"Do you image that you can ever do good in this world without doing evil? It's impossible to be just to everyone, to make everyone happy. If your heart is too tender to consent to necessary sacrifices, you ought to shut yourself away in a monastery."
He pressed his lips together. Something hard and cold gleamed under his half-closed eyelids. He loved the century in which he was living; he loved luxury and power.
"I want to govern without causing anyone an injustice."
"Can you govern without wars, without gallows? Once and for all, you have to look things in the face!" I said sharply. "If you learn to do that, you'll stop wasting precious time. The best of princes always have hundreds of deaths on their consciences."
"There are just wars and necessary repressions," he countered.
"You have to justify the suffering you cause to some men by the good works you accomplish for the benefit of all."
I remained silent for a moment; I could not tell him what I was really thinking: that a life, even the best of lives, weighs no more than the flight of a gnat, but that the roads, the cities, the canals we could build, would remain on the surface of the earth throughout eternity; that for eternity, we could rip a whole continent from the dark shadows of virgin forests and idiotic superstitions. I could not tell him these things because Charles was unconcerned with an earthly future he would never see with his own eyes. But I did know the words that were capable of awakening a response in his heart.
"Bear this in mind: it will be only worldly misery that we inflict upon those poor savages. And ultimately we'll bring eternal truth and happiness to them and to their children and to their children's children. When all those ignorant people are finally led into the Church's fold where they and their descendants will remain for centuries and centuries to come, won't you be justified in having aided Cortez?"
"But men who are now in mortal sin will die by our hands," he said hesitantly.
"In any case, they would have died in idolatry and crime."
Charles fell into a chair.
"Never commit an evil act when it serves no purpose," I said. "God can demand no more than that from any emperor. He must know that evil is sometimes necessary —after all, He, Himself, created it."
"Yes." He looked at me distressfully. "But I'd like to be sure," he said.
I shrugged my shoulders. "You'll never be sure."
He sighed, and for a moment he silently tugged at his collar. "All right," he said. "All right."
Charles rose abruptly and went to his private chapel. It was well into the night when he finally emerged.
—Simone de Beauvoir, All Men Are Mortal, p. 159