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of the Natural tendency of Population in the purely Agricultural State, and in the early Stages of the Commercial State of Society.
In the beginning of the last chapter a sketch was given of the gradations, by which society passes from the savage and pastoral to the purely agricultural state, which is perhaps the most important period in its political course. The contrast between the new condition of the people, and that from which they have emerged, is as strong as opposition can make it. They are lifted from a state of penury and distress into one of comfort and plenty, and what is yet more important, they have made that step which almost necessarily ensures a future progress : for I believe that instances are very rare of a nation sinking from the purely agricultural state directly into that which is savage or pastoral. The argument of this Treatise, as applied to this condition of society, may be thus stated.
In newly settled and purely agricultural countries, where the progress of population is infinitely the fastest, it can never overtake the supply of food, as long as this state of society continues, for these plain reasons; that land will always produce, even in a very inferior state of cultivation, much more than sufficient food to support the cultivators, and the simple artisans attached to them; and that where good land can be had for nothing, the love of property and independence will find occupiers, although
no immediate demand may exist for the produce beyond the place of its production, and the family which occupies the farm. The surplus produce, however, which such a country is capable of raising, will usually find purchasers among the commercial and manufacturing nations, whose wants create a demand for it. This demand will ensure its growth, and the returns, from its export to those countries, will afford to the growers many necessary or convenient manufactures, besides a capital which will enable them to settle their children upon fresh land. Where it is so easy to become a master there must always be a proportionate difficulty in procuring workmen, the demand for labour and the funds destined for its maintenance increasing still faster than the labourers themselves. This will raise wages to a considerable height; and as employment at high wages will always be to be had, “ a numerous family of children, instead of being a burden, will be a source of opulence and prosperity to the parents.” The value of children will operate as the greatest possible encouragement to marriage, and the liberal reward of labour will ensure a healthy subsistence to the offspring :while the more immediate prospect of property and independence, the more simple manners of the people, and the more rare opportunities of reconciling occasional idleness with unlawful pleasure by a recurrence to licentious indulgences, will render the moral consequences of high wages less dangerous than in more advanced states of society. There will therefore be scarcely any natural or necessary impediments to the rapid progress of population. But subsistence will increase still more rapidly from the application made to the vigorous and unexhausted powers of the soil.
This state of society, and the rapid progress of population attending it, will continue, in the natural order of things, till all the best and most conveniently situated spots of land are occupied; and it would require the application of a large sum, on a remote prospect of return, to bring the remainder into cultivation. Till this point, a country may be said to be in the purely agricultural state of society, and the population is evidently far within the limits even of the actual supply of food; although individual instances of want or poverty may occur, caused by personal idleness or misfortune, or by impolitic laws and customs, But clearly, as long as this condition of society continues, the population cannot positively be said to press against the means of subsistence; since both food, and the means of acquiring it by ordinary exertion, are, or may be, within the power of every individual.
When a country however, has attained this point, the children of the farmers, unless their industry be violently depressed by ignorance or tyranny, will turn their views to trade and manufactures; which would then become the most profitable employment of capital. They would bring up their children also to the same occupations; and though capital made in trade might be occasionally realized in land, it would usually be by the purchase of that already cultivated, rather than by the cultivation of the barren and more ungrateful tracts. The surplus produce of the land, before exported to manufacturing countries, will now be consumed by the domestic workmen; and the goods before imported will be wrought at home; at first only in sufficient quantities for the domestic demand, but at length for the purpose of exporting
them to other countries, who have not yet advanced beyond the agricultural state of society.
As soon as this manufacturing population is sufficiently numerous nearly to consume the surplus produce formerly exported, and it becomes difficult to procure grain for the various purposes of luxury or convenience, to which it is applied in all commercial countries, its price will rise; and this, let it be ob served, before any actual pressure of distress for a mere sufficiency of subsistence occurs. This rise in the price will tempt the capitalist to lay out his money in bringing inferior waste land into cultivation, or in undertaking agricultural improvements by which the old lands may be made to produce somewhat more food with an equal quantity of labour. As this mode of procuring food, however, is evidently much slower in operation, and its increased quantity, in a given space of time or territory, less abundant than in the agricultural state of society, it is clear, that if the natural progress of population continued the same, it must shortly overtake the supply of food, and verify the positions just disputed. Let us see, therefore, whether the manner in which this manufacturing and commercial population immediately arranges itself, and the moral and physical effects produced by their employments, dispositions, and spontaneous distribution, do not naturally weaken the principle of population, as it originally subsisted, and reduce it as nearly to a par with the diminished power of production in the soil, as the views of Providence for a still farther amelioration will admit.
It is found that the convenience of the merchant
and manufacturer is much promoted by having their residences contiguous to each other, and by collecting round them the houses of those, who are employed in the various departments of their industry, and in supplying them with the necessaries and conveniences of life. They will, therefore, fix upon a favourable spot, in the midst of an extensive neighbourhood; where first a knot of houses will be formed, next a village, and at length a town, by the accession of more manufacturers, and of many of those who before carried on trades in the country, but who are tempted by the superior convenience of markets and intercourse to migrate to the town. From various other causes too, not necessary now to detail, towns will arise. (In manufacturing countries the rise of many has been witnessed even in recent times.) Till at length the independent proprietors, the farmers and agricultural labourers, and the very simple artisans, will be the principal inhabitants remaining in the country. These will convey their stock or its produce to the market in the town, and return from thence with the manufactured goods they may want. Two descriptions of inhabitants will thus be formed, the townsman, and the countryman; and the habits, manners, and relative condition of each will naturally and spontaneously produce a very essential difference in their relative tendencies to contribute to the increase of population; while the progress of civilization, universally attendant upon commercial prosperity, will considerably diminish the absolute power of such increase throughout the whole community; and, as I hope to show in the course of this Treatise, without any necessary increase of vice and misery. Care, fore