the practice of infanticide as a check to its redundant numbers. In order to form a fair judgment upon this subject it is necessary, first, to inquire into the eartent of the fact as far as materials for ascertaining it can be had; and, having thus reduced the evil to its real amount, to investigate its cause, and to form a judgment of its necessity. The accounts given by the missionaries and Jesuits concerning China must be received with great caution; the interests of their order having rendered necessary to them a continued residence in a country under a despotic government, peculiarly jealous of foreigners, it was incumbent upon them to report nothing which might eventually give it offence. Their desire also of magnifying their own importance, by enhancing the numbers, knowledge, and virtues of the people they had undertaken to convert, might naturally lead to exaggeration. When we read, therefore, of the crowded numbers, the perfection in arts, sciences, and agriculture, the full state of cultivation, the ingenious methods of improving land, and the various features of an high state of civilization, recorded of the Chinese by those authors, we cannot consent to receive the account as perfectly unprejudiced: particularly where it directly contradicts all the known principles of political economy, and is equally at variance with other accounts from persons who could have no possible inducement, either to form, or to state to the world, erroneous conclusions on the subject. - . . . . . . The embassy of Lord Macartney to China has produced such accounts, and has falsified, in a great measure, all the fine theories built upon the romances

[ocr errors]

of the Jesuits and missionaries, has reduced the information to be obtained by a candid inquirer into the condition of China to the level of common sense, and has enabled us to argue upon its state of society upon data applicable to the known principles of political economy. We are no longer to be told (without the power of detecting the imposture) of a highly civilized, enlightened, and well governed people exerting their utmost industry upon a soil cultivated nearly to the utmost, yet unable to provide subsistence for their still increasing numbers, and reduced to the murder of their children from the mere physical impossibility of supporting them But we are presented with the account of a country, from the vices of its government, lying one third waste, with industry depressed, property insecure, the harvest (except in the immediate neighbourhood of the towns) liable to be swept away by bands of plunderers; and a people reduced to the lowest state of distress, not from any physical impossibility of jurther improving their country, or of raising further produce, but from the want of capital to undertake improvement, and the uncertainty of reaping any of the profit. At the same time, China, from the general uniformity and mildness of its climate, from the fertility of its soil, and the prolific nature of its staple article of food, rice, is even in its present state capable of supporting a very large absolute population, called into existence by direct encouragement to marriage, and the absence of all those moral and political causes, which, among an enlightened and well governed people, naturally and spontaneously produce an abatement in the progress of population. . The public policy of China, therefore, is

precisely calculated for the double purpose of at once encouraging the increase of people, and diminishing the quantity of subsistence; thereby completely reversing the natural order instituted by a beneficent Providence, and acting the part of a farmer who should increase his stock in proportion as he diminished the size of the farm on which he raised their food. Having premised thus much, let us now proceed to inquire into the number of deaths by infanticide in China. It appears from Mr. Barrow's information, collected during Lord Macartney's Embassy, (Barrow's China, 4to. p. 169, and seq.) that about 9000 exposed infants are picked up by the police in the streets of Pekin, a city containing 3,000,000 of inhabitants, and carried out of the town to be buried. Of these about 5000, or five-ninths, are supposed to be still-born, and exposed to save the expenseof burial, which is so great in China, that instances have been known of corpses being kept a year above ground to save money for a suitable interment (Barrow's China, ibid.); the remainder, or 4000, maybe laid to the charge of inhuman or distressed parents. It is farther calculated, from the best authorities, that the number of these deaths at Pekin are equal to one half of what take place in other parts of the empire; so that in a population of 230,000,000, about 8000 children are known to be annually exposed to destruction. Now the annual number of births in China, considering the climate and encouragement to marriage, cannot be calculated at less than 8,000,000 or 1 in 30. Therefore about one child in 1000 is murdered, or exposed by its parents, immediately upon its birth. The number exposed in times of famine, perhaps, in some

degree exceeds the average of common years, but probably not to any great extent. The famines in China arise from the uncertain nature of their staple crop, rice; and, as it is known to be of a temporary mature, terminable at the next harvest, that is, within six months at farthest, there does not appear to be any great additional temptation to the exposure of an infant who consumes no rice, but subsists upon its mother's milk. The famines, by destroying many youths and adults, must certainly diminish the number of births, but cannot much increase the number of children exposed; neither is there any reason to suppose that many are privately murdered. Where the government indirectly sanctions the exposure of children, and provides publicly for their interment, it is impossible to suppose that any parent would prefer the horrid office of destruction to the milder expedient of exposure, where some hope, however faint, may still exist, that the infant's life may be saved by the humanity of the opulent. That this feeling does enter into their minds is evident from the practice of the numerous part of the Chinese population, which dwells upon the rivers. Whenever they expose an infant, they universally tie a gourd round part of its body to keep it above water, in hopes that, in its course down the river, some one may take compassion upon it and rescue it from death. These hopes are certainly very ill-founded. The fact, however, of the practice is a proof that they exist; for otherwise what parent would not rather tie a stone round its child's neck and hasten its end, than preserve it to die in the lingering torture of cold and hunger? We see then the amount of the deaths by infanticide in China, a resource which has been asserted to be a principal and necessary check to their overflowing population. It may throw light upon this subject to form a comparative estimate of the effect which the same proportion of exposed infants would produce in our own country. The annual births in England and Wales, may be fairly estimated at something more than 300,000, and supposing every 1000th child to be exposed, the total number would amount to 300 for the whole kingdom. Let those who consider the annual admissions at the Foundling Hospital, together with the unhappy infants deserted by their parents, and admitted into the workhouses of all places where there is a considerable population; that few assizes pass where mothers are not indicted for the crime to which they are impelled through fear of shame, and that it must sometimes be perpetrated without discovery; let those who consider these things say how far the civilized and enlightened England, comes behind the brutalized China, in the crime of exposing infants. So many, indeed, are not ultimately lost to their country, because the humanity of the laws or of individuals preserves their lives; but if they were ultimately destroyed, it would be obviously absurd to count upon an annual destruction of 300 children as one of the principal drains upon the population of the country. The extended territory and the great absolute population of China are apt to cause much confusion in the mind of an English reader, unless he be familiar with the study of political arithmetic. When he hears of thousands and millions of persons employed in particular pursuits, or enrolled, &c. the proportion which such a number bears to the whole population of his own

« ForrigeFortsett »