Fiction > Montesquieu > Persian Letters
Montesquieu (1689–1755).  Persian Letters.  1901.
Usbek to the Same
THE PROPAGATION of the species is wonderfully aided by a mild government. All republics are a standing proof of this; especially Switzerland and Holland, which, with regard to the nature of the land, are the two worst countries in Europe, and which are yet the most populous.  1
  Nothing attracts strangers more than liberty, and its accompaniment, wealth: the latter is sought after for itself, and our necessity leads us into those countries in which we find the former.  2
  Mankind multiplies in a country which affords abundance for the children, without diminishing in the least the parents’ provision.  3
  That very equality of the citizens which generally produces equality in their fortunes, brings plenty and vigor into all the parts of the body politic, and spreads these blessings throughout the whole state.  4
  It is not so in countries subject to arbitrary power: the prince, the courtiers, and a few private persons, possess all the wealth, while all the rest groan in extreme poverty.  5
  If a man is not well off, and feels that his children would be poorer than he, he will not marry; or if he does, he will be afraid of having too great a number of children, who would complete the ruin of his fortune, and sink even lower than their father.  6
  I admit that the boor or peasant, once married, will increase the race without any regard to his poverty or wealth; that consideration does not affect him; he has always a safe inheritance to leave his children, and that is his plow; so nothing withholds him from following blindly the instincts of nature.  7
  But of what use to a state are those crowds of children which waste away in misery? They perish almost as rapidly as they are born: they never thrive: feeble and impotent, they die retail in a thousand ways, or are carried off wholesale by those frequent epidemics which poverty and bad diet always produce: those who escape attain the age of manhood without possessing its vigor, and waste away during the rest of their lives.  8
  Men are like plants which never flourish if they are not well cultivated: among poor people, the race declines and sometimes even degenerates.  9
  France supplies a great proof of all this. During the late wars, the dread which all the youths had of being enrolled in the militia forced them to marry, and that at too tender an age, and in the bosom of poverty. A great many children were born of these numerous marriages who are not now to be found in France, because poverty, famine, and disease carried them off.  10
  Now if, of a kingdom so well governed as France, and with such a good climate, remarks like these may be made, what shall be said of other states?

  PARIS, the 23d of the moon of Rhamazan, 1718.

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