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* First, what means have the editors of newspapers for gaining correct information. We know not, except from their own state ments; besides what is copied from other journals, foreign or Bri. tish, (which is usually more than three-fourths of the news published,) they profess to refer to the authority of certain private correspondents abroad; who these correspondents are, what means they have of obtaining information, or whether they exist at all, we have no way of ascertaining; we find ourselves in the condition of the Hindoos, who are told by their priests, that the earth stands on an elephant, and the elephant on a tortoise, but are left to find out for themselves what the tortoise stands on, or whether it stands on any thing at all.' pp. 11, 12.
The interest which the proprietors of newspapers have in the cir. culation of these marvellous narrations, is too obvious not to awa. ken suspicion, " It
may be arged, however, that there are several adverse political parties, of which the various public prints are respectively the organs, and who would not fail to expose each other's fabrica tions: doubtless they would, if they could do so without at the same time exposing their own; but identity of interests may induce a community of operations up to a certain point; and let it be ob served, that the object of contention between these rival parties is, who shall have the administration of public affairs, the control of public expenditure, and the disposal of places; the question, I say, is, not whether the people shall be governed or not, but by which party they shall be governed; not whether the taxes shall be paid or not, but who shall receive them. Now it must be admitted, that Bonaparte is a political bugbear, most convenient to any administration:
you do not adopt our measures and reject those of our opponents, Bonaparte will be sure to prevail over you;
you do not submit to the government, at least under our administration, this formidable enemy will take advantage of your insubordination to conquer and enslave you: pay your taxes cheerfully, or the tremendous Bonaparte will take all from you.” Bonaparte, in short, was the burden of every song, his redoubted name was the charm which always succeeded in unloosing the purse-strings of the nation. And let us not be too sure, safe as we now think ourselyes, that some occasion may not occur for again producing on the stage so usefut a personage: it is not merely to naughty children in the nursery that the threat of being given to Bonaparte” has proved effectual. It is surely probable therefore, that, with an object substantially the same, all parties may have availed themselves of one common instrument. It is not necessary to suppose that for this purpose they secretly entered into a formal agreement; though by the way, there are reports afloat, that the editors of the Courier and Morning Chronicle hold amicable consultations as to the conduct of their public warfare: I will not take upon me to say that this is incredibles but at any rate it is not necessary for the estab:
lishment of the probability I contend for. Neither again would I imply that all newspaper editors are utterers of forged stories “knowing them to be forged;” most likely the great majority of them publish what they find in other papers with the same simplicity that their readers peruse it; and therefore, it must be observed, are not at all more proper than their readers to be cited as authorities.' pp. 12–15.
The author goes on to detect and expose the multiplied inconsistencies which might be expected to have place in an extensive and complicated forgery.
“What then are we to believe? if we are disposed to credit all that is told us, we must believe in the existence not only of one, but of two or three Bonapartes; if we admit nothing but what is well authenticated, we shall be compelled to doubt of the existence
It appears then, that those on whose testimony the existence and actions of Bonaparte are generally believed, fail in all the most essential points on which the credibility of witnesses depends: first, we have no assurance that they have access to correct information; secondly, they have an apparent interest in propagating falsehood; and, thirdly, they palpably contradict each other in the most important points.' pp. 18, 19.
But what shall we say to the testimony of those many respectable persons who went to Plymouth on purpose, and saw Bonaparte with their own eyes? must they not trust their senses?
• I would not disparage either the eye-sight or the veracity of these gentlemen. I am ready to allow that they went to Plymouth for the purpose of seeing Bonaparte; nay more, that they actually rowed out into the harbour in a boat, and came along-side of a man-of-war, on whose deck they saw a man in a cocked hat, who, they were told, was Bonaparte; this is the utmost point to which their testimony goes; how they ascertained that this man in the cocked hat had gone through all the marvellous and romantic adventures with which we have so long been amused, we are not told: did they perceive in his physiognomy his true name and authentic history "Truly this evidence is such as country people give one for a story of apparitions; if you discover any signs of incredulity, they triumphantly show the very house which the ghost haunted, the identical dark corner where it used to vanish, and perhaps even the tombstone of the person whose death it foretold. Jack Cade's nobility was supported by the same irresistible kind of evi, dence; having asserted that the eldest son of Edmund Mortimer, earl of March, was stolen by a beggar-woman, “became a bricklayer when he came to age," and was the father of the supposed Jack Cade: one of his companions confirms the story, by saying, “Sir, he made a chimney in my father's house, and the bricks are alive at this day to testify it; therefore deny it not."' pp. 22, 23,
Much of the same kind is the testimony of those who are ready to produce the scars they received in fighting against this terrible Bonaparte. These persons fought, no doubt; but they know little or nothing more than their countrymen at home, concerning the person and history of their enemy.
* Let those then who pretend to philosophical freedom of inquiry,—who scorn to rest their opinions on popular belief, and to shelter themselves under the example of the unthinking multitude, consider carefully, each one for himself, what is the evidence proposed to himself in particular, for the existence of such a person as Napoleon Bonaparte; (I do not mean whether there ever was a person bearing that name, for that is a question of no consequence, but whether any such person ever performed all the wonderful things attributed to him;) let him then weigh well the objections to that evidence, (of which I have given but a hasty and imperfect sketch,) and if he then finds it amount to any thing more than a probability, I have only to congratulate him on his easy faith.' p. 24.
But this story, resting as we have seen, upon very exceptionable evidence, is in itself highly incredible. It is improbable-marvellous--prodigious—unprecedented; and, to use the term in Hume's sense, miraculous. It is contrary to our personal experience. And every man's personal experience (if we would maintain a philosophical scepticism) is, to him, the only ground and rule of reasonable belief.
The wise, says Hume, lend a very academic faith to every report which favours the passion of the reporter, whether it magnifies his country, his family, or himself: but who can fail to observe the nationality of this marvellous tale?
' Bonaparte prevailed over all the hostile states in turn, except England; in the zenith of his power, his feets were swept from the sea, by England; his troops always defeat an equal, and frequently even a sunerior number of those of any other nation, except the English, and with them it is just the reverse; twice, and twice only, he is personally engaged against an English commander, and both times he is totally defeated, at Acre, and at Waterloo; and, to crown all, England finally crushes this tremendous power, which has so long kept the continent in subjection or in alarm, and to the English he surrenders himself prisoner! Thoroughly national, to be sure! It may be all very true; but I would only ask, if a story had been fabricated for the express purpose of amusing the English nation, could it have been contrived more ingeniously?' pp. 39, 40.
The author having thus exposed the invalidity of the ground upon which the popular belief is rested, modestly inquires if it be too much to demand of the wary academic, a suspension of judgment as to the life and adventures of Napoleon Bonaparte.'
I do not pretend to decide positively that there is not, nor ever was any such person, but merely to propose it as a doubtful point; and one the more deserving of careful investigation from the very circumstance of its having hitherto been admitted without inquiry.'
He who detects a fiction, is not bound to supply the vacuity he has produced in our creed by positive and unimpeachable truth. In the present instance many suppositions might plausibly be hazarded.
Is it not just possible, that during the rage for words of Greek derivation, the title of “ Napoleon" (Narodowe), which signifies “Lion of the forest,” may have been conferred by the popular voice on more than one favourite general, distinguished for irresistible valour? Is it not also possible that “ BUONA PARTE” may have been originally a sort of cant term applied to the “good (i.e. the bravest or most patriotic) part” of the French army, collectively, and have been afterwards mistaken for the proper name of an individual? I do not profess to support this conjecture; but it is certain that such mistakes may and do occur. Some critics have supposed that the Athenians imagined Anastasis (“ Resurrection") to be a new goddess, in whose cause Paul was preaching. Would it have been thought any thing incredible if we had been told that the ancient Persians, who had no idea of any but a monarchical government, had supposed Aristocratia to be a queen of Sparta? But we need not confine ourselves to hypothetical cases; it is positively stated that the Hindoos at this day believe “the honourable East India Company” to be a venerable old lady of high dignity residing in this country.' pp. 44, 45.
In concluding, the writer invites those who will listen to no testimony that runs counter to experience, and who will believe nothing but that of which it is strictly impossible to doubt, to be consistent, and show themselves as ready to detect the cheats and des pise the fables of politicians, as of priests.
* But if they are still wedded to the popular belief in this point, let them be consistent enough to admit the same evidence in other cases, which they yield to in this. If after all that has been said, they cannot bring themselves to doubt of the existence of Napoleon Bonaparte, they must at least acknowledge that they do not apply to that question, the same plan of reasoning which they have made use of in others; and they are consequently bound in reason and in honesty to renounce it altogether.' pp. 47, 48.
The ingenious author of this pamphlet must be aware, that the case of Napoleon Bonaparte does not strictly meet the main sophism of Hume's Essay on Miracles; he does, however, very fairly turn the laugh against the practical absurdities of the hyper scepticism which is displayed in the second part of that Essay: and we think he has very well caught the oblique, plausible insidiousness of Hume's manner. But if he would pretend to stand up
on the ground of rigid reasoning, the disciple of Hume would say, that the supposed scepticism relative to Bonaparte, falls very plainly under the exception which that writer himself makes for those cases in which the greatest miracle would be on the side of the alleged fabrication. The successful promulgation of such a history, if unreal, so near to us in time and place, would obviously be more extraordinary than any of the facts it contains. The same thing, indeed, may be said of those suppositions which form the alternative, if the histories of the New Testament are affirmed to be forgeries. But to show this, it is previously requisite to expose the sophism of Hume's first position, which in substance is this, that every man's experience of the uniformity of nature furnishes him with a proof against miracles, which the highest evidence of festimony can at most only balance, leaving the mind in saspense between opposing proof; so that a reported miracle, though it may perplex the judgment, can never be the ground of reasonable belief. This doctrine has been abundantly refuted in different ways. It would be sufficient briefly to observe the distinction which Hume labours to hide from his reader, between what is simply extraordinary-that is, not conformed to our personal experience, and what is strictly incredible, or contradictory to our actual knowledge. That water should, during a part of the year, be in a solid state, is not, according to the experience of him who has always inhabited the islands of the torrid zone: but unless he could profess to be acquainted with the whole system of nature, in refusing his belief to credible testimony which affirms the fact, the sable sceptic, on the strength of his personal ignorance, contradicts his own experience of human nature, which directs him to confide in testi. mony under certain circumstances. Hume trespasses beyond the ordinary bounds of his argumentative caution, when he affirms that
the Indian prince who refused to believe the first relations concerning the effects of frost, reasoned justly. Such an instance can hardly fail to suggest to the reader the unsoundness of the sceptical argument, and its internal inconsistency. Would not this Indian prince have done better, to reflect that the effect of cold upon water was merely beyond his experience, while the credibility of testimony was a subject within his experience?
It is in the very nature of a miracle, that it should be an occur. rence not according to common experience; but it cannot be called incredible, (that is, contradictory to our knowledge,) unless we had the means of knowing that it is incompatible with the character or purposes of the author of nature, thus specially to interpose in diverting the order of nature for a moral purpose. To set out with the affirmation that a miracle is incredible, because it is not according to uniform experience, is a mere petitio principii; and it is enough, simply to deny the assumption. Here, we say, is credible testimony that miracles have not been contrary to all experience.