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

Part 6 out of 6

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man to infirmities, equally submitted to the caprices of his destiny,
equally the sport of a fluctuating world, he finds the recesses of his
own heart filled with dreadful alarms; diseased with care; cankered with
solitude; corroded with regret; gnawed by remorse; he dies within
himself; his conscience sustains him not but loads him with reproach;
his mind, overwhelmed, sinks beneath its own turpitude; his reflection
is the bitter dregs of hemlock; maddening anguish holds him to the
mirror that shews him his own deformity; that recalls unhallowed deeds;
gloomy thoughts rush on his too faithful memory; despondence benumbs
him; his body, simultaneously assailed on all sides, bends under the
storm of--his own unruly passions; at last despair grapples him to her
filthy bosom, he flies from himself. The honest man is not an insensible
Stoic; virtue does not procure impassibility; honesty gives no exemption
from misfortune, but it enables him to bear cheerly up against it; to
cast off despair, to keep his own company: if he is infirm, if he is
worn with disease, he has less to complain of than the vicious being who
is oppressed with sickness, who is enfeebled by years; if he is
indigent, he is less unhappy in his poverty; if he is in disgrace, he
can endure it with fortitude, he is not overwhelmed by its pressure,
like the wretched slave to crime.

Thus the happiness of each individual depends on the cultivation of his
temperament; nature makes both the happy and the unhappy; it is culture
that gives value to the soil nature has formed; it is instruction that
makes the fruit it produces palatable; It is reflection that makes it
useful. For man to be happily born, is to have received from nature a
sound body, organs that act with precision--a just mind, a heart whose
passions are analogous, whose desires are conformable to the
circumstances in which his destiny has placed him: nature, then, has
done every thing for him, when she has joined to these faculties the
quantum of vigour, the portion of energy, sufficient to enable him to
obtain those Proper things, which his station, his mode of thinking, his
temperament, have rendered desirable. Nature has made him a fatal
present, when she has filled his sanguinary vessels with an over-heated
fluid; when she has given him an imagination too active; when she has
infused into him desires too impetuous; when he has a hankering after
objects either impossible or improper to be obtained under his
circumstances; or which at least he cannot procure without those
incredible efforts, that either place his own welfare in danger or
disturb the repose of society. The most happy man, is commonly he who
possesses a peaceful soul; who only desires those things which he can
procure by labour, suitable to maintain his activity; which he can
obtain without causing those shocks, that are either too violent for
society, or troublesome to his associates. A philosopher whose wants are
easily satisfied, who is a stranger, to ambition, who is contented with
the limited circle of a small number of friends, is, without doubt a
being much more happily constituted than an ambitious conqueror, whose
greedy imagination is reduced to despair by having only one world to
ravage. He who is happily born, or whom nature has rendered susceptible
of being conveniently modified, is not a being injurious to society: it
is generally disturbed by men who are unhappily born, whose organization
renders them turbulent; who are discontented with their destiny; who are
inebriated with their own licentious passions; who are infatuated with
their own vile schemes; who are smitten with difficult enterprises; who
set the world in combustion, to gather imaginary benefits in order to
attain which they must inflict he heaviest curses on mankind, but in
which they make their own happiness consist. An ALEXANDER requires the
destruction of empires, nations to be deluged with blood, cities to be
laid in ashes, its inhabitants to be exterminated, to content that
passion for glory, of which he has formed to himself a false idea; but
which his too ardent imagination, his too vehement mind anxiously
thirsts after: for a DIOGENES there needs only a tub with the liberty of
appearing whimsical; a SOCRATES wants nothing but the pleasure of
forming disciples to virtue.

Man by his organization is a being to whom motion is always necessary;
he must therefore always desire it: this is the reason why too much
facility In procuring the objects of his search, renders them quickly
insipid. To feel happiness, it is necessary to make efforts to obtain
it; to find charms in its enjoyment, it is necessary that the desire
should be whetted by obstacles; he is presently disgusted with those
benefits which have cost him but little pains. The expectation of
happiness, the labour requisite to procure it, the varied prospects it
holds forth, the multiplied pictures which his imagination forms to him,
supply his brain with that motion for which it has occasion; this gives
impulse to his organs, puts his whole machine into activity, exercises
his faculties, sets all his springs in play, in a word, puts him into
that agreeable activity, for the want of which the enjoyment of
happiness itself cannot compensate him. Action is the true element of
the human mind; as soon as it ceases to act, it falls into disgust,
sinks into lassitude. His soul has the same occasion for ideas, his
stomach has for aliment.

Thus the impulse given him by desire, is itself a great benefit; it is
to the mind what exercise is to the body; without it he would not derive
any pleasure in the aliments presented to him; it is thirst that renders
the pleasure of drinking so agreeable; life is a perpetual circle of
regenerated desires and wants satisfied: repose is only a pleasure to
him who labours; it is a source of weariness, the cause of sorrow, the
spring of vice to him who has nothing to do. To enjoy without
interruption is not to enjoy any thing: the man who has nothing to
desire is certainly more unhappy than he who suffers.

These reflections, grounded upon experience, drawn from the fountain of
truth, ought to prove to man, that good as well as evil depends on the
essence of things. Happiness to be felt cannot be continued. Labour is
necessary, to make intervals between his pleasures; his body has
occasion for exercise, to co-order him with the beings who surround him;
his heart must have desires; trouble alone can give him the right relish
of his welfare; it is this which puts in the shadows, this which
furnishes the true perspective to the picture of human life. By an
irrevocable law of his destiny, man is obliged to be discontented with
his present condition; to make efforts to change it; to reciprocally
envy that felicity which no individual enjoys perfectly. Thus the poor
man envies the opulence of his richer neighbour, although this is
frequently more unhappy than his needy maligner; thus the rich man views
with pain the advantages of a poverty, which he sees active, healthy,
and frequently jocund, even in the bosom of penury.

If man was perfectly contented, there would no longer be any activity in
the world; it is necessary that he should desire; it is requisite that
he should act; it is incumbent he should labour, in order that he may be
happy: such is the course of nature of which the life consists in
action. Human societies can only subsist, by the continual exchange of
those things in which man places his happiness. The poor man is obliged
to desire, he is necessitated to labour, that he may procure what he
knows is requisite to the preservation of his existence; the primary
wants given to him by nature, are to nourish himself, clothe himself,
lodge himself, and propagate his species; has he satisfied these? He is
quickly obliged to create others entirely new; or rather, his
imagination only refines upon the first; he seeks to diversify them; he
is willing to give them fresh zest; arrived at opulence, when he has run
over the whole circle of wants, when he has completely exhausted their
combinations, he falls into disgust. Dispensed from labour, his body
amasses humours; destitute of desires, his heart feels a languor;
deprived of activity, he is obliged to participate his riches, with
beings more active, more laborious than himself: these, following their
own peculiar interests, take upon themselves the task of labouring for
his advantage; of procuring for him means to satisfy his want; of
ministering to his caprices, in order to remove the languor that
oppresses him. It is thus the great, the rich excite the energies, give
play to the activity, rouse the faculties, spur on the industry of the
indigent; these labour to their own peculiar welfare by working for
others: thus the desire of ameliorating his condition, renders man
necessary to his fellow man; thus wants, always regenerating, never
satisfied, are the principles of life,--the soul of activity,--the
source of health,--the basis of society. If each individual was
competent to the supply of his own exigencies, there would be no
occasion for him to congregate in society; but it is his wants, his
desires, his whims, that place him in a state of dependence on others:
these are the causes that each individual, in order to further his own
peculiar interest, is obliged to be useful to those, who have the
capability of procuring for him the objects which he himself has not. A
nation is nothing more than the union of a great number of individuals,
connected with each other by the reciprocity of their wants; by their
mutual desire of pleasure. The most happy man is he who has the fewest
wants, and who has the most numerous means of satisfying them. The man
who would be truly rich, has no need to increase his fortune, it
suffices he should diminish his wants.

In the individuals of the human species, as well as in political
society, the progression of wants, is a thing absolutely necessary; it
is founded upon the essence of man, it is requisite that the natural
wants once satisfied, should be replaced by those which he calls
_Imaginary, or wants of the Fancy:_ these become as necessary to his
happiness as the first. Custom, which permits the native American to go
quite naked, obliges the more civilized inhabitant of Europe to clothe
himself; the poor man contents himself with very simple attire, which
equally serve him for winter and for summer, for autumn and for spring;
the rich man desires to have garments suitable to each mutation of these
seasons; he would experience pain if he had not the convenience of
changing his raiment with every variation of his climate; he would be
wretched if he was obliged to wear the same habiliments in the heat of
summer, which he uses in the winter; in short, he would be unhappy if
the expence and variety of his costume did not display to the
surrounding multitude his opulence, mark his rank, announce his
superiority. It is thus habit multiplies, the wants of the wealthy; it
is thus that vanity itself becomes a want which sets a thousand hands
in, motion, a thousand heads to work, who are all eager to gratify its
cravings; in short, this very vanity procures for the necessitous man,
the means of subsisting at the expense of his opulent neighbours He who
is accustomed to pomp, who is used to ostentatious splendour, whose
habits are luxurious, whenever he is deprived of these insignia of
opulence, to which he has attached the idea of happiness, finds himself
just as unhappy as the needy wretch who has not wherewith to cover his
nakedness. The civilized nations of the present day were in their origin
savages composed of erratic tribes,--mere wanderers who were occupied
with war; employed in, the chace; painfully obliged to seek precarious
subsistence by hunting in those woods which the industry of their
successors has cleared; which their labour has covered with yellow
waving ears of nutritious corn; in time they have become stationary:
they first applied themselves to Agriculture, afterwards to commerce: by
degrees they have refined on their primitive wants, extended their
sphere of action, given birth to a thousand new wants, imagined a
thousand new means to satisfy them; this is the natural course, the
necessary progression, the regular march of active beings, who cannot
live without feeling; who to be happy, must of necessity diversify their
sensations. In proportion as man's wants multiply the means to satisfy
them becomes more difficult, he is obliged to depend on a greater number
of his fellow creatures; his interest obliges him to rouse their
activity; to engage them to concur with his views; consequently he is
obliged to procure for them those objects by which they can be excited;
he is under the necessity of contenting their desires, which increase
like his own, by the very food that satisfies them. The savage needs
only put forth his hand to gather the fruit that offers itself
spontaneously to his reach: this he finds sufficient for his
nourishment. The opulent citizen of a flourishing society is obliged to
set innumerable hands to work to produce the sumptuous repast; the four
quarters of the globe are ransacked to procure the far-fetched viands
become necessary to revive his languid appetite; the merchant, the
sailor, the mechanic, leave nothing unattempted to flatter his
inordinate vanity. From this it will appear, that in the same proportion
the wants of man are multiplied, he is obliged to augment the means to
satisfy them. Riches are nothing more than the measure of a convention,
by the assistance of which man is enabled to make a great number of his
fellows concur in the gratification of his desires; by which he is
capacitated to invite them, for their own peculiar interests, to
contribute to his pleasures. What, in fact, does the rich man do, except
announce to the needy, that he can furnish him with the means of
subsistence if he consents to lend himself to his will? What does the
man in power, except shew to others, that he is in a state to supply the
requisites to render them happy? Sovereigns, nobles, men of wealth,
appear to be happy, only because they possess the ability, are masters
of the motives sufficient to determine a great number of individuals to
occupy themselves with their respective felicity.

The more things are considered the more man will be convinced that his
false opinion are the true source of his misery; the clearer it will
appear to him that happiness is so rare, only because he attaches it to
objects either indifferent or useless to his welfare; which, when
enjoyed, convert themselves into real evils; which afflict him; which
become the cause of his misfortune.

_Riches_ are indifferent in themselves, it is only by their application,
by the purposes they compass, that they either become objects of utility
to man, or are rendered prejudicial to his welfare.

_Money_, useless to the savage who understands not its value, is amassed
by the miser, for fear it should be employed uselessly; lest it should
be squandered by the prodigal; or dissipated by the voluptuary; who make
no other use of it than to purchase infirmities; to buy regret.

Pleasures are nothing for the man who is incapable of feeling them; they
become real evils when they are too freely indulged, when they are
destructive to his health,--when they derange the economy of his
machine,--when they entail diseases on himself and on his posterity,--
when they make him neglect his duties,--when they render him despicable
in the eyes of others.

Power is nothing in itself, it is useless to man if he does not avail
himself of it to promote his own peculiar felicity, by augmenting the
happiness of his species; it becomes fatal to him as soon as he abuses
it; it becomes odious whenever he employs it to render others miserable;
it is always the cause of his own misery whenever he stretches it beyond
the due bounds prescribed by nature.

For want of being enlightened on his true interest, the man who enjoys
all the means of rendering himself completely happy, scarcely ever
discovers the secret of making those means truly subservient to his own
peculiar felicity: the art of enjoying, is that which of all others is
least understood; man should learn this art before he begins to desire;
the earth is covered with individuals who only occupy themselves with
the care of procuring the means without ever being acquainted with the
end. All the world desire fortune, solicit power, seek after pleasure,
yet very few, indeed, are those whom objects render truly happy.

It is quite natural in man, it is extremely reasonable, it is absolutely
necessary, to desire those things which can contribute to augment the
sum of his felicity. _Pleasure, riches, power,_ are objects worthy his
ambition, deserving his most strenuous efforts, when he has learned how
to employ them; when he has acquired the faculty of making them render
his existence really more agreeable. It is impossible to censure him who
desires them, to despise him who commands them, but when to obtain them
he employs odious means; or when after he has obtained them he makes a
pernicious use of them, injurious to himself, prejudicial to others; let
him wish for power, let him seek after grandeur, let him be ambitious of
reputation, when he can shew just pretensions to them; when he can
obtain them, without making the purchase at the expence of his own
repose, or that of the beings with whom he lives: let him desire riches,
when he knows how to make a use of them that is truly advantageous for
himself, really beneficial for others; but never let him employ those
means to procure them of which he may be ashamed; with which he may be
obliged to reproach himself; which may draw upon him the hatred of his
associates; or which may render him obnoxious to the castigation of
society: let him always recollect, that his solid happiness should rest
its foundations upon its own esteem,--upon the advantages he procures
for others; above all, never let him for a moment forget, that of all
the objects to which his ambition may point, the most impracticable for
a being who lives in society, is that of _attempting to render himself
exclusively happy_.


_The Errors of Man,--upon what constitutes Happiness.--the true Source
of his Evil.--Remedies that may be applied._

Reason by no means forbids man from forming capacious desires; ambition
is a passion useful to his species when it has for, its object the
happiness of his race. Great minds, elevated souls, are desirous of
acting on an extended sphere; geniuses who are powerful, beings who are
enlightened, men who are beneficent, distribute very widely their benign
influence; they must necessarily, in order to promote their own peculiar
felicity, render great numbers happy. So many princes fail to enjoy true
happiness only, because their feeble, narrow souls, are obliged to act
in a sphere too extensive for their energies: it is thus that by the
supineness, the indolence, the incapacity of their chiefs, nations
frequently pine in misery; are often submitted to masters, whose exility
of mind is as little calculated to promote their own immediate
happiness, as it is to further that of their miserable subjects. On the
other hand, souls too vehement, too much inflamed, too active, are
themselves tormented by the narrow sphere that confines them; their
ardour misplaced, becomes the scourge of the human race. Alexander was a
monarch who was equally injurious to the earth, equally discontented
with his condition, as the indolent despot whom he dethroned. The souls
of neither were by any means commensurate with their sphere of action.

The happiness of man will never be more than the result of the harmony
that subsists between his desires and his circumstances. The sovereign
power to him who knows not how to apply it to the advantage of his
citizens, is as nothing; it cannot even conduce to his own peculiar
happiness. If it renders him miserable, it is a real evil; if it
produces the misfortune of a portion of the human race, it is a
detestable abuse. The most powerful princes are ordinarily such
strangers to happiness, their subjects are commonly so unfortunate, only
because the first possess all the means of rendering themselves happy
without ever giving them activity; or because the only knowledge they
have of them, is their abuse. A wise man seated on a throne, would be
the most happy of mortals. A monarch is a man for whom his power, let
it be of whatever extent, cannot procure other organs, other modes of
feeling, than the meanest of his subjects; if he has an advantage over
them, it is by the grandeur, the variety, the multiplicity of the
objects with which he can occupy himself; which by giving perpetual
activity to his mind, can prevent it from decay; from falling into
sloth. If his soul is virtuous, if his mind is expansive, his ambition
finds continual food in the contemplation of the power he possesses, to
unite by gentleness, to consolidate by kindness, the will of his
subjects with his own; to interest them in his own conservation, to
merit their affections,--to draw forth the respect of strangers,--to
render luminous the page of history--to elicit the eulogies of all
nations--to clothe the orphan,--to dry the widow's tears. Such are the
conquests that reason proposes to all those whose destiny it is to
govern the fate of empires; they are sufficiently grand to satisfy the
most ardent imagination, of a sublimity to gratify the most capacious
ambition: for a monarch they are paramount duties.--KINGS are the most
happy of men, only because they have the power of making others happy;
because they possess the means of multiplying the causes of legitimate
content with themselves.

The advantages of the sovereign power are participated by all those who
contribute to the government of states. Thus grandeur, rank, reputation,
are desirable, are legitimate objects for all who are acquainted with
the means of rendering them subservient to their own peculiar felicity;
they are useless, they are illegitimate to those ordinary men who have
neither the energy nor the capacity to employ them in a mode
advantageous to themselves; they are detestable whenever to obtain them
man compromises his own happiness, when he implicates the welfare of
society: this society itself is in an error every time it respects men
who only employ to its destruction, a power, the exercise of which it
ought never to approve but when it reaps from it substantial benefits.

Riches, useless to the miser, who is no more than their miserable
gaoler; prejudicial to the debauchee, for whom they only procure
infirmities; injurious to the voluptuary, to whom they only bring
disgust--whom they oppress with satiety; can in the hands of the honest
man produce unnumbered means of augmenting the sum of his happiness; but
before man covets wealth it is proper he should know how to employ it;
money is only a token, a representative of happiness; to enjoy it is so
to use it as to make others happy: this is the great secret, this is the
talisman, this is the reality. Money, according to the compact of man,
procures for him all those benefits he can desire; there is only one,
which it will not procure, that is, _the knowledge how to apply it
properly_. For man to have money, without the true secret how to enjoy
it, is to possess the key of a commodious palace to which he is
interdicted entrance; to lavish it, prodigally, is to throw the key into
the river; to make a bad use of it, is only to make it the means of
wounding himself. Give the most ample treasures to the enlightened man,
he will not be overwhelmed with them; if he has a capacious mind, if he
has a noble soul, he will only extend more widely his benevolence; he
will deserve the affection of a greater number of his fellow men; he
will attract the love, he will secure the homage, of all those who
surround him; he will restrain himself in his pleasures, in order that
he may be enabled truly to enjoy them; he will know that money cannot
re-establish a soul worn out with enjoyment; cannot give fresh
elasticity to organs enfeebled by excess; cannot give fresh tension to
nerves grown flaccid by abuse; cannot invigorate a body enervated by
debauchery; cannot corroborate a machine, from thenceforth become
incapable of sustaining him, except by the necessity of privations; he
will know that the licentiousness of the voluptuary stifles pleasure in
its source; that all the treasure in the world cannot renew his senses.

From this, it will be obvious, that nothing is more frivolous than the
declamations of a gloomy philosophy against the desire of power; nothing
more absurd than the rant of superstition against the pursuit of
grandeur; nothing more inconsistent than homilies against the
acquisition of riches; nothing more unreasonable than dogmas that forbid
the enjoyment of pleasure. These objects are desirable for man, whenever
his situation allows him to make pretensions to them; they are useful to
society, conducive to public happiness, whenever he has acquired the
knowledge of making them turn to his own real advantage; reason cannot
censure him, virtue cannot despise him, when in order to obtain them, he
never travels out of the road of truth; when in their acquisition, he
wounds no one's interest; when he pursues only legitimate means: his
associates will applaud him; his contemporaries will esteem him: he will
respect himself, when he only employs their agency to secure his own
happiness, and that of his fellows. Pleasure is a benefit, it is of the
essence of man to love, it is even rational when it renders his
existence really valuable to himself--when it does not injure him in his
own esteem; when its consequences are not grievous to others. _Riches_
are the symbols of the great majority of the benefits of this life; they
become a reality in the hands of the man who has the clew to their just
application. _Power_ is the most sterling of all benefits, when he who
is its depositary has received from nature a soul sufficiently noble, a
mind sufficiently elevated, a heart sufficiently benevolent, faculties
sufficiently energetic, above all, when he has derived from education a
true regard for virtue, that sacred love for truth which enables him to
extend his happy influence over whole nations; which by this means he
places in, a state of legitimate dependence on his will; _man only
acquires the right of commanding men, when he renders them happy._

The right of man over his fellow man can only be founded either upon the
actual happiness he secures to him, or that which he gives him reason to
hope he will procure for him; without this, the power he exercises would
be violence, usurpation, manifest tyranny; it is only upon the faculty
of rendering him happy, that legitimate authority builds its structure;
without this it is the "_baseless fabric of a vision." No man derives
from nature the right of commanding another_; but it is voluntarily
accorded to those, from whom he expects his welfare. _Government_ is the
right of commanding, conferred on the sovereign only for the advantage
of those who are governed. Sovereigns are the defenders of the persons,
the guardians of the property, the protectors of the liberty of their
subjects: this is the price of their obedience; it is only on this
condition these consent to obey; government would not be better than a
robbery whenever it availed itself of the powers confided to it, to
render society unhappy. _The empire of religion_ is founded on the
opinion man entertains of its having power to render nations happy;
government and religion are reasonable institutions; but only so,
inasmuch as they equally contribute to the felicity of man: it would be
folly in him to submit himself to a yoke from which there resulted
nothing but evil. It would be folly to expect that man should bind
himself to misery; it would be rank injustice to oblige him to renounce
his rights without some corresponding advantage!

The authority which a father exercises over his family is only founded
on the advantages which he is supposed to procure for it. Rank, in
political society, has only for its basis the real or imaginary utility
of some citizens for which the others are willing to distinguish them--
agree to respect them--consent to obey them. The rich acquire rights
over the indigent, the wealthy claim the homage of the needy, only by
virtue of the welfare they are conditioned to procure them. Genius,
talents, science, arts, have rights over man, only in consequence of
their utility; of the delight they confer; of the advantages they
procure for society. In a word, it is happiness, it is the expectation
of happiness, it is its image that man cherishes--that he esteems--that
he unceasingly adores. Monarchs, the rich, the great, may easily impose
on him, may dazzle him, may intimidate him, but they will never be able
to obtain the voluntary submission of his heart, which alone can confer
upon them legitimate rights, without they make him experience real
benefits--without they display virtue. Utility is nothing more than true
happiness; to be useful is to be virtuous; to be virtuous is to make
others happy.

The happiness which man derives from them is the invariable, the
necessary standard of his sentiments, for the beings of his species; for
the objects he desires; for the opinions he embrases; for those actions
on which he decides. He is the dupe of his prejudices every time he
ceases to avail himself of this standard to regulate his judgment. He
will never run the risk of deceiving himself, when he shall examine
strictly what is the real utility resulting to his species from the
religion, from the superstition, from the laws, from the institutions,
from the inventions, from the various actions of all mankind.

A superficial view may sometimes seduce him; but experience, aided by
reflection, will reconduct him to reason, which is incapable of
deceiving him. This teaches him that pleasure is a momentary happiness,
which frequently becomes an evil; that evil is a fleeting trouble that
frequently becomes a good: it makes him understand the true nature of
objects, enables him to foresee the effects he may expect; it makes him
distinguish those desires to which his welfare permits him to lend
himself, from those to whose seduction he ought to make resistance. In
short, it will always convince him that the true interest of intelligent
beings, who love happiness, who desire to render their own existence
felicitous, demands that they should root out all those phantoms,
abolish all those chimerical ideas, destroy all those prejudices, which
by traducing virtue, obstruct their felicity in this world.

If he consults experience, he will perceive that it is in illusions, in
false opinions, rendered sacred by time, that he ought to search out the
source of that multitude of evils which almost every where overwhelms
mankind. From ignorance of natural causes, man has created imaginary
causes; not knowing to what cause to attribute thunder, he ascribed it
to an imaginary being whom he called JUPITER; imposture availing itself
of this disposition, rendered these causes terrible to him; these fatal
ideas haunted him without rendering him better; made him tremble without
either benefit to himself or to others; filled his mind with chimeras
that opposed themselves to the progress of his reason; that prevented
him from really seeking after his happiness. His vain fears rendered him
the slave of those who deceived him, under pretence of consulting his
welfare; he committed evil, because they persuaded him his gods demanded
sacrifices; he lived in misfortune, because they made him believe these
gods condemned him to be miserable; the slave of beings, to which his
own imagination had given birth, he never dared to disentangle himself
from his chains; the artful ministers of these divinities gave him to
understand that stupidity, the renunciation of reason, sloth of mind,
abjection of soul, were the sure means of obtaining eternal felicity.

Prejudices, not less dangerous, have blinded man upon the true nature of
government. Nations in general are ignorant of the true foundations of
authority; they dare not demand happiness from those kings who are
charged with the care of procuring it for them: some have believed their
sovereigns were gods disguised, who received with their birth the right
of commanding the rest of mankind; that they could at their pleasure
dispose of the felicity of the people; that they were not accountable
for the misery they engendered. By a necessary consequence of these
erroneous opinions, politics have almost every where degenerated into
the fatal art of sacrificing the interests of the many, either to the
caprice of an individual, or to some few privileged irrational beings.
In despite of the evils which assailed them, nations fell down in
adoration before the idols they themselves had made: foolishly respected
the instruments of their misery; had a stupid veneration for those who
possessed the sovereign power of injuring them; obeyed their unjust
will; lavished their blood; exhausted their treasure; sacrificed their
lives, to glut the ambition, to feed the cupidity to minister to the
regenerated phantasms, to gratify the never-ending caprices of these
men; they bend the knee to established opinion, bowed to rank, yielded
to title, to opulence, to pageantry, to ostentation: at length victims
to their prejudices, they in vain expected their welfare at the hands of
men who were themselves unhappy from their own vices; whose neglect of
virtue, had rendered them incapable of enjoying true felicity; who are
but little disposed to occupy themselves with their prosperity: under
such chiefs their physical and moral happiness were equally neglected or
even annihilated.

The same blindness may be perceived in the science of morals.
Superstition, which never had any thing but ignorance for its basis,
which never had more than a disordered imagination for its guide, did
not found ethics upon man's nature; upon his relations with his fellows;
upon those duties which necessarily flow from these relations; it
preferred, as more in unison with itself, founding them upon imaginary
relations which it pretended subsisted between him and those invisible
powers it had so gratuitously imagined; that were delivered by oracles
which their priests had the address to make him believe spoke the will
of the Divinity: thus, TROPHONIUS, from his cave made affrightened
mortals tremble; shook the stoutest nerves; made them turn pale with
fear; his miserable, deluded supplicants, who were obliged to sacrifice
to him, anointed their bodies with oil, bathed in certain rivers, and
after they had offered their cake of honey and received their destiny,
became so dejected, so wretchedly forlorn, that to this day their
descendants, when they behold a malencholy man, exclaim, "_He has
consulted the oracle of Trophonius_." It was these invisible gods, which
superstition always paints as furious tyrants, who were declared the
arbiters of man's destiny; the models of his conduct: when he was
willing to imitate them, when he was willing to conform himself to the
lessons of their interpreters, he became wicked, was an unsociable
creature, an useless being or else a turbulent maniac--a zealous
fanatic. It was these alone who profited by superstition, who advantaged
themselves by the darkness in which they contrived to involve the human
mind; nations were ignorant of nature; they knew nothing of reason; they
understood not truth; they had only a gloomy superstition, without one
certain idea of either morals or virtue. When man committed evil against
his fellow creature, he believed he had offended these gods; but he also
believed himself forgiven, as soon as he had prostrated himself before
them; as soon as he had by costly presents gained over the priest to his
interest. Thus superstition, far from giving a sure, far from affording
a natural, far from introducing a known basis to morals, only rested it
on an unsteady foundation; made it consist in ideal duties impossible to
be accurately understood. What did I say? It first corrupted him, and
his expiations finished by ruining him. Thus when superstition was
desirous to combat the unruly passions of man it attempted it in vain;
always enthusiastic, ever deprived of experience, it knew nothing of the
true remedies: those which it applied were disgusting, only suitable to
make the sick revolt against them; it made them pass for divine, because
they were not made of man; they were inefficacious, because chimeras
could effectuate nothing against those substantive passions to which
motives more real, impulsions more powerful, concurred to give birth,
which every thing conspired, to flourish in his heart. The voice of
superstition or of the gods, could not make itself heard amidst the
tumult of society--where all was in confusion--where the priest cried
out to man, that he could not render himself happy without injuring his
fellow creatures, who happened to differ from him in opinion: these vain
clamours only made virtue hateful to him, because they always
represented it as the enemy to his happiness; as the bane of human
pleasures: he consequently failed in the observation of his duties,
because real motives were never held forth to induce him to make the
requisite sacrifice; the present prevailed over the future; the visible
over the invisible; the known over the unknown: man became wicked
because every thing informed him he must be so, in order to obtain the
happiness after which he sighed.

Thus the sum of human misery was never diminished; on the contrary, it
was accumulating either by his superstition, by his government, by his
education, by his opinions or by the institutions he adopted under the
idea of rendering his condition more pleasant: it not unfrequently
happened that the whole of these acted upon him simultaneously; he was
then completely wretched. It cannot be too often repeated, _it is in
error that man will find the true spring of those evils with which the
human race is afflicted;_ it is not nature that renders him miserable;
it is not nature that makes him unhappy; it is not an irritated Divinity
who is desirous he should live in tears; it is not hereditary
depravation that has caused him to be wicked; it is to error, to long
cherished, consecrated error, to error identified with his very
existence, that these deplorable effects are to be ascribed.

The sovereign good, so much sought after by some philosophers, announced
with so much emphasis by others, may be considered as a chimera, like
unto that marvellous panacea which some adepts have been willing to pass
upon mankind for an universal remedy. All men are diseased; the moment
of their birth delivers them over to the contagion of error; but
individuals are variously affected by it by a consequence of their
natural organization; of their peculiar circumstances. If there is a
sovereign remedy, which can be indiscriminately applied to the diseases
of man, there is without doubt only ONE, this catholic balsam is TRUTH,
Which he must draw from nature.

At the afflicting sight of those errors which blind the greater number
of mortals--of those delusions which man is doomed to suck in with his
mother's milk; viewing with painful sensations those irregular desires,
those disgusting propensities, by which he is perpetually agitated;
seeing the terrible effect of those licentious passions which torment
him; of those lasting inquietudes which gnaw his repose; of those
stupendous evils, as well physical as moral, which assail him on every
side: the contemplator of humanity would be tempted to believe that
happiness was not made for this world; that any effort to cure those
minds which every thing unites to poison, would be a vain enterprize;
that it was an Augean stable, requiring the strength of another
Hercules. When he considers those numerous superstitions by which man is
kept in a continual state of alarm--that divide him from his fellow--
that render him vindictive, persecuting, and irrational; when he beholds
the many despotic governments that oppress him; when he examines those
multitudinous, unintelligible, contradictory laws that torture him; the
manifold injustice under which he groans; when he turns his mind to the
barbarous ignorance in which he is steeped, almost over the whole
surface of the earth; when he witnesses those enormous crimes that
debase society; when he unmasks those rooted vices that render it so
hateful to almost every individual; he has great difficulty to prevent
his mind from embracing the idea that misfortune is the only appendage
of the human species; that this world is made solely to assemble the
unhappy; that human felicity is a chimera, or at least a point so
fugitive, that it is impossible it can be fixed.

Thus superstitious mortals, atrabilious men, beings nourished in
melancholy, unceasingly see either nature or its author exasperated
against the human race; they suppose that man is the constant object of
heaven's wrath; that he irritates it even by his desires: that he
renders himself criminal by seeking a felicity which is not made for
him: struck with beholding that those objects which he covets in the
most lively manner, are never competent to content his heart, they have
decried them as abominations, as things prejudicial to his interest, as
odious to his gods; they prescribe him abstinence from all search after
them; that he should entirely shun them; they have endeavoured to put to
the rout all his passions, without any distinction even of those which
are the most useful to himself, the most beneficial to those beings with
whom he lives: they have been willing that man should render himself
insensible; should become his own enemy; that he should separate himself
from his fellow creatures; that he should renounce all pleasure; that he
should refuse happiness; in short, _that he should cease to be a man,
that he should become unnatural_. "Mortals!" have they said, "ye were
born to be unhappy; the author of your existence has destined ye for
misfortune; enter then into his views, and render yourselves miserable.
Combat those rebellious desires which have felicity for their object;
renounce those pleasures which it is your essence to love; attach
yourselves to nothing in this world; by a society that only serves to
inflame your imagination, to make you sigh after benefits you ought not
to enjoy; break up the spring of your souls; repress that activity that
seeks to put a period to your sufferings; suffer, afflict yourselves,
groan, be wretched; such is for you the true road to happiness."

Blind physicians! who have mistaken for a disease the natural state of
man! they have not seen that his desires were necessary; that his
passions were essential to him; that to defend him from loving
legitimate pleasures; to interdict him from desiring them, is to deprive
him of that activity which is the vital principle of society; that to
tell him to hate, to desire him to despise himself, is to take from him
the most substantive motive, that can conduct him to virtue. It is thus,
by its supernatural remedies, by its wretched panacea, superstition, far
from curing those evils which render man decrepid, which bend him almost
to the earth, has only increased them; made them more desperate; in the
room of calming his passions, it gives them inveteracy; makes them more
dangerous; renders them more venomous; turns that into a curse which
nature has given him for his preservation; to be the means of his own
happiness. It is not by extinguishing the passions of man that he is to
be rendered happier; it is by turning them into proper channels, by
directing them towards useful objects, which by being truly advantageous
to himself, must of necessity be beneficial to others.

In despite of the errors which blind the human race, in despite of the
extravagance of man's superstition, maugre the imbecility of his
political institutions, notwithstanding the complaints, in defiance of
the murmurs he is continually breathing forth against his destiny, there
are yet happy individuals on the earth. Man has sometimes the felicity
to behold sovereigns animated by the noble passion to render nations
flourishing; full of the laudable ambition to make their people happy;
now and then he encounters an ANTONINUS, a TRAJAN, a JULIAN, an ALFRED,
a WASHINGTON; he meets with elevated minds who place their glory in
encouraging merit--who rest their happiness in succouring indigence--who
think it honourable to lend a helping hand to oppressed virtue: he sees
genius occupied with the desire of meriting the eulogies of posterity;
of eliciting the admiration of his fellow-citizens by serving them
usefully, satisfied with enjoying that happiness he procures for others.

Let it not be believed that the man of poverty himself is excluded from
happiness: mediocrity and indigence frequently procure for him
advantages that opulence and grandeur are obliged to acknowledge; which
title and wealth are constrained to envy: the soul of the needy man,
always in action, never ceases to form desires which his activity places
within his reach; whilst the rich, the powerful, are frequently in the
afflicting embarrassment, of either not knowing what to wish for, or
else of desiring those objects which their listlessness renders it
impossible for them to obtain. The poor man's body, habituated to
labour, knows the sweets of repose; this repose of the body, is the most
troublesome fatigue to him who is wearied with his idleness; exercise,
and frugality, procure for the one vigour, health, and contentment; the
intemperance and sloth of the other, furnish him only with disgust--load
him with infirmities. Indigence sets all the springs of the soul to
work; it is the mother of industry; from its bosom arises genius; it is
the parent of talents, the hot-bed of that merit to which opulence is
obliged to pay tribute; to which grandeur bows its homage. In short the
blows of fate find in the poor man a flexible reed, who bends without
breaking, whilst the storms of adversity tear the rich man like the
sturdy oak in the forest, up by the very roots.

Thus Nature is not a step-mother to the greater number of her children.
He whom fortune has placed in an obscure station is ignorant of that
ambition which devours the courtier; knows nothing of the inquietude
which deprives the intriguer of his rest; is a stranger to the remorse,
an alien to the disgust, is unconscious of the weariness of the man,
who, enriched with the spoils of a nation, does not know how to turn
them to his profit. The more the body labours, the more the imagination
reposes itself; it is the diversity of the objects man runs over that
kindles it; it is the satiety of those objects that causes him disgust;
the imagination of the indigent is circumscribed by necessity: he
receives but few ideas: he is acquainted with but few objects: in
consequence, he has but little to desire; he contents himself with that
little: whilst the entire of nature with difficulty suffices to satisfy
the insatiable desires, to gratify the imaginary wants of the man,
plunged in luxury, who has run over and exhausted all common objects.
Those, whom prejudice contemplates; as the most unhappy of men,
frequently enjoy advantages more real, happiness much greater, than
those who oppress them--who despise them--but who are nevertheless often
reduced to the misery of envying them. Limited desires are a real
benefit: the man of meaner condition, in his humble fortune, desires
only bread: he obtains it by the sweat of his brow; he would eat it with
pleasure if injustice did not sometimes render it bitter to him. By the
delirium of some governments, those who roll in abundance, without for
that reason being more happy, dispute with the cultivator even the
fruits which the earth yields to the labour of his hands. _Princes_
sometimes sacrifice their true happiness, as well as that of their
states, to these passions--to those caprices which discourage the
people; which plunge their provinces in misery: which make millions
unhappy, without any advantage to themselves. _Tyrants_ oblige the
subjects to curse their existence; to abandon labour; take from them the
courage of propagating a progeny who would be as unhappy as their
fathers: the excess of oppression sometimes obliges them to revolt;
makes them avenge themselves by wicked outrages of the injustice it has
heaped on their devoted heads: injustice, by reducing indigence to
despair, obliges it to seek in crime, resources, against its misery. An
unjust government, produces discouragement in the soul: its vexations
depopulate a country; under its influence, the earth remains without
culture; from thence is bred frightful famine, which gives birth to
contagion and plague. The misery of a people produce revolutions; soured
by misfortunes, their minds get into a state of fermentation; the
overthrow of an empire, is the necessary effect. It is thus that
_physics_ and _morals_ are always connected, or rather are the _same

If the bad morals of chiefs do not always produce such marked effects,
at least they generate slothfulness, of which their effect is to fill
society with mendicants; to crowd it with malefactors; whose vicious
course neither superstition nor the terror of the laws can arrest; which
nothing can induce to remain the unhappy spectators of a welfare they
are not permitted to participate. They seek a fleeting happiness at the
expence even of their lives, when injustice has shut up to them the road
of labour, those paths of industry which would have rendered them both
useful and honest.

Let it not then be said that no government can render all its subjects
happy; without doubt it cannot flatter itself with contenting the
capricious humours of some idle citizens who are obliged to rack their
imagination, to appease the disgust arising from lassitude: but it can,
and it ought to occupy itself with ministering to the real wants of the
multitude, with giving a useful activity to the whole body politic. A
society enjoys all the happiness of which it is susceptible whenever the
greater number of its members are wholesomely fed, decently cloathed,
comfortably lodged--in short when they can without an excess of toil
beyond their strength, procure wherewith to satisfy those wants which
nature has made necessary to their existence. Their mind rests contented
as soon as they are convinced no power can ravish from them the fruits
of their industry; that they labour for themselves; that the sweat of
their brow is for the immediate comfort of their own families. By a
consequence of human folly in some regions, whole nations are obliged to
toil incessantly, to waste their strength, to sweat under their burdens
to undulate the air with their sighs, to drench the earth with their
tears, in order to maintain the luxury, to gratify the whims, to support
the corruption of a small number of irrational beings; of some few
useless men to whom happiness has become impossible, because their
bewildered imaginations no longer know any bounds. It is thus that
superstitious, thus that political errors have changed the fair face of
nature into a valley of tears.

For want of consulting reason, for want of knowing the value of virtue,
for want of being instructed in their true interest, for want of being
acquainted with what constitutes solid happiness, in what consists real
felicity, the prince and the, people, the rich and the poor, the great
and the little, are unquestionably, frequently very far removed from
content; nevertheless if an impartial eye be glanced over the human
race, it will be found to comprise a greater number of benefits than of
evils. No man is entirely happy, but he is so in detail; those who make
the most bitter complaints of the rigour of their fate, are however,
held in existence by threads frequently imperceptible; are prevented
from the desire of quitting it by circumstances of which they are not
aware. In short, habit lightens to man the burden of his troubles; grief
suspended becomes true enjoyment; every want is a pleasure in the moment
when it is satisfied; freedom from chagrin, the absence of disease, is a
happy state which he enjoys secretly, without even perceiving it; hope,
which rarely abandons him entirely, helps him to support the most cruel
disasters. The PRISONER laughs in his irons. The wearied VILLAGER
returns singing to his cottage. In short, the man who calls himself the
most unfortunate, never sees death approach without dismay, at least, if
despair has not totally disfigured nature in his eyes.

As long as man desires the continuation of his being, he has no right to
call himself completely unhappy; whilst hope sustains him, he still
enjoys a great benefit. If man was more just, in rendering to himself an
account of his pleasures, in estimating his pains, he would acknowledge
that the sum of the first exceeds by much the amount of the last; he
would perceive that he keeps a very exact ledger of the evil, but a very
unfaithful journal of the good: indeed he would avow, that there are but
few days entirely unhappy during the whole course of his existence. His
periodical wants procure for him the pleasure of satisfying them; his
soul is perpetually moved by a thousand objects, of which, the variety,
the multiplicity, the novelty, rejoices him, suspends his sorrows,
diverts his chagrin. His physical evils, are they violent? They are not
of long duration; they conduct him quickly to his end: the sorrows of
his mind, when too powerful, conduct him to it equally. At the same time
nature refuses him every happiness, she opens to him a door by which he
quits life; does he refuse to enter it? It is that he yet finds pleasure
in existence. Are nations reduced to despair? Are they completely
miserable? They have recourse to arms; at the risque of perishing, they
make the most violent efforts to terminate there sufferings.

Thus because he sees so many of his fellows cling to life, man ought to
conclude they are not so unhappy as he thinks. Then let him not
exaggerate the evils of the human race, but let him impose silence on
that gloomy humour that persuades him these evils are without remedy;
let him only diminish by degrees the number of his errors, his
calamities will vanish in the same proportion; he is not to conclude
himself infelicitous because his heart never ceases to form new desires,
which he finds it difficult, sometimes impossible to gratify. Since his
body daily requires nourishment, let him infer that it is sound, that it
fulfils its functions. As long as he has desires, the proper deduction
ought to be, that his mind is kept in the necessary activity; he should
gather from all this that passions are essential to him, that they
constitute the happiness of a being who feels; are indispensable to a
man who thinks; are requisite to furnish him with ideas; that they are a
vital principle with a creature who must necessarily love that which
procures him comfort, who must equally desire that which promises him a
mode of existence analogous to his natural energies. As long as he
exists, as long as the spring of his soul maintains its elasticity, this
soul desires; as long as it desires, he experiences the activity which
is necessary to him; as long as he acts, so long he lives. Human life
may be compared to a river, of which the waters succeed each other,
drive each other forward, and flow on without interruption; these
waters, obliged to roll over an unequal bed, encounter at intervals
those obstacles which prevent their stagnation; they never cease to
undulate; sometimes they recoil, then again rush forward, thus
continuing to run with more or less velocity, until they are restored to
_the ocean of nature_.


_Those Ideas which are true, or founded upon Nature, are the only
Remedies for the Evils of Man.--Recapitulation.--Conclusion of the first

Whenever man ceases to take experience for his guide, he falls into
error. His errors become yet more dangerous, assume a more determined
inveteracy, when they are clothed with the sanction of superstition; it
is then that he hardly ever consents to return into the paths of truth;
he believes himself deeply interested in no longer seeing clearly that
which lies before him; he fancies he has an essential advantage in no
longer understanding himself; he supposes his happiness exacts that he
should shut his eyes to truth. If the majority of moral philosophers
have mistaken the human heart--if they have deceived themselves upon its
diseases--if they have miscalculated the remedies that are suitable--if
the remedies they have administered have been inefficacious or even
dangerous--it is because they have abandoned nature--because they have
resisted experience--because they have not had sufficient steadiness to
consult their reason--because they have renounced the evidence of their
senses--because they have only followed the caprices of an imagination
either dazzled by enthusiasm or disturbed by fear; because they have
preferred the illusions it has held forth to the realities of nature,
_who never deceives_.

It is for want of having felt that an intelligent being cannot for an
instant lose sight of his own peculiar conservation--of his particular
interests, either real or fictitious--of his own welfare, whether
permanent or transitory; in short, of his happiness, either true or
false. It is for want of having considered that desires are natural,
that passions are essential, that both the one and the other are motions
necessary to the soul of man,--that the physicians of the, human mind
have supposed supernatural causes for his wanderings; have only applied
to his evils topical remedies, either useless or dangerous. Indeed, in
desiring him to stifle his desires, to combat his propensities, to
annihilate his passions, they have done no more than give him sterile
precepts, at once vague and impracticable; these vain lessons have
influenced no one; they have at most restrained some few mortals whom a
quiet imagination but feebly solicited to evil; the terrors with which
they have accompanied them have disturbed the tranquillity of those
persons who were moderate by their nature, without ever arresting the
ungovernable temperament of those who were inebriated by their passions,
or hurried along; by the torrent of habit. In short, the promises of
superstition, as well as the menaces it holds forth, have only formed
fanatics, given birth to enthusiasts, who are either dangerous or
useless to society, without ever making man truly virtuous; that is to
say, useful to his fellow creatures.

These, empirics guided by a blind routine have, not seen that man as
long as he exists, is obliged to feel, to desire, to have passions, to
satisfy them in proportion to the energy which his organization has
given him; they have not perceived that education planted these desires
in his heart--that habit rooted them--that his government, frequently
vicious, corroborated their growth--that public opinion stamped them
with its approbation--that--experience render them necessary--that to
tell men thus constituted to destroy their passions, was either to
plunge them into despair or else to order them remedies too revolting
for their temperament. In the actual state of opulent societies, to say
to a man who knows by experience that riches procure every pleasure,
that he must not desire them; that he must not make any efforts to
obtain them; that he ought to detach himself from them: is to persuade
him to render himself miserable. To tell an ambitious man not to desire
grandeur, not to covet power, which every thing conspires to point out
to him as the height of felicity, is to order him to overturn at one
blow the habitual system of his ideas; it is to speak, to a deaf man. To
tell a lover of an impetuous temperament to stifle his passions for the
object that enchants him, is to make him understand, that he ought to
renounce his happiness. To oppose superstition to such substantive, such
puissant interests is to combat realities by chimerical speculations.

Indeed, if things were examined without prepossession, it would be found
that the greater part of the precepts inculcated by superstition, which
fanatical dogmas hold forth, which, supernatural mortals give to man,
are as ridiculous as they are impossible to be put into practice. To
interdict passion to man, is to desire of him not to be a human
creature; to counsel an individual of a violent imagination to moderate
his desires, is to advise him to change his temperament--is to request
his blood to flow more sluggishly. To tell a man to renounce his habits,
is to be willing that a citizen, accustomed to clothe himself, should
consent to walk quite naked; it would avail as much, to desire him to
change the lineament of his face, to destroy his configuration, to
extinguish his imagination, to alter the course of his fluids, as to
command him not to have passions which excite an activity analogous with
his natural energy; or to lay aside those which confirmed habit has made
him contract; which his circumstances, by a long succession of causes
and effects, have converted into wants. Such are, however, the so much
boasted remedies which the greater number of moral philosophers apply to
human depravity. Is it, then surprising they do not produce the desired
effect, or that they only reduce man to a state of despair by the
effervescence that results from the continual conflict which they excite
between the passions of his heart and these fanciful doctrines; between
his vices and his virtues; between his habits and those chimerical fears
with which superstition is at all times ready to overwhelm him? The
vices of society, aided by the objects of which it avails itself to what
the desires of man, the pleasures, the riches, the grandeur which his
government holds forth to him as so many seductive magnets, the
advantage which education, the benefits which example, the interests
which public opinion render dear to him, attract him on one side; whilst
a gloomy morality, founded upon superstitious illusions, vainly solicit
him on the other; thus, superstition plunges him into misery; holds a
violent struggle with his heart, without scarcely ever gaining the
victory; when by accident it does prevail against so many united forces,
it renders him unhappy; it completely destroys the spring of his soul.

Passions are the true counterpoise to passions; then let him not seek to
destroy them; but let him endeavour to direct them; let him balance
those which are prejudicial, by those which are useful to society.
_Reason_, the fruit of experience, is only the art of choosing those
passions to which for his own peculiar happiness he ought to listen.
_Education_ is the true art of disseminating the proper method of
cultivating advantageous passions in the heart of man. _Legislation_ is
the art of restraining dangerous passions; of exciting those which may
be conducive to the public welfare. _Superstition_ is only the miserable
art of planting the unproductive labour--of nourishing in the soul of
man those chimeras, those illusions, those impostures, those
incertitudes from whence spring passions fatal to himself as well as to
others: it is only by bearing up with fortitude against these that he
can securely place himself on the road to happiness. _True religion_ is
the art of advocating truth--of renouncing error--of contemplating
reality--of drawing wisdom from experience--of cultivating man's nature
to his own felicity, by teaching him to contribute to that of his
associates; in short it is _reason, education_, and _legislation_,
united to further the great end of human existence, by causing the
passions of man to flow in a current genial to his own happiness.

_Reason_ and _morals_ cannot effect any thing on mankind if they do not
point out to each individual that his true interest is attached to a
conduct that is either useful to others or beneficial to himself; this
conduct to be useful must conciliate for him the benevolence, gain for
him the favor of these beings who are necessary to his happiness: it is
then for the interest of mankind, for the happiness of the human race,
it is for the esteem of himself, for the love of his fellows, for the
advantages which ensue, that education in early life should kindle the
imagination of the citizen; this is the true means of obtaining those
happy results with which habit should familiarize him; which public
opinion should render dear to his heart; for which example ought
continually to rouse his faculties; after which he should be taught to
search with unceasing attention. _Government_ by the aid of recompences,
ought to encourage him to follow this plan; by visiting crime with
punishment it ought to deter those who are willing to interrupt it. Thus
the hope of a true welfare, the fear of real evil, will be passions
suitable to countervail those which by their impetuosity would injure
society; these last will at least become very rare, if instead of
feeding man's mind with unintelligible speculations, in lieu of
vibrating on his ears words void of sense, he is only spoken to of
realities, only shewn those interests which are in unison with truth.

Man is frequently so wicked, only, because he almost always feels
himself interested in being so; let him be more enlightened, more
familiarized with truth, more accustomed to virtue, he will be made more
happy; he will necessarily become better. An equitable government, a
vigilant administration, will presently fill the state with honest
citizens; it will hold forth to them present reasons for benevolence;
real advantages in truth; palpable motives to be virtuous; it will
instruct them in their duties; it will foster them with its cares; it
will allure them by the assurance of their own peculiar happiness; its
promises faithfully fulfilled--its menaces regularly executed, will
unquestionably have much more weight than those of a gloomy
superstition, which never exhibits to their view other than illusory
benefits, fallacious punishments, which the man hardened in wickedness
will doubt every time he finds an interest in questioning them: present
motives will tell more home to his heart than those which are distant
and at best uncertain. The vicious and the wicked are so common upon the
earth, so pertinacious in their evil courses, so attached to their
irregularities, only because there are but few governments that make man
feel the advantage of being just, the pleasure of being honest, the
happiness of being benevolent on the contrary, there is hardly any place
where the most powerful interests do not solicit him to crime, by
favouring the propensities of a vicious organization; by countenancing
those appetencies which nothing has attempted to rectify or lead towards
virtue. A savage, who in his horde knows not the value of money,
certainly would not commit a crime, if when transplanted into civilized
society, he should presently learn to desire it, should make efforts to
obtain it, and if he could without danger finish by stealing it; above
all, if he had not been taught to respect the property of the beings who
environ him. The savages and the child are precisely in the same state;
it is the negligence of society, of those entrusted with their
education, that renders both the one and the other wicked. The son of a
noble, from his infancy learns to desire power, at a riper age he
becomes ambitious; if he has the address to insinuate himself into
favor, he perhaps becomes wicked, because in some societies he has been
taught to know he may be so with impunity when he can command the ear of
his sovereign. It is not therefore nature that makes man wicked, they
are his institutions which determine him to vice. The infant brought up
amongst robbers, can generally become nothing but a malefactor; if he
had been reared with honest people, the chance is he would have been a
virtuous man.

If the source be traced of that profound ignorance in which man is with
respect to his morals, to the motives that can give volition to his
will, it will be found in those false ideas which the greater number of
speculators have formed to themselves, of human nature. The science of
morals has become an enigma which it is impossible to unrevel; because
man has made himself double; has distinguished his soul from his body;
supposed it of a nature different from all known beings, with modes of
action, with properties distinct from all other bodies, because he has
emancipated this soul from physical laws, in order to submit it to
capricious laws emanating from men who have pretended they are derived
from imaginary regions, placed at very remote distances: metaphysicians
seized upon these gratuitous suppositions, and by dint of subtilizing
them, have rendered them completely unintelligible. These moralists have
not perceived that motion is essential to the soul as well as to the
living body; that both the one and the other are never moved but by
material, by physical objects; that the want of each regenerate
themselves unceasingly; that the wants of the soul, as well as those of
the body are purely physical; that the most intimate, the most constant
connection subsists between the soul and the body; or rather they have
been unwilling to allow that they ate only the same thing considered
under different points of view. Obstinate in their supernatural,
unintelligible opinions, they have refused to open their eyes, which
would have convinced them that the body in suffering rendered the soul
miserable; that the soul afflicted undermined the body and brought it to
decay; that both the pleasures and agonies of the mind have an influence
over the body, either plunge it into sloth or give it activity: they
have rather chosen to believe, that the soul draws its thoughts, whether
pleasant or gloomy, from its own peculiar sources, while the fact is,
that it derives its ideas only from material objects that strike on the
physical organs; that it is neither determined to gaiety nor led on to
sorrow, but by the actual state, whether permanent or transitory, in
which the fluids and solids of the body are found. In short, they have
been loath to acknowledge that the soul, purely passive, undergoes the
same changes which the body experiences; is only moved by its
intervention; acts only by its assistance, receives its sensations, its
perceptions, forms its ideas, derives either its happiness or its misery
from physical objects, through the medium of the organs of which the
body is composed; frequently without its own cognizance, often in
despite of itself.

By a consequence of these opinions, connected with marvellous systems,
or systems invented to justify them, they have supposed the human soul
to be a free agent; that is to say, that it has the faculty of moving
itself; that it enjoys the privilege of acting independent of the
impulse received from exterior objects, through the organs of the body;
that regardless of these impulsions it can even resist them, and follow
its own directions by its own energies; that it is not only different in
its nature from all other beings, but has a separate mode of action; in
other words, that it is an insolated point which is, not submitted to
that uninterrupted chain of motion which bodies communicate to each
other in a nature, whose parts are always in action. Smitten with their
sublime notions, these speculators were not aware that in thus
distinguishing the soul from the body and from all known beings, they
rendered it an impossibility to form any true ideas of it, either to
themselves or to others: they were unwilling to perceive the perfect
analogy which is found between the manner of the soul's action and that
by which the body is afflicted; they shut their eyes to the necessary
and continual correspondence which is found between the soul and the
body; they perhaps did not perceive that like the body it is subjected
to the motion of attraction and repulsion; has an aptitude to be
attracted, a disposition to repel, which is ascribable to qualities
inherent in those physical subsistances, which give play to the organs
of the body; that the volition of its will, the activity of its
passions, the continual regeneration of its desires, are never more than
consequences of that activity which is produced in the body by material
objects which are not under its controul; that these objects render it
either happy or miserable, active or languishing, contented or
discontented, in despite of itself,--in defiance of all the efforts it
is capable of making to render it otherwise; they have rather chosen to
seek in the heavens for unknown powers to set it in motion; they have
held forth to man distant, imaginary interests: under the pretext of
procuring for him future happiness, he has been prevented from labouring
to his present felicity, which has been studiously withheld from his
knowledge: his regards have been fixed upon the heavens, that he might
lose sight of the earth: truth has been concealed from him; and it has
been pretended he would be rendered happy by dint of terrors, always at
an immense distance; by means of shadows, with whose substances he could
never come in contact; of chimeras formed by his own bewildered
imagination, which changed nearly as often as the governments to which
he was submitted. In short, hoodwinked by his fears, blinded by his own
credulity, _he was only guided through the flexuous paths of life, by
men blind as himself, where both the one and the other were frequently
lost in the maze_.


From every thing which has been hitherto said, it evidently results that
all the errors of mankind, of whatever nature they may be, arise from
man's having renounced reason, quitted experience, and refused the
evidence of his senses that he might be guided by imagination,
frequently deceitful; by authority, always suspicious. Man will ever
mistake his true happiness as long as he neglects to study nature, to
investigate her laws, to seek in her alone the remedies for those evils
which are the consequence of his errors: he will be an enigma to
himself, as long as he shall believe himself double; that he is moved by
an inconceivable spiritual power, of the laws and nature of which he is
ignorant; his intellectual, as well as his moral faculties, will remain
unintelligible to him if he does not contemplate them with the same eyes
as he does his corporeal qualities; if he does not view them as
submitted in every thing to the same impulse, as governed by the same
regulations. The system of his pretended free agency is without support;
experience contradicts it every instant, and proves that he never ceases
to be under the influence of necessity in all his actions; this truth,
far from being dangerous to man, far from being destructive of his
morals, furnishes him with their true basis by making him feel the
necessity of those relations which subsists between sensible beings
united in society: who have congregated with a view of uniting their
common efforts for their reciprocal felicity. From the necessity of
these relations, spring the necessity of his duties; these point out to
him the sentiments of love, which he should accord to virtuous conduct;
that aversion he should have for what is vicious; the horror he should
feel for every thing criminal. From hence the true foundation of _Moral
Obligation_ will be obvious, which is only the necessity of talking
means to obtain the end man proposes to himself by uniting in society;
in which each individual for his own peculiar interest, his own
particular happiness, his own personal security, is obliged to display
dispositions requisite to conciliate the affections of his associates;
to hold a conduct suitable to the preservation of the community; to
contribute by his actions to the happiness of the whole. In a word, it
is upon the necessary action and re-action of the human will upon the
necessary attraction and repulsion of man's soul, that all his morals
are bottomed: it is the unison of his will, the concert of his actions,
that maintains society; it is rendered miserable by his discordance; it
is dissolved by his want of union.

From what has been said, it may be concluded that the names under which
man has designated the concealed causes acting in nature, and their
various effects, are never more than _necessity_ considered under
different points of view, with the original cause of which--the great
_cause of causes_--he must ever remain ignorant. It will be found that
what he calls _order_, is a necessary consequence of causes and effects,
of which he sees, or believes he sees, the entire connection, the
complete routine, which pleases him as a whole, when he finds it
conformable to his existence. In like manner it will be seen that what
he calls _confusion_, is a consequence of like necessary causes and
effects, of which he loses the concatenation, which he therefore thinks
unfavourable to himself, or but little suitable to his being. That he
has designated by the names of--

_Intelligence_, those necessary causes that necessarily operate the
chain of events which he comprises under the term _order_:

_Divinity_, those necessary but invisible causes which give play to
nature, in which every thing acts according to immutable and necessary

_Destiny_ or _fatality_, the necessary connection of those unknown
causes and, effects which he beholds in the world:

_Chance_, those effects which he is not able to foresee, or of which he
is ignorant of the necessary connection, with their causes:

_Intellectual_ and _moral faculties_, those effects and those
modifications necessary to an organized being, whom he has supposed to
be moved by an inconceivable agent; who he has believed distinguished
from his body, of a nature totally different from it, and which he has
designated by the word SOUL. In consequence, he has believed this agent
immortal; not dissoluble like the body. It has been shewn that the
marvellous doctrine of another life, is founded upon gratuitous
suppositions, contradicted by reflections, unsupported by experience,
that may or may not be, without man's knowing any thing on the subject.
It has been proved, that the hypothesis is not only useless to man's
morals, but again, that it is calculated to palsy his exertions; to
divert him from actively pursuing the true road to his own happiness; to
fill him with romantic caprices; to inebriate him with opinions
prejudicial to his tranquillity; in short, to lull to slumber the
vigilance of legislators; by dispensing them from giving to education,
to the institutions, to the laws of society, all that attention, which
it is the duty and for his interest they should bestow. It must have
been felt, that _politics_ has unaccountably rested itself upon wrong
opinions; upon ideas little capable of satisfying those passions, which
every thing conspires to kindle in the heart of man; who ceases to view
the future, while the present seduces and hurries him along. It has been
shewn, that contempt of death is an advantageous sentiment, calculated
to inspire man's mind with courage; to render him intrepid; to induce
him to undertake that which may be truly useful to society; in short,
from what has preceded, it will be obvious, what is competent to conduct
man to happiness, and also what are the obstacles that error opposes to
his felicity.

Let us not then, be accused of demolishing prejudice, without edifying
the mind; with combating error without substituting truth; with
underrating the power of the great _cause of causes_; with sapping at
one and the same time the foundations of superstition and of sound
morals. The last is necessary to man; it is founded upon his nature; its
duties are certain, they must last as long as the human race remains; it
imposes obligations on him, because, without it, neither individuals nor
society could be able to subsist, either obtain or enjoy those
advantages which nature obliges them to desire.

Listen then, O man! to those morals which are established upon,
experience; which are grounded upon the necessity of things; do not lend
thine ear to those superstitions founded upon reveries; rested upon
imposture; built upon the capricious whims of a disordered imagination.
Follow the lessons of those humane, those gentle morals, which conduct
man to virtue, by the voice of happiness: turn a deaf ear to the
inefficacious cries of superstition, which renders man really unhappy;
which can never make him reverence VIRTUE; which renders truth hateful;
which paints veracity in hideous colours; in short, let him see if
REASON, without the assistance of a rival, who prohibits its use, will
not more surely conduct him towards that great end, which is the object
of his research, which is the natural tendency of all his views.

Indeed, what benefit has the human race hitherto drawn from those
sublime, those supernatural notions with which superstition has fed
mortals during so many ages? All those phantoms conjured--up by
ignorance--brooded by imagination; all those hypothesis, subtile as they
are irrational; from which experience is banished, all those words
devoid of meaning with which languages are crowded; all those
fantastical hopes; those panic terrors which have been brought to
operate on the will of man; what have they done? Has any or the whole of
them rendered him better, more enlightened to his duties, more faithful
in their performance? Have those marvellous systems, or those
sophistical inventions, by which they have been supported, carried
conviction to his mind, reason into his conduct, virtue into his heart?
Have they led him to the least acquaintance with the great _Cause of
Causes?_ Alas! it is a lamentable fact, that cannot be too often
exposed, that all these things have done nothing more than plunge the
human understanding into that darkness from which it is difficult to be
withdrawn; sown in man's heart the most dangerous errors; of which it is
scarcely possible to divest him; given birth to those fatal passions, in
which may be found the true source of those evils, with which his
species is afflicted: but have never enlightened his mind with truth,
nor led him to that right healthy worship, which man best pays by a
rational enjoyment of the faculties with which he is gifted.

Cease then, O mortal! to let thyself he disturbed with chimeras, to let
thy mind be troubled with phantoms which thine own imagination has
created, or to which arch imposture has given birth. Renounce thy vague
hopes, disengage thyself from thine overwhelming fears, follow without
inquietude the necessary routine which nature has marked out for thee;
strew the road with flowers if thy destiny permits; remove, if thou art
able, the thorns scattered over it. Do not attempt to plunge thy views
into an impenetrable futurity; its obscurity ought to be sufficient to
prove to thee, that it is either useless or dangerous to fathom. Think
of making thyself happy in that existence which is known to thee: if
thou wouldst preserve thyself, be temperate, be moderate, be reasonable:
if thou seekest to render thy existence durable, be not prodigal of
pleasure; abstain from every thing that can be hurtful to thyself,
injurious to others: be truly intelligent; that is to say, learn to
esteem thyself, to preserve thy being, to fulfil that end which at each
moment thou proposest to thyself. Be virtuous, to the end that thou
mayest render thyself solidly happy, that thou mayest enjoy the
affections, secure the esteem, partake of the assistance of those by
whom thou art surrounded; of those beings whom nature has made necessary
to thine own peculiar felicity. Even when they should be unjust, render
thyself worthy of their applause, of thine own love, and thou shalt live
content, thy serenity shall not be disturbed, the end of thy career
shall not slander thy life; which will be exempted from remorse: death
will be to thee the door to a new existence, a new order, in which thou
wilt be submitted, as thou art at present, to the eternal laws of
nature, which ordains, that to LIVE HAPPY HERE BELOW, THOU MUST MAKE
OTHERS HAPPY. Suffer thyself then, to be drawn gently along thy journey,
until thou shalt sleep peaceable on that bosom which has given thee
birth: if contrary to thine expectation, there should be another life of
eternal felicity, thou canst not fail being a partaker.

For thou, wicked unfortunate! who art found in continual contradiction
with thyself; thou whose disorderly machine can neither accord with
thine own peculiar nature, nor with that of thine associates, whatever
may be thy crimes, whatever may be thy fears of punishment in another
life, thou art at least already cruelly punished in this? Do not thy
follies, thy shameful habits, thy debaucheries, damage thine health?
Dost thou not linger out life in disgust, fatigued with thine own
excesses? Does not listlessness punish thee for thy satiated passions?
Has not thy vigour, thy gaiety, thy content, already yielded to
feebleness, crouched under infirmities, given place to regret? Do not
thy vices every day dig thy grave? Every time thou hast stained thyself
with crime, hast thou dared without horror to return into thyself, to
examine thine own conscience? Hast thou not found remorse, error, shame,
established in thine heart? Hast thou not dreaded the scrutiny of thy
fellow man? Hast thou not trembled when alone; unceasingly feared, that
truth, so terrible for thee, should unveil thy dark transgressions,
throw into light thine enormous iniquities? Do not then any longer fear
to part with thine existence, it will at least put an end to those
richly merited torments thou hast inflicted on thyself; _Death, in
delivering the earth from an incommodious burthen, will also deliver
thee from thy most cruel enemy, thyself_.


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