Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson: Notes on the Writings of Baron D’Holbach, after 1 Mar. 1819, 1 March 1819

Copied from a loose sheet, in the hand of Thomas Jefferson, contained in his copy of Le “Systeme Social” of the Baron d’Holbach.—N. P. Trist. July [. . .] 1825.

“on the writings of the Baron D’Holbach on the Morality of Nature and that of the christian Religion.

He does not in the beginning, nor indeed in any part of the progress of his work appear to have committed himself to make it a compleat treatise; but has taken up a branch of the subject at a time, gone thro’ it, then resumed it, in more extension, or taken up some other branch, and given out separately as written, until, his life, his health, his leisure and independence having continued he had been able to pursue the work so that its parts duly arranged composed a complete system of natural morality, treatise also on the insufficiency of the christian system of morality for the objects of society. To form the whole into a methodical work the different treatises should be read in the following order.

1. Elemens de la morale universelle. 24. this is a mere summary lodged in the mind preliminarily to guard it from alarm while reading the other branch from any fear that by pulling down, he has nothing to substitute.

2. Essai sur les préjugés 1. v. 12o this on the importance of truth, that it is always salutary, never injurious while prejudice subverts in all cases.

3. Histoire naturelle de la superstition. this pursues the subject by exposing the mischiefs to man of superstition, and its powerful antagonism to truth & reason.

4. Lettres a Eugénie coutre les préjuges, and maintaining the value of truth and reason

5. Tableau des Saints. giving the characters of those who have taken the lead in these delusions. 2. v. 12o

6. Le christianisme dévoilé. 8o after a Preliminary of the substance of what had before been suggested on natural morality, he gives a general view of the insufficiency of the christian substitute, & its actual destructiveness of the real morality accomodated to the social relations of man.

7. Système social. 3. v. in 1. 8o—This gives a detailed course of the duties of man by the law of his nature in the 1. vol. the 2d & 3d vols treat on political govt and governors.

In the 5th of these works, the Tableau des Saints, in reviewing the characters of those who have led in these delusions, he has adopted the views of those who consider Jesus as an imposter, and cavilled unworthily at his morals. While, had he examined the character and immaculate life of that sage of nature with candor, making allowances for the circumstances under which he acted, he would have seen in him the great reformer of the Jewish religion, and that this view might stand in his system, instead of that he has given without deranging a single chapter of his work.

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