Voltaire essay universal history

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Essai sur les mœurs et l'esprit des nations - Wikipedia

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Add to cart. OK Cancel. Continue Cancel. Your reference. Download Cancel. Please confirm your download. Do not show this prompt again. Hope and fear are the powerful agents which she often employs to stay the hand of the unhappy individual about to strike at his own breast.

ruofuzznist.tk Coward, thou darest not! It is said that there have been countries in which a council was established to grant the citizens permission to kill themselves when they had good and Edition: current; Page: [ 27 ] sufficient reasons. I answer either that it was not so or that those magistrates had not much to do.

19.4.4: Voltaire

It might, indeed, astonish us, and does, I think, merit a serious examination, that almost all the ancient Roman heroes killed themselves when they had lost a battle in the civil wars. But I do not find, neither in the time of the League, nor in that of the Fronde, nor in the troubles of Italy, nor in those of England, that any chief thought proper to die by his own hand. These chiefs, it is true, were Christians, and there is a great difference between the principles of a Christian warrior and those of a Pagan hero.

But why were these men whom Christianity restrained when they would have put themselves to death, restrained by nothing when they chose to poison, assassinate, and bring their conquered enemies to the scaffold? Does not the Christian religion forbid these murders much more than self-murder, of which the New Testament makes no mention? Agreed, but most men would prefer sleeping in a mean house to lying in the open air. I once received a circular letter from an Englishman, in which he offered a prize to any one who should most satisfactorily prove that there are occasions on which a man might kill himself.


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I made no answer: I had nothing to prove to him. He had only to examine whether he liked better to die than to live. Another Englishman came to me at Paris in ; he was ill, and promised me that he would kill himself if he was not cured by July I returned him his money on July 20, and kept his epitaph. In my own time the last prince of the house of Courtenai, when very old, and the last branch of Lorraine-Harcourt, when very young, destroyed themselves almost without its being heard of. These occurrences cause a terrible uproar the first day, but when the property of the deceased has been divided they are no longer talked of.

The following most remarkable of all suicides has just occurred at Lyons, in June, A young man well known, who was handsome, well made, clever, and amiable, fell in love with a young woman whom her parents would not give to him.


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So far we have nothing more than the opening scene of a comedy, the astonishing tragedy is to follow. The lover broke a blood-vessel and the surgeons informed him there was no remedy. His mistress engaged to meet him, with two pistols and two daggers in order that, if the pistols missed the daggers might the next moment pierce their hearts. Both fired at a signal given, and both fell at the same instant.

Voltaire Essay On The Manners And Mind Of Nations

Of this fact the whole city of Lyons is witness. Has any law, civil or religious, ever forbidden a man to kill himself, on pain of being hanged after death, or on pain of being damned? It is true that Virgil has said:. Such was the religion of some of the pagans, yet, notwithstanding the weariness which awaited them in the next world it was an honor to quit this by killing themselves—so contradictory are the ways of men.

And among us is not duelling unfortunately still honorable, though forbidden by reason, by religion, and by every law? If the duke of Montmorency, Marshal de Marillac, de Thou, Cinq-Mars, and so many others, chose rather to be dragged to execution in a wagon, like highwaymen, than to kill themselves like Cato and Brutus, it was not that they had less courage than those Romans, nor less of what is called honor.

The true reason is that at Paris self-murder in such cases was not then the fashion; but it was the fashion at Rome. The women of the Malabar coast throw themselves, living, on the funeral piles of their husbands. Have they, then, more courage than Cornelia? No; but in that country it is the custom for the wives to burn themselves. The only religion in which suicide is forbidden by a clear and positive law is Mahometanism. This is a literal translation. The text, like many Edition: current; Page: [ 31 ] other texts, appears to want common sense. Perhaps we are to understand—Do not sink under your misfortunes, which God may alleviate: do not be so foolish as to kill yourself to-day since you may be happy to-morrow.

In our own times a man shot himself in the head, after arranging all things to make another man suspected of the act. In the play of George Dandin, his jade of a wife threatens him with killing herself to have him hanged. Such cases are rare. If Mahomet foresaw them he may be said to have seen a great way. The famous Duverger de Haurane, abbot of St. In this precept self-murder seems no less to be comprised than murder of our neighbor. But if there are cases in which it is allowable to kill our neighbor there likewise are cases in which it is allowable to kill ourselves.

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The public authority, which holds the place of God, may dispose of our lives. The reason of man may likewise hold the place of the reason of God: it is a ray of the eternal light. Cyran extends this argument, which may be considered as a mere sophism, to great length, but when he comes to the explanation and the details it is more difficult to answer him.

We do not, indeed, see how Codrus or Curtius could be condemned. No sovereign would dare to punish the family of a man who had devoted himself to death for him; nay, there is not one who would dare neglect to recompense it. Thomas, before St. Cyran, had said the same thing. But we need neither St. Thomas, nor Cardinal Bonaventura, nor Duverger de Haurane to tell us that a man who dies for his country is deserving of praise. The abbot of St. Cyran concludes that it is allowable to do for ourselves what it is noble to do for others.

All that is advanced by Plutarch, by Seneca, by Montaigne, and by fifty other philosophers, in favor of suicide is sufficiently known; it is a hackneyed topic—a wornout commonplace. I seek not to apologize for an act which the laws condemn, but neither the Old Testament, nor the New has ever forbidden man to depart this life when it has become insupportable to him. No Roman law condemned Edition: current; Page: [ 33 ] self-murder; on the contrary, the following was the law of the Emperor Antoine, which was never revoked:.

Notwithstanding this humane law of our masters we still drag on a sledge and drive a stake through the body of a man who has died a voluntary death; we do all we can to make his memory infamous; we dishonor his family as far as we are able; we punish the son for having lost his father, and the widow for being deprived of her husband. We even confiscate the property of the deceased, which is robbing the living of the patrimony which of right belongs to them.

This custom is derived from our canon law, which deprives of Christian burial such as die a voluntary death. Hence it is concluded that we cannot inherit from a man who is judged to have no inheritance in heaven. Among those who have had the leisure, the means, and the courage to seek for the origin of Edition: current; Page: [ 34 ] nations, there have been some who have found that of our Celts, or at least would make us believe that they had met with it. This illusion being the only recompense of their immense travail, we should not envy them its possession.

If we wish to know anything about the Huns—who, indeed, are scarcely worth knowing anything about, for they have rendered no service to mankind—we find some slight notices of those barbarians among the Chinese—that most ancient of all nations, after the Indians. From them we learn that, in certain ages, the Huns went like famishing wolves and ravaged countries which, even at this day are regarded as places of exile and of horror.

This is a very melancholy, a very miserable sort of knowledge. It is, doubtless, much better to cultivate a useful art at Paris, Lyons, or Bordeaux, than seriously to study the history of the Huns and the bears. Nevertheless we are aided in these researches by some of the Chinese archives. But for the Celts there are no archives. We know no more of their antiquities than we do of those of the Samoyeds or the Australasians. Whence some of the daring among the erudite have concluded that the Celts were the Scythians, Edition: current; Page: [ 35 ] and they have made these Scythio-Celts include all Europe.

But why not include the whole earth? Why stop short in so fine a career? But authors of greater modesty refer the origin of our Celts to the tower of Babel—to the confusion of tongues—to Gomer, of whom no one ever heard until the very recent period when some wise men of the West read the name of Gomer in a bad translation of the Septuagint.