Montesquieu
 

XXIII.16 On the legislator’s views on the propagation of the species

Statutes on the num­ber of citi­zens depend greatly on cir­cum­stan­ces. There are coun­tries where nature has done eve­ry­thing ; thus the legis­la­tor has nothing to do. Why encou­rage peo­ple with laws to pro­pa­gate, when the fer­ti­lity of the cli­mate yields enough peo­ple ? Sometimes the cli­mate is more favo­ra­ble than the ter­rain ; peo­ple pro­li­fe­rate, and fami­nes des­troy them ; China finds itself in this situa­tion : hence a father sells his daugh­ters and expo­ses his chil­dren. In Tonkin1 the same cau­ses bring about the same effects, and for that there is no need to go seek the opi­nion of metem­psy­cho­sis, like the Arab tra­ve­lers we are told about by Renaudot.2

For the same rea­sons, on the island of Formosa3 reli­gion does not allow women to bear chil­dren until they are thirty-five years of age ; ear­lier than that, the pries­tess brui­ses their womb and makes them abort.

Dampier’s Voyages, vol. II, p. 41.

Ibid., p. 167. [“It is because of this belief in metempsychosis that they often kill their children when they cannot feed them, and they even readily kill themselves.” (Eusybe Renaudot, Anciennes Relations des Indes et de la Chine […] traduites d’arabe, Paris : Coignard, 1718, p. 166-167.]

See Recueil des voyages qui ont servi à l’établissement de la Compagnie des Indes, vol. V, part I, p. 182 and 188.