to answer an increased demand, as to enable any ingenuity to prove that such augmented produce would not stop the very reasonable complaints of the people for want of food.

It is next observed, that “no country has ever reached, nor probably ever will reach, its highest acme of cultivation;" whence, I suppose, is meant to be inferred, that the continued pressure of population cannot for ever be met and obviated by a corttinued increase of cultivation. But it has been shown, in a former chapter, that the further pressure of population will be prevented, before any point at all approaching to this “ highest acme of cultivation” could be arrived at, at least in all those countries with which Europeans are best acquainted; because the people will have reached their point of non-reproduction, before the land has attained to its ne plus ultra of cultivation. If this be so, it is neither “ the want of industry, nor the ill direction of that industry,” which is the limit to a further increase in produce and population, nor yet “ the absolute refusal of nature to produce any more.”

But the demand for further food gradually ceasing from the domestic population, at a time, when the staple of the land still remaining uncultivated is such, as to prevent any possibility of exporting its produce with a view to profit, there could be no possible inducement to a further extension of agriculture.

Mr. Malthus very justly observes, in conclusion, that, “ with regard to the principle of population, it is never the question whether a country will produce any more, but whether it may be made to produce a sufficiency to keep pace with an unchecked increase of people. This is doubtless the true state of the question ; and if there be any truth in the

principles maintained in this treatise, the produce of a country, tolerably well governed, can easily be made to keep peace with an unchecked increase of people, that is, with an increase left to its own natural progress. But it is impossible to agree in the corollary drawn by Mr. Malthus from this question as containing synonymous expressions ; “ that in England it is not the question whether, by cultivating all our commons, we could raise considerably more corn than at present; but whether we could raise sufficient for a population of 20,000,000 in the next 25 years, of 40,000,000 in the next 50 years," and so on. For we have seen, to a demonstration, that in the state of society now existing in England, or, as it could by any possibility be made to exist, these periods of doubling are altogether visionary and theoretic.

Such are the opinions of the principal political economists with respect to the important qnestion treated in this chapter, with the observations to which they have given rise. Upon considering them, it will occur to every reflecting mind, that there is one circumstance strongly militating against the opinion of those, who contend that agriculture is, in all cases, the efficient cause of population. It is, that not one of those writers can point out, or has made any satisfactory attempt to show, in what manner a further extension of agriculture can be made, after the commercial state of society is entered into, by any other means than by a demand for produce from an increased number of mouths. They have contented themselves with saying that such should be the policy, without ever adverting to the practical impossibility of adopting it. But surely a

more absurd and unpromising attempt can scarcely be imagined, than for a government to undertake to force the cultivation of inferior land, before an increased demand for its produce should render the employment profitable. It is quite ridiculous to talk of bounties upon the export of corn in such a case. They are altogether inadequate to the purpose in the advanced states of society. For since the foreign market is always supplied from countries in the purely agricultural state, where good land can be had cheap, a successful competition can never be carried on by another country where only inferior land is to be procured, and that at a high price. When to this is added the freight, which must also rise in proportion to the price of provisions in the home market, it seems absolutely impossible, consistently with common prudence, to grant a bounty upon the export of corn high enough to counterbalance such disadvantages.

That bounties upon export, and other encouragements to agriculture, may retard the diversion of capital to mercantile and manufacturing purposes to a later period, and encourage the cultivation of soils of a staple inferior to what would otherwise have been attempted, is probable : and it may be doubted whether every expense so incurred has not been a very useless and unnecessary waste of money ; for if capital can at such periods be more profitably employed in commerce and manufactures, we may rest assured, that the population thus produced will soon make it the interest of individuals to divert a portion of their capital to the land. But that bounties upon export can ever permanently encourage the cultivation of bad land, or any other agricultural

speculation affording small returns, before there is an immediate and pressing domestic demand for the produce, is too untenable a proposition to deserve a serious answer.

[ocr errors]

There are,

I have now traced, (and, notwithstanding the extreme importance of the subject, I fear at almost too great a length), the various and conflicting opinions of political economists, with respect to the order of precedence between agriculture and population. I shall devote a few remaining paragraphs to an attempt to draw out a consistent system by reconciling, as far as possible, their contending arguments; and am disposed to think it will appear that, by overlooking the change which takes place in the interests and habits of the people as society advances, each writer has endeavoured to apply universally what, from the nature of the case, can only be of very partial application. probably, periods in the progress of society, in which every proposition enunciated by each of the economists I have cited may be respectively true. But from the want of discriminating those periods, they have persevered in applying to one condition what is only true of another; and, by an attempt to establish a general principle, have exceedingly confused their argument, and fallen into many particular absurdities. There is a period in a man's life, when it is superlatively true that he ought to be sent to school, another when he should go to college, another when he should enter into a profession, and another when he should enjoy his ease with dignity; but it would be a very singular consequence to generalize any

[ocr errors]

one of these propositions, and to assert that he should enter into a profession at twelve, go to college at thirty, and be whipped at school in his grand climacterick. But to resume the attempt to draw out a consistent system from the contending arguments.

It appears, in the first place, that so long as a country remains in the agricultural state of society, that is, so long as agriculture continues to afford the most profitable employment of capital, that department of industry will, with very few exceptions and qualifications, be the efficient cause of all increase in the domestic population ;~and 2dly, as soon as the best lands are appropriated, and commerce and manufactures become the most profitable employment of capital, then they will be the efficient cause of population ;-and 3dly, from the demand created by this population, must spring all further supply of food from the soil.

To prove these propositions we must observe generally, that the state of employment, or the demand for hands, is naturally the only criterion of the numbers which, when called into existence, can be reared to manhood and permanently supported. Industry is consequently the main efficient cause of population in all states of society. Nor does it by any means appear so certain, as has been sometimes declared, that the demand for hands will always be in proportion to the actual supply of food. Where great prospects are opening for an extensive increase of commerce, of manufactures, of exportation ; where large capitals gained abroad are brought home to set industry in motion in the parent country; or great supplies of men for the army, navy, or foreign colonies, are necessary to the welfare of the state;

« ForrigeFortsett »