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The question is simply, whether we are to look upon the progress of agriculture, civilization, and the populousness which would follow, (no matter to what extent, nor by whom it is brought about, whether it is projected by a junto of philosophers, or decided upon in a committee of the house of commons, enlightened by the genius of Mr. Malthus and guided by Mr. Whitbread's wisdom), whether I say, as a general principle we are to look upon an addition to the inhabitants of a state, if there is enough to support them, as a good or an evil. Mr. Male thus has chosen to answer this question under the head, modern philosophy, so that he is. secure of the protection of the court. I have been willing not to deprive him of this advantage, and have answered it under the same head. If however any of my readers should dislike the argument in this connection, they may easily take it out of the mould in which it is cast, without doing it the least hurt. To shew how lightly all schemes of improvement sit on Mr. Malthus's mind, how easily he thinks they may be puffed aside with the least breath of sophistry, it will be sufficient to quote the following passage. After allowing in general that even the best cultivated countries in Europe might be made to produce double what they do at present, he says, should not be too ready to make inferences
* against the internal economy of a country from " the appearance of uncultivated heaths without is other evidence." (it is wonderful with what slowness and circumspection Mr. Malthus always proceeds in his disapprobation of any thing, that comes in the prepossessing garb of ån evil. He is only confident and severe in his decisions against those hidden mischiefs, which he concealed under a delusive appearance of good. There is something in the prospect of dearth and barrenness which is perfectly con* genial to the disposition of Mr. Malthus. He is unwilling to give up à subject which promises so much scope for his singular talents of bringing good out of evil). • But the fact is, " that as no country has ever reached, or prox
bably will ever reach its highest possible acme “ of produce, it appears always, as if the want “ of industry, or the ill-direction of that in “ dustry was the actual limit to a further in * crease of produce and population, and not to the absolute refusal of nature to yield any si more; but a man who is locked up in a room, “ may be fairly said to be confined by the walls “ of it, though he may never touch them; and " with regard to the principle of population, it is “ never the question whether a country will
produce any more, but whether it may be « made to produce a sufficiency to keep pace
“ with an unchecked increase of people." This I confess is a singular passage for a practical philosopher to write. Mr. Malthus here lays it down that the question is not whether we should do all the good we can, but whether we should do what we cannot. As to his illustration of a man locked up in a room, though it is smart and clever, it is not much to the purpose. The case is really that of a man who has the range of a suite of rooms and who in a fit of the spleen, or from indolence, or stupidity, or from any other cause you please, confines himself to one of them, or of a man who having hired a large commodious apartment, says, I never make use of the whole of this apartment, I never go within a foot of the walls, I might as well have it partitioned off, it would be snugger and warmer, and so still finding that he does not run against his partition any more than against the wall, should continue, being determined to have no unnecessary spareroom, to hemm himself in closer and closer till at last he would be able to stir neither hand nor foot. That any one, allowing as Mr. Malthus does, that with proper management and industry this country might be made to maintain double its present number of inhabitants, or twenty millions instead of ten, should at the same time affect to represent this as a mere trifling addition, that practically speaking cannot be taken into the account, can I think only be explained by supposing in that person either an extreme callousness of feeling, or which amounts to pretty much the same thing, a habit of making his opinions entirely subservient to his convenience, or to any narrow purpose he may have in view at the moment. Perhaps if the truth were known, I am as little sanguine in my expectations of any great improvement to be made in the condition of human life either by the visions of philosophy, or by downright, practical, parliamentary projects, as Mr. Malthus himself can be. But the matter appears to me thus. It requires some exertion and some freedom of will to keep even where
If we tie up our hands, shut our eyes to the partial advantages we possess, and cease to exert ourselves in that direction in which we can do it with the most effect, we shall very
go deep in the negative series.” Take away the hope and the tendency to improvement, and there is nothing left to counteract the opposite never-failing tendency of human things “ from bad to worse.” There is therefore a serious practical reason against losing sight of the object, even when we cannot attain it. However, I am "free to confess” (to borrow the language of my betters) that there is as much selfishness as public spirit in my resistance to
Mr. Malthus's contradictions. It is a remote question whether the world will ever be much wiser than it is : but what I am certainly in. terested in, is not to submit to have all my ideas confounded by barren sophistry, nor to give up the little understanding which I may actually possess. Nor for my own part, were I confined to my room, should I think myself obliged to any one for blocking up my view of a pleasant prospect, because I could not move from the place, where I was.
The fundamental principle of Mr. Malthus's essay is that population has a constant tendency to become excessive, because it has a tendency to increase not only in a progressive, but in a geometrical ratio, whereas the means of subsistence are either positively limited, or at most can only be made to increase in an arithmetical ratio. But to be sure of avoiding any thing like misrepresentation in this part of the argu, ment, where the least error or omission might be fatal to our author's whole scheme, let take his own words.
" It may be safely affirmed that population “when unchecked goes on doubling itself every "twenty-five years, or increases in a geometrical