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march of this system, but as men may usually be depended upon for following their own temporal interests, it may be argued upon in general as regular and unremitting. The necessary consequence then of this progressive recurrence to inferior soil is that, at each succeeding step, the cultivator has to grapple, with a more ungrateful subject, and must therefore incur an increased expense in rendering it productive; and that nothing but the certain prospect of being remunerated for that expense in the price of the produce will induce him to undertake the task.
It follows from these facts, that the very same circumstances, which in the first case may afford ample encouragement to the productive energies of the soil, may in the last depress them very considerably be low their natural powers; for as the only encouragement to produce any article is to be found in the profit accruing from it, after all the expenses of production are paid, it is obvious that, when these expenses are high, they cannot be compensated by the same encouragements which may have proved fully sufficient while the expenses continued low.
It is obviously true also that, where the public institutions of a country are of a liberal and expensive nature, and the land and its products are highly taxed to support them, these expenses must also be added to that more immediately incidental to cultivation, before we can determine what will actually encourage or depress the productive energies of the soil. A. community, for example, which from the profits expected from its agriculture engages to support establishments for the religious instruction, the moral education, and when necessary for the charitable support of its people, or which has entered
into an agreement with monied capitalists to pay them a portion of produce by way of interest for capital advanced, will of course discover that all these expenses must be added to those arising from the natural condition of the soil before a fair balance can be struck. What may constitute a fair encouragement therefore to the agriculture of a country shrinking from any of these undoubted and imperative duties or necessary engagements, may yet considerably depress that of another which performs them, even although both countries may be found to have reached, in other respects, the same point in the progress of society.
Again, it is obviously true that where the condition of a country is found to be on the expensive side of all these alternatives ; that is, where it has both advanced far into the commercial and manufacturing systems, has incurred a public debt, and has also established liberal and expensive institutions for the comfort, happiness, and morality of its people, to be defrayed from the produce of its soil, the foundations of its agricultural prosperity are completely different from those of other countries, where no such conditions of society exist. Still greater encouragement will be necessary, in such a country, to prevent the depression of the natural powers of the soil, than where only one or two of those extraordinary sources of expense exist: and this is perfectly fair. It is impossible for a nation, any more than for an individual, to enjoy the advantages of an expensive establishment without defraying the cost.
It is dishonest to set up such an establishment without the means of paying for it; and it is equally unmanly and inconsistent, having once established it upon a fair esti
mate of means, and reaped the expected advantages, to shrink from the necessary payments, or to envy those nations who have been willing to forego the comforts, or to desert the duties, in consideration of escaping the expense. In short, it is as vain as it is childish, at once to grasp at the advantages of riches, and to long for the disincumbrance of poverty.
If these reflections are just, we shall at once perceive that, to avoid the evils arising from depressing the productive energies of the soil below its natural powers, the application of general principles will scarcely be sufficient. A particular inquiry into the state of society, in which the country in question may happen to exist, is as necessary here as in estimating the force of the principle of population : and in the adoption of any practical measures: a knowledge of the state of surrounding countries is equally important.
For, practically speaking, it cannot be doubted that : in a large society of nations it is impossible to rely
upon each individual nation, or even upon a majority of them, for a constant adherence to general principles; especially on questions of vital interest to their neighbours, who are, I fear, almost necessarily their rivals. No man can be more ready than myself toadmit, that general principles, when universally adhered to, are the best foundations of individual policy, because they constitute the best security of individual as well as of general prosperity : but, as I have elsewhere taken the liberty to remark, “the science of political economy, being a set of conclusions drawn from general principles, is of course intended for general application. It is presupposed that all the nations concerned in any question involving those principles will fully act up to them, because it is their interest
to do so; or if any particular nation refuse so to act, that it will suffer for the deviation to the advantage of the rest. This supposition, in ordinary times and cases, or in times the same as when the principles of the science were laid down, is perhaps correct, and may often have been justified by the event; but the case is very much altered when the ordinary systems of policy are completely overthrown by extraordinary causes." Now I think it will be found in practice, that the prospect of ruining or materially injuring a rival nation has always been considered a cause sufficiently extraordinary to justify a departure from general principles, even under a full acknowledgment of their use and advantage in ordinary times : at least, I am sure that any nation which should venture to rest the fundamental principles of its political system upon a contrary expectation would wilfully place itself in great and imminent jeopardy.
Fully admitting therefore the theoretical expediency of general principles on the subject before us, and that, according to every fair conclusion to be drawn from them, population would not necessarily press to a mischievous degree against the means of subsistence, although the natural powers of the domestic soil were insufficient to afford those means, because food might be purchased by the products of the people's industry from other countries where the powers of the soil are sufficient ; yet this admission is by no means conclusive of the question : for the reasons above mentioned, the temptations which such a state would afford to the hostility of rival nations is so great, the effects which would be actually produced by depriving any considerable portion of the people of their accustomed means of subsistence, are in truth
so dreadful, that nothing short of absolute necessity can justify a great and extensive country in submitting to a permanent dependance upon imported food. But if the natural tendency of population to increase be not abated as society advances in its progress, but retain (as it is asserted to do) all its original vigour, even in the highest stages of its progress, and when the productive powers of the soil are necessarily very limited, it is evident that this absolute necessity of a permanent dependanee upon imported food must at length occur; the idea of ultimately placing the community in a state of comfort as to their means of subsistence from the domestic soil must be abandoned as hopeless; and there should seem to be a limit in the progress of wealth and civilization beyond which no prudence, no public spirit, no attention to public and private morals can carry any people; a point from which they must necessarily begin to decline, and a principle of decay which no obedience to the commands of God can obviate. This is a very disheartening prospect, and one that I should be exceedingly reluctant to entertain; because it involves a principle of apathy in the cause of public virtue and happiness, by the necessary anticipation of their speedy decay. For it is impossible to doubt of their transient existence, when once they come to be considered as necessarily dependant upon the prevalence of general principles ; that is, upon the universal consent of nations in a course of conduct upon which no two have been ever found practically to agree,
But if the natural tendency of population be such as I hạve endeavoured to prove in this treatise; and if by a fair adherence to moral and political rectitude, that