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A Historical Survey of the Customs, Habits, & Pres

Those potentates considering Zigeuners of Egyptian origin


The

_Cingari_, _Zigeuners_, or _Gypsies_, had been in Germany nearly a century, before the Portuguese discovered the passage to India by the Cape of Good Hope. The stimulus which this discovery gave to improvements in the art of navigation, soon opened immediate intercourse with the eastern world. Vast are the establishments, which have been subsequently effected, in that quarter of the globe by naval powers, and extraordinary have been, of late years, the exertions for the acquisition of oriental languages; yet so numerous are they in those widely extended regions, that European knowledge of Asiatic etymology, is yet but in a state of infancy.

The case of the Gypsies is singular; for it may fairly be questioned, whether it has a parallel in the history of the world. Dispersed over the face of the earth, without any organization of their different hordes; and all concert between them entirely precluded by separations of hundreds of miles from each other, in different parts of the globe, and by their incapacity for literary communication; they have, however, whilst speaking the languages of the respective countries they inhabit, preserved in _all places one_ peculiar to themselves, and have transmitted it through a lapse of centuries to their descendants, almost unimpaired.

Increased acquaintance with oriental customs and tongues, has, at length, discovered the near coincidence they have with the language of the

Gypsies, and has developed an origin of this people, of which those of the present age were, till now, entirely ignorant. It will appear extraordinary, that these people should have been able, by oral means alone, and under all disadvantages, to retain their language, and yet not to have handed down with it, any tradition that might lead to a discovery of who they were, or whence they came. But the knowledge recently acquired, of their very abject condition in the country from which they emigrated, offers a reason why the first comers might be anxious to conceal their pedigree, the meanness of which would have but ill accorded with the titles of rank assumed by some of their leaders.

The regulations proposed by the Empress Theresa, and the Emperor Joseph II. could they have been carried into effect, would doubtless have improved the state of the Gypsies. But an order for children to be torn away from their parents, was so far from being dictated by the study of human nature, that it did violence to the tenderest sensibilities, and set at nought the kindest emotions. Its tendency was to produce in the minds of Gypsies, disaffection to the state, and to indispose others from aiding in the execution of the edict. The advantages to be derived by Governments from a liberal toleration, being not then so well understood as in succeeding times, they were not duly regarded.

Those potentates considering Zigeuners of Egyptian origin, might reasonably conceive agriculture well adapted to their genius and inclination; but it was a pursuit, which, more than any other, they disapproved.


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