Fiction > Montesquieu > Persian Letters
Montesquieu (1689–1755).  Persian Letters.  1901.
Letter CXIX
Usbek to the Same
HAVING nothing further to say of Asia and Europe, let us pass on to Africa. We can really speak of nothing but its shores, as we do not know the interior.  1
  The Barbary coast, where the Mohammedan religion is established, is not so populous as it was in the times of the Romans, for the reasons I have already given. As to the Guinea coast, it must be terribly depopulated, since for two hundred years the petty kings or village chiefs have been selling their subjects to the European princes for transportation to their American colonies.  2
  A very remarkable thing about this America is, that while it receives every year new inhabitants, it is itself a desert, profiting nothing from the continual drain on Africa. Those slaves, transported into a foreign clime, perish there in thousands; and the work in the mines in which natives and foreigners are constantly employed, the poisonous vapors which issue from them, and the quicksilver which is continually in use, destroy them without remedy.  3
  There is nothing more absurd than to cause countless numbers of men to perish in extracting from the bowels of the earth gold and silver, metals in themselves absolutely useless, and which constitute wealth only because they have been chosen as the symbols of it.

  PARIS, the last of the moon of Chahban, 1718.

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