The Minister

The king had lost his first minister and chose Zadig to supply his

place. All the ladies in Babylon applauded the choice; for since the

foundation of the empire there had never been such a young minister.

But all the courtiers were filled with jealousy and vexation. The

envious man in particular was troubled with a spitting of blood and a

prodigious inflammation in his nose. Zadig, having thanked the king and

queen for
their goodness, went likewise to thank the parrot. "Beautiful

bird," said he, "'tis thou that hast saved my life and made me first

minister. The queen's spaniel and the king's horse did me a great deal

of mischief; but thou hast done me much good. Upon such slender threads

as these do the fates of mortals hang! But," added he, "this happiness

perhaps will vanish very soon."

"Soon," replied the parrot.

Zadig was somewhat startled at this word. But as he was a good natural

philosopher and did not believe parrots to be prophets, he quickly

recovered his spirits and resolved to execute his duty to the best of

his power.

He made everyone feel the sacred authority of the laws, but no one felt

the weight of his dignity. He never checked the deliberation of the

diran; and every vizier might give his opinion without the fear of

incurring the minister's displeasure. When he gave judgment, it was not

he that gave it, it was the law; the rigor of which, however, whenever

it was too severe, he always took care to soften; and when laws were

wanting, the equity of his decisions was such as might easily have made

them pass for those of Zoroaster. It is to him that the nations are

indebted for this grand principle, to wit, that it is better to run the

risk of sparing the guilty than to condemn the innocent. He imagined

that laws were made as well to secure the people from the suffering of

injuries as to restrain them from the commission of crimes. His chief

talent consisted in discovering the truth, which all men seek to


This great talent he put in practice from the very beginning of his

administration. A famous merchant of Babylon, who died in the Indies,

divided his estate equally between his two sons, after having disposed

of their sister in marriage, and left a present of thirty thousand

pieces of gold to that son who should be found to have loved him best.

The eldest raised a tomb to his memory; the youngest increased his

sister's portion, by giving her part of his inheritance. Everyone said

that the eldest son loved his father best, and the youngest his sister;

and that the thirty thousand pieces belonged to the eldest.

Zadig sent for both of them, the one after the other. To the eldest he

said: "Thy father is not dead; he is recovered of his last illness, and

is returning to Babylon." "God be praised," replied the young man; "but

his tomb cost me a considerable sum." Zadig afterwards said the same to

the youngest. "God be praised," said he, "I will go and restore to my

father all that I have; but I could wish that he would leave my sister

what I have given her." "Thou shalt restore nothing," replied Zadig,

"and thou shalt have the thirty thousand pieces, for thou art the son

who loves his father best."