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ing 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. The recent 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 eternal 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 then 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.
dence adapted the progressive power of the principle of population to what it must have foreseen of the effects of the progress of society, it would have made a very inefficient provision for its professed purpose as to the earth ; viz. that it should be peopled, replenished, and subdued, or cultivated by the industry of
Omniscience, so far from having made its machinery too strong for the work it has to perform, as the propositions I have ventured to controvert go to assert, has very nicely adapted its means to its ends, provided the workmen will comply with the regulations given them for performing their task; that is to say,provided they will regulate their conduct by the laws of religion and morality. If the workmen indeed choose to alter or disarrange the machinery, with an audacious confidence in their own superior wisdom, it is more than probable that the work will be liable to interruption and irregularity. But when their own wilful blunders have impaired the beauty of the structure, it is surely a very gross addition to the audacity of the workmen to ascribe the blame to the machinist, and to the principles upon which his work is constructed, and not to their own misconception and misapplication of his plan.
If the view I have now taken of the natural tendencies of population be founded on fact and right reason, the theory laid down by Mr. Malthus as an inference from the assumed tendency of population to a too rapid increase, in the more advanced stages of society, is founded upon data perfectly supposititious; viz. that a possibility exists, that the physical powers of a people could double their numbers in 25
in a commercial and manufacturing state of society, because that effect has been produced in one purely
agricultural. It is evident that their tendency to such a rate of increase is as absolutely gone, as the tendency of a bean to shoot up further into the air after it has arrived at its full growth. The argument appears not even to be theoretically true
“ Frustra simulacra fugacia captas Quod petis est nusquam.”
It is a mere shadow-a theory built upon another theory, which, when brought to the test, is directly at variance with experience of the fact, and as unsafe to act upon, as would be that of a general, who should assume the force of a musket shot to be double its actual range, and then should calculate upon the death of all his enemies, as soon as he had drawn up his own men for battle within this line of assumed efficiency.
Nor is this last assertion confined to any one or two stages in the progress of society, but extends, as I trust this treatise has shown, throughout the whole career, from the lowest state of savage life of which any record can be found, up to a higher condition of civilization and culture than any community of men has ever reached since the world was made. I know not therefore that in point of argument any thing remains incomplete which I proposed to establish in this first book of this treatise. A few illustrations, however, and a brief recapitulation of the contents of the book, may tend to fix the hypothesis more strongly in the reader's mind, and enable him with more facility to judge of its moral and political consequences. as stated in the following books of this treatise.