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ART. I.-PARIS AND THE FRENCH.
BY REV. ABEL STEVENS, OF THE NEW-ENGLAND CONFERENCE.
BUT, to return to matters of fact, we may observe the effects of the state of morals we have described in another singular and dark feature in the character of this remarkable people-the prevalence of suicide. Cross the Pont Neuf, and walk along the quays on the southern side of the island, in the midst of the Seine, on which stands the Palais de Justice, and where the venerable Notre Dame lifts its time-worn towers, in guardian watchfulness, above the ancient "citie" of Paris. Before reaching the latter edifice, you observe a small stone building on the waterside. Individuals are passing in and out; and you observe, as they pass out, a contraction of the features, which denotes that the sight within is one of melancholy and horror. That house is one of the municipal edifices of the city. It is the morgue. Its name tells its use. Enter it, and, through a glass partition, perhaps you will see, if your eyes can behold the sight, from one to six or eight bloated or half-disfigured human forms, exposed naked on inclined planes, with water dripping, like the dews of the sepulchre, from above on the bodies to keep them as fresh as possible. This revolting exhibition is made that the friends of the deceased may recognize them. Many of these persons may have come to their deaths by accident; but the most are understood to be the victims of self-destruction. The Seine is an insignificant stream; in America it would be called a creek, and there is, comparatively, little business done upon it, as it is not navigable; so that the numerous bodies taken from it to the morgue, without doubt, are cases of suicide to a great extent. This dismal building is, therefore, one of the indices which point to the moral character of the community. The morgue is for the exposure of persons unknown, that their friends may recognize and claim them; and, considering the number of such unknown cases, we may judge of the fearful aggregate of the evil, when the still greater number of those who destroy themselves, where they are known, is added.
We have mentioned before, that the department of the Seine, affording only one thirty-second of the population, produced one-sixth of the illegitimate births; and we mention now, as showing a result that we might anticipate, that it presents likewise one-sixth of the suicides. The coincidence is certainly remarkable; but it only proves VOL. IX.-July, 1838. 31
what all history teaches, that vice engenders vice, and tends from bad to worse. The number of suicides in France is about 1800 yearly. This was the average for the years from 1827 to 1830. The number of suicides committed in one year is equal almost to the total number of crimes against the person; that is, self-murder is committed almost as frequently as all the various crimes committed against the persons of others, such as assault, assassination, rape, &c. If you omit infanticide, it amounts to more than three times the number of murders and assassinations. Of course the numbers reported by the official statistics must fall short of the actual numbers; but it is certainly an astounding indication in the moral condition of any community, when if a person is found dead within it, and the cause is to be conjectured, there are three probabilities against one that his own hands did the deed rather than the hands of another.
The state of morals in France which we have developed, furnishes an admonitory lesson to the friends of mankind, on the tendency of those moral doctrines which have prevailed in that country sufficiently long to demonstrate their legitimate results. The experiment has been well tried, and fearfully has it evolved their effects, and indelibly engraven them on her moral and political history. These doctrines, speculated into profound theories from the chair of the professeur, identified with every department of learned inquiry by the encyclopedists, decorated by the attractions of elegant literature by Voltaire, Rosseau, and their contemporaries, published from the tribune and displayed on the stage, have spread their contamination through and through the body politic, until, like the effects of the disgusting disease which bears the name of the nation, its very bones have become carious and its sinews dissolved. It is not by the temporary effects of these doctrines during the first revolution-the deifying of a prostitute, the denial, by grave enactments of the legislature, of the existence of God and the immortality of man, and the butchery of thousands on the guillotine-it is not by these effects alone that we can estimate the destructive energy of these doctrines; a more alarming example is furnished in the stayed influence which they have since sustained over the whole national mind, and the present universal enervation of every moral sentiment. The revolutionary horrors were temporary— they passed over the nation like a tornado, terrible but not enduring; while the subsequent effects of infidelity have been like the drought, all moral beauty and growth have faded away.
France furnishes the demonstration of another of the late problems among moral speculators, the question of the influence of education exclusive of moral culture. Great exertions have been made by the government to provide the means of general education for the people. According to the latest tables which have come under our notice, the appropriations to all religions (Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant) show a diminution of one hundred millions of francs from the amount paid to the Catholic Church alone before the revolution of 1789, while the appropriations for education have vastly increased. Before the revolution of 1789, the cost of religion to the government was one hundred and thirty-five millions of francs, while now it is about thirty-three millions. Before the revolution of July, the appropriations for edueation were eight hundred thousand francs, while, at present, they amount to eight hundred millions.