Volney's Ruins of Empires was the most popular Freethought book in the United States during the 19th century. George Washington, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln and Walt Whitman all read it. What they didn't know was Thomas Jefferson liked the book so much he anonymously translated it into English.
In 1923, a French researcher discovered letters between Volney and Jefferson that implied, but did not prove, Jefferson translated Ruins of Empires.
The book provides solutions to the problems humanity faces today, including religious conflicts. Volney's Ruins isn't about Yesterday. It's about Today—and Tomorrow. That's why Jefferson translated it.
Thomas Christian Williams, our guest speaker, discovered, or more accurately, rediscovered, Thomas Jefferson’s anonymous translation of Volney’s Ruins of Empires and that the Massachusetts Historical Society possessed a manuscript that proves, once and for all, Jefferson’s involvement with this controversial book.
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