Chapter 1 Part 1b

The Development of Militaries

by Adam Smith Icon

7 In a more advanced society, two causes make it impossible for those who take the field to maintain themselves at their own expence:

  • The progress of manufactures
  • The improvement in the art of war

8 When a husbandman goes to war which starts after seed-time and ends before harvest, his revenue is not reduced with his work’s interruption.

  • Nature does most of the husbandman’s remaining work.

But when an manufacturer, smith, carpenter, or weaver quits his workhouse, his revenue completely dries up.

  • Nature does nothing for him.
  • He does all for himself.

When he takes the field to defend the public, he has no revenue to maintain himself.

  • He must be maintained by the public.

But in a country where most of the people are manufacturers, the people who go to war must be drawn from manufacturers.

  • Therefore, they must be maintained by the public as long as they are employed in its service.

9 It becomes universally necessary for the public to maintain those who serve the public in war, at least while they are employed to do so when:

  • the art of war has grown to be a very intricate and complicated science, war ceases to be determined by a single irregular skirmish or battle, and war is made up of several different campaigns, each lasts for most of the year.

Military service would have been very tedious and expensive for those who served in war.

After the second Persian war, the armies of Athens were composed of mercenary troops. They consisted partly of citizens and foreigners. All of them were equally hired and paid by the state. From the time of the siege of Veii, the Roman armies received pay while they remained in the field. Under the feudal governments, the military service of the great lords and of their dependants was universally exchanged for a payment in money which maintained those who served.

10 Fewer people can go to war in a civilized society than one in a rude state.

In a civilized society, the soldiers are maintained by those who are not soldiers. The number of soldiers can never exceed what the non-soldiers can maintain. In the little agrarian states of ancient Greece, 1/4 or 1/5 of the people are soldiers. In modern Europe, not more than 1% of the people of any country can be soldiers without ruining the country which pays their expences.

11 The cost of an army was not considerable in any nation until long after it fell entirely on the sovereign.

In all the ancient Greek republics, learning military exercises was a necessary part of education imposed by the state on every free citizen. In every city, there was a public field under the protection of the public magistrate where young people were taught exercises by different masters. This was the whole expence any Greek state ever had to prepare its citizens for war. The exercises of the Campus Martius in ancient Rome answered the same purpose of the Gymnasium in ancient Greece. Under the feudal governments, there many public ordinances promoting the practise archery and other military exercises to the citizens.

They were universally neglected=

  • from the lack of interest of the officers executing those ordinances, or
  • from some other cause.

In all those governments, military exercises went gradually into disuse among the people.

12 The trade of a soldier was not a separate distinct trade.

It was not the sole or principal occupation of any citizen. This was true from the ancient Greek and Roman republics to the first feudal governments. Every subject of the state considered himself as a soldier during many extraordinary occasions.

13 The art of war is certainly the noblest of all arts.

In the progress of improvement, it necessarily becomes one of the most complicated. The mechanical and other arts connected to it determines its perfection. To make it perfect, it should be the sole or principal occupation of a class of citizens. The division of labour is necessary for the improvement of this art as in every other art. The division of labour is naturally introduced by the prudence of individuals. They find that they promote their private interest better by confining themselves to a particular trade than by exercising many. Only the state’s wisdom can render the soldier’s trade distinct from all others. A private citizen who spends his time in military exercises might= improve himself very much in them and amuse himself very well. But he certainly would not promote his own interest. Only the state’s wisdom can render it for his interest to give up most of his time to be a soldier. States did not always have this wisdom even when their existence required it.

14 A shepherd has much leisure. An artificer or manufacturer has none at all.

The shepherd may spend much of his time in martial exercises without any loss. But an artificier or manufacturer cannot spend a single hour in martial exercises without some loss. This leads him to neglect martial exercises.

The improvements in husbandry leave the husbandman as little leisure as the artificer. Military exercises become neglected by people in towns and in the countryside. The people becomes unwarlike.

That wealth always follows the improvements of agriculture and manufactures. It is the accumulated produce of those improvements. It provokes the invasion of all their neighbours.

An industrious and wealthy nation is the most likely to be attacked.Unless the state takes some new measures for its defence, the natural habits of the people render them incapable of defending themselves.


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