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CHAPTER VII.: of the principles of a sound policy on the subject of population. - 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 principles of a sound policy on the subject of population.
Before we dismiss the question of subsistence, it is however proper to consider it in another point of view, in a point of view, not originating in the visionary theories and wild chimeras of Mr. Malthus, but in facts.
The only substantial evidence which has thus far been collected on this branch of political economy, teaches us, that the numbers of mankind have no permanent tendency to increasea . The population of Europe, of Asia, of Africa, is at best at a stand. In some countries it is certainly diminished; and we have, I believe, no sound reason to think that in any it has increased. The solitary example of North America is produced against this mighty mass of experience, North America, a country, which for a century past has been the receptacle of almost all the emigrations that have been made from all parts of the world. Even in North America the inhabitants of the British dominions have not increased; and the negroes have not increased. A man must be the free citizen of a republic, before he is entitled to the benefit—for benefit there it is considered to be—of the geometrical ratio.
But what is most material,—for enumerations, after all, are an obscure and uncertain kind of evidence,—is, that it is the result of all the collections that have yet been made in all the countries of the world, that the wedlock of two human beings does not produce upon an average more than four children. In America we have seen that the ratio in this respect is the same as in the old world. This indeed is the true kernel of the question: and, if there is any real increase in the. numbers of mankind, it is thus only that we can be rationally convinced of it. This is the way in which alone, as Mr. Malthus phrases it, “it can be ascertained to be from procreation only.” Wherever it shall be found that there are only four children to a marriage, it appears to be clearly demonstrated, there can be no actual increase, and we have more reason to fear a decrease, of the numbers of mankind; least of all can there be an increase in the United States, where we are assured that half the population is under sixteen years of age.
I by no means undertake to assert, that there is absolutely no tendency in the human species to increase, though I certainly think, that the idea of guarding ourselves against the geometrical ratio, is just as sagacious and profound, as that of Don Quixote's fighting with the windmills. All I affirm is, that the evidence we yet possess is against the increase: and I think it is the business of the true statesman and practical philanthropist in the mean time to act on such evidence as we have. It will be time enough to hunt our species out of the world, and “stop the propagation of mankind,” when we see such danger, as no man up to the present time can have any solid reason to apprehend.
The business therefore of the true statesman and practical philanthropist under this head is extremely simple. Let us take it for granted that England and Wales at this moment contain ten millions of inhabitants. Let us assume with Mr. Malthus, that there are not at present provisions within the country to subsist this number. Certain it is, that, practically speaking, and looking to the distribution only, all are not adequately subsisted. The proper enquiry is, how this is to be remedied: and scarcely any man, considering the state of our soil, its cultivated and uncultivated parts, will venture to deny that a remedy may be accomplished, whether it shall be by certain wise changes in the mechanism of society, or by breaking up more ground, and rendering that which is already inclosed more available to its genuine purposes.
This speculation brings us back to the feelings of unsophisticated humanity, which it is the clear tendency of Mr. Malthus's theory to expel out of the world. He says, No, we must not increase the happiness of our contemporaries, lest by so doing we should immeasurably increase the candidates for happiness and subsistence. He would starve the present generation, that he may kill the next.
In the mean while, the idle dream of his ratios being dispelled, human nature is itself again. We return to the morality of our ancestors. We return to the morality of the Christian religion, and of all the religious leaders and legislators from the beginning of the records of mankind. Wherever I meet a man, I meet a brother. I recognise in him the image of the all-perfect. I see a creature, “fearfully and wonderfully made,” and admire the exquisiteness of the workmanship. I do not think of effacing God's image, or of neglecting and superciliously setting light by that on which he has affixed his seal. I do not seek to suppress the most natural impulses of a human being, and turn the world into a great monastery. No: if it is ever unwise for man to marry (and unfortunately this is too true in a variety of instances), it is not owing, as Mr. Mai thus impiously l would have us to believe, to any thing in the original and indestructible laws of nature, but to the partiality and oppressiveness of human institutions.
It is the duty of legislators, and was always so understood, till Mr. Mai thus came with his wild theory, built upon the erroneous construction of what was seen in one corner of the earth, and in flagrant opposition to all other evidence, and upon his perversion of the idea of subsistence,—I say, it is the duty of legislators, to deal tenderly with the life of man, not brutally and rashly to extinguish that, which all their art can never revive again, to cherish it as the apple of the eye, to believe that when they cut off a man, they impair so far the nerves by which a nation is sustained, and to tremble and hesitate before they take on themselves so awful a responsibility. Mr. Malthus's theory on the contrary would persuade us to hail war, famine and pestilence, as the true friends of the general weal, to look with a certain complacent approbation upon the gallows and massacre, and almost to long for the decimation of our species, that the survivors might be more conveniently accommodated.