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and his wise father soon purchased for him such tools as were required in the business of clockmaking” (!)
Every friend of science has an affectionate respect for the memory of David Rittenhouse; but we think that only a few entertain that feeling because “he was not only an American, but a native of this county," etc. That his “ wise father soon purchased for him such tools as were reqưired in the business of clockmaking," is also a fact “ of great significance" in its bearing on the University of Pennsylvania “ if rightly apprehended,” although it seems that his father was a little too “ wise” to intrust his education to that institution !
But both the time and space which we had prescribed for this article are exhausted. We cannot conclude, however, without urging on all whom it may concern that, although fine speeches and mutual laudation may be very agreeable things to those who take part in them, they make no scholars. They are much more likely to make empty boasters, and are far too suggestive, especially in connection with the “memorial windows,” of the well-known lines of Goldsmith :
“Hence ostentation here with tawdry art
Pants for the vulgar praise which fools impart." Another fact equally certain is, that if Ignorance tries to hide its head like the ostrich, at the present day, like the ostrich, will it find the effort a fruitless one. If, upon the other hand, the University of Pennsylvania will arouse itself, and devote itself really to its proper work, setting aside such of its Faculty as are incompetent or hopelessly lazy, and putting in their place men who possess the necessary energy and enthusiasm, as well as the necessary learning and ability-in short, men who are so conscious of performing their work faithfully and well that they do not care who sees it, or who examines its results—then none will be more happy than we to award it its full meed of praise. In the meantime, we can only suggest that the following distich from Euripides be inscribed in legible characters on a conspicuous slab or shingle, over the main entrance to the new building, until all the graduating students are able
ART. VI.-1. Histoire – Italie. Par GUICHARDINI. 2. Burchardts Diarium. 3. Histoire du Pape Alexandre Vi. Par l'ABBÉ JORRY.
Paris, 1851. 4. Etudes critiques sur l'Histoire d'Alexandre VI. SAINT
BRIENC. 1850. 5. Histoire des Papes. Par J. CHANTREL. Paris, 1862. 6. Dublin Review, No. XC, January, 1859. Art.“ History in
Fiction." BEFORE presenting to our readers the article to which the above works serve as a heading—an article written by a zealous Catholic—we think it proper to make an observation or two. We would never have chosen Alexander VI. as a subject for discussion, because we could not see that any good would result from our doing so. We could not have presented the character of that pontiff as in any manner exemplary; and to have presented it in the opposite light would have offended many without affording much edification to any. It is true that only the bigots among Catholics or Protestants would have allowed themselves to be much excited by it in one way or the other ; but it is our wish to calm rather than excite even that unhappy class. Accordingly, we have always made it a point to avoid, as much as possible, whatever has any tendency, however indirect or remote, to create sectarian animosity, or give offence to any sect as such.
Regarding the subject in any other light, the Pope is no more exempt from criticism, in our estimation, than any king or emperor. We have nerer pretended to any one that we regard his Holiness as infallible in any sense; but we have always respected, and shall continue to respect, both the opinions and the feelings of those who do, Most cheerfully do we admit, that, with very few exceptions, the popes have been good men, very much superior to lay sovereigns. We admit, moreover, that in general the popes have more than compensated the world for whatever wealth it has given them, and for whatever power it has intrusted thein with.
* Hipp. 488.
But in each respect Alexander VI. must forever be regarded, by all impartial minds, whether Catholic or Protestant, as forming a hideous exception. Our view of his case, however, in its bearing on Catholicism has long been this: we think that the conduct of Alexander VI. no more impugns Catholicism than the conduct of Judas Iscariot impugns Christianity.
Convinced thus, that, far from being saintly or infallible in any sense whatever, Alexander VI. was really a fraud on the Church, we informed the esteemed author of the article to which these remarks are intended to serve as a preface, that it was impossible for us to accept his views as correct, and that we could not ask our readers, even by implication, to believe what we could not believe ourselves without setting at naught all reliable history and biography since that pontiff's time, which devote any attention to his character. But the author protests. He urges that there are many reasons why his article should receive a place in a journal professedly and confessedly impartial ; that the cause of justice and truth, as well as of true religion, demands that it should, it being, as he is sure, a complete vindication of Alexander VI.
In our opinion it were not well for the Catholic Church that it should be accepted as a vindication or rehabilitation of that pontiff; because it is impossible to regard Alexander VI. as innocent without coming to the conclusion that the greatest and best archbishops and cardinals of his time were utterly unworthy of belief. Had nothing been laid to the charge of that pontiff but his alleged undne fondness for the beautiful sex, the world would not have hesitated nearly four centuries to forgive him. But if he was not guilty of murder and assassination, in their worst forms, as well as of simony, tyranny, etc., those of his own bishops and cardinals who knew him best must be set down as base falsifiers and calumniators. Thus, for example, his worst accuser is Burchardt, who had long been his master of ceremonies, and who died Bishop of Colta di Castillo. In order to avoid, as much as possible, bringing scandal on the Church, which only had to endure for a time the misfortune of having such a head—though not without making strong efforts to cast off the incubus-Burchardt wrote his famous Diary (Diarium) in Latin, in which only the educated and those capable of comparing Alexander VI. to Judas, without condemning the Church for having such a pope, any more than they would condemn Christ for having such a disciple, could read it.
We may remark in passing that it is very much the habit with that class of our Protestant brethren who derive their knowledge from hearsay, to regard the monks as only bigoted, idle drones; yet, in all ages of the Church, they have been the chief reformers. They were so in the time of Alexander VI. To their honor, it may be said, that there was no monastery in which letters were cultivated which did not raise its voice against that pontiff. Instance that of Bologna, whence issued Savonarola. But what was the good Brother's fate? Alexander offers him a cardinalate on condition that he be blind to his iniquities, or, at least, refrain from denouncing them. The honest and intrepid prior disdainfully declines the proffered bribe. He persists in his fierce denunciations, although he has seen one critic after another tortured and even put to death* for merely writing an epigram on the Borgia iniquities. All are familiar with the case of Lorenzo, the Venetian poet. It was equally notorious that those who wrote nothing, but merely indulged in satirical remarks at the Borgia infamies, were liable to be seized upon at any moment, thrown into a dungeon, and have both tongue and hand cut off and exhibited at the prison window pinned to each other, as a warning to all satirically inclined! The fate of the unfortunate Mancinnellus illustrates this but too fully.
* Vide Burchardt, p. 197. Tomasi, p. 197; also Cardinal Bembo. Hist. Venet. vol. ii., p. 217, et seq.
But nothing could frighten Fra Savonarola. It was not so easy to seize him, however, as the poor wandering poet. All that can be done for a while is to excommunicate him. That sentence is duly passed May 12, 1496. But the monk remains undaunted. In March, of the following year, he is forbidden to preach. He still denounces assassination, simony, plunder, and indiscriminate, open debaucheries as infamous, and at the same time observes so little precaution in regard to his personal safety, that he is seized upon and cast into a dungeon, April 8, 1498, and on the 23d of the following month he is hung and burnt!
Now, if it be remembered that only fourteen years had elapsed after the death of Alexander, when Luther, another monk, a scholar and educator, posted on the door of his convent his celebrated theses against the papacy, it may be judged by the most thoughtless whether Catholics should have any desire or taste to vindicate the character of Alexander VI. As for Leo X., who wore the tiara in Luther's time, he would have done honor to any age or country, by his noble, munificent liberality in favor of every project whose object and tendency were the development and enlightenment of the human mind. But whereas Leo X. opened his private purse freely for the benefit of whatever was good and needed his aid, Alexander VI. stopped at nothing by which money was to be made. Accordingly, Cardinal Gilles di Viterbo closes an elabo. rate estimate of his character, also written in Latin, with the painful assertion that under the rule of that pontiff no one was safe in his house, in his castle, in his bed; that Alexander VI. recognized no law, human or divine; that with him gold, brute force, and debauchery, ruled all. “Non in domo, non in cubiculo, non in turri tutus; nihil jus, nihil fus ; aurum, vis, et Venus imperabant."* In performing a similar duty to posterity and to the Church, the learned Cardinal Bembo, Latin secretary to Leo X., expresses himself as follows: “ This simony had attained such proportions that in order to remedy so great an evil the secular princes were obliged to forbid their sub
* Tom. Tomasi, p. 290..