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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 nations! 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 situa
tion 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 hovers 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? 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 ? 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
civilization, and towards a full state of cultivation. It may be said indeed that Mr. Malthus has noticed, under the denomination of checks, many of those causes which I have pointed out, as naturally and unavoidably abating the tendency of the people to multiply, as society advances. It is true that he has; but it is also true, that contemplating the want of the means of subsistence as the only real or necessary impediment to the increase of population, and the other checks merely as artificial impediments to what might otherwise have existed, he has continued to argue upon the geometrical and arithmetical ratio, in the relative powers of increase of food and population in the advanced as well as in the early stages of society, as though population still retained all its original power of doubling in very short periods.* I trust that my endeavours to expose the fallacy and inconsistency of this mode of reasoning, and of the moral consequences necessarily deducible therefrom, have not been altogether unsuccessful. But the principles of Mr. Malthus, with their application as rules of conduct, could never have made so deep an impression on the minds of so many
* In addition to the passages quoted in the second chapter of this book, the following argument concerning China will not be here misplaced. “ The procreative power would, with as much facility, double in 25 years the population of China, as that of any of the States of America;" (this of a society where there is a town containing 3,000,000 of citizens!) but we know that it cannot do this, from the palpable inability of the soil to support such an additional number. What then becomes of this mighty power in China? And what are the kinds of restraint and the forms of premature death, which keep the population down to the level of the means of subsistence?" (Malthus's Essay, book i. c. xii.)
enlightened men, had they not some foundation in truth. They appear to me to be partially true, inasmuch as they assert the tendency of population gradually to overtake the existing supply of food in the earlier stages of society, which I have freely allowed; but instead of wishing to prevent or weaken that tendency, which in my opinion would only serve to check the public prosperity, I venerate it as a signal instance of the kindness of Providence, and a plain annunciation of its will, that society should progressively advance to a more perfect state of civilization. But they appear to be no less decidedly false, inasmuch as they go to assert, that the natural tendency of population to increase (as society advances) is, physically speaking, so rapid, that it cannot be kept within the powers of the soil to afford it a further supply of food, without the operation of extraordinary checks, producing either a curtailment of the happiness and enjoyments of the whole people, otherwise allowable, or an inevitable accession of vice and misery. Whereas the system which I have endeavoured to establish goes to assert, that the abatement in the natural progress of population, constantly and spontaneously occurring as society advances, will, of itself, be sufficient to prevent any mischievous pressure against the supply of food; and that such abatement is to be ascribed to causes arising out of the natural disposition of the people, under a reasonably moral government, and varies with every step in the progress of society.' I shall further contend, in a subsequent part of this treatise, that these causes are so far from rendering necessary any curtailment of the people's enjoyments, allowable upon the general principles of