London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown, Paternoster Row, 1820.
From Anarchy Archives
OF THE POPULATION OF EUROPE, ASIA, AFRICA, AND SOUTH AMERICA IN ANCIENT AND MODERN TIMES.
II. Survey of the Creation from Natural History
III. General Views as to the Alleged Increase of Mankind
IV. General View of the Arguments against the Increase of Mankind
V. Numbers of Mankind in Ancient and Modern Times
VI. Illustrations from the History of China
VIII. South America
XII. Miscellaneous Observations
XIII. Views of Man and Society which result from the Preceding Facts
OF THE POWER OF INCREASE IN THE NUMBERS OF MANKIND, AND THE LIMITATIONS OF THAT POWER.
I. Proofs and Authorities for the Doctrine the Essay on Population
II. Animadversions on Mr. Malthus's Authorities
III. Principles respecting the Increase or Decrease of the Numbers of Mankind
IV. Accounts which are given of the Population of Sweden
V. Inferences suggested by the Accounts of Sweden
VI. Observations on the Swedish Tables Continued
VII. Recapitulation of the Evidence of the Swedish Tables
APPENDIX TO CHAPTERS IV, V, AND VI.
VIII. Population of Other Countries in Europe Considered
IX. Principles respecting the Increase or Decrease of the Numbers of Mankind Resumed
X. Of the Population of England and Wales
XI. Proofs of the Geometrical Ratio from the Phenomenon of a Pestilence
DISSERTATION ON THE RATIOS OF INCREASE IN POPULATION, AND IN THE MEANS OF SUBSISTENCE. By MR. DAVID BOOTH
TABLES OF THE AMERICAN CENSUS
OF THE CAUSES BY WHICH THE AMOUNT OF THE NUMBERS OF MANKIND IS REDUCED OR RESTRAINED.
I. Futility of Mr. Malthus's Doctrine respecting the Checks on Population
II. Of Deaths and the Rate of Human Mortality
III. Attempt towards a Rational Theory of the Checks on Population
IV. Attempt towards a Rational Theory of the Checks on Population continued
V. Mr. Malthus's Eleven Heads of the Causes that keep down Population Considered
VI. Observations on the Countries in the Neighbourhood of the River Missouri
OF THE POPULATION OF THE UNITED STATES OF NORTH AMERICA.
II. Of the Topography and Political Condition of the United States
III. History of Emigration from Europe to North America in the Seventeenth Century
IV. History of Emigration to North America from the Year 1700 to the Present Time
V. Retrospect of the History of Population in the United States
VI. Of the Amount of Births in the United States
VII. Of the Period at which Marriages are Formed
VIII. Diseases in the Territory of the United States
IX. Reports of the Population of the United States Analysed and Examined
OF THE MEANS WHICH THE EARTH AFFORDS FOR THE SUBSISTENCE OF MAN.
I. Of the Present State of the Globe, as it relates to Human Subsistence
II. Of the Number of Human Beings, which the Globe is capable of maintaining on our present Systems of Husbandry and Cultivation
III. Calculation of the Productive Powers of the Soil of England and Wales
IV. Causes of the Scarcity of the Means of Human Subsistence
V. Causes of the Scarcity of the Means of Human Subsistence Continued
VI. Of the Improvements of which the Productiveness of the Globe for the Purposes of Human Subsistence is Capable
VII. Of the Principles of a Sound Policy on the Subject of Population
OF THE MORAL AND POLITICAL MAXIMS INCULCATED IN THE ESSAY ON POPULATION.
I. Character and Spirit of the Essay on Population Delineated
II. Of the Positions respecting the Nature of Man upon which the Essay on Population is Constructed
III. Of the Doctrines of the Essay on Population as they Affect the Principles of Morality
IV. Of the Doctrines of the Essay on Population as they Affect the Condition of the Poor
V. Of the Doctrines of the Essay on Population as they Affect the Condition of the Rich
VI. Of Marriage, and the Persons who may Justifiably enter into that State
VII. A Few Contradictions in the Essay on Population Stated
VIII. Of Wages
"Russia being mentioned as likely to become a great empire by the rapid increase of population:--JOHNSON. Why sir, I see no prospect of their propagating more. They can have no more children than they can get. I know of no way to make them breed more than they do. BOSWELL. But have not nations been more populous at one period than another? JOHNSON. Yes, sir; but that has been owing to the people being less thinned at one time than another, whether by emigrations, war, or pestilence, not to their being more or less prolific. Births at all times bear the same proportion to the same number of people."
BOSWELL, LIFE OF JOHNSON : anno 1769.
It happens to men sometimes, where they had it in their thoughts to set forward and advance some mighty benefit to their fellow creatures, not merely to fail in giving substance and efficacy to the sentiment that animated them, but also to realise and bring on some injury to the party they purposed to serve. Such is my case, if the speculations that have now been current for nearly twenty years, and which had scarcely been heard of before, are to be henceforth admitted, as forming an essential branch of the science of politics.
When I wrote my Enquiry concerning Political Justice, I flattered myself that there was no mean probability that I should render an important service to mankind. I had warmed my mind with all that was great and illustrious in the republics of Greece and Rome, which had been favourite subjects of meditation with me, almost from my infancy. I became further animated by the spectacle of the Revolutions of America and France, the former of which commenced when I was just twenty years of age, [though I never approved of the mode in which the latter was effected, and the excesses which to a certain degree marked its very beginning] and by the speculations, which in England, and other parts of Europe, among learned men and philosophers, preceded, and contributed to, and have in some measure attended upon, and accompanied, every step of these events. I thought it was possible to collect whatever existed that was best and most liberal in the science of politics, to condense it, to arrange it more into a system, and to carry it somewhat farther, than had been done by any preceding writer.
The book I produced seemed for some time fully to answer in its effects the most sanguine expectations I had conceived from it. I could not complain that it "fell dead-born from the press," or that it did not awaken a considerable curiosity among my countrymen. I was never weak enough to suppose, that it would immediately sweep away all error before it, like a mighty influx of the waves of the ocean. I hailed the opposition it encountered, direct and indirect, argumentative and scurrilous, as a symptom (we will suppose, not altogether unequivocal) of the result I so earnestly desired. Among other phenomena of the kind, I hailed the attack of Mr. Malthus. I believed, that the Essay on Population, like other erroneous and exaggerated representations of things, would soon find its own level.
In this I have been hitherto disappointed. It would be easy to assign the causes of my disappointment; the degree in which, by the necessity of the case, the theory of this writer flattered the vices and corruption of the rich and great, and the eager patronage it might very naturally be expected to obtain from them: but this makes no part of what it is my purpose to say. Finding therefore, that whatever arguments have been produced against it by others, it still holds on its prosperous career, and has not long since appeared in the impressive array of a Fifth Edition, I cannot be contented to go out of the world, without attempting to put into a permanent form what has occurred to me on the subject. I was sometimes idle enough to suppose, that I had done my part, in producing the book that had given occasion to Mr. Malthus's Essaya, and that I might safely leave the comparatively easy task, as it seemed, of demolishing the "Principle of Population," to some one of the men who have risen to maturity since I produced my most considerable performance. But I can refrain no longer. "I will also answer my part; I likewise will shew my opinion: for I am full of matter; and the spirit within me constraineth me."
This is a task in which I am the more bound to engage, because, as I have said, if the dogmas which are now afloat on the subject of population are to become permanent, I have, instead of contributing as I desired to the improvement of society, become, very unintentionally, the occasion of placing a bar upon all improvements to come, and bringing into discredit all improvements that are past. If Mr. Malthus's way of reasoning only tended to the overthrow of what many will call "the visionary speculations" of the Enquiry concerning Political Justice, the case would have been different. I might have gone to my grave with the disgrace, to whatever that might amount, of having erected castles in the air, for the benefit, not of myself, but of my species, and of then seeing them battered to pieces before my face. But I cannot consent to close my eyes for ever, with the judgment, as the matter now seems to stand, recorded on my tomb, that, in attempting one further advance in the route of improvement, I should have brought on the destruction of all that Solon, and Plato, and Montesquieu, and Sidney, in ancient times, and in a former age, had seemed to have effected for the redemption and the elevation of mankind.
It is not a little extraordinary, that Mr. Malthus's book should now have been twenty years before the public, without any one, so far as I know, having attempted a refutation of his main principle. It was easy for men of a generous temper to vent their horror at the revolting nature of the conclusions he drew from his principle; and this is nearly all that has been done. That principle is delivered by him in the most concise and summary manner. He says, that he "considered it as established in the first six pages. The American increase was related [in three lines]; and the geometrical ratio was provedb." Now, it stands out broadly to the common sense of mankind, that this was proving nothing. Population, and the descent, and increase or otherwise, of one generation of mankind after another, is not a subject of such wonderful simplicity, as to be thus established. It is in reality the complexity and thorniness of the question, that have had the effect of silencing Mr. Malthus's adversaries respecting it. They seem with one consent to have shrunk from a topic, which required so much patient investigation. In the midst of this general desertion of the public interest, I have ventured to place myself in the breach. With what success it is for others to judge.
It may seem strange, that what was so summarily stated, and successfully asserted, by Mr. Malthus, should require so much research and labour to overthrow. The Essay on Population has set up a naked assertion; no more. I might have made a contradictory assertion ; and, equitably speaking, the matter was balanced, and what Mr. Malthus bad written ought to go for nothing. But this would not have been the case. "Possession," says the old proverb, "is nine points of the law;" and the Essay on Population bad gotten possession of the public mind. This author entered on a desert land, and, like the first discoverers of countries, set up a symbol of occupation, and without further ceremony said, "It is mine." His task was easy: he gave the word; his vessel was launched, and his voyage completed. Like Cymochles in the Fairy Queen, he could say,
My wandering ship I row,
That knows her port, and thither sails by aim ;
Ne care, ne fear I, how the wind do blow ;
Both swift and slow alike do serve my turn.
But the task in which I have engaged has been of a different sort. It was necessary that my advances should be slow, and my forces firm. It was mine, not only to dislodge the usurperfrom his fastnesses and retreats; but further, by patient exertions, and employing the most solid materials, to build up a Pharos, that the sincere enquirer might no longer wander in the dark, arid be liable to be guided by the first daring adventurer that would lead him into the paths of error and destruction.
I beg leave to repeat one passage here from the ensuing volume,c as containing a thought very proper to be presented to the reader in the outset of the enquiry. "If America had never been discovered, the geometrical ratio, as applied to the multiplication of mankind, would never have been known. If the British colonies had never been planted, Mr. Malthus would never have written. The human species might have perished of a long old age, a fate to which perhaps all sublunary things are subject at last, without one statesman or one legislator, through myriads of centuries, having suspected this dangerous tendency to increase, 'in comparison with which human institutions, however they may appear to be causes of much mischief to society, are mere feathersd.'"
In the following pages I confine myself strictly to Mr. Malthus's book, and the question which he has brought under consideration. My bitterest enemy will hardly be able to find in this volume the author of the Enquiry concerning Political Justice. I have scarcely allowed myself to recollect the beautiful visions (if they shall turn out to be visions), which enchanted my soul, and animated my pen, while writing that work. I conceived that any distinct reference to what is there treated of, would be foreign to the subject which is now before me. The investigation of the power of increase in the numbers of mankind, must be interesting to every one to whom the human species and human society appear to be matters of serious concern: and I should have thought that I was guilty of a sort of treason against that interest, if I had unnecessarily obtruded into the discussion any thing that could shock the prejudices, or insult the views, of those whose conceptions of political truth mighty be most different from my own.
I am certainly very sorry that I was not sooner in possession of Mr. Malthus's calculation for peopling the whole visible universe with human beings at the rate of four men to every square yard, contained in his Principles of Political Economye. A considerable portion of my work was printed, before the appearance of that volume. Several passages in these sheets will read comparatively flat and tame, for went of the assistance of this happy reductio ad absurdum from the pen of the author.
I cannot close these few pages of Preface, without testifying my obligations to one friend in particular, Mr. David Booth, formerly of Newburgh in the county of Fife, now of London. Without the encouragement and pressing instances of this gentleman my work would never have been begun; and the main argument of the Second Book is of his suggesting. But indeed the hints and materials for illustration I have derived from his conversation are innumerable; and his mathematical skill assisted my investigations, in points in which my habits for many years, were least favourable to my undertaking.--It is further necessary I should add, that Mr. Booth has scarcely in any instance inspected my sheets, and that therefore I only am responsible for any errors they may contain.
The reader will find, annexed to the end of the Second Book, a Dissertation on the Ratios of Increase in Population, and in the Means of Subsistence, which that gentleman had the goodness to supply to me.
This is all that is necessary for me to say in the way of Preface. Except that I feel prompted to make my apology in this place, if I shall appear any where to have been hurried into undue warmth. I know how easily this sin is accustomed to beset all controversial writers. I hold Mr. Malthus in all due respect, at the same time that I willingly plead guilty to the charge of regarding his doctrines with inexpressible abborrence. I fully admit however the good intentions of the author of the Essay on Population, and cheerfully seize this occasion to testify my belief in his honourable character, and his unblemished manners.
October 21, 1820.
a It is stated in the front of the Essay on Population, that it is to my writings that the work is indebted for its origin.
b Essay on Population, Vol. III, p. 344, note.
c P. 139, 140.
d Essay on Population, First Edition, p. 177; Fifth Edition, Vol. II, p. 246.
e See below, p. 135, et seqq.
ENQUIRY CONCERNING POPULATION
OF THE POPULATION OF EUROPE, ASIA, AFRICA, AND SOUTH AMERICA, IN ANCIENT AND MODERN TIMES.
Mr. Malthus has published what he calls an Essay on the Principle of Population, by which he undertakes to annul every thing that had previously been received, respecting the views that it is incumbent upon those who preside over political society to cherish, and the measures that may conduce to the happiness of mankind. His theory is evidently founded upon nothing. He says, that "population, when unchecked, goes on doubling itself every twenty-five years, or increases in a geometrical ratio.a"
If we ask why we are to believe this, he answers that, "in the northern states of America, the population has been found so to double itself for above a century and a half successively.b" All this he delivers in an oraculous manner. He neither proves nor attempts to prove what he asserts. If Mr. Malthus has taken a right view of the question, it is to be hoped that some author will hereafter arise, who will go into the subject and shew that it is so.
Mr. Malthus having laid down a theory in this dogmatical manner, a sort of proceeding wholly unworthy of a reflecting nation or an enlightened age, it is time in reality that some one should sweep away this house of cards, and endeavour to ascertain whether any thing is certainly known on the subject.
This is the design and the scheme of the present volume I shall make no dogmatical assertions ; or, at least I am sure I will make none respecting the proposition or propositions which form the basis of the subject. I shall call upon my reader for no implicit faith. I shall lay down no positions authoritatively, and leave him to seek for evidence, elsewhere, and as he can, by which they may be established. All that I deliver shall be accompanied by its proofs. My purpose is to engage in a train of patient investigation, and to lay before every one who will go along with me, the facts which satisfy my mind on the subject, and which I am desirous should convey similar satisfaction to the minds of others.
The consequence is, that I, the first, as far as I know, of any English writer in the present century, shall have really gone into the question of population. If what I shall deliver is correct, some foundation will be laid, and the principle will begin to be understood. If what I allege as fact shall be found to be otherwise, or the conclusions I draw from my facts do not truly follow from them, I shall have set before other enquirers evidence that they may scan, and arguments that they may refute. I simply undertake to open the door for the gratification of the curious, or, more properly speaking, of those who feel an interest in the honour and happiness of the human species, which hitherto in this respect has been shut. Conscious how little as yet is known on the subject, I attempt no more than to delineate Outlines of the Doctrine of Population.
The first point then that I have to examine, and which will form the subject of Three of the Six Books into which my treatise is divided, is respecting the Power of Increase in the Numbers of the Human Species, and the Limitations of that Power. This question, precisely speaking, is the topic of the Second Book only: though I have thought proper to prefix in a First Book a view of the numbers of mankind in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America, in ancient and modern times, where population has generally been supposed not to increase; and in another [the Fourth] to subjoin a view of the United States of North America in this particular, where from some cause or other the population has multiplied exceedingly.
The result of our investigations into the subject of population, I believe, will afford some presumption that there is in the constitution of the human species a power, absolutely speaking, of increasing its numbers. Mr. Malthus says; that the power is equal to the multiplication of mankind by a doubling every twenty-five years, that is, to an increase for ever in a geometrical series, of which the exponent is 2:--a multiplication, which it is difficult for human imagination, or (as I should have thought) for human credulity to follow: and therefore his theory must demand the most tremendous checks [their names in the Essay on Population are vice and misery] to keep the power in that state of neutrality, in which it is perhaps in almost all cases to be found in Europe. I think I shall be able to make out that the power of increase in the numbers of the human species is extremely small. But, be that as it may, it must be exceedingly interesting to assign the Causes by which this Power is Restrained from producing any absolute multiplication, from century to century, in those many countries where population appears to be at a stand: and I have accordingly endeavoured to take the question out of the occult and mystical state in which Mr. Malthus has left it. This disquisition forms the subject of my Third Book; as it was necessary to give it precedence over the examination of the population of the United States, that we might be the better enabled to see, how far the causes which keep down population are peculiar to us, and how far they extend their agency to North America.
Such is the outline of the most essential parts of the following work; and here I might perhaps without impropriety have put an end to my labours. But, as Mr. Malthus has taken occasion to deliver many positions respecting subsistence, and various other points of political economy, I have thought it might not be useless to follow him into these topics.
The question of subsistence indeed Mr. Malthus has made an essential member of his system, having stated the power of increase in the numbers of mankind as equal to a doubling every twenty-five years for ever in geometrical series, and the utmost power of increase in the means of subsistence as reaching only to a perpetual addition of its own quantity in similar periods, or a progression in arithmetical series. Thus,
Population 1 2 4 8 16 32 64 128 256 Subsistence 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
I have therefore devoted my Fifth Book to the consideration of the Means which the Earth Affords for the Subsistence of Man.
The topic I have reserved for my Sixth Book is, at least to my apprehension, in no way less interesting than the question of Subsistence. Dr. Franklin and other writers who have attributed to the human species a power of rapidly multiplying their numbers, have either foreseen no mischief to arise from this germ of multiplication, or none but what was exceedingly remote. It is otherwise with Mr. Malthus. The geometrical ratio is every where with him a practical principle, and entitled to the most vigilant and unremitted attention of mankind. He has deduced from this consideration several moral and political maxims, which he enjoins it upon the governors of the world to attend to. I am persuaded that the elements of our author's theory are unsound, and that therefore his conclusions must follow the fate of the principle on which they are founded. But I should have left my undertaking imperfect, if I did not proceed to expose these maxims; thus, in the first place, setting the system of the Essay on Population and its practical merits in the full light of day; and, in the second, holding up for the instruction of those who may come after, an example of the monstrous errors into which a writer may be expected to fall, who shall allow himself, upon a gratuitous and wholly unproved assumption, to build a system of legislation, and determine the destiny of all his fellow-creatures. An examination of the Moral and Political Maxims Inculcated in the Essay on Population therefore constitutes the subject of my Sixth Book.
I might indeed have written a treatise in which I should have endeavoured to trace the outlines of the subject of population, without adverting to Mr. Malthus. But, in the first place it was gratifying to me to name an author, who, however false and groundless his theories appear to me, has had the merit of successfully drawing the attention of the public to the subject. I think it but fair, so far as depends upon me, that his name should be preserved, whatever becomes of the volumes he has written. If any benefit shall arise from the discussion of the Doctrine of Population, there is a propriety in recollecting the person by whose writings the question has been set afloat, though he has not discussed. And, in the second place, I know that the attention of the majority of readers is best secured by the appearance of a contention. If I had delivered the speculations of the following pages in a form severely scientific, and still more if I had written my book without Mr. Malthus's going before me, I should have appeared to multitudes to be elaborately explaining what was too clear for an argument, and could not have expected to excite an interest, to which under the present circumstances, if I have done any thing effectually on the subject, I may be thought reasonably entitled.
aEssay on Population, fifth edition, vol. I. p. 9.
b Vol. I. p. 7.
SURVEY OF THE CREATION FROM NATURAL HISTORY.
Previously to our entering directly on the subject before us, it will probably be found not wholly unworthy of attention to recollect, in how different a way the multiplication of the human species has ordinarily been regarded, by writers whose purpose it was to survey the various classes of existence that form the subject of natural history, and who were satisfied to discover "the wisdom of God in the works of creation," from the ideas expressed by Mr. Malthus. The following is the manner in which the subject is stated by Goldsmith, one of the latest of the number, in his History of the Earth and Animated Nature.
"We may observe, that that generation is the most complete, in which the fewest animals are produced : Nature, by attending to the production of one at a time, seems to exert all her efforts in bringing it to perfection : but, where this attention is divided, the animals so produced come into the world with partial advantages. In this manner twins are never, at least while infants, so large or strong as those that come singly into the world; each having, in some measure, robbed the other of its right; as that support which Nature meant for one, has been prodigally divided.
"In this manner, as those animals are the best that are produced singly, so we find that the noblest animals are ever the least fruitful. These are seen usually to bring forth but one at a time, and to place all their attention upon that alone. On the other hand, all the oviparous kinds produce in amazing plenty; and even the lower tribes of the viviparous animals increase in a seeming proportion to their minuteness and imperfection. Nature seems lavish of life in the lower orders of creation ; and, as if she meant them entirely for the use of the nobler races, she appears to have bestowed greater pains in multiplying the number, than in completing this kind. In this manner, while the elephant and the horse bring forth but one at a time, the spider and the beetle are seen to produce a thousand: and even among the smaller quadrupeds, all the inferior kinds are extremely fertile; any one of these being found, in a very few months, to become the parent of a numerous progeny.
"In this manner therefore the smallest animals multiply in the greatest proportion; and we have reason to thank Providence, that the most formidable animals are the least fruitful. Had the lion and the tiger the same degree of fecundity with the rabbit or the rat, all the arts of man would be unable to oppose these fierce invaders, and we should soon perceive them be. come the tyrants of those who claim the lordship of the creation. But Heaven, in this respect, has wisely consulted the advantage of all. It has opposed to man only such enemies, as he has art and strength to conquer; and, as large animals require proportional supplies, nature was unwilling to give new life, where it in some measure denied the necessary means of subsistence.
"In consequence of this pre-established order, the animals that are endowed with the most perfect methods of generation, and bring forth but one at a time, seldom begin to procreate, till they have almost acquired their full growth. On the other hand, those which bring forth many, engender before they have arrived at half their natural size. The horse and the bull come almost to perfection before they begin to generate; the hog and the rabbit scarcely leave the teat before they become parents themselves. In whatever light therefore we consider this subject, we shall find that all creatures approach most to perfection, whose generation most nearly resembles that of man. The reptile produced from cutting, is but one degree above the vegetable. The animal produced from the egg, is a step higher in the scale of existence: that class of animals which are brought forth alive, are still more exalted. Of these, such as bring forth one at a time are the most complete; and foremost of these stands man, the great master of all, who seems to have united the perfections of all the rest in his formationa."
a History of the Earth and Animated Nature, Part II. Chap. II.
GENERAL VIEWS AS TO THE ALLEGED INCREASE OF MANKIND.
To take a just view of any subject, one rule that is extremely worthy of our attention is, that we should get to a proper distance from it. The stranger to whom we would convey an adequate image of the city of London, we immediately lead to the top of St. Paul's Church. And, if I may introduce an allusion to the records of the Christian religion, the devil took our Saviour "up into an exceeding high mountain," when he would "shew him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them."
Mr. Malthus has taken his stand upon the reports of Dr. Franklin, and Dr. Ezra Styles. He repairs with them to the northern parts of the United States of America, and there he sees, or thinks he sees, "the population doubling itself, for above a century and a half successively, in less than twenty-five years," and that "from procreation onlya." He does not discover an ample population even in this, his favourite country. Far from it. The reason why the population goes on so rapidly in North America is, according to him, because there is "ample room and verge enough" for almost all the population that can be poured into it. He sees, in his prophetic conception, that country, some centuries hence, full of human inhabitants, even to overflowing, and groaning under the multitude of the tribes shall dwell in it.
Would it not have been fairer to have taken before him the globe of earth at one view, and from thence to have deduced the true "Principle of Population," and the policy that ought to direct the measures of those who govern the world?
How long the race of man has subsisted, unless we derive our opinions on the subject from the light of revelation, no man knows. The Chinese, and the people of Indostan, carry back their chronology through millions of years. Even if we refer to the Bible, the Hebrew text, and the Samaritan which is perhaps of equal authority, differ most considerably and fundamentally from each other. But Mr. Malthus is of opinion, that, in reasoning on subjects of political economy, we are bound to regulate our ideas by statistical reports, and tables that have been scientifically formed by proficients in that study, and has accordingly confined himself to these.
But, though we know not how long the human race has existed, nor how extensive a period it has had to multiply itself in, we are able to form some rude notions respecting its present state. It has by some persons been made an objection to the Christian religion, that it has not become universal. It would perhaps be fairer, to make it an objection to the "Principle of Population," as laid down by Mr. Malthus, that the earth is not peopled.
If I were to say that the globe would maintain twenty times its present inhabitants, or, in other words, that for every human creature now called into existence, twenty might exist in a state of greater plenty and happiness than with our small number we do at present, I should find no one timid and saturnine enough to contradict me. In fact, he must be a literal and most uninventive speculator, who would attempt to set bounds to the physical powers of the earth to supply the means of human subsistence.
The first thing therefore that would occur to him who should survey "all the kingdoms of the earth," and the state of their population, would be the thinness of their numbers, and the multitude and extent of their waste and desolate places. If his heart abounded with "the milk of human kindness," he would not fail to contrast the present state of the globe with its possible state; he would see his species as a little remnant widely scattered over a fruitful and prolific surface, and would weep to think that the kindly and gracious qualities of our mother earth were turned to so little account. If he were more of a sober and reasoning, than of a tender and passionate temper, perhaps he would not weep, but I should think he would set himself seriously to enquire, how the populousness of nations might be increased, and the different regions of the globe replenished with a numerous and happy race.
Dr. Paley's observations on this head are peculiarly to the purpose. "The quantity of happiness," he says, "in any given district, although it is possible it may be increased, the number of inhabitants remaining the same, is chiefly and most naturally affected by alteration of the numbers: consequently, the decay of population is the greatest evil that a state can suffer; and the improvement of it is the object, which ought in all countries to be aimed at, in preference to every other political purpose whatsoever b."
Such has been the doctrine, I believe, of every enlightened politician and legislator since the world began. But Mr. Malthus has placed this subject in a new light. He thinks that there is a possibility that the globe of earth may at some time or other contain more human inhabitants than it can subsist; and he has therefore written a book, the direct tendency of which is to keep down the numbers of mankind. He has no consideration for the millions and millions of men, who might be conceived as called into existence, and made joint partakers with us in such happiness as a sublunary existence, with liberty and improvement, might impart; but, for the sake of a future possibility, would shut against them once for all the door of existence.
He says indeed, "The difficulty, so far from being remote, is imminent and immediate. At every period during the progress of cultivation, from the present moment to the time when the whole earth was become like a garden, the distress for want of food would be constantly pressing on all mankindc." He adds it is true in this place, "if they were equal." But these words are plainly unnecessary, since it is almost the sole purpose of his book to shew, that, in all old established countries, "the population is always pressing hard against the means of subsistence."
This however--I mean the distress that must always accompany us in every step of our progress--is so palpably untrue, that I am astonished that any man should have been induced by the love of paradox, and the desire to divulge something new, to make the assertion. There is no principle respecting man and society more certain, than that every man in a civilized state is endowed with the physical power of producing more than shall suffice for his own subsistence. This principle lies at the foundation of all the history of all mankind. If it were otherwise, we should be all cultivators of the earth. We should none of us ever know the sweets of leisure; and all human science would be contained in the knowledge of seed time and harvest. But no sooner have men associated in tribes and nations, than this great truth comes to be perceived, that comparatively a very small portion of labour on the part of the community, will subsist the whole. Hence it happens that even the farmer and the husbandman have leisure for their religion, their social pleasures, and their sports; and hence it happens, which is of infinitely more importance in the history of the human mind, that, while a minority of the community are employed in the labours indispensibly conducive to the mere subsistence of the whole, the rest can devote themselves to art, to science, to literature, to contemplation, and even to all the wanton refinements of sensuality, luxury, and ostentation.
What is it then, we are naturally led to ask, that causes any man to starve, or prevents him from cultivating the earth, and subsisting upon its fruits, so long as there is a portion of soil in the country in which he dwells, that has not been applied to the producing as much of the means of human subsistence, as it is capable of producing? Mr. Malthus says, it is "the Law of Nature." "After the public notice which I have proposed, if any man chose to marry, without a prospect of being able to support a family, he should have the most perfect liberty to do so. Though to marry, in this case. is in my opinion clearly an immoral act, yet it is not one which society can justly take upon itself to prevent or punish. To the punishment of Nature therefore be should be leftd." And elsewhere, "A man who is born into a world already possessed, if he cannot get subsistence from his parents, and if the society do not want his labour, has no claim of right to the smallest portion of food, and in fact has no business to be where be is. At Nature's mighty feast there is no vacant cover for him. She tells him to be gone, and will quickly execute her own orderse."
Never surely was there so flagrant an abuse of terms, as in this instance. Mr. Malthus is speaking of England, where there are many thousands of acres wholly uncultivated, and perhaps as many more scarcely employed in any effectual manner to increase the means of human subsistence; for these passages occur in chapters of his Essay where be is treating of our Poor-laws, and the remedies that might be applied to the defects he imputes to them. I grant him then, that it is Law which condemns the persons he speaks of to starve. So far we are agreed. This Law Mr. Malthus may affirm to be just, to be wise, to be necessary to the state of things as we find them. All this would be open to fair enquiry. Great and cogent no doubt are the reasons that have given so extensive a reign to this extreme inequality. But it is not the Law of Nature. It is the Law of very artificial life. It is the Law which "heaps upon some few with vast excess" the means of every wanton expence and every luxury, while others, some of them not less worthy, are condemned to pine in want.
Compare this then with Mr. Malthus's favourite position, in opposition to what he calls "the great error under which Mr. Godwin labours," that "political regulations and the established administration of property are in reality light and superficial causes of mischief to society, in comparison with those which result from the Laws of Naturef."
But to return, and resume the point with which this chapter commenced. If Mr. Malthus's doctrine is true, why is the globe not peopled? If the human species has so strong a tendency to increase, that, unless the tendency were violently and calamitously counteracted, they would every where "double their numbers in less than twenty-five years," and that for ever, how comes it that the world is a wilderness, a wide and desolate place, where men crawl about in little herds, comfortless, unable from the dangers of free-booters, and the dangers of wild beasts to wander from climate to climate, and without that mutual support and cheerfulness which a populous earth would most naturally afford? The man on the top of St Paul's would indeed form a conception of innumerable multitudes: but he who should survey "all the kingdoms of the world," would receive a very different impression. On which side then lies the evidence? Do the numbers of mankind actually and in fact increase or decrease? If mankind has so powerful and alarming a tendency to increase, how is it that this tendency no where shews itself in general history ? Mr. Malthus and his followers are reduced to confess the broad and glaring fact that mankind do not increase, but he has found out a calculation, a geometrical ratio, to shew that they ought to do so, and then sits down to write three volumes, assigning certain obscure, vague, and undefinable causes, why his theory and the stream of ancient and modern history are completely at variance with each other.
aEssay on Population, vol. I. p. 9.
b Moral and Political Philosophy, Book VI. Chap. xi.
c Vol. II. p. 220.
d Vol. III. p. 180.
e This passage, which occurs in the Second Edition in quarto, p. 531, is not to be found in the Fifth Edition of the Essay. But I beg leave once for all to observe, that those sentences of our author, the sense of which he has never shewn the slightest inclination to retract, and the spirit of which on the contrary is of the essence of his system, I do not hold myself bound to pass over unnoticed, merely ,because he has afterwards expunged them, that he might not "inflict an unnecessary violence on the feelings of his readers [Quarterly Review for July 1817.]," or that he might "soften some of the harshest conclusions of the first Essay [Malthus, Preface to the Second Edition.]."
fVol. II. p. 245.