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[ Appendix. —: Of the means which have been employed to ascertain the state of population in particular instances. ] - 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 the means which have been employed to ascertain the state of population in particular instances.]
In entering on this article, it may be proper to remark in general, that it is obviously one of those where mathematical accuracy cannot possibly be attained. Even supposing an actual numeration to be made of all the inhabitants of a country, the result would not be consistent with truth, unless the observations were carried on in all the different parts of it at the same time; nor would this result, however correctly it might state the fact at the moment when it was ascertained, afford anything more than a single measurement of an object, which, from its nature, is always varying, less or more, in its dimensions. Such a method, however, of ascertaining the number of a people is unquestionably susceptible of a greater degree of precision than any other, although, in most cases where it has been attempted, numerous errors have been committed in the execution; partly from the want of method in those to whom the details have been entrusted; and partly from the prejudices which dispose the more ignorant classes of the community to distrust the views of Government in proposing such a measure.
In by far the greater number of instances, inquiries concerning Population have been conducted on a plan much more indirect, and affording a still less accurate approximation to the truth. In order to shorten the labour necessarily attending an operation of so great a magnitude, certain facts have been fixed upon which are supposed to have a constant relation to the whole number of the people, and from these (by an application of general rules founded on experience) this number has been inferred or computed. Such, for example, is the number of Houses, the quantity of Consumption; and, above all, the state of Births, Deaths, and Marriages.
The first person who led the way in this department of political science was Sir William Petty; and it was by him that the phrase Political Arithmetic was introduced. The idea which he annexed to the term may be judged of from the explanation he gives of it in the title of one of his books: “Political Arithmetic; or, A Discourse concerning the Extent of Land, People, Buildings, Husbandry, Manufacture, Commerce, Fishery, Artisans, Seamen, Soldiers, Public Revenues, Interest, Taxes, Superlucration, Registries, Banks, Valuation of Men, Increasing of Seamen, of Militias, Harbours, Situation, Shipping, Power at Sea, &c., as the same relates to every Country in general, but more particularly to the territories of his Majesty of Great Britain, and his neighbours of Holland, Zealand, and France.” This book was presented in manuscript to King Charles II., but was not printed till the year 1690. Lord Shelborne, the author’s son, in his dedication of it, observes, “that it was styled by his father Political Arithmetic, inasmuch as things of Government, and of no less concern and extent, than the glory of the Prince, and the happiness and greatness of the People, are by the ordinary rules of arithmetic, brought into a sort of demonstration. He was allowed by all,” it is added, “to be the inventor of this method of instruction, where the perplexed and intricate ways of the world are explained by a very mean part of science.” On the same subject, Sir William Petty himself writes as follows:—“The method I take is not very usual; for, instead of giving only comparative and superlative words and intellectual argument, I have taken the course (as a specimen of the Political Arithmetic I have aimed at) to express myself in terms of number, weight, or measure, to use only argument of sense, and to consider only such causes as have visible foundations in nature; leaving those that depend on the mutable minds, opinions, appetites, and passions of particular men to the consideration of others. . . . . Now, the observations or positions expressed by number, weight, and measure, upon which I bottom the ensuing discourses, are either true, or not apparently false; and which, if they are not already true, certain, and evident, yet may be made so by the sovereign power, (nam id certum est quod certum reddi potest;) and if they are false, not so false as to destroy the argument they are brought for, but at worst are sufficient as suppositions, to show the way to that knowledge I aim at. . . . Which, if it shall be judged material and worthy of a better discussion, I hope all ingenious and candid persons will rectify the errors and imperfections which may probably be found in any of the positions on which my ratiocinations are grounded. Nor would it misbecome authority itself, to clear those matters which private endeavours cannot reach to.”1
I have quoted these passages at greater length than I should otherwise have thought necessary, in order to show, with how little reason the German writers value themselves as the authors of that science to which they have given the name of Statistics. “It is now about forty years ago,” says Zimmermann in his Political Survey of Europe, “that a branch of political knowledge, which has for its object the actual and relative power of the several modern states, the power arising from their natural advantages, the industry and civilisation of their inhabitants, and the wisdom of their governments, has been formed, chiefly by German writers, into a separate science. It used formerly to be improperly connected with geography; and it was but superficially treated amidst the topographical and descriptive details of the larger geographical works. By the more convenient form it has received, and by its growing importance, this science, distinguished by the new-coined name of Statistics, is become a favourite study in Germany.”1 The Baron de Hertzberg informs us, in one of his Academical Discourses, that since the middle of the present century it has been gradually supplanting among his countrymen, what used formerly to be the principal object of attention, in the German system of academical education, the system of Natural Jurisprudence.
With respect to Sir William Petty, however, whatever his merits were in opening this new field of political research, it must be owned, that in the execution of the plan, he did little more than set an example to his successors. His object was to compute the number of the people from the trade and consumption of the nation, and from the number of houses in the kingdom. For the former branch of information he trusted to the accounts of the Excise and the Customs, and for the latter to the gross produce of the hearth-money. But on none of these articles did he possess the means of ascertaining the truth; and, accordingly, his computations often proceed on erroneous or uncertain data. His most valuable reasonings are founded on the bills of mortality and the registers of births, which he appears to have studied with great care, with a view to the population both of this and of other countries. A spirit of theory, however, runs through all his speculations, calculated to flatter the wishes and prejudices of government; and hence his anxiety to overrate the resources of England, and to undervalue those of our neighbours. It is thus only we can account for such assertions as the following:1 —“That France exceeded Great Britain very little in point of territory; that our numbers approach near to those of the French, and, in point of strength, are as efficient; that France was under a natural and perpetual incapacity of being powerful at sea; and that it had not above fifteen thousand seamen to manage its trade, out of which not above ten thousand could be spared for a fleet of war.”
“Every good Englishman,” says Postlethwayt, “does undoubtedly wish all this had been true; but we have since had manifest proofs that this great genius was mistaken in all these assertions, for which reason we have ground to suspect, he rather made his court than spoke his mind.”
Researches similar to those which Sir William Petty had recommended and exemplified, were afterwards prosecuted (about the end of last century) by Mr. Gregory King, whose results are to this day much valued for their accuracy; and by Dr. Davenant, “the best,” (according to Dr. Price,) “while not venal, of all political writers.”2
The greatest step, however, that has ever been made in this branch of science, by any one individual, was undoubtedly by the original and inventive genius of Dr. Halley, whose observations (of which I shall afterwards have occasion to take notice) have not only contributed much to correct the ideas of political writers on the subject now under our consideration, but have led the way to all the improvements which have since been made in the doctrine of annuities,—a doctrine which forms the basis of an immense branch of commercial speculation in this country, and which proceeds on one of the most refined general principles that have yet been applied successfully to human affairs, the possibility of counteracting the inconveniences resulting from the precarious duration of life in the case of individuals, by the uniformity of those general laws by which those events that appear the most accidental on a superficial view, are found to be regulated in the order of nature.
Among the different methods which have been employed for estimating the state of population, one of the most simple is founded on the supposed proportion between the number of houses and that of the inhabitants. In order, however, to employ this method with advantage, in particular instances, much attention is necessary to the circumstances of the case.
The proportion between the number of houses and that of their inhabitants must vary widely, it is evident, according to the opulence or poverty of the people; according to their habits of living; according to their residence in towns or in the country; according to the size of towns, their commercial or dissipated manners, and many other accidents.
The calculations of Gregory King on this subject are founded on an examination of the hearth-books, and of the assessments on marriages, births, and burials, and (in the opinion of Dr. Davenant) “are more to be relied on than anything of the same kind that had ever been attempted.”
According to these calculations,—
Upon the whole, (making allowance for divided houses, occupied by different families, for uninhabited houses, &c.,) he was led to conclude, that in England and Wales the people answer to four and a half per house and four per family.1
Subsequent inquirers have enumerated the houses and the inhabitants of various villages, towns, and cities, instead of relying on the defective returns of tax-gatherers; and from their researches it appears, that King’s estimates of the number of dwellers which he allowed to every house, and to every family, were considerably under the truth.
From a table published by Dr. Price in his Treatise on Annuities, containing the results of actual surveys of the number of inhabitants, houses, and families in many different places, that ingenious writer was led to conclude, “That six to a house was probably too large an allowance for London, and that five to a house was certainly an allowance sufficiently large for England in general.”1 The same Table (although not quite so complete) is inserted in Morgan’s Doctrine of Annuities and Assurances. Mr. Howlett, [Examination, &c.] from a still more extensive series of observations, insists for five and two-fifths, which, in the opinion of Mr. Chalmers, we may reasonably conclude to be the smallest number which dwells in every house, on an average of the whole kingdom.2 M. Moheau, in his Researches concerning the Population of France, (published in 1778,) allows only five inhabitants to a house, on a general average of the population, both in towns and in the country.
Another principle from which conclusions have sometimes been deduced on the subject of population, is the quantity of consumption in the article of food. Supposing the mean consumption of individuals in bread-corn to be known, and also the annual produce of the national territory, with the imports and the exports, the population of the State would of consequence be determined; or, vice versa, the mean consumption might be ascertained on converting the hypothesis. The quantity of wheat, in like manner, imported into a town during a year, compared with the mean annual consumption of an individual, would determine the population of the town, and, in the opinion of a very competent judge, M. Paucton, would afford one of the nearest approximations to the truth that can be obtained in an inquiry of this nature.3
The state of manners, however, (it must be remembered,) in the country where he wrote, rendered researches of this sort much more practicable than in others where the habits of living are different. Bread is, in France, a universal article of consumption among all classes of the people; to a very great proportion of individuals the only means of subsistence, and to the whole nation a most important part of diet. Even in France, however, the rate of consumption must vary greatly according to circumstances; according to the temperature of the climate (for example) which differs considerably in the northern and in the southern provinces, and according to the species of grain which the province produces. The results, besides, must vary in towns where flour is manufactured into various forms by the arts of cookery, and in villages where it is all converted into bread; in districts where wine and animal food are within reach of the lower orders, compared with others which are destitute of these resources; and in numberless other cases which may be easily imagined. The consumption, too, of individuals in the same family is extremely unequal; diversified as these individuals are by age, by sex, or by habits of indolence, or of bodily exertion. In founding calculations accordingly on data of this description, it is necessary, not only to make allowances for all the varieties of local peculiarities, but in examining any particular city or district, to conduct our observations on so great a scale that circumstances may fully compensate each other, and enable us to ascertain, within as narrow limits as possible, the mean consumption which falls to the share of individuals.1
It would be perfectly superfluous to enter into any particular statement of the French calculations on this subject, more especially as their results vary very considerably. In one conclusion indeed, they are pretty generally agreed, that the consumption of the people in wheat (one with another) may be rated at three setiers a year. This is the opinion of the author of the Essai sur les Monnoies, [M. Dupré,] printed at Paris in 1746; and most of the later writers on Political Arithmetic have adopted his determinations. The setier is equal to something more than four Winchester bushels; and three setiers will be found rather to exceed one quarter, four bushels, three pecks, London measure.1 This conclusion agrees very nearly with the result of the most accurate researches that have been made in England, with respect to the consumption of the labouring classes; and is strongly confirmed by a remark which the ingenious author of the Corn Tracts deduces from an extensive induction, “that the quantity of corn consumed by those who derive their means of subsistence from the work of their hands, has been in all times, and in all places, nearly the same, varying only according as the quantity of other food was more or less.”2
Although, however, facts of this sort may have their use in comparing together the population of such cities as London and Paris, they can lead to no conclusion concerning the general population of an extensive country, without a knowledge of particulars, which it would be as difficult to ascertain as to accomplish an actual census of the people. In the year 1784, when M. Necker published his work On the Administration of the Finances, he there asserts, that the quantity of consumption in wheat over France was still unascertained; and he adds, that “the most accurate idea of it is to be formed from the state of population.” Some of his conclusions, indeed, he founds on the consumption of salt, which, next to grain, was, in France, the most universal article of domestic expenditure. To this inquiry concerning the relation between consumption and population a greater degree of attention has been paid in France than in any other country. Some interesting facts with respect to it may be found in Moheau’s Researches on Population, and in a useful work, entitled Métrologie, [by M. Paucton;] but it has, of late years, been treated with far greater accuracy than before by two celebrated writers, Lavoisier and Lagrange. Their calculations, with some others of a similar description, have been collected into a small pamphlet by Roederer. The Essay, by Lavoisier, is more particularly valuable, and cannot fail to excite in those who read it, the deepest regret that the author should have fallen a victim to the ferocity of his countrymen, at a moment when he was beginning to divert his profound and original genius from those physical pursuits which have immortalized his name, to speculations still more immediately connected with the happiness of society. The slight sketch which he published a short time before his death, of his intended labours, is sufficient to show what light he was qualified to throw on some of the most important questions of Political Economy.
The plan which he has sketched for ascertaining with a precision hitherto unattempted, from time to time, the agricultural produce of France in all its different branches, the state of its commerce, and the state of its population, if it were actually carried into execution, would exhibit (as he has observed) in a few pages, the most important results of that science;—“or rather,” he adds, “Political Economy would, on that supposition, cease to be a science. Such statements would form an accurate Thermometer of public prosperity, and would afford a palpable standard for estimating the expediency or inexpediency of existing institutions.”
With respect to the quantities of the several sorts of grain consumed annually in England, there is a very valuable collection of facts and observations in the supplement to an accurate and useful work, entitled “Tracts on the Corn Trade and Corn Laws,” first published in 1758, and reprinted, with additions, in 1766. [See p. 219.]
From these speculations, which afford but a feeble and uncertain light where questions concerning national population are under discussion, I proceed to another source of information, from which far more authentic and accurate documents may be derived. The registers which are kept in most civilized countries (with greater or less degrees of exactness) of Births, Deaths, and Marriages.
In my Lectures on Moral Philosophy, I have founded several important arguments on the uniformity which takes place in events depending on contingent circumstances; on the wonderful balance (for instance) which is everywhere preserved between the two sexes, and the proportion which the number of births and of deaths bears to the whole inhabitants of a country.* I may add, as another illustration of the same remark, the proportion which marriages bear to the number of a people who possess the means of subsistence in abundance, and whose manners have not been corrupted by luxury.
Some general rules relative to these proportions are collected in a book which I have repeatedly quoted, (entitled Métrologie,) but I learn from one of the Baron de Hertzberg’s Academical Discourses, that the subject has been much more fully discussed by a German writer (Mr. Suessmilch) in a work entitled, “The Divine Order in the Population and in the Revolutions of the Human Race.”
“In this work,” says the author from whom I borrow my information, [Hertzberg,] “Mr. Suessmilch has collected together, with as much judgment as erudition, almost everything which can be said upon the subject of population, giving the justest rules and the most accurate modes of calculation, for estimating the population of nations; shewing the best means of advancing population, and of removing the obstacles to it; illustrating the favourable tendency, in this respect, of the Christian religion, and demonstrating that Providence has established an admirable order for the continuance of the human race, by a certain proportion of births, of deaths, and of marriages, which is nearly equal throughout the world.” I do not know that this book has been yet translated into our language, nor am I at all acquainted with its merits, except from the account given of it by the Baron de Hertzberg, Dr. Price, and some French writers, who all unite in bearing testimony to the industry, the accuracy, and the ingenuity of the author.
The regular proportions which have now been mentioned, can only obtain, or at least can only be observed, in a district where there are no settlers or emigrants. Thus, “in France,” Necker informs us, “that the number of births is in proportion to that of the inhabitants as one to twenty-three and twenty-four; in the districts which are not favoured by nature, nor by moral circumstances, this proportion is as one to twenty-five, twenty-five and a half, and twenty-six in the greater part of France; lastly, each birth corresponds with twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine, and even thirty inhabitants in cities, proportionably to their extent and their trade. They even exceed this proportion in the metropolis.” He adds, indeed, that “the difference arising from settlers and emigrants, and many other causes, acquires a kind of uniformity, when collectively considered, and in the immense extent of such a kingdom as France.”*
The number which Necker fixes on, (in his work on the French Finances,) is twenty-five and three-fourths, by which he multiplies the births, in order to form an estimate of the population of that kingdom. The multiplier fixed on by Moheau for the same purpose is twenty-five and a half. The grounds on which he proceeds in making this choice are particularly stated in the Treatise already referred to.
The results of these writers receive considerable confirmation from the observations made in other countries. In Sweden, the number of inhabitants was found, by an actual survey, to be, in 1763, 2,446,394. The average of annual births for nine years ending in 1763, was 90,240, or a twenty-seventh part and a tenth of the inhabitants. These facts are stated on the authority of M. Wargentin, whose memoir is published in the fifteenth volume of the Collection Académique, printed at Paris in 1772.1 In the kingdom of Naples, (where there is a survey made every year, and published in the Court Calendar,) the number of inhabitants was in 1777, 4,311,503. In the same kingdom, the average of annual births for five years ending in 1777, was 166,808, or a twenty-fifth part and four-fifths of the inhabitants.
From a great number of very accurate documents relative to the Prussian dominions, Mr. Suessmilch (as we are informed by the same Baron de Hertzberg) was led to reckon one birth for every twenty-six living persons. The coincidence of these different results, on the whole, is not a little remarkable, when the nature of the subject is considered.
Of the three tests of population which I mentioned in entering upon this article, (Births, Deaths, and Marriages,) the first is that which is chiefly to be relied on. The last depends so much on the state of manners, that in the present circumstances of society in Europe, it can scarcely be assumed as a principle of reasoning.
[In regard to the second,] the Bills of Mortality are often appealed to in speculations of this kind; and they are certainly applicable (as will hereafter appear) to most important purposes. When considered, however, as a direct measure of population, they are obviously much more uncertain than the register of Births, the waste of life being influenced by a variety of accidental causes; such as epidemical disorders, healthful or sickly seasons, which do not affect the constant and regular supplies which nature secures to the human race. If, in order to compensate these irregularities, we extend our observations over a greater number of years, the data we assume become less and less applicable to the circumstances which determine the present population. It is not therefore surprising, that the results of calculations upon this head should vary more widely than on the former.1
Under the present division of our subject, it may not be improper to mention, that, according to Dr. Halley, the number of persons in a country able to bear arms may be computed at a little more than one-fourth of the whole inhabitants, more accurately at nine thirty-fourths of the whole.2 Of this class he reckons all males betwixt eighteen and fifty-six, preferring these numbers to the limits of sixteen and sixty, which other authors have fixed on; because, “at the former age,” he observes, “men are generally too weak to bear the fatigues of war, and at the latter too infirm, notwithstanding particular instances to the contrary.” As great use has been made of this rule by later writers, I think it of importance to add, that it is not only confirmed by modern observations, but by two passages (quoted by Dr. Wallace) from Cæsar and Strabo, who may be justly ranked among the most authentic authors of antiquity.
“The first of these relates, that after he had conquered the Helvetii, who had abandoned their country to seek new habitations, and in this view had carried their wives and children along with them, he found in their camp, rolls of all who had undertaken this expedition, distinguishing such as could bear arms, and the old men, women, and children separately.
“In the rolls the number stood thus,—
“And of the whole number, those who could bear arms were 92,000, which is the fourth part, and agrees perfectly with Halley’s computation.
“The same rule is confirmed by a passage in Strabo.
“When Augustus Cæsar rooted out the nation of the Salassii, who dwelt upon the Alps, he sold 36,000 persons for slaves, of whom 8,000 were able to bear arms. And though by Halley’s rule there ought to have been a few above 9000, this inconsiderable difference may be reasonably accounted for, by the number whom we may presume to have been killed before they were subdued.”*
I shall conclude this article with a slight outline of the principles on which calculations concerning Population are founded on Bills of Mortality, combined with Registers of Births.
It is evident, that in so far as population depends on mere procreation, it is regulated by two circumstances.—1°,) By the number of births; and 2°,) By the expectation of a child just born. The one circumstance determines the rate at which population receives its fresh supplies; the other determines the number of co-existent individuals. It may not perhaps be superfluous to add, that by the expectation of life, is to be understood the number of years which mankind, taken one with another, enjoy, either from birth or any age proposed; the excess in the life of those who survive it being exactly equal to the deficiency in the life of those who do not reach it.
The manner in which the probabilities of life are ascertained is equally simple and ingenious.
Supposing the number of inhabitants in a city or country to be nearly equal for a course of years, and the number of settlers and of emigrants to be either inconsiderable in respect of the whole, or to balance each other, it would be manifestly an easy matter to find the probabilities of life from an exact register of the deaths, specifying the respective ages of the dead.
As the population of the place in question is supposed to remain nearly constant, the whole number of births must be equal to the whole number of deaths. If the births and deaths, therefore, of the infants who die in the first year be subtracted, both the remainders will be equal, or the numbers who live to the end of the first year will be equal to the number of persons dying annually above the age of one. For the same reason, the number of persons who live to ten, or any other age, is equal to the number of annual deaths above that age; therefore, if we add the numbers in the bills of mortality from any age upwards, the sum is the number of those born in one year who attain that age; and thus a table may be composed, exhibiting the rate of mortality at every age, and consequently the probability of living to any age proposed.
1 It is convenient to reduce these tables to the proportion of one thousand persons, and to mark both the number alive at the end of each year, and the number that die during the year. Such tables, accordingly, consist of three columns; the first exhibiting the years of life in their natural order, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, &c., continued to the utmost probable extent of life; the second exhibiting the numbers alive at the end of each year, (the number at the end of the first year being stated at 1000;) the third exhibiting the number of annual deaths. Hence the probability, that a person whose age is given shall reach any age proposed, may be found by mere inspection; that is, by comparing the numbers alive at these two periods of life. According to the practice of mathematicians, in similar cases, it is expressed by a fraction, the numerator of which is the number in life at the age proposed, and its denominator the number in life at the age given. In the doctrine of chances, it is to be observed, certainty is represented by one, and any degree of probability by a fraction; the denominator expressing the number of possible cases, and the numerator the number of cases in which the proposed event is found by experience to succeed.
The first table of this kind was constructed by Dr. Halley, whose thoughts appear to have been turned towards the subject by the obvious defects in the deductions drawn by Sir. William Petty from the bills of mortality in London and Dublin. In these bills he remarks three imperfections:—“First, the number of the people is wanting; secondly, the ages of the people dying is not mentioned; lastly, both London and Dublin, by reason of the great and casual accession of strangers, (as appears in both from the great excess of the funerals above the births,) are rendered unfit to be employed as standards for the purpose, which requires, if it were possible, that the people should not at all be changed, but die where they were born, without any adventitious increase from abroad, or decay by migration elsewhere.”
“This defect,” continues Dr. Halley, “seems in a great measure to be rectified by the curious tables of the bills of mortality at the city of Breslau, wherein both the ages and sexes of all that die were monthly delivered, and compared with the number of the births, for five years, viz., 1687, 1688, 1689, 1690, 1691, the statement appearing to be made with all the exactness and sincerity possible.”*
As this city (the capital of Silesia) has acquired a considerable degree of celebrity among writers on Political Arithmetic, in consequence of the important conclusions deduced from its bills of mortality by Dr. Halley, it may be worth while to observe, that it is situated on the western bank of the river Oder, near the confines of Germany and Poland, and very near the latitude of London. It is at a great distance from the sea, and as much a mediterranean place as can be desired, so that the confluence of strangers is but small; and the manufacture of linen, which is the chief, if not the only merchandise of the place, gives employment to the poor people of the town as well as of the adjacent country. “For these reasons,” says Dr. Halley, “the people of this city seem most proper for a standard, and the rather, for that the births do a small matter exceed the funerals. The only thing wanting is the number of the whole people, which, in some measure, I have endeavoured to supply, by the comparison of the mortality of the people of all ages, which I have from the said bills traced out with all the accuracy possible.”†
Dr. Halley’s tables, constructed from these Silesian observations, have been found to correspond nearly with the bills of mortality of some manufacturing towns in England. Others in a still more correct form have been composed from the London Bills by Mr. Simpson; and of late, many important suggestions, tending to farther improvement in the practical application of them, have been offered by Dr. Price.
In order to understand the use of these tables, in calculations concerning population, it is necessary to consider, first, that if all the births happened on the first day of the year, and all the deaths on the last, the sum of the table of probabilities would be equal to the whole number of inhabitants. This is obvious; since the table of probabilities, as directly inferred from the bills of mortality, (that is, without being reduced to the proportion of 1000 persons, in the manner already mentioned,) consists of the number of inhabitants alive at birth, and at the end of the first, second, and following years. On the other hand, if all the births happened on the last day of the year, and the deaths on the first day, the number of inhabitants would be less than on the former supposition by the whole number born in one year. As the truth, therefore, lies in the middle, between these two suppositions, (the births and deaths neither happening all at the beginning, nor all at the end of the year, but occurring equally during the whole course of it,) the true number constantly alive together will be the arithmetical mean between the hypothetical results, and, consequently, may be found by subtracting half the sum of the annual births from the sum of the table of probabilities.
What has been hitherto said proceeds on the supposition, that the place whose bills of mortality are given supports itself by procreation only, unaided by recruits of settlers, and undiminished by the migrations of natives.
This is seldom or never the case with great cities, where, as the burials always exceed the births, the population would necessarily decline if they were not constantly supplied with recruits from the country. The age at which these recruits generally settle may be inferred from the bills of mortality. In these circumstances, in order to find the true number of the inhabitants, from bills of mortality containing an account of the ages at which all die, it is necessary that the proportion of the annual births to the annual settlers should be known, and also the period of life at which the latter remove. The following considerations will convey a general idea of the principles which afford, in such cases, an approximation to the truth.
In London, the burials are about one-fourth more than the births; and the bills of mortality from the age of ten to twenty, correspond nearly with others; but after twenty, the proportion of burials compared with those under twenty, is twice as great as in other places. This is occasioned by the number of strangers who resort to the capital about that age, whose deaths, as well as those of the natives, are inserted in the bills; and although no register of births were kept, we might infer from that sudden increase in the number of burials above twenty, that the population of London was supported by strangers who flocked to it about that age. In order to reduce the London bills to a useful form, we must divide the deaths above twenty into two parts, distinguishing those of the natives and settlers; and the burials under twenty, (which includes few settlers,) being completed by such a proportion of the burials above twenty as arise from the natives only, may be safely used for forming tables of probabilities.
Without this correction, the number of inhabitants would be overrated, the tables giving the probabilities of life, and consequently the expectation of life, too high in all ages under twenty. The true probabilities and expectations may be calculated from the corrected tables, and the true number of inhabitants is found, by multiplying the number of births by the expectation of life at birth, and the number of settlers by the expectation at the age of settlement.
An objection indeed obviously occurs to this correction, that it proceeds on a supposition (not strictly true) that all the settlers in London resort to it at the age of twenty. As this is not the case, the correction instead of being made at once, should be introduced at different ages, in proportion to the numbers that settle at each age. But the bills, when corrected as above, come pretty near the truth; and in inquiries of this sort, mathematical precision is out of the question.
The country is so favourable to population, that though many of the inhabitants remove to cities and foreign countries, the number of inhabitants remains undiminished. In this case, the bills of mortality give the probabilities of life and number of inhabitants too low. In order to calculate the true probabilities, the bills must be corrected, by adding the deaths of the emigrants, supposing them to waste at the same rate as the natives. To calculate the number of inhabitants, we multiply the number of births by the expectation of life at birth, computed from the true probabilities, and subtract from the product the number of emigrants, multiplied by their expectation of life at the time of their removal.
* In some countries, there is a rapid increase of the number of inhabitants from the stock of natives. In this case the bills will also give the probabilities of life too low; for the first effect of the increase is to enlarge the number of children beyond the due proportion of adults, and consequently enlarge the number of burials in the first stage of life.
Some cities, on the contrary, increase rapidly by reason of a resort of strangers, though the numbers be not maintained from the original stock. In this case, the bills must give the probabilities of life much too high, and much too low about that period of life when the strangers in general settle, and somewhat but not so much too low in the latter stages of life, providing the place has been in that situation for a course of years.
On the same principles, we might trace the effects of a decrease in the number of inhabitants, whether occasioned by a defect in the births, by extraordinary mortality, by migrations, or by a combination of these causes.
It appears, from the comparison of tables, that the duration of life is greatest in the country, shorter in towns, and still shorter in great cities. This may be accounted for from the circumstance of great numbers being crowded in a small compass, by which the air is rendered unwholesome, and infectious diseases more prevalent; the sedentary employments and want of exercise in the open air, and especially from the luxury and excess which prevails in cities. The difference is greatest in infancy, and very considerable in the first years of manhood, and becomes gradually less in the more advanced stages of life. In old age, the waste of life is as slow, or perhaps slower, in cities than in other places; the reason of which probably is, that all persons of weak constitutions are cut off in earlier years, and none but those who possess an uncommon share of natural vigour ever reach that period. It is also observed, that the lives of women, especially after the middle period of life, waste more slowly than those of men. “In general,” Dr. Price observes, “there seems reason to think that in towns (allowing for particular advantages of situation, trade, police, cleanliness, and openness, which some towns may have) the excess of the burials above the births, and the proportion of inhabitants dying annually, are more or less as the towns are greater or smaller. In London itself, about 160 years ago, when it was scarcely a fourth of its present bulk, the births were much nearer to the burials than they are now. But in country parishes and villages, the births almost always exceed the burials; and I believe it never happens, except in very particular situations, that more than a fortieth part of the inhabitants die annually. In the four provinces of New England, there is a very rapid increase of inhabitants; but notwithstanding this, at Boston, the capital, the inhabitants would decrease, were there no supply from the country; the burials from 1731 to 1762, having all along exceeded the births. So remarkably do towns, in consequence of their unfavourableness to health, and the luxury which generally prevails in them, check the increase of countries.”*
For a full illustration of these particulars, I must refer to Dr. Price, who has treated it with great ability and accuracy.
Some of Dr. Price’s statements with respect to the progressive unhealthiness of London, have been disputed upon very plausible grounds by Mr. Wales.†
Having treated, at considerable length, of the general principles which influence population, I shall now take leave of the subject, after stating a few remarks more peculiarly applicable to our own country, and some other miscellaneous particulars which I could not easily refer to any of the foregoing heads, or which escaped my attention when considering the articles with which they are connected.
Before entering into any details concerning the population of particular countries, it may not be improper to premise the statement of M. Paucton, with respect to the total population of the globe. It proceeds, as may be supposed, on very vague data; but it derives some authority from the general accuracy of the author, and from the near coincidence between his result and that of Dr. Wallace.
The number is probably below the truth, as the writer certainly underrates the population of this part of the globe, in various instances. The population of China, too, is stated by him only at two hundred millions; although (from later accounts to be mentioned afterwards,) it appears to amount to three hundred and thirty-three millions.
It is not a little curious, that this population of China exceeds considerably that of the whole earth, according to Sir William Petty’s estimate, which supposes the number of mankind now existing, not to exceed three hundred and twenty millions. Even according to Paucton and Dr. Wallace, the Chinese form, in point of numbers, one-third of the human race. But this subject I shall have occasion to resume in another lecture.
The question concerning the actual population of Great Britain, and its progress and decline since the period of the Revolution, has been at different times very keenly agitated by political writers, whose opinions on the point in dispute have been, in general, not a little biassed by their favourable or unfavourable sentiments of the system of policy pursued by our Government in the course of the present century. During the war in 1756, the controversy was carried on by Dr. Brackenridge on the one side, and by Mr. Forster on the other; the former contending for an increase, the latter for a decrease in the number of the people. The American war revived the contest in a form still more interesting to the public; some writers of distinguished abilities having espoused opposite sides of the argument, resting their conclusions not merely on the details of Political Arithmetic, but on those general principles which regulate the multiplication of the species. A few years before the commencement of hostilities, Dr. Price had opened the discussion in his Observations on Reversionary Payments, published in 1769; but he afterwards entered into it much more fully in an Appendix to Mr. Morgan’s Essay On Annuities, in which he attempted to prove, by a comparison of the number of houses in 1690 and 1777, a gradual decline in the population of England and Wales. At Lady-day 1690, the number of houses in England and Wales was (according to the Hearth-books, as examined by Dr. Davenant) one million three hundred and nineteen thousand two hundred and fifteen. In 1777, the total of houses charged, chargeable, and excused, (according to the returns of the surveyors of the house and window-duties,) was only nine hundred and fifty-two thousand seven hundred and thirty-four.* The population of England and Wales, therefore, Dr. Price concluded, must have decreased since the Revolution near a quarter;† —an effect which appeared to him to result naturally and necessarily from a variety of causes which have been operating during that period. Among these he insists chiefly on the following:—
1. “The increase of our Army and Navy, and the constant supply of men necessary to keep them up.
2. “A devouring Capital, too large for the body that supports it.
3. “Three long and destructive Continental Wars, in which we have been involved during the present century.1
4. “The migrations to our settlements abroad, particularly to the East and West Indies.
5. “Engrossing of Farms.
6. “Inclosing of Commons and Waste Grounds.
7. “The high price of Provisions.
8. “The increase of Luxury, and of our Public Debts and Taxes.”*
In support of the same opinion, several other considerations are suggested by Price, particularly the decrease of burials in the London bills of mortality, and the decrease in the hereditary and temporary excise.
One of the earliest opponents of Dr. Price was Mr. Arthur Young, whose arguments in proof of an increased population, rest chiefly on the progressive improvements of the country in Agriculture, in Manufactures, and in Commerce. He was soon followed by Mr. Eden, (now Lord Auckland,) whose observations on Dr. Price’s statements may be found in a collection of [Four] Letters to Lord Carlisle, published in 1779. They relate chiefly to Price’s reasoning, founded on his comparative view of the number of houses at the Revolution, and at present.
The most formidable of Dr. Price’s antagonists, however, were indisputably Mr. Wales and Mr. Howlett. The former (who had previously distinguished himself as a practical mathematician and astronomer in the course of his voyage with Captain Cook) published his Inquiry in 1781. In reply to Price’s fundamental argument founded on the comparison of houses at different periods, he shews,—1°· That the returns of houses to the tax-office are far from being always precise; 2°· From actual enumeration of a great variety of places taken indiscriminately, he proves a progressive population during the period in question. The present number of inhabitants (for example) in thirty-eight parishes in different parts of England, (according to the register of births and burials in these parishes,) was found to be to the number which was in the same thirty-eight parishes at the Revolution, as eight to three nearly. The present number of inhabitants in one hundred and forty-two parishes, taken in the same manner as in the former instance, is to the number which were in the same parishes between the years 1740 and 1750, as ten to seven nearly. Many other facts leading to a similar conclusion are stated by the same writer, and certainly form a mass of evidence of great importance in determining the general question.
“In every instance,” says Mr. Wales, “the places have been taken indiscriminately, that is, just as I could procure them, and I have omitted no place which I could procure; it may, therefore, be concluded, that they represent justly the state of the kingdom in general, and this argument cannot be overturned but by producing a greater number of parishes which tend to prove the contrary, or an equal number of facts of a more certain nature.”1
Mr. Howlett’s Examination of Price’s Essay followed immediately after, [1781.] It was written without any communication with Mr. Wales, and corroborates strongly his reasonings and statements. Both writers adopt the same mode of investigation, appealing to the testimony of parochial registers, in a variety of places, at distinct periods; and as their researches were, in general, directed to different quarters, each of them has furnished a separate contribution of facts leading to the same conclusion.
It is impossible for me, in this place, to enter into so extensive and complicated an argument, as that which relates to the present population of Great Britain. One consideration, however, mentioned by Mr. Howlett in a pamphlet2 published two years ago,* deserves notice on account of the stress laid on it by so very intelligent a writer, and I shall accordingly state the fact particularly, although I am far from thinking it so decisive as he conceives it to be. It is founded on the flourishing and increasing state of our hop plantations.
The annual average number of bags of hops, two hundred-weight two quarters to the bag, grown in this kingdom during four successive periods of twenty-one years each, has been nearly as follows:—
In the opinion of Mr. Howlett, a great increase of population can alone account for this great increase in the growth of hops. Fifty years ago, the majority of our peasants brewed each of them a cask or two of good ale every year. Now a very small proportion of them, from a deficiency of wages, are able to purchase either hops or malt. Our tradesmen, our farmers, and in general all of the middle classes, drink more wine and spirits than they formerly did, and, of course, a less quantity of beer; and yet, notwithstanding these deficiencies, the total consumption of hops is amazingly increased. What is the plain inference, but that the number of our inhabitants must have augmented with a correspondent rapidity? For can it be imagined that the increased exportation of ale, beer, and porter, great as it has been, can have equalled the increased produce? especially when it is remembered that the exportation of any article of home-production is comparatively nothing to that applied to domestic use. This is strikingly exemplified by the trifling exports of cloth and of leather from our manufactures of wool, of skins, and of hides, in proportion to what they afford for the home market.
Besides, however, the increased population of the country, various other obvious causes might be mentioned which must have contributed greatly to increase the consumption of hops in the home market; and, therefore, the fact, although extremely worthy of examination, affords very little additional light with respect to the question at issue. But I must not dwell any longer on the details of this controversy.
The arguments founded on the general state of the country as affecting the acknowledged causes of population, are of a much more interesting nature; and it is here that Dr. Price appears to the greatest disadvantage. In the investigation and analysis of facts, his experience and skill in Political Arithmetic have given him, in various instances, a superiority over his opponents, but when he attempts to reason from general economical principles, his views are often confined and erroneous. It is but justice to him, however, to add, (what has not been always attended to by those who have combated his reasonings,) that, after a long and minute investigation of the subject, he requested “it might be remembered, that his opinion in this instance was by no means a clear and decided conviction;” and that he candidly allowed “there was a probability that in continuing to support his former arguments, he might be influenced too much by a desire to maintain an assertion once delivered.”1
In reflecting on the general causes which have an immediate influence on population, our attention is led in the first instance to the quantity of employment which the country affords. “The demand for men,” says Mr. Smith, “like that for any other commodity, necessarily regulates the production of men, quickening it when it goes on too slowly, and stopping it when it advances too fast. It is this demand which regulates and determines the state of propagation in all the different countries of the world; in North America, in Europe, and in China, which renders it rapidly progressive in the first, slow and gradual in the second, and altogether stationary in the last.”* It may be laid down, therefore, as a first principle on this subject, that population will keep pace with employment; that where hands are wanted, hands will be found; that an increasing demand for agricultural labour will multiply the number of those who cultivate the earth, and an increasing demand for manufactures will swell our towns and cities.
The progress which agriculture, and manufactures, and foreign commerce, have made during the course of the present century, is well known, more particularly the two last, which have increased with a rapidity of which history does not furnish a parallel instance. The progress, however, even of agriculture, must have been very great, as we may infer from an acknowledged fact, that “during the course of the last century, taking one year with another, grain was dearer in both parts of the United Kingdom than during the present.”* At least on an average of the sixty years which terminated the last century, it was dearer than during the first sixty years of the present.1 To whatever cause the effect be ascribed, whether to the bounty on exportation as some have supposed, or (according to the opinion of others) to collateral circumstances wholly unconnected with this regulation, it is a fact that from nearly the commencement of the present century, our exports of grain continually increased, and our imports as constantly diminished till about 1750, when the former exceeded the latter by an annual average of about 800,000 quarters. Since that time, indeed, a striking reverse has taken place; our imports constantly gaining on our exports, till at length the balance of importation against us has amounted to an enormous value. Of this last circumstance I shall have occasion to take notice afterwards. In the meantime, I would only remark the evidence we have in proof of the progress of agriculture during the first half of this century; and, accordingly, even those writers who have expressed the greatest alarm about its late decline, acknowledge its prosperous state till about the year 1750. This is repeatedly and strongly asserted by Mr. Dirom in his Inquiry into the Corn Laws; and Dr. Price himself admits, that from the Revolution till the period now mentioned, tillage seems to have been increasing over the kingdom.2
It is, however, unquestionably since that period that agriculture has advanced with the greatest rapidity. Of this, presumptive evidence is afforded by the rise of rents both in England and Scotland. In the latter part of the island the fact is sufficiently known; and in the former, Mr. Howlett asserts, that in most places they have been increased one-fourth, in many one-third, in some one-half; and that in the neighbourhood of large manufacturing towns, they have been trebled and quadrupled. In the meantime, rates, taxes, and the expenses of farming and of living have been increasing so fast, that a diminution of rents must necessarily have followed, had not their effects been counteracted and greatly overbalanced by a more spirited, and more extended, and a more skilful cultivation.1
A still more palpable proof, if possible, of a general spirit of agricultural improvement during the period in question, may be derived from some facts mentioned in the First Report from the Committee on Waste Lands. In the reign of Queen Anne, it appears that there were only two bills of enclosures; in that of George I. sixteen; in that of George II. two hundred and twenty-six; whereas, during the present reign, there have been one thousand five hundred and thirty-two. The increase in the extent of land, or number of acres enclosed, has been vastly greater than the increased number of enclosures. The number of acres enclosed in the former periods of sixty years, was only 33,676; but in the latter of only thirty-six years, there have been 2,770,521; that is, there has been an absolute increase of more than eighty to one in the total quantity; and the medium annual increase above one hundred and fifty to one. The enclosure of almost 3,000,000 of acres whether of wastes and commons, or of open fields under prior cultivation and management, must have occasioned great expense to the proprietors of the land, and this expense they must necessarily have redeemed by an increase of rent. Accordingly the increased rent of the enclosures, even of common fields, under previous but imperfect culture, is stated to have been seldom less than one-fourth, sometimes one-third, and not unfrequently one-half; while the advanced rents of wastes and commons have been from the merest trifle to 15s. or 20s. an acre. In order to pay these increased rents, the tenants must necessarily, from an improved and extended cultivation, have raised a produce of value equivalent to three, four, or even five times the increased rent; and that they have actually done so, is evident from their increased opulence and prosperity.
I am abundantly sensible that doubts may be entertained how far the demand for agricultural labour increases in the same proportion with the general improvement of the country; and whether the prevalence of large farms, and the increase of pasturage occasioned by the progress of luxury, may not operate in the opposite direction. But granting this to be the case, (which, however, is far from being admitted by some of the more sanguine advocates for our increased population,) it can scarcely be doubted, that the demand for agricultural labour has increased on the whole. Something, indeed, more than mere conjecture may be offered in proof of this. By inquiries made in the different counties of England in 1770, by Mr. A. Young, and by calculations founded by him on data, (which Mr. Chalmers considers as sufficiently accurate,) he was led to conclude, that the persons engaged in farming alone amounted to two millions eight hundred thousand; besides a vast number of people who are as much maintained by agriculture as the ploughman that tills the soil. Whereas in an account which Gregory King has left of the number of all the ranks of the people, from the highest to the lowest, the two orders at the bottom of his scale, including labourers and out-servants, cottagers, paupers, and vagrants are estimated only at two millions six hundred thousand.1
Calculations of this sort, however, must necessarily be extremely vague; nor is it material to the present argument what judgment we pronounce on their accuracy. It is one great advantage (as I have repeatedly observed) of our modern systems of Political Economy, that they have converted agriculture into a trade, clearing the country of superfluous hands, and providing employment for those who would otherwise have added to the number of idle consumers. The great question is, What is the state of our population on the whole? And, therefore, even if we should suppose a diminution in the numbers who derive their subsistence immediately from husbandry, it remains to be considered, whether this may not be far overbalanced by the increased population which it supports at a distance. On this point there can scarcely be a diversity of opinion, after the statements given by Mr. Chalmers of the progress of our manufactures, commerce, and navigation during the present century,—a progress which necessarily implies an increasing demand for labourers in these various departments of national industry.
The woollen manufacture of Yorkshire alone, appears from documents mentioned by Mr. Chalmers to be, in the present day, of equal extent with the woollen manufactures of England at the Revolution. Since that era, too, we may be said to have gained the manufactures of silks, of linen, of cotton, of paper, of iron, of glass, of the potteries, besides many others.
Of the increased demand for labour occasioned by our extended commerce, some interesting proofs are to be found in Mr. Chalmers’s Estimate, to which I must beg leave to refer for more particular information on the subject.
The public works, too, and private enterprises which have been carried into execution during the last fifty years, such as high-roads, navigable rivers, canals, bridges, harbours, &c., while they furnish the most unequivocal proofs of general prosperity, must have added greatly to the amount of national employment, not only by the labour to which they necessarily gave occasion, but by their effect in extending that commercial intercourse from which they derived their origin.
Among these, the system of inland navigation, now extended to every corner of the kingdom, is, in a more peculiar degree, characteristical of the opulence, the spirit, and the enlarged views which distinguish the commercial interest of this country. “The town of Manchester,” says Dr. Aikin,* “when the plans now under execution are finished, will probably enjoy more various water communications than the most commercial town of the low countries has ever done. And instead of cutting them through level tracts, so as only to make a wider ditch, its coals are situated in mountainous districts, where the sole method of avoiding the difficulties of steep ascent and descent has been to perforate hills, and to navigate for miles within the bowels of the earth. At the beginning of this century, it was thought a most audacious task to make a high-road practicable for carriages over the hills and moors which separate Yorkshire from Lancashire; and now they are pierced through by three navigable canals.” . . . “Nothing but highly flourishing manufactures can repay the vast expense of these undertakings; and there is some reason for thinking, that in the other part of the United Kingdom, the spirit which still prompts to their unbounded extension, originates in that passion for bold and precarious adventure, which scorns to be limited by reasonable calculations of profit.”1
The effects, however, of these artificial navigations, which join the Eastern and Western Seas, and connect almost every manufacturing town in England with the capital, together with that of our multiplied highways, must be incalculably great on the internal commerce of the country. It is this branch of our trade which, in point of extent, is the most important of any, and which, at the same time, rests on the most solid foundation; the best customers of Britain (according to an old observation) being the people of Britain.2
As I cannot, at present, prosecute this discussion any farther, I shall only state the results of the opposite calculations which it has suggested. According to Dr. Price, the number of inhabitants in England and Wales must be short of five millions. His calculation proceeds on the number of houses as collected from the Returns of the surveyors of the house and window-duties. From these it appears that the number of houses in England and Wales in 1777, was 952,734. Supposing it, however, to amount to a million, and reckoning five persons to a house, which (according to Price’s observation) is a high allowance for England in general, this gives only five millions for the whole number of people in England and Wales. The inhabitants of Scotland, Price supposes to be more than a fifth part of Britain.
On the other hand, it is contended by Mr. Chalmers in the edition of his Estimate published in 1794, from data which he has particularly stated, that the present population of England and Wales exceeds eight millions; and that since the Revolution there has been an augmentation of a million and a half.1* Mr. Howlett, in a pamphlet published in 1797, states the augmentation at a little less than two millions.2 According to some later writers, even Mr. Howlett’s computations fall greatly short of the truth. In a pamphlet (for example) published a few months ago (1800) by Arthur Young, entitled “The Question of Scarcity plainly stated,” I find the following passage:—
“Some years ago, I calculated that England and Wales contained ten millions of souls. This was the result of comparing the population as estimated by Dr. Price, from the houses returned to the tax-office, with the errors discovered in these lists by actual enumeration; and it ought farther to be observed, that the indefatigable researches of Sir John Call, Bart., in every county of the kingdom, have proved fully to his satisfaction, that the people have increased one-third in ten years,—that is, from 1787 to 1797.”
If this very astonishing fact should be admitted, the people of England and Wales (as Mr. Young remarks) cannot be short of twelve millions.
I confess, for my own part, I have no great faith in the accuracy of any of these results; and my scepticism on the subject is not a little increased by observing at the end of Mr. Middleton’s View of the Agriculture of Middlesex, (published 1798,) a letter from Mr. Howlett, (a very able writer on Population, and formerly extremely dogmatical in his assertions,) a frank avowal of the exaggerations into which he had inadvertently been led in the course of his controversy with Dr. Price.
“In my Examination,” he observes, “of Dr. Price’s Essay, I made the population of the kingdom to be between eight and nine millions. This estimate was formed upon principles so extremely unfounded, which I did not then know, but very soon discovered, as rendered the final result utterly erroneous. From a more minute and accurate investigation of the subject, about fourteen or fifteen years, (which I intended to publish, but did not, and I believe never shall,) I am nearly confident our population did not then amount to seven millions and a half, and that at present it does not exceed eight millions. It is somewhat extraordinary that the fallacy which misled me, neither the public nor the keen penetrating eyes of Dr. Price, ever saw. The Doctor, indeed, pointed out an apprehension which he supposed me to be under; but that was entirely groundless.”
The difference in these statements will appear the less wonderful when we consider the difficulty which has been experienced in arriving at anything like certainty with respect to the population of London. The inquiry has of late years occupied the industry of a number of writers of acknowledged abilities, and yet their results vary from each other by more than 400,000.
Dr. Price published very plausible reasons in support of the opinion, that about one in twenty and three-fourths died annually in London between the years 1758 and 1769. And, taking the interments at 29,000, it produced him the number 601,750, as the amount of the whole population within the bills of mortality.
Mr. Wales, in 1771, states them at 625,131. Dr. Fordyce within these few years states them at 1,000,000; and still more lately, Mr. Colquhoun asserts that the inhabitants of the Metropolis amount to 1,200,000.
Mr. Howlett, in a pamphlet published about 1782, computed the number of inhabitants within the bills of mortality at between eight and nine hundred thousand. In his late letter, however, addressed to Mr. Middleton, he confesses that the data on which the reasonings and deductions, which appear in his pamphlet in answer to Dr. Price, were founded, are too vague and precarious to be safely depended on, and that he has long been inclined to think that the number of inhabitants within the bills have never yet amounted to 700,000.
Mr. Middleton, from a calculation founded on some suggestions of Mr. Howlett’s, computes “the total present population within the bills to be 628,484.”1
During the last hundred years, Mr. Chalmers thinks that Ireland has done more than treble its inhabitants. And although this computation may perhaps be somewhat exaggerated, yet the data on which he proceeds sufficiently demonstrate a great progressive population, and afford a strong collateral argument against the reasonings of those who are of opinion that the population of England has been decreasing during the same period. According to some late statements, Mr. Chalmers’s estimate falls short of the truth. From the Report of the Secret Committee of the Irish Parliament, published in 1798, Dr. Emmet appears to have stated the actual population of Ireland “at five millions,” whereas, “at the time of the Revolution, it did not much exceed a million and a half.” (The same gentleman is said to have acknowledged that this symptom of national prosperity had grown out of the connexion of Ireland with Great Britain.)2
The progressive population of Scotland, from the year 1755, is demonstrated by very authentic documents. In the year 1743, Dr. Webster, an eminent clergyman of this city, and distinguished for his accuracy and skill as a political arithmetician, established a general correspondence over the country, both with clergy and laity, one object of which was to procure lists, either of individuals, or of persons above a certain age, in the different parishes of Scotland. When the lists contained only those above a certain age, he calculated the amount of the whole inhabitants, by the proportion which they might be supposed to bear to the number of souls, according to the most approved tables, compared with the fact in many parts of Scotland, where the ministers, at his desire, not only numbered their parishioners, but distinguished their respective ages. This inquiry was completed in 1755, at which period Dr. Webster computed the number of souls in this part of the United Kingdom at 1,265,380.1
From the statistical accounts published by Sir John Sinclair, it appears, that a very great augmentation has taken place since that period, although, perhaps, not so immense a one as that gentleman at one period apprehended.
In the Statistical Table of Scotland, lately drawn up by Mr. Robertson of Granton, (from the Agricultural Surveys, the Statistical Accounts, and whatever other sources of information on the subject the public is as yet possessed of,) the population of Scotland is stated at 1,227,892. As the principal documents, however, on which he proceeds have been collected during a period of six years, (from 1792 to 1798,) his result, when applied to the population of the country at the present moment, must be understood with a certain degree of latitude. According to these computations, the increase of population from 1755 to 1798 would appear to be 262,512.2
A remarkable illustration of the natural bias even of enlightened minds in favour of times past, is mentioned by Sir John Sinclair, in one of his publications relative to this subject. “I have found the clergy,” says he, “in guessing the population in 1755, exceed in every instance the number stated by Dr. Webster, and that they have almost uniformly fallen short of the truth, if they made a rough guess of the number of their parishioners at the time, before undertaking the trouble of an actual enumeration.”
I mentioned in a former part of this Lecture, a very curious fact with respect to the state of our corn trade since about the year 1750, [see p. 238,] of which, however, I made no use in the course of my subsequent reasonings. It has, indeed, been often appealed to, by one set of writers, as a palpable proof of an increased population, while others have concluded from it, that the agriculture of the country is going fast to ruin. The truth is, that when considered abstractedly from other circumstances, it neither justifies the former inference nor the latter, as the effect is manifestly influenced by a great variety of causes combined together. It may be proper, however, now to state it more particularly.
“From a representation drawn up in the year 1790 by the Lords of the Committee of his Majesty’s Council for Trade, ‘upon the present State of the Laws for regulating the Importation and the Exportation of Corn,’ it appears, that this kingdom which, in former times, used to produce more corn than was necessary for the consumption of the inhabitants, has of late years been under the necessity of depending on foreign countries for a part of its supply.” In proof of this their lordships state, “that while, upon an average of nineteen years, from 1746 to 1765, the nett returns to the nation from the grain exported is supposed to have been no less than £651,000 per annum, so great is the subsequent change of circumstances, that on an average of eighteen years, from 1770 to 1788, it appears that this country paid to foreign nations no less than £291,000 per annum to supply its inhabitants.” I am not in possession of the latest information on the subject; but from a statement some years posterior to the former, it appears that the annual value of imported corn has amounted to about a million sterling.1
In one of the printed reports of the Chamber of Commerce at Glasgow, this change in the circumstances of the corn trade is placed solely to the account of a rapidly increasing population; while a late very respectable writer, Mr. Dirom of Muiresk, ascribes it to the alterations in our old Corn Laws, which began to take place about 1750. “In consequence of these alterations,” he observes, “our agriculture, which gradually advanced, from the commencement of the present century, out of the lowest state of depression, till it arrived, between the years 1730 and 1750, at the highest degree of prosperity, has ever since been rapidly declining.” He adds, that “the principal increase of our population in the course of this century was prior to 1750, and that 137,256 persons were employed in the cultivation of our lands, between the years 1741 and 1750, more than between the years 1773 and 1784.*
This work of Mr. Dirom, which was published a few years ago, [1796,] with some additional tracts by Mr. Mackie of Ormiston, gave occasion to a pamphlet by Mr. Howlett, entitled, Dispersion of the Gloomy Apprehensions, of late repeatedly suggested from the Decline of our Corn Trade; [1798.] The great object of the author is to show, that various other causes have been operating to produce the necessity of an importation, and which are fully adequate to the effect, without supposing the agriculture of the kingdom to be in a state of decline. I shall touch slightly on the most important of these, referring to Mr. Howlett’s Essay for the particular results of his calculations.
1. The first of these is, the increased consumption arising from the vast increase of our population. The reality of the cause is here assumed as sufficiently established by other proofs; and supposing it to amount (as Mr. Howlett does) to two millions and a half within the compass of the last forty or fifty years, it certainly goes a considerable way to remove the difficulty.
2. Immense numbers now consume the finest wheat, whose ancestors were confined to oats and barley.
In a book formerly referred to, entitled Corn Tracts,† (published about fifty years ago,) the author, after estimating the actual population of England and Wales at six millions, computes the number of persons who used wheaten bread to be 3,750,000. The increase since that period must have been very great, from its gradual introduction among the labouring classes in various parts of the kingdom, where it was formerly, in a great measure, unknown. In the northern counties of England it was scarcely an article of food; at present its consumption must be considerable, from the vast augmentation of manufactures and of opulence.
The following fact I mention on the authority of Sir F. M. Eden, whose information with respect to the North of England seems to be more particularly correct. “About fifty years ago, so little was the quantity of wheat used in the county of Cumberland, that it was only a rich family that used a peck of wheat in the course of a year, and that was at Christmas. An old labourer of eighty-five, remarks, that when he was a boy he was at Carlisle market with his father, and wishing to indulge himself with a penny loaf made of wheat-flour, he searched for it for some time, but could not procure a piece of wheaten bread at any shop in that city.”1
Of the increased consumption of wheat in some parts of Scotland, a very striking proof occurs in the Agricultural Survey of Mid-Lothian. “About the year 1735, (we are told,) the total annual consumption of wheat did not much exceed 25,000 bolls; whereas, at present it amounts to about 144,540, a quantity nearly six times greater than was consumed only sixty years ago.”
The same writer informs us, that “the whole country fifty years ago did not sow above a thousand acres of wheat, and about the year 1727, not above five hundred, but that there are now seven or eight thousand;” he adds, that “the total consumption of the country is estimated to be three times its produce.”
3. Another consideration on which Mr. Howlett lays great stress, is the increased consumption of the fruits of the earth occasioned by the immense multiplication of oxen, sheep, hogs, and above all of horses.
The multiplication of this last species of animal is beyond all accurate calculation, in consequence of the increased demand occasioned, not only by the ostentation and luxury of the great, but by carriers’ waggons, post-chaises, mail, stage, and hackney coaches.
The increase of these several denominations, Mr. Mackie estimates at 400,000; and he allows three acres of fertile land for the maintenance of each horse, which allowance requires 1,200,000 acres for the support of the whole number. Mr. Howlett thinks this allowance much too little for those descriptions of horses which have been chiefly multiplied. It is certainly much under the common computation. Mr. Kent states the quantity of land of the common medium quality as necessary for the support of a horse at seven acres; and Mr. Howlett thinks this statement not extravagant, if confined to horses destined for continual and vigorous exertion. Mr. Townsend, in his Dissertation on the Poor Laws, observes, that a horse to be fully fed, requires five tons of hay, and from thirteen to three-and-twenty quarters of oats, per annum, according to his work. Some farmers, he says, allow the former, and the latter is given by the great carriers on the public roads, which would bring the computation to about eight acres each for horses used in husbandry; whichever of these estimates we adopt, the consumption by horses must be enormous. Allowing five acres for the average of the horses which enter into Mr. Mackie’s computation, these additional animals will require the produce of 2,000,000 of acres, which might otherwise have been applied to the cultivation of wheat.
When these different causes are combined, they go far to justify Mr. Howlett’s conclusion, that the balance against us in the article of importation, is so far from being wonderful by its magnitude, that it is truly astonishing it should not be much greater. It certainly leads to no inference to the disadvantage of our national prosperity, and indeed the progress of our agriculture, and in a far greater degree that of our trade and manufactures, is a fact for which we almost appeal to the evidence of the senses.
In what I have hitherto said upon this subject, although I have in general leaned to the side of Dr. Price’s opponents, I have avoided as much as possible to express a decided opinion. That an increase, however, has taken place in the number of inhabitants in this Island since the end of last century, I confess appears to me to be established by a mass of evidence direct and presumptive, which is almost irresistible. At the same time I do not, with the greater part of these writers, consider this increased population as an unequivocal proof, that the sum of our national happiness has increased exactly in the same proportion. On the contrary, a variety of considerations conspire to render it doubtful, whether the comforts of the labouring poor are now greater than they were a century ago.
That the comforts of the labouring poor depend upon the increase of the funds destined for the maintenance of labour, and that they will be exactly in proportion to the rapidity of this increase, may be assumed as fundamental, and almost as self-evident propositions. The demand for labour which such increase would occasion, by creating a competition in the market, must necessarily raise the value of labour; and till the additional hands required were reared, the increased funds would be distributed to the same number of persons as before the increase, and therefore every labourer would live comparatively at his ease. It does not, however, follow from this, (as Mr. Smith has concluded,* ) that every increase in the revenue or stock of a society, may be considered as an increase of those funds. Such surplus stock or revenue will, indeed, be always considered by the individual possessing it, as an additional fund from which he may maintain more labour; but it will not be a real and effectual fund for the maintenance of an additional number of labourers, unless a great part of this increase of the stock or revenue of the society be convertible into a proportional quantity of provisions; and it will not be so convertible where the increase has arisen merely from the produce of labour, and not from the produce of land. The fact is, Mr. Smith seems to have confounded together two things which are essentially different; the number of hands which the stock of the society can employ, and the number which the territory can maintain.
Supposing a nation, for a course of years, to add what it saved from its yearly revenue to its manufacturing capital solely, and not to its capital employed on land, it is evident it might grow richer (according to the common use of language) without a power of supporting a greater number of labourers, and, therefore, without an increase in the real funds for the maintenance of labour. There would, notwithstanding, be a demand for labour, from the power which each manufacturer would possess of extending his old stock in trade, or of setting up new undertakings. This demand would, of course, raise the price of labour; but if the yearly stock of provisions in the country was not increasing, this rise would soon turn out to be merely nominal, as the price of provisions must inevitably rise with it. Nothing can be plainer than this, that any general rise in the price of labour, the stock of provisions remaining the same, can only be a nominal rise, as it must very shortly be followed by a proportional rise in the necessaries of life.
Something of this kind appears to have taken place, in this island, during the course of the present century, in consequence of a system of policy which has considered manufactures and commerce as ultimate objects, instead of regarding them in their due subserviency to agricultural improvement. The exchangeable value in the market of Europe of the annual produce of our land and labour has increased greatly; but the increase has been chiefly in the produce of labour, and not in the produce of land; and, therefore, though the wealth of the nation (according to Smith’s definition of it) has been advancing rapidly, the effectual funds for the maintenance of labour have been increasing much more slowly, as I shall have occasion to show more fully when I come to consider the state of the poor.*
These considerations suggest a doubt whether Mr. Smith’s definition of national wealth (according to which it consists in the annual produce of its land and labour) be equally just with that of the French Economists, who measure it by the rude produce; excluding completely from this definition, the results of manufacturing industry. But this inquiry properly belongs to the second branch of the course.
[OF NATIONAL WEALTH.]
[1 ] Preface to Political Arithmetic.
[1 ] Sinclair’s Account of the Origin and Progress of the Board of Agriculture, (p. 34.) [Denina, in his Prusse Littéraire, vindicates, as I recollect, the invention of this branch of science to Italy and to his countryman Botero, who lived long before Petty.]
[1 ] Postlethwayt’s Dictionary; Article, Political Arithmetic.
[2 ] Price, On Annuities, Vol. II. p. 275.
[1 ] Chalmers’s Estimate, pp. 54, 56.
[1 ] Vol. I. p. 247.
[2 ]Estimate, p. 57.
[3 ]Métrologie, [1780,] p. 507.
[1 ] Moheau [Recherches], pp. 57, 58.
[1 ]Corn Tracts, [by Charles Smith, published in 1758 and 1759, and reprinted in 1804, with a life of the author, by George Chalmers, p. 190.]
[2 ] Ibidem, p. 196.
[* ] [Works, Vol. VII. pp. 108-119, 380-382; and these Lectures, supra, pp. 87-92.]
[* ] [De l’Administration des Finances.]
[1 ] Morgan, On Annuities, [1779,] p. 291.
[1 ] See Moheau, Paucton, Price, Morgan.
[2 ]Miscellanea Curiosa, Vol. I. p. 286.
[* ] [A Dissertation on the Numbers of Mankind, 1753, second edition, 1809, p. 40, seq.]
[1 ] Price, On Annuities, Vol. I. p. 278.
[* ] [Miscellanea Curiosa, 1708, Vol. I.]
[† ] [Ibid.]
[* ] [The three following paragraphs are ambiguously deleted in the manuscript.]
[* ] [Observations, &c.]
[† ] [An Inquiry into the Present State of Population in England and Wales, and the Proportion which the present Number bears to the Number at Former Periods. London, 1781.]
[* ] [Essay appended to Morgan, On Annuities, p. 288, first edition.]
[† ] [Ibid. p. 293.]
[1 ] Dr. Price’s Essay (it must be remembered) was published in 1779.
[* ] [Ibid. p. 305.]
[1 ]Inquiry into the State of Population, published 1781.
[2 ]Dispersion of the Gloomy Apprehensions occasioned by the Present State of our Corn Trade: 1797.
[* ] [This Lecture thus apparently written in 1799.]
[1 ]Monthly Magazine for September 1796.
[* ] [Wealth of Nations, B. I. c. viii.; Vol. I. p. 122, tenth edition.]
[* ] [Ibid. p. 115.]
[1 ] Townsend, [On the Poor-Laws,] p. 10.
[2 ] [On Annuities?] Vol. II. p. 289.
[1 ]Dispersion of the Gloomy Apprehensions occasioned by the Present State of our Corn-Trade: 1797.
[1 ] Chalmers, [Estimate, &c.] p. 207.
[* ] [Description of the Country about Manchester, &c., 1795.]
[1 ] Pp. 136, 137.
[2 ] Chalmers, Estimate, p. 125.
[1 ] Chalmers, [Estimate,] p. 221.
[* ] [From this to the end of the reference to Middleton’s Report, (infra, p. 245,) added in 1800.]
[2 ]Dispersion, &c., p. 9.
[1 ] Middleton’s Report, p. 451.
[2 ] Lord Castlereagh in his speech on the Union, (1800,) estimated it from 3,500,000 to 4,000,000.—(Added Note.)
[1 ] Chalmers, Estimate, p. 224.
[2 ] The population of Edinburgh is stated in the same Table at 68,045; that of Leith at 13,241; that of Glasgow at 64,743.
[1 ] See Robertson’s Report on the Size of Farms.
[* ] [Inquiry into the Corn Laws and Corn Trade, &c.]
[† ] [By C. Smith, see p. 219.]
[1 ] [State of the Poor, &c., 1797,] Vol. I. p. 564.
[* ] [Wealth of Nations, Book I. chap. viii.; Vol. I. p. 131, tenth edition.]
[* ] [From the Notes taken of these Lectures in 1809, it appears there are here wanting the more recent returns of the population of Great Britain and Ireland, and likewise estimates of the population of France, Spain, Russia, United States of America, China, and Holland. But the same is shown, though less fully, by the “Plan of Lectures on Political Economy for winter 1800-1801,” which is found among Mr. Stewart’s papers. As, however, the parts deficient seem not essential to an understanding of the more authentic lectures, it has not been thought necessary to interpolate from the notes, which, at best, are comparatively old, and often hardly to be relied on for numerical details.]