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may resort, affords the best attainable security against the disastrous influence of scarcities, it reduces her ordinary prices to about the average level of those of the commercial world.
But whether with or without a free commercial system, still it is plain that the power of this and of all countries to feed and maintain additional inhabitants must be progressively diminished, through the limited extent, and, perhaps, also the diminished fertility of the soils, from which they must directly or indirectly derive their supplies of food. On the other hand, however, the power possessed by the inhabitants of the most densely peopled countries of adding to their numbers, undergoes no sensible change. The principle, or instinct, which impels man to propagate his species, has appeared in all ages and countries so nearly the same, that it may, in the language of mathematicians, be considered as a constant quantity. However rapidly the means of subsistence have occasionally been increasing, population has seldom failed to keep pace with them. Those who inquire into the past and present state of the world, will find that the population of all countries is generally accommodated to their means of subsistence. When these are increased, population is also increased, or is better provided for; and when they are diminished, the population is either worse provided for, or it falls off, or both.
We have seen that the population of the United States doubles itself in so short a period as twenty or five-andtwenty years. And if the supplies of food and other articles required for the support of the people continue to increase as fast as they have done, population will most likely continue to advance in the same proportion for a lengthened period; or, it may be, until the space required to carry on the operations of industry becomes deficient. But the principle of increase is quite as strong in Yorkshire, Holland, and Normandy, as it is in Kentucky and Illinois, and yet it is plainly impossible that the population of England, the Netherlands, and France, can be doubled in so short a period. While the
Americans have millions upon millions of acres of rich unoccupied land, over which to extend cultivation, we have not even a single acre in that predicament; and owing to the greater outlay upon the lands we are compelled to cultivate, and the greater weight of our tithes, poor-rates, and other taxes, the quantity of produce to be divided between the undertakers of work in England and their labourers is less than in America, so that both parties have a less power of providing for the wants of a family. A number of children is not here, as in the United States or Australia, a source of wealth. On the contrary, their maintenance occasions an expense, which the poor man, unless he be at once frugal and industrious, can with difficulty meet. The habits of the people have been moulded accordingly. There is a general feeling that it would be imprudent to enter into matrimonial connexions without having something like a reasonable prospect of being able to maintain the children that may be expected to spring from them. And marriages are, in consequence, very generally deferred to a later period than in America, and a greater proportion of our people find it expedient to pass their lives in a state of celibacy. And it is fortunate that this is the case; that their good sense, and their laudable desire to preserve their place in society, make them control their passions, and subject them to prudential considerations. Man cannot possibly increase beyond the means provided for his support. And were the tendency of population to increase in densely peopled countries, where the difficulty of providing supplies of food is comparatively great, not checked by the prevalence of moral restraint, or the forethought of the people, it would be checked by the prevalence of want, inisery, and famine. There is no alternative. The population of every country has the power, supposing food to be adequately supplied, to go on doubling every five and twenty years. But as the limited extent, and limited fertility of the soil, render it impossible to go on producing food in this ratio, it necessarily follows, unless the passions are moderated, and a proportional check given to the
increase of population, that the standard of human subsistence will be reduced to the lowest assignable limit, and that famine and pestilence will be perpetually at work to relieve the popu lation of wretches born only to be starved.
Mr. Malthus was probably the first who conclusively showed that, speaking generally, the tendency of population is not merely to keep on a level with the means of subsistence, but to exceed them; and the object of his
Essay on the Principles of Population," is to illustrate this principle, by pointing out the pernicious consequences resulting from a redundant population, improvident unions, and the bringing of human beings into the world without being able to provide for their subsistence and education. And instead of this doctrine being, as has been often stated, unfavourable to human happiness, a material change for the better would undoubtedly be effected in the condition of society, were its justice generally acknowledged, and a vigorous effort made to give it a practical bearing and real influence. It is evident, on the least reflection, that poverty is the source of the greater portion of the ills which afflict humanity; and there can be no manner of doubt, that a too great increase of population, by occasioning a redundant supply of labour, an excessive competition for employment, and low wages, is the most efficient cause of poverty. It is now too late to contend that a crowded population is a sure sympton of national prosperity. The population of the United States is not nearly so dense as that of Ireland; but will any one say that they are less flourishing and happy? The truth is, that the prosperity of a nation depends but little on.the number of its inhabitants, but much on their industry, their intelligence, and their command over necessaries and conveniences. The earth affords room only, with the existing means of production, for a certain number of human beings to be trained to any degree of perfection. And "every real philanthropist would rather witness the existence of a thousand such beings, than that of
a million of millions of creatures, pressing against the limits of subsistence, burdensome to themselves, and contemptible to each other." Wherever the labouring classes continue to increase more rapidly than the fund which has to support and employ them, their wages are gradually reduced till they reach the lowest possible limit. When placed under such unfortunate circumstances, they are cut off from all expectation of rising in the world, or of improving their condition. Their exertions are neither inspired by hope nor by ambition. Unable to save, or to acquire a stake in society, they have no inducement to make any unusual exertions. They consequently become indolent and dispirited; and, if not pressed by hunger would be always idle.
It is thus apparent that the ratio which the progress of capital bears to the progress of population, is the pivot on which the comfort and well-being of the great bulk of society must always turn. If capital, as compared with population, be increased, the population will be better provided for; if it continue the same, the condition of the population will undergo no change; and if it be diminished, that condition will be changed for the worse.
The principles thus briefly elucidated render it apparent, on a little reflection, that the condition of the bulk of every people must usually depend much more on their own conduct than on that of their rulers. Not that we mean to insinuate that the influence of governments over their subjects is not great and powerful, or that the latter should not be governed in the best possible manner. A people who have the misfortune to be subjected to arbitrary and intolerant rulers, though otherwise possessed of all the powers and capacities necessary for the production of wealth, will, from the want of security and freedom, be most probably sunk in poverty and wretchedness. But wherever property is secure, industry free, and the public burdens moderate, the happiness or misery of the labouring classes depends almost wholly on themselves. Government has there done for them all that it
It has given them abuse of these inestiThey may be either
should, and all in truth that it can do. security and freedom. But the use or mable advantages is their own affair. provident or improvident, industrious or idle; and being free to choose, they are alone responsible for the consequences of their choice.
It is indeed foolish to expect, as some theorists have done, that the progress of population should ever be exactly adjusted to the increase or diminution of national capital, or that the conduct of the mass of any people should be perceptibly influenced by public and remote considerations. The theories of philosophers, and the measures of statesmen and legislators, have reference to the interests and well-being of nations; but those of ordinary men embrace a comparatively narrow range. Their views seldom, indeed, extend even to the class to which they belong. They include only themselves, their families, and near connexions; and they are satisfied if they succeed in promoting their interests, without thinking or caring about those of others. Luckily, however, the two coincide. The industry, the frugality, and the forethought, without which no individual can either hope to improve his condition if he have little or nothing, or to keep his own, and avoid falling a sacrifice to poverty, if he have anything, are virtues indispensable to the well-being of individuals, and consequently of the community. And it is so ordered, that no sort of combination or co-operation is required to secure these advantages. They are realized in the fullest extent by every one by whom they are practised; and they can be realized by none else.
It is fortunate that those principles, a knowledge of which is of most importance to the interests of mankind, lie on the surface, and are easily understood, and may be practised by all. Every man, if he have any reflection, who proposes entering into a matrimonial engagement, must feel that he is about to undertake a serious responsibility. The wages or resources which may be able to support himself comfortably, may be insufficient for the support of two, or three, or four