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the Burgundian army was besieging Beauvais, that Jeanne Hachette, at the head of a number of women, sustained an assault for a considerable time, wrested the standard from one of the enemy who was about to plant it on the breach, threw the bearer into the trench, and gave time for the king's troops to arrive and relieve the town. Her descendants have been exempted from the taille, (poll tax)—a mean and shameful
recompense! The women and girls of Beauvais are more flattered by their walking before the men in the procession on the anniversary-day. Every public mark of honour is an encouragement of merit; but the exemption from the taille is but a proof that the individuals so exempted were subjected to this servitude by the misfortune of their birth.
There is hardly any nation which does not boast of having produced such heroines: the number of these, however, is not great; nature seems to have designed women for other purposes. Women have been known but rarely to exhibit themselves as soldiers. In short, every people have had their female warriors; but the kingdom of the Amazons, on the banks of the Thermodon, is, like most other ancient stories, nothing more than a poetic fiction.
AMBIGUITY-EQUIVOCATION. For want of defining terms, and especially for want of a clear understanding, almost all laws, which ought to be as plain as arithmetic and geometry, are as obscure as logogriphes. The melancholy proof of this is, that nearly all processes are founded on the sense of the laws, always differently understood by the pleaders, the advocates, and the judges.
The whole public law of Europe had its origin in equivocal expressions, beginning with the Salique law, She shall not inherit salique land. But what is salique land? And shall not a girl inherit money, or a necklace, left to her, which may be worth more than the land ?
The citizens of Rome saluted Karl, son of the Austrasian Pepin le Bref, by the name of imperator, Did they understand thereby, We confer on you all the prerogatives of Octavius, Tiberius, Caligula, and Claudius? We give you all the country which they possessed ? However, they could not give it; for so far were they from being masters of it, that they were scarcely masters of their own city. There never was a more equivocal expression; and such as it was then it still is.
Did Leo III. the bishop of Rome who is said to have saluted Charlemagne emperor, comprehend the meaning of the words which he pronounced? The Germans assert, that he understood by them that Charles should be his master. The Datary has asserted, that he meant he should be master over Charlemagne.
Have not things the most venerable—the most sacred—the most divine, been obscured by the ambiguities of language? Ask two Christians of what religion they are.
Each will answer, I am a Catholic. You think they are both of the same communion; yet one is of the Greek, the other of the Latin church; and they are irreconcilable. If you seek to be further informed, you will find that by the word Catholic, each of them understands universal, in which case universal signifies a part.
The soul of St Francis is in heaven-is in paradise. One of these words signifies the air ; the other means a garden.
The word spirit is used alike to express extract, thought, distilled liquor, apparition.
Ambiguity has been so necessary a vice in all languages, formed by what is called chance and by custom, that the author of all clearness and truth himself condescended to speak after the manner of his people; whence it is that Elohim signifies in some places judges, at other times gods, and at others angels.
“ Tu es Petrus, et super hunc petrum ædificabo ecclesiąm meam,” would be equivocal in a profane tongue, and on a profane subject; but these words receive a divine sense from the mouth which utters them, and the subject to which they are applied.
" I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; now God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” In the ordinary sense, these words might signify, I am the same God that was worshipped by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; as the earth, which bore Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, likewise bears their descendants; the sun which shines to-day is the sun that shone on Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the law of their children was their law. This does not, however, signify that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are still living. But when the Messiah speaks, there is no longer any ambiguity; the sense is as clear as it is divine. It is evident that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are not among the dead, but live in glory, since this oracle is pronounced by the Messiah : but it was necessary that he and no one else should utter it.
The discourses of the Jewish prophets might seem equivocal to men of gross intellects, who could not perceive their meaning; but they were not so to minds illumined by the light of faith.
All the oracles of antiquity were equivocal. It was foretold to Cresus that a powerful empire was to fall ; but was it to be his own? or that of Cyrus? It was also foretold to Pyrrhus that the Romans might conquer him, and that he might conquer the Romans. It was impossible that this oracle should lie.
When Septimius Severus, Pescennius Niger, and Clodius Albinus, were contending for the empire, the oracle of Delphos, being consulted, (notwithstanding the assertion of the Jesuit Baltus, that oracles had ceased) answered, that the brown was very good, the white good for nothing, and the African tolerable. It is plain that there are more ways than one of explaining such an oracle.
When Aurelian consulted the God "of Palmyra, (still in spite of Baltus), the God said that the doves fear the falcon. Whatever might happen, the God would not be embarrassed: the falcon would be the conqueror, and the doves the conquered.
Sovereigns, as well as gods, have sometimes made use of equivocation. Some tyrant, whose name I'for
get, having sworn to one of his captives, that he would not kill him, ordered that he should have nothing to eat, saying that he had promised not to put him to death, but he had not promised to keep him alive.*
AMERICA. SINCE framers of systems are continually conjecturing on the manner in which America can have been peopled, we will be equally constant in saying that He who caused flies to exist in those regions, caused men to exist there also. However pleasant it may be to dispute, it cannot be denied that the Supreme Being who lives in all nature, has created, about the forty-eighth degree, two-legged animals without feathers, the colour of whose skin is a mixture of white and carnation, with long beards approaching to red; about the line, in Africa and its islands, negroes without beards; and in the same latitude, other negroes with beards, some of them having wool and some hair on their heads; and among them other animals quite white, having neither hair nor wool, but a kind of white silk. It does not very clearly appear what should have prevented God from placing on another continent animals of the same species, of a copper colour, in the same latitude in which, in Africa and Asia, they are found black; or even from making them without beards in the very same latitude in which others possess them.
To what lengths are we carried by the rage for systems joined with the tyranny of prejudice! We see these animals; it is: agreed that God has had the power to place them where they are; yet it is not agreed that he has so placed them. The same persons who readily admit that the beåvèrs of Canada are of Canadian origin, assert that the men must have come there in boats, and that Mexico must have been peopled by some of the descendants of Magog. As well might it be said, that if there be men in the moon, they must have been taken thither by Astolpho on his hippogriff, when he went to fetch Roland's senses, which were corked up in a bottle. If America had been discovered in his time, and there had then been men in Europe systematic enough to have advanced, with the Jesuit Lafitau, that the Caribbees descended from the inhabitants of Caria, and the Hurons from the Jews, he would have done well to have brought back the bottle containing the wits of these reasoners, which he would doubtless have found in the moon, along with those of Angelica's lover.
* See ABUSE OF WORDS.
The first thing done when an inhabited island is discovered in the Indian Ocean, or in the South Sea, is to enquire whence came these people ? but as for the trees and the tortoises, they are, without any hesitation, pronounced to be indigenous; as if it was more difficult for Nature to make men than to make tortoises. One thing, however, which tends to countenance this system is, that there is scarcely an island in the Eastern or in the Western Ocean, which does not contain jugglers, quacks, knaves, and fools. This, it is probable, gave rise to the opinion, that these animals are of the same race with ourselves.
AMPLIFICATION. It is pretended that amplification is a fine figure of rhetoric; perhaps, however, it would be more reasonable to call it a defect. In saying all that we ought to say, we do not amplify; and if after saying this we amplify, we say too much. To place a good or bad action in every light, is not to amplify; but to go further than this, is to exaggerate and become weari
Prizes were formerly given in colleges for amplification. This was indeed teaching the art of being diffuse. It would, perhaps, have been better to have given prizes to those who should express their thoughts in the fewest words, and thus teach the art of speaking with greater force and energy.
But while we avoid amplification, let us beware of dryness.