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is weakened only by an unfeigned diffidence of my own ability to do it full justice. Having nothing in view but the discovery of truth, I deprecate no observations which my statement may call forth, except such as may superciliously condemn the argument without answering it. Let it be remembered that differences of opinion on such a subject do not involve a mere contest for victory on a question purely literary, but are conversant with the highest interests of man; that the subject is in itself difficult from the range over which the reasoning extends, and the depth from which much of it is drawn. To mix up with it therefore the petty interests of literary vanity instead of meeting it with honest argument, and, where necessary, with fair concession, would be not less absurd or unprincipled than if the congress of European powers had held its deliberations for the restoration of public justice and tranquillity in Europe amidst criticisms on the notes of Haydn, or in the intervals of a German waltz.
Statement of the Opinions lately promulgated on the Principle of Population.
A SHORT statement of the opinions lately received on the principle of population, with their obvious consequences, will best prepare the reader's mind for the due reception and comprehension of the principles about to be developed in this treatise. A more eligible mode of effecting this object can scarcely be adopted, than by a brief statement of the general principles contained in the two first chapters of Mr. Malthus's well known Essay on the Principle of Population. He is deservedly considered as the father of what may be called the new system; and the practical inferences drawn from his theory by others, rather than by himself, first drew my attention to the subject. He has indeed introduced various modifications of his own original inferences in his several editions, and explanations which amount in some cases to little less than a direct retraction. And no caution appears more necessary to the readers of Mr. Malthus's Essay, than that of carefully distinguishing between the practical measures ultimately recommended, and those obviously deducible from the principles laid down. An insight will thus be acquired, not only into the nature of the principles themselves, but, I am happy to think, also into the amiable disposition and enlightened humanity of their author. But to return to the principles themselves.
Population in very favourable circumstances (in the newly settled countries of America for example) has been found to double itself every twenty-five years: that rate, therefore is assumed to be (at the least) its natural rate of increase, which might go on ad infinitum, if interrupted by no checks. But it is evident that the increase of food, (land being an absolute quantity;) could by no methods be augmented to such an indefinite extent. It might possibly double itself for once in twenty-five years, while the best lands remained uncultivated; but so far from following up this ratio of increase in subsequent periods, it cannot even be supposed possible that its produce could be augmented even in the simple ratio of its original quantity.
“The necessary effects of these two different rates of increase” (says Mr. Malthus, and I beg the reader to bear the passage in mind), “when brought together, will be very striking. Let us call the population of this island eleven millions, and suppose the present produce equal to the easy support of such a number. In the first twenty-five years the population would be twenty-two millions, and the food being also doubled, the means of subsistence would be equal to this increase. In the next twenty-five years the population would be forty-four millions; and the means of subsistence only equal to the support of thirty-three millions. In the next period the population would be eighty-eight millions, and the means of subsistence just equal to the support of half that number. And at the conclusion of the first century the population would be 176 millions, and the means of subsistence only equal to the support of fifty-five millions, leaving a population of 121 millions totally unprovided for.”
Extending this reasoning to the whole earth, it will be found that the population of the world would increase in a geometrical ratio as 18.104.22.168.16.32.64. 128.256., and subsistence only in an arithmetical ratio, as 22.214.171.124.126.96.36.199.9. In two centuries the population would be to the possible means of subsistence as 256 to 9; in three centuries, as 4,096 to 13; and as of course there are ultimate limits to the produce of the earth, an end must come to any increase in the supply of food, while the principle of population still retains its full force.—Such is the account rendered by Mr. Malthus of the dispensation of Providence with respect to the natural power of increase in mankind and in their subsistence respectively; and I cannot but think that, if true, it affords a most singular and extraordinary exception to the admirable adaptation of means to ends which is so beautifully prominent in every other arrangement of the Creator.
But as it is evident that, in point of fact, mankind, unable to exist without food, do not increase in the abovementioned geometrical ratio, but precisely in that in which food is produced for their support; Mr. Malthus, in his second chapter, enumerates what he is pleased to call the checks to this exuberant power of production. They consist of “all those customs, and all those diseases, which seem to be generated by a scarcity of the means of subsistence; and all those causes, independent of this scarcity, whether of a moral or physical nature, which tend prematurely to weaken or destroy the human frame.” These checks may be classed under two general heads, the preventive and the positive; the FoRMER consisting of prudential abstinence from marriage, which when accompanied by irregular intercourse between the sexes, produces aggravated vice and misery; when accompanied by moral restraint produces comparative comfort. The LATTER, consisting of every cause, whether arising from vice or misery, which in any degree tends to shorten the duration or repress the productive power of human life; such as extreme poverty, wars, diseases, famine, pestilence, and the like. The obstacles to the increase of population, therefore, whether classed under the positive or preventive checks, are all resolvable into moral restraint, vice, or misery. And as the former (explained to mean an abstinence from marriage, unaccompanied by irregular gratification) is the only mode of escaping the encounter of the two latter in some form or other, it is evident that, upon this theory, the whole onus of counteracting, consistently with human happiness and virtue, the immense disproportion of the relative powers of increase above enumerated, rests entirely upon this single conservative principle. It follows of course, also, that the more it can be made to operate, the greater portion of virtue and happiness will be found in society. And as it is upon the lower ranks that the vice and misery alleged to arise from a redundant population particularly press, it evidently becomes the duty of governments so to model their political arrangements, and of individuals so to regulate their charities, as to lend encouragement to such protracted abstinence from marriage, from the moment that the produce of the land after it's first period of doubling sinks into the regular arithmetical progress; or, in plainer terms, from the moment that a country emerges from