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earlier stages population should be so much retarded. For as the power of the land is still capable of supporting a rapid increase of people from its surplus produce before exported, some time must necessarily elapse before population, though with a very trifling abatement in its progress, would begin to press against the actual supply of food. The labour of one family employed in tilling the earth, even in this early stage of agricultural improvement, may be fairly accounted able to support itself and two others: two-thirds of the whole population may therefore by degrees become what Sir James Steuart (b. v. c. 5,) calls free hands, i. e. engaged in manufactures and commerce, in unproductive professions, or may be living idly on the fruits of former industry, before a demand arises for a further increase of food. But long before a nation can have two-thirds of its people thus occupied, a great proportion of it must reside in large towns, and the introduction of luxury, and an artificial state of society, must have produced various imaginary wants among the country residents. Many of the people will be also lifted above the rank of the lower orders, and be affected by those artificial arrangements of society, which, though they universally produce high mental cultivation, do very much diminish the natural powers of increase in mankind.* Hence, from the diminished average of marriages and births, and the increase of premature mortality, a large proportion of the population will cease to reproduce its own numbers; and a consider
* See, among other works, “Dr. Trotter's View of the Nervous Temperament,” for a detailed account of the effects of civilization on the physical powers of a people.
able deficiency will remain to be filled up by the peasantry, or lower order of country residents, the class most productive of people in every well-regulated community. Thus it appears, that in proportion as the population advances towards an equality with the surplus produce, existing at the first emergence of a country from the purely agricultural state, in such, will its gradual progress naturally become slower, by the inevitable and unalterable laws of Providence; though the people be left as perfectly at hiberty to follow the dictates of their own inclinations as is consistent with a free and well-regulated government. Let it be observed, also, that this effect will be produced by certain and unerring causes, which can by no human means be very materially altered. It is as impossible to render the residents in towns more fruitful, to make the air of towns more generally wholesome to infants, to induce any large proportion of those, who wish to abstain from marriage for their own convenience, to enter into that contract, as it would be to feed the increased population that would follow, supposing the possibility of their production to exist. The abatement in the progress of population is voluntary, natural, and unavoidable. It may be strictly termed its “natural tendency,” however it may be modified or restrained by systems of policy or different forms of government. It is another question, which will be treated hereafter, how far it necessarily produces an increase of vice and misery, and how far that species of moral restraint, which consists in involuntary abstinence from marriage, be either necessary or useful to the welfare of the people. All that is here asserted is, that the abatement is the necessary and natural consequence of the progress of society; and that to exclaim against its effects is in fact to exclaim against all advancement of a country beyond the purely agricultural state. That this advancement may be, and often is, retarded by gross tyranny and oppression, or a general relaxation of morals, is perfectly true. Nay, instances may perhaps be adduced where a nation, cursed with these evils, may even be carried by them with no slight rapidity in a retrograde direction, and instead of advancing out of the agricultural state, may sink into one compounded of the pastoral and agricultural; many of the peasants under the Turkish government are driven to desert their fields, and betake themselves to the pastoral state, to avoid the plunder and oppression of their masters, (Volney, as quoted by Malthus): or, if the nation shall have emerged for a period into the commercial state, it may retain in its decline only the evils of that condition, viz. its towns and its vices, without its industry and its virtues. The state of Spain during the past century is too lamentable an instance of the last-mentioned condition. Full of towns, the former seats of industry and activity, the hearts from which were propelled into the surrounding country the arterial currents of capital and enterprise, and which received in return the venous streams of agricultural produce, are now the mere receptacles of apathy and ignorance. The body through which the healthy action extended is lopped of almost all its members, and the utmost bounds of the reduced circulation are confined within the narrow valley immediately adjoining to the filthy and unwholesome town. The villages, which formerly gave a supply of labourers to the flourishing manufactures, or to increasing speculations in agriculture and commerce, are now over-populous from the stagnation introduced by ignorance and oppression, and | their inevitable attendant, a want of demand for free labourers. Mr. Townshend, in an account of one of the most fertile parts of Spain, (Townshend's Travels in Spain, vol. iii. pp. 104, et seq. edit. 1791,) states, that “ throughout this elevated country there is little appearance of cultivation, although many considerable tracts of land over which we passed are good, | and much of it might be watered.” Yet speaking of this very neighbourhood he says, (p. 106), “On Saturday, April 28, we came to Cullar de Baza, a wretched village with many habitations excavated in the rock of gypsum. The little valley which supplies this village is about a quarter of a mile in breadth, enclosed by barren gypseous mountains; and although it is well watered and consequently fertile, yet the population bears too great a proportion to the extent of land susceptible of cultivation.” “Looking down upon so rich, yet such a contracted spot, we instantly and evidently see, that the human race (however at first, and whilst their numbers are limited, they may rejoice in affluence,) will go on constantly increasing, | till they balance their quantity of food: from that period, two appetites will combine to regulate their numbers. Beyond that period, should they continue to increase, having passed the natural limits of their | population, they must suffer want. In these circumstances, beholding many of the poor naked and half starved, should they inadvertently ordain that no one in their countmunity should want, that all should have food, and every man an habitation, is it not obvious
that they would aim at impossibilities? and that by every effort to relieve distress, they would extend the bounds of human misery P” Here are, in few words, the general outlines of the Essay on Population, and its application, drawn from the observation of a little village in the mountains of a declining country. And thus it is that Mr.Townshend reasons generally from a few insulated facts. But let us see how his argument agrees with his own subsequent observations on the same country. Comparing the density of population in the different countries of Europe with that of Spain, which he estimates at sixty-seven persons to a square mile; he says, (vol. ii. p. 211,) “Spain, if properly cultivated and well governed, might be the first in Europe, not excepting Holland, which to its wise and equitable laws is indebted for a population amounting to 272 on a square mile. All are agreed that Spain in more distant periods was much better peopled than at present, and many have attempted to assign the cause of its depopulation, &c. It may be useful to trace the various circumstances which have contributed to depress this once powerful nation, and to desolate, at least comparatively, one of the richest countries in Europe.” He then proceeds to enumerate the causes which, in his opinion, have led to the depopulation, which are almost all resolvable into bad government. Here then we perceive the over-populousness of the mountain village, from which the general principle was drawn, to form merely one trifling feature of a commonwealth, in which the population is remarkably thin in proportion to the fertility of the soil. To convert the supposed evil therefore into a blessing, nothing more seems necessary than to draw off the sur