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CHAPTER V.: inferences suggestd by the accounts 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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inferences suggestd by the accounts of sweden.
The labours however of the Swedish administrators on the subject of population, do not stop at the barely acquainting us with the possible progress of increase in the human species. By their elaborateness and their apparent accuracy they enable us to arrive at some fundamental ideas on the subject. To understand this let us here resume and apply the maxims delivered in the Third Chapter.
The principle there laid down, and which is the pole-star that must guide us in every sound disquisition on the real or possible increase of mankind, is that the multiplication of our species can only be carried on by women, already arrived at, and not having yet gone beyond, the age at which they are capable of child-bearing. These are the soil or nidus, in which the successive generations of mankind are reared; and we cannot be wrong in expressly directing our attention to this quarter.
To apply this principle to the subject in hand, no proceeding can be more obvious, than to have recourse to such Tables of Population, as profess to specify the sex, and most especially the ages, of the persons numbered, and from thence to endeavour to ascertain the proportion borne by the number of females capable of child-bearing in successive periods to each other. This number, to whatever it may amount, must be doubled, before we shall have reached the first step in Mr. Malthus's geometrical ratio for the increase of mankind by procreation only.
In adjusting the amount of women capable of child-bearing in any community, we must determine a certain limit in the flow of human life, before the beginning and after the close of which a woman is not entitled to be placed in the class under consideration. I will take this interval as beginning at twenty, and ending at forty-five years of age. I am sure that, in assuming a period of twenty-five years I am making a very ample allowance, I might indeed have commenced my date earlier. But premature marriages are not found favourable to the producing a numerous offspring. And the falling off of women from child-bearing before they reach forty-five years of age, is at least as frequent, as the examples of females who have become mothers before they had completed their twentieth year. This is most especially the case in countries where the season I have assigned for marriage is greatly anticipated. Thus in Persia, where a woman frequently marries at twelve, she is often found to be old and past child-bearing at thirty.
That we may treat of man as he is, and human societies as they are to be found, we must take some certain period of time and tract of country, with indifferent and impartial selection, and not some imaginary state of society which has perhaps never been found to exist. I will hereafter offer a few observations on such a societyb . But our present business is with the number of child-bearing females, that are actually found, or may be supposed to be found, in any established and settled community. They will be of all ages, from twenty to forty-five years. This will naturally and reasonably form the first term in our progression for the increase of mankind; and, as has just been said, this number must be doubled, in the tract of country we have chosen for our paint of observation, before any substantial and permanent population in that country, built upon procreation only, can be doubled.
In Sweden, according to Mr. Wargentin's Tables, the number of women capable of child-bearing was as follows.
One observation which suggests itself on the inspection of these Tables is, that the number of women proper for child-bearing, in each of Mr. Wargentin's enumerations, is to the numbers of the whole community in a proportion under one fifth, or, more accurately speaking, is as one to five and one-third nearly. This remark indeed is not decisive of the subject. The proportion will of course be varied, as the climate or season shall on the one hand be inauspicious for the rearing the born, or on the other be favourable to the increase of human longevity. It belongs immediately to the calculation of the value of lives, and only in an indirect manner to the question of the continuation or increase of the species. It may however be of use in enabling us to compare our conclusions respecting the population of Sweden, with such as may result from whatever we happen to know concerning the state of mankind in this respect in other countries. The difference in longevity and the value of lives, between Sweden, Germany, France, and England, and indeed every other country in which civilization has arrived at a certain point, and the climate is temperate, will not be found to be material, and therefore the same rules, so far as our enquiry is concerned, may be expected equally to apply to any of these countries.
A more essential observation, and which indeed applies to the foundation of our subject, will be suggested by a comparison of the number of women proper for child-bearing in each year, with the number of the born in that year. The births, for example, of 1757 were 81,878, and the number of women capable of child-bearing, of all ages, according to the returns for that year, were 436,542. Hence it appears that every five child-bearing women throughout the country in that year, gave a little more than one child to the state. In 1760 the births were 90,635, and the women capable of child-bearing 444,092; so that in that year every five child-bearing women gave somewhat less than one child. In 1763 the births were 90,152, and the women capable of child-bearing 458,236; so that in that year every five child-bearing women gave one child, with a fraction of excess considerably smaller than in 1757c .
This is a most material circumstance for enabling us to decide upon the propagation and increase of the human species. Taking this for the foundation of our speculations, our inference will be that every child-bearing woman, taking one with another, may be expected to bring four children, if the period of fruitfulness is of twenty, and five if it is of twenty-five years' duration. But the truth lies between the two. If we take the age of marriage at twenty, then the female does not become a mother till twenty-one: to which we may add, that a certain consideration is to be had of the diminishing fruitfulness of the human female during the concluding years of this period.
Let us try the argument afforded us by our information respecting Sweden in another point of view. Let us compare the number of the annual births in that country, with the number of females that annually arrive at twenty years of age.
From the Tables for 1757 it appears that the females then living, between the ages of twenty and twenty-five, were 104,872. I might here apply the rules furnished by Dr. Halley and Dr. Price for the calculation of lives, to enable me to determine how many of these might be supposed to be between twenty and twenty-one, and so forward. But the difference at this early period of life would be so small, that 1 prefer the simpler method of dividing the whole number by five, and concluding that 20,974 was the number of females who at the time of the enumeration in 1757 had completed the twentieth year of their age. The births for 1757 were 81,878, that is, not quite four to every female who in that year had completed her twentieth year. In 1760 the females completing their twentieth year were 20,723, and the births were 90,635, affording an average of 4 3/8 to 1. In 1763 these females were 21,023, and the births 90,152, affording an average of4 2/7 to 1.
Hence it follows, that in Sweden the females annually arriving at twenty years of age, may be considered as nearly equal to one fourth of the annual births; or, which is the same proposition in another form, that there are four births for every woman annually arriving at twenty. It is true, that the women who arrived at twenty in the year 1757 or any other year, were not the mothers of those births: other women between the ages of twenty and forty-five, if I may so express myself, bore these children for them: but it is a computation which will never be found belied in the annals of Swedish population, that the births of every year amounted to four times, or perhaps a small fraction above four times, the number of females who in that year arrived at twenty years of age. This has been the regular process: a certain number of females arrived every successive year, with a very small variation from year to year, at the age of twenty, and the births of that year have been found pretty exactly to quadruple the number of those females. Of consequence I may say, give me the number of females at twenty in any year in the community, and I will tell you the number of births. For ever, as far as we have yet had an opportunity of ascertaining, we shall have four births for every woman arriving at an age proper for child-bearing. What will be the effect of this, whether it will diminish, or keep up, or increase the population of a country, may be a subject of separate consideration.
A third reflection to the same purpose will be suggested to us, if we compare the amount of marriages and births according to Mr. Wargentin's Tables. He has given usd a statement of numbers under each of these heads for fifteen years, from 1749 to 1768 inclusive. The number of births added together amounts to 1,299,290 and the number of marriages to 315,482; that is, pretty exactly 4½ births to a marriage.
And here, by way of confirming what we have seen of Sweden, I will introduce, though somewhat prematurely, what appears on the subject in the population-abstracts of England and Wales. The registered births for 1810 are stated as 298,852. Of these I will take for granted that half are females, or 149,436. According to Dr. Price's calculations founded on the Swedish Tablese , of ten thousand females born, 5800 may be taken as living to complete the twentieth year of their age. Let us then apply the rule of proportion, and say, If 10,000 female births yield 5,800 females living to the age of twenty, what number of such females may we expect from a stock of 149,426 births? the answer is 86,667. Now the registered marriages for 1810, as given from the same authority as the births, are 84,470. —From this specimen I should be apt to conclude that, if we knew as much of the population of England as of that of Sweden, we should find them to a great degree parallel to each other.
Hence it appears, that, whether we compare the births to the whole number of women capable of child-bearing, or to the females annually arriving at twenty, or to the registers of marriages, we are equally led to the same conclusion.
Another important observation is suggested to us by the view of Mr. Wargentin's Tables. The marriages for 1757, according to the Tables, were 18,799, and the number of females arriving in that year at twenty 20,974. The marriages for 1760 are set down at 23,383, while the females arriving at twenty were only 20,723. Finally, the marriages for 1763 appear to have been 20,927, and the females arriving at twenty 21,028. Thus in one instance we find the number of marriages exceeding the number of females who in that year arrived at the marriageable age. But it must be obvious that that could not continue to be the case through any considerable series of years. The infallible inference then from this view of the subject is, that almost all the women in Sweden marry at some time of their lives. Or, to speak more precisely, there are nearly as many marriages annually, if we take for our foundation a series of fifteen or more years, as there are annually females arriving at twenty years of age.
And this position of the general prevalence of the marriage tief , will, when we come to reflect upon the subject, appear in its own nature sufficiently probable. The tastes of men are so various, that nothing is more common to observe, than that the homeliest women, as they may appear in the eye of a connoisseur, get husbands. Those females, whose destination in life seems to be to fill the situation of domestic servants, will perhaps be found very generally to marry, though a little later than they might otherwise have done. The females above the lower class, who, for want of the advantage of a portion, waste their years “in single blessedness,” are enough in number to have the power of making their complaints heard, but are extremely few, when compared with the total amount of females in a state or nation.
[b]See below, Mr. Booth's Dissertation,
[c]The proportion of one child born annually to five marriages, is recognized by Wargentin, Sussmilch, and Malthus. Sussmilch, vol. I. p. 231. Malthus, vol. I. p.413.
[e]Vol. II. p. 410.
[f]When I say general, I mean so far as the female is concerned. The following extract from Graunt's Observations on the Bills of Mortality, p. 65, is not unworthy of attention, as it may be applied to this part of the subject.