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Constantin François de Chasseboeuf, Comte de Volney

Constantin François de Chasseboeuf, Comte de Volney (February 3, 1757 - April 25, 1820), French savant, was born at Craon (Maine-et-Loire) 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 Considerations 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 meditations sur les revolutions 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 Etats-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 April 25, 1820.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica. Please update as needed.