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It is evident; from several passages, that they were written by an Irishman, who must have resided some time in this country, less biassed by prejudices, than most of our European visitants. Indeed, the inducement to publish these letters, arose not so much from any intrinsic merit they can boast, as from the candid and favourable view they exhibit of the United States.
As they might have tended to dispel some of the false medium, through which we are obscurely seen from the other side of the Atlantic, it is to be regretted, they were not ori. ginally published there. But whether they were composed for publication; how many of them may have been suppress. ed or miscarried; or, indeed, what their author's object was in this country, are altogether matters of conjecture; though it is probable, that no more than a detachment from a larger correspondence has fallen into our hands.
It is not necessary to detail the reasons which have led to a belief, that the principal writer, if not some of the others, must have been attached to the company of Jesuits. Inde. pendent of a positive declaration to that amount, in one of the letters, there are other, though trivial, circumstances, corroborative of such an opinion. The modern Charlemagne has many motives for re-establishing that order: and the germs of another Paraguay may be intended for our soil. Of this, however, every reader will be enabled to form his own judgment; for, indeed, the very air of mystery in which the correspondence is shrouded, may itself be counterfeit, and put on to give a false importance to things in themselves insignificant.
As, however, the letters are ascribed to a Jesuit, it may be proper to state briefly, that the order of Jesuits, after being broken up, and the members successively expelled from the different nations of Europe, was finally suppressed and abolished by Pope Gregory XIV. in 1773. In addition to the three vows of poverty, chastity and monastic servitude, in order to obtain, in the first instance, a confirmation of their mysterious institution, they were obliged to assume a fourth, that of obedience to the pope; binding themselves to go and to serye, without reward, in the cause
of religion, wheresoever he should command. The fundamental maxim of the society was, that instead of being buried in monkish sloth and' solitude, they should devote themselves to more active beneficence. In return for absolution from all pious austerities and mortifications, they declared themselves the champions of truth, and crusaders against its enemies. To promote the service of religion in all parts of the globe, the instruction of youth and the ignorant, to observe the transactions of the world, to study the characters and dispositions of persons in authority, to inform themselves of the policy of governments and genius of nations, were the pursuits to which they dedicated their lives; pursuits, in themselves, most laudable ; however they might be perverted to improper purposes. In order to facilitate and support their missions, the Jesuits were permitted to trade with the countries they visited; and formerly were engaged in extensive and lucrative commerce, both in the. East and West Indies. About the beginning of the 17th century, they made a settlement on the river Plate, in the province of Paraguay, in South America, where their empire was distinguished by wisdom and tranquillity.
For many years past, this once flourishing and influential association, has been degraded, dispersed and diminishing. Their name has become a designation for intrigue and du, plicity; and the few that remain, have drained to the dregs the chalice of humiliation. If it has been contemplated to revive the order and restore its privileges, it is probable, that for the vow of obedience to the pope, now no longer necessary, another would be substituted, binding them to the destinies of the extraordinary personage to whom their elevation would be owing; who is incessantly rearing religious, as well as political ramparts round his throne; and who, from such partisans, might derive, for himself and his dynasty, the most essential services.
But this is all surmise. And of its probability, as well as of the object of the writer of these letters, whether political, commercial, or ecclesiastical; and whether in truth the whole be not a fabrication, their readers, we repeat, must determine for themselves.