Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter VIII.: diseases in the territory of the united states. - Of Population. An Enquiry concerning the Power of Increase in the Numbers of Mankind
Return to Title Page for Of Population. An Enquiry concerning the Power of Increase in the Numbers of Mankind
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Chapter VIII.: diseases in the territory of the united states. - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
diseases in the territory of the united states.
the two preceding Chapters are to be considered as an application of the principles of my Second Book, respecting the power of increase in the numbers of the human species, to the particular case of the United States. I will proceed in this Chapter to apply the principles of my Third Book to the same subject, in the form of a review of the causes by which the amount of the numbers of the human species is reduced or restrained. If it shall appear that the United States possess scarcely any advantage in this respect over the established kingdoms of Europe, this will add great accession to the force by which Mr. Malthus's theory is to be taken away and destroyed.
There are only two ways in which the population of any country can be increased from procreation: first, by a greater number of births; or secondly, if of those who are born a smaller number are prematurely cut off by disease or otherwise. Now, I say, a greater number of children are not born to a marriage in the United States than in Europe: this has been the topic of the two preceding Chapters. To which I here add, that a smaller number are not prematurely cut off, by disease or otherwise, in the United States than in Europe: this is the proposition I seek to establish in the present Chapter.
The first disease I will mention is Consumption. Mr. Warden, late consul for the United States at Paris, in his Statistical Account of that republic, published in 1819a , says, “At Portsmouth in New Hampshire, one fifth of the cases in the bill of mortality for 1801 is of this descriptionb . In the city of New York the cases of consumption of the lungs occupy nearly one fourth of the tables of diseases for the year 1802; and nearly one fifth in the years 1803, 1804 and 1805. In the year 1816 the number of consumptive cases was 678, exceeding by 60 what took place in 1815.”
The second disease I will mention is Dysentery, ordinarily known in the United States by the name of the Summer Complaint. This disease, according to Mr. Wardenc , “is seldom fatal.” But, according to my information, it is much otherwise. A very respectable lady, who has returned to England after seventeen years' residence in Pennsylvania, assures me, that a great proportion of the children in that state are carried off by it under three years of age, and that upon her return to Great Britain it was matter of surprise to her, to see, as no uncommon thing, families with seven or eight children. Another lady, a native of Boston, and wife of a gentleman filling an official situation, added to this, that it was not unfrequent in her part of the Union, for two or three children in a family to be taken off at once with this complaint.
A further evidence of the unhealthiness of the climate of the United States, of which much has been heard, is the Premature Decay of Teeth. Volney, in his View of the Climate and Soil of the United Statesd remarks, “Of a hundred persons under thirty, it may be affirmed you will scarcely find ten entirely unaffected in this respect. It is particularly lamentable to observe almost generally, that handsome young women, from the age of fifteen or twenty, have their teeth disfigured with black spots, and frequently great part of them gone.”The lady from Pennsylvania whom I mentioned above, stated to me, that the citizens of that state, male and female, were generally found to decline from their youth and strength at twenty-five or thirty years of age. She further expressed herself as having no doubt that the continuity of population from their own proper sources was less full there than in England: for which she assigned four reasons; first, that the mothers suckle their children longer; secondly, that in Pennsylvania there are few old people; thirdly, that more children die; and lastly, as above observed, that a large family of children is a rare phenomenon there. She added, that the native Americans, both male and female, are easily distinguished by the sallowness of their complexions; and she further mentioned as a corroboration of her idea, that the quakers, the original founders of Philadelphia, now constitute very considerably less than one fourth of the population of that city, that there are no new colonists of that sect, and that the obvious consequence has followed, that notoriously the number of quakers in that part of the United States do not increase.
I will say little on the subject of the Yellow Fever, which, according to Volney, “grows more and more common in the United States,” and which is known, in point of devastation, and the rapidity of its progress, only to fall short of the plague.
It is indeed notorious, that a new settled country is always an unhealthy one. North America abounds with swamps. Mr. Warden undertakes to assign “reasons why the country of the United States has been generally considered as unhealthy.” He remarks, that “in Carolina the country was found to be more sickly, in every situation where the surface was recently broken up for agricultural purposes.” Volney observes, “Intermittent autumnal fevers and agues prevail in the United States to a degree of which it would be difficult to form a conception. They are particularly endemic in places recently cleared, in valleys, and on the borders of waters, either running or stagnant. In the autumn of 1796, in a journey of more than seven hundred miles, I will venture to say that I did not find twenty houses free from these diseases. In a journey of two hundred and fifty miles from Cincinnati to Fort Detroit, in a company of twenty-five persons, we did not encamp one night, without at least one of the party being seized with an intermittent fever. When we arrived at Detroit, there were only three of our company in health. At Grenville, the head-quarters of the army that had just conquered the country, of three hundred and seventy persons or thereabouts, three hundred had the fever. These attacks are not immediately fatal, but they undermine the constitution, and gradually shorten life. Other travellers have observed before me, that in South Carolina for instance, a person is as old at fifty, as in Europe at sixty-five or seventy; and I have heard all the Englishmen with whom I was acquainted in the United States, say that their friends, who had been settled a few years in the southern or even the central States, appeared to them to have grown as old again, as they would have done in England or Scotland.”
I conclude this chapter with asking, What probability is there, that a people, circumstanced as has here been described, should have afforded a phenomenon, as to the rapid multiplication of the species from their own proper resources only, which never occurred in any other country or age of the world? In reality it seems perfectly obvious that, at least in the middle and the southern States, the population could not have maintained its stand from one generation to another, without a perpetual succession of supplies from abroad.
Mr. Malthus indeed is willing to confine his imaginary doubling of the population by procreation only, to “the Northern States.” But this is another of the numerous fallacies that start upon us from every side in the examination of this subject. The doubling, according to the Census, extends over the whole Union. If the New England States of themselves furnish this universal doubling, and spread forth their colonies incessantly to the west and the south, while the southern and middle states remain in a neutrality in this respect, then Mr. Malthus has put down his increase of population there, and consequently the principle of increase inherent in human nature, vastly shortly of the truth: and I should think that he might with sufficient modesty have ventured, instead of a doubling, to hare affirmed, that, “in the Northern States the population has been found to quadruple itself, and that from procreation only, every twenty-five years.”
[a]Part I, chap. vii.
[b]The proportion is exactly the same in the bill of mortality for the same place in 1809.