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Translation of an Extract from a late Publication, intitled, Les Ruines, by M. De Volney, Member of the late Constitutive National Assembly of France, and author of "Travels in Syria and Egypt."
[This book is supposed to be written on the Ruins of Palmyra, where a Spectre, or Genius, appears to the Author, and after taking him up into the Heavens, shews him below, our Hemisphere: accounts for past, and foretels many future Revolutions; after which the work thus proceeds:]

SCARCE had the genius finished these words, before an immense noise was heard towards the west, when that way directing my attention, I perceived within the extremity of the Mediterranean, within the domains of one of the nations of Europe, a prodigious movement, such as when, in the bosom of a vast city, a violent sedition breaking out in all its parts, one sees an innumerable people agitated and rushing like torrents into the streets and public places. And my ears, struck with shouts which rent the skies, distinguished at intervals these phrases.

“What is then this prodigy? What is this cruel and mysterious scourge? We are a numerous nation, yet we want hands! We have an excellent soil, and we want necessaries! We are active, laborious, and we live in indigence! We pay enormous taxes, and yet we are told they are not sufficient! We are at peace abroad, and neither our persons nor our property are in safety at home! What is then the concealed enemy which devours us?”

And certain voices, issuing from the bosom of the multitude, answered, “Erect a distinct standard, around which let all those assemble who, by useful labours, support and nourish society; and you will then discover the enemy which consumes you.”

And the standard being raised, the nation was all at once divided into two bodies, unequal, and of an aspect in all respects different from each other: the one innumerable and comparatively almost total, presented in the general poverty of their apparel, and in the meagre tanned air of their countenance, appearances of misery and labour; the small group, an inconsiderable fraction, presented in all the splendour of clothes, bedaubed with gold and silver, and in the plumpness of their faces, symptoms of leisure and abundance. And, considering these men more attentively, I perceived that the great body was composed of labourers, of artizans, of shopkeepers, of all the professions useful to society; and that in the small group there were only priests of the higher orders, financiers, nobles, great officers of armies: in a word, nothing but the civil, military, and religious agents of government.

After these two bodies had, in the presence of each other, face to face, considered one another with astonishment, I saw indignation and rage spring up on the one hand, and a kind of fear and dismay on the other; when the great body said to the small one — “Why have you separated from us? Are you not then of our number?” “No,” answered the small group, “ye are but the people, we are a different kind of beings; we are of a distinguished class; who have our laws, our customs, our rights pecular to ourselves.”

People. And what business do you follow in our society?

Distinguished Class. None; —we are not made to work.

People. How then have you acquired your riches?

Distinguished Class. By taking the trouble to govern you.

People. Really! Let us see what it is you call government? We toil and sweat, and you enjoy; we produce, and you dissipate:—Distinguished Class, who are not the people, form a separate nation, if you please, and take the trouble to govern yourselves.

Whereupon the small group, deliberating on the new case, a few of the most enlightened of them said—“Let us join ourselves again to the people, and share with them their burdens and their occupations, for they are men as well as ourselves;” but the rest said, “No, it would be a shame, it would be infamous to confound ourselves with the vulgar; they are made to serve us; we are men of a different race.”

And the Civil Governors said, “This people is mild, and naturally servile, let us speak to them of the king and of the law, and they will presently re-enter into their duty. People! The king wills it, the sovereign ordains it.”

People. The king can only will the good of the people; the sovereign can only ordain according to the law.

Civil Governors. The law enacts that ye be submissive.

People. The law is the general will, and we will a new order.

Civil Governors. You will be a rebellious people.

People. Nations cannot revolt; tyrants are the only rebels.

Civil Governors. The king is with us, and he commands you to submit.

People. The kingly office originates in the people who elect one of themselves to execute it for the general good; kings, therefore, are essentially indivisible from their nations. The king of our's then cannot be with you; you only possess his phantom.

And the Military Governors stepping forward said. “The people are timid, let us menace them; they only obey force. Soldiers, chastise this insolent rabble!”

People. Soldiers! you are of our own blood; Will you strike your brothers? If the people perish, who will maintain the army?

And the soldiers, grounding their arms, said to their chiefs, we are also the people, we are the enemies of———

Whereupon, the Ecclesiastical Governors said— “There is now but one resource left; the people are superstitious; we must frighten them with the names of God and of religion.

Our dearly beloved brethren, our children—God has appointed us to govern you.”

People. Produce to us your heavenly powers.

Priests. You must have faith: reason will lead you astray.

People. Do you govern then without reason?

Priests. God ordains peace. Religion prescribes obedience.

People. Peace pre-supposes justice. Obedience has a right to know the law it bows to.

Priests. Man is only born into this world to suffer.

People.Do you then set us the example.

Priests. Will you live without Gods, and without kings?

People. We will live without tyrants, without impostors.

Priests. Meditators, interceders are necessary to you.

People. Meditators between us and God, between us and kings! Courtiers and priests, your services cost us too dear: we will henceforward treat for ourselves immediately with the principals.

And hereupon the small group said, “We are undone: the multitude are enlightened.

And the people answered, You are saved; for inasmuch as we are enlightened, we will not abuse our power; we wish for nothing beyond our rights. We have resentments, but we forget them: We were slaves, we might command, and retort upon you your own principles: we will only be free: we are so!

This dialogue between the people, and the idle classes, is the analysis of all society. All the vices, all the political disorders, are deducible from this source; Men who do nothing, and who devour the substance of others; men who arrogate to themselves particular rights, exclusive privileges of riches and idleness; such men are the source and definition of all the abuses which exist among all nations. Compare the Mamloucks of Egypt, the nobles of Europe, the Nairs of India, the Emirs of Arabia, the Patricians of Rome, the Christian Priests, the Imans, the Bramins, the Bonzes, the Lamas, &c. you will always find the same results, “Idle men living at the expence of those who work.”