Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

But this is impossible, because this increased cultivation, and a more equal distribution of the produce of the earth could only take place, in consequence of the increased civilization, virtue, good sense, and happiness of mankind: and this would necessarily spoil all. For remove the present quantity of vice and misery existing in the world, and you remove the only checks, that can keep population down. “ Though the produce of the earth

mig, c be increasing every year, the popula“tion would be increasing much faster; and the

redundancy must be repressed by the old re“ straints of vice and misery.” That is to say, though (according to the second edition) vice, misery, and moral restraint, operate mutually as checks to population, and though the diminution of vice and misery could only be the consequence of the increased strength in the principle of moral restraint, yet this latter principle would in reality have no effect at all, and in proportion as the other checks to population, viz. vice and misery, were superseded, they would become more and more necessary. If there could be a gradual, and indefinite improvement in the cultivation of the soil, and every facility could be afforded for the supply of an increasing population, without supposing some change in the institutions of society, which would render men better and wiser, than they now are, Mr. Malthus will perhaps with some reluctance, and uncertainty hanging over his mind, allow that this would be a considerable advantage; the population might in this case he kept within some bounds, and not increase faster than the means of subsis. tence: but as this is a change that cannot be looked for without supposing a correspondent improvement in the morals and characters of men, we inust set off one thing against another, and give up the chance of improvement, to prevent the shocking alternative connected with it. With our present modicum of wit and command over our passions, we do contrive in some mea. sure to make both ends meet, or to cut our coat according to our cloth, or look before we leap, and are not carried away, neck or nothing, by this high-mettled courser, Population, over all the fences and barriers of common sense. But if we were to make any considerable improvements in horsemanship, or in our knack at calculation, we should instantly, belying all reå. sonable expectation, throw the bridle on the horse's neck, rush blindly forward in spite of all obstacles, and freed from the shackles of necessity without having acquired the discipline of reason, though the one always instantly resumes its sway, the moment the other ceases, plunge into all the miseries of famine, without remorse, or apprehension.

This I conceive is an express contradiction in terms. Yet I grant that it is a logical inference from Mr. Malthus's original statement, that vice and misery are the only adequate checks to po. pulation. If this were indeed the case, all the consequences that Mr. Malthus describes, the utmost degree of vice and misery, would neces. sarily be the lot of man in all stages and departments of society, whether in his improved or unimproved state, because in all cases and at all times his reason would be of no use to him. However great or however small our attainments in arts or science, or in all other virtues might be, in this respect we should still be the same; that is, we should be exactly in the condition of the brutes, entirely governed by an impulse, over which we should have neither check nor control. Mr. Malthus, however, finding that this account is inconsistent with the state of human life, and with those checks which certainly do keep population back from going its natural lengths, now adds moral restraint as a convenient supplement to his theory, and as our chief security against vice and misery, though he still insists that where its effect must be greatest, it would have no effect at all. He gives

up his principle, but retains his conclusion, to which he has no right. He is like a bad poet who to get rid of a false concord alters the ending of his first line, and forgets that he has spoiled his rhyme in the second. On the whole, then, it appears, that at no one period during the progress of cultivation from the present moment to the time when it should have reached its utmost limits, would the distress for want of food be greater than it is at present. In the mean time, the number of mankind, and consequently their happiness would go on increasing with the means of their happiness, or subsistence, till the whole earth had been cultivated like a garden, and was incapable of any further increase, and we should then be exactly where we are now with respect to the checks on population. That is, the earth would maintain ten times its present number of inhabitants in the same comfort ás at present, without our having involved ourselves in any of those straits and difficulties, those pits and snares, against which we are so kindly warned by Mr. Malthus. The population, and the means of subsistence would indeed be stationary, but so they may be said to be at present. The only difference is that they are at present unnecessarily stationary from artificial causes, from moral and political circumstances ; in that case the line' would be drawn by nature herself, in other words, by the limited extent of the earth; and by its limited fertility. This being the case and were a bea"tifil system of equality in other respects practicable, ( or observe, ; reader, I leave the question as to those other res: pects exactly where I found it) I cannot think that our ardour in pursuit of sch a scheme can in any wise be damped by the contemplation of the difficulties attendunt upon it from the prire le of population. All that could be gained, would be pure gain without any loss whatever. In sliurt, the principle of population does not, as I conceive, affect the future improvement of society in any way whatever, whether on a larger or a smaller scale, theoretically or practically, generally, or particularly. I have thus, Sir, endeavoured to answer Mr. Malthus's argument against the improved cultivation of the earth, and an increase of population, from the increased difficulties (as he falsely represents them), that would all the way press upon society during its progress. He has rendered his parados in some measure palatable to the reader, by introducing it as one branch of his answer to Condorcet, and others of the same school, herein imitating the policy of the house of commons, who sometimes prevail on the house of lords to pass a bill which they do not much like, by tacking a money-bill to it. However as the two subjects are entirely distinct, I beg that they may not be confounded.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »