Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Andrés Bello: Penitent Latin American Advocate of Natural Law

A CENTRAL FIGURE IN LATIN AMERICA'S efforts to craft a new political order following its independence from Spain, Andrés Bello was characterized by prodigious talents in the areas of law, politics, literature, and education. He straddled two eras, two orders, and two worlds. Bello was a bridge builder, and so he sought to find continuity between the past religious era, and the coming secular, scientific one; between life under Spanish empire, and independent rule; between the culture of Europe, and the culture of Latin America; between fidelity to tradition and openness to change. "Bello was a person who balanced disparate traditions and interests for the sake of constructing new nations." Ivan Jaksic, Selected Writings of Andrés Bello (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), xxviii. As Jaksic summarizes it:

Andrés Bello (1781-1865) was perhaps the most significant and influential political and intellectual figure in the nineteenth-century Latin America. In the aftermath of independence, Bello provide the most successful blueprint for nation building by emphasizing legal, social, and cultural elements in addition to the requisite political stability and economic viability.

Jaksic, xv. The encomium of polish-born Venezuelan linguist and philologist Ángel Rosenblat is equally bullish: "Andrés Bello was without doubt the first humanist of our America, a kind of Hispano-American Goethe, at a time when humanism was still the father of science and the humanist was not only philosopher but also historian and poet, jurist and grammarian, and sought to encompass both spiritual life and the mysteries of nature." (quoted in Gregorio Weinberg, Andrés Bello, Quarterly Review of Comparative Education, XXIII, No. 1/2, 1993). The title to the biography of this man authored by Rafael Caldera (1916-), twice President of Venezuela (1969-74; 1994-99), perhaps says it all: Andrés Bello. Philosopher, Poet, Philologist, Educator, Legislator, Statesman.

With such curriculum vitae, Bello was perhaps the Thomas Jefferson of Latin America.

Born in Caracas, Venezuela in 1781, Bello began his studies at the Mercederian convent under Fr. Cristóbal de Quesada. In 1797, he began his philosophical studies under the guidance of Fr. Rafael Escalona at the Royal and Pontifical University of Caracas. During this time he was tutor to Simón Bolívar, the future liberator of Latin America. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts in 1800, Bello studied law and medicine, though he never completed the studies to the point of earning a degree. He had the opportunity to meet the redoubtable German naturalist, Alexander von Humboldt, and in 1800 joined him in part of his scientific expeditions, breathlessly summiting Mount Avila with the German scientist. Beginning in 1802, he received various administrative appointments under the Spanish colonial government. He also began contributing articles to the newspaper Gazeta de Caracas.

After Venezuela declared its independence, Bello assumed responsibilities in the new government. He also found time to author a booklet on natural topics, the Calendario manual y guía universal de forastero en Venezuela para el año de 1810, and history, Resumen de historia de Venezuela. Bello then also began penning his poems. In 1810, Bello landed in England with his former student, Simón Bolívar, as a Venezuelan diplomat, and, as a result of distrust between him and the revolutionary government in Venezuela because of his relative conservativism, he was to spend the next twenty years of his life there, being exposed to the intellectual fervent of English political thought, including the thought of the radical James Mill and the über-utilitarian Jeremy Bentham whose handwriting he helped decipher, and that country's rapid industrialization. In 1823, together with Juan García del Río, Bellos published the Biblioteca Americana, an intellectual tour de force which may be compared to the efforts of the French Encyclopedists. Between 1826 and 1827, he also published a journal, Repertorio Americano, to which he frequently contributed. In England, he tried his hand on two epic poems in Virgilian style, Las Silvas Americanas, and Silva a la agricultura de la zona tórrid Rebuffed in his efforts to return to Venezuela, Bello returned to Latin America through the arrangement of Mariano de Egaña, and embarked to Chile, the adoptive country in which he was to play a significant role in its educational, journalistic, and political institutions. He was to become a Senator for Santiago, a frequent contributor to the Chilean press, particularly to the newspaper El Araucano, and was to become founding Rector of the University of Chile in 1842, a position he held until his death. Bello had a deep regard for the Spanish language, and, in addition to his work in philology, literary criticism, and poetry, published in 1847 the Gramática de la lengua castellana destinada al uso de los americanos (Grammar of the Spanish Language for Latin Americans). In 1881, he published his renowned Filosofía del entendimiento, or Philosophy of the Understanding.

Bello's contribution to Latin American jurisprudence and law are equally impressive. He authored the first text in Latin America on international law, the Principios de derecho internacional (Principles of International Law) in 1832 (subsequent editions published in 1844, and 1864). For approximately 20 years, Bello worked on drafting the Chilean Civil Code (Código Civíl), which not only became the law in Chile when adopted by the Chilean Congress in 1855, but was also adopted as the basis of the civil codes of Columbia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua. The Chile to which he came was suffering internal turmoil, and its political and legal institutions were in need of repair, and Bello's efforts and stabilizing them was both prudent and wise. Again, Bello's balance was at the heart of his legal effort. As the Chilean jurist Pedro Lira Urquieta put it, Bello sought to provide
a modern appearance to the notions of authority and order which were still expressed in verbose colonial language. Without breaking with tradition, he instilled a love of progress and carried it forward with a measured step. He helped to institute respect for the law, giving the country that political stability without which all other action is enfeebled or comes to an end.
(quoted in Weinberg).

An example of this tendency in Bello is the provision that matters of marriage under the civil code were relegated to the Church. "Bello made sure that tradition and change would be reconciled, that the guiding elements of the new political order would combine the best civil legislation of the past with the best of the present, and that there would be a role for religion." Jaksic, li.

In line with his traditional values, Bello's philosophy of law was based upon the natural law. This would be in keeping with his "fundamental, life-long concern" with the "problem of order." "Bello advanced a view of order that rested on three interrelated spheres: the ordering of thought via language, literature, and philosophy; the ordering of national affairs via civil law, education, and history; and the participation of the new nations in the world order of the nineteenth century via international law and diplomacy." Jaksic, xxviii. Although the emphasis of his contributions was practical and geared towards the civil code and international law, his philosophical presuppositions were based upon the existence of a law above the law. As Bello put it in one of the opening paragraphs of his Principios de derecho internacional:
Toda ley supone una autoridad de que emana. Como las naciones no dependen unas de otras, ni cada una de ellas del agregado de todas, las leyes á que se someten obrando colectivamente, solo pueden serles dictadas por la razon, que á la luz de la experiencia , y consultando el bien comun, las deduce del encadenamiento de causas y efectos que rije el universo moral. El Ser Supremo, que ha establecido estas causas y efectos, que ha dado al hombre un irresistible conato al bien ó la felicidad, y no nos permite sacrificar la agena á la nuestra, es por consiguiente el verdadero autor de estas leyes, y la razon no hace mas que interpretarlas. El derecho de gentes no es pues otra cosa que el natural, que aplicado á las naciones, considera al género humano, esparcido sobre la faz de la tierra, como una gran sociedad de que cada cual de ellas es miembro, y en que las unas respecto de las otras tienen los mismos deberes que los individuos de la especie humana entre sí.

Every law supposes an authority from which it emanates. As nations do not depend on each other, nor any one of them on the whole aggregate of nations, the laws to which they are subject to when working collectively, can only be issued by reason that, in light of experience, and consulting the common good, it is able to deduce them from the chain of causes and effects governing the moral universe. The Supreme Being, who has established these causes and effects, and who has given man an irresistible impulse to seek good or happiness, and which prevents us from sacrificing other's interests to our own, is therefore the true author of these laws, and reason does nothing but interpret them. International law is therefore simply natural law, which, applied to nations, considers the human race scattered over the face of the earth, as a great society of which each of them is a member, and that the one with respect to the other has the same duties that individuals of the human race have among themselves.

In 1835, he urged that the study of law not be limited to mere technical aspects of law, but that it also include its deeper fundamentals, including the "philosophy of law," the natural law, keeping in view its "eternal bases." He also insisted that law student not be parochial or over-specialized in their education, but that he also learn his country's language and its literature, along with the natural, political, and economic sciences. He ought not forget to learn the "laws of mind and heart," nor forget to polish himself with "the purity of dogma and the luster of religion."
[W]e would like to see the study of jurisprudence itself broadened and ennobled, to see the young lawyer extend his interests beyond the narrow and obscure circuit of legal practice. We would like to see him deepened the philosophical principles of this sublime science, and contemplate it in its relationship with the eternal bases of justice and general usefulness, and not to forget to temper its severity, making it pleasanter by the assiduous cultivation of philosophy and the humanities, withou which there has never been an eminent jurist."
Jaksic, Bello, "The Study of Jurisprudence," 117-18.

One of Bello's poems reflects traditional piety, and reveals the personal encounter of one's sinfulness, and one's need for the mercy of God. It is a loose translation of Psalm 51(50), the Miserere, one of the seven Penitential Psalms.

de Andrés Bello

¡Piedad, piedad, Dios mío!¡
Que tu misericordia me socorra!
Según la muchedumbre
de tus clemencias, mis delitos borra.

De mis iniquidades
lávame más y más; mi depravado
corazón quede limpio
de la horrorosa mancha del pecado.

Porque, Señor, conozco
toda la fealdad de mi delito,
y mi conciencia propia
me acusa y contra mí levanta el grito.

Pequé contra Ti solo;
a tu vista obré mal; para que brille
tu justicia, y vencido,
el que te juzgue tiemble y se arrodille.

Objeto de tus iras
nací, de iniquidades mancillado,
y en el materno seno
cubrió mi ser la sombra del pecado.

En la verdad te gozas
y para más rubor y más afrenta,
tesoros me mostraste
de oculta celestial sabiduría,

Pero con el hisopo
me rociarán, y ni una mancha leve
tendré ya; lavárasme,
y quedaré más blanco que la nieve.

Sonarán tus acentos
de consuelo y de paz en mis oídos,
y celeste alegría
conmoverá mis huesos.

Aparta, pues, aparta
tu faz, ¡oh, Dios!, de mi maldad horrenda
rastro de culpa por tu enojo encienda.

En mis entrañas cría
un corazón que con ardiente afecto
te busque; un alma pura,
enamorada de lo justo y recto.

De tu dulce presencia,
en que al lloroso pecador recibes,
no me arrojes airado
ni de tu santa inspiración me prives.

Restáurame en tu gracia,
que es del alma salud, vida y contento;
y al débil pecho infunde
de un ánimo real el noble aliento:
haré que el hombre injusto
de su razón conozca el extravío;
le mostraré tu senda,
y a tu ley santa volverá al impío.

Mas líbrame de sangre,
¡mi Dios, mi Salvador! ¡Inmensa fuente
de piedad! Y mi lengua
loará tu justicia eternamente.

Desatarás mis labios,
si santo un pecador que llora alcanza,
y gozosa a las gentes
anunciará mi lengua tu alabanza.

Que si víctima fueran
gratas a Ti, las inmolará luego;
pero no es sacrificio
que te deleita el que consume el fuego.

Un corazón doliente
es la expiación que a tu justicia agrada:
la víctima que aceptas
es un alma contrita y humillada.

Vuelve a Sión tu benigno
rostro primero y tu piedad amante
y sus muros humilde
Jerusalén, Señor, al fin levante.
Y de puras ofrendas
se colmarán tus aras y propicio
recibirás un día
el grande inmaculado sacrificio.

By Andrés Bello

Mercy, mercy, my God!
That your mercy may come to my aid!
According to the fullness
Of your mercies, erase by faults.

From my iniquities
Clean me more and more, so that my depraved
Heart may be cleaned
Of the horrifying spot of sin.

Because, Lord, I know
All the ugliness of my offense,
Any my own conscience
Accuses me and raises its hue and cry.

Against you only have I sinned;
Before you I worked evil; so that
Your justice may shine, and defeated
The one who judges trembles and kneels down.

Object of your wrath
I was born, of iniquities stained,
And in the maternal womb
The shadow of sin covered my being.

You delight in truth
And to my greater shame and affront,
You showed me treasures
Of hidden celestial wisdom.

But with the hyssop
I will be sprinkled, and no slight spot
Will I then have. You will clean me,
And I will be whiter than snow.

In my ears will sound the accents
Of your consolation and of peace
And heavenly joy
Will move my bones.

Depart, then, Depart
Your face from me, oh God! from my horrible wickedness
Remnant of fault ignited by your wrath.

In my entrails it raises
A heart that with ardent desire
Looks for you; a pure soul,
In love with the just and the right.

From your sweet presence,
Into which the tearful sinner you receive,
Cast me not out angry
Nor deprive me of your holy inspiration

Restore me in your grace,
Which the health of the soul; life and happiness;
And instill in this weak breast
The breath of a royal and noble soul:
I see to it that the unjust man
By reason shall know he has strayed;
I will show your footpath to him,
And to your Holy Law the impious shall return.

But free me of blood,
My God, my Savior! Great fount
Of mercy! And my tongue
Shall praise your justice eternally.

You will untie my lips,
If holiness does reach a sinner who cries,
And joyfully my tongue shall declare
Your praises to all peoples.

If victims were pleasing
To you, you would immolate them in time;
But it is not sacrifice, which consumes
The fire which brings you delight.

A suffering heart,
Is the expiation which pleases your justice
The victim which you accept,
Is a contrite and humbled soul.

Return your blessings upon Sion,
Your main face, and your loving mercy
And lift up the humble walls
Of Jerusalem, Lord,

And pure offerings,
Shall overwhelm your altars, and
Propitious you will receive that day
The great immaculate sacrifice.

Would that our modern jurists, our legislators, our judges would have the attitude of the Latin American maestro.

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