« ForrigeFortsett »
and all temptation to the accumulation of capital by industry, and to its employment in beneficial purposes, completely destroyed: for where indigence and misery are the only security against plunder and oppression, it is equally impolitic and impossible for a man to use any exertions to raise himself into affluence and comfort. No symptom is wanting of a declining country. The great pagodas are now in ruins (Barrow, 333, et seq). The great wall, with its towers, 1500 miles in extent, has been long in the same condition. The great canal was in a state of decay before the Tartar conquest: the emperors of that dynasty, of whom there have been four generations, have repaired and restored it, and it now conveys shipping during an uninterrupted course of 600 miles, without a lock, or any interruption, eacept a few simple flood-gates ; but its plan and execution are infinitely superior to anything the present state of the arts in China is capable of designing or executing. The tyranny of the government has completely broken the spirit of the people, and confined their pursuits to the mere attainment of a scanty subsistence: so long as the multitude can procure their bowl of rice, the public peace is secure, but no longer. Such is the account of an accurate and intelligent observer; and in this state of things, it is not surprising that, instead of an enlightened and unprejudiced people, ready to contrive or adopt improvements in the arts of life, the Chinese should be a prejudiced and barbarous race, despising all foreign improvements, and exercising no talent of their own beyond the mere suggestion of means for providing their first necessities, and satisfying their most pressing wants. (Barrow, 177). It is natural that they should sink into such a state of brutality, as to occupy themselves in gaming to the extent of staking their wives and children, and in training animals to tear one another in pieces for their amusement. They not only train cocks and quails for this laudable purpose, but have extended their inquiries after fighting animals into the insect tribe, and have been fortunate enough to discover a species of gryllus, or locust, that will attack each other with such ferocity, as seldom to quit their hold without bringing away a limb of their antagonist. (Barrow, p. 159.) In the summer months, hardly a boy is seen without his cage containing these little animals, whose combats prepare the mind of their little master for the more serious amusements of his riper years. Notwithstanding this promisingbeginning, however, it does not appear, that they have yet attained to the practiceof hiring and educating human creatures skilfully to slit or flatten each other's noses, to strike out each other's eyes, to break each other's arms and ribs, or take away each other's lives by dextrous hits on the throat, or behind the ears, for the amusement and edification of thousands of spectators, as is said to be the case with a small and degraded portion of the people in some Christian countries: the disciples of Confucius, and the worshippers of Fo and Poo-sa have not yet reached these enormities Instead of a national church, to instil moral precepts into the minds of youth, we find no established religion, no national clergy, no public worship, nor any religious rites, but a few solitary ceremonies of gross superstition, extorted by some impending temporal calamity, in which the worshipper is actuated by
the dread of evil in this life, rather than by the fear of punishment in another. (Barrow, 486, &c.) “A Chinese can scarcely be said to pray; he is grateful when the event proves favourable to his wishes, petulant and peevish with his gods when adverse.” In such a state of society, where moral and political justice, in all its relations and arrangements, is so completely perverted, it is not surprising that consequences unnatural to the ordinary condition of man should have arisen: but it surely is to the last degree surprising, that any one should bring such a people as an example of mankind in the highest condition of society, populated and cultivated to the utmost of their physical means The plain fact, with respect to China, seems to be this—that it has for some centuries been declining, both in population and produce, a circumstance reasonably to be expected from a recurrence to what is known of its history. Before towns of the immense magnitude which those in China are said to reach could possibly have existed in the regular course of society, as it has been traced in the preceding chapters, there must have been a considerable degree of freedom and civilization, and the general surface of the country must have been pretty fully cultivated. But that cultivation has now been in a great measure destroyed by foreign violence, intestine disorder, and domestic tyranny. The towns having thus been left without their adequate and legitimate resource of food, their inhabitants have become like garrisons placed upon a reduced allow-ance. The small portion of food, however, necessary to sustain bare existence in that country, the fertility of the soil surrounding the towns producing two crops annually, and the mildness of the climate, still
admit of a large absolute population, though it has doubtless much declined, both in quantity and quality, from its former state, and will still further decline if the same vices continue.” But unless these vices are the unalterable lot of the Chinese, we are justified in concluding that, so far from the parents being under any moral necessity of killing their offspring, and the people of emigrating, because there is an absolute impossibility of procuring further produce from the land, they have recourse to those expedients merely because the industry of that part of the natives which ought to feed the remainder is unjustifiably interfered with ; and because the want of civilization, and the brutal depression of the people, prevent some part of that abatement in the progress of population which is natural to so advanced a state of society. But the restoration of good government and agricultural industry would soon restore civilization and plenty, the one producing ample food for the existing people, the other preventing a future progress in population too rapid for the remaining powers of the soil; whereas the system of legalizing infanticide for the purpose of keeping down the population to the exigence created by bad government, if it were effectual to its purpose, would condemn the people to a perpetual state of moral debasement, to a progressive diminution of their numbers, and to all that complication of vice and misery which attends upon a retrogressive career in the scale of society. For although the industry of the remainder may be excited for a time by the rod and the bamboo, yet when the mental and corporeal emergies are unnerved by such expedients, industry and morality will soon take their flight to happier regions. Here then we find that the natural tendency of the population to keep within the powers of the soil to afford it subsistence, as stated in the first fundamental proposition of this treatise, is disarranged, so as to produce actual pressure against the earisting supply of food, by the “depression of the productive energies of the soil considerably below its natural powers,” according to the second fundamental proposition of this treatise. But as such depression is produced by a government, laws, and customs, directly opposed to “the principles of sound religion and morality, to rational liberty and security of person and property,the eounteracting causes ascribed to the imperfect influence of these principles, in the thirdfundamental proposition, have no effect whatsoever. Their perfect influence, according to the fourth fundamental proposition, is of course entirely out of the question. We need do little more than thankfully contemplate the state of our own country, in connexion with the preceding view of the state of society in China, to perceive the effects which the introduction of religion, morality, liberty, and security, would operate in the latter: and as I think it may be asserted without incurring the imputation of national partiality, that there is no
* The number of persons on a square mile in China is not, as I have observed, equal to that which is found in England: yet the quantity of grain which the land is capable of producing from its double harvest, and nearly double returns in the quantity of each harvest, (for rice returns about thirty for one), would indicate a power of supporting a proportion of people four times greater than England. Let us add to this, that the ordinary fare of an inhabitant of Britain would, upon the average, support three Chinese upon their ordinary fare, and we may form something like an estimate of the population that might exist in China without pressing against the means of subsistence.