Imágenes de página

The same

all which, amongst us civilized men III. Usury. This ancient subject the rule obtains universally—that the of casuistry we place next to piracy, for state and duties of peace are to be a significant reason: the two practices presumed until war is proclaimed. have both changed their public repuWhereas, amongst rude nations, war tation as civilisation has advanced, is understood to be the rule—war, open but inversely—they have interchanged or covert, until suspended by express characters. Piracy, beginning in contract. Bellum inter omnes is the honour, has ended in infamy: and at natural state of things for all except this moment it happens to be the sole those who view themselves as brothers offence against society in which all by natural affinity, by local neigh the accomplices, without pity or interbourhood, by common descent, or who cession, let them be ever so numerous, make themselves brothers boy artificial are punished capitally. Elsewhere, contracts. Captain Cook, who over- we decimate, or even centesimate: looked all this, should have begun by - here, we are all children of Rhada. arranging a solemn treaty with the manthus. Usury, on the other hand, savages amongst whom he meant to beginning in utter infamy, has travel. reside for any length of time. This led upwards into considerable esteem: wonld have prevented many an angry

and Mr“ 10 per shent” stands a very broil then, and since then: it would fair chance of being pricked for sheriff also have prevented his own tragical next year ; and in one generation fate. Mean-time the savage is calum. more, of passing for a great patriot. niated and misrepresented for want of Charles Lamb complained that by being understood.

gradual changes, not on his part, but There is, however, amongst civil- in the spirit of refinement, he found ized nations a mode of piracy still himself growing insensibly into “ an tolerated, or which was tolerated in indecent character. " the last war, but is now ripe for ex- changes which carry some downtinction. It is that war of private wards, carry others up; and Shylock men upon private men, which goes on himself will soon be viewed as an under the name of privateering. Great eminent martyr or confessor for the changes have taken place in our modes truth as it is in the Alley. Seriously, of thinking within the last twenty- however, there is nothing more refive years; and the greatest change markable in the history of casuistical of all lies in the thoughtful spirit ethics than the utter revolution in which we now bring to the investigan human estimates of usury. In this one tion of all public questions. We have point the Hebrew legislator agreed no doubt at all that, when next a war with the Roman-Deuteronomy with arises at sea, the whole system of the Twelve Tables. Cicero mentions privateering will be condemned by that the elder Cato, being questioned the public voice. And the next step on various actions, and how he ranked after that will be, to explode all war them in his esteem, was at length whatsoever, public or private, upon asked, Quid fanerari ?-how did he

War will be conducted rank usury? His indignant answer by belligerents and upon belligerents was, by å retorted question, Quid exclusively. To imagine the extinc- hominem occidere?---what do I think tion of war itself, in the present stage of murder ? In this particular case, of human advance, is, we fear, idle. as in some others, we must allow that Higher modes of civilisation--an earth our worthy ancestors and forerunners more universally colonized--the homo upon this terraqueous planet were sapiens of Linnæus more humanized, enormous blockheads. And their and other improvements must pave exquisite reason” for this opinion the way for that: but amongst the on usury, was quite worthy of Sir earliest of those improvements, will Andrew Aguecheek:-"money," they be the abolition of war carried into argued, “ could not breed money: quarters where the spirit of war never one guinea was neither father nor ought to penetrate. Privateering will mother to another guinea : and where be abolished. War, on

a national could be the justice of making a man scale, is often ennobling, and one pay for the use of a thing which that great instrument of pioneering for thing could never produce ?But, civilisation : but war of private citizen venerable blockheads, that argument upon his fellow in another land, is applies to the case of him who locks always demoralizing.

up his borrowed guinea. Suppose him


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

not to lock it up, but to buy a hen, Christendom, and practising reprisals

, and the hen to lay a dozen eggs; one on the Gentiles for ruined Jerusalem. of those eggs will be so much per IV. Bishop Gibson's Chronicon cent; and the thing borrowed has Preciosum. Many people are aware then produced its own fænus. A still that this book is a record of prices, as greater inconsistency was this : Our far as they were recoverable, pursued ancestors would have rejoined-that through six centuries of English His. many people did not borrow in order tory. But they are not aware that to produce, i. e. to use the money as this whole enquiry is simply the macapital, but in order to spend, i. e. to chinery for determining a casuistical use it as income. In that case, at least, question. The question was this :the borrowers must derive the fænus An English College, but we cannot from some other fund than the thing say in which of our universities, had borrowed : for, by the supposition, the been founded in the reign of Henry thing borrowed has been spent. True; VI., and between 1440 and 1460 but on the same principle these ances. probably it might be King's College, tors ought to have forbidden every Cambridge. Now, the statutes of this man to sell any article whatsoever to college make it imperative upon every him who paid for it out of other funds candidate for a fellowship to swear than those produced by the article that he does not possess an estate in sold. Mere logical consistency re- land of inheritance, nor a perpetual quired this : it happens, indeed, to be pension amounting to five pounds per impossible: but that only argues their annum. It is certain, however, that the entire non-comprehension of their own founder did not mean superstitiously doctrines.

so much gold or silver as made nomi. The whole history of usury teems nally the sum of five pounds, but so with instruction : 1st, comes the mon- much as virtually represented the five strous absurdity in which the pro- pounds of Henry VI.'s time—so much scription of usury anchored ; 2d, the as would buy the same quantity of ordiabsolute compulsion and pressure of nary comfort. Upon this, therefore, realities in forcing men into a timid arose two questions for the casuist : abandonment of their own doctrines; (1.) What sum did substantially repre3d, the unconquerable power of symá sent, in 1706, (the year of publishing pathy, which humbled all minds to one the Chron. Preciosum,) that nominal level, and forced the strongest no L.5 of 1440 ? (2.) Supposing this asless than the feeblest intellects into certained, might a man with a safe conthe same infatuation of stupidity. science retain his fellowship by swearThe casuistry of ancient moralists on ing that he had not L.5 a-year, when this question, especially of the scho- perhaps he had L.20, provided that lastic moralists, such as Suarrez, &c. L.20 were proved to be less in efficacy -the oscillations by which they ulti- than the L.5 of the elder period ? mately relaxed and tied up the law, Verbally this was perjury : was it such just as their erring conscience, or the in reality and to the conscience ? necessities of social life prevailed, The Chronicle is not, as by its title would compose one of the interesting the reader might suppose, a large chapters in this science. But the folio : on the contrary, it is a small Jewish relaxation is the most amu- octavo of less than 200 pages. But sing: it coincides altogether with the it is exceedingly interesting, very theory of savages as to property, ably reasoned, and as circumstantial which we have already noticed under in its illustrations as the good bishop's the head of Piracy. All men on earth, opportunities allowed him to make it. except Jews, were held to be fair In one thing he was more liberal than subjects for usury ; not as though Sir William Petty, Dr Davenant, usury were a just or humane thing : &c., or any elder economists of the nomit was a belligerent act: but then preceding century: he would have all foreigners in the Jewish eye were statistics treated as a classical or enemies, for the same reason that scholarlike study ; and he shows a the elder Romans had a common term most laudable curiosity in all the for an enemy and a stranger. And questions arising out of his main one. it is probable that many Jews at this His answer to that is as follows: 1st, day, in exercising usury, conceive that L.5 in Henry VI.'s time conthemselves to be seriously making tained forty ounces of silver, whereas in war, in a privateering fashion, upon Queen Anne's it contained only nine


2 G


teen ounces and one-third : so that, in late years often took the casuistry reality, the L.5 of 1440 was, even as into their own hands. They were to weight of silver, rather more than generally thought to act with no more L.10 of 1706. 2d, as to the efficacy than a proper humanity to the priof L.10 in Henry VI.'s reign: upon soner ; but still people thought such reviewing the main items of common juries incorrect. Whereas, if Bishop household (and therefore of common Gibson is right, who allows a man to academic) expenditure, and pursuing swear positively that he has not L.5 this review through bad years and a-year, when nominally he has much good years, the bishop decides that it

more, such juries were even techni. is about equal to L.25 or L.30 of cally right. However, this point is Queen Anne's reign. "Sir George

'Sir George now altered by Sir Robert Peel's reShuckburgh has since treated this casu- forms. But there are other cases, istical problem more elaborately : but and especially those which arise not Bishop Gibson it was, who, in his Chro- between different times but between nicon Preciosum, first broke the ice, different places, which will often re

After this, he adds an ingenious quire the same kind of casuistry as question upon the apparently parallel that which is so ably applied by the case of a freeholder swearing himself good and learned Bishop. worth 40s. per annum as a qualifica- V. Suicide. - It seems passing tion for an electoral vote : ought not strange that the main argument upon he to hold himself perjured in voting which Pagan moralists relied in their upon an estate often so much below unconditional condemnation of suicide, the original 40s. contemplated by viz. the supposed analogy of our Parliament, for the very same reason situation in life to that of a sentinel that a collegian is not perjured in mounting guard, who cannot, without holding a fellowship, whilst, in fact, a capital offence, quit his station until he may have four or five times the called off by his commanding officer, is nominal sum privileged by the found- dismissed with contempt by a Christian er ? The Bishop says no ; and he moralist, viz. Paley. But a stranger distinguishes the case thus: the col- thing still is--that the only man who lege L.5 must always mean a virtual ever wrote a book in palliation of suiL.5–a L.5 in efficacy, and not merely cide, should have been not only a in name.

But the freeholder's 40s. is Christian—not only an official minister not so restricted; and for the following and dignitary of a metropolitan Chrisreason—that this sum is constantly tian church—but also a scrupulously coming under the review of Parlia- pious man. We allude, as the reader ment. It is clear, therefore, from the will suppose, to Dr Donne, dean of St fact of not having altered it, that Par- Paul's. His opinion is worthy of conliament is satisfied with a merely sideration. Not that we would wil. nominal 40s., and sees no reason to lingly diminish, by one hair's weight, alter it. True, it was a rule enacted the reasons against suicide ; but it is by the Parliament of 1430 ; at which never well to rely upon ignorance or time 40s. was even in weight of silver inconsideration for the defence of any equal to 803. of 1706 ; and in virtue principle whatever. Donne's notion or power of purchasing equal to L.12 was, (a notion, however, adopted in his at the least. The qualification of a earlier years, that as we do not instantly freeholder is, therefore, much lower pronounce a man a murderer upon in Queen Anne's days than in those hearing that he has killed a fellowof Henry VI. But what of that? creature, but, according to the circumParliament, it must be presumed, sees stances of the case, pronounce his act good reasons why it should be lower. either murder, or manslaughter, or jusAnd at all events, till the law operates tifiable homicide; so by parity of reason, amiss, there can be no reason to alter it. suicide is open to distinctions of the

A case of the same kind with those the same or corresponding kinds; that argued by Bishop Gibson arose often there may be such a thing as self-homiin trials for larceny-we mean as to cide not less than self-murder-culpthat enactment which fixed the mini. able self-homicide-justifiable self-homum for a capital offence.

micide. Donne called his Essay by the is noticed by the Bishop, and juries of Greek name Biathanatos,* meaning

This case


* This word, however, which occurs nowhere that we remember, except in Lampridius, one of the Augustan historians, is here applied to Heliogabalus ; and means,



violent death. But a thing equally “ why should the horse have commitstrange, and a blasphemy almost unac- ted felony on himself? Were oats countable, is the fancy of a Prussian or rising in the market ?-or was he in Saxon baron, who wrote a book to prove love ? - or vexed by politics ? - or that Christcommitted suicide, for which could a horse, and a young one rising he had no other argument than that, four, be supposed to suffer from tædium in fact, he had surrendered himself un. vitæ ?". Meantime, as respects the resistingly into the hands of his ene- general question of brute suicides, two mies, and had in a manner caused his points must be regarded,-Ist, That own death. This, however, describes brutes are cut off from the vast world the case of every martyr that ever was of moral and imaginative sufferings or can be. It is the very merit and entailed upon man ; 2dly, That this grandeur of the martyr, that he pro- very immunity presupposes another claims the truth with his eyes open to immunitythe consequences of proclaiming it. Those consequences are connected

A cool suspense from pleasure and from with the truth, but not by any natural

pain,” link: the connexion is by means of in the far coarser and less irritable false views, which it is the very busi- animal organization which must be the ness of the martyr to destroy. And, basis of an insulated physical sensibiif a man founds


upon an act lity. Brutes can neither suffer from which my conscience enjoins, even intellectual passions, nor, probably, though I am aware and fully warned from very complex derangements of that he will found my death upon it, the animal system ; so that in them the I am not, therefore, guilty of suicide.. motives to suicide, the temptations to For, by the supposition, I was obliged suicide, are prodigiously diminished. to the act in question by the highest of Nor are they ever alive to “ the suball obligations, viz. moral obligation, lime attractions of the grave.” It is, which far transcends all physical obli. however, a humiliating reflection, that, gation ; so that, whatever excuse at- if any brutes can feel such aspirations, taches to a physical necessity, attaches, it must be those which are under the à fortiori, to the moral necessity. The care of man. Doubtless the happiness case is, therefore, precisely the same of brutes is sometimes extended by as if he had said," I will put you to man; but also, too palpably, their death if the frost benumbs your feet.” misery. The answer is-" I cannot help this Why suicide is not noticed in the effect of frost." Far less can I help New I'estament is a problem yet open revealing a celestial truth. I have no to the profound investigator. power, no liberty, to 'forbear. And, VI. Duelling. - No one case, in in killing me, he punishes me for a the vast volume of casuistry, is so diffimere necessity of my situation and my cult to treat with justice and reasonable knowledge.

adaptation to the spirit of modern It is urged that brutes never com- times, as this of duelling. For, as to mit suicide-except, indeed, the sala- those who reason all upon one side, and mander, who has been suspected of never hearken in good faith to objecloose principles in this point; and we tions or difficulties, such people convince ourselves knew a man who constantly nobody but those who were already conaffirmed that a horse of his had com- vinced before they began. At present, mitted suicide, by violently throwing (1839,) society has for some years been himself from the summit of a precipice. taking a lurch to one side against " But why"

-as we still asked him duelling : but inevitably a reaction

not the act of suicide, but a suicidal person. And possibly Donne, who was a good scholar, may so mean it to be understood in his title-page. Heliogabalus, says Lampridius, had been told by the Syrian priests that he should be Biathanatos, i. e. should commit suicide. He provided, therefore, ropes of purple and gold intertwisted, that he might hang himself imperatorially. He provided golden swords, that he might run himself through as became Cæsar, He had poisons enclosed in jewels, that he might drink his farewell heeltaps, if drink he must, in a princely style. Other modes of august death he had prepared. Unfortunately all were unavailing, for he was murdered and dragged through the common sewers by ropes, without either purple or gold in their base composition. The poor fellow has been sadly abused in history; but, after all, he was a mere boy, and as mad as a March hare.

[ocr errors]

will succeed; for, after all, be it as acute, then this Billingsgate resource much opposed as it may to Christianity, furnished an instantaneous vehicle for duelling performs such important func- expectorating the wrath. Look, for tions in society as now constituted— example, at Cicero's orations against we mean by the sense of instant per- Mark Antony, or Catiline, or against sonal accountability which it diffuses Piso. This last person was a senator universally amongst gentlemen, and of the very highest rank, family, conall who have much sensibility to the nexions ; yet, in the course of a few. point of honour—that, for one life pages, does Cicero, a man of letters, which it takes away as an occasional polished to the extreme standard of sacrifice, it saves myriads from out- Rome, address him by the elegant aprage and affronts—millions from the pellations of “ filth," " mud, anxiety attached to inferior bodily rion;'' (projectum cadaver.) How strength. However, it is no part of could Piso have complained ? It would our present purpose to plead the cause have been said—“ Oh, there's an end of duelling, though pleaded it must be, of republican simplicity, if plain speak. more fairly than it ever has been, bem ing is to be put down.' And then it fore any progress will be made in sup- would have been added invidiouslypressing it.

" Better men than ever stood in your But the point which we wish to no. shoes have borne worse language. tice at present, is the universal blun. Will you complain of what was toler. der about the Romans and Greeks. ated by Africanus, by Paulus Æmi. They, it is alleged, fought no duels: lius, by Marius, by Sylla ?” Who and occasion is thence taken to make could reply to that? And why should very disadvantageous reflections upon Piso have even wished to call out his us, the men of this Christian era, who, foulmouthed antagonist? On the conin defiance of our greater light, do trary, a far more genial revenge fight duels. Lord Bacon himself is awaited him than any sword could duped by this enormous blunder, and have furnished. Pass but an hour, and founds upon it a long speech in the you will hear Piso speaking—it will Star-Chamber.

then be his turn-every dog has his Now, in the first place, who does day; and, though not quite so eloquent not see that, if the Pagans really were as his brilliant enemy, he is yet eloenabled by their religion to master quent enough for the purposes of retheir movements of personal anger and venge-he is eloquent enough to call hatred, the inevitable inference will be Cicero “ filth," "mud," “ carrion." to the disadvantage of Christianity. It No: the reason of our modern duel. would be a clear case. Christianity ling. lies deeper than is supposed; it and Paganism have been separately lies in the principle of honour-a direct tried as means of self-control i Christo product of chivalry-as that was in ianity has flagrantly failed: Paganism part a product of Christianity. The succeeded universally ; not having sense of honour did not exist in Pagan been found unequal to the task in any times. Natural equity, and the equity one known instance.

of civil laws_those were the two moral But this is not so. A profounder forces under which men acted. Honerror never existed. No religious in- our applies to cases where both those fluence whatever restrained the Greek forces are silent. And precisely beor the Roman from fighting a duel. cause they had no such sense, and beIt was purely a civic influence, and it cause their revenge emptied itself by was sustained by this remarkable usage the basest of all chamels, viz. foul -in itself a standing opprobrium to speaking and license of tongue, was it both Greek and Roman-viz. the that the Greeks and Romans had no unlimited license of tongue allowed to duelling. It was no glory to them anger in the ancient assemblies and that they had not, but the foulest blot senates. This liberty of foul language on their moral grandeur. operated in two ways : 1st, Being How it was that Christianity was universal, it took away all ground for able, mediately, to generate the prin. feeling the words of an antagonist as ciple of honour, is a separate problem. any personal insult; so he had rarely But this is the true solution of that a motive for a duel. 2dly, The anger common casuistical question about was thus less acute ; yet, if it were duelling.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »