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caused by the issue of the French revolution, suicide was one of the favourite themes of paradox and declamation ; and Madame de Staël it seems had formerly written on it, not so much with the temper of philosophy, as with that hostility to received doctrines to which the vivacity and pride of youthful genius are prone. Her mature reason has easily discovered, that the more general judgments of the human race on subjects of moral conduct, disguised as they are under a thousand fantastic forms, obscured by vague, passionate, hyperbolical, and even contradictory forms of expression, debased by the mixture of every species of prejudice and superstition, and distorted into deformity in their passage through narrow and perverted minds, have still some solid foundation in the nature and condition of man. Very little moral truth is to be found in its native state: and it is one of the most important offices of philosophy, to recover it from the impure masses with which it is confounded by the common observer. · It is natural that reparation for youthful paradox should be ample even to excess. A generous mind deems no atonement sufficient for its own errors; and disdains the arts by which the inevitable variations of human opinion are easily concealed from the multitude. As eloquence always partakes of exaggeration, it necessarily magnifies the apparent dissimilarity between the different. opinions of an eloquent writer. Where the colouring is most splendid, the contrasts are most striking; and even the slightest shades of difference will be more perceptible. Every revolution of the present age has been an event in Mad. de Staël's private life. In a person of ardent sensibility amidst the agitations of an eventful lise, we shall not severely blame some tendencies towards new exaggerations; and we cannot wonder that she should be disposed to an almost undistinguishing parsiality for the character and measures of the enemies of her persecutor. The operation of so just a resentment on judgment, is neither to be forgotten nor condemned. In estimating her character it may perhaps be respected ; but in weighing her authority it must be deducted. Whatever
Whatever may be the oscillations of a susceptible mind in a stormy atmosphere, Madame de Staël, we are persuaded, is destined to be the permanent advocate of justice, of humanity, of resistance to tyrana ny, and reformation of abuse. Her animosity to corruption and oppression will ultimately be without distinction of party or country---or with no other distinction than that superior indig.nation which enlightened minds feel, when these evils disgrace and weaken the cause which they themselves espouse.
On the question of Suicide, it is perhaps possible to state the whole truth more plainly and dispassionately than has been hitherto done. It must be admitted, that every act by which à man voluntarily causes his own death, is not criminal. All such acts are, however, suicides. Whether a man produces his own death by swallowing a cup of poison, or by mounting a breach (supposing death to be in both cases foreseen as the inevitable consequence of the act), it is evident, that in both cases he equally kills himself. But it is obvious, that there are circumstances in which it is a duty, to do acts of which a man's own death is the necessary result. This is no uncommon dictate of military obedience. In all operations of war, it is a duty to hazard life; and a greater degree of the same obligation may require its sacrifice. If it were constantly criminal to cause the destruction of one's life, there must be a criminality of the same kind, though of an inferior degree, in risking it. It is vain to say, that a volunteer on a forlorn hope has a chance of escape ; for it may be said with equal truth, that there is also a chance of the failure of the deadliest poison. The agent, in both cases, expects his own death: and in that of the soldier, the moral approbation is highest, and the fame is most brilliant, where death is the most certain. This, indeed, is so far from being an uncommon case, that it comprehends a very large class of human actions; being not only the duty of soldiers, but of all those who are engaged in eminently perilous occupations and occasionally of all human beings. It is required from men of the most obscure condition, who are neither trained to any delicacy of moral perception, nor supported by the prospect of reputation. Its violation is punished by death, or by the heaviest and most irremissible disgrace. Maternal affection renders the feeblest and most timid women capable of discharging this stern and terrible duty.
Besides these suicides of duty, there are other cases of the hazard or sacrifice of life, which, not being positively prescribed by the rules of conduct, are considered as acts of virtue of the most arduvus nature, requiring singular magnanimity, and justly distinguished by the most splendid reputation. Codrus and Decius present themselves to the recollection of every reader. When a Scotch Highland gentleman personated Prince Charles Stuart-when Madame Elizabeth presented herself to the furious rabble as Marie Antoinetti-avery human heart acknowledges the generous virtue which made the first sacrifice, and the second expose life, in order to preserve the life of others, to whom they were bound by no stronger ties than those of attachment and friendship, strengthened by the momentary impulse of compassion. But these suicides of patriotism or loyalty are acts done in a conspicuous place, by those who are bred from their infancy to consider honour and disgrace as the first objects
of human pursuit and avoidance. Innumerable instances, however, of the same sort, in totally different circumstances, show the power
of human nature to do the same acts without the bribe of fame. Backwardness in mounting a breach, or boarding a ship, is a rare occurrence. Volunteers for service of the most desperate danger are easily found. Every case of a shipwreck, or a fire, exhibits examples of devoting life, for the preservation sometimes of utter strangers-very often, indeed, of persons to whom there is no obligation of duty, and no tie of affection. Mere compassion renders the lowest of the mob for a moment capable of so sublime a sacrifice.
There are other suicides, which, without being either demanded by duty, or performed for the preservation of a community or an individual, are yet generally considered as acts which, whether they be strictly moral or not, can only be performed by minds of the most magnanimous virtue. The suicide of Cato is of this class. It was not to defeat usurpation, or to preserve the laws and liberties of Rome, that he destroyed his own life. In that case, the moral qualities of the act would have admitted no dispute : But it was done when he despaired of his country. It arose from his horror of tyranny, and the feeling of intolerable shame at the prospect of life under an arbitrary master; and it is to be justified by the tendency of the example to save the world from future tyrannies, by strengthening and perpetliating these most useful sentiments, and to contribute throughout all ages to diffuse the love of liberty among mankind. As liberty is the only security for just and humane government, it must be owned, that the diffusion of such sentiments seems to be a higher interest of mankind, and a more worthy object of self sacrifice, than the preservation of any individual, or even of any state. But it is scarcely worth discussing what precise judgment ought to be formed of the act of Cato, as long as all good men must unite in admiration and reverence for the mind from which it proceeded. The merit of Regulus's return to Carthage was enhanced, in the opinion of one of the most sensible and moderate of moralists, principally by his certain knowledge of the death which his barbarous tormentors had prepared for him. His voluntary death was, however, very different from that of Cato. The strictest rules of duty required, that he should neither advise his country against his conscience, nor violate his pledged faith to the enemy. Every case where a man prefers death to guilt, is a suicide of duty. Of this nature is all martyrdom, where life is to be saved only by false professions, or by compliances which the conscience of the martyr deems still more criminal. Among the early Christians, as indeed among most persecuted bodies of men, there prevailed a sort of ambition of martyrdom, which the Fathers of the Church condemned as the fruit of misguided zeal, but which was considered by the people with reverence, as an honourable proof of a more sincere and intrepid attachment to religion than that which was shown by the cautious prudence of lukewarm brethren. Dying men deplored the natural death which robbed them of the honours of martyrdom. Many who were present at the trial and condemnation of their fellow Christians, cried out, "We too are Christians,' that they might fol. low their brethren to the stake. Those who fled from persecution were stigmatized by the more severe Fathers; and those who purchased an indemnity from the magistrate, were thought little interior in guilt to those who sacrificed to idols. So great was the rage for this species of suicide, though evidently unjustifiable, that the Roman magistrates sometimes (though too seldom and too late) discovered their best policy, even for their own purposes, to consist in mortifying and repelling the crowds of candidates for martyrdom.
Another sort of suicide was allowed by the most illustrious of the early Doctors of Christianity. Led probably by that fanatical and ascetic spirit which tainted their moral' doctrines respecting the intercourse between the sexes, they allowed a woman to kill herself, in order to prevent an involuntary, and therefore imaginary, pollution of the body, where the mind was to remain perfectly spotless. They did not, indeed, with Lucretia, claim this privilege, from the shame of past violation; but they permitted it, for the prevention of that which was to come. It is unnecessary to observe, that this opinion can be justified by no principle; but it is evidently an excrescence from the principle of a suicide of duty, and proceeds partly from the confusion of guilt with disgrace, and partly also from the abusive application of moral terms to physical things. Though actions not immoral seldom continue long to be thought dishonourable among a civilized people, yet the degree of disgrace is often by no means proportioned to that of immoralitv. Thus, mercenary prostitution, when it arises from poverty, extenuates the vice, but renders the degradation deeper. Every outward mark of a disgraceful act is itself disgraceful. Though nothing can be immoral which is not voluntary, yet it may be ignominious to have involuntarily suffered from the brutality of others. A Bramin forfeits his civil rank and sacred character by what only the utmost cruelty could have compelled him to endure. The case of a virtuous man, discredited by calumnies, of which refutation does not repair the injurious effect, must be owned to be attended with considerabie perplexity. But the more sound casuistry must forbid him to take refuge in volun
tary death. The possibility of escaping from dishonour is a temptation to undervalue honour. A good man ought not to murmur at that necessity which compels him to confute calumny by his life. But though it be not a justifiable case of suicide, it seems to be one of the most excuseable which can be imagined; and when : mind, stung by unmerited dishonour, determines on this dreadful remedy, and resolves on leaving an exa niple which may deter some from calumny, and others from the imprudence which supplies the calumniator with weapons, though the action must be blamed as a deviation from the most elevated morality, yet the man may be pitied, and even loved, for a purity and ardour of moral feeling, of which the rigorous censors of his conduct were probably incapable.
Opposed to these voluntary deaths, which are enjoined or applauded, are two classes of culpable suicide, which may be termed the criminal and the vicious. A criminal suicide is that by which a man, under the influence of selfish impatience or apprehension, withdraws himself from the performance of evident, urgent, and important duties. Every duty imposes the secondary obligation to preserve the means of performing it, and consequently to preserve life, which comprehends all ihese
The most homely instances are the best illustrations. A man on whose labour a family depended for bread, could not disable himself from earning it ly nutilating his limbs, without a great crime:- but in destroying his life, he commits a greater crime of the same nature To escape from his difficulties to America or China, while he left a family destitute in England, would be a crime of great magnitude :--but to commit suicide, in like circumstances, would be to abscond without the possibility of return. Men are so linked together, that this plain consideration is sufficient in most cases of blameable suicide. Where a man is so insulated, that his duties become faint and general, all se fish suicide argues at least the vicious purpose of withdrawing from the practice of virtue, and destroying the power of rendering service to mankind. For these purposes, life is to be endured when it is miserable, as well as sacrificed when it is most happy; and though the speculator may assign the boundaries of the obligation, they will not be discovered by a generous man when he is called to make the effort. It is a fact, which must be equally acknowleged by the followers of all moral theories, that it is a more excellent habit to regard life as an instrument of serving others, than as a source of gratification to ourselves. It is also equally true, that this habitual disposition renders him who feels it more happy, as well as more virtuous, than if his mind were more constantly directed