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[SECT. II.—: OF POPULATION AS AFFECTED BY THE STATE OF MANNERS RELATIVE TO THE CONNEXION BETWEEN THE SEXES.] - 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 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.
[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.]