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country in the world where sound religion and moraHity, rational liberty and security of person and property, approach so nearly to the attainment of a perfect influence as in Great Britain; the comparison of its actual condition with that of other states will best substantiate the proof of my fourth fundamental proposition, as applied to the highest stage of society, of which history or experience will afford an example. It is evident that the population, although increasing on a soil where the best spots have all been long occupied, does by no means injuriously press against the supply of food raised from that soil; and it is still more evident that this happy condition is to be ascribed equally to our substantial political advantages, which encourage industry and cultivation on the one hand, as to our sound moral institutions, which tend on the other to introduce habits and dispositions preventing all vicious exuberance in the hatural progress of population. Far be it, however, from me to contend, that we have arrived at any thing like perfection in morals or politics —on the contrary, should I be permitted to execute the work which I contemplate on the “Com- . monwealth of Britain,” there is too much reason to fear that a few of our laws and institutions will be found as defective in political morality, as some orders of the community undoubtedly are in private wirtue ; and I should truly rejoice to find some abler hand engaged in a philosophical treatise, for the purpose ef tracing the connection between these two subjects, which involves the legitimate influence of mofals, in affairs of legislation and civil government. What I am now contending for is, that as in no great eountry upon record has so much public liberty been - L.
found, co-existent with so large a portion of private morality, the progress which England has made, without any serious inconvenience from the pressure of population against subsistence, is a striking evidence of the truth of the fourth fundamental proposition of the third chapter of this book, which is entirely of a relative mature. If, indeed, I may be allowed to make any observation on the positive degree of liberty and morality, which are requisite to enable a state to proceed in its career of improvement, without serious impediments arising out of the principle of population, I should be disposed to fix the point still lower than that at which those blessings are sustained in this country, and to cite the fact as an additional ground of thankfulness to Providence. The permanent pressure of population against subsistence is an evil of so fatal a nature, so entirely subversive of all virtue and happiness, so degrading in its consequences to the minds and bodies of the people, so productive of apathy in the governors, and despair in the governed, that nothing short of a total revolution in society, with all its attendant horrors, is sufficient to renovate the system. Without this desperate remedy, therefore, which even the most considerate of the existing community may well deprecate as almost worse than the disease itself, a country labouring under the misfortune stated may well be considered as placed under the ban of perpetual exclusion from all the highest privileges of social man, from the attainment of virtue, from the exercise of charity, from the enjoyment of civil and religious liberty. The moral and political condition of a country is never entirely desperate, so long as this extreme sentence is yet suspended over its head. We
ought therefore to be thankful that Providence has not allotted a pestilence so fatal to society, as the punishment of any trifling deviations from public or private duty, but has reserved it for those signal instances of departure from his laws, which have in all ages called down the whole weight of his wrath against devoted mations ! Minor transgressions are punished with lighter inflictions, which, so far from being fatal to society, may be said to act as its conservative principle; for they recall to the minds of a community, who, in the career of prosperity, have forgotten the Author of their blessings, the omissions of which they have been guilty: and this, while a sufficient degree of vigour yet remains in the body moral and political, to render the hint available; and the impulse which is thereby imparted renews the drooping energies of its efficient members. The revival is gradually imparted to the multitude, and the whole system comes forth as a giant refreshed, prepared again to run its course in the career of power and beneficence. The history of the Church of England for the last century, compared with its present progress in improvement, may be cited among many other instances in support of this last observation. The present condition of the people of Ireland is also a case in point, although it must be confessed to be by no means so fertile of hope, nor, (if the expression may be allowed,) so complete in expectation as that just cited. Neglect of duty towards them has, it is true, worked its legitimate consequence; and an exuberant and vicious population presents very formidable obstacles to the operations of the statesman and philanthropist: but, as it was stated in the last chapter, there are peculiar circumstances in the situation of that country which abstract it a little from the ordinary course of argument deducible from the principles of political economy. It is to be presumed, from the ameliorated system of the last few years, that the enlightened individuals connected with Ireland are at length seriously awakened, by its misfortunes and its miseries, to a just appreciation of the causes from which they have flowed, and of the only practicable remedy. If they will honestly apply that remedy, doubtless the inherent capabilities of their country will answer with elastic bound to the attempt; and the sense of the evils they have escaped will add double force to the spring. But it is impossible for a writer, engaged in a discussion like the present, to avoid gently intimating that statesmen, who have been for a long time engaged, and honestly engaged, in vainly seeking a political remedy for the disorder, have at length been brought, by total want of success, to the unanimous conclusion, that moral means can alone operate the cure; and, to their honour, they have set about in earnest to provide those means. This is a tribute to their efficacy in affairs of civil government, which it would be criminal to pass unnoticed, especially when it has so direct a bearing upon the truth of the proposition I have just endeavoured to establish. Truly, were it not that this ray of light penetrates through the darkness which howers over that devoted land, to cheer the mind, and direct the exertions of the philanthropist, he might well be tempted to close his eyes in despair; or, at least, to turn them from the dreary prospect to others more bright with hope, although less interesting in respect of their proximity. I shall close this subject with the advice of a good
old writer to those who acknowledge the force of a moral influence upon public happiness:—“How commonly do men complain, yet add to the heap 2 Redress stands not in words. Let every man pull but one brand out of this fire, (viz. himself.) and the flame will go out alone. While every man censures, and no man amends, what is it, alas! but busy trifling? In such a cause God will not allow any man for private. Here must be all actors, no witnesses. His discrete admonitions, seasonable reproofs, and prayers never unseasonable, besides the power of honest example, are expected as his due tribute to the common-wealth. What, if we cannot turn the stream 2 yet we must swim against it. Even without conquest, it is glorious to have resisted. In this they alone are enemies, who do nothing.” The respect which I entertain for the candour and ingenuity of Mr. Malthus, and my earnest desire for the discovery of the truth on the important subjects of this treatise, make me unwilling to close this book, without endeavouring precisely to point out the difference between the results of the views we have respectively taken of the effects of the progress of society upon the principle of population. I think it will appear that, short of the point at which a people naturally ceases to reproduce its own numbers, the difference between us does not attach so much to the matter of fact, with respect to the increase or decrease of population, as to its natural tendency and rate of progress, and to the means by which that progress is regulated. However we may differ in degree, both agree in admitting, that population does in fact somewhat diminish its rate of increase, with every step in the advancement of a country in wealth and