Responsive gloss on the proposition regarding prohibited books, inserted in the supplement to number 5 of the Tribuna [Translation]

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Valete, Glosa respondona al voto que sobre libros prohibidos se inserto en el alcance al numero 5 de la Tribuna (Guatemala: Mayor, Casa de Porras, 1828)

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Title: Responsive gloss on the proposition regarding prohibited books, inserted in the supplement to number 5 of the Tribuna [Translation]
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Author: Valete
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Translation: This document is an English translation of the "Glosa respondona al voto que sobre libros prohibidos se inserto en el alcance al numero 5 de la Tribuna." Translated by Lorena Gauthereau-Bryson. The language of the original document is Spanish.
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Description: Urging censorship and restriction on importing foreign books and newspapers. A point by point refutation of an 1823 article. octavo. Modern wrappers. 27 pp.
Source(s): Valete, Glosa respondona al voto que sobre libros prohibidos se inserto en el alcance al numero 5 de la Tribuna (Guatemala: Mayor, Casa de Porras, 1828)
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Whose Gloss, written at that time, could not be published because of macaronic reasons and is published now to take advantage of a happier time.
Major Press– Porras House [2]
Year of 1828


in response to the opinion regarding banned books, inserted in The Reach [3], number 5 of the Tribune

Text 1

“When I made the first proposal (to free banned books and foreign publications from all type of censure and customs duty), I was far from thinking that it would be refuted: I thought that since our freedom to write had already been restricted, they would at least allow that of reading.”–

Gloss 1.A

I praise the credibility of the opinion’s author. The freedom to write is subjected to limits, because there are poisoned pens that can seriously harm a society. By this same rule, the ability to read must also be restricted so that nobody can drink the poison of other pens. How then, can one be persuaded that an argument, identical in very similar extremes, should vary in resolution?

Text 2

“We will be more like slaves to the restriction, than…to the Spanish regime– when we could hold all the books of its tongue in our hands.”

Gloss 2A

So, no Spanish books are banned? And if I have Carlos IV’s Expurgatory index before my eyes– which contains, in more than 300 pages, an infinite string of works that have been banned and ordered to be expurgated– am I supposed to not believe it? Be wary, as the opinion contains some large oversights. – If we suppose that Spain (speaking of the moderated monarchic government) freely allowed all reading material, the February 10, 1823 decree, nevertheless, announced a list of texts that should be banned. And if he refers to the period in which a wild Spain broke from the reins, this was furor and not regime.


Text 3

“Now, similar to French despots, we want to put up a wall between us and the writers of that free people.”

Gloss 3A

We certainly do not want to receive their books, whose pages are stained with picturesque deliriums, children of ignorance and mischief, books fit only to introduce anarchy, to submerge the people in the abyss of pain and red oceans of blood. We have just seen France in this disposition. Everyone knows that it has been the fruit of their free writings, of their freedom to read. We do not want, thus, poisoned books; the good ones come from all parts, they come from Spain.

Text 4

“The Spaniards now illustrate our language through thousands of useful translations, with important ideas. Perhaps this news comes mixed with principles that do not conform to those of religion… Should we deprive the people of interesting knowledge for the support of their rights or of illuminating ideas about government because of this?”

Gloss 4A

The preceding criticism is similar to this one. Absorbent powders are good for certain types of indigestions; those of corrosive sublimate are poisonous and cause death. If an evil apothecary sends me the former mixed with the latter in a piece of paper, should I deprive myself of taking the healthy powders because of that? If I must throw the malignant paper in the latrine because of that, would I be crazy if I poisoned myself because I want to cure myself? Don’t you think (apologist of the books we speak of), that because of that, yes, because of that– and bear in mind half a dozen little reasons– you should drink it fast, without making faces?

1st, If the poison physically kills me, disabling the healthy virtue of what it was mixed with,


what a good cure I made by drinking it. It would have been better if it had been made by Doctor Sangredo [4] or the Licentiate Carmona. [5]– When a book’s irreligious ideas have corrupted the spirit, quid prodest homini si mundum universum lucretur? Would it not be better to go to the eternal light with one less eye of philosophical learning?

2nd We have the most important notions regarding the rights of man and the great art of government, quite complete in the purest sources of the most sane philosophy and sublime politic. Well, what is the point in becoming inundated in filthy holes and in broken cisterns? Don’t you believe that there is wisdom, such as that of Helvecio, Hobbes, Espinosa, the author of the Palmira ruins, friend Matéo, of the Citer of Political Catechism, and a thousand other foolish and daring men of their gang? Well, let’s conduct an experiment: you can write a treatise on anything you like; let me know the material and I will prepare another one; they could then be compared in the Assembly or in a meeting of educated men, whom you yourself choose; and if yours, enriched by the principles of your authors, is selected as the better one, that I be given 200 lashes in the public post, or that you receive them, dear, if mine is preferred. The game is equal. Your triumph would be very bright; come on, then, shoulders to the wheel: I am very ready and am bursting to carry out this bet.

3rd Irreligious authors know nothing about the politics of customs. If they tend to provide us with solid thoughts, they themselves owe it to the illumination they will one day receive from religion, whose very active splendor can never stop being seen, even when the eyes are closed. After this, everything that appears to be new is very frivolous or can also be found in very religious educated men. If you think that I speak blindly of this and that I have not read your favorite authors, let us extend the experiment to see if I can explain it to the satisfaction of the


educated and without the incredulous philosophers being able to replicate it.

4th The thoughts that contradict religion are as contagious are they are malignant. The new generation, ignorant of very corrupted customs, is at the most obvious risk of adopting them, and we already see it. The literary centaurs, above all others, have the closest disposition. They believe themselves to be very manly and they do not realize they are missing a half or more. They motivate themselves; they take impetuous risks, and become victims of their scientific vertigos. And this is how you would like to bring impious books into common usage?

5th You must have observed that the human species in general, has constantly manifested its determined inclination toward impiety since the beginning of the world. Under nature’s law, all those who were separated from the domestic tradition fell and persevered in an embarrassing polytheism and disgusting chaos of profanation. Such was the world and until now, so is the state of the people in whom the light of revelation has not been lit again, a state from which the advancement of human reasoning has not been able to rescue them for over 50 centuries.

According to written law, every time the Hebrews abandoned the law and national tradition, they became submerged in idolatry; they adored the works of their hands like the neighboring nations; and they ultimately became blind, as if God had never spoken to them.

In Christianity, when the inaccessible light humbled the Heavens and came to show us the truth, after its splendor covered the globe– dissipating the shadows of death, confusing the errors of pretentious philosophy, and the universe began adoring the true knowledge and science at the foot of the Cross– then those who have scorned the universal tradition,


the Catholic union, have fallen into heresy, which is nothing less than a bastard philosophy, a furor that runs from the light, in illustrious men’s excuses.

Observe even more: heresy does reason, it is not alone, it flies to Deism, from there to materialism, to absolute Pyrronism; or it adores Spinoza’s god or no god. – And now, my friend: irreligious error is man’s constant mania; being that it is so general, so slippery, you want us to– due to a small interest that can be found in other places without danger– give it to the simple people and the whole world to drink in golden goblets? Isn’t it one of the government’s strict duties to infinitely distance us from the threats posed by supreme evil’s most urgent risks, to which we are generally and naturally inclined? If this absolute maxim, without exceptions, does not enter into your governmental system, I renounce it, and I count on this fact for my triumphs.

6th Have you noticed that you can tell cripples apart by their manner of moving around? The same occurs with the intentions of the incredulous and their style of writing. They do not deal with anything except creating proselytes of impiety. All their writings, on any material, hide asps among the flowers of a seductive style. The incautious find themselves wounded when it is least expected; the sweet poison is introduced unnoticed, all the way to the heart; and here you have the incurable sick, venenum aspidum insanabile.

Above all, we are clear. You should know that at present, no man on earth ignores the tenebrous mystery of impious authors and new politicians. Have you seen the precious Abate Bonola? The learned Barruel? The great work of the immoral Bergier, in which he gives us the true history of religion and the errors that he has dreamed of abolishing? Have you read the


new philosophers’ oracle? Profound Paschal? His Excellency Montaset’s Golden pastoral? Spain’s secret constitution, full sister to France’s, and the reflections made regarding them? Have you not felt the urge to entertain yourself with Heidec’s erudition? With the illustrious Morejon’s disabuses and the little work, Involuntary Apologists [6]? This will suffice so as not to give you an eternal list of triumphant and master works that would perhaps smell rancid to you.

Well, see: the authors of these works have been spies of the smallest steps and movements of the incredulous writers of current and recent times: they have been contemporary countrymen, neighbors, and even fellow club members and disciples, respectively. They have observed their principles, progress, and unfortunate ends; their moral background, their talents, their studies; the crises that have motivated their apostasy of Christianity; the plans from their diabolic ideas; their objective links and relations; the most subtle points and lines of those plans. They have entered the most somber and lugubrious clubs where gangs or packs of such fools meet; they have heard their serpentine hisses, their deceitful songs, and the body of doctrine that they craftily published in their golden cathedra of pestilence. – In sum, so as to not tire you, the entire idea and mischief of these little devils is certainly and perfectly known; its extremely disgusting origin is not ignored, nor is the tendency of all the plan’s lines.

The purpose behind this thought is to destroy (with dissimulation and the mended cape of piety) the Church, religion, the authorities; to flatten and equalize the earth’s ground in order to run, without obstacles, to bestialize themselves with gross satisfaction and animalize the whole world. An undertaking worthy of its authors!

You may have recognized the origin of these sectarians in the


old man of the mountain [7]: his birth around the year 1891, its youth in that of 1000 and virility around the time of the nefarious Voltaire: unless we say that that Greek (enemy of all domination, but not of the crown of gold that he always wore), who lived much earlier than J.C. [expand to: Jesus Christ], was the sect’s true root. The plan’s scheme is brilliant and very long to explain, since it is profound and meticulous. Bring philosophy and theology together and have them work in agreement; break the Church’s fundamental stone, that is, the Pope; in order to do this, promote the bishopric and attack said first Bishop from its heights; then turn against the same bishopric, recommending parochial authority and that only its ministry should administer the Sacraments and the word in the pulpit; bore the Pastor and his sheep in this manner so that they abandon the pasture; reduce the simple bishop and priests to unemployed people; and introduce, through such a wide door, the oblivion of all Christian practices and the general relaxation. What do you think? Isn’t the game precise?

Well, there are still more small pieces that enter into play besides the other innumerable ones. That philosophy and politics work united on one side. That imprescriptible human liberty be demanded and pulled like a chamois so that it can reach the point desired by heaving. That they scream for the dignity and the rights of man, which until now have, apparently, not been known by their details because fanatics sold them disfigured; that the abuses of religion be exaggerated and freely attributed to he who is not guilty of them; that the errors of government and politics be pondered; the systems of economy and income be reformed, always attacking the Church; but this in writings full of brilliance and beauty, with sparks of imagination and ingenuity, witty jokes, pompous paralogisms;


with masked doctrines, apparent titles, catholic phrases, in manner that hides the hook so well that even scholars fall. And, above all, that idolized liberty be praised with images, flavors, such enchantments that, surrendered to its impulses, it impetuously crushes everything that opposes it, and suddenly we all find ourselves in Pansacola, where there is no magistrate; or, if you prefer, in paradise, like Adam and Eve; not in a state of innocence, but naked for the increased convenience of losing it.

Now, take a look around at all that has been negotiated and observe the other cards in the game. The project is effective, prepared by and in well-known people and time periods. Just ask Bonola, who is a good witness, and I will give you other names, too. Consequently, we see theological, philosophical, political works, adjusted to the idea that had been conceived, put into motion; they all crash against the corner stone and try to immortalize the world. Poetry and prints elegantly lend a hand.

There they see the man-machine; the dreamed-of revelation; desire and pleasure elevated to principles of justice; complete impolitic government; abstinence and restraint, Mass, the sanctification of feast days– all reduced to advice in the religious constitution, supplemental to that of politics; and finally the top at the bottom, the bottom at the top and everything carelessly done. With this, you unite the practices and customs of the day. The low-cut necklines and nakedness: breasts pressed together to call attention; the new art of dances, certain instruments unworthy of even being named, paintings on playing cards, the little books, the clocks, the Sacred Passion stamped (serenely and without shock or horror) on the soles of socks, on small glasses; in sum, the… But is there more to say after having insinuated this abyss


of evil, worthy of execration from Heaven and earth?

While looking upon such a scene, do you want the reading of irreligious books to be resolved? Those written by a rabble of ignorant, worthless authors, whore are more or less obviously all scoundrels? In such a case, we clearly and immediately cancel baptismal faith and let’s not beat around the bush when the whole world understands the mess. – My friend, pardon me for having somewhat compressed the six small reasons that I offered and let us move forward.

Text 5

You continue, “And can we not yet read the social contract, or the Spirit of the laws, or Becaria, or Bentham, or Helvecio, if it occurs to some petty censors that they are Deists or materialists?”

Gloss 5

No one has said that petty men are suitable censors. Those chosen should be of good judgment, of great intelligence, of probity, of prudence. Those who are made with these ingredients will not produce censures that upset any good man’s stomach. And note that I do not know why the poor Becaria can be placed on the same list as Helvecio and others. You should part with that exaggerated indulgence, which looks in the direction of numerous wicked men.

Text 6

“Who is capable of prescribing a punctual rule that does not allow arbitration of capricious censures? Who has drawn the line that exists between the religious and the political; and who can fix the limits on this discretionary power…? By what other manner did the Inquisition absorb the barbaric power of prohibiting everything…? The current law that wants to be known in thought or in the interpretation of systems…is made arbitrary and tyrannical. Let us leave being the judge of principles, etc., etc. to man’s conscience.”

Gloss 6A

And how beautifully everything would turn out if you


were left as judge of yours and arbiter to communicate them to the people, without anyone’s contradiction. Do you not find detailed rules to discern between good and evil? Between Catholicism and irreligion? Well, my friend, you know how to ignore in the extreme. J.C. [Jesus Christ] left his Wife his own mouth, to separate the precious from the vile: he showed her the whole truth and how to discern the spirits. Have you not seen the rules of this discernment, fixed, clear, and immutable? It is well known, because if you did not ignore them, they would speak in some other manner. With all this, caprices and abuses are still possible, this evil is not incurable. Only death has no remedy. Haven’t you heard this said?

Yes, because between the religious and the political, there are lines and certain points of union and separation, and all of them are well known. Although I do not stop to point them out, I know that no man with mediocre intelligence would reproach me since they are not hidden from anyone. If some article has positioned two opinions against each other for some time, the Church never contradicted itself.

Upon governing ourselves by your principles, we must admit a multitude of absurd ones. We do not cure ourselves because doctors are not always right. There can be no Assembly because certain matters divide its members’ way of thinking. – We would not cordon off a plague that assails us, just in case the agents of the cord exceed themselves in something. In your opinion, it would be better for the plague to take us all; isn’t this true?

There is no reason to fear the Inquisition. If it permitted abuses in its conduct, everything has been done in the best way possible to reform its judiciary method, as was desired. The absolute fear of it that many have today is as if it smells bad.

You should also let the law ban everything that would harm us. Anyone who says they can only fix actions, without using jurisdiction


in their thoughts, does not know it very well. It is true that it does not judge them and cannot punish pure hearts, but it directs them. How different do the honest man, who respects the law, and the rogue, who mocks it, think! And above all, censuring writings is not censuring hidden thoughts. Are clearly revealed systems the same to you as purely internal thoughts? Is this how you play with and confuse the substance of things and words before the entire world? Well, my master, I know well that in all the land of cacao, public systems that aspire to trouble minds and corrupt customs are actions that should be recognized by the law’s authority.

Text 7

But, “Can two men (you say) censure a book in the same manner?”

Gloss 7A

There are, as well as millions of men who think in the same way. You yourself are the person who immediately affirms it. When you fear that we will be exposed to the complaints of all educated men and the entire world, you clearly suppose that the world thinks uniformly against us. Then, it is not impossible for two men to agree in the censure of a piece of writing. Much less in the Catholic religion. Don’t you see that absolute unity and universality of the same belief is exclusively particular to the latter? There have always been many book censors. In tribunals and bodies, everything is decided with an agreement of opinions. Then, your little question: are there two men, etc., is an attack, exposed in light of evidence.


Text 8

“When dealing with expurgating books” (you add), “where are our erudite, capable of rewriting Emilio or the Philosophical Dictionary, without being exposed to the mockery of all sensible men?”

Gloss 8.A

Well, brother, you propose this doubt out of wickedness. I bet you have our erudite hidden in your bedroom attic; that is why you ask about them, sure that no one will give them to you; but with that, friend, you belong with fools; in just a short time, you will see Guatemala’s erudite in power over you.

In the meanwhile, I turn to Emilio. I don’t think it requires much knowledge to rewrite this piece. Are you not familiar with the jokes that it has carried since its author made it public? Well, we are behind in news. This is how they love me in my house (said one, whom they made fun of because he was very ugly), but Emilio was not wanted even in his own house– as soon as he was born, they threw him into the fire in Geneva and Paris. Rousseau’s very brothers, wolves of his same brood, did not suffer that monster’s maximum poisonings or the pride. Then Emilio, perhaps fleeing from the flames and searching for the cold, neared the Alps; Mr. Bergier saw him in his disgrace, he took him in his fist and reduced him to dust in one squeeze. Didn’t you know this? Well, I know it because I have seen it and because a superior witness told me– the author of the work France’s erudite and the last three centuries [8]. See where he speaks of the illustrious Bergier, of the indignant Rousseau, and his infamous Emilio and you will find that in Bergier’s hands, there is not enough Emilio left to wipe off on the previous volume. And now you want the erudite to rewrite him?

Text 9

“It is true that intolerance has already been decreed; but not opinion… Reading philosophers of other religions… is not forbidden.”


Gloss 9A

Well, it is very advisable and totally necessary to forbid it; and you will soon see how the circumspection of our Assembly prohibits all reading matter against religion. When the people have provided examples of their sacred enthusiasm for the faith of the Apostles, it would still be more dangerous to allow the minor suspicions. It would be very risky, I am quite sure.

Now, how great would it be to tolerate the opinions and writings against religion and demonstrate themselves to be inexorable against the erudite and pious authors that defend it? This is the illustrious, irreligious men’s system: as detestable as it is pondered in two places of the work entitled the Projects [9], translated from French and printed in 1791, whose 2nd note on page 50 says:

“Our philosophers will want to have the liberty to say everything, write everything, and execute everything against Religion. By obtaining this liberty, they will have erected an inquisition tribunal –stricter and more vigilant than the Ecclesiastic one– against all good books and against Catholic works or productions, and will have disabled the erudite zeal of so many brave and elegant pens that would have been able to reveal the insidious plots of their infernal cabal. A detestable sect, who established an opposition party in the Church, has asked for your aid; and many times we have seen the value of faith turned into a mountain of error and canals of irreligion. “While nothing is spoken of besides the tolerance and liberty of speaking and writing, while Atheism and the most horrendous corruption take and introduce their homicidal fruits into all of society’s classes and cover the most Catholic provinces with the ruins of good customs and our parents’ Holy Religion, rigor and vigilance shall only be used against the defenders of the ancient principles of the rights of the Church, and of the liberty and independence of the Christian faith.


As soon as any work of this nature comes into existence, our public prosecutors and all those monitors of so-called police are put into motion, to exterminate the book and its author. I am familiar with a tribunal of censorship, in which they banned the works of St. Francisco de Sales and authorized those by the Apostate… Oh, sovereigns! If you exclusively love the truth, as you say, concede us the same liberty as those that compliment and praise your persecutions. But what could be more intolerant than modern philosophical tolerance! Would our good parents ever have been able to imagine that the dominant Religion in the United States would be vilified until the extreme of having to implore, as if it were a grace, to be at least placed in the sphere of his enemies? Or of envying the liberty enjoyed in anti-catholic kingdoms?”

“On page 52 and those following, are letters by D’Alembert and King Frederick II of Prussia in which they unleash their opinions regarding the edicts of the Bishops of Amiens and Toulon, because they had impugned and censured the facts and writings of two impious men… Both coryphaeus of incredulity desired that they not be permitted to speak, complain, or write to the defenders of the Church, so as to prevent anyone from imitating them, so that neither the anti-Christian philosopher’s quietude is disturbed, nor the lights which spill across everything, be turned off. Oh tolerant people! Oh tolerant people! Will there be anything more intolerable than inequality and the monstrous contradiction of your maxims?”

And now, reassuming our thread, let us make sure we understand each other when we speak of opinion. The systems of incredulity are not opinions: they are rash, embarrassing, and poisoned errors. To ban these, as the Church has always done, is not to attack reason, but rather, to defend it; it does not oppress liberty, but rather, drives it


and elevates it to an unknown sovereignty of false politicians because it is sublime.

Text 10

“That the theologians and scholars combat the impious, as the fathers do the Church, and if they cannot do it for themselves in our press, that they ask for books… that they stand up at the pulpit… that they purify their customs, etc. This is their duty, and not to entrench themselves like Muslims in the darkness of prohibitions.”

Gloss 10A

Hello, friend! Now you see how you had our erudite hidden when I asked about them? The scholars combat the impious, no? Well, these scholars are the erudite who prefer to rewrite and re-confuse Emilio; and if there are none for this, there aren’t any to combat impious men like Rousseau, either. And in such an event, why call them home, if it is necessary to combat them? Come to the front and go to blazes; this is a promise that should be excused. If you call your authors due to the interest you have in their utility, I would say, rather, that some things cost more than they are worth; I would not permit them to touch my inestimable treasure of faith for four insubstantial novelties.

Besides what has been said: those philosophasters do nothing more, and do not produce any other fruit than to deceive educated children and licentious youths. Their usefulness is neutralized by the very perniciousness, which they wrap and conceal. Thus, without opening the door, we can rescue our scholars and Saints (there are some, before having heard your little sermon) of the fatigue of the pulpit and the press, which you yourself condemned without cause.

A small scruple is irritating me. In text 9, I omitted what he says, that prohibiting the reading of books by philosophers of other religions was never seen in the pure centuries of the Church. And the section from text 10, not to dig themselves in the darkness of


prohibitions, stings me a bit.

I already replied that the Church has always prohibited the communication of books and of heretic errors. I don’t know what source makes you deny such a prohibition in the pure centuries of Christianity. Who can ignore that the great Council of Nicene censured and sent Arrio’s books to be burned around the beginning of the 4th century? How are you, then, so ignorant regarding such a well-known event? Or, if you proceed simply, it has been animosity to dare to state clear propositions regarding facts and epochs, whose history you have not seen.

In effect, my friend, regarding the reading of Christian antiquities and the Fathers and Doctors who enlighten us regarding the primitive Church’s progress in the matters of its functions, it is obvious that, superficially, you have maintained great composure and that until now, you have remained in a natural fasting of all the events that occurred in those centuries.

Allow me, by God, to admire myself and once again take in my hands the daring and bold expression that the Church, in its principles, did not prohibit bad books. If I were to open the dike to the torrent of sacred and Ecclesiastic erudition, which can spill over this material, I assure you, my master, that, seized by your own current, you would be left open mouthed and no one would care.

Nevertheless, so that you can catch a glimpse of what I say, I will present you with certain short examples. Read, at least out of curiosity, Deuteronomy Chapter 6, Letter to the Romans 19, and the last chapter written by Saint Paul to Timothy. Pay attention to Saint John when, speaking about all the enemies of the Catholic doctrine, he tells the faithful: You do not receive it in your house, nor greet it; regarding the same, Saint Paul warned, shouting: verba eorum multum proficient ad impietatem et sermo eorum ut cancer serpit.


And don’t you recall the great care with which St. John took precautions against Ebion and even the horror with which he saw the bathhouse Cerinthus had used?

Saint Cyprian spoke like this to his sheep: flee far away from the contagion of such men and avoid their words, fleeing from them like a plague and a cancer. And if this is from the words that return, what will happen to the books, perpetual sources of an inevitable poison?

In Acts of the Apostles, it is clear that many of them who had followed curious and new doctrines took their books and burned them in front of everyone and, having calculated their value, found them to be worth 50,000 denarius; and the word of God grew strongly and was confirmed (Acts 19:19).

For this reason, the great Origen said (Homily 9, sup. no.): If we are to judge based on those who have merited divine revenge for separating from the Churches’ doctrines, wouldn’t it be judged that, if by chance they left something in writing, everything must perish together with their ashes?

Thus, notice how, since the time of the Apostles, impious books were burned, so many that they must have been worth a fortune; the Holy doctrine progressed and was reinforced atop their ashes. Make amends just as Origen, who lived in the III century and was born in the II century, bear witness to the Church’s custom of throwing evil books into the fire. And I do not present you with the most vigorous testimonies and doctrines of another thousand Saints and Doctors to avoid opening the dike to the previously-indicated torrent.

In these prohibitions, the Holy Church, its doctors, its ministers have been infinitely distant from looking for their entrenchment in favor of darkness. The Church carries its author’s same spirit, which is wisdom and fire. Its Gospel sent His Majesty


to preach to all creatures from the beginning, putting it all in view of the universe. Jesus himself preached to the world in the temple and on roofs: he never spoke a word in secret. Well, does the eternal light hide or have a reason to hide? What it wants to hide are the errors that oppose it: it hides those fireflies that, with their tiny light in the night of error, create very dangerous illusions for short-sighted learned men, philosophers, and exalted politicians and all the ignorant people. But the Gospel itself runs across the globe: it does not flee from the most severe criticism or fear facing the most rigorous tests. Therefore, when it hides and distances books by impious people and heretics, it does nothing more than produce a trick of the eye for children of the light; it is understood by sweet children, not robust ones, who know deceit, and they are much more superior. Thus, to reproach Catholicism, which you fear, that searches for asylum in the darkness because tenebrous writings condemn it, is the disorder of the most miserable ideas. In this manner, the sun is afraid of night, when its mere presence makes it flee.

These reflections plummet when you boast in your long paragraph 10. The Gospel’s author never prohibited its censure, nor did he threaten anyone who tried it with punishment: first, he wants our gift to faith to be rational.

The Gospel sustains itself frankly and defies (as you say) the spirit of error; but it does not want its small children to enter this fight. If you are robust and an excellent fencer, you will challenge a very inferior enemy with satisfaction, but you will carefully take steps to move your wife, your children, and your young siblings to a safe place, at a distance. In the field, you will measure your sword against your opponent’s, but you will not allow him in your house for even a single night, just in case, by some careless error, he attacks someone in your family, without you


being able to avoid it, despite all your valor.

My friend, this is extremely clear: only a bewitched spirit can venture toward the brilliance and force of such truths. Cramped entanglements, like those that oppose irreligion, will never move it.

Text 11

“On the other hand, if the national press is subjected to a jury, the edict proposer… can sustain it in court and present himself to explain your sense; but a foreign book cannot defend itself.”

Gloss [11][10]

I celebrate universal fairness and philanthropy, which look after no one’s rights. The foreigner has none for his written works, which the constituted government labels as dangerous, to be purchased in Guatemala. Once they are recognized as such, Guatemala has the right to say to him, “Let he who does not know you buy you.”

If the evaluation can be wrong– a misery inseparable from all human judgments– we would have lost very little in one text, without which we have eaten, drunk, and lived fatly for many years.

You have not projected the abolition of judges, tribunals, corporations, etc., or the annulment of their agreements because they can make mistakes. Those who cannot play have not been condemned because it is certain that they will not win. On the contrary, the whole world says that the best thing to do regarding dice is not to play them because then you are very free of losses.

Let’s not expose ourselves with bad or dangerous books, though by rejecting them we will have won a great deal. A probable fear obliges precaution and more so in matters of great importance– a maxim that can be authorized with a cloud of all types of texts and very interesting features of erudition.

Moreover, if the foreign book cannot be defended, we won’t try to impose any corporal or pecuniary punishment either. Do not be afflicted by that. And notice that in this, I speak well and you speak extremely


badly regarding all that you have wished to say. The defense and protection, which a book can have rights to, has not escaped the wise consideration of our laws. You have certainly not seen law 38 tit. 7, lib. 1 of the Recompilation of the Laws of Castile, and much less, the Constitution of our Holy Father Benedict XIV, which begins: Sollicita ac provida. If you had caught this information, what a game you would have wanted to make with them!

But to the case in point. The law says the following: that the inquisition tribunal shall hear the Catholic authors, known by their writings and fame, before prohibiting their works; and if they are not nationals, or have passed away, that they name a advocate, who is a public person with known erudition, etc.

This law offers two reflections: first, that if the book belongs to a foreign or deceased author, there should be legal arbitration to provide a paid advocate, so that it cannot be said that they are condemned without being heard. And the other is that authors known for their knowledge and good name also deserve equal consideration in the fair judgment of the law; but the desire to spend, as you wish, time contemplating every book, even if the whole world knows their authors are the most poisonous insects, this is a generosity, a liberalism that, until now, had not fit into the law’s ideas or in the pineal gland of any moderately-educated head.

Text 12

“That an enslaved people find themselves in this miserable state is not strange at all; but that a sovereign people, etc…”

Gloss [12]

It is truly painful that among a sovereign people, we cannot ensure that even shoemakers become doctors; that prostitutes, drunks, woodcutters, and all garbage collectors do not cultivate the encyclopedia. In another time, St. Paul asked if it were possible for everyone to be prophets and doctors. But now you ask if it is possible


in our century of political regeneration and absolute equality, for the blacksmith not to know as much as the learned man? Isn’t this what you mean? What a shame that, in the period of enlightenment, we do not open the door to the most indecent darkness. How insufferable it is that all workshops are not, therefore, closed; that the earth is not permitted to rest from the plow, so that we may all run, pushing and shoving each other, to Minerva’s sanctuary, without thinking about anything else. And don’t you think it would be very just to decree: that no man can be born unless all are smelt in the same mold to achieve a fulfilled equality? That Nicaraguan monkeys can not have five fingers on their hands, so that they cannot be distinguished from ours who have four? Also, it would be good to cut a piece of shinbone from those who are taller than others so as to eliminate any variation in height.

Friend, there is no difference between these ideas and yours. If there are, then insist on showing them to me and I promise to make you see that you are deceiving yourself.

Text 13

“There is more: in free governments… a text circulates before its censorship. Well, under the law regarding foreign books, which is designed by the commission, this principle is completely broken.”

Gloss [13]

Now, I could go on about the great principle established by the famous Paine, the most intelligent publicist… In his opinion, printed material is actually

Text 14

Now, I could go on about the great principle established by the famous Paine, the most intelligent publicist… In his opinion, printed material is actually


property of the Nation and subjecting it to a jury’s or tribunal’s censure is submitting the Nation’s judgment to that of a few citizens.

Gloss [14]

I sincerely confess that I have not read Paine, but ex ungüe leonem. If he is capable of such ridiculous nonsense as that which you attribute to him, I do not wish to read him and I know I am not missing anything. Children are, by right, masters of their parents’ property, even when the latter are still alive; and each of a mother’s sons are very much lord over what is purchased with her money. Hence, as a father, am I…unjust if I take a knife or a loaded gun out of one of my boys’ hands? Is a government iniquitous if it prohibits the carrying of small arms? Famous Paine: man of the American and French people, answer me.

This is not the worst, but rather something else: “To subject the national press to censure is submitting the Nation’s judgment to that of a few citizens…” So, the press is now not only the Nation’s property, but also the entire Nation’s judgment. Beware! What things Mr. Paine knows how to say! ... If I print a paper that says that the whole of Guatemala is crazy, this, undoubtedly, would be my Nation’s judgment? Beware once more and another thousand times! As far as I’m concerned, Mr. Paine can go fry fleas on the edge of a volcano.

Text 15

“All these principles can be applied to obscene books. Additionally, not everything that is bad should be prohibited. Obscenity is an evil, but not a political evil. Books full of errors and absurd stories, superstitious, scholastic, absurd moralist, ascetic terrorist, stupid books are a thousand times worse. And why should we introduce espionage into everything that is not an obvious evil against… the association? The law has never repressed the vice of ingratitude, etc.”

Gloss [15]

An exorcist should respond to these reflections,


which seem demonic. An erudite of divine order said: omnis impudicita nec nominetur in vobis. Nature is alone; education is embarrassed by the idea of a mistake. The ecclesiastic and profane jurists, in agreement with the resolutions of both rights, caution that human law should aid in the goals of evangelical law and avoid existent disorder, even if it is not obvious to everyone. The same Gospel and the same political economy enlighten us about the great evils that liberated obscenity causes on society, decreasing the population and horribly disturbing public tranquility. And now you want us become accustomed to obscenity among us? Anyone who does not see it as a huge political evil is very blind: much ignorance is needed to indicate the limits you want to place on the laws; and anyone who dares to present such disgusting ideas, so beyond principles, before an illustrious people, full of honor, must care very little for himself.

You must be infuriated because obscene books are not allowed! What good is lost? What evil does rejecting them cause? Are they good for wicked things? Yes, they are so for all wicked things. And is there no more shame for your defense?

You do not say a single word in your last text that does not involve an enormous error: The law has never repressed ingratitude. The Egyptians and other peoples repressed it; and Egypt’s elegant politics and government elevated it to a grandeur and prosperity that amazed the whole world. It was not seen, in Egypt, the gathering of well-mannered slaves, which you suspect, was not seen, nor the hypocrites; nor have the great evils, which caused the subtleties of scholasticism, been seen in the entire world. The sciences are full of good, mediocre, and bad professors; only the bad theologians praise your bile, and not the indecent evildoers who insult the


heavens and outline the complete ruin of the Holy Theology? Our same laws still punish ingratitude in some manner. The ungrateful son can be disinherited: the donation is revocable, if the grantee is ungrateful. The son and the freedman cannot freely sue the father or patron because the laws consider what the former owe to the latter. Do you see how you speak without reflection when you grant indulgence to the ingratitude in the name of our laws or laws in general?

Text 16

“The commission has also extended itself to paintings and prints. That poor art, with a spirit of implacable limitation! The Pope’s Palace and all of Rome are filled with paintings or statues that could, perhaps, appear to be very indecent…The Inquisition has single handedly been able to extend its infamous and oppressive hand all the way to the arts… The proposition comes down to foreign books…”

Gloss [16]

Heretic books, obscene books, and disgusting prints that stimulate lewdness, all have one detestable objective. The zeal that should be opposed is compelled to equally reject all those unworthy mediums. The commission honorably fulfilled its duty; and you, attacking it, fail to say anything useful.

The Inquisition has never touched the arts, but rather, their malignant abuse. Terence was familiar with lascivious paintings through their awful effects, before the Inquisition had been conceived. Remember that lad created by the same Terence (in The Eunuch) whose soul was robbed by a dishonest painting. Remember what a gentile like Aristotle warns (lib. 7, polit. cap. 17), that, by speaking of and dealing with lascivious things, we easily slip into their execution.

And I do not want to remember Plato’s opinion and prediction when he saw certain images in the temple,


which were not indecent. However, because of the luxury they indicated, they made him notably melancholic, making him fear the ruin of his country. Neither Plato nor Aristotle were absurd moralists, ascetic terrorists, or, in any way, stupid. Aristotle and Plato were horrified by the political principles that you try to establish.

And let’s get to this: the pontifical palace is full of statues and paintings that could, perhaps, appear to be very indecent? Or are they effectively so? If you cannot say anything more than that they could perhaps appear to be so, you have not said anything.

Uncertainty and doubts are not the support upon which political maxims and morals can be fixed and much less those that are new and repugnant. What will it be, then? Are those statues really indecent? ... When you respond, I will make you see absolute nullity, which your argument suffers anyway.

Text 17

“Representatives: when the police are too inquisitive, it corrupts customs, extends the spirit of espionage, and creates public calamity. A luminous truth, exposed by a great man, who has demonstrated… that the press is more limited when the government’s goals are smaller and more miserable.”

I agree with this great or small man. Espionage is a huge evil; but the prohibition of rude disorder, the enemy systems of religious, moral, and political truth, the books and prints that are nothing but the ties of innocence– that is not called espionage, nor is the investigation and punishment of evils when information exists that compels it in accordance with the laws. I repeat: none of this is espionage. Do not abuse terms before a sovereign, enlightened people who are not afraid of bogeymen.

In regard to the press, it will not be restricted if it is not subjected to limits other than those imposed by external law. If ours were to respect them, the


nations will respect us; and he who judicabit in nationibus will shower us with honor and glory in view of all of them. Or, if our insensibility were to reach the extreme of sacrificing its honor due to desires of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes, and pride of life, it will surrender our land as a habitat for leopards, with caves for tigers and wild boars. At least, cum exarserit in brevi ira ejus… radix impiorum quasi favilla erit, et germen enrum ut pulvis ascendet. Be careful because that rage is very close.

Guatemala March 7, 1824.


The great errors belong to the great philosophers; and as great as any of them may be, the error in which they fall will not stop being an error. Neither truth nor lies can change nature due to the character of its patrons. Montanism conserved all its falsehood and ignominy after the distinguished Tertullian fell into it. Therefore, neither the opinion of your two ecclesiastics ( who, with the rational of doctors, cannot come close to equaling that giant), nor that of any people who think like them, can ever convince anyone that the indecent prints, which embarrass any educated person, are not indecent or that the farrago of printed errors are not very unworthy to be permitted, even in non-Catholic countries.

Now, if we move on to the sponsors, the censured books, and the prints that stimulate l ascivious shamelessness, there are innumerable educated men from Guatemala and other nations against them, since, it is here that they have put their zeal against these plagues into action. If you proceed with reason and love the truth, why do you prefer the knowingly erroneous judgment of two ecclesiastics over that of an enlightened and commendable multitude?


You will inculcate me with the idea that your books contain important knowledge regarding the rights of man and I will repeat what I have already told you, in two of the great Dr. Saint Geronimo’s lines: one, from Epistle 7 ad Lætam, where he observes: that poisons are not administered without being sweetened with honey; and the same goes for those books. Another, in Epistle 10 ad Furiam, in which he cautions as follows: read only the

of those whose faith is very well known; you do not need to search for gold in the mud: the gold of good politics and all useful doctrines in the mud of obscene, impious, irreligious books full of brilliant nonsense, of poisoned sugarplums… What more?

Translator's Notes

Original title: Alcance.
Imprenta Mayor– Casa de Porras
Original title: Alcance.
Character from Alain-René LeSage’s novel Gil Blas. Also spelled “Sangrado.”
José Carmona y Martinez.
Original text: Apologistas involuntarios.
Hassan-i Sabbāh.
Original text: Los sabios de la Francia de los tres últimos silos.
Original title: Proyectos.
From this point forward, gloss numbers are not included in the original document.

Rice University
Date: 2010-06-07
Available through the Creative Commons Attribution license