Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary
The Philosophical Dictionary
Selected and Translated by H.I. Woolf
New York: Knopf, 1924

Scanned by the Hanover College Department of History in 1995.
Proofread and pages added by Jonathan Perry, March 2001.


AT the time when all France was mad about Law's system, and Law was controller-general, there came to him in the presence of a great assembly a man who was always right, who always had reason on his side. Said he to Law:

"Sir, you are the biggest madman, the biggest fool, or the biggest rogue who has yet appeared among us; and that is saying a great deal: this is how I prove it. You have imagined that a state's wealth can be increased tenfold with paper; but as this paper can represent only the money that is representative of true wealth, the products of the land and industry, you should have begun by giving us ten times more corn, wine, cloth, canvas, etc. That is not enough, you must be sure of your market. But you make ten times as many notes as we have of silver and commodities, therefore you are ten times more extravagant, or more inept, or more of a rogue than all the comptrollers who have preceded you. This is how I prove my major."

Hardly had he started his major than he was conducted to Saint-Lazare.

When he came out of Saint-Lazare, where he studied much and strengthened his reason, he went to Rome; he asked for a public audience of the Pope, on condition that he was not interrupted in his harangue; and he spoke to the Pope in these terms:

"Holy Father, you are an antichrist and this is how I prove it to Your Holiness. I call antichrist the man who does the contrary to what Christ did and commanded. Now Christ was poor, and you are very rich; he paid tribute, and you exact tribute; he submitted to the powers that were, and you have become a power; he walked on foot, and you go to Castel-Gandolfo in a sumptuous equipage; he ate all that one was so good as to give him, and you want us to eat fish on Friday and Saturday, when we live far from sea and river; he forbade Simon Barjona to use a sword, and you have swords in your service, etc., etc., etc. Therefore in this sense Your Holiness is antichrist. In every other sense I hold you in great veneration, and I ask you for an indulgence in articulo mortis."

My man was put in the Castello St. Angelo.

When he came out of the Castello St. Angelo, he rushed to Venice, and asked to speak to the doge.

"Your Serenity," he said, " must be a scatter-brain to marry the sea every year: for firstly, one only marries the same person once; secondly, your marriage resembles Harlequin's, which was half made, seeing that it lacked but the consent of the bride; thirdly, who has told you that one day other maritime powers will not declare you incapable of consummating the marriage?"

He spoke, and was shut up in the Tower of St. Mark's.

When he came out of the Tower of St. Mark's, he went to Constantinople; he had audience of the mufti; and spoke to him in these terms :

"Your religion, although it has some good points, such as worship of the great Being, and the necessity of being just and charitable, is otherwise nothing but a rehash of Judaism and a tedious collection of fairy tales. If the archangel Gabriel had brought the leaves of the Koran to Mahomet from some planet, all Arabia would have seen Gabriel come down : nobody saw him; therefore Mahomet was a brazen impostor who deceived imbeciles."

Hardly had he pronounced these words than he was impaled. Nevertheless he had always been right, and had always had reason on his side.

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