Role of Voltaire in French Revolution

Voltaire (1694 – 1778) was a French historian and Philosopher who is famous for his attacks on Catholic Church, and his advocacy of freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and separation of church and state. He was known to be the “King of Satire” and this genius made him immense popular. Sometimes, his thoughts were too strong and for them, he was sent to Jail several times. He wrote more than 20,000 letters and more than 2,000 books and pamphlets.

He was heavily influenced by the English writers such as Sir Francis Bacon and John Locke. He was an ardent admirer of Locke’s Letter for Toleration (1689). He supported Bacon’s idea of how progress can be achieved: government should be focused on “an enlarged royal prerogative, at the expense of the rights of the Church, Parliament, and the courts” or essentially a strong monarchy.

His most notable works are A Treatise for Toleration and play titled Brutus (1730). In Brutus, he has vividly depicted the horror of a tyrannical government of an ancient Roman King Brutus. This play had a profound effect upon the revolution and some of the most common slogans of the revolution were borrowed from Brutus.

Voltaire launched a crusade against superstition and attacked traditional beliefs. He wrote many essays, poems and dramas creating awareness among the masses. He advocated the supremacy of reason. He stood for religious toleration. He strongly condemned the corruptions in the church. He stood for a benevolent despotism.