« ForrigeFortsett »
stand, and fairly to represent, the principle of population, would have a better chance of obtaining their end, if, instead of blindly acquiescing in these assumed data, they proceed to inquire into the degree in which the principle of population naturally and really operates in the several stages of society. They will find this to be very distinct from its assumed “ possible” operation, and in most cases to be very far from having a necessary tendency “to push the number of people beyond the point at which food can be acquired for them.” This is a broad and distinct difference in principle, which it is the object of this first book to make out to the satisfaction of my readers. It is hoped that the proof of the propositions assumed in the following chapter will lead to a full and fair establishment of the truth. The object of the following books will then be to show the consequences which may fairly be deduced from the propositions thus established.
Fundamental Propositions of this Treatise.
IN opposition to the hypothesis detailed in the preceding chapter, the object of this Treatise is to maintain the truth and practical consistency of the following principles, viz.: I. Population has a natural tendency to keep within the powers of the soil to afford it subsistence in every gradation through which society passes. II. This tendency can never BE DESTROYED, and can only 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, or pernicious customs, either 1. Accelerating the progress of population considerably beyond its natural rate; or, 2. Depressing the productive energies of the soil considerably below its natural powers. III. This tendency will neither be materially altered nor diverted from its natural course, so as to produce the evils mentioned in the last proposition, in a country whose government, laws, and customs, are founded in the main on principles of religion, morality, rational liberty, and security of person and property; although these principles may obtain only an imperfect influence. But IV. This tendency will have its complete operation, so as constantly to maintain the people in comfort and plenty, in proportion as religion, morality, rational liberty, and security of person and property, approach the attainment of a perfect influence. The various modifications, to which the alternate increase of food and population is liable, are all comprised within these general principles, which exclude the necessity of “vice, misery,” or such a modification of “moral restraint ’’ as includes involuntary abstinence from marriage, as checks indispensably arising out of the principle of population. Their consideration and consequences, moreover, will lead the attentive reader of the following pages to a fifth proposition of great importance in political oeconomy, viz.: V. During the alternate progress of population and subsistence in the earliest and most advanced stages of society, a previous increase of people is necessary to stimulate the community to a farther production of food; and consequently to the healthy advancement of a country in the career of strength and prosperity. It results from this proposition that the incipient pressure of population against the actual means of subsistence, or, more correctly speaking, the excess of population just beyond the plentiful supply of the people's want, instead of being the cause of most of the miseries of human life, is in fact (under the modifications just stated) the cause of all public happiness, industry, and prosperity. These five propositions contain an outline of the argument maintained in the following Treatise; and in them is involved almost every question fundamentally important to the religious, moral, and political interests of mankind. The method by which I propose to establish their truth is to take a brief, but connected view of society in the several stages through which it has been found to pass, from the savage condition of man up to the highest state of civilization of which any authentic record is to be found; and even beyond that point, to the highest which he can be thought capable of reaching in the career of wealth and prosperity. These stages naturally separate themselves into four general divisions, viz.: 1. The savage and pastoral; 2. The agricultural; 3. The commercial and manufacturing; 4. The highly civilized and artificial states of society. Into the principles and practices of each of these conditions of society, and of the successive gradations which lead from one to the other, I have entered at some length in a separate chapter devoted to the particular stage then under discussion, and have endeavoured to show in detail the effects which those principles and practices naturally and spontaneously produce upon the progress of population. At the close of each investigation I have attempted to show that the effects produced in every stage of society can be no other than what are enunciated in four preceding propositions. If this attempt has been successful, I am certainly authorized to conclude that they are fundamental axioms of human society universally applicable to the purposes of the political oeconomist, and to draw from them, for the benefit of mankind, such inferences as they may be fairly presumed to afford for the regulation and instruction of governments and individuals. For if the propositions be found true in every condition in which human society can subsist, they must doubtless be of universal operation; and being so, it is impossible, consi