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denial, and whose lot has been least enlivened by social comforts, it might be equally difficult to say, whether the cares of the married state, and the labour, self-denial, and attention necessary in rearing a family, do not counterbalance all that part of its advantages which is denied to the single woman in civilized society. The difference therefore between the agricultural state of society and those more advanced in civilization, with respect to the female sex, as far as it is connected with marriage, will be two-fold: 1st-The superior delicacy and refinement of the latter state of society will induce many more to decline marriage, because by accepting it they would lose some of the artificial comforts they enjoy in their state of celibacy, which women in a less advanced state of society neither know nor feel the want of: 2dly, The widow's chance of a second and third marriage is smaller, because where the number of men just of a marriageable age exceeds that of the women, and children are riches, as in the agricultural state, when by any accident a woman becomes a widow before her time for child-bearing is past, there will of course be a competition for her among men younger than herself; whereas, where the number of men of a marriageable age is only equal to, or smaller than that of the women, as in the more advanced stages of society, it is probable that the elde ladies and widows will be neglected in favour of the younger: at least we have the opinion of a great philosopher and moralist, that a man who acts on the contrary principle“ does a foolish thing.” (Dr. Johnson Boswell's Life.) For the reasons given in a former chapter upon the option of marriage, it is clear that the first of these conditions does not necessarily add
to the misery of the single woman, because she has her comforts, (and comforts which her conduct shows she esteems the most valuable,) in exchange for those which she refuses. With respect to the diminished chance of second or third marriages, the question is a very delicate one, and such as a male author cannot presume to determine.
He may, however, venture to suppose that it really is a small subtraction from female happiness incident to the progress of civilization; for, as it has been said that a woman who takes a second husband, pays the highest compliment to her first, by showing that he made her so happy as a wife that she is willing to partake of the same happiness a second time; it cannot but add something to the distress of the widowed state that an alteration in the condition of society should preclude her from an equal chance of paying this mark of regard to the memory of her deceased lord. But there is yet another condition of civilized society, which renders this case still harder, and seems to prove that, with the diminished chance of supplying the loss, the chance of enduring it is increased : for it appears (Price p. 132) not only that married women live longer than single women, but that, independently of the waste of adult males naturally to be expected in war, and other occupations of risk, the proportion of male to female deaths is evidently greater in the more advanced than in the middle periods of human existence, (Price, p. 230,) and that this proportion corresponds, in some degree to the progress of civilization. (Price, p. 134.). In New Jersey, a country at the time the account was taken in a purely agricultural state, the number of adult males was said to exceed that
of the females ; (Price, p. 133) but in the villages of Brandenburgh, in a great variety of English towns and villages, as well as in Sweden, the result was precisely the reverse. According to calculations accurately made from the data, it appears that, in the state of society of the greater part of Europe, though the proportion of male to female deaths approach more nearly to an equality at the ages of 30 to 35, (at which the number of married and child-bearing women (Price, p. 408) is greatest,) and between 40 and 45 when the female constitution is well known to be subject to particular risk ; yet there are no ages at which a smaller proportion of females does not die than of males, except the ages in which the number of deliveries of children is greatest: and even then the probabilities of living among the females are nearly equal to those of the males. The decrements of life however among males increase in proportion to those of the females, after 45 or 50; and of a married couple after that period an annuity upon the life of the wife would be worth on an average three or four years' purchase more than on that of the husband, in a state of society such as exists in the greater part of Europe. Now if the preceding facts be correct, the progress of civilization, and the congregating of people into towns, not only diminish the widow's chance of a second marriage, but increase her chance of becoming a widow; not considerably however at any time, nor at all (as it should seem) before she arrives at that period of life at which her being a wife or a widow can no longer affect the population of her country. Nor does she incur this risk before the children have completed their education, and are able to do without a father's care, supposing the
marriage to have been contracted at that early period which is most favourable to the interests of virtue and morality, and, as we have seen, not inconsistent with the public welfare considered in connexion with the principle of population.
Now supposing (what appears to be the fact) that the different chances in the agricultural and commercial states are that, in the former, a man may only die a year or 6 months before his wife; in the latter three or four years sooner, I should be the last man to assert that this is no addition of misery to the lot of the woman. Considering the great majority of suitable matches which take place in civilized countries, and the height of affection which an intercourse of many years produces between two enlightened and tender minds, it is by no means extraordinary that the grief upon the interruption of this connexion is so great and so incurable as it is frequently observed to be. Taking then this observation as the measure of our judgment as to its quantity, it must certainly be set down as an object to be placed in the balance against the general advantages of the progress of civilization on the condition of mankind. But, however this superior mortality of males may affect the happiness of the female sex generally, it does not necessarily diminish their option of marrying once. For although the total number of females, existing at one time will always exceed that of the males, yet as the prolific power of the former ceases earlier in life, there nevertheless may, and probably will, exist in every society more men of an age to marry with prudence than women capable of child-bearing. The numerical difference in favour of the women therefore will chiefly be found in the comparative numbers of
aged men and women. For what purpose Providence has ordained that the latter should exceed the former is left with great deference to the speculations of others : but I trust that no one will attempt to extract from the circumstance any argument in favour of polygamy. Should any be so inclined, or tempted either to believe with Mr. Hume that all regulations upon
this head are equally lawful, or to think with Mr. Bruce, that the number of wives should be regulated by the law of nature ; he cannot too soon be informed that by this same law of naturen and consequently by Mr. Hume's principles of natural justice, a man (in Europe at least) is only entitled to one young wife, together with as many old ones as he chooses to marry.
I think it will now appear that, all things considered, the actual decrease in the number of marriages, which attends the progress of society towards its advanced „stages, affords no proof of any necessary or material increase of vice or misery among the female sex, and it is curious to contemplate the gradual improvement in their situation, during the advance of society from the savage state treated in the fourth chapter of the first book.
To conclude then. If, upon a deliberate review of the causes which produce the abatement in the progress of population as society advances, any one should still incline to doubt how far they have been calculated to operate upon the numbers of mankind, without any necessary degradation of their moral and political state; or should hesitate in assenting to the position that a fair and practicable conformity on the part of a people to the dictates of morals and religion is sufficient to