African Tales

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30 Appealing to the historic record, both ancient and modern, of aboriginal peoples, Crummell concludes that most nations in rapid succession come into prominence and then rapidly vanish; for evidence, he cites the uninhabited remains of Pompeii and Nineveh and the unreadable Bibles in extinct Amerindian and South Pacific tongues. Providence is largely a history of national destructions, but there are peoples like the ancient Hebrews, singled out for chastisement and preservation, who undergo a corrective ordeal of temporal probation: ‘‘The Almightly seizes upon superior nations and, by mingled chastisements and blessings, gradually leads them on to greatness’’ ().

A wholly artificial creation. . we ought to be seeking a foundation for our future in an elevated and profound evaluation of our actual situation in this century and not in some past which is nothing other than a phantasm (, :–). In other words, the ‘‘First Philosophical Letter’’ might well have served the purpose of administering a strong antidote to the chauvinistic pabulum being dished out by the Imperial ideologists who were promoting an official nationalism that vaunted both Orthodoxy and autocracy.

And by , Chaadaev had come into direct acquaintance with Schelling, taking particular interest in the German philosopher’s utopian historicism and religious vision of a spiritual Weltgeist. As early as , Chaadaev was confiding to Aleksandr Turgenev: ‘‘A short time will pass and, I am sure, the leading ideas, once they have reached us, will find in us a more receptive soil for their realization and Civilizing the Race 23 embodiment than anywhere else, since they will not encounter among us rooted prejudices, or old customs, or stubborn routines to impede them’’ (, :).

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