Book 1, Chapter 11 : Rome
Book 1, Chapter 11
From Sparta let us pass to the republic of ancient Rome. In this state the subject of population seems to have been more studied and systematically attended to, than in any other upon record. The institution of the Census of which we have lately heard so much, as if it were a thing altogether new, together with the name, took its rise. in this city. The original regulation was, that the citizens capable of bearing arms, or in other words, all the males of a certain age, and entitled to the privileges of a Roman citizen, should be numbered every five years; and, though this ceremony was often interrupted through the occurrence of extraordinary affairs, yet its seventy-second repetition took place in the year of Rome 707, two years after the battle of Pharsalia.
As this is a species of document to which hitherto there exists no parallel, I have thought it worth while to insert here the sums of as many of the enumerations as are to be found in Livy, adding to them such as occur in the epitomes which remain of the lost books of Livy. I am not sure that the common construction, which I have adopted, is the true one, that these numbers represent the citizens capable of bearing arms; since to the enumeration for the year of Rome 288 it is added, that this was the true number, exclusive of male and female orphans, and to Metellus's enumeration for 622, that this was the true number, exclusive of minors and widows. But, whatever the numbers did or did not represent, and whatever uncertainty may exist on that head, they are plainly useful inasmuch as they enable us to compare one period with another. I will still less undertake, as Mr. Malthus does respecting the population of North America, that these increasing numbers, where they increase, are procured "from procreation only." It is not my intention to treat here of the various methods upon record, employed by the Roman government to recruit the number of her citizens. But we at least owe so much to the illustrious and singular example of the Roman republic, as not to forget her enumerations, whenever we desire to speculate fairly on the subject of population.
The first Census, or Lustration of the people of Rome, was made by Servius Tullius, the sixth king, who is said to have reigned from the year of Rome 174 to 219. The sum of his enumeration was 80,000 citizens. The rest are as follow:
|Lustrum.||Year of Rome.||Numbers.|
It is a subject therefore of some interest to inquire what were the laws of this celebrated republic upon the subject of population, to which their attention was so perpetually recalled. The old law, according to Dionysius of Halicarnassus, which he says was in full force in the year ot Rome 277, required every citizen to marry, and to rear all his children. The laws further attached certain privileges to the state of a married man, others to him who had offspring, and others still more extensive to him who had three children. The citizen who had the greatest number of children, had on all occasions the preference, whether in suing for office, or in the exercise of office when obtained. The consul who had the most numerous offspring, had the priority in the magistracy, and took first his choice of the provinces, when his year was expired; the senator who had the largest family, was named first in the catalog of senators, and was first called upon to give his opinion on the subject in debate. In the year of Rome 622, fifteen years after the destruction of Carthage, the censors Metellus and Quint us Pompeius, finding the number of citizens reduced between this and the last enumeration, from 323,000 to 313, 823, took occasion to inforce the old law, and decreed, that " all should be obliged to marry, for the sake of procreating children." Julius Cesar, during his first consulship, and afterwards, adopted measures of a similar tendency. In a division he made of lands he reserved twenty thousand shares for such citizens as should have three or more children; and forbade the ladies, who were unmarried, or childless, to wear jewels : an excellent plan, says Montesquieu, for pressing the vanity of the fair into the service of the state. Augustus went still farther. He imposed new penalties on the unmarried, and increased the rewards of those who had children. He caused the speech of Metellus the Censor in the year 622 to be recited in the senate, the tenor of which was, " If the human race could be perpetuated without women, we should be delivered from a great evil: but, as the law of nature has decreed that we can neither live happily with them, nor subsist as a species without them, it is the duty of all to sacrifice their immediate repose to the good of the state." To which Augustus subjoined: " The city of Rome, of which we are so justly proud, does not consist of its houses, its porticoes, and public buildings; it is the men of Rome that constitute the city. We must not expect to see, what we read of in old fables, human beings spring forth out of the earth to undertake the business of the state. The object of my care is to perpetuate the commonwealth; and in this I call upon each member of the community to contribute his part."
It was in the same spirit, that the civic crown, given to him who should save the life of a citizen, was considered as the most glorious of all rewards among the Romans. Nor am I sure, that the Porcian law, passed in the year of Rome 453, which forbade the "infliction of stripes or death on a Roman citizen, did not owe its existence, at least in part, to this principle.
There has indeed often been quoted on the other side, the practice of which we read in the Roman history, of the exposing of infants. But this was subjected to regulations of the same nature in Rome, as in Sparta, from whence, according to Dionysius, the Romans are to be considered as deriving their origin. If a child was born monstrous or deformed, it was permitted to the father to expose it; but he was previously required to shew the child to five of his nearest neighbors, and obtain their sanction.
To sum up the whole of what relates to this subject in the republic of Rome. I see no cause why we should not reason as confidently upon the records of the Census in the Roman history, as upon the Census of the United States ot Noith America, or the enumerations of the island of Great Britain. The latter are affairs of yesterday. The American Census has been taken three times in a period of thirty years; the Enumeration of Great Britain twice. The United State of America have afforded a scene of continuous emigration, unparalleled in the history of the world. The difference of the two Enumerations in Great Britain is not more than may fairly be accounted for from the novelty of the experiment. The numbering of the citizens of Rome took place seventy-two times in a period of five hundred years.
In Rome every encouragement was given to marriage. The magistrates were perpetually anxious for the multiplication of her citizens. The number of her denizens was frequently augmented by enrolling fresh .recruits from among her allies. Yet we see to what perpetual fluctuations it was exposed. A single city affords certainly a very imperfect criterion respecting the multiplication .of mankind. Many will be continually retiring from the town into the country. Many more will flow from all parts of the country to people the metropolis. The stock of her population will be in a state of continual change. I do not think that the Roman Census supplies a demonstrative argument against the increase of mankind. But I think it is beyond comparison the most ample document from ancient history to prove, that if they increase at all, that increase must be effected by degrees very slow, if not almost insensible.
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