Chapter 1 Part 1a

The Development of Militaries

by Adam Smith Icon

Part 1: Defence Expenditures

The sovereign’s first duty is to protect society from the violence and invasion of other societies.

  • This can only be done through a military force.
  • The cost of this military force in peacetime and wartime is very different in the different states and periods of the improvement of society.

The Development of Militaries

1 The hunting nation is the lowest and rudest state of society. An example is the North America native tribes.

In such a society, every man is a warrior and a hunter. When he goes to war, he maintains himself by his own labour in the same way as when he lives at home.

His society does not spend to=

  • prepare him for the field, or
  • maintain him while he is in it, because there is no sovereign nor commonwealth.

2 The shepherd nation is a more advanced society. Examples are the Mongols and the Arabs.

Every man there is a warrior. Such nations have commonly no fixed habitation. The people=

  • live in tents or in covered wagons, and
  • change their location according to the seasons and other accidents.

When its herds and flocks consume the forage of one part of the country, it moves to another, and then to a third.

  • In the dry season, it comes down to the riverbanks.
  • In the wet season, it retires to the upper country.

When such a nation goes to war, the warriors take their herds, old men, women and children with them.

  • The whole nation is used to a wandering life and so they easily take the field in wartime.
  • They go to war together.

Among the Mongols, even the women have engaged in battle.

  • If they conquer, whatever belongs to enemy is the recompense of the victory.
  • But if they are vanquished, all is lost – their their herds, women, and children, become the conqueror’s booty.
  • Even most of the survivors surrender to him for the sake of immediate subsistence.
  • The rest are commonly dispersed in the desert.

3 The ordinary life and exercises of a Mongol or an Arab, prepare him for war.

Running, wrestling, cudgel-playing, javelin-throwing, drawing the bow, etc. are the common pastimes of those who live in the open air.

  • All such activities are also war activities.

When a Mongol or Arab goes to war, he is maintained by his own herds and flocks.

  • He also carries these with him in peacetime.

His chief does not spend to prepare him for the field.

  • The chance of plunder is the only pay he expects or requires.

4 An army of hunters can seldom exceed 200-300 men. The chase affords a precarious subsistence which could seldom sustain more men.

On the contrary, an army of shepherds might sometimes reach 200,000-300,000. There seems no limit on how many can march together as long as=

  • nothing stops their progress, and
  • they can go from one district to another while consuming the forage

A nation of hunters can never be formidable to civilized nations. A nation of shepherds may be formidable.

Nothing can be more contemptible than an Indian war in North America. On the contrary, nothing can be more dreadful than Mongol invasions in Asia.

Thucydides judged that Europe and Asia could not resist the Scythians united. This has been verified by the experience of all ages. The people of the extensive but defenceless plains of Russia or Mongolia were frequently united under the chief of some conquering horde or clan.

Asia’s devastation has always resulted from their union. The people of the inhospitable Arabian deserts were only united under Mohammad and his immediate successors. Their union was more the effect of religious enthusiasm than of conquest. It also caused the havoc in Asia. If the hunting nations of America ever become shepherds, they would be much more dangerous to the European colonies.

5 A nation of husbandmen is a more advanced state of society.

Such nations have=

  • little foreign commerce, and
  • only coarse and household manufactures which almost every private family prepares for its own use.

Every man of such a nation is a warrior or easily becomes one. Those who live by agriculture generally pass the whole day in the open air, exposed to the seasons. The hardiness of their ordinary life and their necessary occupations prepares them for the fatigues of war.

The necessary occupation of a ditcher prepares him to= work in the trenches, fortify a camp, and enclose a field.

The ordinary pastimes of such husbandmen are the same as those of shepherds. They are the same activities during war. Husbandmen have less leisure than shepherds. Husbandmen are not so frequently employed in those pastimes. They are soldiers not quite so skilled in their exercise. It seldom costs the sovereign any expence to prepare them for the field.

6 Agriculture requires a settlement even in its rudest and lowest state.

It requires a fixed habitation which cannot be abandoned without great loss. When a nation of mere husbandmen goes to war, the whole people cannot take the field together. The old men, women, and children, must remain at home to take care of the habitation. All the men of military age may take the field. In small nations of husbandmen, they have frequently done so. In every nation, the men of military age are supposed be around 1/4 or 1/5 of total population. If the campaign should begin after seed-time and end before harvest, the husbandman and his labourers can be spared from the farm without much loss. He is willing to serve without pay during a short campaign. It frequently costs the sovereign as little to maintain him in the field as to prepare him for it. The work in the fields can be executed by the women, children, and old men in the meantime.

All the ancient Greek citizens served in this way until after the second Persian war.

The people of Peloponnesus served in this way until after the Peloponnesian war. Thucydides observes that the Peloponnesians:

  • left the field in the summer, and
  • returned home to reap the harvest.

During the first ages of the republic, the Romans did the same.

Starting from the siege of Veii, those who stayed at home began to contribute towards maintaining those who went to war. In the European monarchies before and after the establishment of the feudal law, the great lords served the crown at their own expence. In the field and at home, they maintained themselves by their own revenue, and not by any stipend or pay from the king.

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