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most rapidly in its career is only approximating it so much the nearer to its fall, and would have served his generation (or at least subsequent generations) better, had he bent his efforts towards repressing all those moral and political energies, by the developement of which a nation emerges from the stationary condition, which has been equally well described as “hard” and “dull.” The only prospect of obviating these consequences, even upon the hypothesis of those who differ from the conclusions of this treatise, is to be found in views of society confessed by themselves to be Utopian; or in applying to the great mass of the lower orders of mankind principles and arguments of too refined a mature to possess any general influence, except among the few who constitute the higher classes of society. Involuntary abstinence from marriage attended with moral restraint is to be increased, among the lower orders evclusively, as society advances, and as temptations to a breach of moral restraint consequently increase; and the propriety of this abstinence is enforced by arguments, and justified upon a principle of compensation, which can have no general reference whatsoever, except to the higher classes; such as the refinements of sentimental intercourse, the “distinction of a genuine from a transient passion,” and the repression of love for a time “that it may afterwards burn with a brighter, purer, and steadier flame.” Nor are the political expectations held out to us less brilJiant and beautiful: “war,” it is said, that great pest of the human race, would under such circumstances soon cease to extend its ravages so widely and so frequently as it does at present;” for “the ambition of princes would want instruments of destruction, if the distresses
of the lower classes did not drive them under their standards.” “Indisposed to a war of offence, in a war of defence such a society would be strong as a rock of adamant.” (Malthus, book iv. chap. ii.) Now, without laying any stress on the utter impossibility of maintaining the lower classes in such a state as is supposed in these quotations, during the necessary fluctuations of the advanced stages of society, I do not think that it is quite consistent with the experience of history to affirm, that nations, existing in the simple states of society which render them incapable of offensive war, have usually been able to oppose “a rock of adamant” to the attacks of more powerful and ambitious rivals; but on the contrary they have usually ended in becoming the victims of their exclusive policy. Such a picture is indeed nothing more than the delineation of the peculiar comforts attending the weaker and less advanced conditions of society: its application, even theoretically, to the more advanced stages, where the loss of these peculiar comforts is, as I have shown, more than compensated by other countervailing ad... vantages, can only lead to error by setting up a false standard of what is desirable. A commercial and manufacturing nation, conducting itself upon such principles, would tend towards its own destruction by every step it should take in a career so obviously incompatible with the rights and the intercourse it is under the necessity of maintaining with respect to other nations. The community, therefore, which should first act upon this system would soon afford an unanswerable practical evidence of the unsoundness of its general principle. Again, we are informed that the only hopes of ameliorating the condition of society is in the first place to cause a diminution of population. But then we are desired to consider “ that this diminution is merely relative; and when once this relative diminution has been effected, by keeping the population stationary, while the supply of food had increased, it might then start afresh, and continue increasing for ages, with the increase of food, maintaining always the same relative proportion to it.” (Malthus book iv. chap. iv.) Now to those who agree in the arguments of a preceding chapter, in the second book, on the order of precedence between food and population, this hypothesis of checking the increase of population till food is previously raised for its support will not require any further answer. The supposition of the practical possibility of such a system is altogether gratuitous, and is founded upon the mistaken presumption, that the springs of industry directed to agricultural improvement can continue in vigour in the advanced states of society, without a continually increasing demand for agricultural products. If, therefore, the only hopes of ameliorating the condition of society rest on the practical success of such an hypothesis, those hopes must be very slender and disheartening indeed. We are further informed (Malthus, book iv.
chap. v.) that the only condition under which early unions can take place among the lower orders in the advanced states of society is a great mortality among the adults. “To act consistently therefore, we should facilitate instead of foolishly and vainly endeavouring to impede the operations of nature in producing this mortality, and if we dread the too frequent visitation of the horrid form of famine, we
should sedulously encourage the other forms of destruction, which we compel nature to use. Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor we should encourage contrary habits. In our towns we should make the streets narrower, crowd more people into the houses, and court the return of the plague. In the country we should build our villages near stagnant pools, and particularly encourage settlements in all marshy and unwholesome situations,” &c. Now if it be really true that, according to any hypothesis, early marriages cannot be permitted among the lower orders of a country without these absurd and miserable consequences, certainly that hypothesis offers no very encouraging prospect of the future improvement of mankind. But those who recollect the reasoning upon this subject in the sixth chapter of this book, will not probably entertain anticipations of quite so desponding a nature. J Again, we are told, with perfect truth, that if a man marry without being able to support a family, he must expect severe want; a general truth which no one ever thought of denying. But the question is, what is that prospect of being able to support a family which authorizes a man of the lower orders to marry in a well regulated community ? Is the possession of a decent habitation and the capacity to labour sufficient, or must he wait for something further in order to avoid bringing political mischief on his country and misery on a helpless family? In answer to these questions, we are desired to suppose the general prevalence of such prudential habits among the poor, as would prevent them from marrying when the actual price of labour, joined to what they might have saved in their single state, would not give them the prospect of being able to support a wife and five or six children without assistance. “Undoubtedly” it is added, “such a degree of prudential restraint would produce a very striking melioration in the condition of the lower classes of the people.” (Malthus, book iv. chap. xi.) Now, with respect to the condition of the people themselves, if in any of the advanced stages of society they were to follow this plan, it is evident that they must remain unmarried all their lives, for in no case can such societies generally afford so large a remuneration to all its labourers married and unmarried; and every approach towards such a state of things would subtract just so much from the general industry of the country, would throw it into the declining condition, and gradually restore it through a long series of misery, depression, and consequent vice, to the purely agricultural state, when the six children might certainly be supported by their father's labour. But that this process would “strikingly meliorate the condition of the people” existing at its commencement will not I presume be contended; or that it would ultimately ameliorate their condition, will not probably be asserted by those who have done me the honour to attend to the reasoning contained in a former chapter, (see chap. vii.) upon the compensations afforded to every class of . the community for the alterations made in their condition by the progress of society. Neither would the effects of such a process upon the political condition of the country adopting it be more favourable than upon the private condition of its inhabitants. For in proportion as its advancement in prosperity has been a blessing, of course its