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【名人家书】托马斯杰弗逊致侄儿

2015-05-26    来源:网络    【      美国外教 在线口语培训
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【名人家书】托马斯杰弗逊致侄儿

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托马斯·杰弗逊(ThomasJefferson,1743年4月13日─1826年7月4日),为美利坚合众国第三任总统(1801年─1809年),也是美国独立宣言(1776年)主要起草人,及美国开国元勋中最具影响力者之一。此后,他先后担任了美国第一任国务卿,第二任副总统和第三任总统。他在任期间保护农业,发展民族资本主义工业。从法国手中购买路易斯安那州,使美国领土近乎增加了一倍。他被普遍视为美国历史上最杰出的总统之一,同华盛顿、林肯和罗斯福齐名。于1826逝世。

August 10, 1787

Dear Peter, — I have received your two letters of Decemb 30 and April 18, and am very happy to find by them, as well as by letters from Mr. Wythe, that you have been so fortunate as to attract his notice & good will; I am sure you will find this to have been one of the most fortunate events of your life, as I have ever been sensible it was of mine. I inclose you a sketch of the sciences to which I would wish you to apply in such order as Mr. Wythe shall advise; I mention also the books in them worth your reading, which submit to his correction. Many of these are among your father’s books, which you should have brought to you. As I do not recollect those of them not in his library, you must write to me for them, making out a catalogue of such as you think you shall have occasion for in 18 months from the date of your letter & consulting Mr. Wythe on the subject. To this sketch, I will add a few particular observations.

1. Italian. I fear the learning of this language will confound your French and Spanish. Being all of them degenerated dialects of the Latin, they are apt to mix in conversation. I have never seen a person speaking the three languages, who did not mix them. It is a delightful language, but late events having rendered the Spanish more useful, lay it aside to prosecute that.

2. Spanish. Bestow great attention on this, & endeavor to acquire an accurate knowledge of it. Our future connections with Spain & Spanish America, will render that language a valuable acquisition. The ancient history of that part of America, too, is written in that language. I send you a dictionary.

3. Moral Philosophy. I think it lost time to attend lectures on this branch. He who made us would have been a pitiful bungler, if he had made the rules of our moral conduct a matter of science. For one man of science, there are thousands who are not. What would have become of them? Man was destined for society. His morality, therefore, was to be formed to this object. He was endowed with a sense of right & wrong, merely relative to this. This sense is as much a part of his nature, as the sense of hearing, seeing, feeling; it is the true foundation of morality, & not the to kalon, truth, &c. as fanciful writers have imagined. The moral sense, or conscience, is as much a part of man as his leg or arm. It is given to all human beings in a stronger or weaker degree, as force of members is given them in a greater or less degree. It may be strengthened by exercise, as may any particular limb of the body. This sense is submitted indeed in some degree to the guidance of reason; but it is a small stock which is required for this: even a less one than what we call common sense. State a moral case to a ploughman & a professor. The former will decide it as well, & often better than the latter, because he has not been led astray by artificial rules. In this branch therefore read good books because they will encourage as well as direct your feelings. The writings of Sterne particularly form the best course of morality that ever was written. Besides these read the books mentioned in the enclosed paper; and above all things lose no occasion of exercising your dispositions to be grateful, to be generous, to be charitable, to be humane, to be true, just, firm, orderly, courageous, &c. Consider every act of this kind as an exercise which will strengthen your moral faculties & increase your worth.

4. Religion. Your reason is now mature enough to examine this object. In the first place divest yourself of all bias in favor of novelty & singularity of opinion. Indulge them in any other subject rather than that of religion. It is too important, & the consequences of error may be too serious. On the other hand shake off all the fears & servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear. You will naturally examine first the religion of your own country. Read the Bible, then, as you would read Livy or Tacitus. The facts which are within the ordinary course of nature you will believe on the authority of the writer, as you do those of the same kind in Livy & Tacitus. The testimony of the writer weighs in their favor in one scale, and their not being against the laws of nature does not weigh against them. But those facts in the Bible which contradict the laws of nature, must be examined with more care, and under a variety of faces. Here you must recur to the pretensions of the writer to inspiration from God. Examine upon what evidence his pretensions are founded, and whether that evidence is so strong as that its falsehood would be more improbable than a change in the laws of nature in the case he relates. For example in the book of Joshua we are told, the sun stood still several hours. Were we to read that fact in Livy or Tacitus we should class it with their showers of blood, speaking of statues, beasts, &c. But it is said that the writer of that book was inspired. Examine therefore candidly what evidence there is of his having been inspired. The pretension is entitled to your inquiry, because millions believe it. On the other hand you are astronomer enough to know how contrary it is to the law of nature that a body revolving on its axis as the earth does, should have stopped, should not by that sudden stoppage have prostrated animals, trees, buildings, and should after a certain time gave resumed its revolution, & that without a second general prostration. Is this arrest of the earth’s motion, or the evidence which affirms it, most within the law of probabilities? You will next read the new testament. It is the history of a personage called Jesus. Keep in your eye the opposite pretensions 1. of those who say he was begotten by god, born of a virgin, suspended & reversed the laws of nature at will, & ascended bodily into heaven: and 2. of those who say he was a man of illegitimate birth, of a benevolent heart, enthusiastic mind, who set out without pretensions to divinity, ended in believing them, and was punished capitally for sedition by being gibbeted according to the Roman law which punished the first commission of that offence by whipping, & the second by exile or death in furcâ. See this law in the Digest Lib. 48. tit. 19. §. 28. 3. & Lipsius Lib 2. de cruce. cap. 2. These questions are examined in the books I have mentioned under the head of religion, & several others. They will assist you in your inquiries, but keep your reason firmly on the watch in reading them all. Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it ends in a belief that there is no god you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort & pleasantness you feel in its exercise, and the love of others which it will procure you. If you find reason to believe there is a god, a consciousness that you are acting under his eye, & that he approves you, will be a vast additional incitement; if that there be a future state, the hope of a happy existence in that increases the appetite to deserve it; if that Jesus was also a god, you will be comforted by a belief of his aid and love. In fine, I repeat you must lay aside all prejudice on both sides, & neither believe nor reject anything because any other persons, or description of persons have rejected or believed it. Your own reason is the only oracle given you by heaven, and you are answerable not for the rightness but uprightness of the decision. I forgot to observe when speaking of the new testament that you should read all the histories of Christ, as well of those whom a council of ecclesiastics have decided for us to be Pseudo-evangelists, as those they named Evangelists. Because these Pseudo-evangelists pretended to inspiration as much as the others, and you are to judge their pretensions by your own reason, & not by the reason of those ecclesiastics. Most of these are lost. There are some however still extant, collected by Fabricius which I will endeavor to get & send you.

5. Travelling. This makes men wiser, but less happy. When men of sober age travel, they gather knolege, which they may apply usefully for their country, but they are subject ever after to recollections mixed with regret, their affections are weakened by being extended over more objects, & they learn new habits which cannot be gratified when they return home. Young men who travel are exposed to all these inconveniences in a higher degree, to others still more serious, and do not acquire that wisdom for which a previous foundation is requisite by repeated & just observations at home. The glare of pomp & pleasure is analogous to the motion of their blood, it absorbs all their affection & attention, they are torn from it as from the only good in this world, and return to their home as to a place of exile & condemnation. Their eyes are forever turned back to the object they have lost, & its recollection poisons the residue of their lives. Their first & most delicate passions are hackneyed on unworthy objects here, & they carry home the dregs, insufficient to make themselves or anybody else happy. Add to this that a habit of idleness, an inability to apply themselves to business is acquired & renders them useless to themselves & their country. These observations are founded in experience. There is no place where your pursuit of knowledge will be so little obstructed by foreign objects as in your own country nor any wherein the virtues of the heart will be less exposed to be weakened. Be good, be learned, & be industrious, & you will not want the aid of travelling, to render you precious to your country, dear to your friends, happy within yourself. I repeat my advice to take a great deal of exercise, & on foot. Health is the first requisite after morality. Write to me often, & be assured of the interest I take in your success, as well as the warmth of those sentiments of attachment with which I am, dear Peter, your affectionate friend.

P.S. Let me know your age in your next letter. Your cousins here are well & desire to be remembered to you.


亲爱的彼得,我已收到你12月30日和4月18日的两封来信。从你和威思先生的来信中,我高兴地发现你很幸运地引起了威思先生的注意并获得了他的好感;我相信你会发现这是你生活中最幸运的事情,正如我的直觉告诉我的,那也是我的最幸运的事情。我附上一份学科概要,希望你按威思先生的建议去申请这些学科。我也提到这些学科中值得一读的书,当然以威思先生的指正为准。其中许多书都在你父亲的藏书中,可能你已随身带去。由于我不记得哪些书你父亲的书房中没有,所以你一定要为此给我写封信,把你认为从你写信的那天起至今后的十八个月内有机会接触到的书列出一个清单,并就此请教威思先生。对这个概要,我还将特别地补充几点我的看法:

意大利语。我怕学习意大利语会使你把法语和西班牙语与之混淆不清。这几种语言都是由拉丁语退化衍生出来的方言,所以容易在会话中混淆。我还从未见过一个人同时说这三种语言而没弄混的。意大利语是一门令人愉快的语言,但近来发生的事情倒使西班牙语用处更大。这个问题先放到一边再说吧。

道德哲学。我认为听这门课纯属浪费时间。如果要我们去听课的人把我们的道德行为准则定为一门科学,那么他定是一个可怜的工作拙劣的家伙。对于获有该学问的人来说,会有无数不懂该学问的人。他们的遭遇会是怎么样的呢?人是一个社会的人,因此,他的道德形成是为了达到这个目标。他被赋予仅与此有关的正误感。这种正误感就像听、说、感觉等一样是人本能的一部分;因而那是道德真正的基础,而不是如那些富于幻想的作家所幻想的那样是美、真等的真正基础。道德或良知,就像一个人的腿或胳膊一样,是他身体的一部分,并以一种或强或弱的形式赋予给人类,就像被赋予给人类的四肢力量有大有小一样。道德或良心可以通过实践而得到提高,就像身体的任何一个肢体可以通过锻炼变得强壮一样。在某种程度上,这种道德的确服从于理智的导向,但服从理智指导的道德只是很小的一部分,甚至比我们的常识还要少。如果对一个农民和一个教授陈述一宗道德案件,前者也会作出判定,而且常常还比后者判定得要好,因为他没有被人为制定的清规戒律引入歧途。因此,在这个方面,你要读好书,因为他们不但能给你鼓励而且能引导你的感觉,尤其是斯特恩的书,它们是已有的道德教科书中最好的教程。除此以外,还要读我在信里提到的那些书;最主要的,随时注意陶冶你的性情,要有感激之心,要慷慨大度,要有善心,要讲人道,要真实、公正、坚定、有条理、勇敢等等。把这其中的每一个方面的实践活动看作是一个可以提高你的道德水平和自身价值的锻炼。

旅游。旅游使人明智,却不那么快乐。中年人旅游,获得知识,并可能用这些知识服务为他们的国家服务。但在后来的岁月里,他们容易产生回忆,并夹带着遗憾;他们的情感因投入到众多的事物上而减弱;他们学到一些新习惯,却在返回自己的祖国时不能得到满足。年轻人旅游更易于遇到这类不便和其它更为严重的问题。他们没有获得那种见识,因为这需要以往的知识经历作为基础,而这个基础只有通过在家里反复和客观的观察才能建立。庄丽和光彩夺目好比血液的运动。炫耀凝聚着他们所有的情感和注意力,要从中分离,就像是与世上唯一的好东西分离,当他们返回到他们的家乡时,宛如回到了一个流放和服刑之地。他们的眼睛永远盯在他们已失去的事物对象上,其回忆毒害了他们的余生。他们最初的最亲近的情感被出租给这里的毫无价值的事物对象上,他们把糟粕带回家,使自己和别的人都不高兴。此外,他们养成了懒散的习气,丧失了干事业的能力,这使得他们既无助于自己,也无助于国家。这些观察是出自于自己的经历中。不存在这样的地方,在那儿你对知识的追求会像在自己国家那样极少受到外物的阻碍,也不存在这样的国家,在那儿你心灵的美德不会受到影响。要有教养,要有学问,要勤奋。不要依赖旅游的帮助使自己于国家宝贵,于朋友亲切,自我快乐。我重复我的忠告,多运动,多步行。健康是继德行之后人的第一需求。常给我写信,并确保我对你的成功总是感兴趣、总是充满着热情。亲爱的彼得,爱你的朋友。

于巴黎

1787年8月10日



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