« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
they admit of no such remedy; and that it was all an idle supposition of his own without any foundation, a barmless picture drawn to illustrate the ima. ginary goodness of Providence.
“ If it will answer any purpose of illustration, I see
no harm in drawing the picture of a society in “ which each individual is supposed strictly to fulfil “ his duties: nor does a writer appear to be justly “ liable to the imputation of being visionary, unless “ he makes such universal or general obedience ne
cessary to the practical utility of his system, and $ to that degree of moderate and partial improve“ment, which is all that can rationally be expected “ from the most complete knowledge of our du“ ties.”
“ But in this respect, there is an essential diffe
rence between that improved state of society which " I have supposed in the last chapter, and most of “ the other speculations on this subject. The im“ provement there supposed, if we ever should make " approaches towards it, is to be effected in the way “ in which we have been in the habit of seeing all “ the greatest improvements effected, by a direct ap
plication to the interest and happiness of each indi"vidual. It is not required of us to act from mo" tives, to which we are unaccustomed; to pursue
a general good, which we may not distinctly com
prehend, or the effect of which may be weakened " by distance or diffusion.”
is there not such a virtue as patriotism? To what class of motives would our author refer this feeling? The way in which Mr. Malthus wishes to effect his improvement in the virtue and happiness of mankind, is one in which no such improvement has hitherto been effected. But I see Mr. Malthus's object. He is only anxious, lest any one should attempt to rear the fabric of human excellence on any other basis than that of vice and misery. So that we begin with this solid and necessary foundation, he does not care to what height the building is carried. So that we set out on our journey of reform through the gate at which Mr. Malthus is sitting at the receipt of custom, (whether it faces the road or not) it gives him little concern what direction we take, or how far we go afterwards, or whether we ever reach our promised destination.
“ The duty of each individual is express and intel“ ligible to the humblest capacity. It is merely that “ he is not to bring beings into the world for whom “ he cannot find the means of support. When once - this subject is cleared from the obscurity thrown “ over it by parochial laws and private benevolence,
every man must feel the strongest conviction of
such an obligation. If he cannot support his “ children, they must starre; and if he marry in the “ face of a fair probability that he shall not be able " to support his children, he is guilty of all the evils “ which he thus brings upon himself, his wife, and “ his offspring.
It is clearly his interest, and will “ tend greatly to promote his happiness to defer
marrying, till, by industry and economy, he is “ in a capacity to support the children, that he
may reasonably expect from his marriage and as he cannot in the mean time, gratify his pas
sions, without violating an express command of “ God, and running a great risk of injuring himself,
or some of his fellow creatures, considerations of " his own interest and happiness will dictate to him " the strongest obligation to moral restraint.
“ However powerful may be the impulses of passion " they are generally in some degree modified by reason. " And it does not seem entirely visionary to suppose, " that if the true and permanent cause of poverty
were clearly explained,” [This I take to be that the rich have more than the poor] “and forcibly brought “ home to each man's bosom, it would have some, “ and perhaps not an inconsiderable, influence on “ his conduct; at least, the experiment has never
yet been fairly tried."
It is astonishing, what a propensity Mr. Malthus has to try experiments, if there is any mischief to be done by them. He has a perfect horror of experiments that are to be tried on the higher qualities of our nature, from which any great, unmixed, and general good is to be expected. But in proportion as the end is low, and the means base, he acquires confidence, his tremours forsake him, and he approaches boldly to the task with nerves of iron. His humanity is of a singular cast. What is grand and elevated, seems to be his aversion. Pure benefits are of too cloying a quality to please his taste. He is willing to improve the morals of the people by extirpating the
common feelings of mankind, and will submit to the introduction of a greater degree of plenty and comfort, provided it is prefaced by famine.
His ardouç is kindled not so much in proportion to the difficulty, as to the disgusting nature of the task: He is a kind of sentimental nightman, an amateur chimney-sweeper, a patriotic Jack-ketch. The spirit of adventure is roused in him only by the prospect of dirty roads, and narrow, crooked paths. He never flinches where there is any evil to be done, that good may come of it! His present plan is an admirable one of the kind - Omne tulit punctu-it comprises both extremes of vice and misery. The poor are to make a formal surrender of their right to private charity or parish assistance, that the rich may be able to Jay out all their money on their vices.
“ Till these erroneous ideas have been corrected, " and the language of nature and reason has been ge
nerally heard on the subject of population, instead “ of the language of error and prejudice, it cannot be “ said that any fair experiment has been made with “ the understandings of the common people; and “ we cannot justly accuse them of improvidence and "s want of industry, till they act as they do now, “ after it has been brought home to their comprehen“sions, that they are themselves the cause of their
own poverty; that the means of redress are in their “ own hands, and in the hands of no other per“ sons whatever, that the society in which they live, " and the government which presides over it, are totally
* without power in this respect; and however ardently " they may desire to relieve them, and whatever at.
tempts they may make to do so, they are really " and truly unable to execute what they benevo“ lently wish, but unjustly promise ; that when the
wages of labour will not maintain a family, it is an “ incontrovertible sign that their king and country do “ not want more subjects, or at least that they cannot
support them; that if they marry in this case, so far “ from fulfilling a duty to society, they are throwing
a useless burden on it, at the same time that they are plunging themselves into distress; and that they are acting directly contrary to the will of God, and
bringing down upon themselves various diseases, “ which might all, or in a great part, have been
avoided, if they had attended to the repeated ad“ monitions which he gives, by the general laws of
nature, to every being capable of reason *.
Bnt a moment ago the subject was involved in the most profound obscurity, and great advantages were expected from the manner in which Mr. Malthus was to bring it home to each man's comprehension. In the passage immediately following the above, our author quotes Dr. Paley's Moral Philosophy, and as he often refers to this work, I shall here take the liberty of entering my protest against it. It is a school in which a man learns to tamper with his own mind, and will become any thing sooner than an honest man. It is a directory, shewing him how to disguise and palliate his real motives (however unworthy) by metaphysical subterfuges, and where to look for every infirmity which can beset him, with its appropriate apology, taken from the common topics of religion and morality. All that is good, iu Paley is taken from Tucker; and even his morality is not the mnost bracing that can be imagined.