THE family was of Swiss-Germanic origin, like those virile stocks that make Bern and Zurich proud and prosperous today. One member, in Neuchâtel, took the name Schweitzer—i.e., Swiss; another, who removed to the Netherlands, bore the name Helvetius—i.e., Swiss. This second branch moved to Paris about 1680. There Jean Claude Adrien Helvétius became physician to Queen Marie Leszczyńska. Of his twenty children the one who here concerns us was born January 26, 1715. Claude Adrien was reared in the odor of medicine, which left some trace in his philosophy. After studying under the Jesuits at the Collège Louis-le-Grand he was apprenticed to a tax collector. Soon he was rich; at the age of twenty-three he had an income of 360,000 livres per year.1 He was handsome, a good fencer, dancer, and shot, a favorite with courtiers and courtesans. He was appointed maître d’hôtel—master of the household—to the Queen. He was thoroughly unprepared to become a philosopher—except of the kind that is too clever to write books.
But in 1738 he met Voltaire, was awed by his mind and fame, and began to dream of authorship; would it not be a novel distinction to be at once a financier and a philosopher? He spent some time at Bordeaux as the guest of Montesquieu, and then in Burgundy with Buffon; these were formative influences. He became a close friend with another millionaire, Baron d’Holbach, the archmaterialist of the age. At the Baron’s dinners, and in the salon of Mme. de Graffigny, he met Diderot, Grimm, Rousseau, Duclos, Galiani, Marmontel, Turgot. He was transformed.
In 1751 he made two fateful decisions. He abandoned his lucrative post as a farmer general of taxes, retired to a feudal estate at Voré-au-Perché, and devoted himself to writing a book that would move the world. In the same year, aged thirty-six, he married Anne Catherine de Ligniville d’Autricourt, a countess of the Holy Roman Empire, aged thirty-two, one of the most beautiful and accomplished women in France. He took her at once to Voré, for fear, said Grimm, that Paris would tarnish her. There—or was it in Paris?—Fontenelle, nearing one hundred, entered the dressing room of the lovely Countess and found her in almost complete dishabille. “Ah, madame” he cried, in gay retreat, “si je n’avais que quatre-vingts ans [if only I were but eighty years old]!”2
The happy couple maintained also a house in Paris, and there Helvétius’ hospitality, graced by his wife’s charms, drew to them such intellectual lions as Diderot, d’Holbach, Fontenelle, Buffon, d’Alembert, Turgot, Galiani, Morellet, Condorcet, and Hume. “You should see,” said Marmontel, “how agreeable his home became for literary men.”3 At those dinners Helvétius tried to guide the conversation to the themes on which he planned to write; he invited criticism of his ideas, and showed himself a good listener; Morellet complained that Helvétius “was always composing his book in company.”4
After seven years of incubation the beloved volume came forth, July 15, 1758, as De l’Esprit (On Intelligence). To the surprise of the friends who had seen it in manuscript, it appeared with the precious “privilege of the King.” Malesherbes had delegated to Jean Pierre Tercier the task of censoring it; Tercier reported: “I have found nothing in it which in my judgment ought to prevent its publication.”5 On August 6 the advocate general of the Paris Parlement branded the book a mass of heresies; on August 10 the Council of State revoked the privilege to print; soon Tercier was ousted from his lucrative posts. The amiable author protested that he had made no attack upon Christianity. “Of what impiety can they accuse me? I have in no part of this work denied the Trinity, or the divinity of Jesus, or the immortality of the soul, or the resurrection of the dead, or any other article of the papal creed; I have not therefore in any way attacked religion.”6 Voltaire, fearing that Helvétius would be sent to the Bastille, advised him to travel. But Helvétius was too comfortable at home to sacrifice so much for a book. He issued a retraction in the form of a letter to a priest; and when the government declared this inadequate he signed an apology “so humiliating,” wrote Grimm, “that one would not have been astonished to see a man take refuge with the Hottentots rather than put his name to such avowals.”7 Mme. Helvétius came to Versailles to intercede for her husband; the government contented itself with ordering him to retire to his estate for two years. The penalty might have been more severe had not the King remembered that his own life had once been saved by Helvétius’ father, then physician to the Queen. On January 3, 1759, Pope Clement XIII condemned the book as scandalous and licentious; and in February it was publicly burned by order of the Parlement. We have seen how this “fuss over an omelet,” as Voltaire called it, shared with d’Alembert’s article on Geneva in leading to the suppression of the Encyclopédie. With all this advertising De l’Espritbecame the most widely read of all the volumes that played a part in the campaign against Christianity. Twenty editions appeared in French within six months, and it was soon translated into English and German. Today only a few scholars know of it, and it is almost impossible to obtain.
Helvétius published no more, but he continued to write. Leisurely but angrily he restated and amplified his views in the treatise De l’Hormme (On Man), which attacked priests as venal peddlers of hope and fear, perpetuators of ignorance, and murderers of thought. In these two books we find all the ideals of that ambitious time: liberty, equality, and fraternity: liberty of speech, press, assembly, and worship, equality for both sexes and all classes in educational opportunity and before the law, and an almost socialistic advocacy of the “welfare state” as a compensatory protection of the simple poor against the clever rich—all capped with a semireligious faith in the indefinite perfectibility of mankind. Here again, if we listen well, is the voice of the Revolution.
Like nearly all the philosophes, Helvétius begins with Locke: all ideas are derived from sensation, therefore from the experience of the individual. All mental states are combinations of sensations felt at present, or revived from the past through memory, or projected into the future through imagination. Judgment is the sensation of differences among sensations; and reason is a combination of judgments.
Mind and soul are not the same: mind is an assemblage or sequence of mental states; soul is the sensitivity of the organism, the capacity to receive sensations. All sensation is physical, all soul is a power in matter. “All the phenomena of medicine and natural history evidently prove that this power … begins with the formation of the bodily organs, lasts as long as they last, and is destroyed with their dissolution.”8 Animals have souls. Man became superior to the beasts through the development of upright stature, which gradually turned his forefeet into hands capable of grasping (com-pre-hend-ing) and manipulating objects.
Having begun with Locke, Helvétius proceeds with Hobbes. All action is desire responding to sensations present or recalled. Desire is the memory of the pleasure that attended certain sensations. Passion is a persisting desire, and varies in intensity according to the pain or pleasure remembered and expected. The passions often lead us into error because they fix our attention upon some particular part of an object or a situation, not allowing us to view it on every side.9 (In this sense intelligence is the delay of reaction to allow wider perception and fuller response.) Nevertheless passions are to character what motion is to matter; they supply the drive, even the drive for knowledge. “The mental achievement of a person varies with the intensity of his passions. The man of genius is a man of strong passions; the stupid man is devoid of them.”10 The basic passion is love of power, and this is basic because it enlarges our ability to realize our desires.
Up to this point Helvétius’ work deserved Voltaire’s description of it as an “omelet”—a mingling of ideas long current in the philosophical world. But now he advanced to his most distinctive propositions. Since all ideas come from the individual’s experiences, diversity in the ideas and character of individuals and nations depends upon differences in individual or national environment. All men at birth have an equal aptitude for understanding and judgment; there are no inborn superiorities of mind. “All are endowed with a strength and power of attention sufficient to raise them to the rank of illustrious men” if environment, education, and circumstance favor them; “the inequality of their capacity is always the effect of the difference of situation in which chance has placed them.”11
At the moment the child is delivered from the womb … he enters life without ideas and without passions. The only one he feels is that of hunger. It is not in the cradle [not from heredity] that we received the passions of pride, avarice, ambition, the desire for esteem and glory. These factious passions, generated amid towns and cities, presuppose conventions and laws already established among men.… Such passions would be unknown to him who was carried by a storm, at the moment of his birth, to a desert waste, and, like Romulus, nourished by a wolf.… The love of glory is an acquisition, and therefore the effect of instruction.12
Even the genius is the product of environment—i.e., of experience plus circumstance. The genius adds the last step in an invention to many steps taken before him, and this final step is due to circumstance. “Every new idea is the gift of chance”—i.e., to “a series of effects of which we do not perceive the cause.”13
Whence proceeds the extreme inequality of understanding? Because nobody perceives precisely the same objects, nor is precisely in the same situation, nor has received the same education; and because chance, which presides over our instruction, does not conduct all men to mines equally rich and fruitful. It is therefore to education—taken in the fullest extent that we can give to this term, and in which the idea of chance is also included, that we are to refer the inequality of understanding.14
Probably this psychological analysis—especially generous in a millionaire—was derived from a political attitude. Conservatives stress the differences and influence of heredity, and the need for caution in changing institutions rooted in natural and native inequalities of ability and character. Reformers stress the differences and influence of environment, by which inequalities of ability, power, and wealth seem due to chance—to the accidents of birth and the privileges of condition rather than to innate merit; inequality can therefore be reduced by equalizing education and bettering the environment. Helvétius applies his theory of natural equality to races as well as to individuals: all races would have reached equal development if their environmental opportunities had been equal. Consequently national pride, like pride of person or class, has no warrant in reality. “The liberty of which the English are so proud … is less the reward of their courage than the gift of fortune”—i.e., of the protective Channel and seas. (Internal liberty, other things equal, varies inversely as external danger.)
Obviously, on these premises, the road of progress follows the improvement of education, society, and government. “Education is capable of effecting everything”; does it not teach the bear to dance?15 All progress, even in morals, depends upon the spread of knowledge and the training of intelligence; “destroy ignorance, and you will destroy all the seeds of moral evil.”16 To approach this goal the entire educational system of France must be rebuilt; it must be freed from the Church and assigned to the state; and it must be provided for all persons, of either sex and any age. The teaching of Latin and Greek must be replaced by education in science and technics, and new stress must be laid upon forming healthy bodies and “wise and virtuous minds.”17
Here Helvétius, while not denying any Christian dogma, enters upon a passionate plea for the curtailment of ecclesiastical power in France. He attacks the Church from a social rather than a theological standpoint. He denounces the Catholic glorification of celibacy and poverty, but rejoices that very few Christians take these ideas seriously; “a secret incredulity frequently opposes the pernicious effect of religious principles.”18 Catholic control of education, he charges, not only retards the technical advance of a nation by slighting science, but it enables the clergy to form the mind of the child to priestly domination.19
The desire of the clergy in all times has been to be powerful and opulent. By what method can it satisfy this desire? By selling hope and fear. The priests, wholesale dealers in these commodities, were sensible that this sale would be assured and lucrative.20 … The power of the priest depends upon the superstitions and stupid credulity of the people. It is of little worth to him that they be learned; the less they know, the more docile they will be to his dictates.21 … In every religion the first objective of the priests is to stifle the curiosity of men, to prevent the examination of every dogma whose absurdity is too palpable to be concealed.22 … Man is born ignorant, but he is not born a fool; and it is not without labor that he is made one. That he should be made such, and be able to extinguish in himself his natural light, much art and method must be employed; instruction must heap upon him error upon error.23 … There is nothing which the sacerdotal power cannot execute by the aid of superstition. For by that it robs the magistrates of their authority and kings of their legitimate power; thereby it subdues the people, and acquires a power over them which is frequently superior to the laws; and thereby it finally corrupts the very principles of morality.24
Helvétius adds eight chapters on toleration.
Religious intolerance is the daughter of sacerdotal ambition and stupid credulity.25 … If I believe my nurse and my tutor, every other religion is false, mine alone is the truth. But is it acknowledged as such by the universe? No: the earth still groans under the multitude of temples consecrated to error.26 … What does the history of religions teach us? That they have everywhere lighted up the torch of intolerance, strewed the plains with corpses, imbrued the fields with blood, burned cities, and laid waste empires.27 … Are not the Turks, whose religion is a religion of blood, more tolerant than we? We see Christian churches at Constantinople, but there are no mosques in Paris.28 … Toleration subjects the priest to the prince; intolerance subjects the prince to the priest.29
Helvétius is inclined to make one exception in favor of intolerance:
There is one cause in which toleration can be detrimental to a people, and that is when it tolerates a religion that is intolerant, such as the Catholic. This religion, becoming the most powerful in a state, will always shed the blood of its stupid protectors.… Let not the insinuating manner of the Catholics impose upon the Protestants. The same priests who in Prussia regard intolerance as an abomination and an infraction of natural and divine law look on tolerance in France as a crime and a heresy. What renders the same man so different in different countries? His weakness in Prussia and his power in France. When we consider the conduct of Catholic Christians they at first, when feeble, appear to be lambs; but when strong they are tigers.30
Helvétius had a good word to say, now and then, for Christianity, especially for Protestantism. He was not an atheist, but he abhorred the Biblical conception of God as “resembling an Oriental tyrant, … punishing slight faults with eternal torments.”31 He hoped for a “universal religion” which, under state control, would promote a “natural morality” free from rewards and punishments after death.32 He put human reason above all human claims to a divine revelation. “An honest man will always obey his reason in preference to revelation; for it is, he will say, more certain that God is the author of human reason … than that he is the author of a particular book.”33
But are not supernatural beliefs, and a divine sanction, necessary to the efficacy of a moral code? Not at all, says Helvétius.
It is not on religion … but on legislation alone that the vices, the virtues, the power, and the felicity of the people depend.… Every crime not punished by the laws is daily committed; what stronger proof can there be of the inutility of religion? … Whence arises the present security of Paris? From the devotion of its inhabitants? No, … from the regularity and vigil of the police.… At what period did Constantinople become the sink of all the vices? At the very time the Christian religion was established.… The most Christian kings have not been the greatest monarchs. Few of them have displayed the virtues of Titus, Trajan, or Antoninus. What pious prince can be compared with these?34
Hence it seemed to Helvétius that the task of philosophy was to devise and promote a morality independent of religious belief. From this point of view he wrote what one student has called “the most scientific examination of social ethics to appear from the pen of any philosophe.”35 He was resolved neither to berate nor to idealize human nature; he would take it as he found it, with all its selfishness, and try to build upon it a natural ethic. By nature man is neither good nor bad; he is a creature trying to preserve himself in a world where every organism will sooner or later be eaten by another.36 The picture that Rousseau had recently given of primitive society seemed to Helvétius a jejune imagination; Hobbes was nearer the truth in describing the “state of nature” as a war of each against all.37 The terms good and bad, as applied to men, have sense only in society; all goodness is social virtue, and is a product of social training for social ends.
Unhappy is the prince who confides in the original goodness of character. M. Rousseau supposes its existence, experience denies it; whoever consults this will learn that the child kills flies, beats his dog, strangles his sparrow—that the child … has all the vices of the man. The man in power [freed from social restraints] is often unjust; the sturdy child is the same; when he is not checked by the presence of his mates he appropriates by force, like the man in power, the sweetmeat or plaything of his companion.38
Obviously, then, there is no innate moral sense; all judgments of right and wrong are developed during the experience of the individual from the teachings and compulsions of his family, his community, his government, and his church. When the individual is freed from these compulsions—as in absolute rule, war, or a crowd—he tends to revert to lawlessness and immorality; and in “most nations morality is now nothing more than a collection of the … precepts dictated by the powerful to secure their authority and to be unjust with impunity.” But morality properly understood is “the science of the means invented by men to live together in the happiest manner.… If those in power do not oppose its progress, this science will advance in proportion as the people acquire new knowledge.”39
Helvétius is a frank hedonist: the goal of life is happiness here on earth, happiness is a continuity of pleasure, and all pleasure is basically sensual or physiological.40 “The activity of the mind and the acquisition of knowledge” are the most permanently satisfying pleasures,41 but they too are fundamentally physical. Asceticism is foolish, sexual pleasure is quite legitimate if it injures no one. Virtue is not obedience to the laws of God, it is behavior that gives the greatest pleasure to the greatest number. Here Helvétius clearly formulates the utilitarian ethics already (1725) suggested by Hutcheson and later (1789) expounded by Bentham.
To be virtuous it is necessary to unite nobleness of soul with an enlightened understanding. Whoever combines these gifts conducts himself by the compass of public utility. This utility is the principle of all human virtues, and the foundation of all legislation … All laws should follow a single principle, the utility of the public—i.e., of the greatest number of the persons under the same government … This principle contains all morality and legislation.42
Nevertheless, in Helvétius’ view all actions, however moral and virtuous, are egoistic. They are not necessarily selfish; many actions are altruistic in the sense that they are intended to benefit others, sometimes at great cost to the agent; but even these actions are egoistic in the sense that they are motivated by the impulse to self-satisfaction; we are altruistic because, by instinct or training, we can take great pleasure in pleasing others; so the mother may sacrifice herself for her child, as the hero for his country. When we do good to others it is because we consciously or unconsciously remember with pleasure the returned love, or the social approval, that followed similar actions in the past; in this way certain altruistic deeds may become habitual, and we may feel discomfort or fear if we do not perform them. Religious asceticism or devotion may appear to be highly virtuous, but it is only a long-term investment in celestial securities. “If a hermit or a monk imposes upon himself the law of silence, flogs himself every night, lives on pulse and water, sleeps on straw, … he thinks by virtue of emaciation to gain a fortune in heaven.”43 If a cruel action is not condemned by the local community, these holy men will commit it without shame or recourse, as in burning heretics.44 Even friendship is egoistic: it is an exchange of services, if only of ears; where such exchange ceases, friendship fades; “nothing is more uncommon than a friendship of long standing.”45 “Ultimately it is always ourselves that we love in others.”46
Whereas La Rochefoucauld, in similarly reducing all motives to self-love, deplored it as a vice, Helvétius accepts it as a virtue insofar as it makes for self-preservation. In any case it is a universal fact of life; and “to be offended by the operations of self-love is to complain of the showers of spring, the heats of summer, … the frosts of winter.”47 It is precisely upon the universality of self-love that he proposes to establish a “scientific” morality. Education and legislation can mold character and habit into finding discomfort in unsocial actions, and pleasure in virtue—i.e., in action beneficial to the group. The philosopher should study human behavior and social needs with a view to discovering what forms of conduct are most beneficial to the largest number of people, and he should plead with educators and legislators to provide inducements and deterrents that, by appealing to self-love, will encourage social behavior. What benefits would accrue to mankind from such an entente between philosophers and kings! “The virtues and happiness of a people come not from the sanctity of their religion, but from the wisdom of their laws.”48
So, as the summit of his philosophy, Helvétius turned to study legislation and government. Politically he is the most radical of the philosophes. He does not share Voltaire’s faith in “enlightened despots”; such rulers would tend to suppress any opinions but their own, which might be mistaken and injurious. He quotes Frederick the Great as saying to the Berlin Academy, “Nothing is better than an arbitrary government under princes just, humane, and virtuous; but nothing is worse under the common race of kings.”49 A limited or constitutional monarchy like England’s is good; better is a federation of democratic republics pledged to united action against an aggressor.50 Theoretically aristocracy is unjust, since superior ability is a product of chance; but complete democracy is undesirable as long as the poor are uneducated and propertyless; consequently a wise legislator will aim to spread education and property.
This millionaire financier deplores the concentration of wealth and its facilitation by a money economy.
The almost universal unhappiness of men and nations arises from the imperfections of their laws, and the too unequal partition of their riches. There are in most kingdoms only two classes of citizens, one of which wants necessaries while the other riots in superfluities.51 … If the corruption of the people in power is never more manifest than in the ages of the greatest luxury, it is because in those ages the riches of a nation are collected into the smallest number of hands.52
The replacement of land with money as the symbol and fulcrum of power engenders such a race for riches as disturbs all social stability, sharpens the class war, and leads to a ruinous inflation.
In a nation gradually increasing in wealth and money—especially paper money—the cost of commodities and labor will continually rise.… As labor becomes very dear in a rich nation, that nation will import more from other nations than it will export to them. If all other factors remain the same, … the money of the rich nation will insensibly pass to the poorer nation, which, becoming opulent in turn, will ruin itself in the same way.53
Is there any escape from the concentration of wealth and the scramble for money?
One would be to multiply the number of proprietors by making a new distribution of the land.… When a man’s lands exceed a certain number of acres, they should be taxed at a rate exceeding the rent.… Such a redistribution is made almost impossible in a money economy, … [but] if wisely conceived it could be executed by continual and insensible alterations.54
Diminish the riches of some, augment those of others, and put the poor in such a state of ease that they may by seven or eight hours per day abundantly provide for the wants of themselves and their families. Then a people will become as happy as the nature of man will allow.55
Here, in two books and one man, are almost all the ideas that made the French Revolution, and almost all the ideas that agitate nations today. No wonder educated Frenchmen, in the third quarter of the eighteenth century, ranked Helvétius as almost the equal of Voltaire, Rousseau, and Diderot, and gave his first book such popularity and acclaim as was hardly accorded to any other volume of the age. “No book,” said Brunetière, “has made more noise in its time, or spread abroad more ideas destined to make their way in the world.”56 Brissot reported in 1775 that “the system of Helvétius has the greatest vogue”; Turgot, while opposing it, complained that it was praised “with a kind of fury”; another described it as “found on every toilette table.”57 All critics commended the clarity of its style, the force of its epigrams, and the evident humanitarianism of a man who, having everything, advocated a redistribution of wealth.
However, the philosophes themselves criticized his “system” as based on erroneous conceptions. Voltaire defended the claims of heredity; all men are not at birth equal in potential excellence of mind and character; geniuses, he thought, are born, not made.58Diderot agreed with Voltaire. In a Réfutation de l’ouvrage d’Helvétius intitulé L’Homme (written in 1775, but not published till a hundred years later) he argued that sensations are transformed differently in different individuals by inherited differences in the structure of the brain.59
Man is not born blank. True, he is born without ideas and without directed passions; but from the first moment of his life he is endowed with a predisposition to conceive, compare, and retain some ideas with more relish than others; and with dominant tendencies later resulting in actual passions.60
Here Diderot, who had begun with Locke, turned back to Leibniz and held out a hand to Kant. The influence of environment and schooling, in Diderot’s view, is always limited by heredity. “We cannot give what nature has refused; perhaps we destroy what she gives.… Education improves her gifts.”61 He resented the reduction of intellectual delights to sensual pleasure, and joined in the general outcry against Helvétius’ notion that all altruism is egoism unconscious or concealed.
Mme. du Deffand was one of the few who agreed on this point with Helvétius. “This man,” she said, “has revealed everybody’s secret [C’est un homme qui a dit le secret de tout le monde]”62 Adam Smith, following his friend Hume, insisted that altruism was founded upon feelings of sympathy as innate as egoism; but in The Wealth of Nations he based his economic theory on the universality of self-love. Mme. Roland, in the ecstasies of the Revolution, was repelled by Helvétius. “I felt myself impelled by a generosity which he never recognized.… I confronted his theories with the great … heroes that history has immortalized.”63
These problems cannot be solved in a paragraph. It seems clear that differences in hereditary or congenital constitution substantially affect the operation of environment and education; how else shall we explain the quite diverse character and development of brothers despite the similarity of origin and opportunities? And yet Helvétius was on the right track: within the limits decreed by heredity, immense changes can be effected in the behavior of individuals and groups by differences in environment, education, and legislation; how else shall we explain the emergence of man from barbarism to civilization?—Perhaps we should admit to Helvétius that no one consciously acts in a way more painful than its alternative. But certain social instincts—maternal love, gregariousness, love of approval—though they cannot rival the individualistic instincts in total force, are strong enough to generate altruistic actions before any conscious weighing of pleasure, pain, or result. Each of us is an ego, but some of us spread our egos to include our family, community, country, or mankind. In this sense the largest egos are the best.
In any case many men were moved to thought and action by Helvétius’ ideas. It was probably under his influence that La Chalotais began his campaign to replace the schools of village priests, and the Jesuit colleges, with a system of education controlled by the state. The public schools of America go back to the proposals of Condorcet, who called himself a disciple of Helvétius.64 Beccaria testified that the works of Helvétius inspired him to write his historic plea for the reform of penal law and policy. Bentham declared: “I owe to Helvétius’ De l’Esprit a great part of my ideas”—including the utilitarian principle of seeking in morality and in legislation the greatest happiness of the greatest number.65 The National Convention of 1792 certified its sense of Helvétius’ influence on the Revolution by giving his daughters the title filles de la nation. William Godwin based his Enquiry concerning Political Justice (1793) upon the teachings of Helvétius; and Godwin’s wife, Mary Wollstonecraft, was led to compose her epochalRights of Woman(1792) partly by Helvétius’ claim that the intellectual inequalities between the sexes were largely due to inequalities of education and opportunity.66
Many of Helvétius’ contemporaries contrasted his theory of universal egoism with the kindness of his character and the benevolence of his life. Marmontel wrote of him: “There could not be a better man; liberal and generous without ostentation, and beneficent from the goodness of his heart.”67 Grimm, seldom lavish in praise, described Helvétius as a “true gentleman,” just, indulgent, free from all ill-humor, a good husband, a good father, a good friend, a good man.68 True of himself were the words that Helvétius wrote inDe l’Esprit:
In order to love mankind we must expect little from them.… Every man, so long as his passions do not obscure his reason, will always be more indulgent in proportion as he is more enlightened.… If the great man is always the most indulgent, … if he pours over the faults of others the lenient balm of pity, and is slow in discovering those faults, it is because the elevation of his mind will not permit him to expatiate upon the vices and follies of individual persons, but only upon those of mankind in general.69
At Voré and in Paris he lived with his wife and children an idyl of devotion and happiness. In 1764 he traveled in England and Germany, met Hume and Gibbon and Frederick the Great. In 1770 he shared in financing Pigalle’s statue of Voltaire. He died in 1771, with d’Holbach and other friends at his bedside. His widow, loving his memory, refused all suitors for her hand, including Benjamin Franklin. She survived her husband by twenty-nine years, passed through the Revolution safely, and died in 1800, aged eighty-one.