Front Page Titles (by Subject) [CHAPTER II.]: [OF POPULATION CONSIDERED AS AN ARTICLE OF POLITICAL ECONOMY.] - Lectures on Political Economy, vol. 1
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[CHAPTER II.]: [OF POPULATION CONSIDERED AS AN ARTICLE OF POLITICAL ECONOMY.] - Dugald Stewart, Lectures on Political Economy, vol. 1 
Lectures on Political Economy. Now first published. Vol. I. To which is Prefixed, Part Third of the Outlines of Moral Philosophy, edited by Sir William Hamilton (Edinburgh, Thomas Constable, 1855).
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[OF POPULATION CONSIDERED AS AN ARTICLE OF POLITICAL ECONOMY.]
Of the political causes which affect the population of a country.
The most important of these may be referred to the three following heads:* —
1.The Political Institutions which regulate the connexion between the Sexes;
2.The State of Manners relative to this Connexion; and,
3.The Means of Subsistence enjoyed by the People.
OF POPULATION AS AFFECTED BY THE POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS WHICH REGULATE THE SEXUAL CONNEXION.]
Under the first of these heads an extensive and interesting field of speculation presents itself; first, with respect to the comparative effects of marriage, and of a promiscuous concubinage; and, secondly, with respect to the comparative effects of monogamy and of polygamy.
MARRIAGE COMPARED WITH CONCUBINAGE.]
In the very general observations concerning the Institution of Marriage to which I propose to confine myself in this lecture, I shall avoid those views of the subject which have an immediate reference to the more appropriate objects of Political Economy, in some of which respects (particularly in its connexion with Population) it will necessarily fall again under our review. On the other hand, it would be obviously a trifling with your time, to offer any illustration of those views of expediency which have induced legislators, in every instance, to impose certain limitations on the vague commerce of the sexes; (as with the single exception of Mr. Godwin,) I do not know that any advocates for a promiscuous concubinage are to be found even among the most paradoxical writers of the present age.
In the Republic of Plato, indeed, Socrates is introduced as maintaining, that “in a well ordered state, all things ought to be common,—wives, children, and possessions.” His arguments for this opinion, which are fanciful and puerile, are examined with much more attention than they deserve, and refuted in a very satisfactory manner, in the second book of Aristotle’s Politics; to which I beg leave to refer.1
I quote the following passages from Mr. Godwin, not with the view of replying to them, (the necessity of which is completely superseded by their unexampled extravagance,) but as a specimen of that order of things which appears to the writer to be imperiously recommended by the principle of Political Justice.
“The abolition of marriage would be attended with no evils. In this, as in other cases, the positive laws which are made to restrain our vices, irritate and multiply them. Not to say that the same sentiments of justice and happiness which, in a state of equal property, would destroy the relish for luxury, would decrease our inordinate appetites of every kind, and lead us universally to prefer the pleasures of intellect to the pleasures of sense.” [Again:]
“It is true, that in such a state of society, it could not be definitively affirmed who is the father of each individual child. But it may be affirmed, that such knowledge would be of no importance. It is aristocracy, self-love, and family pride, that teach us to set a value upon it at present. I ought to prefer no human being to another, because that being is my father, my wife, or my son, but because for reasons which equally appeal to all understandings, that being is entitled to preference.”*
Of the tendency of such a state of society with respect to population, Mr. Godwin has taken no notice, nor indeed was it necessary for his purpose that he should; for it is part of the same system, that if its principles were realized, the species would cease to multiply by propagation, and individuals would become immortal.
Neglecting therefore these paradoxes, (which are much less likely to do mischief than some other passages of the same work, the scope of which is not equally apparent,) I shall assume as a self-evident principle, the political utility of such a contract between the sexes, as is necessary for connecting the offspring with both parents, by excluding (as far as law can operate) a promiscuous concubinage.
What I propose chiefly in introducing the subject here, is to consider (which I shall do very briefly) the institution of marriage as a part of the moral and physical order of nature; and to offer a few miscellaneous remarks on the tendency of some modern speculations to weaken the influence of those principles which have so universally consecrated this connexion, among all civilized nations.
The question, whether marriage be an appointment of nature or of municipal law, has been often and warmly disputed, even among those who acknowledge its utility as a political institution. It is a question which (when thus stated at least) savours so much of scholastic refinement, that I should have avoided any reference to it in these lectures, if some late doctrines had not bestowed on it a temporary interest.
The diversity of opinion to which this discussion has given rise, may probably be ascribed, in some degree, to the vague manner in which the question has been proposed. Few phrases are more ambiguous than that of natural law; and of consequence, the circumstances which are appealed to as tests of it, in one sense, do not at all apply to it when understood in another.
By some writers, the laws of nature with respect to man are collected from the customs of savage nations, among whom artificial systems of policy have made little or no progress. By others, every institution is considered as enjoined by nature, or (in other words) as a part of her law, which may be inferred by reason to be agreeable to her intentions: either from an examination of the principles of our constitution, combined with our physical condition; from the analogy of the other animals whom she has taken immediately under her own guidance; or from the beneficial effects it has a tendency to produce. I need scarcely observe, that what are understood to be laws of nature, according to the former definition, will not always be found entitled to that appellation, according to the latter.
That a promiscuous concubinage is the natural result of savage ideas and savage manners, seems to have the universal creed of antiquity. “Nam fuit quoddam tempus,” says Cicero, “cum in agris homines passim bestiarum modo vagabantur, et sibi victu fero vitam propagabant; nec ratione animi quidquam, sed pleraque viribus corporis administrabant. Nondum divinæ religiones, non humani officii ratio colebatur: nemo legitimas viderat nuptias; non certos quisquam adspexerat liberos.”1 Of this state of society, Lucretius, in the following verses, has presented a lively picture.
Agreeably to the same notions, the establishment of marriage is always numbered among the first improvements introduced by those legislators who reclaimed their fellow-citizens from the fierceness and misrule of savage life.
We are told of Cecrops, in particular, the founder of the Athenian constitution, that before his time marriage was not known in Greece, and that the burden of children lay upon the mother. To this fact innumerable allusions may be found in the Greek writers; by whom we are also informed, that on account of this circumstance, Cecrops obtained the appellation of Διϕυὴς or Biformis. “Cecrops dictus est Biformis, quod legem tulisset, ut fœminæ, quæ virgines adhuc essent, uni viro elocarentur; quas Nymphas vocavit. Ante enim, illius regionis mulieres, more pecudum, promiscue cum viris coibant; nec suo cuique viro uxor erat, sed unaquæque mulier cuivis corporis sui copiam faciebat. Unde etiam nemini constabat, cujusnam filius vel filia esset infans in lucem editus.”2
I do not intend to enter into a particular discussion of the evidence by which these opinions and traditions are supported, as it is not at all material to the argument I have in view, whether we adopt or reject them. When we reflect, however, on the condition of the human infant, and the impossibility of a mother rearing a numerous offspring solely by her own industry, (at least in the earlier stages of society, and in such a climate as Greece,) it is difficult to avoid a considerable degree of scepticism with respect to facts of so high antiquity in point of date, and of which we have no authentic memorials; more especially as a very strong presumption against them arises from the whole system of the ancient mythology, (a system of which the origin is confessedly lost in the obscurity of the fabulous ages,) and which invariably assigns to each of the deities, not excepting Jupiter himself, but a single wife united with him by a legitimate marriage.3 The account which Cæsar gives of the manners of the ancient Britons, is indeed entitled to much respect from the known fidelity and accuracy of the writer; but it differs essentially from the state of society in which the Greeks are supposed to have lived before the time of Cecrops, and is by no means liable to the same objections. “It was common,” he says, “for a number of brothers, or other near relations, to use their wives promiscuously. The offspring, however, were not common; for each man maintained the children that were produced by his own wife.”1 The information is curious, and of some importance in this disquistion; for while it affords a melancholy proof of the dissolute morals that once prevailed in this island, it illustrates strongly the necessity of a co-operation of both sexes in rearing an infant offspring, and thereby turns our thoughts to one of the most striking circumstances in the condition of man, which suggest the institution of marriage.
Suppose, however, for a moment, that we should adopt the ideas of the ancients on this subject in their full extent. To what other conclusion would they lead, than that the intellectual and moral powers of our species are liable to extreme degradation amidst the ignorance and brutishness of savage manners? To judge of the intentions of nature, requires in many cases (as I already hinted) a comprehensive view of the constitution of man, of the circumstances of his external condition, and of the mutual relations which these two parts of his destiny bear to each other;—and therefore it is not to History that we ought to appeal as an infallible standard in such discussions, but to what our own reason pronounces concerning moral fitness and expediency, after availing itself of all the lights it can collect concerning the ends and purposes of our being. Or, if any appeal is made to the actual experience of mankind, it ought certainly to be to the practices of those nations among whom the highest attainments of the race have been exhibited.
Among the many prejudices which have misled the speculations of philosophers concerning the history and destination of man, there is perhaps none more absurd and groundless than the idea that the rudest state of our species is that which approaches most nearly to the state of nature. The contrary opinion would be in every essential respect more agreeable to the truth; inasmuch as one of the most melancholy and fatal consequences of human ignorance, is a presumptuous confidence in the remote conclusions of reason, in opposition to what is obviously suggested by the state and condition of man. We may remark this not only in the moral depravity of rude tribes, but in the universal disposition which they discover to torture and distort the human body;—in one case compressing the eyes at the corners; in a second lengthening the ears; in a third, checking the growth of the feet; in a fourth, by mechanical pressures applied to the head, attacking the seat of thought and intelligence. To allow the human body to attain in perfection its fair proportions, is one of the latest improvements of civilized society; and the case is perfectly analogous in those sciences which have for their object to assist nature in the cure of diseases, in the correction of bad morals, or in the regulation of the social order.
In the present instance, without any appeal to history, the intentions of nature may be easily collected from facts which fall under our daily observation. Of these facts, one of the most striking is the long period during which the human infant remains in a state of the most complete helplessness and dependence. The cares of the mother are evidently not sufficient for the task of rearing her offspring till they are able to provide for themselves; and the difficulties of this task, so far from being diminished, must be wonderfully increased by the nature of those occupations on which man depends for his precarious subsistence, in the earlier periods of society. In such a state of things, while the mother is employed in suckling her child, the care of both is obviously devolved by nature on the father; and indeed without his constant and assiduous protection, both the one and the other must inevitably perish.
During the long helplessness of the first infant, (a helplessness which, in our species, Nature seems to protract, in order to bind that union which love had originally formed,) the family multiplies apace. Every new member adds another tie to those which existed before; habit adds her irresistible influence; and thus, without the formalities of a contract or of nuptial rites, those arrangements insensibly arise, which it is the pride of human policy to confirm and to sanctify.
In the rudest period, too, of society, something must be allowed to a sentimental predilection, and to the effect of reciprocal kindnesses and sacrifices. The affection of friendship has never been denied to the savage; and why should we doubt that it may sometimes unite, in its tenderest form, with those passions which prompt to the continuation of the species.
Among the ancient writers, it was often disputed whether the affection of Friendship could possibly exist in its perfection between more than two persons, and I believe that the common decision was that it cannot.1 For my own part, I confess I can see no good reason in the case of friendship for such a limitation; and I am inclined to think that it has been suggested rather by the fables of mythology or the dreams of romance, than by good sense or a practical acquaintance with mankind. What the ancients, however, alleged with respect to friendship, is certainly true of love between the sexes. This last affection cannot, at one time, be directed to a variety of objects. It is of an exclusive and suspicious nature; and the jealousy of the one party is roused the moment an apprehension arises that the attachment of the other is in any degree divided. In this circumstance, which is strikingly characteristical of the passion between the sexes, we see not only a provision made for the conjugal union, but (as will appear afterwards more fully) a manifestation of the law of nature on the subject of polygamy.
The delicacy and modesty which seem to be natural to the other sex, in a much greater degree than to ours, conspire with the causes already mentioned, in grafting a moral union on the instinctive passion. By many writers these are considered as entirely factitious principles; but the contrary might be easily proved, if it were worth while at present to enter into the argument. I shall content myself with remarking the conspicuous figure they have been found, in various instances, to make in ruder ages, more particularly among the American tribes and the ancient Germans. The latter are extolled on this very account by Tacitus, who plainly means to insinuate, in the panegyric he bestows on them, an indirect satire on the corrupted manners of his own countrymen. “Publicatæ pudicitiæ nulla venia: non forma, non ætate, non opibus maritum invenerit. Nemo enim illic vitia ridet; nec corrumpere et corrumpi seculum vocatur.”1
From the shyness and reserve natural to women, and the respect paid to it by the earliest legislators, some writers have very ingeniously traced the ceremonies which have been found occasionally connected with the institution of marriage. Thus among the early Romans, the bride appears to have been carried forcibly from the lap of her mother; and among the Spartans a marriage assumed the semblance of a rape. “The virgin and her relations,” says Dr. [Gilbert] Stuart, “no doubt, understood previously the transaction, and expected this violence. But it was a compliment to her, thus to give an air of constraint to her consent, to relieve her embarrassment and distress, her emotion of fear and hope, anxiety and tenderness.”*
The same remark is made, and not ill expressed, by Dr. Taylor.2 “The seeming violence,” he observes, “with which the bride is taken from her mother’s lap, the lifting her over the threshold, and many other incidents in the ceremony, would be as proper in the rites of any other nation that did not owe its foundation to an accident of this kind, as they are in the Roman system. There is a propriety, that a sex whose modesty is their charter, who, by a great consent of nations, are to be solicited into this union, and—for a while to refuse it, should in these delicate circumstances be complimented with the appearance of constraint, and with that softer kind of violence which suits so well with their condition, their character, and education. Thus with us, and with the Athenians, as we have seen above, the bride is given in marriage, and hardly appears upon the face of the stipulation to be consenting. . . . And though we know what these things mean, (“Scio, voluntate tua coactus es,”) yet the moral is sound and warrantable. This compulsion testifies the retirement and abstraction that attended their education, is a pledge of that honour and chastity which they should bring with them to this solemnity, and guarantees the modesty and decorum that is to sweeten and recommend the remainder of this alliance.”
These observations are not undeserving of attention, as the show of violence which accompanied the marriage ceremony among the Romans (that in particular of tearing the bride ex gremio matris) is commonly considered by the ancient writers as carrying an allusion to a celebrated event in the history of the early ages,—the Rape of the Sabines. In this instance we meet with a striking example of that unphilosophical bias, so common both among the Roman and Greek authors, to account for every remarkable phenomenon in the history of man, by referring it to a fabulous origin, instead of endeavouring to resolve it into the general principles of human nature.
After all, the principal support of marriage among rude nations, is undoubtedly the circumstance which was first mentioned,—I mean the long helplessness of the human infant; and, accordingly, in those parts of the world where the means of subsistence are furnished by nature, with little or no exertion on the part of man, the conjugal tie appears to be a much slighter bond of union, than where the parties are drawn more closely together by their common necessities.
In proof of the foregoing conclusions concerning the intentions of nature with respect to the human race, Lord Kames has drawn an additional argument from the economy of the lower animals. “The instinct of pairing,” he observes, “is bestowed on every species of animals to which it is necessary for rearing their young, and on no other species. . . . Brute animals which do not pair, have grass and other food in plenty, enabling the female to feed her young, without needing any assistance from the male. But where the young require the nursing care of both parents, pairing is a law of nature.”* A variety of other very judicious and pleasing remarks on the economy of nature, relating to the propagation of animals, may be found in the Appendix annexed to his Sketch on the Progress of the Female Sex.
Mr. Hume, too, in his Essay On Polygamy and Divorce, has referred to the economy of the brutes; but the inference he draws from his premises, is different from that of Kames, and (in my opinion) less philosophical. “Among the inferior creatures,” he observes, “nature herself being the supreme legislator, prescribes all the laws which regulate their marriages, and varies those laws according to the different circumstances of the creature. Where she furnishes, with ease, food and defence to the new-born animal, the present embrace terminates the marriage, and the care of the offspring is committed entirely to the female. Where the food is of more difficult purchase, the marriage continues for one season, till the common progeny can provide for itself, and then the union immediately dissolves, and leaves each of the parties free to enter into a new engagement at the ensuing season. But nature having endowed man with reason, has not so exactly regulated every article of his marriage contract, but has left him to adjust them by his own prudence, according to his particular circumstances and situation. Municipal laws are a supply to the wisdom of each individual; and, at the same time, by restraining the natural liberty of men, make private interest submit to the interest of the public. All regulations, therefore, on this head are equally lawful, and equally conformable to the principles of nature, though they are not all equally convenient, or equally useful to society.”* According to the meaning I annex to the phrases, “principles of nature,” and “laws of nature,” (and which I have already† endeavoured to shew is the proper meaning of the expression,) this last conclusion of Mr. Hume’s involves a contradiction in terms.
I have hitherto touched only upon those advantages of marriage which are obvious to the most careless inquirer, and which could not fail to force themselves on the notice of men in the most rude and ignorant ages. If I were to enter more deeply into the subject, and to consider it in connexion with the happiness of human life, with the preservation of morals, and with the progressive improvement of the species, volumes might be written without exhausting the subject. Much might also be said on the connexion of this institution with the subject of population, not only as an arrangement absolutely necessary for preserving undiminished the prolific powers of the other sex, but as no less indispensable (even in the present state of society) for rearing children with success, amidst the diseases and dangers of infancy. Of this a judgment may be formed from the barrenness of those connexions where the circumstances of the parents do not allow them to bestow that care on their offspring to which affection and duty prompt in more favourable situations. “The tender plant,” to borrow the words of Mr. Smith, “is produced, but in so cold a soil and so severe a climate, soon withers and dies.”‡
What then would the consequences be, in the present state of things—I shall not say of the abolition of marriage—but of any considerable relaxation in the ideas of men concerning the sacredness of this connexion, and the duties which it imposes?
These different considerations, which I must content myself with barely hinting at, illustrate sufficiently the wisdom of that advice which Plato (notwithstanding his own paradoxes on the subject) gives to his Legislator, when he directs him to take his stand from the institution of marriage, and for the better ordering of his commonwealth, to begin where that also begins, the arrangement of the conjugal union.* Agreeably to the same idea, this union is beautifully called by Cicero, “the Seminary of the republic.” “Cum sit hoc natura commune animantium, ut habeant lubidinem procreandi: prima societas in ipso conjugio est; proxima in liberis; deinde una domus, communia omnia. Id autem est principium urbis, et quasi Seminarium reipublicæ.”†
The stress which these two eminent philosophers and the other political writers of antiquity have so justly laid on the institution of marriage, has been appealed to in support of an absurd opinion already mentioned, that it is altogether an invention of human policy. But marriage (as I hope sufficiently appears from the foregoing observations) is the result (in the first instance) of that order of things which nature herself has established; and the proper business of the legislator is here, as in other cases, limited to the task of seconding and enforcing her recommendations, by checking the deviations from her plan which are occasioned by the vices and follies of individuals. The fact is precisely similar with respect to Property. The idea of property is not created by municipal laws. On the contrary, one of the principal circumstances which suggested the necessity of laws and magistrates, was to guard against those violations to which the property of the weak was found to be exposed amidst the turbulence of barbarous times. It is with great propriety, therefore, that Horace classes these two objects of law together, the preservation of property and the protection of the marriage bed;—objects, however, which so far from being the creatures of municipal institutions, may be justly considered as the chief sources from which municipal institutions have taken rise.
They are indeed the two great pillars of the political fabric, and whatever tends to weaken them, threatens, we may be assured, the existence of every establishment essential to human happiness. If in some of the preceding remarks, therefore, I may be thought to have expressed myself with an unnecessary diffuseness, the importance of the subject, contrasted with the tendency of some late speculations concerning it, will, I trust, be a sufficient apology for the space which I have allotted to an article which has been so often exhausted by the ingenuity both of ancient and of modern writers.
One particular question connected with the institution of marriage affords, (it must be owned,) when we abstract altogether from the precepts of revelation with respect to it, a fair field for argument,—Whether marriage ought to be considered by the legislator, merely as a civil contract, liable, like other civil contracts, to be dissolved by the mutual consent of the parties? My own opinion on this point may be anticipated from what I have already said, but it would encroach too much on our time, to explain particularly the principles on which it is founded. I must content myself, therefore, with referring to a short Essay On Polygamy and Divorce, by Mr. Hume, in which the argument is stated with equal conciseness and force. The manner, too, in which the subject is treated by this eminent writer, is peculiarly adapted to those politicians who have argued for a liberty of divorce, as he disclaims all regard to what he is pleased to call the common superstitious notions concerning the nature of marriage, and founds his reasonings entirely on considerations of political expediency.
On a superficial view of the question, Mr. Hume confesses, that a liberty of divorce may appear favourable to population, by removing, what is with many a powerful obstacle to marriage, the indissoluble nature of the connexion. It is, however, extremely remarkable, that “at the time when divorces were most frequent among the Romans, marriages were the most rare; and Augustus was obliged, by penal laws, to force men of fashion into the married state; a circumstance which is scarcely to be found in any other age or nation. The more ancient laws of Rome, which prohibited divorces, are extremely praised by Dionysius of Halycarnassus. ‘Wonderful was the harmony,’ says the historian, ‘which this inseparable union of interests produced between married persons, while each of them considered the inevitable necessity by which they were linked together, and abandoned all prospect of any other choice or establishment.’ ”* It conveys, indeed, a most delightful idea of the domestic manners of the Romans, when we consider a fact about which all their writers are agreed, that Carvilius Ruga, who lived a. u. c. 520, was the first person who divorced his wife. The ground of his separation was her barrenness; a pretext which, when considered merely in a political view, is much less ridiculous than many which at a later period were considered by this people as perfectly valid; and yet we are informed [among others] by Valerius Maximus, that although the divorce stood unimpeached in law, the morality of his conduct was then regarded as very questionable. “Repudium inter uxorem et virum, a condita urbe usque ad vicesimum et quingentesimum annum, nullum intercessit. Primus autem Sp. Carvilius uxorem, sterilitatis causa, dimisit. Qui quanquam tolerabili ratione motus videbatur, reprehensione tamen non caruit: quia nec cupiditatem quidem liberorum, conjugali fidei proponi debuisse arbitrabantur.”1
At a later period of the Roman history, when a new jurisprudence taught that marriage, like other partnerships, might be dissolved by the abdication of one of the associates, the consequences were fatal to the virtues and to the comforts of domestic life. “Passion, interest, or caprice,” to borrow the words of Mr. Gibbon,”† “suggested daily motives for the dissolution of marriage; a word, a sign, a message, a letter, the mandate of a freedman declared the separation; the most tender of human connexions was degraded to a transient society of profit or pleasure. According to the various conditions of life, both sexes alternately felt the disgrace and the injury; an inconstant spouse transferred her wealth to a new family, abandoning a numerous, and a perhaps spurious progeny to the authority and care of her late husband; a beautiful virgin might be dismissed to the world, old, indigent, and friendless.” “A specious theory,” the same author adds, “is confuted by this free and perfect experiment, which demonstrates that the liberty of divorce does not contribute to happiness and virtue. The facility of separation would destroy all mutual confidence, and inflame every trifling dispute: the minute difference between a husband and a stranger, which might so easily be removed, might still more easily be forgotten; and the matron, who, in five years, can submit to the embraces of eight husbands, must cease to reverence the chastity of her own person.”
Of the profligacy of manners produced at Rome by the facility of divorce, a very striking picture is given by Seneca—“Vices,” he observes, “cease to be disgraceful so soon as they become general. What woman now blushes to be divorced, since those of the first rank number their years, not by the names of the consuls, but by those of their husbands? Divorce,” he adds, “is the object of marriage, and marriage that of divoice.”1
MONOGAMY COMPARED WITH POLYGAMY.]
The remarks which have been already made, appear to be sufficient for illustrating the conformity of the institution of marriage to the law of nature, in so far as this can be inferred either from an examination of the principles of our constitution, from the analogy of the lower animals, or from the beneficial effects with which it is attended.
These arguments, indeed, conclude, in general, much more strongly against vague love on the part of the female than of the male; although, if attentively examined, they will be found to suggest powerful motives, both of a moral and political nature, for a reciprocal obligation. The question, however, whether a plurality of wives might not be allowed to the same individual, is so different, in many respects, from that which has been hitherto treated, that although some of the foregoing considerations may be of use, yet the aid of some additional reasonings is necessary, in order to establish the general conclusion.
Polygamy may be conceived to be of two kinds, according as it consists in a plurality of wives, or in a plurality of husbands. Of the latter, (Πολυανδρία,) modern travellers have furnished us with some very curious instances; but the circumstances in which it can possibly take place are so extremely rare, that it does not merit a particular discussion. It is accordingly mentioned as a subject upon which there can be no diversity of sentiment, even by those writers who consider the other species of Polygamy as a matter which the law of nature leaves to the legislator to regulate at discretion. The partiality of our sex to their own prerogative has been complained of loudly, and perhaps not entirely without justice in the present age. But it is not altogether a modern evil. It is amusing to observe its influence, even on the speculations of Grotius and of St. Augustine—“Suscipiendæ prolis causa erat,” says St. Augustine, in defending the polygamy of the patriarchs, “uxorum plurium simul uni viro habendarum inculpabilis consuetudo; et ideo, unam feminam maritos habere plurimos honestum non erat. Non enim mulier eo est fœcundior; sed meretricia potius turpitudo est vel quæstum vel liberos vulgo quærere.”*
To the same purpose the author of the treatise De Jure Belli et Pacis, who, although in general by no means a loose moralist, seems disposed to vindicate the sensual indulgences of his own sex, in countries which did not enjoy the light of revelation; and even goes so far as to exclude from his definition of the marriage connexion, any obligation to fidelity on the part of the husband. “Conjugium naturaliter esse existimamus talem cohabitationem maris cum fœmina quæ fœminam constituat quasi sub oculis et custodia maris; nam tale consortium, et in mutis animantibus quibusdam videre est. In Homine vero, qua animans est utens ratione, ad hoc accessit fides, qua se fœmina mari obstringit.”
“Nec aliud ut conjugium subsistat natura videtur requirere. Sed nec divina lex amplius videtur exegisse, ante evangelii propagationem. Nam et viri sancti ante legem plures una uxores habuerunt; et in lege præcepta quædam dantur his, qui plures una habuerunt; et regi præscribitur, ut nec uxorum nec equorum nimiam sibi adsciscat copiam, ubi Hebræi interpretes notant, octodecim sive uxores sive concubinas regi fuisse concessas, et Davidi Deus imputat quod uxores ei complures, et quidem illustres, dedisset.”1
Passing over, therefore, that sort of Polygamy which consists in a plurality of husbands, as an almost singular anomaly in the history of human affairs, I shall confine myself in what follows to the case of a plurality of wives; and it is in this restricted sense that I should wish the word Polygamy to be always understood, when I may have occasion to employ it afterwards in the prosecution of this disquisition.
That the practice of Polygamy has been very general among mankind in some of the earlier stages of society, more particularly in climates which exalt the imagination and inflame the passions, is a fact about which there can be no dispute. It does not, however, seem to have been universal among rude nations. It was unknown among the ancient Germans, excepting in the case of a few individuals, who affected a distinction of this sort as an appendage of their superior rank. “Severa illic matrimonia, nec ullam morum partem magis laudaveris. Nam prope soli barbarorum singulis uxoribus contenti sunt, exceptis admodum paucis, qui non libidine, sed ob nobilitatem, plurimis nuptiis ambiuntur.”*
“This,” says Montesquieu, “explains the reason why the kings of the first race had so great a number of wives. These marriages were less a proof of incontinence than a consequence of dignity; and it would have wounded them in a tender point, to have deprived them of such a prerogative. This explains likewise,” the same author adds, “the reason why the example of our kings was not followed by their subjects.”2
It is to be remarked, however, that in the foregoing passage, Tacitus mentions the manners of the Germans as, in this particular, an exception, and almost a singular one, to the customs of rude nations. “Nam prope soli barbarorum singulis uxoribus contenti sunt.” Dr. [Gilbert] Stuart, whose peculiar ideas concerning the importance of women in the earlier times, were strongly contradicted by the supposed prevalence of Polygamy, has accordingly, in quoting this passage, suppressed entirely the clause which was unfavourable to his conclusion.*
Having mentioned this author, I cannot help adding, in farther illustration of the same subject, that in controverting the common opinions concerning the condition of the female sex among barbarous nations, he has stated one assertion much more strongly than facts authorize him. “It is a proof,” says he, “of the antiquity of Monogamy, that when a plurality of wives is uniformly indulged, which happens not till the ages of property, there is always one of them who seems more peculiarly the wife, the rest appearing only as so many concubines.”†
It cannot be denied that this observation is countenanced by some facts mentioned by travellers; and, wherever such a preference of one female is found to be invariably and exclusively attached to her condition, and not to result from a temporary caprice of passion, we may reasonably conclude Polygamy to be a deviation from the purer manners of former ages. From the following passage of Captain Cook, with respect to the inhabitants of the Friendly Islands, which may seem, on a superficial view, to favour Dr. Stuart’s remark, I should rather be disposed to conclude, that Polygamy is contrary to the established maxims, and is affected only by the chiefs (as Tacitus tell us it was among the ancient Germans) as a mark of superior rank and consequence. “Whether their marriages,” he [Cook] observes, “be made lasting by any kind of solemn contract, we could not determine with precision; but it is certain that the bulk of the people satisfied themselves with one wife. The chiefs, however, have commonly several women, though some of us were of opinion that there was only one that was looked upon as mistress of the family.”1 Cantova says expressly of his Caroline Islanders, (whose manners, in many striking particulars, resemble those of the tribes visited by Cook,) that a plurality of wives was among them an appendage of greatness.2
The observations made by a late very intelligent and authentic traveller,* into the interior parts of Africa, directly contradict the assertion in question. After stating that “the negroes, whether Mahometan or Pagan, allow a plurality of wives,” he adds, “the Mahometans alone are by their religion confined to four; and as the husband commonly pays a great price for each, he requires from all of them the utmost deference and submission, and treats them more like hired servants than companions. They have, however, the management of household affairs, and each in rotation is mistress of the household, and has the care of dressing the victuals, and of overlooking the female slaves.”3
I have laid the less stress on the manners of savages and barbarians in the article of marriage, because it appears to me, as I already hinted, altogether absurd to appeal to them as the standard by which we are to judge of the laws of nature; meaning by these the moral laws which she recommends to man by her own established order. In the present instance, her intentions cannot possibly be mistaken, by those who attend to that wonderful circumstance in her providential economy, the balance which she everywhere maintains in the comparative numbers of the two sexes.4
This balance, indeed, does not seem to be anywhere mathematically exact, but it universally varies within so narrow limits, as to shew manifestly, that the inequalities which exist, whatever their final cause may be, have no relation whatever to the question of Polygamy.
The proportions are probably not precisely the same in different countries, and, even in the same country, they are variously stated by different writers. But there is a general coincidence in the statements which relate to this part of the world, more than sufficient for all the purposes of the present argument.
Major Graunt, (who assisted Sir William Petty in his inquiries relative to Political Arithmetic,) from an examination both of the London and Country Bills, states fourteen males to thirteen females; from whence he infers that “the Christian religion prohibiting polygamy, is more agreeable to the Law of Nature, than Mahometanism and others that allow it.”
“This proportion of fourteen to thirteen,” says Dr. Derham, “I imagine is nearly just. In the hundred years of my own parish register, although the burials of males and females were nearly equal, being 636 males and 623 females in all that time; yet there were baptized 709 males, and but 675 females, which numbers are in the proportion of 13.7 to 13.” “This surplus-age of males,” Dr. Derham adds, “is very useful for the supplies of war, the seas, and other such expenses of the men above the women.”1
According to the author of Métrologie, [M. Paucton,] whose conclusions are chiefly founded on observations made in Germany, 104 boys are born for 100 girls.2 He adds, however, that a greater number of the former die in infancy, so that towards the age of puberty, the two sexes are nearly equal.
The same author states “the number of men who die in a country to be to that of women as 27 to 25. In general,” he says, “it has been remarked that when women have passed a certain age, their longevity may be more presumed on than that of men, more especially in the case of women who are married.”1
Moheau, who is commonly considered as very accurate in his details, declines any particular statement of the proportions of the two sexes born in France; and contents himself with observing, that the actual population of women exceeds that of men in the proportion of seventeen to sixteen.2
Of late years this subject has been examined with far greater accuracy than had been attempted before: by Mr. Suessmilch in Germany; by Mr. Wargentin in Sweden; and by Dr. Price in England. From their combined observations, it seems to be established beyond a doubt, First, that the number of males and females born, invariably approach to equality. Secondly, that the excess is in favour of the males. Thirdly, that this excess is partly counterbalanced by their greater mortality. It is extremely remarkable too, that this greater mortality does not appear to be owing merely to the accidents to which men are liable in consequence of their own excesses, and the professional hazards to which they are exposed, but to some peculiar delicacy or fragility in the male constitution. It is observed sensibly even in infancy and childhood: nay, the number of still-born males exceeds proportionally that of still-born females.
The numbers born at Berlin during the four years beginning with 1752, were, males, 9219; females, 8743; or 21 to 20.
The numbers that died under two years of age, were, males, 3118; females, 2623; or 7 to 6.
The numbers that died upwards of eighty years of age, were, males, 135; females, 215; or 5 to 8.
The numbers that died between ninety-one and one hundred and five, were, males, 21, females, 55.3
From the account given by Mr. Muret of his observations made at Vevey in the Pays de Vaud, it appears, that for twenty years ending in 1764, there died in that town, during the first month after birth, of males 135, to 89 females; and in the first year, 225 to 162.
In Berlin, according to Suessmilch, 203 males die in the first month, and but 168 females; and in the first year, 489 to 395. The tables of these two writers shew, that, both at Vevey and Berlin, the still-born males are to the still-born females as 30 to 21.
From a variety of different accounts, both in England and on the Continent, mentioned by Dr. Price,1 it appears, that in a long list of towns, although the proportion of males and females born is no higher than 19 to 18, yet the proportion of boys and girls (under ten years of age) that die is 8 to 7; and, in particular, the still-born males are to the still-born females as 3 to 2; a proportion which agrees remarkably with that of 30 to 21, as deduced from the observations at Berlin and Vevey.
I shall only add farther on this very interesting article, that Dr. Price has suggested a doubt whether this difference in point of mortality between the two sexes be natural. The following facts prove that his suspicious are not altogether unsupported by evidence.
“It appears, from several registers in Suessmilch’s works, that this difference is much less in the country parishes and villages of Brandenburg, than in the towns. And agreeably to this, it appears likewise, from the accounts of the same writer, that the number of males in the country comes much nearer to the number of females.
“In 1056 small villages in Brandenburg, the males and females in 1748 were 106,234, and 107,540; that is, were to one another as 100 to 101⅕. In 20 small towns, they were 9544, and 10,333; or as 100 to 108¼. In Berlin, they were (exclusive of the garrison) 39,116 and 45,938; or as 100 to 117½.
“In the years 1738 and 1745, the number of inhabitants in New Jersey was taken by order of the Government, and they were distinguished particularly into males and females under and above sixteen.
“In 1738 the number of—
“In 1745, the numbers were,—
“The inference from these facts,” says Price, “is very obvious. They seem to shew sufficiently, that human life in males is more brittle than in females, only in consequence of adventitious causes, or of some particular debility that takes place in polished and luxurious societies, and especially in great towns.”* We may add, that in so far as their accuracy is to be relied on, they shew, that in proportion as simple and natural manners prevail, the balance between the births of the two sexes is the more accurately preserved.
The facts which have been already stated relate almost entirely to this quarter of the globe, and lead to a conclusion in favour of Monogamy which is undisputed among political writers. I may be thought perhaps to have entered more into details than was absolutely necessary; but (independently of their connexion with our present argument) I could not avoid the opportunity which the subject afforded me of turning your attention to one of the most striking provisions which the economy of nature has made, for those moral and political arrangements which are subservient to the happiness of the individual, and the multiplication of the race.
With respect to other parts of the globe, our information is much less correct; and here accordingly speculative men have found themselves more at liberty to indulge their ingenuity and fancy. “In Japan,” says Montesquieu, upon the authority of Kaempfer, “there are born rather more girls than boys; and at Bantam, the former exceed the latter in the proportion of ten to one.”† Hence, he seems disposed to infer, that the law which permits polygamy is physically conformable to the inhabitants of such countries; a conclusion which some other authors have apprehended to be farther confirmed by the prematurity and rapid decay of female beauty in some regions of the East. But there is good reason to suspect the accuracy of the documents on which Montesquieu proceeds. The Japan account, which makes the proportion of females to males to be as 22 to 18, is inconclusive, as the numbering the inhabitants of a great city can furnish no inference applicable to the present question. And the account of the births at Bantam is not only so contrary to the analogy of all the other facts with which we are acquainted, as to surpass belief, but (as we are assured by Mr. Marsden) is positively false. “I can take upon me to assert,” says he, “that the proportion of the sexes throughout Sumatra, does not differ sensibly from that ascertained in Europe; nor could I ever learn, from the inhabitants of the many eastern islands whom I have conversed with, that they were conscious of any disproportion in this respect.”*
From the remarks which have been now made, it may be safely concluded, that it is the duty of the legislator to prohibit polygamy, and to employ all the authority he possesses in enforcing a law so strongly recommended, both by the physical and moral condition of our species. It might besides be easily shewn, that while he thus employs the most essential of all expedients for the multiplication of the race, he takes the most effectual measures for securing the happiness and morals of a people; but this last consideration is foreign to our present subject; and it has been so well illustrated by Mr. Hume, that nothing of importance remains to be added to his observations. I have alluded to it chiefly, in order to recommend his Essay [On Polygamy and Divorce] to your attention, at a period when those moral principles which the most sceptical writers of former times treated with respect, have been rejected with contempt by some theorists, whose paradoxes, from the particular circumstances of the times, have had, in various parts of Europe but too extensive an influence on the opinions of the multitude. Among the numberless wild ideas which have been started within these few years by political projectors, there are few more alarming than one which appears from the Moniteur of the 16th April 1798, to have been proposed in the Senate of the Cisalpine Republic by Campagnoni.1
OF POPULATION AS AFFECTED BY THE STATE OF MANNERS RELATIVE TO THE CONNEXION BETWEEN THE SEXES.]
When the legislator, however, has prohibited polygamy, he has only removed one of the obstacles to population, by preventing particular individuals from engrossing a number of females. The rate at which it proceeds will depend on the number of marriages which are actually contracted; and this seems to be a circumstance which depends more on the state of manners in a society, than on the regulations of the politician.
The ancient lawgivers, indeed, considered it as one grand object of legislation to promote population by direct rewards to marriage, and by punishing celibacy. This was the case among the Hebrews, the Persians, and the Greeks; and still more remarkably among the Romans,—to whose institutions I shall confine my attention at present.
In the history of this celebrated people we meet with regulations in favour of marriage, from the time of Romulus downwards. When the censorship was established, one great object of it was to discourage celibacy, which the censors endeavoured to do, by condemning those who were unmarried, to pay a certain fine called Mulcta uxoria. It even appears from a fragment of a speech of P. Scipio Africanus, when censor, (preserved by Aulus Gellius,) that it was the practice for the censor not only to punish the unmarried, but to reward those who had families.2 These laws, however, in favour of matrimony, which were certainly superfluous at a period when the advantages enjoyed by a Roman citizen as father of a family, were of themselves a sufficient encouragement, became afterwards little more than a dead letter, when, in the progress of national corruption, the aversion to marriage increased to such a degree, as neither to yield to the prospect of reward nor the fear of punishment. Julius Cæsar and Augustus, both attempted to remedy the evil, by reviving and improving the ancient institutions. The latter, more especially, seems to have considered the extension and application of these as a principal object of his reign; and it is very remarkable, that by the measures he pursued for that purpose, he incurred a more general odiūm than by any other part of his policy.
Among the other curious facts mentioned on this subject, by Suetonius and Dion Cassius, the following particulars deserve to be selected, as strongly expressive of the general state of manners in the Augustan age. “The Emperor,” we are told, “sometimes brought forward the children of his own family into the place of public assembly, and exhorted his audience to profit by his example; but his zeal in this matter was far from being acceptable to the people.” It is added, that “he was frequently accosted in the theatres and places of public resort, with general cries of dislike; and that, in consequence of the complaints which were brought to him of the impossibility of supporting the extravagance of women of rank, he was obliged to correct many of the edicts he had published, or to abate much of their rigour;—that, in order to obviate the objections which were made to women of high condition, he permitted the nobles to marry emancipated slaves;—that the law, nevertheless, was still eluded;—that pretended marriages were contracted with children, or females under age, and the completion of course indefinitely deferred;—that to prevent such evasions or frauds, it was enacted that no marriage could be legally contracted with any female under ten years of age, nor the completion of any marriage be delayed above two after the date of the supposed contract.”1
The reflections of Dr. Ferguson on the spirit of these laws are just and philosophical, and are expressed with his usual eloquence. “Under this wretched succedaneum for good policy, it seemed to be forgotten that where mankind are happy, and children are born to bless and to be blessed, Nature has provided sufficient inducements to marriage; but that where the people are debased, marriage itself, and the pains which are employed to enforce it, are an additional evil; and that a sovereign, whose arrival at power has made a state, into which mankind are powerfully led, by the most irresistible calls of affection, passion, and desire, a kind of workhouse into which they must be driven by the goad and the whip; or a prison, in which they must be detained under bars and fetters of iron, is justly an object of execration to his people. And the Romans, accordingly, seemed to feel themselves, on the present occasion, treated as the property of a master, who required them to multiply merely to increase the number of his slaves; and they resisted this part of the Emperor’s administration more than any other circumstance of the state of degradation into which they had fallen.”*
During the reigns of the succeeding emperors, the evils which Augustus was so anxious to correct, continued, and even increased, as we learn (among other authorities) from Pliny1 and from Tacitus.2 This last author expressly contrasts the manners of the Romans in this particular with those of the Germans, and remarks, that whereas the latter people, without either rewards or punishments, considered marriage as the first duty of a citizen, and a family as the chief blessing resulting from marriage; the former, with all their laws, abhorred the one relation, and dreaded to be placed in the other.
In modern Europe, the evil as yet has not arrived at such an extreme. It is, however, evidently on the increase, as sufficiently appears from the growing disrelish for marriage among all classes of people. This arises from various causes: above all, perhaps, from men forming to themselves, in consequence of the progress of luxury, a false idea of competency, which prevents them, even when their situation is easy and comfortable, from choosing to embarrass themselves with the cares of a family. It arises, too, in part from that prevailing taste for unlawful pleasure, in our sex, which is both a cause and an effect of celibacy; and which, while it multiplies the objects of temptation to one half of the species, deprives, in the same proportion, a number of the other of any prospect of ever establishing themselves in an honourable connexion. In some countries of Europe, the evil does not rest here, but by extending its influence to the morals of married women, discourages those men from the conjugal union, who, in other circumstances, would have placed their chief happiness in domestic enjoyments.
These evils are common, in some degree, to all the great European monarchies, and arise from the general state of modern manners. But, in some countries, they are greatly aggravated by the celibacy of the clergy, and in many more by the numerous standing armies which are chiefly composed of men, who, by their profession, are led to prefer a single life. To these ecclesiastical and military celibataries, we may add the domestic servants of both sexes, very few of whom are disposed or have it in their power to marry; and the younger sons of noble families, in those countries where the Law of Primogeniture is established, who inherit little from their fathers; and who, in consequence of the prejudices against trade, are prevented from employing the only effectual means of bettering their fortune.
In these circumstances, shall we conclude that the politician can do nothing? That little can be expected from direct rewards to marriage, or from punishments inflicted on celibacy, has already been observed. If the evil is at all curable, the remedy must be applied to its source, by the gradual operation of those just and enlightened views of political economy, which tend at once to multiply the means of subsistence among the body of the people; to inspire them with moderate and reasonable ideas of a competence, and to cherish that desire, so natural to a happy and uncorrupted mind, of transmitting to an offspring of its own, the same blessings which it has itself enjoyed. In proportion as these general causes operate, marriages will become more frequent; and in the same proportion in which they increase, the temptations to unlawful pleasure will diminish; for all these political evils hang together, and when once the remedy begins to take effect, the cure advances with an accelerated progress. Every person removed from the state of celibacy, weakens the influences of the causes which make celibacy common. In short, put an end, as far as possible, to every institution which counteracts the intentions of Nature; and without any ingenuity exerted on the part of the statesman, his wishes are accomplished. The ancient sanctity of domestic manners, and the ancient felicity of domestic life, will gradually revive; and men will look forward to the conjugal union as to the source of the purest and most exquisite happiness that the condition of humanity affords. “Atque adeo, nihil largiatur princeps, dum nihil auferat; non alat, dum non occidat: nec deërunt, qui filios concupiscant.”1
In order, however, to prevent misapprehensions of my meaning, it is necessary for me, before I finish this head, to take notice of an important circumstance, which I shall have occasion afterwards to illustrate more fully; the essential difference in the relative place which population occupies in the ancient and in the modern systems of Political Economy. This difference arises chiefly from the civil and domestic liberty now enjoyed in this part of Europe by the industrious orders of the community, contrasted with that slavery which entered into the constitutions of those states which, in the old world, were understood to have accomplished, in the most effectual manner, the great ends of government. In consequence of this mighty change, produced by the dissolution of the feudal system, the care of the statesman (in so far as population is concerned) is necessarily transferred from the higher classes of the people to a description of men, whose numbers in the free states (as they were called) of antiquity, were recruited, as they are now in the West India Islands, by importations from abroad.* It is this description of men that forms the basis of that political fabric which Sir William Temple has so finely compared to a pyramid; and it is on their numbers, combined with their character and habits, that the stability of the superstructure depends. Their numbers, however, it is evident, can in the actual state of things be kept up only by such political arrangements as furnish them with the means of rearing families; and it is into the question concerning the comparative expediency of the various arrangements proposed for that purpose, that the problem of population ultimately resolves.
The efforts of Augustus and of the other statesmen of Rome to discourage celibacy, had in view the Citizens only, and more especially the nobility; of whose importance to the military strength of the country a judgment may be formed, from the rings which Hannibal is said to have sent to Carthage after the battle of Cannæ. To correct the extravagance and profligacy of this order of men was the great object of the laws formerly mentioned; and, accordingly, we are told that it was by the knights that the repeal of these laws was most loudly solicited.
In such a state of society as that in which we live, the prevalence of celibacy among those who are raised above the condition of the multitude, does not so materially, at least not so immediately, affect the military resources of a people, as it affects their general character and manners; partly by the contagion of their example, and partly by the extinction of the hereditary spirit and worth peculiarly characteristical of that rank of men, who, by their education and circumstances, are placed at an equal distance from the views of the great and of the vulgar.
DEPENDENCE OF POPULATION ON THE MEANS OF SUBSISTENCE ENJOYED BY THE PEOPLE.]
These remarks naturally lead me to consider how far the population of a country depends on the means of subsistence which the people enjoy.
Dependence of Marriage and Population on the Notion held in regard to the Competent Support of a Family.]
That a country cannot be peopled beyond its resources, is almost an identical proposition; and, on the other hand, it is no less certain, that population (wherever things are left to their own course) will advance till checked by this limit. The natural inducements to marriage are so strong, that no encouragement on the part of the politician is required, provided the circumstances of the society are such as to present to all orders of men a reasonable prospect of their being able to rear and educate a family, according to the ideas of competency which they have formed to themselves. It appears to me to be necessary to modify in this way the general proposition, which is commonly stated in too unlimited terms; for, in order to engage a man to marry, he must not only have a prospect of being able to provide to his children the necessaries of life, but he must have a prospect of being able to rear his family, without lowering that rank to which he has been accustomed; or retrenching any of those articles of luxury which, by habit, he has been accustomed to consider as essential to his comfort. It is possible, therefore, that of two countries which afford the means of subsistence in equal abundance, the one may be much more populous than the other, in consequence of the more moderate ideas of a competency which the generality of the people entertain.
Of this last remark, no proof more satisfactory can be produced than what is furnished by a comparative view of the state of population in England and in Ireland. Without entering into any nice computations of the number of inhabitants in either country, we may venture to assert, that, in the latter, the population is incomparably greater in proportion to its extent than in the former,—due allowance being made for the defects under which it labours, of police, of commerce, and of both agricultural and manufacturing industry.—The numbers in England and Wales are very variously estimated by different writers, according to their political prejudices; by Dr. Price, (in 1777, [Essay, &c.]) at less than five millions; by Mr. George Chalmers, (in his Political Estimate, [about 1791,]) at more than eight millions. The former is of opinion that the population of the kingdom has suffered a great diminution since the Revolution in 1688: the latter asserts, that during this period it has received an augmentation of a million and a half.—With respect to our sister island, notwithstanding the powerful obstacles which retard its progress, all accounts agree in admitting a great increase of inhabitants since the end of the last century. In 1657, the number was computed by Sir William Petty to be 850,000; and in 1672, to be 1,100,000.1 In 1688, it has been estimated at 1,200,000. At present different opinions have been adopted concerning its actual population, but all of them admit, that the augmentation has been remarkably rapid. Mr. Young states it in the year 1779 as under three millions, according to the common belief then entertained by those with whom he conversed in the course of his agricultural tour.2 Mr. Howlett, from documents transmitted to him in 1786, by Mr. Beresford, then first Commissioner of the Irish Revenues, states it as amounting at least to two millions and a-half; and concludes that since the time of the Revolution it has nearly doubled.3 Mr. Chalmers computes it, in 1791, at no less than 4,193,158, asserting that, during the last hundred years, Ireland has done much more than trebled its inhabitants.4 From the Report of the Secret Committee of the Irish Parliament, published last summer, (1798,) Dr. Emmet appears to have stated the actual population of that country at “five millions, whereas, at the time of the Revolution, it did not exceed a million and a half.” [Addition:]—Lord Castlereagh, in his speech, (February 5, 1800,) “on delivering to the House of Commons of Ireland the Lord-Lieutenant’s message on the subject of a union with Great Britain,” estimates the population of Ireland from 3,500,000 to 4,000,000. This he mentions as the common computation at present; and as he may be presumed, from his official situation, to have availed himself on such an occasion, of all the most authentic sources of information, I should be disposed amidst so great a diversity of statements, to adopt his numbers in preference to any of the others.
This very extraordinary increase in the population of Ireland, (admitted by writers of the most opposite political views,) is to be ascribed almost entirely to the peculiar habits of the lower orders, in consequence of which they find it so much easier than the English peasantry, to satisfy their wants in the two great articles of habitation and food. Something, undoubtedly, must be placed to the account of the comparative advantages they enjoy, in being free from the oppression of the English Poor Laws, and the consequent Laws of Settlement;1 and also to the account of their common food, (potatoes,) which experience has shown to go much farther to the support of animal life than wheat, or any of the other sorts of grain employed for food in this part of the world that can be raised on the same extent of surface.2 But that the circumstances I mention are by far the most important, may be inferred from the following statements, for which we are indebted to a very intelligent observer, (Mr. Young,) who made an agricultural tour in Ireland, in the years 1776, 1777, and 1778.
“In England, where the poor are, in many respects, in such a superior state, a couple will not marry unless they can get a house to build, which, take the kingdom through, will cost from twenty-five to sixty pounds; half the life, and all the vigour and youth of a man and woman, are passed before they can save such a sum; and when they have got it, so burthensome are poor to a parish, that it is twenty to one if they get permission to erect their cottage. But in Ireland, the cabin is not an object of a moment’s consideration; to possess a cow and a pig is an earlier aim; the cabin begins with a hovel that is erected with two days’ labour, and the young couple pass not their days in celibacy for want of a nest to produce their young in. If it comes to a matter of calculation, it will then be but as four pounds to thirty.” . . . . “Of their food (potatoes) there is one circumstance which must ever recommend it, they have a belly-full, and that, let me add, is more than the superfluities of an Englishman leave to his family. Let any person examine minutely into the receipt and expenditure of an English cottage, and he will find that tea, sugar, and strong liquors can come only from pinched bellies. I will not assert that potatoes are a better food than bread and cheese, but I have no doubt of a belly-full of the one being much better than half-a-belly-full of the other, still less have I, that the milk of an Irishman is incomparably better than the small-beer, gin, or tea of the Englishman, and this even for the father, how much better must it be for the poor infants? Milk to them is nourishment, is health, is life.
“If any one doubts the comparative plenty which attends the board of a poor native of England and Ireland, let him attend to their meals. The sparingness with which our labourer eats his bread and cheese is well known: mark the Irishman’s potato bowl placed on the floor, the whole family upon their hams round it, devouring a quantity almost incredible, the beggar seating himself to it with a hearty welcome, the pig taking his share as readily as the wife, the cocks, hens, turkeys, geese, the cur, the cat, and perhaps the cow,—and all partaking of the same dish. No man can have been often a witness of it, without being convinced of the plenty, and I will add, the cheerfulness that attends it.”*
The same author adds in another passage:—“Marriage is certainly more general in Ireland than in England: I scarce ever found an unmarried farmer or cottar; but it is seen more in other classes, which with us do not marry at all; such as servants: the generality of footmen and of women servants in gentlemen’s families, are married, a circumstance we very rarely see in England. Another point of importance is their children not being burthensome. In all the inquiries I made into the state of the poor, I found their happiness and ease generally relative to the number of their children, and nothing considered as such a misfortune as having none. Whenever this is the fact, or the general idea, it must necessarily have a considerable effect in promoting early marriages, and consequently population.”*
It is not, however, by preventing marriages that the poverty of the lower orders chiefly obstructs population. The attachments of sex, and the fond hopes of domestic bliss which a youthful imagination inspires, are motives too powerful to be always regulated by the suggestions of prudence; and in the humbler walks of life, where vanity and ambition have little influence, they are sufficient to blind the judgment to all considerations of futurity. In such circumstances the indigence of the parents, while it renders the conjugal union a source of constant anxiety and despondence to themselves, is attended with consequences equally fatal to the community. “The tender plant,” as Mr. Smith has observed, “is produced, but in so cold a soil, and so severe a climate, soon withers and dies. It is not uncommon in the Highlands of Scotland, for a mother who has borne twenty children, not to have two alive. Several officers,” he continues, “of great experience, have assured me, that so far from recruiting their regiments, they have never been able to supply it with drums and fifes from all the soldiers’ children that were born in it. A greater number of fine children, however, is seldom seen anywhere than about a barrack of soldiers. Very few of them it seems, arrive at the age of thirteen or fourteen. In some places, one-half the children die before they are four years of age, in many places before they are seven, and in almost all places before they are nine or ten. This great mortality, however, will everywhere be found chiefly among the common people. Though their marriages are generally more fruitful than those of people of fashion, a smaller proportion of their children arrive at maturity.”1
These observations will be found more peculiarly applicable to the very lowest order of the people. Those who have literally nothing, and who are beggars by profession, are very seldom unwilling to burden themselves with the cares of a family. Not to mention that a numerous offspring is rather an assistance to them in carrying on their trade, their ordinary habits gradually inspire them with a greater degree of confidence in looking forward to the future, than is felt by men who exist, but who are barely able to exist by their own industry. That beggary which appears to the bulk of mankind the most dreadful of all calamities they have already experienced; and by this experience they have learned what philosophy in vain attempts to teach others, to make the important distinction between the evils of reality and those of the imagination. Thoughtless of the future, they enjoy the little which the present moment affords them, and trust for to-morrow to that kind Providence which has hitherto supplied all their necessities.
What I have here remarked with regard to common beggars, is applicable also to those who have actually experienced the evils of want, and to whose imaginations the idea of beggary is become familiar. If this order of men contribute little towards the population of the State, it is not from their remaining in a state of celibacy, but from the little care they take in rearing and educating their children. The effects of an unequal distribution of property in discouraging marriage, are chiefly confined to the middling ranks of a people, who in consequence of those ideas which we imbibe in our earliest infancy, (particularly in the monarchies of modern Europe,) are led to form notions of a competency disproportionate to the state in which they are born, and to consider it as the great object of human life, to rise above the rank which they inherit from their forefathers.
From the observations already made, it appears that population does not depend solely on the fertility of the soil, and the industry of the inhabitants; but on these circumstances, combined with the habits and ideas which are generally prevalent concerning the necessaries and accommodations of life. Nor is this all. Much depends on the particular kind of food on which the great body of the people is accustomed to subsist. In the savage state, while men trust entirely to the fortunes of the chase, we find tribes consisting of a few hundreds, spread over regions equal in extent to the largest kingdoms in Europe. From this state to that of pasturage, the transition was of immense consequence in the progress towards improvement; but the last step is of all the most important, when human industry comes to be chiefly directed to the cultivation of the soil, with a view to the rearing of grains and of other esculent vegetables. In this form a given extent of land may be rendered incomparably more productive for the use of man, than in any other in which it can be employed; and it is fortunate, (at least in so far as population is concerned,) when the habits of a people dispose them to prefer that species of sustenance, which is so strongly recommended to them by the economy of nature; more especially when the kind of vegetable which is used for daily bread possesses the advantages which are experienced from potatoes in Ireland, and from rice in some eastern countries.
It is universally allowed that a rice-field produces a much greater quantity of food than the most fertile corn-field; and accordingly, in those countries where it is the common vegetable food of the people, the population is represented as immense. This is remarkably the case in Hindostan, where the natives are prohibited by the laws of their religion to eat the flesh of animals. There the population is great, notwithstanding all the disadvantages that the country labours under, in respect of government;—disadvantages of a peculiar description, as they unite all that is oppressive in a despotism, with all the instability and vicissitude which are commonly connected with popular constitutions.
The food produced by a field of potatoes is much superior to what is produced by a field of wheat, and (according to Mr. Smith) is not inferior in quantity (although not perhaps equal in nutritious power) to that produced by a field of rice. “Should this root,” he observes, “ever become, in any part of Europe, like rice in some rice-countries, the common and favourite vegetable food of the people, so as to occupy the same proportion of the lands in tillage which wheat and other sorts of grain for human food do at present, the same quantity of cultivated land would not only maintain a much greater number of people, but the labourers being generally fed with potatoes, a greater surplus would remain after replacing all the stock, and maintaining all the labour employed in cultivation. A greater share of this surplus too would belong to the landlord. Population would increase, and rents would rise much beyond what they are at present.”*
“It is difficult,” the same author adds, “to preserve potatoes through the year, and impossible to store them like corn, for two or three years together. The fear of not being able to sell them before they rot, discourages their cultivation, and is perhaps the chief obstacle to their ever becoming in any great country, like bread, the principal vegetable food of all the different ranks of the people.”†
It has been remarked by some late writers, that “in England, notwithstanding the produce of the soil has been in our times considerably increased by the enclosure of wastes, and the adoption, in many places, of a more successful husbandry, yet we do not observe a corresponding addition to the number of inhabitants;” and this has been ascribed “to the more general consumption of animal food. Many ranks of people, whose ordinary diet was, in the last century, prepared almost entirely from milk, roots, or vegetables, now require every day a considerable portion of the flesh of animals: and hence a great part of the richest lands of the country are converted into pasturage. Much also of the bread-corn, which went directly to the nourishment of human bodies, now only contributes to it, by fattening the flesh of sheep and oxen.1 The mass and volume of provisions are hereby diminished; and what is gained in the melioration of the soil, is lost in the quality of the produce.” “This consideration,” says Mr. Paley, “may satisfy us, that tillage, as an object of national care and encouragement, is universally preferable to pasturage; because the kind of provision which it yields, goes much farther in supplying the essential wants of human life.” “Indeed, pasturage,” he adds, “seems to be the art of a nation, either imperfectly civilized, as are many of the tribes which subsist by it in the internal parts of Asia, or of a nation like Spain, declining from its summit by luxury and inactivity.”2
It cannot be denied that there is some foundation for these remarks, but they are certainly expressed in too unqualified a manner. Whatever a people principally consume as the means of their subsistence, must necessarily be the great object of the husbandman in his culture. Thus, in France, where bread is said to form nineteen parts in twenty of their food, corn, and especially wheat, is the only great object of their cultivation. In England, on the contrary, the quantity of meat, and of the produce of the dairy consumed by all ranks, is immense. Hence, to our farmer, cattle is an object no less important than corn; and, accordingly, vast quantities are kept in proportion to what we find in France. It would be rash, however, to draw any inference from this fact in favour of French husbandry as compared with English. It leads, in truth, to a conclusion directly opposite, in the opinion of a very competent judge, Mr. A. Young, who has paid more attention than any other individual to the agriculture of both countries.
“Let us consider,” says Mr. Young, “on what principles the farmers of England and of France must necessarily manage their lands. In England, they keep such parts of their lands in meadow and pasture as are by the nature of the soil so adapted; and throw their arable land into such courses of crops, that several are introduced, which are either summer or winter food for cattle.” Upon this system, for the details of which I must refer to Mr. Young’s work, a considerable part of the whole farm, and a large portion of what is arable, are employed for cattle; the quantity of dung raised is, of course, very great, which being spread, as it usually is, on the arable fields, insures great returns; so much better than if such stocks of cattle were not kept, that I question if three acres are not quite as productive as five would be. “Nay,” says Mr. Young, “I have in this point no doubt but the barley and wheat in a farm thrown into a proper course, with a due proportion besides of meadow, yield a greater value than the corn in general would if one year was fallow, and the three following ones were wheat and barley;—of such importance is this system of manuring.”*
In the French system of husbandry, (which Mr. Young has likewise described particularly,) much the greatest part of the farm is arable;—the meadow and pasture being very trifling, except in spots that cannot otherwise be applied, and near great towns. Thus very little cattle can be kept except for tillage; in very many farms no other. Here we find manuring cut off at once, almost completely, and consequently the crops must be poor. Besides this, one-half or one-third of the land is fallow, at a mere barren expense; a system, which we know from the experience of our own open fields, is miserable, and not to be compared for profit to those in which crops for cattle are made the preparation for corn.
“Wheat being in France the great object, all the expense of the farmer is applied to its production. A year’s fallow is given, and what little dung they raise is all spread on it. This produces a middling, perhaps a good crop; and when the farmer reaps his wheat, he often finds himself out of pocket, and has to depend for his profit on a poor crop of spring corn. Thus the little demand for meat, and the produce of the dairy, obliges him to confine his views to corn alone. The consequence is, he pursues a bad course of crops; he raises no manure, his produce is small, and his profit comparatively nothing.
“It must surely be evident to every one, that there is a great advantage to the English farmer, from corn and cattle being in equal demand, since he is thereby enabled to apply all his lands to those productions only to which they are best adapted; while, at the same time, the one is constantly the means of increasing the produce of the other.
“To suppose, therefore,” continues the same writer, “that we should be more populous, if we lived as much on bread as the French, is an idea that seems doubtful. It is a strange position at best, that bad husbandry should add to our population; and yet this is a necessary consequence of the proposition in question; for if the demand for meat is changed to an increased one for wheat, the farmers must change their good course to the bad one of the French, by abandoning those crops which form the best preparation for corn.
“In so far as population is concerned, the question comes to this, Whether a tract of land, applied to yielding bread, will yield more than if applied to bread and meat?” Mr. Young endeavours to show, that in the latter form it is far more productive than in the former. For the details of his argument, in support of this opinion, I must refer to his book, contenting myself with stating his general result; that “where tillage and pasturage are properly combined, so as to have the farms from one-third to half of meadow or pasture; and the other two-thirds or half thrown into a proper course for the winter support of the cattle, such a farm will be found to feed more men than if it is all ploughed up, and as much wheat as is possible raised upon the French system.”1
Of the justness of Mr. Young’s reasonings, in so far as they involve a knowledge of agricultural practices, I am not a competent judge. But one general conclusion may be safely deduced from them; that in this part of the world, if the use of animal food were abandoned, after the use of some Eastern nations, the plan would at least in part defeat itself. In those climates where water alone renders the soil perpetually fertile in producing vegetable food, such habits are not disagreeable to the physical circumstances of the inhabitants, and an immense population is almost a necessary consequence. But here the physical economy of nature points out a mixture of animal and of vegetable food; the fertility of the soil failing when it is kept constantly in tillage, and cattle supplying that species of manure which is most effectual in adding to its produce.
After all, it is far from being impossible that the luxury of this country may have carried the demand for animal food beyond its due proportion.1 . . . . .
But whatever opinion may be formed on this point, it is evidently a matter which no law should attempt to regulate; and the same observation may be applied to the complaints which have been founded on the cultivation of hops, and madder, and other crops which do not afford food for man. In all such cases the husbandman is the best judge of his own interest; and when he increases his private wealth, he employs the most effectual means in his power for advancing that measure of population which is useful to his country.
I cannot help remarking also in this place, (although the observation is not connected immediately with our present subject,) the inconsistency of the remonstrances which some avowed friends to agriculture have made against the waste of animal and vegetable food occasioned by modern cookery. The French economists expressly brand this species of luxury by calling it—“an inversion of the natural and essential order of national expenses, which increases the mass of unproductive expenses to the prejudice of those conducing to production.” The true encouragement to agriculture, (as will afterwards appear,) is the extension of the market for the commodities it furnishes; and the effect is the same to the farmer, whether the market is opened by the necessities of the industrious orders, or by the extravagance of the opulent.
One political benefit, too, it must not be forgotten, arises from the waste of food in years of plenty, (however blameable this waste may frequently be on the part of individuals,) that by increasing the demand for the productions of the earth, it operates like a freedom of exportation, in securing a regular surplus to meet the occasional pressure of a scarcity.
It is with peculiar pleasure I add, that in such an emergency there is now every reason to hope that additional resources may be derived from the prosecution of such experiments as Count Rumford has lately begun with so much credit to himself, on the subject of Nutrition.
The reasonings which have been already offered, are sufficient to shew in general, how intimately the state of population in a country is connected with the state of its agriculture, and that the most effectual measure a lawgiver can employ for advancing the former, is to give every possible encouragement to the latter. I do not speak here of such direct rewards to the husbandmen as were held out by the legislators of antiquity, and which probably would not produce much effect in the present state of society. I have in view merely the care which the statesman should take to secure to the husbandman the complete and exclusive enjoyment of the fruits of his own industry; the only effectual and universal excitement in this or any other employment to human labour. All therefore that the laws can do, is to secure this right to the occupier of the ground; so that the full and entire advantage of every improvement go to the benefit of the improver; that every man may work for himself and not for another; and that no one share in the profit who does not contribute to the production.1 These are advantages which, in former times, the husbandman enjoyed nowhere, and which, in many parts of Europe, he still enjoys in a very imperfect degree.
In order to illustrate this general and fundamental principle, it is necessary for me to take a pretty wide compass, and to treat at some length of Agriculture and Manufactures, considered in their relation to Population.
Of Agriculture and Manufactures, considered in relation to Population.]
And first, of Population in connexion with Agriculture.]
The various circumstances which conspired to discourage Agriculture in the ancient state of Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire, and the gradual steps by which the lower orders raised themselves from a servile condition to that comparative independence in which we now see them, have been very fully and ingeniously illustrated by Mr. Smith.*
[1. Kinds of Farm Tenure.]—In all the countries of Europe, during the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries, slaves seem to have formed the most numerous part of the community. In France, about the time of the commencement of the third race of kings, all the ground was cultivated by slaves, and the towns were chiefly filled by people of the same description. It appears, from Doomsday Book, that the case was nearly the same in England at the time of the Conquest.
Among the causes which favoured, in the first instance, the rise of the lower orders, Lord Kames† lays particular stress on the extensive estates into which land property was divided; and which forced the proprietors, for their own interest, to encourage, by a more liberal policy, the industry of those cultivators whom they could not (as on a small farm) place under the immediate inspection of an overseer. This soon suggested the idea of making the bondman a colonus partiarius, by communicating to him a proportion of the product, in place of wages. The proprietor furnished him with the seed, cattle, and instruments of husbandry; and the tenant became bound to pay a certain proportion of the fruits. Tenants of this description are called in French, Métayers; and we are told by M. Turgot, in a book published in 1766,‡ that at the period when he wrote, five parts out of six of the whole kingdom of France were thus cultivated. In Picardy, Normandy, the environs of Paris, and the greater part of the provinces of the north of France, the ground was cultivated by farmers who employed their own stock, paying a certain rent to the landlord. In the south, the land was almost universally laboured by métayers. The same author adds, that “the different effects of the two modes of cultivation were such as to strike the most careless observer.” And that this must have been the case, no person can doubt who has attended to the consequences produced by tithes in the other part of our island.
“It is evident,” says Mr. Smith, “that it never could be the interest of a colonus partiarius to lay out in the farther improvement of the land, any part of the stock which he might save from his own share of the produce; because the proprietor who laid out nothing was to get one half of whatever was produced. In France, accordingly, it was a common complaint, that the métayers took every opportunity of employing their master’s cattle rather in carriage than in cultivation; because in the one case they got the whole profit to themselves, in the other, they shared them with their landlord.”*
To this species of tenantry succeeded, though by very slow degrees, farmers properly so called, who traded upon their own stock, and paid a fixed rent for the land they possessed. By this means the tenant came to be excited to yet greater industry, by having the whole benefit of it to himself; and the advantages experienced from this, naturally led the way to the last step of the progress, which was giving the tenant a lease for a certain term of years, and thereby encouraging him to undertake still more extensive and costly plans of improvement. It was long, however, before this progress was completed in any country of Europe; and in many parts of it much remains to be done at this day. Even in England, till the reign of Henry VII., a farmer could be legally outed of his lease before the expiration of his term, by the fictitious action of a common recovery; and it was not till the period now mentioned, that the lessee was protected against these contingencies, and his interest rendered secure and permanent. This security in the condition of the English farmers, together with some other circumstances peculiarly favourable to the yeomanry of that country, have (in the opinion of Mr. Smith* ) contributed more to the present grandeur of England than all her boasted regulations of commerce taken together. When we reflect on these circumstances, it cannot fail to excite our surprise, that in a country so distinguished for liberality, and where the happy consequences resulting from an equitable system of laws have been so long experienced, there should still be found, among the English proprietors of land, so large a proportion of individuals, who either grant no leases, or grant them under such restrictions as defeat, in a great measure, the beneficial purposes for which they are calculated. This is the more wonderful, as the practice seems formerly to have been different; and that, even at present, the prevailing system is loudly condemned by all those whose opinions might be expected to possess any authority. It is reprobated unanimously by the respectable writers who have drawn up the county surveys for the Board of Agriculture; all of whom concur in ascribing to leases whatever improvements have been made by the farmers of England.
In the history of this part of rural economy among our southern neighbours, several stages are remarked by one of these writers. “The first,” he observes, “was probably leases for lives, formerly it should seem very general, and still far from being uncommon. The second step seems to have been a transition into the opposite extreme of no leases at all, by far the most general tenure by which lands are rented at present. The third originated in an attempt to remedy the evils of the second, by granting leases (at first) for three years, and afterwards for five, seven, nine, eleven, and sometimes for fourteen years, loaded, however, with restrictions upon the management and culture of the lands. The fourth and last, is leases founded on more just and enlightened principles, extending to such a term as to give complete encouragement to the industry of the husbandman, by affording him a prospect of recovering before his removal all his advances with a competent profit. From a rough calculation, founded on an examination of the different surveys, it has been inferred, that if we divide England and Wales into five parts, probably two-fifths are farmed by tenants at will,—that is, by tenants whose security is only from year to year; one-fifth by tenants for life; one-fifth by the owners themselves; and probably much less than the remaining fifth by tenants for a term of years. Of this last portion it should seem, besides, that there is hardly one-fifth (that is one-twenty-fifth of the whole) farmed in lease for twenty-one years; the rest being let from three to fourteen. Calculations of this sort, it is hardly necessary for me to observe, cannot fail, in the present state of our information, to be wide of the truth; but the data on which they proceed are sufficiently accurate, to evince the extent of the evil which led me to introduce these observations. It may be worth while to add, that the counties in which a refusal of leases appears to be most general, (and in some of them it is almost universal,) are Cumberland, York, Derby, Nottingham, Leicester, Rutland, North Wales, Salop, Worcester, Northampton, Cambridge, Berks, and Bedford. In a number of other counties, the same mischievous system prevails, though in an inferior degree, particularly in Westmoreland, Cheshire, Gloucestershire, Somersetshire, Monmouthshire, Kent, Essex, and probably several others.”1
The fact is so curious, that I could not help mentioning it as an interesting subject of examination; but I am too imperfectly acquainted with the state of the other part of the island, to attempt any explanation of the circumstances which have occasioned it; nor do any of the surveys which I have looked into afford much satisfaction with respect to it.
In Scotland, where we fall short, in so many important articles of national improvement, of our southern neighbours, the ideas of our landed proprietors at present are certainly much more favourable to the progress of Agriculture, in so far as it depends on the security of the farmer’s tenure, than those of the same order in England. Leases are now general in every part of this country; extending commonly to nineteen or twenty-one years. Formerly leases for three nineteen years were frequent; and instances of them are still to be met with in several of the counties. Leases for such long terms are recommended by several of the surveyors, particularly in those counties which have not kept pace with the others in point of cultivation. They have certainly been attended with great advantages in many instances. It is observed in the Survey of the County of Fife, that “many entailed estates there, and indeed throughout Scotland, were tied down not to grant leases longer than nineteen years; but the proprietors considering that this had proved, in many cases, a bar to improvement, applied to Parliament, and were authorized to grant a lease of thirty-one years, upon certain conditions of improvement, which, it is believed, has proved, in general, to be for the benefit of the proprietors, the tenant, and the country at large: that other proprietors who were not restricted by entails, have sometimes granted leases of nineteen, twenty-one, twenty-five, thirty-one, thirty-eight years; and that leases of twenty-five, thirty-one, or two nineteen years, are commonly granted, where heavy advances, in the way of building, inclosing, or draining, are to be made by the tenant.”
When I reflect on these facts, (combined with some others that will fall under our consideration afterwards, more especially our exemption from poor-rates and tithes,) I can scarcely bring myself to acquiesce in an assertion of Mr. Smith’s, when applied at least to the two parts of the United Kingdom during the last forty years, that “Scotland is not only much poorer than England, but that the steps by which it advances to a better condition seem to be much slower and more tardy.”*
It is observed by Mr. Smith, that “the law which secures the longest leases against successors of every kind is peculiar to Great Britain.”† It was introduced into Scotland so early as 1449, by a law of James II., (a proof that the state of the peasants was then considerably improved;) but its beneficial influence has been much obstructed by the restrictions with respect to the duration of leases which entails generally impose.
In other parts of Europe tenants are secured against heirs and purchasers only for a short period. In France, for example, this period was limited to nine years from the commencement of the lease, till it was extended to twenty-seven, under the administration of M. Turgot. In Spain and Italy (according to Arthur Young) the sale of an estate vacates the lease.1
[2. Farm Burthens.]—Besides paying the rent, the farmers were anciently understood to be bound to perform a number of services to the landlord, not specified in the lease, but regulated by custom, and of consequence arbitrary and vexatious. They were also bound to many public services; such as making and repairing high roads, and providing horses, carriages, and provisions for the King’s troops when they passed through the country. This last service was exacted in England, in consequence of what was called the Royal prerogative of purveyance and pre-emption,—a prerogative which was understood “to give the Crown a right of buying up provisions and other necessaries, by the intervention of the King’s purveyors, for the use of his royal household, at an appraised valuation, in preference to all others, and even without consent of the owner; and also of forcibly impressing the carriages and horses of the subjects to do the King’s business on the public roads, in the conveyance of timber, baggage, and the like, however inconvenient to the proprietor, on paying him a settled price.”2 The oppressions to which it gave rise in the golden days (as they have been termed) of Queen Elizabeth, may be judged of from a passage in Lord Bacon’s Speech touching Purveyors; a passage which, though somewhat long, deserves to be quoted, as exhibiting a lively and authentic picture of the obstacles which then existed to agricultural industry. He says, speaking of the abuses of the Purveyors:—
“These do naturally divide themselves into three sorts: The first, they take in kind that they ought not to take; the second, they take in quantity a far greater proportion than cometh to your Majesty’s use; the third, they take in an unlawful manner, in a manner expressly prohibited by divers laws.
In the first of these, I am a little to alter their name; for, instead of takers they become taxers; instead of taking provision for your Majesty’s service, they tax your people ad redimendam vexationem; imposing upon them, and extorting from them, divers sums of money, sometimes in gross, sometimes in the nature of stipends annually paid, ne noceant, to be freed and eased of their oppression. Again, they take trees, which by law they cannot do; timber trees, which are the beauty, countenance, and shelter of men’s houses; that men have long spared from their own purse and profit; that men esteem, for their use and delight, above ten times their value; that are a loss which men cannot repair or recover. These do they take, to the defacing and spoiling of your subjects’ mansions and dwellings, except they may be compounded with to their own appetites. And if a gentleman be too hard for them while he is at home, they will watch their time when there is but a bailiff or servant remaining, and put the axe to the root of the tree, ere ever the master can stop it. Again, they use a strange and most unjust exaction in causing the subject to pay poundage of their own debts, due from your Majesty unto them; so as a poor man when he has had his hay or his wood, or his poultry, which perchance he was full loth to part with, and had for the provision of his own family and not to put to sale, taken from him, and that not at a just price, but under the value, and cometh to receive his money, he shall have after the rate of twelvepence in the pound abated for poundage of his due payment upon so hard conditions. Nay, farther, they are grown to that extremity, as is affirmed, though scarce credible, that they will take double poundage, once when the debenture is made, and again the second time when the money is paid.
“For the second point, most gracious Sovereign, touching the quantity which they take, far above that which is answered to your Majesty’s use . . . it is affirmed to me by divers gentlemen of good report and experience in these causes, as a matter which I may safely avouch before your Majesty . . . that there is no pound profit which redoundeth unto your Majesty in this course, but induceth and begetteth three pound damage upon your subjects, beside the discontentment. And to the end they make their spoil more securely, what do they? Whereas divers statutes do strictly provide, that whatsoever they take shall be registered and attested, to the end, that by making a collation of that which is taken from the country, and that which is answered above, their deceits might appear; they, to the end to obscure their deceits, utterly omit the observation of this, which the law prescribeth.
“And, therefore, to descend, if it may please your Majesty, to the third sort of abuse, which is of the unlawful manner of taking, whereof this omission is a branch, it is so manifold, as it rather asketh an enumeration of some of the particulars than a prosecution of all. For their price:—by law, they ought to take as they can agree with the subject; by abuse, they take at an imposed and enforced price; by law, they ought to make but one apprizement by the neighbours in the country; by abuse, they make a second apprizement at the Court Gate; and when the subjects’ cattle come up many miles, lean and out of plight, by reason of their great travel, then they prize them anew at an abated price. By law, they ought to take between sun and sun; by abuse, they take by twilight and in the night-time,—a time well chosen for malefactors. By law, they ought not to take in the highways, (a place by her Majesty’s high prerogative protected, and by statute by special words excepted;) by abuse, they take in the ways,” &c. &c.*
This branch of the King’s prerogative and revenue was resigned by Charles II. at the Restoration. The oppressions similar to it which existed on the Continent have been likewise much moderated in later times. In Sweden they were abolished entirely by Gustavus Adolphus. They affected (as appears from what has been said) both landlords and tenants, but must have fallen more peculiarly hard on the latter.
The public taxes to which the farmers were subjected in these ancient times, were as oppressive as the services. Such, for example, was the taille in France. It was a tax upon the supposed profits of the farmer, estimated by the stock on his farm, and which (of consequence) prevented effectually whatever stock accumulated upon the land from being employed in its improvement. The ancient tenths and fifteenths in England seem, so far as they affected the land, to have been taxes of the same nature with the taille.
The ancient policy of Europe was farther unfavourable to the improvement of land. 1. By the prohibition of the exportation of corn; 2. By the restraints laid upon inland commerce; by the absurd laws against engrossers, regrators, and forestallers; and by the privileges of fairs and markets. For a complete illustration of these particulars, I must refer to Mr. Smith.*
In all the successive changes which have taken place in the system of rural economics over Europe, the landholder has uniformly found his advantage in communicating to the occupier of the ground, a greater and greater degree of security in his possession; and the public prosperity has kept pace with this good administration of the landholder’s private estate.1 Various suggestions for still farther improvements in this liberal and enlightened policy have been offered by different writers; but the consideration of these is foreign to our present object. One thing, however, is certain and indisputable:—that the actual cultivators of the soil are eminently entitled to the protection and encouragement of the Legislator; not only on account of the essential importance of this occupation to national prosperity, but because, with all the liberty and security which law can give, they must necessarily improve under great disadvantages. “The farmer,” as Mr. Smith observes, “compared with the proprietor, is as a merchant who trades with borrowed money, compared with one who trades with his own. . . . The station of a farmer besides, is, from the nature of things, inferior to that of a proprietor; and is even regarded, in modern Europe, as inferior to that of a great merchant or master manufacturer. . . . After all the encouragement, therefore, which agriculture has received from the policy of later times, little stock is likely to go from any other profession to the improvement of land in the way of farming.”* Nor is this all. The nature of his profession precludes him from commanding at a reasonable price, like other artists, the rude materials on which his industry is to be employed. “He is confined in his inquiry and choice to that narrow district of country with which he is acquainted, and even to the small number of farms that may happen to fall vacant about the same time with his own: And in this narrow district a monopoly is established against him in the hands of a few landholders. In this respect, therefore, his situation is much inferior to that of the artist, who can go to a cheap market wherever it is found, and can bring his rude materials from a great distance to his home; while the cultivator,” as an ingenious writer observes, “must carry his home to his rude materials when he has been so fortunate as to find them.”
Among the actual discouragements to Agriculture still existing in Great Britain, none appears to claim the attention of the Legislature so strongly as that tax upon industry which is imposed by tithes in England.1 The nature and extent of this grievance cannot be better stated than in the words of Mr. Archdeacon Paley, whose sentiments upon this subject, considering his professional rank, do great honour to his liberality. “A claimant,” says he, “here enters into the produce, who contributed no assistance whatever to the production. When years, perhaps, of care and toil, have matured an improvement; when the husbandman sees new crops ripening to his skill and industry, the moment he is ready to put his sickle to the grain, he finds himself compelled to divide his harvest with a stranger. Tithes are a tax not only upon industry, but upon that industry which feeds mankind; and upon that species of exertion, which it is the aim of all wise laws to cherish and promote; and to uphold and excite which, composes the main benefit that the community receives from the whole system of trade, and the success of commerce. And together with the more general inconveniency that attends the exaction of tithes, there is this additional evil, (in the mode at least according to which they are collected at present,) that they operate as a bounty upon pasturage. The burden of the tax falls with its chief, if not with its whole weight, upon tillage; that is to say, upon that precise mode of cultivation which it is the business of the State to relieve and remunerate in preference to every other.”*
Of the extent to which this grievance is actually felt in many instances, some very striking examples are given in the View of the Agriculture of Middlesex, lately published by Mr. Middleton. They would appear indeed scarcely credible to an inhabitant of this part of the island, were it not for the sanction which the Board of Agriculture gave to the general accuracy of the author’s information, by presenting him with the first gold medal which they bestowed on any literary performance, as a mark of their approbation.
“In many parishes of this county,” he observes, “the tithes are taken in kind; and, which is nearly the same, in others they are annually valued and compounded for. In several parishes a reasonable composition is taken; in some it has been very little advanced during the last twenty years; happily there are farms which pay a modus, and others that are entirely tithe free.
“I met with an instance, near Longford, of a farmer having, with great pains, and by an expensive culture, raised large crops. He offered a guinea an acre (which was exactly the rent he paid) as a composition for the tithe of his wheat; but it was refused, and taken in kind.
“A late rector of Kensington, after a lawsuit in the Court of Exchequer, obtained a decree that pine apples and other fruits which are raised at the expense of hot-houses, should yield their tithe in kind. I have not heard how many hot-houses were pulled down on that occasion; but a very exorbitant composition was demanded and received from the inhabitants in lieu of actual payment.
“A gentleman was at the expense of making a hop plantation at Denbys, in Surrey. The vicar refused to compound on any reasonable terms, and insisted on taking the tithes in kind, and also on having them picked. A suit in the Court of Exchequer was litigated, and the decree going against the improver, he grubbed up his hops, sowed grass seeds, and made a pasture of the lands. Thus was a produce of upwards of thirty pounds reduced to three.
“A few instances equally oppressive with these have happened in every county of England; and the necessary consequence is, that they have put a stop to many expensive but promising improvements. Every matter of this kind becomes a subject of general conversation among farmers, and of course discourages similar attempts. In short, an Act of Parliament, to prohibit the improvement of land by any considerable expenditure, would not more effectually do it than the tithe laws.
“Within the narrow limits of my own knowledge,” the same writer adds, “several premeditated bills of inclosure have been given up, rather than the land should be subjected to yield tithes in kind, after the great expense of the Act, the survey, the making of new roads, the building of bridges, the fencing and erecting of new buildings, and cultivating the land should be incurred.”
To the same purpose it is observed, in the Report of the County of Kent, (the author of which has the reputation of great practical skill in agriculture,) that “nothing can be devised that would so much set improvements afloat, as a commutation for tithe.”1
[3. Size of Farms.]—In the foregoing general conclusions concerning the protection and encouragement due by government to the immediate cultivators of the land, all the writers on population are unanimously agreed. There are, however, some other questions of a much more complicated nature, (relating to the same branch of rural economics,) on which there still subsists a wide diversity of opinion among our most respectable politicians. Such is the question which has given rise to so much discussion of late concerning the comparative effects on population produced by great or by small farms. It is proper for me in a general review of this sort, to take some notice of a controversy which has been carried on with so much warmth; and which (although from its nature incapable of being ever adjusted on any fixed general principles) has given occasion, not only to much ingenious argument, but to many important observations.
One of the first writers who distinguished himself by his zeal against the engrossment of farms in England, was Mr. Kent, in his Hints to the Gentlemen of Landed Property. “Those,” says he, “who contribute towards the destruction of small farms, can have very little reflection. If they have, their feelings are not to be envied. Where this has been the practice, we see a number of families reduced to poverty and misery, the poor-rates much increased, the small articles of provision greatly diminished in quantity and number, and consequently augmented in price.” . . . “There are thousands of parishes, which, since little farms have been swallowed up in greater, do not support so many cows as they did by fifty or sixty in a parish; and the inhabitants have decreased in proportion.” . . . “Every speculative Englishman,” he remarks in another passage, “who travels through the Austrian Netherlands, is astonished at the great population of that country, and at the sight of the markets, which are plentiful beyond description. Upon inquiring into the internal state and regulations of the country, he finds that there are no large farms; no class of men who pass under the character of gentlemen farmers, acquiring large fortunes merely by superintending the business of farming; but that the whole country is divided into much smaller portions than land is with us, and occupied by a set of laborious people, who in general work for themselves, and live very much on a footing of equality.” He concludes his observations on this subject, with expressing his anxious wishes, that “the destructive practice of engrossing farms may be carried no farther; the stab already given by it to plenty and population having greatly affected the population of this country.”
The same argument has been much insisted on by Dr. Price, who expresses great apprehensions that the evil will go on increasing; “the custom of engrossing farms easing landlords of the trouble attending the necessities of little tenants and the repairs of cottages.” “A great farmer,” he observes farther, by having it more in his power to speculate and command the markets, and by drawing to himself the profits which would have supported several farmers, is capable, with less culture, of paying a higher rent.” “But it is indeed,” says he, “creating private benefit on public calamity; and for the sake of a temporary advantage, giving up the nation to depopulation and distress.”1
In confirmation of this conclusion, he quotes some observations from a Memoir on the State of Population in the Pays de Vaud, by M. Muret, Secretary to the Economical Society at Vevay. This paper was published in 1766, and contains an enumeration of the principal causes which, in the judgment of the writer, obstruct population in that part of Switzerland. Among these, he insists particularly on engrossing farms; remarking in support of his opinion, that “a large tract of land in the hands of one man, does not yield so great a return as when in the hands of several, and does not employ so many people.” In proof of this, he mentions two parishes in the Pays de Vaud, one of which (once a little village) having been bought by some rich man, was sunk into a single demesne; and the other (once a single demesne) having fallen into the hands of some peasants, was become a little village.2
So prevalent were these ideas in France at the beginning of the Revolution, that many of the Cahiers demanded a law to limit the size of farms, and to prevent their union. This request is to be found even in the Cahier of Paris.1
On the other hand, the advantages of large farms are maintained:—by Arthur Young in his Political Arithmetic, (published in 1774); in his various Tours through England;2 in his Travels through France in 1787-88-89; and in the Annals of Agriculture:3 —by Mr. Howlett in different political publications, particularly in an Essay, (published in 1788,) On the Insufficiency of the Causes to which the Increase of our Poor and of the Poor-Rates have been commonly ascribed:—by the authors of the French Encyclopédie, (Tom. vii.):—by the Marquis de Mirabeau, in his Ami des Hommes:—by M. Herrenschwand, in his Discourses Sur l’Economie Politique, and Sur la Division des Terres:—and by many other authors at home and abroad.4
Mr. Smith, too, has laid it down as a general proposition, though without entering at all into the argument, that “in every country, after small proprietors, rich and great farmers are the principal improvers.”5 In another part of his work too, speaking of the great rise in the price both of hogs and poultry in Great Britain, he observes that “it has been frequently imputed to the diminution of cottagers, and other small occupiers of land; an event,” he adds, “which has, in every part of Europe, been the immediate forerunner of improvement and better cultivation.”6
Considerable additional light has been lately thrown on this subject in the County Reports drawn up for the consideration of the Board of Agriculture. The arguments on both sides of the question will be found there very fully detailed; more particularly in favour of large farms, for which, with a very few exceptions, all the authors of the surveys are zealous advocates. Some of the reasonings in the papers, as well as in other publications of a similar nature, might perhaps have been spared, if the writers had explained with a little more precision the ideas they annexed to the words large and small as employed in this controversy; words which are not only indefinite in their signification, in consequence of the want of a given standard of comparison; but which must necessarily vary in their import, in different parts of the country, according to local circumstances. The advocates for small farms (for example) sometimes include under that denomination, farms from 150 to 200 acres, (which are far above the highest average of small farms in Great Britain,) contrasting these with farms of 1500 or 2000 acres, which are so very far above the highest average of large farms, that they should be considered as exceptions.1
Many of these writers, too, seem to have proceeded on the supposition, that the principles on which the size of farms ought to be settled, are of a much more universal application than they will be found to admit of in reality. A few of them, however, have been completely aware of this consideration, remarking that the size of farms must necessarily be regulated by a variety of local peculiarities, such as soil, situation, modes of husbandry, and the extent of capital possessed by the class of farmers; and that, admitting the general maxim,—The best size of farm is that which affords the greatest proportional produce, for the least proportional expense, the application of this maxim will be found to lead to widely different conclusions, in different districts.2
In general, it should seem, that in proportion as Agriculture advances, the size of farms should be reduced; or rather, that farms should divide themselves in proportion as the task of superintendence became more difficult. In the meantime, much praise is due to the authors who have exerted so much industry and ingenuity, in attempting to enlighten landlords and tenants with respect both to their own interests and those of the community. It is in this way alone, that any good can result from such speculations; for I take for granted, that, in the present state of Political Science, all idea of legislative interference in adjusting the terms on which farms are to be let or hired, is entirely out of the question.
With respect to the supposed tendency of small farms to promote population, I shall only remark before leaving this article, that it must not be judged of merely from the numbers which are subsisted on the spot. The idea that “the mode of culture which employs most hands, is most favourable to the population of the State,” is justly reprobated by the author of L’Ami des Hommes [the elder Mirabeau] as a vulgar prejudice. “The surplus of produce carried to market,” he observes, “is no less beneficial in this respect by feeding towns, than if eaten on the fields that produced it. The more, therefore, that the industry and riches of the farmer enable him to economize the labour of men, the greater is the surplus which remains for the subsistence of others.”1 To suppose, as some authors have done, that small farms add to the numbers of a people, while, at the same time, it is granted, that they neither yield an adequate produce nor rent, amounts very nearly to a contradiction in terms.
What can be so adverse to population as the high price of the necessaries of life? And what circumstance can contribute more infallibly to augment this price, than to increase unnecessarily, by the multiplication of servants, labourers, and cattle, the expense of bringing the produce of the land to market? Granting that in this way some small farmers may be converted into labourers, and some labourers thrown out of employment, the same cause which gives rise to large farms, (I mean the demand for workmen and the increased consumption produced by flourishing manufactures,) will furnish employment to these labourers elsewhere, while the part of the produce which they formerly consumed on the spot, will be sold in the market at a price lower than the farmer could otherwise have afforded, contributing in a manner more advantageous to the general interest of the community, to the maintenance of a number of individuals equal to that of the labourers displaced.
It is thus that, in such a state of society as that in which we live, great farms not only supply, by an increased produce, the means of subsistence to an increasing population, but by economizing the expense of agricultural operations, have a tendency to keep down the price of provisions to those who are engaged in other kinds of industry.
It must not, however, be admitted as a universal fact, that the consolidation of farms has the effect of diminishing population on the spot; for although this is its natural and acknowledged effect, (the state of cultivation being supposed to remain the same,) the result will be directly opposite, if the capital of the great farmer, by extending the scale of his improvements, should enlarge the field of agricultural industry, in a greater proportion than that in which it economizes the mode of its employment. Nor is this reasoning merely hypothetical. In the agricultural reports, many instances occur of three or four small farms, after being thrown into one, having not only raised greater produce and paid a higher rent, but having added to the population maintained on the surface, by increasing the quantity of work, and of consequence, the demand for labourers.1 Mr. Howlett affirms that this happens in nine cases out of ten.2
Even, however, where the case is otherwise, it remains to be considered, of what description the population is which small farms promote; and whether the real strength of a State is increased by multiplying mouths, without providing a proportional produce to feed them. Nor must it be forgotten that the same want of economy which on small farms multiplies unnecessary labourers, multiplies unnecessary horses, and thereby occasions a most ruinous waste of national produce. “I have found from a close inspection,” says Mr. Young, speaking of the division of a country into small farms, “that the number of horses in such a country is treble and quadruple the number found on large farms. There was a farm in this parish (at present my property) of only sixteen acres of land, and yet the man kept two horses; no wonder he failed, notwithstanding the most intense industry. There is another remaining of twenty-eight acres, on which there are three horses kept. A contiguous one of three hundred and fifty has only ten upon it. Those who are advocates for little farms, in order that pigs and poultry may be plentiful, forget the swarms of horses that eat up what would feed myriads of pigs and chickens. I know,” he adds, “little farmers that keep two horses, yet have not one cow.”1
That the engrossment of farms has been a real grievance to many individuals is beyond all dispute; but the case is the same with every alteration in the policy of a State which obliges numbers to seek out a new employment. The same objection lies against every new mechanical contrivance for shortening labour, and even against the expediency of a peace at the close of a long and expensive war. In uniting small farms into larger ones, without any regard to the future provision of former possessors, much inhumanity, it is probable, has been displayed by particular proprietors; but in judging of the policy of such innovations in the habits of a country, it is absolutely necessary to abstract from the individual hardships that may fall under our notice, and to fix our attention on those general principles which influence the national prosperity.
It may be proper to add, before leaving this article, that in a considerable number of the Surveys very liberal ideas are suggested, with respect to certain appendages which ought to be connected with large farms, particularly an establishment for married servants or cottagers. Some striking instances are mentioned of the happy effects they have produced in different districts in lowering the poor-rates, and in promoting the industry and good order of the labourers.
[4. Enclosures.]—Nearly connected with this question concerning large and small farms, is another which has also given occasion to much controversy in England during the last thirty years; the question concerning the advantages or disadvantages of Enclosures, considered in respect of their influence on population. On this subject, as well as on the former, it would lead me into details inconsistent with my general plan, if I were to attempt a particular discussion of the argument; and, indeed, I have introduced both into these lectures, not so much with the view of supporting any opinion concerning them, as in order to give some arrangement to your private studies in examining this branch of Political Economy, and to point out the principal authors from whom you may derive assistance in the prosecution of the inquiry. By following this plan, (which, as I hinted in my first lecture, I intend to do in various other parts of the course,) I am sensible that I must necessarily deprive my speculations of the systematic form affected by those writers, who bring every particular question (however complicated by existing institutions or by local peculiarities) to the test of a few abstract principles; but I flatter myself that this inconvenience will be in some measure compensated by the variety of matter which I shall be able to suggest for your future consideration. In truth, it is chiefly by thus marking out the field of inquiry, and by exhibiting such an outline of its principal parts, as may direct the attention of the student to a methodical survey of the whole, that academical lectures seem to me to possess much utility, when the subject treated of is so extensive and various as that which I comprehend under the title of Political Economy. At any rate, it is all that I would be understood to attempt at present, in mentioning such topics as those which are now under our review.
Dr. Price, who has distinguished himself so much by his zeal against Great Farms, has taken up the argument against Enclosures with no less warmth. “How astonishing is it,” he observes, “that our Parliament should choose to promote depopulation, by passing every year, bills almost without number for new enclosures!”
In order to prevent misapprehensions of his meaning, he adds, that he “has here in view enclosures of open fields and lands already improved. It is acknowledged,” he says, “by even the writers in defence of enclosures, that these diminish tillage, increase the monopolies of farms, raise the prices of provisions, and produce depopulation. Such enclosures, therefore, however gainful they may be at present to a few individuals, are undoubtedly pernicious. On the contrary, enclosures of waste lands and commons would be useful, if divided into small allotments, and given up to be occupied at moderate rents by the poor. But, if besides lessening the produce of fine wool, they bear hard on the poor by depriving them of a part of their subsistence, and only go towards increasing farms already too large, the advantages attending them may not much exceed the disadvantages.”*
The argument on the other side of the question may be found in two pamphlets by Mr. Howlett, vicar of Great Dunmow, Essex. The one is entitled, “An Enquiry into the influence which Enclosures have had upon the Population of this Kingdom,” (1786.) The other, “Enclosures a cause of improved Agriculture, of plenty and cheapness of Provisions, of Population, and of Wealth, both private and national,” (1787.)
This writer, who has certainly treated of the subject with considerable ability and much candour, confesses after a review of the opposite representations and reasonings that have been laid before the public, that enclosures, according to particular circumstances, are attended with great advantages and great disadvantages, with respect to population, so that (although probability seems strongly on the favourable side) it does not appear merely from a theoretical view of the controversy, altogether indisputable, which of the two is prevalent in the vast number of enclosures which have taken place in this kingdom during the last twenty or thirty years. In order, therefore, to bring the question to the test of experience, he procured a list of the Enclosure Bills from the Journals of the House of Commons, (amounting to very near a thousand, between the years 1750 and 1781,) and applied to the clergy of the enclosed parishes for the annual register of baptisms. In this inquiry he omitted the counties of Nottingham, York, and Lancaster, because Dr. Price himself acknowledges these to be increased greatly. The result of the very extensive information he collected, was decidedly in favour of the enclosed parishes, and seems to amount to little short of demonstration of the beneficial influence of enclosures on the general population of the kingdom.
The prejudice against Enclosures is of a very early date in England, and has been sanctioned by the opinions of some very eminent writers; among others, by Lord Bacon, who expresses himself thus, in his History of Henry the Seventh.* “Enclosures at that time, (1489,) began to be more frequent, whereby arable land, which could not be manured without people and families, was turned into pasture, which was easily rid by a few herdsmen. . . . This bred a decay of people. . . . In remedying this inconvenience, the King’s wisdom and the Parliament’s was admirable. Enclosures they would not forbid, . . . and tillage they would not compel; . . . but they took a course to take away depopulating enclosures and depopulating pasturage, . . . by consequence. The ordinance was, ‘that all houses of husbandry, with twenty acres of ground to them, should be kept up for ever, together with a competent proportion of land to be occupied with them,’ and in nowise to be severed from them. . . . By this means, the houses being kept up, did, of necessity, enforce a dweller; and the proportion of land for occupation being also kept up, did, of necessity, enforce that dweller not to be a beggar or cottager,” &c. “The statute here mentioned was renewed in Henry Eighth’s time. and every person who converted tillage into pasture subjected to a forfeiture of half the land, till the offence was removed.”1
Mr. Hume, who, in his History of England, has interspersed his narrative with many of the most important principles of Political Economy, dissents widely from Lord Bacon, in the judgment he pronounces on this part of Henry Seventh’s policy. “The law enacted against Enclosures,” he observes, “and for the keeping up of farm-houses, scarcely deserves the high praises bestowed on it by Lord Bacon. If husbandmen understand agriculture, and have a ready vent for their commodities, we need not dread a diminution of the people employed in the country. All methods of supporting populousness, except by the interest of the proprietor, are violent and ineffectual. During a century and a half after this period, there was a frequent renewal of laws and edicts against depopulation, whence we may infer that none of them were ever executed. The natural course of improvement at last provided a remedy.”*
Another very curious document of the sentiments of former times on this subject, exists in a pamphlet first published in 1581, entitled “A Compendium, or Brief Examination of certain ordinary Complaints of divers of our Countrymen in these our Days.” The initials of the author’s name are W. S.; from which circumstance, strengthened by some vague tradition, and probably also by the dramatic form of the work, it was long and very generally ascribed to William Shakespeare. But it appears from Wood’s Fasti, and Farmer’s book On the Learning of Shakespeare, that the real author was a person of the name of Stafford. The arguments both for and against Enclosures, are certainly stated in it with uncommon spirit and force, and anticipate the principal ones which have been brought forward in the course of the late discussions concerning them. The speakers in the dialogue are “a Merchant, a Knight, a Husbandman, a Capper, and a Doctor of Divinity.”
I have dwelt longer on this article than I should have thought necessary on a question of so very local a nature, because it has formed one of the most conspicuous objects of internal policy under the present reign. During that of King William, not a single act was passed for enclosing wastes or dividing commons; and in the two succeeding reigns, only twenty-five in whole. In the reign of George II., (which lasted thirty-three years,) they amounted to a hundred and eighty-two; whereas they are said, during the first fourteen sessions of the present reign, to have exceeded seven hundred. “In this manner,” says Mr. Chalmers, “was more useful territory added to the Empire, at the expense of individuals, than had been gained by all the wars since the Revolution. In acquiring distant dominions, through conquest, the State is enfeebled by the charge of their establishments in peace, and by the still more enormous debts incurred in war for their defence. In gaining additional lands by reclaiming the wild, improving the barren, and appropriating the common, the limits of our island are virtually extended, and a solid foundation is laid, in the additional produce of the soil, for the multiplication of the people.”1
Impressed with these ideas, a variety of writers have for many years contended for the expediency of a General Enclosure Bill; and a bill for that purpose actually passed the House of Commons in the session of Parliament 1799, but was thrown out by the Lords. The Lord Chancellor, [Loughborough,] in his speech on the 3d of July last, (1800,)* when certain resolutions of the Commons concerning bills of enclosure were under consideration, stated that the Bill of 1799 had been rejected, because it was loosely and vaguely drawn, and expressed his doubts of the possibility of framing any general law which should not be liable to material objections. “If a canon could be devised, comprising all such provisions as by experience have been found necessary in most bills of enclosure, it would certainly have its use, but this he feared would be impracticable; and, (as in the case of the general Highway Act, which had not in the least tended to shorten private highway bills,) so a general canon of enclosure law might not in the least have the effect of shortening future private bills of enclosure.” The Duke of Bedford expressed himself nearly to the same purpose; avowing himself friendly to a system of general enclosure, but disapproving of the attempt to effect it by a general bill. Of the beneficial tendency of enclosures with respect to population, no doubt appears to have been suggested in the course of the debate. On the contrary, it was universally admitted that the population of the kingdom had of late years considerably increased; that the means of supplying that population had not increased in proportion; and that every measure which facilitated a general system of enclosure, was in a high degree wise and salutary in our present circumstances. The Chancellor alone doubted “whether any regulations adopted by the Legislature, could serve to promote the cultivation of waste lands and commons. He rather believed that enclosures in general must depend upon the spirit, the activity, and the ability of private individuals, who feel it their interest to set about enclosing, and apply to Parliament for bills of enclosure.”
About one point, however, there can be no controversy, that if the multiplication of enclosures be a desirable object, it is the duty of the Legislature to remove as much as possible those obstacles to them which are created by the heavy expenses attending enclosure bills at present. The expense occasioned by fees to the officers of the two Houses, amounts to £209 per parish, however many there may be in an act; but this is, in many instances, trifling, in comparison of what is expended in paying solicitors and witnesses in London. Hence the impossibility of coming to Parliament for small enclosures; and the discouragements which oppose themselves even to more extensive projects of improvement.1
The expediency of reducing this expense as much as possible, is placed in a strong light by an acknowledged fact, on which has frequently been founded a plausible but very fallacious argument against the policy of enclosures in general. The great profit which speculations of this sort afford to individuals (it is well known) is derived from soils which are adapted to the purposes of the grazier. “Upon dry land well adapted to corn, the advantage is far inferior. The consequence is, that immense tracts of this last sort of land remain open and waste; while the heavy, rich, deep soils that have been constantly yielding wheat under a low rent, are enclosed and converted into grazing land at double or treble the rents they formerly paid.” “Such soils,” says Mr. Young, “will bear any expense; and these have been thus taken from corn, which is the food of the poor, and thrown to bullocks to feed the rich.”
It is acknowledged, however, by this writer, that these considerations afford no argument against the general encouragement of enclosures by the Legislature. The evil of which he complains is irremediable by legislative authority, being the natural consequence of the present circumstances of the country; and, so far from being diminished, it is increased by the existing impediments to enclosures,—impediments which, while insufficient to prevent enclosures where they are injurious to Agriculture, throw a bar in the way of improvement, in the case of those dry and poorer wastes, which might be converted into corn-fields for the benefit of the people.1
[5. Size of Properties.]—In the observations hitherto made on the relation between Population and Agriculture, I have had in view chiefly the effects produced on the latter, by the condition of those who cultivate farms which do not belong to them in property. It appeared to me to be the most natural arrangement, to begin with the consideration of this order of men, as it is chiefly by them that Agriculture is carried on in this part of the world. I now proceed to make a few remarks on the same subject, considered in its connexion with the actual proprietors of the land.
That the division and subdivision of landed property promote population in an eminent degree, is admitted as an indisputable maxim by political writers of all descriptions. “Only revive,” says Mr. Suessmilch, “the laws of Licinius, forbidding any Roman to hold more than seven jugera of land; or that of Romulus, which limited every Roman to two jugera, and you will soon convert a barren desert into a busy and crowded hive.” Ample illustrations of this proposition may be found in Dr. Wallace’s Dissertations on the Numbers of Mankind, and in the Political Tracts of Dr. Price.
I shall have occasion to shew, in another part of this course, how much this equality in the distribution of landed property was favoured by all the ancient systems of legislation. I shall confine myself at present to the example of the Romans.
For about two hundred and fifty years after the foundation of Rome, during the monarchy, the whole land was divided into equal portions of two jugera,—that is, a little more than an English acre, and a little less than one Scotch; and each citizen had one of these portions assigned to him. Soon after the expulsion of the kings the quantity was increased, and inequalities of fortune arose; yet for about another two hundred and fifty years, the general size of a Roman farm was only seven jugera, or somewhat less than four and a half English acres. In the progress of luxury and avarice, however, so great an alteration took place in the manners of the people, that in the year of Rome 375, (under the tribuneship of Licinius Stolo,) a law was found necessary to limit estates to five hundred jugera, or about three hundred and twelve English acres. When the Roman Consuls and Dictators had only so small a portion of land which they laboured with the help of their slaves, and often with their own hands; it is easy to conceive with what frugality and simplicity they must have lived; how completely the ornamental arts must have been excluded; and how easy it must have been to support a family. In the family of such a Dictator or Consul, Dr. Wallace reckons the husband and wife, two or three children, and a slave or two; (which last allowance is probably under the truth, as slaves were very numerous.) A Roman family, therefore, which had not above seven jugera, or four and one-third English acres, to maintain them, might consist of seven persons or more, and had less than an acre, often perhaps not more than half an acre, for each individual: whereas, (according to Templeman’s calculation,) the eight millions of inhabitants of England have very near thirty-two millions of acres to support them, or four acres per head.
In consequence of the influence of these laws, and the system of manners which they encouraged, the agriculture of the Romans appears to have been carried to a singular degree of perfection; and the effects continued for a long course of years after the causes had ceased to operate. Depending entirely on agriculture for the means of life, trained to it from generation to generation, cultivating every corner and inch of their little fields, the old Romans were not only distinguished above all other people for simplicity of manners, but set an example of economy, accuracy, and minute attention in the cultivation of land, which has never been equalled in this part of the world. It is observed by the author of one of the Reports presented to the Board of Agriculture, that the Garden System of Agriculture, which continued to be general for near five hundred years, probably laid the foundation of all that excellence to which Roman husbandry was afterwards carried; that the rural industry, practices, and ideas handed down from former times, long preserved their existence; and that the more extensive farms which afterwards took place, were cultivated with as religious and minute a care as the little allotments in earlier ages.1
In the pictures which have been transmitted to us of the old Roman manners, uniting in so wonderful a degree the simplicity and moderation of rural life, with all that is heroic and splendid in human character, there is undoubtedly something which is peculiarly interesting to the imagination. “Gaudente terra,” as Pliny* expresses it, “laureato vomere et triumphali aratore.” Nor is it surprising that they should be so often mentioned by way of contrast, to what the poet calls “The sober, gainful arts of modern days.” The following stanza forms part of a beautiful Ode which he has addressed on this subject to the country gentlemen of England.
When we indulge such ideas, we are extremely apt to forget the essential differences between the circumstances of mankind in ancient and in modern times. Granting the fact, that when a family has just land enough for its subsistence, that portion will be well cultivated, what deductions can be drawn from it applicable to the present policy of Europe? Of what use in a modern kingdom would be a whole province thus divided, except for the mere purpose of breeding men? A province of such farmers would consume nothing but the produce of their lands; they could neither possess the desire nor the ability to purchase manufactures; and they could pay no taxes without an oppression that would reduce them to misery. The case was widely different in the early times of the Roman Republic, for then the more abundant such population was, the more easily could the State levy that tax which consisted in personal service.1 Hence an important distinction between the practice of agriculture as a direct means of subsistence, and as a trade bearing a relation to the other trades and occupations which enter into the general system of Political Economy. The former was exemplified in Rome, and in various other ancient republics. The latter is exemplified in Modern Europe, where it is the object of the farmer, by raising a surplus produce for the market, not only to provide a fund for the payment of taxes, but to acquire the means of purchasing from the artisan and manufacturer, whatever accommodations his habits may lead him to consider as contributing to his comfort. This distinction is much insisted on by Sir James Steuart in the Fourteenth Chapter of his First Book, [of The Principles of Political Œconomy.]
It is justly observed by the same writer, that “those passages of Roman authors which mention the frugality of that people, and the small extent of their possessions, cannot be rightly understood without the knowledge of many circumstances relative to the manners of those times. For if you understand such a distribution of lands to have extended over all the Roman territory, the number of the citizens would have exceeded what they appear to have been by the census, and even surpass all belief. But farther, I may be allowed to ask, Whether or not it be supposed that these frugal Romans laboured this small portion of lands with their own hands, and consumed the produce of it? If I am answered in the affirmative, (which is necessary to prove the advantages of agriculture’s being exercised by all the classes of a people,) then I ask, From whence were the inhabitants of Rome and other cities supposed to come, who fed the armies when in the field? If these were fed by foreign grain imported, or plundered from their neighbours, where was the advantage of this subdivision of lands, and of this extensive agriculture which could not feed the inhabitants of the State? If it be said, that notwithstanding this frugal distribution of property among the citizens, there was still found surplus enough to supply both Rome and the armies, will it not then follow, that there was no necessity for employing all the people in agriculture, since the labour of a part might have sufficed?”*
I shall have occasion afterwards to take notice of some of the difficulties started in the foregoing passage, when I come to consider (in another part of the course) the immense importations of corn which, from the earliest times, were understood to be necessary for the subsistence of Rome. At present I shall only remark, (as I already hinted,) that whatever may be supposed to be the merits or defects of the agricultural policy of the Romans, considered in relation to the national objects which they had in view, this policy is manifestly inapplicable to the present state of society in Europe. Mr. Hume, after acknowledging its tendency to promote that population which the exigencies of their state required, and even admitting that this population was partly to be ascribed to the want of commerce, (the small number of artisans who depended on the labour of the farmers leaving a greater share for the maintenance of the soldiers,) proposes the following question: “Whether sovereigns might not now return with advantage to the maxims of ancient policy?” His answer is, “That it appears to be almost impossible; and that, because ancient policy was violent, and contrary to the more natural and usual course of things.”* It were to be wished, that Mr. Hume had explained a little more fully the idea suggested in the last clause of this sentence, but I presume his meaning was, that ancient policy aimed too much at modifying, by the force of positive institutions, the order of society, according to some preconceived notion of expediency, without trusting sufficiently to those principles of the human constitution, which, wherever they are allowed free scope, not only conduct mankind to happiness, but lay the foundation of a progressive improvement in their condition and in their character. The advantages which modern policy possesses over the ancient, (as I have elsewhere observed), arises principally from its conformity, in some of the most important articles of Political Economy, to an order of things recommended by nature; and it would not be difficult to show, that where it remains imperfect, its errors may be traced to the restraints it imposes on the natural course of human affairs.
The policy of the Romans, in the instance now under our consideration, “was,” to use Mr. Hume’s language, “violent and contrary to the natural course of things,” inasmuch as it attempted, by the force of Agrarian Laws, to prevent that inequality in the distribution of landed property, which is plainly a part of the order of nature, and which (as I shall afterwards endeavour to shew) is intimately connected with the progressive improvement of the human species. Among them, it was the great object of State to keep up and to multiply the breed of soldiers; a narrow and oppressive scheme of Government, undoubtedly, when compared with that enlightened and generous system, which estimates national felicity, not merely by the register of births, but by the degree in which it distributes among all orders of the people, (together with the comforts connected with their animal existence,) all the gratifications of which man is susceptible as an intelligent and a moral being.
Conformable to this agricultural and military policy of the Romans, were the ideas imbibed by their youth from early infancy, and inculcated in the writings of all their most esteemed authors. From the most ancient period of their history descended that maxim which always continued to have a wonderful influence on their manners, that no employment was honourable but the plough and the sword; and hence, as both Pliny and Columella inform us, an enrolment into any of the Four City Tribes (“sub umbra Civitatis intra mœnia desides cunctari”) was understood not to accord well with the spirit which became a Roman.*
In later times, an affectation of more effeminate habits seems to have gained ground even among their military characters, from the natural effects of a city life, and to have been regarded with some degree of jealousy and indignation by those who adhered to the occupation and sentiments of their ancestors. We are told by Valerius Maximus, that when Scipio Nasica (then a young man) was standing candidate for the office of Curule Ædile, this affectation defeated his hopes of attaining that dignity. “As he was passing,” it is said, “where the tribes both of the city and country were assembled, (practising, it should seem, the same attentions which are usual among modern candidates for popular favour,) while he was squeezing the hand of a labouring man whom he knew, he could not forbear jesting with him on its hardness and callousness—“Joci gratia; interrogavit eum—Num manibus solitus esset ambulare?” “This jest,” the writer adds, “cost him dear; for it was repeated immediately from one to another, and all the tribes offended with the contumeliosa urbanitas which it discovered, unanimously rejected a candidate whom the effeminacy of Rome had rendered so supercilious and petulant.”1
While these ideas concerning the dignity exclusively attached to the professions of agriculture and of war maintained their influence, the mercantile and lucrative arts were entirely abandoned to aliens, slaves, and freedmen; and for a succession of ages not a citizen was found to practise them. In the time of Cicero other notions had begun to prevail, and these arts had risen considerably in the public estimation; and yet, what a contrast does the following passage present to the ideas now fostered by those establishments which have accomplished in the most effectual manner, and, in a far greater degree, than any of the ancient constitutions, all the most essential purposes of the political union!
“Concerning the arts, and the means of acquiring wealth, which are to be accounted liberal, and which, mean, the following are the sentiments usually entertained. In the first place, those professions are discreditable which are odious to mankind, such as the business of tax-gatherers and usurers. The arts of all hirelings, too, are illiberal and mean, who are paid for their labour and not for their skill. The wages they receive are the badges of servitude. They also are to be considered as dishonourably employed, who buy from merchants what they immediately retail. For they gain nothing unless they lie extravagantly, and, consequently, owe their profit to the basest of all the vices. All mechanics are occupied in mean employments; nor is it possible that anything liberal can be connected with a workshop. Least of all ought the arts to be esteemed which minister to pleasure, such as the arts of fishmongers, butchers, cooks, and confectioners. To these may be added, if you please, perfumers, dancers, and the whole tribe of such as administer to gaming.
“But those arts which require a superior degree of skill, and from which arise a higher degree of utility, as medicine, architecture, instruction in liberal arts, are employments honourable to those with whose rank they correspond. As to commerce, it is mean, if it be inconsiderable; but if it be great and abundant, if it bring largely from every country, and without deceit supply an extensive market, it is an occupation not much to be censured, (non admodum vituperanda;) nay, if the persons who follow it could be satiated, or rather be content with their profits, not making long voyages, but returning speedily to their farms and landed estates, they would deserve to be rather commended. But after all, among the various pursuits from which gain is derived, there is none which surpasses agriculture; none more profitable; none more delightful; none more worthy of a man who loves independence.”1
I have quoted this passage as an additional illustration of the absurdity of drawing parallels between the condition of the ancient Romans and our own; and of imagining that the agricultural policy of the former is applicable to that state of society in which we live, I shall only add farther on the subject at present, that the commerce with which the Romans were acquainted, was essentially different, both in its nature and effects, from that which has changed the face of human affairs in Modern Europe. It was a saying of Manius Curius Dentatus, (and repeated by Cicero in the person of Cato,) that he thought it more glorious to conquer those who possessed gold, than to possess it himself.2 The natural effect, however, of this spirit of conquest, (notwithstanding the disinterested views with which it was long connected in the case of many illustrious individuals,) was to bring immense sums of money into the city. Satisfactory proofs of this are produced by Dr. Wallace, (even in the early ages of the Republic,) from the high prices which were paid for things merely ornamental, at a time when all the ancient simplicity of manners remained, and the necessaries of life were to be purchased for a trifle. Towards the end of the Commonwealth, and afterwards under Augustus, riches and luxury increased to an extent unknown in the annals of the world. Julius Cæsar’s debts, before he had been in any office, were, according to some, £2,018,229; according to others, £807,291. Crassus was his surety for £160,812. Mark Anthony owed on the Ides of March, £322,916 sterling, and paid it before the Calends of April. The expenses of these Romans were on a scale proportioned to their estates and debts, and far exceeded the most extravagant ideas of modern times. Much curious information concerning them may be found in Dr. Arbuthnot’s Treatise on Coins, and in Wallace’s Dissertation on the Numbers of Mankind. As this wealth was not acquired by commerce, it had no tendency to encourage a commercial spirit, excepting in so far as ministered to luxury. On the contrary, we find that commerce was dreaded on account of the obvious effect which it had to drain their riches; for as they had no commodity of their own to give in exchange for the luxuries which they imported at so immense a price from distant provinces, they must have paid for everything in silver and gold. “Hence it was, that the emperors forbid the people to send gold to the barbarians; which law appears (by the way) to have been in force before, from Cicero’s Oration for L. Flaccus: ‘Exportari Aurum non oportere, cum sæpe antea Senatus, tum, me Consule, gravissime judicavit.’ ”1
The fatal consequences of this influx of wealth, and of the excessive luxury which attended it, (particularly after the conquest of Asia,) are sufficiently known. Juvenal has painted them strongly in a single line.
The same remarks which have been now made with respect to Rome, are applicable, with some slight limitations, to most of the ancient republics. In States formed upon such a model, and in ages when commerce and manufactures were yet in their infancy, a sudden influx of riches from abroad was justly dreaded as an evil alarming to the morals, to the industry, and to the freedom of a people. How different in its tendency is that wealth which, in a commercial country, is the gradual result of national industry! If we survey the countries around us, we uniformly find, that the most wealthy states are those where the people are the most laborious, and where they enjoy the greatest degree of liberty. Nay, it was the general diffusion of wealth among the lower orders of men which first gave birth to the spirit of independence in Modern Europe, and which has produced, under some of its governments, and more especially under our own, a more equal diffusion of freedom and of happiness, than took place under the most celebrated constitutions of antiquity.
I may perhaps appear to have insisted longer than was necessary, on institutions and manners so strikingly contrasted with those which exist at present. But it seemed to me to be of consequence to take the earliest opportunity which my subject afforded, of obviating some of the prepossessions which the study of the classics is apt to inspire in favour of agrarian regulations, to the prejudice of that more comprehensive and enlightened policy, which, giving full scope in all directions to human industry, allows agriculture and commerce to act and re-act on each other, in multiplying the comforts of human life, in developing all the capacities that belong to our nature, and in diffusing as widely as the imperfection of human institutions will permit, the blessings of knowledge and civilisation among all classes of the community.
Independently of the violent operation of Agrarian Laws, some authors have expressed their doubts, whether in some of the countries of Modern Europe, the subdivision of landed property has not been, in certain combinations of circumstances, carried to a pernicious excess, by the operation of natural causes. The following passage from Mr. Young’s Agricultural Survey of France,* (in the years 1787-89), will shew, that this doubt rests on something more than mere hypothesis. It is proper for me to premise, that, according to his computation, the number of little farms in that kingdom belonging in property to the actual cultivators, was at that time so great as to occupy one-third of the whole territory.
“Before I travelled,” says he, “I conceived that small farms in property were susceptible of good cultivation; and that the occupier of such having no rent to pay might be sufficiently at his ease to work improvements, and carry on a vigorous husbandry; but what I have seen in France has greatly lessened my good opinion of them. In Flanders I saw excellent husbandry on properties of thirty to one hundred acres; but we seldom find here such small patches of property as are common in other provinces. In Alsace, and on the Garonne, that is, on soils of such exuberant fertility as to demand no exertions, some small properties also are well cultivated. In Bearn I passed through a region of little farmers, whose appearance, neatness, and ease, charmed me; it was what property alone could on a small scale effect: but these were by no means contemptibly small; they were, as I judged by the distance from house to house, from forty to eighty acres. Except these, and a very few other instances, I saw nothing on small properties except a most unremitting industry.” . . . “The circumstance which in France produces so immense a number of small farms in property, is the division which takes place after the death of the proprietor, commonly amongst all the children, but in some districts among the sons only. Forty or fifty acres in property are not incapable of good husbandry; but when divided, twenty acres must be ill cultivated; again divided, they become farms of ten acres, of five, of two, and even one; and I have even seen some of half, and even of a quarter of a rood, with a family as much attached to it as if it were an hundred acres. The population flowing from this division is, in some cases, great, but it is the multiplication of wretchedness. Couples marry and procreate, on the idea, not the reality, of a maintenance; they increase beyond the demand of towns and manufactures; and the consequence is distress, and numbers dying of diseases, arising from insufficient nourishment. Hence, therefore, small properties much divided, prove the greatest source of misery that can be conceived; and this has operated to such an extent in France, that” (in the opinion of Mr. Young) “a law undoubtedly ought to have been past, to render all division below a certain number of acres illegal.”*
“If the industry of towns and manufactures were active enough to demand the surplus of all this population as fast as it arose, the advantages of the system would be clear. . . . It is idle to state in its favour the example of America, where an immensity of fertile land lies open to every one who will accept of it; and where population is valuable to an unexampled degree, as we see in the price of their labour. But what comparison between such a country and France, where the competition for employment is so great, (arising from too great a populousness,) that the price of labour is seventy-six per cent. below that of England, though the prices of provisions are as high in the former country as in the latter.”†
These remarks of Mr. Young are chiefly levelled at some modern theories of Political Economy, according to which a country is flourishing in proportion to the equal distribution of the people over the territory; and “the greatest possible division of landed property is the best.” That these maxims ought to be received with great restrictions appears obvious from this, that “on the supposition such a system were allowed time to operate, a nation would necessarily arrive at the limit beyond which the earth, cultivate it as you please, will feed no more mouths; yet those simple manners which instigate to marriage still continue. What, then, is the consequence, but the most dreadful misery imaginable! You soon would exceed the populousness of China, where the putrid carcases of domestic animals, and every species of vermin, are sought with avidity to sustain the lives of wretches who were born only to be starved.”‡
Some of the foregoing remarks from Young have been suggested to him by the following passage in Sir James Steuart’s Political Œconomy.
“I would recommend in countries where this minute subdivision of lands has taken place, that for the future none under a certain extent or value should be suffered to be divided among the children, but ordered to be sold, and the price divided among them, and that the same regulation should be observed upon the death of such proprietors where lands are not sufficient to produce three times the physical-necessary of the labourers. This would engage a people to exercise agriculture as a trade, and to give over that trifling husbandry which produces no surplus, and which involves so many poor people in the oppression of land-taxes. . . . The principle,” he adds, “is so evident, that I never found any one who did not immediately agree to the justness of my observation; although in imposing land-taxes I have nowhere found it attended to.”*
I have quoted these passages, because I am always much more anxious to suggest a variety of ideas for your examination, than to establish any particular system. I confess, for my own part, I have no doubt that, in so far as Agriculture and Population alone are concerned, their interests would be most effectually promoted by a perfectly free commerce of land. The evil complained of in France, plainly arose from the artificial value set on landed property, in consequence of prevailing institutions and habits. In a commercial country where there were no perpetuities, and no regard paid to primogeniture, the attachment to land would be nearly proportioned to its intrinsic value, and the natural course of things would bring small estates into the market, upon the death of every proprietor who left a numerous family. Nay more, this free commerce of land would put an end to that monopoly-price which it everywhere bears, and which, by diverting small capitals from such purchases, contributes perhaps more than any other cause to depress agriculture below the level of the commercial arts. In such a state of things, a law similar to that proposed by Sir James Steuart, would probably be found unnecessary; although I am far from asserting that in a country circumstanced as France then was, it might not have contributed to keep population more on a level with the means of subsistence.
The opinion, however, that we form on this point, is of little consequence, as the evils resulting from too minute a division of land must necessarily be confined to very unusual combinations of circumstances. Those which arise from the opposite extreme of an accumulation of this species of property in the hands of a small number of individuals, is a political disorder much more deeply rooted in our prevailing ideas and institutions, and affecting far more extensively and powerfully the general interests of society.
On this particular branch of our subject, which is perhaps the most important of all, I do not mean to enlarge at present, partly because it will again fall under consideration in the farther prosecution of my general plan; but chiefly because the effects of Entails and of the Law of Primogeniture, in checking the progress of agriculture, have been illustrated very fully by Mr. Smith. The remarks which this author has made on the circumstances from which these institutions naturally arose during the disorders and violence of the feudal times, are more especially deserving of attention, as they throw much light on the origin of that state of society, and system of manners, with which we are connected.
Second, of Population (and Agriculture) considered in connexion with Manufactures.]
Having treated, at some length, [from p. 113,] of the relation between Population and Agriculture, in so far as it depends on the condition of the actual cultivators of the soil, and on the distribution of landed property, I proceed now to make some observations on the same subject, considered in connexion with the influence of manufactures.
“The proper and only right encouragement for agriculture,” says Sir James Steuart, “is a moderate and gradual increase of demand for the productions of the earth; this works a natural and beneficial increase of inhabitants, and this demand must come from cities.”* The author would, I think, have expressed his idea more unexceptionably, if he had contented himself with saying, that “the demand must come from manufactures;” as the language he employs prejudges a much controverted question concerning the most beneficial form in which manufactures may be established, whether when collected into cities, or when scattered over a territory. In other respects, the observation is unquestionably just, and may be regarded as a fundamental principle in this inquiry. In truth, if we except the essential duty of protecting and maintaining the rights of the husbandman, the excitement of a spirit of manufacturing industry is the most effectual measure by which a statesman has it in his power, in the actual circumstances at least, of this part of the world, to influence the agriculture of his country. The seeming exceptions which may occur to this remark, (such as that of Switzerland, where, according to Mr. Hume, “we find at once the most skilful husbandmen and the most bungling tradesmen in Europe,”)† do not in the least invalidate the general observation, as the effect, in all such instances, may be easily traced to some very peculiar and anomalous combinations of circumstances. And, at any rate, “Is it just reasoning,” says Mr. Hume, “because agriculture may, in some cases, flourish without trade or manufactures, to conclude, that, in any great extent of country, or for any great tract of time, it would subsist alone?” “The most natural way, surely, of encouraging agriculture, is, first, to excite other kinds of industry, and thereby afford the labourer a ready market for his commodities, and a return of such goods as may contribute to his pleasure and enjoyment. This method,” he adds, “is infallible and universal.”‡
A few very slight remarks in illustration of this proposition will be sufficient for my present purpose.
Let us suppose then, a nation which practises no art but husbandry, and which subsists entirely on the rude produce of the soil. In such a situation, it is evident there would be no motive for the cultivator to increase his skill or industry beyond what is necessary for the bare support of himself and his family; for men will not labour merely from the patriotic view of increasing their numbers. The only thing that can quicken human industry, is the wants of men, real or imaginary; and these wants can be created only by the introduction of manufactures.
On a superficial view of the subject, it may perhaps appear that manufactures are rather the effects than the causes of that multiplicity of wants to which they are subservient; and that this has actually been the history of many of them, cannot be disputed. In general, however, it will be found, that refinements in the arts are more owing to the temptations held out by the industry and invention of the artists, than to the increased demand for the novelities they furnish, arising from the natural progress of luxury among their employers.
This has been well illustrated by the feelings which most persons must have experienced, in some degree, on visiting any of those shops which minister to the extravagance of a great city. Everything we see appears either necessary, or at least highly convenient; and we begin to wonder how we could have been so long without that which we never thought of before, and of which it is possible, after we are possessed of it, that we may never think again.1
A trifling anecdote mentioned by Dr. Franklin in one of his Letters, places the whole of this natural process in a stronger light than I can possibly do by any general observations. It exhibits at once the effects of imitation and fancy in creating a taste for superfluities, and the effect of this taste in stimulating human industry.
“The skipper of a shallop, employed between Cape May and Philadelphia, had done us some small service, for which he refused to be paid. My wife understanding that he had a daughter, sent her a present of a new-fashioned cap. Three years after, this skipper being at my house with an old farmer of Cape May, his passenger, he mentioned the cap, and how much his daughter had been pleased with it. ‘But,’ said he, ‘it proved a dear cap to our congregation.’ ‘How so?’ ‘When my daughter appeared with it at meeting, it was so much admired, that all the girls resolved to get such caps from Philadelphia; and my wife and I computed that the whole could not have cost less than a hundred pounds.’ ‘True,’ said the farmer, ‘but you do not tell all the story. I think the cap was nevertheless an advantage to us; for it was the first thing that put our girls upon knitting worsted mittens for sale at Philadelphia, that they might have wherewithal to buy caps and ribbons there; and you know that that industry has continued, and is likely to continue and increase to a much greater value, and answer better purposes.’ ”
In this simple narrative, we have a lively picture, in the first place, of the origin of artificial wants; and, secondly, of their influence in encouraging that labour which multiplies the necessaries and accommodations of life. The same process is exhibited every day before our eyes in a thousand instances; but in the new world, the political mechanism is less complicated, and its principle more obvious, while at the same time the rapidity with which the progress of improvement advances, magnifies the scale of observation. Nor must it be forgotten, that it is in consequence of the very peculiar circumstances in which mankind have there begun their career, that philosophers have been found whose attention was alive to such familiar incidents, and who were qualified to perceive the beautiful lights which they throw on the infancy of polished society.
While manufactures stimulate, in this manner, the industry of the husbandman, by multiplying his wants, they create, at the same time, a market for the rude produce of the earth, and communicating to him a portion of the commercial spirit, animate and enlighten his labours by the same motives to which the other lucrative arts owe their progress.
Hence it appears, that, in a civilized country, the importance of a great proportion of the people is to be estimated, not from the intrinsic value of what they produce, but from its subserviency to increase the industry of others. A hat, or a riband, or even a watch, may not in itself be very useful to a peasant, but if they lead him to increase his skill and his industry in order to be able to purchase them, and furnish employment to the artists who are to consume his surplus produce, an important advantage is gained. In this view manufacturers, are useful members of the community, no less than husbandmen; and it may with truth be affirmed, that the artist who, in the centre of a populous town, is employed in polishing a button or a watch-chain, contributes to advance the agriculture of the state, as really, though not so immediately, as if with his own hands he threw the seed into the ground.
According to this view of the subject, it would appear that the great use of manufacturers in a State, is to set the husbandmen at work: and hence arises a most important distinction of labourers, into those who are immediately productive, and those who are instrumentally productive;—a distinction to which I shall have occasion to recur afterwards.
1. To prevent misapprehensions of what has been now stated, it is necessary to recollect, in the first place, that in these observations I confine my attention entirely to the policy of nations which exclude the institution of Slavery. If we appeal to the history of the ancient commonwealths, striking exceptions will immediately present themselves to our conclusions. But, as I have already repeatedly hinted, their systems of political economy were founded on principles, and had a reference to circumstances so essentially different from ours, that the consideration of the one can be of little use in illustrating the other, excepting in the way of contrast.
“In ancient times,” says Sir James Steuart, “men were forced to labour the ground because they were slaves to others. In modern times, the operation is more complex; and as a modern statesman cannot make slaves of his subjects, he must engage them to become slaves to their own passions and desires. This is the only method to make them labour the ground; and provided this be accomplished, by whatever means it is brought about, mankind will increase.”*
2. It must be remembered, also, that in the greater part of my reasonings, I have in view the actual state of society in this part of Europe; that state of society I mean which resulted from the dissolution of the feudal system, and which (though on the whole more favourable to human improvement than any that ever existed before in the history of mankind) has been influenced by some powerful causes operating in a manner by no means agreeable to the general analogy of human affairs. Mr. Smith has shewn that, “according to the natural course of things, the greater part of the capital of every growing society is first directed to agriculture, afterwards to manufactures, and last of all, to foreign commerce. This order of things is so very natural, that in every society that had any territory, it has always perhaps been in some degree observed. Some of their lands must have been cultivated before any considerable towns could be established, and some sort of coarse industry of the manufacturing kind must have been carried on in these towns, before they could well think of employing themselves in foreign commerce.
“But though this natural order of things must have taken place in some degree in every such society, it has, in all the modern States of Europe, been in many respects entirely inverted. The foreign commerce of some of their cities has introduced all their finer manufactures, or such as were fit for distant sale; and manufacture and foreign commerce together, have given birth to the principal improvements of agriculture.”† In what way things were forced into this unnatural and retrograde order by the manners and customs introduced by the feudal governments, Mr. Smith has explained with great ingenuity in the Third Book of his Wealth of Nations.
The case is very different in the States of America, the wealth of which is founded entirely on agriculture, and where (as one of their own writers [Franklin?] expresses it) “the industry of man, in its first movements, attaches itself to the bosom of our common parent, as the infant hangs upon the breast of its mother.”1 In that quarter of the globe, besides, there are other circumstances which discriminate the condition of the inhabitants so essentially from that of European nations, that in speculations no parallel ought to be attempted between them. It is sufficient to mention the extreme cheapness of uncultivated land, and the extraordinary profits which may be made by the employment, either of a great or of a small capital in its improvement.
I thought it of particular consequence to state this last circumstance, because it has been frequently overlooked by very respectable political writers. Impressed strongly (it is probable) with the beauty and excellence of that order which (according to Mr. Smith) would everywhere have regulated the course of improvement, if it had not been disturbed by human institutions, they have indulged themselves in general unqualified maxims, the truth of which is obvious and striking wherever this order has been realized, but which are unfortunately not applicable, without many limitations, to that state of things in which we are more peculiarly interested. “Agriculture,” says the anonymous author of a late Essay on Taxation of Income, “as the first and most important object with all nations of territory, should be carried to the greatest possible perfection, before any considerable encouragement is given to manfactures. It ought, indeed, to be considered as the life and soul of all manufactures, which will everywhere prosper and flourish, nearly in proportion as the agriculture of the country is more or less in a state of perfection.”2
“Is there any profession or business,” says Mr. A. Young, “which ought to be advanced to the height it is capable of, before others are encouraged which draw off the working hands from the former?” . . . . “The answer,” he adds, “is clear, precise, and determinate. Agriculture, that greatest of all manufactures, ought to flourish to the full cultivation of the land, before what we commonly call ‘manufactures’ take place as articles of trade and commerce. And after cultivation is at its height, those manufactures ought first to be encouraged which work upon materials of our own growth; and last of all, those which employ foreign materials.”1
In this passage, Mr. Young has described exactly what Mr. Smith calls the natural progress of opulence in a country. This progress, however, it has been already observed, has been in a great measure inverted in Modern Europe; and the causes which have produced this effect are beyond the control of any statesman. If we wish our speculations, therefore, to be practically useful, we must attend to the actual circumstances of the case; applying our reasonings (if I may borrow the homely language of a very old English writer) “to the Common Wealth as it is, not as a philosopher may frame it by discourse, imitating herein, not a breaker of horses, whose part it is to perfect the horse in all his natural actions, but a good rider, who must strive to use him to the best advantage, such as he finds him.”
The encouragement indeed which some modern statesmen have given to manufactures, has been founded on very partial and erroneous views, and has contributed powerfully to counteract that effect on agricultural improvement, which they are naturally calculated to produce, wherever their operation is not thwarted by injudicious systems of policy. Much, too, remains to be done in most countries to forward the progress of husbandry, by removing those obstacles which were thrown in its way during the ignorance and barbarism of former times, and which, however consecrated in the estimation of our ancestors by ancient prejudices, are widely at variance with the just and liberal ideas of the present age.
I have already hinted, that although manufactures and commerce have a more powerful tendency than any other cause whatever to quicken Agriculture, it is nevertheless possible, by an injudicious policy, to encourage the former at the expense of the latter. It has been supposed by the most intelligent French writers, that this was the radical error in the administration of the celebrated Colbert; and the effects which it produced are represented as of the most ruinous nature. The subject is interesting, as it is intimately connected with the history of what has been since called the Economical or Agricultural System of Political Economy.
“Colbert,” says M. de Boulainvilliers, “to whom Lewis confided the care of augmenting his power by an augmentation of commerce, raised his edifice before he had laid the foundation. He saw the grandeur of the monarchy through the medium of manufactures, instead of viewing these in their due subserviency to the productions of the soil. He fixed his attention too much upon the Arts, and too little upon Agriculture; always fabricating, but never creating. His genius embraced every part of the detail, but was incapable of rising to the comprehensive views of a legislator. The minister was lost in the manufacturer. In spite of his high reputation, (a reputation acquired by all who make great changes in a government,) he projected none of those masterly designs” (those coups d’état) “which decide the fortune of a nation. He moved on in a beaten track without ever venturing to strike out a path of his own.”*
The substance of various other censures bestowed by the French political writers on the administration of Colbert, is collected into one view in the following passage of [the Rev.] Mr. Harte’s Essays on Husbandry, [1764.] My principal reason for transcribing it is, that the author (who was himself a practical farmer) had an opportunity in the course of his travels, of examining the agriculture of France with much accuracy; and, therefore, his judgment on this point possesses a weight which does not belong to the assertions of common observers.
“Colbert rather depressed than promoted the interests of his country, when he conceived a project of enriching it by establishing a vast number of manufactures; flattering himself, at the same time, that by making the productions of his manufactures subservient to luxury and falsely refined elegance, he should multiply the wealth of his own nation by supplying and feeding the extravagance and vanity of other nations; but some part of the folly happened to stick where it took its rise, and became infectious at home; which shews that luxury is an unfortunate fashion in any country, though at the same time it prescribes the mode to foreigners, and induces them to purchase such merely ornamental elegancies as are the workmanship of our own artists. Under the idea of hoarding up great quantities of provisions for the support of his work-folks, (and that principally by obstructing the free vent and exportation of corn,) this minister had the applause of the poor, who naturally favour every scheme, real or imaginary, that promises to lower the price of bread; for their understandings can rarely see deeply into the truth of things, any more than the advantage of a nation in general, or of themselves upon the whole. In like manner the historians and poets loaded the Prime Minister with panegyrics, as the true father of the people, and made no ceremony to depreciate the wiser conduct of Sully. But, alas! it never truly appeared that trade and commerce, even in their most flourishing state, enriched a kingdom like the solid revenues that proceed from a right and effectual cultivation of the earth. Thus, though the French nation was intoxicated with the hopes of immense riches, and though they supplied all Europe with silks and embroideries and expensive trifles, yet the fund of real wealth was deficient at bottom; famine made its appearance frequently and almost periodically. The proprietors of landed estates (for they with others at first ran into the universal notion of admiring the project) thought themselves very happy, after a considerable tract of time, to advance their rents a sixth part, though money bore one-third a greater value than before; imposts and taxes were increased immoderately; and a considerable part of the lands (not being found, or at least not believed to answer the expenses of cultivation) was overlooked and neglected by little and little, and at length degenerated into waste and desolated tracts of country. All which may suffice to shew, that the cultivation of the earth ought not to be superseded by a passion for commerce.”*
The great features of Colbert’s policy are still more strongly and distinctly marked in the following slight outline of Mr. Smith.
“Accustomed by the habits of his education to regulate the different departments of public offices, and to establish the necessary checks and controls for confining each to its proper sphere, Colbert endeavoured to regulate the industry and commerce of a great country upon the same model; and instead of allowing every man to pursue his own interest his own way, upon the liberal plan of equality, liberty, and justice, he bestowed upon certain branches of industry extraordinary privileges, while he laid others under as extraordinary restraints. He was not only disposed, like other European ministers, to encourage more the industry of the towns than that of the country, but in order to support the industry of the towns, he was willing even to depress and keep down that of the country. In order to render provisions cheap to the inhabitants of the towns, and thereby to encourage manufactures and foreign commerce, he prohibited altogether the exportation of corn, and thus excluded the inhabitants of the country from every foreign market, for by far the most important part of the produce of their industry. This prohibition, joined to the restraints imposed by the ancient provincial laws of France, upon the transportation of corn from one province to another, and to the arbitrary and degrading taxes which are levied upon the cultivators in almost all the provinces, discouraged and kept down the agriculture of that country very much below the state to which it would naturally have risen in so very fertile a soil, and so very happy a climate. This state of discouragement and depression was felt more or less in every different part of the country, and many different inquiries were set on foot concerning the causes of it. One of those causes appeared to be the preference given by the institutions of Colbert to the industry of the towns above that of the country;”† or, in other words, to Manufactures in preference to Agriculture.
The result of these speculations in France, was the Economical system of M. Quesnai, of which I shall have occasion to treat afterwards, and which Mr. Smith accuses of a fundamental error, the reverse of that which misled Colbert, but equally wide of the truth;—the error of undervaluing that species of industry to which Colbert had in a great measure confined his encouragement.
It is not necessary for me at present to inquire how far Mr. Smith’s censure, in this instance, is well founded. I confess, for my own part, that he appears to me to have carried it too far, and that I think his criticisms apply rather to the language which the Economists have used, than to the substance of their doctrine when fully unfolded. One indisputable conclusion, at least, results from the facts which they have stated, that however powerfully manufactures may tend to stimulate agriculture under the influence of wise and equal laws, it is possible, not only for the former to flourish without a correspondent progress in the latter, but that the comparative encouragement which they receive from Government may be so great, as to withdraw from the other its natural share of capital and of industry.
It will appear afterwards, that the advantages of manufactures in encouraging agricultural industry, are explicitly acknowledged, and indeed strongly stated, by all the Economical writers; and therefore, their opinions must not be confounded with those maintained by Mr. Arthur Young, in his Agricultural Survey of France,* where he asserts that “there is something in manufactures pestiferous to agriculture.” It is remarkable, indeed, of this author, (to whose industry and activity the public unquestionably lies under great obligations,) that notwithstanding the asperity with which he generally speaks, particularly in his later works, of the Economists, he has carried that part of their system which Mr. Smith considers as the most paradoxical of the whole, far beyond the limits assigned to it by their principles. As the illustrations, however, which Mr. Young has collected, are interesting and valuable, I shall (agreeably to my general plan) select some of the most striking facts which he has mentioned in support of his argument; although my knowledge of local circumstances is much too imperfect to enable me to remove completely the objections which they may suggest to some of the foregoing reasonings.
“The greatest fabrics of France are the cottons and woollens of Normandy, the woollens of Picardy and Champagne, the linens of Brittany, and the silks and hardware of the Lyonnais. Now, if manufactures be the true encouragement of agriculture, the vicinity of these great fabrics ought to be the best cultivated districts in the kingdom, whereas the fact is very strikingly the reverse. Considering the fertility of the soil, which is great, Picardy and Normandy are among the worst cultivated countries I have seen. The immense fabrics of Abbeville and Amiens have not caused the enclosure of a single field, or the banishment of fallows from a single acre. Go from Elbœuf to Rouen, if you would view a desert; and the Pays de Caux, possessing one of the richest soils in the world, with manufactures in every hut and cottage, presents one continued scene of weeds, filth, and beggary; a soil so villanously managed, that if it were not naturally of an inexhaustible fertility, it would long ago have been utterly ruined. The agriculture of Champagne is miserable, even to a proverb: I saw there great and flourishing manufactures, and cultivation in ruins around them. In Brittany, which affords but one spectacle, that of a dreary, desolate waste, you find yourself in the midst of one of the greatest linen manufactures in Europe, and throwing your eye around the country, can scarcely believe the inhabitants are fed by agriculture; if they subsisted by the chase of wild animals, their country might be as well cultivated. From hence across the kingdom to Lyons, all the world knows the immense fabrics found there; and yet we are told by a very competent judge, M. Roland de la Platiêre, ‘de toutes les provinces de France le Lyonnais est le plus misérable.’ What I saw of it gave me little reason to question the assertion. The remark of another French writer makes the experiment double. ‘L’Artois est un des provinces les plus riches du Royaume.—C’est une vérité incontestable . . . elle ne possède point de manufactures.’—I will not presume to assert that the agriculture of these districts is bad, because they abound with manufactures, though I believe it to be very much the case in the Pays de Caux; I merely state the facts. The fabrics are the greatest in the kingdom, and certainly the agriculture is among the worst.”*
In farther confirmation of the same view of the subject, Mr. Young refers to some facts stated in his Tour through Ireland many years ago,† with respect to the effects of the vast linen manufacture which spreads all over the north of that kingdom. “There,” says he, “I found the same spectacle that Brittany offers; husbandry so miserably, so contemptibly bad, that I have shewn by calculation the whole province converted into a sheep-walk, and feeding but two sheep per acre, would yield, in wool only, a greater value than the whole amount of the linen fabric; a circumstance I attribute entirely to the manufacture spreading into the country, instead of being confined to towns. ‘Wherever the linen manufacture spreads, there tillage is bad,’ said that attentive observer, the Lord Chief Baron Forster. The Earl of Tyrone has an estate in the county of Derry, amidst manufactures, and another in that of Waterford, where there are none; and he assured me that if the Derry land were in Waterford, or absolutely freed from fabrics, he should clear full one-third more money from it. If we pass into England, we shall find something similar, though not in an equal degree; the manufacturing parts of the kingdom being among the worst cultivated. You must not go for agriculture to Yorkshire, Lancashire, Warwickshire, or Gloucestershire, which are full of fabrics, but to Kent, where there is not the trace of a fabric; to Berkshire, Hertfordshire, and Suffolk, where there are scarcely any: Norwich affords an exception, being the only manufacture in the kingdom in a thoroughly well-cultivated district, which must very much be attributed to the fabric being kept remarkably within the city, and spreading (spinning excepted) not much into the country; a circumstance that deserves attention, as it confirms strongly the preceding observations. But the two counties of Kent and Lancaster are expressly to the purpose, because they form a double experiment: Lancaster is the most manufacturing province in England, and amongst the worst cultivated; Kent has not the shadow of a manufacture, and is perhaps the best cultivated.
“Italy will furnish instances yet more to the purpose than any yet cited. The richest and most flourishing countries in Europe, in proportion to their extent, are probably Piedmont and the Milanese. All the signs of prosperity are there met with; populousness well employed and well supported, a great export without, a thriving consumption within, magnificent roads, numerous and wealthy towns, circulation active, interest of money low, and the price of labour high. In a word, you can name no circumstance that shall prove Manchester, Birmingham, Rouen, and Lyons to be in a prosperous state, that is not found diffused throughout the whole of these countries. To what is all this prosperity to be ascribed? Certainly not to manufactures, because they possess hardly the trace of a fabric. There are a few of no consideration at Milan, and there are in Piedmont the silk-mills, to give the first hand to that product, but on the whole to an amount so very trifling, that both countries must be considered as without fabrics. They are equally without commerce, being excluded from the sea; and though there is a navigable river that passes through both these territories, yet no use is made of it, for there are five sovereigns between Piedmont and its mouth, all of whom lay duties on the transit of every sort of merchandise. As these two countries do not owe their riches to manufactures or commerce, so undoubtedly they are not indebted for them to any peculiar felicity in their governments. Both are despotisms; and the despot of Milan makes that country a beast of burden to Germany; the revenues are remitted to Vienna, and the clothes, even for the troops, paid by Milan, come from Germany. The origin and the support of all the wealth of these countries are to be found in agriculture alone, which is carried to such perfection, as to prove that it is equal to the sole support of a modern and most flourishing society, to keep that society in a state of great wealth, and to enable the governments to be, in proportion to their extent, doubly more powerful than either France or England. Piedmont supports a regal court, and pays 30,000 men. The same extent of country, or number of people, effect the half of this in any other dominion of Europe. But are these territories really without manufactures? No; nor is any country in the world: it is not possible to find a people totally exempt from them. The present inquiry demands no such exemption: it is only necessary to shew that the manufactures found in the Milanese and Piedmont, are such as arise absolutely in consequence of agriculture; that it is agriculture which supports and nourishes them; and that on the contrary these manufactures are so far from doing anything politically for agriculture, that they occasion the exposing of it to restrictions and monopolies; for the governments in these countries have been bitten by the same madness of commerce that has infected other kingdoms; and have attempted by such means to raise these trifling fabrics into foreign export. Happily they have never been able to do it; for there is reason to imagine, that success would have suggested other restrictions unfavourable to the great foundation of all their prosperity. Thus the instances produced are expressly to the purpose, as they exhibit two opulent States, supported by agriculture alone, and possessing no other manufactures or commerce than what every country must possess that enjoys a flourishing cultivation; for it is not to be expected that such great results are to be found attending common exertions only. On the contrary, those that have converted part of those noble territories into a garden, have been great and exemplary.”*
These facts are certainly highly deserving of attention, and I have no doubt that, if they were accurately examined, they would throw much new and important light on this subject. It is indeed only by thus bringing fairly into view the apparent exceptions that occur to our general principles, that we can either hope to limit them with the necessary precision, when they have been stated in too unqualified terms, or can be enabled to exhibit in full force the important truths they may involve.
It seems to have been with the design of bringing this very subject under public discussion, that the Abbé Raynal, about ten years ago, [c. 1790,] remitted a sum of money to the Royal Society of Agriculture at Paris, as a prize for the best Dissertation on the following question:—“Whether does a flourishing Agriculture tend more to promote the prosperity of Manufactures, or the growth of Manufactures to promote the prosperity of Agriculture?” Of the Essays which appeared on this occasion, I have never heard any account.
A few very slight general remarks is all that I propose to offer at present on Mr. Young’s statement. To examine it in detail, would lead me into a field of boundless extent, and would require a knowledge of local circumstances, not to be acquired but by personal observation. Of the inconclusiveness, however, of a beadroll of facts so loosely stated, a judgment may be formed by directing our attention to one of those instances on which Young lays the greatest stress, the flourishing state of agriculture in the county of Kent, in which he asserts there is not a shadow of a manufacture. How far this assertion is well founded, may be judged of from the statements of a very accurate and intelligent writer, whose observations were published more than twenty years before those of Mr. Young,—I mean Campbell [?] in his Agriculture of Kent. After remarking that “in respect of plenty, Kent is another Canaan, fruitful in all good things, and in which there are fewer forests and waste lands than in most other counties,” he continues in the same tenor, through passages to which I shall only refer.1
I have no doubt that Young’s other instances, if carefully examined, would be found equally irrelevant to the question now under consideration, but I must not prosecute this view of the subject any farther. My principal reason for referring to it was to point it out as an object of curiosity, and to show that the question concerning the reciprocal effects of agriculture and of manufactures, is still far from being exhausted.
That Mr. Young’s facts do not warrant the general conclusion, that “there is something pestiferous to agriculture in the neighbourhood of a manufacture,” we may venture to assert with confidence. They prove, indeed, in a striking manner, the miserable effects produced in France, by the discouragements under which agriculture has laboured in that country and that manufactures of themselves can do little where the rights of the husbandman are not only insecure, but systematically violated. Nay, farther, they prove that in such a state of things the encouragement which is given to the industry of towns may withdraw from agriculture some part of the capital which it would otherwise have employed even in its actual state of depression. Wherever this is the case, the effect may be expected to be most conspicuous in the neighbourhood of extensive manufactures; and, in fact, (as Mr. Young has hinted,) something of the same kind, though in a very inferior degree, has been remarked in England. Where large manufactures are established, yielding much more tempting profits than can be obtained by agriculture, the wages given to workmen will naturally attract the labourers from the surrounding districts, and its money capital will have a tendency to follow the same direction. Landholders and farmers will both be induced either to form mercantile connexions themselves, or to establish their sons in trade; and in this manner, notwithstanding the curious and refined husbandry exhibited on the small properties of a few individuals enriched by commerce, agriculture in general will languish, from the failure of the funds destined by the natural course of things for its support and encouragement.1
It does not, however, follow from all this, either that manufactures are unfavourable in their general tendency, or that they have, even in France, prevented agriculture from advancing so rapidly as it would have done, if they had not existed in that kingdom. They may have intercepted part of the industry and capital which would otherwise have gone to the improvement of land, without counterbalancing by this inconvenience their salutary effects on the agricultural industry of the whole territory.
It has been shewn by Mr. Smith, that “the greatest and most important branch of the commerce of every nation is, that which is carried on between the inhabitants of the town and those of the country. The inhabitants of the town draw from the country the rude produce which constitutes both the materials of their work, and the fund of their subsistence; and they pay for this rude produce, by sending back to the inhabitants of the country a certain portion of it manufactured and prepared for immediate use. The trade which is carried on between these two different sets of people, consists ultimately in a certain quantity of rude produce exchanged for a certain quantity of manufactured produce. The dearer the latter, therefore, the cheaper the former; and whatever tends in any country to raise the price of manufactured produce, tends to lower that of the rude produce of the land, and thereby to discourage agriculture. The smaller the quantity of manufactured produce which any given quantity of rude produce is capable of purchasing, the smaller the rude value of that given quantity of rude produce, the smaller, of consequence, is the encouragement which either the landlord has to increase its quantity by improving, or the farmer by cultivating his land.” It has been shewn also, that “whatever tends in any country to diminish the number of artificers and manufacturers, tends to diminish the home market, the most important of all markets for the rude produce of the land, and thereby to discourage agriculture still farther.”1 That the only possible way to make a manufacture thrive, is to procure a ready vent for the goods it furnishes, was never once disputed; and why should we doubt that the same maxim applies to agriculture, which Young himself has repeatedly and justly called “the most important ofall manufactures;” and which (as he has remarked after Sir James Steuart, in numberless parts of his works, [see above, pp. 141, 142]) is to be considered in Modern Europe not merely as a means of subsistence for the cultivators, but as one of the trades which enter into the general system of Political Economy?
On this point, indeed, we may fairly quote one part of Mr. Young’s works against another. “The manufactures of the single city of Norwich (he observes in a book published in 1780) amount to as much as the whole linen export of Ireland, but it is very far from being the whole exported produce of the county of Norfolk. On the contrary, this county, besides feeding its capital, besides feeding Yarmouth and Lynn, two of the greatest ports in England, and a variety of other towns, exports, I believe, more corn than any other county in the kingdom; and whoever is acquainted with the supply of the London markets, knows that there are thousands of black cattle fattened every year on Norfolk turnips, and sent to Smithfield. What a spectacle is this! The most productive agriculture in the world, in the way of exportation, around one of the greatest manufactures in Europe. It is thus that manufactures become the best friends to agriculture, that they animate the farmer’s industry by giving him ready markets, until he is able not only to supply them fully, but pushes his exertions with such effect, that he finds a surplus in his hands to convert into gold in the national balance, by rendering foreigners tributary for their bread. Examine all the other fabrics in the kingdom, you see them prodigious markets for the surrounding lands; you see those lands doubling, trebling, quadrupling their rents, while the farmers increase daily in wealth. Thus you see manufactures rearing up agriculture, and agriculture supporting manufactures. You see a reaction which gives a reciprocal animation to human labour: Great national prosperity is the effect. Wealth pours in from the fabrics, which, spreading like a fertilizing stream over all the surrounding lands, renders them, comparatively speaking, so many gardens, the most pleasing spectacles of successful industry.”*
I cannot help adding to these extracts from Mr. Young, that I do not know of any author in our language whose writings abound more with inconsistencies and contradictions. This is more particularly remarkable in the general principles relating to Political Economy which he has interwoven with his different Agricultural Tours.
In the passages now under consideration, the inconsistency of his conclusions arises, in part, from his confounding together (in the extract which I quoted from his account of France) two questions which are essentially different. The one is the general question concerning the influence of manufactures on agriculture; the other is the question concerning the comparative effects of manufactures when confined to towns, and when spread over the country.
The confusion which runs through Mr. Young’s later speculations on this subject, is the more remarkable, that in his Tours through Ireland, [1776, &c.] he has been at pains to distinguish these two questions, enlarging on the beneficial influence of manufactures in the one case, and on their ruinous effects in the other. I before remarked, (if I am not mistaken,) that this work bears fewer marks of haste and negligence, than most of his other publications.
“In the north of Ireland you behold a whole province peopled by weavers; it is they who cultivate, or rather beggar the soil, as well as work the looms. Agriculture is there in ruins; it is cut up by the root, extirpated, annihilated; the whole region is the disgrace of the kingdom. No other part of Ireland can exhibit the soil in such a state of poverty and desolation.
“But the cause of all these evils, which are absolutely exceptions to everything else on the face of the globe, is easily found;—a most prosperous manufacture, so contrived as to be the destruction of agriculture, is certainly a spectacle for which we must go to Ireland. It is owing to the fabric spreading over all the country, instead of being confined to towns. This in a certain degree is found in some manufactures in England, but never to the exclusion of farmers; whereas, literally speaking, there is not a farmer in a hundred miles of the linen country in Ireland. The lands are infinitely subdivided; no weaver thinks of supporting himself by his loom; he has always a patch of potatoes, of oats, or of flax, and grass or weeds for a cow; so that his time is divided between his loom and his farm. The land is sown with successive crops of oats, until it does not produce the seed again, and then left to become grass as it may, in which state it is under weeds and rubbish for four or five years. As land thus managed will not yield rent, they depend for that on their web. If linen sells indifferently, they pay their rents indifferently; and if it sells badly, they do not pay them at all: rents in general being worse paid there than in any other part of Ireland.
“But if instead of the manufacture having so diffused itself as absolutely to banish farmers, it had been confined to towns, the very contrary effect would have taken place, and all those vast advantages to agriculture would have followed, which flourishing manufactures in other countries occasion. The towns would have been large and numerous, and would have proved such ample markets to all the adjacent country, that it could not have failed to become well cultivated, and to let at double the present rent. The manfacturers would have been confined to their own business, and the farmers to theirs; and both trades would have flourished the better for this arrangement.”1
If this reasoning of Mr. Young’s be just, it will go far to account for the very extraordinary facts I quoted on his authority, with respect to the state of manufacturing and of agricultural industry in France; for he tells us that the poor all over that kingdom abound with domestic manufactures. The culture of hemp or flax, in particular, for home uses, prevails (according to him) universally: And in so far as this is the case, no advocate for manufactures, however sanguine, could possibly expect from them any beneficial effects on husbandry. If every family in the country have a patch of flax or hemp for its own supply of all the articles manufactured from these materials, the exchanges between the country and the town are in the same proportion diminished; and if a similar practice were extended to every other article, the circulation would stop completely. The farmer would have nothing to buy, and would soon have nothing to sell. “A countryman thus living on his own little property, industriously employed with his family in manufacturing for all their own wants, exhibits, it must be owned, a pleasing spectacle of simple and sober manners, but of manners perfectly inconsistent with the prosperity of a great society in the actual circumstances of Modern Europe.”1
Various other particulars, in Mr. Young’s statement, which have a very paradoxical aspect at first view, would probably appear in a different light, if we were acquainted with all the circumstances. Thus, in the Pays de Caux, (the country, to wit, from Havre to Rouen,) upon which he has laid particular stress, the difficulty is completely explained by some facts mentioned by Young himself, on a different occasion. “The soil,” we are informed, “is among the finest in France. The number of small properties, and consequently population, is very great, which is the reason for the price and rental of land through this country being vastly out of proportion to the products. Landlords also divide their farms according to the demand, as the rise of rent tempts it; but they often find themselves depending for the rent of their land on the prosperity of a fabric. Had the Pays de Caux been a miserably poor, rocky, or barren territory, the result would have been beneficial, for the fabric would have covered such a district with cultivation.”†
Mr. Young informs us further, that the farmers in the Pays de Caux are not only manufacturers, but have an inclination also for trade. The large ones engage in commercial speculations at Havre, particularly in the cotton trade, and some even in that of the West Indies. “This,” he adds, “is a most pernicious circumstance; the improvement of their cultivation being never the object or result of their growing rich, but merely the engaging more largely in trade or manufacture. If they get a share in an American adventure, no matter whether docks and thistles cover their fields.”* Such facts are abundantly curious; but it is surely unfair to state merely the general result, without any specification of the peculiarities of the case, in order to invalidate the important doctrine of the influence of manufactures on the improvement of a country.
I shall take this opportunity of remarking, (as a more convenient one may not occur afterwards,) that Mr. Young’s assertions, with respect to the pernicious effects of domestic manufactures, (an opinion, by the way, in which he has persevered more uniformly than in most of his other general principles,) are stated in too unqualified a form. Dr. Crumpe, in an Essay which gained the prize from the Irish Academy, expresses strong doubts (founded on some observations communicated to him by Dr. Burrowes) whether Mr. Young’s description of the farming manufacturers in Ulster is not highly exaggerated. And at any rate, the circumstances of that people are too peculiar, in many other respects, to authorize us to draw from them any general conclusions. The same remark may be applied to this opinion, in so far as it rests on the state of agriculture in France.
It is certainly true in general, that the two employments of a farmer and a manufacturer will be carried on to greater perfection when divided, than when united in one person. “A country weaver,” as Mr. Smith observes, “who cultivates a small farm, must lose a good deal of time in passing from his loom to his field, and from the field to the loom. A man commonly saunters a little in turning his hand from one sort of employment to another; and this renders him almost always slothful and lazy, and incapable of any vigorous application even on the most pressing occasions.”†
Although, however, it follows from this, that a domestic manufacture must always be a most unprofitable employment for an individual who depends chiefly for his subsistence on the produce of a farm, the converse of the proposition seems to require some limitations. A man, indeed, who exercises a trade which occupies him from day to day, must, of necessity, be disqualified for the management of such agricultural concerns as require a constant and undivided attention. But it does not appear equally evident, how the improvement of the country should be injured by his possessing a few acres as an employment for his hours of recreation; nor does it seem likely, on the other hand, that his professional skill and industry will be more impaired by his occasional labour in the fields, than by those habits of intemperate dissipation in which all workmen who have no variety of pursuit are prone to indulge.
The manufacture of our national broad-cloth, affords a contrast to some of the examples mentioned by Young. “This manufacture,” as is remarked by a late writer On Taxation of Income,* “is almost everywhere carried on by unconnected workmen, who employ all the hours which they devote to relaxation and amusement, in the care of their garden and other small portions of ground which they happen to possess, to which they and their families become commonly so much attached, that they have been known to remain in them (small as their properties commonly are) for many generations. Nor does the possession of this variety make them worse tradesmen; on the contrary, this class of manufacturers are everywhere noted for their industry, and the article which they furnish, which has long been considered as the staple commodity of our country, is the best and most perfect of its kind that can anywhere be met with.”†
The advantages to health and to morals attending manufactures of this description, when compared with the effects of manufacturing towns, are so great that some political writers have gone so far as to assert, that it is only when spread over the face of a country they can be considered as a public benefit. Mirabeau, [the son,] in his book On the Prussian Monarchy, maintains this opinion, and lays it down as a general proposition, “That great manufactures belonging to individuals who hire workmen by the day, can never form an object worthy of the attention of Government.”1
In stating these considerations I would not be understood to deny the truth of Young’s reasonings in favour of manufacturing towns compared with scattered manufactures; for I am sensible that much may be alleged in support of his system. But he has unquestionably carried it too far, by keeping completely out of view the arguments which favour the opposite conclusion. The fact is, that in all human establishments we may expect to find a mixture of good and of evil; and the only question is, which of the two preponderates? It is sufficient for me in the case of this incidental question, to have suggested some doubts in opposition to Mr. Young’s unqualified assertions. The prosecution of the discussion would lead me too far aside from my principal subject.2
It is not, however, only by the peculiarity in the manufacturing establishments of France, which has occasioned this digression, that Mr. Young has complicated the general question concerning the influence of Manufactures on Agriculture. Much depends on the species of manufactures that are established in a country; and in this respect the choice of Colbert seems to have been guided by narrow and erroneous principles. The manufactures which he encouraged were chiefly those which minister to luxury and to elegance; the demand for which depending to so great a degree on fashion and caprice cannot be so constant and steady as for articles which are subservient to the real wants and necessities of mankind. It has been observed in our own country, that the manufacturers of Norwich, who deal in fine crapes and other delicate stuffs, are laid idle three times for once that the Yorkshire manufacturer, who deals chiefly in low-priced serviceable cloths, experiences a similar misfortune.3 The disturbances which have so often been occasioned by the silk-weavers of Spitalfields, and which have exceeded any that have taken place among the other classes of our manufacturers, have been ascribed partly to the same circumstance. This error, however, has been long perceived and corrected in France; and, under the old government, a variety of the most useful manufactures were advancing rapidly to perfection.
The Manufactures that, in addition to their other advantages, draw from the farmer the materials on which they depend, and thereby present a new stimulus to Agriculture, possess undoubtedly great advantages over those that work up materials imported from abroad. Some remarks on this subject that deserve attention, blended with other speculations of less consequence, may be found in Dr. Anderson’s Observations on the Means of Exciting a Spirit of National Industry in Scotland.
I have been led into these observations (which have extended to a much greater length than I expected) by the passage quoted from Mr. Young’s Account of France, in which he has plainly lost sight of some important general principles, to the truth of which he has, on other occasions, borne ample testimony. If I should be thought, in stating them, to have sometimes forgotten the general title under which they were introduced, I have only to remark, by way of apology, (in the words of Sir James Steuart,) “that the complicated mechanism of society in modern times, (so different from the simplicity of ancient manners,) has rendered almost every disorder in the political body an obstacle to that useful population that constitutes national strength.”* This, it is evident, holds more particularly true of every disorder which affects agricultural industry.
Before concluding my observations on Agriculture and Manufactures considered in their relation to population, I cannot help remarking once more, the extravagance of general declamations in favour of Agriculture when accompanied with invectives against those employments from which the farmer derives his market. It is very justly observed by Mr. Smith, that those systems which, in order to promote Agriculture, would impose restraints upon manufacturing and foreign trade, act contrary to the very end which they propose, and indirectly discourage that very species of industry which they mean to promote. They are so far more inconsistent than even the system which would encourage manufactures and foreign trade in preference to Agriculture; inasmuch as the latter, while it turns a certain portion of the capital of the society from supporting a more advantageous, to support a less advantageous species of industry, really accomplish their favourite object. Those agricultural systems, on the contrary, in their ultimate tendency, discourage that very species of industry which it is their professed aim to animate.*
Mr. Smith (as I already hinted) accuses the French Economists of this very inconsistency, of proposing to advance agriculture by depressing manufactures.† I am doubtful if in this charge he has treated them with his usual candour; but the remarks he has made on this alleged imperfection of their system, are just and profound, and are strictly applicable to the reasonings of Mr. Young, and of various other later writers.
If, indeed, by depressing manufactures be understood the abolition of all those institutions which have hitherto given the industry of towns an advantage over that of the country, so as to allow the industry and capital of the society to follow as much as possible its natural course, without receiving any particular determination on the part of Government; it must be owned that the Economists are, in this sense, advocates for agriculture in preference to manufactures. But this is equally the tendency of Mr. Smith’s own system, which seems to me, so far as the present question is concerned, to differ from that which he criticises only in its phraseology; according to both systems, the perfection of policy consists in abolishing all regulations which tend either to preference or to restraint; and in allowing every man to bring both his industry and his capital into competition with those of any other man or order of men, so long as he confines himself within the limits of justice.
After all, in the present circumstances of Europe, allowances ought to be made for the zeal with which some writers have taken up the argument in favour of Agriculture, when we consider the discouragements under which it has so long laboured, and which still contribute so powerfully to retard its progress. Nothing indeed could be so absurd as to think of advancing it, by depressing that species of industry to which it owes its chief improvements; but still it must be owned, that it stands in need, in a very peculiar degree, not only of the protection, but of the fostering care of Government. Mr. Smith has himself, in another part of his work, made some observations which tend strongly to confirm this conclusion. “With all the liberty and security which law can give, the occupiers of land must always improve under great disadvantages. The farmer, compared with the proprietor, is as a merchant who trades with borrowed money, compared with one who trades with his own. The stock of both may improve, but that of the one, with only equal good conduct, must always improve more slowly than that of the other, on account of the large share of the profit which is consumed by the interest of the loan. The lands cultivated by the farmer must, in the same manner, with only equal good conduct, be improved more slowly than those cultivated by the proprietor, on account of the large share of the produce which is consumed in the rent, and which, had the farmer been proprietor, he might have employed in the further improvement of the land. The station of a farmer besides, is, from the nature of things, inferior to that of a proprietor. Through the greater part of Europe, the yeomanry are regarded as an inferior rank of people, even to the better sort of tradesmen and mechanics, and in all parts of Europe to the great merchants and master manufacturers. It can seldom happen, therefore, that a man of any considerable stock should quit the superior to place himself in an inferior station; and therefore, even in the present state of Europe, little stock is likely to go from any other profession to the improvement of land in the way of farming. More does perhaps in Great Britain than in any other country, though even there the great stocks which are in some places employed in farming, have generally been acquired by farming, the trade, perhaps, in which of all others stock is commonly acquired most slowly.”*
Nor is this all. The education and habits of a husbandman, his solitary life and stationary residence, naturally attach him to the practices with which he is familiar, and prevent, in this order of men, the possibility of a mutual communication of lights analogous to what exists all over the commercial world, among tradesmen and artists of every description.1
Hence the duty of Government to give every possible assistance to Agriculture by promoting the circulation of useful knowledge; and the duty of those who fill the higher stations in society, to instruct and animate their inferiors by the influence of example. In the various departments of Trade, individuals may be safely left to themselves, and are most likely to advance both the public interests and their own, when they exercise freely their private judgment concerning the most effectual means of bettering their fortune. But experience shows that this maxim does not apply in its full extent to the cultivators of the soil, whose situation precludes them, in a great measure, from all information but what is supplied by the narrow circle of their professional employments. The general progress of improvement, therefore, in this most important of all arts, is likely to be extremely slow, where it does not engage the superintending care of Government, and is not aided by the enlightened example of landed proprietors; and it is pleasing to reflect on the attention which begins to be paid to it, in our own country, as a national object. The rapid progress which the more refined systems of modern husbandry have made in some districts, in consequence of the exertions of a few leading individuals, is a satisfactory proof, that however difficult it may be to struggle with ignorance and prejudice, these obstacles are by no means insurmountable.
Justice, too, and humanity, as well as sound policy, plead strongly in favour of a class of men, who, while they are employed in laying the only solid foundation of national greatness, are necessarily, in the present circumstances of the world, left behind by those who follow the commercial arts. Nor ought we to forget what is due to the simple and interesting virtues which seem, in every age, to be attached to this primitive occupation of man; and on which, in a far greater degree than on the arithmetical numbers of a people, the prosperity and the resources of a country essentially depend. They are beautifully described in the following fragment of Old Cato:—
“Majores nostri. . . . virum bonum cum laudabant, ita laudabant:—‘bonum Agricolam, bonumque Colonum.’ Amplissime laudari existimabatur, qui ita laudabatur. Mercatorem autem, strenuum studiosumque rei quærendæ existimo; verum (ut supra dixi) periculosum et calamitosum. At ex agricolis, et viri fortissimi et milites strenuissimi gignuntur; maximeque pius quæstus stabilissimusque consequitur, minimeque invidiosus. Minime quoque male cogitantes sunt, qui in eo studio occupati sunt.”*
In some of my last lectures, I have enlarged, at considerable length, on the essential importance of Manufactures as a stimulus to Agriculture, in the present circumstances of Modern Europe: and I have also touched slightly on the incidental disadvantages attending them, when established on erroneous principles. The subject, I am sensible, is far from being exhausted; and, indeed, the new views of it which open upon us at every step of our progress, are so various, that I find it extremely difficult to proceed with steadiness towards those general conclusions which I wish to establish. Some of these views, I flatter myself, I may be able to prosecute hereafter, when I shall have leisure to survey more comprehensively, the whole field of inquiry. At present, the multiplicity of other articles to which I am anxious to direct your attention, compared with the limited extent of the course, obliges me to hasten to speculations of a different nature.
On the Employment of Children in Factory Work: its Advantages and Disadvantages.]
I cannot, however, bring to a close the discussions in which we have been last engaged, without taking notice of a new form in which manufacturing labour has lately appeared in this country,—I allude to those establishments which, by employing crowds of children separated from the inspection of their parents, appear to threaten (at least on a superficial view of the subject) the most fatal consequences to the health and to the morals, as well as to the numbers, of the rising generation. The following statement of the fact, as it is exemplified on a very great scale, in Lancashire and some of the neighbouring counties, I borrow from Dr. Aikin’s Description of the Country round Manchester.
“In the cotton mills, children of very tender age are employed; many of them collected from the workhouses of London and Westminster, and transported in crowds, as apprentices to masters resident many hundred miles distant, where they serve, unknown, unprotected, and forgotten by those to whose care Nature or the laws had consigned them. These children are usually too long confined at work, in close rooms, often during the whole night; the air they breathe, from the oil, &c., employed in the machinery, and other circumstances, is injurious; little regard is paid to their cleanliness; and frequent changes from a warm to a cold atmosphere are predisposing causes to sickness and debility, and particularly to the epidemic fever which so generally is to be met with in these factories. It is also much to be questioned, if society does not receive detriment from the manner in which children are thus employed during their early years. They are not generally strong for labour, or capable of pursuing any other branch of business when the term of their apprenticeship expires. The females are wholly uninstructed in sewing, knitting, and other domestic affairs, requisite to make them notable and frugal wives and mothers. This is a great misfortune to them and to the public, as is sadly proved by a comparison of the families of labourers in husbandry, and those of manufacturers in general. In the former, we meet with neatness, cleanliness, and comfort; in the latter, with filth, rags, and poverty, although their wages may be nearly double to those of the husbandman. It must be added, that the want of early religious instruction and example, and the numerous and indiscriminate association in these buildings, are very unfavourable to their future conduct in life.”
These facts seem abundantly to justify the quære of a late humane and liberal writer, (Sir Frederick Morton Eden,) “Whether any manufacture, which, in order to be carried on successfully, requires that cottages and workhouses should be ransacked for poor children; that they should be employed by turns during the greater part of the night, and robbed of that rest which, though indispensable to all, is most required by the young; and that numbers of both sexes of different ages and dispositions, should be collected together in such a manner, that the contagion of example cannot but lead to profligacy and debauchery, will add to the sum of national felicity?”*
The subject, undoubtedly, even when viewed in the most favourable light, is far from being pleasing; nor is it possible for any views of remote expediency to reconcile the mind to commercial projects, which are not only injurious to the morals of the community, but which require a sacrifice of the happiness attached by nature, to the gaiety, the freedom, and the innocent activity of childhood. As most political subjects, however, may be considered under different aspects, and as it is more useful to attempt the melioration of unavoidable evils than to indulge ourselves in declamations against what it is beyond our power to remedy, it may be worth while to employ a few moments in examining, first, Whether the misery and profligacy described by Dr. Aikin be necessarily connected with these establishments, in the extent which he has stated; and, secondly, Whether they may not have their use in palliating some other disorders of a still more alarming nature, in a commercial and luxurious society, such as that in which they have arisen.
In answer to the first of these inquiries, it gives me great pleasure to mention the following particulars, which evince, in a very striking manner, how much may be effected by the active zeal of private humanity when wisely and systematically directed to its object, in alleviating those evils which, as they seem to originate in causes intimately connected with national wealth and prosperity, it is scarcely possible for the Legislator to remedy. The particulars I am to state relate to the Cotton Manufactory in the neighbourhood of Lanark, lately the property of Mr. Dale at Glasgow.*
The supply of workers for this establishment comes either from the native inhabitants of the place; from families who have been collected about the works from the neighbouring parishes, and more distant parts of the country; or, lastly, from Edinburgh and Glasgow, both of which towns constantly afford great numbers of destitute children.
The period during which they are engaged varies according to the circumstances of their situation. Those who receive weekly wages (the greater part of whom live with their parents) are commonly engaged for four years; while such as are sent from the workhouse in Edinburgh, or who are otherwise without friends to take the charge of them, are bound four, five, six, or seven years, according to their age; their service continuing until they have completed their fifteenth year. Children of this last description receive, instead of wages, their maintenance and education.
The hours of labour are eleven and a half each day, from six in the morning till seven at night, with half an hour of intermission at nine o’clock for breakfast, and a whole hour at two for dinner.
Seven is the hour for supper; in half an hour after which the children go to school, where they continue till nine o’clock. In 1796, (after which period I cannot speak on the subject with the same accuracy,) the schools were attended by five hundred and seven scholars; in instructing whom in reading, writing, and the principles of arithmetic, besides the common branches of education appropriated to females, sixteen teachers, with two occasional assistants, were employed. Besides these night schools, there were two day schools for children too young for work; all of them unattended with any expense to the scholars. The utmost attention was paid, at all times, to the purity of their morals, and to their religious instruction.
Of the attention given to cleanliness, diet, and everything else connected with health, the following statement of the number of children in the boarding-house at different periods, compared with the annual deaths, affords the most satisfactory evidence. The greatest part of the workers, it is to be observed, are lodged with their parents, who reside either in the village, in the immediate neighbourhood, or in the town of Lanark, one mile distant; and, therefore, this statement is to be understood as applying to those who receive their maintenance instead of wages, and who are all lodged together in one house. This number, in 1796, amounted to 396 boys and girls.
With respect to their aptitude for other employments and the general state of their bodily strength, when their size disqualifies them for this species of labour, we are assured by Mr. Dale, in a printed letter addressed to Mr. Bailey of Hope, near Manchester, that “the workers, when too big for spinning, are as stout and robust as others of the same age. The male part of them are fit for any trades; a great many, since the commencement of the war, have gone into the army and navy, and others are occasionally going away as apprentices to smiths or joiners, but especially to weavers; for which last trade, from the expertness they acquire in handling yarn, they are particularly well fitted, and of course are taken as apprentices on better terms. The females very generally leave the mills and go to private family service, when about sixteen years of age. “Were they disposed to continue at the mills,” Mr. Dale adds, “these afford abundant employment for them, as well as for many more young men than ever remain at them.”
I shall only observe farther, before concluding this article, that if it were possible to restrain the unjustifiable practice of ransacking cottages and dissolving family connexions, by carrying away children to a distance from their homes; and if such establishments as have been now under review were confined to the orphan and destitute, supplied in such abundance by our great cities, their evil consequences would be much diminished; and they might even be considered as a salutary provision for some political disorders inseparably connected with our present system of manners. It will appear, in another part of the course, that the poverty and beggary which has prevailed so much in these last ages among the lower orders, arose necessarily from that important change which has gradually taken place in this part of Europe; the decrease of villainage, and the dependence of the body of the people on their own industry. This evil, therefore, is necessarily connected (although I am far from thinking that it is so to the extent in which it exists) with the manufactures and commerce to which this nation owes so much of its prosperity. In such a state of society, the number of destitute children cannot fail to be great; and it is increased to a wonderful degree by the licentious morals so prevalent in all our towns, but more especially in the capital. The condition of the unfortunate objects of manufacturing speculation cannot, therefore, be fairly compared with that of the young who enjoy the inestimable advantages of parental care and tenderness, but with what their own situation would probably have been if they had not found such an asylum.
From some facts, indeed, that have been very strongly stated in the other part of the island, it would appear that the protecting interference of the Legislature is loudly called for, in the case of parish children transported, as is often the case, from workhouses in the metropolis, to factories in distant counties. A late writer of most respectable character, [the Rev.] Mr. Gisborne,* assures us, that he has known, from indisputable authority, cruel punishments inflicted on such as have found the means of representing the hardships they suffered, in order to deter them and their companions from similar attempts;—an abuse which cannot be checked while magistrates have no power of entering the workshops of manufacturers for the purpose of inquiring into the treatment of the children whom they employ. Government, certainly, can never be better occupied than in measures, which, by promoting the comforts, the health, and the morals of those whom Providence has deprived of their natural guardians, re-establish, in some measure, those ties which the unfortunate accidents of life have broken, and give vigour to the first principles on which the political fabric depends.
On Machinery as a Substitute for Labour: its Advantages and Disadvantages.]
To the same branch of our subject belongs another question, which has not only occasioned much discussion among speculative politicians, but has given rise to frequent insurrections among the labouring classes of the people. The question concerning the tendency of mechanical contrivances for superseding or for abridging labour, to increase or to diminish the population of a country, in consequence of their tendency to increase or to diminish the quantity of employment to those whose subsistence depends on their own industry.
On this question I must confine myself, at present, to a few imperfect hints. I shall begin with stating the opinion of Montesquieu, whose sentiments coincide with those of some other very distinguished writers of the same country.
“Where there is an Agrarian Law,” he observes, “and the lands are equally divided, the country may be well peopled though there are but few arts; because every citizen receives from the cultivation of his land whatever is necessary for his subsistence; and all the citizens together consume all the fruits of the earth. Thus it was in some of the ancient republics.
“In our present situation, in which lands are so unequally distributed, they produce much more than those who cultivate them can consume; and consequently, if the arts should be neglected, and nothing attended to but Agriculture, the country could not be peopled. Those who cultivate, having corn to spare, nothing would engage them to work the following year. The fruits of the earth would not be consumed by the indolent, for these would have nothing with which they could purchase them. It is necessary then that the Arts should be established, in order that the produce of the land may be consumed by the labourer and the artificer. In a word, it is now proper that many should cultivate much more than is necessary for their own use. For this purpose they must have a desire of enjoying superfluities, and these they can receive only from the artificer.
“Those machines which are designed to abridge art are not always useful. If a piece of workmanship is of a moderate price, such as is equally agreeable to the maker and buyer, those machines which render the manufacture more simple, or in other words, diminish the number of workmen, would be pernicious. And if water-mills were not everywhere established, I should not have believed them so useful as is pretended, because they have deprived an infinite multitude of their employment, a vast number of persons of the use of water, and the greater part of the land of its fertility.”1
I recollect few passages in the writings of this very eminent author in which he appears to me to have reasoned in so loose and slovenly a manner. The chapter which I have now quoted is entitled, “Of the Number of Inhabitants with relation to the Arts.” From the scope of the argument in the first part of it, we are naturally led to expect that the author is pointing at a distinction formerly illustrated, between that state of society in which Agriculture was practised as a means of subsistence, and the state of society in Modern Europe, in which it is practiced as a trade, with a view of shewing the disadvantages of machines in the former case, and their utility in the latter. Of this speculation, however, he makes no use whatever in the concluding paragraph; but, on the contrary, seems to call in question the expediency of water-mills even at present.—“If water-mills were not everywhere established, I should not have believed them so useful as is pretended, because they have deprived an infinite number of hands of their employment, a vast number of persons of the use of water, and a great part of the land of its fertility.” Of these three considerations, the last two, it is evident, are perfectly inapplicable to the general question, as they would only prove, even if they were admitted as just, the inferiority of water-mills to wind-mills. I shall confine myself, therefore, to the first; the tendency of such contrivances to diminish the quantity of employment in a manufacturing and commercial country.
Before entering on the argument, it may not be a disagreeable relief to the attention, in the midst of these discussions, to quote a very beautiful Greek epigram, occasioned by the invention here objected to by Montesquieu, and which has frequently struck me as bearing a strong resemblance to the general strain of Dr. Darwin’s Imagery in the Botanic Garden. The ancients, (it may be proper to premise,) during many ages, knew nothing but hand-mills;* and in Greece the labour of turning them was committed to the women. The case would appear to have been the same among the Egyptians, from the following passage of Scripture:—“All the first-born of Egypt shall die, from the first-born of Pharaoh that sitteth upon the throne, even to the first-born of the maid-servant that is behind the mill.”1 I shall quote the Epigram, (which is ascribed to Antipater,) in an elegant Latin version by Boivin.†
I have alluded to this Epigram, not merely as an object of curiosity, but as it exhibits a picture of a state of society which, when contrasted with that of the more polished nations in modern Europe, affords of itself, without any comment, a strong general presumption against Montesquieu’s conclusion. How have mankind been enabled to emerge from barbarism to civilisation, but by the introduction and the progressive improvement of machinery? It is by these that all human arts are carried on, and that the condition of the citizen is distinguished from that of the savage; a fact so striking and so important in the history of human affairs, that Franklin has somewhere fixed on it as the best foundation for a definition of Man. And, undoubtedly, if all such definitions were not absurd, that of being a tool-making animal, or engineer, which he has humorously substituted instead of some of those proposed by the philosophers of antiquity, must be allowed to possess considerable merit, inasmuch as it turns upon one of the most essential characteristics by which our species is discriminated from the brutes. How intimately it is connected with the progress of mankind, more especially in the advanced stages of their improvement, will appear more fully hereafter. In the meantime, the experience of the past is sufficiently decisive on the subject, to discourage all attempts to fetter human ingenuity and invention. The simplest machines and implements, without which we now should be at a loss how to subsist, were new in their day; and, in many instances, the invention of them undoubtedly diminished, perhaps annihilated, the demand for some species of labour which was before in request. In what situation would the world now be had these inventions been proscribed, out of tenderness to the old workmen; and who will venture to pronounce, that human life has yet attained to its highest degree of refinement?1
It is hardly possible to introduce suddenly the smallest innovation into the Political Economy of a State, let it be ever so reasonable, nay, ever so profitable, without incurring some inconveniences. But temporary inconveniences furnish no objection to solid improvements. Those which may arise from the sudden introduction of a machine cannot possibly be of long continuance. The workmen will, in all probability, be soon able to turn their industry into some other channel; and they are certainly entitled to every assistance the public can give them, when they are thus forced to change their professional habits. “An advantageous and honourable peace,” as Sir James Steuart well remarks, “at the end of a long and destructive war, is attended with the same inconvenience as the invention of a machine. A number of soldiers are disbanded, and become burdensome to the public; but the evil is of short duration, and bears no proportion to the extensive and solid advantages of which peace is productive.”2 At the end of the war before last, more than a hundred thousand soldiers and sailors were all at once thrown out of employment,—a number equal to what is employed in the greatest manufactories; and yet (according to Mr. Smith* ) no sensible inconvenience happened to the country. Many of the seamen probably betook themselves to the merchant service, while the rest, with the soldiers, (adverse as the habits of both are to manufacturing industry,) were very soon absorbed in the great mass of the people.
In what I have hitherto said, I have taken for granted, that the invention of a machine must necessarily diminish the quantity of employment in that particular branch of industry which it is its object to facilitate; and that it is necessary, upon such an occasion, for those who are deprived of their former mode of subsistence, to betake themselves to some other trade or manufacture, in which the demand for labourers still continues. But this is by no means a necessary consequence of such inventions; for it is far from being impossible, that by lowering the price of commodities, and improving their quality, they may increase the demand for work in a greater proportion than that in which they diminish the number of hands by which it is carried on. By lowering the price, they may open new markets abroad, or place the commodities within the reach of a lower class of people at home; or, on the other hand, by improving the fabric, they may bring them into request, both at home and abroad, among the higher orders; and, in this manner, a larger quantity wrought in a more compendious manner, may employ as many hands as a less quantity in a way more laborious. In fact, this can scarcely fail to be the consequence, inasmuch as the demand for labour has no other limit than the extent of consumption; and in the present state of the world, consumption may be fairly said to have no limit which may not be extended by a reduction of price. When such an effect has once taken place, its operation increases and extends beyond calculation; for the increased demand for the commodities produced by the assistance of the machine, increases the demand for all the various materials and all the various trades which are subservient to the manufacture, and which furnish perhaps employment to an immense number of hands without admitting of a mechanical abridgment.
It may be worth while to add, that the same state of society which multiplies these compendious processes in the old and established trades, is continually multiplying the number of pursuits and occupations, and enlarging our prospect of that boundless field which will never be exhausted by human industry.
Another consideration, too, which adds much force to the foregoing reasonings, may be deduced from the effect of mechanical abridgment of labour, in disengaging corresponding quantities of the manufacturing capital of the country. In proportion as this happens, the funds destined for the maintenance of labour receive a virtual augmentation; and, in a nation such as ours, cannot fail to find immediate employment either in extending the scale of old establishments, or in striking out new channels of industry. In truth, all that has been alleged by Turgot, Smith, and Bentham, in proof of the astonishing effects produced by the accumulation of capital, may be fairly urged in favour of those machines which render a given quantity of capital more productive.
These observations, however, relate only to the eventual or possible advantages of machines in increasing employment, and, by no means, do justice to the present argument. Their infinite importance, or rather, indeed, their absolute necessity to maintain the national prosperity of a commercial country like Great Britain, will appear from the following considerations.
“The Russians,” we are told,* “had no other way of making planks, till near the end of the last century, but by hewing or chipping away a whole tree to the necessary thickness; notwithstanding which, they could afford to sell them cheaper than their neighbours. Suppose that two Russians could, in this manner, finish a plank in a day, and that in the same time two common sawyers could cut out twenty, it follows that the Russians must work for one-twentieth part of the sawyers’ wages. If a sawyer in Sweden can get tenpence a day, the Russian must be paid with a halfpenny.” . . . .
“In Sweden,” Postlethwayt adds, “there are a kind of mills turned by water, and so contrived as to take in large trees on the upper side of the stream, and deliver them out on the lower, sawed into planks in a few minutes.” One of these mills will make at least five hundred planks, whilst the Russian could make a single one by hewing; and consequently, with the attendance of a single person, it performs the work of a thousand men labouring with the axe.
It is only by such contrivances, combined with that division of labour which is intimately connected with them, that nations, among whom the wages of labour are comparatively high, can maintain the competition in foreign markets; and to what an extraordinary extent the productive powers of industry may thus be multiplied, the commercial history of our own island affords a proof hitherto unequalled among mankind.
In a country where, by increase of money, by a load of taxes, and by various other causes, the price of labour has risen higher than among its commercial competitors, its trade must necessarily go to decay, unless this circumstance is counteracted by others of an opposite tendency. So strongly does this remark apply to our own case, that many of our manufacturing towns must long ago have given up all thoughts of foreign commerce, if they had not been constantly struggling against the advancing price of manual labour, by those astonishing combinations of mechanical ingenuity which nothing but necessity can account for. It is a fortunate arrangement in human affairs, that the same circumstances which create the evil should thus furnish the remedy. When demands from abroad slacken, and foreign rivals, in consequence of the cheapness of labour, are on the point of securing the prize, the pressure of necessity awakens invention; and by the seasonable introduction of a new machine, re-establishes the manufacture, lowered in its price or improved in its quality. The competition, in truth, among commercial nations at present, is not merely a competition of industry, but of ingenuity and skill; and it is likely to become so in a greater and greater degree, as the progress of Science and of Art advances. It is this inexhaustible fund of mechanical invention, in which we have now left all our competitors far behind, aided by the division of labour arising from mercantile opulence, and protected by civil liberty, which is the great foundation of our commercial prosperity.
The foregoing observations, while they appear to me to go far to justify the general principle on which mechanical abridgments of labour proceed, suggest, at the same time, if I am not mistaken, an additional confirmation of some reasonings formerly stated in vindication of the consolidation of farms. [P. 124, seq.]
It was long ago observed by Mr. Jenyns,* (and, indeed, the remark must have occurred to every person who has bestowed a moment’s consideration on the subject,) “That although no tax is immediately laid, in Great Britain, on corn, it is taxed as effectually as if a duty by the bushel had been primarily laid upon it; inasmuch as out of its price, all the innumerable taxes drawn from the farmer on windows, soap, candles, malt, hops, leather, salt, and a thousand others, must be repaid.” . . . “The price of corn, therefore,” he concludes, “must necessarily be advanced.”1 Since the time he wrote, how astonishingly have taxes increased and multiplied on the farmer’s articles of consumption; and yet the price of corn has not, certainly, risen in the same proportion. Indeed, under all this weight of taxation, its price, at an average, appears to have fallen in the course of the present century.
To what cause can we ascribe this very important fact, but to the accumulation of agricultural capital in the hands of those men who are accused of consolidating farms? and who, in consequence of the circumstances which have been already explained, are enabled to bring their grain to the market at a reduced expense. The advantages which manufacturers derive from the division of labour, and from the use of machinery, cannot be attained, but in a very inconsiderable degree, by the husbandman; and hence the inestimable value of every arrangement which, by economizing his operations, prevents the price of the necessaries of life from keeping pace with the growing weight of taxation. These circumstances, it must be confessed, render agriculture less profitable than formerly to small farmers, and they have, perhaps, a tendency unfavourable to the agricultural population of the country. But although this must be allowed to be an evil, it is not to be compared in magnitude with a dependence on foreign nations for the means of subsistence. From the increasing importations of grain, for a good many years past, there is but too much reason to apprehend that the remedy is not altogether adequate to the disorder; but the efficacy of the remedy, to a certain extent, is unquestionable; and if it had not operated very powerfully indeed, the mischief would long before now have been incalculable in its consequences. Could we suppose it possible that, by an increase of taxes, wheat might be imported at a less expense than that at which it can be raised, on how precarious a foundation would the grandeur of this empire rest!
It affords some consolation, under the impression of these gloomy ideas, to reflect, that the discouragements to agriculture, and the checks to agricultural population, are consequences, not of the natural progression of things, but of those accidental causes which have produced our public burdens; and that, therefore, if we could indulge the prospect of a short respite from the calamities of war, a reduction of taxes might gradually operate in placing agriculture more upon a level with the other branches of national industry.
Is the Density of Population in Proportion to the Extent of Country, a certain Index of National Prosperity?]
In the course of the foregoing Lectures, I have repeatedly intimated my dissent from a very common opinion, that the number of a people compared with the extent of their territory, furnishes the most unequivocal of all the tests that can be appealed to, in our inquiries concerning national prosperity. That in order to ascertain in how far a country is flourishing, nothing more is necessary than to examine this proportion, is by many writers assumed as a fundamental maxim; and yet the slightest consideration may satisfy us, that it is the industrious alone who constitute the strength of a nation, and that a population composed of the idle and the indigent is to be dreaded as one of the greatest of political evils.*
(Interpolation from Notes.)—One of the first writers who seems to have become aware of this important truth, was Sir James Steuart, who clearly pointed out the essential differences between a population of industrious citizens, and a population of idle men and of beggars.* The same distinction was taken about the same time by several French writers, and from them was adopted by Mr. Arthur Young. In his Survey of the Agriculture of France, he states it explicitly as his opinion, that the population of that country was too great, in consequence of the excessive subdivision of land in many districts, and that the prosperity of the nation would be greatly enhanced if the inhabitants could be reduced by five or six millions at least. He founds particularly on the remarks made in an excellent Report on Beggary, drawn up by M. de la Rochefoucauld Liancourt.†
In some other countries of Europe, we find population forced beyond its natural limit, by expedients expressly and avowedly intended for this purpose. Such was the policy which induced the Spanish Government to establish a colony of Germans in the Sierra Morena, though every province in Spain swarmed with vagrants, who owed their support to the hierarchy and monasteries. Of this attempt and its ill success, a very interesting account is given by Mr. Townsend.‡ The failure of the whole project might indeed have been anticipated. Where a country has already a greater population than the State can govern well, public evils are not to be remedied by the introduction of new settlers. A cure for these must be found nearer home, in a melioration of the government and of the condition and circumstances of the people.
The policy adopted in some nations, of increasing population by holding out inducements to marriage, has been suggested by the same views as the expedient of inviting foreign settlers. No maxim can be more certain than this,—that marriages will take place in every instance where they ought to do so. There is no example of a country furnishing regular employment to industry where these are not entered into. The policy, therefore, is at best useless; but it can scarcely fail to be hurtful. In Spain such an expedient was tried by Charles IV., who extended the privileges of nobility to married men for a certain number of years, and to the father of six children, for life; whilst, on the contrary, those nobles who continued bachelors after twenty-five years of age, were deprived of all the immunities of their order. This edict was without effect; and it was in vain that attempts were made to enforce it.—(End of interpolation from Notes.)
In all such cases as have now been under consideration, where the numbers of a people have increased steadily for a length of time, without a proportional increase in the means of subsistence, alarming consequences may be apprehended to follow sooner or later: and although this might be the ultimate result of the most perfect model of human policy, (were it possible to realize it,) at least in so great a degree as ought to lower the pride of philosophical speculation, yet if it appear that the same evil may be produced without adding, in the meantime, to the sum of national happiness, the political arrangements in which it originates cannot be too anxiously avoided as sources of an unmixed accumulation of mischiefs. In China, where population has been forced by a variety of unnatural expedients, by the permission which parents have to expose their children, by the singularly abstemious habits of the people, and by the indiscriminate use they are led to make of everything through which life can be supported,—the fatal effects of a policy, artificially contrived to extend the multiplication of the race beyond its just limits, are seen in all their magnitude. In such circumstances, any deficiency in the ordinary produce, arising from an unfavourable season, cannot fail to be followed by the horrors of famine. The miseries which have so often been experienced from this in Hindostan are, in like manner, the obvious consequences of a population pushed to its utmost possible limit, relatively to the means of subsistence. The ordinary habits of frugality to which the people are accustomed, leave no superfluities to be retrenched in a year of scarcity.
The conclusion to which these considerations lead is manifest,—that the only equitable and beneficial means which can be employed for the advancement of population, suppose a corresponding increase in the funds necessary to support it; and that every project to encourage it in any other way, can only add to the number of human creatures born to poverty, to vice, and to wretchedness. To consider population merely in the narrow commercial view, of producing men who are to be subservient to the fortunes of the opulent, and who, by their increasing numbers, are to lower the reward of labour, and to favour the competition of our manufacturers in foreign markets, is a policy not only inexpedient, but unjust and inhuman, and dictated by the same spirit which has led men, in so many other instances, to overlook, in the eagerness of mercantile speculation, the rights, the feelings, and the morals of those who are doomed to be the instruments of their avarice.
This general principle furnishes an infallible criterion for adjusting the relative claims of Agriculture and of Manufactures to the attention of the statesman. The powerful stimulus which manufactures give to agriculture has been already illustrated; and in so far as this operates without any check from adventitious causes, their tendency is wholly beneficial, inasmuch as they at once multiply the numbers of the people and provide the additional food by which they are to be supported. It must however be remembered, that although this is a natural effect, it is not the necessary effect of manufactures, and that it is possible for them to advance population in a far greater degree than that in which they add to the produce of the earth. It has been shewn, that in the actual history of modern Europe, the spirit of the prevailing systems of legislation has obstructed, in a variety of ways, the natural and salutary operation of manufacturing upon agricultural industry, more particularly by the encouragement which they have given to the labour of towns in preference to that of the country; and wherever this has been the case, although the lower orders may have multiplied, and may even, in consequence of collateral circumstances, have increased the sum of their enjoyments, yet a large proportion of them must have been deprived of their full share of those progressive advantages which Nature, if not thwarted by human policy, would not fail to distribute, with an equitable hand, among all her industrious children.
The legal provision which is made for the poor in the other part of the island, although originating in motives which reflect the highest honour on the benevolence of our countrymen, is obviously liable to this objection, that while it tends to increase population by encouraging marriage, it has no tendency to provide additional food for the people. Nor is this all: the population it increases is chiefly that of idle consumers; and, therefore, it not only diminishes the quantity of provisions which the labour of the industrious man can command, but abridges his share of the comforts of life, to feed those who are a burden on the community. The evils occasioned by all such expedients cannot fail to be progressive; for whatever depresses the condition of the labouring classes must eventually multiply the objects of charity.1 But of this subject I shall have occasion to treat afterwards.
The agricultural improvements of which this country is susceptible, present immense resources both for meliorating the state of the lower orders, and for adding to the numbers of the most valuable part of its inhabitants. That its produce might be easily doubled, or even trebled, has been affirmed by very competent judges;2 but without aiming at arithmetical precision on this point, it may be confidently asserted, that the present population of our island is far short of what the territory, if properly cultivated, would be able to maintain. It is not merely the commons and the waste lands, (the extent of which in Great Britain has been computed3 to amount to twenty-two millions of acres,—that is, to more than one-fourth of the whole kingdom;) it is not merely these, which open a field for future exertions in husbandry; but, if we except a few districts where the soil is naturally rich, and which have been long in a state of high cultivation, scarcely a farm is to be found, of which the occupier will not readily grant, that the produce might be greatly augmented. Nor is there the smallest reason to doubt, in a country so eminently distinguished by enterprising and enlightened industry, and which enjoys so many advantages over neighbouring states, that the natural course of events, aided by such laws as now unite the suffrages of politicians of all descriptions, would advance both its agriculture and population with a rapidity equal to our most sanguine wishes, if the circumstances of Europe should ever enable us to enjoy, undisturbed, for a course of years, the blessings of peace.
In order to damp the exertions inspired by such prospects, it has been frequently urged, that supposing them to be attended with complete success, and a similar spirit to animate the legislators of other countries, the globe would, at no very distant period, be overstocked with inhabitants, and would be rendered a scene of incalculable misery. An idea of this kind serves as the ground-work of a late very ingenious and candid Essay, “On the Principle of Population as it affects the Future Improvement of Society;”* —an Essay distinguished by originality of thought, and which (among some general speculations, more plausible, perhaps, than solid) contains a variety of acute and just reflections of a practical nature. A remarkable passage, too, of a similar tendency, forms the conclusion of Pinto’s Treatise, On Circulation and Credit.† Nor has this calamitous consequence of the natural course of events been altogether overlooked by the romantic authors of some late political theories. It was plainly perceived in its full force by Godwin, when he had recourse (in order to solve the difficulty) to the most paradoxical of all his hypotheses, that in consequence of the intellectual and moral improvement of man, the passion between the sexes will be gradually extinguished, and that, while the period of human life will, in the case of individuals, be indefinitely prolonged, the species will cease to propagate.* The same difficulty led Dr. Wallace, fifty years ago, to conclude much more philosophically, “that the existence of perfect governments (even though they were consistent with the human passions and appetites) is physically inconsistent with the circumstances of mankind upon the earth.”1 —(Interpolation from Notes.)—“How happy,” he also says, “would be the consequences of such an excellent government! Every discouragement to marriage would be effectually removed. Wise regulations would be established to gratify the natural passion of love, in an easy and agreeable manner. No false maxims which corrupt the taste in this grand concern would be in vogue, nor any temptation from interest to mislead the choice. Poverty being effectually banished, and every one upon an equal footing, the numerous impediments arising from an inequality of rank, estates, or other circumstances, would be wholly removed. In this situation, according to the original blessing and command, mankind would be fruitful, and multiply, replenish the earth, and subdue it.” . . . “How long the earth, with the best culture of which it is capable from human genius and industry, might be able to nourish its perpetually increasing inhabitants, is as impossible as it is unnecessary to be determined. It is not probable that it could have supported them during so long a period as since the creation of Adam. But whatever may be supposed of the length of this period, of necessity it must be granted, that the earth could not nourish them for ever, unless either its fertility could be continually augmented, or by some secret in nature, like what certain enthusiasts have expected from the philosopher’s stone, some wise adept in the occult sciences should invent a method of supporting mankind quite different from any thing known at present. Nay, though some extraordinary method of supporting them might possibly be found out, yet if there was no bound to the increase of mankind, which would be the case under a perfect government, there would not even be sufficient room for containing their bodies upon the surface of the earth.” . . . “It would be impossible, therefore, to support the great numbers of men who would be raised up under a perfect government; the earth would be overstocked at last, and the greatest admirers of such fanciful schemes must foresee the fatal period when they would come to an end.” . . . “During all the preceding ages, while there was room for increase, mankind must have been happy; the earth must have been a paradise in the literal sense, as the greatest part of it must have been turned into delightful and fruitful gardens. But when the dreadful time should at last come, when our globe, by the most diligent culture, could not produce what was sufficient to nourish its numerous inhabitants, what happy expedient could then be found out to remedy so great an evil?”*
In one very important respect, indeed, Dr. Wallace has misapprehended the subject, in supposing that the evils of an overgrown population were placed at a great and almost immeasurable distance, and that they could not be realized till the whole world was cultivated like a garden. In opposition to this idea, Mr. Malthus has shown, and I think with demonstrative evidence, that the evils in question would be imminent and immediate; and that in every period of the progress to the time when the whole earth should be cultivated like a garden, the distress for want of food would be constantly pressing on all mankind, supposing them all on a footing of equality. Though the produce of the earth might be increasing every year, the population would advance much faster, and the redundance must be reduced by the return of periodical disease, or the constant action of misery.
The following curious Apologue from Mr. Townsend’s Dissertation on the Poor Laws, [1780,]* as it so well illustrates the relation of human society to population, I shall present without any comment.
“Navigators relate, that in the South Seas there is an island, which, from the first discoverer, is called Juan Fernandes. In this sequestered spot, John Fernando placed a colony of goats, consisting of one male, attended by his female. This happy couple finding pasture in abundance, could readily obey the first commandment, to increase and multiply; till in process of time they had replenished their little island.1 In advancing to this period they were strangers to misery and want, and seemed to glory in their multitude; but from this unhappy moment they began to suffer hunger: yet, continuing for a time to increase their numbers, had they been endued with reason, they must have apprehended the extremity of famine. In this situation the weakest first gave way, and plenty was again restored. Thus they fluctuated between happiness and misery, and either suffered want or rejoiced in abundance, according as their numbers were diminished or increased; never at a stay, yet nearly balancing at all times their quantity of food. This relation of equipoise was from time to time disturbed, either by epidemical diseases or by the arrival of some vessel in distress. On such occasions their numbers were considerably reduced; but to compensate this alarm, and to comfort them for the loss of their companions, the survivors never failed immediately to find a return of plenty. They were no longer in fear of famine; they ceased to regard each other with an evil eye; all had abundance, all were contented, all were happy. Thus, what might have been considered as misfortunes, proved a source of comfort; and, to them at least, “partial evil” was “universal good.”
“When the Spaniards found that the English privateers resorted to this island for provisions, they resolved on the total extirpation of the goats; and for this purpose they put on shore a greyhound dog and bitch.1 These in their turn increased and multiplied, in proportion to the quantity of food they met with; but in consequence, as the Spaniards had foreseen, the breed of goats diminished. Had they been totally destroyed, the dogs likewise must have perished. But as many of the goats retired to the craggy rocks, where the dogs could never follow them, descending only for short intervals to feed with fear and circumspection in the valleys, few of these, besides the careless and the rash, became a prey; and none but the most watchful, strong, and active of the dogs could get a sufficiency of food. Thus a new kind of balance was established. The weakest of both species were among the first to pay the debt of nature; the most active and vigorous preserved their lives.—It is the quantity of food which regulates the numbers of the human species,” &c.—But to return:
The reasonings of Mr. Malthus, therefore, in so far as they relate to the Utopian plans of Wallace, Condorcet, and Godwin, are perfectly conclusive, and strike at the root of all such theories. But they do not seem to justify those gloomy inferences which many persons are disposed to draw from them concerning the established order of nature. And the very ingenious and liberal author has assured us explicitly, that he did not mean, when he stated these considerations to the public, to insinuate any argument against the expediency of meliorating, to the utmost of our power, the real imperfections of our existing institutions. In one point only, I am disposed to differ from Mr. Malthus. He seems to me to lay by far too little stress on the efficacy of those arrangements which nature herself has established for the remedy of the evils in question, and to trust too little to that vis medicatrix naturæ, which is not less susceptible of an application to the political than to the natural world. But these remarks I shall have occasion to illustrate more fully when I come to treat of the Economical system.—(End of interpolation from Notes.)
I shall not enter into the argument at present, although I am fully persuaded that the subject is still unexhausted, and that if prosecuted with a dispassionate love of truth, it would open an interesting and not unpleasing field of speculation. It is sufficient for my purpose to observe, that whatever opinion we may form concerning it, no solid reason can be suggested, which ought to have any practical effect in diminishing our zeal to advance, to the utmost of our power, the prosperity of that society with which we are connected. For, although the greater that prosperity, the sooner must population arrive at that ultimate limit where it ceases to be a blessing, yet it belongs not to us, in the contemplation of a remote contingency, to supply what appears to our limited faculties an imperfection in the arrangements of Providence, by neglecting those duties to which we are called in the present moment. The field which yet remains to employ the labours of ourselves and our children, is sufficiently ample to animate the exertions of the most sanguine beneficence; and it is a miserable misapplication of the time and talents which are now in our possession, to waste them in fruitless anticipations of the condition of remote ages, while so much may be done to lighten the pressure of actual evils. The article of Political Economy to which I have now been directing your attention, illustrates, with peculiar force, the truth of these remarks, when we compare, in the first place, the actual population of the globe with the prolific powers of the sexes, and still more when, in the second, we reflect on the importance of that sublime function entrusted to the legislator, of being able eventually to bestow not only existence but happiness on millions who would never otherwise have seen the light.
(Interpolation from Notes.)—These general principles coincide, in most essential respects, with the system of the Economists and of Quesnai; one of whose fundamental maxims is, that the statesman should fix his attention rather on the increase of national wealth than on the increase of population, that is, aim at the advance of population only through the medium of agriculture, and consider manufactures and commerce as useful only in so far as they tend to augment the territorial produce by the stimulus of an extended market.
This view of the subject may perhaps enable us to clear up an inconsistency formerly referred to, (p. 65,) which occurs in the work of the very ingenious author of the Ami des Hommes. The change of opinion which this author acknowledges, may easily be accounted for by the varying point of view in which he considers his subject. The two opinions, when stated with proper limitations, will both be found agreeable to truth. That population is the consequence of riches, is a maxim which, I believe, holds true without any exception, and no illustration of it can be more striking than what is afforded by the progress of population in America. On the other hand, when we cast our eyes on what has happened in modern Europe, we find riches to be the consequence of an increasing population.
It is to this last state of society that it is necessary for us to confine our attention, if we wish our speculations to be practically useful; I mean, to that state of society where there are no laws favouring the division of landed property, as in the ancient republics, or an open field for agricultural enterprise, as in the New World; but where a great accumulation of land in the hands of a few proprietors is the necessary consequence of existing institutions, while, at the same time, the lower orders are left dependent on the free and voluntary exertions of their own industry. The question is not how a speculative politician should regulate the course of human affairs; but in what manner, subject to existing conditions, the peace of society may be effectually maintained, and the greatest amount of happiness secured. But how this is to be accomplished, independently of Manufactures and Commerce, I confess myself unable to form even an idea. The writers who, in their zeal for agriculture, have been led to declaim against manufactures and commerce, placing to their account all the evils which result from the mutual jealousy of nations, seem to have entirely lost sight, not only of the causes which have brought agriculture to its present state, but of the operation of commerce and manufactures in applying a cure to the anarchy which prevailed for ages after the abolition of villanage.
The existence of many poor was in reality the necessary effect of breaking down this institution established by the feudal system. By that revolution, all those who had formerly been serfs to the proprietors of land, were left to depend on their own industry for subsistence, instead of receiving, directly or indirectly, maintenance from their feudal lord. Hence, in the progress of human affairs, it could not but ensue that a great number became indigent. Not many years ago the condition of the poor in Scotland, in consequence of scarcity, was undoubtedly distressing; but how limited and transitory was the suffering at that time, compared with what was here chronically prevalent towards the end of the seventeenth century? This contrast may be seen from the statement made by Mr. Fletcher of Saltoun, in a Discourse addressed to the Scottish Parliament in 1698.* He estimated the number of beggars then in Scotland at no fewer than 200,000. The only remedy he, a Republican by principle, could suggest, was to restore the ancient state of villanage, and to make slaves of all those who were unable to provide for their own subsistence.
In England, although from various causes the career of improvement began at an earlier period, a similar progress of order and regular police accompanied the advancement of national industry; and it is not a little remarkable how completely the licentiousness and insubordination of the lower classes bid defiance to the authority of the wisest and most vigorous princes, till a gradual extension of the field of employment insensibly converted the multitude to better habits. During the sixteenth century, the police of England does not appear to have been better than that of Scotland at the end of the seventeenth. In proof of this I may refer to Harrison’s account of the state of England in the reigns of Henry VIII. and of Queen Elizabeth, [in his Historical Description.] The most satisfactory proof that I know of the disorderly condition of England, is a statement preserved in Strype’s Annals, drawn up in 1596, by a justice of peace in Somersetshire.
Against such a state of anarchy there are only two remedies. The one is a return to the institution of Villanage of the feudal ages, or to the Agrarian policy of the Roman Commonwealth; the other is the operation of Manufactures and Commerce, which have already accomplished such wonders in this part of the world, and not yet occasioned any general inconvenience which may not be traced to the caprice of that policy diverting them from their natural channels, or to those accidents, perhaps inseparable from the lot of humanity, which occasionally disturb those pacific relations on which the prosperity of nations depends. The facts, accordingly, which I have borrowed from Mr. Fletcher, led him not unnaturally to regret the emancipation of the lower orders, and to recommend strongly the revival of such a policy as subsisted in the ancient republics. The same ideas have plainly warped the speculations of Dr. Wallace.* The disorders which appeared to this author so formidable as to require the violent and cruel laws of antiquity, must be admitted by those who were not affected by the same classical prepossessions, to afford a strong confirmation of what has been already urged in favour of the remedy which the natural course of things in modern Europe has provided for the gradual extirpation of these evils. All that it is necessary for the statesman to remember, is—that the care of population belongs exclusively to nature, and that it is his peculiar business, by securing employment to all ranks of the people, and by directing all the various kinds of industrious speculation, to bestow due encouragement on that art which alone can render an increasing population the source of an increasing fund for its own subsistence.—(End of interpolation from Notes.)
[* ] [These will, accordingly, constitute so many Sections of this Chapter.]
[1 ] This part of Aristotle’s works, which is certainly one of the most valuable remains of antiquity, may be perused by the English reader, in a translation which has been executed, with a considerable degree of spirit and of elegance, by Dr. Gillies. [In Gillies’s translation of Aristotle’s Practical Philosophy, the Politics occupy the second volume; and of that volume, see particularly chapters iii. and iv. of Book II.]—Taylor, [Elements of the Civil Law,] p. 342.
[* ] [Inquiry concerning Political Justice, Book VIII. chap. vi. pp. 850, 852, original edition, 1793.]
[1 ]De Inventione, Lib. I. [cap. ii.]
[* ] [De Rerum Natura, V. 960.]
[1 ] Horace, Ad Pisones, 398.
[2 ] Suidas, v. Πϱομηθεὺς.
[3 ] Goguet, Book I. chap. i. Art. 1.
[1 ] “Uxores habent deni duodenique inter se communes; et maxime fratres cum fratribus, parentesque cum liberis; sed si qui sunt ex his nati, eorum habentur liberi a quibus primum virgines quæque ductæ sunt.”—[De Bello Gallico, Lib. V. cap. xiv.]
[1 ] Πολλοῖς εἶναι φίλον, ϰατὰ τὴν τελείσν φιλίαν, οὐϰ ἐνδέχεται, ὥσπεϱ οὐδὲ ἐϱᾷν πλειόνων αμα. . . . Ἔστι γὺϱ φίλος ἄλλος αὐτός. “It is impossible to be a friend (according to the idea of perfect friendship) to more than one, as it is impossible to love more than one at the same time. . . . For a friend is a second self.”—Aristotle’s Nicomachian Ethics, [IX. x. and iv. Wilkinson.]—See Wollaston, [Religion of Nature, Sect. VIII. § iv.]
[1 ] “Nor is any indulgence shewn to a prostitute. Neither beauty, youth, nor riches, can obtain her a husband; for no one there looks on vice with a smile, or calls mutual seduction the way of the world.”—[Germania, cap. xix.]
[* ] [View of Society in Europe, Note (6), sect. 3, chap. i. Book I.]
[2 ]Elements of the Civil Law, p. 305.
[* ] [Sketches of the History of Man, Book I. Sk. vi.; Vol. I. pp. 172, 173, original edition, 1774.]
[* ] [Essays, Vol. I.]
[† ] [See above, Vol. I. p. 186, seq.; Vol. II. p. 5, seq.; Vol. III. p. 158, seq.]
[‡ ] [Wealth of Nations, Book I. chap. viii. Vol. I. p. 120, 10th edit.]
[* ] [See De Legibus, Libb. IV. and VI.] Taylor, [Elements, &c.] p. 264.
[† ] [Officia, I. xvii.]
[‡ ] [Sermones, I. iii. 105.]
[* ] [Essays, Vol. I. On Polygamy, &c.]
[1 ]Dicta Factaque, &c. II. i. 4.
[† ] [Decline and Fall, &c., chap xliv.]
[1 ]De Beneficiis, Lib. III. cap. xvi.—[See Martial, VI. vii.]
[* ] [De Doctrina Christiana, Lib. III. c. vii. See also, ibidem, c. xviii., and c. xxii.; also De Civitate Dei, Lib. XVI, c. xxxviii.]
[1 ]De Jure Belli, &c., Lib. II. cap. v. [§§ 8, 9.]
The argument in favour of Polygamy is still more avowedly and explicitly stated by Euripides, in a fragment which remains of his Tragedy of Ino, and which I shall quote in the Latin version.
[* ] [Taciti Germania, cap. xviii.]
[2 ]Esprit des Loix, Livre XVIII. chap. xxv. See also Stuart, [View, &c., Note (14,) sect. 3, chap. i., Book I.]
[* ] [But see his View of Society, &c., pp. 23, and 201, 202, where the passage in question is adduced, translated, and fully canvassed. I quote from the original edition.]
[† ] [View, &c., Note (14) 3, c. i. B. I.]
[1 ] Cook’s Voyages, Vol. I., p. 400. Irish edition.
[2 ] “La pluralité des femmes est une marque d’honneur et de distinction.”—Letters Edifiantes et Curieuses. Tome XV. p. 310.
[* ] [This refers to Mungo Park, who was well known to Mr. Stewart after returning from his first travels in Africa, of which expedition the account was published in 1799.]
[3 ] [Travels, &c.] p. 268.
[4 ] For Dr. Arbuthnot’s speculations on this subject, (founded on the doctrine of Chances,) see Philosophical Transactions, No. 338.—[For a disquisition and some more recent authorities on the Proportion of the Sexes, see above, Works, Vol. VII. p. 112, seq., and Note C. p. 380, seq.]
[1 ]Physico-Theology, pp. 175, 176.
[2 ]Métrologie, p. 485.
[1 ] Ibid. p. 485.
[2 ]Recherches, &c., p. 71.
[3 ] Price [On Annuities, &c.] Vol. II. p. 263.
[1 ] [Ibid.] Vol. I. p. 360, et seq.
[* ] [Ibid.]
[† ] [Esprit, &c., XVI. iv.]
[* ] [History of Samatra.]
[1 ] The speech to which I refer, and which was plainly calculated to insinuate an apology for Polygamy in particular cases, is quoted by D’Ivernois in his Tableau Historique et Politique, p. 25.
[2 ] Animadvertimus, in oratione P. Scipionis, quam censor habuit ad populum de moribus, inter ea quæ reprehendebat, quod contra majorum instituta fierent, id etiam eum culpasse, quod filius adoptivus Patri adoptatori inter Præmia Patrem prodesset.—Noctes Atticæ, Lib. V. cap. xix.
[1 ] Ferguson, [History of Roman Republic, &c., Book VI chap. iii.; who cites Dion Cassius, Book LIV. chap. xvi., and Suetonius in Octavins, chap. xxxiv.]
[* ] [Ibidem.]
[1 ]Epistolæ, Lib. IV. xv.
[2 ]Annales, Lib. XV. [L. III. c. xxv. Germania, c. xix.]
[1 ] Plinii Panegyricus Trajani.
[* ] [See Note, p. 32.]
[1 ] See Young’s Ireland, p. 88 of Appendix to Vol. II.; and Chalmers’s Estimate, p. 223.
[2 ] Young, ibid.
[3 ]Essay on the Population of Ireland, (Richardson, 1786,) pp. 15, 20.
[4 ]Political Estimate, p. 222.
[1 ] Young’s Ireland, Vol. II., Appendix, p. 86.
[2 ] Smith’s Wealth of Nations, Vol. I. p. 240. Irish edit., [B. I. c. xi. First Part.]
[* ] [Tour in Ireland.]
[* ] [Ibidem.]
[1 ] [Wealth of Nations, Book I. chap. viii.]—“La Mendicité,” says the Maréchal de Vauban, [in his Dixme Royale,] “est un mal qui tue bientôt sou homme.”—Sir James Steuart, Vol. I. p. 72. [Works, Vol. I. p. 94. Political Œconomy, Book I. chap. xii.]
[* ] [Wealth of Nations, Book I. chap. xi. Part First.]
[† ] [Ibid.]
[1 ] Vol. II. pp. 361, 362.—[Works, Vol. II. p. 72, ed. 1819. Moral and Political Philosophy, Book VI. chap. xi.]
[2 ] Ibid.
[* ] [Political Arithmetic.]
[1 ]Political Arithmetic, p. 158, et seq.
[1 ] [It is doubtful, from the manuscript of these Lectures, whether what is placed in the following note, should not have constituted part of the text.]—It would be worth while to ascertain, by accurate experiments, the comparative nutritious power of a given extent of fertile land, when employed in raising animal and vegetable food. The only attempt of the kind that I have met with, (excepting some hints by A. Young,) is a letter addressed to Colonel Dirom, by Mr. William Mackie of Ormiston, in East Lothian, which is published at the end of an Inquiry into the Corn Laws and Corn Trade of Great Britain, 1796, by the late Mr. Dirom of Muiresk, in the county of Aberdeen. The result of Mr. Mackie’s computations is, that 504 acres of fertile land (the garden ground not included) will maintain, when well cultivated, 1977 people, old and young; and if the population of Great Britain amounts to 9,000,000, it would require only 2,412,746 fertile acres, well cultivated, to maintain them, when living on the same portion of vegetable food as the common people do in Scotland. The data on which Mr. Mackie proceeded were some facts ascertained by an examination of several families in his neighbourhood; from which it appeared, that about 2⅔ lbs., avoirdupois, raw potatoes, and 5⅓ oz. good oat-meal, when made into porridge, did actually maintain, for one day, in good health and condition for labour, on an average, each individual of a family, composed of two parents and three children, as long as their stock of potatoes lasted.
The same gentleman calculates, (upon data which appeared to him to be reasonable,) that the above farm of 504 acres, when employed in pasturage, will yield a produce competent only to the support of 103 individuals throughout the year; and that it would require 44,475,728 fertile acres to maintain the population of Great Britain; each individual consuming 2¼ lbs. of butcher meat per day. The same number of acres would support a population of 165,921,725 individuals of all ages, if the inhabitants lived on the same portions of vegetable food, which at present maintain the common labourers in Scotland.
“I have calculated,” says Mr. Mackie “these two extremes of the produce of land under the plough, or in pasture merely for fattening cattle, without including a dairy in either case; in order to place this object in a strong point of view, and to show the different effects which living on vegetable or animal food will have in supporting an increased population, or in rendering sustenance plentiful or scarce in a country. Hence it may be inferred, that it was to encourage and preserve the immense population of the Eastern nations, the original lawgivers of India discharged the eating of animal food, and engrafted this political maxim upon the ancient stock of superstition in the country. The abstaining from animal food, however, seems best suited to those countries situated under a burning sun, where water alone renders the soil perpetually fertile in producing vegetable food for supporting the inhabitants. In more temperate climates, the soil cannot be kept in a constant state of producing bread for man, without materially injuring its fertility; a circumstance which renders occasional pasturage indispensably necessary. The beasts of the field are also the children of nature, and the land must be allowed to afford grass for their sustenance; and man being formed to live on a mixture of animal and vegetable food, avails himself of this economy of nature to add to his enjoyment.
“From this cause, agriculture, in temperate climates, will be carried to the greatest perfection in those countries where the inhabitants add a certain proportion of animal to their vegetable food. But there is a certain proportion from which, if, in the progress of luxury, they deviate, by increasing the quantity of their animal food, they will certainly feel the want of bread-corn, which appears to be one of the principal causes that, of late years, there is an evident deficiency in the growth of corn in Britain, or rather in England, to supply the inhabitants, and that we are every year becoming more and more dependent upon foreign nations for our daily support, in place of being able as formerly to spare a large surplus quantity annually for exportation.”
In the further prosecution of the same interesting inquiry, Mr. Mackie sketches out for the same farm of 504 acres, a plan of cultivation suited more nearly to the average consumption and population of the country. From his computations founded on this plan, it appears “that a farm of 504 acres of very fertile land in a high state of cultivation, could maintain 392 people, old and young, living on a mixture of animal and vegetable food; and to maintain the inhabitants of Great Britain, computing the number at 9,000,000, and each individual to consume daily on an average the quantity of animal and vegetable food mentioned above, there would be occasion for 11,793,799 acres of very fertile land in a high state of cultivation. But if, at any time, from the increase of luxury in the nation, every inhabitant was to consume an ounce more of animal food per day, in that case it would require an additional 803,079 acres of fertile land, one half in rich pastures, and nearly the other half in turnip, to fatten and produce the necessary quantity; four-sevenths of which, or 458,900 were annually carrying luxuriant crops of corn. But even computing these crops at the low average of two quarters per acre, it would occasion an annual failure of 917,800 quarters, which will account for the difference between the most flourishing period of the corn trade, and the deficiency of latter times. Whoever, therefore, considers with attention the increased consumption of animal food in Britain within these last fifty years, and particularly since the peace of 1763, will see good cause for the growing scarcity of corn.”
I shall only add to these extracts, a remark of the same author with respect to another effect of luxury in adding to the scarcity both of animal and vegetable food, and that is the great degree of fatness which the people of England now require in their beef and mutton. “There is reason to believe that half the quantity of land would feed cattle moderately fat, that is required to put them in condition for slaughtering in England; and it is more than probable, that the great noise that has been made of late years about increasing the size of live stock, is a species of quackery which is a real loss to the nation.”
The observations which I have quoted from this intelligent writer, seem to me to be deserving of attention, although I would neither be understood to vouch for the accuracy of his results, nor to give any opinion on a subject which is so foreign to my own studies.
[In reference to this subject, I find from notes written by Mr. Bridges in a subsequent session, that Mr. Stewart farther observed,—“It ought also to be taken into account, that among other economical advantages obtained by attention to the breeds of cattle, the possibility has now been established of communicating to animals a constitutional propensity to a state of fatness; in consequence of which some become marketable at a much smaller expense than others of a more ‘lean and hungry’ habitude.”—See Marshall’s Rural Economy of the Midland Counties, &c., 1790; and Culley’s Observations on Live Stock, 1786.]
[1 ] Paley, Vol. II. p. 363.—[Works, Vol. II. p. 73, ed. 1819. Moral and Political Philosophy, Book VI. chap. xi.]
[* ]Wealth of Nations, Book III. chap. ii.; Vol. II. p. 90, seq., tenth edition, 1802.]
[† ] [Sketches of Man, B. I. sk. ii. et alibi.]
[‡ ] [De la grande et de la petite Cultare; Œuvres, Tom. IV.]
[* ] [Wealth of Nations, Book III. chap. ii.; Vol. II. pp. 91, 92, tenth edition, 1802.]
[* ] [Wealth of Nations, Book III. chap. ii.; Vol. II. p. 93, tenth edition.]
[1 ] See Robertson’s General Report.
[* ] [Wealth of Nations, Book I. chap. ix.; Vol. I. p. 137, tenth edition.]
[† ] [Ibid. Book III. chap. ii.; Vol. II. p. 94, tenth edition.]
[1 ]Political Arithmetic, p. 189.
[2 ] Blackstone, [Commentaries, &c.] Vol. I. p. 287.
[* ] [The Speech touching Purreyors is found in Montagu’s edition of Bacon’s Works, Vol. VI., and the passage in question at p. 7, et seq.]
[* ] [Wealth of Nations, Book IV. chap. v.; Vol. II. p. 304, seq, tenth edition.]
[1 ] Ogilvie’s Essay on Property.
[* ] [Wealth of Nations, Book III. chap. ii.; Vol. II. p. 97, tenth edition.]
[1 ] See Arthur Young’s Farmers’ Letters, p. 335, et seq.
[* ] [Moral and Political Philosophy, Book VI. chap. xi.; Works, Vol. II. p. 105, ed. London, 1819.]
[1 ] See Monthly Review for December 1799.
[1 ]On Annuities, Vol. II. pp. 274, 275.
[2 ] A large farm has, on this account, been considered by some in the light of an agricultural machine, enabling the cultivators of the soil to do that with few hands which before they did with many; resembling a stocking-loom, (for instance,) which enables the master manufacturer to turn off half his hands, and yet make more stockings than before.—Young’s Political Arithmetic, p. 294.
[1 ] Young’s France, p. 402.
[2 ] See in particular his Six Months’ Tour through the North of England, Vol. IV. pp. 192, 251, 253, 264.
[3 ] Vol. VII. p. 510.
[4 ] Of one of the works now referred to, (Herrenschwand’s Essai sur la Division des Terres,) I cannot speak from my own personal knowledge; but from what I know of his Treatise Sur l’Economie Politique, I should not be led to expect much from any of his performances. He appears to me to be an uncommonly vague and diffuse writer, although he is characterized by Mr. Young as “one of the greatest political geniuses of the present age.”—France, p. 408.
[5 ] [Wealth of Nations, Book III. chap. ii.; Vol. II. p. 98, tenth edition.]
[6 ] [Ibid. Book I. chap. xi.; Vol. I. p. 354, tenth edition.]
[1 ] Robertson’s Report, pp. 41, 42.
[2 ] Ibid. p. 48.
[1 ] Tome V. p. 43, Tome VI. p. 79, (quoted by Young in his France, p. 408.)
[1 ] Robertson’s General Report.
[2 ]Insufficiency of the Causes, &c [1788,] p. 35.
[1 ]Annals of Agriculture, No. 42, p. 516.
[* ] Price On Annuities, Vol. II. p. 292.
[* ] [There being no general divisions of this book, I must refer to Montagu’s edition of Bacon’s Works, Vol. III. p. 234.]
[1 ] Price [On Annuities,] Vol. II. p. 292.
[* ] [History of England, Chap. xxvi., anno 1509.]
[1 ]Estimate of the Comparative Strength of Great Britain during the present and four preceding Reigns. By George Chalmers, pp. 145, 146.
[* ] [This marks the year in which this part, at least, of the lecture was written.]
[1 ] Young’s Pamphlet, [On the Question of Scarcity, 1800,] p. 73.
[1 ] Pamphlet On the Scarcity, p. 74.
[1 ] Robertson’s Report, pp. 71, 72.
[* ] [Historia Naturalis, Lib. XVIII. cap. iii.]
[* ] [Akenside, Odes, XII. ix.]
[1 ] Young’s Political Arithmetic, pp. 47, 48.
[* ] [Political Œconomy, Book I. chap. xiv.; Works, Vol. I. p. 116.]
[* ] [Essays, Vol. I., Of Commerce.]
[* ] [Hist. Nat., Lib. XVIII. cap. iii.—De Re Rustica, Præf.]
[1 ] Valerius Maximus, [De Dictis, &c.] Lib. VII., cap. v. (Quoted in Postlethwayt’s Dictionary, &c.; Article Manufactures.)
[1 ] Omnium rerum, ex quibus aliquid acquiritur, nihil est agricultura melius, nihil uberius, nihil dulcius, nihil homine libero dignius.—[De Officiis, Lib. I. cap. xlii.]
[2 ] Non enim aurum habere, præclarum sibi videri, dixit; sed iis, qui habuerunt aurum, imperare.—[De Senectute, cap. xvi.] Rollin, Arts and Sciences, I. p. 17.
[1 ] [§ 28.]—Taylor’s Elements, &c., p. 499.
[* ] [Sat. vi. 291.]
[* ] [That is, his Travels in France during the Years 1787, 1788, and 1789.]
[* ] [Travels in France during the Years 1787, 1788, and 1789, being an Agricultural Survey of the Kingdom, p. 407, seq.]
[† ] [Ibid. p. 410.]
[‡ ] [Ibid. p. 409.]
[* ] [Book V. Chap. xii.; Works, Vol. IV. p. 315.]
[* ] [Political Œconomy, Book I. chap. x.; Works, Vol. I. p. 70.]
[† ] [Essays, Vol. I. Essay, Of the Populousness of Ancient Nations.]
[‡ ] [Ibid.]
[1 ] Sir James Steuart, Vol. I. p. 178.—[Political Œconomy, Book II. chap. iii.; Works, Vol. I. p. 240.]
[* ] [Political Œconomy, Book I. chap. xxi.; Works, Vol. I. p. 204.]
[† ] [Wealth of Nations, Book III. chap. iv.]
[1 ]Memorial addressed to the Sovereigns of Europe, &c. Almon, 1780.
[2 ]Three Essays, &c. (London, 1799,) p. 116. [By Benjamin Bell, Esq.]
[1 ]Farmers’ Letters, &c., [1767,] pp. 3, 4.
[* ] [Etat de la France, &c.]
[* ] [L. l.]
[† ] [Wealth of Nations, B. IV. c. ix.; Vol. III. pp. 2, 3, tenth edition.]
[* ] [That is, his Travels in France.]
[* ] [Travels in France during the Years 1787, 1788, and 1789; being an Agricultural Survey of the Kingdom, p. 507, seq.]
[† ] [In 1776-1779.]
[* ] [Pp. 508-510.]
[1 ] Vol. I. pp. 386, 402, 408. But in regard to Kent, we ought also to take into account the vicinity of London, and the practice of Gavil Kind.
[1 ] Bell’s Pamphlet, p. 119. [Three Essays, &c., 1799.]
[1 ]Wealth of Nations, Vol. II. p. 286. [Book IV. chap. ix.; Vol. III. pp. 40, 41, tenth edition.]
[* ] [Tour through Ireland, &c.]
[1 ] [Tour through Ireland, &c.] Vol. II. p. 162.
[1 ] Young, [Travels through France,] p. 504.
[† ] [Ibidem, p. 505, seq.]
[* ] [Ibidem, p. 506.]
[† ] [Wealth of Nations, Book I. chap. i.; Vol. I. pp. 13, 14, tenth edition.]
[* ] [Mr. Benjamin Bell, the eminent Surgeon of Edinburgh, in Three Essays, &c., 1799.]
[† ] [Three Essays, &c., pp. 132, 133.]
[1 ] Tome III. p. 109. Young, [Travels in France,] p. 505.
[2 ] Some important remarks on the disadvantages of cities are made by Sir James Steuart, [Political Œconomy,] Book I. chap. x.; [Works, Vol. I. p. 65, seq.]
[3 ] Anderson, On National Industry, p. 57.
[* ] [Political Œconomy, Book I. chap. xii.; Works, Vol. I. p. 91; the meaning, but not the words, identical.]
[* ] [Wealth of Nations, Book IV. chap. ix.; Vol. III. p. 41, tenth edition.]
[† ] [Ibidem, p. 3.]
[* ] [Wealth of Nations, Book III. chap. ii.; Vol. II. pp. 97, 98, tenth edition.]
[1 ] The Reports presented to the Board of Agriculture are full of complaints against the inveteracy of local prejudices and practices, and the repugnance with which farmers listen to any ideas that are new. In remote situations, such as Wales, (we are told,) the people will not adopt English improvements, because their neighbours would laugh at them; and in some districts (such as Bedfordshire) it is stated, that the art of husbandry is a century behind the nearly adjoining counties. Some very striking facts in illustration of this remark are mentioned by Harte in his Essays on Husbandry, [1764,] p. 222; Second Edition. “Nothing shows more strongly the inattention and indolence of Mankind,” &c.
[* ] [M. Cato, De Re Rustica, cap. i.]
[* ] [State of the Poor, &c. Lond. 1797.]
[* ] [The same philanthropic care of these factory children, in relation to their comforts and education, was, after Mr. Dale’s death, continued and extended by his son-in-law, Mr. Robert Owen; whose theories though we must reject, we cannot but admire the benevolence of his intentions.]
[* ] [Inquiry into the Duties of Men, &c. Lond. 1794, 1795.]
[1 ]Spirit of Laws, Book XXIII. chap. xv.
[* ] [Ass-mills (Molæ Asinariæ) were long as well known in antiquity as Hand-mills, (Molæ Manuariæ, Trusatiles.)]
[1 ] The mechanism of the machine is still more explicitly alluded to in that prohibition, where Moses forbids the Israelites “to take the upper or the nether mill-stone in pledge.”
[† ] [The author of this Epigram is Antipater of Thessalonica, not Antipater of Sidon. He flourished during the Augustan age, and was a contemporary of Vitruvius, who notices the introduction of Water-Mills as then recent. (Architectura, X. x.) The reference to Ceres in the Epigram is appropriate; that goddess being commemorated as the inventor of Corn-Mills in general. (Pliny, H. N. VII. lxvi.) The Epigram is not contained in the Planudian Anthology or Collection of Greek Epigrams, but is preserved, with many other anecdota, in the famous Palatine Codex, or Heidelberg Manuscript. From thence it was first published by Salmasius in a note on the Augustan History. (Lampridii, Heliog., cap. xxiv.) John Boivin (M. Boivin le cadet) afterwards published the original, with French and Latin versions, in his “Remarques Historiques et Critiques sur l’Anthologie manuscrite qui est à la Bibliothèque du Roy.” (Mém. de l’Acad. des Inscript., T. ii. p. 279, seq.) The manuscript there quoted was a copy derived from that of Heidelberg, through the transcript of Salmasius; of whose publication of the Epigram, in his note upon Lampridius, Boivin was, however, unaware. (Ibid. p. 316.) The original is subjoined, with an emendation of two corrupted places. The first and more obtrusive is indeed silently made by Boivin. I give the Epigram as it appears in the Mantissa Quarta, p. 426 of the third volume of De Bosch’s Anthologia; and annex the version of Grotius to compare with Boivin’s. I have not, on this occasion, looked into the collection of Brunk or of Jacobs.
[1 ] See Gisborne, [Paley’s Critic.—An Inquiry into the Duties of Men in the Higher Rank and Middle Classes of Society in Great Britain, resulting from their respective Stations, Professions, and Employments. Lond. 1794.]
[2 ]Political Œconomy, Book I. chap. xix.; [Works, Vol. I. p. 161.]
[* ] [Wealth of Nations, Book IV. chap. ii.; Vol. II. p. 204, tenth edition.]
[* ] [Postlethwayt’s Dictionary, &c.; Article, Machine.]
[* ] [Thoughts on the present High Price of Provisions: 1767.]
[1 ] See Davies, [Rev. David,] The Case of Labourers, &c., [1795,] p. 51.
[* ] [In the manuscript Lectures several blank pages are here left, and there is subjoined the following memorandum:—“See Volume marked POL.—Paley, vol. ii. p. 348; Townsend; Arthur Young; Sir James Steuart.” There is no volume in my possession marked POL; and I have endeavoured to supply the lacuna here left from the notes taken of the course in 1809 by Mr. Bridges, and by the late Mr. Bonar.]
[* ] [Political Œconomy, Book I. chap. xiv.; Works, Vol. I. p. 117, et alibi.]
[† ] [Travels in France, p. 409.]
[‡ ] [Journey through Spain in the years 1786, 1787, &c. Vol. II. p. 266, seq., first edition.]
[1 ]Essay on the Principle of Population. [In 1798, by Malthus.]
[2 ] Bell’s Pamphlet, p. 119. [According to the notes of the later Courses of Political Economy, Mr. Stewart quotes Mr. Benjamin Bell by name, and with approbation; and in Watt’s Bibliotheca there are given to him, as author,—1°· Three Essays; on Taxation of Income, &c., Edin., 1799;—2°· Essays on Agriculture, &c., Edin., 1802.]
[3 ]Essential Principles of Wealth of Nations, [1797, by Grey,] p. 130. In the Report of the Committee on Waste Lands, it is stated that there are throughout the kingdom no less than 7,800,000 acres in a perfectly uncultivated condition.—Lord Carrington’s Speech in the House of Lords, July 3, 1800.
[* ] [By Malthus. The Essay, as noticed, was originally published anonymously, in 1798. It will be seen that this speculation from the first strongly excited the attention of Mr. Stewart. See pp. 62, 64, 205, seq. If these Lectures were written in 1800, Mr. Malthus had not as yet acknowledged the publication. See p. 64.
[† ] [Pinto’s Essay on Circulation and Credit was not only published in French in Holland, but translated into English, if I recollect aright, in 1774.]
[* ] [Inquiry into Political Justice, &c., 1793, B. VIII. chap. vi.]
[1 ]Prospects of Mankind, &c. [1761, Pr. iv. p. 125.]
[The following memorandum is at this place appended:]—“Introduce here, by way of Appendix, an examination of the Essay on the Principle of Population.”
[* ] [Prospects, &c., Prs. iii. iv. pp. 104, 115-117. Dr. Robert Wallace was one of the Ministers of Edinburgh.]
[* ] [Sect. viii. p. 37, seq.—In this little work, (passim,) to say nothing of his other books, (See his Free Thoughts, chap. ix.; Journey through Spain, Vol. I. 383, seq.; II. 269, seq.; 361, seq.; III. 107, seq. Mr. Townsend, who was an Anglican clergyman, has anticipated his brother divine, Mr. Malthus, in the most important doctrines touching Population.]
[1 ] Dampier, Vol. I. part ii. p. 88.
[1 ] Ulloa, Book II. chap. iv.
[* ] [Discourses; Second Discourse concerning the Affairs of Scotland.]
[* ] [See his books; On the Numbers, and On the Prospects of Mankind.]