Sidebilder
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][merged small]

religion and morality, or of producing extensive and irremediable vice and misery, that they do, in fact, by a beautiful system of compensations, only effect a change in the nature of those enjoyments among one portion of the people; while they leave to those, whose situation is least altered by the progress of civilization, the same portion of temporal enjoyment which previously contributed to the happiness of their existence. This appears to me to be a very decided opposition in principle, and the succeeding books of this treatise will show the

practical consequences of the two systems to be, in many respects, no less at variance.

Results too of a directly opposite nature, with respect to the permanence of the prosperity of particular states, are necessarily derived from the two systems. According to Mr. Malthus's hypothesis of the arithmetical and geometrical progress of food and population ; when a country has once approached toward its ne plus ultra of cultivation, such confusion must soon be introduced by the deficiency of food, and the utter impossibility of procuring it for a still increasing number of mouths, as must necessarily propel the community very rapidly in a retrograde direction down the scale of society. But, according to the hypothesis which I have ventured to suppose, there are no assignable limits to the endurance of any system of society founded upon the conditions of my third and fourth propositions. Take it at any point, from its first starting in the career to the extremest verge of high cultivation and civilization, still the natural causes, spontaneously arising out of the system, will be found to preserve a constant equilibrium between food and population ;

an equilibrium which must necessarily endure, so long as the causes producing it are permitted to operate. These are, it is true, political causes derived from moral conclusions. But philosophy has yet to learn that they are therefore less capable of fulfilling the objects of a conservative principle. The piece of machinery called the regulator of a steam engine will permanently preserve the work from danger, if it be constantly inspected and kept in order by a superintendant well instructed in the prin, ciples of the machine. In like manner the frame of society will be permanently preserved in vigour, if moral integrity, which is the regulator of the political engine, be duly watched and preserved by a superintendant acquainted with its principles: thiş surperintendant is an enlightened legislature, tempered by the public opinion of a moral and instructed people. If they will do their parts, we may say of Providence, as the poet said of nature,

“ Continuò has leges, æternaque foedera certis
“ Imposuit natura locis.”

CHAPTER IX.

Brief Recapitulation of the Contents of the pre

ceding Book.

It would not have been difficult to have enlarged the preceding sketch into a voluminous treatise, by the insertion of a greater variety of detailed illustrations, drawn from history,and from the accounts published by travellers of the different nations of the world. But many reasons have induced me to abstain from this course. Indolence, I trust, is not one of them ; but principally a feeling, that few things are less convincing than such illustrations, especially when produced with the view of fortifying some specific system of philosophy. I make no doubt that authorities may be drawn from any given country, which has much occupied the attention of travellers and historians, to fortify almost any given hypothesis in political economy. The views of different men, contemplating the same scenes, and the same series of actions, are so diverse, that they will furnish materials almost equally solid, upon which to construct systems and conclusions diametrically opposite to each other ; and the controversy, instead of being thereby cleared of difficulties, becomes doubly complicated by the addition of doubts and differences concerning the authenticity of the facts related, or the deductions drawn by the relaters. This is very obvious to the attentive reader of Mr. Malthus's animated descriptions of society, in the several nations to whose history he has referred for the proofs of his hypothesis ;

and I cannot but think that his original positions are rather weakened than fortified by those amusing details. I have therefore endeavoured to confine

my historical and statistical illustrations to the turning points or pivots of the argument, (if I may use the expression,) and to a reference to facts, upon the authenticity of which no question will probably be raised. I have thought the genuine account of one or two communities, actually passing through each of the stages of society to which I wished to refer, sufficient for my purpose, and less likely to withdraw the reader's attention from the main argument, than a desultory excursion through the paths of history, or the tracks of voyagers and travellers. If the references contained in the preceding chapters are not sufficient to convince the reader of the truth of the positions, which I am now about to recapitulate, I do not think, that an accumulation of facts, selected to assist the force of the impression, would be likely to meet with better success ;-though it would certainly afford additional matter for the amusement of a controversialist. It is enough to show, that certain grand outlines distinguish certain conditions of society from each other, and that the progress of mankind, from one stage to the next, is to be traced to certain uniform causes, and is followed by certain general consequences. I trust that this has been satisfactorily performed, and that facts enough have been produced to satisfy a candid and reasonable mind of the following truths.

And first, with respect to the earliest and most simple states of society, I think it has been sufficiently demonstrated, both by argument and from experience, (see chap. vi.) that population neither

does nor can, by any possibility, increase beyond the powers of the soil to afford it farther subsistence, but that it does, in fact, keep at an immense distance within those powers. But as they are scarcely at all called forth, the numbers of the people will in time undoubtedly increase beyond the actual means provided for their sustenance. It is nevertheless evident that this natural tendency of population to exceed the spontaneous supply of food from the uncultivated land is absolutely essential to stimulate the people to industry, and to the further production of food, by the inevitable force of necessity. If this call upon their industry be answered, the law of nature, just enunciated, so far from making any addition to the hardships of any rank of the people, confers comfort and happiness upon individuals and the community. The pressure, therefore, instead of being the cause of the miseries peculiarly incident to these states of society, is, in fact, their remedy; being the leading motive to all industry, and the primary cause of all advancement in public happiness and prosperity.

With respect to the purely agricultural, and the early stages of the commercial states of society, (see chapter v.) it is, I trust, distinctly shown, that so long as a people is wholly employed in agriculture, and the simple trades connected with it, population, so far from exceeding the powers of the soil to return further produce, can never even approach to any thing like actual pressure against the existing supply of food; because one family, employed in cultivating good land, can always support itself and several others : but when, from the progress of this system, the best spots of land are already occupied, and men begin to

« ForrigeFortsett »