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crease of human happiness, before the ultimate check, which may be considered as a weight hanging much higher up, can come into action through the absolute inability of the earth to contain and support more. In truth, it is demonstrable both from reason and experience, that population never can rise to the point where it will meet this last and insuperable obstacle. Among the lower weights to be first removed are ignorance, vice, bad government, and a virtual division of society into castes through unnatural yet fixed inequalities of wealth and condition. Take away these, and you remove along with them the widely spread misery which they foster, and which is the great cause why the population multiplies unduly, or under circumstances that are not fitted for it, because such hopeless misery renders men imprudent and reckless, and leads them to burden themselves with a family, though they are already starving, because they cannot be worse off, and there is no hope of improving their estate. To adopt the phraseology of Mr. Malthus, take away the "positive check," and the "preventive check" will come into play of its own accord, — will come into play naturally, inevitably, and without compulsion, — not as the consequence of a theory, but as the easy, beneficent, and necessary result of the laws of nature and nature's God. Whatever tends to keep men hopelessly poor is a direct encouragement, the strongest of all incentives, to an increase of population. Take away the causes of misery, remove the insurmountable barriers which now keep the various classes of European society apart, and educate the people, and there will be no fears of an excess of numbers. Take away the lower weights which keep down the spring, and it will never rise high enough to meet the upper one. The bounty and the wisdom of Providence never fail. It is not the excess of population which causes the misery, but the misery which causes the excess of population.
Dr. Whately, with great acuteness, has traced the erroneous conclusions of Malthus to an ambiguity in the meaning of a word. "By a 'tendency' towards a certain result, is sometimes meant the existence of a cause which, operating unimpeded, would produce that result. In this sense it may be said with truth, that the earth, or any other body moving round a centre, has a tendency to fly off at a tangent; that is, the centrifugal force operates in that direction, though it is controlled by the centripetal: or, again, that man has a greater tendency to fall prostrate than to stand erect; that is, the attraction of gravitation and the position of the centre of gravity are such, that the least breath of air would overset him, but for the voluntary exertion of muscular force: and again, that population has a tendency to increase beyond subsistence; that is, there are in man propensities which, if unrestrained, lead to that result.
"But sometimes, again, < a tendency towards a certain result' is understood to mean 'the existence of such a state of things that that result may be expected to take place.' Now it is in these two senses that the word is used in the two premises of the argument in question. But in this latter sense, the earth has a greater tendency to remain in its orbit than to fly off from it; man has a greater tendency to stand erect than to fall prostrate; and, (as may be proved by comparing a more barbarous with a more civilized period in the history of any country,) in the progress of society, subsistence has a tendency to increase at a greater rate than population. In this country [Great Britain], for instance, much as our population has increased within the last five centuries, it yet bears a far less ratio to subsistence (though still a much greater than could be wished) than it did five hundred years ago.5'
It is of this ambiguous meaning of the word tendency, that the Malthusians avail themselves, first, when they are pressed by argument and by the statement of facts which are irreconcilable with their hypothesis, and, secondly, when they wish to apply that hypothesis to the explanation of social phenomena at the present day. In the former case, they intrench themselves in a naked statement of the fact, common alike to the animal and the vegetable kingdoms, that each species tends to multiply itself according to the terms of a geometrical progression, doubling itself in as short a time, anci with as much ease, whether the number of individuals in the species be ten, or ten millions ; — a statement which no one will think of impugning, though it affords no more ground of alarm than the kindred statement, that the earth has a tendency to fly off from its orbit at a tangent, or that man tends to fall prostrate. No sane person expects, in either of these cases, that the tendency will be carried out, or practically exemplified. Bat in the second instance, when left to themselves, in their attempt to educe from their doctrine an explanation of the misery of the working classes in Great Britain and Ireland, and of the causes of the depression of wages, the Malthusians use the word tendency to denote "such a state of things that the result (overpopulation and consequent misery) may be either immediately expected, or declared to have already taken place."
In this last case, they may be met by the counter statement that there is no such tendency, — that is, no instance can be adduced in which the privations or the misery of a people may be fairly attributed to their numbers having outgrown their supply of food. History does not furnish one; reason and religion alike declare such an event to be impossible. In truth, the population of the whole earth has increased very slowly, some tribes, races, and nations wasting away, while others flourish and multiply; and the excess of the increase in the latter case over the diminution in the former one is an almost inappreciable quantity, when compared with the whole number of mankind. It would be difficult to prove that the world is more populous now than it was a hundred years ago; the Europeans, it is true, are considerably more numerous; but the Asiatics and Africans have probably diminished in number, and the native tribes of America — once reckoned at sixteen millions in only the northern half of the continent — have almost entirely dwindled away. It is certain that the earth is not yet peopled up to the hundredth part of the number which it might supply with abundant food; and judging from the past only, or from what experience, our only safe teacher on such a subject, declares to be probable, its population could not multiply a hundred-fold in less than thousands of years.
The Malthusian is certainly bound to maintain, that the number of mankind is now considerably greater than it was in the middle of the ninth century. But he will not venture to assert that they are now less abundantly supplied with food. Nay, he will be obliged to admit, that the countries in which the population has advanced most rapidly are precisely those which are now most abundantly supplied with the necessaries of life. Practically, then, the experience of the last thousand years has proved, that subsistence has a "tendency" to outrun population, which is just the reverse of the proposition of Malthus. Thus it must always be, so long as the earth yields much less than it is capable of producing; for, in this case, all that is needed to develop its latent capacities is an additional number of hands to be devoted to agriculture, each one of whom must produce more than is necessary for his own sustenance, and must thus increase the surplus of necessaries which are seeking for a market. I have already endeavored to prove that the agricultural population of this country — which embraces two thirds of the freemen, and, if the slaves be added, more than three fourths of the whole number — is excessive; that the surplus of grain and other produce of the earth remaining for exportation is consequently too great, and its price abroad is unreasonably diminished; that a greater value in commodities might be obtained for a smaller quantity sent abroad; and that the persons thus set free from the cultivation of the earth might be more profitably employed in manufactures, in which the whole product of their toil, which, as skilled labor, would command a higher recompense, would be an addition to the present stock of national wealth.
THE PRINCIPLES WHICH REGULATE THE GROWTH OF POPULATION.
Having briefly considered the doctrine of Malthus, I propose in this chapter to examine the true theory of population, to inquire into the circumstances which govern its increase and distribution. The true law of the increase of numbers in a civilized society is not hard to find, though it is difficult to express all the modifications that it undergoes from a, change of circumstances. The consideration which affects most strongly the inclination of people to labor and to save, and thus furnishes the chief stimulus for the accumulation of capital, also regulates in a great degree their tendency to increase in number. It is natural that it should be so; other things being equal, a man's condition as married or single, and the size of his family, are decisive of his worldly fortune. If his ambition is awakened by a fair prospect of the attainment of riches and consequent advancement in society,- he will become prudent not only in his expenditures, but in contracting any relations which may become a burden to him, — which may impede his efforts to rise, and may even tend to depress him in the world. In a normal state, then, the inclination of people to marry is controlled by their opinion of the effect which marriage will have upon their position in life. If they have no fears that the additional expense thus incurred will sink them to a lower rank in society, or interfere with their hopes of rising in the world, they will follow the impulse of natural affection and desire.
The eldest son in a wealthy family, where the right of primogeniture prevails, will marry because his future is secure; whatever may happen, a fortune is secured to him beyond the effects even of his own imprudence. The miserable laborers on his estate, who do not taste meat more than once in a month, will marry because their future is secured in another way: they have touched bottom; nothing can sink them in the world, and no degree of prudence or self-denial can ever raise them above a laborer's estate. Their unhappy children, it is true, may starve, or die of diseases induced by insufficient or improper food; and if the theory of Malthus were true, this consideration would often operate to deter them from marriage, for they are the only class who may be said to have the fear of starvation directly before their eyes. But excessive misery creates recklessness and despair; they who have no hope or fear, cannot be expected to deny themselves the only gleam of comfort or alleviation of wretchedness of which their miserable state is capable.
The younger sons in noble or wealthy families, if the patrimony falls exclusively to the eldest, generally remain single, or marry late in life, as an early connection of this sort would be certain degradation; at any rate, they could not maintain the style of living to which they have been brought up. As the marriage of only one person out of a family cannot do more than keep up the number in the class to which they belong, and often may not effect even that, these families constantly