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The Ruins

Part I, Chapter 18
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.
 
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