follow that of specie in the one case, and of population in the other. Yet surely,” he continues, "the prejudices with respect to population are the most absurd of the two; for, however impossible in fact, one may conceive means by which a quantity of specie beyond the demand might be retained in a country; yet when the population has once been raised to such a height, that the produce is meted out to each individual in the smallest portions that can support life, no stretch of ingenuity can ever conceive the possibility of going further.”

This last limb of the comparison will evidently lose its strength if we refer once more to the facts established in the preceding pages :-Ist, that population, as it advances towards a pressure against the surplus food of the agricultural state, so arranges itself as never to press against “ the smallest portions which can be meted out to each individual,but only against the comforts and luxuries of life: and 2dly, that every step in this advance introduces à corresponding abatement in the progress of population. It is therefore by no means necessary to exert any ingenuity in discovering a process by which the people may be fed, after a country is fully cultivated, and every portion of the food is meted out to the inhabitants so as barely to support the existence of each; the predicament upon which this limb of the comparison rests for support cannot exist, and the limb itself must fail. With respect to the comparison, it may also be further remarked, that specie, as is well known, being merely a circulating medium, the mis. take of the old economists lay in supposing that it constituted real riches, instead of being only the instrument by which riches are transferred from one

person to another. The absurdity of their opinions therefore rests entirely upon the discovery since made, that the value of specie depends wholly upon its instrumentality. But how can this be made to apply to population ? All are agreed that a healthy and increasing people do in fact constitute the real riches of a state; that their increase therefore is the absolute and essential object in all rational politics, whether it be caused by encouraging manufacturing industry, or by a further production of food. The ultimate value of population does not consist in being the mere instrument by which to raise an increased supply of the products of land and labour, but the value of these last depends chiefly upon the existence of a population in a state to consume them, and to pay for the labour bestowed. Population is therefore the ultimate object in one case, while specie is merely a temporary instrument in the other; and thus the other limb of the comparison appears to drop off, and the whole entirely fails.

If indeed population had been compared to capital instead of specie, a pretty close resemblance might have been shown in some of their intermediate operations. Capital is well known to be that which sets further industry in motion, and raises further annual products of land and labour. Its accumulation is one great object of all industry, and cannot but lead to further exertion by the demand it creates for employment. Increase it even by means foreign to domestic production, and you will soon perceive that a real increase of domestic industry and produce will follow. This has been fully proved by the effects of the capital brought of late years into England from the colonies and from the East. Although it was by no means the

legitimate offspring of the land and labour of the country set in motion by former capital, but the profits of adventures, (often without capital, made out of the land and labour of the opposite side of the globe, the demand created by it is no sooner brought into ope: ration at home, than industry is immediately set to work to produce a corresponding supply. So an increase of population, proceeding at the rate in which it can be produced in any free and civilized country in the state of society in which it may happen to be, can always make an effectual demand upon the industry of others, by offering a portion of their own in return. By whatever means the increase was produced, however unconnected with any previous production of food, it will immediately, by its demand for food, set industry at work to procure it.

Mr. Malthus also observes, that all the countries, whose inhabitants were sunk in ignorance or oppressed by tyranny, were very populous in proportion to their means of subsistence, because ignorance and despotism do not destroy the sexual passion, though they effectually destroy industry, and consequently cultivation; and that they do moreover reduce a people to such a hopeless state of indigence as almost to destroy all spirit of exertion among them.

All this may be very true; yet surely it is no proof that the pressure of population is not the efficient cause of further cultivation, although it may prove that the effect may be delayed by ignorance and oppression. Remove these, and the demand for food would be instantly supplied, and all the operations of society would proceed with their accustomed facility. . Although population does in fact continue to press against the means of subsistence, yet the ultimate

cause is in the ignorance and tyranny complained of, and can no more be said to be derived from the population, than the relaxed spring of a clock gone down can be said to be the ultimate cause of its not performing its functions. The owner has nothing more to do but to wind up the clock and the functions will be instantly resumed. His laziness then, and not the condition in which that vice has placed the spring, is certainly the ultimate cause of the clock's default.

In the following paragraph Mr. Malthus admits, sub modo, that an increase of population is absolutely necessary to a further increase of annual produce. But then it is said, that this is not the natural order of progress; because “ we know that multiplication has in numberless instances taken place, which has produced no effect upon agriculture, and has merely been followed by an increase of diseases." “ But perhaps,” he continues, " there is no instance where a permanent increase of agriculture has not effected a permanent increase of population somewhere or other.” In the preceding paragraph, we have certainly a notable instance in which multiplication fails of its due effect in producing an increase of agriculture, and is therefore followed by an increase of diseases; and I fully admit that an increased cultivation can alone render an increase of people permanent after the agricultural state of society is passed, But these propositions constitute no proof whatever, that the augmented population is not naturally the efficient cause of the increase of cultivation. If the people, when born and reared, are forcibly prevented from exerting their industry to provide for themselves, and precluded from profiting

by the industry of others, their increase cannot of course be permanent. And wherefore? Because the natural effect of the demand they create is obviated by tyrannical interference. But if they are permitted and encouraged to exert themselves, the increase both of population and produce then becomes permanent; but the latter is evidently engendered by the former.

We have next an attempt to prove, that complaints for want of food cannot be justly founded even in a country where much good land remains uncultivated : because, it is said, the effect of uncultivated land operates merely as the possession of a smaller territory, and does not by any means alter the proportion between the food and the people. Now really this is something like saying that a starving people, with money in their pockets, would have no ground of complaint were a large granary full of imported corn locked up, and the key forcibly detained till the contents were spoiled, because it would operate merely as the possession of a smaller quantity; and that, never having been in the domestic market, it does not by any means alter the proportion between population and production. This sort of reasoning may be very just on the supposition that any tyrant, endowed with sufficient power, had entered into a fixed resolution that the waste land should always remain uncultivated ; and such a check to the due course of society, and to the progress of his people's happiness, would be a very characteristic exercise of despotic authority. But if no unjust impediment be thrown in the way of agricultural improvement, it would be as impossible to prevent individual interest from “ altering the proportion between the food and the people," by augmenting the produce of the soil

« ForrigeFortsett »