Зображення сторінки

tend to die out; and if it were not for promotions to their rank from the middle classes, the upper orders of society would gradually disappear. Of the 216 Barons who now sit in the English House of Lords, the peerage of all but 30 has been created since 1711; and 127, or considerably more than half of the whole number, have been admitted to the peerage since 1800. Royal families are still more prone to die out than the families of noblemen; from the line of succession to the English throne, the families of the Plantagenets, the Tudors, and the Stuarts have already disappeared; and the house of Brunswick, saving that branch of it the title of which is transmitted through a female, exists by a very slender tie, and will probably soon be extinct. George III. had seven sons, four of whom died without issue admitted to be legitimate by English law; and the three who married and had issue, left but five children in all, only two of whom are sons. The history of several other royal families in Europe is of a similar character; but the principle is, perhaps, most strikingly exemplified among the landed gentry of England, whose continued and increasing opulence is chiefly to be attributed to this cause; for the diminution of their numbers, of course, tends to the concentration of their estates.

In the intermediate conditions of life, the frequency of marriages still depends on the same rule, though its operation is affected by the general circumstances of the country, and by the particular position of individuals. In a newly settled region, children are a help to the parents' advancement, because labor is so valuable; hence the rapid advance of population in the frontier States of our own Union, an advance which immigration alone does not account for, though a considerable part of it is certainly attributable to this latter cause. In a more thickly populated country, children are a hinderance, from the difficulty of establishing them in an equal position of life with their parents. But even in this case, those who are in easy circumstances will marry, while those who can but just maintain themselves in the condition of life in which they were born will often remain single. This last case is that of the peasantry of many countries of Continental Europe, who cultivate their own little farms, and are perpetually admonished by the moderate size of their properties, that any increase of their number must lead, not indeed to starvation, but to the forfeiture of their position as land-owners.

Thus, in Switzerland, which is, in the main, a country of small proprietors, the population increases so slowly, that, at its present rate, it is estimated that it would not double itself in less than 227 years. In France, where also the land is cut up into very small estates, but where the peasantry are less prudent, less disposed to make calculations respecting the future, than the Swiss, the estimated period of duplication varies from 115 to 138 years. "Denmark," says Mr. Laing, "being altogether agricultural, not manufacturing, except for the home use of her own agricultural consumers, her population increases very slowly, and keeps very far behind the means of subsistence from the products of the soil. She is a living evidence of the falsity of the theory, that population increases more rapidly than subsistence where the land of a country is held by small working proprietors. There are large estates and small all over the country, estates of noblemen and gentlemen, and estates of peasant proprietors. The greater part of the land of Denmark is in the hands of the latter class. As a class, they are wealthy."

The general effect in the Old "World, then, may be thus

stated, — that the numbers of the poor increase most rapidly, of

the middle classes more slowly, and of the upper or wealthier

ones, either not at all, or by a fraction so small that the effect

would hardly be perceptible. This is strikingly illustrated in

Sweden, where the census and the registration of births,

deaths, and marriages are taken with reference to the division

of the people into three classes. The official returns for 1835

give the following results. The yearly excess of births over

deaths among the persons reckoned as belonging to the class

of the nobility was only one for every 1,508. For those who

are described as "persons of property and station," the yearly

excess was one for every 640; while for the peasantry it was

one for every 107. In other words, the rate of increase for the

peasantry is nearly six times greater than that of the middle

class, and over fourteen times greater than that of the nobles.

Among the nobility, 13 per cent of the married males were but

twenty-five years of age, or under; among the peasantry, 37

per cent were married at this early age. In wretched Ireland, more than one half of the males who are over seventeen years of age are married. Thus do the laws of nature itself operate against a permanent or hereditary aristocracy.

If we compare different countries with each other, we still find, in every case, that the lowest classes increase most rapidly, and that the rate of increase diminishes as we ascend in the social scale. But we also observe, that this law becomes more prominent and conspicuous, according as these social distinctions are more fixed and unalterable, — that is, as they approach the nature of castes; and also, it becomes more marked in proportion to the degree of poverty and -wretchedness of the lowest class. Thus, we can discern the operation of the law even in this country, where it is matter of common observation, that laborers, mechanics, small tradesmen, and farmers generally marry at an early age, and have large families; while educated men, members of the professions, and sons of wealthy parents often defer " establishing themselves in life," as the phrase goes, till a comparatively late period. But owing to the general well-being of all classes here, and to the frequency and rapidity of transitions from one class to another, these differences are less obvious than in the Old World. Population here generally advances in a broad wave, coming from all divisions of society. But that the "preventive check" is not inoperative here in the United States, with all our advantages of broad and fertile territories, appears from the fact brought to light by the registration act in Massachusetts, that the average age of males at the time of first marriage here is twentyfive years and nearly nine months, while in England it is but twenty-five years and a little over five months. The average age of all the males who contracted marriages in Massachusetts during the four years 1844-48, (either first or subsequent marriages,) was 28.27 years; the average age of all the males marrying in England was 27.30; so it appears that Englishmen marry, on an average, when about one year younger than the men who marry in Massachusetts. Of all the males who married in Massachusetts, only 1.6 per cent were under 20 years of age; in England, 2.6 per cent married at this early age. Obviously, then, if females did not marry here at an earlier age than in England, and if marriages were not more general and more fruitful, our population would not advance more rapidly than the English population; and in fact, we find from the registration returns, that females in Massachusetts are married two years earlier than females in the mother country.

In France, where the land is minutely divided, and the peasantry are vastly better off than in England, but where each person is far more strongly chained to that class of society in which he is born than is the case in the United States, the rate of increase of the population, for ten years, is only 5 per cent, while in England it is 15 per cent, and in Connaught, the sink of Irish misery and degradation, from 1821 to 1831, it was as high as 22 per cent. In the province of Ulster, the rate is 14, while in the county of Donegal, it rises to 20 per cent. "And this is precisely the county which official reports represent as forming an exception to the general condition of Presbyterian Ulster, and affording an instance of poverty little less extreme than that of Connaught. In the latter province, we find Galway and Mayo, notoriously the two most destitute counties, exhibiting, the one an increase of 27, and the other of 25 per cent." This rate, it may be remarked, is rather higher than the rate of increase, excluding the effects of immigration, in the United States; so that the two extremes, of general misery and of general well-being, produce very nearly the same effect on the movement of the population, — a fact utterly irreconcilable with the theory of Malthus.

The probable result for our own country may now be very clearly seen. So long as land continues abundant and cheap, and the wages of labor high, so long the population will continue to increase with great rapidity. Barbarous tribes will die out before its advancing wave, and the desert will be peopled. But as the country fills up, and the wages of labor fall, it will become more difficult to rise from one class of society to another, and the rate of increase will diminish. When the land becomes as thickly settled as Belgium now is, — a result which centuries will be required to accomplish, — the population will advance as slowly as it now does in Belgium. I see nothing in this prospect which need alarm even those who are most apt to be apprehensive of the future. I see no signs of what the Malthusians most dread, — the over-population of the earth.

Mr. Senior has very happily illustrated the truth, that the preventive cheek upon marriages is the fear, not of lacking the necessaries of life, or of positive starvation, but of being deprived of those comforts and enjoyments, of falling below that scale of expenditure, which custom has marked out as appropriate for every condition in life, or every rank in the social scale. Hence it is, that in countries abundantly supplied with food and other mere necessaries of life, population often advances more slowly than in more populous lands, where poverty prevails, and large classes of the people are subject to severe privations. I borrow the whole passage from Mr. Senior, though it is of considerable length, as it gives a clear statement of some useful distinctions.

"Though an apprehended deficiency of some of the articles of wealth is substantially the only preventive check to the increase of population, it is obvious that fear of the want of different articles operates, with all men, very differently; and even that an apprehended want of the same article will affect differently the minds of the individuals of different classes. An apprehended want of corn would produce on the minds of all Englishmen a very different effect from an apprehended want of silk. An apprehended want of butcher's meat would affect very differently the minds of Englishmen of different classes. It appears to us, therefore, convenient to divide for this purpose the articles of wealth into the three great classes of Necessaries, Decencies, and Luxuries, and to explain the different effects produced by the fear of the want of the articles of wealth falling under each class. We must begin, however, by stating, as precisely as we can, what we mean by the words Necessaries, Decencies, and Luxuries; terms which have been used ever since the moral sciences first attracted attention, but with little attention to precision as to consistent use.

"It is scarcely necessary to remind our readers that these are relative terms, and that some person must always be assigned with reference to whom a given commodity or service is a Luxury, a Decency, or a Necessary.

"By Necessaries, then, we express those things, the use of which is requisite to keep a given individual in the health and strength essential to his going through his habitual occupations.

"By Decencies, we express those things which a given indi

« НазадПродовжити »