This effect, to which phy­si­cal cau­ses give rise in cer­tain Eastern coun­tries, was pro­du­ced in Greece by the nature of the govern­ment. The Greeks were a great nation, com­po­sed of cities each of which had its own govern­ment and laws. They were no more conque­rers than the cities of Switzerland, Holland, and Germany are today ; in each repu­blic the legis­la­tor’s objec­tive had been the wel­fare of the citi­zens within, and a might without that would not be infe­rior to that of the neigh­bo­ring cities.1 With a small ter­ri­tory and great feli­city, the num­ber of citi­zens could easily increase and become bur­den­some ; hence they cons­tantly crea­ted colo­nies ; they sold them­sel­ves for war, as the Swiss do today ; they neglec­ted nothing that could pre­vent the exces­sive pro­li­fe­ra­tion of chil­dren.

There were repu­blics among them of sin­gu­lar cons­ti­tu­tion. Subjugated peo­ples were obli­ged to fur­nish the sub­sis­tence of citi­zens : the Lacedæmonians were fed by the Helotes, the Cretans by the Periecians, and the Thessalians by the Penestæ. There had to be only a cer­tain num­ber of free­men so that the sla­ves would be able to fur­nish their sub­sis­tence. We say today that we must limit the num­ber of regu­lar troops ; now Lacedæmon was an army main­tai­ned by pea­sants : the­re­fore that army had to be limi­ted, or else the free­men, who had all the advan­ta­ges of society, would have pro­li­fe­ra­ted without num­ber, and the labo­rers would have been overw­hel­med.

Greek poli­ti­cians the­re­fore paid par­ti­cu­lar atten­tion to regu­la­ting the num­ber of citi­zens. Plato sets it at five thou­sand forty, and he would have it che­cked, or pro­pa­ga­tion be encou­ra­ged, accor­ding to need, by honors, shame, and war­nings by old men2 ; he would even regu­late the num­ber of mar­ria­ges,3 so that the popu­la­tion can be reple­ni­shed without the repu­blic being over­bur­de­ned.

If the law of the coun­try, says Aristotle,4 for­bids expo­sing chil­dren, then the num­ber each per­son engen­ders must be limi­ted. If someone has more chil­dren than the num­ber defi­ned by law, he advi­ses5 making the woman abort before the fœtus is alive.

The infa­mous means which the Cretans employed to pre­vent an excess of chil­dren is rela­ted by Aristotle, and I felt my modesty alar­med when I set about to relate it.6

There are pla­ces, says Aristotle again, where the law confers citi­zen­ship on forei­gners, or bas­tards, or those who are merely born of a citi­zen mother ; but as soon as there are enough peo­ple, it no lon­ger does.7 The sava­ges of Canada burn pri­so­ners ; but when they have empty cabins to give them, they receive them into their nation.

Sir William Petty has assu­med in his cal­cu­la­tions that a man in England is worth what he would sell for in Algiers.8 That can be valid only for England ; there are coun­tries where a man is worth nothing, and there are some where he is worth less than nothing.

Through valor, discipline, and military exercises.

In his Laws, book V.

Republic, book V.

Politics, Book VII, ch. xvi.


[According to Aristotle, they segregated women and authorized homosexuality (Politics, book II, ch. x).]

Politics, book III, ch. iii.

Sixty pounds sterling. [Petty’s Political Arithmetic was published posthumously in 1690.]