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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 observed, 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, forecast, anxieties of mind, emulation, severe attention to business, various active avocations, and the general incompatibility of the marriage state with this new order of pursuits, form the first natural causes of a diminished tendency in the population to increase, incident to the prosperous conduct of trade and manufactures. For there seems to be no doubt, that in proportion to the continued necessity of mental exertion or abstraction, many, who could well afford to rear a family, are placed in situations and pursuits where a voluntary abstinence from marriage, and the incapacity and indisposition to rear large families, become very general. Moreover, the comparatively unfavourable state of the atmosphere even in towns” of a moderate size, and the confinement and unhealthy occupations of the inhabitants, not only weaken the robust state of health necessary to the production of a numerous and healthy progeny, and diminish the number of births; but likewise very much shorten the period of human life in those situations, and increase the proportion of deaths. The average number of births to a marriage in towns has been calculated at between 3 and 4, while in the country it is said to amount to 4+ or 5*; and even in moderate towns, such as Newbury, containing a concentrated population of not more than about 4,200 souls, the annual deaths are to the population as 1 in 28 or 29; while in the purely agricultural villages, they often do not exceed the proportion of 1 in 50 or 60. # Here then are two natural and unavoidable causes, very strongly tending to weaken the principle of population. Moreover, the artificial wants, which are converted into necessaries of life at every step in the progress of civilization, render the support of a wife and family more difficult, consistently with retaining other personal enjoyments, and cannot but farther diminish, in some degree, the proportion of marriages throughout the whole community. So that the triple operation of a decrease in the number of marriages, diminished fertility in the human species, and an augmented proportion of deaths immediately begins, by the natural and unavoidable course of nature, to repress the progress of population, as soon as a part of the people are collected into towns. This progress will indeed be retarded less during the earlier stages of the commercial and manufacturing states of society, than afterwards, when towns become larger, population more dense, and civilization more general. Nor is it necessary that in these
* See. Malthus's Essay, book ii. c. 7. vol. i. p. 462. The passage illustrates the position in the text so strongly, that I cannot resist the desire to quote it at length. “There certainly seems to be something in great towns, and even in moderate towns, peculiarly unfavourable to the very early stages of life; and the part of the community, on which the mortality principally falls, seems to indicate, that it arises more from the closeness and foulness of the air, which may be supposed to be unfavourable to the tender lungs of children, and the greater confinement which they almost necessarily experience, than from the superior degree of luxury and debauchery usually, and justly, attributed to towns. A married pair with the best constitutions, who lead the most regular and quiet life, seldom find that their children enjoy the same health in towns as in the country.”
* See Price's Reversion. Payments, vol. ii. p. 227. Perceval's
Observations on Manchester, &c. vol. iii. of his Essays, edit.
1776, p. 60, 61; and Mr. Malthus’s observations on this subject in his chapter on the fruitfulness of marriages.
t See Price's Rev. Paym. vol. ii. p. 40, and Malthus, book ii. c. 7.