1694-1778 Voltaire.

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Limited to one thousand sets
for America and Great Britain.

" 'Between two servants of Humanity, who appeared
eighteen hundred years apart, there is a mysterious relation.
Let us say it with a sentiment of

profound respect: JESUS WEPT: VOLTAIRE SMILED.
Of that divine tear and of that human smile is composed the
sweetness of the present civilization"


































URANIE Frontispiece




/ "T*HESE historical studies were begun before 1740,
JL bat they were not published as a collection until
1 756. They were entitled, " Essays upon the Manners
and Spirit (les Mceurs et FEsprif) of Nations, and
upon the Principal Facts of History, from Charle-
magne to Louis XIII." Dry history these essays
assuredly are not, but they are the most piquant and
thought -stimulating commentaries on history ever
written, until nineteenth -century scholars learned
from Voltaire the art of singling out the vital elements
from the worthless rakings of the old chroniclers.
Exact knowledge was not available in his day as in
ours, hence the amusing leaven of hearsay from trav-
ellers' tales which weakens historical values; but the
pungent reflections, criticisms, and side -thrusts at
many delusions which still survive are as pertinent
now as then. The articles on various topics which
formed the original Introduction are among the
Essays and Short Studies. The work, on rather a
haphazard collection of the separately published
essays, was brought out without the author's consent,
in Holland, in 1753. He promptly disavowed author-
ship when it was circulated in Paris, but the clerics
found enough heresy in the work to force the king to
forbid the return of Voltaire to his native city. In
doubt where to find a haven of refuge from these

persecutions, he had thoughts of settling in Pennsyl-
vania, among the Quakers he so deeply respected.
Dread of the voyage prevented a step which would
have corrected some of his excusable inaccuracies
when treating on matters American, and probably
would have enriched our early literature with charac-
teristic wit and wisdom.




M. DE VOLTAIRE is one of the few happy authors who
have lived to enjoy the full fruits of the most exten-
sive reputation. He has lived to see his fame flour-
ishing not only in his own country, but also diffused
over all the civilized kingdoms and states of Europe ;
among which he is universally admired for the fire
of his genius, the brilliancy of his wit, the poignancy
of his satire, the elegance of his style: in a word,
for that nameless talent which operates like a charm,
engaging the reader's attention and applause, even
in spite of himself, and, as it were, rendering the per-
formance enchanting alike to persons of every age,
nation, character, and complexion.

But how much soever he may be admired in other
countries, he seems to be peculiarly adapted by
nature for the entertainment of the English people,
distinguished as he is by that impetuosity of genius,
that luxuriancy of imagination and freedom of spirit,
which have characterized the most eminent poets of
the British nation.

6 Ancient and Modern History.

This congenial affinity remarkably appears in that
eagerness with which his works are procured, trans-
lated, and perused by the natives of Great Britain :
an impatience attended with some inconvenience,
which it is our purpose to remove.

The works of M. de Voltaire having made their
first appearance in detached pieces, were partly
translated into the English language separately by
different hands, with very different degrees of merit,
published in various parcels, according to the re-
spective schemes and abilities of the different editors
and translators, who selected from the whole such
pieces only as they imagined would best suit their
particular purposes. Thus the translation of Vol-
taire's works has been left incomplete with respect
to the general plan, as well as irregular in regard to
the printing and paper, the size and execution of the
separate volumes.

It may also be pronounced defective in another
sense. Our author's imagination is so warm and
impetuous that it often transports him from image to
image, and from sentiment to sentiment, with such
rapidity as obliges him to leave the picture half dis-
closed, and the connection unexplained. In his prose
writings, he usually bursts into the subject, and
throws a glare of light on some particular part, as
if he took it for granted that the reader had before
considered it in every other attitude and point of
view. The velocity of impulse, added to a remark-
able passion for peculiarity in point of sentiment,

Advertisement to the 1762 Edition. 7

has hurried him into some obscurities, inadverten-
cies, and errors, especially in the execution of his
historical tracts, which of all his works are the most
universally read for entertainment and instruction.
In order, therefore, to do justice to his merit, and
at the same time supply his defects, we propose to
publish a complete and regular translation of all his
works, illustrated with notes historical and critical,
which may correct his mistakes, elucidate his obscur-
ities, point out his beauties, and explain his allusions
to the satisfaction of the public.





A Summary Account of what the Western Nations origi-
nally were, and the Author's Reasons for beginning
this Essay with a Description of the East.

You are at length resolved, then, to surmount the
disgust you conceived from reading the " Modern
History " since the decay of the Roman Empire, and
to receive a general idea of the nations which inhabit
and ravage the face of the earth. All that you seek
to learn in this immensity of matter, is only that
which deserves to be known; the genius, the man-
ners and customs of the principal nations, supported
by facts, of which no intelligent person should be
ignorant. The aim of such an inquiry is not to
know the precise year in which the brutal sovereign
of a barbarous people was succeeded by a prince
unworthy of historical notice. If a man could have
the misfortune to encumber his head with the
chronological series of all the dynasties which have

io Ancient and Modern Aistory.

existed, all his knowledge would be a jumble of
words. As it is laudable to know the great actions
of those sovereigns who have improved their sub-
jects, and rendered them more happy ; so is it rea-
sonable to remain in ignorance of vulgar events in
reigns, which serve only to burden the memory.
What advantage can you derive from the minute
detail of a number of petty interests and connections
which no longer subsist; of families long extinct,
that contested the possession of provinces now
swallowed up in mighty kingdoms? Every individ-
ual city now boasts its own particular history,
whether true or false, more voluminous and circum-
stantial than that of Alexander the Great. There is
more writing in the archives of a single convent,
than in the annals of the Roman Empire.

A reader must confine himself to certain limits,
and select only the choice parts from those immense
collections which the study of one person cannot
possibly comprehend. They constitute a vast maga-
zine, from whence you take what is necessary for
your own occasions.

The illustrious Bossuet, who, in his treatise on one
part of the " Universal History," displays the true
spirit of a historian, has left off at the reign of
Charlemagne. Your design is, by beginning with
this era, to form to yourself a picture of mankind:
but you must often trace back your inquiry to
times of greater antiquity. That great writer, in
briefly mentioning the Arabians, who founded such

Introduction. 1 1

a mighty empire, and established such a flourishing
religion, speaks of them as a deluge of barbarians.
He expatiates indeed on the Egyptians ; but wholly
suppresses the Indians and Chinese, who are at least
as ancient and considerable as the people of Egypt.

Regaled as we are by the produce of their country,
clothed with their stuffs, amused by the games
which they invented, nay, even instructed by the
morality of their ancient fables, why should we neg-
lect to learn the genius of those nations which our
European traders have constantly visited, ever since
they first found out the way to their coasts ?

In your philosophical inquiries touching the con-
cerns of this globe, you naturally direct your first
attention to the East, the nursery of the arts, to
which the western world owes everything which
it now enjoys. The oriental and southern climes
inherit every advantage immediately from nature;
whereas we, in these northern regions, owe all to
time, to commerce, and to tedious industry.

The countries anciently possessed by the Celts,
Allobroges, Picts, Germans, Sarmatians, and Scythi-
ans, produced nothing but wild fruits, rocks, and
forests. Sicily, indeed, is said to have afforded a
small quantity of oats ; but as for wheat, rice, and
the fruits of delicate taste and flavor, they grew on
the borders of the Euphrates, in China, and in India.
The most fertile countries were first inhabited, and
their inhabitants first regulated by police. The
whole Levant, from Greece even to the extremities

12 Ancient and Modern History.

of our hemisphere, was famous in history even long
before we knew so much of it as to be sensible of
our own barbarity. If we want to know anything
of our ancestors, the Celts, we must have recourse
to the Greeks and Romans, nations of a much later
date than those who inhabit the continent of Asia.

For example: Though the Gauls bordering on
the Alps, in conjunction with the inhabitants of
these mountains, settled on the banks of the Po,
from whence they penetrated to Rome about three
hundred and sixty years after the foundation of
that city, and even besieged the capitol ; we should
never have known of this expedition, but for the
Roman historians. Though another swarm of the
same people, about one hundred years after this
enterprise, invaded Thessaly and Macedonia, and
advanced to the coast of the Euxine Sea: all the
information we have of this adventure, is from the
Greeks; and they have neither told us who those
Gauls were, nor what route they followed. In our
own country there is not the least memorial of these
migrations, in which our forefathers resembled the
Tartars : they only prove that we were a numerous
and uncivilized people. The Grecian colony that
founded Marseilles six hundred years before the
Christian era, found it impracticable to polish the
Gauls: the Greek language did not extend beyond
their own territory. Neither Gauls, Germans, Span-
iards, Britons, nor Sarmatians, know anything of
their own ancestors that happened above eighteen

Introduction. 13

centuries ago, except the little they learn from the
records of their conquerors. We are even destitute
of fables, as if we had not courage to invent an
origin: for those vain conceits importing that all
the West was peopled by Gomer, the son of Japhet,
are fictions of the East. If the ancient Tuscans,
who instructed the first inhabitants of Rome, knew
something more than the other nations of the West,
they either owed that knowledge to the Greek colo-
nies that settled among them, or it was the peculiar
property of that soil to produce men of genius ; as
the territory of Athens was more fruitful of the arts
than were those of Thebes and Lacedsemon. But,
after all, what monuments have we now remaining
of ancient Tuscany ? None at all. We exhaust our-
selves in vague conjectures on some unintelligible
inscriptions which have escaped the injuries of time.
As for the other nations of Europe, not one inscrip-
tion remains in any language which they anciently

The coast of Spain was discovered by the Phoeni-
cians, as the Spaniards have since discovered
America. The Tyrians, the Carthaginians, and the
Romans, were in their turns enriched by the treas-
ures of the earth, which that country produced. The
Carthaginians found their advantage in mines as
rich as those of Mexico and Peru; mines which
time has exhausted, as it will exhaust the treasures
of the new world. Pliny gives us to understand,
that the Romans, in the space of nine years, drew

14 Ancient and Modern History.

from thence eight thousand marks of gold, and
about twenty thousand of silver. It must be owned,
that those pretended descendants of Corner made a
very bad use of the various advantages which their
country produced; seeing they were successively
subdued by the Carthaginians, the Romans, the
Goths, the Vandals, and the Arabians.

What we learn of the Gauls from Julius Caesar
and other Roman authors, gives us the idea of a
people that stood in need of being subdued by a
civilized nation. The dialects of the Celtic language
were altogether frightful. The emperor Julian, in
whose reign it was still spoken, says they resembled
the croaking of ravens. In Caesar's time, their
language was not more barbarous than their man-
ners. Their druids, a set of the greatest impostors,
though well enough adapted to the people whom-
they governed, used to sacrifice human victims,
whom they burned in large and hideous wicker
statues. The female druids plunged their knives
into the hearts of the prisoners, and predicted future
events from the flowing of the blood. The vast
stones which appear a little hollowed on the con-
fines of Gaul and Germany, are said to be the altars
on which those sacrifices were offered. These are
the only monuments of ancient Gaul. Those who
inhabited the coasts of Biscay and Gascony, some-
times fed on human flesh. We must turn our eyes
with horror from the contemplation of those savage
times, which are indeed a disgrace to human nature.

Introduction. 15

Let us reckon among the extravagances of the
human imagination, the notion entertained in our
days, that the Celts were descended from the
Hebrews. They sacrificed their own species, say
those visionaries, because Jephthah sacrificed his
daughter. The druids were clad in white, in imita-
tion of the Jewish priests: like these, they had a
high priest ; and the female druids were representa-
tives of Moses' sister and Deborah. The poor
wretch pampered at Marseilles, and offered as a
sacrifice, crowned with flowers, and loaded with
curses, was an allusion to the scape-goat. They go
so far as to find some resemblance between a few
Celtic and Hebrew words, equally ill pronounced ;
and thence conclude that the Jews and the Celts are
of the same family. Thus reason is insulted in our
universal histories, and the little knowledge we
might have of antiquity stifled under a heap of over-
strained conjectures.

The Germans nearly resembled the Gauls in their
morals : like them they sacrificed human victims ;
like them they decided their private disputes by
single combat ; the only difference was, that the
Germans were more simple and less industrious
than their neighbors. Their families lived in
wretched cottages, at one end of which the father,
mother, sisters, brothers, and children, lay huddled
together, naked, upon straw; while the other end
was reserved for their cattle. These, however, are

1 6 Ancient and Modern History.

the same people whom we shall soon see in posses-
sion of Rome!

When Caesar invaded Britain, he found that island
still more savage than Germany: the natives were
scarcely at the trouble to conceal their nakedness
with skins: the women belonged in common to all
the men of the same district. They had no other
habitations than willow cabins : and the ornaments
of both sexes were figures painted on their bodies,
by pricking the skin, and pouring in the juice of
herbs; an art still practised by the Indians in

That human nature was for a long series of ages
plunged in this state so nearly resembling that of the
brute creation, and even inferior to it in many
respects, is a truth but too well confirmed. The
reason is this: it is not in the nature of man to
desire what he does not know. He required not
only a prodigious space of time, but also a number
of lucky circumstances for raising himself above the
level of mere animal life.

You have, therefore, great reason for resolving to
make one stride to those nations which were first
civilized. Long before the empires of China and
India commenced, perhaps the world produced
nations that were knowing, polished, and powerful ;
and these were, perhaps, in the sequel, plunged
again, by deluges of barbarians, into that original
ignorance and brutality which is called the state of

Introduction. 17

The sack of Constantinople was alone sufficient
to annihilate the spirit of ancient Greece. The
Goths destroyed the genius of the Romans. The
coast of Africa, heretofore so rich and flourishing,
is nothing now but the haunt of pirates and banditti.
Changes still more extraordinary must have hap-
pened in less favorable climates. Physical and moral
causes must have conjoined ; for although the ocean
cannot have entirely changed its bed, certain it is,
vast tracts of lands have been by turns overflowed
and forsaken by the sea. Nature must have been
exposed to many plagues and vicissitudes : revolu-
tions must have been frequent; though we are
ignorant of these events. With respect to us, man-
kind is a new species.

Besides, you begin your inquiries at the time when
the chaos of Europe begins to assume a form after
the fall of the Roman Empire. Let us then make
the tour of this globe together : let us see the con-
dition in which it then was, by surveying it in the
same manner as it seems to have been civilized;
that is, from the eastern countries to these western
climes: and let us direct our first attention to a
people who had a regular history, written in a
language already fixed, at a time when we knew not
the use of letters.

Vol. 24 2



THE empire of China was even then more exten-
sive than that of Charlemagne, especially if we
reckon Corea and Tonquin, provinces at that time
tributary to the Chinese. It extended thirty degrees
in longitude, and four and twenty in latitude. The
body of this empire has existed above four thousand
years, without having undergone any sensible altera-
tion in its laws, customs, language, or even its
fashion of apparel.

Its history, which is incontestable, as being the
only records that are founded upon observations of
the heavens, is traced back by the surest chronology,
to an eclipse calculated two thousand one hundred
and fifty-five years before our vulgar era, and veri-
fied by the mathematicians belonging to the different
missions, who having been sent in these last centu-
ries to that unknown people, have at once admired
and instructed them. Father Gaubil examined a
succession of six and thirty solar eclipses recorded


20 Ancient and Modern History.

in the books of Confucius, and found but two of
them doubtful, and two erroneous.

True it is, Alexander sent from Babylon into
Greece, the observations of the Chaldaeans, ascend-
ing four hundred years higher than those of the
Chinese; and this is, without contradiction, the
fairest monument of antiquity: but these ephem-
erides of Babylon were not connected with the
history of events : on the contrary, the Chinese have
joined the history of the heavens to that of the earth,
so as to confirm the one by the other. Two hundred
and thirty years above the period of that eclipse
which we have mentioned, their chronology reaches
without interruption, and is confirmed with proofs
which they deem authentic, as far as the emperor
Hiao, who labored himself in reforming astronomy,
and who, through the whole course of a reign that
lasted eighty years, continued his endeavors to
enlighten and befriend mankind. In China his
name is still held in the utmost veneration, like those
of Titus, Trajan, and Antoninus, in the annals of
Europe. That he was for that time an able mathe-
matician, proves only he was born in a civilized
nation. We do not find that the ancient magistrates
among the Germans or the Gauls, made any prog-
ress in reforming astronomy. Clovis himself had
no such convenience as an observatory.

We find six kings preceding the time of Hiao,
though the length of their respective reigns is not
certainly known. In this silence of chronology, 1

The Chinese. 21

think we cannot do better than have recourse to the
rule of Sir Isaac Newton, who having compared the
number of years during which the kings of the
earth swayed the sceptre in different countries,
reduces each reign to two and twenty years, at an
average. According to this computation, which
seems the more reasonable, as it is moderate, those
six monarchs must have reigned about one hundred
and thirty years : and this supposition is more con-
formable to the order of nature, than that of two
hundred and forty years, for example, assigned to
the seven kings of Rome, as well as so many other
calculations which have been refuted by the experi-
ence of all ages.

The first of these kings, then, whose name was
Fouhi, reigned at least five and twenty centuries
before the Christian era, at a time when the Babylo-
nians had already collected a succession of astronom-
ical observations ; and even then, China was subject
to one sovereign. Its fifteen kingdoms, united under
one prince, clearly prove that, long before this
period, the country was well inhabited, regulated by
laws, and divided into a number of sovereignties ;
for a mighty nation is never formed but of a number
of small states: it is the work of policy, courage,
and especially of time : there cannot be a more con-
vincing mark of antiquity.

True it is, the tyrant Hoangti ordered all the
books of the empire to be burned; but this very
stupid and barbarous decree served as a caution to

11 Ancient and Modern History.

the people to preserve them carefully ; and accord-
ingly they appeared after his death. After all, it is
of very little consequence to know whether the
chronology contained in those books may be always
depended upon. Suppose we did not know precisely
the time in which Charlemagne flourished; as we
are certain that he made vast conquests with mighty
armies, it clearly follows that he was born in a
numerous nation, formed in a body, and incorpo-
rated in the course of a long succession of ages.
Since the emperor Hiao, therefore, who doubtless
lived about two thousand four hundred years before
our common era, conquered the whole country of
Corea, it is beyond all question, that his people were
reformed even from the remotest antiquity.

The increase of the human species is not so quick
as it is generally imagined. One third part of the
children die under ten years of age. Those who
have calculated the propagation of mankind,
observe, that with very favorable circumstances, a
nation will hardly gain a twentieth part in the
space of one century; and very often the number
of people is rather diminished than increased. This
is another proof of the antiquity of China. In the
reign of Charlemagne, and long before that period,

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