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VIEW OF THE PROGRESS OF SOCIETY, WITH ITs EFFECTS ON THE PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION.
THE Principle of Population in its moral and political effects, or in its practical operation upon the condition and interests of mankind, may be said to constitute a new science. Till within these few years it has been treated either as a matter of curious historical research, unconnected with inferences for the regulation of the conduct of nations and individuals; or as a subject upon which no ground of dispute existed, inasmuch as every practice, having an apparent tendency to increase the numbers of mankind, was assumed, on that account only, to merit the encouragement of statesmen. It is not surprising that, with such views of the subject, many unsatisfactory conclusions should have been arrived at, and much political mischief produced; nor that such men as Mr. Hume and Mr. Wallace should have held notions so indistinct concerning the connexion of the Principle of Population with the progress of society, as to assert; the former, that in small republics, where each man has his little house and field to himself, population may go on doubling every generation; and the latter, that great political advantages would ensue, were all the persons now employed as manufacturers to quit their present pursuits and to be equally industrious in raising grain and breeding eattle. The first of these positions seems tantamount to the declaration, that men in each succeeding generation can subsist upon the half of that which supported their fathers; and this down to the lowest point to which the infinite divisibility of matter can reduce their pittance: the last seems to assume, on the contrary, that the only healthy condition of society is that, wherein every citizen raises not only food enough for the support of himself and his family, but a surplus store sufficient for four or five other families. There must evidently have been a great want of science and of clearness in the conception of a subject, upon which men so ingenious could have come to conclusions so strange, and so discordant. In proportion, therefore, to the deficiency that existed, is the merit of those who have in any degree supplied it: for no man, I apprehend, will be disposed to deny that the question involves considerations emphatically interesting to the welfare of his species, and is conversant with the most important departments of morals and politics. On these grounds, too much can scarcely be said in commendation of Mr. Malthus's Essay upon Population. It at once raised an important object, from the confu
sion of desultory thought and blindfold speculation, to the dignity and precision of philosophical inquiry; may more, to the highest rank of philosophy, viz. the knowledge of the principles upon which the practical improvement of mankind, moral and political, is to be conducted. When we reflect that the confusion previously existing was reduced in the Essay to a regular and tangible system, scientifically arranged, fairly argued, and founded upon principles not merely speculative, but drawn from facts candidly stated though perhaps somewhat misapplied, it is impossible not to admit that valuable progress was made towards the establishment of truth. Those who differ the most from the conclusions must at least be thankful for the facilities afforded to the argument. They cer. tainly ought to admit that their own minds would neither have been so well informed, nor their ideas so well arranged, nor their means of reply so amply furnished, without the lucid order and indefatigable industry displayed in the Essay. As one of those who differ the most from the Author's conclusions, I am not ashamed to confess my obligations to him, and my admiration that so much was effected upon a first attempt, rather than any regret at what I conceive to be the untenable nature of his principles, and their consequences. It is of inexpressible advantage to a fair controversialist to have the power of at once proceeding to the merits of his case. This Mr. Malthus has conferred upon all who oppose him; and had they universally availed themselves of it, it would have been as advantageous to their own credit as to the cause of truth. If I may presume to rank myself among his fair adversaries, it is not because I enter
tain the slightest doubt that we are both honestly engaged in the same pursuit, viz. the improvement of society; but because it is impossible to discuss a question which he has so ably and logically argued, with any material difference of opinion, without carrying the opposition up to the principles from which the conclusions appear to be so fairly deduced. Nor indeed should I have had the vanity to constitute myself in any degree his adversary, if the question concerning the Principle of Population could have been fundamentally treated, without continual and almost exclusive reference to the only writer, of whom it may be said with reference to this subject, that his prism has collected the scattered rays of light from the literary firmament, and refracted them in their regular series of lively colours upon the fair surface of his pages. In a word, I consider Mr. Malthus's Essay upon Population to be the point from which every subsequent discussion of the subject must necessarily diverge. With these preliminary remarks I proceed at once to the statement of my subject.
Statement of the Subject.
THE first command of God to man was that he should increase and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it, that is, labour upon it for his subsistence. Experience and common sense inform us, that as man cannot live without eating, the species can only increase and multiply in proportion as food can be raised from the earth by human industry: and we learn from the whole tenor of the sacred