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BOOK I.: of the population of europe, asia, africa, and south america, in ancient and modern times. - William Godwin, Of Population. An Enquiry concerning the Power of Increase in the Numbers of Mankind 
Of Population. An Enquiry concerning the Power of Increase in the Numbers of Mankind, being an Answer to Mr. Malthus’s Essay on that Subject (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1820).
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of the population of europe, asia, africa, and south america, in ancient and modern times.
Mr. Malthus has published what he calls an Essay on the Principle of Population, by which he undertakes to annul every thing that had previously been received, respecting the views that it is incumbent upon those who preside over political society to cherish, and the measures that may conduce to the happiness of mankind. His theory is evidently founded upon nothing. He says, that “population, when unchecked, goes on doubling itself every twenty-five years, or increases in a geometrical ratio.a .” If we ask why we are to believe this, he answers that, “in the northern states of America, the population has been found so to double itself for above a century and a half successively.b ” All this he delivers in an oraculous manner. He neither proves nor attempts to prove what he asserts. If Mr. Malthus has taken a right view of the question, it is to be hoped that some author will hereafter arise, who will go into the subject and shew that it is so.
Mr. Malthus having laid down a theory in this dogmatical manner, a sort of proceeding wholly unworthy of a reflecting nation or an enlightened age, it is time in reality that some one should sweep away this house of cards, and endeavour to ascertain whether any thing is certainly known on the subject.
This is the design and the scheme of the present volume I shall make no dogmatical assertions; or, at least I am sure I will make none respecting the proposition or propositions which form the basis of the subject. I shall call upon my reader for no implicit faith. I shall lay down no positions authoritatively, and leave him to seek for evidence, elsewhere, and as he can, by which they may be established. All that I deliver shall be accompanied by its proofs. My purpose is to engage in a train of patient investigation, and to lay before every one who will go along with me, the facts which satisfy my mind on the subject, and which I am desirous should convey similar satisfaction to the minds of others.
The consequence is, that I, the first, as far as I know, of any English writer in the present century, shall have really gone into the question of population. If what I shall deliver is correct, some foundation will be laid, and the principle will begin to be understood. If what I allege as fact shall be found to be otherwise, or the conclusions I draw from my facts do not truly follow from them, I shall have set before other enquirers evidence that they may scan, and arguments that they may refute. I simply undertake to open the door for the gratification of the curious, or, more properly speaking, of those who feel an interest in the honour and happiness of the human species, which hitherto in this respect has been shut. Conscious how little as yet is known on the subject, I attempt no more than to delineate Outlines of the Doctrine of Population.
The first point then that I have to examine, and which will form the subject of Three of the Six Books into which my treatise is divided, is respecting the Power of Increase in the Numbers of the Human Species, and the Limitations of that Power. This question, precisely speaking, is the topic of the Second Book only: though I have thought proper to prefix in a First Book a view of the numbers of mankind in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America, in ancient and modern times, where population has generally been supposed not to increase; and in another [the Fourth] to subjoin a view of the United States of North America in this particular, where from some cause or other the population has multiplied exceedingly.
The result of our investigations into the subject of population, I believe, will afford some presumption that there is in the constitution of the human species a power, absolutely speaking, of increasing its numbers. Mr. Malthus says; that the power is equal to the multiplication of mankind by a doubling every twenty-five years, that is, to an increase for ever in a geometrical series, of which the exponent is 2:—a multiplication, which it is difficult for human imagination, or (as I should have thought) for human credulity to follow: and therefore his theory must demand the most tremendous checks [their names in the Essay on Population are vice and misery] to keep the power in that state of neutrality, in which it is perhaps in almost all cases to be found in Europe. I think I shall be able to make out that the power of increase in the numbers of the human species is extremely small, But, be that as it may, it must be exceedingly interesting to assign the Causes by which this Power is Restrained from producing any absolute multiplication, from century to century, in those many countries where population appears to be at a stand: and I have accordingly endeavoured to take the question out of the occult and mystical state in which Mr. Malthus has left it. This disquisition forms the subject of my Third Book; as it was necessary to give it precedence over the examination of the population of the United States, that we might be the better enabled to see, how far the causes which keep down population are peculiar to us, and how far they extend their agency to North America.
Such is the outline of the most essential parts of the following work; and here I might perhaps without impropriety have put an end to my labours. But, as Mr. Malthus has taken occasion to deliver many positions respecting subsistence, and various other points of political economy, I have thought it might not be useless to follow him into these topics.
The question of subsistence indeed Mr. Malthus has made an essential member of his system, having stated the power of increase in the numbers of mankind as equal to a doubling every twenty-five years for ever in geometrical series, and the utmost power of increase in the means of subsistence as reaching only to a perpetual addition of its own quantity in similar periods, or a progression in arithmetical series. Thus,
I have therefore devoted my Fifth Book to the consideration of the Means which the Earth Affords for the Subsistence of Man.
The topic I have reserved for my Sixth Book is, at least to my apprehension, in no way less interesting than the question of Subsistence. Dr. Franklin and other writers who have attributed to the human species a power of rapidly multiplying their numbers, have either foreseen no mischief to arise from this germ of multiplication, or none but what was exceedingly remote. It is otherwise with Mr. Malthus. The geometrical ratio is every where with him a practical principle, and entitled to the most vigilant and unremitted attention of mankind. He has deduced from this consideration several moral and political maxims, which he enjoins it upon the governors of the world to attend to. I am persuaded that the elements of our author's theory are unsound, and that therefore his conclusions must follow the fate of the principle on which they are founded. But I should have left my undertaking imperfect, if I did not proceed to expose these maxims; thus, in the first place, setting the system of the Essay on Population and its practical merits in the full light of day; and, in the second, holding up for the instruction of those who may come after, an example of the monstrous errors into which a writer may be expected to fall, who shall allow himself, upon a gratuitous and wholly unproved assumption, to build a system of legislation, and determine the destiny of all his fellow-creatures. An examination of the Moral and Political Maxims Inculcated in the Essay on Population therefore constitutes the subject of my Sixth Book.
I might indeed have written a treatise in which I should have endeavoured to trace the outlines of the subject of population, without adverting to Mr. Malthus. But, in the first place it was gratifying to me to name an author, who, however false and groundless his theories appear to me, has had the merit of successfully drawing the attention of the public to the subject. I think it but fair, so far as depends upon me, that his name should be preserved, whatever becomes of the volumes he has written. If any benefit shall arise from the discussion of the Doctrine of Population, there is a propriety in recollecting the person by whose writings the question has been set afloat, though he has not discussed. And, in the second place, I know that the attention of the majority of readers is best secured by the appearance of a contention. If I had delivered the speculations of the following pages in a form severely scientific, and still more if I had written my book without Mr. Malthus's going before me, I should have appeared to multitudes to be elaborately explaining what was too clear for an argument, and could not have expected to excite an interest, to which under the present circumstances, if I have done any thing effectually on the subject, I may be thought reasonably entitled.
survey of the creation from natural history.
Ο δε Θιος ℵαι η φυσις ουδιν ματην ποιουσυ.
Previously to our entering directly on the subject before us, it will probably be found not wholly unworthy of attention to recollect, in how different a way the multiplication of the human species has ordinarily been regarded, by writers whose purpose it was to survey the various classes of existence that form the subject of natural history, and who were satisfied to discover “the wisdom of God in the works of creation,” from the ideas expressed by Mr. Malthus. The following is the manner in which the subject is stated by Goldsmith, one of the latest of the number, in his History of the Earth and Animated Nature.
“We may observe, that. that generation is the most complete, in which the fewest animals are produced: Nature, by attending to the production of one at a time, seems to exert all her efforts in bringing it to perfection: but, where this attention is divided, the animals so produced come into the world with partial advantages. In this manner twins are never, at least while infants, so large or strong as those that come singly into the world; each having, in some measure, robbed the other of its right; as that support which Nature meant for one, has been prodigally divided.
“In this manner, as those animals are the best that are produced singly, so we find that the noblest animals are ever the least fruitful. These are seen usually to bring forth but one at a time, and to place all their attention upon that alone. On the other hand, all the oviparous kinds produce in amazing plenty; and even the lower tribes of the viviparous animals increase in a seeming proportion to their minuteness and imperfection. Nature seems lavish of life in the lower orders of creation; and, as if she meant them entirely for the use of the nobler races, she appears to have bestowed greater pains in multiplying the number, than in completing this kind. In this manner, while the elephant and the horse bring forth but one at a time, the spider and the beetle are seen to produce a thousand: and even among the smaller quadrupeds, all the inferior kinds are extremely fertile; any one of these being found, in a very few months, to become the parent of a numerous progeny.
“In this manner therefore the smallest animals multiply in the greatest proportion; and we have reason to thank Providence, that the most formidable animals are the least fruitful. Had the lion and the tiger the same degree of fecundity with the rabbit or the rat, all the arts of man would be unable to oppose these fierce invaders, and we should soon perceive them become the tyrants of those who claim the lordship of the creation. But Heaven, in this respect, has wisely consulted the advantage of all. It has opposed to man only such enemies, as he has art and strength to conquer; and, as large animals require proportional supplies, nature was unwilling to give new life, where it in some measure denied the necessary means of subsistence.
“In consequence of this pre-established order, the animals that are endowed with the most perfect methods of generation, and bring forth but one at a time, seldom begin to procreate, till they have almost acquired their full growth. On the other hand, those which bring forth many, engender before they have arrived at half their natural size. The horse and the bull come almost to perfection before they begin to generate; the hog and the rabbit scarcely leave the teat before they become parents themselves. In whatever light therefore we consider this subject, we shall find that all creatures approach most to perfection, whose generation most nearly resembles that of man. The reptile produced from cutting, is but one degree above the vegetable. The animal produced from the egg, is a step higher in the scale of existence: that class of animals which are brought forth alive, are still more exalted. Of these, such as bring forth one at a time are the most complete; and foremost of these stands man, the great master of all, who seems to have united the perfections of all the rest in his formationa .”
general views as to the alleged increase of mankind.
TO take a just view of any subject, one rule that is extremely worthy of our attention is, that we should get to a proper distance from it. The stranger to whom we would convey an adequate image of the city of London, we immediately lead to the top of St. Paul's Church. And, if I may introduce an allusion to the records of the Christian religion, the devil took our Saviour “up into an exceeding high mountain,” when he would “shew him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them.”
Mr. Malthus has taken his stand upon the reports of Dr. Franklin, and Dr. Ezra Styles. He repairs with them to the northern parts of the United States of America, and there he sees, or thinks he sees, “the population doubling itself, for above a century and a half successively, in less than twenty-five years,” and that “from procreation onlya .” He does not discover an ample population even in this, his favourite country. Far from it. The reason why the population goes on so rapidly in North America is, according to him, because there is “ample room and verge enough” for almost all the population that can be poured into it. He sees, in his prophetic conception, that country, some centuries hence, full of human inhabitants, even to overflowing, and groaning under the multitude of the tribes shall dwell in it.
Would it not have been fairer to have taken before him the globe of earth at one view, and from thence to have deduced the true “Principle of Population,” and the policy that ought to direct the measures of those who govern the world?
How long the race of man has subsisted, unless we derive our opinions on the subject from the light of revelation, no man knows. The Chinese, and the people of Indostan, carry back their chronology through millions of years. Even if we refer to the Bible, the Hebrew text, and the Samaritan which is perhaps of equal authority, differ most considerably and fundamentally from each other. But Mr. Malthus is of opinion, that, in reasoning on subjects of political economy, we are bound to regulate our ideas by statistical reports, and tables that have been scientifically formed by proficients in that study, and has accordingly confined himself to these.
But, though we know not how long the human race has existed, nor how extensive a period it has had to multiply itself in, we are able to form some rude notions respecting its present state. It has by some persons been made an objection to the Christian religion, that it has not become universal. It would perhaps be fairer, to make it an objection to the “Principle of Population,” as laid down by Mr. Malthus, that the earth is not peopled.
If I were to say that the globe would maintain twenty times its present inhabitants, or, in other words, that for every human creature now called into existence, twenty might exist in a state of greater plenty and happiness than with our small number we do at present, I should find no one timid and saturnine enough to contradict me. In fact, he must be a literal and most uninventive speculator, who would attempt to set bounds to the physical powers of the earth to supply the means of human subsistence.
The first thing therefore that would occur to him who should survey “all the kingdoms of the earth,” and the state of their population, would be the thinness of their numbers, and the multitude and extent of their waste and desolate places. If his heart abounded with “the milk of human kindness,” he would not fail to contrast the present state of the globe with its possible state; he would see his species as a little remnant widely scattered over a fruitful and prolific surface, and would weep to think that the kindly and gracious qualities of our mother earth were turned to so little account. If he were more of a sober and reasoning, than of a tender and passionate temper, perhaps he would not weep, but I should think he would set himself seriously to enquire, how the populousness of nations might be increased, and the different regions of the globe replenished with a numerous and happy race.
Dr. Paley's observations on this head are peculiarly to the purpose. “The quantity of happiness,” he says, “in any given district, although it is possible it may be increased, the number of inhabitants remaining the same, is chiefly and most naturally affected by alteration of the numbers: consequently, the decay of population is the greatest evil that a state can suffer; and the improvement of it is the object, which ought in all countries to be aimed at, in preference to every other political purpose whatsoeverb .”
Such has been the doctrine, I believe, of every enlightened politician and legislator since the world began. But Mr. Malthus has placed this subject in a new light. He thinks that there is a possibility that the globe of earth may at some time or other contain more human inhabitants than it can subsist; and he has therefore written a book, the direct tendency of which is to keep down the numbers of mankind. He has no consideration for the millions and millions of men, who might be conceived as called into existence, and made joint partakers with us in such happiness as a sublunary existence, with liberty and improvement, might impart; but, for the sake of a future possibility, would shut against them once for all the door of existence.
He says indeed, “The difficulty, so far from being remote, is imminent and immediate. At every period during the progress of cultivation, from the present moment to the time when the whole earth was become like a garden, the distress for want of food would be constantly pressing on all mankindc .” He adds it is true in this place, “if they were equal.” But these words are plainly unnecessary, since it is almost the sole purpose of his book to shew, that, in all old established countries, “the population is always pressing hard against the means of subsistence.”
This however—I mean the distress that must always accompany us in every step of our progress—is so palpably untrue, that I am astonished that any man should have been induced by the love of paradox, and the desire to divulge something new, to make the assertion. There is no principle respecting man and society more certain, than that every man in a civilized state is endowed with the physical power of producing more than shall suffice for his own subsistence. This principle lies at the foundation of all the history of all mankind. If it were otherwise, we should be all cultivators of the earth. We should none of us ever know the sweets of leisure; and all human science would be contained in the knowledge of seed-time and harvest. But no sooner have men associated in tribes and nations, than this great truth comes to be perceived, that comparatively a very small portion of labour on the part of the community, will subsist the whole. Hence it happens that even the farmer and the husbandman have leisure for their religion, their social pleasures, and their sports; and hence it happens, which is of infinitely more importance in the history of the human mind, that, while a minority of the community are employed in the labours indispensibly conducive to the mere subsistence of the whole, the rest can devote themselves to art, to science, to literature, to contemplation, and even to all the wanton refinements of sensuality, luxury, and ostentation.
What is it then, we are naturally led to ask, that causes any man to starve, or prevents him from cultivating the earth, and subsisting upon its fruits, so long as there is a portion of soil in the country in which he dwells, that has not been applied to the producing as much of the means of human subsistence, as it is capable of producing? Mr. Malthus says, it is “the Law of Nature.” “After the public notice which I have proposed, if any man chose to marry, without a prospect of being able to support a family, he should have the most perfect liberty to do so. Though to marry, in this case, is in my opinion clearly an immoral act, yet it is not one which society can justly take upon itself to prevent or punish. To the punishment of Nature therefore he should be leftd .” And elsewhere, “A man who is born into a world already possessed, if he cannot get subsistence from his parents, and if the society do not want his labour, has no claim of right to the smallest portion of food, and in fact has no business to be where he is. At Nature's mighty feast there is no vacant cover for him. She tells him to be gone, and will quickly execute her own orderse .”
Never surely was there so flagrant an abuse of terms, as in this instance. Mr. Malthus is speaking of England, where there are many thousands of acres wholly uncultivated, and perhaps as many more scarcely employed in any effectual manner to increase the means of human subsistence; for these passages occur in chapters of his Essay where he is treating of our Poor-laws, and the remedies that might be applied to the defects he imputes to them. I grant him then, that it is Law which condemns the persons he speaks of to starve. So far we are agreed. This Law Mr. Malthus may affirm to be just, to be wise, to be necessary to the state of things as we find them. All this would be open to fair enquiry. Great and cogent no doubt are the reasons that have given so extensive a reign to this extreme inequality. But it is not the Law of Nature. It is the Law of very artificial life. It is the Law which “heaps upon some few with vast excess” the means of every wanton expence and every luxury, while others, some of them not less worthy, are condemned to pine in want.
Compare this then with Mr. Malthus's favourite position, in opposition to what he calls “the great error under which Mr. Godwin labours,” that “political regulations and the established administration of property are in reality light and superficial causes of mischief to society, in comparison with those which result from the Laws of Naturef .”
But to return, and resume the point with which this chapter commenced. If Mr. Malthus's doctrine is true, why is the globe not peopled? If the human species has so strong a tendency to increase, that, unless the tendency were violently and calamitously counteracted, they would every where “double their numbers in less than twenty-five years,” and that for ever, how comes it that the world is a wilderness, a wide and desolate place, where men crawl about in little herds, comfortless, unable from the dangers of free-booters, and the dangers of wild beasts to wander from climate to climate, and without that mutual support and cheerfulness which a populous earth would most naturally afford? The man on the top of St Paul's would indeed form a conception of innumerable multitudes: but he who should survey “all the kingdoms of the world,” would receive a very different impression. On which side then lies the evidence? Do the numbers of mankind actually and in fact increase or decrease? If mankind has so powerful and alarming a tendency to increase, how is it that this tendency no where shews itself in general history? Mr. Malthus and his followers are reduced to confess the broad and glaring fact that mankind do not increase, but he has found out a calculation, a geometrical ratio, to shew that they ought to do so, and then sits down to write three volumes, assigning certain obscure, vague, and undefinable causes, why his theory and the stream of ancient and modern history are completely at variance with each other.
general view of the arguments against the increase of mankind.
Mr Malthus's theory is certainly of a peculiar structure, and it is somewhat difficult to account for the success it has met with.
The subject is population.
It has been agreed among the best philosophers in Europe, especially from the time of Lord Bacon to the present day, that the proper basis of all our knowledge respecting man and nature, respecting what has been in times that are past, and what may be expected in time to come, is experiment. This standard is peculiarly applicable to the subject of population.
Mr. Malthus seems in one respect fully to concur in this way of viewing the subject. There are two methods of approaching the question, the first, by deriving our ideas respecting it from the volumes of sacred writ, and the second, by having recourse to such enumerations, statistical tables, and calculations, as the industry of mere uninspired men has collected; and Mr. Malthus has made his election for the latter. Dr. Robert Wallace, an able writer on these subjects, whose works have lately engaged in a considerable degree the attention of curious enquirers, has taken the opposite road. He begins his Dissertation on the Numbers of Mankind in Ancient and Modern Times, printed in 1753, with the position that the whole human race is descended “from a single pair,” and, taking that for the basis of his theory, proceeds to calculate the periods of the multiplication of mankind.
Mr. Malthus, on the contrary reposes throughout his Essay on the pure basis of human experience and unenlightened human reason; and I have undertaken to write a refutation of his theories. He has chosen his ground; and I follow him to the contest. He had made no allusion to Adam and Eve, and has written just as any speculator in political economy might have done, to whom the records of the Bible were unknown. If there is any thing irreverend in this, to Mr. Malthus, and not to me, the blame is to be imputed. He has constructed his arguments upon certain data, and I have attempted nothing more than the demolishing of those arguments. If any one shall be of opinion that the whole question is in the jurisdiction of another court, the Treatise I am writing has nothing to do with this. I design nothing more than an investigation of mere human authorities, and an examination of the theories of the Essay on Population; and I leave the question in all other respects as I found ita . To return.
It will appear, I think, in the course of our discussion, that population is a subject with which mankind as yet are very little acquaint, ed. But let us first recollect what it is that we are supposed to know. And I will first state those things which are admitted by Mr. Malthus, and which appear to make very little for the support of his system.
The globe we inhabit may be divided into the Old World and the New. Our knowledge of the history of Europe and Asia extends backward some thousand years. We know a little of the history of Africa. America was discovered about three hundred years ago, but has not in many of its parts been by any means so long a place of reception for European colonies. Mr. Malthus does not venture to carry his appeal on the subject of population there, farther back than one hundred and fifty yearsb .
Well then, how stands the question of population in the Old World? Mr. Malthus freely and without hesitation admits, that on this side of the globe population is, and has long been, at a stand he might safely have added that it has not increased as far back as any authentic records of profane history will carry us. He brings forward some memorable examples of a striking depopulationc : he might have added many more: he would certainly have found it difficult to produce an example equally unequivocal, of an increase of population, in any quarter of the Old World.
As to South America, and the indigenous inhabitants of North America, it is hardly to be disputed, and Mr. Malthus is very ready to admit, that they have sustained a melancholy diminution since the voyage of Columbusd .
Such then is, so far, the foundation of our knowledge, as afforded us by experience, on the subject of population. Mr. Malthus has brought forward an exception to all this, which I shall hereafter take occasion fully to examine, in a certain tract of the globe, now known by the.name of the United States of America, and he affirms this exception to spread itself over a period of one hundred and fifty years. The entire foundation of his work lies in one simple sentence: “In the Northern States of America, the population has been found to double itself for above a century and a half successively, in less than twenty-five years.e ”
The pith of Mr. Malthus's book therefore, and a bolder design has seldom entered into the mind of man, is to turn the exception into the rule, and the whole stream of examples in every other case, into exceptions, that are to be accounted for without detracting from the authority of the rule.
The Essay on Population is the most oddly constructed, of any book, pretending to the character of science, that was perhaps ever given to the world.
It consists, in the copy now lying before me, of three volumes.
The first chapter, containing sixteen pages, comprises the whole doctrine upon which the work is founded. He that should read the first chapter, and no more, would be in possession of every thing in the book, that is solid and compressed, and bears so much as the air of science.
The next 698 pages,f the most considerable portion of the work, are wholly employed in assigning causes why every region of the globe, in every period of its history, part of the United States of America for the last one hundred and fifty years excepted, appears to contradict the positions of Mr. Malthus's theory. This is done by exhibiting certain checks on population, the whole of which, as will more fully appear hereafter, falls under the two heads of vice and misery. The remainder of the work treats of the different systems or expedients which have been proposed or have prevailed, as they affect the evils which arise out of the author's principle of populationg , and of our future prospects respecting the removal or mitigation of these evilsh .
Now upon this shewing, I affirm that Mr. Malthus is the most fortunate man that ever lived, Sterne's king of Bohemia himself not being exceptedi . Notwithstanding this glaring rottenness and fallacy in the first concoction of his work, the author has carried the whole world before him; no other system of thinking on the subject is admitted into the company of the great; hundreds of men who were heretofore earnest champions of the happiness of mankind have become his converts; and though, I believe, from thirty to forty answers have been written to the Essay on Population, not one of them, so far as I know, has undertaken to controvert the main principle and corner-stone of his system.
The strength of Mr. Malthus's writing wholly depends upon his intrenching himself in general statements. If we hope for any victory over him, it must be by drawing him out of his strong hold, and meeting him upon the fair ground of realities.
The hypothesis of the Essay on Population is this. The human species doubles itself in the United States of America every twenty-five years: therefore it must have an inherent tendency so to double itself: therefore it would so double itself in the Old World, were not the increase intercepted by causes which have not yet sufficiently engaged the attention of political enquirers.
To clear up this point let us consider how many children may be allowed to a marriage, upon the supposition that the object is barely to keep the numbers of the human species up to their present standard. In the first place it is clear, that every married pair may be allowed two upon an average, without any increase to the population, nay, with the certainty of diminution if they fall short of this, In the next place it is unquestionable, that every child that is born, does not live to years of maturity, so as to be able to propagate the. kind; for this condition is necessary, the children who die in their nonage plainly contributing nothing to the keeping up the numbers of our species. I should have thought therefore, that we might safely allow of three children to every marriage, without danger of overstocking the community. It will hereafter appear that all political economists allow four, it being the result of various censuses and tables of population, that one-half of the born die under years of maturityk . To this number of children to be allowed to every marriage upon an average, the purpose being barely to keep up the numbers of our species to the present standard, something must be added, in consideration of the known fact, that every man and woman do not marry, and thus put themselves in the road for continuing their species.
When Mr. Malthus therefore requires us to believe in the geometrical ratio, or that the human species has a natural tendency to double itself every twenty-five years, he does nothing less in other words, than require us to believe that every marriage among human creatures produces upon an average, including the prolific marriages, those in which the husband or wife die in the vigour of their age or in the early years of their union, those in which the prolific power seems particularly limited, and the marriages that are totally barren, eight children.l
All this Mr. Malthus requires us to believe, because he wills it. Let it never again be made one of the reproaches of the present day, that we are fallen upon an age of incredulity. I am sure no false prophet, in the darkest ages of ignorance, could ever boast of a greater number of hoodwinked and implicit disciples, than Mr. Malthus in this enlightened period.
How comes it, that neither this author, nor any one for him, has looked into this view of the question? There are such things as registers of marriages and births. To these it was natural for Mr. Malthus to have recourse for a correlative argument to support his hypothesis. The writer of the Essay on Population has resorted to, certain statements of the population of the United States, and from them has inferred that the number of its citizens have doubled every twenty-five years, and as he adds, “by procreation only:” that is, in other words, as we have shown, that every marriage in America, and by parity of reasoning, in all other parts of the world, produces upon an average eight children. For the difference between the United States and the Old World does not, I presume, lie in the superior fecundity of their women, but that a greater number of children are cut off in the Old World in years of nonage, by vice and misery. We double very successfully (if they double) in the first period; but we do not, like them, rear our children, to double over again in the second. Naturally therefore he would have produced a strong confirmation of his hypothesis, by shewing from the registers of different parts of the world, or of different countries of Europe, that every marriage does upon an average produce eight children: and if he had done this, I think he would have saved me the trouble of writing this volume. Something however has been done in the way of collating the registers of marriages and births; and of this I shall make full use in my Second Book.
It may however be objected, that there are two ways in which an increase of population may be intercepted; either by the number of children who shall perish in their nonage, through the powerful agency, as Mr. Malthus informs us, of vice and misery; or by certain circumstances which shall, cause a smaller number to be born: it may not therefore be merely by the ravages of an extensive mortality, that population in the Old World is kept down to its level.
Mr. Malthus himself has furnished me with a complete answer to this objection. In the first edition of his bookm he sets out with what he called “fairly making two postulata: first, that food is necessary to the existence of man: secondly, that the passion between the sexes is necessary, and will always remain nearly in its present state.”
This indeed is one of the “passages, which the author has expunged in the later editions of his book, that he might not inflict an unnecessary violence upon the feelings of his readersn ” or, as he himself expresses it, is one of the places, in which he “has endeavoured to soften some of the harshest conclusions of his first Essay—in doing which he hopes he has not violated the principles of just reasoningo .” But, as Mr. Malthus has retained to the last all the conclusions drawn from these postulata, and as his argument respecting the impracticability of a permanent state of equality among human beings, founded upon the parity of these two propositions, stands in the Fifth Edition verbatim as it stood in the firstp , I cannot myself consent to his withdrawing his premises, at the same time that he retains the inferences built upon them.
Again: in compliance with “the feelings of certain readers,” Mr. Malthus has added in his subsequent editions, to the two checks upon population, viz. vice and misery, as they stood in the first, a third which he calls moral restraint. But then he expressly qualifies this by saying, “the principle of moral restraint has undoubtedly in past ages operated with very inconsiderable forceq ;” subjoining at the same time his protest against “any opinion respecting the probable improvement of society, in which we are not borne out by the experience of the pastr .”
It is clearly therefore Mr. Malthus's doctrine, that population is kept down in the Old World, not by a smaller number of children being born among us, but by the excessive number of children that perish in their nonage through the instrumentality of vice and misery.
Let us then proceed to illustrate this proposition, in its application to our own beloved country of England. We will take its present population at ten millions. Of this population we will suppose five millions to be adults. There must then, according to the statement of Dr. Franklin and other calculators, be ten millions of children, born and to be born from these five millions of adults, to give us a chance of keeping up the race of Englishmen. Of these ten millions five millions must be expected to die in their nonage, according to the constitution and course of nature. Surely this, together with the incessant uninterrupted mortality of the middle-aged, and of the more ancient members of society, may be regarded as sufficiently rendering the globe we inhabit “a universe of death.”
But Mr. Malthus demands from us, by virtue of his geometrical ratio, ten millions of children more than our unsuspecting ancestors ever dreamed of, that is, eight children for every pair of adults. I say eight, because, if in countries where they have room and every facility for rearing their children, two perish in their nonage out of the first four, there can be no reason that I can apprehend, why as many should not perish out of the second four. Thus it appears that, for every five millions that grow up to the estate of man and woman, twenty millions of children are born, of which fifteen millions, every where in the Old World, perish in their infancy. The first five millions of those who die in this manner, constitute a mortality that we must be contented to witness, since such, it seems, is the condition of our existence. But the next ten millions I should call a sort of superfetation of alternate births and deaths, purely for the benefit of the geometrical ratio.
But where is the record of all this? In most civilized countries some sort of register is kept of births, marriages, and deaths. I believe no trace of these additional births which Mr. Malthus has introduced to our acquaintance, is any where to be found. Were all these children sent out of the world, without so much as the ceremonies of baptism? Were they exposed among the wilds of Mount Taygetus, or cast into the Barathrum, or hurled from the Tarpeian rock, or carelessly thrown forth, as Mr. Malthus says the Chinese infants are in the streets of Pekin? For my own part, I am disposed to require some further evidence on the subject, than merely to be told they must have been born and have died, in defiance of all received evidence on the subject, because such is the inference that follows from the principles of the Essay on Population.
In reality, if I had not taken up the pen with the express purpose of confuting all the errors of Mr. Malthus's book, and of endeavouring to introduce other principles, more cheering, more favourable to the best interests of mankind, and better prepared to resist the inroads of vice and misery, I might close my argument here, and lay down the pen with this brief remark, that, when this author shall have produced from any country, the United States of North America not excepted, a register of marriages and births, from which it shall appear that there are on an average eight births to a marriage, then, and not till then, can I have any just reason to admit his doctrine of the geometrical ratio.
Numbers Of Mankind In Ancient And Modern Times.
Les hommes ne multiplient pas aussi aistment qu'on le pense. Voltaire, Histoire Générale, chap. I.
IT is not a little singular, and is proper to be commemorated here, that a controversy existed in the early part of the last century, as to the comparative populousness of ancient nations, or the contrary. One of the leaders in this debate was the celebrated Montesquieu; and what he says on the subject is so much to the purpose, that I shall translate the passage.
“To amuse in some part,” says one of the correspondents in the Persian Letters to another, “the time of my visit to Europe, I devote myself to the perusal of the historians, ancient and modern; I compare the different ages of the world; I am pleased to make them pass, so to speak, in review before me; and I fix my attention particularly upon those great changes, which have rendered some ages so different from others, and the world so unlike to itself.
“You perhaps have not turned your thoughts, upon a thing that to me is altogether surprising. How happens it that the world is so thinly peopled in comparison with what it was formerly? How is it that nature has wholly lost that prodigious fecundity which she boasted in earlier times? Is it that she is in her decrepitude, and is hastening to her final extinction?
“I have resided more than a year in Italy, and I have seen there only the ruins of that Italy which was anciently so famous. Though its present population is confined to the towns, they are themselves mere vacancy and a desart: it seems as if they subsisted for no other purpose, than to mark the spot where those magnificent cities formerly stood, with whose policy and whose wars history is filled.
“There are persons who pretend that Rome alone formerly contained a greater population than any one of the most powerful kingdoms of Europe does at present. There were single Roman citizens, who possessed ten, and even twenty thousand slaves, without including those they used for rustic employments: and as the numbers of the citizens alone amounted to 4 or 500,000, we cannot calculate the entire population of this great city, without reaching to a number at which the imagination revolts.
“Sicily, in times of old, contained within its shores flourishing states and powerful kingdoms, which have entirely disappeared: it is now considerable only for its volcanoes.
“Greece is so wholly deserted, as not to contain the hundredth part of the number of its former inhabitants.
“Spain, formerly so abundant in men, exhibits nothing at the present day but a variety of provinces, almost without inhabitants; and France is an unpeopled region, compared with that ancient Gaul which Caesar describes to us.
“The north of Europe is in a manner stripped of its people. The times are no more, when she was obliged to separate her population into portions, and to send forth, as in swarms, colonies and whole nations, to seek some new spot where they might dwell at large.
“Poland and Turkey in Europe are almost without inhabitants.
“In America we do not find more than the two-hundredth part of the men who formerly composed its mighty empires.
“Asia is not in a much better condition. That Asia Minor, which boasted so many powerful monarchies, and so prodigious a number of great cities, has now but two or three cities within her limits. As to the Greater Asia, that part which is subject to the Turk is in no better condition, and for the part over which our monarch reigns [Persia], if we compare it with its former flourishing condition, we shall see that it contains but a very small residue of the population which anciently furnished the innumerable hosts of Xerxes and Darius.
“As to the smaller states, which are placed in the vicinity of these great empires, they are literally unpeopled; such for example are Imiretta, Circassia and Guriel. All these princes, with the extent of country over which they preside, have scarcely in their subjection so many as fifty thousand human beings.
“Egypt has not suffered less than the countries I have mentioned.
“In a word I review the different nations of the earth; and I find nothing but destruction. I seem to see a race of beings, just escaped from the ravages of an universal plague, or an universal famine.
“Africa has always been so unpenetrated, that we cannot speak of it with the same precision as of other parts of the globe;. but, if we turn our attention only to the coasts of the Mediterranean, the portion of it which is known, we see at once how wretchedly it has sunk, since the period in which it formed a Roman province of the first order. Its princes are now so feeble, that they are strictly the smallest powers in existence.
“Upon a calculation, the most, exact that matters of this sort will admit, I am led to think that the earth does not contain now fully the fiftieth part of the human beings, that inhabited it in the time of Cæsar. What is most astonishing is, that its population everyday grows thinner; and if it goes on at the same rate, in one thousand years more, the race of man will be extinct.
“Here then, my dear friend, we are presented with the most fearful catastrophe that imagination can form. Yet it is hardly attended to, because it proceeds by insensible degrees, and spreads itself over such a series of ages. But that very thing proves incontestibly, that there is an innate vice, a concealed and inaccessible poison, a wasting disease, which clings to our nature, and cannot be removeda .”
It is surprising, if the Persian Letters ever fell in the way of Mr. Malthus's juvenile reading, that this impressive representation should not a little have startled him, amidst his. anxieties and alarms for the excessive and ruinous multiplication of mankind. It would seem to require considerable strength of nerve, in the face of such a picture, to preach his doctrine of depopulation; for such in the sequel it will be discovered to be.
I know that this representation of Montesquieu has been controverted, and that among others it has fallen under the acute examination of Hume. But the most I think that Hume has effected, is to throw some portion of uncertainty on the subject.
It may be worth while to remark how gross and obvious are the mistakes into which a careless observer inevitably falls upon this question of population.
He goes into a village or a little town, and he is struck with the number of children he sees, playing, skipping, laughing, crying, paddling in the dirt, and almost running under his horse's feet, as he passes along. From this phenomenon he sagaciously concludes, “There is no fear for the future population of this village.”
If he made an enumeration of the inhabitants of the village, would he find that the number of children taken together exceeded the number of inhabitants arrived at years of maturity? The result of the American census, as we shall presently see, is that half the inhabitants are under, and half above sixteen years of age. But, it has appeared from all the Tables, that if the present race of grown men and women did not produce children to the amount of double their own number, the race of mankind could not be kept up, consequently, if at any given period, as in America, the children only equal the adults in number, we must depend upon the recruits to be added every year, for the preservation of our species. If those that have already become mothers universally ceased to become mothers in future, and devolved the task wholly upon their offspring, and this were repeated from period to period, it would be a matter of no difficult calculation to determine the precise era at which the human race would be extinct.
And what is the ground of this general mistake? Simply that we see those who are born, hut do not see those who die. They are consigned to the silent grave, and we soon learn almost to forget that, they ever existed. Hence Mr. Malthus and others would terrify us with the spectre of an imaginary overpopulation. Xerxes, I suspect, understood this matter much better, when he wept to think that, of the millions of men that passed in review before him in his march into Greece, not one would bt alive at the end of one hundred years. Every old man is accustomed to the remark, that he sees ail his contemporaries dying from around him, and that he is left in a manner alone in a new world. We depend entirely and exclusively upon the rising generation for the future population of the earth. In a few years I and my present readers of the year 1820 will have all left the stage, and the children that live under our roofs, or that we see in the streets, will be the only men and women, to conduct the affairs, and continue the race, of human kind. Mr Malthus, and men like Mr. Malthus, who have been accustomed to look with a jealous eye, and with certain feelings of terror and alarm, upon the number of little children they meet with, would, if they maturely considered this, contemplate the spectacle with a very different sentiment.
Illustrations From The History Of China
Nothing can be more ludicrous than that part of Mr. Malthus's book, in which, for 698 successive pages, he professes to treat of the checks by which population has actually been kept down to the level of the means of subsistence, whether in ancient or modern times. He acknowledges that in most countries population is at a stand. He takes little notice of the many instances, both in ancient and modern times, in. which it has glaringly decreased. And he affirms, upon what evidence it is one of the special objects of this book to examine, that population, if unchecked, would go on, doubling itself every twenty-five years, or in a much shorter period, for ever.
Now, if Mr. Malthus had intended a fair and full examination of this question, he should have set down, in the first place, in each country how many children, in the natural order of things, would be born, and then have proceeded, in the second place, to show how they were cut off. This would have been to have reasoned like a mathematician, like a genuine political economist, and like a philosopher. But the first of these points Mr. Malthus has uniformly omitted. He has therefore appeared to walk over the course at an easy pace, somewhat like Bobadil in the play, calling for “twenty more, kill them too,” simply by directing the keeper of the lists on no account to give entrance to a real combatant.
Since the author of the Essay on Population has omitted this essential part of the consideration, I will endeavour to supply the defect.
The fairest instance on many accounts to begin with, is that of China. In Mr. Malthus's book there is a chapter, entitled, “Of the Checks to Population in China and Japan.a :” and the author, having spent a number of smooth sentences on the subject, to the amount of thirty-four pages, seems well satisfied that he has shewn that the actual state and history of China and Japan serve fully to confirm his opinion, that the population of the world would go on, unchecked, at the rate of doubling itself every twenty-five years or sooner.
China is a country that is supposed to be more fully peopled than any other country in the world. According to Mr. Malthus the population of that empire has been wholly at a stand for the last hundred years: for he quotes Du Halde in the beginning of the last century, to confirm the enumeration of Sir George Staunton at the end of it, and concludes that these two authorities substantially agree with each other.b . Now China is a country of so uniform a tenour, its manners, its customs, its laws, its division of property, and its policy continuing substantially the same, that, if the population has been at a stand during the last century, there is every reason to suppose it has been at a stand, perhaps for ten centuries. China therefore is the most desirable instance that can be taken, of any old country, upon which to try the doctrine of the geometrical ratio.
China has other advantages of no mean importance to the application of our argument. First, that in this empire “extraordinary encouragements have always been given to marriagec ” Hume states, that every man in China is married before he is twentyd . Mr. Barrow, a recent traveller, who accompanied Lord Macartney in his embassy in 1793, says, “Public opinion considers celibacy as disgraceful, and a sort of infamy is attached to a man who continues unmarried beyond a certain time of life. As an encouragement to marriage, every male child may be provided for, and receive a stipend from the moment of his birth, by his name being enrolled on the military list.” He adds, “In China there are few of those manufacturing cities, which among us produce so great a waste of human life. No great capitals are here employed in any one branch of the arts. In general each labours for himself in his own profession. The still and inanimate kind of life which is led by the women, at the same time that it is supposed to render them more prolific, preserves them from accidents that might occasion untimely birthse .” So that here full scope is afforded to the principle of population.
It is somewhat remarkable that in this country, where the principle of population might reasonably be expected to have been first understood, if not in the exact period of its duplication, at least in its tremendous tendency to excess, no remedies should ever have been thought of by the governors of the country. China is something like the republic of Venice, as it stood for a period of a thousand years, famous for the profoundness of its policy, and the rigidness of its regulations. The great length of time during which its political economy has remained unchanged, implies this. All human things are subject to decay. The law of mutability is so powerful within us, that scarcely any thing is of force enough to control it. But there is somewhat of so vivifying nature in the constitution of China, as to bid defiance to corruption.
Mr. Malthus every where, up and down in the Essay on Population, preaches against the extensive use that we make of the institution of marriage, and seems to think that the great remedy we have for the miseries of mankind as arising from the principle of population, is to be found in discountenancing marriage among the poor. How shallow then are the politicians of this ancient empire, who have uniformly afforded the most “extraordinary encouragements to marriage!”
Another circumstance is scarcely less miraculous. The exposing of children is a very common practice in China. So far, so good; this is an obvious way of keeping down population; though Mr. Malthus seems in some places to doubt its efficacy. But the shallow politicians of China again set themselves against this; and edict after edict has been published to put an end to itf .
The statesmen of China have confessedly had the knowledge and experience of several thousand years: but experience is thrown away upon some people. The government is celebrated for the paternal spirit displayed by the head of it towards his subjects: but some fathers, though with no want of love, become the authors of misery to their children by their injudicious conduct.
I proceed however to supply that which, as before stated, Mr. Malthus has omitted, viz. an account how many children, upon the hypothesis of the Essay on Population, would be born, that we may afterwards proceed, with the more perfect preparation, to consider how they are cutoff.
Mr. Malthus takes the population of China at 333,000,000g . For the sake of a more convenient and compendious arithmetic I will put it down at three hundred millions. Now the doctrine of the Essay on Population is, that “population, when unchecked, goes on doubling itself every twenty-five years.” Therefore in China, after every proper deduction has been made for balancing the number of deaths by an adequate number of births, that so the population may not decrease, there must be an additional number of births, or a sort of superfetation, to the amount of three hundred millions every twenty-five years, to provide for the doubling required by the Essay on Population.
In other countries, we will suppose, population is more or less kept down by the various discouragements to marriage held forth in those countries, and, according to Mr, Malthus, by the late period of life at which marriage frequently takes place. But in China extraordinary encouragements are given to marriage, and every man is married before he is twenty. We may be secure therefore that in that country the full number of children is born, whatever may become of them afterwards.
Hereafter, perhaps before the close of the present century, we shall know something of the population of the United States of America. But, in the mean time, and while, in the sense of genuine statesmen and legislators, we know nothing, Mr. Malthus informs us, and lays it down as the corner-stone of his portentous and calamitous system, that “the population there has been found to double itself, for above a century and a half successively, in less than twenty-five years,” and that this “has been repeatedly ascertained to be from procreation only.” How many children on an average to a marriage are produced in the United States? No one has pretended authentically to inform us. Are they more than in the old countries of Europe? Probably not. What number of those that are born,. die before ten or sixteen years of age? Of all this we are ignorant.
But whatever be the number of the children born in the United States of America, that die before they arrive at maturity, we know that in China three hundred millions of children more in proportion than in America, die every twenty-five years. This is as certain, as the doctrine of the Essay on Population is true.
The human mind is but ill adapted to grapple with very high numbers; and I am persuaded that important errors have been committed by theoretical writers in consequence of this infirmity. I will therefore endeavour to conform myself to the limited nature of human faculties, by reducing these numbers. It has already appeared, that three hundred millions of extra-infants must perish in China every twenty-five years, beyond the proportion of the number of infants that would perish in the United States. Now, if we divide this number by twenty-five, we shall find that twelve millions of extra-infants must perish annually in China, to support the doctrine of the Essay on Population.
This surely is a portentous sort of proposition to be built upon a theory, without a single foundation in the records of the country to support it. Mr. Malthus indeed says, that the exposing of children is a very common practice in China, and that about two thousand are annually exposed in the city of Pekinh . Alas, what is this to the twelve millions of extra-infants that it is absolutely necessary should perish annually in that country? What a scene of devastation does Mr. Malthus's doctrine lead us to see in China! They must lie on heaps, like what we read of human bodies in the plague of Marseilles. As fast as a certain number of these infants waste away in the streets, an equal number supplies their place, so that the scene of putrescence and the noisomeness of the stench are made perpetual. Does any traveller relate that he has witnessed this?—And all this time the legislators of the country know nothing of the matter, and go on from century to century, giving extraordinary encouragements to marriage, and prohibiting the exposing of children.
But all this has no existence but in Mr. Malthus's book. It must be true, because in the United States of America “the population has been found to double itself, for above a century and a half successively, in less than twenty-five years, and that from procreation only.” I shall hereafter proceed to consider the population of America. I have no doubt that one of these propositions is as true as the other.
I am well aware that we know nothing of the population of China, and almost as little of that of the United States. I have therefore taken these statements almost entirely from Mr. Malthus himself. It is for him and his disciples to explain and to reconcile them.
From all that has been said however it is perfectly clear, that the statesmen and legislators of China, who have proceeded with a steady, and perhaps I may add an enlightened, attention to the subject for centuries, not only have no suspicion of the main principles taught in the Essay on Population, but are deeply impressed with the persuasion that, without encouragement and care to prevent it, the numbers of the human species have a perpetual tendency to decline.
Upon the whole therefore it is as certain as any thing can be, from the shewing of Mr. Mal. thus himself, that the empire of China has never been subject to the operation of the geometrical ratio.
The history of India bears a striking resemblance to that of China; and therefore it seems necessary to say something on that subject. The learning of the Bramins is not less ancient; and the history of their improvements and their sciences is lost in the abyss of antiquity. The natives of Indostan strongly resemble the Chinese in the unchangeableness of their institutions; what is to-day, equally existed yesterday, and has remained without alteration, as far back as their annals, their laws and their literature can carry us. The Chinese were conquered by the Tartars; but their records present to us the singular spectacle of the conquerors adopting the manners, the customs, and the institutions of the people they conquered. India has been less fortunate. Their Mahometan invaders fixed an empire among them, claiming a superiority over the nations they found there, rejecting their systems of policy and religion, and looking down with ignorant disdain upon their science and literature. But the Hindoo institutions have survived amidst these disadvantages.
The population of India does not seem to be less considerable than that of China. I have conversed with a few persons, the best informed, and the most learned as to every thing that relates to India, that are to be found in Great Britain, and they are decisively of that opiniona . There are forests that exist in China, and there are large tracts of waste land in India; but the districts favourable to population are not less thickly inhabited in the latter than in the former. This statement I find strongly corroborated in a paper in the Asiatic Researchesb , entitled, A Statistical View of the Population of Burdwan, and Some Neighbouring Districts of the Government of Bengal, by W. B. Bayley, late Judge and Chief Magistrate of Burdwan. His statement is, that “the district of Burdwan contains 262,634 dwelling-houses, of which 218,853 are occupied by Hindoos, and 43,781 by Mahometans: allowing therefore 5½ inhabitants to each dwelling, the total population of Burdwan will amount to 1,444,487 souls. The area of the district of Burdwan, as its boundaries are at present arranged, comprises about 2400 English square miles. On an average therefore each square mile contains a population of more than 600 persons.” He adds, “The total population of England gives an average of near two hundred inhabitants to each square mile; but, if some particular counties are selected, the proportion will be found to approximate much more nearly to that of Burdwan. The county of Lancaster, for instance, furnishes, according to the last population reports of 1811, an average of 476 inhabitants to a square mile.”
The situation of India then, as far as the subject I am here examining is concerned, is precisely the same as that of China. The great men who founded her institutions had no apprehensions of the evils of over-population. These institutions are grey with the hoar of many thousand years; and yet in all that time no one of her politicians and statesmen has ever suspected the tremendous mischief Mr. Malthus has brought to light. The Ordinances of Menu, as translated by Sir William Jones, treat marriage as one of the first duties of a citizen, and the begetting a son as a debt which every man owes to his country. And yet, if population is at a stand in India, and if marriage, and “early marriagec ,” as Mr. Malthus states it, is almost universal, then, upon the hypothesis of the geometrical ratio, it is indispensible that six children out of every eight, and fifteen millions out of twenty that are born, must perish in years of nonage. God knows how much vice and misery may be necessary to effect this purpose, which however, upon Mr. Malthus's principles, always is effected. But every sober and reflecting man must infallibly conclude that this is not so. And every rational man must stand astonished, when he enquires by what evidence the author of the Essay on Population endeavours to make out this the most revolting and incredible of all propositions. Mr. Malthus observes that India “has in all ages been subject to the most dreadful faminesd .” But what is this to the purpose? If all marry, and if, wherever marriage is “very greatly encouragede ,” a sufficient number of children are born to support a doubling of population every twenty-five years, then, wherever that population is at a stand, fifteen out of twenty millions of children that are born, must perish in years of nonage. Does Mr. Malthus think, that the famines, here and there, or if he will frequently, scattered through the history of India, are sufficient to account for this? We have nothing to do, in the case of so monstrous an hypothesis as that of the Essay on Population, but to keep the object of our contemplation fixed, and to look into it intently, and it will speedily vanish from our sight, and sink into nothing.
Of what I may denominate the ancient history of America, we know infinitely less, than of the history of China and of India. These latter countries still exist in a state very similar to their ancient state, and have been made the subject of investigation, the former to a succession of travellers, and the latter to a number of gentlemen for the last thirty or forty years, who have studied its ancient and esoteric language, and have devoted a considerable part of their lives to the investigation of the Hindoo policy and literature. But the Spaniards in their invasion of America, were, I suppose, the most merciless destroyers any where to be found in the annals of mankind: all knowledge, all history, all antiquities sunk before their savage barbarities. Yet there is something so much to the purpose of our present enquiry, in the histories of Mexico and Peru in particular, that I cannot persuade myself to pass them over in silence.
Nothing is more slow than the progress of nations. The beginnings of things are involved in impenetrable darkness; and exclusively of the light of revelation, we can annex no very distinct idea to the word, beginning. But, on this subject of population, I shall follow the example of Mr. Malthus, and reason only upon the facts of political economy, and such philosophical principles as we are able to found on these. What we seem to know best on this subject, is that, the further we go back, the more numerous was the population of the globe.
The population of the New World, when it first became known to Europeans, is put down by Montesquieu and Montaigne at four hundred millions at the lowesta . The original discoverers are at a loss for expressions to do justice to what they saw. They tell us, that the continent of South America swarmed with human beings as an ant-hill does with antsb , and that the population reached to the utmost extent of possible numbers. The island of Hispaniola, when first discovered by Columbus in 1492, contained three millions of peoplec , though at the period when its history was sketched by the virtuous and illustrious Las Casas in 1542, the number of its natives, did not exceed two hundred persons.
The Mexican empire, we are told, had been founded only about one hundred and thirty years before the invasion of Cortez in 1521; and Montezuma was the ninth monarch in the order of succession who had swayed its sceptred . But for this we need far other evidence, than that of the soldiers by whom this people was exterminated, and the priests, the object of whose fanatical zeal was to establish what they called the Christian religion, upon the ruin of all monuments and all antiquity that were to be found in the country. The Mexicans, it appears, did not possess the art of writing, though in many other arts they had reached to a pitch of improvement altogether surprising. It would have needed therefore the observation of travellers, imbued with the very soul of philosophy, and who should have spent their lives in the search, to have handed down to us the true records and history of this wonderful people. If the Portuguese had been enabled to burn, massacre and exterminate the Chinese nation, in the manner in which they and the Spaniards treated the inhabitants of South America, what should we have known of the curious institutions, the great discoveries, and the endless annals and history of that illustrious monarchye ?
The South Americans were not willing to “sing the Lord's song” in the ear of their cruel invaders. They were never questioned with kindness, nor by gentle degrees encouraged to call forth a frank and communicative spirit. All that we know of their history, was extorted under the influence of terror, and listened to with the supercilious scorn which the brutal consciousness of superior strength, and the sanguinary spirit of bigotry and persecution are so well qualified to inspire. In no long time, so completely were these poor people subdued by the hardhearted avarice of their masters, that they felt no pleasure in recollecting what Mexico had been, and the tales perhaps of revolving ages of glory that their infancy had heard. From an industrious and ingenious people, among whom astronomy had deposited her secrets, and the profoundest mysteries of policy and government were familiar, they sunk into a state of imbecility and helpless despondence, upon which the wild and active savage in the woods might look down with a well founded sense of superiority.
Here then, as well as every where else, we are struck with the profound ignorance which has existed on the subject of population. The historians of South America, to a man, have found no difficulty in believing that an empire, which boasted that it could lead three millions of warriors into the fieldf , was sprung from some petty wandering tribe, that three hundred years before had come down “from some unknown regions towards the north and north-westg ,” and settled themselves in this delicious climate.
From Mexico let us pass to Peru. Nothing can be more extraordinary than the institutions of that empire. They had no such thing as individual property. They had the institutions of the rigid Spartans, combined with a mildness of character hardly to be paralleled in any other age or country. The surface of the territory they inhabited was divided into three equal portions, one devoted to the service of religion, another to the maintenance of the government, and the third to the subsistence of the nation. The fertility of the soil, and the favourableness of the. climate rendered the labours of the Peruvians light. They repaired to their occupation with the sound of musical instruments and with songs. Every thing among them was cheerful and serene. The monarch always considered himself as the father of his people, and was regarded accordingly. The whole nation was divided into decurias and centuries; and a perpetual vigilance and admonition were exercised by those in authority through the whole empire.
It is well observed by abbé Raynal, that nothing can be more unreasonable than to question the truth of this story. Who among the destroyers of this empire was sufficiently enlightened, to frame a fictitious system of policy, so well combined, and so consistent? Where could he have borrowed the idea of many institutions in legislation and police, to which at that time there was nothing parallel in any other part of the world? By what motive could he have been induced to pen so bitter a satire upon his own exploits, and to draw down upon himself and his companions the execration of all enlightened posterity? Would not his story have been contradicted by a multitude of contemporary witnesses, instead of which we find among them the most marvelous consistency and consenth ?
Robertson very properly remarks that among the Peruvians famine was unknown. The whole wealth of the nation consisted in the produce of the earth. As this was divided into three equal parts, one for religion, one for the incas, and one for the people, there was always a sufficient quantity in reserve, which the government might distribute as they saw necessary. The quantity of soil under cultivation was not left to the discretion of individuals, but was regulated by public authority with provident attention to the demands of the statei .
We know nothing of their institutions respecting marriage. But the negative evidence on this head is abundantly sufficient. No reasonable man will believe that their laws on this subject were substantially different from those of China and Indostan. We have no account of abortions, or the exposing of infants. We know that at no time was there any deficiency of provisions. The Peruvian government was distinguished from all others, by its paternal care and tenderness towards the people. And, as the whole wealth of the state consisted in the fruits of the earth, it follows that every additional labourer given to the community, was so much added to the general stock.
Such was the population of the New World, at the disastrous moment when a native of Europe first set his foot on her shores. The depopulation was so rapid, that human imagination finds itself incapable of keeping pace with it. According to Las Casask , who relates only what he had every day an opportunity to see, nothing can exceed the wanton folly and brutality with which the Spaniards at first destroyed her inhabitants merely for their sport. If it be true, as he has asserted, that in fifty years three millions of the inhabitants of Hispaniola were reduced to two hundred (and no other authority dissents from his, at least as to the final term of the progression), it is such a waste of human life, as perhaps no other period of history can producel .
The original population however of Mexico and Peru has not been absolutely exterminated, as was the case with the inhabitants found by the Spaniards in the Greater Antilles. Robertson estimates the number of Indians, according to the latest accounts, in Mexico at 2,000,000, and in Peru at 2,500,000m .
“In proportion,” according to this author, “as the Spanish court discovered the importance of its American possessions, the necessity of new modelling their whole administration became obvious. There was otherwise reason to apprehend that, instead of possessing countries peopled to such a degree as to be susceptible of progressive improvement, Spain would soon remain proprietor only of a vast uninhabited desertn .” “The court of Madrid,” he adds, “began at this time to display a humane solicitude and tender concern for the good treatment of the nativeso .” “In no code of laws,” he asserts, “is a greater attention manifested, or precautions multiplied with more prudent concern, for the preservation, the security, and the happiness of the subject, than we discover in the collection of the Spanish laws for the Indieso.” Among the instances of this, he specifies the “hospitals which have been erected in Lima, in Cusco, and in Mexico, where the Indians are treated with tenderness and humanityo.” To this I may add from Montesquieu, that “the Spanish administrators will not suffer any native above fifteen years of age to live unmarried; nay, that the set time of wedlock appointed for them is, at fourteen years for the male, and thirteen for the femalep .”
In this brief review of the history of South America there are many things worthy of our observation.
In the first place, we are struck with the consideration, how little the inhabitants of the New World, as well as of all other parts of the globe, were aware of the mischiefs of overpopulation. South America, says Las Casas, “was found by us, swarming with human beings, as an anthill swarms with ants.” To be sure we are told that the South Americans were a very unrefining and unreflecting people; but yet one would have thought that so broad and glaring an evil could not have been overlooked by them. The moment a small number of voracious Europeans came among them, they felt the seriousness of the grievance. But, till then, they appear to have done extremely well. They did not tear each other to pieces, to see who should obtain possession of the means of subsistence. They were not aware of the tremendous consequences of having a family. The inhabitants of the Greater Antilles appear to have been the mildest and most inoffensive people any where to be read of. The innocence of the Peruvians has grown into a proverb. All was right and serene and prosperous among them, even by the confession of those very marauders by whom this fair scene of things was for ever subverted. It is sufficiently memorable, that in all the most populous parts of the globe, the policy of discountenancing marriage was never once thought of, but the contrary. This expedient for increasing the happiness of the human race, is a conception, the originality of which is fairly ascribable to Mr. Malthus.
It is proper however that in this place we should once again apply the calculation, which I regard as one main criterion of the truth or falshood of the principle of the Essay on Population. Hispaniola contained three millions of inhabitants. Consequently, to each generation of these inhabitants must be born six millions of children; and of these children, supposing the population to be at a stand, four millions and a half must perish under the age of puberty. Is it possible to imagine any thing, that requires a greater degree of implicit faith to receive? The Hispaniolans were in a state of the utmost simplicity. Their fine climate and their fertile soil had the effect of freeing them from almost all care for to-morrow. Where were they to find the vice and misery that might opportunely deliver them from the burden of a superabundant offspring? They went on carelessly, unapprehensive that they stood in need of such a remedy: but God, we must suppose, came in the night, and took away their children, even as in the history of the Jews he smote the first-born of Egypt. And, be it observed, that the greatness of the numbers of the people of Hispaniola has nothing to do with the question. If we reject the three millions asserted by the Spanish historians, and, with Robertsonq , reduce them to one million, we have then only to make a correspondent alteration in the figures above stated, the effect will remain the same.
Another observation that ought not to be passed over in silence, is the facility with which this population was reduced. In 1492 Hispaniola contained three millions of Indians. These ave gradually traced by Robertson as decreasing to 60,000, to 14,000, and in no long time as being wholly “extirpated” and “extinguishedr .” Such depopulation would make every impartial friend to the human race think seriously whether there might not be some danger on that side of the question.
The next thing that strikes us in this survey of the South American history is the results attending upon the permanent administration of the Spanish vice-royalties of Mexico and Peru, when the first violence of conquest and cruelty had passed away. The attention of the government has now been directed for more than two hundred and fifty years, to the keeping up or increasing by every means they can devise the numbers of the native race. But, notwithstanding all the “humane solicitude and tender concern” that have been lavished for this purpose, notwithstanding the excellence of their code of laws, and the exemplary conduct of their hospitals, to which we must add the provisions by which early marriage is universally inforced, it will, I suppose, be admitted, that the native race has not been at best any wise increased during these two hundred and fifty years.
The same observation, may be applied on the subject of negro slavery, as it exists in America and the West Indies. A multitude of precautions have been employed, particularly in South America, where the Spanish policy rates the negroes as a superior class of men to the descendants of the ancient holders of the empires of Mexico and Perua , to multiply the race, but always with inadequate success. A constant succession of new importations from Africa has been judged to be indispensible.
Lastly, it is but just that some notice should be taken of the effects produced upon the mother-country, by the tide of emigration to Spanish America that then prevailed. This is an experiment that is past and over; and it is reasonable that we should endeavour to derive from it such instruction as may be applicable to the similar tide of emigration that has now been flowing for at least fifty years to the English settlements in North America.
One of the most notorious facts of modem history is the tremendous state of weakness and depopulation that has characterised the Spanish nation for the last two hundred years. Voltaire says, “If the discovery of America was a source of present advantage to Spain, it also inflicted on her great calamities. One of these was the depopulation of the parent-state by the number of emigrants necessary to give stability to her coloniest .” The following is the view Robertson exhibits of this changex . “The Spaniards, intoxicated with the wealth which flowed in annually upon them, deserted the paths of industry to which they had been accustomed, and repaired with eagerness to the regions from which this opulence issued. By this rage of emigration the strength of the colonies was augmented, by exhausting that of the mother-country.” And again x, “The inconsiderate bigotry of Philip III. expelled at once near a million of his most industrious subjects [the Moors], at the very time when the exhausted state of the kingdom required some extraordinary exertion of political wisdom, to augment its numbers, and to revive its strength.”
TO the examples which have now been detailed I cannot resist the inclination of adding the case of Paraguay, one of the most memorable establishments in the history of the world. The institutions of this portion of the New World emanated from a cultivated and learned fraternity, and whatever relates to them admits of an evidence the most complete and irresistible. The author of the Essay on Population passes over the affair of Paraguay in a smooth and quiet manner, with an incidental mention of half a page; a proceeding, I own, that appears to me a little suspicious, when I consider that the example of Paraguay would to many persons be alone sufficient to decide the question of Mr. Malthus's theory.
Paraguay was a settlement formed by the Jesuits in the interior of South America on the banks of the Rio de la Plata. They were shocked, as it was natural that religious men, and men separated from the contagion of the world, should be, it the atrocities acted by the Spaniards in this part of the world; and they formed a strenuous resolution to endeavour, by an experiment of the utmost gentleness and humanity, to atone to the unhappy natives, for the cruelties acted upon their countrymen in other parts of the continent. They took for their model the history and the happy constitution of Peru under the rule of her incas, and the whole of the transaction will redound to their immortal honour. Their establishment began about the year 1610, and the Jesuits were finally expelled from it by authority of the king of Spain in 1767.
What abbe˘ Raynal says on the subject is so much to my purpose, that I shall do little more than transcribe it.
“It might be expected, that mankind.would have most extraordinarily multiplied themselves, under a government where no individual was idle, and none were destroyed by excessive labour; where the nourishment was wholesome, abundant, and equally distributed to all; where all were fully supplied with necessary clothing; where old men, widows, orphans, and the sick, were tended with a care unknown to the rest of the world; where every one married of choice, and without motives of interest; where a numerous family of children was a consolation, without the possibility of being a burthen; where a debauchery, inseparable from idleness, and which assails equally the rich and the poor, never hastened the approach of infirmities or old age; where nothing occurred to excite the artificial passions, or to oppose those which are conformable to nature and reason; where the advantages of commerce were reaped, without bringing in their train the vices of luxury; where abundant magazines, and succours mutually communicated from tribe to tribe, insured them against famine and the inconstancy of the seasons; where the administrators of justice between man and man were never reduced to the sad necessity of condemning one individual to death, to disgrace, or to any punishment but what was momentary; where taxes and law-suits, two of the great sources of affliction to the human race, were utterly unknown: such a country, I say, might have been expected to prove the most populous on the face of the earth. It was not so.
“It was for a long time suspected, that the Jesuits understated the number of their subjects on account of the tribute at so much per head which the court of Spain imposed on them; and the council at Madrid manifested some uneasiness on this point. The most exact researches dissipated a suspicion not less injurious than groundless.
“Those who gave the society no credit for the integrity of their motives, spread a report that the Indians did not multiply, because they were consigned to the destructive labour ef the mines. This accusation was more or less urged, for more than one hundred years. But the further the Spanish administration sought into the matter, the more they were convinced that there was no such thing.
“The oppressiveness of a government administered by monks, was sufficient, according to others, to arrest the multiplication of the Indians. This is surely abundantly incompatible with the charge which was also made against the missionaries, that they inspired the Indians with too blind a confidence in, arid too excessive an attachment for their instructors. In the history of Paraguay it is found that numerous tribes repeatedly came with an importunate request that they might be admitted into this happy association, while no one of their districts ever shewed the smallest inclination to throw off the yoke. It would be too much to suppose that fifty Jesuits could hold two hundred thousand Indians in a forced submission, when they had it in their power at any time to massacre their pastors, or to fly into the woods.
“There are persons who have suspected that the Jesuits spread among their Indian subjects the doctrine of celibacy, which was so much venerated in the dark ages, and which has not yet entirely lost its reputation in the world. On the contrary the missionaries never attempted to give their novices the idea of this mode of acquiring a place in heaven, against which the climate opposed insurmountable obstacles, and which would alone have sufficed to involve their best institutions in abhorrence.
“In fine, certain politicians have alleged, that the want of the institution of private property is alone sufficient to account for the smallness of the population of Paraguay. But this institution will always be found to detract from, as much as it forwards the cause of population; while the Indians of Paraguay, having always an assured subsistence, enjoyed the benefits of such an establishment, without its evils.a
Having, one by one, refuted these different solutions for the difficulty, abbe˘ Raynal, who nevertheless adheres to the received and orthodox opinion, that if a race of men have every advantage and every blessing afforded them for that purpose, they will not fail greatly to increase in numbers, though he did not dream of their increasing in a geometrical ratio, is reduced to strain his invention to account for so unexpected a phenomenon. The cause that he seems principally to rely on as having kept down their numbers, is the small-pox.
Mr. Malthus faintly hints, that such a thing had been heard of in Paraguay as scarcity, and adds, “On these occasions some of the missions [that is the Indian tribes] would have perished from famine, but for the assistance of their neighboursb .” Though how this could have happened in a country, where, as in Peru, the crops were divided into three equal portions, one for the purposes of religion, one for the expences of the government, and one for the subsistence of the people, it is not easy to divine.
AN accurate and instructive experiment on the subject of population appears to be afforded us by the institutions of Sparta. There is nothing more memorable in the history of mankind, than the code of laws digested by Lycurgus for that people; and this code seems to have operated in full vigour for five hundred years. Lycurgus, we are told, divided the entire lands of the republic into 39,000 equal portions; of which thirty thousand were distributed to the rural citizens of the state, and nine thousand to the inhabitants of the capitala . One of the leading principles of his code was to regard marriage as a duty, and the having a family of children as honourable. The age of marriage was fixed; and is conjectured by Barthelemib to have been thirty for the males, and twenty for the female citizens.
“Those which would not marrie,” says Plutarchc , “Lycurgus made infamous by law. For it was not lawfull for such to be present, where those open games and pastimes were shewed naked. Furthermore the officers of the citie compelled such as would not marry, euen in the hardest time of the winter, to enuiron the place of these sportes, and to go vp and downe starke naked, and to sing a certaine song made for the purpose against them, which was: that justly were they punished, because that law they disobeyed. Moreouer, when such were old, they had not the honour and reuerence done them, which old married men vsually receiued. Therefore there was no man that misliked, or reproued that, which was spoken to Dercillidas: albeit otherwise he was a noble captaine. For, coming into a presence, there was a young man which would not vouchsafe to rise and do him reuerence, nor to giue him place for to sit downe: And worthily, quoth he, because thou hast not gotten a son, who may do so much for me in time to come.”
Here then, if any where, we may expect to find a nation, the population of which should increase at an extraordinary rate. There were no poor under the institutions of Lycurgus. All were fed at a common table; all slept in public dormitories. The citizens received every encouragement, nay, as it appears, were absolutely enjoined, to marry; and they certainly felt no anxiety about the subsistence of their future offspring.
All this must be exceedingly puzzling to the followers of Mr. Malthus; were it not that they are relieved from the consequences of the institutions of Lycurgus generally considered, by the recollection of one of these institutions, which they may regard as of sufficient force to check the evils of an overgrowing population. This was a law which prescribed the exposing of infants. We have already seen to what an extent this exposing must have been carried, if there is any truth in Mr. Malthus's hypothesis. Half the born at least must have constantly been destroyed by the operation of a positive statute. It is truly extraordinary, that Lycurgus should have overlooked so enormous an evil, and should have ordained that such multitudes of infants should be continually born into the world, for the mere purpose of being murdered. It is still more extraordinary that no one should have existed for five hundred years, with humanity enough to remedy so atrocious a mischief.
But let us consider for a moment this law concerning the exposing of infants, as it was practised in the republic of Sparta. We have been told by some travellers from China, that the private individuals of that country are in the habit of having recourse to this expedient, to get rid of the trouble of maintaining their offspring, and that they continue to do this, notwithstanding all the precautions used by the government to prevent it. No practice resembling this ever took place among the Spartans. It is sufficiently evident, that Lycurgus entertained no apprehension of being overstocked with citizens, and that his law had no such object in view. “After the birth of euery boy, the father was no more maister of him; but he himselfe carried him to a certaine place called Lesche, where the eldest men of his kindred being set, did view the child: and if they found him faire, and well proportioned of all his limmes, and strong, they gaue order he should be brought vp. Contrariwise, if they found him deformed, misshapen, or leane, or pale, they sent him to be throwne in a deepe pit of water, which they commonly called Apothetes: holding opinion it was neither good for the child, nor yet for the commonweale, that it should lie, considering from his birth he was not wel made, nor giuen to be strong, healthfull, nor lustie of body all his life long. For this cause therefore the nurse, after their birth, did not wash them with water simply (as they do every where at that time), but with water mingled with wine: and thereby did they proue, whether the complexion or temperature of their bodies were good or ill. For they suppose that children, which are giuen to haue the falling sicknesse, or otherwise to be full of rewmes and sicknesse, cannot abide washing with wine, but rather dry and pine away: as contrarily the other which are healthfull, become thereby the stronger and the lustierd .”
Two inferences clearly follow from this statement: first, that the laws of Lycurgus had in their view no purpose to keep down the numbers of mankind: secondly, that a proceeding of this sort, though it might diminish, and that probably in an inconsiderable degree, the number of citizens in a given generation, was very indifferently adapted to reduce the number of births by which the next generation was to be supplied. In the same spirit Plutarch further relates: “First of all, Lycurgus willed that the maidens should harden their bodies with exercise of running, wrestling, throwing the lance, and casting the dart, to the end that the fruite wherewith they might be afterwards conceiued, taking nourishment of a strong and lusty body, should shoot out and spreade the better; and that they by gathering strength thus by exercises, should more easily away with the paines of child-bearinge .”
It is surely therefore of great importance to any theory on the subject of population, to watch the effects of the institutions of Sparta. And here fortunately we possess information from the highest authorities among the ancients, no less than those of Thucydides and Aristotle.
It appears plainly from the history of Thucydides, that the republic of Sparta was in the practice of increasing the number of her citizens by foreign accessions; and we may distinguish two modes in which this recruiting was effected. First, by admitting certain of the Helots, or slaves, to the rights of citizenship; and secondly, by enrolling among her denizens individuals selected for this purpose from among the allies of Sparta. These latter were designed by the appellation of Neodamodes [men added to the ranks of the state]. In his history of the eleventh year of the Peloponnesian war, Thucydides expressly distinguishes these two species of recruits from each otherf : and the Neodamodes are again mentioned by him in his account of the nineteenth year of the warg .”
Aristotle is still more explicit. In the chapter of his Politics in which the republic of Lacedæmon is examinedh , he states that, “Though the territory of the Lacedæmonians was sufficient for the maintenance of one thousand five hundred horse, and thirty thousand foot [and in this estimate we may be sure he does not include the Helots, or slaves, by whom all the mechanical labour of the community was performed], yet the actual number of the citizens of the capital had fallen to one thousand. Thus,” continues he, “the republic of Sparta fell, not by any single and particular calamity, but perished through the.diminution of its numbers. In the earlier period of its history it is understood that they gave the rights of citizenship to the natives of other Grecian states,, that by reason of their long wars their numbers might not be too much reduced; and I have heard that the people of the capital only, at one time amounted to ten thousand.”
Aristotle indeed imputes the reduced numbers of the citizens of Sparta to a defect in the institutions of Lycurgus, who, he says, forbade that any citizen of Sparta should sell his own property, or buy that of another, but allowed them to give or bequeath it to any one they would: in consequence of which in process of time the lands of the republic fell into the hands of a few. But in this representation he stands alone. Plutarch, to whom posterity is principally indebted for the details of the' subject, expressly states: “Lycurgus was not deceiued of his hope; for his city was the chiefest of the world in glory and honour of gouernement, by the space of fiue hundred yeares. For so long his citie kept his lawes without any change or alteration untill king Agis, the son of Archidamus, began to reigne. Now in the reigne of Icing Agis, gold and siluer beganne first to creepe in againe to the citie of Sparta, by meanes of Lysanderi ,” in the close of the Peloponnesian war.
And again, in the Life of Agis, the son of Eudamidas, one hundred and fifty years later: “Then began the state of Lacedœmon first to be corrupted, and to leaue her ancient discipline, when the Lacedœmonians, hauing subdued the empire of the Athenians [that is, under Lysander], stored themselves and countrey both, with plenty of gold and siluer. But yet resenting still the lands left vnto them by succession from their fathers, according vnto Lycurgus first ordinance and institution for division of lands amongst them: which ordinance and equalitie being inuiolably kept amongst them, did yet preserue the common wealth from defamation of diuerse other notorious crimes. Vntill the time of the authorise of Epitadeus, one of the Ephores, a seditious man, and of proud conditions, who bitterly falling out with his owne sonne, preferred a law, that euery man might lawfully giue his lands and goods whilest he liued, or after his death by testament vnto any man whom he liked or thought well of. Thus this man made a law to satisfie his anger, and others also did confirme it for covetousnesse sake, and so overthrew a noble ordinance.”
Plutarch himself speaks, in the time of the latter Agis, of the citizens of Sparta as amounting only to seven hundred persons.
We have here therefore an evidence, such as must be of great weight with every reasonable man, respecting the population, or number of citizens of Sparta, during the successive periods of the history of that republic. It is certain that Lycurgus employed every means he could devise, to insure a numerous and healthy population. He encouraged marriage; he fixed a stigma on celibacy; and he provided for the support and education of the children that should be born, from the funds of the public. His institutions continued unimpaired for the space of five hundred years. Yet it is apparent that “the state perished through the diminution of its numbers.” During the interval in which Sparta makes the most splendid figure in the page of history, it was reduced to employ various expedients for the purpose of increasing the amount of its citizens by extrinsic accessions. In the period of which Aristotle treats the free inhabitants of the capital were reduced from ten thousand to one thousand men; and in the reign of the latter Agis, about one hundred years later than Aristotle, they counted no more than seven hundred citizens. These are phenomena which I conceive to be utterly incompatible with any hypothesis that affirms the rapid multiplication of the human species.
From Sparta let us pass to the republic of ancient Rome. In this state the subject of population seems to have been more studied and systematically attended to, than in any other upon record. The institution of the Census of which we have lately heard so much, as if it were a thing altogether new, together with the name, took its rise in this city. The original regulation was, that the citizens capable of bearing arms, or in other words, all the males of a certain age, and entitled to the privileges of a Roman citizen, should be numbered every five years; and, though this ceremony was often interrupted through the occurrence of extraordinary affairs, yet its seventy-second repetition took place in the year of Rome 707, two years after the battle of Pharsalia.
As this is a species of document to which hitherto there exists no parallel, I have thought it worth while to insert here the sums of as many of the enumerations as are to be found in Livy, adding to them such as occur in the epitomes which remain of the lost books of Livy. I am not sine that the common construction, which I have adopted, is the true one, that these numbers represent the citizens capable of bearing arms; since to the enumeration for the year of Rome 288 it is added, that this was the true number, exclusive of male and female orphansa , and to Metellus's enumeration for 622, that this was the true number, exclusive of minors and widowsb . But, whatever the numbers did or did not represent, and whatever uncertainty may exist on that head, they are plainly useful inasmuch as they enable us to compare one period with another. I will still less undertake, as Mr. Malthus does respecting the population of North America, that these increasing numbers, where they increase, are procured “from procreation only.” It is not my intention to treat here of the various methods upon record, employed by the Roman government to recruit the number of her citizens. But we at least owe so much to the illustrious and singular example of the Roman republic, as not to forget her enumerations,, whenever we desire to speculate fairly on the subject of population.
The first Census, or Lustration of the people of Rome, was made by Servius Tullius, the sixth king, who is said to have reigned from the year of Rome 174 to 219. The sum of his enumeration was 80,000 citizens. The rest are as follow:
It is a subject therefore of some interest to enquire what were the laws of this celebrated republic upon the subject of population, to which their attention was so perpetually recalled. The old law, according to Dionysius of Halicarnassus, which he says was in full force in the year or Rome 277, required every citizen to marry, and to rear all his childrenc . The laws further attached certain privileges to the state of a married man, others to him who had offspring, and others still more extensive to him who had three children. The citizen who had the greatest number of children, had on all occasions the preference, whether in suing for office, or in the exercise of office when obtainedd . The consul who had the most numerous offspring, had the priority in the magistracy, and took first his choice of the provinces, when his year was expired; the senator who had the largest family, was named first in the catalogue of senators, and was first called upon to give his opinion on the subject in debate. In the year of Rome 622, fifteen years after the destruction of Carthage, the censors Metellus and Quintus Pompeius, finding the number of citizens reduced between this and the last enumeration, from 323,000 to 313, 823, took occasion to inforce the old law, and decreed, that “all should be obliged to marry, for the sake of procreating childrene .” Julius Caesar, during his first consulship, and afterwards, adopted measures of a similar tendency. In a division he made of lands he reserved twenty thousand shares for such citizens as should have three or more childrenf ; and forbade the ladies, who were unmarried, or childless, to wear jewels: an excellent plan, says Montesquieu, for pressing the vanity of the fair into the service of the state.g Augustus went still farther. He imposed new penalties on the unmarried, and increased the rewards of those who had children. He caused the speech of Metellus the Censor in the year 622 to be recited in the senateh , the tenor of which was, “If the human race could be perpetuated without women, we should be delivered from a great evil: but, as the law of nature has decreed that we can neither live happily with them, nor subsist as a species without them, it is the duty of all to sacrifice their immediate repose to the good of the statei .” To which Augustus subjoined: “The city of Rome, of which we are so justly proud, does not consist of its houses, its porticoes, and public buildings; it is the men of Rome that constitute the city. We must not expect to see, what we read of in old fables, human beings spring forth out of the earth to undertake the business of the state. The object of my care is to perpetuate the commonwealth; and in this I call upon each member of the community to contribute his partk .”
It was in the same spirit, that the civic crown, given to him who should save the life of a citizen, was considered as the most glorious of all rewards among the Romans. Nor am I sure, that the Porcian law, passed in the year of Rome 453, which forbade the infliction of stripes or death on a Roman citizen, did not owe its existence, at least in part, to this principle.
There has indeed often been quoted on the other side, the practice of which we read in the Roman history, of the exposing of infants. But this was subjected to regulations of the same nature in Rome, as in Sparta, from whence, according to Dionysius, the Romans are to be considered as deriving their originl . If a child was born monstrous or deformed, it was permitted to the father to expose it; but he was previously required to shew the child to five of his, nearest neighbours, and obtain their sanctionm .
To sum up the whole of what relates to this subject in the republic of Rome. I see no cause why we should not reason as confidently upon the records of the Census in the Roman history, as upon the Census of the United States of North America, or the enumerations of the island of Great Britain. The latter are affairs of yesterday. The American Census has been taken three times in a period of thirty years; the Enumeration of Great Britain twice. The United State of America have afforded a scene of continuous emigration, unparalleled in the history of the world. The difference of the two Enumerations in Great Britain is not more than may fairly be accounted for from the novelty of the experiment. The numbering of the citizens of Rome took place seventy-two times in a period of five hundred years.
In Rome every encouragement was given to marriage. The magistrates were perpetually anxious for the multiplication of her citizens. The number of her denizens was frequently augmented by enrolling fresh recruits from among her allies. Yet we see to what perpetual fluctuations it was exposed.
A single city affords certainly a very imperfect criterion respecting the multiplication of mankind. Many will be continually retiring from the town into the country. Many more will flow from all parts of the country to people the metropolis. The stock of her population will be in a state of continual change. I do not think that the Roman Census supplies a demonstrative argument against the increase of mankind. But I think it is beyond comparison the most ample document from ancient history to prove, that if they increase at all, that increase must be effected by degrees very slow, if not almost insensible.
Such was the policy, and such the experience of the most celebrated nations of antiquity on the subject of population. But Mr. Malthus has brought forward certain maxims of a very different tenor from Plato and Aristotle, writing of an imaginary republic: and upon them he remarks, “From these passages it is evident that Plato fully saw the tendency of population to increase beyond the means of subsistencea . And, again, “If he could propose to destroy certain children, and to regulate the number of marriages, his experience and his reasonings must have strongly pointed out to him the great power of the principle of increase, and the necessity of checking itb .” To which he adds, “Aristotle appears to have seen this necessity still more clearly.”
Now, all this is surely sufficiently memorable. We have Lycurgus, and Romulus, and Metellus, and Julius Cæsar, and Augustus, and all the practical politicians of antiquity, marshalled on one side; and Plato and Aristotle, who amused themselves with framing imaginary re publics, on the other: and Mr. Malthus chooses to adhere to the Utopian notions, or, as he phrases it, the “experience and reasonings” of the latter.
He calls Plato and Aristotle wise, because he thinks they fell into the same blunder as he has done. Would not any reasonable man wonder how the “experience of Plato” came to be so much greater than that of the immortal legislators of the republics of Sparta and of Rome, and of those who administered those republics for several hundred years after the frail bodies of their institutors had crumbled into dust?
But the fact is, that Plato and Aristotle never thought about the matter. They dreamed neither of a geometrical series, nor of any other series. They were guilty of no refinement in all this. They fixed the number of citizens in their imaginary republic; and all they meant in the passages the sagacity of which Mr. Malthus applauds, was, that if you are determined to have no more than five thousand citizens, you must take care not to have six.
Thus far I have been enquiring merely into the human population of the world, or, more accurately speaking, of those parts of the world known by the names of Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America; and certainly in these we have found no reasons to persuade us to believe in Mr. Malthus's doctrine of the stupendous and alarming multiplication of mankind. Let us now take the question upon a somewhat larger scale. Let us look abroad, and see what hap. pens among inferior animals.
In the first edition of the Essay on Population Mr. Malthus found no powers to check the calamitous multiplication of mankind, but vice and misery; to which he has since added moral restraint. No one of these three applies to the lower orders of animals. They are incapable of vice: I think Mr. Malthus will not say, that they refrain from procreation from a principle of prudence: and they are seldom found starved to death. Mr. Malthus has ventured to intrude himself into the mysteries of the administration of the universe, under the sole guidance of his geometrical and arithmetical ratios; and I shall not hazard much in asserting that this is a science of another order.
If there was no principle at work in the world but Mr. Malthus's “Principle of Population,” I should expect to find things much otherwise than they are. I know not that we have the smallest reason to suppose the animal world more numerous than it was three thousand, or (putting revelation out of the question, and supposing the earth to have subsisted so long) thirty thousand years ago. Every blade of grass, it may be, is peopled; but we may wander for days together in some parts of the world, without seeing an animal so big as a ferret or a hare. Why is this? Why is not nature
—strangled with her waste fertility,
The earth cumbered, and the winged air darked with plumes?
The spawn of fishes is most copious, but we know not how much of this is ripened into perfect animals. All we seem to know is, that the eaters are not more numerous than they have been from the earliest records of time, and that the small animals which serve for food to the large ones, are not produced in so much greater plenty than formerly, as to occasion any disturbance to the goodly order of the universe. We know that several species of animals have totally perished. We' read of the unicorn, the leviathan, the behemoth, the mammuth, and many others, and of some of them the skeletons, in whole or in part, subsist to this day. What animal was to prey on the mammuth, or to keep down the enormous multiplication of his species, by making use of him for food? If Mr. Malthus's system were true, the earth long ere this, ought to have been a habitation for mammuths only; or rather this enormous animal, after having devoured every other species, ought himself to have perished, and the globe to have become one vast solitude.
It is not my intention to pursue this speculation respecting the animal tribes. It is enough for me to have started the hint for the use of future enquirers. I return therefore to the topic of human population.
There is something much more mysterious in the principle by which the race of mankind is perpetuated, than any man has yet distinctly remarked: and he that shall sufficiently attend to it, instead of wondering that the globe has not long ago been overstocked with inhabitants, and seeking for vague and indefinite causes to account for the thinness of its population, will be apt rather to wonder why the human race has not by this time become extinct.
What are the lessons that experience teaches us on this subject? Of the families that I knew in the earliest stage of my recollection, the majority have perished. The persons to whom I refer were men in the middle station of life, and who lived at their ease. Why has their race become extinct? How few can trace their descent in the direct male line through many generations? The persons of the name of Smith, or White, or Brown, are indeed numerous; for these are not one family, but the name of old was given at random to many. But take any name that is singular, Shakespear, or Malthus, or Gildon, how many of that name will you find in the muster-roll? Upon the principle of the Essay on Population, the inhabitants of this country ought long ago to have been a people of nobles: the nobility with us, like the mammuth in the brute creation, ought to have eaten up the rest; for they had ample encouragement to multiply, which the peasant and the mechanic could scarcely in the smallest degree partake. Yet our nobility are in a striking degree new families, scarce any of them taking precedence of the bastards of Charles the Second. Such is the order of the universe. “One generation,” as Solomon says, one family, and one race of men, “passeth away, and another cometh;” but the human race survives these vicissitudes. In Scotland, titles are old, because they descend to heirs-general, and surnames are widely diffused, because it was the custom of the head of a clan to give his own name to all his followers.
A passage extremely to this purpose, on the subject of the town of Berne, occurs in Mr. Malthus's Essay, who has indeed always appeared to me a man of a candid mind; so much so, that in my opinion it would not have been difficult for any one of sufficient leisure and perspicacity, to construct an answer to the Essay on Population from the Essay itself. The passage purports to be an extract from the Statistique de la Suisse, in four volumes, octavo, published at Lausanne, in 1766. “In the town of Berne, from the year 1583 to 1654, the sovereign council had admitted into the Bourgeoisie 487 families, of which 379 became extinct in the space of two centuries, and in 1783 only 108 of them remained. During the hundred years from 1684 to 1784, 207 Bernese families became extinct. From 1624 to 1712, the Bourgeoisie was given to 80 families. In 1623 the sovereign council united the members of 112 different families, of which 58 only remainc .”
It has sometimes occurred to me whether Mr. Malthus did not catch the first hint of his geometrical ratio from a curious passage of Judge Blackstone, on consanguinity, which is as follows:
“The doctrine of lineal consanguinity is sufficiently plain and obvious; but it is at the first view astonishing to consider the number of lineal ancestors which every man has within no very great number of degrees: and so many different bloods is a man said to contain in his veins, as he hath lineal ancestors. Of these he hath two in the first ascending degree, his own parents; he hath four in the second, the parents of his father and the parents of his mother; he hath eight in the third, the parents of his two grandfathers and two grandmothers; and by the same rule of progression, he hath an hundred and twenty-eight in the seventh; a thousand and twenty-four in the tenth; and at the twentieth degree, or the distance of twenty generations, every man hath above a million of ancestors, as common arithmetic will demonstrate.
“This will seem surprising to those who are unacquainted with the increasing power of progressive numbers; but is palpably evident from the following table of a geometrical progression, in which the first term is 2, and the denominator also 2; or, to speak more intelligibly, it is evident, for that each of us has two ancestors in the first degree; the number of which is doubled at every remove, because each of our ancestors had also two immediate ancestors of his own.
This argument however from Judge Blackstone of a geometrical progression would much more naturally apply to Montesquieu's hypothesis of the depopulation of the world, and prove that the human species is hastening fast to extinction, than to the purpose for which Mr. Malthus has employed it. An ingenious sophism might be raised upon it, to shew that the race of mankind will ultimately terminate in unity. Mr. Malthus indeed should have reflected, that it is much more certain that every man has had ancestors, than that he will have posterity, and that it is still more doubtful, whether he will have posterity to twenty, or to an indefinite number of generations.
Another remark also it is proper to make on this extract. Judge Blackstone does indeed shew, that the population of the world is, in one sense, the proper subject of a geometrical ratio. But his ratio is essentially different from that of Mr. Malthus. The Commentator on the Laws of England does not pretend to assign any period of time, any precise numbers of years, to his doubling; whereas the Essay on Population not only affirms a doubling by direct generation, which is not true; but it is also of the essence of the doctrine there delivered, that this doubling shall take within a limited and assignable portion of time.
In treating on this subject of population,, and considering whether the small number of the present inhabitants of the earth is altogether to be ascribed to the inroads of vice and misery, it is certainly not wholly unworthy of our attention to observe, that some of those countries from which we have drawn our examples of the scarcity of men, were among the countries in which liberty and equality most abounded, and where distress was the least known. The two most flourishing states of ancient Greece, were Sparta and Athens; and in both the laborious occupations were assigned to slaves, while the free citizens lived in comparative idleness. In Sparta there was little motive to industry, as all property was in common: a citizen was there thought to be disgraced, if he practised any of the arts. In Athens Solon made an exception, in favour of statuary and painting, which were therefore termed liberal artse . Some of the citizens of Athens were enterprising, and sought to accumulate wealth; but the greater part were contented with the condition in which they were born. In the Symposium of Xenophon, a curious representation of the state of the Athenians in this respect is put into the mouth of one Charmides. “When I was wealthy,” says he, “1 was exposed to perpetual demands for the support of government, or for the expences of the theatre. I could not go beyond the confines of Attica, without incurring the suspicion of the magistrates, and was obliged to court the favour of the vilest informers. Now, on the contrary, that I have, become poor, I go where I chuse; I am treated with respect and deference by the rich, who regard me with the same terror I once felt for others; and, when in want, I can require of the state to support me.” These were the countries in which to have tried the geometrical ratio; and it was tried. The constitution of Sparta endured five hundred years; with what effect we have seen. The government of Rome was perhaps the happiest for its citizens, and certainly produced, while in its vigour, the greatest quantity of true energy and heroic virtue, of any government that ever existed. Nor will the government of the canton of Berne be cited among those that have most oppressed their citizens.
In the Grecian republics the increase of mankind could not have been kept down in their citizens by want, for every citizen had a right to call on the state to support him. And in Sparta when the citizens had all been fed, there was a numerous train of Helots, by whom the mechanical labour of the community was performed, and who we may be sure would not all be starved. The citizens therefore, the decrease of whom I have exemplified in striking instances, were, it is certain, always plentifully fed, and in that, and every other way that might seem to have the greatest promise of success, encouraged to multiply their species.
Of Hispaniola and Peru, such as they were when first visited by their European invaders, our accounts are not perhaps perfectly satisfactory and accurate: but I think we know enough to enable us to pronounce that, if vice and misery were all they had to depend upon for the stability of their condition, and the well being of the whole, they were very slenderly provided in these respects. The case is different with respect to the missions of Paraguay. These fall properly and fully within the province of history. We labour under no want of records respecting them. And I should therefore apprehend that, as far as the evidence of general history is to be admitted for proof, the doctrine of the geometrical ratio was fully tried in that celebrated establishment.
It should seem then that vice and misery are not altogether such powerful agents, and have by no means done so much for the well being of society as Mr. Malthus imagines. All the political establishments which have just been enumerated, contrived to do with a very small portion of them; and we have no reason to believe respecting any one of them, that they were overwhelmed with the multitude of their citizens. Indeed it is a strange hypothesis, so violent that one wonders that it could for a moment have imposed on human credulity, so shocking that it might drive all reasonable beings to despair, to suppose the agency of vice and misery to be so active and gigantic, that by those alone or, as Mr. Malthus expressively terms it, by “every cause which in any degree contributes to shorten the natural duration of human lifef ,” three times as many children die in years of nonage in the Old World as in the United States of America, and that thus and thus only our population is kept down to a level, while, if we were as virtuous and happy as the citizens of that republic, it would not fail to double itself in less than twenty-five years. Every reader, I apprehend, who has gone thus far along with me, will feel satisfied, that there is some gross mistake in Mr. Malthus's statement respecting the population of North America: and it will be the business of the Fourth Book of the present work to endeavour to lay open the sources of that mistake.
Views Of Man And Society Which Result From The Preceding Facts.
I turn now from the dreary speculations of Mr. Malthus, to the venerable recollection of what has been the creed of all ages and nations upon this interesting subject.
Mr. Malthus's doctrine is directly calculated to bring our human nature into hatred and contempt;” a crime I should think somewhat greater than that which Mr. Pitt made a law to counteract, “the bringing hatred and contempt upon the government of the united kingdom.” One of his distinguishing positions is the necessity of warning men of the evil of marrying, except the few who, in the vicissitude of sublunary things, shall conceive they have a fair ” prospect of being able to support a family:” and he recommends that those who slight this warning, shall, with the innocent offspring they bring into the world, be “left to the punishment of Nature, the punishment of want.” Almighty author of us all! what a thing is man that thou hast made, the existence of which, in great numbers, and without strict limitations, is to be counteracted by such sharp menaces, menaces that it is recommended should by no means be left as a dead lettera !
What is the idea we were taught of old to conceive of this creature, man?
“Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet; all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field, the fowl of the air, and the fish of the seab .”
“I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there were none of themc .”
I know not whether I shall be excused in putting the modern language of an uninspired writer, by the side of these venerable authorities.
Shakespear says: “What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason; how infinite in faculties; in form and moving how express and admirable; in action how like an angel; in apprehension how like a God; the beauty of the world; the paragon of animals!”
An author of infinitely inferior talents has delivered a similar idea with exquisite beauty.
It has accordingly been held in all ages, that it was one of the first duties of a citizen, to give birth to his like, and bring offspring to the state. It is the voice of nature, and the law of nature, that every man should rejoice in posterity; however perverted institutions may have often turned this blessing, as it stands in the law of human feelings and human understanding, into a calamity.
As such it is perpetually spoken of in the records of the Christian religion.
“As arrows in the hand of a giant,” says David (and be it remembered that he was a statesman, a legislator, and a king),” even so are little children. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: he shall not be ashamed, but he shall speak with the enemies in the gatee .”
Again: “Blessed is he that feareth the Lord: his wife shall be as a fruitful vine in the sides of his house; his children shall be like olive plants round about his tablef .”
Solomon, the son and successor of David, was plainly of the same opinion. He says,” Children's children are the crown of old men; and they are the glory of their fatherg .”
The historian of the Judges of the Jewish nation has recorded his opinion on this subject, by his manner of narrating a fact. Of Abdon, one of the Judges, he has handed down the memory merely in one brief patriarchal painting. “He had forty sons, and thirty grandsons, which rode on threescore and ten asses' coltsh .”
It has already appeared that all the great legislators and enlightened statesmen that ever existed, have seen the subject of population in the light in which it is here exhibited. It is only a few speculators in their closets, a Plato, an Aristotle, and a Malthus, that have regarded it in different points of view.
The language of Augustus is that of all practical politicians. “The city of Rome does not consist of its houses, its porticoes, and its public buildings; it is the men of Rome that constitute the city. The object of my care is to perpetuate the commonwealth; and in this I call upon each member of the community to contribute his part.”
The amiable and enlightened author of Telemachus expresses himself thus. [The admonition is addressed by Mentor, to a king who had been spoiled by false ideas of greatness and renown.] “Know that you are a king, only just so far as you have men over whom you reign. It is not extent of territory that makes the monarch, but the number of human beings by whom that territory is peopled. Let the country in which you rule be moderate in extent; cover it with innumerable inhabitants; let those inhabitants be sober, industrious and active; and your power, your prosperity, and your glory will be greater, than those of all the conquerors that ever existedi .”
Sir Richard Steele, in the Spectatork , has treated the same subject, in that fine vein of deep feeling and pure bonhommie in which he so marvellously excelled. “There is,” says he, speaking in the person of an imaginary correspondent, “another accidental advantage in marriage which has fallen to my share; I mean the having a multitude of children. These I cannot but regard as very great blessings. When I see my little troop before me, I rejoice in the additions I have made to my species, to my country, and to my religion, in having produced such a number of reasonable creatures, citizens, and Christians. I am pleased to see myself thus perpetuated; and as there is no production comparable to that of a human creature, I am more proud of having been the occasion of ten such glorious productions, than if I had built a pyramid at my own expence, or published as many volumes of the finest wit and learning.”
How refreshing is this! It is a return to nature and human feelings. It is in the nature of a letter of licence, permitting man to be man, allowing him to enlarge himself, and to spread into all the ramifications of social existence. Let, not the system of the universe be calumniated! There is a sublime harmony between man as an individual, and man collectively considered. Private and public feelings, our love of our selves and of all that is nearest to us, and our love of our country and our species, all operate to the same end. The interests of the one and of the other, through the whole extent of their great outline, coincide.
For twenty years the heart of man in this island has been hardening through the theories of Mr. Malthus. What permanent effect this may have upon the English character I know not: but I am sure it was high time that it should be stopped. We were learning, at least as many of us as studied the questions of political economy, and these are by no means the most despicable part of the community, to look askance and with a suspicious eye upon a human being, particularly on a little child. A woman walking the streets in a state of pregnancy, was an unavoidable subject of. alarm. A man, who was the father of a numerous family, if in the lower orders of society, was the object of our anger. We could not look at a human being with the eye of a painter, as a delicious subject, of contemplation, with the eye of a moral philosopher, as a machine capable of adorning the earth with magnificence and beauty, or with the eye of a divine, as a creature with a soul to be saved, and destined to the happiness of an immortal existence. Our first question, and that regarded as a most difficult one, was, how he was to be maintained? It was not enough that he was born with the implements and the limbs, by which exuberant subsistence is to be produced. It was not enough that there was room for many millions of'human beings more than now exist on the face of the earth. We were reduced (oh, miserable slavery!) to enquire, whether he was born among the easier orders of society, whether he was the son of a father, who had a fair “prospect of being able to support a family.” We were learning fast to calumniate the system of the universe, and to believe that the first duty it required of us was to prevent too many human beings (that last work of God, that sole ornament and true consummation of the orb we dwell in) from being born into the world.
The great tendency and effect of Mr. Malthus's book were to warn us against making mankind happy. Such an event must necessarily lead, according to him, to the most pernicious consequences. A due portion of vice and misery was held out to us as the indispensible preservative of society, at the same time that the author himself did not venture to tell us how much of these murderous ingredients was necessary. His doctrine immediately led to the reversing all that had hitherto been held to be genuine politics, or sound moral philosophy. The theories of Mr. Malthus then being destroyed, the science of politics returns to its just and legitimate purpose, the enquiring how mankind in society, by every means that can be devised, may be made happy. Let us dismiss, now and forever, the heart of flint that has disgraced the beginning of the nineteenth century, and take to ourselves hearts of flesh, and pulses that shall beat responsive to all that can interest or agitate any one of our fellow-creatures.
The law against murder has two sources. First, as all law is, or is intended to be, expressive of the will of the community, murder is forbidden, because the safety of each is the interest of all; that which is perpetrated on one, may next be the lot of him, or me, or any. So far it is a question of selfish calculation, on the narrowest scale. But the law is also founded upon a deep feeling of the worth and estimation of man in the abstract; a feeling confirmed by reason, and recognised, as has already been said, by all enlightened legislators. “Who kills a man, kills a reasonable creature, God's image.”
The sentiment that teaches us to hold the life of man at a cheap rate, has been the source of all the crimes of statesmen and warriors. We have been told of monopolists, who have bought up all the corn of a country in a. period of famine, and seen with indifference thousands perishing around them, while they accumulated an immense fortune. Bonaparte in the year 1812 marched with an army of nearly four hundred thousand men into Russia, and, after a campaign of four months, escaped alone with difficulty back to Paris, while scarcely a remnant of his army survived the disasters into which he had led them: his pursuit was glory. But that of the disciples of Mr. Malthus is almost without a motive: they proceed with all the coldness of calculation, and expect neither wealth nor fame as the reward of their achievement. The check which the Author of the Essay on Population requires to keep down the numbers of mankind, is summed up by him in this expressive phrase1 ; “Every cause, which in any degree contributes to shorten the natural duration of human life:” in other words, whatever thing, that by sickness, by pain, by hunger, by hardship and calamity, wastes away, and slowly, with agony and throes, extinguishes the. taper of existence.
Fortunately however the system of the universe is guiltless of these calculations. An inexperienced philanthropist might have wished for the human species an easy mode of multiplication. Looking upon the vast tracts of the earth that have been naked and abandoned for ages, and considering that, at the lowest computation, the globe of earth would subsist twenty human beings for one of that handful that is at present scattered on its surface, he might have wished for a rapid mode of filling its desolate places. Of the hundreds of speculative men who have ascribed to our nature the power of such multiplication, scarcely one, till within these twenty years, has prognosticated any evil to result from it. But that power from which the human species derived its existence, has disposed of the matter otherwise. There are two considerations by which any commodity may be rendered precious. One is its intrinsic beauty and excellence; and the other the difficulty with which it is to be procured. In both ways the price of our human nature seems to be enhanced. We are not only “fearfully and wonderfully made,” the adapted dwelling of exquisite beauty and indescribable grace, if only the external form of man is considered, and by our mind capable of all excellent and astonishing things: but, be side this, it to this day remains a problem, whether the numbers of our species can be increased. We are warned therefore to make much of this precious creature, man, to nourish it in want, to support it in distress, to relieve it by every attention and every liberality, on no account to waste a treasure so inexpressibly more estimable than the mines of Peru; and, which is most of all, to raise this only inventive creature on the face of the earth, this creature susceptible of unlimited improvement, to all the perfection, whether of wisdom or happiness, whether in his individual or social capacity, that all our vigils and all our meditations can suggest to our performance.