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We travel to China to obtain clay for porcelain, as if we had none ourselves; stuffs, as if we were destitute of stuffs; and a small herb to be infused in water, as if we had no simples in our own countries. In return for these benefits, we are desirous of converting the Chinese. It is a very commendable zeal; but we must avoid controverting their antiquity, and also calling them idolaters. Should we think it well of a capuchin, if, after having been hospitably entertained at the château of the Montmorencys, he endeavored to persuade them that they were new nobility, like the king's secretaries; or accused them of idolatry, because he found two or three statues of constables, for whom they cherished the most profound respect?

The celebrated Wolf, professor of mathematics in the university of Halle, once delivered an excellent discourse in praise of the Chinese philosophy. He praised that ancient species of the human race, differing, as it does, in respect to the beard, the eyes, the nose, the ears, and even the reasoning powers themselves; he praised the Chinese, I say, for their adoration of a supreme God, and their love of virtue. He did that justice to the emperors of China, to the tribunals, and to the literati. The justice done to the bonzes was of a different kind.

It is necessary to observe, that this Professor Wolf had attracted around him a thousand pupils of all nations. In the same university there was also a professor of theology, who attracted no one. This man, maddened at the thought of freezing to death in his own deserted hall, formed the design, which undoubtedly was only right and reasonable, of destroying the mathematical professor. He scrupled not, according to the practice of persons like himself, to accuse him of not believing in God.

Some European writers, who had never been in China, had pretended that the government of Pekin was atheistical. Wolf had praised the philosophers of Pekin; therefore Wolf was an atheist. Envy and hatred seldom construct the best syllogisms. This argument of Lange, supported by a party and by a protector, was considered conclusive by the sovereign of the country, who despatched a formal dilemma to the mathematician. This dilemma gave him the option of quitting Halle in twenty-four hours, or of being hanged; and as Wolf was a very accurate reasoner, he did not fail to quit. His withdrawing deprived the king of two or three hundred thousand crowns a year, which were brought into the kingdom in consequence of the wealth of this philosopher's disciples.

This case should convince sovereigns that they should not be over ready to listen to calumny, and sacrifice a great man to the madness of a fool. But let us return to China.

Why should we concern ourselves, we who live at the extremity of the west--why should we dispute with abuse and fury, whether there were fourteen princes or not before Fo-hi, emperor of China, and whether the said Fo-hi lived three thousand, or two thousand nine hundred years before our vulgar era? I should like to see two Irishmen quarrelling at Dublin, about who was the owner, in the twelfth century, of the estate I am now in possession of. Is it not clear, that they should refer to me, who possess the documents and titles relating to it? To my mind, the case is the same with respect to the first emperors of China, and the tribunals of that country are the proper resort upon the subject.

Dispute as long as you please about the fourteen princes who reigned before Fo-hi, your very interesting dispute cannot possibly fail to prove that China was at that period populous, and that laws were in force there. I now ask you, whether a people's being collected together, under laws and kings, involves not the idea of very considerable antiquity? Reflect how long a time is requisite, before by a singular concurrence of circumstances, the iron is discovered in the mine, before it is applied to purposes of agriculture, before the invention of the shuttle, and all the arts of life.

Some who multiply mankind by a dash of the pen, have produced very curious calculations. The Jesuit Petau, by a very singular computation, gives the world, two hundred and twenty-five years after the deluge, one hundred times as many inhabitants as can be easily conceived to exist on it at present. The Cumberlands and Whistons have formed calculations equally ridiculous; had these worthies only consulted the registers of our colonies in America, they would have been perfectly astonished, and would have perceived not only how slowly mankind increase in number, but that frequently instead of increasing they actually diminish.

Let us then, who are merely of yesterday, descendants of the Celts, who have only just finished clearing the forests of our savage territories, suffer the Chinese and Indians to enjoy in peace their fine climate and their antiquity. Let us, especially, cease calling the emperor of China, and the souba of the Deccan, idolaters. There is no necessity for being a zealot in estimating Chinese merit. The constitution of their empire is the only one entirely established upon paternal authority; the only one in which the governor of a province is punished, if, on quitting his station, he does not receive the acclamations of the people; the only one which has instituted rewards for virtue, while, everywhere else, the sole object of the laws is the punishment of crime; the only one which has caused its laws to be adopted by its conquerors, while we are still subject to the customs of the Burgundians, the Franks, and the Goths, by whom we were conquered. Yet, we must confess, that the common people, guided by the bonzes, are equally knavish with our own; that everything is sold enormously dear to foreigners, as among ourselves; that, with respect to the sciences, the Chinese are just where we were two hundred years ago; that, like us, they labor under a thousand ridiculous prejudices; and that they believe in talismans and judicial astrology, as we long did ourselves.

We must admit also, that they were astonished at our thermometer, at our method of freezing fluids by means of saltpetre, and at all the experiments of Torricelli and Otto von Guericke; as we were also, on seeing for the first time those curious processes. We add, that their physicians do not cure mortal diseases any more than our own; and that minor diseases, both here and in China, are cured by nature alone. All this, however, does not interfere with the fact, that the Chinese, for four thousand years, when we were unable even to read, knew everything essentially useful of which we boast at the present day.

I must again repeat, the religion of their learned is admirable, and free from superstitions, from absurd legends, from dogmas insulting both to reason and nature, to which the bonzes give a thousand different meanings, because they really often have none. The most simple worship has appeared to them the best, for a series of forty centuries. They are, what we conceive Seth, Enoch, and Noah to have been; they are contented to adore one God in communion with the sages of the world, while Europe is divided between Thomas and Bonaventure, between Calvin and Luther, between Jansenius and Molina.

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