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BALMES


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BALMES


tantismo" (1844) Balmes was called to Madrid -where he established a. newspaper "El Pensamiento de la Nacion" in the interests of politics and religion. Its special purpose was the advocacy of the marriage of Isabella II -iWth the eldest son of Don Carlos, a union wliich appeared to Balmes to offer the most effectual solution of the existing political problems of Spain. He even accepted a mission to Don Car- los and succeeded in persuading the latter to re- nounce his title of king in favour of the Count of Montemolin. Unfortunately, the plan which might have spared his country many misfortunes failed through French interference. Balmes, seeing his cherished design come to naught when Isabella married her cousin Don Francisco de Assisi, sus- pended the publication of "El Pensamiento" not- \nthstanding the remonstrance of friend and foe, for the journal had, through the impress of his mind and character and literary power, come to mark an epoch in the history of the Spanish press. Balmes now retired from the political arena to devote the closing years of a life all too short to the pviblication of his philosophical wTitings. In May, 1845, he visited France, Belgium, and England, a journey of which there are few details recorded save that he was feted in Paris, where he also met Chateaubriand, and in Brussels, and Mechhn. Returning to Madrid, he repaired thence to Barcelona where he issued in 1846 his "Filosofia fundamental" (this was trans- lated into English by Henry F. Brownson, with an introduction by his father Dr. Orestes A. Bro\\Tison (Xew York, 1864). It is an exposition of the philosophy of St. Thomas in view of the intellectual conditions of the nineteenth century. His biographer, Dr. Soler, speaks of this work as one "which, from the stupendous variety of knowledge which it mani- fests and the richness of its mental treasures, appears a collection of libraries, a mine of science, for there is no faculty foreign to the vast comprehension of its author". .\llo%\'ing for some extravagance in this fer\-id eulogj', no reader competent to judge can fail to recognize the breadth , depth, and practical timeliness of the "Fundamental Philosophy".

From Barcelona he returned to his native place, where he composed his "Filosofia elemental" (Mad- rid, 1847), a compendium that became widely used in the schools and which was also translated into English. In 1847 he wrote his pamphlet "Pio Nono" wherein he defends the liberal pohcy of Pius IX, at the opening of his pontificate, when that pope gave a universal amnesty and adopted constitutional gov- ernment. Though perhaps the best written of all Balmes's works, it was unfavourably received, was bitterly attacked by his enemies, and regretted by most of his friends. The pain inflicted on his sensitive spirit by the unjust aspersions and in- sidious innuendoes of his opponents preyed upon his constitution which, never robust, had been severely taxed by incessant labours. He retired once more to Barcelona dividing there his time between linguistic studies, liis inaugural discourse for the Royal Spanish Academy, to which he had been admitted, and the Latin translation of his "Ele- mentarj' Philosophy", undertaken at the request of Archbishop Affre of Paris. He returned to his native Vich, May, 1848, where his health steadily declined till the end came on the 9th of July fol- lowing. Balmes is described as of more than medium stature, slight of frame though well-de\-eloped; his face was pale but delicately tinged; his eye pene- trating; his aspect agreeable and naturally majestic. His temperament combined the better elements of the traditional four. He was moderate in all lines of conduct, except probably in study and intellectual work, which he seems to have carried at times to a passionate excess. His thoughts and exprcs.sion were so copious and so close to his call that he could II.— 15


easily dictate to two secretaries on any subject he might take in hand. Exact and methodical in his relations to God, he was no less conscientious in his duties towards his neighbour. Unostentatiously charitable to the poor, he was unaffectedly kind and affable, though somewhat reserved, in all social converse. A strong soul in a sensitive organ- ism, his intellectual life absorbed and spiritualized the physical.

Balmes has a universally admitted place of honour amongst the greatest philosophers of modern times. He knew the reflective thought of his day and of the past. The systems of Germany, from Kant to Hegel, he studied carefully and criticized judiciously. The scholastics, especially St. Thomas, were familiar to him. He meditated on them profoundly and adopted most of their teaching, but passed it through his own mental processes and turned it out cast in the mould of his own genius. Descartes, Leibnitz, and especially the Scottish school, notably JoufTroy, had considerable influence on the method and matter of his thought, which is characterized consequently by a just eclecticism. He deemed it a danger to take lightly the opinions of any great mind, since, as he said, even if they did not reflect complete reality, they rarely were devoid of strong grounds and at least some measure of truth. Balmes was, therefore, one of the most influential causes in re\'i%'ing sound philosophy in Spain and indeed throughout Europe generally during the second quarter of the nineteenth century — an influence that continues still through his permanent works. Certain indeed of his theories are open to criticism. He perhaps accords too much to an intellectual instinct, a theory of the Scottish school, and too httle to objective evidence in the perception of truth. In psychologj- he rejects the intellectus agens (the abstracti\'e intellect) and the species intellii/ibnis (intermediary presentations), and he holds the principle of life in brutes to be naturally imperishable.

These, however, are but accidental and relatively unimportant divergencies from the permanent body of the traditional philosophy — the system which re- ceives in his "Filosofia fundamental" a fresh inter- pretation and a further development in answer to the intellectual conditions of his day; for it was an habitual conviction with Balmes that the philoso- pher's business is not merely to rethink and restate but to reshape and develop, ^^'hile the book just mentioned reflects the speculative aspect of its author's mind, the work that most fully manifests his personality, his mental, moral, and religious character, and liis social and political ideals, to- gether with the range and accuracy of his learning — the work, therefore, that is likeliest to endure — is " El Protestantismo comparado ". Though conceived originally as a reply to Guizot's "History of Ci\'iliza- tion", it is much more than a critique or a polemic. It is really a philosophy of history — or rather of Christianity — combining profound insight and criti- cal analysis with ^\^de erudition. It searches for the basal principles of Catholicism and of Protestant- ism, and summons the evidence of history con- cerning the comparative influence exercised by the former and the latter in the various spheres of human life — intellectual, moral, social, and political. The side on which the author's sympathies lie is frankly indicated by him, wliile he appeals to the historical data in justification. It should be read in the Spanish to be fully estimated; for the English translation, done through a French medium, though accurate and scholarly, can hardly be expected to reflect all the light of the original.

For the rest, the general position of Balmes among his countrjTnen may be summed up in the words of one of the leading .Spanish journals, "El Heraldo", at the time of his death. "Balmes ap-