Letter 116

, par Stewart

Usbek to the same

The countries inhabited by savages are usually sparsely populated, from the disinclination they almost all have for work and farming the land. This unfortunate aversion is so strong that, when they utter some imprecation against one of their enemies, they wish him nothing other than to be reduced to tilling a field, believing that only hunting and fishing are an noble exercise and worthy of them.

But as there are often years when hunting and fishing yield very little, they are ravaged by frequent famines, not to mention that there is no country so abundant in game and fish that it can provide subsistence for a great people, because animals always flee overly inhabited places.

Besides, the villages of savages, numbering two or three hundred inhabitants, isolated from each other, having interests as separate as those of two empires, cannot support each other, because they do not have the resource of large states, all the parts of which are interconnected and assist each other.

The savages have another custom that is not less pernicious than the first, which is the cruel habit their women have of having abortions so their pregnancy will not make them repulsive to their husbands.

There are horrendous laws here against that disorder ; they go to the point of madness. Any maid who has not gone to declare her pregnancy to the magistrate is punished by death if her child perishes ; modesty and shame, even accidents, never excuse her.

Paris this 9th day of the moon of Rhamazan 1718