« ForrigeFortsett »
than we are justified in inferring either from history or experience; although there are many countries where the last mentioned abuse of charity absorbs more money than its legitimate use, and there are few where the practice of the virtue is conducted in the most judicious and economical manner. The question is resolved therefore more into one of judgment in the Inode of distribution, than of comparative expenditure. And the most liberal and enlightened exercise of charity, so far from forbidding, absolutely requires the adoption of every expedient for inculcating religious, moral, sober, and frugal habits among the lower orders; for encouraging them as far as possible to provide for themselves, and to rise independent of the aid either of the public or of individuals, to the utmost extent to which the state of society under which they are living will allow. But as their natural power of effecting these objects is altered by almost every step in the progress of society, it follows that assistance from the state and from philanthropic individuals must come in aid with increased activity as society advances, and the natural means of the poor themselves are diminished. Happily also it has appeared that both the means and the will for granting this aid increase in at least as great a proportion as they are wanted, in every moral and well regulated community. In one parish of London there are more charitable institutions both public and private than in the whole Empire of China; and the effects upon the people respectively may be contemplated in the first book of this treatise. Nothing then can well be more absurd than to sit down and murmur at the superior expenditure of charity in any particular country over another, without taking into consideration the moral and political condition of each. Nor can it well be disputed that, where the moral and political condition of the people is in the most enviable state, as compared with others in the same stage of society, there the charitable institutions must be constructed upon the truest theory, and most effectually carried into practice. For these institutions have so direct a bearing upon the condition of the people, at least in the advanced stages of society, that it can scarcely be said by those who disapprove of their extent, that the people are happy and comfortable, not through the influence of those institutions, but in spite of them, and by the counteracting force of the other laws and customs by which the people are affected.
Upon the whole then, perhaps, we may conclude that politicians may safely discard their apprehensions that the practice of charity, as commanded by Scripture, or as it results from moral expediency, will ever be found in excess among any people; or that preserved within those limits it can ever be misapplied. And thus upon this great practical question, as well as upon all the rest which we have contemplated, the conviction accompanies us through all its bearings and ramifications, that Christian morality is the only solid foundation for the political welfare of the people.
On the Propriety of affording a free and equal Option of Marriage to all Classes of the Community.
THE following passage occurs in the eleventh chapter of the fourth book of Mr. Malthus's Essay. “Nothing can be more clear than that it is within the power of money and of the exertions of the rich adequately to relieve a particular family, a particular parish, or even a particular district. But it will be equally clear, if we reflect a moment on the subject, that it is totally out of their power to relieve the whole country in the same way, at least, without providing a regular vent for the overflowing numbers in emigration, or without the prevalence of a particular virtue among the poor, which the distribution of this assistance tends obviously to discourage.” The preceding chapters may, perhaps, have satisfied the reader that a power does exist of relieving a whole country without providing for overflowing numbers by emigration; because numbers will not, in fact, overflow. It is the object of the present chapter to show to what extent the prevalence of the particular virtue among the poor, which the exercise of charity is said to discourage, affects the principle of population, and consequently whether the option of marriage may not be afforded to the lower ranks of society upon moral considerations only, and be left perfectly free upon grounds of expediency, and even topon those of political arithmetic.”
On this subject, conclusions the most important to the moral good and general happiness of the people depend upon the truth or falsehood of the principles maintained in this treatise. The following proposition has been repeatedly drawn from the principle of population, as it is laid down by those writers whom it is my object to oppose; viz. moral restraint, that is, involuntary abstinence from marriage by those who cannot support a family of the average number, (accompanied by abstinence from irregular intercourse,) until the pecuniary affairs of the parties are absolutely in a condition to support a family of the size that may eventually be born to them, is the only method of escaping the vice and misery incident to a redundant population. Now as the lower orders are evidently the only part of a people who cannot support a family, if they choose to give up other enjoyments in exchange for the domestic, it follows that the rule of involuntary abstinence from marriage . applies exclusively to them, and that it is necessary to the public welfare that they should continue single, and of course unpolluted, to a comparatively advanced period of life. At the same time the advocates of this opinion are compelled to admit that such a general system of restraint among the lower orders is, from the mature and constitution of mankind, extremely difficult and improbable; and that supposing the abstinence from marriage only to be attained, there would be great danger of encouraging the worst vices among them. The attempts to weaken this objection to the system consist principally of a comparison of its result with other crimes and vices to iwhich it is asserted that the opposite course of conduct, or the encouragement of marriage, would lead;
which are said to be great, but which I must beg leave to think (from an extensive observation of the lower orders) by no means the greater of the two. Again, they are compelled to admit, that, “ considering the passion between the sexes in all its bearings and relations, including the endearing engagement of parent and child resulting from it, it is one of the principal ingredients of human happiness;” and we may surely add, that its lawful gratification is the great constituent of the happiness of the lower orders, who do not profit in proportion with the rest of the community by the progress of civilization: at least it does not afford to them, as it does to the higher ranks of society, any mental substitute for these interdicted gratifications. Even an attentive perusal of Mr. Malthus's confessedly Utopian state of society, described in his chapter on “the effects which would result to society from the general practice” of such double abstinence as is above described, will undoubtedly show that almost all the moral advantages and happiness resulting from it attach exclusively to the feelings and condition of the higher orders. The people should therefore be entitled to retain that which they possessed in the earlier stages of society, and for which its further advancement has afforded them no substitute. But, say the supporters of the new opinions, if the lower orders do not alter their conduct in this respect with the progress of society, an increase of misery, and a multiplication of deaths by famine and various other diseases, must be the inevitable consequence. To prevent this lingering misery, therefore, if we attempt to facilitate marriage as a point of the first consequence to the morality and happiness of the