Book 1, Chapter 09 : Paraguay
Book 1, Chapter 09
To the examples which have now been detailed I cannot resist the inclination of adding the case of Paraguay, one of the most memorable establishments in the history of the world. The institutions of this portion of the New World emanated from a cultivated and learned fraternity, and whatever relates to them admits of an evidence the most complete and irresistible. The author of the Essay on Population passes over the affair of Paraguay in a smooth and quiet manner, with an incidental mention of half a page; a proceeding, I own, that appears to me a little suspicious, when I consider that the example of Paraguay would to many persons be alone sufficient to decide the question of Mr. Malthus's theory.
Paraguay was a settlement formed by the Jesuits in the interior of South America on the banks of the Rio de la Plata. They were shocked, as it was natural that religious men, and men separated from the contagion of the world, should be, at the atrocities acted by the Spaniards in this part of the world; and they formed a strenuous resolution to endeavor, by an experiment of the utmost gentleness and humanity, to atone to the unhappy natives, for the cruelties acted upon their countrymen in other parts of the continent. They took for their model the history and the happy constitution of Peru under the rule of her incas, and the whole of the transaction will redound to their immortal honor. Their establishment began about the year 1610, and the Jesuits were finally expelled from it by authority of the king of Spain in 1767.
What abbe Raynal says on the subject is so much to my purpose, that I shall do little more than transcribe it.
"It might be expected, that mankind would have most extraordinarily multiplied themselves, under a government where no individual was idle, and none were destroyed by excessive labor; where" the nourishment was wholesome, abundant, and equally distributed to all; where all were fully supplied with necessary clothing; where old men, widows, orphans, and the sick, were tended with a care unknown to the rest of the world ; where every one married of choice, and without motives of interest; where a numerous family of children was a consolation, without the possibility of being a burthen; where a debauchery, inseparable from idleness, and which assails equally the rich and the poor, never hastened the approach of infirmities or old age; where nothing occurred to excite the artificial passions, or to oppose those which are conform. able to nature and reason; where the advantages of commerce were reaped, without bringing in their train the vises of luxury; where abundant magazines, and succors mutually communicated from tribe to tribe, insured them against famine and the inconstancy of the seasons; where the administrators of justice between man and man were never reduced to the sad necessity of condemning one individual to death, to disgrace, or to any punishment but what was momentary; where taxes and law-suits, two of the great sources of affliction to the human race, were utterly unknown: such a country, 1 say, might have been expected to prove the most populous on the face of the earth. It was not so.
"It was for a long time suspected, that the Jesuits understated the number of their subjects on account of the tribute at so much per head which the court of Spain imposed on them; and the council at Madrid manifested some uneasiness on this point. The most exact researches dissipated a suspicion not less injurious than groundless.
"Those who gave the society no credit for the integrity of their motives, spread a report that the Indians did not multiply, because they were consigned to the destructive labor of the mines. This accusation was more or less urged, for more than one hundred years. But the further the Spanish administration sought into the matter, the more they were convinced that there was no such thing.
"The oppressiveness of a government administered by monks, was sufficient, according to others, to arrest the multiplication of the Indians. This is surely abundantly incompatible with the charge which was also made against the missionaries, that they inspired the Indians with too blind a confidence in, and too excessive an attachment for their instructors. In the history of Paraguay it is found that numerous tribes repeatedly came with an importunate request that they might be admitted into this happy association, while no one of their districts ever shewed the smallest inclination to throw off the yoke. It would be too much to suppose that fifty Jesuits could hold two hundred thousand Indians in a forced submission, when they had it in their power at any time to massacre their pastors, or to fly into the woods.
"There are persons who have suspected that the Jesuits spread among their Indian subjects the doctrine of celibacy, which was so much venerated in the dark ages, and which has not yet entirely lost its reputation in the world. On the contrary, the missionaries never attempted to give their novices the idea of this mode of acquiring a place in heaven, against which the climate opposed insurmountable obstacles, and which would alone have sufficed to involve their best institutions in abhorrence.
"In fine, certain politicians have alleged, that the want of the institution of private property is alone sufficient to account for the smallness of the population of Paraguay. But this institution will always be found to detract from, as much as it forwards the cause of population; while the Indians of Paraguay, having always an assured subsistence, enjoyed the benefits of such an establishment, without its evils."
Having, one by one, refuted these different solutions for the difficulty, abbe Raynal, who nevertheless adheres to the received and orthodox opinion, that if a race of men have every advantage and every blessing afforded them for that purpose, they will not fail greatly to increase in numbers, though he did not dream of their increasing in a geometrical ratio, is reduced to strain his invention to account for so unexpected a phenomenon. The cause that he seems principally to rely on as having kept down theirnumbers,is the small-pox.
Mr. Malthus faintly hints, that such a thing had been heard of in Paraguay as scarcity, and adds, "On these occasions some of the missions [that is the Indian tribes] would have perished from famine, but for the assistance of their neighbors." Though how this could have happened in a country, where, as in Peru, the crops were divided into three equal portions, one for the purposes of religion, one for the expences of the government, and one for the subsistence of the people, it is not easy to divine.
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