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Voltaire: Why prefer a war to the happy labors of peace?


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

French writers on war and peace

Voltaire: Selections on war


From Philosophical Dictionary
Translated by William F. Fleming

Why do we scarcely ever know the tenth part of the good we might do? It is clear that if a nation living between the Alps, the Pyrenees, and the sea had employed, in ameliorating and embellishing the country, a tenth part of the money it lost in the war of 1741, and one-half the men killed to no purpose in Germany, the state would have been more flourishing. Why was this done? Why prefer a war, which Europe considered unjust, to the happy labors of peace, which would have produced the useful and the agreeable?


There are whole nations that are not wicked: The Philadephians, the Banians, have never killed anyone. The Chinese, the people of Tonquin, Lao, Siam, and even Japan, for more than a hundred years have not been acquainted with war.


Assemble all the children of the universe; you will see in them only innocence, mildness, and fear; if they were born wicked, mischievous, and cruel, they would show some sign of it, as little serpents try to bite and little tigers to tear. But nature not having given to man more offensive arms than to pigeons and rabbits, she cannot have given them an instinct leading them to destroy.


We never heard a word of vampires in London, nor even in Paris. I confess that in both these cities there were stock-jobbers, brokers, and men of business who sucked the blood of the people in broad daylight; but they were not dead, though corrupted. These true suckers lived not in cemeteries, but in very agreeable palaces.

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