OR, MEDITATION ON THE REVOLUTIONS OF EMPIRES
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Why is cleanliness included among the virtues?
Because it is, in reality, one of the most important among
them, on account of its powerful influence over the health and
preservation of the body. Cleanliness, as well in dress as in
residence, obviates the pernicious effects of the humidity, baneful
odors, and contagious exhalations, proceeding from all things
abandoned to putrefaction. Cleanliness, maintains free
transpiration; it renews the air, refreshes the blood, and disposes
even the mind to cheerfulness.
From this it appears that persons attentive to the cleanliness of
their bodies and habitations are, in general, more healthy, and
less subject to disease, than those who live in filth and
nastiness; and it is further remarked, that cleanliness carries
with it, throughout all the branches of domestic administration,
habits of order and arrangement, which are the chief means and
first elements of happiness.
Uncleanliness or filthiness is, then, a real vice?
Yes, as real a one as drunkenness, or as idleness, from which
in a great measure it is derived. Uncleanliness is the second, and
often the first, cause of many inconveniences, and even of grievous
disorders; it is a fact in medicine, that it brings on the itch,
the scurf, tetters, leprosies, as much as the use of tainted or
sour aliments; that it favors the contagious influence of the
plague and malignant fevers, that it even produces them in
hospitals and prisons; that it occasions rheumatisms, by incrusting
the skin with dirt, and thereby preventing transpiration; without
reckoning the shameful inconvenience of being devoured by vermin--
the foul appendage of misery and depravity.
Most ancient legislators, therefore, considered cleanliness, which
they called purity, as one of the essential dogmas of their
religions. It was for this reason that they expelled from society,
and even punished corporeally those who were infected with
distempers produced by uncleanliness; that they instituted and
consecrated ceremonies of ablutions baths, baptisms, and of
purifications, even by fire and the aromatic fumes of incense,
myrrh, benjamin, etc., so that the entire system of pollutions, all
those rites of clean and unclean things, degenerated since into
abuses and prejudices, were only founded originally on the
judicious observation, which wise and learned men had made, of the
extreme influence that cleanliness in dress and abode exercises
over the health of the body, and by an immediate consequence over
that of the mind and moral faculties.
Thus all the individual virtues have for their object, more or less
direct, more or less near, the preservation of the man who
practises them and by the preservation of each man, they lead to
that of families and society, which are composed of the united sum