Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. XI.: Of the Severity of Government. - Complete Works, vol. 2 The Spirit of Laws
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CHAP. XI.: Of the Severity of Government. - Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, Complete Works, vol. 2 The Spirit of Laws 
The Complete Works of M. de Montesquieu (London: T. Evans, 1777), 4 vols. Vol. 2.
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Of the Severity of Government.
MEN who have absolutely nothing, such as beggars, have many children. This proceeds from their being in the case of a rising people: it costs the father nothing to give his art to his offspring, who even in their infancy are the instruments of this art. These people multiply in a rich or superstitious country, because they do not support the burthen of society; but are themselves the burthen. But men who are poor, only because they live under a severe government; who regard their fields less as the source of their subsistence, than as a cause of vexation; these men, I say, have few children: they have not even subsistence for themselves; how then can they think of dividing it? They are unable to take care of their own persons when they are sick; how then can they attend to the wants of creatures whose infancy is a continual sickness?
It is pretended by some, who are apt to talk of things which they have never examined, that the greater the poverty of the subjects, the more numerous their families: that the more they are loaded with taxes, the more industriously they endeavour to put themselves in a station in which they will be able to pay them: two sophisms, which have always destroyed, and will for ever be the destruction of monarchies.
The severity of government may be carried to such an extreme, as to make the natural sentiments destructive of the natural sentiments themselves. Would the women of* America have refused to bear children, had their masters been less cruel?
[* ]A New Survey of the West Indies, by Thomas Gage, p. 97. 3d edit.