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factures, 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.ii. 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 community 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?” 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
plus people of the village to those places and occupations in the towns and the country, where a demand for them probably first called them into existence. Thus an arrangement entirely consonant with the views of Providence would at once annihilate the general principle so pompously asserted, and would draw off the superabundant people of the villages to those occupations, in which they could not reproduce their own numbers, and where they would consequently want a continualsupply from the same source, as that supply should arise as in the order of nature. And what prevents this arrangement? any law of nature, any principle inherent in the constitution of man? Clearly not. But let Mr. Townshend speak again for himself. Let him exhibit to us the means whereby a country, with natural powers capable of carrying its population in rapid progress to double or treble its present numbers, may actually be said to be overpopulous, unless they diminish in a ratio almost equal to their capacity for increase. (Vol. ii. p. 225.) “ The people, thus every where plundered and oppressed, could not increase and multiply as they would have done under a free and equitable government.” (Vol. i.
“ The ploughman and the grazier, instead of being united in the same person, are here eternally at variance; and as the latter is the best tenant, the great proprietors give him the preference. Hence the country has been depopulated; and the lands which are in tillage, for want of cattle to manure and i tread them, produce light crops of corn.” (Vol. i.
Throughout the whole of Spain I cannot recollect to have seen a single country residence like those which every where abound in England.” (P.237.) “We passed by three monumental crosses all at the
junction of four ways. In a country where
few people travel a thief has little chance of passengers unless where two ways cross.” (P. 294.) They had once a canal made by Philip V. seven leagues in length, which brought to them the waters of the Jarama; but about twenty years ago the head proved faulty, and it has never been repaired. The loss (of produce) by this misfortune and neglect is almost inestimable.”
They have no other implements of tillage except ploughs, being perfect strangers to the use of har
It must be evident to every one who has the least knowledge of the subject, that no plough can be worse adapted to the soil.”
Thus much for the state of the country and of its agriculture and industry. Let us now inquire into that of the towns and their trade and manufactures. (Vol. ii. p. 8.) Beggars, clothed with rags and covered with vermin, swarm in every street.” (Vol. iii. p. 70.) “ As for the manufactures, they are going to decay, and feel more than the common infirmities of age, receiving at best little encouragement from local situation, and being depressed and ruined by want of political wisdom in the government,” &c. Many laws were published, laying restraints on manufacturers, subjecting them to formalities and to vexatious fines, and fixing the price at which their manufactures should be sold. As a compensation the price of provisions was likewise fixed. But as the latter tended to hurt the market and to depress the farmer, so the operation of the former was to depress the quality of the goods, and to bring slow yet certain ruin on the manufacturer, under the absurd idea of favouring the consumer. The want of political wisdom has been here equally fatal to agriculture,
manufactures, and commerce.” (P. 183.) « Previous to the appointment of Don Francisco Pachecho to the government of Alicant, the city swarmed all day with beggars, and all night with prostitutes and thieves. These were fed by the religious houses,” &c.” (P. 251.) “ I was struck with the sight of poverty, of wretchedness, and of rags, in every street." (P. 17.) “ With such encouragement for beggars no wonder that they should abound in Malaga, where the lazy can have no inducement to employ themselves in labour, and where the profligate, when they shall have wasted their substance, may know for a certainty that they shall never be in want of bread. Hence it comes to pass that in the city few traces of industry are seen, whilst filth and nastiness, immorality and vice, wretchedness and poverty, the inevitable consequences of undistinguishing benevolence, prevail.”—“ Multitudes of beggars infesting every street mark a bad police.”-“For some time I could not conceive the reason why, wherever I had supped, I was constantly attended to my lodging by a servant with a light. But observing, upon some occasion, that such attendance would be needless, I was informed that the servant and the light were not merely for comfort but for safety, because robberies and murders were frequent in the night. Indeed when I was there, an officer returning unattended to his lodging was assaulted in the street by thieves, and upon making resistance was stabbed in the back by one, while another robbed him. In the last sixteen months they reckoned seventy murders, for which not one criminal had been brought to justice, and in one year, as I am credibly informed, 105 persons fell in the same manner."