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Jean Paul Marat
by [?]

Religion and government being at that time not merely second cousins, but Siamese twins, Jean Paul had expressed himself on things churchly as well as secular.

And now, behold, one fine day he found himself confronted with a charge of blasphemy, not to mention another damning count of contumacy and contravention.

In fact, he was commanded not to think, and was cautioned as to the sin of having ideas. The penalties were pointed out to Jean Paul, and in all kindness he was asked to make choice between immediate punishment and future silence.

Thus was the wee philosopher raised at once to the dignity of a martyr; and the sweet satisfaction of being persecuted for what he believed, was his.

The city of Edinburgh was not far away, and thither by night the victim of persecution made his way. There is a serio-comic touch to this incident that Marat was never quite able to appreciate–the man was not a humorist. In fact, men headed for the noose, the block, or destined for immortality by the assassin’s dagger, very seldom are jokers–John Brown and his like do not jest. Of all the emancipators of men, Lincoln alone stands out as one who was perfectly sane. An ability to see the ridiculous side of things marks the man of perfect balance.

The martyr type, whose blood is not only the seed of the church, but also of heresy, is touched with madness. To get the thing done, Nature sacrifices the man.

Arriving in Edinburgh, Marat thought it necessary for a time to live in hiding, but finally he came out and was duly installed as barkeep at a tavern, and a student in the medical department of the University of Saint Andrews–a rather peculiar combination.

Marat’s sister and biographer, Albertine, tells us that Jean Paul was never given to the use of stimulants, and in fact, for the greater part of his career, was a total abstainer. And the man who knows somewhat of the eternal paradox of things can readily understand how this little tapster, proud and defiant, had a supreme contempt for the patrons who gulped down the stuff that he handed out over the bar. He dealt in that for which he had no use; and the American bartender today who wears his kohinoor and draws the pay of a bank cashier is one who “never touches a drop of anything.” The security with which he holds his position is on that very account.

Marat was hungry for knowledge and thirsty for truth, and in his daily life he was as abstemious as was Benjamin Franklin, whom he was to meet, know, and reverence shortly afterward.

Jean Paul was studying medicine at the same place where Oliver Goldsmith, another exile, studied some years before. Each got his doctor’s degree–just how we do not know. No one ever saw Goldsmith’s diploma–Doctor Johnson once hinted that it was an astral one–but Marat’s is still with us, yellow with age, but plain and legible with all of its signatures and the big seal with a ribbon that surely might impress the chance sufferers waiting in an outer room to see the doctor, who is busy enjoying his siesta on the other side of the partition.

* * * * *

If it is ever your sweet privilege to clap eyes upon a diploma issued by the ancient and honorable University of Saint Andrews, Edinburgh, you will see that it reads thus:

“Whereas: Since it is just and reasonable that one who has diligently attained a high degree of knowledge in some great and useful science, should be distinguished from the ignorant-vulgar,” etc., etc.

The intent of the document, it will be observed, is to certify that the holder is not one of the “ignorant-vulgar,” and the inference is that those who are not possessed of like certificates probably are.