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moral feeling. The Romans, it has frequently been observed, showed scarcely any marks of poetical genius for many ages after the foundation of the city, and as little, it may be added, of the genuine principles of virtue. I know not how far the opinion of some philosophers may be thought fanciful, who assert that laxity of fibre, inconsistent with great muscular exertion, is necessary to that sensibility of feeling which leads to exquisite judgment and a correct taste. But this point seems at least well established, that the homely virtues are those of the agriculturist; and although he steps as much beside his moral advantage in aping the refinements, as he does beside his political interests in coveting the peculiar sources of prosperity of the more advanced stages of society, he is not the less bound to practise the duties of his own particular condition. He can scarcely be justified in tarring and feathering his neighbour, because they are incapable of reconciling their contending interests or opinions by a logical disputation on politics or morals.
Of the natural Tendency of Population in the more advanced Stages of Society.
IN the progress of society, beyond the stages treated in the preceding Chapter, population will at length overtake the supply of surplus food, so far as to press lightly against some of the luxuries to which it is converted, and will raise its price. And this is the first point, from the earliest states of society, in which the pretended universal aphorism, that population has a tendency to press against its actual supply of food, can be said even remotely to apply. The elevation in the price of produce, from the increased competition, now encourages the capitalist to divest part of his funds from commerce and manufactures to the cultivation of inferior waste lands, or to agricultural improvements on those already cultivated. Let it carefully be observed, that this preexisting demand for food from a population pressing against the superfluities of its supply, (if I may be allowed the expression), is the only possible mode by which a farther increase can now be elicited from the soil. For cultivators will not lay out their capital upon land of an inferior staple, until they find, by an enhanced price of its produce, that there is an increasing demand for it to compensate their additional expenses:—a fact which appears of itself sufficienttoshow the futility of the idea entertained by Mr. Malthus and others, that a manufacturing nation can ever permanently export large quantities of corn. This speculation indeed, implies the apparent absurdity of SupG.
posing that a commodity raised by one nation at a great expense, and sent abroad to a foreign market, can be sold there to a profit (expenses of carriage included), notwithstanding the competition of other nations, who can raise the same commodity at less than half the expense, and convey it to the same market with very inferior charges of freight. Neither is the fact stated more favourable to the position of the same economists, that an increase of people should always follow, and never precede, an increase in the produce of the soil:— which, when applied to a manufacturing society, appears to be nearly tantamount to saying, that an increase in the number of backs should always follow, and never precede, an increase in the manufacture of coats;—whereas surely a previous increase of wearers and consumers is absolutely necessary to the respective production of further food and raiment.
These questions will be more fully treated in a subsequent chapter, when we come to the consideration of the nature of Corn Laws. In the mean time it may be observed, that the produce of these new speculations in agriculture will set the people at ease till a further increase of population. But the improved methods, such as the consolidation of small farms into larger, ingenious implements, &c. will also enable a smaller number of cultivators to raise an equal quantity of produce, and will therefore set free a larger proportion of the people for manufactures and other occupations.” This new arrangement will
* These natural effects of the progress of society may serve to allay the anger of many very honest and plain spoken political aeconomists against large farms, and other arrangements for obtaining such a surplus and disposable produce, as is absolutely requisite to the public good in the new distribution of the society.
also add to the number of people inhabiting towns: while the accumulation of capital and of private fortunes, the increase of menial servants, and the various calls for men who are in situations and pursuits of risk, danger, and the like, will add greatly to the list of those who do not reproduce their own numbers even in the country. So that it is only after a longer interval than before, that the people again come to press against the supply of food. Thus an increased retardation takes place at every stage in the progress of society. The difficulty of procuring food will evidently increase with each of these revolutions; because the country will, after each, have approached nearer to its acme of cultivation and production; and the best remaining lands being occupied at each revolution, none but inferior and ungrateful soils will at length be left. But it is equally clear, from what has been said, that the progress of population will have become proportionably slower, and less capable of overtaking the diminished power of the land to supply it with food. If it be necessary to make this proposition yet more plain, by any addition to the preceding arguments, let it be considered that, after no long progress in this advanced state of society, one family employed in agriculture will be able at least to support* itself and three others, in consequence of the improved modes of culture, which the necessity of a large surplus produce, and the application of commercial skill and capital to agricultural pursuits invariably introduce. Three-fourths of the people therefore will be left at large to follow manufactures,
* See Appendix to Dirom on the Corn Laws.
or non-productive employments, to be the menial servants of the higher orders, to navigate the ships, and fight the battles of the country. Of these threefourths, at least two-thirds, or one-half of the whole population, would cease to reproduce their own numbers of efficient people. This will be evident to any one who considers that, in a state of society where so large a proportion of the people are merchants, manufacturers, or idle persons, at least one-third of the whole population must dwell in towns, some in very large towns; and that the remainder of those, who are calculated not to reproduce their own numbers, principally consists of soldiers, sailors, men of good families but small fortunes, servants, dependents, and emigrants to colonies, or other places. These last are usually taken out of the mass of the population in the prime of life, but before they have contributed children to replace their loss, which must therefore be filled up by the children of others. And with respect to the towns, it is proved to demonstration, that even of those of a moderate size, not one can keep up its own effective population.” It appears that, when our provincial towns were increasing much less rapidly than at present, Dr. Short calculated that nine-nineteenths of the married were strangers; and of 1618 persons examined at the Westminster Infirmary only 824 were found to have been born in London. The continual influx of settlers, in the prime of life, from the country, to repair the waste of the towns, is indeed proved both by actual observation, and by the great excess of the births above the
* See Price on Rev. Paym. Perceval's Essays before quoted, and Malth. b. ii. c. 7.