Random Quote #43 topic: voltaire-dict, Philosophical Dictionary by Voltaire, 1694-1778


Ordinarily there is no comparison between the crimes of the great who
are always ambitious, and the crimes of the people who always want, and
can want only liberty and equality. These two sentiments, Liberty and
Equality, do not lead direct to calumny, rapine, assassination,
poisoning, the devastation of one's neighbours' lands, etc.; but
ambitious might and the mania for power plunge into all these crimes
whatever be the time, whatever be the place.

Popular government is in itself, therefore, less iniquitous, less
abominable than despotic power.

The great vice of democracy is certainly not tyranny and cruelty: there
have been mountain-dwelling republicans, savage, ferocious; but it is
not the republican spirit that made them so, it is nature.

The real vice of a civilized republic is in the Turkish fable of the
dragon with many heads and the dragon with many tails. The many heads
hurt each other, and the many tails obey a single head which wants to
devour everything.

Democracy seems suitable only to a very little country, and further it
must be happily situated. Small though it be, it will make many
mistakes, because it will be composed of men. Discord will reign there
as in a monastery; but there will be no St. Bartholomew, no Irish
massacres, no Sicilian vespers, no inquisition, no condemnation to the
galleys for having taken some water from the sea without paying for it,
unless one supposes this republic composed of devils in a corner of

One questions every day whether a republican government is preferable to
a king's government? The dispute ends always by agreeing that to govern
men is very difficult. The Jews had God Himself for master; see what has
happened to them on that account: nearly always have they been beaten
and slaves, and to-day do you not find that they cut a pretty figure?


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