Jean Jaques Rosseau
François-Marie Arouet (who published under the pen name Voltaire) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau were two of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Both somewhat cynical about the limits of human goodness, Voltaire, however, believed in progress only if the lower orders were firmly directed by a political and intellectual elite. For commoners—rural and urban alike—he had nothing but disdain. Voltaire was known for throwing literary punches and was imprisoned twice, beaten up by hired thugs, and spent several years in exile (in England) for his troubles. On his return he published his Philosophical Letters on the English (1733) which made him famous. Rousseau, apart from sharing a giant ego with Voltaire, was in every way his opposite. A commoner by birth, Rousseau came from Geneva and was almost entirely self-educated. Although he was a morally suspect misanthrope himself, in his writings he proposed that goodness is an inherent human capability. It is society that corrupts people, he believed, imposing false inequalities on them. In On the Origin of Inequality Rousseau discusses two types of inequality, natural (based on physical attributes) and moral (based on political or social circumstances). His main concern, however, is with the latter, what he calls civil society, which allows man to enslave man. Voltaire’s letter to Rousseau, acknowledging his essay, illustrates the former’s style and his flippant dismissal of Rousseau’s critique of civilization, suggesting that it made him want to “walk on all fours.”
From J. J. Rousseau, “A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality.” In The Social Contract. Trans. G. D. H. Cole, Everyman’s ed. New York: E. P. Dutton and Co., n.d., pp. 236–8.
A Catholic priest and writer, François Fénelon (1651–1715) was enlisted by the church to preach to French Protestants (Huguenots) in order to bring them back to orthodox belief. His bestseller work, The Adventures of Telemachus, adds to the story of the Odyssey (Document 4.1) by describing the travels of Odysseus’ son, Telemachus. Guiding Telemachus is his tutor, simply called Mentor (but later revealed as Diana, goddess of wisdom), who explains the tenets of a truly good society—one that abolished government, upheld the brotherhood of citizens, and looked back to ancient Greece as a model. Thus, Telemachus served as a fierce criticism of the rule of the Sun King, Louis XIV of France (1638–1715).
From François Fénelon, The Adventures of Telemachus. Trans Dr. Hawkesworth. New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1872, pp. 450–8.
Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur (1483–1530) was born a prince of Fergana in Transoxiana (modern Uzbekistan and Tajikistan), a region that had been conquered (briefly) by the army of Alexander the Great in the 320s BCE and more recently by Babur’s ancestor Timur-i Lang, or Tamerlane (r. 1370–1405). Driven from his homeland, Babur conquered neighboring kingdoms and moved south into Afghanistan, capturing Kabul in 1504. By 1519, he stepped up his raids into northern India, and his highly mobile, if vastly outnumbered, army defeated Sultan Ibrahim Lodi at Panipat in 1526. Victory at Panipat was followed by the conquest of the Lodi capital of Agra and further defeats of Hindu leaders in northern India. Babur’s dynasty would become known as the Mughals (from “Mongols”), but his legacy can also be gauged from the success of his memoirs, the Baburnama. Composed and reworked throughout his life, the Baburnama is the first true autobiography in Islamic literature, and it can be read for insights into his own character as well as the military tactics he employed on the battlefield.
The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor, trans. and ed. Wheeler M. Thackston (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 328–329, 330, 331.
When European Christian missionaries first came to Ming China, they made very little progress in converting the Chinese, in large part due to their limited training in Chinese language and culture. When he arrived in China in 1583, the Jesuit Matteo Ricci (1552–1610) encouraged his followers to immerse themselves in the language and to become conversant with the rich traditions of Chinese literature. He also came to be respected by, and especially helpful to, the emperor, as he offered his expertise in the sciences and mathematics to the imperial court. With a European Jesuit (Adam Schall von Bell) as the official court astronomer to Kangxi, there were reports that the Emperor himself considered converting to Catholicism. Nevertheless, not every encounter between Chinese and Europeans went so smoothly, as the following anecdote from Ricci’s diary reveals.
Matthew Ricci, China in the Sixteenth Century, trans. Louis Gallagher (New York: Random House, 1953), 161–– 165.
Jean Domat (1625–1696) was a lawyer and legal scholar who served as Royal Prosecutor in the city of Clermont from 1655–1683, after which he retired to his study and dedicated himself to compiling his massive legal code. Apart from re-ordering the bulk of the Roman law tradition, Domat’s work is significant for its concern to emphasize natural law as the basis for civil law – that is, the idea that law arises from, and represents, the innate moral values of a society. While he accepted the then popular idea of the divine right of kings to rule, Domat presents law as an organic system over which the king presides but which does not emanate from him.
From Jean Domat “Le droit public, suite des lois civiles dans leur ordre naturel, vol. 3, Oeuvres completes, nouvelle edition revue corrigée”, ed. Joseph Remy (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1829), pp. 1–2, 15–21, 26–27, 35, 39, 40, 44–45.
In the course of the fifteenth century, the Aztecs conquered an empire centered in the Valley of Mexico (present-day Mexico City, after the drainage of most of the valley) but encompassing Mesoamerica from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico. The resulting state, far more centralized than the preceding Teotihuacán and Toltec city-states, commanded a large extent of territory and thrived on the trade in raw materials that were brought in from both coasts of their empire. Bernal Díaz, born in 1492 in Spain, would join the Spaniards in the “conquest” of Mexico, but he also left behind vivid eyewitness accounts of occupied Aztec society in the sixteenth century. Among them is this description of the market in Tlatelolco, one of the central cities at the heart of Aztec imperial power.
Bernal Díaz del Castillo, The Conquest of New Spain, trans. J. M. Cohen (Baltimore: Penguin, 1963), 232–234.
The humanist and statesman Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527) is best known for his Italian treatise, The Prince, on Renaissance city-state rulers—but his Discourses on Livy better clarify his republican ideals. In the response to Roman historian Livy, Machiavelli traces the origins of “good” republics. He comments on the maintenance of liberties, the role of religion, and the danger of societal fragmentation through conspiracy.
From Niccolò Machiavelli, Discourses on Livy. Trans. Julia Conway Bondanella and Peter Bondanella. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010, pp. 31–2, 53–6, 256–8, 275.
The reign of Qianlong (r. 1736–1795) marked both the high point and the beginning of the decline of the Qing dynasty. Several European nations, driven by their desire to corner the market on the lucrative Chinese trade, sent representatives to Qianlong’s court. In 1793, Great Britain dispatched Lord Macartney, its first envoy to China, to obtain safe and favorable trade relations for his country. In response, Qianlong composed a letter to King George III (r. 1760–1820) detailing his objections and conditions, which Macartney conveyed back to Britain. The terms of this letter underscore Qianlong’s subtle understanding of global economic conditions and the maintenance of a balance between the interests of various nations.
E. Backhouse and J. O. Bland, Annals and Memoirs of the Court of Peking (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1914), 322–331.
Jane Grey, the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister Mary, was born in 1537, the same year as Edward VI, the only surviving son of the king who had sought a male heir so desperately. Jane, who like Edward was raised in the Protestant religion Henry had introduced to England, proved a diligent and intellectually gifted teenager. In spite of her youth and gender, Jane corresponded with Protestant authorities on the Continent, but fast-moving events in England precluded further study. When Edward died without an heir in 1553, the throne passed, by prearranged agreement, to his fiercely Catholic half-sister Mary.
However, in order to forestall a Catholic successor—and the dramatic rollback of the Protestant reforms instituted by Henry’s and Edward’s Church of England—Jane’s relatives proclaimed her queen. Her rule lasted a mere nine days. She was imprisoned in the Tower of London by Mary, who was then forced to consider whether Jane’s execution was warranted. Shortly before Jane’s death, at age 16, Queen Mary sent her own chaplain, Master Feckenham (sometimes rendered as “Fecknam”) to try to reconcile Jane to the Catholic faith. The results of this attempt were triumphantly recorded in John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments, published after the Protestant Queen Elizabeth had triumphed over Mary and the Catholics. Although the conversation recorded here is not a trial transcript—and is a highly partisan account—it does distill some of the central issues that divided Catholics and Protestants in an extremely chaotic and violent period.
“The Examination of Lady Jane Grey (1554),” from Denis R. Janz, ed., A Reformation Reader: Primary Texts with Introductions, 2nd ed. (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2008), 360– 362, taken from The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe (London: Seeleys, 1859), 415–417.
Francesco Guicciardini (1483–1540) was a wealthy lawyer with good political connections. Like many such figures in the Renaissance, he also had cultural and intellectual ambitions. In his later years he wrote a brilliant History of Italy that was one of the first works of history to combine the use of extensive archival records and a critical attitude toward political motivations and intentions. His History of Florence, however, is the work of a young man trying to feel his way in an unfamiliar discipline. Its most incisive passage is translated below and provides a closely observed portrait of Lorenzo de’ Medici (1449–1492), who ruled Florence from 1469 until his death. (Guicciardini, of course, did not know Lorenzo personally, being only nine years old when the ruler died.)
Translation by Clifford R. Backman
This one-act puppet play is one of the first fictionalized (though only thinly disguised) treatments of a famous event that occurred in Tokugawa Japan in 1701–1703. The historical incident began with a knife attack by the daimyo (feudal lord) Asano Naganori on an imperial official named Kira Yoshinaka. Whatever the justice of the provocation, Asano had committed a serious breach in conduct and was forced to pay the most severe penalty. Even though Kira had suffered only a minor wound to his face, Asano was commanded to commit seppuku, ritual suicide. When he did so, his 47 samurai vassals were left leaderless (rōnin), but they swore to avenge Asano’s memory by killing Kira.
In January 1703, the 47 rōnin entered Kira’s home, chasing him and killing several of his retainers and wounding others, including Kira’s grandson. When they finally trapped and overcame Kira, the rōnin cut off his head and brought it to their master’s grave. However, they then decided to turn themselves in to the authorities and commit seppuku themselves, true to their code until the bitter end. In order to elude the censors, Chikamatsu altered the names, condensed some of the main details, and offered a judge that was more sympathetic to the rōnin cause. The essential story would reemerge repeatedly in popular culture (both Japanese and non-Japanese) down to the present day.
Jacqueline Miller, “A Chronicle of Great Peace Played Out on a Chessboard: Chikamatsu Monzaemon’s Goban Taiheiki,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 46 (1986): 221–267, 263–267.
Anonymous French Missionaries
The Jesuit Relations are the most important set of documents attesting the encounter between Europeans and native North Americans in the 17th century. These annual reports of French missionaries from the Society of Jesus document the conversions—or attempted conversions—of the various native peoples in what is today the St. Lawrence River basin and the Great Lakes region. When they arrived on the banks of the St. Lawrence in 1625, French Jesuits were entering a continent still very much under control of First Nations peoples, who were divided by their own ethnic and linguistic differences. Even the catch-all terms “Huron” and “Iroquois” masked the existence of confederacies, composed of several distinct nations, who had joined together prior to the arrival of Europeans.
When the Jesuits made headway with one group, they usually lost initiative with the group’s rivals—and sometimes found themselves in the midst of a conflict that they could barely understand or appreciate. This section of one of the Relations concerns the torture and murder of Jean Brébeuf, who had lived among the Hurons at various points from the 1620s through the 1640s, observing their culture and systematically attempting to convert them to Catholicism. However, when an Iroquois raiding party invaded his settlement, the depth of the Hurons’ Christian commitment—and his own—would be tested.
Paul Ragueneau, Relation of 1648–49, from Allan Greer, The Jesuit Relations: Natives and Missionaries in Seventeenth-Century North America (Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2000), pp. 112–115.
Nzinga Mbemba (Afonso I)
A Portuguese sailor came into contact with the Kingdom of Kongo, which occupied a vast territory along the Congo River in central Africa, in 1483. When he returned in 1491, he was accompanied by Portuguese priests and Portuguese products, and in the same year the Kongolese king and his son were baptized as Catholics. When the son succeeded his father in 1506, he took the Christian name Afonso and promoted the introduction of European culture and religion within his kingdom. His son Henrique was educated in Portugal and became a Catholic bishop. However, Afonso’s kingdom began to deteriorate in subsequent decades, as the Portuguese made further inroads into his territory, pursuing ruthless commercial practices and trading in slaves captured in his dominions. In 1526, the king sent desperate letters to King João III of Portugal, urging him to control his own subjects and to respect the alliance—and the common Catholic faith—that bound the Europeans and the Africans together.
Voltaire first met the younger Jean-Jacques Rousseau in 1754. In 1755, Rousseau had written an essay entitled” The Discourse on the Origin of Inequality among Men” (but renamed by his friends as “The Essay against Civilization”), which he sent to Voltaire. Voltaire replied in the following letter.
From E. B. Hall [S. G. Tallentyre, pseud.] Voltaire in His Letters. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1919, pp. 149–54.
The Inquisition was well established in Spain at the time of Cortés’s conquest in the 1520s. A tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition came in the conquistadors’ wake, ultimately established at Mexico City in 1571 with authority to regulate Catholic morality throughout “New Spain.” Most of the Inquisition trials concerned petty breaches of religious conduct, but others dealt with the much more serious crime of heresy. In November 1598, the Inquisition became alarmed about the rise of a group who believed that the Day of Judgment was at hand. Among the group denounced to the Holy Office was Marina de San Miguel, a Spanish-born woman who held a high status due to her mystical visions. Her confessions, offered between November 1598 and January 1599, reveal the degree to which confessions of “deviance” could be extorted from a victim. In March 1601, Marina was stripped naked to the waist and paraded upon a mule. Forced to confess her errors, she was sentenced to 100 lashes with a whip.
Jacqueline Holler, “The Spiritual and Physical Ecstasies of a Sixteenth-Century Beata: Marina de San Miguel Confesses Before the Mexican Inquisition,” in Richard Boyer and Geoffrey Spurling, eds., Colonial Lives: Documents on Latin American History, 1550–1850 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 79–98.
Muhammad Dara Shikuh
The eldest son of Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal emperor, Dara Shikuh was defeated by his younger brother in a struggle for power in 1658. The victorious brother, Muhiuddin, ruled as the Emperor Aurangzeb, and he had Dara declared, by a court of nobles and clergy, an apostate from Islam and assassinated in 1659. Dara left behind a remarkable series of writings, advocating an enlightened program of harmonizing the various, bitterly opposed religions of the subcontinent. He had developed friendships with Sikhs, followed a Persian mystic, and completed a translation of 50 Upanishads from their original Sanskrit into Persian in 1657. His most famous work, the Majma-ul-Bahrain (The Mingling of Two Oceans), addressed the overlapping ideas of Hindu and Muslim mysticism. His attempt to combine the traditions into a coherent whole may have been rejected by his fervently Muslim brother, but he also represents a strain of ecumenical thought within the Mughal Empire.
Muhammad Dara Shikuh, The Mingling of Two Oceans, trans. and ed. M. Mafuz ul-Haq (Calcutta: Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1929), 50–53.
After the conquest of the Aztec imperial capital of Tenochtitlan, Spaniards turned their attention to the productive farmland in the surrounding countryside, which was inhabited by Nahuatl-speaking native people. By the late sixteenth century, Spaniards began to expand rapidly into this territory. They acquired estates in a variety of ways, from royal grants to open seizure of property. Nevertheless, the purchase of plots of land from individual Nahuas was also common—although sometimes the sellers came to regret the transaction and petitioned higher authorities for redress of their grievances.
Rebecca Horn, “Spaniards in the Nahua Countryside: Dr. Diego de León Plaza and Nahuatl Land Sale Documents (Mexico, Early Seventeenth Century), in Richard Boyer and Geoffrey Spurling, eds., Colonial Lives: Documents on Latin American History, 1550–1850 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 102–103, 108–109.
An English Enlightenment philosopher, John Locke (1632–1704) developed ideas of empiricism, liberalism, and classical republicanism—which influenced the American Declaration of Independence (1776) and justified mankind’s move toward self-rule. His work Two Treatises of Government was so controversial that Locke published it anonymously. Book II, from which this selection comes, is provisionally called “An Essay Concerning the True Original, Extent and End of Civil Government,” giving insight into Locke’s aims. As the discussion of tyranny exemplifies, Locke was fundamentally concerned with initial human equality and the rights to property and legitimate government. Consider his “ideal” ruler compared with the absolutists of his age.
From John Locke, “Second Treatise of Government,” 1690. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/7370/7370-h/7370-h.htm (accessed November 22, 2012).
Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) was an English political philosopher who examined the idea of a “social contract” existing between a ruler and society. Although he upheld absolutism as a political system, his liberal ideas—such as the belief in the natural equality for all men and the idea that rule should emerge from the needs of society—helped frame early American political thought. His massive work Leviathan, named for the Biblical sea-beast, explores and explains this theory of social contract during the English civil war that challenged traditional monarchy. This selection outlines Hobbes’s views on natural law and the liberties it demands.
From Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan. Ed. J. C. A. Gaskin. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010, pp. 82–6, 132–3, 138–9, 141–3.
Kangxi was the second Manchu emperor of China. Whereas his father had had to oversee the elimination of the last Ming claimants to the throne and their supporters, Kangxi had to devote his early energies to consolidating his power. Much power and autonomy had been retained by three noble generals, who had led the conquest of southern China. As part of consolidating his rule, Kangxi mastered and then devoted himself with great discipline to the required observances of the “son of Heaven,” which were deemed necessary for China to enjoy harmony and prosperity. His extraordinarily long and active reign (1661–1722) gave him time to grow and mature as a ruler and a man, but it also placed a heavy obligation on him. By the end of his life, suffering from ill health and deeply saddened by the betrayal of his favorite son, Kangxi was subject to fits of melancholy and fatigue.
Jonathan D. Spence, Emperor of China: Self-Portrait of K’ang-His. Alfred A. Knopf (1974): 30–59, 143–51. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc