writings of



This witty Frenchman's ambivalence toward democracy and his infamous advocacy of "enlightened despotism" may seem, to some, to make him an odd addition to these pages. With regard to the latter, it should be recalled that his emphasis was on the "enlightened" part, and not on "despotism," which he clearly detested in all its forms, and devoted a good deal of his body of work to denouncing. Voltaire is one of the most gifted critics of the last several centuries, and his work often breathes the spirit of purest liberalism--far too often to exclude him from a seat, here.

 Letter to a First Commissioner (1733)
Voltaire vs. literary censorship in France.

 Letter to M. de Bastide (1760)
Ironic Voltaire at his most savage. Reform our virtues, reformers!

 On Toleration (1763)
"We know well what the price has been ever since Christians began to dispute about dogmas. Blood has flowed, on scaffolds and in battles, from the fourth century to our own days." Voltaire takes up his pen to protest the horror inflicted upon a Protestant family in Toulouse by Catholic fanatics acting under color of public authority, and, marshalling historical, utilitarian, and even religious arguments, creates a strong treatise against intolerance.

 Intolerance (1764)
A few short remarks on the subject.

 Liberty of Opinion (1764)
A dialogue on the subject between an Englishman and a Spaniard.

 Liberty of the Press (1764)
"You deceive yourself very grossly, when you think that you have been ruined by books."

 Classical Liberals