Philosophical Dictionary, by Voltaire


The following notes were found among the papers of a lawyer, and are perhaps deserving some consideration:

That no ecclesiastical law should be of any force until it has received the express sanction of government. It was upon this principle that Athens and Rome were never involved in religious quarrels.

These quarrels fall to the lot of those nations only that have never been civilized, or that have afterwards been again reduced to barbarism.

That the magistrate alone should have authority to prohibit labor on festivals, because it does not become priests to forbid men to cultivate their fields.

That everything relating to marriages depends solely upon the magistrate, and that the priests should be confined to the august function of blessing them.

That lending money at interest is purely an object of the civil law, as that alone presides over commerce.

That all ecclesiastical persons should be, in all cases whatever, under the perfect control of the government, because they are subjects of the state.

That men should never be so disgracefully ridiculous as to pay to a foreign priest the first year’s revenue of an estate, conferred by citizens upon a priest who is their fellow-citizen.

That no priest should possess authority to deprive a citizen even of the smallest of his privileges, under the pretence that that citizen is a sinner; because the priest, himself a sinner, ought to pray for sinners, and not to judge them.

That magistrates, cultivators, and priests, should alike contribute to the expenses of the state, because all alike belong to the state.

That there should be only one system of weights and measures, and usages.

That the punishment of criminals should be rendered useful. A man that is hanged is no longer useful; but a man condemned to the public works is still serviceable to his country, and a living lecture against crime.

That the whole law should be clear, uniform, and precise; to interpret it is almost always to corrupt it.

That nothing should be held infamous but vice.

That taxes should be imposed always in just proportion.

That law should never be in contradiction to usage; for, if the usage is good, the law is worth nothing.

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