Ethics of Citizenry
Treatise on Tolerance
March 10, 1763
Published in 1763, Voltaire's Treatise on Tolerance, is one of the major Western writings on the necessity of acknowledging the natural right of freedom of conscience and protecting religious freedom. In 1762, Voltaire became aware of the execution of a French protestant man (Jean Calas), falsely accused of the murder of his son by the mob in the city of Toulouse. As a "human being" and "to some extent as a philosopher", Voltaire felt compelled to take action against a judicial crime dictated by religious prejudice. On the occasion of what has become the famous "affaire Calas", Voltaire launched what could be seen as the first modern human rights campaign in Europe, a campaign that succeeded in referring the case to a higher Court and having the guilty verdict overturned, and Jean Calas' memory rehabilitated. The Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation has translated 15 most important chapters of the Treatise on Tolerance into Persian, and made it available to Iranian human rights activists who could greatly benefit from the thoughts and actions of the great French philosopher who is the forerunner of human rights activism in the world. As of October 2014 the Treatises has been viewed more than 7500 times on ABF's virtual library.
Voltaire when he was a guest of Frederick II of Prussia
A BRIEF ACCOUNT OF THE DEATH OF JEAN CALAS
The murder of Jean Calas, committed in Toulouse with the sword of justice, the 9th of March, 1762, is one of the most singular events that calls for the attention of the present age and of posterity. We soon forget the crowd of victims who have fallen in the course of innumerable battles, not only because this is a destiny inevitable in war, but because those who thus fell might also have given death to their enemies, and did not lose their lives without defending themselves. Where the danger and the advantage are equal, our wonder ceases, and even pity itself is in some measure lessened; but where the father of an innocent family is delivered up to the hands of error, passion, or fanaticism; where the accused person has no other defense but his virtue; where the arbiters of his destiny have nothing to risk in putting him to death but their having been mistaken, and where they may murder with impunity by decree, then every one is ready to cry out, every one fears for himself, and sees that no person's life is secure in a court erected to watch over the lives of citizens, and every voice unites in demanding vengeance.
In this strange affair, we find religion, suicide, and parricide. The object of inquiry was, whether a father and a mother had murdered their own son in order to please God, and whether a brother had murdered his brother, or a friend his friend; or whether the judges had to reproach themselves with having broken on the wheel an innocent father, or with having acquitted a guilty mother, brother, and friend.
Jean Calas, a person of sixty-eight years of age, had followed the profession of a merchant in Toulouse for upwards of forty years, and was known by all as a good parent in his family. He was a Protestant, as was also his wife, and all his children, one son only excepted, who had abjured heresy, and to whom the father allowed a small annuity. Indeed, he appeared so far removed from that absurd fanaticism which destroys the bonds of society, that he even approved of the conversion of his son, Louis Calas, and he had for thirty years a maid-servant, who was a zealous Catholic, and who had brought up all his children.
Another of his sons, whose name was Marc-Antoine, was a man of letters, but, at the same time, of a restless, gloomy, and violent disposition. This young man finding that he could neither succeed nor enter into business as a merchant, for which indeed he was very unfit, nor be admitted to the bar as a lawyer, because he lacked the certificates of his being a Catholic, resolved to end his life, and gave some intimation of his design to one of his friends. He confirmed himself in his resolution by reading everything that had been written upon the subject of suicide.
At length, one day, having lost all his money in gambling, he chose that as a most proper opportunity for executing his design. A friend named Lavaisse, a young man of nineteen years of age, the son of a famous lawyer of Toulouse, and a youth esteemed by every one who knew him, happened to come from Bordeaux the evening before. He went by chance to dine with the Calas family at their house. Old Calas, his wife, Marc-Antoine, their eldest son, and Pierre their second son, all ate together that evening; after supper was over, they retired into another room, when Marc-Antoine suddenly disappeared. After some time, young Lavaisse took his leave, and Pierre Calas accompanied him downstairs; when they came near the store they saw Marc-Antoine hanging in his shirt behind the door, and his coat folded up and laid upon the counter. His shirt was not in the least rumpled, and his hair was well combed. There was no wound on his body, nor any other mark of violence.
We shall not here enter into all the minute circumstances with which the lawyers have filled their briefs; nor shall we describe the grief and despair of the unhappy parents; their cries were heard by the whole neighborhood. Lavaisse and Peter Calas, almost beside themselves, ran, the one to fetch a surgeon, and the other an officer of justice.
While they were thus employed, and old Calas and his wife were sobbing in tears, the people of Toulouse gathered in crowds about the house. The Toulousians are a superstitious and headstrong people; they look upon their brothers who are not of the same religion as themselves, as monsters. It was at Toulouse that a solemn thanksgiving was ordered for the death of Henry III and that the inhabitants took an oath to murder the first person who should propose to acknowledge that great and good prince Henry IV for their sovereign. This same city still continues to solemnize, by an annual procession and bonfires, the day on which, about two hundred years ago, it ordered the massacre of four thousand of its citizens as heretics. In vain has the council issued six decrees prohibiting this detestable holiday. The Toulousians still continue to celebrate it as a high festival.
Some fanatic among the mob cried out that Jean Calas had hanged his own son; this cry, taken up, became in an instant unanimous; some persons added that the deceased was to have made his abjuration the next day; that his own family and young Lavaisse had murdered him out of hatred for the Catholic religion. No sooner was this opinion stated than it was fully believed by every one; and the whole town was persuaded that it is one of the articles of the Protestant religion for a father or mother to murder their own son, if he attempts to change his faith.
When minds are once aroused, they are not easily appeased. It was now imagined that all the Protestants of Languedoc had assembled together the preceding night, and had chosen by a plurality of voices one of their sect for an executioner; that the choice had fallen upon young Lavaisse; that this young man had, in less than four and twenty hours, received the news of his election, and had come from Bordeaux to assist Jean Calas, his wife, and their son Pierre, to murder a son, a brother, and a friend.
The Sieur David, magistrate of Toulouse, excited by these rumors, and desirous of bringing himself into notice by the ready execution of his office, took a step contrary to all the established fuies and ordinances, by ordering the Calas family, together with their Catholic maid-servant and Lavaisse, to be put in irons.
After this a legal declaration was published which was no less vicious. Matters were carried still farther; Marc-Antoine Calas had died a Calvinist, and as such, if he had laid violent hands on himself, his body ought to have been dragged on a hurdle; he was buried with the greatest funeral pomp in the church of St. Stephen, in spite of the curate who entered his protest against this profanation of holy ground.
There are in Languedoc four orders of penitents, the white, the blue, the gray, and the black, who wear a long capuchin or hood, having a mask of cloth falling down over the face, in which are two holes to see through. These orders wanted the Duke of Fitz-James to become one of their body, but he refused. On the present occasion the white penitents performed a solemn service for Marc-Antoine Calas as for a martyr; nor was the festival of a martyr ever celebrated with greater pomp by any church: but then this pomp was truly terrible. Beneath a magnificent canopy was placed a skeleton which was made to move and which represented Marc-Antoine Calas, holding in one hand a branch of palm, and, in the other, the pen with which he was to sign his adjuration of heresy, and which in fact wrote the death-warrant of his father.
And now nothing more remained to be done for this wretch who had been his own murderer but the office of canonization; all the people looked on him as a saint; some invoked him, some went to pray at his tomb, some besought him to work miracles, while others gravely recounted those he had already performed: A monk pulled out one or two of his teeth, in order to have some lasting relics. An old woman, somewhat deaf, declared that she had heard the sound of bells; and a priest was cured of an apoplectic fit, after taking a stout emetic. Protocols were drawn up of these stupendous miracles, and the author of this account has in his possession an affidavit to prove that a young man of Toulouse went mad for having prayed several nights successively at the tomb of the new saint, without having been able to obtain the miracle he requested of him.
Among the order of the white penitents were some magistrates. The death of Jean Calas seemed then inevitable.
But what more particularly hastened his fate was the approach of that singular festival, which, as I have already observed, the Toulousians celebrate every year, in commemoration of the massacre of four thousand Huguenots; the year 1762 happened to be the annum seculare of this deed. The inhabitants were busied in making preparations for the solemnity; this circumstance added fresh fuel to the heated imagination of the people; every one Cried out that a scaffold for the execution of the Calas family would be the greatest ornament of the ceremony; and that Providence itself seemed to have brought these victims to be sacrificed to our holy religion. Twenty persons heard these speeches, and others still more violent. And this, in the present age! this at a time when philosophy has made so great a progress! and while the pens of a hundred academies are employed in inspiring gentleness of manners. It should seem that enthusiasm enraged at the recent success of reason, fought under her standard with redoubled fury.
Thirteen judges met every day to try this cause; they had not, they could not, have any proof against this family; but mistaken religion took the place of proofs. Six of the judges persisted obstinate, resolved to sentence Jean Calas, his son, and Lavaisse, to be broken on the wheel, and his wife to be burned at the stake; the other seven judges, rather more moderate, were at least for having the accused examined. The debates were frequent and long. One of the judges, convinced in his mind of the innocence of the accused and of the impossibility of the crime, spoke warmly in their favor; he opposed the zeal of humanity to that of cruelty, and openly pleaded the cause of the Calas family in all the houses of Toulouse where misguided religion demanded with incessant cries the blood of these unfortunates. Another judge, well known for his violence, went about the town, raving with as much fury against the accused as his brother had been earnest in defending them. In short, the contest became so warm that both were obliged to enter protests against each other's proceedings, and retire into the country.
But by a strange fatality, the judge who had been on the favorable side had the delicacy to persist in his exceptions, and the other returned to give his vote against those on whom he could no longer sit as judge; and it was his single vote which carried the sentence to the wheel, there being eight voices against five, one of the six merciful judges being at last, after much contestation, brought over to the more rigorous side.
In my opinion, in cases of parricide, and where the head of a family is to be given over to the most dreadful punishment, the sentence ought to be unanimous, inasmuch as the proofs of so unheard of a crime ought to be of such a manner as to satisfy all the world: the least shadow of a doubt in a case of this nature should be sufficient to make the judge tremble who is about to pass sentence of death. The weakness of our reason, and the insufficiency of our laws, become every day more obvious; but surely there cannot be a greater example of this wretchedness than that a single vote should be sufficient to condemn a fellow-citizen to be broken alive on the wheel. The Athenians required at least fifty voices, over and above the majority of the judges, before they would dare to pronounce sentence of death. What does all this show? That we know, quite uselessly, that the Greeks were wiser and more humane than ourselves.
It appeared impossible that Jean Calas, who was an old man of sixty-eight, and had been long troubled with a swelling and weakness in his legs, should have been able by himself to have strangled his son and hanged him, a stout young fellow of eight and twenty, and more than commonly robust; therefore he must absolutely have been assisted in this act by his wife, his other son, Pierre Calas, Lavaisse, and by the servant-maid, and they had been together the whole night of this fatal adventure. But this supposition is altogether as absurd as the other; for can any one believe that a servant, who was a zealous Catholic, would have permitted Huguenots to murder a young man whom she herself had brought up, for his attachment to a religion to which she herself was devoted? That Lavaisse would have come purposely from Bordeaux to murder his friend, of whose pretended conversion he knew nothing? That an affectionate mother would have joined in laying violent hands on her own son? And lastly, how could they all together have been able to strangle a young man stronger than them all, without a long and violent struggle, or without his making such a noise as must have been heard by the whole neighborhood, without repeated blows passing between them, without any marks of violence, or without any of their clothes being torn.
It was evident that if this murder could have been committed, the accused persons were all equally guilty, because they did not leave each other's company an instant the whole night; but then it was equally evident that they were not guilty, and that the father alone could not be so, and yet, by the sentence of the judges, the father alone was condemned to expire on the rack.
The motive on which this sentence was passed was as unaccountable as all the rest of the proceeding. Those judges who had given their opinion for the execution of John Calas persuaded the others that this poor old man, unable to support the torments, would, under the blows of torturers, make a full confession of his crime and that of his accomplices. They were confounded, when the old man, dying on the wheel, called God as a witness of his innocence, and besought him to forgive his judges!
They were afterwards obliged to pass a second decree, which contradicted the first, namely to set at liberty the mother, her son Pierre, young Lavaisse, and the maid-servant; but one of the counsellors having made them aware that this latter decree contradicted the other, and that they condemned themselves, inasmuch as it was proved that all the accused parties had been constantly together during the whole time the murder was supposed to be committed, the setting at liberty of the survivors was an incontestable proof of the innocence of the master of the family whom they had ordered to be executed. They then determined to banish Pierre Calas, the son, which was an act as ill-grounded and absurd as any of the rest, for Pierre Calas was either guilty or not guilty of the murder; if he was guilty, he should have been broken on the wheel in the same manner as his father; if he was innocent, there was no reason for banishing him. But the judges, frightened by the punishment of the father, and by that tender piety with which he had died, thought to save their honor by making people believe that they showed mercy to the son; as if this was not a new degree of prevarication; and they thought that no bad consequences could arise from banishing this young man, who was poor and destitute of friends. His exile was not a great injustice after that which they had been already so unfortunate as to commit.
They began by threatening Pierre Calas in his prison cell that they would treat him as they had his father, if he would not abjure his religion. This the young man has declared on oath.
As Pierre was going out of the town, he was met by one of the abbés with a converting spirit, who made him return back to Toulouse, where he was shut up in a convent of Dominicans, and there compelled to perform all the functions of a convert to the Catholic religion; this was in part what his persecutors wanted; it was the price of his father's blood, and the religion they thought they were avenging seemed satisfied.
The daughters were taken from their mother, and shut up in a convent. This unhappy woman, who had been, as it were, sprinkled with the blood of her husband, who had held her eldest son lifeless within her arms, had seen the other banished, her daughters taken from her, herself stripped of her property, and left alone in the world destitute of bread, and bereft of hopes, was almost weighed down to the grave by the excess of her misfortunes. Some persons, who had maturely weighed all the circumstances of this horrible adventure, were so struck with them that they pressed Madame Calas, who now led a life of retirement and solitude, to exert herself, and go and demand justice at the foot of the throne. At this time she was scarcely able to sustain herself; besides, having been born in England and brought over to a distant province in France when very young, the very name of the city of Paris frightened her. She imagined that in the capital of the kingdom they must be still more savage than in Toulouse; at length, however, the duty of avenging the memory of her husband got the better of her weakness. She arrived in Paris half dead, and was surprised to find herself received with tenderness, sympathy, and offers of assistance.
In Paris reason always triumphs over fanaticism, however great, whereas in the provinces fanaticism almost always triumphs over reason.
M. de Beaumont, a famous lawyer of the Parliament of Paris, immediately took up her cause and drew up an opinion, which was signed by fifteen other lawyers. M. Loiseau, equally famous for his eloquence, likewise drew up a brief in favor of the family; and M. Mariette, solicitor to the council, drew up a formal statement of the case, which struck every one who read it with conviction.
These three generous defenders of the laws and of innocence made the widow a present of all the profits arising from the publication of these pleas,47 which filled not only Paris but all Europe with pity for this unfortunate woman, and every one cried aloud for justice to be done her. The public passed sentence on this affair long before it was determined by the council.
This pity made its way even to the Cabinet, notwithstanding the continual round of business, which often excludes pity and the familiarity of seeing unhappiness, which too frequently steels the heart even more. The daughters were restored to their mother, and all three in deep mourning, and in sobs, drew sympathetic tears from the eyes of their judges.
Nevertheless, this family had still some enemies for this was an affair of religion. Several persons, whom in France we call devout, declared publicly that it was much better to suffer an old Calvinist, though innocent, to be broken upon the wheel, than to force eight counsellors of Languedoc to admit that they had been mistaken; these people made use of this very expression: "That there were more magistrates than Calases"; by which they inferred that the Calas family ought to be sacrificed to the honor of the magistracy. They never reflected that the honor of a judge, like that of another man, consists in making reparation for his faults. In France no one believes that the pope, assisted by his cardinals, is infallible. One may also believe that eight judges of Toulouse are not. Every sensible and disinterested person declared that the decree of the court of Toulouse would be quashed anywhere in Europe, even though particular considerations might prevent it from being declared void by the council.
Such was the state of this surprising affair when it caused certain impartial, but sensible, persons to form the design of laying before the public a few reflections upon tolerance, indulgence, and commiseration, which the Abbé Houtteville in his bombastic and declamatory work, which is false in all the facts, calls a monstrous dogma, but which reason calls the portion of human nature. Either the judges of Toulouse, carried away by the fanaticism of the mob, caused the innocent head of a family to be tortured to death, a thing which is without example; or this father and his wife murdered their eldest son, with the assistance of another son and a friend, which is altogether contrary to nature. In either case, the abuse of the most holy religion has produced a great crime. It is therefore to the interest of mankind to examine if religion should be charitable or savage.
VIRTUE IS BETTER THAN LEARNING
The fewer dogmas, the fewer disputes; and the fewer disputes, the fewer misfortunes: if this is not true, I am mistaken.
Religion is instituted to make us happy in this life and the next. But what is required to make us happy in the life to come? To be just.
To be happy in this life, as much as the wretchedness of our nature will permit, what do we need? To be indulgent.
It would be the height of madness to pretend to bring all mankind to think exactly in the same manner about metaphysics. We might, with much greater ease, conquer the whole universe by force of arms than subject the minds of all the inhabitants of one single village.
Euclid found no difficulty in persuading every one of the truths of geometry. And why? Because there is not one of them which is not a self-evident corollary of this simple axiom: "Two and two make four." But is it not altogether the same for the mixture of metaphysics and theology.
When Bishop Alexander and Arius the priest began first to dispute in what manner the Logos proceeded from the Father, the Emperor Constantine wrote to them in the following words reported by Eusabius and Socrates: "You are great fools to dispute about things you can not understand."
If the two contending parties had been wise enough to agree that the emperor was right, Christendom would not have been drenched in blood for three hundred years.
And, indeed, what can be more foolish, or more horrible than to address mankind in this manner: "My friends, it is not sufficient that you are faithful subjects, dutiful children, tender parents, and good neighbors; that you practice every virtue; that you are friendly, grateful, and worship Jesus-Christ in peace; it is furthermore required of you that you should know how a thing is begotten from all eternity and if you cannot distinguish the omousian in the hypostasis, we declare to you that you will be burned for all eternity; and in the meantime we will begin by cutting your throats"?
If such a decision as this had been presented to Archimedes, Posidonius, Varro, Cato, or Cicero, what answer do you think they would have made?
Constantine, however, did not persevere in silencing the two parties; he might easily have summoned the chiefs of the disputes before him, and have demanded of them by what authority they disturbed the peace of mankind. "Are you," he might have said, "members of the divine family? What is it to you whether the Logos Son was made or begotten, provided that you are faithful to it; that you preach a virtuous morality and practise it if you can? I have committed many faults in my lifetime, and so have you; you are ambitious, and so am I; it has cost me many falsehoods and cruelties to gain the empire; I have murdered almost all my relatives; but I now repent: I want to expiate my crimes by restoring peace to the Roman Empire; do not prevent me from doing the only good action which can possibly make my former cruel ones forgotten; help me to end my days in peace." Perhaps Constantine might not have prevailed over the disputants, and perhaps he might have been pleased with presiding over a council in a long crimson robe, with his forehead glittering with jewels.
This, however, opened the way to all those dreadful calamities which overran the West from Asia. Out of every contested verse there issued a fury armed with an interpretation and a dagger, who made men stupid and cruel. The Huns, the Heruli, the Goths, and Vandals, who came afterwards, did infinitely less harm, and the greatest they did was that of afterwards engaging in the same fatal disputes.
OF UNIVERSAL TOLERANCE
It does not require any great art or studied elocution to prove that Christians ought to tolerate one another. I will go even further and say that we ought to look upon all men as our brothers. What! call a Turk, a Jew, and a Siamese, my brother? Yes, of course; for are we not all children of the same father, and the creatures of the same God?
But these people despise us and call us idolaters! Well, then, I should tell them that they are very wrong. And I think that I could stagger the headstrong pride of an imaum, or a talapoin, were I to speak to them something like this:
"This little globe, which is no more than a point, rolls, together with many other globes, in that immensity of space in which we are lost. Man, who is about five feet high, is certainly a very inconsiderable part of the creation; but one of those hardly visible beings says to some of his neighbors in Arabia or South Africa: Listen to me, for the God of all these worlds has enlightened me. There are about nine hundred millions of us little insects who inhabit the earth, but my ant-hill alone is cherished by God who holds all the rest in horror for all eternity; those who live with me upon my spot will alone be happy, and all the rest eternally wretched."
They would stop me and ask, "What madman could have made so foolish a speech?" I should then be obliged to answer them, "It is yourselves." After which I should try to pacify them, but that would not be very easy.
I might next address myself to the Christians and venture to say, for example, to a Dominican, one of the judges of the inquisition: "Brother, you know that every province in Italy has a jargon of its own and that they do not speak in Venice and Bergamo as they do in Florence. The Academy della Crusca has fixed the standard of the Italian language; its dictionary is an absolute rule, and Buonmattei's Grammar is an infallible guide, from neither of which we ought to depart; but do you think that the president of the Academy, or in his absence Buonmattei, could in conscience order the tongues of all the Venetians and Berga-mese, who persisted in their own dialect, to be cut out?"
The inquisitor would reply: "There is a very wide difference; here the salvation of your soul is concerned; and it is entirely for your good that the directory of the inquisition orders that you be seized, upon the deposition of a single person, though of the most infamous character; that you have no lawyer to plead for you, nor even be acquainted with the name of your accuser; that the inquisitor promise you favor, and afterwards condemn you; that he make you undergo five different kinds of torture, and that afterwards you be either whipped, sent to the galleys, or burned at the stake. Father Ivonet, and the doctors, Cuchalon, Zanchinus Campegius, Roias, Felynus, Gomarus, Diabarus, and Gemelinus are exactly of this opinion, and this pious practice will not admit of contradiction."
To all of which I should take the liberty of making the following reply: "My brother, you may perhaps be in the right; I am perfectly well convinced of the great good you would do me; but may I not be saved without all this?"
It is true that these absurd horrors do not daily stain the face of the earth; but they have been frequent, and one might easily collect instances enough to make a volume much larger than that of the Holy Gospels, which condemn such practices. It is not only very cruel to persecute in this short life those who do not think in the same way as we do, but I very much doubt if there is not an impious boldness in pronouncing them eternally damned. In my opinion, it little befits such insects of a summer's day as we are thus to anticipate the decrees of the Creator. I am very far from opposing the maxim, "outside the church there is no salvation;" I respect it and all that it teaches, but, after all, do we know all the ways of God, and all the extent of his mercy? Are we not permitted to hope in him, as well as to fear him? Is it not sufficient if we are faithful to the Church? Must every individual usurp the rights of Divinity and determine, before it, the eternal fate of all men?
When we wear mourning for a king of Sweden, Denmark, England or Prussia, do we say that we are in mourning for a damned soul that is burning eternally in hell? There are about forty millions of inhabitants in Europe who are not members of the Church of Rome; should we say to every one of them, "Sir, since you are infallibly damned, I shall neither eat, converse, nor have any connections with you?"
Is there an ambassador of France who, when he is presented to the Grand Seigneur for an audience, will seriously say to himself, his highness will infallibly burn for all eternity for having submitted to circumcision? If he really thought that the Grand Seigneur was a mortal enemy of God, and the object of his vengeance, could he converse with such a person; ought he to be sent to him? With what man could we carry on any commerce, or perform any of the civil duties of society, if we were indeed convinced that we were conversing with persons destined to eternal damnation?
O different worshippers of a peaceful God! if you have a cruel heart, if, while you adore he whose whole law consists of these few words, "Love God and your neighbor," you have burdened that pure and holy law with false and unintelligible disputes, if you have lighted the flames of discord sometimes for a new word, and sometimes for a single letter of the alphabet; if you have attached eternal punishment to the omission of a few words, or of certain ceremonies which other people cannot comprehend, I must say to you with tears of compassion for mankind: "Transport yourselves with me to the day on which all men will be judged and on which God will do unto each according to his works.
"I see all the dead of past ages and of our own appearing in his presence. Are you very sure that our Creator and Father will say to the wise and virtuous Confucius, to the legislator Solon, to Pythagoras, Zaleucus, Socrates, Plato, the divine Antonins, the good Trajan, to Titus, the delights of mankind, to Epictetus, and to many others, models of men: Go, monsters, go and suffer torments that are infinite in intensity and duration. Let your punishment be eternal as I am. But you, my beloved ones, John Châtel, Ravaillac, Damiens, Cartouche, etc. who have died according to the prescribed rules, sit forever at my right hand and share my empire and my felicity."
You draw back with horror at these words; and after they have escaped me, I have nothing more to say to you.
PRAYER TO GOD
No longer then do I address myself to men, but to you, God of all beings, of all worlds, and of all ages; if it may be permitted weak creatures lost in immensity and imperceptible to the rest of the universe, to dare to ask something of you, you who have given everything, and whose decrees are immutable as they are eternal. Deign to look with pity on the errors attached to our nature; let not these errors prove ruinous to us. You have not given us hearts to hate ourselves with, and hands to kill one another. Grant then that we may mutually aid each other to support the burden of a painful and transitory life; that the trifling differences in the garments that cover our frail bodies, in our insufficient languages, in our ridiculous customs, in our imperfect laws, in our idle opinions, in all our conditions so disproportionate in our eyes, and so equal in yours, that all the little variations that differentiate the atoms called men not be signs of hatred and persecution; that those who light candles in broad daylight to worship you bear with those who content themselves with the light of your sun; that those who dress themselves in a white robe to say that we must love you do not detest those who say the same thing in cloaks of black wool; that it may be all the same to adore you in a dialect formed from an ancient or a modern language; that those whose coat is colored red or violet, who rule over a little parcel of a little heap of mud of this world, and who possess a few round fragments of a certain metal, enjoy without pride what they call grandeur and riches, and may others look on them without envy: for you know that there is nothing in all these vanities to inspire envy or pride.
May all men remember that they are brothers! May they hold in horror tyranny exerted over souls, just as they do the violence which forcibly seizes the products of peaceful industry! And if the scourge of war is inevitable, let us not hate one another, let us not destroy one another in the midst of peace, and let us use the moment of our existence to bless, in a thousand different languages, from Siam to California, your goodness which has given us this moment.