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VENALITY. The forger of whom we have so much spoken, who made the testament of cardinal Richelieu, says in chapter iv. “That it would be much better to allow venality and the droit annuelto continue to exist, than to abolish these two establishments, which are not to be changed suddenly without shaking the state."
All France repeated, and believed they repeated after cardinal Richelieu, that the sale of offices of judicature was very advantageous.
The abbé de St. Pierre was the first who, still believing that the pretended testament was the cardinal's, dared to say in his observation on chapter iv.--" The cardinal engaged himself on a bad subject, in maintaining that the sale of places can be advantageous to the state. It is true, that it is not possible to otherwise reimburse all the charges."
Thus this abuse appeared to every body, not only irreformable, but useful. They were so accustomed to this opprobrium that they did not feel it; it seemed eternal; yet a single man in a few months has overthrown it.
Let us therefore repeat, that all may be done, all may be corrected ; that the great fault of almost all who govern, is having but half wills and half means. If Peter the Great had not willed strongly, two thousand leagues of country would still be barbarous.
How can we give water in Paris to thirty thousand houses* which want it? How can we pay the debts of the state? How can we throw off the dreaded tyranny of a foreign power, which is not a power, and to which we pay the first fruits as a tribute? Dare to wish it, and
you will arrive at your object more easily than you * Since the restoration of the Bourbons, a body of capitalists, many of whom were English, sought to obtain ministerial protection, to serve Paris with
water; but it being found that the pipes must necessarily be furnished by this country, national feelings were allowed to interfere, and Voltaire's hint is unattended to at this hour. The silly water-works at Versailles were once the source of Parisian pride ; how much more would Louis XIV. have done for his subjects, by conveying the water into their houses !—T.
312 VENICE; AND, INCIDENTALLY, OF LIBERTY. extirpated the jesuits, and purged the theatre of petitsmaîtres.
VENICE; AND, INCIDENTALLY, OF LIBERTY. No power can reproach the Venetians with having acquired their liberty by revolt; none can say to them, I have freed you-here is the diploma of your manumission.
They have not usurped their rights, as Cæsar usurped empire, or as so many bishops, commencing with that of Rome, have usurped royal rights. They are lords of Venice (if we dare use the audacious comparison) as God is lord of the earth, because he founded it. Attila,
who never took the title of the scourge of God, ravaged Italy. He has as much right to do so, as Charlemagne the Austrasian, Arnold the Corinthian bastard, Guy duke of Spoleto, Berenger marquis of Friuli, or the bishops who wished to make themselves sovereigns of it.
In this time of military and ecclesiastical robberies, Attila passed as a vulture, and the Venetians saved themselves in the sea as kingfishers, which none assist or protect; they make their nest in the midst of the waters, they enlarge it, they people it, they defend it, they enrich it. I ask if it is possible to imagine a more just possession? Our father Adam, who is supposed to have lived in that fine country of Mesopotamia, was not more justly lord and gardener of terrestrial paradise.
I have read the “Squittinio della libertà di Venezia," and I am indignant at it.
What! Venice could not be originally free, because the Greek emperors, superstitious, weak, wicked, and barbarous, said-This new town has been built on our ancient territory; and because a German having the title of Emperor of the West, says—This town being in the west, is of our domain ?
It seems to me like a flying fish, pursued at once by a falcon and a shark, but which escapes both.*
The shark has finally devoured it. -T.
Sannazarius was very right in saying, in comparing Rome and Venice
Illam homines dices, hanc possuisse Deos. Rome lost, by Cæsar, at the end of five hundred years, its liberty acquired by Brutus. Venice has preserved her's for eleven centuries, and I hope she will always do so.
Genoa! why dost thou boast of showing the grant of a Berenger, who gave thee privileges in the year 958 ? We know that concessions of privileges are but titles of servitude. And this is a fine title ! the charter of a passing tyrant, who was never properly acknowledged in Italy, and who was driven from it two years after the date of the charter !
The true charter of liberty is independence, maintained by force. It is with the point of the sword, that diplomas should be signed securing this natural prero gative. Thou hast lost, more than once, thy privilege and thy strong box, since 1748 : it is necessary to take care of both.t. Happy Helvetia! to what charter owest thou thy liberty? To thy courage, thy firmness, and thy mountains.—But I am thy emperor. But I will have thee be so no longer.-Thy fathers have been the slaves of my fathers. It is for that reason that their children will not serve thee.--But I have the right attached to my dignity. And we have the right of nature. I
When had the Seven United Provinces this incontestable right? At the moment in which they were
* The futility of this wish is now a matter of fact, and without feeling much for Venetian government, the manner is a violent human outrage.-T.
+ Both are gone; nor is the loss unconnected with British feelings, and transactions. The proclamation of a British general is on record, as also the diplomacy of possibly the only English mi. nister that ever lived, who thought it necessary to apologise for the comparative liberty of his country as an usage!--T.
This is the language of nature and common sense : had the Spaniards put it forth manfully, they might have fared better; worse than their present fate they could scarcely have encountered.-T.
united; and from that time Philip II. was the rebel. What a great man was William, prince of Orange : he found them slaves, and he made them free men !
Why is liberty so rare?
It is easy to write in prose, but very difficult to be a poet. More than one 'prosateur' has affected to despise poetry; in reference to which propensity, we may call to mind the bon-mot of Montaigne : “ We cannot attain to poetry; let us revenge ourselves by abusing it.”
We have already remarked, that Montesquieu, being unable to succeed in verse, professed, in his Persian Letters, to discover no merit in Virgil or Horace. The eloquent Bossuet endeavoured to make verses, but they were detestable; he took care however not to declaim against great poets.
Fenelon scarcely made better verses than Bossuet, but knew by heart all the fine poetry of antiquity. His mind was full of it, and he continually quotes it in his letters.
It appears to me, that there never existed a truly eloquent man, who did not love poetry. I will simply cite, for example, Cæsar and Cicero; the one composed a tragedy on dipus, and we have pieces of poetry by the latter which might pass among the best that preceded Lucretius, Virgil, and Horace.*
A certain abbé Trublet has printed that he cannot read a poem at once from beginning to end. Indeed, Mr. Abbé! but what can we read, what can we understand, what can we do, for a long time together, any more than poetry ?
* Here Voltaire proceeds to a long verbal examination of the construction of French verses, which would not in the slightest degree interest any reader out of France, or in translation; or possibly within France at the pres moment.-T.
VIANDS. Forbidden Viands, Dangerous Viands.--A short Exami
nation of Jewish and Christian Precepts, and of those of the Ancient Philosophers.
VIAND comes no doubt from victus,—that which nourishes and sustains life: from victus was formed viventia; from viventia, viand. This word should be applied to all that is eaten, but by the caprice of all languages, the custom has prevailed of refusing this denomination to bread, milk, rice, pulses, fruits, and fish, and of giving it only to terrestrial animals. This seems contrary to reason, but it is the fancy of all languages, and of those who formed them.
Some of the first christians made a scruple of eating that which had been offered to the gods, of whatever nature it might be. St. Paul approved not of this scruple. He writes to the Corinthians," Meat commendeth us not to God : for neither if we eat, are we the better; neither if we eat not, are we the worse. He merely exhorts them not to eat viands immolated to the gods, before those brothers who might be scanđalized at it. We see not, after that, why he so ill treats St. Peter, and reproaches him with having eaten forbidden viands with the Gentiles. We see elsewhere, in the Acts of the Apostles, that Simon Peter was authorised to eat of all indifferently; for he one day saw the firmament open, and a great sheet descending by the four corners from heaven to earth; it was covered with all kinds of four-footed beasts, with all kinds of birds and reptiles (or animals which swim) and a voice cried to him-“ Kill and eat."*
You will remark, that Lent and fast days were not then instituted. Nothing is ever done, except by degrees. We can here say for the consolation of the weak, that the quarrel of St. Peter and St. Paul should not alarm us: saints are men. Paul commenced
* J. Corinthians, viii. 8.