Morality and the law of history: Extracts

The following selections are taken from Gratry’s La morale et la loi de l’histoire.  Paris, 1871, translated by Mary L. O’Hara (also in O’Hara, translation of Julián Marías, The Philosophy of Pêre Gratry, 203-05).

I.  Gratry: La morale et la loi de l’histoire

p. 2: “When one looks at America, with unlimited liberty, become the avowed homeland of slavery, maintained not only in fact but in principle and proclaimed as just and good with the most audacious impudence; when one then sees them, in order to resolve so simple a question, launch themselves into the most frightful war, followed by the most terrible civil strife . . . one is indeed forced to understand those who ask where freedom leads. “

p. 23:  ” . . . freedom consists in not being crushed by [natural] forces. So when we understand social forces and laws, and obey them, we discover . . . we will know how to conquer freedom in regard to human powers which consist first of all in not being crushed by one another, and of finding in the social bond the indefinite multiplication of all powers and all goods.” “Each person will become truly the humble servant of all, not the oppressor . . . “

         “What matters to me . . . I want no one to die of hunger.”

p. 24: ” people placed in this second earthly paradise persist, even today. continuing in murder and brigandage on a grand scale, to destroy all the goods for a very great portion of people in every nation.  This is the obstacle to freedom.

p. 16: “Today in our own[19th] century, people begin to study society.”  “This is itself the science needed to go further.”

p. 21: “Everything you want people to do for you, do for them.”  “The constant and universal effect of the law is this . . . everyone in society receives for his daily work, more than he could produce by himself in his whole lifetime.”

p. 25: “When people realize as they are beginning to do, the cost of a revolution . . . of each dead body on the battlefield, when one calculates what financial schemes craftily imposed upon people . . . can destroy families and bring about death each year, when people come to this realization and teach it, then, no doubt that will be a great step toward liberty.  People will be better able to defend themselves against the plots of speculators and the audacity of tyrants.”

p. 27: “It is the freedom in every soul, moral freedom, that alone can give us social freedom.  But for that, it is necessary to make the will for justice enter into a great number of souls, the will for justice, the science of justice, love for humanity.”

p. 28: “For me, this is precisely the key to the future, the root of the energy of freedom and it is of this that I hope to convince, despite everything, some minds and hearts.”

p. 29: “The battle of doctrines and facts . . .  the violence of contrary efforts, the sort of impossibility that holds us fast for a century . . . this is the proper character of the present moment.”

p. 33: “The obstacle that stops us . . . is evil, manifest in two forms: murder and despoiling.”

p. 34: “The particular form of the obstacle [to freedom] today . . . is that we have become too rich.”

p. 58: “The law of God promulgated to all peoples is this: “O man, do not allow even one beggar or poor person on earth.”

p. 63: “As I write these lines [ca. 1868] . . . hundreds of thousand human beings die violently from famine.” 

p. 73: “It is work that saves and on which a human being will be judged.  It is the act of charity which alone suffices for everything and . . . contains all the virtue of the sacraments.”

p. 56: “’alms’ is what Jesus Christ calls ‘mercy when he says: “Here is the essence of the law: justice, mercy, and faith.” The word misericordia is Latin, and means ‘pity of heart.’  This Latin word translates exactly the Greek . . . ‘eleon’ . . . from which comes directly the word ‘alms.’

“To have in one’s soul this loving pity . . . is to know how to look at the entire world with that divine maternal regard which Jesus cast upon the people.”