The Ruins
C. F. [Constantin Francois de] Volney

Part 1 out of 6

This etext was prepared by Donald Lainson,











I will cherish in remembrance the love of man, I will employ myself
on the means of effecting good for him, and build my own happiness
on the promotion of his.--Volney.



Having recently purchased a set of stereotyped plates of Volney's
Ruins, with a view of reprinting the same, I found, on examination,
that they were considerably worn by the many editions that had been
printed from them and that they greatly needed both repairs and
corrections. A careful estimate showed that the amount necessary
for this purpose would go far towards reproducing this standard
work in modern type and in an improved form. After due reflection
this course was at length decided upon, and all the more readily,
as by discarding the old plates and resetting the entire work, the
publisher was enabled to greatly enhance its value, by inserting
the translator's preface as it appeared in the original edition,
and also to restore many notes and other valuable material which
had been carelessly omitted in the American reprint.

An example of an important omission of this kind may be found on
the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth pages of this volume,
which may be appropriately referred to, in this connection. It is
there stated, in describing the ancient kingdom of Ethiopia, and
the ruins of Thebes, her opulent metropolis, that "There a people,
now forgotten, discovered, while others were yet barbarians, the
elements of the arts and sciences. A race of men, now rejected
from society for their sable skin and frizzled hair, founded on the
study of the laws of nature, those civil and religious systems
which still govern the universe."

A voluminous note, in which standard authorities are cited, seems
to prove that this statement is substantially correct, and that we
are in reality indebted to the ancient Ethiopians, to the fervid
imagination of the persecuted and despised negro, for the various
religious systems now so highly revered by the different branches
of both the Semitic and Aryan races. This fact, which is so
frequently referred to in Mr. Volney's writings, may perhaps solve
the question as to the origin of all religions, and may even
suggest a solution to the secret so long concealed beneath the flat
nose, thick lips, and negro features of the Egyptian Sphinx. It
may also confirm the statement of Dioderus, that "the Ethiopians
conceive themselves as the inventors of divine worship, of
festivals, of solemn assemblies, of sacrifices, and of every other
religious practice."

That an imaginative and superstitious race of black men should have
invented and founded, in the dim obscurity of past ages, a system
of religious belief that still enthralls the minds and clouds the
intellects of the leading representatives of modern theology,--that
still clings to the thoughts, and tinges with its potential
influence the literature and faith of the civilized and cultured
nations of Europe and America, is indeed a strange illustration of
the mad caprice of destiny, of the insignificant and apparently
trivial causes that oft produce the most grave and momentous

The translation here given closely follows that published in Paris
by Levrault, Quai Malaquais, in 1802, which was under the direction
and careful supervision of the talented author; and whatever notes
Count Volney then thought necessary to insert in his work, are here
carefully reproduced without abridgment or modification.

The portrait, maps and illustrations are from a French edition of
Volney's complete works, published by Bossange Freres at No. 12 Rue
de Seine, Paris, in 1821,--one year after the death of Mr. Volney.
It is a presentation copy "on the part of Madame, the Countess de
Volney, and of the nephew of the author," and it may therefore be
taken for granted that Mr. Volney's portrait, as here given, is
correct, and was satisfactory to his family.

An explanation of the figures and diagrams shown on the map of the
Astrological Heaven of the Ancients has been added in the appendix
by the publisher.


New York, January 3, 1890.



To offer the public a new translation of Volney's Ruins may require
some apology in the view of those who are acquainted with the work
only in the English version which already exists, and which has had
a general circulation. But those who are conversant with the book
in the author's own language, and have taken pains to compare it
with that version, must have been struck with the errors with which
the English performance abounds. They must have regretted the loss
of many original beauties, some of which go far in composing the
essential merits of the work.

The energy and dignity of the author's manner, the unaffected
elevation of his style, the conciseness, perspicuity and simplicity
of his diction, are everywhere suited to his subject, which is
solemn, novel, luminous, affecting,--a subject perhaps the most
universally interesting to the human race that has ever been
presented to their contemplation. It takes the most liberal and
comprehensive view of the social state of man, develops the sources
of his errors in the most perspicuous and convincing manner,
overturns his prejudices with the greatest delicacy and moderation,
sets the wrongs he has suffered, and the rights he ought to
cherish, in the clearest point of view, and lays before him the
true foundation of morals--his only means of happiness.

As the work has already become a classical one, even in English,
and as it must become and continue to be so regarded in all
languages in which it shall be faithfully rendered, we wish it to
suffer as little as possible from a change of country;--that as
much of the spirit of the original be transfused and preserved as
is consistent with the nature of translation.

How far we have succeeded in performing this service for the
English reader we must not pretend to determine. We believe,
however, that we have made an improved translation, and this
without claiming any particular merit on our part, since we have
had advantages which our predecessor had not. We have been aided
by his labors; and, what is of still more importance, our work has
been done under the inspection of the author, whose critical
knowledge of both languages has given us a great facility in
avoiding such errors as might arise from hurry or mistake.

Paris, November 1, 1802.


* Published by T. Allman, 42 Holborn Hill, London, 1851.

The plan of this publication was formed nearly ten years ago; and
allusions to it may be seen in the preface to Travels in Syria and
Egypt, as well as at the end of that work, (published in 1787).
The performance was in some forwardness when the events of 1788 in
France interrupted it. Persuaded that a development of the theory
of political truth could not sufficiently acquit a citizen of his
debt to society, the author wished to add practice; and that
particularly at a time when a single arm was of consequence in the
defence of the general cause.

The same desire of public benefit which induced him to suspend his
work, has since engaged him to resume it, and though it may not
possess the same merit as if it had appeared under the
circumstances that gave rise to it, yet he imagines that at a time
when new passions are bursting forth,--passions that must
communicate their activity to the religious opinions of men,--it is
of importance to disseminate such moral truths as are calculated to
operate as a curb and restraint. It is with this view he has
endeavored to give to these truths, hitherto treated as abstract, a
form likely to gain them a reception.

It was found impossible not to shock the violent prejudices of some
readers; but the work, so far from being the fruit of a disorderly
and perturbed spirit, has been dictated by a sincere love of order
and humanity.

After reading this performance it will be asked, how it was
possible in 1784 to have had an idea of what did not take place
till the year 1790? The solution is simple. In the original plan
the legislator was a fictitious and hypothetical being: in the
present, the author has substituted an existing legislator; and the
reality has only made the subject additionally interesting.


* The copy from which this preface is reprinted was published in
Boston by Charles Gaylord, in 1833. It was given to the writer,
when a mere lad, by a lady--almost a stranger--who was traveling
through the little hamlet on the banks of the Hudson where he then
resided. This lady assured me that the book was of great value,
containing noble and sublime truths; and the only condition she
attached to the gift was, that I should read it carefully and
endeavor to understand its meaning. This I willingly promised and
faithfully performed; and all who have "climbed the heights," and
escaped from the thraldom of superstitious faith, will concede the
inestimable value of such a gift--rich with the peace and
consolation that the truth imparts.--Pub.

If books were to be judged of by their volume, the following would
have but little value; if appraised by their contents, it will
perhaps be reckoned among the most instructive.

In general, nothing is more important than a good elementary book;
but, also, nothing is more difficult to compose and even to read:
and why? Because, as every thing in it should be analysis and
definition, all should be expressed with truth and precision. If
truth and precision are wanting, the object has not been attained;
if they exist, its very force renders it abstract.

The first of these defects has been hitherto evident in all books
of morality. We find in them only a chaos of incoherent maxims,
precepts without causes, and actions without a motive. The pedants
of the human race have treated it like a little child: they have
prescribed to it good behavior by frightening it with spirits and
hobgoblins. Now that the growth of the human race is rapid, it is
time to speak reason to it; it is time to prove to men that the
springs of their improvement are to be found in their very
organization, in the interest of their passions, and in all that
composes their existence. It is time to demonstrate that morality
is a physical and geometrical science, subject to the rules and
calculations of the other mathematical sciences: and such is the
advantage of the system expounded in this book, that the basis of
morality being laid in it on the very nature of things, it is both
constant and immutable; whereas, in all other theological systems,
morality being built upon arbritary opinions, not demonstrable and
often absurd, it changes, decays, expires with them, and leaves men
in an absolute depravation. It is true that because our system is
founded on facts and not on reveries, it will with much greater
difficulty be extended and adopted: but it will derive strength
from this very struggle, and sooner or later the eternal religion
of Nature must overturn the transient religions of the human mind.

This book was published for the first time in 1793, under the title
of The French Citizen's Catechism. It was at first intended for a
national work, but as it may be equally well entitled the Catechism
of men of sense and honor, it is to be hoped that it will become a
book common to all Europe. It is possible that its brevity may
prevent it from attaining the object of a popular classical work,
but the author will be satisfied if he has at least the merit of
pointing out the way to make a better.

Advertisement of the American Edition.



The superior merits of this work are too well known to require
commendation; but as it is not generally known that there are in
circulation three English translations of it, varying materially in
regard to faithfulness and elegance of diction, the publisher of
the present edition inserts the following extracts for the
information of purchasers and readers:


First published in this Country by Dixon and Sickels.


Hail, solitary ruins! holy sepulchres, and silent walls! you I
invoke; to you I address my prayer. While your aspect averts, with
secret terror, the vulgar regard, it excites in my heart the charm
of delicious sentiments--sublime contemplations. What useful
lessons! what affecting and profound reflections you suggest to him
who knows how to consult you. When the whole earth, in chains and
silence, bowed the neck before its tyrants, you had already
proclaimed the truths which they abhor, and confounding the dust of
the king with that of the meanest slave, had announced to man the
sacred dogma of Equality! Within your pale, in solitary adoration
of Liberty, I saw her Genius arise from the mansions of the dead;
not such as she is painted by the impassioned multitude, armed with
fire and sword, but under the august aspect of justice, poising in
her hand the sacred balance, wherein are weighed the actions of men
at the gates of eternity.

O Tombs! what virtues are yours! you appal the tyrant's heart, and
poison with secret alarm his impious joys; he flies, with coward
step, your incorruptible aspect, and erects afar his throne of



Solitary ruins, sacred tombs, ye mouldering and silent walls, all
hail! To you I address my invocation. While the vulgar shrink
from your aspect with secret terror, my heart finds in the
contemplation a thousand delicious sentiments, a thousand admirable
recollections. Pregnant, I may truly call you, with useful
lessons, with pathetic and irresistible advice to the man who knows
how to consult you. A while ago the whole world bowed the neck in
silence before the tyrants that oppressed it; and yet in that
hopeless moment you already proclaimed the truths that tyrants hold
in abhorrence: mixing the dust of the proudest kings with that of
the meanest slaves, you called upon us to contemplate this example
of Equality. From your caverns, whither the musing and anxious
love of Liberty led me, I saw escape its venerable shade, and with
unexpected felicity, direct its flight and marshal my steps the way
to renovated France.

Tombs! what virtues and potency do you exhibit! Tyrants tremble at
your aspect--you poison with secret alarm their impious pleasures--
they turn from you with impatience, and, coward like, endeavor to
forget you amid the sumptuousness of their palaces.



Hail, ye solitary ruins, ye sacred tombs, and silent walls! 'Tis
your auspicious aid that I invoke; 'tis to you my soul, wrapt in
meditation, pours forth its prayers! What though the profane and
vulgar mind shrinks with dismay from your august and awe-inspiring
aspect; to me you unfold the sublimest charms of contemplation and
sentiment, and offer to my senses the luxury of a thousand
delicious and enchanting thoughts! How sumptuous the feast to a
being that has a taste to relish, and an understanding to consult
you! What rich and noble admonitions; what exquisite and pathetic
lessons do you read to a heart that is susceptible of exalted
feelings! When oppressed humanity bent in timid silence throughout
the globe beneath the galling yoke of slavery, it was you that
proclaimed aloud the birthright of those truths which tyrants
tremble at while they detect, and which, by sinking the loftiest
head of the proudest potentate, with all his boasted pageantry, to
the level of mortality with his meanest slave, confirmed and
ratified by your unerring testimony the sacred and immortal
doctrine of Equality.

Musing within the precincts of your inviting scenes of philosophic
solitude, whither the insatiate love of true-born Liberty had led
me, I beheld her Genius ascending, not in the spurious character
and habit of a blood-thirsty Fury, armed with daggers and
instruments of murder, and followed by a frantic and intoxicated
multitude, but under the placid and chaste aspect of Justice,
holding with a pure and unsullied hand the sacred scales in which
the actions of mortals are weighed on the brink of eternity.

The first translation was made and published in London soon after
the appearance of the work in French, and, by a late edition, is
still adopted without alteration. Mr. Volney, when in this country
in 1797, expressed his disapprobation of this translation, alleging
that the translator must have been overawed by the government or
clergy from rendering his ideas faithfully; and, accordingly, an
English gentleman, then in Philadelphia, volunteered to correct
this edition. But by his endeavors to give the true and full
meaning of the author with great precision, he has so overloaded
his composition with an exuberance of words, as in a great measure
to dissipate the simple elegance and sublimity of the original.
Mr. Volney, when he became better acquainted with the English
language, perceived this defect; and with the aid of our
countryman, Joel Barlow, made and published in Paris a new,
correct, and elegant translation, of which the present edition is a
faithful and correct copy.


Publisher's Preface
Translator's Preface
Preface of London Edition
Preface of the American Edition
Advertisement of the American Edition
The Life of Volney
A List of Volney's Works
Chap. I. The Journey
II. The Reverie
III. The Apparition
IV. The Exposition
V. Condition of Man in the Universe
VI. The Primitive State of Man
VII. Principles of Society
VIII. Sources of the Evils of Societies
IX. Origin of Governments and Laws
X. General Causes of the Prosperity of Ancient States
XI. General Causes of the Revolutions and Ruin of Ancient States
XII. Lessons of Times Past repeated on the Present
XIII. Will the Human Race Improve
XIV. The Great Obstacle to Improvement
XV. The New Age
XVI. A Free and Legislative People
XVII. Universal Basis of all Right and all Law
XVIII. Consternation and Conspiracy of Tyrants
XIX. General Assembly of the Nations
XX. The Search of Truth
XXI. Problem of Religious Contradictions
XXII. Origin and Filiation of Religious Ideas
I. Origin of the Idea of God: Worship of the Elements
and of the Physical Powers of Nature
II. Second System. Worship of the Stars, or Sabeism
III. Third System. Worship of Symbols, or Idolatry
IV. Fourth System. Worship of two Principles, or Dualism
V. Moral and Mystical Worship, or System of a Future State
VI. Sixth System. The Animated World, or Worship of the
Universe under diverse Emblems
VII. Seventh System. Worship of the Soul of the World, that
is to say, the Element of Fire, Vital Principle
of the Universe
VIII. Eighth System. The World Machine: Worship of the Demi-
Ourgos, or Grand Artificer
IX. Religion of Moses, or Worship of the Soul of the World
X. Religion of Zoroaster
XI. Budsoism, or Religion of the Samaneans
XII. Brahmism, or Indian System
XIII. Christianity, or the Allegorical Worship of the Sun
under the cabalistic names of Chrish-en or Christ
and Yesus or Jesus
XXIII. All Religions have the same Object
XXIV. Solution of the Problem of Contradictions


Chap. I. Of the Law of Nature
II. Characters of the Law of Nature
III. Principles of the Law of Nature relating to Man
IV. Basis of Morality: of Good, of Evil, of Sin, of Crime,
of Vice, and of Virtue
V. Of Individual Virtues
VI. On Temperance
VII. On Continence
VIII. On Courage and Activity
IX. On Cleanliness
X. On Domestic Virtues
XI. The Social Virtues; Justice
XII. Development of the Social Virtues

Volney's Answer to Dr. Priestly.

Appendix: The Zodiacal Signs and Constellations



Constantine Francis Chassebeuf De Volney was born in 1757 at Craon,
in that intermediate condition of life, which is of all the
happiest, since it is deprived only of fortune's too dangerous
favors, and can aspire to the social and intellectual advantages
reserved for a laudable ambition.

From his earliest youth, he devoted himself to the search after
truth, without being disheartened by the serious studies which
alone can initiate us into her secrets. After having become
acquainted with the ancient languages, the natural sciences and
history, and being admitted into the society of the most eminent
literary characters, he submitted, at the age of twenty, to an
illustrious academy, the solution of one of the most difficult
problems that the history of antiquity has left open for
discussion. This attempt received no encouragement from the
learned men who were appointed his judges; and the author's only
appeal from their sentence was to his courage and his efforts.

Soon after, a small inheritance having fallen to his lot, the
difficulty was how to spend it (these are his own words.) He
resolved to employ it in acquiring, by a long voyage, a new fund of
information, and determined to visit Egypt and Syria. But these
countries could not be explored to advantage without a knowledge of
the language. Our young traveller was not to be discouraged by
this difficulty. Instead of learning Arabic in Europe, he withdrew
to a convent of Copts, until he had made himself master of an idiom
that is spoken by so many nations of the East. This resolution
showed one of those undaunted spirits that remain unshaken amid the
trials of life.

Although, like other travellers, he might have amused us with an
account of his hardships and the perils surmounted by his courage,
he overcame the temptation of interrupting his narrative by
personal adventures. He disdained the beaten track. He does not
tell us the road he took, the accidents he met with, or the
impressions he received. He carefully avoids appearing upon the
stage; he is an inhabitant of the country, who has long and well
observed it, and who describes its physical, political, and moral
state. The allusion would be entire if an old Arab could be
supposed to possess all the erudition, all the European philosophy,
which are found united and in their maturity in a traveller of

But though a master in all those artifices by which a narration is
rendered interesting, the young man is not to be discerned in the
pomp of labored descriptions. Although possessed of a lively and
brilliant imagination, he is never found unwarily explaining by
conjectural systems the physical or moral phenomena he describes.
In his observations he unites prudence with science. With these
two guides he judges with circumspection, and sometimes confesses
himself unable to account for the effects he has made known to us.

Thus his account has all the qualities that persuade--accuracy and
candor. And when, ten years later, a vast military enterprise
transported forty thousand travellers to the classic ground, which
he had trod unattended, unarmed and unprotected, they all
recognized a sure guide and an enlightened observer in the writer
who had, as it seemed, only preceded them to remove or point out a
part of the difficulties of the way.

The unanimous testimony of all parties proved the accuracy of his
account and the justness of his observations; and his Travels in
Egypt and Syria were, by universal suffrage, recommended to the
gratitude and the confidence of the public.

Before the work had undergone this trial it had obtained in the
learned world such a rapid and general success, that it found its
way into Russia. The empress, then (in 1787) upon the throne, sent
the author a medal, which he received with respect, as a mark of
esteem for his talents, and with gratitude, as a proof of the
approbation given to his principles. But when the empress declared
against France, Volney sent back the honorable present, saying: "If
I obtained it from her esteem, I can only preserve her esteem by
returning it."

The revolution of 1789, which had drawn upon France the menaces of
Catharine, had opened to Volney a political career. As deputy in
the assembly of the states-general, the first words he uttered
there were in favor of the publicity of their deliberations. He
also supported the organization of the national guards, and that of
the communes and departments.

At the period when the question of the sale of the domain lands was
agitated (in 1790), he published an essay in which he lays down the
following principles: "The force of a State is in proportion to its
population; population is in proportion to plenty; plenty is in
proportion to tillage; and tillage, to personal and immediate
interest, that is to the spirit of property. Whence it follows,
that the nearer the cultivator approaches the passive condition of
a mercenary, the less industry and activity are to be expected from
him; and, on the other hand, the nearer he is to the condition of a
free and entire proprietor, the more extension he gives to his own
forces, to the produce of his lands, and the general prosperity of
the State."

The author draws this conclusion, that a State is so much the more
powerful as it includes a greater number of proprietors,--that is,
a greater division of property.

Conducted into Corsica by that spirit of observation which belongs
only to men whose information is varied and extensive, he perceived
at the first glance all that could be done for the improvement of
agriculture in that country: but he knew that, for a people firmly
attached to ancient customs, there can exist no other demonstration
or means of persuasion than example. He purchased a considerable
estate, and made experiments on those kinds of tillage that he
hoped to naturalize in that climate. The sugar-cane, cotton,
indigo and coffee soon demonstrated the success of his efforts.
This success drew upon him the notice of the government. He was
appointed director of agriculture and commerce in that island,
where, through ignorance, all new methods are introduced with such

It is impossible to calculate all the good that might have resulted
from this peaceable magistracy; and we know that neither
instruction, zeal, nor a persevering courage was wanting to him who
had undertaken it. Of this he had given convincing proofs. It was
in obedience to another sentiment, no less respectable, that he
voluntarily interrupted the course of his labors. When his fellow
citizens of Angers appointed him their deputy in the constituent
assembly, he resigned the employment he held under government, upon
the principle that no man can represent the nation and be dependent
for a salary upon those by whom it is administered.

Through respect for the independence of his legislative functions,
he had ceased to occupy the place he possessed in Corsica before
his election, but he had not ceased to be a benefactor of that
country. He returned thither after the session of the constituent
assembly. Invited into that island by the principal inhabitants,
who were anxious to put into practice his lessons, he spent there a
part of the years 1792 and 1793.

On his return he published a work entitled: An Account of the
Present State of Corsica. This was an act of courage; for it was
not a physical description, but a political review of the condition
of a population divided into several factions and distracted by
violent animosities. Volney unreservedly revealed the abuses,
solicited the interest of France in favor of the Corsicans, without
flattering them, and boldly denounced their defects and vices; so
that the philosopher obtained the only recompense he could expect
from his sincerity--he was accused by the Corsicans of heresy.

To prove that he had not merited this reproach, he published soon
after a short treatise entitled: The Law of Nature, or Physical
Principles of Morality.

He was soon exposed to a much more dangerous charge, and this, it
must be confessed, he did merit. This philosopher, this worthy
citizen, who in our first National assembly had seconded with his
wishes and his talents the establishment of an order of things
which he considered favorable to the happiness of his country, was
accused of not being sincerely attached to that liberty for which
he had contended; that is to say, of being averse to anarchy. An
imprisonment of ten months, which only ended after the 9th of
Thermidor, was a new trial reserved for his courage.

The moment at which he recovered his liberty, was when the horror
inspired by criminal excesses had recalled men to those noble
sentiments which fortunately are one of the first necessaries of
civilized life. They sought for consolations in study and
literature after so many misfortunes, and organized a plan of
public instruction.

It was in the first place necessary to insure the aptitude of those
to whom education should be confided; but as the systems were
various, the best methods and a unity of doctrine were to be
determined. It was not enough to interrogate the masters, they
were to be formed, new ones were to be created, and for that
purpose a school was opened in 1794, wherein the celebrity of the
professors promised new instruction even to the best informed.
This was not, as was objected, beginning the edifice at the roof,
but creating architects, who were to superintend all the arts
requisite for constructing the building.

The more difficult their functions were, the greater care was to be
taken in the choice of the professors; but France, though then
accused of being plunged in barbarism, possessed men of
transcendent talents, already enjoying the esteem of all Europe,
and we may be bold to say, that by their labors, our literary glory
had likewise extended its conquests. Their names were proclaimed
by the public voice, and Volney's was associated with those of the
men most illustrious in science and in literature.*

* Lagrange, Laplace, Berthollet, Garat, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre,
Daubenton, Hauy, Volney, Sicard, Monge, Thouin, La Harpe, Buache

This institution, however, did not answer the expectations that had
been formed of it, because the two thousand students that assembled
from all parts of France were not equally prepared to receive these
transcendent lessons, and because it had not been sufficiently
ascertained how far the theory of education should be kept distinct
from education itself.

Volney's Lectures on History, which were attended by an immense
concourse of auditors, became one of his chief claims to literary
glory. When forced to interrupt them, by the suppression of the
Normal school, he might have reasonably expected to enjoy in his
retirement that consideration which his recent functions had added
to his name. But, disgusted with the scenes he had witnessed in
his native land, he felt that passion revive within him which, in
his youth, had led him to visit Africa and Asia. America,
civilized within a century, and free only within a few years, fixed
his attention. There every thing was new,--the inhabitants, the
constitution, the earth itself. These were objects worthy of his
observation. When embarking for this voyage, however, he felt
emotions very different from those which formerly accompanied him
into Turkey. Then in the prime of life, he joyfully bid adieu to a
land where peace and plenty reigned, to travel amongst barbarians;
now, mature in years, but dismayed at the spectacle and experience
of injustice and persecution, it was with diffidence, as we learn
from himself, that he went to implore from a free people an asylum
for a sincere friend of that liberty that had been so profaned.

Our traveller had gone to seek for repose beyond the seas. He
there found himself exposed to aggression from a celebrated
philosopher, Dr. Priestley. Although the subject of this
discussion was confined to the investigation of some speculative
opinions, published by the French writer in his work entitled The
Ruins, the naturalist in this attack employed a degree of violence
which added nothing to the force of his arguments, and an acrimony
of expression not to be expected from a philosopher. M. Volney,
though accused of Hottentotism and ignorance, preserved in his
defence, all the advantages that the scurrility of his adversary
gave over him. He replied in English, and Priestley's countrymen
could only recognize the Frenchman in the refinement and politeness
of his answer.

Whilst M. Volney was travelling in America, there had been formed
in France a literary body which, under the name of Institute, had
attained in a very few years a distinguished rank amongst the
learned societies of Europe. The name of the illustrious traveller
was inscribed in it at its formation, and he acquired new rights to
the academical honors conferred on him during his absence, by the
publication of his observations On the Climate and Soil of the
United States.

These rights were further augmented by the historical and
physiological labors of the Academician. An examination and
justification of The Chronology of Herodotus, with numerous and
profound researches on The History of the most Ancient Nations,
occupied for a long time him who had observed their monuments and
traces in the countries they inhabited. The trial he had made of
the utility of the Oriental languages inspired him with an ardent
desire to propagate the knowledge of them; and to be propagated, he
felt how necessary it was to render it less difficult. In this
view he conceived the project of applying to the study of the
idioms of Asia, a part of the grammatical notions we possess
concerning the languages of Europe. It only appertains to those
conversant with their relations of dissimilitude or conformity to
appreciate the possibility of realizing this system. The author
has, however, already received the most flattering encouragement
and the most unequivocal appreciation, by the inscription of his
name amongst the members of the learned and illustrious society
founded by English commerce in the Indian peninsula.

M. Volney developed his system in three works,* which prove that
this idea of uniting nations separated by immense distances and
such various idioms, had never ceased to occupy him for twenty-five
years. Lest those essays, of the utility of which he was
persuaded, should be interrupted by his death, with the clay-cold
hand that corrected his last work, he drew up a will which
institutes a premium for the prosecution of his labors. Thus he
prolonged, beyond the term of a life entirely devoted to letters,
the glorious services he had rendered to them.

* On the Simplification of Oriental Languages, 1795.
The European Alphabet Applied to the Languages of Asia, 1819.
Hebrew Simplified, 1820.

This is not the place, nor does it belong to me to appreciate the
merit of the writings which render Volney's name illustrious. His
name had been inscribed in the list of the Senate, and afterwards
of the House of Peers. The philosopher who had travelled in the
four quarters of the world, and observed their social state, had
other titles to his admission into this body, than his literary
glory. His public life, his conduct in the constituent assembly,
his independent principles, the nobleness of his sentiments, the
wisdom and fixity of his opinions, had gained him the esteem of
those who can be depended upon, and with whom it is so agreeable to
discuss political interests.

Although no man had a better right to have an opinion, no one was
more tolerant for the opinions of others. In State assemblies as
well as in Academical meetings, the man whose counsels were so
wise, voted according to his conscience, which nothing could bias;
but the philosopher forgot his superiority to hear, to oppose with
moderation, and sometimes to doubt. The extent and variety of his
information, the force of his reason, the austerity of his manners,
and the noble simplicity of his character, had procured him
illustrious friends in both hemispheres; and now that this
erudition is extinct in the tomb,* we may be allowed at least to
predict that he was one of the very few whose memory shall never

* He died in Paris on the 20th of April, 1820.

A list of the Works Published by Count Volney.

TRAVELS IN EGYPT AND SYRIA during the years 1783, 1784, and 1785: 2
vols. 8vo.--1787.

CHRONOLOGY OF THE TWELVE CENTURIES that preceded the entrance of
Xerxes into Greece.


THE RUINS, or Meditations on the Revolutions of Empires--1791.


THE LAW OF NATURE, or Physical Principles of Morality--1793.



LECTURES ON HISTORY, delivered at the Normal School in the year 3--

is added an account of Florida, of the French colony of Scioto, of
some Canadian Colonies, and of the Savages--1803.

PALLAS, entitled "A Comparative Vocabulary of all the Languages in
the World."

THE CHRONOLOGY OF HERODOTUS conformable with his Text--1808 and


THE EUROPEAN ALPHABET Applied to the Languages of Asia--1819.




Hail solitary ruins, holy sepulchres and silent walls! you I
invoke; to you I address my prayer. While your aspect averts, with
secret terror, the vulgar regard, it excites in my heart the charm
of delicious sentiments--sublime contemplations. What useful
lessons, what affecting and profound reflections you suggest to him
who knows how to consult you! When the whole earth, in chains and
silence bowed the neck before its tyrants, you had already
proclaimed the truths which they abhor; and confounding the dust of
the king with that of the meanest slave, had announced to man the
sacred dogma of Equality. Within your pale, in solitary adoration
of Liberty, I saw her Genius arise from the mansions of the dead;
not such as she is painted by the impassioned multitude, armed with
fire and sword, but under the august aspect of Justice, poising in
her hand the sacred balance wherein are weighed the actions of men
at the gates of eternity!

O Tombs! what virtues are yours! You appal the tyrant's heart, and
poison with secret alarm his impious joys. He flies, with coward
step, your incorruptible aspect, and erects afar his throne of
insolence.* You punish the powerful oppressor; you wrest from
avarice and extortion their ill-gotten gold, and you avenge the
feeble whom they have despoiled; you compensate the miseries of the
poor by the anxieties of the rich; you console the wretched, by
opening to him a last asylum from distress; and you give to the
soul that just equipoise of strength and sensibility which
constitutes wisdom--the true science of life. Aware that all must
return to you, the wise man loadeth not himself with the burdens of
grandeur and of useless wealth: he restrains his desires within the
limits of justice; yet, knowing that he must run his destined
course of life, he fills with employment all its hours, and enjoys
the comforts that fortune has allotted him. You thus impose on the
impetuous sallies of cupidity a salutary rein! you calm the
feverish ardor of enjoyments which disturb the senses; you free the
soul from the fatiguing conflict of the passions; elevate it above
the paltry interests which torment the crowd; and surveying, from
your commanding position, the expanse of ages and nations, the mind
is only accessible to the great affections--to the solid ideas of
virtue and of glory.

* The cathedral of St. Denis is the tomb of the kings of France;
and it was because the towers of that edifice are seen from the
Castle of St. Germain, that Louis XIV. quitted that admirable
residence, and established a new one in the savage forests of

(This note, like many others, has been omitted from the American
editions. It seems pertinent to the subject, and is explanatory of
the text.--Pub.)

Ah! when the dream of life is over, what will then avail all its
agitations, if not one trace of utility remains behind?

O Ruins! to your school I will return! I will seek again the calm
of your solitudes; and there, far from the afflicting spectacle of
the passions, I will cherish in remembrance the love of man, I will
employ myself on the means of effecting good for him, and build my
own happiness on the promotion of his.




In the eleventh year of the reign of Abd-ul-Hamid, son of Ahmid,
emperor of the Turks; when the Nogais-Tartars were driven from the
Crimea, and a Mussulman prince of the blood of Gengis-Kahn became
the vassal and guard of a Christian woman and queen,* I was
travelling in the Ottoman dominions, and through those provinces
which were anciently the kingdoms of Egypt and Syria.

* In the eleventh year of Abd-ul-Hamid, that is 1784 of the
Christian era, and 1198 of the Hegira. The emigration of the
Tartars took place in March, immediately on the manifesto of the
empress, declaring the Crimea to be incorporated with Russia. The
Mussulman prince of the blood of Gengis-khan was Chahin-Guerai.
Gengis-Khan was borne and served by the kings whom he conquered:
Chahin, on the contrary, after selling his country for a pension of
eighty thousand roubles, accepted the commission of captain of
guards to Catherine II. He afterwards returned home, and according
to custom was strangled by the Turks.

My whole attention bent on whatever concerns the happiness of man
in a social state, I visited cities, and studied the manners of
their inhabitants; entered palaces, and observed the conduct of
those who govern; wandered over fields, and examined the condition
of those who cultivated them: and nowhere perceiving aught but
robbery and devastation, tyranny and wretchedness, my heart was
oppressed with sorrow and indignation.

I saw daily on my road fields abandoned, villages deserted, and
cities in ruin. Often I met with ancient monuments, wrecks of
temples, palaces and fortresses, columns, aqueducts and tombs.
This spectacle led me to meditate on times past, and filled my mind
with contemplations the most serious and profound.

Arrived at the city of Hems, on the border of the Orontes, and
being in the neighborhood of Palmyra of the desert, I resolved to
visit its celebrated ruins. After three days journeying through
arid deserts, having traversed the Valley of Caves and Sepulchres,
on issuing into the plain, I was suddenly struck with a scene of
the most stupendous ruins--a countless multitude of superb columns,
stretching in avenues beyond the reach of sight. Among them were
magnificent edifices, some entire, others in ruins; the earth every
where strewed with fragments of cornices, capitals, shafts,
entablatures, pilasters, all of white marble, and of the most
exquisite workmanship. After a walk of three-quarters of an hour
along these ruins, I entered the enclosure of a vast edifice,
formerly a temple dedicated to the Sun; and accepting the
hospitality of some poor Arabian peasants, who had built their
hovels on the area of the temple, I determined to devote some days
to contemplate at leisure the beauty of these stupendous ruins.

Daily I visited the monuments which covered the plain; and one
evening, absorbed in reflection, I had advanced to the Valley of
Sepulchres. I ascended the heights which surround it from whence
the eye commands the whole group of ruins and the immensity of the
desert. The sun had sunk below the horizon: a red border of light
still marked his track behind the distant mountains of Syria; the
full-orbed moon was rising in the east, on a blue ground, over the
plains of the Euphrates; the sky was clear, the air calm and
serene; the dying lamp of day still softened the horrors of
approaching darkness; the refreshing night breezes attempered the
sultry emanations from the heated earth; the herdsmen had given
their camels to repose, the eye perceived no motion on the dusky
and uniform plain; profound silence rested on the desert; the
howlings only of the jackal,* and the solemn notes of the bird of
night, were heard at distant intervals. Darkness now increased,
and through the dusk could only be discerned the pale phantasms of
columns and walls. The solitude of the place, the tranquillity of
the hour, the majesty of the scene, impressed on my mind a
religious pensiveness. The aspect of a great city deserted, the
memory of times past, compared with its present state, all elevated
my mind to high contemplations. I sat on the shaft of a column, my
elbow reposing on my knee, and head reclining on my hand, my eyes
fixed, sometimes on the desert, sometimes on the ruins, and fell
into a profound reverie.

* An animal resembling a dog and a fox. It preys on other small
animals, and upon the bodies of the dead on the field of battle.
It is the Canis aureus of Linnaeus.



Here, said I, once flourished an opulent city; here was the seat of
a powerful empire. Yes! these places now so wild and desolate,
were once animated by a living multitude; a busy crowd thronged in
these streets, now so solitary. Within these walls, where now
reigns the silence of death, the noise of the arts, and the shouts
of joy and festivity incessantly resounded; these piles of marble
were regular palaces; these fallen columns adorned the majesty of
temples; these ruined galleries surrounded public places. Here
assembled a numerous people for the sacred duties of their
religion, and the anxious cares of their subsistence; here
industry, parent of enjoyments, collected the riches of all climes,
and the purple of Tyre was exchanged for the precious thread of
Serica;* the soft tissues of Cassimere for the sumptuous tapestry
of Lydia; the amber of the Baltic for the pearls and perfumes of
Arabia; the gold of Ophir for the tin of Thule.

* The precious thread of Serica.--That is, the silk originally
derived from the mountainous country where the great wall
terminates, and which appears to have been the cradle of the
Chinese empire. The tissues of Cassimere.--The shawls which
Ezekiel seems to have described under the appellation of Choud-
choud. The gold of Ophir.-- This country, which was one of the
twelve Arab cantons, and which has so much and so unsuccessfully
been sought for by the antiquarians, has left, however, some trace
of itself in Ofor, in the province of Oman, upon the Persian Gulf,
neighboring on one side to the Sabeans, who are celebrated by
Strabo for their abundance of gold, and on the other to Aula or
Hevila, where the pearl fishery was carried on. See the 27th
chapter of Ezekiel, which gives a very curious and extensive
picture of the commerce of Asia at that period.

And now behold what remains of this powerful city: a miserable
skeleton! What of its vast domination: a doubtful and obscure
remembrance! To the noisy concourse which thronged under these
porticoes, succeeds the solitude of death. The silence of the
grave is substituted for the busy hum of public places; the
affluence of a commercial city is changed into wretched poverty;
the palaces of kings have become a den of wild beasts; flocks
repose in the area of temples, and savage reptiles inhabit the
sanctuary of the gods. Ah! how has so much glory been eclipsed?
how have so many labors been annihilated? Do thus perish then the
works of men--thus vanish empires and nations?

And the history of former times revived in my mind; I remembered
those ancient ages when many illustrious nations inhabited these
countries; I figured to myself the Assyrian on the banks of the
Tygris, the Chaldean on the banks of the Euphrates, the Persian
reigning from the Indus to the Mediterranean. I enumerated the
kingdoms of Damascus and Idumea, of Jerusalem and Samaria, the
warlike states of the Philistines, and the commercial republics of
Phoenicia. This Syria, said I, now so depopulated, then contained
a hundred flourishing cities, and abounded with towns, villages,
and hamlets.* In all parts were seen cultivated fields, frequented
roads, and crowded habitations. Ah! whither have flown those ages
of life and abundance?--whither vanished those brilliant creations
of human industry? Where are those ramparts of Nineveh, those
walls of Babylon, those palaces of Persepolis, those temples of
Balbec and of Jerusalem? Where are those fleets of Tyre, those
dock-yards of Arad, those work-shops of Sidon, and that multitude
of sailors, of pilots, of merchants, and of soldiers? Where those
husbandmen, harvests, flocks, and all the creation of living beings
in which the face of the earth rejoiced? Alas! I have passed over
this desolate land! I have visited the palaces, once the scene of
so much splendor, and I beheld nothing but solitude and desolation.
I sought the ancient inhabitants and their works, and found nothing
but a trace, like the foot-prints of a traveller over the sand.
The temples are fallen, the palaces overthrown, the ports filled
up, the cities destroyed; and the earth, stripped of inhabitants,
has become a place of sepulchres. Great God! whence proceed such
fatal revolutions? What causes have so changed the fortunes of
these countries? Wherefore are so many cities destroyed? Why has
not this ancient population been reproduced and perpetuated?

* According to Josephus and Strabo, there were in Syria twelve
millions of souls, and the traces that remain of culture and
habitation confirm the calculation.

Thus absorbed in meditation, a crowd of new reflections continually
poured in upon my mind. Every thing, continued I, bewilders my
judgment, and fills my heart with trouble and uncertainty. When
these countries enjoyed what constitutes the glory and happiness of
man, they were inhabited by infidel nations: It was the Phoenician,
offering human sacrifices to Moloch, who gathered into his stores
the riches of all climates; it was the Chaldean, prostrate before
his serpent-god,* who subjugated opulent cities, laid waste the
palaces of kings, and despoiled the temples of the gods; it was the
Persian, worshipper of fire, who received the tribute of a hundred
nations; they were the inhabitants of this very city, adorers of
the sun and stars, who erected so many monuments of prosperity and
luxury. Numerous herds, fertile fields, abundant harvests--
whatsoever should be the reward of piety--was in the hands of these
idolaters. And now, when a people of saints and believers occupy
these fields, all is become sterility and solitude. The earth,
under these holy hands, produces only thorns and briers. Man
soweth in anguish, and reapeth tears and cares. War, famine,
pestilence, assail him by turns. And yet, are not these the
children of the prophets? The Mussulman, Christian, Jew, are they
not the elect children of God, loaded with favors and miracles?
Why, then, do these privileged races no longer enjoy the same
advantages? Why are these fields, sanctified by the blood of
martyrs, deprived of their ancient fertility? Why have those
blessings been banished hence, and transferred for so many ages to
other nations and different climes?

* The dragon Bell.

At these words, revolving in my mind the vicissitudes which have
transmitted the sceptre of the world to people so different in
religion and manners from those in ancient Asia to the most recent
of Europe, this name of a natal land revived in me the sentiment of
my country; and turning my eyes towards France, I began to reflect
on the situation in which I had left her.*

* In the year 1782, at the close of the American war.

I recalled her fields so richly cultivated, her roads so admirably
constructed, her cities inhabited by a countless people, her fleets
spread over every sea, her ports filled with the produce of both
the Indies: and then comparing the activity of her commerce, the
extent of her navigation, the magnificence of her buildings, the
arts and industry of her inhabitants, with what Egypt and Syria had
once possessed, I was gratified to find in modern Europe the
departed splendor of Asia; but the charm of my reverie was soon
dissolved by a last term of comparison. Reflecting that such had
once been the activity of the places I was then contemplating, who
knows, said I, but such may one day be the abandonment of our
countries? Who knows if on the banks of the Seine, the Thames, the
Zuyder-Zee, where now, in the tumult of so many enjoyments, the
heart and the eye suffice not for the multitude of sensations,--who
knows if some traveller, like myself, shall not one day sit on
their silent ruins, and weep in solitude over the ashes of their
inhabitants, and the memory of their former greatness.

At these words, my eyes filled with tears: and covering my head
with the fold of my mantle, I sank into gloomy meditations on all
human affairs. Ah! hapless man, said I in my grief, a blind
fatality sports with thy destiny!* A fatal necessity rules with
the hand of chance the lot of mortals! But no: it is the justice
of heaven fulfilling its decrees!--a God of mystery exercising his
incomprehensible judgments! Doubtless he has pronounced a secret
anathema against this land: blasting with maledictions the present,
for the sins of past generations. Oh! who shall dare to fathom the
depths of the Omnipotent?

* Fatality is the universal and rooted prejudice of the East. "It
was written," is there the answer to every thing. Hence result an
unconcern and apathy, the most powerful impediments to instruction
and civilization.

And sunk in profound melancholy, I remained motionless.



While thus absorbed, a sound struck my ear, like the agitation of a
flowing robe, or that of slow footsteps on dry and rustling grass.
Startled, I opened my mantle, and looking about with fear and
trembling, suddenly, on my left, by the glimmering light of the
moon, through the columns and ruins of a neighboring temple, I
thought I saw an apparition, pale, clothed in large and flowing
robes, such as spectres are painted rising from their tombs. I
shuddered: and while agitated and hesitating whether to fly or to
advance toward the object, a distinct voice, in solemn tones,
pronounced these words:

How long will man importune heaven with unjust complaint? How
long, with vain clamors, will he accuse Fate as the author of his
calamities? Will he forever shut his eyes to the light, and his
heart to the admonitions of truth and reason? The light of truth
meets him everywhere; yet he sees it not! The voice of reason
strikes his ear; and he hears it not! Unjust man! if for a moment
thou canst suspend the delusion which fascinates thy senses, if thy
heart can comprehend the language of reason, interrogate these
ruins! Read the lessons which they present to thee! And you,
evidences of twenty centuries, holy temples! venerable tombs! walls
once so glorious, appear in the cause of nature herself! Approach
the tribunal of sound reason, and bear testimony against unjust
accusations! Come and confound the declamations of a false wisdom
or hypocritical piety, and avenge the heavens and the earth of man
who calumniates them both!

What is that blind fatality, which without order and without law,
sports with the destiny of mortals? What is that unjust necessity,
which confounds the effect of actions, whether of wisdom or of
folly? In what consist the anathemas of heaven over this land?
Where is that divine malediction which perpetuates the abandonment
of these fields? Say, monuments of past ages! have the heavens
changed their laws and the earth its motion? Are the fires of the
sun extinct in the regions of space? Do the seas no longer emit
their vapors? Are the rains and the dews suspended in the air? Do
the mountains withhold their springs? Are the streams dried up?
And do the plants no longer bear fruit and seed? Answer,
generation of falsehood and iniquity, hath God deranged the
primitive and settled order of things which he himself assigned to
nature? Hath heaven denied to earth, and earth to its inhabitants,
the blessings they formerly dispensed? If nothing hath changed in
the creation, if the same means now exist which before existed, why
then are not the present what former generations were? Ah! it is
falsely that you accuse fate and heaven! it is unjustly that you
accuse God as the cause of your evils! Say, perverse and
hypocritical race! if these places are desolate, if these powerful
cities are reduced to solitude, is it God who has caused their
ruin? Is it his hand which has overthrown these walls, destroyed
these temples, mutilated these columns, or is it the hand of man?
Is it the arm of God which has carried the sword into your cities,
and fire into your fields, which has slaughtered the people, burned
the harvests, rooted up trees, and ravaged the pastures, or is it
the hand of man? And when, after the destruction of crops, famine
has ensued, is it the vengeance of God which has produced it, or
the mad fury of mortals? When, sinking under famine, the people
have fed on impure aliments, if pestilence ensues, is it the wrath
of God which sends it, or the folly of man? When war, famine and
pestilence, have swept away the inhabitants, if the earth remains a
desert, is it God who has depopulated it? Is it his rapacity which
robs the husbandman, ravages the fruitful fields, and wastes the
earth, or is it the rapacity of those who govern? Is it his pride
which excites murderous wars, or the pride of kings and their
ministers? Is it the venality of his decisions which overthrows
the fortunes of families, or the corruption of the organs of the
law? Are they his passions which, under a thousand forms, torment
individuals and nations, or are they the passions of man? And if,
in the anguish of their miseries, they see not the remedies, is it
the ignorance of God which is to blame, or their ignorance? Cease
then, mortals, to accuse the decrees of Fate, or the judgments of
the Divinity! If God is good, will he be the author of your
misery? If he is just, will he be the accomplice of your crimes?
No, the caprice of which man complains is not the caprice of fate;
the darkness that misleads his reason is not the darkness of God;
the source of his calamities is not in the distant heavens, it is
beside him on the earth; it is not concealed in the bosom of the
divinity; it dwells within himself, he bears it in his own heart.

Thou murmurest and sayest: What! have an infidel people then
enjoyed the blessings of heaven and earth? Are the holy people of
God less fortunate than the races of impiety? Deluded man! where
then is the contradiction which offends thee? Where is the
inconsistency which thou imputest to the justice of heaven? Take
into thine own hands the balance of rewards and punishments, of
causes and effects. Say: when these infidels observed the laws of
the heavens and the earth, when they regulated well-planned labors
by the order of the seasons and the course of the stars, should the
Almighty have disturbed the equilibrium of the universe to defeat
their prudence? When their hands cultivated these fields with toil
and care, should he have diverted the course of the rains,
suspended the refreshing dews, and planted crops of thorns? When,
to render these arid fields productive, their industry constructed
aqueducts, dug canals, and led the distant waters across the
desert, should he have dried up their sources in the mountains?
Should he have blasted the harvests which art had nourished, wasted
the plains which peace had peopled, overthrown cities which labor
had created, or disturbed the order established by the wisdom of
man? And what is that infidelity which founded empires by its
prudence, defended them by its valor, and strengthened them by its
justice--which built powerful cities, formed capacious ports,
drained pestilential marshes, covered the ocean with ships, the
earth with inhabitants; and, like the creative spirit, spread life
and motion throughout the world? If such be infidelity, what then
is the true faith? Doth sanctity consist in destruction? The God
who peoples the air with birds, the earth with animals, the waters
with fishes--the God who animates all nature--is he then a God of
ruins and tombs? Demands he devastation for homage, and
conflagration for sacrifice? Requires he groans for hymns,
murderers for votaries, a ravaged and desolate earth for his
temple? Behold then, holy and believing people, what are your
works! behold the fruits of your piety! You have massacred the
people, burned their cities, destroyed cultivation, reduced the
earth to a solitude; and you ask the reward of your works!
Miracles then must be performed! The people whom you extirpated
must be recalled to life, the walls rebuilt which you have
overthrown, the harvests reproduced which you have destroyed, the
waters regathered which you have dispersed; the laws, in fine, of
heaven and earth reversed; those laws, established by God himself,
in demonstration of his magnificence and wisdom; those eternal
laws, anterior to all codes, to all the prophets those immutable
laws, which neither the passions nor the ignorance of man can
pervert. But that passion which mistaketh, that ignorance which
observeth neither causes nor effects, hath said in its folly: "All
things flow from chance; a blind fatality poureth out good and evil
upon the earth; success is not to the prudent, nor felicity to the
wise;" or, assuming the language of hypocrisy, she hath said, "all
things are from God; he taketh pleasure in deceiving wisdom and
confounding reason." And Ignorance, applauding herself in her
malice, hath said, "thus will I place myself on a par with that
science which confounds me--thus will I excel that prudence which
fatigues and torments me." And Avarice hath added: "I will oppress
the weak, and devour the fruits of his labors; and I will say, it
is fate which hath so ordained." But I! I swear by the laws of
heaven and earth, and by the law which is written in the heart of
man, that the hypocrite shall be deceived in his cunning--the
oppressor in his rapacity! The sun shall change his course, before
folly shall prevail over wisdom and knowledge, or ignorance surpass
prudence, in the noble and sublime art of procuring to man his true
enjoyments, and of building his happiness on an enduring



Thus spoke the Phantom. Confused with this discourse, and my heart
agitated with different reflections, I remained long in silence.
At length, taking courage, I thus addressed him: Oh, Genius of
tombs and ruins! Thy presence, thy severity, hath disordered my
senses; but the justice of thy discourse restoreth confidence to my
soul. Pardon my ignorance. Alas, if man is blind, shall his
misfortune be also his crime? I may have mistaken the voice of
reason; but never, knowingly, have I rejected its authority. Ah!
if thou readest my heart, thou knowest with what enthusiasm it
seeketh truth. Is it not in its pursuit that thou seest me in this
sequestered spot? Alas! I have wandered over the earth, I have
visited cities and countries; and seeing everywhere misery and
desolation, a sense of the evils which afflict my fellow men hath
deeply oppressed my soul. I have said, with a sigh: is man then
born but for sorrow and anguish? And I have meditated upon human
misery that I might discover a remedy. I have said, I will
separate myself from the corruption of society; I will retire far
from palaces where the mind is depraved by satiety and from the
hovel where it is debased by misery. I will go into the desert and
dwell among ruins; I will interrogate ancient monuments on the
wisdom of past ages; I will invoke from the bosom of the tombs the
spirit which once in Asia gave splendor to states, and glory to
nations; I will ask of the ashes of legislators, by what secret
causes do empires rise and fall; from what sources spring the
Prosperity and misfortunes of nations, on what principles can the
Peace of Society, and the happiness of man be established?

I ceased, and with submissive look awaited the answer of the

Peace and happiness, said he, attend those who practice justice!
Since thy heart, O mortal, with sincerity seeketh truth; since
thine eyes can still recognize her through the mist of prejudice,
thy prayer shall not be in vain. I will unfold to thy view that
truth thou invokest; I will teach thy reason that knowledge thou
seekest; I will reveal to thee the science of ages and the wisdom
of the tombs.

Then approaching and laying his hand on my head, he said:

Rise, mortal, and extricate thy senses from the dust in which thou

Suddenly a celestial flame seemed to dissolve the bands which held
us to the earth; and, like a light vapor, borne on the wings of the
Genius, I felt myself wafted to the regions above. Thence, from
the aerial heights, looking down upon the earth, I perceived a
scene altogether new. Under my feet, floating in the void, a globe
like that of the moon, but smaller and less luminous, presented to
me one of its phases; and that phase* had the aspect of a disk
varigated with large spots, some white and nebulous, others brown,
green or gray, and while I strained my sight to distinguish what
they were, the Genius exclaimed:

* See Plate representing half the terrestrial globe, opposite page

Disciple of Truth, knowest thou that object?

O Genius, answered I, if I did not see the moon in another quarter
of the heavens, I should have supposed that to be her globe. It
has the appearance of that planet seen through the telescope during
the obscuration of an eclipse. These varigated spots might be
mistaken for seas and continents.

They are seas and continents, said he, and those of the very
hemisphere which you inhabit.

What! said I, is that the earth--the habitation of man?

Yes, replied he, that brown space which occupies irregularly a
great portion of the disk, and envelops it almost on every side, is
what you call the great ocean, which advancing from the south pole
towards the equator, forms first the great gulf of India and
Africa, then extends eastward across the Malay islands to the
confines of Tartary, while towards the west it encircles the
continents of Africa and of Europe, even to the north of Asia.

That square peninsula under our feet is the arid country of the
Arabs; the great continent on its left, almost as naked in its
interior, with a little verdure only towards its borders, is the
parched soil inhabited by black-men.* To the north, beyond a long,
narrow and irregular sea,** are the countries of Europe, rich in
meadows and cultivated fields. On its right, from the Caspian Sea,
extend the snowy and naked plains of Tartary. Returning in this
direction that white space is the vast and barren desert of Cobi,
which separates China from the rest of the world. You see that
empire in the furrowed plain which obliquely rounds itself off from
our sight. On yonder coasts, those ragged tongues of land and
scattered points are the peninsulas and islands of the Malays, the
wretched possessors of the spices and perfumes. That triangle
which advances so far into the sea, is the too famous peninsula of
India.*** You see the winding course of the Ganges, the rough
mountains of Thibet, the lovely valley of Cachemere, the briny
deserts of Persia, the banks of the Euphrates and Tygris, the deep
bed of the Jordan and the canals of the solitary Nile.

* Africa.

** The Mediterranean.

*** Of what real good has been the commerce of India to the mass of
the people? On the contrary, how great the evil occasioned by the
superstition of this country having been added the general

O Genius, said I, interrupting him, the sight of a mortal reaches
not to objects at such a distance. He touched my eyes, and
immediately they became piercing as those of an eagle; nevertheless
the rivers still appeared like waving lines, the mountains winding
furrows, and the cities little compartments like the squares of a

And the Genius proceeded to enumerate and point out the objects to
me: Those piles of ruins, said he, which you see in that narrow
valley watered by the Nile, are the remains of opulent cities, the
pride of the ancient kingdom of Ethiopia.* Behold the wrecks of
her metropolis, of Thebes with her hundred palaces,** the parent of
cities, and monument of the caprice of destiny. There a people,
now forgotten, discovered, while others were yet barbarians, the
elements of the arts and sciences. A race of men now rejected from
society for their sable skin and frizzled hair, founded on the
study of the laws of nature, those civil and religious systems
which still govern the universe. Lower down, those dusky points
are the pyramids whose masses have astonished you. Beyond that,
the coast, hemmed in between the sea and a narrow ridge of
mountains, was the habitation of the Phoenicians. These were the
famous cities of Tyre, of Sidon, of Ascalon, of Gaza, and of
Berytus. That thread of water with no outlet, is the river Jordan;
and those naked rocks were once the theatre of events that have
resounded throughout the world. Behold that desert of Horeb, and
that Mount Sinai; where, by means beyond vulgar reach, a genius,
profound and bold, established institutions which have weighed on
the whole human race. On that dry shore which borders it, you
perceive no longer any trace of splendor; yet there was an emporium
of riches. There were those famous Ports of Idumea, whence the
fleets of Phoenicia and Judea, coasting the Arabian peninsula, went
into the Persian gulf, to seek there the pearls of Hevila, the gold
of Saba and of Ophir. Yes, there on that coast of Oman and of
Barhain was the seat of that commerce of luxuries, which, by its
movements and revolutions, fixed the destinies of ancient
nations.*** Thither came the spices and precious stones of Ceylon,
the shawls of Cassimere, the diamonds of Golconda, the amber of
Maldivia, the musk of Thibet, the aloes of Cochin, the apes and
peacocks of the continent of India, the incense of Hadramaut, the
myrrh, the silver, the gold dust and ivory of Africa; thence
passing, sometimes by the Red Sea on the vessels of Egypt and
Syria, these luxuries nourished successively the wealth of Thebes,
of Sidon, of Memphis and of Jerusalem; sometimes, ascending the
Tygris and Euphrates, they awakened the activity of the Assyrians,
Medes, Chaldeans, and Persians; and that wealth, according to the
use or abuse of it, raised or reversed by turns their domination.
Hence sprung the magnificence of Persepolis, whose columns you
still perceive; of Ecbatana, whose sevenfold wall is destroyed; of
Babylon,**** now leveled with the earth; of Nineveh, of which
scarce the name remains; of Thapsacus, of Anatho, of Gerra, and of
desolated Palmyra. O names for ever glorious! fields of renown!
countries of never-dying memory! what sublime lessons doth your
aspect offer! what profound truths are written on the surface of
your soil! remembrances of times past, return into my mind! places,
witnesses of the life of man in so many different ages, retrace for
me the revolutions of his fortune! say, what were their springs and
secret causes! say, from what sources he derived success and
disgrace! unveil to himself the causes of his evils! correct him by
the spectacle of his errors! teach him the wisdom which belongeth
to him, and let the experience of past ages become a means of
instruction, and a germ of happiness to present and future

* In the new Encyclopedia 3rd vol. Antiquities is published a
memoir, respecting the chronology of the twelve ages anterior to
the passing of Xerxes into Greece, in which I conceive myself to
have proved that upper Egypt formerly composed a distinct kingdom
known to the Hebrews by the name of Kous and to which the
appellation of Ethiopia was specially given. This kingdom
preserved its independence to the time of Psammeticus; at which
period, being united to the Lower Egypt, it lost its name of
Ethiopia, which thenceforth was bestowed upon the nations of Nubia
and upon the different tribes of blacks, including Thebes, their

** The idea of a city with a hundred gates, in the common
acceptation of the word, is so absurd, that I am astonished the
equivoque has not before been felt.

It has ever been the custom of the East to call palaces and houses
of the great by the name of gates, because the principal luxury of
these buildings consists in the singular gate leading from the
street into the court, at the farthest extremity of which the
palace is situated. It is under the vestibule of this gate that
conversation is held with passengers, and a sort of audience and
hospitality given. All this was doubtless known to Homer; but
poets make no commentaries, and readers love the marvellous.

This city of Thebes, now Lougsor, reduced to the condition of a
miserable village, has left astonishing monuments of its
magnificence. Particulars of this may be seen in the plates of
Norden, in Pocock, and in the recent travels of Bruce. These
monuments give credibility to all that Homer has related of its
splendor, and lead us to infer its political power and external

Its geographical position was favorable to this twofold object.
For, on one side, the valley of the Nile, singularly fertile, must
have early occasioned a numerous population; and, on the other, the
Red Sea, giving communication with Arabia and India, and the Nile
with Abyssinia and the Mediterranean, Thebes was thus naturally
allied to the richest countries on the globe; an alliance that
procured it an activity so much the greater, as Lower Egypt, at
first a swamp, was nearly, if not totally, uninhabited. But when
at length this country had been drained by the canals and dikes
which Sesostris constructed, population was introduced there, and
wars arose which proved fatal to the power of Thebes. Commerce
then took another route, and descended to the point of the Red Sea,
to the canals of Sesostris (see Strabo), and wealth and activity
were transferred to Memphis. This is manifestly what Diodorus
means when he tells us (lib. i. sect. 2), that as soon as Memphis
was established and made a wholesome and delicious abode, kings
abandoned Thebes to fix themselves there. Thus Thebes continued to
decline, and Memphis to flourish, till the time of Alexander, who,
building Alexandria on the border of the sea, caused Memphis to
fall in its turn; so that prosperity and power seem to have
descended historically step by step along the Nile; whence it
results, both physically and historically, that the existence of
Thebes was prior to that of the other cities. The testimony of
writers is very positive in this respect. "The Thebans," says
Diodorus, "consider themselves as the most ancient people of the
earth, and assert, that with them originated philosophy and the
science of the stars. Their situation, it is true, is infinitely
favorable to astronomical observation, and they have a more
accurate division of time into mouths and years than other nations"

What Diodorus says of the Thebans, every author, and himself
elsewhere, repeat of the Ethiopians, which tends more firmly to
establish the identity of this place of which I have spoken. "The
Ethiopians conceive themselves," says he, lib. iii., "to be of
greater antiquity than any other nation: and it is probable that,
born under the sun's path, its warmth may have ripened them earlier
than other men. They suppose themselves also to be the inventors
of divine worship, of festivals, of solemn assemblies, of
sacrifices, and every other religious practice. They affirm that
the Egyptians are one of their colonies, and that the Delta, which
was formerly sea, became land by the conglomeration of the earth of
the higher country which was washed down by the Nile. They have,
like the Egyptians, two species of letters, hieroglyphics, and the
alphabet; but among the Egyptians the first was known only to the
priests, and by them transmitted from father to son, whereas both
species were common among the Ethiopians."

"The Ethiopians," says Lucian, page 985, "were the first who
invented the science of the stars, and gave names to the planets,
not at random and without meaning, but descriptive of the qualities
which they conceived them to possess; and it was from them that
this art passed, still in an imperfect state, to the Egyptians."

It would be easy to multiply citations upon this subject; from all
which it follows, that we have the strongest reasons to believe
that the country neighboring to the tropic was the cradle of the
sciences, and of consequence that the first learned nation was a
nation of Blacks; for it is incontrovertible, that, by the term
Ethiopians, the ancients meant to represent a people of black
complexion, thick lips, and woolly hair. I am therefore inclined
to believe, that the inhabitants of Lower Egypt were originally a
foreign colony imported from Syria and Arabia, a medley of
different tribes of savages, originally shepherds and fishermen,
who, by degrees formed themselves into a nation, and who, by nature
and descent, were enemies of the Thebans, by whom they were no
doubt despised and treated as barbarians.

I have suggested the same ideas in my Travels into Syria, founded
upon the black complexion of the Sphinx. I have since ascertained
that the antique images of Thebias have the same characteristic;
and Mr. Bruce has offered a multitude of analogous facts; but this
traveller, of whom I heard some mention at Cairo, has so interwoven
these facts with certain systematic opinions, that we should have
recourse to his narratives with caution.

It is singular that Africa, situated so near us, should be the
least known country on the earth. The English are at this moment
making explorations, the success of which ought to excite our

*** Ailah (Eloth), and Atsiom-Gaber (Hesien-Geber.) The name of
the first of these towns still subsists in its ruins, at the point
of the gulf of the Red Sea, and in the route which the pilgrims
take to Mecca. Hesion has at present no trace, any more than
Quolzoum and Faran: it was, however, the harbor for the fleets of
Solomon. The vessels of this prince conducted by the Tyrians,
sailed along the coast of Arabia to Ophir, in the Persian Gulf,
thus opening a communication with the merchants of India and
Ceylon. That this navigation was entirely of Tyrian invention,
appears both from the pilots and shipbuilders employed by the Jews,
and the names that were given to the trading islands, viz. Tyrus
and Aradus, now Barhain. The voyage was performed in two different
modes, either in canoes of osier and rushes, covered on the outside
with skins done over with pitch: (these vessels were unable to quit
the Red Sea, or so much as to leave the shore.) The second mode of
carrying on the trade was by means of vessels with decks of the
size of our river boats, which were able to pass the strait and to
weather the dangers of time ocean; but for this purpose it was
necessary to bring the wood from Mount Libanus and Cilicia, where
it is very fine and in great abundance. This wood was first
conveyed in floats from Tarsus to Phoenicia, for which reason the
vessels were called ships of Tarsus; from whence it has been
ridiculously inferred, that they went round the promontory of
Africa as far as Tortosa in Spain. From Phoenicia it was
transported on the backs of camels to the Red Sea, which practice
still continues, because the shores of this sea are absolutely
unprovided with wood even for fuel. These vessels spent a complete
year in their voyage, that is, sailed one year, sojourned another,
and did not return till the third. This tediousness was owing
first to their cruising from port to port, as they do at present;
secondly, to their being detained by the Monsoon currents; and
thirdly, because, according to the calculations of Pliny and
Strabo, it was the ordinary practice among the ancients to spend
three years in a voyage of twelve hundred leagues. Such a commerce
must have been very expensive, particularly as they were obliged to
carry with them their provisions, and even fresh water. For this
reason Solomon made himself master of Palmyra, which was at that
time inhabited, and was already the magazine and high road of
merchants by the way of the Euphrates. This conquest brought
Solomon much nearer to the country of gold and pearls. This
alternative of a route either by the Red Sea or by the river
Euphrates was to the ancients, what in later times has been the
alternative in a voyage to the Indies, either by crossing the
isthmus of Suez or doubling the cape of Good Hope. It appears that
till the time of Moses, this trade was carried on across the desert
of Syria and Thebais; that afterwards it fell into the hands of the
Phoenicians, who fixed its site upon the Red Sea; and that it was
mutual jealousy that induced the kings of Nineveh and Babylon to
undertake the destruction of Tyre and Jerusalem. I insist the more
upon these facts, because I have never seen any thing reasonable
upon the subject.

**** It appears that Babylon occupied on the eastern banks of the
Euphrates a space of ground six leagues in length. Throughout this
space bricks are found by means of which daily additions are made
to the town of Helle. Upon many of these are characters written
with a nail similar to those of Persepolis. I am indebted for
these facts to M. de Beauchamp, grand vicar of Babylon, a traveller
equally distinguished for his knowledge of astronomy and for his



The Genius, after some moments of silence, resumed in these words:

I have told thee already, O friend of truth! that man vainly
ascribes his misfortunes to obscure and imaginary agents; in vain
he seeks as the source of his evils mysterious and remote causes.
In the general order of the universe his condition is, doubtless,
subject to inconveniences, and his existence governed by superior
powers; but those powers are neither the decrees of a blind
fatality, nor the caprices of whimsical and fantastic beings. Like
the world of which he forms a part, man is governed by natural
laws, regular in their course, uniform in their effects, immutable
in their essence; and those laws,--the common source of good and
evil,--are not written among the distant stars, nor hidden in codes
of mystery; inherent in the nature of terrestrial beings,
interwoven with their existence, at all times and in all places,
they are present to man; they act upon his senses, they warn his
understanding, and give to every action its reward or punishment.
Let man then know these laws! let him comprehend the nature of the
elements which surround him, and also his own nature, and he will
know the regulators of his destiny; he will know the causes of his
evils and the remedies he should apply.

When the hidden power which animates the universe, formed the globe
which man inhabits, he implanted in the beings composing it,
essential properties which became the law of their individual
motion, the bond of their reciprocal relations, the cause of the
harmony of the whole; he thereby established a regular order of
causes and effects, of principles and consequences, which, under an
appearance of chance, governs the universe, and maintains the
equilibrium of the world. Thus, he gave to fire, motion and
activity; to air, elasticity; weight and density to matter; he made
air lighter than water, metal heavier than earth, wood less
cohesive than steel; he decreed flame to ascend, stones to fall,
plants to vegetate; to man, who was to be exposed to the action of
so many different beings, and still to preserve his frail life, he
gave the faculty of sensation. By this faculty all action hurtful
to his existence gives him a feeling of pain and evil, and all
which is salutary, of pleasure and happiness. By these sensations,
man, sometimes averted from that which wounds his senses, sometimes
allured towards that which soothes them, has been obliged to
cherish and preserve his own life; thus, self-love, the desire of
happiness, aversion to pain, become the essential and primary laws
imposed on man by nature herself--the laws which the directing
power, whatever it be, has established for his government--and
which laws, like those of motion in the physical world, are the
simple and fruitful principle of whatever happens in the moral

Such, then, is the condition of man: on one side, exposed to the
action of the elements which surround him, he is subject to many
inevitable evils; and if, in this decree, nature has been severe,
on the other hand, just and even indulgent she has not only
tempered the evils with equivalent good, she has also enabled him
to increase the good and alleviate the evil. She seems to say:

"Feeble work of my hands, I owe thee nothing, and I give thee life;
the world wherein I placed thee was not made for thee, yet I give
thee the use of it; thou wilt find in it a mixture of good and
evil; it is for thee to distinguish them; for thee to guide thy
footsteps in a path containing thorns as well as roses. Be the
arbiter of thine own fate; I put thy destiny into thine own hands!"

Yes, man is made the architect of his own destiny; he, himself,
hath been the cause of the successes or reverses of his own
fortune; and if, on a review of all the pains with which he has
tormented his own life, he finds reason to weep over his own
weakness or imprudence yet, considering the beginnings from which
he sat out, and the height attained, he has, perhaps, still reason
to presume on his strength, and to pride himself on his genius.



Formed naked in body and in mind, man at first found himself
thrown, as it were by chance, on a rough and savage land: an
orphan, abandoned by the unknown power which had produced him, he
saw not by his side beings descended from heaven to warn him of
those wants which arise only from his senses, nor to instruct him
in those duties which spring only from his wants. Like to other
animals, without experience of the past, without foresight of the
future, he wandered in the bosom of the forest, guided only and
governed by the affections of his nature. By the pain of hunger,
he was led to seek food and provide for his subsistence; by the
inclemency of the air, he was urged to cover his body, and he made
him clothes; by the attraction of a powerful pleasure, he
approached a being like himself, and he perpetuated his kind.

Thus the impressions which he received from every object, awakening
his faculties, developed by degrees his understanding, and began to
instruct his profound ignorance: his wants excited industry,
dangers formed his courage; he learned to distinguish useful from
noxious plants, to combat the elements, to seize his prey, to
defend his life; and thus he alleviated its miseries.

Thus self-love, aversion to pain, the desire of happiness, were the
simple and powerful excitements which drew man from the savage and
barbarous condition in which nature had placed him. And now, when
his life is replete with enjoyments, when he may count each day by
the comforts it brings, he may applaud himself and say:

"It is I who have produced the comforts which surround me; it is I
who am the author of my own happiness; a safe dwelling, convenient
clothing, abundant and wholesome nourishment, smiling fields,
fertile hills, populous empires, all is my work; without me this
earth, given up to disorder, would have been but a filthy fen, a
wild wood, a dreary desert."

Yes, creative man, receive my homage! Thou hast measured the span
of the heavens, calculated the volume of the stars, arrested the
lightning in its clouds, subdued seas and storms, subjected all the
elements. Ah! how are so many sublime energies allied to so many



Wandering in the woods and on the banks of rivers in pursuit of
game and fish, the first men, beset with dangers, assailed by
enemies, tormented by hunger, by reptiles, by ravenous beasts, felt
their own individual weakness; and, urged by a common need of
safety, and a reciprocal sentiment of like evils, they united their
resources and their strength; and when one incurred a danger, many
aided and succored him; when one wanted subsistence, another shared
his food with him. Thus men associated to secure their existence,
to augment their powers, to protect their enjoyments; and self-love
thus became the principle of society.

Instructed afterwards by the experience of various and repeated
accidents, by the fatigues of a wandering life, by the distress of
frequent scarcity, men reasoned with themselves and said:

"Why consume our days in seeking scattered fruits from a
parsimonious soil? why exhaust ourselves in pursuing prey which
eludes us in the woods or waters? why not collect under our hands
the animals that nourish us? why not apply our cares in multiplying
and preserving them? We will feed on their increase, be clothed in
their skins, and live exempt from the fatigues of the day and
solicitude for the morrow."

And men, aiding one another, seized the nimble goat, the timid
sheep; they tamed the patient camel, the fierce bull, the impetuous
horse; and, applauding their own industry, they sat down in the joy
of their souls, and began to taste repose and comfort: and self-
love, the principle of all reasoning, became the incitement to
every art, and every enjoyment.

When, therefore, men could pass long days in leisure, and in
communication of their thoughts, they began to contemplate the
earth, the heavens, and their own existence as objects of curiosity
and reflection; they remarked the course of the seasons, the action
of the elements, the properties of fruits and plants; and applied
their thoughts to the multiplication of their enjoyments. And in
some countries, having observed that certain seeds contained a
wholesome nourishment in a small volume, convenient for
transportation and preservation, they imitated the process of
nature; they confided to the earth rice, barley, and corn, which
multiplied to the full measure of their hope; and having found the
means of obtaining within a small compass and without removal,
plentiful subsistence and durable stores, they established
themselves in fixed habitations; they built houses, villages, and
towns; formed societies and nations; and self-love produced all the
developments of genius and of power.

Thus by the aid of his own faculties, man has raised himself to the
astonishing height of his present fortune. Too happy if, observing
scrupulously the law of his being, he had faithfully fulfilled its
only and true object! But, by a fatal imprudence, sometimes
mistaking, sometimes transgressing its limits, he has launched
forth into a labyrinth of errors and misfortunes; and self-love,
sometimes unruly, sometimes blind, became a principle fruitful in



In truth, scarcely were the faculties of men developed, when,
inveigled by objects which gratify the senses, they gave themselves
up to unbridled desires. The sweet sensations which nature had
attached to their real wants, to endear to them their existence, no
longer satisfied them. Not content with the abundance offered by
the earth or produced by industry, they wished to accumulate
enjoyments and coveted those possessed by their fellow men. The
strong man rose up against the feeble, to take from him the fruit
of his labor; the feeble invoked another feeble one to repel the
violence. Two strong ones then said:

"Why fatigue ourselves to produce enjoyments which we may find in
the hands of the weak? Let us join and despoil them; they shall
labor for us, and we will enjoy without labor."

And the strong associating for oppression and the weak for
resistance, men mutually afflicted each other; and a general and
fatal discord spread over the earth, in which the passions,
assuming a thousand new forms, have generated a continued chain of

Thus the same self-love which, moderate and prudent, was a
principle of happiness and perfection, becoming blind and
disordered, was transformed into a corrupting poison; and cupidity,
offspring and companion of ignorance, became the cause of all the
evils that have desolated the earth.

Yes, ignorance and cupidity! these are the twin sources of all the
torments of man! Biased by these into false ideas of happiness, he
has mistaken or broken the laws of nature in his own relation with
external objects; and injuring his own existence, has violated
individual morality; shutting through these his heart to
compassion, and his mind to justice, he has injured and afflicted
his equal, and violated social morality. From ignorance and
cupidity, man has armed against man, family against family, tribe
against tribe; and the earth is become a theatre of blood, of
discord, and of rapine. By ignorance and cupidity, a secret war,
fermenting in the bosom of every state, has separated citizen from
citizen; and the same society has divided itself into oppressors
and oppressed, into masters and slaves; by these, the heads of a
nation, sometimes insolent and audacious, have forged its chains
within its own bowels; and mercenary avarice has founded political
despotism. Sometimes, hypocritical and cunning, they have called
from heaven a lying power, and a sacrilegious yoke; and credulous
cupidity has founded religious despotism. By these have been
perverted the ideas of good and evil, just and unjust, vice and
virtue; and nations have wandered in a labyrinth of errors and

The cupidity of man and his ignorance,--these are the evil genii
which have wasted the earth! These are the decrees of fate which
have overthrown empires! These are the celestial anathemas which
have smitten these walls once so glorious, and converted the
splendor of a populous city into a solitude of mourning and of
ruins! But as in the bosom of man have sprung all the evils which
have afflicted his life, there he also is to seek and to find their



In fact, it soon happened that men, fatigued with the evils they
reciprocally inflicted, began to sigh for peace; and reflecting on
their misfortunes and the causes of them, they said:

"We are mutually injuring each other by our passions; and, aiming
to grasp every thing, we hold nothing. What one seizes to-day,
another takes to-morrow, and our cupidity reacts upon ourselves.
Let us establish judges, who shall arbitrate our rights, and settle
our differences! When the strong shall rise against the weak, the
judge shall restrain him, and dispose of our force to suppress
violence; and the life and property of each shall be under the
guarantee and protection of all; and all shall enjoy the good
things of nature."

Conventions were thus formed in society, sometimes express,
sometimes tacit, which became the rule for the action of
individuals, the measure of their rights, the law of their
reciprocal relations; and persons were appointed to superintend
their observance, to whom the people confided the balance to weigh
rights, and the sword to punish transgressions.

Thus was established among individuals a happy equilibrium of force
and action, which constituted the common security. The name of
equity and of justice was recognized and revered over the earth;
every one, assured of enjoying in peace, the fruits of his toil,
pursued with energy the objects of his attention; and industry,
excited and maintained by the reality or the hope of enjoyment,
developed, all the riches of art and of nature. The fields were
covered with harvests, the valleys with flocks, the hills with
fruits, the sea with vessels, and man became happy and powerful on
the earth. Thus did his own wisdom repair the disorder which his
imprudence had occasioned; and that wisdom was only the effect of
his own organization. He respected the enjoyments of others in
order to secure his own; and cupidity found its corrective in the
enlightened love of self.

Thus the love of self, the moving principle of every individual,
becomes the necessary foundation of every association; and on the
observance of that law of our nature has depended the fate of
nations. Have the factitious and conventional laws tended to that
object and accomplished that aim? Every one, urged by a powerful
instinct, has displayed all the faculties of his being; and the sum
of individual felicities has constituted the general felicity.
Have these laws, on the contrary, restrained the effort of man
toward his own happiness? His heart, deprived of its exciting
principle, has languished in inactivity, and from the oppression of
individuals has resulted the weakness of the state.

As self-love, impetuous and improvident, is ever urging man against
his equal, and consequently tends to dissolve society, the art of
legislation and the merit of administrators consists in attempering
the conflict of individual cupidities, in maintaining an
equilibrium of powers, and securing to every one his happiness, in
order that, in the shock of society against society, all the
members may have a common interest in the preservation and defence
of the public welfare.

The internal splendor and prosperity of empires then, have had for
their efficient cause the equity of their laws and government; and
their respective external powers have been in proportion to the
number of persons interested, and their degree of interest in the
public welfare.

On the other hand, the multiplication of men, by complicating their
relations, having rendered the precise limitation of their rights
difficult, the perpetual play of the passions having produced
incidents not foreseen--their conventions having been vicious,
inadequate, or nugatory--in fine, the authors of the laws having
sometimes mistaken, sometimes disguised their objects; and their
ministers, instead of restraining the cupidity of others, having
given themselves up to their own; all these causes have introduced
disorder and trouble into societies; and the viciousness of laws
and the injustice of governments, flowing from cupidity and
ignorance, have become the causes of the misfortunes of nations,
and the subversion of states.


Back to Full Books