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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. position 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.
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
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
retrocession must be the reverse, and the governing principle of the community would directly oppose the acknowledged desideratum of producing the greatest quantity of happiness in a given space of territory. It appears, therefore, that there must be something radically wrong in any hypothesis which pretends to make the happiness of the people dependant upon conditions so obviously calculated to introduce public degradation and private misery. Lastly, we are desired to recollect that the “ laws of nature" say, with St. Paul; “ If a man will not work, neither shall he eat.” From which position we are desired to deduce this consequence as a law of Providence ;-that, let a man work with ever so great a degree of diligence and alacrity, he shall not the more be enabled to eat, (if he be a member of a civilized and commercial country) unless he also fulfil another condition with which it is impossible in such a country that he can comply :- viz. unless he abstain from marriage till he can certainly maintain a family consisting of a wife and six children.
The propositions which I have now detailed in this chapter, extravagant as they probably appear to those who have attentively perused the preceding treatise, are all strictly legitimate conclusions from the principles respecting population which it is the object of the present work to endeavour to refute. It must be confessed that they present a most desponding view of our prospects with respect to the future condition of mankind, a view the dreariness of which is only relieved, even in the estimation
of those who present it, by the probable effects which education may have among the lower orders, in inducing them generally to assume habits which it is admitted to be next to impossible that they should assume, and which (to say the least of them) appear to be very far from consistent with the designs of Providence, and the express permissions of Scripture.
Without this condition, society as it advances, brings nothing but increase of misery to the most numerous and valuable class of the community; misery which can never be compensated in the eye of a just Providence, or of an enlightened philanthropist, by the eventual addition that may be made to the enjoyments of the other classes.
Such being the prospect opened to our view by the system just alluded to, let us inquire to what extent it may be improved, upon the principles maintained in this treatise.
For this purpose, and to avoid unnecessary repetition, I have only to recal to the reader's recollection the proofs of the fundamental propositions of the first book, and the application of them in the chapters on the direction and exercise of our charity, and on the free option of marriage. From these it will appear that the progressive abatement in the tendency of population to increase, as society advances, leaves ample space for consulting the happiness of the lower orders, both in the relief of their necessities, and in the permission of early marriages amongst them, without political injury to the state, or private injury to the individual. Nay further, I think it appears that this relief and permission, under the control of a moral and free government, are absolutely essential to the healthy progress of society;