Philosophical Dictionary, by Voltaire


There are, it is said, one hundred and forty-four customs in France which possess the force of law.

These laws are almost all different in different places. A man that travels in this country changes his law almost as often as he changes his horses. The majority of these customs were not reduced to writing until the time of Charles VII., the reason of which probably was that few people knew how to write. They then copied a part of the customs of a part of Ponthieu, but this great work was not aided by the Picards until Charles VIII. There were but sixteen digests in the time of Louis XII., but our jurisprudence is so improved there are now but few customs which have not a variety of commentators, all of whom are of different opinions. There are already twenty-six upon the customs of Paris. The judges know not which to prefer, but, to put them at their ease the custom of Paris has been just turned into verse. It was in this manner that the Delphian pythoness of old declared her oracles.

Weights and measures differ as much as customs, so that which is correct in the faubourg of Montmartre, is otherwise in the abbey of St. Denis. The Lord pity us!

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01