A few acres of snow

A few acres of snow

Overview
"A few acres of snow" is one of several quotations from Voltaire
Voltaire
François-Marie Arouet , better known by the pen name Voltaire , was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, free trade and separation of church and state...

, the 18th-century writer, which are representative of his sneering evaluation of Canada
Canada, New France
Canada was the name of the French colony that once stretched along the St. Lawrence River; the other colonies of New France were Acadia, Louisiana and Newfoundland. Canada, the most developed colony of New France, was divided into three districts, each with its own government: Quebec,...

, and by extension New France
New France
New France was the area colonized by France in North America during a period beginning with the exploration of the Saint Lawrence River by Jacques Cartier in 1534 and ending with the cession of New France to Spain and Great Britain in 1763...

, as lacking economic value and strategic importance to 18th-century France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. The exact phrase first appears in 1758 in chapter 23 of Voltaire's book Candide
Candide
Candide, ou l'Optimisme is a French satire first published in 1759 by Voltaire, a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment. The novella has been widely translated, with English versions titled Candide: or, All for the Best ; Candide: or, The Optimist ; and Candide: or, Optimism...

, although the phrase "a few acres of ice" appeared in a letter he wrote in 1757. Voltaire wrote similar sarcastic
Sarcasm
Sarcasm is “a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter jibe or taunt.” Though irony and understatement is usually the immediate context, most authorities distinguish sarcasm from irony; however, others argue that sarcasm may or often does involve irony or employs...

 remarks in other works.

In Voltaire's day, New France included Canada, Acadia
Acadia
Acadia was the name given to lands in a portion of the French colonial empire of New France, in northeastern North America that included parts of eastern Quebec, the Maritime provinces, and modern-day Maine. At the end of the 16th century, France claimed territory stretching as far south as...

, Louisiana (New France)
Louisiana (New France)
Louisiana or French Louisiana was an administrative district of New France. Under French control from 1682–1763 and 1800–03, the area was named in honor of Louis XIV, by French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle...

, and other territories.
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Encyclopedia
"A few acres of snow" is one of several quotations from Voltaire
Voltaire
François-Marie Arouet , better known by the pen name Voltaire , was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, free trade and separation of church and state...

, the 18th-century writer, which are representative of his sneering evaluation of Canada
Canada, New France
Canada was the name of the French colony that once stretched along the St. Lawrence River; the other colonies of New France were Acadia, Louisiana and Newfoundland. Canada, the most developed colony of New France, was divided into three districts, each with its own government: Quebec,...

, and by extension New France
New France
New France was the area colonized by France in North America during a period beginning with the exploration of the Saint Lawrence River by Jacques Cartier in 1534 and ending with the cession of New France to Spain and Great Britain in 1763...

, as lacking economic value and strategic importance to 18th-century France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. The exact phrase first appears in 1758 in chapter 23 of Voltaire's book Candide
Candide
Candide, ou l'Optimisme is a French satire first published in 1759 by Voltaire, a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment. The novella has been widely translated, with English versions titled Candide: or, All for the Best ; Candide: or, The Optimist ; and Candide: or, Optimism...

, although the phrase "a few acres of ice" appeared in a letter he wrote in 1757. Voltaire wrote similar sarcastic
Sarcasm
Sarcasm is “a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter jibe or taunt.” Though irony and understatement is usually the immediate context, most authorities distinguish sarcasm from irony; however, others argue that sarcasm may or often does involve irony or employs...

 remarks in other works.

Historical context of the quotations


In Voltaire's day, New France included Canada, Acadia
Acadia
Acadia was the name given to lands in a portion of the French colonial empire of New France, in northeastern North America that included parts of eastern Quebec, the Maritime provinces, and modern-day Maine. At the end of the 16th century, France claimed territory stretching as far south as...

, Louisiana (New France)
Louisiana (New France)
Louisiana or French Louisiana was an administrative district of New France. Under French control from 1682–1763 and 1800–03, the area was named in honor of Louis XIV, by French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle...

, and other territories. All parts of the colonies were the object of Voltaire's sarcastic comments at one point or another.

Through all his writings on the subject, Voltaire's basic idea about France's Canadian colony
Colony
In politics and history, a colony is a territory under the immediate political control of a state. For colonies in antiquity, city-states would often found their own colonies. Some colonies were historically countries, while others were territories without definite statehood from their inception....

 always remained the same. It can be summarized as comprising an economic premise and a strategic premise, both of which concur to a practical conclusion, as follows:
  • Almost the entirety of Canada's territory is, and will remain, an almost unproductive and useless frozen wasteland.
  • Great Britain
    Kingdom of Great Britain
    The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

    , having colonized the more productive territories to the south and having already provided them with a much larger population, will not tolerate the presence of another Europe
    Europe
    Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

    an power in that area and will relentlessly attack Canada until such presence is ousted. Given the enormous disproportion in population and material resources between the French and British colonies in North America
    North America
    North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

    , the impossibility of modifying that imbalance in the foreseeable future and Britain's generally better control of the maritime routes to Europe, Britain will inevitably prevail sooner or later.
  • Therefore, an effective defence of Canada by France requires an extraordinarily large commitment of resources in comparison to the scant economic value in return, and any resources thus expended, even if allowing victories in the short term, are wasted as they can only serve at best to postpone for a few more decades the handing over of Canada to Britain, which is inevitable in the long term. Consequently, sound economic policy dictates handing over Canada to Britain as soon as possible and concentrating France's resources in its Caribbean
    Caribbean
    The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

     colonies, more valuable economically and more readily defensible.


Today's critics of Voltaire's opinion are directed primarily at his economic assessment of the Canadian colony. Voltaire’s idea of the Canadian colony based essentially on fur trade was, even at the time of his own writings, already outdated by almost a century. Thus, although it may be difficult to determine exactly what part of his depiction of Canada might be attributed to deliberate exaggeration for polemical purposes, to attachment to a preconceived idea or to mere misinformation, his few writings on the subject do seem to display a certain level of short-sightedness regarding the actual level of economic evolution that had, by then, already been reached in the settled parts of Canada and about the colony’s potential for further development.

On the other hand, Voltaire's assessment of the heavy financial burden required for the military defence of Canada and of the practical impossibility of such defence in the long term remains valid. Consequently, had he espoused a more favourable idea of the economic potential of the colony, that would likely not have changed his general conclusion.

Voltaire's famous quotations about New France were for the most part written between 1753 and 1763, shortly before, and then during, the Seven Years' War. Voltaire was living in Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 during most of this period. During the war, he sometimes appeared to favor the Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

n king Frederick II
Frederick II of Prussia
Frederick II was a King in Prussia and a King of Prussia from the Hohenzollern dynasty. In his role as a prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire, he was also Elector of Brandenburg. He was in personal union the sovereign prince of the Principality of Neuchâtel...

 (allied to Britain against France), with whom he was maintaining a regular personal correspondence during the war (the two men being again in better terms after their quarrel of 1753). Voltaire was also at the same time in correspondence with some French ministers. He thus corresponded with both sides of the belligerents in the war, although mostly on a personal and literary level more than a political level. He thought that the war was a mistake for France and he used several opportunities to ask the French ministers to simply quit the war. Boundary disputes in their American colonies had been an early casus belli
Casus belli
is a Latin expression meaning the justification for acts of war. means "incident", "rupture" or indeed "case", while means bellic...

(1754) between Britain and France in this war, which was later (1756) further complicated by purely European considerations and ended seven years later (1763). Voltaire's position that France should let go of its North American colonies was in accord with his position about the war in general. For him, handing over New France would appease Britain. His position about the European war likely increased his tendency to paint New France as being of little value.

1753 – Essai sur les moeurs et l’esprit des nations


Chapter 151 - Of the possessions of the French in America:
"Already the English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 were taking possession of the best lands and of those most advantageously situated that could be possessed in northern America beyond Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

, when two or three merchants from Normandy
Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

, on the slight hope of a small commerce of fur
Fur
Fur is a synonym for hair, used more in reference to non-human animals, usually mammals; particularly those with extensives body hair coverage. The term is sometimes used to refer to the body hair of an animal as a complete coat, also known as the "pelage". Fur is also used to refer to animal...

s, equipped a few vessel
Ship
Since the end of the age of sail a ship has been any large buoyant marine vessel. Ships are generally distinguished from boats based on size and cargo or passenger capacity. Ships are used on lakes, seas, and rivers for a variety of activities, such as the transport of people or goods, fishing,...

s, and established a colony in Canada, a country covered with snow
Snow
Snow is a form of precipitation within the Earth's atmosphere in the form of crystalline water ice, consisting of a multitude of snowflakes that fall from clouds. Since snow is composed of small ice particles, it is a granular material. It has an open and therefore soft structure, unless packed by...

s and ice
Ice
Ice is water frozen into the solid state. Usually ice is the phase known as ice Ih, which is the most abundant of the varying solid phases on the Earth's surface. It can appear transparent or opaque bluish-white color, depending on the presence of impurities or air inclusions...

s eight months of the year, inhabited by barbarian
Barbarian
Barbarian and savage are terms used to refer to a person who is perceived to be uncivilized. The word is often used either in a general reference to a member of a nation or ethnos, typically a tribal society as seen by an urban civilization either viewed as inferior, or admired as a noble savage...

s, bear
Bear
Bears are mammals of the family Ursidae. Bears are classified as caniforms, or doglike carnivorans, with the pinnipeds being their closest living relatives. Although there are only eight living species of bear, they are widespread, appearing in a wide variety of habitats throughout the Northern...

s and beaver
Beaver
The beaver is a primarily nocturnal, large, semi-aquatic rodent. Castor includes two extant species, North American Beaver and Eurasian Beaver . Beavers are known for building dams, canals, and lodges . They are the second-largest rodent in the world...

s
. That land, already discovered as early as 1535, had been abandoned but, after several attempts, ineffectively supported by a government
Government
Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized...

 that did not possess a navy
Navy
A navy is the branch of a nation's armed forces principally designated for naval and amphibious warfare; namely, lake- or ocean-borne combat operations and related functions...

, a small company
Company
A company is a form of business organization. It is an association or collection of individual real persons and/or other companies, who each provide some form of capital. This group has a common purpose or focus and an aim of gaining profits. This collection, group or association of persons can be...

 of merchant
Merchant
A merchant is a businessperson who trades in commodities that were produced by others, in order to earn a profit.Merchants can be one of two types:# A wholesale merchant operates in the chain between producer and retail merchant...

s from Dieppe
Dieppe, Seine-Maritime
Dieppe is a commune in the Seine-Maritime department in France. In 1999, the population of the whole Dieppe urban area was 81,419.A port on the English Channel, famous for its scallops, and with a regular ferry service from the Gare Maritime to Newhaven in England, Dieppe also has a popular pebbled...

 and St. Malo founded Québec
Quebec City
Quebec , also Québec, Quebec City or Québec City is the capital of the Canadian province of Quebec and is located within the Capitale-Nationale region. It is the second most populous city in Quebec after Montreal, which is about to the southwest...

, in 1608, that is to say, built a few cabins; and those cabins became a city
City
A city is a relatively large and permanent settlement. Although there is no agreement on how a city is distinguished from a town within general English language meanings, many cities have a particular administrative, legal, or historical status based on local law.For example, in the U.S...

 only under Louis XIV
Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV , known as Louis the Great or the Sun King , was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre. His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days...

.

"(...) Those bad countries have nonetheless been an almost continual object of war
War
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

, either with the natives
Indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples are ethnic groups that are defined as indigenous according to one of the various definitions of the term, there is no universally accepted definition but most of which carry connotations of being the "original inhabitants" of a territory....

, or with the English, who, being the possessors of the best territories, wanted to take that of the French, so as to be the sole masters of the commerce of that boreal part of the world.

"(...) Colonies were sent to the Mississippi
Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States, this river rises in western Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains...

 (1717 and 1718); the plan was set of a wonderful and regular city, named the New Orleans. Most of the settler
Settler
A settler is a person who has migrated to an area and established permanent residence there, often to colonize the area. Settlers are generally people who take up residence on land and cultivate it, as opposed to nomads...

s perished from misery, and the city was reduced to a few bad houses. Maybe one day, if there are millions of inhabitants in excess in France, will it be advantageous to populate Louisiana, but it is more likely that it will have to be abandoned."

1756 - Letter to François Tronchin


In this letter to François Tronchin, written at Monriond, near Lausanne
Lausanne
Lausanne is a city in Romandy, the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and is the capital of the canton of Vaud. The seat of the district of Lausanne, the city is situated on the shores of Lake Geneva . It faces the French town of Évian-les-Bains, with the Jura mountains to its north-west...

, dated January 29, 1756, Voltaire mentions the earthquake that destroyed Lisbon
Lisbon
Lisbon is the capital city and largest city of Portugal with a population of 545,245 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Lisbon extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of 3 million on an area of , making it the 9th most populous urban...

, Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

, on November 1, 1755.
"The war is serious, then. I wish the earthquake had engulfed that miserable Acadia instead of Lisbon and Mequines."

1757 – Letter to Mr de Moncrif


This letter from Voltaire to François-Augustin Paradis de Moncrif (1687–1770), written at Monrion, near Lausanne, on March 27, 1757, contains the first known direct use by Voltaire of his famous turn of phrase "a few acres of ice in Canada". (Also of note, the clear preposition of location "in Canada".) The relevant passage of the letter reads as follows:
"(...) I am a bad actor
Actor
An actor is a person who acts in a dramatic production and who works in film, television, theatre, or radio in that capacity...

 in the winter in Lausanne and I have success in the roles of old men, I am a gardener in the spring, in Mes Délices near Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

, in a climate more southern than yours. From my bed I see the lake, the Rhône
Rhône River
The Rhone is one of the major rivers of Europe, rising in Switzerland and running from there through southeastern France. At Arles, near its mouth on the Mediterranean Sea, the river divides into two branches, known as the Great Rhone and the Little Rhone...

 and another river. Do you have, my dear colleague, a better view? Do you have tulips in the month of March? Also, one dabbles in some philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 and some history
History
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

, one mocks the follies of the human race, and the charlatanism of our physicist
Physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

s who believe that they have measured the Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

, and of those who pass for wise men because they have said that eel
Eel
Eels are an order of fish, which consists of four suborders, 20 families, 111 genera and approximately 800 species. Most eels are predators...

s are made with sourdough
Sourdough
Sourdough is a dough containing a Lactobacillus culture, usually in symbiotic combination with yeasts. It is one of two principal means of biological leavening in bread baking, along with the use of cultivated forms of yeast . It is of particular importance in baking rye-based breads, where yeast...

. One pities that poor human race that slits its throat on our continent about a few acres of ice in Canada. One is free as the air from morning to evening. My orchards, my vineyards and me, we do not owe anything to anyone."


The sentence from Voltaire's letter to Moncrif has been quoted often. The 19th-century writer Jules Verne
Jules Verne
Jules Gabriel Verne was a French author who pioneered the science fiction genre. He is best known for his novels Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea , A Journey to the Center of the Earth , and Around the World in Eighty Days...

 (1828–1905) quoted it in his novel A Family without a name (Famille sans nom), published in 1889, set in the Canada of 1837 during the reformist rebellion
Lower Canada Rebellion
The Lower Canada Rebellion , commonly referred to as the Patriots' War by Quebeckers, is the name given to the armed conflict between the rebels of Lower Canada and the British colonial power of that province...

. The famous sentence is quoted in chapter 1 of the novel. Verne's novel has likely contributed to the quotation's popularity.

1758 – Candide


Voltaire must have been quite happy with his "few acres of ice" phrase from his 1757 letter to Moncrif: he used it again the following year, slightly modified, in his novel Candide
Candide
Candide, ou l'Optimisme is a French satire first published in 1759 by Voltaire, a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment. The novella has been widely translated, with English versions titled Candide: or, All for the Best ; Candide: or, The Optimist ; and Candide: or, Optimism...

(written in 1758 and published in 1759), although now replacing "ice" with "snow". The "snow" version of 1758 has generally become better known today in Canada than the "ice" version of 1757, perhaps because Candide is sometimes used in high school courses. The relevant passage appears in chapter 23 of Candide, when two characters of the novel are exchanging thoughts about France and Britain:
"You know that these two nations are at war about a few acres of snow somewhere around Canada, and that they are spending on this beautiful war more than all Canada is worth."


In the original French version, Voltaire uses the phrase "… pour quelques arpents de neige vers le Canada", where the preposition "vers" does not have the usual meaning it has in today's French. Instead, "vers" is commonly used by Voltaire in his writings to express a general meaning of vagueness about an area, in the general sense of "somewhere in or around this general area". It is apparent from the whole of his writings that he views, or pretends to view, Canada as a vast icy and snowy area. Thus, it is immaterial to ponder if by "a few acres" Voltaire had in mind one of the areas in dispute in 1754, such as the Ohio valley (in itself hardly an insignificant patch of land) or the Acadian border. By 1758, the war had extended to all possessions of the belligerents. Under Voltaire's pen, the term is deliberately vague and the point of using it is to convey the idea that any acres of land in the general area of Canada are so unimportant that even their location is not worth worrying about.

1760 - Letter from Étienne de Choiseul


Although not a Voltaire quotation, this letter from Étienne François de Choiseul-Stainville, duc de Choiseul
Étienne François, duc de Choiseul
Étienne-François, comte de Stainville, duc de Choiseul was a French military officer, diplomat and statesman. Between 1758 and 1761, and 1766 and 1770, he was Foreign Minister of France and had a strong influence on France's global strategy throughout the period...

 (1719–1785), French Secretary of State (minister
Minister (government)
A minister is a politician who holds significant public office in a national or regional government. Senior ministers are members of the cabinet....

) for Foreign Affairs, to Voltaire, is an example of the correspondence between Voltaire and the French ministry and of Choiseul's dry humour in the manner he informs Voltaire of the fall of Canada:
"Versailles, October 12
"(...) I have learned that we have lost Montréal
Montreal
Montreal is a city in Canada. It is the largest city in the province of Quebec, the second-largest city in Canada and the seventh largest in North America...

 and consequently all of Canada. If you relied on us for this winter's furs, I advise you that it is with the English that you must deal."

1760 – Letter to the marquis de Chauvelin


In this letter to Bernard-François, marquis de Chauvelin
Bernard-François, marquis de Chauvelin
Bernard-François, marquis de Chauvelin was a French nobleman and liberal.Born in Paris, the scion of an illustrious family, Chauvelin initially followed his father François Claude Chauvelin as Master of the King's Wardrobe to Louis XVI. However, despite being of noble birth, he had been raised...

 (1716–1773), written at Les Délices
Les Délices
Les Délices, or "The Delights", was a Geneva home of Voltaire, a French Enlightenment writer and philosopher. Voltaire moved to Les Délices in January 1755, having purchased a life interest in the estate. Being a foreigner, he could not buy the house directly.-External links:*...

, Voltaire’s property near Geneva, on November 3, 1760, Voltaire writes:
"Would I dare, I would beg you on my knees to forever rid the government of France from Canada. If you lose it, you lose almost nothing; if you want it returned to you, all you will be returned is an eternal cause of war and humiliation. Consider that the English are at least fifty to one in northern America."

1762 - Letter to César Gabriel de Choiseul


This letter from Voltaire to César Gabriel de Choiseul
César Gabriel de Choiseul
César Gabriel de Choiseul, duc de Praslin was a French officer, diplomat and statesman.On 30 April 1732, he was married with Anne Marie de Champagne de Villaines de la Suze....

 (1712–1785), who had replaced his cousin Étienne de Choiseul as French Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in 1761, written at Les Délices, on September 6, 1762, is one of the best known of Voltaire’s letters about Canada, being mentioned anecdotically in some high school history textbooks. A short letter, it can be quoted in full:
"Aux Délices 6 septembre 1762
"If I wanted to speak only for myself, milord, I would remain silent in the crisis of affairs where you find yourself. But I hear the voices of many strangers, all saying that you must be blessed if you make peace, whatever the cost. Therefore, allow me, milord, to compliment you. I am like the public, I like peace more than Canada, and I believe that France can be happy without Québec
Quebec
Quebec or is a province in east-central Canada. It is the only Canadian province with a predominantly French-speaking population and the only one whose sole official language is French at the provincial level....

. You give us precisely what we need. We owe you our gratitude. Until then, please receive, with your usual kindness, the deep respect of Voltaire."

1763 – Précis du siècle de Louis XV


The Précis was written by Voltaire over several years. The relevant passages, below, were likely written in or after 1763.
"Chapter 31 - The state of Europe in 1756 - (...) - Disastrous wars for some territories somewhere in Canada - (...)

"The revolutions that the aforementioned king of Prussia and his enemies were preparing were thenceforth a fire that smouldered under embers. That fire soon spread to Europe, but the first sparks came from America. A slight quarrel between France and England, about some savage lands somewhere around Acadia, inspired a new politic to all the sovereigns of Europe."

"Chapter 35 - Losses of the French

"In one day were lost fifteen hundred leagues of land. Those fifteen hundred leagues, the three quarters of which are frozen deserts, were perhaps not a real loss. If one tenth of the money engulfed in that colony had been used to clear our uncultivated lands in France, it would have brought a considerable benefit, but it had been decided to support Canada, and one hundred years of effort were lost with all the money invested without benefit in return.
(...)
The State lost, during that disastrous war, the most flourishing youth, more than half the money that circulated in the realm, its navy, its commerce, its credit. One would have believed that it would have been very easy to prevent so many woes through some accommodation with the English for a small litigious patch of land somewhere in Canada, but a few ambitious, to acquire prestige and to render themselves necessary, precipitated France into this fatal war."

1763 – Letter to d’Argental


Although not directly an assessment quotation, this letter from Voltaire to Charles Augustin Feriol, comte d'Argental (date uncertain – likely around 1763) illustrates Voltaire's position and actions about the matter:
"Will the government not forgive me for having said that the English took Canada, which I had, incidentally, offered, four years ago, to sell to the English, which would have ended everything, and which Mr Pitt's brother had proposed to me."

Modern usage


The phrase continues to be referenced in the modern era. Canadian poet Poet Louis-Honoré Fréchette
Louis-Honoré Fréchette
Louis-Honoré Fréchette, , was a Canadian poet, politician, playwright, and short story writer.-Biography:...

 paid himself a revenge on Voltaire in his poem "Sous la statue de Voltaire" ("Under the statue of Voltaire"), published in La Légende d'un Peuple (1887).

Quelques arpents de neige (A few acres of snow) is the title of a 1972 movie by Denis Héroux
Denis Héroux
Denis Héroux, OC is a Canadian film director and producer.-Biography:Héroux wanted to become a teacher when he collaborated with Denys Arcand and Stéphane Venne on the 1962 film about life as a student, Seul ou avec d’autres...

; "Pour quelques arpents de neige" is a 1972 song by Claude Léveillée, written for the film.

In the 1980s, the marketers of the Quebec edition of the game Trivial Pursuit
Trivial Pursuit
Trivial Pursuit is a board game in which progress is determined by a player's ability to answer general knowledge and popular culture questions. The game was created in 1979 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, by Canadian Chris Haney, a photo editor for Montreal's The Gazette and Scott Abbott, a sports...

 punningly named their product "Quelques arpents de pièges" (A few acres of traps).

This is also the title of a board game designed by Martin Wallace about the French and British conflict over what is now Canada.

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