Montesquieu

Usbek to the same


The fecun­dity of a peo­ple some­ti­mes depends on the smal­lest cir­cum­stan­ces in the world, so that it often requi­res no more than a new turn in one’s ima­gi­na­tion to make it much more nume­rous that it was.

The Jews, fore­ver exter­mi­na­ted and fore­ver reboun­ding, have res­to­red their conti­nual los­ses and conti­nual des­truc­tions by this sin­gle hope that all fami­lies have among them of seeing born to them a power­ful king who will be mas­ter of the world.1

The ancient kings of Persia had so many thou­sands of sub­jects only because of this dogma of the reli­gion of the fakirs, that the acts most agreea­ble to God that men could do was to make a child, till a field, and plant a tree.

If China has in its bosom so pro­di­gious a peo­ple, that only comes from a cer­tain man­ner of thin­king : for as chil­dren regard their fathers as gods, whom they res­pect as such even in this life, as they honor them after their deaths by sacri­fi­ces in which they think that their souls, obli­te­ra­ted in the t’ien, take on a new life, eve­ryone is incli­ned to increase his family, so sub­mis­sive in this life, and so neces­sary in the next.

On the other hand the Muhammadan coun­tries become more empty by the day because of an opi­nion which, holy as it is, still has very per­ni­cious effects when it is roo­ted in the minds. We see our­sel­ves as tra­vel­lers who should think only of ano­ther home­land ; use­ful and dura­ble works, cares to assure the for­tune of our chil­dren, and pro­jects that tend beyond a short and tran­sient life, appear to us as some­thing extra­va­gant. Tranquil for the pre­sent, without anxiety for the future, we do not take the trou­ble either to repair public buil­dings, to clear fal­low lands, nor to culti­vate those that are in a condi­tion to receive our labors ; we live in a gene­ra­li­zed insen­si­ti­vity, and let Providence take care of eve­ry­thing.

It is a spi­rit of vanity that has esta­bli­shed among the Europeans the unjust right of the first­born, so unfa­vo­ra­ble to pro­pa­ga­tion2 in that it focu­ses a father’s atten­tion on just one of his chil­dren and averts his eyes from all the others ; in that it obli­ges him, in order to conso­li­date the for­tune of a sin­gle child, to oppose the esta­blish­ment of seve­ral3 ; and finally in that it des­troys the equa­lity of the citi­zens which makes for all their pros­pe­rity.

Paris this 4th day of the moon of Rhamazan 1718

This is true in the sense that every house can hope to be the house of David, from which, according to the Talmud (Sanhedrin 73a ; Succah 52a) and rabbinical commentaries on the prophet Isaiah (XI, 1-16), was to arise the Messiah. According to Calmet, the Jews of Jesus’ time “had already created a false notion of the Messiah, as a monarch and conqueror, who was to rule the entire world” (Calmet D, art. “Messie”, vol. II, p. 55).

The Spirit of Law (XXXI, 33) studies the origin of this practice without criticism of it.

I.e., by endowing daughters for marriage or providing sons with capital.