« ForrigeFortsett »
there are no persons among them in abject poverty, and few immoderately rich, this more equal distribution must lessen the sources of disease, and furnish every individual under it with the necessary means of relief. These considerations excited his curiosity to know the proportion of deaths among the Quakers of Manchester ; and he was gratified by Mr. Routh, one of the Friends, in the most obliging manner, with the following information. The society consisted of 81 males and 84 females, 54 married persons, nine widowers, seven widows, and 48 persons under 15 years of age.
The births during the preceding seven years had amounted to 34, and the burials to 47; about 1 therefore in 24 of the Quakers in Manchester died annually; whereas the proportion of deaths among the inhabitants of the town at large was as 1 to 28. This difference, which is directly the reverse of what would occur were vice and intemperance the only causes of mortality in towns, Dr. Perceval afterwards reduces to a level, by supposing, that the Quakers had few or no accessions to their number by new settlers or converts during the seven years.
This must have considerably increased their proportional mortality; because, as new settlers generally arrive in towns in an adult state, and the chief mortality takes place in childhood, they must of course raise the proportion of inhabitants to the deaths, and also of births and weddings to the burials, higher than they would otherwise be. If this cause did not exist, he conceives, that the general proportion of deaths to the population in Manchester would be at least as high as among the Quakers, perhaps some
thing higher; but it cannot be denied, that the proportional mortality among these last is naturally very near as high as among the other residents of the town, notwithstanding the difference in the temperance, regularity, and cleanliness of the parties. That “ the want of vivacity in the people of this sect,” and “the sedentary lives of their females," tend materially to shorten the period of their existence, will not probably be admitted by any philosopher or physician. What then remains but that we come to the conclusion, that the causes which shorten the period of human life in towns, however they may be sometimes aggravated by vice, are fully sufficient, without any such aggravation, to produce all the effect contended for in this treatise, and to render the inhabitants of towns, supposing that they conducted themselves as temperately and as virtuously as the Quakers, a non-reproductive part of the population of the state. Dr. Perceval (see Perceval's Essays on Population, p. 56) has afforded another fact to prove that the quantity of vice usually existing in towns does not materially alter the otherwise natural rate of the progress of population. By a careful comparison of the difference in the proportion of deaths between the town of Manchester and the villages immediately surrounding, he found that the yearly mortality in the former bore a proportion to the whole population, very nearly, if not quite, double to that in the latter ;-~yet “ both live in the same climate, carry on the same manufactures, are chiefly supplied from the same market,” and their habits of life, their morals, and their manners, cannot therefore be very different. Supposing the fact as
established by the Quakers to be out of the question, there can probably be no difference of vice in these two situations sufficient to account for their different rates of mortality; and the two facts taken together render it absolutely certain that such is not the cause. We must evidently, therefore, have recourse to the other circumstances in which towns differ from the country; and these are chiefly, confinement from such exercises as render the body vigorous and robust; an atmosphere unfavourable to the duration of life; and the weaker spark which originally animates the frame of the townsman, and which refuses to carry his existence to the same extended period as the more vivid fire which glows in the frame of the countryman.
Some of these circumstances are caused, and all of them are compensated, by the superior degree of mental exertion necessary to the townsman, that cannot fail to impart to him a portion of refined enjoyment to which the peasant must be a total stranger. Nor has he ever felt the want of the more efficient properties of the body. Although he is born an animal less vigorous than the peasant, his native air affords him a state of personal feeling as comfortable, fits him as much for the less hardy and laborious occupations in which he is employed, renders him as free from pain and as capable of the quiet enjoyments suited to his station, as the air of the country affords to the rough peasant flushed with the boisterous amusement of athletic exercises.
I am aware that it has been the custom among a set of philosophers, who are too little scrupulous conconcerning the effects of their sophistry upon the public good, to decry the effects of civilization, and
to enlarge upon the degradation induced on the human mind by commerce and extended manufactures. They assume, that the moral degradation of the inhabitants is commensurate with the degree in .which the division of labour exists in a country; and suppose, that when the public prosperity has been raised to a great height by the minute subdivision of labour, the ideas of the people will in each class be limited to the performance of one single manipulation. The only mistake in this proposition seems to be, that the word ideas has been used instead of hands ; unless, indeed, it is intended to assert, that men receive their ideas through their fingers' ends, or the palms of their hands! A man's hands may bé limited to one single manipulation; and, in proportion to the adroitness with which he performs it, his ideas may wander at large. A weaver, for example, long before his apprenticeship is expired, may throw the shuttle to and fro by mere habit, with little mental exertion, or even attention; and he is in constant intercourse with a large society of men, whose minds require only the proper pains, which it is the duty of every government to take in providing för their cultivation, to turn the activity, naturally resulting from the collision of ideas, to the moral ad vantage of the individual and of the community. Let any man set a ploughboy and a mechanic to an employment which requires ingenuity and thought, and with which both are unacquainted, and it will presently be seen which has had most opportunity of cultivating his mind and improving his faculties. Let any man revert to the origin of those who in revolutionary times have risen from the lowest orders into consequence; or of those who, in countries where
liberty and equal laws give every man a property in the works of his head as well as of his hands and confer distinction upon those who are successful, have risen from obscurity by works of inventions or genius; and then let him ascertain how many have sprung from the rude peasantry, how many from the inhabitants of towns? If the inquiry should turn out in favour of the townsman, surely the variety of ideas, and the solid advantages, which lead to or follow these results, may be fairly set down to his account as só much happiness ; at least, as so much additional capacity for enjoyment, and, as I think, for moral improvement also. I cannot think, therefore, that the collection of people into towns necessarily induces any moral degradation among them; on the contrary, I am tempted to believe that letters and arts introduce into the morals greater advantages, if properly seized, than wealth does disadvantages, notwithstanding the absurd paradoxes of Rousseau and his imitators upon this subject; and I heartily subscribe to the striking illustration of the antient philosopher, “Quid enumerem artium multitudinem sine quibus vita omninò nulla esse potuisset. Quis enim ægris subvenisset ? Quæ esset oblectatio valentium ? Qui victus aut cultus, nisi tam multæ nobis artes ministrarentur, quibus rebus exculta hominum vita, tantum destitit à cultu et victu bestiarum.” (Cicero de Officiis, lib. 2.) Although, therefore, the townsman's life may be somewhat shorter in duration than that of the countryman, it may certainly be said to be longer in giving more enjoyment to the individual. As to the effect on the community, the spread of knowledge and talents will always secure freedom, at least in the practice, if not in the form, of