1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Volney, Constantin François Chassebœuf, Comte de

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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 28
Volney, Constantin François Chassebœuf, Comte de

VOLNEY, CONSTANTIN FRANÇOIS CHASSEBŒUF, Comte de (1757-1820), French savant, was born at Craon (Maine-et-Loire) on the 3rd of February 1757, of good family; he was at first surnamed Boisgirais from his father's estate, but afterwards assumed the name of Volney. He spent some four years in Egypt and Syria, and published his Voyage en Egypte et en Syrie in 1787, and Considérations sur la guerre des Turcs et de la Russie in 1788. He was a member both of the States-General and of the Constituent Assembly. In 1791 appeared Les Ruines, ou méditations sur les révolutions des empires, an essay on the philosophy of history, containing a vision which predicts the final union of all religions by the recognition of the common truth underlying them all. Volney tried to put his politico-economic theories into practice in Corsica, where in 1792 he bought an estate and made an attempt to cultivate colonial produce. He was thrown into prison during the Jacobin triumph, but escaped the guillotine. He was some time professor of history at the newly founded École Normale. In 1795 he undertook a journey to the United States, where he was accused in 1797 of being a French spy sent to prepare for the reoccupation of Louisiana by France. He was obliged to return to France in 1798. The results of his travels took form in his Tableau du climat et du sol des États-Unis (1803). He was not a partisan of Napoleon, but, being a moderate man, a savant and a Liberal, was impressed into service by the emperor, who made him a count and put him into the senate. At the restoration he was made a peer of France. He became a member of the Institute in 1795. He died in Paris on the 25th of April 1820.