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by [?]

We know what exquisite visions floated around the twelve who first founded the Church on the principle of fraternity. No brother was to be left poor; all were to hold goods in common; every man should work for what he could, and receive what he needed; but evil crept in, and dissension and heart-burning, and ever since then the best of our poor besotted human race have been groping blindly after fraternity and finding it never. I always deprecate bitter or despondent views, or exaggerating the importance of our feeble race–for, after all, the whole time during which man has existed on earth is but as a brief swallow-flight compared with the abysmal stretches of eternity; but I confess that, when I see the flower of our race trained to become killers of men and awaiting the opportunity to exercise their murderous arts I feel a little sick at heart. Even they are compelled to hear the commands of the lovely gospel of fraternity, and, unless they die quickly in the fury of combat, their last moments are spent in listening to the same blessed words. It seems so mad and dreamlike that I have found myself thinking that, despite all our confidence, the world may be but a phantasmagoria, and ourselves, with our flesh that seems so solid, may be no more than fleeting wraiths. There is no one to rush between the scowling nations, as the poor hermit did between the gladiators in wicked Rome; there is no one to say, “Poor, silly peasant from pleasant France, why should you care to stab and torment that other poor flaxen-haired simpleton from Silesia? Your fields await you; if you were left to yourselves, then you and the Silesian would be brothers, worshipping like trusting children before the common Father of us all. And now you can find nothing better to do than to do each other to death!” Like the sanguine creatures who carried out the revolutionary movements of 1789, 1830, 1848, and 1860, the weak among us are apt to cry out–“Surely the time of fraternity has come at last!” Then, when the murderous Empire, or the equally murderous Republic, or the grim military despotism arrives instead of fraternity, the weak ones are smitten with confusion. I pity them, for a bitterness almost as of death must be lived through before one learns that God indeed doeth all things well. The poor Revolutionists thought that they must have rapid changes, and their hysterical visions appeared to them like perfectly wise and accurate glances into the future. They were in a hurry, forgetting that we cannot change our marvellous society on a sudden, any more than we can change a single tissue of our bodies on a sudden–hence their frantic hopes and frantic despair. If we gaze coolly round, we see that, in spite of a muttering, threatening France and a watchful Germany, in spite of the huge Russian storm-cloud that lowers heavily over Europe, in spite of the venomous intrigues with which Austria is accredited, there are still cheerful symptoms to be seen, and it may happen that the very horror of war may at last drive all men to reject it, and declare for fraternity. Look at that very France which is now so electric with passion and suspicion, and compare it with the France of long ago. The Gaul now thinks of killing the Teuton; but in the time of the good King Henry IV. he delighted in slaying his brother Gaul. The race who now only care to turn their hands against a rival nation once fought among themselves like starving rats in a pit. Even in the most polished society the men used to pick quarrels to fight to the death. In one year of King Henry’s reign nine thousand French gentlemen were killed in duels! Bad as we are, we are not likely to return to such a state of things as then was seen. The men belonged to one nation, and they ought to have banded together so that no foreign foe might take advantage of them; and yet they chose rather to slaughter each other at the rate of nearly one hundred and ninety per week. Certainly, so far as France is concerned, we can see some improvement; for, although the cowardly and abominable practice of duelling is still kept up, only one man was killed during the past twelve months, instead of nine thousand. In England we have had nearly two hundred years of truce from civil wars; in Germany the sections of the populace have at any rate stopped fighting among themselves; in Italy there are no longer the shameful feuds of Guelf and Ghibelline. It would seem, then, that civil strife is passing away, and that countries which were once the prey of bloodthirsty contending factions are now at least peaceful within their own borders.