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soil are permitted to lie most dormant by idleness, vice, and evil government, and consequently when the land has yet the largest resources left to unfold, there population presses most against them. The converse of which propositions must be true, if my first fundamental principle be false. 2. But, although in every country we find that the tendency of the population to keep within the powers of the soil to produce further food, (as proved by the first and admitted in the second proposition,) is fully established; yet as vice and bad government may check the progress of population in some degree, but will usually check industry and cultivation more, the pressure of the first against the actual supply of food in illgoverned and immoral communities generally arises from the unnatural depression of the powers of the soil, according to the second part of the alternative stated in my second proposition. But as this deterioration in society, when once established, demoralizes the people, and deprives them of their taste for the decencies and conveniences of life, it may, as in some parts of Ireland, in Sicily, Spain, &c. introduce the custom of premature marriages among the lower orders; which will have a tendency to accelerate the progress of population beyond the means of subsistence, which apathy and relaxed industry can now supply. This again produces, as we have seen, a pressure against the actual supply of food by the means stated in the first part of the alternative of the second proposition. (See chap. iii.) 3. But as we have moreover seen that, in moral and well-governed states, “whose laws and customs are founded in the main on religion, morality, rational liberty, and security of person and property,
although they may be far from approaching to what is altogether desirable in these respects, the people are well supplied with food from inferior land, although they are rapidly increasing in numbers; while in illgoverned states they are ill supplied with food from superior land, although not increasing in numbers at all; we may conclude, according to my third fundamental proposition, that, in the first mentioned countries, the tendency of population to keep within the powers of the soil will never be materially altered, or diverted from its natural course. 4. Few persons will probably deny the truth of my fourth proposition as a necessary consequence of those which have preceded it. It is, however, more a matter of argument and comparison than of positive proof from facts: and as it is conversant rather with the most advanced stages of society, treated of in the following chapter, than with those we have just been discussing, the consideration of it may as well be postponed to a subsequent page.
Of the natural Tendency of Population in the most advanced Stages of Society.
NOTWITHSTANDING the arguments detailed in the preceding chapters, it is still evident, that if a community, conducting itself even upon the most reasonable principles, is indefinitely to continue increasing in population, in however retarded a ratio, it must at length come to the end of its resources in food; the land being an absolute quantity, and only capable, when most fully cultivated, of making a definite return. Remote and improbable as this contingency may be, and without any sanction from history or experience, still there is nothing absurd or impossible upon the face of it; and its eventual arrival would certainly impeach the truth of the first and principal fundamental proposition of this treatise, “ that population has a natural tendency to keep within the powers of the soil to afford it subsistence in every gradation through which society passes.” In order therefore to establish the universal truth of this proposition, I have a farther task yet to perform, which is the object of this chapter: and it is thus that with some confidence I venture upon the proof; premising, however, that as no nation was ever found with its soil cultivated to the utmost, the reasoning in this chapter is introduced more for the sake of answering an hypothetical but plausible argument, which, appears to me to arraign the wisdom and goodness of Providence, than with any such view to the practical conduct of mankind, as influenced the arguments of the preceding chapters. In the further pursuit of the career, detailed in the last chapter, it seems very certain that there must be a point at which the whole population will naturally be incapable of a farther increase: and it appears that this will happen when the sterility of that part of the people, which does not reproduce its own numbers, becomes so great, (or rather when the sterile portion of the people becomes so numerous,) that the reproducing part will not be able, by any natural fertility of its own, to supply the deficiency:—when each couple among these last, for example, must produce seven or eight children on an average for the purpose. This I shall venture to call its point of NoN-REPRODUCTION. The period of its arrival will evidently differ in proportion to the climate, the healthiness of the people, the comfort and cleanliness of the habitations in general, and of the towns in particular; and it may be retarded or accelerated by a change in such of these conditions as are of a nature to be affected by human means. Still the point must at length be reached, as the size of the towns is enlarged, and the habits of a highly advanced stage of society are more widely extended through the several ranks of the people. But in order to make my argument complete, I must also show that this point will be attained before the country reaches its me plus ultra of cultivation; otherwise the power of producing food would fail before the people ceased to increase their numbers, and a pressure would actually ensue without the means of meeting it. Now this proof, I trust, will be a matter of no great difficulty; for whatever specifie objections may be made to the following data and calculations, I apprehend that no man will deny their general result to be satisfactory in establishing the fact which they are produced to prove. It is more than I will venture to predicate as an universal aphorism, at what particular stage in the progress of society a people will altogether cease to reproduce their own numbers. Arguing practically, however, and with a view to the civilized nations of Europe, it may perhaps be said that whenever much more than one-third of the population shall be constantly resident in towns of considerable size, and the artificial necessaries of life (if they may be so called) are as operative in producing celibacy among the remainder as so advanced a state of society usually makes them, then the people will have arrrived at ITS POINT OF NON-REPRODUCTION. To prove this the following propositions must be established:—1st, Unless the marriages which take place in any district produce and rear children enough to supply the place of the parents themselves, as well as of all those individuals who die there in infancy or celibacy, or who habitually emigrate and die in other parts of the district, the population of that district cannot be kept up: and 2dly, Supposing that in an extensive country, thickly studded with towns, many districts are foundwhere the population falls short by not fulfilling these conditions; unless the deficiencies in them are fully supplied by an excess of individuals from the other districts, living to the same age at which the deficient district. loses its people, the whole population of the country Inust decline. Now the deficient districts in the civilized nations