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amuse themselves with naming in the troop an attorney-general, a president, an advocate and counsellors, and who, having signed a sentence, cause the two victims to be hanged in ceremony: it was thus that the queen of Scotland and her grandson were · judged.
But of common judgments, pronounced by competent judges against princes or men in place, is there a single one which would have been either executed, or even passed, if another time had been chosen ? Is there a single one of the condemned, immolated under cardinal Richelieu, who would not have been in favour, if their suits had been prolonged until the regency of Anne of Austria ? The prince of Condé was arrested under Francis II, he was condemned to death by commissaries : Francis II. died, and the prince of Condé again became powerful.
These instances are innumerable; we should above all consider the spirit of the times. Vanini was burnt on a vague suspicion of atheism. At present, if any one was foolish and pedantic to write such books as Vanini, they would not be read, and that is all which could happen to them. A Spaniard passed through Geneva in the middle of the sixteenth century; the Picard, John Calvin, learnt that this Spaniard was lodged at an inn; he remembered that the Spaniard had disputed with him on a subject which neither of them understood. Behold! my theologian, John Calvin, arrests the passenger, contrary to all laws human or divine, contrary to the right possessed by people among all nations; immured him in a dungeon, and burned him at a slow fire with green faggots, that the pain might last the longer. Certainly this infernal maneuvre would never enter the head of any one in the present day; and if the fool Servetus had lived in good times, he would have had nothing to fear: what is called justice is therefore as arbitrary as fashion.
* Possibly, in the whole history of human fanaticism and intolerance, there is no individual deed of atrocity more horrible and detestable than this deed of John Calvin.-T.
There are times of horrors and follies among men, as there are times of pestilence, and this contagion has made the tour of the world.
SERPENTS. “I certify, that I have many times killed serpents by moistening in a slight degree, with my spittle, a stick or a stone, and giving them a slight blow on the middle of the body, scarcely sufficient to produce a small contusion. 19 Jan. 1757, Figuier, Surgeon."
The above surgeon having given me this certificate, two witnesses, who had seen him kill serpents in this manner, attested what they had beheld. Notwithstanding, I wished to behold the thing myself, for I confess that in divers parts of these queries I have taken St. Thomas of Didymus for my patron saint, who always insisted on an examination with his own hands.
For eighteen hundred years this opinion has been perpetuated among the people, and it might possibly be even eighteen thousand years old, if Genesis had not supplied us with the precise date of our enmity to this reptile. It may be asserted, that if Eve had spit on the serpent, when he took his place at her ear, a world of evil would have been spared human nature.
Lucretius, in his fourth book, alludes to this manner of killing serpents as very well known:
Est utique ut serpens hominis contacta salivis
Lib. iv. v. 642, 643.
He strait devours himself, and quickly dies.
We are in the midst of winter on the 19th January, whicıl is the time when serpents visit us. I cannot find any at Murnt Krapak; but I exhort all philosophers
to spit upon every serpent they meet with in the spring. It is good to know the extent of the power of the saliva of man.
It is certain that Jesus Christ employed his spittle to cure a man who was deaf and dumb.*
He took him aside, placed his fingers on his ears, and looking up to heaven, sighed and said to him,“Ephphatha," be opened, when the deaf and dumb person immediately began to speak. It
may therefore be true that God has allowed the saliva of man to kill serpents; but he may have also permitted my surgeon to assail them with heavy blows from a stick or a stone, in such a way that they would die, whether he spat upon them or let it alone.
I beg of all philosophers to examine the thing with attention. For example, should they meet Freron in the street, let them spit in his face, and if he die, the fact will be confirmed, in spite of all the reasoning of the incredulous.
I take this opportunity also to beg of philosophers not to cut off the heads of any more snails; for I affirm that the head has returned to snails which I have decapitated very effectively. But it is not enough that I know it by experience, others must be equally satisfied, in order that the fact be rendered probable; for although I have twice succeeded, I have failed thirty times. Success depends upon the age of the snail, the time in which the head is cut off, the situation of the incision, and the manner in which it is kept until the head grows again.
If it is important to know that death may be inAicted by spitting, it is still more important to know that heads may be renewed. Man is of more conse: quence than a snail, and I doubt not that in due time, when the arts are brought to perfection, some means will be found to give a sound head to a man who has
pone at all.
Mark, c. 7.
A weight and denomination of money among the jews; but as they never coined money, and always made use of the coinage of other people, all gold coins weighing about a guinea, and all silver coins of the weight of a small French crown, were called a shekel ; and these shekels were distinguished into those of the weight of the sanctuary, and those of the weight of the king:
It is said, in the book of Samuel,* that Absalom bad very fine hair, from which he cut a part every year. Many profound commentators assert, that he cut it once a month, and that it was valued at two hundred shekels. If these shekels were of gold, the locks of Absalom were worth two thousand four hundred guineas per annum. There are few seignories which produce at present the revenue that Absalom derived from his head.
It is said, that when Abraham bought a cave in Hebron from the Canaanite Ephron,t Ephron sold him the cave for four hundred shekels of silver, of current money with the merchant (probatæ inonete publicæ.)
We have already remarked, that there was no coined money in these days, and thus these four hundred shekels of silver became four hundred shekels in weight, which, valued at present at three livres four sous each, are equal to twelve hundred and eighty livres of France.
It follows that the little field, which was sold with this cavern, was excellent land, to bring so high a price.
When Eleazer, the servant of Abraham, met the beautiful Rebecca, the daughter of Bethnel, carrying a pitcher of water upon her shoulder, from which she gave him and his camels leave to drink, he presented
* Sam. xiv. 26.
t Genesis, xxiii. 16.
66 Take of pure
her with ear-rings of gold, which weighed two shekels, and bracelets which weighed ten, amounting in the whole to a present of the value of twenty-foui guineas.
In the laws of the Exodus, it is said, that if an ox gored a male or female slave, the possessor of the ox should give thirty shekels of silver to the master of the slave, and that the ox should be stoned. It is apparently to be understood, that the ox in this case has produced a very dangerous wound, otherwise thirtytwo crowns was a large sum for the neighbourhood of Mount Sinai, where money was uncommon. It is for the same reason that many grave, but too hasty persons suspect, that Exodus as well as Genesis was not written until a comparatively late period.
What tends to confirm them in this erroneous opinion is a passage in the same Exodus : * myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half as much; of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty shekels; of cassia five hundred shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; and of olive oil a ton,” to form an ointment to anoint the tabernacle; and whoever anointed himself or any stranger with a similar composition, was to be put to death
It is added, that with all these aromatics were to be united stacte, onyx, galbanum, and frankincense; and that a perfume was to be mixed up according to the art of the apothecary or perfumer.
But I cannot perceive anything in this composition which ought to excite the doubt of the incredulous. It is natural to imagine that the Jews, who, according to the text, stole from the Egyptians all which they could bring away, had also taken frankincense, galbanum, onyx, stacte, olive oil, cassia, sweet calamus, cinnamon, and myrrh. They also, without doubt, stole many shekels; indeed we have seen, that one of the most zealous partisans of this Hebrew horde estimates what they stole, in gold alone, at nine millions. I abide by his reckoning
* Exodus, xxx. 23, &c.