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No. 180 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

Wednesday, September 26, 1711.

‘… Delirant Reges, plectuntur Achivi.’


The following Letter [1] has so much Weight and good Sense, that I cannot forbear inserting it, tho’ it relates to an hardened Sinner, whom I have very little Hopes of reforming, viz. Lewis XIV. of France.


‘Amidst the Variety of Subjects of which you have treated, I could wish it had fallen in your way to expose the Vanity of Conquests. This Thought would naturally lead one to the French King, who has been generally esteemed the greatest Conqueror of our Age, ’till her Majesty’s Armies had torn from him so many of his Countries, and deprived him of the Fruit of all his former Victories. For my own Part, if I were to draw his Picture, I should be for taking him no lower than to the Peace of Reswick [2], just at the End of his Triumphs, and before his Reverse of Fortune: and even then I should not forbear thinking his Ambition had been vain and unprofitable to himself and his People.

As for himself, it is certain he can have gained nothing by his Conquests, if they have not rendered him Master of more Subjects, more Riches, or greater Power. What I shall be able to offer upon these Heads, I resolve to submit to your Consideration.

To begin then with his Increase of Subjects. From the Time he came of Age, and has been a Manager for himself, all the People he had acquired were such only as he had reduced by his Wars, and were left in his Possession by the Peace; he had conquered not above one third Part of Flanders, and consequently no more than one third Part of the Inhabitants of that Province.

About 100 Years ago the Houses in that Country were all Numbered, and by a just Computation the Inhabitants of all Sorts could not then exceed 750000 Souls. And if any Man will consider the Desolation by almost perpetual Wars, the numerous Armies that have lived almost ever since at Discretion upon the People, and how much of their Commerce has removed for more Security to other Places, he will have little Reason to imagine that their Numbers have since increased; and therefore with one third Part of that Province that Prince can have gained no more than one third Part of the Inhabitants, or 250000 new Subjects, even tho’ it should be supposed they were all contented to live still in their native Country. and transfer their Allegiance to a new Master.

The Fertility of this Province, its convenient Situation for Trade and Commerce, its Capacity for furnishing Employment and Subsistence to great Numbers, and the vast Armies that have been maintained here, make it credible that the remaining two Thirds of Flanders are equal to all his other Conquests; and consequently by all he cannot have gained more than 750000 new Subjects, Men, Women and Children, especially if a Deduction shall be made of such as have retired from the Conqueror to live under their old Masters.

It is Time now to set his Loss against his Profit, and to shew for the new Subjects he had acquired, how many old ones he had lost in the Acquisition: I think that in his Wars he has seldom brought less into the Field in all Places than 200000 fighting Men, besides what have been left in Garrisons; and I think the common Computation is, that of an Army, at the latter End of a Campaign, without Sieges or Battle, scarce Four Fifths can be mustered of those that came into the Field at the Beginning of the Year. His Wars at several Times till the last Peace have held about 20 Years; and if 40000 yearly lost, or a fifth Part of his Armies, are to be multiplied by 20, he cannot have lost less than 800000 of his old Subjects, all able-body’d Men; a greater Number than the new Subjects he had acquired.