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be detected in the preceding paragraphs of this chapter; but I feel confident that every reasonable man will at least concede these points, which are all that I contend for: namely, That as society advances towards its highest stages, population with difficulty keeps up its own numbers; and that there is a point in the progress, where it cannot reproduce them by any natural efforts of its own, so long as the society continues in the same condition, and the same proportions of the people still remain in the same relative situations, in which they have spontaneously arranged themselves, and continue under the influence of the same habits and practices, in which they have been gradually confirmed by their progress in civilization. Having now taken a view of the progress of society through all the gradations which I proposed to investigate, and brought it to a point higher than any of which history furnishes an instance, and be
yond which it may fairly be presumed that it cannot
proceed; I may perhaps be allowed to observe, that if the foregoing deduction of the progress of society be at all correct, Population, so far from having an inconvenient tendency uniformly to press against the means of subsistence, becomes by degrees very slow in overtaking those means. By the inevitable accumulation of a larger than the average proportion of the means of subsistence into the hands of rich individuals as society advances, and from other causes stated in the progress of my argument, the pressure of want may indeed operate upon a part of the people to that salutary extent, which insures their industry in order to supply their necessities; and the miseries, ascribed to the pressure of population, are more justly due to the backwardness of men to ex
ercise that industry, or to grossly impolitic laws interfering with such exercise. But that the whole population is constantly pressing to a hurtful extent against the whole supply of food, or that the human race have a natural “tendency to increase faster than food can be provided for them,” are perfectly untenable propositions. On the contrary, it is evident that there is a point beyond which the population cannot possibly advance further without artificial assistance. That the healthiness or insalubrity, the mildness or severity of the climate, that the excellence or depravity of the government, the freedom or slavery of the people, may, in different countries, accelerate or retard this point of non-reproduction cannot be denied; but no salubrity of climate, nor any municipal regulations, consistent with a regular progress in industry and prosperity, could ever defer it (in a country of extended territory at least) till the period at which no more food could be raised, and no more people could of consequence be permanently supported. Laws promoting the easy transfer and appropriation of waste land, or bounties upon the export of corn, may indeed delay it for a time; because they will induce a preference of agricultural to commercial pursuits, and consequently establish a larger portion of people in country residences: yet still the point must come at last, when the further cultivation of the soil becomes ungrateful, and the capitalist will direct his principal attention to commerce, and the pursuits carried on in cities; and when nothing but a pressure of the population of these places against the supply of food will induce a further cultivation of the soil. Should it be objected that, by direct encouragements to the further cultivation of the wastes still remaining an addition might yet be made to the reproductive part of the people, it may be answered, that it is absolutely impossible to bring about such further cultivation in the state of society last supposed by any direct encouragement; for all the good lands being already cultivated to perfection, and none but the most ungrateful soils left unoccupied, nothing but a very augmented demand from a domestic population increasing fast in numbers, and shut out from a foreign supply, could possibly divert any more capital to the soil. A mere encouragement to export would evidently be insufficient; because corn, raised on very inferior land by expensive processes, can never compete in the foreign market with the produce of the purely agicultural countries. But the domestic population, in the case supposed, is either stationary or on the decline, and therefore can afford no encouragement to the laborious cultivation of barren soils. It is very true, also, that bad government and the consequent vices; that a general relaxation of morals, especially among the lower orders; that foreign violence or influence, rendering the political system of a country subservient, not to its own interests, but to those of its master-state; may often prevent the further exertion of industry. Therecent condition of the continent of Europe affords but too deplorable an instance in point. It is true, also, that impolitic restraints upon agriculture may prevent the improvement and further cultivation of the soil at any given point in the progress of society. The consequence of such vicious interference, before the people have arrived at their point of non-reproduction, must evidently be the pressure of the population against the supply of food, and the vice and misery so eloquently pourtrayed by Mr. Malthus as the consequence of such pressure. This, however, is certainly no necessary effect of a law of nature, but of human oppression and folly. The removal of the oppression and folly would assuredly restore the comfort and happiness of the people; whereas, were the pressure previously removed, it would take away that impulse which urges the individuals of a community to the improvement of their condition, and to resist whatever opposes it; and, contrary to the obvious designs of Providence, it would, humanly speaking, pass sentence of etermal slavery and ignorance against the unfortunate people. Tyrants only can wish to make the economy of human affairs consist with a state of ignorance, slavery, and oppression. Without some such interference, then, with the natural rates of increase in produce and population, it is no “vulgar misconception to suppose that the evils of a redundant population can never be necessarily felt by a country, till it is actually peopled up to the full capacity of its resources.” We may even go farther, and assert that, should this point of plenitude be ever attained, the evils of a redundant population would not even them be necessarily felt; because the non-reproducing part of the people must bear too large a proportion to the whole, to permit any total increase in their numbers: and let it be observed, in aid of this argument, that a free scope for industry, a general system of morality, security of person and property, and a free constitution and practice of government, (which are all necessary to carry a country many steps in its progress in the commercial and manufacturing state of society, and consequently towards a full state of cultivation,) do also very much assist the causes before enumerated, in enlarging the non-reproductive portion of the people. Thus we perceive, that every step which a country takes towards the end of its resources is accompanied by a correspondent abatement in the tendency of its population to increase; that although in abstract theory so many people, if they were all to marry as early as possible, and all to procreate and rear as many children as they might do, were they in different circumstances and distributed in a different manner, would very soon outrun the decreasing powers of the soil to afford food;—yet that necessary and anticipating alterations arise in the state of society, as those powers of the soil diminish, which render so many persons unwilling to marry, and so many more who do marry incapable of reproducing their own numbers, and of replacing the deficiency in the remainder, that the population is in real fact always prevented from having a natural tendency to exceed the feasible supply of food. So fearful indeed does Providence seem to have been of running the matter to too great a nicety, (if I may be allowed so to express myself), between the due return of the soil for the labour bestowed, and the power and patience of man to bestow it where the return becomes difficult or problematical, that it has fixed the point of non-reproduction of people in most cases far short of the extreme capability of the soil to return fresh produce; indeed, just so far short of it, in all free countries, as the artificial nature of the society has rendered further cultivation difficult, by the impediments thrown in the way of a speedy appropriation of new land to fresh proprietors. It is equally clear, that had not the Divine Provi.