[PW] Saying: With great power comes great responsibility (Request help with French)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com
Tue Jun 30 11:12:36 PDT 2015

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision penned by Justice Elena Kagan
referred to a quotation in a 1962 comic book featuring Spiderman. Fred
has an entry for the quotation in the Yale Book of Quotations: "with
great power there must also come--great responsibility". Fred also
noted the existence of an earlier citation with a matching expression:

 [Begin excerpt]
"Wherever there is great power . . . there is great responsibility’"
appeared much earlier in John Cumming, Voices of the Dead (1854).
[End excerpt]

I have been asked (by a judge) to trace this quotation because it has
also been attributed to Voltaire. At this time the linkage to Voltaire
is unsupported. Nevertheless, I have attempted to find something
pertinent in French.

Below is a citation from the time of the French Revolution that may be
relevant. Would someone please translate the passage below? I have
removed diacritical marks because mailing list software sometimes
handles these marks incorrectly. (The link below leads to a full
version of the text with removed diacritical marks.)

[ref] 1793 May, Title: Collection Generale des Décrets Rendus par la
Convention Nationale, Date: May 8, 1793 (Du 8 Mai 1793), Quote Page
72, Publisher: Chez Baudouin, Imprimeur de la Convention Nationale. A
Paris. (Google Books Full View) link [/ref]


[Begin excerpt]
Les Representans du peuple se rendront a leur destination, investis de
la plus hante confiance et de pouvoirs illimites. Ils vont deployer un
grand caractere. Ils doivent envisager qu'une grande responsabilite
est la suite inseparable d'un grand pouvoir. Ce sera a leur energie, a
leur courage, et sur-tout a leur prudence, qu'ils devront leur succes
et leur gloire.
[End excerpt]

In recent years the claim of a linkage to Voltaire has sometimes
included the following citation. The citation gives no page number.
Also, the original supposed statement in French is not specified:

[Begin excerpt]
Voltaire: Voltaire. Jean, Adrien. Beuchot, Quentin and Miger, Pierre,
Auguste. Oeuvres de Voltaire, Volume 48. Lefèvre, 1832.
[End excerpt]

Here is link to volume 48 of Oeuvres de Voltaire:

Short link: http://bit.ly/1egYuVp
Long link: https://books.google.com/books/about/Oeuvres_de_Voltaire.html?id=jKMGAAAAQAAJ

I was unable to find a relevant quotation within volume 48. If some
W0mbat finds something pertinent please let me know.

Thanks for any translation help you can provide; also, any substantive
evidence of a connection to Voltaire would be welcome,

Garson O'Toole

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