The Ruins, or, Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires: And

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

Re: The Ruins, or, Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires:

Postby admin » Mon Jan 04, 2021 12:28 am

CHAPTER XI. GENERAL CAUSES OF THE REVOLUTIONS AND RUIN OF ANCIENT STATES.

Cupidity had nevertheless excited among men a constant and universal conflict, which incessantly prompting individuals and societies to reciprocal invasions, occasioned successive revolutions, and returning agitations.

And first, in the savage and barbarous state of the first men, this audacious and fierce cupidity produced rapine, violence, and murder, and retarded for a long time the progress of civilization.

When afterwards societies began to be formed, the effect of bad habits, communicated to laws and governments, corrupted their institutions and objects, and established arbitrary and factitious rights, which depraved the ideas of justice, and the morality of the people.

Thus one man being stronger than another, their inequality—an accident of nature—was taken for her law;* and the strong being able to take the life of the weak, and yet sparing him, arrogated over his person an abusive right of property; and the slavery of individuals prepared the way for the slavery of nations.

*Almost all the ancient philosophers and politicians have laid it down as a principle that men are born unequal, that nature his created some to be free, and others to be slaves. Expressions of this kind are to be found in Aristotle, and even in Plato, called the divine, doubtless in the same sense as the mythological reveries which he promulgated. With all the people of antiquity, the Gauls, the Romans, the Athenians, the right of the strongest was the right of nations; and from the same principle are derived all the political disorders and public national crimes that at present exist.

Because the head of a family could be absolute in his house, he made his own affections and desires the rule of his conduct; he gave or resumed his goods without equality, without justice; and paternal despotism laid the foundation of despotism in government.*

* Upon this single expression it would be easy to write a
long and important chapter. We might prove in it, beyond
contradiction, that all the abuses of national governments,
have sprung from those of domestic government, from that
government called patriarchal, which superficial minds have
extolled without having analyzed it. Numberless facts
demonstrate, that with every infant people, in every savage
and barbarous state, the father, the chief of the family, is
a despot, and a cruel and insolent despot. The wife is his
slave, the children his servants. This king sleeps or
smokes his pipe, while his wife and daughters perform all
the drudgery of the house, and even that of tillage and
cultivation, as far as occupations of this nature are
practised in such societies; and no sooner have the boys
acquired strength then they are allowed to beat the females
and make them serve and wait upon them as they do upon their
fathers. Similar to this is the state of our own
uncivilized peasants. In proportion as civilization
spreads, the manners become milder, and the condition of the
women improves, till, by a contrary excess, they arrive at
dominion, and then a nation becomes effeminate and corrupt.
It is remarkable that parental authority is great in
proportion as the government is despotic. China, India, and
Turkey are striking examples of this. One would suppose that
tyrants gave themselves accomplices and interested subaltern
despots to maintain their authority. In opposition to this
the Romans will be cited, but it remains to be proved that
the Romans were men truly free and their quick passage from
their republican despotism to their abject servility under
the emperors, gives room at least for considerable doubt as
to that freedom.


In societies formed on such foundations, when time and labor had developed riches, cupidity restrained by the laws, became more artful, but not less active. Under the mask of union and civil peace, it fomented in the bosom of every state an intestine war, in which the citizens, divided into contending corps of orders, classes, families, unremittingly struggled to appropriate to themselves, under the name of supreme power, the ability to plunder every thing, and render every thing subservient to the dictates of their passions; and this spirit of encroachment, disguised under all possible forms, but always the same in its object and motives, has never ceased to torment the nations.

Sometimes, opposing itself to all social compact, or breaking that which already existed, it committed the inhabitants of a country to the tumultuous shock of all their discords; and states thus dissolved, and reduced to the condition of anarchy, were tormented by the passions of all their members.

Sometimes a nation, jealous of its liberty, having appointed agents to administer its government, these agents appropriated the powers of which they had only the guardianship: they employed the public treasures in corrupting elections, gaining partisans, in dividing the people among themselves. By these means, from being temporary they became perpetual; from elective, hereditary; and the state, agitated by the intrigues of the ambitious, by largesses from the rich and factious, by the venality of the poor and idle, by the influence of orators, by the boldness of the wicked, and the weakness of the virtuous, was convulsed with all the inconveniences of democracy.

The chiefs of some countries, equal in strength and mutually fearing each other, formed impious pacts, nefarious associations; and, apportioning among themselves all power, rank, and honor, unjustly arrogated privileges and immunities; erected themselves into separate orders and distinct classes; reduced the people to their control; and, under the name of aristocracy, the state was tormented by the passions of the wealthy and the great.

Sacred impostors, in other countries, tending by other means to the same object, abused the credulity of the ignorant. In the gloom of their temples, behind the curtain of the altar, they made their gods act and speak; gave forth oracles, worked miracles, ordered sacrifices, levied offerings, prescribed endowments; and, under the names of theocracy and of religion, the state became tormented by the passions of the priests.

Sometimes a nation, weary of its dissensions or of its tyrants, to lessen the sources of evil, submitted to a single master; but if it limited his powers, his sole aim was to enlarge them; if it left them indefinite, he abused the trust confided to him; and, under the name of monarchy, the state was tormented by the passions of kings and princes.

Then the factions, availing themselves of the general discontent, flattered the people with the hope of a better master; dealt out gifts and promises, deposed the despot to take his place; and their contests for the succession, or its partition, tormented the state with the disorders and devastations of civil war.

In fine, among these rivals, one more adroit, or more fortunate, gained the ascendency, and concentrated all power within himself. By a strange phenomenon, a single individual mastered millions of his equals, against their will and without their consent; and the art of tyranny sprung also from cupidity.

In fact, observing the spirit of egotism which incessantly divides mankind, the ambitious man fomented it with dexterity, flattered the vanity of one, excited the jealousy of another, favored the avarice of this, inflamed the resentment of that, and irritated the passions of all; then, placing in opposition their interests and prejudices, he sowed divisions and hatreds, promised to the poor the spoils of the rich, to the rich the subjection of the poor; threatened one man by another, this class by that; and insulating all by distrust, created his strength out of their weakness, and imposed the yoke of opinion, which they mutually riveted on each other. With the army he levied contributions, and with contributions he disposed of the army: dealing out wealth and office on these principles, he enchained a whole people in indissoluble bonds, and they languished under the slow consumption of despotism.

Thus the same principle, varying its action under every possible form, was forever attenuating the consistence of states, and an eternal circle of vicissitudes flowed from an eternal circle of passions.

And this spirit of egotism and usurpation produced two effects equally operative and fatal: the one a division and subdivision of societies into their smallest fractions, inducing a debility which facilitated their dissolution; the other, a preserving tendency to concentrate power in a single hand,* which, engulfing successively societies and states, was fatal to their peace and social existence.

* It is remarkable that this has in all instances been the
constant progress of societies; beginning with a state of
anarchy or democracy, that is, with a great division of
power they have passed to aristocracy, and from aristocracy
to monarchy. Does it not hence follow that those who
constitute states under the democratic form, destine them to
undergo all the intervening troubles between that and
monarchy; but it should at the same time be proved that
social experience is already exhausted for the human race,
and that this spontaneous movement is not solely the effect
of ignorance.


Thus, as in a state, a party absorbed the nation, a family the party, and an individual the family; so a movement of absorption took place between state and state, and exhibited on a larger scale in the political order, all the particular evils of the civil order. Thus a state having subdued a state, held it in subjection in the form of a province; and two provinces being joined together formed a kingdom; two kingdoms being united by conquest, gave birth to empires of gigantic size; and in this conglomeration, the internal strength of states, instead of increasing, diminished; and the condition of the people, instead of ameliorating, became daily more abject and wretched, for causes derived from the nature of things.

Because, in proportion as states increased in extent, their administration becoming more difficult and complicated, greater energies of power were necessary to move such masses; and there was no longer any proportion between the duties of sovereigns and their ability to perform their duties:

Because despots, feeling their weakness, feared whatever might develop the strength of nations, and studied only how to enfeeble them:

Because nations, divided by the prejudices of ignorance and hatred, seconded the wickedness of their governments; and availing themselves reciprocally of subordinate agents, aggravated their mutual slavery:

Because, the balance between states being destroyed, the strong more easily oppressed the weak.

Finally, because in proportion as states were concentrated, the people, despoiled of their laws, of their usages, and of the government of their choice, lost that spirit of personal identification with their government, which had caused their energy.

And despots, considering empires as their private domains and the people as their property, gave themselves up to depredations, and to all the licentiousness of the most arbitrary authority.

And all the strength and wealth of nations were diverted to private expense and personal caprice; and kings, fatigued with gratification, abandoned themselves to all the extravagancies of factitious and depraved taste.* They must have gardens mounted on arcades, rivers raised over mountains, fertile fields converted into haunts for wild beasts; lakes scooped in dry lands, rocks erected in lakes, palaces built of marble and porphyry, furniture of gold and diamonds. Under the cloak of religion, their pride founded temples, endowed indolent priests, built, for vain skeletons, extravagant tombs, mausoleums and pyramids;** millions of hands were employed in sterile labors; and the luxury of princes, imitated by their parasites, and transmitted from grade to grade to the lowest ranks, became a general source of corruption and impoverishment.

* It is equally worthy of remark, that the conduct and
manners of princes and kings of every country and every age,
are found to be precisely the same at similar periods,
whether of the formation or dissolution of empires. History
every where presents the same pictures of luxury and folly;
of parks, gardens, lakes, rocks, palaces, furniture, excess
of the table, wine, women, concluding with brutality.

The absurd rock in the garden of Versailles has alone cost
three millions. I have sometimes calculated what might have
been done with the expense of the three pyramids of Gizah,
and I have found that it would easily have constructed from
the Red Sea to Alexandria, a canal one hundred and fifty
feet wide and thirty deep, completely covered in with cut
stones and a parapet, together with a fortified and
commercial town, consisting of four hundred houses,
furnished with cisterns. What a difference in point of
utility between such a canal and these pyramids!


** The learned Dupuis could not be persuaded that the
pyramids were tombs; but besides the positive testimony of
historians, read what Diodorus says of the religious and
superstitious importance every Egyptian attached to building
his dwelling eternal, b. 1.

During twenty years, says Herodotus, a hundred thousand men
labored every day to build the pyramid of the Egyptian
Cheops. Supposing only three hundred days a year, on
account of the sabbath, there will be 30 millions of days'
work in a year, and 600 millions in twenty years; at 15 sous
a day, this makes 450 millions of francs lost, without any
further benefit. With this sum, if the king had shut the
isthmus of Suez by a strong wall, like that of China, the
destinies of Egypt might have been entirely changed.
Foreign invasions would have been prevented, and the Arabs
of the desert would neither have conquered nor harassed that
country. Sterile labors! how many millions lost in putting
one stone upon another, under the forms of temples and
churches! Alchymists convert stones into gold; but
architects change gold into stone. Woe to the kings (as
well as subjects) who trust their purse to these two classes
of empirics!


And in the insatiable thirst of enjoyment, the ordinary revenues no longer sufficing, they were augmented; the cultivator, seeing his labors increase without compensation, lost all courage; the merchant, despoiled, was disgusted with industry; the multitude, condemned to perpetual poverty, restrained their labor to simple necessaries; and all productive industry vanished.

The surcharge of taxes rendering lands a burdensome possession, the poor proprietor abandoned his field, or sold it to the powerful; and fortune became concentrated in a few hands. All the laws and institutions favoring this accumulation, the nation became divided into a group of wealthy drones, and a multitude of mercenary poor; the people were degraded with indigence, the great with satiety, and the number of those interested in the preservation of the state decreasing, its strength and existence became proportionally precarious.

On the other hand, emulation finding no object, science no encouragement, the mind sunk into profound ignorance.

The administration being secret and mysterious, there existed no means of reform or amelioration. The chiefs governing by force or fraud, the people viewed them as a faction of public enemies; and all harmony ceased between the governors and governed.

And these vices having enervated the states of the wealthy part of Asia, the vagrant and indigent people of the adjacent deserts and mountains coveted the enjoyments of the fertile plains; and, urged by a cupidity common to all, attacked the polished empires, and overturned the thrones of their despots. These revolutions were rapid and easy; because the policy of tyrants had enfeebled the subjects, razed the fortresses, destroyed the warriors; and because the oppressed subjects remained without personal interest, and the mercenary soldiers without courage.

And hordes of barbarians having reduced entire nations to slavery, the empires, formed of conquerors and conquered, united in their bosom two classes essentially opposite and hostile. All the principles of society were dissolved: there was no longer any common interest, no longer any public spirit; and there arose a distinction of casts and races, which reduced to a regular system the maintenance of disorder; and he who was born of this or that blood, was born a slave or a tyrant—property or proprietor.

The oppressors being less numerous than the oppressed it was necessary to perfect the science of oppression, in order to support this false equilibrium. The art of governing became the art of subjecting the many to the few. To enforce an obedience so contrary to instinct, the severest punishments were established, and the cruelty of the laws rendered manners atrocious. The distinction of persons establishing in the state two codes, two orders of criminal justice, two sets of laws, the people, placed between the propensities of the heart and the oath uttered from the mouth, had two consciences in contradiction with each other; and the ideas of justice and injustice had no longer any foundation in the understanding.

Under such a system, the people fell into dejection and despair; and the accidents of nature were added to the other evils which assailed them. Prostrated by so many calamities, they attributed their causes to superior and hidden powers; and, because they had tyrants on earth, they fancied others in heaven; and superstition aggravated the misfortunes of nations.

Fatal doctrines and gloomy and misanthropic systems of religion arose, which painted their gods, like their despots, wicked and envious. To appease them, man offered up the sacrifice of all his enjoyments. He environed himself in privations, and reversed the order of nature. Conceiving his pleasures to be crimes, his sufferings expiations, he endeavored to love pain, and to abjure the love of self. He persecuted his senses, hated his life; and a self-denying and anti-social morality plunged nations into the apathy of death.

But provident nature having endowed the heart of man with hope inexhaustible, when his desires of happiness were baffled on this earth, he pursued it into another world. By a sweet illusion he created for himself another country—an asylum where, far from tyrants, he should recover the rights of nature, and thence resulted new disorders. Smitten with an imaginary world, man despised that of nature. For chimerical hopes, he neglected realities. His life began to appear a troublesome journey—a painful dream; his body a prison, the obstacle to his felicity; and the earth, a place of exile and of pilgrimage, not worthy of culture. Then a holy indolence spread over the political world; the fields were deserted, empires depopulated, monuments neglected and deserts multiplied; ignorance, superstition and fanaticism, combining their operations, overwhelmed the earth with devastation and ruin.

Thus agitated by their own passions, men, whether collectively or individually taken, always greedy and improvident, passing from slavery to tyranny, from pride to baseness, from presumption to despondency, have made themselves the perpetual instruments of their own misfortunes.

These, then, are the principles, simple and natural, which regulated the destiny of ancient states. By this regular and connected series of causes and effects, they rose or fell, in proportion as the physical laws of the human heart were respected or violated; and in the course of their successive changes, a hundred different nations, a hundred different empires, by turns humbled, elevated, conquered, overthrown, have repeated for the earth their instructive lessons. Yet these lessons were lost for the generations which have followed! The disorders in times past have reappeared in the present age! The chiefs of the nations have continued to walk in the paths of falsehood and tyranny!—the people to wander in the darkness of superstition and ignorance!

Since then, continued the Genius, with renewed energy, since the experience of past ages is lost for the living—since the errors of progenitors have not instructed their descendants, the ancient examples are about to reappear; the earth will see renewed the tremendous scenes it has forgotten. New revolutions will agitate nations and empires; powerful thrones will again be overturned, and terrible catastrophes will again teach mankind that the laws of nature and the precepts of wisdom and truth cannot be infringed with impunity.
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Re: The Ruins, or, Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires:

Postby admin » Mon Jan 04, 2021 12:29 am

CHAPTER XII. LESSONS OF TIMES PAST REPEATED ON THE PRESENT.

Thus spoke the Genius. Struck with the justice and coherence of his discourse, assailed with a crowd of ideas, repugnant to my habits yet convincing to my reason, I remained absorbed in profound silence. At length, while with serious and pensive mien, I kept my eyes fixed on Asia, suddenly in the north, on the shores of the Black sea, and in the fields of the Crimea, clouds of smoke and flame attracted my attention. They appeared to rise at the same time from all parts of the peninsula; and passing by the isthmus into the continent, they ran, as if driven by a westerly wind, along the oozy lake of Azof, and disappeared in the grassy plains of Couban; and following more attentively the course of these clouds, I observed that they were preceded or followed by swarms of moving creatures, which, like ants or grasshoppers disturbed by the foot of a passenger, agitated themselves with vivacity. Sometimes these swarms appeared to advance and rush against each other; and numbers, after the concussion, remained motionless. While disquieted at this spectacle, I strained my sight to distinguish the objects.

Do you see, said the Genius, those flames which spread over the earth, and do you comprehend their causes and effects?

Oh! Genius, I answered, I see those columns of flame and smoke, and something like insects, accompanying them; but, when I can scarcely discern the great masses of cities and monuments, how should I discover, such little creatures? I can just perceive that these insects mimic battle, for they advance, retreat, attack and pursue.

It is no mimicry, said the Genius, these are real battles.

And what, said I, are those mad animalculae, which destroy each other? Beings of a day! will they not perish soon enough?

Then the Genius, touching my sight and hearing, again directed my eyes towards the same object. Look, said he, and listen!

Ah! wretches, cried I, oppressed with grief, these columns of flame! these insects! oh! Genius, they are men. These are the ravages of war! These torrents of flame rise from towns and villages! I see the squadrons who kindle them, and who, sword in hand overrun the country: they drive before them crowds of old men, women, and children, fugitive and desolate: I perceive other horsemen, who with shouldered lances, accompany and guide them. I even recognize them to be Tartars by their led horses,* their kalpacks, and tufts of hair: and, doubtless, they who pursue, in triangular hats and green uniforms, are Muscovites. Ah! I now comprehend, a war is kindled between the empire of the Czars and that of the Sultans.

* A Tartar horseman has always two horses, of which he leads
one in hand. The Kalpeck is a bonnet made of the skin of a
sheep or other animal. The part of the head covered by this
bonnet is shaved, with the exception of a tuft, about the
size of a crown piece, and which is suffered to grow to the
length of seven or eight inches, precisely where our priests
place their tonsure. It is by this tuft of hair, worn by
the majority of Mussulmen, that the angel of the tomb is to
take the elect and carry them into paradise.


Not yet, replied the Genius; this is only a preliminary. These Tartars have been, and might still he troublesome neighbors. The Muscovites are driving them off, finding their country would be a convenient extension of their own limits; and as a prelude to another revolution, the throne of the Guerais is destroyed.

And in fact, I saw the Russian standards floating over the Crimea: and soon after their flag waving on the Euxine.

Meanwhile, at the cry of the flying Tartars, the Mussulman empire was in commotion. They are driving off our brethren, cried the children of Mahomet: the people of the prophet are outraged! infidels occupy a consecrated land and profane the temples of Islamism.* Let us arm; let us rush to combat, to avenge the glory of God and our own cause.

* It is not in the power of the Sultan to cede to a foreign
power a province inhabited by true believers. The people,
instigated by the lawyers, would not fail to revolt. This
is one reason which has led those who know the Turks, to
regard as chimerical the ceding of Candia, Cyprus, and
Egypt, projected by certain European potentates.


And a general movement of war took place in both empires. In every part armed men assembled. Provisions, stores, and all the murderous apparatus of battle were displayed. The temples of both nations, besieged by an immense multitude, presented a spectacle which fixed all my attention.

On one side, the Mussulmen gathered before their mosques, washed their hands and feet, pared their nails, and combed their beards; then spreading carpets upon the ground, and turning towards the south, with their arms sometimes crossed and sometimes extended, they made genuflexions and prostrations, and recollecting the disasters of the late war, they exclaimed:

God of mercy and clemency! hast thou then abandoned thy faithful people? Thou who hast promised to thy Prophet dominion over nations, and stamped his religion by so many triumphs, dost thou deliver thy true believers to the swords of infidels?

And the Imans and the Santons said to the people:

It is in chastisement of your sins. You eat pork; you drink wine; you touch unclean things. God hath punished you. Do penance therefore; purify; repeat the profession of faith;* fast from the rising to the setting sun; give the tenth of your goods to the mosques; go to Mecca; and God will render you victorious.

* There is but one God, and Mahomet is his prophet.
And the people, recovering courage, uttered loud cries:


There is but one God, said they transported with fury, and Mahomet is his prophet! Accursed be he who believeth not!

God of goodness, grant us to exterminate these Christians; it is for thy glory we fight, and our death is a martyrdom for thy name. And then, offering victims, they prepared for battle.

On the other side, the Russians, kneeling, said:

We render thanks to God, and celebrate his power. He hath strengthened our arm to humble his enemies. Hear our prayers, thou God of mercy! To please thee, we will pass three days without eating either meat or eggs. Grant us to extirpate these impious Mahometans, and to overturn their empire. To thee we will consecrate the tenth of our spoil; to thee we will raise new temples.

And the priests filled the churches with clouds of smoke, and said to the people:

We pray for you, God accepteth our incense, and blesseth your arms. Continue to fast and to fight; confess to us your secret sins; give your wealth to the church; we will absolve you from your crimes, and you shall die in a state of grace.

And they sprinkled water upon the people, dealt out to them, as amulets and charms, small relics of the dead, and the people breathed war and combat.

Struck with this contrast of the same passions, and grieving for their fatal consequences, I was considering the difficulty with which the common judge could yield to prayers so contradictory; when the Genius, glowing with anger, spoke with vehemence:

What accents of madness strike my ear? What blind and perverse delirium disorders the spirits of the nations? Sacrilegious prayers rise not from the earth! and you, oh Heavens, reject their homicidal vows and impious thanksgivings! Deluded mortals! is it thus you revere the Divinity? Say then; how should he, whom you style your common father, receive the homage of his children murdering one another? Ye victors! with what eye should he view your hands reeking in the blood he hath created? And, what do you expect, oh vanquished, from useless groans? Hath God the heart of a mortal, with passions ever changing? Is he, like you, agitated with vengeance or compassion, with wrath or repentance? What base conception of the most sublime of beings! According to them, it would seem, that God whimsical and capricious, is angered or appeased as a man: that he loves and hates alternately; that he punishes or favors; that, weak or wicked, he broods over his hatred; that, contradictory or perfidious, he lays snares to entrap; that he punishes the evils he permits; that he foresees but hinders not crimes; that, like a corrupt judge, he is bribed by offerings; like an ignorant despot, he makes laws and revokes them; that, like a savage tyrant, he grants or resumes favors without reason, and can only be appeased by servility. Ah! now I know the lying spirit of man! Contemplating the picture which he hath drawn of the Divinity: No, said I, it is not God who hath made man after the image of God; but man hath made God after the image of man; he hath given him his own mind, clothed him with his own propensities; ascribed to him his own judgments. And when in this medley he finds the contradiction of his own principles, with hypocritical humility, he imputes weakness to his reason, and names the absurdities of his own mind the mysteries of God.

He hath said, God is immutable, yet he offers prayers to change him; he hath pronounced him incomprehensible, yet he interprets him without ceasing.

Imposters have arisen on the earth who have called themselves the confidants of God; and, erecting themselves into teachers of the people, have opened the ways of falsehood and iniquity; they have ascribed merit to practices indifferent or ridiculous; they have supposed a virtue, in certain postures, in pronouncing certain words, articulating certain names; they have transformed into a crime the eating of certain meats, the drinking of certain liquors, on one day rather than another. The Jew would rather die than labor on the sabbath; the Persian would endure suffocation, before he would blow the fire with his breath; the Indian places supreme perfection in besmearing himself with cow-dung, and pronouncing mysteriously the word Aum;* the Mussulman believes he has expiated everything in washing his head and arms; and disputes, sword in hand, whether the ablution should commence at the elbow, or finger ends;** the Christian would think himself damned, if he ate flesh instead of milk or butter. Oh sublime doctrines! Doctrines truly from heaven! Oh perfect morals, and worthy of martyrdom or the apostolate! I will cross the seas to teach these admirable laws to the savage people—to distant nations; I will say unto them:

* This word is, in the religion of the Hindoos, a sacred
emblem of the Divinity. It is only to be pronounced in
secret, without being heard by any one. It is formed of
three letters, of which the first, a, signifies the
principal of all, the creator, Brama; the second, u, the
conservator, Vichenou; and the last, m, the destroyer, who
puts an end to all, Chiven. It is pronounced like the
monosyllable om, and expresses the unity of those three
Gods. The idea is precisely that of the Alpha and Omega
mentioned in the New Testament.


** This is one of the grand points of schism between the
partisans of Omar and those of Ali. Suppose two Mahometans
to meet on a journey, and to accost each other with
brotherly affection: the hour of prayer arrives; one begins
his ablution at his fingers, the other at the elbow, and
instantly they are mortal enemies. O sublime importance of
religious opinions! O profound philosophy of the authors of
them!


Children of nature, how long will you walk in the paths of ignorance? how long will you mistake the true principles of morality and religion? Come and learn its lessons from nations truly pious and learned, in civilized countries. They will inform you how, to gratify God, you must in certain months of the year, languish the whole day with hunger and thirst; how you may shed your neighbor's blood, and purify yourself from it by professions of faith and methodical ablutions; how you may steal his property and be absolved on sharing it with certain persons, who devote themselves to its consumption.

Sovereign and invisible power of the universe! mysterious mover of nature! universal soul of beings! thou who art unknown, yet revered by mortals under so many names! being incomprehensible and infinite! God, who in the immensity of the heavens directest the movement of worlds, and peoplest the abyss of space with millions of suns! say what do these human insects, which my sight no longer discerns on the earth, appear in thy eyes? To thee, who art guiding stars in their orbits, what are those wormlings writhing themselves in the dust? Of what import to thy immensity, their distinctions of parties and sects? And of what concern the subtleties with which their folly torments itself?

And you, credulous men, show me the effect of your practices! In so many centuries, during which you have been following or altering them, what changes have your prescriptions wrought in the laws of nature? Is the sun brighter? Is the course of the seasons varied? Is the earth more fruitful, or its inhabitants more happy? If God be good, can your penances please him? If infinite, can your homage add to his glory? If his decrees have been formed on foresight of every circumstance, can your prayers change them? Answer, O inconsistent mortals!

Ye conquerors of the earth, who pretend you serve God! doth he need your aid? If he wishes to punish, hath he not earthquakes, volcanoes, and thunder? And cannot a merciful God correct without extermination?

Ye Mussulmans, if God chastiseth you for violating the five precepts, how hath he raised up the Franks who ridicule them? If he governeth the earth by the Koran, by what did he govern it before the days of the prophet, when it was covered with so many nations who drank wine, ate pork, and went not to Mecca, whom he nevertheless permitted to raise powerful empires? How did he judge the Sabeans of Nineveh and of Babylon; the Persian, worshipper of fire; the Greek and Roman idolators; the ancient kingdoms of the Nile; and your own ancestors, the Arabians and Tartars? How doth he yet judge so many nations who deny, or know not your worship—the numerous castes of Indians, the vast empire of the Chinese, the sable race of Africa, the islanders of the ocean, the tribes of America?

Presumptuous and ignorant men, who arrogate the earth to yourselves! if God were to gather all the generations past and present, what would be, in their ocean, the sects calling themselves universal, of Christians and Mussulmans? What would be the judgments of his equal and common justice over the real universality of mankind? Therein it is that your knowledge loseth itself in incoherent systems; it is there that truth shines with evidence; and there are manifested the powerful and simple laws of nature and reason—laws of a common and general mover—of a God impartial and just, who sheds rain on a country without asking who is its prophet; who causeth his sun to shine alike on all the races of men, on the white as on the black, on the Jew, on the Mussulman, the Christian, and the Idolater; who reareth the harvest wherever cultivated with diligence; who multiplieth every nation where industry and order prevaileth; who prospereth every empire where justice is practised, where the powerful are restrained, and the poor protected by the laws; where the weak live in safety, and all enjoy the rights given by nature and a compact formed in justice.

These are the principles by which people are judged! this the true religion which regulates the destiny of empires, and which, O Ottomans, hath governed yours! Interrogate your ancestors, ask of them by what means they rose to greatness; when few, poor and idolaters, they came from the deserts of Tartary and encamped in these fertile countries; ask if it was by Islamism, till then unknown to them, that they conquered the Greeks and the Arabs, or was it by their courage, their prudence, moderation, spirit of union—the true powers of the social state? Then the Sultan himself dispensed justice, and maintained discipline. The prevaricating judge, the extortionate governor, were punished, and the multitude lived at ease. The cultivator was protected from the rapine of the janissary, and the fields prospered; the highways were safe, and commerce caused abundance. You were a band of plunderers, but just among yourselves. You subdued nations, but did not oppress them. Harassed by their own princes, they preferred being your tributaries. What matters it, said the Christian, whether my ruler breaks or adores images, if he renders justice to me? God will judge his doctrines in the heavens above.

You were sober and hardy; your enemies timid and enervated; you were expert in battle, your enemies unskillful; your leaders were experienced, your soldiers warlike and disciplined. Booty excited ardor, bravery was rewarded, cowardice and insubordination punished, and all the springs of the human heart were in action. Thus you vanquished a hundred nations, and of a mass of conquered kingdoms compounded an immense empire.

But other customs have succeeded; and in the reverses attending them, the laws of nature have still exerted their force. After devouring your enemies, your cupidity, still insatiable, has reacted on itself, and, concentrated in your own bowels, has consumed you.

Having become rich, you have quarrelled for partition and enjoyment, and disorder hath arisen in every class of society.

The Sultan, intoxicated with grandeur, has mistaken the object of his functions; and all the vices of arbitrary power have been developed. Meeting no obstacle to his appetites, he has become a depraved being; weak and arrogant, he has kept the people at a distance; and their voice has no longer instructed and guided him. Ignorant, yet flattered, neglecting all instruction, all study, he has fallen into imbecility; unfit for business, he has thrown its burdens on hirelings, and they have deceived him. To satisfy their own passions, they have stimulated and nourished his; they have multiplied his wants, and his enormous luxury has consumed everything. The frugal table, plain clothing, simple dwelling of his ancestors no longer sufficed. To supply his pomp, earth and sea have been exhausted. The rarest furs have been brought from the poles; the most costly tissues from the equator. He has devoured at a meal the tribute of a city, and in a day that of a province. He has surrounded himself with an army of women, eunuchs, and satellites. They have instilled into him that the virtue of kings is to be liberal, and the munificence and treasures of the people have been delivered into the hands of flatterers. In imitation of their master, his servants must also have splendid houses, the most exquisite furniture; carpets embroidered at great cost, vases of gold and silver for the lowest uses, and all the riches of the empire have been swallowed up in the Serai.

To supply this inordinate luxury, the slaves and women have sold their influence, and venality has introduced a general depravation. The favor of the sovereign has been sold to his vizier, and the vizier has sold the empire. The law has been sold to the cadi, and the cadi has made sale of justice. The altar has been sold to the priest, and the priest has sold the kingdom of heaven. And gold obtaining everything, they have sacrificed everything to obtain gold. For gold, friend has betrayed friend, the child his parent, the servant his master, the wife her honor, the merchant his conscience; and good faith, morals, concord, and strength were banished from the state.

The pacha, who had purchased the government of his province, farmed it out to others, who exercised every extortion. He sold in turn the collection of the taxes, the command of the troops, the administration of the villages; and as every employ has been transient, rapine, spread from rank to rank, has been greedy and implacable. The revenue officer has fleeced the merchant, and commerce was annihilated; the aga has plundered the husbandman, and culture has degenerated. The laborer, deprived of his stock, has been unable to sow; the tax was augmented, and he could not pay it; the bastinado has been threatened, and he has borrowed. Money, from want of security, being locked up from circulation, interest was therefore enormous, and the usury of the rich has aggravated the misery of the laborer.

When excessive droughts and accidents of seasons have blasted the harvest, the government has admitted no delay, no indulgence for the tax; and distress bearing hard on the village, a part of its inhabitants have taken refuge in the cities; and their burdens falling on those who remained, has completed their ruin, and depopulated the country.

If driven to extremity by tyranny and outrage, the villages have revolted, the pacha rejoices. He wages war on them, assails their homes, pillages their property, carries off their stock; and when the fields have become a desert, he exclaims:

"What care I? I leave these fields to-morrow."

The earth wanting laborers, the rain of heaven and overflowing of torrents have stagnated in marshes; and their putrid exhalations in a warm climate, have caused epidemics, plagues, and maladies of all sorts, whence have flowed additional suffering, penury, and ruin.

Oh! who can enumerate all the calamities of tyrannical government?

Sometimes the pachas declare war against each other, and for their personal quarrels the provinces of the same state are laid waste. Sometimes, fearing their masters, they attempt independence, and draw on their subjects the chastisement of their revolt. Sometimes dreading their subjects, they invite and subsidize strangers, and to insure their fidelity set no bounds to their depredations. Here they persecute the rich and despoil them under false pretences; there they suborn false witnesses, and impose penalties for suppositious offences; everywhere they excite the hatred of parties, encourage informations to obtain amercements, extort property, seize persons; and when their short-sighted avarice has accumulated into one mass all the riches of a country, the government, by an execrable perfidy, under pretence of avenging its oppressed people, takes to itself all their spoils, as if they were the culprits, and uselessly sheds the blood of its agents for a crime of which it is the accomplice.

Oh wretches, monarchs or ministers, who sport with the lives and fortunes of the people! Is it you who gave breath to man, that you dare take it from him? Do you give growth to the plants of the earth, that you may waste them? Do you toil to furrow the field? Do you endure the ardor of the sun, and the torment of thirst, to reap the harvest or thrash the grain? Do you, like the shepherd, watch through the dews of the night? Do you traverse deserts, like the merchant? Ah! on beholding the pride and cruelty of the powerful, I have been transported with indignation, and have said in my wrath, will there never then arise on the earth men who will avenge the people and punish tyrants? A handful of brigands devour the multitude, and the multitude submits to be devoured! Oh! degenerate people! Know you not your rights? All authority is from you, all power is yours. Unlawfully do kings command you on the authority of God and of their lance—Soldiers be still; if God supports the Sultan he needs not your aid; if his sword suffices, he needs not yours; let us see what he can do alone. The soldiers grounded their arms; and behold these masters of the world, feeble as the meanest of their subjects! People! know that those who govern are your chiefs, not your masters; your agents, not your owners; that they have no authority over you, but by you, and for you; that your wealth is yours and they accountable for it; that, kings or subjects, God has made all men equal, and no mortal has the right to oppress his fellow-creatures.

But this nation and its chiefs have mistaken these holy truths. They must abide then the consequences of their blindness. The decree is past; the day approaches when this colossus of power shall be crushed and crumbled under its own mass. Yes, I swear it, by the ruins of so many empires destroyed. The empire of the Crescent shall follow the fate of the despotism it has copied. A nation of strangers shall drive the Sultan from his metropolis. The throne of Orkhan shall be overturned. The last shoot of his trunk shall be broken off; and the horde of Oguzians,* deprived of their chief, shall disperse like that of the Nagois. In this dissolution, the people of the empire, loosened from the yoke which united them, shall resume their ancient distinctions, and a general anarchy shall follow, as happened in the empire of the Sophis;** until there shall arise among the Arabians, Armenians, or Greeks, legislators who may compose new states.

* Before the Turks took the name of their chief, Othman I.,
they bore that of Oguzians; and it was under this
appellation that they were driven out of Tartary by Gengis,
and came from the borders of Giboun to settle themselves in
Anatolia.


** In Persia, after the death of Thamas-Koulikan, each
province had its chief, and for forty years these chiefs
were in a constant state of war. In this view the Turks do
not say without reason: "Ten years of a tyrant are less
destructive than a single night of anarchy."


Oh! if there were on earth men profound and bold! what elements for grandeur and glory! But the hour of destiny has already come; the cry of war strikes my ear; and the catastrophe begins. In vain the Sultan leads forth his armies; his ignorant warriors are beaten and dispersed. In vain he calls his subjects; their hearts are ice. Is it not written? say they, what matters who is our master? We cannot lose by the change.

In vain the true believers invoke heaven and the prophet. The prophet is dead; and heaven without pity answers:

Cease to invoke me. You have caused your own misfortunes; cure them yourselves. Nature has established laws; your part is to obey them. Observe, reason, and profit by experience. It is the folly of man which ruins him; let his wisdom save him. The people are ignorant; let them gain instruction. Their chiefs are wicked; let them correct and amend; for such is Nature's decree. Since the evils of society spring from cupidity and ignorance, men will never cease to be persecuted, till they become enlightened and wise; till they practise justice, founded on a knowledge of their relations and of the laws of their organization.*

* A singular moral phenomenon made its appearance in Europe
in the year 1788. A great nation, jealous of its liberty,
contracted a fondness for a nation the enemy of liberty; a
nation friendly to the arts, for a nation that detests them;
a mild and tolerant nation, for a persecuting and fanatic
one; a social and gay nation, for a nation whose
characteristics are gloom and misanthropy; in a word, the
French were smitten with a passion for the Turks: they were
desirous of engaging in a war for them, and that at a time
when revolution in their own country was just at its
commencement. A man, who perceived the true nature of the
situation, wrote a book to dissuade them from the war: it
was immediately pretended that he was paid by the
government, which in reality wished the war, and which was
upon the point of shutting him up in a state prison. Another
man wrote to recommend the war: he was applauded, and his
word taken for the science, the politeness, and importance
of the Turks. It is true that he believed in his own
thesis, for he has found among them people who cast a
nativity, and alchymists who ruined his fortune; as he found
Martinists at Paris, who enabled him to sup with Sesostris,
and Magnetizers who concluded with destroying his existence.
Notwithstanding this, the Turks were beaten by the Russians,
and the man who then predicted the fall of their empire,
persists in the prediction. The result of this fall will be
a complete change of the political system, as far as it
relates to the coast of the Mediterranean. If, however, the
French become important in proportion as they become free,
and if they make use of the advantage they will obtain,
their progress may easily prove of the most honorable sort;
inasmuch as, by the wise decrees of fate, the true interest
of mankind evermore accords with their true morality.
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Re: The Ruins, or, Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires:

Postby admin » Mon Jan 04, 2021 12:30 am

CHAPTER XIII. WILL THE HUMAN RACE IMPROVE?

At these words, oppressed with the painful sentiment with which their severity overwhelmed me: Woe to the nations! cried I, melting in tears; woe to myself! Ah! now it is that I despair of the happiness of man! Since his miseries proceed from his heart; since the remedy is in his own power, woe for ever to his existence! Who, indeed will ever be able to restrain the lust of wealth in the strong and powerful? Who can enlighten the ignorance of the weak? Who can teach the multitude to know their rights, and force their chiefs to perform their duties? Thus the race of man is always doomed to suffer! Thus the individual will not cease to oppress the individual, a nation to attack a nation; and days of prosperity, of glory, for these regions, shall never return. Alas! conquerors will come; they will drive out the oppressors, and fix themselves in their place; but, inheriting their power, they will inherit their rapacity; and the earth will have changed tyrants, without changing the tyranny.

Then, turning to the Genius, I exclaimed:

O Genius, despair hath settled on my soul. Knowing the nature of man, the perversity of those who govern, and the debasement of the governed—this knowledge hath disgusted me with life; and since there is no choice but to be the accomplice or the victim of oppression, what remains to the man of virtue but to mingle his ashes with those of the tomb?

The Genius then gave me a look of severity, mingled with compassion; and after a few moments of silence, he replied:

Virtue, then, consists in dying! The wicked man is indefatigable in consummating his crime, and the just is discouraged from doing good at the first obstacle he encounters! But such is the human heart. A little success intoxicates man with confidence; a reverse overturns and confounds him. Always given up to the sensation of the moment, he seldom judges things from their nature, but from the impulse of his passion.

Mortal, who despairest of the human race, on what profound combination of facts hast thou established thy conclusion? Hast thou scrutinized the organization of sentient beings, to determine with precision whether the instinctive force which moves them on to happiness is essentially weaker than that which repels them from it? or, embracing in one glance the history of the species, and judging the future by the past, hast thou shown that all improvement is impossible? Say! hath human society, since its origin, made no progress toward knowledge and a better state? Are men still in their forests, destitute of everything, ignorant, stupid and ferocious? Are all the nations still in that age when nothing was seen upon the globe but brutal robbers and brutal slaves? If at any time, in any place, individuals have ameliorated, why shall not the whole mass ameliorate? If partial societies have made improvements, what shall hinder the improvement of society in general? And if the first obstacles are overcome, why should the others be insurmountable?

Art thou disposed to think that the human race degenerates? Guard against the illusion and paradoxes of the misanthrope. Man, discontented with the present, imagines for the past a perfection which never existed, and which only serves to cover his chagrin. He praises the dead out of hatred to the living, and beats the children with the bones of their ancestors.

To prove this pretended retrograde progress from perfection we must contradict the testimony of reason and of fact; and if the facts of history are in any measure uncertain, we must contradict the living fact of the organization of man; we must prove that he is born with the enlightened use of his senses; that, without experience, he can distinguish aliment from poison; that the child is wiser than the old man; that the blind walks with more safety than the clear-sighted; that the civilized man is more miserable than the savage; and, indeed, that there is no ascending scale in experience and instruction.

Believe, young man, the testimony of monuments, and the voice of the tombs. Some countries have doubtless fallen from what they were at certain epochs; but if we weigh the wisdom and happiness of their inhabitants, even in those times, we shall find more of splendor than of reality in their glory; we shall find, in the most celebrated of ancient states, enormous vices and cruel abuses, the true causes of their decay; we shall find in general that the principles of government were atrocious; that insolent robberies, barbarous wars and implacable hatreds were raging from nation to nation;* that natural right was unknown; that morality was perverted by senseless fanaticism and deplorable superstition; that a dream, a vision, an oracle, were constantly the causes of vast commotions. Perhaps the nations are not yet entirely cured of all these evils; but their intensity at least is diminished, and the experience of the past has not been wholly lost. For the last three centuries, especially, knowledge has increased and been extended; civilization, favored by happy circumstances, has made a sensible progress; inconveniences and abuses have even turned to its advantage; for if states have been too much extended by conquest, the people, by uniting under the same yoke, have lost the spirit of estrangement and division which made them all enemies one to the other. If the powers of government have been more concentrated, there has been more system and harmony in their exercise. If wars have become more extensive in the mass, they are less bloody in detail. If men have gone to battle with less personality, less energy, their struggles have been less sanguinary and less ferocious; they have been less free, but less turbulent; more effeminate, but more pacific. Despotism itself has rendered them some service; for if governments have been more absolute, they have been more quiet and less tempestuous. If thrones have become a property and hereditary, they have excited less dissensions, and the people have suffered fewer convulsions; finally, if the despots, jealous and mysterious, have interdicted all knowledge of their administration, all concurrence in the management of public affairs, the passions of men, drawn aside from politics, have fixed upon the arts, and the sciences of nature; and the sphere of ideas in every direction has been enlarged; man, devoted to abstract studies, has better understood his place in the system of nature, and his relations in society; principles have been better discussed, final causes better explained, knowledge more extended, individuals better instructed, manners more social, and life more happy. The species at large, especially in certain countries, has gained considerably; and this amelioration cannot but increase in future, because its two principal obstacles, those even which, till then, had rendered it slow and sometimes retrograde,—the difficulty of transmitting ideas and of communicating them rapidly,—have been at last removed.

* Read the history of the wars of Rome and Carthage, of
Sparta and Messina, of Athens and Syracuse, of the Hebrews
and the Phoenicians: yet these are the nations of which
antiquity boasts as being most polished!


Indeed, among the ancients, each canton, each city, being isolated from all others by the difference of its language, the consequence was favorable to ignorance and anarchy. There was no communication of ideas, no participation of discoveries, no harmony of interests or of wills, no unity of action or design; besides, the only means of transmitting and of propagating ideas being that of speech, fugitive and limited, and that of writing, tedious of execution, expensive and scarce, the consequence was a hindrance of present instruction, loss of experience from one generation to another, instability, retrogression of knowledge, and a perpetuity of confusion and childhood.

But in the modern world, especially in Europe, great nations having allied themselves in language, and established vast communities of opinions, the minds of men are assimilated, and their affections extended; there is a sympathy of opinion and a unity of action; then that gift of heavenly Genius, the holy art of printing, having furnished the means of communicating in an instant the same idea to millions of men, and of fixing it in a durable manner, beyond the power of tyrants to arrest or annihilate, there arose a mass of progressive instruction, an expanding atmosphere of science, which assures to future ages a solid amelioration. This amelioration is a necessary effect of the laws of nature; for, by the law of sensibility, man as invincibly tends to render himself happy as the flame to mount, the stone to descend, or the water to find its level. His obstacle is his ignorance, which misleads him in the means, and deceives him in causes and effects. He will enlighten himself by experience; he will become right by dint of errors; he will grow wise and good because it is his interest so to be. Ideas being communicated through the nation, whole classes will gain instruction; science will become a vulgar possession, and all men will know what are the principles of individual happiness and of public prosperity. They will know the relations they bear to society, their duties and their rights; they will learn to guard against the illusions of the lust of gain; they will perceive that the science of morals is a physical science, composed, indeed, of elements complicated in their operation, but simple and invariable in their nature, since they are only the elements of the organization of man. They will see the propriety of being moderate and just, because in that is found the advantage and security of each; they will perceive that the wish to enjoy at the expense of another is a false calculation of ignorance, because it gives rise to reprisal, hatred, and vengeance, and that dishonesty is the never-failing offspring of folly.

Individuals will feel that private happiness is allied to public good:

The weak, that instead of dividing their interests, they ought to unite them, because equality constitutes their force:

The rich, that the measure of enjoyment is bounded by the constitution of the organs, and that lassitude follows satiety:

The poor, that the employment of time, and the peace of the heart, compose the highest happiness of man. And public opinion, reaching kings on their thrones, will force them to confine themselves to the limits of regular authority.

Even chance itself, serving the cause of nations, will sometimes give them feeble chiefs, who, through weakness, will suffer them to become free; and sometimes enlightened chiefs, who, from a principle of virtue, will free them.

And when nations, free and enlightened, shall become like great individuals, the whole species will have the same facilities as particular portions now have; the communication of knowledge will extend from one to another, and thus reach the whole. By the law of imitation, the example of one people will be followed by others, who will adopt its spirit and its laws. Even despots, perceiving that they can no longer maintain their authority without justice and beneficence, will soften their sway from necessity, from rivalship; and civilization will become universal.

There will be established among the several nations an equilibrium of force, which, restraining them all within the bounds of the respect due to their reciprocal rights, shall put an end to the barbarous practice of war, and submit their disputes to civil arbitration.* The human race will become one great society, one individual family, governed by the same spirit, by common laws, and enjoying all the happiness of which their nature is susceptible.

* What is a people? An individual of the society at large.
What a war? A duel between two individual people. In what
manner ought a society to act when two of its members fight?
Interfere and reconcile, or repress them. In the days of
the Abbe de Saint Pierre this was treated as a dream, but
happily for the human race it begins to be realized.


Doubtless this great work will be long accomplishing; because the same movement must be given to an immense body; the same leaven must assimilate an enormous mass of heterogeneous parts. But this movement shall be effected; its presages are already to be seen. Already the great society, assuming in its course the same characters as partial societies have done, is evidently tending to a like result. At first disconnected in all its parts, it saw its members for a long time without cohesion; and this general solitude of nations formed its first age of anarchy and childhood; divided afterwards by chance into irregular sections, called states and kingdoms, it has experienced the fatal effects of an extreme inequality of wealth and rank; and the aristocracy of great empires has formed its second age; then, these lordly states disputing for preeminence, have exhibited the period of the shock of factions.

At present the contending parties, wearied with discord, feel the want of laws, and sigh for the age of order and of peace. Let but a virtuous chief arise! a just, a powerful people appear! and the earth will raise them to supreme power. The world is waiting for a legislative people; it wishes and demands it; and my heart attends the cry.

Then turning towards the west: Yes, continued he, a hollow sound already strikes my ear; a cry of liberty, proceeding from far distant shores, resounds on the ancient continent. At this cry, a secret murmur against oppression is raised in a powerful nation; a salutary inquietude alarms her respecting her situation; she enquires what she is, and what she ought to be; while, surprised at her own weakness, she interrogates her rights, her resources, and what has been the conduct of her chiefs.

Yet another day—a little more reflection—and an immense agitation will begin; a new-born age will open! an age of astonishment to vulgar minds, of terror to tyrants, of freedom to a great nation, and of hope to the human race!
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Re: The Ruins, or, Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires:

Postby admin » Mon Jan 04, 2021 12:30 am

CHAPTER XIV. THE GREAT OBSTACLE TO IMPROVEMENT.

The Genius ceased. But preoccupied with melancholy thoughts, my mind resisted persuasion; fearing, however, to shock him by my resistance, I remained silent. After a while, turning to me with a look which pierced my soul, he said:

Thou art silent, and thy heart is agitated with thoughts which it dares not utter.

At last, troubled and terrified, I replied:

O Genius, pardon my weakness. Doubtless thy mouth can utter nothing but truth; but thy celestial intelligence can seize its rays, where my gross faculties can discern nothing but clouds. I confess it; conviction has not penetrated my soul, and I feared that my doubts might offend thee.

And what is doubt, replied he, that it should be a crime? Can man feel otherwise than as he is affected? If a truth be palpable, and of importance in practice, let us pity him that misconceives it. His punishment will arise from his blindness. If it be uncertain or equivocal, how is he to find in it what it has not? To believe without evidence or proof, is an act of ignorance and folly. The credulous man loses himself in a labyrinth of contradictions; the man of sense examines and discusses, that he may be consistent in his opinions. The honest man will bear contradiction; because it gives rise to evidence. Violence is the argument of falsehood; and to impose a creed by authority is the act and indication of a tyrant.

O Genius, said I, encouraged by these words, since my reason is free, I strive in vain to entertain the flattering hope with which you endeavor to console me. The sensible and virtuous soul is easily caught with dreams of happiness; but a cruel reality constantly awakens it to suffering and wretchedness. The more I meditate on the nature of man, the more I examine the present state of societies, the less possible it appears to realize a world of wisdom and felicity. I cast my eye over the whole of our hemisphere; I perceive in no place the germ, nor do I foresee the instinctive energy of a happy revolution. All Asia lies buried in profound darkness. The Chinese, governed by an insolent despotism,* by strokes of the bamboo and the cast of lots, restrained by an immutable code of gestures, and by the radical vices of an ill-constructed language,** appear to be in their abortive civilization nothing but a race of automatons. The Indian, borne down by prejudices, and enchained in the sacred fetters of his castes, vegetates in an incurable apathy. The Tartar, wandering or fixed, always ignorant and ferocious, lives in the savageness of his ancestors. The Arab, endowed with a happy genius, loses its force and the fruits of his virtue in the anarchy of his tribes and the jealousy of his families. The African, degraded from the rank of man, seems irrevocably doomed to servitude. In the North I see nothing but vilified serfs, herds of men with which landlords stock their estates. Ignorance, tyranny, and wretchedness have everywhere stupified the nations; and vicious habits, depraving the natural senses, have destroyed the very instinct of happiness and of truth.

* The emperor of China calls himself the son of heaven; that
is, of God: for in the opinion of the Chinese, the material
of heaven, the arbiter of fatality, is the Deity himself.
"The emperor only shows himself once in ten months, lest the
people, accustomed to see him, might lose their respect; for
he holds it as a maxim that power can only be supported by
force, that the people have no idea of justice, and are not
to be governed but by coercion." Narrative of two Mahometan
travellers in 851 and 877, translated by the Abbe Renaudot
in 1718.

Notwithstanding what is asserted by the missionaries, this
situation has undergone no change. The bamboo still reigns
in China, and the son of heaven bastinades, for the most
trivial fault, the Mandarin, who in his turn bastinades the
people. The Jesuits may tell us that this is the best
governed country in the world, and its inhabitants the
happiest of men: but a single letter from Amyot has
convinced me that China is a truly Turkish government, and
the account of Sonnerat confirms it. See Vol. II. of Voyage
aux Indes, in 4to.


** As long as the Chinese shall in writing make use of their
present characters, they can be expected to make no progress
in civilization. The necessary introductory step must be
the giving them an alphabet like our own, or of substituting
in the room of their language that of the Tartars. The
improvement made in the latter by M. de Lengles, is
calculated to introduce this change. See the Mantchou
alphabet, the production of a mind truly learned in the
formation of language.


In some parts of Europe, indeed, reason has begun to dawn, but even there, do nations partake of the knowledge of individuals? Are the talents and genius of governors turned to the benefit of the people? And those nations which call themselves polished, are they not the same that for the last three centuries have filled the earth with their injustice? Are they not those who, under the pretext of commerce, have desolated India, depopulated a new continent, and, at present, subject Africa to the most barbarous slavery? Can liberty be born from the bosom of despots? and shall justice be rendered by the hands of piracy and avarice? O Genius, I have seen the civilized countries; and the mockery of their wisdom has vanished before my sight. I saw wealth accumulated in the hands of a few, and the multitude poor and destitute. I have seen all rights, all powers concentered in certain classes, and the mass of the people passive and dependent. I have seen families of princes, but no families of the nation. I have seen government interests, but no public interests or spirit. I have seen that all the science of government was to oppress prudently; and the refined servitude of polished nations appeared to me only the more irremediable.

One obstacle above all has profoundly struck my mind. On looking over the world, I have seen it divided into twenty different systems of religion. Every nation has received, or formed, opposite opinions; and every one ascribing to itself the exclusive possession of the truth, must believe the other to be wrong. Now if, as must be the fact in this discordance of opinion, the greater part are in error, and are honest in it, then it follows that our mind embraces falsehood as it does truth; and if so, how is it to be enlightened? When prejudice has once seized the mind, how is it to be dissipated? How shall we remove the bandage from our eyes, when the first article in every creed, the first dogma in all religion, is the absolute proscription of doubt, the interdiction of examination, and the rejection of our own judgment? How is truth to make herself known?—If she resorts to arguments and proofs, the timid man stifles the voice of his own conscience; if she invokes the authority of celestial powers, he opposes it with another authority of the same origin, with which he is preoccupied; and he treats all innovation as blasphemy. Thus man in his blindness, has riveted his own chains, and surrendered himself forever, without defence, to the sport of his ignorance and his passions.

To dissolve such fatal chains, a miraculous concurrence of happy events would be necessary. A whole nation, cured of the delirium of superstition, must be inaccessible to the impulse of fanaticism. Freed from the yoke of false doctrine, a whole people must impose upon itself that of true morality and reason. This people should be courageous and prudent, wise and docile. Each individual, knowing his rights, should not transgress them. The poor should know how to resist seduction, and the rich the allurements of avarice. There should be found leaders disinterested and just, and their tyrants should be seized with a spirit of madness and folly. This people, recovering its rights, should feel its inability to exercise them in person, and should name its representatives. Creator of its magistrates, it should know at once to respect them and to judge them. In the sudden reform of a whole nation, accustomed to live by abuses, each individual displaced should bear with patience his privations, and submit to a change of habits. This nation should have the courage to conquer its liberty; the power to defend it, the wisdom to establish it, and the generosity to extend it to others. And can we ever expect the union of so many circumstances? But suppose that chance in its infinite combinations should produce them, shall I see those fortunate days. Will not my ashes long ere then be mouldering in the tomb?

Here, sunk in sorrow, my oppressed heart no longer found utterance. The Genius answered not, but I heard him whisper to himself:

Let us revive the hope of this man; for if he who loves his fellow creatures be suffered to despair, what will become of nations? The past is perhaps too discouraging; I must anticipate futurity, and disclose to the eye of virtue the astonishing age that is ready to begin; that, on viewing the object she desires, she may be animated with new ardor, and redouble her efforts to attain it.
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Re: The Ruins, or, Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires:

Postby admin » Mon Jan 04, 2021 12:31 am

CHAPTER XV. THE NEW AGE.

Scarcely had he finished these words, when a great tumult arose in the west; and turning to that quarter, I perceived, at the extremity of the Mediterranean, in one of the nations of Europe, a prodigious movement—such as when a violent sedition arises in a vast city—a numberless people, rushing in all directions, pour through the streets and fluctuate like waves in the public places. My ear, struck with the cries which resounded to the heavens, distinguished these words:

What is this new prodigy? What cruel and mysterious scourge is this? We are a numerous people and we want hands! We have an excellent soil, and we are in want of subsistence? We are active and laborious, and we live in indigence! We pay enormous tributes, and we are told they are not sufficient! We are at peace without, and our persons and property are not safe within. Who, then, is the secret enemy that devours us?

Some voices from the midst of the multitude replied:

Raise a discriminating standard; and let all those who maintain and nourish mankind by useful labors gather round it; and you will discover the enemy that preys upon you.

The standard being raised, this nation divided itself at once into two bodies of unequal magnitude and contrasted appearance. The one, innumerable, and almost total, exhibited in the poverty of its clothing, in its emaciated appearance and sun-burnt faces, the marks of misery and labor; the other, a little group, an insignificant faction, presented in its rich attire embroidered with gold and silver, and in its sleek and ruddy faces, the signs of leisure and abundance.

Considering these men more attentively, I found that the great body was composed of farmers, artificers, merchants, all professions useful to society; and that the little group was made up of priests of every order, of financiers, of nobles, of men in livery, of commanders of armies; in a word, of the civil, military, and religious agents of government.

These two bodies being assembled face to face, and regarding each other with astonishment, I saw indignation and rage arising in one side, and a sort of panic in the other. And the large body said to the little one: Why are you separated from us? Are you not of our number?

No, replied the group; you are the people; we are a privileged class, who have our laws, customs, and rights, peculiar to ourselves.

PEOPLE.—And what labor do you perform in our society?

PRIVILEGED CLASS.—None; we are not made to work.

PEOPLE.—How, then, have you acquired these riches?

PRIVILEGED CLASS.—By taking the pains to govern you.

PEOPLE.—What! is this what you call governing? We toil and you enjoy! we produce and you dissipate! Wealth proceeds from us, and you absorb it. Privileged men! class who are not the people; form a nation apart, and govern yourselves.*

* This dialogue between the people and the indolent classes,
is applicable to every society; it contains the seeds of all
the political vices and disorders that prevail, and which
may thus be defined: Men who do nothing, and who devour the
substance of others; and men who arrogate to themselves
particular rights and exclusive privileges of wealth and
indolence. Compare the Mamlouks of Egypt, the nobility of
Europe, the Nairs of India, the Emirs of Arabia, the
patricians of Rome, the Christian clergy, the Imans, the
Bramins, the Bonzes, the Lamas, etc., etc., and you will
find in all the same characteristic feature:—Men living in
idleness at the expense of those who labor.


Then the little group, deliberating on this new state of things, some of the most honorable among them said: We must join the people and partake of their labors and burdens, for they are men like us, and our riches come from them; but others arrogantly exclaimed: It would be a shame, an infamy, for us to mingle with the crowd; they are born to serve us. Are we not men of another race—the noble and pure descendants of the conquerors of this empire? This multitude must be reminded of our rights and its own origin.

THE NOBLES.—People! know you not that our ancestors conquered this land, and that your race was spared only on condition of serving us? This is our social compact! this the government constituted by custom and prescribed by time.

PEOPLE.—O conquerors, pure of blood! show us your genealogies! we shall then see if what in an individual is robbery and plunder, can be virtuous in a nation.

And forthwith, voices were heard in every quarter calling out the nobles by their names; and relating their origin and parentage, they told how the grandfather, great-grandfather, or even father, born traders and mechanics, after acquiring wealth in every way, had purchased their nobility for money: so that but very few families were really of the original stock. See, said these voices, see these purse-proud commoners who deny their parents! see these plebian recruits who look upon themselves as illustrious veterans! and peals of laughter were heard.

And the civil governors said: these people are mild, and naturally servile; speak to them of the king and of the law, and they will return to their duty. People! the king wills, the sovereign ordains!

PEOPLE.—The king can will nothing but the good of the people; the sovereign can only ordain according to law.

CIVIL GOVERNORS.—The law commands you to be submissive.

PEOPLE.—The law is the general will; and we will a new order of things.

CIVIL GOVERNORS.—You are then a rebel people.

PEOPLE.—A nation cannot revolt; tyrants only are rebels.

CIVIL GOVERNORS.—The king is on our side; he commands you to submit.

PEOPLE.—Kings are inseparable from their nations. Our king cannot be with you; you possess only his phantom.

And the military governors came forward. The people are timorous, said they; we must threaten them; they will submit only to force. Soldiers, chastise this insolent multitude.

PEOPLE.—Soldiers, you are of our blood! Will you strike your brothers, your relatives? If the people perish who will nourish the army?

And the soldiers, grounding their arms, said to the chiefs:

We are likewise the people; show us the enemy!

Then the ecclesiastical governors said: There is but one resource left. The people are superstitious; we must frighten them with the names of God and religion.

Our dear brethren! our children! God has ordained us to govern you.

PEOPLE.—Show us your credentials from God!

PRIESTS.—You must have faith; reason leads astray.

PEOPLE.—Do you govern without reason?

PRIESTS.—God commands peace! Religion prescribes obedience.

PEOPLE.—Peace supposes justice. Obedience implies conviction of a duty.

PRIESTS.—Suffering is the business of this world.

PEOPLE.—Show us the example.

PRIESTS.—Would you live without gods or kings?

PEOPLE.—We would live without oppressors.

PRIESTS.—You must have mediators, intercessors.

PEOPLE.—Mediators with God and with the king! courtiers and priests, your services are too expensive: we will henceforth manage our own affairs.

And the little group said: We are lost! the multitude are enlightened.

And the people answered: You are safe; since we are enlightened we will commit no violence; we only claim our rights. We feel resentments, but we will forget them. We were slaves, we might command; but we only wish to be free, and liberty is but justice.
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Re: The Ruins, or, Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires:

Postby admin » Mon Jan 04, 2021 12:31 am

CHAPTER XVI. A FREE AND LEGISLATIVE PEOPLE.

Considering that all public power was now suspended, and that the habitual restraint of the people had suddenly ceased, I shuddered with the apprehension that they would fall into the dissolution of anarchy. But, taking their affairs into immediate deliberation, they said:

It is not enough that we have freed ourselves from tyrants and parasites; we must prevent their return. We are men, and experience has abundantly taught us that every man is fond of power, and wishes to enjoy it at the expense of others. It is necessary, then, to guard against a propensity which is the source of discord; we must establish certain rules of duty and of right. But the knowledge of our rights, and the estimation of our duties, are so abstract and difficult as to require all the time and all the faculties of a man. Occupied in our own affairs, we have not leisure for these studies; nor can we exercise these functions in our own persons. Let us choose, then, among ourselves, such persons as are capable of this employment. To them we will delegate our powers to institute our government and laws. They shall be the representatives of our wills and of our interests. And in order to attain the fairest representation possible of our wills and our interests, let it be numerous, and composed of men resembling ourselves.

Having made the election of a numerous body of delegates, the people thus addressed them:

We have hitherto lived in a society formed by chance, without fixed agreements, without free conventions, without a stipulation of rights, without reciprocal engagements,—and a multitude of disorders and evils have arisen from this precarious state. We are now determined on forming a regular compact; and we have chosen you to adjust the articles. Examine, then, with care what ought to be its basis and its conditions; consider what is the end and the principles of every association; recognize the rights which every member brings, the powers which he delegates, and those which he reserves to himself. Point out to us the rules of conduct—the basis of just and equitable laws. Prepare for us a new system of government; for we realize that the one which has hitherto guided us is corrupt. Our fathers have wandered in the paths of ignorance, and habit has taught us to follow in their footsteps. Everything has been done by fraud, violence, and delusion; and the true laws of morality and reason are still obscure. Clear up, then, their chaos; trace out their connection; publish their code, and we will adopt it.

And the people raised a large throne, in the form of a pyramid, and seating on it the men they had chosen, said to them:

We raise you to-day above us, that you may better discover the whole of our relations, and be above the reach of our passions. But remember that you are our fellow-citizens; that the power we confer on you is our own; that we deposit it with you, but not as a property or a heritage; that you must be the first to obey the laws you make; that to-morrow you redescend among us, and that you will have acquired no other right but that of our esteem and gratitude. And consider what a tribute of glory the world, which reveres so many apostles of error, will bestow on the first assembly of rational men, who shall have declared the unchangeable principles of justice, and consecrated, in the face of tyrants, the rights of nations.
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Re: The Ruins, or, Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires:

Postby admin » Mon Jan 04, 2021 12:32 am

CHAPTER XVII. UNIVERSAL BASIS OF ALL RIGHT AND ALL LAW.

The men chosen by the people to investigate the true principles of morals and of reason then proceeded in the sacred object of their mission; and, after a long examination, having discovered a fundamental and universal principle, a legislator arose and said to the people:

Here is the primordial basis, the physical origin of all justice and of all right.

Whatever be the active power, the moving cause, that governs the universe, since it has given to all men the same organs, the same sensations, and the same wants, it has thereby declared that it has given to all the same right to the use of its treasures, and that all men are equal in the order of nature.

And, since this power has given to each man the necessary means of preserving his own existence, it is evident that it has constituted them all independent one of another; that it has created them free; that no one is subject to another; that each one is absolute proprietor of his own person.

Equality and liberty are, therefore, two essential attributes of man, two laws of the Divinity, constitutional and unchangeable, like the physical properties of matter.

Now, every individual being absolute master of his own person, it follows that a full and free consent is a condition indispensable to all contracts and all engagements.

Again, since each individual is equal to another, it follows that the balance of what is received and of what is given, should be strictly in equilibrium; so that the idea of justice, of equity, necessarily imports that of equality.*

* The etymology of the words themselves trace out to us this
connection: equilibrium, equalitas, equitas, are all of one
family, and the physical idea of equality, in the scales of
a balance, is the source and type of all the rest.


Equality and liberty are therefore the physical and unalterable basis of every union of men in society, and of course the necessary and generating principle of every law and of every system of regular government.*

* In the Declaration of Rights, there is an inversion of
ideas in the first article, liberty being placed before
equality, from which it in reality springs. This defect is
not to be wondered at; the science of the rights of man is a
new science: it was invented yesterday by the Americans,
to-day the French are perfecting it, but there yet remains a
great deal to be done. In the ideas that constitute it
there is a genealogical order which, from us basis, physical
equality, to the minutest and most remote branches of
government, ought to proceed in an uninterrupted series of
inferences.


A disregard of this basis has introduced in your nation, and in every other, those disorders which have finally roused you. It is by returning to this rule that you may reform them, and reorganize a happy order of society.

But observe, this reorganization will occasion a violent shock in your habits, your fortunes, and your prejudices. Vicious contracts and abusive claims must be dissolved, unjust distinctions and ill founded property renounced; you must indeed recur for a moment to a state of nature. Consider whether you can consent to so many sacrifices.

Then, reflecting on the cupidity inherent in the heart of man, I thought that this people would renounce all ideas of amelioration.

But, in a moment, a great number of men, advancing toward the pyramid, made a solemn abjuration of all their distinctions and all their riches.

Establish for us, said they, the laws of equality and liberty; we will possess nothing in future but on the title of justice.

Equality, liberty, justice,—these shall be our code, and shall be written on our standards.

And the people immediately raised a great standard, inscribed with these three words, in three different colors. They displayed it over the pyramid of the legislators, and for the first time the flag of universal justice floated on the face of the earth.

And the people raised before the pyramid a new altar, on which they placed a golden balance, a sword, and a book with this inscription:

TO EQUAL LAW, WHICH JUDGES AND PROTECTS.

And having surrounded the pyramid and the altar with a vast amphitheatre, all the people took their seats to hear the publication of the law. And millions of men, raising at once their hands to heaven, took the solemn oath to live equal, free, and just; to respect their reciprocal properties and rights; to obey the law and its regularly chosen representatives.

A spectacle so impressive and sublime, so replete with generous emotions, moved me to tears; and addressing myself to the Genius, I exclaimed: Let me now live, for in future I have everything to hope.
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Re: The Ruins, or, Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires:

Postby admin » Mon Jan 04, 2021 12:32 am

CHAPTER XVIII. CONSTERNATION AND CONSPIRACY OF TYRANTS.

But scarcely had the solemn voice of liberty and equality resounded through the earth, when a movement of confusion, of astonishment, arose in different nations. On the one hand, the people, warmed with desire, but wavering between hope and fear, between the sentiment of right and the habit of obedience, began to be in motion. The kings, on the other hand, suddenly awakened from the sleep of indolence and despotism, were alarmed for the safety of their thrones; while, on all sides, those clans of civil and religious tyrants, who deceive kings and oppress the people, were seized with rage and consternation; and, concerting their perfidious plans, they said: Woe to us, if this fatal cry of liberty comes to the ears of the multitude! Woe to us, if this pernicious spirit of justice be propagated!

And, pointing to the floating banner, they continued:

Consider what a swarm of evils are included in these three words! If all men are equal, where is our exclusive right to honors and to power? If all men are to be free, what becomes of our slaves, our vassals, our property? If all are equal in the civil state, where is our prerogative of birth, of inheritance? and what becomes of nobility? If they are all equal in the sight of God, what need of mediators?—where is the priesthood? Let us hasten, then, to destroy a germ so prolific, and so contagious. We must employ all our cunning against this innovation. We must frighten the kings, that they may join us in the cause. We must divide the people by national jealousies, and occupy them with commotions, wars, and conquests. They must be alarmed at the power of this free nation. Let us form a league against the common enemy, demolish that sacrilegious standard, overturn that throne of rebellion, and stifle in its birth the flame of revolution.

And, indeed, the civil and religious tyrants of nations formed a general combination; and, multiplying their followers by force and seduction, they marched in hostile array against the free nation; and, surrounding the altar and the pyramid of natural law, they demanded with loud cries:

What is this new and heretical doctrine? what this impious altar, this sacrilegious worship? True believers and loyal subjects! can you suppose that truth has been first discovered to-day, and that hitherto you have been walking in error? that those men, more fortunate than you, have the sole privilege of wisdom? And you, rebel and misguided nation, perceive you not that your new leaders are misleading you? that they destroy the principles of your faith, and overturn the religion of your ancestors? Ah, tremble! lest the wrath of heaven should kindle against you; and hasten by speedy repentance to retrieve your error.

But, inaccessible to seduction as well as to fear, the free nation kept silence, and rising universally in arms, assumed an imposing attitude.

And the legislator said to the chiefs of nations:

If while we walked with a bandage on our eyes the light guided our steps, why, since we are no longer blindfold, should it fly from our search? If guides, who teach mankind to see for themselves, mislead and deceive them, what can be expected from those who profess to keep them in darkness?

But hark, ye leaders of nations! If you possess the truth, show it to us, and we will receive it with gratitude, for we seek it with ardor, and have a great interest in finding it. We are men, and liable to be deceived; but you are also men, and equally fallible. Aid us then in this labyrinth, where the human race has wandered for so many ages; help us to dissipate the illusion of so many prejudices and vicious habits. Amid the shock of so many opinions which dispute for our acceptance, assist us in discovering the proper and distinctive character of truth. Let us this day terminate the long combat with error. Let us establish between it and truth a solemn contest, to which we will invite the opinions of men of all nations. Let us convoke a general assembly of the nations. Let them be judges in their own cause; and in the debate of all systems, let no champion, no argument, be wanting, either on the side of prejudice or of reason; and let the sentiment of a general and common mass of evidence give birth to a universal concord of opinions and of hearts.
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Re: The Ruins, or, Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires:

Postby admin » Mon Jan 04, 2021 12:33 am

CHAPTER XIX. GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE NATIONS.

Thus spoke the legislator; and the multitude, seized with those emotions which a reasonable proposition always inspires, expressed its applause; while the tyrants, left without support, were overwhelmed with confusion.

A scene of a new and astonishing nature then opened to my view. All that the earth contains of people and of nations; men of every race and of every region, converging from their various climates, seemed to assemble in one allotted place; where, forming an immense congress, distinguished in groups by the vast variety of their dresses, features, and complexion, the numberless multitude presented a most unusual and affecting sight.

On one side I saw the European, with his short close coat, pointed triangular hat, smooth chin, and powdered hair; on the other side the Asiatic, with a flowing robe, long beard, shaved head, and round turban. Here stood the nations of Africa, with their ebony skins, their woolly hair, their body girt with white and blue tissues of bark, adorned with bracelets and necklaces of coral, shells, and glass; there the tribes of the north, enveloped in their leathern bags; the Laplander, with his pointed bonnet and his snow-shoes; the Samoyede, with his feverish body and strong odor; the Tongouse, with his horned cap, and carrying his idols pendant from his neck; the Yakoute, with his freckled face; the Kalmuc, with his flat nose and little retorted eyes. Farther distant were the Chinese, attired in silk, with their hair hanging in tresses; the Japanese, of mingled race; the Malays, with wide-spreading ears, rings in their noses, and palm-leaf hats of vast circumference;* and the tattooed races of the isles of the southern ocean and of the continent of the antipodes.** The view of so many varieties of the same species, of so many extravagant inventions of the same understanding, and of so many modifications of the same organization, affected me with a thousand feelings and a thousand thoughts.*** I contemplated with astonishment this gradation of color, which, passing from a bright carnation to a light brown, a deeper brown, dusky, bronze, olive, leaden, copper, ends in the black of ebony and of jet. And finding the Cassimerian, with his rosy cheek, next to the sun-burnt Hindoo, and the Georgian by the side of the Tartar, I reflected on the effects of climate hot or cold, of soil high or low, marshy or dry, open or shaded. I compared the dwarf of the pole with the giant of the temperate zones, the slender body of the Arab with the ample chest of the Hollander; the squat figure of the Samoyede with the elegant form of the Greek and the Sclavonian; the greasy black wool of the Negro with the bright silken locks of the Dane; the broad face of the Kalmuc, his little angular eyes and flattened nose, with the oval prominent visage, large blue eyes, and aquiline nose of the Circassian and Abazan. I contrasted the brilliant calicoes of the Indian, the well-wrought stuffs of the European, the rich furs of the Siberian, with the tissues of bark, of osiers, leaves and feathers of savage nations; and the blue figures of serpents, flowers, and stars, with which they painted their bodies. Sometimes the variegated appearance of this multitude reminded me of the enamelled meadows of the Nile and the Euphrates, when, after rains or inundations, millions of flowers are rising on every side. Sometimes their murmurs and their motions called to mind the numberless swarms of locusts which, issuing from the desert, cover in the spring the plains of Hauran.

* This species of the palm-tree is called Latanier. Its
leaf, similar to a fan-mount, grows upon a stalk issuing
directly from the earth. A specimen may be seen in the
botanic garden.


** The country of the Papons of New Guinea.


*** A hall of costumes in one of the galleries of the Louvre
would, in every point of view, be an interesting
establishment. It would furnish an admirable treat to the
curiosity of a great number of persons, excellent models to
the artist, and useful subjects of meditation to the
physician, the philosopher and the legislator.

Picture to yourself a collection of the various faces and
figures of every country and nation, exhibiting accurately,
color, features and form; what a field for investigation and
enquiry as to the influence of climate, customs, food, etc.
It might truly be called the science of man! Buffon has
attempted a chapter of this nature, but it only serves to
exhibit more strikingly our actual ignorance. Such a
collection is said to have been begun at St. Petersburg, but
it is also said at the same time to be as imperfect as the
vocabulary of the three hundred languages. The enterprise
would be worthy of the French nation.


At the sight of so many rational beings, considering on the one hand the immensity of thoughts and sensations assembled in this place, and on the other hand, reflecting on the opposition of so many opinions, and the shock of so many passions of men so capricious, I struggled between astonishment, admiration, and secret dread—when the legislator commanded silence, and attracted all my attention.

Inhabitants of earth! a free and powerful nation addresses you with words of justice and peace, and she offers you the sure pledges of her intentions in her own conviction and experience. Long afflicted with the same evils as yourselves, we sought for their source, and found them all derived from violence and injustice, erected into law by the inexperience of past ages, and maintained by the prejudices of the present. Then abolishing our artificial and arbitrary institutions, and recurring to the origin of all right and reason, we have found that there existed in the very order of nature and in the physical constitution of man, eternal and immutable laws, which only waited his observance to render him happy.

O men! cast your eyes on the heavens that give you light, and on the earth that gives you bread! Since they offer the same bounties to you all—since from the power that gives them motion you have all received the same life, the same organs, have you not likewise all received the same right to enjoy its benefits? Has it not hereby declared you all equal and free? What mortal shall dare refuse to his fellow that which nature gives him?

O nations! let us banish all tyranny and all discord; let us form but one society, one great family; and, since human nature has but one constitution, let there exist in future but one law, that of nature—but one code, that of reason—but one throne, that of justice—but one altar, that of union.

He ceased; and an immense acclamation resounded to the skies. Ten thousand benedictions announced the transports of the multitude; and they made the earth re-echo JUSTICE, EQUALITY and UNION.

But different emotions soon succeeded; soon the doctors and the chiefs of nations exciting a spirit of dispute, there was heard a sullen murmur, which growing louder, and spreading from group to group, became a vast disorder; and each nation setting up exclusive pretensions, claimed a preference for its own code and opinion.

You are in error, said the parties, pointing one to the other. We alone are in possession of reason and truth. We alone have the true law, the real rule of right and justice, the only means of happiness and perfection. All other men are either blind or rebellious.

And great agitation prevailed.

Then the legislator, after enforcing silence, loudly exclaimed:

What, O people! is this passionate emotion? Whither will this quarrel conduct you? What can you expect from this dissension? The earth has been for ages a field of disputation, and you have shed torrents of blood in your controversies. What have you gained by so many battles and tears? When the strong has subjected the weak to his opinion, has he thereby aided the cause of truth?

O nations! take counsel of your own wisdom. When among yourselves disputes arise between families and individuals, how do you reconcile them? Do you not give them arbitrators?

Yes, cried the whole multitude.

Do so then to the authors of your present dissensions. Order those who call themselves your instructors, and who force their creeds upon you, to discuss before you their reasons. Since they appeal to your interests, inform yourselves how they support them.

And you, chiefs and governors of the people! before dragging the masses into the quarrels resulting from your diverse opinions, let the reasons for and against your views be given. Let us establish one solemn controversy, one public scrutiny of truth—not before the tribunal of a corruptible individual, or of a prejudiced party, but in the grand forum of mankind—guarded by all their information and all their interests. Let the natural sense of the whole human race be our arbiter and judge.
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Re: The Ruins, or, Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires:

Postby admin » Mon Jan 04, 2021 12:35 am

CHAPTER XX. THE SEARCH OF TRUTH.

The people expressed their applause, and the legislator continued: To proceed with order, and avoid all confusion, let a spacious semicircle be left vacant in front of the altar of peace and union; let each system of religion, and each particular sect, erect its proper distinctive standard on the line of this semicircle; let its chiefs and doctors place themselves around the standard, and their followers form a column behind them.

The semicircle being traced, and the order published, there instantly rose an innumerable multitude of standards, of all colors and of every form, like what we see in a great commercial port, when, on a day of rejoicing, a thousand different flags and streamers are floating from a forest of masts.

At the sight of this prodigious diversity, I turned towards the Genius and said:

I thought that the earth was divided only into eight or ten systems of faith, and I then despaired of a reconciliation; I now behold thousands of different sects, and how can I hope for concord?

But these, replied the Genius, are not all; and yet they will be intolerant!

Then, as the groups advanced to take their stations, he pointed out to me their distinctive marks, and thus began to explain their characters:

That first group, said he, with a green banner bearing a crescent, a bandage, and a sabre, are the followers of the Arabian prophet. To say there is a God, without knowing what he is; to believe the words of a man, without understanding his language; to go into the desert to pray to God, who is everywhere; to wash the hands with water, and not abstain from blood; to fast all day, and eat all night; to give alms of their own goods, and to plunder those of others; such are the means of perfection instituted by Mahomet—such are the symbols of his followers; and whoever does not bear them is a reprobate, stricken with anathema, and devoted to the sword.

A God of clemency, the author of life, has instituted these laws of oppression and murder: he made them for all the world, but has revealed them only to one man; he established them from all eternity, though he made them known but yesterday. These laws are abundantly sufficient for all purposes, and yet a volume is added to them. This volume was to diffuse light, to exhibit evidence, to lead men to perfection and happiness; and yet every page was so full of obscurities, ambiguities, and contradictions, that commentaries and explanations became necessary, even in the life-time of its apostle. Its interpreters, differing in opinion, divided into opposite and hostile sects. One maintains that Ali is the true successor; the other contends for Omar and Aboubekre. This denies the eternity of the Koran; that the necessity of ablutions and prayers. The Carmite forbids pilgrimages, and allows the use of wine; the Hakemite preaches the transmigration of souls. Thus they make up the number of seventy-two sects, whose banners are before you.* In this contestation, every one attributing the evidence of truth exclusively to himself, and taxing all others with heresy and rebellion, turns against them its sanguinary zeal. And their religion, which celebrates a mild and merciful God, the common father of all men,—changed to a torch of discord, a signal for war and murder, has not ceased for twelve hundred years to deluge the earth in blood, and to ravage and desolate the ancient hemisphere from centre to circumference.**

* The Mussulmen enumerate in common seventy-two sects, but I
read, while I resided among them, a work which gave an
account of more than eighty,—all equally wise and
important.


** Read the history of Islamism by its own writers, and you
will be convinced that one of the principal causes of the
wars which have desolated Asia and Africa, since the days of
Mahomet, has been the apostolical fanaticism of its
doctrine. Caesar has been supposed to have destroyed three
millions of men: it would be interesting to make a similar
calculation respecting every founder of a religious system.


Those men, distinguished by their enormous white turbans, their broad sleeves, and their long rosaries, are the Imans, the Mollas, and the Muftis; and near them are the Dervishes with pointed bonnets, and the Santons with dishevelled hair. Behold with what vehemence they recite their professions of faith! They are now beginning a dispute about the greater and lesser impurities—about the matter and the manner of ablutions,—about the attributes of God and his perfections—about the Chaitan, and the good and wicked angels,—about death, the resurrection, the interrogatory in the tomb, the judgment, the passage of the narrow bridge not broader than a hair, the balance of works, the pains of hell, and the joys of paradise.

Next to these, that second more numerous group, with white banners intersected with crosses, are the followers of Jesus. Acknowledging the same God with the Mussulmans, founding their belief on the same books, admitting, like them, a first man who lost the human race by eating an apple, they hold them, however, in a holy abhorrence; and, out of pure piety, they call each other impious blasphemers.

The great point of their dissension consists in this, that after admitting a God one and indivisible the Christian divides him into three persons, each of which he believes to be a complete and entire God, without ceasing to constitute an identical whole, by the indivisibility of the three. And he adds, that this being, who fills the universe, has reduced himself to the body of a man; and has assumed material, perishable, and limited organs, without ceasing to be immaterial, infinite, and eternal. The Mussulman who does not comprehend these mysteries, rejects them as follies, and the visions of a distempered brain; though he conceives perfectly well the eternity of the Koran, and the mission of the prophet: hence their implacable hatreds.

Again, the Christians, divided among themselves on many points, have formed parties not less violent than the Mussulmans; and their quarrels are so much the more obstinate, as the objects of them are inaccessible to the senses and incapable of demonstration: their opinions, therefore, have no other basis but the will and caprice of the parties. Thus, while they agree that God is a being incomprehensible and unknown, they dispute, nevertheless, about his essence, his mode of acting, and his attributes. While they agree that his pretended transformation into man is an enigma above the human understanding, they dispute on the junction or distinction of his two wills and his two natures, on his change of substance, on the real or fictitious presence, on the mode of incarnation, etc.

Hence those innumerable sects, of which two or three hundred have already perished, and three or four hundred others, which still subsist, display those numberless banners which here distract your sight.

The first in order, surrounded by a group in varied and fantastic dress, that confused mixture of violet, red, white, black and speckled garments—with heads shaved, or with tonsures, or with short hair—with red hats, square bonnets, pointed mitres, or long beards, is the standard of the Roman pontiff, who, uniting the civil government to the priesthood, has erected the supremacy of his city into a point of religion, and made of his pride an article of faith.

On his right you see the Greek pontiff, who, proud of the rivalship of his metropolis, sets up equal pretensions, and supports them against the Western church by the priority of that of the East. On the left are the standards of two recent chiefs,* who, shaking off a yoke that had become tyrannical, have raised altar against altar in their reform, and wrested half of Europe from the pope. Behind these are the subaltern sects, subdivided from the principal divisions, the Nestorians, the Eutycheans, the Jacobites, the Iconoclasts, the Anabaptists, the Presbyterians, the Wicliffites, the Osiandrians, the Manicheans, the Pietists, the Adamites, the Contemplatives, the Quakers, the Weepers, and a hundred others,** all of distinct parties, persecuting when strong, tolerant when weak, hating each other in the name of a God of peace, forming each an exclusive heaven in a religion of universal charity, dooming each other to pains without end in a future state, and realizing in this world the imaginary hell of the other.

* Luther and Calvin.


** Consult upon this subject Dictionnaire des Herseies par
l'Abbe Pluquet, in two volumes 8vo.: a work admirably
calculated to inspire the mind with philosophy, in the sense
that the Lacedemonians taught the children temperance by
showing to them the drunken Helots.


After this group, observing a lonely standard of the color of hyacinth, round which were assembled men clad in all the different dresses of Europe and Asia:

At least, said I, to the Genius, we shall find unanimity here.

Yes, said he, at first sight and by a momentary accident. Dost thou not know that system of worship?

Then, perceiving in Hebrew letters the monogram of the name of God, and the palms which the Rabbins held in their hands:

True, said I, these are the children of Moses, dispersed even to this day, abhorring every nation, and abhorred and persecuted by all.

Yes, he replied, and for this reason, that, having neither the time nor liberty to dispute, they have the appearance of unanimity. But no sooner will they come together, compare their principles, and reason on their opinions, than they will separate as formerly, at least into two principal sects;* one of which, taking advantage of the silence of their legislator, and adhering to the literal sense of his books, will deny everything that is not clearly expressed therein; and on this principle will reject as profane inventions, the immortality of the soul, its transmigration to places of pain or pleasure, its resurrection, the final judgment, the good and bad angels, the revolt of the evil Genius, and all the poetical belief of a world to come. And this highly-favored people, whose perfection consists in a slight mutilation of their persons,—this atom of a people, which forms but a small wave in the ocean of mankind, and which insists that God has made nothing but for them, will by its schism reduce to one-half, its present trifling weight in the scale of the universe.

* The Sadducees and Pharisees.


He then showed me a neighboring group, composed of men dressed in white robes, wearing a veil over their mouths, and ranged around a banner of the color of the morning sky, on which was painted a globe cleft in two hemispheres, black and white: The same thing will happen, said he, to these children of Zoroaster,* the obscure remnant of a people once so powerful. At present, persecuted like the Jews, and dispersed among all nations, they receive without discussion the precepts of the representative of their prophet. But as soon as the Mobed and the Destours** shall assemble, they will renew the controversy about the good and the bad principle; on the combats of Ormuzd, God of light, and Ahrimanes, God of darkness; on the direct and allegorical sense; on the good and evil Genii; on the worship of fire and the elements; on impurities and ablutions; on the resurrection of the soul and body, or only of the soul;*** on the renovation of the present world, and on that which is to take its place. And the Parses will divide into sects, so much the more numerous, as their families will have contracted, during their dispersion, the manners and opinions of different nations.

* They are the Parses, better known by the opprobrious name
of Gaures or Guebres, another word for infidels. They are
in Asia what the Jews are in Europe. The name of their pope
or high priest is Mobed.


** That is to say, their priests. See, respecting the rites
of this religion, Henry Lord Hyde, and the Zendavesta.
Their costume is a robe with a belt of four knots, and a
veil over their mouth for fear of polluting the fire with
their breath.


*** The Zoroastrians are divided between two opinions; one
party believing that both soul and body will rise, the other
that it will be the soul only. The Christians and
Mahometans have embraced the most solid of the two.


Next to these, remark those banners of an azure ground, painted with monstrous figures of human bodies, double, triple, and quadruple, with heads of lions, boars, and elephants, and tails of fishes and tortoises; these are the ensigns of the sects of India, who find their gods in various animals, and the souls of their fathers in reptiles and insects. These men support hospitals for hawks, serpents, and rats, and they abhor their fellow creatures! They purify themselves with the dung and urine of cows, and think themselves defiled by the touch of a man! They wear a net over the mouth, lest, in a fly, they should swallow a soul in a state of penance,* and they can see a Pariah** perish with hunger! They acknowledge the same gods, but they separate into hostile bands.

* According to the system of the Metempsychosis, a soul, to
undergo purification, passes into the body of some insect or
animal. It is of importance not to disturb this penance, as
the work must in that case begin afresh.


** This is the name of a cast or tribe reputed unclean,
because they eat of what has enjoyed life.


The first standard, retired from the rest, bearing a figure with four heads, is that of Brama, who, though the creator of the universe, is without temples or followers; but, reduced to serve as a pedestal to the Lingam,* he contents himself with a little water which the Bramin throws every morning on his shoulder, reciting meanwhile an idle canticle in his praise.

* See Sonnerat, Voyage aux Indes, vol. 1.


The second, bearing a kite with a scarlet body and a white head, is that of Vichenou, who, though preserver of the world, has passed part of his life in wicked actions. You sometimes see him under the hideous form of a boar or a lion, tearing human entrails, or under that of a horse,* shortly to come armed with a sword to destroy the human race, blot out the stars, annihilate the planets, shake the earth, and force the great serpent to vomit a fire which shall consume the spheres.

* These are the incarnations of Vichenou, or metamorphoses
of the sun. He is to come at the end of the world, that is,
at the expiration of the great period, in the form of a
horse, like the four horses of the Apocalypse.


The third is that of Chiven, God of destruction and desolation, who has, however, for his emblem the symbol of generation. He is the most wicked of the three, and he has the most followers. These men, proud of his character, express in their devotions to him their contempt for the other gods,* his equals and brothers; and, in imitation of his inconsistencies, while they profess great modesty and chastity, they publicly crown with flowers, and sprinkle with milk and honey, the obscene image of the Lingam.

* When a sectary of Chiven hears the name of Vichenou
pronounced, he stops his ears, runs, and purifies himself.


In the rear of these, approach the smaller standards of a multitude of gods—male, female, and hermaphrodite. These are friends and relations of the principal gods, who have passed their lives in wars among themselves, and their followers imitate them. These gods have need of nothing, and they are constantly receiving presents; they are omnipotent and omnipresent, and a priest, by muttering a few words, shuts them up in an idol or a pitcher, to sell their favors for his own benefit.

Beyond these, that cloud of standards, which, on a yellow ground, common to them all, bear various emblems, are those of the same god, who reins under different names in the nations of the East. The Chinese adores him in Fot,* the Japanese in Budso, the Ceylonese in Bedhou, the people of Laos in Chekia, of Pegu in Phta, of Siam in Sommona-Kodom, of Thibet in Budd and in La. Agreeing in some points of his history, they all celebrate his life of penitence, his mortifications, his fastings, his functions of mediator and expiator, the enmity between him and another god, his adversary, their battles, and his ascendency. But as they disagree on the means of pleasing him, they dispute about rites and ceremonies, and about the dogmas of interior doctrine and of public doctrine. That Japanese Bonze, with a yellow robe and naked head, preaches the eternity of souls, and their successive transmigrations into various bodies; near him, the Sintoist denies that souls can exist separate from the senses,** and maintains that they are only the effect of the organs to which they belong, and with which they must perish, as the sound of the flute perishes with the flute. Near him, the Siamese, with his eyebrows shaved, and a talipat screen*** in his hand, recommends alms, offerings, and expiations, at the same time that he preaches blind necessity and inexorable fate. The Chinese vo-chung sacrifices to the souls of his ancestors; and next him, the follower of Confucius interrogates his destiny in the cast of dice and the movement of the stars.**** That child, surrounded by a swarm of priests in yellow robes and hats, is the Grand Lama, in whom the god of Thibet has just become incarnate.*5 But a rival has arisen who partakes this benefit with him; and the Kalmouc on the banks of the Baikal, has a God similar to the inhabitant of Lasa. And they agree, also, in one important point—that god can inhabit only a human body. They both laugh at the stupidity of the Indian who pays homage to cow-dung, though they themselves consecrate the excrements of their high-priest.*6

* The original name of this god is Baits, which in Hebrew
signifies an egg. The Arabs pronounce it Baidh, giving to
the dh an emphatic sound which makes it approach to dz.
Kempfer, an acurate traveler, writes it Budso, which must be
pronounced Boudso, whence is derived the name of Budsoist
and of Bonze, applied to the priests. Clement of
Alexandria, in his Stromata, writes it Bedou, as it is
pronounced also by the Chingulais; and Saint Jerome, Boudda
and Boutta. At Thibet they call it Budd; and hence the name
of the country called Boud-tan and Ti-budd: it was in this
province that this system of religion was first inculcated
in Upper Asia; La is a corruption of Allah, the name of God
in the Syriac language, from which many of the eastern
dialects appear to be derived. The Chinese having neither b
nor d, have supplied their place by f and t, and have
therefore said Fout.


** See in Kempfer the doctrine of the Sintoists, which is a
mixture of that of Epicurus and of the Stoics.


*** It is a leaf of the Latanier species of the palm-tree.
Hence the bonzes of Siam take the appellation of Talapoin.
The use of this screen is an exclusive privilege.


**** The sectaries of Confucius are no less addicted to
astrology than the bonzes. It is indeed the malady of every
eastern nation.


*5 The Delai-La-Ma, or immense high priest of La, is the
same person whom we find mentioned in our old books of
travels, by the name of Prester John, from a corruption of
the Persian word Djehan, which signifies the world, to which
has been prefixed the French word prestre or pretre, priest.
Thus the priest world, and the god world are in the Persian
idiom the same.


*6 In a recent expedition the English have found certain
idols of the Lamas filled in the inside with sacred pastils
from the close stool of the high priest. Mr. Hastings, and
Colonel Pollier, who is now at Lausanne, are living
witnesses of this fact, and undoubtedly worthy of credit.
It will be very extraordinary to observe, that this
disgusting ceremony is connected with a profound
philosophical system, to wit, that of the metempsychosis,
admitted by the Lamas. When the Tartars swallow, the sacred
relics, which they are accustomed to do, they imitate the
laws of the universe, the parts of which are incessantly
absorbed and pass into the substance of each other. It is
upon the model of the serpent who devours his tail, and this
serpent is Budd and the world.


After these, a crowd of other banners, which no man could number, came forward into sight; and the genius exclaimed:

I should never finish the detail of all the systems of faith which divide these nations. Here the hordes of Tartars adore, in the forms of beasts, birds, and insects, the good and evil Genii; who, under a principal, but indolent god, govern the universe. In their idolatry they call to mind the ancient paganism of the West. You observe the fantastical dress of the Chamans; who, under a robe of leather, hung round with bells and rattles, idols of iron, claws of birds, skins of snakes and heads of owls, invoke, with frantic cries and factitious convulsions, the dead to deceive the living. There, the black tribes of Africa exhibit the same opinions in the worship of their fetiches. See the inhabitant of Juida worship god in a great snake, which, unluckily, the swine delight to eat.* The Teleutean attires his god in a coat of several colors, like a Russian soldier.** The Kamchadale, observing that everything goes wrong in his frozen country, considers god as an old ill-natured man, smoking his pipe and hunting foxes and martins in his sledge.***

* It frequently happens that the swine devour the very
species of serpents the negroes adore, which is a source of
great desolation in the country. President de Brosses has
given us, in his History of the Fetiche, a curious
collection of absurdities of this nature.


** The Teleuteans, a Tartar nation, paint God as wearing a
vesture of all colors, particularly red and green; and as
these constitute the uniform of the Russian dragoons, they
compare him to this description of soldiers. The Egyptians
also dress the God World in a garment of every color.
Eusebius Proep. Evang. p 115. The Teleuteans call God Bou,
which is only an alteration of Boudd, the God Egg and World.


*** Consult upon this subject a work entitled, Description
des Peuples, soumis a la Russie, and it will be found that
the picture is not overcharged.


But you may still behold a hundred savage nations who have none of the ideas of civilized people respecting God, the soul, another world, and a future life; who have formed no system of worship; and who nevertheless enjoy the rich gifts of nature in the irreligion in which she has created them.
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