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main object, which appears to be to preserve the moral faculties in a state of perpetual exercise and improvement, in order to fit them for a superior state of existence.
This is nearly the view which Mr. Sumner has taken of the design of the Creator with respect to this world, and to the Being into whose hands He has delivered it over as a possession; and the conclusions which he draws from the premises are expressed in the following words:
'It is evident, that if the present state is not final, if its object is discipline, what might appear to us the happiest, or easiest, or best condition for the human race in an immediate view, would not be the most suitable to the ultimate intention of the Creator. The object which would be present to the divine mind, in determining the circumstances in which it were expedient to place mankind, would be, to assign them that state of being which was best suited to render this world the stage of discipline it was designed to prove one that should most effectually and inevitably work out the powers, exercise the virtues, and display the character of man. And it might be expected from what we see in other instances of the Creator's wisdom, that he would place mankind in circumstances through which the order of things best calculated to further this design should naturally establish itself, without any such immediate interference as might disturb the spontaneity of human
'I think it may be rendered evident that He has done so; and the proof of wisdom I shall endeavour to illustrate, is this; that the order of things, in which the human race arrives at the highest degree of improvement, and has the widest scope for moral and intellectual perfection, is inevitably, and with some trifling exceptions, universally established, by the operation of a SINGLE PRINCIPLE, and the instinctive force of a single natural desire.'—vol. ii. p. 26, 27.
The SINGLE PRINCIPLE here alluded to, is the PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION-concerning which so much has been said and written since the publication of Mr. Malthus's original and elaborate Essay upon that subject.
Differing, as we do, most widely from the statements and conclusions of that ingenious writer, we are nevertheless disposed to agree as to the effects ascribed by Mr. Sumner to the principle itself when rightly stated; and we derive no common degree of satisfaction from the proof afforded by the Essay before us, that although Mr. Sumner has brought himself to admit the truth of Mr. Malthus's principles, he can yet have derived from them the same conclusions respecting the wisdom and goodness of God which we have ourselves derived from what we conceive to be a refutation of those principles. We are disposed to welcome this remarkable coincidence of conclusions from opposite premises, in the case of the party which has taken the wrong premises, as a signal instance
of the power of a well regulated mind over an acute understanding. When we come to the discussion of this subject, we shall shew, that had Mr. Sumner embraced all the parts of Mr. Malthus's Essay he would have found, (as that author himself has too frequently found,) that the principles extended much too far to warrant the conclusions which he attempts to deduce from them, as merely sufficient to urge men to exertion and self-denial, and to reward them in proportion to their obedience. He must, we think, have discovered that, notwithstanding any practicable degree of general virtue and self-denial, the progress of society from the lower to the higher stages (which we have already shewn to be the design of Providence) must, upon Mr. Malthus's statement, inevitably bring with it large accessions of vice and misery to man, instead of concentrating the greatest possible proportion of happiness in a given space of territory.* He would surely therefore have concluded that the principles themselves could not be true, and would have bent the powers of his mind to the discovery and statement of those points where paralogisms might be detected, before he ventured to argue upon the principles themselves as the great fundamental proof of the wisdom of God in the construction of human society. We should then have had the third and fourth chapters which are now occupied with a discussion concerning the effects of the equality or the inequality of ranks and fortunes, devoted to a new and corrected statement of the principle of population. We may add too, that many conclusions in the fourth chapter, in which we cordially agree, would have followed with greater force and effect as the natural consequences of a right statement of the principle of population. Mr. Sumner, however, having chosen to take another course, we feel bound to follow him through this preliminary matter.
The advocates for political equality are, consistently enough, the advocates for the superior comforts and happiness of the savage state of society:-for political equality can only be practically enjoyed, and that very imperfectly, in such a condition of mankind. On the sillinesses of Rousseau, Condorcet, Godwin, the Père du Tertre, and a crowd of imitators on this subject, it is at this time of day, thank God! useless to expatiate. But we think the general conclusion is stated by Mr. Sumner in the following passage, with candour and impartiality.
A partial survey of civilized life represents, it is true, each individual neglectful of the general good, and struggling merely for the advancement of his own; flourishing by the discomfiture of competitors, and elevated by the depression of his brethren. But the other side of the picture shews individual advantage terminating in public benefits, and the desire of aggrandizement which is stimulated by ambition or do* See Paley's Mor. Phil.
mestic partialities, contributing towards the welfare of the community at large. Man, in all situations, has both opportunity and inclination for vice, though all vices do not flourish equally in all situations. But ferocity, intemperance, and revenge, if they are not worse, certainly are not better than avarice, rapacity, or luxury; whilst the savage vices have no compensation of delicate taste, refined manners, improved understanding, or exalted virtues. A contest for riches or power does not more disturb the harmony of life, than the disputed possession of a palm-tree or a cabin: but the latter produces no other fruit than private rancour or revengeful malice: the former enriches the state by the addition of two active and useful citizens.'-vol. ii. p. 32.
It is obvious, and has been frequently shewn in detail, that the division and accumulation of property, the division of labour, and the consequent inequality of ranks and conditions, which follow the first steps in the progress of society, introduce the necessity of active exertion of some kind or other throughout all classes of the community. It is no less obvious that this general necessity for exertion and activity is the condition most suitable to the developement and improvement of the faculties of a being, in whom the principle of indolence is more strongly rooted than the principle of philanthropy, or the abstract love of his fellow creatures. find indeed that this last mentioned plant is the growth of civilization, and of a religion whose general influence implies a considerable advance beyond the savage state of equality. It is the glory. indeed of that religion, that it introduces the only practicable system of equality—that of a moral kind, whereby mankind are placed upon a perfect level in the eye of God and man, as to all which respects their eternal interests, and which by its operation on individual minds often reverses the view invidiously taken of society by the advocates of political equality, by lifting the lowest in the scale of temporal condition, to the highest point of temporal happiness. But the aristocracy of contentment and humility is no less an eye-sore to the levelling atheist, than the aristocracy of rank and fortune, or even than that of talent and industry :-and it is incontestible that the mere intellectual improvement which upon their system is to counteract the principle of indolence inherent in the equal condition of mankind, cannot be brought to bear except in a state of society which presupposes an equality of condition to be altogether impracticable. We may then fairly admit the truth of Mr. Sumner's conclusion of the third chapter of this volume: 'It is not presumptuous to conclude that the situation best calculated to improve by exercise the faculties of man is civil society, consisting as it does of unequal fortunes, ranks and conditions.'
In the fourth chapter we approach nearer to the discussion of the principle of population. The subject on which it professes to
treat is, whether equality or inequality of ranks and fortunes is the condition best suited to the exercise of virtue.' Now it seems undeniable that if the object of the Creator with respect to man be to discipline an imperfect creature, rather than to place a perfect character in a state of enjoyment suited to its faculties, the varieties of human condition, and the practical duties arising out of them, enlarge the sphere of action, and afford opportunities for the display of those virtues and charities which distinguish the renovated from the abandoned character. The theories which profess to remove all temptation to coveting, violence, and injustice, by giving every man an equal share of temporal advantages, and affording thereby to no one a just cause of complaint, seem to overlook the obvious truth that man is very apt to complain, to covet, and to defraud, without just cause, and even without any real want of the objects which tempt him to those crimes. The evil is in the heart, not in the outward circumstances; and unless those circumstances are so framed as to discipline the heart, no arbitrary arrangement will prevent its inward corruption from breaking out into overt acts. The history of all those tribes of mankind, where an apparent equality of condition is thought to exist, is conclusive upon this point; and the theory is obnoxious to the same reproach of absurdity with that to which we lately alluded, since it supposes a state of virtue, only to be acquired through the discipline and trial of a condition of inequality, to be compatible with one of perfect equality. A moment's reflection will convince any reasonable mind that this world is not the theatre upon which such a scene can be displayed.
The various duties and relations of the higher, the middle, and the labouring classes of society towards each other, with their effects in producing the respective evidences of virtue and obedience which the Creator requires from them, are described by Mr. Sumner with eloquence and feeling in several passages of this chapter, which we regret that we cannot afford space to extract. The reader of them should bear constantly in mind that the author by the terms of his contract was confined in this part of his work to the light of reason and of nature, and that the arguments to be derived from the Revelation of the Lord Jesus' were specially reserved to a subsequent portion of the Essay. With this remark we lay before our readers the conclusions drawn by Mr. Sumner from the arguments of this chapter.
On the whole, we may be allowed to conclude, that if it had been possible, according to the established system of the universe, for mankind to have continued equal in their fortunes and conditions, the same equality would have extended to their minds. The consequence would have been a general inferiority of the rational faculties. The existence
of high practical rules raises the general standard of morality; because, even if few attain the summit, all are tending, more or less, towards it. But those lights of the world, which have occasionally appeared, and have established, from collected observations, the most useful rules of conduct, and the sublimest morality, would have been extinct. Extinguish then these lights, annihilate these general rules, diminish at the same time the temptations to vice and the opportunities of virtue, the advantage is doubtful, the evil certain. Experience does not acquaint us, that even the vices would be less gross or numerous; but it is undeniable that the approved virtues would be both of a lower standard, and of rarer occurrence. Variety of condition enlarges the sphere of active duty; and every circumstance that enlarges the sphere of duty, contributes towards the perfection of a being, whose distinguishing faculty is obedience to reason, and whose most valuable quality is a power of moral and intellectual improvement commensurate with his individual situation.'-vol. ii. pp. 98, &c.
Having thus shewn that a state of society consisting of various ranks and conditions is best suited to excite the industry, and to discipline and promote the virtues of mankind, Mr. Sumner proceeds to the consideration of the SINGLE PRINCIPLE which he had previously announced as inevitably tending to bring the human race, generally speaking, into such a situation.' We have already stated that we agree with Mr. Sumner in believing that the principle of population, when rightly stated, will be found to be one of those means which Providence has ordained for the purpose of keeping the human faculties in a continual state of exertion, with a view to escape the difficulties which press upon individual comfort and happiness, in consequence of those changes which never fail to affect then in some way or other during the progress of society from the lower to the higher stages. But in order to shew that this argument is practically sound, we hold it essential to prove that the exertions when made will be sufficient to relieve those who make them from the pressure under which they previously laboured. And here we think that Mr. Sumner has altogether failed, and by admitting in their full extent the truth of Mr. Malthus's propositions, has involved himself in many difficulties and inconsistencies. If it be true, as Mr. Sumner states from Mr. Malthus, that, even in countries greatly civilized, population is known to double itself in twenty-five years, provided a sufficient portion of unoccupied land remain to raise subsistence for it, we apprehend that the prospect held out to reward even the most active exertions, which men are capable of making in such countries to procure food, would be so disheartening, that far from leading to exertion, it would lead only to despair of any possibility of relief. It is well known to all who have inquired into the subject, that the power of bringing fresh land into cultivation in civilized