Chapter 16-19

Population Policy

March 29, 2020

Population policy depends greatly on circumstances. There are countries, in which nature does all.

There is no need to encourage propagation when a fruitful climate yields enough people. Sometimes, the climate is more favourable than the soil. The people multiply, and are destroyed by famine.

This is the case of China. Hence a father sells his daughters, and exposes his children. In Tonkin, the same causes produce the same effects. so we need not, like the Arabian travellers mentioned by Renaudot, search for the origin of this in their sentiments on the metempsychosis.

For the same reason, the religion of Taiwan does not suffer the women to bring their children into the world until they are 35 years old. Before this age, the priestess procures abortion by bruising the belly.

Chapter 17: Greek Population

Physical causes led to the population policy in Asia. The nature of the Greek government led to the population policy in Greece.

The Greeks were a great nation composed of cities, each of which had a distinct government and separate laws.

They had the same spirit of conquest and ambition as the modern Swiss, Dutch, and Germans.

In every republic, the legislator focused on:

  • the happiness of the citizens at home
  • their power abroad
  • send out colonies
  • go to war, as the Swiss do now

Everything was done to hinder population growth.

  • the Spartans were fed by the Helotes
  • the Cretans by the Periecians
  • the Thessalians by the Penestes.

They were obliged to have only a certain number of freemen so that their slaves could feed them. Nowadays, this is seen as our maxim to limit the number of our regular troops.

The Spartans were an army maintained by the peasants. It was proper therefore that this army should be limited. If not, the freemen, who had all the advantages of society, would increase and the labourers be overloaded.

The politics of the Greeks regulated the number of citizens. Plato fixes them at 5,040.

  • He would regulate this by honours, shame, and the advice of the old men.
  • He would even regulate the number of marriages so that the republic would increase without being overcharged.

Aristotle says:

If a country's laws forbid the exposing of children, the number of those births should be limited. If they have more than the number prescribed by law, he advises to make the women miscarry before the fetus is formed.

He also mentions the infamous and indecent means used by the Cretans to prevent overpopulation.

There are places where the laws give the privilege of being citizens to foreigners, bastards, or to those whose mothers only are citizens; but as soon as they have enough people, this privilege ceases.

The savages of Canada burn their prisoners. But when they have empty cottages to give them, they receive them into their nation.

Sir William Petty supposes that a man in England is worth what he would sell for at Algiers. This can be true only with respect to England. There are countries where a man is worth nothing, there are others where he is worth less than nothing.

Chapter 18: Pre-Roman Population

ITALY, Sicily, Asia Minor, Gaul and Germany, were nearly in the same state as Greece. They were small nations with large populations. They did not need laws to increase their number.

Chapter 19: The Depopulation of the World

ALL these little republics were swallowed up in a large one, and the globe insensibly became depopulated. In order to be convinced of this, we need only consider the state of Italy and Greece, before and after the victories of the Romans.

Livy says:

Where the Volsci could find soldiers to support the war, after having been so often defeated. There must have been formerly an infinite number of people in those countries, which at present would be little better than a desart, were it not for a few soldiers and Roman slaves.

Plutarch says:

“The oracles have ceased because the places where they spoke are destroyed. At present we can scarcely find in Greece 3,000 men fit to bear arms.”

Strabo says:

“I shall not describe Epirus and the adjacent places; because these countries are intirely deserted. This depopulation, which began long ago, still continues; so that the Roman soldiers encamp in the houses they have abandoned.”

Polybius says that these were caused by Paulus Æmilius destroying 70 cities of Epirus and carrying away 150,000 slaves after his victory.