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RU I N SE
REVOLUTIONS OF EMPIRES.
By C. F. VOLNEY,
ONE OF THE DEPUTIES OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF
1789, AND AUTHOR OF TRAVELS IN SYRIA AND EGYPT.
A NEW TRANSLATION FROM THE FRENCH.
I will go and dwell in solitude amidst the ruins of cities: I will enquire of the monu-
ments of autiquity, what was the wisdom of former ages : I will awaken and call
PUBLISHED BY S. SHAW, NO. 75 WASHINGTON-STREET.
To the Philadelphia Edition, published in 1799.
THE plan of this publication was formed nearly twelve years ago ; and allusions to it may be seen in the Preface to Travels in Syria and Egypt, as well as at the end of the work, published in 1787. The performance was in some forwardness when the events of 1788 in France interrupted it. Persuaded that a developement of the theory of political truth could not sufficiently acquit a citizen of his debt to society, the author wished to add practice; and that particularly at a time when a single arm was of consequence in the defence of the general cause. The same desire of public benefit which induced him to suspend his work, has since engaged him to resume it; and though it may not possess the same merit as if it had appeared under the circumstances that gave rise to it, yet he imagines that at a time when new passions are bursting forth, passions that must communicate their activity to the religious opinion of men, it is of importance to disseminate such moral truths as are calculated to operate as a sort of curb and restraint. It is with this view he has endeavoured to give to these truths, hitherto treated as abstract, a form likely to gain them a reception. It was found impossible not to shock the violent prejudices of some readers, but the work, so far from being the fruit of a disorderly and perturbed spirit, has been dictated by a sincere lover of order and humanity.
After reading this performance it will be asked, how it was possible, in 1784, to have had an idea of what did not take place until the year 1790. The solution is simple: in the original plan the legislator was a fictitious and hypothetical being : in the present, the author has substituted an existing legislator; and the reality has only made the subject additionally interesting
IT has long been matter of complaint among French writers, that those publications of theirs, which have been rendered into English, contain many inaccuracies and false translations. These arise from the greater part of those, who translate works from one language into another, pursuing that business as a profession, in order to obtain a living ; their circumstances are necessitous, which too often compel them to hurry through their translations, without paying that attention which is always necessary to investigate the true meaning of the author; to develope an ambiguous expression-to discover and reject, the obsolete meaning of a word, would consume too much time; hence arise false translations, &c. But in this edition the translator was not under necessitous circumstances; he undertook it to oblige a friend, and had frequent opportunities of consulting the author, and several gentlemen distinguished equally for their knowledge of the French as of the English language.
HAIL, ye solitary Ruins, Ye sacred Tombs, and silent Walls ! 'Tis your auspicious aid that I invoke, 'tis to You my Soul wrapt in meditation, pours forth its prayer! What though the profane and vulgar mind shrinks with dismay from your august and awe-inspiring aspect, to me ye unfold the sublimest charms of contemplation and sentiment, and offer to my senses the luxury of a thousand delicious and enchanting thoughts ! How sumptuous the feast to a being, that has a taste to relish, and an understanding to consult you! What rich and noble admonitions, what exquisite and pathetic lessons do you read to a heart, that is susceptible of exalted feelings ! When oppressed humanity bent in timid silence throughout the globe beneath the galling yoke of slavery, it was you that proclaimed aloud the birthright of those truths, which tyrants tremble at while they detest; and which, by sinking the loftiest head of the proudest potentate, with all his boasted pageantry, to the level of mortality with his meanest slave, confirmed and ratified by your unerring testimony the sacred and immortal doctrine of Equality.
Musing within the precincts of your inviting scenes of philosophic solitude, whither the insatiate love of true-born Liberty had led me, I beheld her Genius ascending, not in the spurious character and habit of a bloodthirsty fury armed with daggers and instruments of murder, and followed by a frantic and intoxicated multitude, but under the placid and chaste aspect of Justice, holding with a pure and unsullied hand the sacred scales, in which the actions of mortals are weighed on the brink of eternity. O ye Tombs and emblematic images of death! how
superlative is your power, how irresistible your influence! Your presence appals and chills the souls of tyrants with electric horror and remorse: the very remembrance of you haunts their minds like a ghastly spectre in the midst of their voluptuous enjoyments, and the terror you inspire, plants thorns in all their thoughts, and poisons their impious pleasures into pains. Leading a life of living death while exposed to the continual mementos of such grave but faithful monitors, the Hastardly cowards endeavour to elope and stcal away both