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consistent with sound policy as it is with the dispensations of Providence, and the commands of religion. Providence does not seem to have intended any restraint upon the higher and middle classes in the exercise of their option as to marriage or celibacy, but leaves to every one his power of selecting his own method of passing through his state of probation in this respect. HE doubtless foresaw the election that a large portion of them would make, and has converted it into the means of balancing more equally the temporal advantages and happiness of each rank, and the several temptations to which each should be exposed. The reasoning, therefore, is by no means impaired by the consideration (to the limited extent in which it is true) that, if those who now voluntarily abstain from marriage from the above-mentioned causes should choose the other alternative, population might have a tendency to advance too rapidly for the diminished power of the earth to supply it with food. Such a supposition is nothing more than an assertion that, if the world and the dispositions of mankind were differently constituted, affairs would not go on so well; a proposition which I should of course be among the last to deny. But as the truth now stands, we observe that, by a beautiful arrangement, so common in the dispensations of Providence, a provision is made to arise from the silent and unobserved operation of man's propensity to better his condition, which at once ensures the political welfare of the community by keeping up the population, and enabling it to make a further progress, while it facilitates alike to the poor and the rich the practice of virtue, by exposing neither to a degree of temptation from which the other is exempt. It appears then, upon the whole, that no moral impediment to the progress of society, or to the natural tendency of population to keep within due bounds, is to be apprehended from as general a prevalence of matrimonial connexions as the existing state of society will admit; may that a perfect liberty in this respect is essential to a healthy progress. We perceive that the principle of population introduces no new duty, nor any necessary increase of vice and misery as society advances, and the land arrives nearer to its point of complete cultivation. I must here be permitted to remark, that a general attention to the moral duties is as necessary to connect the happiness of the people and the public prosperity with the propositions established in this chapter, as with any of those which have preceded them. If husbands or wives be drunken, idle, and profligate, whether they be young or old, their families will be in some way or other a burthen to the State. But I think upon the whole that an early marriage, and a young family, is a strong incentive to sobriety, industry, and decency, in a poor man, whereever his moral and religious instructors come in aid of his natural feelings of affection towards his wife and children. I have seldom seen the workings of good advice upon natural affections fail in their effect, except in old and very hardened profligates; and I have very frequently beheld the combination of the two effectual in reclaiming a loose and thoughtless character. I should be sorry however to be so far misunderstood, as to be thought to assert that it would be consistent with the good of the state, to afford to
On the Influence of the Principle of Population, and of the Progress of Society, upon the individual Virtue and Happiness of the People.
HAVING shown that in some important and controverted points the principle of population leaves the political expediency of moral conduct, and the conditions of public virtue and happiness, precisely where it found them, it now only remains to establish the truth of the same propositions as general axioms. For this purpose we must inquire whether any of those natural arrangements of society, which have been pointed out as contributing to the simultaneous progress of food and population, do, generally speaking, increase the intensity of vice and misery; or whether the result of those arrangements be not rather a general compensation of enjoyments, leaving the increase or decrease of vice and misery entirely dependent upon the general conduct and habits of people, with reference to morals and religion; and lastiy, whether we cannot thus establish the glorious conclusion—that an eminently vicious people will at all times destroy itself, and a moderately virtuous one support itself, and flourish. There will then remain, to complete the object of this treatise, only the fourth fundamental principle—that the tendency of population will operate in advancing the happiness and prosperity of a people in proportion to the prevalence of liberty, to the purity of the popular religion, and the soundness of the public morals, habits, and tastes of the people. It has I think been somewhere observed, that every attempt to explain the cause or ultimate object of moral evil in the world will fail; and if a new revelation were given to turn this dark inquiry into noon-day, it would make no difference in the actual state of things. An extension of knowledge would not reverse the fact that human nature has through every age displayed the clearest proofs of innate depravity, nor could it weaken the probability that it will still continue to do so, whatever were the reasons for giving a moral agent a constitution, which it was foreseen would soon be found in this condition. I am thankful, therefore, that it is not necessary to entangle ourselves in these depths, but only to be convinced that, catteris paribus, the average quantity of evil that affects mankind is not necessarily increased as society advances. It is evident from the preceding chapters, that the classes whose situation in life is changed by the progress of society are the non-reproductive classes, that is, the higher ranks generally, and the lower and middle ranks resident in towns. Among the higher ranks, I think, after what has been stated, that the principle of compensation is so self-evident as not to require any additional illustration in this place. But I am aware that some difficulty may arise from the situation of the people in large towns, which form so considerable and so necessary an ingredient in the composition of an advanced state of society. In order to investigate it fairly, with reference to our present inquiry, it is evidently one. cessary to distinguish between that quantity of vice . . 2 F.
and misery which actually exists in many towns, where no adequate pains have been taken to improve the morals and the police, and that quantity which has been assumed to be necessary to produce the requisite abatement in the progress of population. The last is clearly all that can be justly ascribed to the dispensations of Providence in this argument; and when it has been reduced to its proper quantity, we must proceed (if any, remain) to ascertain how far it may be sufficient to counterbalance the superior exertions of virtue, which the state of society producing many towns enables us to make. Occasion has already been taken to show the high proportion which the average number of deaths to the population in towns bears to that in the country, , and that a great portion of this extraordinary mortality takes place among infants and young children. But a certain number of premature deaths occurs in the country as well as in towns, and it is probable that the most favourable condition can hardly reduce it among the lower orders to less than one-third of the number born. As far as my personal experience goes, I should be disposed to think that the average was rather more. Now, as to these individuals themselves, who shall say that theircondition (thusearly taken from the world) is not to be envied by those left behind 2 The principal question, therefore, as to the sum of misery produced by this increase of premature deaths, seems to be the degree in which the parents are affected by: it; and the immediate point to be determined in the case before us is, how much more heavily this species of grief presses upon parents residing in towns, than upon those in the country. As this is one of the chief drawbacks which we shall