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Bernard Mandeville on how the Hardships and Fatigues of War bear most heavily on the “working slaving People” (1732)

This passage comes from Remark L by Bernard Mandeville in The Fable of the Bees or, Private Vices, Publick Benefits (1732):

The Hardships and Fatigues of War that are personally suffer’d, fall upon them that bear the Brunt of every Thing, the meanest Indigent Part of the Nation, the working slaving People.

But let us once suppose that the Ease and Pleasures the Grandees and the rich People of every great Nation live in, render them unfit to endure Hardships, and undergo the Toils of War. I’ll allow that most of the Common Council of the City would make but very in-different Foot-Soldiers; and I believe heartily, that if your Horse was to be compos’d of Aldermen, and such as most of them are, a small Artillery of Squibs would be sufficient to rout them. But what have the Aldermen, the Common-Council, or indeed all People of any Substance to do with the War, but to pay Taxes? The Hardships and Fatigues of War that are personally suffer’d, fall upon them that bear the Brunt of every Thing, the meanest Indigent Part of the Nation, the working slaving People: For how excessive soever the Plenty and Luxury of a Nation may be, some Body must do the Work, Houses and Ships must be built, Merchandizes must be remov’d, and the Ground till’d. Such a Variety of Labours in every great Nation require a vast Multitude, in which there are always loose, idle, extravagant Fellows enough to spare for an Army; and those that are robust enough to Hedge and Ditch, Plow and Thrash, or else not too much enervated to be Smiths, Carpenters, Sawyers, Cloth-workers, Porters or Carmen, will always be strong and hardy enough in a Campaign or two to make good Soldiers, who, where good Orders are kept, have seldom so much Plenty and Superfluity come to their Share as to do them any hurt.

About this Quotation:

The War in Afghanistan began in October 2001 soon after planning for the design and building of the OLL began. It was soon followed by the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 just a year before the launch of the OLL website in March 2004. So it is not surprising that war was at the back of the minds of the editors when the site was opened to the public. So Mandeville’s book (another title published by Liberty Fund) with his thoughtful reflections about the nature of “private vice and publick benefit” and the need for heavy taxation on the ordinary citizens to pay for war, were very appropriate.

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