« ForrigeFortsett »
politician of his surest ground of action, of his only certain guide through the intricacies of his path. For let us look to history, and tax our own experience; let us recollect the political axioms which have been held to be oracles in one age, and branded in the next as very mischievous things; and we must admit that politics involve always a choice of difficulties, frequently a choice of evils, and are never reducible to determinate principles, unless when they can be traced up to a moral cause. But when this can be clearly done, let us again look to history, and tax our own experience, and declare whether any political action, or any improvement undertaken on moral grounds, was ever the subject of repentance or regret to the society which adopted it ? Here then is the touchstone by which every political speculation, that can be brought to it, may be examined and concluded on. When the symptoms of the pure ore are manifest, the politician may, nay must, if he is honest, declare the argument current: and we may conclude that the legislator is never certainly safe except when he proceeds on moral grounds.
To sum up the whole in a few words—where a moderately good government in its enlarged sense is found to prevail, there population will spontaneously restrain itself, while the production of food will be extended, and the community will make a healthy progress ; but where the vices of a bad government, and individual immorality and selfishness, are found to be predominant, there the production of food will be restrained, while population will make efforts to extend itself, which will be checked by misery and famine till a better system be adopted. I do not mean by this conclusion to lay every particular instance of private vice and public
evil directly to the charge of the governments under which they may be found, any more than to fall into the opposite error of ascribing to the spirit of the government all private virtue and public prosperity : the utmost power of goverments can only lay the foundations of each, and lend a hand in rearing the superstructure; the spontaneous operations of the people will do the rest. But
But my conclusion evidently does extend to this, that the general nature of those operations will depend upon the sort of foundation laid by the government, whether in just and moral, or in unjust and immoral laws; and it is certainly thus far responsible to God and to the country. If public happiness and prosperity can rest upon political profligacy, the unprincipled use of power, the selfish traffic of individual interests, and the effeminate disregard of stern morals in affairs of state, then have the governments of past times clear consciences, and history much belies the general condition of the people who lived under them : but if, as I hope for some future opportunity of proving in a separate treatise, and as I think the brightening prospects of the world may lead a sanguine mind to anticipate, the converse of these propositions may be admitted as political axioms; if moral principle, and pure philanthropy may at length be considered as proper ingredients in the composition of a statesman, and legitimate influences in affairs of policy ; then may the people look forward to better days, in the removal of the impediments which have hitherto checked the designs of Providence in their favour. For individual profligacy and selfishness, though shining with talent, will be discountenanced as useless : but individual morality, dilating itself as it always does into general
philanthropy, and animated by zeal for the improve ment of society, will be associated with the power of the state: their united force will be more than sufficient to fulfil the conditions under which (according to the principles of this treatise) mankind will spontaneously advance in the career of civilization and happiness.
POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES DEDUCIBLE FROM THE PRIN
CIPLES MAINTAINED IN THIS TREATISE.
Consequences to be deduced from the first Prin
ciple: viz. “ That Population has a natural Tendency to keep within the Powers of the Soil to afford it Subsistence, in every Gradation through which Society passes.”
THE first obvious application of this principle, as established in the preceding book, to the practical purposes of political economy, may be thus stated. An enlightened government, and an industrious people, who will discharge their duties with an ordinary degree of practical wisdom and virtue, so far from endeavouring to add force to the spontaneous abatement in the progress of population, accompanying the civil and moral phenomena displayed in the foregoing view of society, may safely venture upon the removal of every check to population, which really comes under that title by being of a nature to be removed by human power: they will, under ordinary circumstances, leave the people to the natural rate of increase inherent in the state of society which may then be subsisting. In pursuing this course of conduct, they will not interfere with that necessity for industry and exertion, which Omniscience seems to
have contemplated in calculating the force of the principle of population, and on which the happiness and virtue of all societies depend. But they will certainly feel it incumbent upon them to use every exertion for giving free scope to human industry, and indeed will consider that circumstance as a most important object of all rational politics. A full population, increasing as fast as the state of society in which it happens to be will permit, necessarily renders the people industrious; because in such a condition universal industry is absolutely essential to the sustentation and happiness of the people, and to the security of the government. In ancient China, which was eminently populous, idleness was a penal offence, and we are told by Strabo, lib. xv, that it was capital to lame an artificer in the hand, or to blind him of an eye, though not so with respect to other persons. These laws must have originated in the necessity of an universal industry in that country. As in such a situation it necessarily becomes expedient to the safety of the government, that every man should have it in his power to work without being deprived of the fruits of his labours, a free form and practice of government naturally ensue. The regular administration of justice, and the absolute necessity there is for encouraging industry by rendering property secure, are all so many bars to despotism. In truth, the attention which a full population, increasing as I have just stated, renders it necessary that a government should pay to the removal of all impediments to the people's industry, (particularly when employed upon the land,) and consequently to the welfare of the lower orders, is above all price. It was formerly the custom in India, at the beginning of a new year,