Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

country, or of any other with whose history he is familiar, and upon the contemplation of which his gemeral ideas have been formed, makes the number appear enormous;–and he is constantly obliged to do violence to his habitual feelings that he may render the account consistent with his ideas of its possibility. It will probably surprise many persons to be told that the average population of England to a square mile is greater than in China, notwithstanding the great absolute population of the latter; yet it is a fact, that England contains 188 inhabitants to a square mile, China not quite 180. Such is the effect of comparisons.

Infanticide, moreover, is found to be chiefly confined to the cities, and to the numerous dwellers upon the water; this appears both by actual observation, and by inference from the state of society in China, where the agriculturist, being oppressed and plundered, and his markets under the control of a corrupt government, raises no surplus produce, except for the payment in kind of his tax of the tenth of the crop (see Barrow, p. 400) to the general proprietor, the Emperor: so that the inhabitants of cities and of the boats are very often left by the agriculturist without an adequate supply of food, the price of which rises among them to an enormous height, reducing the townsman to absolute want, and the waterman to a precarious subsistence upon fish alone (see Barrow's China, p. 558). It is natural, therefore, that persons in such a situation should despair of their ability to support a family, and, being encouraged by their public institutions to marriage,and not deterred from entering into the contract by any of the moral or political causes incident to a civilized state of society, that they should be sometimes tempted to expose their infants. The fact, however, of the crimes being confined to the great cities, and to those who dwell on the water (in both of which situations the people are crowded together in a very inconvenient manner, (p. 349,) and the want of cleanliness, and of preventive precautions, must be peculiarly unfavourable to early life,) renders the real amount of the drain upon the population, from infanticide, much less than appears upon the face of the numerical returns. For as in towns and in the situations just described it is universally found that not more than half the numbers born live to the age of two years, it follows that one half of the exposed children must be deducted, to form a fair computation of the positive drain upon the population; since had they been spared at that time they would never have reached the age of two years, and all the care and expense bestowed upon them would have been, politically speaking, a pure loss to the state. In thus reducing the extent of the practice of infanticide in China within its proper bounds, for the purpose of correcting exaggerations and false statements, I am far from asserting that the people of that country are not often reduced to the lowest stage of want and misery; the public permission of such a practice, to any extent at all, is the strongest proof that the government is convinced of its apparent necessity, according to the actual state of affairs in the country, and to the earisting condition and resources of the people. But I do most strenuously contend that that condition does not follow from any real necessity, arising out of a physical impossibility of finding resources of food equal to the plentiful supply of the existing population, or of any number to

which it could reach under a free and good' constitution; but entirely to the vices of the government, the consequent debasement of the people, and the unnatural state of society thereby produced. We find that, even in the most frequented and commercial parts of the country, (see Barrow p. 70, 91, 564, et seq.), immense tracts of the richest land lie wholly waste and unimproved, that on the whole of that which is under tillage the most miserable modes of cultivation are adopted: ploughs are drawn by old women and asses in some parts of the country, and threefourths of the land areentirely managed with the spade and hoe. Few cows are kept; milk is not an article in common use. No beasts of burden but a few miserable horses, mules, and asses fed on straw and chaff in winter, and on the wastes and swamps in summer. There is no enclosed meadow land. It is scarcely necessary to say, that under such management there can be little surplus produce ; and that every cultivator, (566. et seq.) like the Irish peasant, confines himself to the quantity necessary for his own consumption, with the addition of the tenth paid in kind as a tax to the government, the common proprietor of the soil. Tea, and silk, and cotton, articles of universal consumption, are cultivated in the same manner, and the part sold to foreigners is chiefly the produce of the taxes to government. There is no such member of society as a cultivator with skill, capital, and implements adequate to undertake the management of a large farm with few hands, and to produce a surplus produce to answer the demands of the towns; although it is perfectly evident that did such a character exist, there is no want of soil to bring into cultivation, nor any want of demand for its produce. Nothing, therefore, would be more easy, did the nature of the government and the state of the society permit, than to raise a plentiful supply of food for the existing people; and the very same improvements in society, which would produce this effect, viz. civilization, freedom, security of property, and the accumulation of capital, would also, as we have fully seen, naturally produce that abatement in the future tendency of population to increase, which the vice, the misery, the unnatural ignorance and barbarism of the people and

the government have hitherto prevented. Towns containing a large absolute population, and

creating a demand for food, co-existing with rich but uncultivated soil, capable of bearing a surplus produce to answer that demand, yet still remaining untouched though no undue interference from the importation of corn prevent its cultivation, are certainly anomalies in political economy: but so is the whole condition of China. It is throughout a complete inversion of the order of nature, and of the designs of Providence; and it is melancholy to think of the ages, during which so large a portion of the people of the earth has groaned under it. The causes, however, are obvious, and have been fully stated. A good police to protect property; a good government to secure its free enjoyment; personal freedom and independence, as far as they are compatible with the public safety; an enlightened and unprejudiced people, to contrive or adopt improvements in the arts of life; and an established religion, to instil into the minds of youth moral sanctions for their conduct in after-life, in cases where legal sanctions are inadequate; are all so many ingredients in the condition of man in a civilized and advanced state of society. They are absolutely necessary to his progress in prosperity; and if in any period of that progress they are neglected or destroyed, his condition is proportionably deteriorated, an unnatural state of society intervenes, and he begins to feel those evils which never fail to follow any deviation from the laws of God for the government of man. If these things be so, we have only to express our surprise that the state of China is not more deplorable than it is. For these conditions of happiness and prosperity are, in every particular instance, absolutely reversed. Instead of a good police to protect property, the land is overrun with robbers, except in the immediate vicinage of the great towns and considerable villages; (Barrow, p. 570); and this to such an extent that the intermediate space of ground lies waste with scarce an habitation, and almost wholly useless. The bands of robbers are sometimes so numerous as to threaten even their populous cities with plunder.—Instead of a good government to secure personal freedom, and the free enjoyment of property when realized, the whole population from the prime minister to the peasant, each in his turn, is liable to be bambooed severely, at the caprice of any superior officer, some of whom he can scarcely stir abroad without meeting; and is, moreover, (P.381), under the necessity of returning thanks for the fatherly correction. Judgments in cases of property are to the last degree venal (P. 377), and without appeal; and a man is afraid to be considered as wealthy, (P. 177), well knowing that some of the rapacious officers of the state would find legal reasons to extort his riches from him. Thus all spirit of enterprize is checked,

« ForrigeFortsett »