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This seems to us to have been the opinion of Plato, and of the Roman philosopher. Legem neque hominum ingeniis, ex-cognitatum neque sçitum aliquod esse populorum, sed æternum quiddam, etc.
It became necessary for M. de Bonald to develop his idea more fully, and this he has done in an excellent dissertation, at the end of his work. We there find this comparison which one might believe translated from the Phædon, or from The Republic. " That necessary and natural correspondence between the thoughts, and the words by which they are explained, and that necessity of speech to render present to the mind its own thoughts, and the thoughts of others, may be rendered sensible by a comparison, the extreme exactness of which would alone prove a perfect analogy between the laws of our intellectual nature, and of our physical nature.
“ If I am in a dark place I have no ocular vision or knowledge by sight of the existence of bodies that are near me, not even of my own body ; and under this, re. lation these beings are the same to me as if they did not exist. But if the light is admitted, on a sudden all the objects receive a relative colour, according to the particular contexture of the surface. Each body is present to. my eyes, I see them all, I judge the relations of form, of extent, of the distance of every object from the other, and from myself.
“Our understanding is this dark place where we do not perceive any idea, not even that of our own intelligence, till words penetrating by the sense of hearing and seeing, carry light into that darkness, and call, if I may say so, every idea, which answers, like the stars in Job, here I am. Then alone are our ideas explained, we have the consciousness, the knowledge of our thoughts, and can convey it to others; then only have we an idea of ourselves, have we an idea of other beings, and the relations
As the eye
they have among themselves and with us. distinguishes each body by its colour, the mind distinguishes each idea by its expressions.”
Do we often find reasoning so powerful, combined with such vivacity of expression? The ideas answering to speech like the stars of Job, HÈRE I AM ; is not this of an order of thoughts extremely elevated, of a character of style very rare? I appeal to men of better talents and understanding than myself : Quantum eloquentia valeat, pluribus credere potest.
Yet we will venture to propose some doubts to our · quthor, and submit our observations to his superior judgment. We acknowledge, like him, the principle of the transmission of speech, or that it has been taught to us. But does he not carry this principle too far ? In making it the only positive proof of the existence of God, and of the fundamental laws of society, does he not put the most important truths to the hazard, in case this sole proof should be disputed. The reasoning that he draws from the deaf and dumb, in favour of speech being taught, is not perhaps thoroughly conclusive. It may be said, you take your example in an exception, and you seek your proof in an imperfection of nature. Let us suppose a savage in possession of his senses, but not having speech; this man, pressed by hunger, meets in the forest with some object proper to satisfy it, he utters a cry of joy at seeing it, or at carrying it to his mouth. Is it not possible that having heard the cry, the sound, be it what it may, he retains it, and repeats it afterwards, every time he perceives the same object, or is pressed with the same want. The cry will become the first word of his voca. bulary, and thus he will proceed on till he arrives at the expression of ideas purely intellectual.
It is certain that the idea cannot be put forth from the understanding without words, but it will perhaps be admitted, that man, with the permission of God, lights up himself this torch of speech, which is to illuminate the soul; that the sentiment or idea first gives occasion to the expression, and that the expression in its turn re-enters and enlightens the mind. If the author should say that millions of years would be requisite to form a language in this way, and that Jean-Jaques Rousseau himself, believed that speech was necessary for the invention of words, we will admit this difficulty also. But M. de Bonald must not forget that he has to do with men who deny all tradition, and who dispose at their pleasure of the eternity of the world.
There is, besides, a more serious objection. If words be necessary for the manifestation of the idea, and that speech enters by the senses, the soul in another life, des. poiled of the bodily organs, cannot have the consciousness of its thoughts. There will in that case be but one resource remaining, which is, to say that God then enlightens with his own words, and that the soul sees its ideas in the divinity. This is to return to the system of
Minds of deep reflection will like to see how M. de Bonald unrolls the vast picture of social order, how he follows and defines the civil, political, and religious administration. He proves, convincingly, that the Christian
. religion has completed man, as the supreme legislator said in yielding up the ghost : ALL IS FINISHED.
M. de Bonald gives a singular elevation, and an immense depth to christianity ; he follows the mystical relations of the Word and the Son, and shews that the true, God could not be known but by the 'revelation, or incarnation of his Word, as the faculty of thought in man is only manifested by speech or the incarnation of the thought. Hobbes, in his Christian City, explained the Word as the author of the legislation. Intestamento novo
grece scripto VERBUM DEI cæpe ponitur ( non pro eo, quod loquuntus est Dens) sed pro eo quod de Deo et de
regno ejus....In hoc autem sensa idem significant logos Theou.
Our author makes an essential difference between the constitution of domestic society, or the order of a family, and the political constitution ; relations which, in our times, have been too much confounded together. In the examination of the ancient ecclesiastical ministry in France, he shews a profound knowledge of our history. He examines the principle of the sovereignty of the people, which Bossuet had attacked in his fifth notice, in answer to M. Jurieu. “ Where every thing is independ. ent, says the Bishop of Meaux, there is nothing sovereign," A thundering axiom, a manner of arguing precisely, such as the protestant ministers required, who prided themselves, above all things, on their reasoning and their logic. They complained of being crushed by the eloquence of Bossuet, and the orator immediately put aside eloquence; like those christian warriors who, in the midst of a battle, seeing their adversaries without arms, threw their arms aside, that they might not obtain too easy a victory. Bossuet passing afterwards to the historical proofs, and shewing that the pretended social pact has never existed, makes it clear, as he says himself, that there is in the idea as much ignorance as words ; that if the people are the sovereign, they have an incontestable right to change their constitution every day, &c. This great man whom M. de Bonald, worthy to be his admirer, cites with so much complacency ; this great man establishes also the excellence of hereditary succes. sion. « It is for the benefit of the people," says lie,
that the government should feel perfectly at its ease, that it should be perpetuated by the same laws that perpetuate the human race, and should follow as it were, the march of nature."
M. de Bonald reproduces to us this fund of good sense, and sometimes this simple grandeur of style. The ignorance and the bad faith into which our age has fallen, with respect to that of Louis XIV, is a subject of astonishment from which one recovers with difficulty. The writers of this age are thought to have wholly overlooked the principles of social order, and yet there is not a single question of importance, in political science, which Bossuet has not treated, whether in his Universal History, in his Politics, taken from the Scriptures, or in his controversies with the protestants.
For the rest, if the first and second volumes of M. de Bonald's work be liable to some objections, the same can. not be said of the third. The author there treats the subject of education with a superiority of intellect, a force of reasoning, and a clearsightedness that entitles him to the warmest eulogium. It is, indeed, in treating particuJar questions of morals or politics that he excels. He spreads over them a fertilizing moderation, to use the fine expression of M. Daguesseau. I do not doubt that his Treatise on Education will attract the eyes of the great men in the state, as his Question of Divorce has fixed the attention of all men of the soundest minds in France.
M. de Bonald's style might sometimes be more har. monious and less neglected. His thoughts are always brilliant and happily chosen ; but, I know not whether his mode of expressing them may not occasionally be somewhat too terse and familiar. These are, however,
. slight defects which will disappear with a little labour. Perhaps some better arrangement of his matter might also be desirable, and more clearness of his ideas ; great and elevated geniuses are apt not to have sufficient compas- . sion for the weakness of their readers ; 'tis a natural abuse of power. Farther, the distinctions he makes, appear sometimes too ingenious, too subtile. Like Montesquieu,