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Home -> Adam Smith -> An Inquiry Into The Nature And Causes Of The Wealth Of Nations -> Book 5, Chapter 1, Part 1

An Inquiry Into The Nature And Causes Of The Wealth Of Nations - Book 5, Chapter 1, Part 1

1. Introduction And Plan Of The Work

2. Book 1, Chapter 1

3. Chapter 2

4. Chapter 3

5. Chapter 4

6. Chapter 5

7. Chapter 6

8. Chapter 7

9. Chapter 8

10. Chapter 8 continue

11. Chapter 9

12. Chapter 10

13. Chapter 10 continue

14. Chapter 11

15. Chapter 11 continue

16. Chapter 11 continue.

17. Chapter 11 continue..

18. Chapter 11 continue...

19. Conclusion of the Chapter 11

20. Book 2 Introduction

21. Chapter 1

22. Chapter II

23. Chapter II continue

24. Chapter II continue

25. Chapter 3

26. Chapter 4

27. Chapter 5

28. Book 3, Chapter 1

29. Chapter 2

30. Chapter 3

31. Chapter 4

32. Book 4, Chapter 1

33. Chapter 1 continue

34. Chapter 2

35. Chapter 3, Part 1

36. Chapter 3, Part 2

37. Chapter 4

38. Chapter 5

39. Chapter 5 continue

40. Chapter 6

41. Chapter 7, Part 1

42. Chapter 7, Part 2

43. Chapter 7, Part 3

44. Chapter 7, Part 3 continue

45. Chapter 8

46. Chapter 9

47. Book 5, Chapter 1, Part 1

48. Chapter 1, Part 2

49. Chapter 1, Part 3

50. Chapter 1, Part 3 continue

51. Chapter 1, Part 3 continue B

52. Chapter 1, Part 4

53. Chapter 2, Part 1

54. Chapter 2, Part 2

55. Chapter 2, Part 2 continue

56. Chapter 2, Part 2 continue B

57. Chapter 2, Part 2 continue C

58. Chapter 2, Part 2 continue D

59. Chapter 3

60. Chapter 3 continue

Book V. Of The Revenue Of The Sovereign Or Commonwealth

Chapter I. Of The Expenses Of The Sovereign Or Commonwealth.

PART I. Of the Expense of Defence.

The first duty of the sovereign, that of protecting the society from the
violence and invasion of other independent societies, can be performed
only by means of a military force. But the expense both of preparing
this military force in time of peace, and of employing it in time
of war, is very different in the different states of society, in the
different periods of improvement.

Among nations of hunters, the lowest and rudest state of society, such
as we find it among the native tribes of North America, every man is a
warrior, as well as a hunter. When he goes to war, either to defend his
society, or to revenge the injuries which have been done to it by other
societies, he maintains himself by his own labour, in the same manner as
when he lives at home. His society (for in this state of things there is
properly neither sovereign nor commonwealth) is at no sort of expense,
either to prepare him for the field, or to maintain him while he is in

Among nations of shepherds, a more advanced state of society, such as we
find it among the Tartars and Arabs, every man is, in the same manner, a
warrior. Such nations have commonly no fixed habitation, but live either
in tents, or in a sort of covered waggons, which are easily transported
from place to place. The whole tribe, or nation, changes its situation
according to the different seasons of the year, as well as according to
other accidents. When its herds and flocks have consumed the forage
of one part of the country, it removes to another, and from that to a
third. In the dry season, it comes down to the banks of the rivers; in
the wet season, it retires to the upper country. When such a nation goes
to war, the warriors will not trust their herds and flocks to the feeble
defence of their old men, their women and children; and their old men,
their women and children, will not be left behind without defence, and
without subsistence. The whole nation, besides, being accustomed to a
wandering life, even in time of peace, easily takes the field in time
of war. Whether it marches as an army, or moves about as a company of
herdsmen, the way of life is nearly the same, though the object proposed
by it be very different. They all go to war together, therefore, and
everyone does as well as he can. Among the Tartars, even the women have
been frequently known to engage in battle. If they conquer, whatever
belongs to the hostile tribe is the recompence of the victory; but if
they are vanquished, all is lost; and not only their herds and flocks,
but their women and children become the booty of the conqueror. Even the
greater part of those who survive the action are obliged to submit
to him for the sake of immediate subsistence. The rest are commonly
dissipated and dispersed in the desert.

The ordinary life, the ordinary exercise of a Tartar or Arab, prepares
him sufficiently for war. Running, wrestling, cudgel-playing, throwing
the javelin, drawing the bow, etc. are the common pastimes of those
who live in the open air, and are all of them the images of war. When a
Tartar or Arab actually goes to war, he is maintained by his own herds
and flocks, which he carries with him, in the same manner as in peace.
His chief or sovereign (for those nations have all chiefs or sovereigns)
is at no sort of expense in preparing him for the field; and when he is
in it, the chance of plunder is the only pay which he either expects or

An army of hunters can seldom exceed two or three hundred men. The
precarious subsistence which the chace affords, could seldom allow a
greater number to keep together for any considerable time. An army of
shepherds, on the contrary, may sometimes amount to two or three hundred
thousand. As long as nothing stops their progress, as long as they can
go on from one district, of which they have consumed the forage, to
another, which is yet entire; there seems to be scarce any limit to
the number who can march on together. A nation of hunters can never be
formidable to the civilized nations in their neighbourhood; a nation of
shepherds may. Nothing can be more contemptible than an Indian war in
North America; nothing, on the contrary, can be more dreadful than a
Tartar invasion has frequently been in Asia. The judgment of Thucydides,
that both Europe and Asia could not resist the Scythians united, has
been verified by the experience of all ages. The inhabitants of the
extensive, but defenceless plains of Scythia or Tartary, have been
frequently united under the dominion of the chief of some conquering
horde or clan; and the havock and devastation of Asia have always
signalized their union. The inhabitants of the inhospitable deserts of
Arabia, the other great nation of shepherds, have never been united but
once, under Mahomet and his immediate successors. Their union, which was
more the effect of religious enthusiasm than of conquest, was signalized
in the same manner. If the hunting nations of America should ever become
shepherds, their neighbourhood would be much more dangerous to the
European colonies than it is at present.

In a yet more advanced state of society, among those nations of
husbandmen who have little foreign commerce, and no other manufactures
but those coarse and household ones, which almost every private family
prepares for its own use, every man, in the same manner, either is a
warrior, or easily becomes such. Those who live by agriculture generally
pass the whole day in the open air, exposed to all the inclemencies of
the seasons. The hardiness of their ordinary life prepares them for the
fatigues of war, to some of which their necessary occupations bear a
great analogy. The necessary occupation of a ditcher prepares him to
work in the trenches, and to fortify a camp, as well as to inclose a
field. The ordinary pastimes of such husbandmen are the same as those
of shepherds, and are in the same manner the images of war. But as
husbandmen have less leisure than shepherds, they are not so frequently
employed in those pastimes. They are soldiers but soldiers not quite
so much masters of their exercise. Such as they are, however, it seldom
costs the sovereign or commonwealth any expense to prepare them for the

Agriculture, even in its rudest and lowest state, supposes a settlement,
some sort of fixed habitation, which cannot be abandoned without great
loss. When a nation of mere husbandmen, therefore, goes to war, the
whole people cannot take the field together. The old men, the women and
children, at least, must remain at home, to take care of the habitation.
All the men of the military age, however, may take the field, and in
small nations of this kind, have frequently done so. In every nation,
the men of the military age are supposed to amount to about a fourth
or a fifth part of the whole body of the people. If the campaign, too,
should begin after seedtime, and end before harvest, both the husbandman
and his principal labourers can be spared from the farm without much
loss. He trusts that the work which must be done in the mean time, can
be well enough executed by the old men, the women, and the children.
He is not unwilling, therefore, to serve without pay during a short
campaign; and it frequently costs the sovereign or commonwealth as
little to maintain him in the field as to prepare him for it. The
citizens of all the different states of ancient Greece seem to have
served in this manner till after the second Persian war; and the people
of Peloponnesus till after the Peloponnesian war. The Peloponnesians,
Thucydides observes, generally left the field in the summer, and
returned home to reap the harvest. The Roman people, under their kings,
and during the first ages of the republic, served in the same manner.
It was not till the seige of Veii, that they who staid at home began to
contribute something towards maintaining those who went to war. In the
European monarchies, which were founded upon the ruins of the Roman
empire, both before, and for some time after, the establishment of
what is properly called the feudal law, the great lords, with all their
immediate dependents, used to serve the crown at their own expense. In
the field, in the same manner as at home, they maintained themselves
by their own revenue, and not by any stipend or pay which they received
from the king upon that particular occasion.

In a more advanced state of society, two different causes contribute
to render it altogether impossible that they who take the field should
maintain themselves at their own expense. Those two causes are, the
progress of manufactures, and the improvement in the art of war.

Though a husbandman should be employed in an expedition, provided it
begins after seedtime, and ends before harvest, the interruption of his
business will not always occasion any considerable diminution of his
revenue. Without the intervention of his labour, Nature does herself the
greater part of the work which remains to be done. But the moment that
an artificer, a smith, a carpenter, or a weaver, for example, quits his
workhouse, the sole source of his revenue is completely dried up. Nature
does nothing for him; he does all for himself. When he takes the field,
therefore, in defence of the public, as he has no revenue to maintain
himself, he must necessarily be maintained by the public. But in a
country, of which a great part of the inhabitants are artificers and
manufacturers, a great part of the people who go to war must be drawn
from those classes, and must, therefore, be maintained by the public as
long as they are employed in its service.

When the art of war, too, has gradually grown up to be a very intricate
and complicated science; when the event of war ceases to be determined,
as in the first ages of society, by a single irregular skirmish or
battle; but when the contest is generally spun out through several
different campaigns, each of which lasts during the greater part of the
year; it becomes universally necessary that the public should maintain
those who serve the public in war, at least while they are employed
in that service. Whatever, in time of peace, might be the ordinary
occupation of those who go to war, so very tedious and expensive a
service would otherwise be by far too heavy a burden upon them. After
the second Persian war, accordingly, the armies of Athens seem to have
been generally composed of mercenary troops, consisting, indeed, partly
of citizens, but partly, too, of foreigners; and all of them equally
hired and paid at the expense of the state. From the time of the siege
of Veii, the armies of Rome received pay for their service during the
time which they remained in the field. Under the feudal governments,
the military service, both of the great lords, and of their immediate
dependents, was, after a certain period, universally exchanged for a
payment in money, which was employed to maintain those who served in
their stead.

The number of those who can go to war, in proportion to the whole number
of the people, is necessarily much smaller in a civilized than in a rude
state of society. In a civilized society, as the soldiers are maintained
altogether by the labour of those who are not soldiers, the number of
the former can never exceed what the latter can maintain, over and above
maintaining, in a manner suitable to their respective stations, both
themselves and the other officers of government and law, whom they are
obliged to maintain. In the little agrarian states of ancient Greece,
a fourth or a fifth part of the whole body of the people considered the
themselves as soldiers, and would sometimes, it is said, take the field.
Among the civilized nations of modern Europe, it is commonly computed,
that not more than the one hundredth part of the inhabitants of any
country can be employed as soldiers, without ruin to the country which
pays the expense of their service.

The expense of preparing the army for the field seems not to have become
considerable in any nation, till long after that of maintaining it in
the field had devolved entirely upon the sovereign or commonwealth. In
all the different republics of ancient Greece, to learn his military
exercises, was a necessary part of education imposed by the state upon
every free citizen. In every city there seems to have been a public
field, in which, under the protection of the public magistrate, the
young people were taught their different exercises by different masters.
In this very simple institution consisted the whole expense which any
Grecian state seems ever to have been at, in preparing its citizens for
war. In ancient Rome, the exercises of the Campus Martius answered the
same purpose with those of the Gymnasium in ancient Greece. Under the
feudal governments, the many public ordinances, that the citizens
of every district should practise archery, as well as several other
military exercises, were intended for promoting the same purpose, but
do not seem to have promoted it so well. Either from want of interest in
the officers entrusted with the execution of those ordinances, or from
some other cause, they appear to have been universally neglected; and in
the progress of all those governments, military exercises seem to have
gone gradually into disuse among the great body of the people.

In the republics of ancient Greece and Rome, during the whole period of
their existence, and under the feudal governments, for a considerable
time after their first establishment, the trade of a soldier was not
a separate, distinct trade, which constituted the sole or principal
occupation of a particular class of citizens; every subject of the
state, whatever might be the ordinary trade or occupation by which he
gained his livelihood, considered himself, upon all ordinary occasions,
as fit likewise to exercise the trade of a soldier, and, upon many
extraordinary occasions, as bound to exercise it.

The art of war, however, as it is certainly the noblest of all arts, so,
in the progress of improvement, it necessarily becomes one of the most
complicated among them. The state of the mechanical, as well as some
other arts, with which it is necessarily connected, determines the
degree of perfection to which it is capable of being carried at any
particular time. But in order to carry it to this degree of perfection,
it is necessary that it should become the sole or principal occupation
of a particular class of citizens; and the division of labour is as
necessary for the improvement of this, as of every other art. Into other
arts, the division of labour is naturally introduced by the prudence of
individuals, who find that they promote their private interest better by
confining themselves to a particular trade, than by exercising a great
number. But it is the wisdom of the state only, which can render the
trade of a soldier a particular trade, separate and distinct from all
others. A private citizen, who, in time of profound peace, and without
any particular encouragement from the public, should spend the greater
part of his time in military exercises, might, no doubt, both improve
himself very much in them, and amuse himself very well; but he certainly
would not promote his own interest. It is the wisdom of the state only,
which can render it for his interest to give up the greater part of his
time to this peculiar occupation; and states have not always had
this wisdom, even when their circumstances had become such, that the
preservation of their existence required that they should have it.

A shepherd has a great deal of leisure; a husbandman, in the rude state
of husbandry, has some; an artificer or manufacturer has none at all.
The first may, without any loss, employ a great deal of his time in
martial exercises; the second may employ some part of it; but the last
cannot employ a single hour in them without some loss, and his attention
to his own interest naturally leads him to neglect them altogether.
Those improvements in husbandry, too, which the progress of arts and
manufactures necessarily introduces, leave the husbandman as little
leisure as the artificer. Military exercises come to be as much
neglected by the inhabitants of the country as by those of the town, and
the great body of the people becomes altogether unwarlike. That wealth,
at the same time, which always follows the improvements of agriculture
and manufactures, and which, in reality, is no more than the accumulated
produce of those improvements, provokes the invasion of all their
neighbours. An industrious, and, upon that account, a wealthy nation,
is of all nations the most likely to be attacked; and unless the state
takes some new measure for the public defence, the natural habits of the
people render them altogether incapable of defending themselves.

In these circumstances, there seem to be but two methods by which the
state can make any tolerable provision for the public defence.

It may either, first, by means of a very rigorous police, and in spite
of the whole bent of the interest, genius, and inclinations of the
people, enforce the practice of military exercises, and oblige either
all the citizens of the military age, or a certain number of them, to
join in some measure the trade of a soldier to whatever other trade or
profession they may happen to carry on.

Or, secondly, by maintaining and employing a certain number of citizens
in the constant practice of military exercises, it may render the trade
of a soldier a particular trade, separate and distinct from all others.

If the state has recourse to the first of those two expedients, its
military force is said to consist in a militia; if to the second, it is
said to consist in a standing army. The practice of military exercises
is the sole or principal occupation of the soldiers of a standing army,
and the maintenance or pay which the state affords them is the principal
and ordinary fund of their subsistence. The practice of military
exercises is only the occasional occupation of the soldiers of a
militia, and they derive the principal and ordinary fund of their
subsistence from some other occupation. In a militia, the character of
the labourer, artificer, or tradesman, predominates over that of the
soldier; in a standing army, that of the soldier predominates over every
other character; and in this distinction seems to consist the essential
difference between those two different species of military force.

Militias have been of several different kinds. In some countries, the
citizens destined for defending the state seem to have been exercised
only, without being, if I may say so, regimented; that is, without
being divided into separate and distinct bodies of troops, each of which
performed its exercises under its own proper and permanent officers. In
the republics of ancient Greece and Rome, each citizen, as long as
he remained at home, seems to have practised his exercises, either
separately and independently, or with such of his equals as he liked
best; and not to have been attached to any particular body of troops,
till he was actually called upon to take the field. In other countries,
the militia has not only been exercised, but regimented. In England, in
Switzerland, and, I believe, in every other country of modern Europe,
where any imperfect military force of this kind has been established,
every militiaman is, even in time of peace, attached to a particular
body of troops, which performs its exercises under its own proper and
permanent officers.

Before the invention of fire-arms, that army was superior in which the
soldiers had, each individually, the greatest skill and dexterity in
the use of their arms. Strength and agility of body were of the highest
consequence, and commonly determined the fate of battles. But this skill
and dexterity in the use of their arms could be acquired only, in
the same manner as fencing is at present, by practising, not in great
bodies, but each man separately, in a particular school, under a
particular master, or with his own particular equals and companions.
Since the invention of fire-arms, strength and agility of body, or even
extraordinary dexterity and skill in the use of arms, though they are
far from being of no consequence, are, however, of less consequence.
The nature of the weapon, though it by no means puts the awkward upon a
level with the skilful, puts him more nearly so than he ever was before.
All the dexterity and skill, it is supposed, which are necessary for
using it, can be well enough acquired by practising in great bodies.

Regularity, order, and prompt obedience to command, are qualities which,
in modern armies, are of more importance towards determining the fate
of battles, than the dexterity and skill of the soldiers in the use of
their arms. But the noise of fire-arms, the smoke, and the invisible
death to which every man feels himself every moment exposed, as soon
as he comes within cannon-shot, and frequently a long time before the
battle can be well said to be engaged, must render it very difficult to
maintain any considerable degree of this regularity, order, and prompt
obedience, even in the beginning of a modern battle. In an ancient
battle, there was no noise but what arose from the human voice; there
was no smoke, there was no invisible cause of wounds or death. Every
man, till some mortal weapon actually did approach him, saw clearly that
no such weapon was near him. In these circumstances, and among troops
who had some confidence in their own skill and dexterity in the use of
their arms, it must have been a good deal less difficult to preserve
some degree of regularity and order, not only in the beginning, but
through the whole progress of an ancient battle, and till one of the
two armies was fairly defeated. But the habits of regularity, order, and
prompt obedience to command, can be acquired only by troops which are
exercised in great bodies.

A militia, however, in whatever manner it may be either disciplined or
exercised, must always be much inferior to a well disciplined and well
exercised standing army.

The soldiers who are exercised only once a week, or once a-month, can
never be so expert in the use of their arms, as those who are exercised
every day, or every other day; and though this circumstance may not be
of so much consequence in modern, as it was in ancient times, yet the
acknowledged superiority of the Prussian troops, owing, it is said, very
much to their superior expertness in their exercise, may satisfy us that
it is, even at this day, of very considerable consequence.

The soldiers, who are bound to obey their officer only once a-week, or
once a-month, and who are at all other times at liberty to manage their
own affairs their own way, without being, in any respect, accountable to
him, can never be under the same awe in his presence, can never have
the same disposition to ready obedience, with those whose whole life and
conduct are every day directed by him, and who every day even rise
and go to bed, or at least retire to their quarters, according to
his orders. In what is called discipline, or in the habit of ready
obedience, a militia must always be still more inferior to a standing
army, than it may sometimes be in what is called the manual exercise, or
in the management and use of its arms. But, in modern war, the habit
of ready and instant obedience is of much greater consequence than a
considerable superiority in the management of arms.

Those militias which, like the Tartar or Arab militia, go to war under
the same chieftains whom they are accustomed to obey in peace, are
by far the best. In respect for their officers, in the habit of ready
obedience, they approach nearest to standing armies The Highland
militia, when it served under its own chieftains, had some advantage
of the same kind. As the Highlanders, however, were not wandering, but
stationary shepherds, as they had all a fixed habitation, and were not,
in peaceable times, accustomed to follow their chieftain from place to
place; so, in time of war, they were less willing to follow him to any
considerable distance, or to continue for any long time in the field.
When they had acquired any booty, they were eager to return home,
and his authority was seldom sufficient to detain them. In point of
obedience, they were always much inferior to what is reported of the
Tartars and Arabs. As the Highlanders, too, from their stationary
life, spend less of their time in the open air, they were always less
accustomed to military exercises, and were less expert in the use of
their arms than the Tartars and Arabs are said to be.

A militia of any kind, it must be observed, however, which has served
for several successive campaigns in the field, becomes in every respect
a standing army. The soldiers are every day exercised in the use of
their arms, and, being constantly under the command of their officers,
are habituated to the same prompt obedience which takes place in
standing armies. What they were before they took the field, is of little
importance. They necessarily become in every respect a standing army,
after they have passed a few campaigns in it. Should the war in America
drag out through another campaign, the American militia may become,
in every respect, a match for that standing army, of which the valour
appeared, in the last war at least, not inferior to that of the hardiest
veterans of France and Spain.

This distinction being well understood, the history of all ages, it will
be found, hears testimony to the irresistible superiority which a well
regulated standing army has over a militia.

One of the first standing armies, of which we have any distinct account
in any well authenticated history, is that of Philip of Macedon. His
frequent wars with the Thracians, Illyrians, Thessalians, and some of
the Greek cities in the neighbourhood of Macedon, gradually formed
his troops, which in the beginning were probably militia, to the exact
discipline of a standing army. When he was at peace, which he was very
seldom, and never for any long time together, he was careful not to
disband that army. It vanquished and subdued, after a long and violent
struggle, indeed, the gallant and well exercised militias of the
principal republics of ancient Greece; and afterwards, with very little
struggle, the effeminate and ill exercised militia of the great Persian
empire. The fall of the Greek republics, and of the Persian empire was
the effect of the irresistible superiority which a standing arm has over
every other sort of militia. It is the first great revolution in the
affairs of mankind of which history has preserved any distinct and
circumstantial account.

The fall of Carthage, and the consequent elevation of Rome, is the
second. All the varieties in the fortune of those two famous republics
may very well be accounted for from the same cause.

From the end of the first to the beginning of the second Carthaginian
war, the armies of Carthage were continually in the field, and employed
under three great generals, who succeeded one another in the command;
Amilcar, his son-in-law Asdrubal, and his son Annibal: first in
chastising their own rebellious slaves, afterwards in subduing the
revolted nations of Africa; and lastly, in conquering the great
kingdom of Spain. The army which Annibal led from Spain into Italy must
necessarily, in those different wars, have been gradually formed to the
exact discipline of a standing army. The Romans, in the meantime, though
they had not been altogether at peace, yet they had not, during this
period, been engaged in any war of very great consequence; and their
military discipline, it is generally said, was a good deal relaxed.
The Roman armies which Annibal encountered at Trebi, Thrasymenus, and
Cannae, were militia opposed to a standing army. This circumstance, it
is probable, contributed more than any other to determine the fate of
those battles.

The standing army which Annibal left behind him in Spain had the like
superiority over the militia which the Romans sent to oppose it; and,
in a few years, under the command of his brother, the younger Asdrubal,
expelled them almost entirely from that country.

Annibal was ill supplied from home. The Roman militia, being continually
in the field, became, in the progress of the war, a well disciplined and
well exercised standing army; and the superiority of Annibal grew every
day less and less. Asdrubal judged it necessary to lead the whole, or
almost the whole, of the standing army which he commanded in Spain, to
the assistance of his brother in Italy. In this march, he is said to
have been misled by his guides; and in a country which he did not know,
was surprised and attacked, by another standing army, in every respect
equal or superior to his own, and was entirely defeated.

When Asdrubal had left Spain, the great Scipio found nothing to oppose
him but a militia inferior to his own. He conquered and subdued that
militia, and, in the course of the war, his own militia necessarily
became a well disciplined and well exercised standing army. That
standing army was afterwards carried to Africa, where it found nothing
but a militia to oppose it. In order to defend Carthage, it became
necessary to recal the standing army of Annibal. The disheartened and
frequently defeated African militia joined it, and, at the battle of
Zama, composed the greater part of the troops of Annibal. The event of
that day determined the fate of the two rival republics.

From the end of the second Carthaginian war till the fall of the Roman
republic, the armies of Rome were in every respect standing armies.
The standing army of Macedon made some resistance to their arms. In the
height of their grandeur, it cost them two great wars, and three great
battles, to subdue that little kingdom, of which the conquest would
probably have been still more difficult, had it not been for the
cowardice of its last king. The militias of all the civilized nations of
the ancient world, of Greece, of Syria, and of Egypt, made but a
feeble resistance to the standing armies of Rome. The militias of some
barbarous nations defended themselves much better. The Scythian or
Tartar militia, which Mithridates drew from the countries north of
the Euxine and Caspian seas, were the most formidable enemies whom the
Romans had to encounter after the second Carthaginian war. The Parthian
and German militias, too, were always respectable, and upon several
occasions, gained very considerable advantages over the Roman armies.
In general, however, and when the Roman armies were well commanded, they
appear to have been very much superior; and if the Romans did not pursue
the final conquest either of Parthia or Germany, it was probably because
they judged that it was not worth while to add those two barbarous
countries to an empire which was already too large. The ancient
Parthians appear to have been a nation of Scythian or Tartar extraction,
and to have always retained a good deal of the manners of their
ancestors. The ancient Germans were, like the Scythians or Tartars, a
nation of wandering shepherds, who went to war under the same chiefs
whom they were accustomed to follow in peace. 'Their militia was exactly
of the same kind with that of the Scythians or Tartars, from whom, too,
they were probably descended.

Many different causes contributed to relax the discipline of the Roman
armies. Its extreme severity was, perhaps, one of those causes. In the
days of their grandeur, when no enemy appeared capable of opposing them,
their heavy armour was laid aside as unnecessarily burdensome, their
laborious exercises were neglected, as unnecessarily toilsome. Under the
Roman emperors, besides, the standing armies of Rome, those particularly
which guarded the German and Pannonian frontiers, became dangerous to
their masters, against whom they used frequently to set up their own
generals. In order to render them less formidable, according to some
authors, Dioclesian, according to others, Constantine, first withdrew
them from the frontier, where they had always before been encamped in
great bodies, generally of two or three legions each, and dispersed them
in small bodies through the different provincial towns, from whence
they were scarce ever removed, but when it became necessary to repel
an invasion. Small bodies of soldiers, quartered in trading and
manufacturing towns, and seldom removed from those quarters, became
themselves trades men, artificers, and manufacturers. The civil came to
predominate over the military character; and the standing armies of
Rome gradually degenerated into a corrupt, neglected, and undisciplined
militia, incapable of resisting the attack of the German and Scythian
militias, which soon afterwards invaded the western empire. It was only
by hiring the militia of some of those nations to oppose to that of
others, that the emperors were for some time able to defend themselves.
The fall of the western empire is the third great revolution in the
affairs of mankind, of which ancient history has preserved any distinct
or circumstantial account. It was brought about by the irresistible
superiority which the militia of a barbarous has over that of a
civilized nation; which the militia of a nation of shepherds has over
that of a nation of husbandmen, artificers, and manufacturers. The
victories which have been gained by militias have generally been,
not over standing armies, but over other militias, in exercise and
discipline inferior to themselves. Such were the victories which the
Greek militia gained over that of the Persian empire; and such, too,
were those which, in later times, the Swiss militia gained over that of
the Austrians and Burgundians.

The military force of the German and Scythian nations, who established
themselves upon ruins of the western empire, continued for some time to
be of the same kind in their new settlements, as it had been in their
original country. It was a militia of shepherds and husbandmen, which,
in time of war, took the field under the command of the same chieftains
whom it was accustomed to obey in peace. It was, therefore, tolerably
well exercised, and tolerably well disciplined. As arts and industry
advanced, however, the authority of the chieftains gradually decayed,
and the great body of the people had less time to spare for military
exercises. Both the discipline and the exercise of the feudal militia,
therefore, went gradually to ruin, and standing armies were gradually
introduced to supply the place of it. When the expedient of a standing
army, besides, had once been adopted by one civilized nation, it became
necessary that all its neighbours should follow the example. They soon
found that their safety depended upon their doing so, and that their
own militia was altogether incapable of resisting the attack of such an

The soldiers of a standing army, though they may never have seen an
enemy, yet have frequently appeared to possess all the courage of
veteran troops, and, the very moment that they took the field, to have
been fit to face the hardiest and most experienced veterans. In 1756,
when the Russian army marched into Poland, the valour of the Russian
soldiers did not appear inferior to that of the Prussians, at that time
supposed to be the hardiest and most experienced veterans in Europe. The
Russian empire, however, had enjoyed a profound peace for near twenty
years before, and could at that time have very few soldiers who had
ever seen an enemy. When the Spanish war broke out in 1739, England had
enjoyed a profound peace for about eight-and-twenty years. The valour of
her soldiers, however, far from being corrupted by that long peace, was
never more distinguished than in the attempt upon Carthagena, the
first unfortunate exploit of that unfortunate war. In a long peace, the
generals, perhaps, may sometimes forget their skill; but where a well
regulated standing army has been kept up, the soldiers seem never to
forget their valour.

When a civilized nation depends for its defence upon a militia, it is at
all times exposed to be conquered by any barbarous nation which happens
to be in its neighbourhood. The frequent conquests of all the civilized
countries in Asia by the Tartars, sufficiently demonstrates the
natural superiority which the militia of a barbarous has over that of
a civilized nation. A well regulated standing army is superior to every
militia. Such an army, as it can best be maintained by an opulent and
civilized nation, so it can alone defend such a nation against the
invasion of a poor and barbarous neighbour. It is only by means of a
standing army, therefore, that the civilization of any country can be
perpetuated, or even preserved, for any considerable time.

As it is only by means of a well regulated standing army, that a
civilized country can be defended, so it is only by means of it that a
barbarous country can be suddenly and tolerably civilized. A standing
army establishes, with an irresistible force, the law of the sovereign
through the remotest provinces of the empire, and maintains some degree
of regular government in countries which could not otherwise admit of
any. Whoever examines with attention, the improvements which Peter the
Great introduced into the Russian empire, will find that they almost all
resolve themselves into the establishment of a well regulated standing
army. It is the instrument which executes and maintains all his other
regulations. That degree of order and internal peace, which that empire
has ever since enjoyed, is altogether owing to the influence of that

Men of republican principles have been jealous of a standing army, as
dangerous to liberty. It certainly is so, wherever the interest of
the general, and that of the principal officers, are not necessarily
connected with the support of the constitution of the state. The
standing army of Caesar destroyed the Roman republic. The standing
army of Cromwell turned the long parliament out of doors. But where the
sovereign is himself the general, and the principal nobility and gentry
of the country the chief officers of the army; where the military force
is placed under the command of those who have the greatest interest in
the support of the civil authority, because they have themselves the
greatest share of that authority, a standing army can never be dangerous
to liberty. On the contrary, it may, in some cases, be favourable
to liberty. The security which it gives to the sovereign renders
unnecessary that troublesome jealousy, which, in some modern republics,
seems to watch over the minutest actions, and to be at all times
ready to disturb the peace of every citizen. Where the security of the
magistrate, though supported by the principal people of the country, is
endangered by every popular discontent; where a small tumult is capable
of bringing about in a few hours a great revolution, the whole authority
of government must be employed to suppress and punish every murmur and
complaint against it. To a sovereign, on the contrary, who feels himself
supported, not only by the natural aristocracy of the country, but by a
well regulated standing army, the rudest, the most groundless, and
the most licentious remonstrances, can give little disturbance. He
can safely pardon or neglect them, and his consciousness of his own
superiority naturally disposes him to do so. That degree of liberty
which approaches to licentiousness, can be tolerated only in countries
where the sovereign is secured by a well regulated standing army. It is
in such countries only, that the public safety does not require that
the sovereign should be trusted with any discretionary power, for
suppressing even the impertinent wantonness of this licentious liberty.

The first duty of the sovereign, therefore, that of defending the
society from the violence and injustice of other independent societies,
grows gradually more and more expensive, as the society advances in
civilization. The military force of the society, which originally cost
the sovereign no expense, either in time of peace, or in time of war,
must, in the progress of improvement, first be maintained by him in time
of war, and afterwards even in time of peace.

The great change introduced into the art of war by the invention of
fire-arms, has enhanced still further both the expense of exercising
and disciplining any particular number of soldiers in time of peace,
and that of employing them in time of war. Both their arms and their
ammunition are become more expensive. A musket is a more expensive
machine than a javelin or a bow and arrows; a cannon or a mortar, than a
balista or a catapulta. The powder which is spent in a modern review
is lost irrecoverably, and occasions a very considerable expense. The
javelins and arrows which were thrown or shot in an ancient one, could
easily be picked up again, and were, besides, of very little value.
The cannon and the mortar are not only much dearer, but much heavier
machines than the balista or catapulta; and require a greater expense,
not only to prepare them for the field, but to carry them to it. As the
superiority of the modern artillery, too, over that of the ancients,
is very great; it has become much more difficult, and consequently
much more expensive, to fortify a town, so as to resist, even for a
few weeks, the attack of that superior artillery. In modern times, many
different causes contribute to render the defence of the society
more expensive. The unavoidable effects of the natural progress of
improvement have, in this respect, been a good deal enhanced by a great
revolution in the art of war, to which a mere accident, the invention of
gunpowder, seems to have given occasion.

In modern war, the great expense of firearms gives an evident advantage
to the nation which can best afford that expense; and, consequently, to
an opulent and civilized, over a poor and barbarous nation. In ancient
times, the opulent and civilized found it difficult to defend themselves
against the poor and barbarous nations. In modern times, the poor and
barbarous find it difficult to defend themselves against the opulent and
civilized. The invention of fire-arms, an invention which at first
sight appears to be so pernicious, is certainly favourable, both to the
permanency and to the extension of civilization.

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