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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 man. 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 years 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
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.
Farther Illustrations of the Subjects treated in the two preceding Chapters.
It would undoubtedly have been my wish to lay before the reader, in this place, such an illustration of the preceding view of society in its highest stages, as might be afforded by the series of facts, and by the observations on human life and conduct, which have gradually led my own mind to the conclusions stated at the close of the last chapter. Some of them, however, are, as I have candidly acknowledged, more a matter of hypothesis than of experience; and upon investigating the others in detail, so many are found to refer to the common-wealTH OF BRITAIN, which fully deserves to be treated at length in a separate work, that I cannot anticipate the discussion in this place. I may be permitted however, to remark, that there is no record, in ancient or modern history, of a country in so advanced a state of society as Great Britain. I do not mean to assert, that higher degrees of refinement and luxury have not existed among what has been thought the favoured portion of the community in other countries;–in the Roman empire, for example, where the fish of the Epicure were fattened on the body of his slave. If this may be called civilization, states more civilized than Britain certainly have existed; and, doubtless, the view of society, taken in the preceding chapters, would be far from being borne out by any reference to the practical operations of a system, involving such a complication of enormities. But I do mean to assert, and with a feeling of honest joy and profound gratitude, that there is no record of any country, where real civilization, that is, where the moral and political equality of every individual, of all ranks and stations, has been practically secured to any thing like the same extent as in Britain; where the laws of the land and the spirit of the constitution have so amply guaranteed to every man the freedom to exercise his industry, and to seek his happiness in the way best suited to his interests and inclinations, and the assurance that the fruits of his exertions shall be preserved to him; and where the laws, and the actions of individuals are, upon the whole, and notwithstanding some lamentable exceptions, so much guided by the spirit of enlightened morality. It is therefore to a country, which has been thriving for many years under such a system, that the illustration of an hypothesis, drawn from the spontaneous operations and distribution of a community of moral agents, may most properly be referred. It is indeed from a detailed view of the workings of such a society that the truth or falsehood of such an hypothesis can alone be well determined. . I have no doubt that the result would be found to be, that although scarcely more than a third of the population resides in large towns, yet were not the restraining power, imposed upon the increase of the people by the progress of wealth and civilization, in some degree weakened by the system connected with the legal, public, and individual charities; the population, except in times of extraordinary demand for labour and consequent high wages, would scarcely . be sustained at its actual number, much less would
it increase so as to press against the diminishing powers of the soil to afford it a plentiful subsistence. Nay, is it not a fact, that, notwithstanding the rapid increase which by artificial assistance the population has attained, we find that food is comparatively so much more plentiful, (Jan. 1816) and has increased so much more rapidly, even though produced from a soil whose most fertile spots have been long since occupied, that the actual difficulty is not now how to feed the people, but how profitably to dispose of the superfluity of the food raised for their support. Can a more convincing proof be imagined of the gratuitous nature of the fears entertained concerning the unobstructed increase of population, and the tendency which it naturally has in such a society to exceed the limits of the food provided for its support? Even actively excited, and accelerated beyond its natural rate, it has still kept considerably within those limits. The spring has been bent, much beyond the point which calculators assigned as its utmost limit, and so far from breaking, has only the better executed its purpose. It must, however, be admitted that if an authentic account can be any where found of an extensive country cultivated up to its full capacity of production, in which the population shall nevertheless be found to press perniciously against the means of subsistence, my hypothesis cannot be sustained. The only nation which has ever been asserted to be in this condition is China. An inquiry therefore into the truth or falsehood of this assertion is very necessary. Now, I think, it will appear that much exaggeration has always prevailed with respect to the extreme populousness of China, and the alleged necessity for K