Letter To FranÇois Louis Henri Leriche "God Is Always For The Big Battalions"
by Voltaire

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"God Is Always For The Big Battalions"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Voltaire, the outspoken champion of freedom, was a master of the effective phrase. In some cases the thought did not originate with him, but was transformed by his own inspiration into an epigram of such forceful insight that, once read, it cannot be forgotten. At other times he might use a popular expression, but in such a way that it was given a new freshness and permanence. Voltaire's correspondence was enormous; but this ability seldom failed him, and even in a short letter dashed off in a hurry it frequently stands out. The lines are direct and pungent: they bite into the mind. The note which follows is a good example. It was written to M. Leriche, Receveur des Domaines at Besançon, when Voltaire was seventy-six years of age and living in exile near Geneva. His violent criticisms of Christianity and priestcraft had made it unsafe for him to live in France, but his creative activities continued unabated, and his influence upon the thought of his time did not lessen. Voltaire had long since learned how to achieve a maximum of communication through economy of means. In this letter he replies to a well-wisher who has evidently switched political parties or schools of thought in an effort to get away from attitudes which disgust him and to find something more acceptable. Voltaire warns him that he is not likely to find it. In a letter written October 18, 1677, Roger de Rabutin, Comte de Bussy (1618–1693) had remarked, "God is generally for the big squadrons against the little ones (Dieu est d'ordinaire pour les gros escadrons contre les petits)." Bussy-Rabutin, as he is commonly known, was a member of the French lesser nobility; a notorious rake, whose licentious sketches of the ladies of the court (Histoire Amoureuse des Gaules) landed him in the Bastille, he was...

(The entire section is 465 words.)