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Chapter IX.: reports of the population of the united states analysed and examined. - 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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reports of the population of the united states analysed and examined.
I now come to the principal point in my whole subject. It was America, that by the inaccurate representations that were made of her population, gave occasion to Mr. Malthus's theory of the geometrical ratio. The United States of America have since exerted a laudable and enlightened diligence in collecting an accurate account of their population. Mr. Malthus indeed, in the letter with which he favoured me of the date of October 25, 1818, appeals to “the three regular censuses of 1790, 1800, and 1810,” as “more than confirming” his statement respecting the manner in which the population of that country has increased. Upon that point I join issue with him. I am ready to refer the whole question to the figures that are given in the statements of the American Census.
In Mr. Booth's Dissertation on the Ratios of Increase in Population and in the Means of Subsistence, the reader will find many important remarks on the Tables of the Census, shewing, from the numbers of the population of that country under the heads of the different ages of human life, compared with the population of Sweden, that the United States cannot be a country increasing its inhabitants in regular series through the power of procreationa . I shall, confine myself in what I have here to offer, to a single, but a very conclusive particular in the case.
In this mutual appeal therefore we are of course to take it for granted on both sides, that the reports of the American Census are accurate.
Let us first then recollect what is the question we have to examine. If the publication of the Census is accurate, we are inevitably agreed that the population of the United States, as it was found in the year 1810, amounted to 7,239,903 persons. That is not the question.
I will also admit, if Mr. Malthus pleases, (though I look upon the Census of 1790, which exhibits no distinction of ages or classes, with a certain degree of suspicion) that the population of the United States in that year amounted to no more than 3,929,326, affording an increase in twenty years of 3,310,577 persons. That is not the question.
The number of the inhabitants of the United States, whatever it amounts to, proves nothing.
The rapid increase of that number, whatever be the measure of that rapidity, proves nothing.
The question between us is the cause of that increase. Mr. Malthus says, that it “has repeatedly been ascertained to be from procreation only.” I say, the cause is emigration.
Now fortunately the contents of the reports of the American Census seem to set that question for ever at rest. Certainly, if those reports may be depended on as accurate, I see no way of escaping from the conclusion I draw from them.
Wherever there is an increase of mankind from procreation, the number of the born must be proportional to that increase.
Wherever there is an increase of mankind “from procreation only,” to such a degree as “to double the population in less than twenty-five years,” the proportion of the number of the born must be correspondently great, The number of the born will always be a symbol denoting that increase: the two facts will necessarily harmonise with each other.
Dr. Franklin says, that, in order to effect a doubling of numbers by procreation every twenty years, it is necessary that we should “reckon eight births to a marriage:” and I believe he is right.
I have shewn in the Sixth Chapter of the First Book, treating of China, that, wherever “marriage is greatly encouraged,” there must be as many children born, as in those countries where the population is supposed “to double itself, for one hundred and fifty years successively, every twenty or twenty-five years.” All the difference is, that in countries, like China, where the population is at stand, three fourths of the born must be murdered, destroyed by vice and misery, or cut off by some of those “various causes, which, some sooner, and some later, contribute to shorten the natural duration of human life:” while, in the countries where the geometrical ratio operates with full effect, the utmost care is taken of, and the utmost success attends upon, the rearing of children. To keep up the population of a country we must reckon upon four births to a marriage; to double the population we must reckon upon eight. Where there are four births to a marriage, the number of births must double the number of procreants: where there are eight, it must quadruple it. Thus, as I illustrated in the case of China, if a country has three hundred millions of inhabitants, we may fairly reckon upon half the population, or one hundred and fifty millions, as adults. These adults must procreate the double of their own number, or three hundred millions of children: otherwise the population would decline. But, if they are capable of doubling their number every twenty or twenty-five years, they must then procreate six hundred millions of children.
The authors of the American Census for 1800 and 1810 have fortunately classed the “free white inhabitants” according to their ages, and thus enabled us to ascertain the number of adults and the number of children. This is the most important piece of information relatively to our subject, that can be conceived. According to the Census of 1810, the “free white inhabitants under sixteen years of age” throughout the Union amount to 2,933,211, and the “free white inhabitants above sixteen years of age,” to 2,928,882, placing those under and above sixteen years of age as nearly as possible on an equality. Hence it inevitably follows, that throughout the Union the population, so far as depends on procreation, is at a stand, and that there are not on an average more than four births to every female capable of child-bearing. This is altogether as satisfactory, as if we had a table of births and marriages for every State of the Union, as particular as Sussmilch's Tables for the German dominions of the king of Prussia. It may be considered as equivalent to a general reduction and summary that should be made of the results of such tables when they had once been constructed: and, as being made on a larger scale, it may seem to be less liable to error.
I have more than once complained of the pictureless generalities of Mr. Malthus's theories. If it were not for this quality, it is impossible that they should have obtained credence for a moment. If it were true, that the population of the United States had “been found to double itself, for above a century and a half successively, in less than twenty-five years;” and that this had been “repeatedly ascertained to be from procreation only;” it is absolutely certain that in that country the children would outnumber the grown persons two or three times over. It would have been a spectacle to persons from other parts of the world of the most impressive nature. The roads and the streets would have seemed covered with children. It would have appeared a nation of children. I should have expected that, as I have read respecting some schools where the pupils have been extremely numerous, the children would have risen in rebellion, and overpowered their elders, would have erected a parliament and legislature of their own.
There is nothing more deceitful than the eye of man, when by its aid only we endeavour to form an estimate of numbers. A traveller in New England, or even a native, would go into one family and another, and see six, eight, ten or twelve children, all brothers and sisters, and, especially if he had been previously initiated in the mysteries of Mr. Malthus's book, would become perfectly satisfied of the actual operation of the geometrical ratio. The Census sets all this at rest for ever. It assures us from the highest authority, that there are no more children in the United States than there are grown persons. Of consequence, supposing all to many agreeably to Dr. Franklin's hypothesis, the average number of births to a marriage is remarkably small: four must be an ample allowance. I own, for myself, I felt some scepticism as to the European account of four births to a marriage; I thought that still there might be some latent error: but, with respect to the United States, I do not see how we can resist the evidence before us; four births to a marriage must be the utmost that occurs in that country.