MOST Courteous SIR,--When Professor N. N. visited me the other day,
he told me that my Theologico-Political Treatise has been
translated into Dutch, and that someone, whose name he did not know,
was about printing it.
With regard to this, I earnestly beg you to inquire carefully
into the business, and, if possible, stop the printing. This is the
request not only of myself, but of many of my friends and acquaintances,
who would be sorry to see the book placed
under an interdict, as it undoubtedly would be, if published in Dutch.
I do not doubt, but that you will do this service
to me and the cause.
One of my friends sent me a short time since a pamphlet called
"Homo Politicus," of which I had heard much. I
have read it, and find it to be the most pernicious work which
men could devise or invent. Rank and riches are the
author's highest good; he adapts his doctrine accordingly, and
shows the means to acquire them; to wit, by inwardly
rejecting all religion, and outwardly professing whatever best
serves his own advancement, also by keeping faith with
no one, except in so far as he himself is profited thereby.
For the rest, to feign, to make promises and break them,
to lie, to swear falsely, and many such like practices call
forth his highest praises. When I had finished reading the
book, I debated whether I should write a pamphlet indirectly
aimed against its author, wherein I should treat of the
highest good and show the troubled and wretched condition of
those who are covetous of rank and riches; finally
proving by very plain reasoning and many examples, that the
insatiable desire for rank and riches must bring and
has brought ruin to states.
How much better and more excellent than the doctrines of the
aforesaid writer are the reflections of Thales of Miletus,
appears from the following. All the goods of friends, he says,
are in common; wise men are the friends of the gods,
and all things belong to the gods; therefore all things belong
to the wise. Thus in a single sentence, this wisest of
men accounts himself most rich, rather by nobly despising riches
than by sordidly seeking them. In other passages
he shows that the wise lack riches, not from necessity, but from choice.
For when his friends reproached him with
his poverty he answered, "Do you wish me to show you, that I
could acquire what I deem unworthy of my labour, but
you so diligently seek?" On their answering in the affirmative,
he hired every oil-press in the whole of Greece (for
being a distinguished astrologer he knew that the olive harvest
would be as abundant as in previous years it had
been scanty), and sub-let at his own
price what he had hired for a very small sum, thus acquiring in
a single year a large fortune, which he bestowed
liberally as he had gained it industriously, &c.
The Hague, 17 Feb., 1671.
[Note N1]: I. I. Probably Jarig Jellis, a merchant of Amsterdam and a
Mennonite. He translated the Opera Posthuma into Dutch, 1677.