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under contribution to supply my personal wants. Communities and nations act, in this respect, just like individuals. If it should be more profitable to them to devote their arable lands to other purposes than those of husbandry, they will do so without hesitation, being confident that, they will be supplied from other lands. The inhabitants of the island of Barbadoes, with a soil abundantly capable of supplying their wants, actually devote all their ground and labor to the cultivation of sugar, cotton, and a few tropical products, which they export, while they import all their provisions, their wheat, pickled fish and salted meat, butter, cheese, &c, from the "United States. They do not, on their own ground, raise food enough for the hundredth part of their own consumption. "What they do almost exclusively, all commercial and manufacturing communities do to a certain extent. They devote their energies to getting wealth, and buy food whencesoever it may come to them, being wholly indifferent whether it is raised in their own or in foreign lands. Thus, in Massachusetts, as already remarked, we do not raise wheat and cattle enough for our own consumption, while our population, as a Malthusian would say, is increasing with frightful rapidity. But should we be justified, then, in abrogating our laws for the support of paupers, on the ground that the number of the people already exceeded the capacity of the soil to sustain them, and that the poor must consequently be chastised into the system of prudent marriages?
Such a plea would appear ridiculous here; is it any more reasonable in Great Britain? Since the abolition of the corn laws, and of other oppressive charges in the British tariff, the market price of the chief articles of provision is not, and cannot be, ten per cent higher in Liverpool than in Boston; and the supply of these articles (which is the only point that we need consider here) is just as abundant in the former place as the latter. The farmers of Ohio, "Wisconsin, and Iowa would rejoice at an opportunity to supply all England and Ireland with all the wheat that they require. A failure of the English crops, or a multiplication of the English people, is certainly no misfortune to us, though we have to supply the food which in that case becomes necessary; is it then a misfortune to the English, — a misfortune, I mean, of such a character as to justify them in complaining of the ways of Providence for sending more human beings upon the earth than the earth is capable of supporting? It is a calamity, unquestionably, in regard to the acquisition of wealth; for the necessity of buying so much food diminishes their store of wealth. But it is not a calamity in regard to the supply of food, or to the limited extent and fertility of the earth's surface. Man, not Providence, is in fault. Great Britain is obliged to buy all her cotton, an article of almost as universal consumption as wheat; yet this fact, being one to which she is habituated, is not made a subject of complaint. Cotton, however, can be produced to advantage only in a few regions, of comparatively limited extent; while the cereal grains can be raised over three fourths of the surface of the habitable globe. Should a new process of agriculture be discovered, by which cotton could be grown over all England with so much facility and profit that the yearly returns of the farmer would be twice as great as by raising wheat, it is very certain that no wheat would then be raised on English ground, and yet there would be no deficiency in the supply of that necessary article. In this case, she would raise her cotton, and buy her wheat; now, she raises her wheat, and buys her cotton.
We can now see with sufficient distinctness the two great facts which afford a complete refutation of Malthusianism. The first is, that the limit of population in any country whatever is, not the number of people which the soil of that country alone will supply with food, but the number which the surface of the whole earth is capable of feeding; and it is a matter of demonstration, that this limit cannot even be approached for many centuries. The inability of England alone, or of Ireland alone, to supply her teeming population with food, is a fact of no more importance in the world's history, than the inability of the city of London alone to supply her two millions of people with farming produce from her own soil. London taxes all the counties of England for sustenance; England taxes all the countries of the earth for sustenance ; — I cannot see any difference between the two cases.
Then, secondly, I say that the practical or actual limit to the. growth of population in every case is the limit to the increase and distribution, not of food, but of wealth. Among civilized men in modern times, a famine is created, not by any absolute deficiency in the supply of food, but because the poorer classes have no money to buy it with. As every human being is an implement for the production of wealth, a means of enlarging the aggregate national product, or the amount of exchangeable values belonging to a nation, the increase of population is not a cause of scarcity of food, but a preservative against it. It makes no difference whether the mass of the people are engaged in hammering iron, spinning cotton, or raising wheat; for the product in each of these cases either is food, or is exchangeable for food, which amounts to precisely the same thing. Commerce distributes equally all products for which there is an equal demand. In respect to the supply and the price of food, New York has no advantage over Liverpool, because there is a wide, fertile, and only half-tenanted region lying behind the former, while the latter backs upon a land teeming with poverty-stricken millions; for the supply, whencesoever obtained, is distributed between the two places in exact proportion to the demand for it in each; and if the price in Liverpool is higher because the grain must be brought thither from New York, the price in New York is higher because the grain must be carried thence to Liverpool. Our crops did not fail in 1847, but the price of grain, in our seaport towns, and even in our back country, rose in as great proportion as in Ireland and Scotland. But all classes of our people were still able to buy the grain, even at the advanced price; while one half of the Irish people, and perhaps one sixth of the Scotch, were too poor to obtain it at this price, and therefore they hungered, and very many of them died of starvation.
This is the true explanation of the famine of 1847 in the British Isles. The march of civilization, the extension of trade, the facilities of transport, and the consequent ease of supplying the failure of the crops in one country by the superabundance of the harvest in another, have made the recurrence of a proper famine, in modern times, impossible. By a proper famine, I mean such an absolute deficiency of food, and impossibility of obtaining it on any terms, as is suffered by the garrison of a besieged town, or by the crew of a wrecked ship. It is not in the scheme of Providence, as hitherto revealed to man, that harvests should fail all the world over at the same time, or even for the failure to be so general that the aggregate product should not suffice — perhaps with some scrimping and some hardship — for the aggregate want. A semi-barbarous nation in the far East, or the population of a little island separated by thousands of sea-miles from any continent, may suffer from a famine, properly so called, before the arm of Christian Europe or America can be stretched out to the rescue. But no civilized nation, either in the Old or New World, whatever the Malthusians may say to alarm them, ever fear an absolute deficiency of food; its fields may be unfruitful for a single season; but in such case, it looks with well-founded confidence to its neighbors, and even to remote parts of the earth, for a supply. In 1847, the bounty of Providence to the British Isles did not fail; ship-loads of corn were turned away from their shores for want of a market. The granaries of the two islands were filled to overflowing, not indeed from the products of their own harvests, but from the immense supplies poured into them by our ever-teeming land. Flour and meal became a drug in the English market before a sheaf of that year's wheat was cut, and many dealers in grain were bankrupted by the consequent sudden reduction of prices. If the stock of provisions had been equally distributed among the people, not a man, woman, or child among them would have suffered from famine for a single hour. The fate of the Irish and Scotch appeared the more terrible, because they starved in the midst of plenty. They died, not because the fields were cursed with barrenness, but because they had not wherewithal to buy food. The price of breadstuff's did not become more than double its average in ordinary years, did not rise so high by one third as in 1800 and 1801; and in those years, though there was scarcity, there was no famine; the sufferings of the poor were increased, but there was no general starvation. The year 1847 witnessed a frightful anomaly, which will long be remembered as a disgrace to modern civilization, — a famine of which poverty was almost the sole cause.
A fallacy pervades the whole reasoning of the Malthusians on the relation of the supply of food to the growth of the population. More grain is raised because there are more men who need it, and not more men are raised because there is more grain to feed them with. Procreation is not stopped because there is no more grain, since misery and the peril of starvation only make men reckless, and cause them to multiply faster. But agriculture is stopped when there are no more mouths calling for food; a cessation of demand causes a cessation of supply here, because the husbandman is looking only for pecuniary gain. But in the case of population, a want of demand does not occasion a want of supply; since men are urged by their natural inclinations, and not by the state of the children-market, or by the desire of profit. They do not always marry because they want children, but because they want a wife. It is true, that the call for more food, which is created by an excess of numbers, will not be an effectual calling, unless the people have the means to purchase it with; — but these they will never lack, if the wealth of the country is distributed according to the natural course of things, — that is, in exact proportion to the increase of each family, all the children sharing alike. At any rate, if the demand be rendered ineffectual from this cause, the real evil, the real check upon the population, is not the insufficient supply of food, but the want of property. Turn the matter as we may, it is not the niggardliness of nature which is the source of misery, but the devices of man and the injustice of the laws.
I have endeavored to prove, that in the most thickly populated country on earth, the number of the people is yet very far within the limit of the subsistence which the land is capable of affording, even if we look only to the capacities of their own soil, and not to the immeasurable supplies which their wealth and commerce might pour in upon them from other shores. Still further, I do not believe there is any danger that mankind, even in the lapse of future centuries, will ever multiply up to the limit which the terraqueous globe is able to contain and nourish. To adopt the favorite metaphor of the Malthusians, the weights which are now actually keeping down the spring of population — that spring which they think is always ready to fly up with the full force of a "geometrical progression"— are war, vice, unnecessary or curable disease, ignorance, idleness, bad habits, bad government, and inequality of wealth fostered by bad laws. Remove these, one by one, or in a mass, and there will be room for an almost indefinite expansion of the compressed force, and a consequent in