Front Page Titles (by Subject) Part I, Chapter XV: The Increase and Decrease of the Number of People in a State chiefly depend on the taste, the fashions, and the modes of living of the proprietors of land - Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en Général
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Part I, Chapter XV: The Increase and Decrease of the Number of People in a State chiefly depend on the taste, the fashions, and the modes of living of the proprietors of land - Richard Cantillon, Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en Général 
Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en General, edited with an English translation and other material by Henry Higgs, C.B. Reissued for The Royal Economic Society by Frank Cass and Co., LTD., London. 1959.
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Part I, Chapter XV
The Increase and Decrease of the Number of People in a State chiefly depend on the taste, the fashions, and the modes of living of the proprietors of land
Experience shews that Trees, Plants and other Vegetables can be increased to any Quantity which the Extent of Ground laid out for them can support.
The same Experience shews that all kinds of the Animal Creation are to be multiplied to any Quantity which the Land allotted to them can support. Horses, Cattle, Sheep can easily be multiplied up to the number that the Land will support. The fields which serve for this support may be improved by irrigation as in Milan. Hay may be saved and Cattle fed in sheds and raised in larger numbers than if they were left in the Fields. Sheep may be fed on Turnips, as in England, by which means an acre of land will go further for their nourishment than if it were pasture. In a word, we can multiply all sorts of Animals in such numbers as we wish to maintain even to infinity if we could find lands to infinity to nourish them; and the multiplication of Animals has no other bounds than the greater or less means allotted for their subsistence. It is not to be doubted that if all Land were devoted to the simple sustenance of Man the race would increase up to the number that the Land would support in the manner to be explained.
There is no Country where Population is carried to a greater Height than in China. The common people are supported by Rice and Rice Water; they work almost naked and in the southern Provinces they have three plentiful harvests of Rice yearly, thanks to their great attention to Agriculture. The Land is never fallow and yields a hundredfold every year. Those who are clothed have generally Clothing of Cotton, which needs so little Land for its production that an Acre of Land, it seems, is capable of producing a Quantity full sufficient for the Clothing of five hundred grown-up Persons. The Chinese by the Principles of their Religion are obliged to marry, and bring up as many Children as their Means of Subsistence will afford. They look upon it as a Crime to lay Land out in Pleasure-Gardens or Parks, defrauding the Public of Maintenance. They carry Travellers in sedan Chairs, and save the work of Horses upon all tasks which can be performed by Men. Their number is incredible if the Relation of Voyages is to be depended upon, yet they are forced to destroy many of their Children in the Cradle when they apprehend themselves not to be able to bring them up, keeping only the number they are able to support. By hard and indefatigable Labour they draw from the Rivers an extraordinary quantity of Fish and from the Land all that is possible.
Nevertheless when bad years come they starve in thousands in spite of the care of the Emperor who stores Rice for such contingencies. Numerous then as the people of China are, they are necessarily proportioned to their Means of Living and do not exceed the number the Country can support according to their standard of life; and on this footing a single Acre of Land will support many of them.
On the other hand there is no Country where the increase of Population is more limited than among the savages in the interior parts of America. They neglect Agriculture, live in Woods, and on the Wild Beasts they find there. As their Forests destroy the Sweetness and Substance of the Earth there is little pasture for Animals, and since an Indian eats several Animals in a year, 50 or 100 acres supply only enough food for a single Indian.
A small Tribe of these Indians will have 40 square leagues for its hunting ground. The wage regular and bitter wars over these boundaries, and always proportion their numbers to their means of support from the chase.
The European cultivate the Land and draw Corn from it for their subsistence. The Wool of their sheep provides them with Clothing. Wheat is the grain on which most of them are fed, but some Peasants make their Bread of Rye, and in the north of Barley and Oats. The food of the Peasants and the People is not the same in all Countries of Europe, and Land is often different in quality and fertility.
Most of the Land in Flanders and part of that in Lombardy yields 18 to 20 fold without lying idle; the Campagna of Naples yields still more. There are a few Properties in France, Spain, England and Germany which yield the same amount. Cicero tells us that the Land of Sicily in his time yielded tenfold, and the Elder Pliny says that the Leontine lands in Sicily yielded a hundred fold, those of Babylon a hundred and fifty, and some African lands a good deal more.
Today Land in Europe yields on the average six times what is sown, so that five times the seed remains for the consumption of the People. Land usually rests one year in three, producing wheat the first year and barley the second.
In the Supplement will be found estimates of the amount of Land required for the support of a Man according to the different assumptions of his Manner of Living. It will be seen that a Man who lives on Bread, Garlic and Roots, wears only hempen garments, coarse Linen, Wooden Shoes, and drinks only water, like many Peasants in the South of France, can live on the produce of an Acre and a half of Land of medium goodness, yielding a sixfold harvest and resting once in 3 years. On the other hand a grown-up Man who wears leather Shoes, Stockings, Woollen Cloth, who lives in a House and has a change of Linen, a Bed, Chairs, Table, and other necessaries, drinks moderately of Beer or Wine, eats every day Meat, Butter, Cheese, Bread, Vegetables, etc. sufficiently and yet moderately needs for all that the produce of 4 to 5 acres of land of medium quality. It is true that in these estimates nothing is allowed for the food of Horses except for the Plough and Carriage of Produce for ten Miles.
History records that the first Romans each maintained his family on two journaux of Land, equal to one Paris acre and 330 square feet or thereabouts. They were almost naked, had no Wine or Oil, lay in the Straw, and had hardly any Comforts, but as they cultivated intensely the Land, which is fairly good around Rome, they drew from it plenty of Corn and of Vegetables.
If the Proprietors of Land had at heart the increase of Population, if they encouraged the Peasants to marry young and bring up Children by promising to provide them with Subsistence, devoting their Land entirely to that purpose, they would doubtless increase the Population up to the point which the Land could support, according to the produce they allotted for each person whether an Acre and a Half or Four to Five Acres a head.
But if instead of that the Prince, or the Proprietors of Land, cause the Land to be used for other purposes than the upkeep of the People: if by the Prices they offer in the Market for produce and Merchandise they determine the Farmers to employ the Land for other purposes than the Maintenance of Man (for we have seen that the Prices they offer in the Market and their consumption determine the use made of the Land just as if they cultivated it themselves) the People will necessarily diminish in number. Some will be forced to leave the country for lack of employment, others not seeing the necessary means of raising Children, will not marry or will only marry late, after having put aside somewhat for the support of the household.
If the Proprietors of Land who live in the Country go to reside in the Cities far away from their Land, Horses must be fed for the transport into the City both of their food and that of all the Domestic Servants, Mechanicks and others whom their residence in the City attracts thither.
The carriage of Wine from Burgundy to Paris often costs more than the Wine itself costs in Burgundy; and consequently the Land employed for the upkeep of the cart horses and those who look after them is more considerable than the Land which produces the Wine and supports those who have taken part in its production. The more Horses there are in a State the less food will remain for the People. The upkeep of Carriage horses, Hunters, or Chargers, often takes three or four Acres of Land.
But when the Nobility and Proprietors of Land draw from Foreign Manufactures their Cloths, Silks, Laces, etc. and pay for them by sending to the Foreigner their native produce they diminish extraordinary the food of the People and increase that of Foreigners who often become Enemies of the State.
If a Proprietor or Nobleman in Poland, to whom his Farmers pay yearly a Rent equal to about one third of the Produce of his Land, pleases to use the Cloths, Linens, etc. of Holland, he will pay for these Mechandises one half of the rent he receives and perhaps use the other half for the subsistence of his Family on other Products and rough Manufactures of Poland: but half his rent, on our supposition, corresponds to the sixth part of the Produce of his Land, and this sixth part will be carried away by the Dutch to whom the Farmers of Poland will deliver it in Corn, Wool, Hemp and other produce. Here is then a sixth part of the Land of Poland withdrawn from its people, to say nothing of the feeding of the Cart horses, Carriage Horses and Chargers in Poland, maintained by the Manner of Living of the Nobility there. Further if out of the two thirds of the Produce of the Land allotted to the Farmers there last imitating their Masters consume foreign Manufactures which they will also pay Foreigners for in raw Produce of Poland, there will be a good third of the produce of the Land in Poland abstracted from the Food of the People, and, what is worse, mostly sent to the Foreigner and often serving to support the Enemies of the State. If the Proprietors of Land and the Nobility in Poland would consume only the Manufactures of their own State, bad as they might be at the outset, they would soon become better, and would keep a great Number of their own People to work there, instead of giving this advantage to Foreigners: and if all States had the like care not to be the dupes of other States in matters of Commerce, each State would be considerable only in proportion to its Produce and the Industry of its People.
If the Ladies of Paris are pleased to wear Brussels Lace, and if France pays for this Lace with Champagne wine, the product of a single Acre of Flax must be paid for with the product of 16,000 acres of land under vines, if my calculations are correct. This will be more fully explained elsewhere and the figures are shown in the Supplement. Suffice to say here that in this transaction a great amount of produce of the Land is withdrawn from the subsistence of the French, and that all the produce sent abroad, unless an equally considerable amount of produce be brought back in exchange, tends to diminish the number of People in the State.
When I said that the Proprietors of Land might multiply the Population as far as the Land would support them, I assumed that most Men desire nothing better than to marry if they are set in a position to keep their Families in the same style as they are content to live themselves. That is, if a Man is satisfied with the produce of an Acre and a half of Land he will marry if the is sure of having enough to keep his Family in the same way. But if he is only satisfied with the produce of 5 to 10 Acres he will be in no hurry to marry unless he thinks he can bring up his Family in the same manner.
In Europe the Children of the Nobility are brought up in affluence; and as the largest share of the Property is usually given to the Eldest sons, the younger Sons are in no hurry to marry. They usually live as Bachelors, either in the Army or in the Cloisters, but will seldom be fond unwilling to marry if they are offered Heiresses and Fortunes, or the means of supporting a Family on the footing which they have in view and without which they would consider themselves to make their Children wretched.
In the lower classes of the State also there are Men who from pride and from reasons similar to those of the Nobility, prefer to live in celibacy and to spend on themselves the little that they have rather than settle down in family life. But most of them would gladly set up a Family if they could count upon keeping it up as they would wish: they would consider themselves to do an injustice to their Children if they brought them up to fall into a lower Class than themselves. Only a few Men in a State avoid marriage from sheer flightiness. All the lower orders wish to live and bring up Children who can live like themselves. When Labourers and Mechanicks do not marry it is because they wait till they save something to enable them to set up a household or to find some young woman who brings a little capital for that purpose, since they see every day others like them who for lack of such precaution start housekeeping and fall into the most frightful poverty, being obliged to deprive themselves of their own food to nourish their Children.
From the observations of M. Halley, at Breslaw in Silesia, it is found that of all the Females capable of child-bearing, from 16 to 45 years of age, not one in six actually bears a child every year, while, says M. Halley, there ought to be at least 4 or 6 who should have children every year, without including those who are barren or have still-births. The reason why four Women out of six do not bear children every year is that they cannot marry because of the discouragements and difficulties in their way. A young Woman takes care not to become a Mother if she is not married; she cannot marry unless she finds a Man who is ready to run the risk of it. Most of the People in a State are hired or are Undertakers; most are dependent and live in uncertainty whether they will find by their Labour or their Undertakings the means of supporting their household on the footing they have in view. Therefore they do not all marry, or marry so late that of six Women, or at least four, who should produce a child every year there is actually only one in six who becomes a Mother.
If the Proprietors of Land help to support the Families, a single generation suffices to push the increase of population as far as the Produce of the Land will supply means of subsistence. Children do not require so much of this produce as grown-up persons. Both can live on more or less according to their consumption. The Northern People, where the Land produces little, have been known to live on so little produce that they have sent out Colonists and swarms of Men to invade the Lands of the South and destroy its Inhabitants to appropriate their Land. According to the different Manner of Living, 400,000 people might subsist on the same produce of the Land which ordinarily supports but 100,000. A Man who lives upon the Produce of an Acre and a half of Land, may be stronger and stouter than he who spends the Produce of five or ten Acres; it therefore seems pretty clear that the Number of Inhabitants of a State depends on the Means allotted them of obtaining their Support; and as this Means of Subsistence arises from the Method of cultivating the soil, and this Method depends chiefly on the Taste, Humours and Manner of Living of the Proprietors of Land, the Increase and Decrease of Population also stand on the same Foundation.
The Increase of Population can be carried furthest in the Countries where the people are content to live the most poorly and to consume the least produce of the soil. In Countries where all the Peasants and Labourers are accustomed to eat Meat and drink Wine, Beer, etc. so many Inhabitants cannot be supported.
Sir Wm Petty, and after him Mr Davenant, Inspector of the Customs in England, seem to depart from nature when they try to estimate the propagation of the race by progressive generations from Adam, the first Father. Their calculations seem to be purely imaginary and drawn up at hazard. On the basis of what they have seen of the actual birth rate in certain districts, how could they explain the Decrease of those innumerable People formerly found in Asia, Egypt, etc. and even in Europe? If seventeen centuries ago there were 26 millions of people in Italy, now reduced to 6 millions at most, how can it be determined by the progressions of Mr King that England which today contains 5 or 6 millions of Inhabitants will probably have 13 millions in a certain number of years? We see daily that Englishmen, in general, consume more of the produce of the Land than their Fathers did, and this is the real reason why there are fewer Inhabitants than in the past.
Men multiply like Mice in a barn if they have unlimited Means of Subsistence; and the English in the Colonies will become more numerous in proportion in three generations than they would be in thirty in England, because in the Colonies they find for cultivation new tracts of land from which they drive the Savages.
In all Countries at all times Men have waged wars for the Land and the Means of subsistence. When wars have destroyed or diminished the Population of a Country, the Savages and civilised Nations soon repopulate it in times of peace; especially when the Prince and the Proprietors of Land lend their encouragement.
A State which has conquered several Provinces may, by Tribute imposed on the vanquished, acquire an increase of subsistence for its own People. The Romans drew a great part of their subsistence from Egypt, Sicily and Africa and that is why Italy then contained so many Inhabitants.
A State where Mines are found, having Manufactures which do not require much of the produce of the land to send them into foreign Countries, and drawing from them in exchange plentiful merchandise and produce of the land, acquires an increased fund for the subsistence of its Subjects.
The Dutch exchange their Labour in Navigation, Fishing or Manufactures principally with Foreigners, for the products of their Land. Otherwise Holland could not support of itself half its Population. England buys from abroad considerable amounts of Timber, Hemp and other materials or products of the soil and consumes much Wine for which she pays in Minerals, Manufactures, etc. That saves the English a great quantity of the products of their soil. Without these advantages the People of England, on the footing of the expense of living there, could not be so numerous as they are. The Coal Mines save them several millions of Acres of Land which would otherwise be needed to grow timber.
But all these advantages are refinements and exceptional cases which I mention only incidentally. The natural and constant way of increasing Population in a State is to find employment for the People there, and to make the Land serve for the production of their Means of Support.
It is also a question outside of my subject whether it is better to have a great multitude of Inhabitants, poor and badly provided, than a smaller number, much more at their ease: a million who consume the produce of 6 acres per head or 4 millions who live on the product of an Acre and a half.