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CHAPTER IV.: accounts which are given of the population of sweden. - 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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accounts which are given of the population of sweden.
Having thus delivered what may perhaps be found to be the fundamental principle of our subject, we may profitably proceed to the examination of such documents, as the assiduity of political governors, or the industry of authors who have for whatever reason concerned themselves with the numbers of mankind, has collected on the subject of the populousness of nations.
It will be clear from what has been said, that tables of population for any very limited period, which do not distinguish the sexes and the different ages of the inhabitants of a country, are absolutely of no use in determining the question of the power, generally, or in any particular case, of progressive increase in the numbers of mankind. The two enumerations therefore, which were made of the people of Great Britain in 1801 and 1811, are merely so much labour thrown away.
Having taken some pains to look through all that is known of the population of countries, I can find nothing that affords a chance of reasonable satisfaction, except the accounts which have been published of the population of Sweden. To them therefore for the present I shall particularly direct my attention.
Sweden is a regio pene toto divisa orbe. It receives few emigrants, and sends forth few colonies. In the period to which the accounts relate that I am about to produce, this kingdom has enjoyed a great portion of internal tranquillity; and, as will more fully appear in the sequel, has possessed almost every imaginable advantage for the increase of its inhabitants by direct procreation.
Of the people of Sweden I find an account to have been taken, from three years to three years, in the enlightened manner above suggested, that is, under separate heads as to sex and age, from the year 1751, to, I believe, the year 1775. From that period it has been continued to the present time, with an interval of five years between each enumeration.
The collectors of the Swedish enumerations have further presented us with Tables of the annual births, marriages and deaths; and have even, in two instances, proceeded to compare the population as it is, with the population as it ought to be: thus,
Now the upper line in each of these examples, I conceive, can mean nothing else, than that, if we add the report of the intermediate births to the preceding enumeration, and subtract the intermediate deaths, the result ought to be as here stated. If this be the case, it is certainly worthy of remark, how near the computatory and the actual enumerations come to each other, and consequently how high a degree of credit is due to the Swedish Tables.
A judicious abstract of the information then existing on the subject, was published in the Swedish language, in the Memoirs of the Royal Academy of Sciences at Stockholm for the Year 1766, by Mr. Peter Wargentin, secretary to that institution. A continuation of Mr. Wargentin's paper has appeared, but somewhat irregularly, in the subsequent volumes of the same collection. I will set out with exhibiting an ample specimen of these Tables of populationb .
The first remark that suggests itself on these tables is, that they constitute the only documents which prove from actual observation, and in the compass of ordinary history, that there is a power of numerical increase in the human species. Exclusively of this evidence, all is conjecture merely; and one man has as much right to believe, with Montesquieu, that the race of mankind is by a fatal necessity rapidly verging towards extinction, as another to embrace the wild and chimerical opinions of Mr. Malthus, and the far-famed doctrine of the geometrical ratio.
In Sweden there has been for a certain period a progressive increase of population; and we have great reason to believe that this increase is chiefly or solely the effect of the principle of procreation. To judge from what has appeared in fifty-four years, from 1751 to 1805, we should say that the human species, in some situations, and under some circumstances, might double itself in somewhat more than one hundred years.
This is all that is known on the subject, which is in the smallest degree calculated to afford a foundation for Mr. Malthus's theories. For it will fully appear, when we come to treat of the United States of North America, that they do not yield him the slightest support.
This is all that is known in any degree favourable to Mr. Malthus's theories. What then is there that is known on the other side?
Every thing which has been brought together in the former book. We have not the smallest reason to believe, that the population of the earth has increased, or that the human race is in any way more numerous now, than it was three thousand years ago. This is a fact worthy of the most serious consideration;
Mr. Malthus dismisses this question in the slightest manner, and in his usual summary and dictatorial way pronounces that it is vice and misery that keep down the numbers of mankind. As his theory is delivered in three lines, “Population, when unchecked, goes on doubling itself every twenty-five years, or increases in a geometrical ratio:” so his answer to every objection lies also in three lines, “The positive checks to population are various, and include every cause whether arising from vice or misery, which in any degree contributes to shorten the natural duration of human lifec .”
It is not thus that the subject will be treated in after-ages, and when philosophy shall have extended its empire over this topic as over others. Mr. Malthus has taken his contemporaries by surprise, and, partly by the dazzling simplicity of his hypothesis, and partly by its tendency, supporting as it does, and furnishing the apology of, almost all human vices, and particularly those of the rich and great, has gained a countless number of adherents.
But what he has here delivered has not even the semblance of science. And patient men, I will venture to predict, will hereafter arise, who will look narrowly into the subject, and will endeavour from clear and intelligible principles, not by one sweeping and unlimited clause, to account for the facts brought together in my first book.
The question then will be, to consider, What is the reason that the multiplication of mankind, such as we find it for fifty-four years in Sweden, has never prevailed for any very extensive period of time, in any country of the worldd . This question necessarily involves with it another, and infinitely important question, Whether it is in any way the duty of political governments, or of those who possess power over their fellow-men, to meditate or provide any purposed or intentional checks against the increase of the human race?
My concern in the present Book is with the question, after what rate it is possible, judging from facts and actual experience, for the race of mankind, under the most favourable circumstances, to increase. It will be the object of the Third Book, to put together such hints as I have been able to collect, and such reflections as have occurred to me, that may be calculated to afford a methodical and satisfactory solution of the fact generally as to the non-increase of the human race. At least I shall hope, as I said in a former instancee , that “some foundation will be laid by me, and the principle will begin to be understood.” I am anxious to “set before other enquirers evidence that they may scan, and arguments which, if convincing, they may expand, and if otherwise, which they may refute.” I am anxious to furnish the materials of a solution, if not a solution in all its forms, of the phenomenon of the non-increase of the human race so far as the records of authentic profane history extend.
[b]Of the Tables I have here inserted, the first four are to be found in the volume of the Swedish Memoirs for 1766, the fifth in the volume for 1809, and the 6th in the volume for 1776. The seventh is a Table of my own construction, founded generally on the enumerations I met wilh dispersed in different volumes of this work.
[c]Essay on Population, Vol. I. p. 21.
[d]It may be worth while to illustrate this proposition in figures. thus:
So that by this way of calculation Sweden contained, at the time of the destruction of the Western Empire m 476, little more than three hundred souls, and when this part of the globe began to send forth its hordes, which destroyed the power of the Romans, and changed the face of the world, it could scarcely boast a human inhabitant.