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SADLER'S LAW OF POPULATION.
The Law of Population: a Treatise in Six Books, in Disproof of the Superfecundity of Human Beings, and developing the real Principle of their Increase. By MICHAEL THOMAS SADLER, M.P. 2 vols. 8vo. London: 1830.
WE did not expect a good book from Mr. Sadler and it is well that we did not; for he has given us a very bad one. The matter of his treatise is extraordinary; the manner more extraordinary still. His arrangement is confused, his repetitions endless, his style everything which it ought not to be. Instead of saying what he has to say with the perspicuity, the precision, and the simplicity in which consists the eloquence proper to scientific writing, he indulges without measure in vague, bombastic declamation, made up of those fine things which boys of fifteen admire, and which everybody, who is not destined to be a boy all his life, weeds vigorously out of his compositions after five-and-twenty. That portion of his two thick volumes which is not made up of statistical tables, consists principally of ejaculations, apostrophes, metaphors, similes, all the worst of their respective kinds. His thoughts are dressed up in this shabby finery with so much profusion and so little discrimination, that they remind us of a company of wretched strolling players, who have huddled on suits of ragged and faded tinsel, taken from a common wardrobe, and fitting neither their persons nor their parts; and who then exhibit themselves to the laughing and pitying spectators, in a state of strutting, VOL. VII.- -6*
ranting, painted, gilded beggary. "Oh, rare Daniels!" "Political economist, go and do thou likewise!" 'Hear, ye political economists and anti-populationists!" "Population, if not proscribed and worried down by the Cerberean dogs of this wretched and cruel system, really does press against the level of the means of subsistence, and still elevating that level, it continues thus to urge society through advancing stages, till at length the strong and resistless hand of necessity presses the secret spring of human prosperity, and the portals of Providence fly open, and disclose to the enraptured gaze the promised land of contented and rewarded labour." These are specimens, taken at random, of Mr. Sadler's eloquence. We could easily multiply them; but our readers, we fear, are already inclined to cry for mercy.
Much blank verse and much rhyme is also scattered through these volumes, sometimes rightly quoted, sometimes wrongly,—sometimes good, sometimes insufferable, sometimes taken from Shakspeare, and sometimes, for aught we know, Mr. Sadler's own. "Let man," cries the philosopher, "take heed how he rashly violates his trust;" and thereupon he breaks forth into singing as follows:
"What myriads wait in destiny's dark womb,
'Tis his to blot them from the book of fate,
To dry the stream of being in its source,
Or bid it, widening, win its restless course;
While, earth and heaven replenishing, the flood
If these lines are not Mr. Sadler's, we heartily beg his pardon for our suspicion-a suspicion which, we acknowledge, ought not to be lightly entertained of any human being. We can only say that we never met with them before, and that we do not much care how long it may be before we meet with them, or with any others like them, again
The spirit of this work is as bad as its style. We never met with a book which so strongly indicated that the writer was in a good humor with himself, and in a bad
humor with everybody else; which contained so much of that kind of reproach which is vulgarly said to be no slander, and of that kind of praise which is vulgarly said to be no commendation. Mr. Malthus is attacked in language which it would be scarcely decent to employ respecting Titus Oates. "Atrocious," "execrable," "blasphemous," and other epithets of the same kind, are poured forth against that able, excellent, and honourable man, with a profusion which in the early part of the work excites indignation, but, after the first hundred pages, produces mere weariness and nausea. In the preface, Mr. Sadler excuses himself on the plea of haste. Two-thirds of his book, he tells us, were written in a few months. any terms have escaped him which can be construed into personal disrespect, he shall deeply regret that he had not more time to revise them. We must inform him that the tone of his book required a very different apology; and that a quarter of a year, though it is a short time for a man to be engaged in writing a book, is a very long time for a man to be in a passion.
The imputation of being in a passion Mr. Sadler will not disclaim. His is a theme, he tells us, on which “it were impious to be calm ;" and he boasts that, "instead of conforming to the candour of the present age, he has imitated the honesty of preceding ones, in expressing himself with the utmost plainness and freedom throughout." If Mr. Sadler really wishes that the controversy about his new principle of population should be carried on with all the license of the seventeenth century, we can have no personal objections. We are quite as little afraid of a contest in which quarter shall be neither given nor taken as he can be. But we would advise him seriously to consider, before he publishes the promised continuation of his work, whether he be not one of that class of writers who stand peculiarly in need of the candour which he insults, and who would have most to fear from that unsparing severity which he practises and recommends.
There is only one excuse for the extreme acrimony with which this book is written; and that excuse is but a bad one. Mr. Sadler imagines that the theory of Mr. Malthus is inconsistent with Christianity, and even with
the purer forms of Deism. Now, even had this been the case, a greater degree of mildness and self-command than Mr. Sadler has shown would have been becoming in a writer who had undertaken to defend the religion of charity. But, in fact, the imputation which has been thrown on Mr. Malthus and his followers is so absurd as scarcely to deserve an answer. As it appears, however, in almost every page of Mr. Sadler's book, we will say a few words respecting it.
Mr. Sadler describes Mr. Malthus's principle in the following words :—
"It pronounces that there exists an evil in the principle of population; an evil, not accidental, but inherent; not of occasional occurrence, but in perpetual operation; not light, transient, or mitigated, but productive of miseries, compared with which all those inflicted by human institutions, that is to say, by the weakness and wickedness of man, however instigated, are 'light' an evil, finally, for which there is no remedy save one, which had been long overlooked, and which is now enunciated in terms which evince anything rather than confidence. It is a principle, moreover, pre-eminently bold, as well as 'clear.' With a presumption, to call it by no fitter name, of which it may be doubted whether literature, heathen or Christian, furnishes a parallel, it professes to trace this supposed evil to its source, the laws of nature, which are those of God;' thereby implying, and indeed asserting, that the law by which the Deity multiplies his offspring, and that by which he makes provision for their sustentation, are different, and, indeed, irreconcilable."
"This theory," he adds, "in the plain apprehension of the many, lowers the character of the Deity in that attribute, which, as Rousseau has well observed, is the most essential to him, his goodness; or otherwise, impugns his wisdom.
Now nothing is more certain than that there is physical and moral evil in the world. Whoever, therefore, believes, as we do most firmly believe, in the goodness of God, must believe that there is no incompatibility between the goodness of God and the existence of physical and moral evil. If, then, the goodness of God be not incompatible with the existence of physical and moral evil, on what grounds does Mr. Sadler maintain that the goodness of God is incompatible with the law of population laid down by Mr. Malthus?
Is there any difference between the particular form of
evil which would be produced by over-population, and other forms of evil which we know to exist in the world? It is, says Mr. Sadler, not a light or transient evil, but a great and permanent evil. What then? The question of the origin of evil is a question of ay or no,-not a question of more or less. If any explanation can be found by which the slightest inconvenience ever sustained by any sentient being can be reconciled with the divine attribute of benevolence, that explanation will equally apply to the most dreadful and extensive calamities that can ever afflict
the human race. The difficulty arises from an apparent contradiction in terms; and that difficulty is as complete in the case of a headache which lasts for an hour as in the case of a pestilence which unpeoples an empire,—in the case of the gust which makes us shiver for a moment as in the case of the hurricane in which an Armada is cast away.
It is, according to Mr. Sadler, an instance of presumption unparalleled in literature, heathen or Christian, to trace an evil to "the laws of nature, which are those of God," as its source. Is not hydrophobia an evil? And is it not a law of nature that hydrophobia should be communicated by the bite of a mad dog? Is not malaria an evil? And is it not a law of nature that in particular situations the human frame should be liable to malaria ? We know that there is evil in the world. If it is not to be traced to the laws of nature, how did it come into the world? Is it supernatural? And, if we suppose it to be supernatural, is not the difficulty of reconciling it with the divine attributes as great as if we suppose it to be natural? Or, rather, what do the words natural and supernatural mean when applied to the operations of the Supreme Mind?
Mr. Sadler has attempted, in another part of his work, to meet these obvious arguments, by a distinction without a difference.
"The scourges of human existence, as necessary regulators of the numbers of mankind, it is also agreed by some, are not inconsistent with the wisdom or benevolence of the Governor of the universe; though such think that it is a mere after-concern to 'reconcile the undeniable state of the fact to the attributes we assign to