all
those with whom he has relation; in a word, no man can be independently

Indeed, the happiness of each human individual depends on those
sentiments to which he gives birth, on those feelings which he nourishes
in the beings amongst whom his destiny has placed him; grandeur may
dazzle them; power may wrest from them an involuntary homage; force may
compel an unwilling obedience; opulence may seduce mean, may attract
venal souls; but it is humanity, it is benevolence, it is compassion, it
is equity, that unassisted by these, can without efforts obtain for him,
from those by whom he is surrounded, those delicious sentiments of
attachments, those soothing feelings of tenderness, those sweet ideas of
esteem, of which all reasonable men feel the necessity. To be virtuous
then, is to place his interest in that which accords with the interest
of others; it is to enjoy those benefits, to partake of that pleasure
which he himself diffuses over his fellows. He whom, his nature, his
education, his reflections, his habits, have rendered susceptible of
these dispositions, and to whom his circumstances have given him the
faculty of gratifying them, becomes an interesting object to all those
who approach him: he enjoys every instant, he reads with satisfaction
the contentment, he contemplates with pleasure the joy which he has
diffused over all countenances: his wife, his children, his friends, his
servants greet him with gay, serene faces, indicative of that content,
harbingers of that peace, which he recognizes for his own work: every
thing that environs him is ready to partake his pleasures; to share his
pains; cherished, respected, looked up to by others, every thing
conducts him to agreeable reflections; he knows the rights he has
acquired over their hearts; he applauds himself for being the source of
a felicity that captivates all the world; his own condition, his
sentiments of self-love, become an hundred times more delicious when he
sees them participated by all those with whom his destiny has connected
him. The habit of virtue creates for him no wants but those which virtue
itself suffices to satisfy; it is thus that _virtue is always its own
peculiar reward_, that it remunerates itself with all the advantages
which it incessantly procures for others.

It will be said, and perhaps even proved, that under the present
constitution of things, virtue far from procuring the welfare of those
who practice it frequently plunges man into misfortune; often places
continual obstacles to his felicity; that almost every where it is
without recompence. What do I say? A thousand examples could be adduced
as evidence, that in almost every country it is hated, persecuted,
obliged to lament the ingratitude of human nature. I reply with avowing,
that by a necessary consequence of the errors of his race, virtue rarely
conducts man to those objects in which the uninformed make their
happiness consist. The greater number of societies, too frequently ruled
by those whose ignorance makes them abuse their power,--whose prejudices
render them enemies of virtue,--who flattered by sycophants, secure in
the impunity their actions enjoy, commonly lavish their esteem, bestow
their kindness, on none but the most unworthy objects; reward only the
most frivolous, recompence none but the most prejudicial qualities; and
hardly ever accord that justice to merit which is unquestionably its
due. But the truly honest man, is neither ambitious of renumeration, nor
sedulous of the suffrages of a society thus badly constituted: contented
with domestic happiness, he seeks not to augment relations, which would
do no more than increase his danger; he knows that a vitiated community
is a whirlwind, with which an honest man cannot co-order himself: he
therefore steps aside; quits the beaten path, by continuing in which he
would infallibly be crushed. He does all the good of which he is capable
in his sphere; he leaves the road free to the wicked, who are willing to
wade through its mire; he laments the heavy strokes they inflict on
themselves; he applauds mediocrity that affords him security: he pities
those nations made miserable by their errors,--rendered unhappy by those
passions which are the fatal but necessary consequence; he sees they
contain nothing but wretched citizens, who far from cultivating their
true interest, far from labouring to their mutual felicity, far from
feeling the real value of virtue, unconscious how dear it ought to be to
them, do nothing but either openly attack, or secretly injure it; in
short, who detests a quality which would restrain their disorderly

In saying that virtue is its own peculiar reward, it is simply meant to
announce, that in a society whose views were guided by truth, trained by
experience, conducted by reason, each individual would be acquainted
with his real interests; would understand the true end of association;
would have sound motives to perform his duties; find real advantages in
fulfilling them; in fact, it would be convinced, that to render himself
solidly happy, he should occupy his actions with the welfare of his
fellows; by their utility merit their esteem, elicit their kindness, and
secure their assistance. In a well-constituted society, the government,
the laws, education, example, would all conspire to prove to the
citizen, that the nation of which he forms a part, is a whole that
cannot be happy, that cannot subsist without virtue; experience would,
at each step, convince him that the welfare of its parts can only result
from that of the whole body corporate; justice would make him feel, that
no society, can be advantageous to its members, where the volition of
wills in those who act, is not so conformable to the interests of the
whole, as to produce an advantageous re-action.

But, alas! by the confusion which the errors of man have carried into
his ideas: virtue disgraced, banished, and persecuted, finds not one of
those advantages it has a right to expect: man is indeed shewn those
rewards for it in a future life, of which he is almost always deprived
in his actual existence. It is thought necessary to deceive, considered
proper to seduce, right to intimidate him, in order to induce him to
follow that virtue which every thing renders incommodious to him; he is
fed with distant hopes, in order to solicit him to practice virtue,
while contemplation of the world makes it hateful to him; he is alarmed
by remote terrors, to deter him from committing evil, which his
associates paint as amiable; which all conspires to render necessary. It
is thus that politics, thus that superstition, by the formation of
chimeras, by the creation of fictitious interests pretend to supply
those true, those real motives which nature furnishes,--which experience
would point out,--which an enlightened government should hold forth,--
which the law ought to enforce,--which instruction should sanction,--
which example should encourage,-which rational opinions would render
pleasant. Man, blinded by his passions, not less dangerous than
necessary, led away by precedent, authorised by custom, enslaved by
habit, pays no attention to these uncertain promises, is regardless of
the menaces held out; the actual interests of his immediate pleasures,
the force of his passions, the inveteracy of his habits, always rise
superior to the distant interests pointed out in his future welfare, or
the remote evils with which he is threatened; which always appear
doubtful, whenever he compares them with present advantages.

Thus _superstition, far from making man virtuous by principle, does
nothing more than impose upon him a yoke as severe as it is useless_; it
is borne by none but enthusiasts, or by the pusillanimous; who, without
becoming better, tremblingly champ the feeble bit put into their mouth;
who are either rendered unhappy by their opinions, or dangerous by their
tenets; indeed, experience, that faithful monitor, incontestibly proves,
that superstition is a dyke inadequate to resist the torrent of
corruption, to which so many accumulated causes give an irresistible
force: nay more, does not this superstition itself augment the public
disorder, by the dangerous passions which it lets loose, by the conduct
which it sanctions, by the actions which it consecrates? Virtue, in
almost every climate, is confined to some few rational souls, who have
sufficient strength of mind to resist the stream of prejudice; who are
contented by remunerating themselves with the benefits they difuse over
society: whose temperate dispositions are gratified with the suffrages
of a small number of virtuous approvers; in short, who are detached from
those frivolous advantages which the injustice of society but too
commonly accords only to baseness, which it rarely bestows, except to
intrigue, with which in general it rewards nothing but crime.

In despite of the injustice that reigns in the world, there are,
however, some virtuous men in the bosom even of the most degenerate
nations; notwithstanding the general depravity, there are some
benevolent beings, still enamoured of virtue; who are fully acquainted
with its true value; who are sufficiently enlightened to know that it
exacts homage even from its enemies; who to use the language of
ECCLESIASTES, "rejoice in their own works_;" who are, at least, happy in
possessing contented minds, who are satisfied with concealed pleasures,
those internal recompences of which no earthly power is competent to
deprive them. The honest man acquires a right to the esteem, has a just
claim to the veneration, wins the confidence, gains the love, even of
those whose conduct is exposed by a contrast with his own. In short,
vice is obliged to cede to virtue; of which it blushingly, though
unwillingly, acknowledges the superiority. Independent of this
ascendancy so gentle, of this superiority so grand, of this pre-eminence
so infallible, when even the whole universe should be unjust to him,
when even every tongue should cover him with venom, when even every arm
should menace him with hostility, there yet remains to the honest man
the sublime advantage of loving his own conduct; the ineffable pleasure
of esteeming himself; the unalloyed gratification of diving with
satisfaction into the recesses of his own heart; the tranquil delight of
contemplating his own actions with that delicious complacency that
others ought to do, if they were not hood-winked, No power is adequate
to ravish from him the merited esteem of himself; no authority is
sufficiently potent to give it to him when he deserves it not; the
mightiest monarch cannot lend stability to this esteem, when it is not
well founded; it is then a ridiculous sentiment: it ought to be
considered, it really is "_vanity and vexation of spirit_," it is not
wisdom, but folly in the extreme; it ought to be censured when it
displays itself in a mode that is mortifying to its neighbour, in a
manner that is troublesome to others; it is then called ARROGANCE; it is
called VANITY; but when it cannot be condemned, when it is known for
legitimate when it is discovered to have a solid foundation, when it
bottoms itself upon talents, when it rises upon great actions that are
useful to the community, when it erects its edifice upon virtue; even
though society should not set these merits at their just price, it is

Of what consequence then, is it to listen to those superstitious beings,
those enemies to man's happiness, who have been desirous of destroying
it, even in the inmost recesses of his heart; who have prescribed to him
hatred of his follower; who have filled him with contempt for himself;
who pretend to wrest from the honest man that self-respect which is
frequently the only reward that remains to virtue, in a perverse world.
To annihilate in him this sentiment, so full in justice, this love of
himself, is to break the most powerful spring, to weaken the most
efficacious stimulus, that urges him to act right; that spurs him on to
do good to his fellow mortals. What motive, indeed, except it be this,
remains for him in the greater part of human societies? Is not virtue
discouraged? Is not honesty contemned? Is not audacious crime
encouraged? Is not subtle intrigue eulogized? Is not cunning vice
rewarded? Is not love of the public weal taxed as folly; exactitude in
fulfilling duties looked upon as a bubble? Is not compassion laughed to
negligence of morals applauded,--sensibility derided,--tenderness
scoffed,--conjugal fidelity jeered,--sincerity despised,--enviolable
friendship treated with ridicule: while seduction, adultery, hard-
heartedness, punic faith, avarice, and fraud, stalk forth unabashed,
decked in gorgeous array, lauded by the world? Man must have motives for
action: he neither acts well nor ill, but with a view to his own
happiness: that which he judges will conduce to this "_consummation so
devoutly to be wished_," he thinks his interest; he does nothing
gratuitously; when reward for useful actions is withheld from him, he is
reduced either to become as abandoned as others, or else to remunerate
himself with his own applause.

This granted; the honest man can never be completely unhappy; he can
never be entirely deprived of the recompence which is his due; virtue is
competent to repay him for all the benefits he may bestow on others; can
amply make up to him all the happiness denied him by public opinion;
_but nothing can compensate to him the want of virtue_. It does not
follow that the honest man will be exempted from afflictions: like, the
wicked, he is subject to physical evils; he may pine in indigence; he
may be deprived of friendship; he may be worn down with disease; he may
frequently be the subject of calumny; he may be the victim to injustice;
he may be treated with ingratitude; he may be exposed to hatred; but in
the midst of all his misfortunes, in the very bosom of his sorrows, in
the extremity of his vexation, he finds support in himself; he is
contented with his own conduct; he respects himself; he feels his own
dignity; he knows the equity of his rights; he consoles himself with the
confidence inspired by the justness of his cause; he cheers himself
amidst the most sullen circumstances. These supports are not calculated
for the wicked; they avail him nothing: equally liable with the honest

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