« ForrigeFortsett »
population of one more advanced formerly acted towards the country in question, when it was itself in the agricultural state. The imported food, being grown in plenty where good land is cheap, may appear capable, notwithstanding the freight, of underselling in the home market that of domestic growth on inferior land. But the skill, the capital, the superior industry, and the economical improvements in the mode of cultivation, which always attend the application of commercial capital to the soil, joined to the natural wish of all monied men to possess land, will usually be sufficient, for some time at least, to counteract the superior cheapness at which imported corn is raised in the country of its growth. And when the natural disadvantages can be no longer thus counterbalanced, but are in danger of too far reducing the profits, and consequently of checking the further progress of domestic agriculture; then, AND NOT BEFORE, government should interfere by protecting duties, and restore things to their proper level. For it should never be forgotten by the inhabitants of a country of extensive territory, that imported corn, however secure its arrival may usually be, should never be depended upon, but as a temporary instrument for supporting those, whose demand for food should ultimately elicit a further advance of domestic cultivation. It appears then that, notwithstanding these qualifications, the three propositions above stated are generally true, and may lead to practical conclusions of the greatest importance.
I trust also that the arguments, by which they have been supported, are sufficient to establish the truth of the fifth proposition to which I stand
pledged in this treatise :* viz. “ That in the alternate progress of population and subsistence, in the earliest as well as in the most advanced stages of society, a previous increase of people is necessary 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:” together with the consequence derived from it; viz. “ That the 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 wants, instead of being the cause of most of the miseries of human life, is in fact the cause of all public happiness, industry, and prosperity.”
* See book i. c, iji.
Of the mischievous Pressure of Population caused
by accelerating its Progress considerably beyond the natural Rate.
HAVING in the last chapter established the order of precedence between food and population in the several states of society, it is now time to revert to that part of the second fundamental principle of this treatise, which relates to the causes by which population is made to press mischievously against the actual supply of food : and first, of that which is derived from encouraging the progress of population considerably beyond its natural rate. I endeavoured to show, in the first chapter of this book, that not every encouragement by which population is increased beyond the natural rate will necessarily lead to a mischievous pressure, but that cases may occur in which it is attended with circumstances leading to great positive good. But a general rule may perhaps be laid down, by which to distinguish the probable effect that would follow in all cases, excluding for the present all moral considerations. It may I think be safely asserted, that, wherever a corresponding encouragement is afforded to industrious exertion, either by fortuitous circumstances or by the act of government, there the
of population may safely be encouraged beyond its natural rate, and vice versa.
We have seen also, that in free and regular governments, in the advanced states of society, the in
crease of population cannot be very rapidly accelerated, and is itself one of the most powerful encouragements to the further exertion of industry on the soil; and that in the less advanced states of society there. is always a surplus produce of food; consequently the whole population cannot generally press, either mischievously or otherwise against the total supply of food. These considerations should seem to reduce the subject of the present chapter within very narrow bounds, unless we encroach upon the third and fourth fundamental principles of this trea. tise, which embrace the moral part of the subject. Important objects, however, may still be comprised under this head; for there are certainly methods in the earlier stages of society, by which population is encouraged without any reference to industrious exertion, and consequently where the pressure of a part of the people against their means of procuring subsistence produces much individual want and misery, although the whole population may not press against the total supply of food.
The following case may be stated for an example: Even in the advanced stages of the agricultural state of society, great carelessness is apt to prevail respecting the appropriation of small portions of inferior land. It appears at first sight indifferent to the possessor of an hundred acres of good land with hands enough to cultivate it, what becomes of seven or eight detached acres of inferior and neglected soil lying round the corners of his hedges. But let us suppose seven or eight miserable hovels erected upon these acres, the land converted into potatoe gardens, and each maintaining half a dozen human beings, for whose labour the condition of society, (according to
the principles on which it should be conducted,) offers no demand ; and he will begin to lament too late that his indifference to the neglected portion of his property has permitted such a nuisance to grow up upon it. Let us suppose the prevalence of this system general in a country, and its government will presently discover that its duties towards the people have been grossly neglected. It by no means follows that the population thus reared would tend to encourage industry by lowering the price of labour, (as they certainly would do had they their labour only to depend upon for procuring the means of subsistence ;) because in the case supposed, the produce of the land attached to the cottage is sufficient to afford a subsistence compatible with idleness. This removes the necessity of that mutual dependance between the employer and the employed, so essential to good order in every community. The care and observation of the higher orders is entirely removed from the lower; and the natural consequence of such a state of disconnexion between them, (notwithstanding all the fine sentiment concerning the advantages of independence among the lower orders,) has always been found practically to lead to vice and insubordination. It would be strange indeed if uncontrolled and unmitigated ignorance could end in other results, The first generation of these interlopers therefore will scarcely be reared, when either property will become insecure, the laws set at nought, and violence become prevalent; or a system of severity must be adopted in the practice of the government abhorrent to all rational liberty, and finally aggravating rather than allaying the symptoms of the disease. For in these kinds of contests the government is always