Imágenes de páginas

stances, always flourish and support itself in comfort; whereas an oppressed, a degraded, and an eminently immoral community must decay and be overwhelmed with misery. Under the guidance of these general principles, we are certainly disposed to admit that population (up to a certain point in the highest stage of civilization) has a tendency (gradually decreasing, however, with every step in the progress of society) to overtake the supply of food actually existing in any given country. And in this tendency we bail and venerate the ordinance by which Providence has secured the perpetual exercise of the human faculties by rendering the industry and activity of man necessary to his comfortable subsistence. But in the increased retardation which affects the progress of population at every successive step in this career, so as to prevent the numbers of the people from ever exceeding the supply of food which, with due industry, may yet be procured from the soil, we are led to the grateful contemplation of another ordinance, which secures to human industry and activity its due and certain reward. So that a rational man is provided with every possible motive for exertion, which the pressure of necessity on the one hand and the certainty of its effectual removal by the appointed means on the other, can possibly hold out. And he may set himself in good earnest to the improvement of the productive powers of his country in all its departments, and according to the talents with which he is gifted, without any check from the servile fear that he is thereby accumulating the burthen of vice and misery upon the innocent heads of his remote posterity.

It is no slight corroboration of the truth of this statement-first, that the countries most verging towards a full state of population and production, even though their soil and climate be ungrateful, are uniformly observed to be those which suffer least from an excess of numbers; because the very causes which lead to such a condition of society do also introduce among the people spontaneous habits and arrangements naturally inconsistent with that tendency to a rapid increase of population which is found in the earlier stages of society. And, secondly, that no record exists of any extensive country fully peopled and cultivated up to its utmost capacity, or even approaching to such a state. It is incontestible then that some principles necessarily inhere in the higher stages of society, distinct from a want of means to produce further food, which naturally prevent the population from extending itself beyond the powers of the soil to afford a comfortable subsistence. Should any one be disposed to adduce China as an instance of a country fully peopled and cultivated up to its utmost capacity, we think that a perusal of the latest authentic accounts of that empire will correct the erroneous impression.


We consider this account of the ways of Providence with respect to the principle of population to be as agreeable to experience and right reason, as it is consistent with the wisdom and goodness of God. And we proceed briefly to shew its congruity, when thus stated, with those arguments which Mr. Sumner has attempted to derive from what appear to us to be the overstrained and paralogical conclusions of Mr. Malthus.

The first effect of the principle is stated by Mr. Sumner to be the Division of Property. In this deduction we must confess that there appears to us to be something forced and fanciful; and a little confusion and incorrectness seem to pervade the terms in which the argument is proposed.

We cannot, for example, bring ourselves to believe that the first division of property arose from any reflection on the part of the bachelors of a tribe living on a common stock, that they were contributing more than their due share of labour towards the maintenance of the married with families; or that any requisition was ever made by these bachelors to have allotted to them the small portion sufficient for their wants, while the married, or those with families, should take to themselves a much larger portion. Neither do we believe that the general pressure of population against subsistence is the primary cause of the division of property, because that division is usually made long before such a pressure arises. But, if we mistake not, Mr. Sumner has himself, in auother part of his work, ascribed the division of property to its true cause, viz. the different powers and faculties of different individuals

that the best warrior, the most active and intelligent shepherd, the most skilful and laborious hunter, will necessarily accumulate to himself the larger portion, and will leave the inferior individuals to shift as they can.

Mr. Sumner appears evidently, in this part of the Essay, to have confounded the division of property with the passage of a community from the lower to the agricultural stages of society. He seems to consider the division of property as synonymous with the cultivation of the land, or, at least, that it does not take place previous to the agricultural state. This we conceive to be a mistake. Still, however, we are convinced that the passage from the pastoral to the agricultural states of society is made by a community from a conviction of the inconveniences which they suffer in the former from a scanty supply of food; that it arises out of the principle of population, and is the specific effect which it was intended to produce upon pastoral nations. But we are compelled again to differ from Mr. Sumner in his statement that this passage once effected does not set the community at ease with respect to its subsistence for many generations. We cannot believe that in all ages and countries

[ocr errors]

countries it is an acknowledged truth that the supply of food can only be increased at a much slower rate than an unchecked population will multiply;' because we have only to cast our eyes upon countries in the purely agricultural state of society, and we behold a population completely unchecked by any want of food, and therefore advancing as fast as it is physically capable of increasing, yet continuing in possession of an immense surplus produce so long as the purely agricultural state of society subsists amongst them. Mr. Summer's conclusion appears, from a note on this passage, to be one of those mistakes into which he has been led, first by adopting Mr. Malthus's principle of calculation, viz. 'setting the possible population of any given country against the possible domestic supply--and, secondly, by adopting, against all experience, Mr. Malthus's result, that the former must necessarily exceed the latter. We are prepared, on the contrary, for the reasons just stated, to abide by the conclusion, that a community is pushed from the lower to the higher stage of improvement by the pressure of necessity; but that it is rewarded for the exertion by a long course of comfort and happiness: and we think this conclusion most consistent with Mr. Sumner's own reflection immediately preceding the passage upon which we have been commenting— that human nature, if we judge from experience, requires that the individual should be satistied that the effects of his personal exertion should contribute to his personal comfort.'-(vol. ii. p. 114.)

Observations of nearly a similar nature occur with regard to the second effect ascribed by Mr. Sumner to the principle of population, viz. the division of ranks; except, indeed, that this seems even still more palpably than the last to arise from the moral differences of individual character, and to be scarcely in any remote degree concerned with the principle of population. We have read with some attention Mr. Sumner's reasoning in support of his proposition, and have not been able to discover wherein the principle of population enters into the argument. He seems to us to trace the division of ranks entirely from moral and political causes, which would equally operate whether a thousand acres were peopled by a hundred or a thousand individuals. It is certainly true that the multiplication of mankind is a necessary ingredient in the inequality of ranks; because if there were but one couple, there could be but two ranks and the gradations will increase in some proportion to the numbers. But it seems clear that in both cases the inequality arises from the moral difference between the parties, and not from any physical necessity arising out of their numbers.

These are the observations which have occurred to us on the first of Mr. Sumner's chapters upon the principle of population; and although we do not very distinctly perceive the process by

which he has arrived at his conclusion upon his own data, we have the most cordial pleasure in giving our full assent to it as the natural consequence of those we have ventured to propose.

'If, then, the wisdom is to be estimated by the fitness of the design to its purpose, and the habitual exercise of the energies of mankind is allowed to be that purpose, enough has been said to confirm the original proposition. The Deity has provided, that, by the operation of an instinctive principle in our nature, the human race should be uniformly brought into a state in which they are forced to exert and improve their powers: the lowest rank, to obtain support; the one next in order, to escape from the difficulties immediately beneath it; and all the classes upward, either to keep their level, while they are pressed on each side by rival industry, or to raise themselves above the standard of their birth by useful exertions of their activity, or by successful cultivation of their natural powers. If, indeed, it were possible that the stimulus arising from this principle should be suddenly removed, it is not easy to determine what life would be except a dreary blank, or the world except an uncultivated waste. Every exertion to which civilization can be traced, proceeds diretly or indirectly from its effects; either from the actual desire of having a family, or the pressing obligation of providing for one, or from the necessity of rivalling the efforts produced by the operation of these motives in others.

I cannot suppose it will be disputed, that the law, ordaining the multiplication, of which the effects are thus extensive, is a law of design. Among brute animals, we find the quality of fecundity subjected to intelligible regulations, and proportioned to the utility or peculiar circumstances of the species: since it is denied to strength and rapacity, and bestowed as a compensation for a short term of existence. Of the latter case, the hare and rabbit, and the insect tribes, afford familiar examples: whereas the kite lays but two eggs, the eagle but one, and the elephant produces only a single calf. In another department of nature, it is observed that a cod-fish lays many million eggs, whilst a whale brings usually one cub, and never more than two. It would have been incomprehensible if the multiplication of animals had not fallen under the regulation of Providence, and been subject to assigned laws and these, with a thousand other instances that might be as readily adduced, manifestly prove that it has been directed by design. And as it would be contrary to all just analogy to believe, that brute animals received an attention denied to the human race, it is impossible to suppose, that the ratio of increase among men, and its consequences, were not present to the contemplation of the Creator. In point of fact, we know that even the casualties to which one sex is more exposed than the other, are provided for by the excess of male over female births, a foresight which can only be attributed to the original mandate of Providence.'

As all facts in political arithmetic are of value, we wish to observe on a passage in the foregoing extract, that although male births exceed the female in a small ratio, yet there is good reason


to think that the premature deaths among male infants exceed those among females in a similar proportion; so that the sexes are reduced to an equality of number at a very early age.

[ocr errors]

The second Chapter, On the Collateral Effects of the Principle of Population,' is employed chiefly in following up the results of the first by a more minute detail of the manner in which the pressure of necessity establishes universal industry, and secures the quick and wide diffusion of the beneficial effects of that industry. After what has been already advanced, we do not perceive that it is necessary for us to enter at large into those details. The same references are frequently made to the incontrovertible fact of the geometrical and arithmetical progress of population and subsistence respectively; and the same weakness and difficulties appear to us to be thereby introduced into the argument. We should have been glad also to perceive moral amelioration made a little more prominent, as a necessary ingredient in the successful career of temporal prosperity, especially as we cannot ourselves contrive to separate it from our idea of any sound theory respecting the principle of population. Reading the Chapter with a view of fundamental principles so different from that in which the author wrote it, it is not to be expected that we should often admit the justness of the reasoning by which the argument is maintained. But we are anxious to declare our opinion that there are to be found in it many just views of human nature, and numerous passages of considerable eloquence, descriptive of the blessings derived to mankind from the progress of civilization, the facilities of social and commercial intercourse, and the effects of colonization upon the spread of morals and religion over the face of the earth.

Having ventured to express so wide a difference from Mr. Sumner upon this interesting and difficult question, we think ourselves the more strictly bound in conclusion to give, in his own words, the result at which his active and intelligent mind has arrived from the contemplation of it. Our readers will find no difficulty in at once. perceiving the modifications under which we should be disposed to admit the truth of the concluding observations.

'Such is the view of the Omniscience and comprehensive Wisdom of the Creator, deducible from the facts respecting population, and its tendency to a quicker increase than the supply of food can keep pace with, which have been first explained to the present generation, and added to the stock of physical truths unfolded by modern inquiry. The particular effects of the multiplication of the species, which the object Mr. Malthus had in view obliged him to illustrate and enlarge upon, are so unprepossessing, that many persons have forcibly shut their eyes against the completeness of the induction, and the extent of the evidence by which the force of the principle is indisputably proved. Others, unable to withstand conviction, have been inclined to class this


« AnteriorContinuar »