Philosophical Dictionary, by Voltaire


At the time that all France was carried away by the system of Law, and when he was comptroller-general, a man who was always in the right came to him one day and said:

“Sir, you are the greatest madman, the greatest fool, or the greatest rogue, who has yet appeared among us. It is saying a great deal; but behold how I prove it. You have imagined that we may increase the riches of a state ten-fold by means of paper. But this paper only represents money, which is itself only a representative of genuine riches, the production of the earth and manufacture. It follows, therefore, that you should have commenced by giving us ten times as much corn, wine, cloth, linen, etc.; this is not enough, they must be certain of sale. Now you make ten times as many notes as we have money and commodities; ergo, you are ten times more insane, stupid, or roguish, than all the comptrollers or superintendents who have preceded you. Behold how rapidly I will prove my major.”

Scarcely had he commenced his major than he was conducted to St. Lazarus. When he came out of St. Lazarus, where he studied much and strengthened his reason, he went to Rome. He demanded a public audience, and that he should not be interrupted in his harangue. He addressed his holiness as follows:

“Holy father, you are Antichrist, and behold how I will prove it to your holiness. I call him ante-Christ or antichrist, according to the meaning of the word, who does everything contrary to that which Christ commanded. Now Christ was poor, and you are very rich. He paid tribute, and you exact it. He submitted himself to the powers that be, and you have become one of them. He wandered on foot, and you visit Castle Gandolfo in a sumptuous carriage. He ate of all that which people were willing to give him, and you would have us eat fish on Fridays and Saturdays, even when we reside at a distance from the seas and rivers. He forbade Simon Barjonas using the sword, and you have many swords in your service, etc. In this sense, therefore, your holiness is Antichrist. In every other sense I exceedingly revere you, and request an indulgence ‘in articulo mortis.’ ”

My free speaker was immediately confined in the castle of St. Angelo. When he came out of the castle of St. Angelo, he proceeded to Venice, and demanded an audience of the doge. “Your serenity,” he exclaimed, “commits a great extravagance every year in marrying the sea; for, in the first place, people marry only once with the same person; secondly, your marriage resembles that of Harlequin, which was only half performed, as wanting the consent of one of the parties; thirdly, who has told you that, some day or other, the other maritime powers will not declare you incapable of consummating your marriage?”

Having thus delivered his mind, he was shut up in the tower of St. Mark. When he came out of the tower of St. Mark, he proceeded to Constantinople, where he obtained an interview with the mufti, and thus addressed him: “Your religion contains some good points, such as the adoration of the Supreme Being, and the necessity of being just and charitable; nevertheless, it is a mere hash composed out of Judaism and a wearisome heap of stories from Mother Goose. If the archangel Gabriel had brought from some planet the leaves of the Koran to Mahomet, all Arabia would have beheld his descent. Nobody saw him, therefore Mahomet was a bold impostor, who deceived weak and ignorant people.”

He had scarcely pronounced these words before he was empaled; nevertheless, he had been all along in the right.

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:25