Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

cient heathen monuments. Had we two or three volumes of this nature, without any of the collector's own reflections, I am sure there is nothing in the world could give a clearer idea of the Roman Catholic religion, nor expose more the pride, vanity, and self-interest of convents, the abuse of indulgencies, the folly and impertinence of votaries, and, in short, the superstition, credulity, and childishness of the Roman Catholic religion. One might fill several sheets at St. Gaul, as there are few considerable convents or churches that would not afford large contributions.

As the King of France distributes his pensions through all the parts of Switzerland, the town and abby of St. Gaul come in too for their share. To the first he gives five hundred crowns per annum, and to the other a thousand. This pension has not been paid these three years, which they attribute to their not acknowledging the Duke of Anjou for King of Spain. The town and abby of St. Gaul carry a bear for their arms. The Roman Catholics have this bear's memory in very great veneration, and represent him as the first convert their saint made in the country. One of the most learned of the Benedictine monks gave me the following history of him, which he delivered to me with tears of affection in

“ St. Gaul, it seems, whom they call the great apostle of Germany, found all this country a little better than a vast desert. As he was walking in it on a very cold day he chanced to meet a bear in his way. The saint, instead of being startled at the rencounter, ordered the bear to bring him a bundle of wood, and make him a fire. The bear served him to the best of his ability, and, at his departure, was commanded by the saint to retire into the very depth of the woods, and there to pass the rest of his life without ever hurting man or beast. From this time, says the monk, the bear lived irreproachably, and observed, to his dying day, the orders that the saint had given him."

I have often considered, with a great deal of pleasure, the profound peace and tranquillity that reigns in Switzerland and its alliances. It is very wonderful to

his eyes.

see such a knot of governments, which are so divided among themselves in matters of religion, maintain so uninterrupted an union and correspondence, that no one of them is for invading the rights of another, but remains content within the bounds of its first establishment. This, I think, must be chiefly ascribed to the nature of the people, and the constitution of their governments. Were the Swiss animated by zeal or ambition, some or other of their states would immediately break in upon the rest; or were the states so many principalities, they might often have an ambitious sovereign at the head of them, that would embroil his neighbours, and sacrifice the repose of his subjects to his own glory. But as the inhabitants of these countries are naturally of a heavy phlegmatic temper, if any of their leading members have more fire and spirit than comes to their share, it is quickly tempered by the coldness and moderation of the rest who sit at the helm with them. To this we may add, that the Alps is the worst spot of ground in the world to make conquests in, a great part of its governments being so naturally intrenched among woods and mountains. However it be, we find no such disorders among them as one would expect in such a multitude of states; for as soon as any public rupture happens, it is immediately closed up by the moderation and good offices of the rest that interpose.

As all the considerable governments among the Alps are commonwealths, so, indeed, it is a constitution the most adapted of any other to the poverty and barrenness of these countries. We may see only in a neighbouring government the ill consequences of having a despotic prince, in a state that is most of it composed of rocks and mountains; for, notwithstanding there is a vast extent of lands, and many of them better than those of the Swiss and Grisons, the common people among the latter are much more at their ease, and in a greater affluence of all the conveniences of life. A prince's court eats too much into the income of a poor state, and generally introduces a kind of luxury and magnificence, that sets every particular person upon making a higher figure in his station than is consistent with his revenue.

It is the great endeavour of the several cantons of Switzerland, to banish from among them every thing that looks like pomp or superfluity. To this end the ministers are always preaching, and the governors putting out edicts against dancing, gaming, entertainments, and fine clothes. This is become more necessary in some of the governments, since there are so many refugees settled among them; for, though the Protestants in France affect ordinarily a greater plainness and simplicity of manners, than those of the same quality who are of the Roman Catholic communion, they have, however, too much of their country-gallantry for the genius and constitution of Switzerland. Should dressing, feasting, and balls, once get among the cantons, their military roughness would be quickly lost, their tempers would grow too soft for their climate, and their expences out-run their incomes; besides that the materials for their luxury must be brought from other nations, which would immediately ruin a country that has few commodities of its own to export, and is not over-stocked with money. Luxury indeed wounds a Republic in its very vitals, as its natural consequences are rapine, avarice, and injustice; for the more money a man spends, the more must he endeavour to augment his stock; which at last sets the liberty and votes of a common-wealth to sale, if they find any foreign power that is able to pay the price of them. We see no where the pernicious effects of luxury on a republic more than in that of the ancient Romans, who' immediately found itself poor as soon as this vice got footing among them, though they were possessed of all the riches in the world. We find in the beginnings and increases of their common-wealth strange instances of the contempt of money, because indeed they were utter

Who] The relative, Who” has a person for its antecedentit should, therefore, have been : Who found herself poor,” or, " which found ilself poor.”

a

strangers to the pleasures that might be procured by it; or in other words, because they were wholly ignorant of the arts of luxury. But as soon as they once entered into a taste of pleasure, politeness, and magnificence, they fell into a thousand violences, conspiracies, and divisions, that threw them into all the disorders imaginable, and terminated in the utter subversion of the common-wealth. It is no wonder, therefore, the poor common-wealths of Switzerland are ever labouring at the suppressing and prohibition of every thing that may introduce vanity and luxury, Besides the several fines that are set upon plays, games, balls, and feastings, they have many customs among them which very much contribute to the keeping up of their ancient simplicity. The Burgeois, who are at the head of the governments, are obliged to appear at all their public assemblies in a black cloak and a band. The women's dress is very plain, those of the best quality wearing nothing on their heads generally but furs, which are to be met with in their own country. The persons of different qualities in both sexes are indeed allowed their different ornaments, but these are generally such as are by no means costly, being rather designed as marks of distinction than to make a figure. The chief officers of Berne, for example, are known by the crowns of their hats, which are much deeper than those of an inferior character. The peasants are generally clothed in a coarse kind of canvas, that is the manufacture of the country. Their holyday clothes

go from father to son, and are seldom worn out, till the second or third generation: so that it is common enough to see a country man in the doublet and breeches of his great-grand-father. Geneva is much politer than Switzerland, or any

of its allies, and is therefore looked upon as the court of the Alps, whither the Protestant cantons often send their children to improve themselves in language and education. The Genevois have been very much refined, or, as others will have it, corrupted by the conversation of the French Protestants, who make up almost a third of their people. It is certain they have very much YOL. II.

[ocr errors]

forgotten the advice that Calvin gave them in a great council a little before his death, when he recommended to them, above all things, an exemplary modesty and humility, and as great a simplicity in their manners as in their religion. Whether or no they have done well, to set up for making another kind of figure, time will witness. There are several that fancy the great sums they have remitted into Italy, though by this means they make their court to the king of France at present, may some time or other give him inclination to become the master of so wealthy a city.

As this collection of little states abounds more in pasturage than in corn, they are all provided with their public granaries, and have the humanity to furnish one another in public exigencies, when the scarcity is not universal. "As the administration of affairs relating to these public granaries is not very different in any of the particular governments, I shall content myself to set down the rules observed in it by the little commonwealth of Geneva, in which I had more time to inform myself of the particulars than in any other. There are three of the little council deputed for this office. They are obliged to keep together a provision sufficient to feed the people at least two years, in case of war or famine. They must take care to fill their magazines in times of the greatest plenty, that so they may afford cheaper, and increase the public revenue at a small expence of its members. None of the three managers, must, upon any pretence, furnish the granaries from his own fields, that so they may have no temptation to pay, too great a price, or put any bad corn upon the public. They must buy up no corn growing within twelve miles of Geneva, that so the filling their magazines may not prejudice their market, and raise the price of their provisions at home. That such a collection of corn may not spoil in keeping, all the inns and public houses, are obliged to furnish themselves out of it, by which means is raised the most considerable branch of the public revenues; the corn being sold out at a much dearer rate than 'tis bought up. So that the greatest income of the

« ZurückWeiter »