« AnteriorContinua »
bonds, put an entire town under contribution. As soon as he entered at one gate, it was said at the other, that he brought with him four thousand men and artillery.
If Attila, followed by fifty thousand hungry assassins, ravaged province after province, report would call them five hundred thousand.
The millions of men who followed Xerxes, Cyrus, Tomyris, the thirty or forty-four millions of Egyptians, Thebes with her hundred gates,
gates,-" Et quicquid Grecia mendax audet in historia,”--resemble the five hundred thousand men of Attila, which
company of pleasant travellers it would have been difficult to find on the journey.
These Huns came from Siberia, and thence I conclude that they came in very small numbers. Siberia was certainly not more fertile than in our own days. I doubt whether in the reign of Tomyris a town existed equal to Tobolsk, or that these frightful deserts can feed a great number of inhabitants.
India, China, Persia, and Asia Minor, were thickly peopled; this I can credit without difficulty; and possibly they are not less so at presesent, notwithstanding the destructive prevalence of invasions and wars. Throughout, Nature has clothed them with pasturage; the bull freely unites with the heifer, the ram with the sheep, and man with woman.
The deserts of Barca, of Arabia, and of Oreb, of Sinai, of Jerusalem, of Cobi, &c. were never peopled, are not peopled at present, and never will be peopled; at least until some natural revolution happens to transform these plains of sand and flint into fertile land.
The land of France is tolerably good, and it is sufficiently inhabited by consumers, since of all kinds there are more than are well supplied; since there are two hundred thousand impostors, who beg from one end of the country to the other, and sustain their despicable lives at the expense of the rich; and lastly, since France supports more than eighty thousand
monks, of which not a single one assists to produce an ear of corn.
I believe that England, protestant Germany, and Holland, are better peopled in proportion than France. The reason is evident; those countries harbour not monks who vow to God to be useless to man. In these countries, the clergy, having little else to do, occupy themselves with study and propagation. They give birth to robust children, and give them a better education than that which is bestowed on the offspring of French and Italian marquesses.
Rome, on the contrary, would be a desert without cardinals, ambassadors, and travellers. It would be only an illustrious monument, like the temple of Jupiter Ammon. In the time of the first Cæsar, it was computed that this sterile territory, rendered fertile by manure and the labour of slaves, contained some millions of men. It was an exception to the general law, that population is ordinarily in proportion to fertility of soil.
Conquest rendered this barren country fertile and populous. A form of government as strange and contradictory as any which ever astonished mankind, has restored to the territory of Romulus its primitve character. The whole country is depopulated from Orvieto to Terracina. Rome, reduced to its own citizens, would be to London only as one to twelve; and in respect to money and commerce, would be to the towns of Amsterdam and London as one to a thousand.
That which Rome has lost, Europe has not only regained, but the population has almost tripled since the days of Charlemagne.
I say tripled, which is much; for propagation is not in geometrical progression. All the calculations made on the idea of this pretended multiplication, amount only to absurd chimeras.
* How many there are to be in future, remains to be seen. Of nuns we are just informed that there are to be 65,000, being so useful in education and works of charity!—T.
If a family of human beings or of apes multiplied in this manner, at the end of two hundred years the earth would not be able to contain them.
Nature has taken care at once to preserve and restrain the various species. She resembles the fates, who spin and cut threads continually. She is occupied with birth and destruction alone.
If she has given to man more ideas and memory than to other animals; if she has rendered him capable of generalising his ideas and combining them; if he has the advantage of the gift of speech, she has not bestowed upon him that of multiplication equal to insects. There are more ants in a square league of heath, than of men in the world, counting all that have ever existed.
When a country possesses a great number of idlers, be sure that it is well peopled; since these idlers are lodged, clothed, fed, amused, and respected, by those who labour.
The principal object however, is not to possess a superfluity of men, but to render such as we have as little unhappy as possible.
Let us thank nature for placing us in the temperate zone, peopled almost throughout by a more than sufficient number of inhabitants, who cultivate all the arts; and let us endeavour not to lessen this advantage by our absurdities.
It must be confessed, that we ordinarily people and depopulate the world a little at random; and every body acts in this manner. We are little adapted to obtain an accurate notion of things; the nearly is' our only guide, and it often leads us astray.
It is still worse when we wish to calculate precisely. We
go and see farces and laugh at them; but should we laugh less in our closets when we read grave authors deciding exactly how many men existed on the earth two hundred and eighty-five years after the general deluge? We find, according to father Petau, that the family of Noah had produced one thousand two hundred and twenty-four millions, seven hundred and seventeen thousand inhabitants, in three hundred years. The good priest Petau evidently knew little about getting children and rearing them, if we are to judge by this statement.
According to Cumberland, this family increased to three thousand three hundred and thirty millions, in three hundred and forty years; and according to Whiston, about three hundred years after the deluge, they amounted only to sixty-five millions four hundred and thirty-six.
It is difficult to reconcile and to estimate these accounts, such is the extravagance when people seek to make things accord which are repugnant, and to explain what is inexplicable. This unhappy endeavour has deranged heads which in other pursuits might have made discoveries beneficial to society.
The authors of the English Universal History observe, it is generally agreed that the present inhabitants of the earth amount to about four thousand millions. It is to be remarked, that these gentlemen do not include in this number the natives of America, which comprehends nearly half of the globe. For my own part, if, instead of a common romance, I wished to amuse myself by reckoning up the number of brethren I have on this unhappy little planet, I would proceed as follows. I would first endeavour to estimate pretty nearly the number of inhabited square leagues this earth contains on its surface; I should then say: The surface of the globe contains twenty-seven millions of square leagues; take away two thirds at least for seas, rivers, lakes, deserts, mountains, and all which is uninhabited: this calculation, which is very moderate, leaves us nine millions of square leagues to account for.
In France and Germany, there are said to be six hundred persons to a square league; in Spain, one hundred and fifty; in Russia, fifteen; and Tartary, ten. Take the mean number at an hundred, and you will have about nine hundred millions of brethren, including mulattoes, negroes, the brown, the copper-coloured, the fair, the bearded, and the unbearded. It is not thought indeed, that the number is so great as this; and if eunuchs continue to be made, monks to multiply, and wars to be waged on the most trifling pretexts, it is easy to perceive that we shall not very soon be able to muster the four thousand millions, with which the English authors of the Universal History have so liberally favoured us; but then of what consequence is it, whether the number of men on the earth be great or small? The chief thing is to discover the means of rendering our miserable species as little unhappy as possible.
Of the Population of America. The discovery of America—that field of so much avarice and so much ambition-has also become an object of philosophical curiosity. A great number of writers have endeavoured to prove that America was a colony of the ancient world. Some modest mathematicians, on the contrary, have said, that the same power which has caused the grass to grow in American soil, was able to place man there; but this simple and naked system has not been attended to.
When the great Columbus suspected the existence of this new world, it was held to be impossible; and Columbus was taken for a visionary. When it was really discovered, it was then found out that it had been known long before.
It was pretended that Martin Behem, a native of Nuremberg, quitted Flanders about the year 1460, in search of this unknown world; that he made his way even to the Straits of Magellan, of which he left unknown charts. As however it is certain that Martin Behem did not people America, it must certainly have been one of the later grand-children of Noah who took this trouble. All antiquity is then ransacked for accounts of long voyages, to which they apply the discovery of this fourth quarter of the globe. They make the ships of Solomon proceed to Mexico, and it is thence that he drew the gold of Ophir, to procure which he borrowed them from king Hiram. They find out.
2. B. 3;