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observed, likely to increase with every subsequent advance in the progress of society, and which would therefore gradually absorb all the surplus stock of people; for these again would be continually decreasing, from the difficulty of procuring residences, and from that minute attention of proprietors even to the smallest portion of land, which a very full state of cultivation would induce. I have indeed attempted to answer this objection more with a view to illustrate, in every possible manner, the principle under discussion, than from a conviction that it can ever practically apply. An extensive country absolutely cultivated to the utmost, having never been known to exist in times past, it would be scarcely expedient to regulate our policy by any such expectation in future. An objection, therefore, resting upon the assumption of such a probability, can never weaken the practical policy of any system otherwise admissible.
Many other particular applications of the principle, which forms the title of this chapter, might be made to the varying circumstances of the different con, ditions of society; but it will be recollected, that it is the fundamental principle of the whole treatise, and therefore connected with the three other propositions (see chap. iii.) whose application is the subject of the following chapters. In those chapters, therefore, which concern the second propositions, many political references will of course be made to this ori. ginal principle. In those which concern the third and fourth propositions it will equally be applied for the purposes of moral illustration. I will therefore at present venture only briefly to suggest as general propositions, 1st, that whenever it shall appear, either
from what may follow in the subsequent chapters of this treatise, or from any other deduction, that an increase of people is necessary to the further progress of a nation in wealth and prosperity; a statesman may not only give direct encouragements to population without danger, but will frequently be bound to afford them upon principles of sound policy: and 2dly, that whenever any moral or political object is thought to be desirable and justifiable, save in its probable tendency to increase population; that tendency by no means forms a justifiable ground of exception against the pursuit of the object, but may frequently be even an additional recommendation.
I shall now conclude this chapter with the following extracts from Sir James Steuart's work on Political Economy. He appears to have obtained a clear insight into the difficulties in the way of a permanent progress in prosperity, which the deductions in this chapter propose to obviate: but his observation does not seem to have extended to a clear view of the remedy.
“ In order to have a flourishing state, which Sir William Temple beautifully compared to a pyramid, we must form a large and solid basis of the lowest classes of mankind. As the classes mount in wealth, the pyramid draws narrower, until it terminate in a point, as in monarchy, or in a small square as in the aristocratical and mixed governments. The lowest class therefore must be kept up, and, as we have said, by its own multiplication. But where every one lives by his own industry, a competition comes in; and he who works cheapest gains the prefer
How can a married man, who has children to maintain, dispute this preference with one who is
single? The unmarried therefore force the others to starve, and the basis of the pyramid is contracted. From this results the principal cause of decay in modern states." 6 Could a method be fallen upon to prevent competition among industrious people of the same professsion, the moment they come to be reduced within the limits of the physical-necessary (that is, the fair supply of the necessaries of life) it would prove the best security against decline in a modern state, and the most solid basis of lasting prosperity. But, as we have observed in the first book, the thing is impossible while marriage subsists on the present footing. From this one circumstance the condition of the industrious of the same profession is rendered totally different. Some are loaded with a family, others are not. The only expedient therefore for a statesman is to keep the general principles constantly in his eye, to destroy this competition as much as he can, at least in branches for exportation; to avoid in his administration every measure which may tend to promote it, by constituting a particular advantage in favour of some individuals of the same class above others; and if the management of publick affairs necessarily implies such inconveniences, he must find out a method of indemnifying those who suffer by the competition.”+
Few writers in political economy have taken a more comprehensive view of the operations of society in its advanced stages than Sir James Steuart. He has here pointed, in very express terms, to an evil which he thought irremediable, and therefore one of the principal causes of decay in modern states. I
• Sir J. Steuart, Pol. Ec. b. i. c. xii.
+ Ibid, b. i. c, xxi.
leave it to the candid reader of this chapter to consider how far the remedy detailed in the preceding pages may obviate the difficulty, and whether a method has not at length been fallen upon for fulfilling those conditions, which Sir James Steuart thinks would “
prove the best security against decline in a modern state, and the most solid basis of a lasting prosperity.”
I cannot refuse my readers the pleasure they will derive from considering one other passage from the great work of this amiable and enlightened philosopher. It exhibits his opinion of the principle which ought to regulate all systems of compensation among the lower orders of mankind.
“We are next to inquire, how it happens that many industrious people are rivalled in an industry which brings no more than a bare physical necessary, (that is, the bare necessaries of life.) This must proceed from some disadvantage either in their personal or political situation. In their personal situation when they are loaded with a numerous family, interrupted by sickness or other accidental avocations: In their political situation, when they happen to be under a particular subordination from which others are free, or to be loaded with taxes which others do
I shall only add, that in computing the value of the physical necessary of the lowest denomination, a just allowance must be made for all interruptions of labour. No person can be supposed to work every free day; and the labour of the year must defray the expense. This is evident. Farther, neither humanity nor policy, that is, the interest of the state, can recommend a rigorous economy in this essential quantity.”
* Sir J. Steuart, Pol. Ec. b. ii. c. xxi
Application of the Second Principle : viz. that the
Tendency of Population to keep within the Powers of the Soil to afford Subsistence CAN NEVER BE DESTROYED, and can cnly be altered or diverted from its natural Course, so as to induce a mischievous Pressure of Population against the actual Supply of Food, by grossly impolitic Laws and Customs; either, 1st, accelerating the Progress of Population beyond its natural Rate; or 2dly, depressing Agriculture below its natural Standard. .
In the preceding book of this treatise, it appeared evident, that at no period during the whole progress of society did population increase so fast as to exceed the means of subsistence, which the soil, under reasonable encouragement, was capable of affording; and that any unnatural interference with the progress either of population, or of agriculture, would be so far from producing any good effect, that, unless influenced by moral circumstances as in the case stated in the last chapter, it would only disarrange the order of society, prevent the further developement of its resources, and remain a dead weight upon the national prosperity, until the inconvenience arising from the load should rouse the community to cast it off, and set itself free to resume the natural course. The interference with the natural progress of population by the poor laws of England, and by the negligent facility of the pro