M. de Montesquieu being at Marseilles, hired a boat with the intention of sailing for pleasure; the boat was rowed by two young men, with whom he entered into conversation, and learnt that they were not watermen by trade, but silversmiths, and that when they could be spared from their usual business, they employed themselves in that way to increase their earnings. On expressing his surprise at their conduct, and imputing it to an avaricious disposition; "Oh! sir," said the young men, "if you knew our reasons, you would ascribe it to a better motive.—Our father, anxious to assist his family, devoted the produce of a life of industry to the purchase of a vessel, for the purpose of trading to the coast of Barbary, but was unfortunately taken by a pirate, carried to Tripoli, and sold as a slave. In a letter we have received from him, he informs that he has luckily fallen into the hands of a master who treats him with great humanity; but the sum demanded for the ransom is so exorbitant, that it will be impossible for him ever to raise it. He adds, that we must therefore relinquish all hope of ever seeing him again. With the hopes of restoring to his family a beloved father, we are striving by every honest means in our power to collect the sum necessary for his ransom, and we are not ashamed to employ ourselves for such a purpose in the occupation of watermen." M. de Montesquieu was struck with this account, and on his departure made them a handsome present. Some months afterwards, the young men being at work in their shop, were greatly surprised at the sudden arrival of their father, who threw himself into their arms; exclaiming at the same time, that he feared they had taken some unjust method to raise the money for his ransom, for it was too great for them to have gained by their ordinary occupation. They professed their ignorance of the whole affair; and could only suspect they owed their father's release to that stranger to whose generosity they had before been so much obliged. Such, indeed, was the case; but it was not till after Montesquieu's death that the fact was known, when an account of the affair, with the sum remitted to Tripoli for the old man's ransom, was found among his papers.
The venerable Archbishop of Cambray, whose humanity was unbounded, was in the constant habit of visiting the cottages of the peasants, and administering consolation and relief in their distress. When they were driven from their habitations by the alarms of war, he received them into his house, and served them at his table. During the war, his house was always open to the sick and wounded, whom he lodged and provided with every thing necessary for their relief. Besides his constant hospitalities to the military, he performed a most munificent act of patriotism and humanity after the disastrous winter of 1709, by opening his granaries and distributing gratuitously corn to the value of 100,000 livres. And when his palace at Cambray, and all his books and furniture, were destroyed by fire, he bore it with the utmost firmness, saying, "It is better all these should be burned, than the cottage of one poor family."
When this gallant officer was entrusted with the perilous duty of conducting the fire-ships in the attack upon the French fleet in Basque Roads, he had lighted the fusee which was to explode one of these terrific engines of destruction, and had rowed off to some distance, when it was discovered that a dog had been left on board. Lord C. instantly ordered the men to row back, assuring them that there was yet time enough, if they pulled hard, to save the poor animal. They got back to the fire-ship just a few minutes before it would have been too late to save the animal; and when the dreadful explosion took place, were still so near the floating volcano, that the fragments fell in heaps around them.
This gallant officer, when commanding the "Juno" on the Jamaica station, in 1791, exhibited a noble instance of intrepid humanity. The ship was lying in St. Anne's harbour, when a raft, with three persons upon it, was discovered at a great distance. The weather was exceedingly stormy; and the waves broke with such violence, as to leave little hope that the unfortunate men upon it could long survive. Captain Hood instantly ordered out one of his ship's boats to endeavour to rescue them; but the sea ran so high, that the crew declared the attempt impracticable, and refused to expose themselves to what they considered certain destruction. The captain immediately leaped into the boat, declaring that he would never order them on any service on which he would not himself venture. The effect was such as might be expected: there is no danger that a British sailor will not share with his captain; all now were eager to offer themselves. The boat pushed off, and reached the raft with much difficulty, and saved the exhausted men, who still clung to it. The House of Assembly of Jamaica, to testify their sense of this undaunted exertion in the cause of humanity, presented Captain Hood with a sword of the value of two hundred guineas.
M. Eveillan, formerly Archdeacon of Angers, was noted for his humane and charitable disposition towards the poor. On one occasion, when a friend expressed surprise that none of his rooms were carpeted, he replied, "When I enter my house in the winter, I do not hear any complaints of cold from the furniture of my rooms; but the poor who stand shivering at my doors tell me but too plainly that they have need of clothing."
The massacre of St. Bartholomew was not confined to Paris; orders were sent to the most distant provinces to commence the work of destruction. When the governor of the province brought the order to Hennuyer, Bishop of Lisieux, he opposed it with all his power, and caused a formal act of his opposition to be entered on the registers of the province. Charles IX., when remorse had taken place of cruelty, was so far from disapproving of what this excellent prelate had done, that he gave him the greatest praise for his humanity; and Protestants flocked in numbers to adjure their religion at the feet of this good and kind shepherd, whose gentleness affected them more than either the commands of the sovereign, or the violence of the soldiery.