Justin E. H. Smith
[Presented at the Fondacion Orotava, Tenerife, Canary Islands, 14 February, 2009]
In an audacious text of 1671, entitled “A Method for Instituting a New, Invincible Militia that can Subjugate the Entire Earth, Easily Seize Control over Egypt, or Establish American Colonies,” written as an addendum to his better known Consilium Aegyptiacum, Leibniz sketches out a plan for training a new army of warrior slaves:
A certain island of Africa, such as Madagascar, shall be selected, and all the inhabitants shall be ordered to leave. Visitors from elsewhere shall be turned away, or in any event it will be decreed that they only be permitted to stay in the harbor for the purpose of obtaining water. To this island slaves captured from all over the barbarian world will be brought, and from all of the wild coastal regions of Africa, Arabia, New Guinea, etc. To this end Ethiopians, Nigritians, Angolans, Caribbeans, Canadians, and Hurons fit the bill, without discrimination. What a lovely bunch of semi-beasts! But so that this mass of men may be shaped in any way desired, it is useful only to take boys up to around the age of twelve.
Leibniz proposes to segregate these prisoners according to language, which for him is the same as segregation by race or genus. In this way, unable to communicate with any warriors beyond their own small squadron, the warriors will be unable to plan an insurrection. In every race [genere], Leibniz writes,
whoever is most trained in his squadron, which is to say among those who speak his language, shall challenge those who are the best trained in the other squadrons. The people [gens] that wins that year shall be the leaders. They will be able to strike terrible blows with their very powerful curved swords, to hit targets with their slings, and to rip things apart with their lances. They are to be trained to run races at such a speed as will be equal to that of horses. Which will come about first by pursuing them until they are able to touch the mane or the tail, and then freely [i.e., without horses]. They shall learn to swim first with the help of an outer shell or bladder, and thereafter without any covering; they will descend under the water after the example of diving bells [this probably an example inspired by Cornelis Drebbel], and they will learn the method of ascending and descending as they please. They shall learn to jump after the manner of the Tenerifeans, first jumping with the help of a lance... as far as human strength is able to reach, and afterwards without these.
Leibniz goes on to describe the tremendous feats these warriors will perform with their lances:
In the beginning they will alight from a higher place by the means of their lance touching the ground below; then they will leap horizontally on a level plane, and finally from below they will leap to the top. The will learn how to climb up smooth surfaces [per lubrica klettern].... They shall become used to climbing however high their lance may be just by means of fixing their lances beneath them. They will learn moreover to carry the greatest and strongest lances, like Achilles, and like other ancients. Indeed, they shall learn to project them with great impetus towards a designated target, as well as of bringing one lance together with another if the one does not suffice for climbing. By means of this art they will easily conquer the mightiest European fortifications. They will be able to walk on their lances, as on stilts [wie auff stelzen].