Miser, Justus

Miser, Justus a great German statesman and author, whose writings have had much moral influence upon the general public mind, was born in Osnabrtick December 14, 1720. In 1740 he entered the university at Jena, and there and at Gottingen studied jurisprudence. In 1746 he became an attorney, and was soon noted for his ability and integrity. He resisted the arbitrary arrogance of the vicegerent of Osnabrtick, in consequence of which the citizens elected him advocatus patrice. For twenty years during the minority of the duke Frederick of York, who came into possession of Osnabriick in 1763, he was the principal adviser of the regent, and enjoyed the full confidence of George III, king of England. From 1762 to 1768 he officiated as a magistrate in the criminal court, and afterwards until his death as one of the superior officers of justice. His services were as disinterested as they were important. "I enjoyed," he once said, "many things; was sorrowful about a few; defamed by none." He enjoyed excellent health, and died quietly, with hardly a struggle, January 8, 1794.

In his writings, which take high rank in German literature, Moser often presents his ideas in a humorous garb, which, suiting the tastes of the people, made him deservedly popular. His most important contribution to literature is his Geschichte von Osnabriick (2 volumes, 1768; 2d and improved ed. 1780; 3d ed. 1820; a 3d volume, published from his literary remains by Herbert von Bar, 1824), a work which for critical research and popularity of diction still stands unsurpassed. His celebrated short essays, which originally appeared from 1766-1782, in the Osnabrtck Intelligenblatter, and were afterwards published under the title of Patriotische Phantasien (3d ed. prepared by his daughter, in 4 volumes, [Berl. 1804]), relate mostly to local subjects, but are to this day calculated to enlighten the mind and improve the character of German officials. In his work on the German language and literature, he attacks the Gallomania and infidelity of Frederick the Great, and in a letter addressed to Jean Jacques Rousseau he opposes the theories of that philosopher. Rousseau had gained many followers even in Germany, and the public burning of his works (1765), instead of harming him, had gained him new admirers. The burning of his works proved nothing. Moser, knowing that writings have to be refuted by writings, undertook the task of opposing Rousseau with his own weapons. He issued his letter To the Vicar in Savoy, to be had of J.J. Rousseau, in which he maintained the necessity of a positive religion for the people. He ridiculed the impractical character of a merely natural religion with plain mother-wit. In order to meet Rousseau on his own stand-point, he adopted a very moderate idea of religion, such as even Hume might have shared. "It is of the greatest necessity to have certain fortified articles of faith, which comfort the unfortunate, restrain the fortunate, humble the proud, bind kings, and keep tradesmen within limits. It is impossible for the rough masses to be affected by the preaching of mere nature." "The preaching of God's works, that we have daily before our eyes, is like the singing of a canary bird, which its possessor has long since ceased to hear." "Natural religion," he argues, "is not only insufficient for those classes which are commonly called 'the populace' (der Pobel), but for all." "We are all populace, and God has done better in putting a bridle on our soul instead of on our noses; for at least in one place, I think, it was very necessary for us, in order to be led to certain ends. Our religion was made for us populace, and not for angels." "The sentiment that men can be saved in all religions," he says, "stifles the very germ of true religion. I have found that the Christian religion is perfectly sufficient for all purposes which God can have for man, and I draw therefrom this conclusion, that we act foolishly in weakening or breaking so perfect a bond." These outspoken, manly views of the eminent jurist had a great influence on the German mind, and his efforts proved most beneficent to men like Schleiermacher and others. A complete edition of his works was published by R. B. Abeken (Berl. 1842, 10 volumes), See Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 20:170; Jocher, Gelehrten Lex.; Bechstein, Deutsche Manner; Hurst's Hagenbach, Hist. of the 18th and 19th Centuries, 1:220.

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