« AnteriorContinuar »
countries, or in those advanced beyond the purely agricultural state of society, is attended with numerous difficulties increasing with every step in the progress of advancement. If then the power of multiplication in the human species continued the same, the evident impossibility of meeting the demand for food would be so apparent, that a rational man, instead of exercising prospective industry for the production of that which he would have very little chance of enjoying when produced, would feel exceedingly disposed to join in a scramble for the food already in existence. The operations necessary to carry on the government in a free country would be altogether impossible ; and no resource would be left to keep mankind under sufficient control, or to secure to the actual possessors the enjoyment of their property, but a tyranny sufficiently grinding either to repress the natural tendency to increase by generally prohibiting marriage among the lower orders; or to reduce them to the necessity of starving in quiet, without endangering the govern. ment; or, lastly, to encourage them, as in China, to have recourse to infanticide.
But the principal question, after all, resolves itself into this: Does the population in civilized countries still possessing large portions of uncultivated land, when unchecked by want or misery, actually increase, or rather is it physically possible that it should increase as fast as in purely agricultural countries, i. e. can it double itself, when unchecked, in twenty-five years? We really apprehend that no rational man would ever have answered this question in the affirmative, if he had duly considered the terms of the proposition, and reflected for a moment on the effects which great towns, extensive manufactures, liberal professions, and the thousand avocations incident to increasing civilization, produce upon the numbers of mankind, independently of any necessary recurrence to an increase of vice, misery, or such a modification of moral restraint as includes an involuntary abstinence from marriage. Let us look to England, in which there is certainly enough of uncultivated or ill-cultivated land to support, under improve. ment, double its present population ; yet such has been the result of the spontaneous arrangements and distribution of the people, that notwithstanding the forcing principle of the poor laws, the population has not doubled itself in two centuries; and is less of vice and misery, and, perhaps, of involuntary abstinence from marriage on the part of the lower orders, than in any country in the world; and there is no commercial or manufacturing country where the facilities of bringing fresh land into cultivation, or of improving that already cultivated, are so great. If then population has a physical inability to increase with equal rapidity in civilized and manufacturing, as in rude and agricultural countries, the prin
cipal limb of Mr. Malthus's fundamental proposition is evidently paralyzed, and we may with some degree of comfort consider our. selves relieved from the necessity of considering God as either directly or indirectly the author of moral evil; or of believing the necessary existence of moral evil in order to counteract the natural evil of a population inevitably increasing beyond any possibility of providing for it the means of subsistence.
Still, however, another question remains to be resolved in order to apply the argument to the case now under consideration. If the natural or spontaneous tendency of population to increase is not such as it is stated by Mr. Malthus, to what extent does it actually reach in the several states of society in which mankind are found to exist?
To enter into a full discussion of this most interesting subject would evidently exceed the limits to which we are necessarily confined on the present occasion. We are aware, however, of the importance of a full discussion of the principles of population and production in the present conflicting state of the public opinion on that great practical question; and we shall hope to undertake something of the kind at no distant period. Without entering minutely at present into the arguments, we think ourselves authorized io assert with some confidence, that every step which a country takes in the progress of society, and consequently towards the end of its resources in cultivation, is accompanied by a corresponding abatement in the progress of population arising out of natural circumstances of constant and universal operation, and unalterable by any laws within the power of man to control. Different degrees of morals and of civil liberty will, of course, advance or retard a community in its progress towards the higher stages of society; but whatever tends to its advancement in that progress will equally tend to abate the rapidity with which population might be supposed to proceed in the earlier stages of society. Whatever tends to retard a community in its advancement to the higher stages will equally tend, not indeed to the actual increase of population, but to that miserable condition in which a scanty number of people are found half-starved, as in Spain and other countries, in the midst of fertile territory soliciting the efforts of their industry, and prepared to make an ample return of subsistence. Be it observed also, that there is an extreme point in the progress of civilization towards its highest stage, in which the population of a country cannot naturally increase its numbers any further; and that this will occur from the same causes which produce the civilization itself, before the land of the country is cultivated up to its fullest capacity of production. Thus are we brought to the glorious conclusion that a free, a civilized, and a tolerably moral community will, under any circums
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 hail 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 burden 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 show 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 Dr. 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 fancisul; and a little confusion and incorrectness seem to pervade the terms in which the argument is proposed.
We cannoi, 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 in 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 another 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 indivi. duals to shift as they can.
Mr. Sumner appears evidently, in this part of the Essay, to have confounded the division of property with the
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 lcast, 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 case with respect to its subsistence for many generations. We cannot believe that in all ages and
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. Sumner'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, io 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 satisfied that the effects of his personal exertion shouldcontribute 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 ora 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