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that in a good sanitary condition of the people, each generation may be double the number of the generation which preceded it.
Twenty or thirty years ago, these propositions might still have required considerable enforcement and illustration; but the evidence of them is so ample and incontestable, that they have made their way against all kinds of opposition, and may now be regarded as axiomatic; although the extreme reluctance felt to admitting them, every now and then gives birth to some ephemeral theory, speedily forgotten, of a different law of increase in different circumstances, though a providential adaptation of the fecundity of the human species to the exigencies of society. The obstacle to a just understanding of the subject does not arise from these theories, but from too confused a notion of the causes which, at most times and places, keep the actual increase of mankind so far behind the capacity.
$ 3. Those causes, nevertheless, are in no way mysterious. What prevents the population of hares and rabbits from overstocking the earth? Not want of fecundity, but causes very different; many enemies, and insufficient subsistence; not enough to eat, and liability to be eaten. In the human race, which is not generally subject to the latter inconvenience, the equivalents for it are war and disease. If the multiplication of mankind proceeded, like that of the other animals, from a blind instinct, it would be limited in the same manner with theirs; the births would be as numerous as the physical constitution of the species admitted of, and the population would be kept down by deaths. But the conduct of human creatures is everywhere more or less influenced by foresight of consequences, and by some impulses superior to mere animal instincts; and they do not, therefore, propagate like swine, but are capable, though in very unequal degrees, of being withheld by prudence, or by
the social affections, from giving existence to beings born only to misery and premature death. In proportion as mankind rise above the condition of the beasts, population is restrained by the fear of want, rather than by want itself. Even where there is no question of starvation, most persons are similarly acted upon by the apprehension of losing what have come to be regarded as the decencies of their situation in life. Hitherto no other motives than these two have been found strong enough, in the generality of mankind, to counteract the tendency to increase. It has been the practice of a great majority of the middle and the poorer classes, whenever free from external control, to marry as early, and in most countries to have as many children, as was consistent with maintaining themselves in the condition of life which they were born to, or were accustomed to consider as theirs. Among the middle classes, in many individual instances, there is an additional restraint exercised from the desire of doing more than maintaining their circumstances
-of improving them ; but such a desire is rarely found, or rarely has that effect, in the laboring classes. If they can bring up a family as they were themselves brought up, even the prudent among them are usually satisfied. Too often they do not think even of that, but rely on fortune, or on the resources to be found in legal or voluntary charity.
In a very backward state of society, like that of Europe in the middle ages, and many parts of Asia at present, population is kept down by actual starvation. The starvation does not take place in ordinary years, but in seasons of scarcity, which in those states of society are much more frequent and more extreme than Europe is now accustomed to. In these seasons actual want, or the maladies consequent on it, carry off numbers of the population, which in a succession of favorable years again expands, to be again cruelly decimated. In a more improved state, few, even among the poorest of the people, are limited to absolute
necessaries, and to a bare sufficiency of those; and the increase is kept within bounds, not by excess of deaths, but by limitation of births. The limitation is brought about in various ways. In some countries, it is the result of prudent or conscientious self-restraint. There is a condition to which the laboring people are habituated; they perceive that by having too numerous families, they must sink below that condition, or fail to transmit it to their children ; and this they do not choose to submit to. The countries in which, so far as is known, a great degree of voluntary prudence has been longest practiced on this subject, are Norway and parts of Switzerland. Concerning both, there happens to be unusually authentic information; many facts were carefully brought together by Mr. Malthus, and much additional evidence has been obtained since his time. In both these countries the increase of population is very slow; and, what checks it, is not multitude of deaths but fewness of births. Both the births and the deaths are remarkably few in proportion to the population; the average duration of life is the longest in Europe; the population contains fewer children, and a greater proportional number of persons in the vigor of life, than is known to be the case in any other part of the world. The paucity of births tends directly to prolong life, by keeping the people in comfortaable circumstances; and the same prudence is doubtless exercised in avoiding causes of disease, as in keeping clear of the principal cause of poverty. It is worthy of remark that the two countries thus honorably distinguished, are countries of small landed proprietors.
There are other cases in which the prudence and forethought, which perhaps might not be exercised by the people themselves, are exercised by the state for their benefit; marriage not being permitted until the contracting parties can show that they have the prospect of a comfortable support. Under these laws, of which I shall speak more fully VOL. I.
hereafter, the condition of the people is reported to be good, and the illegitimate births not so numerous as might be expected. There are places, again, in which the restraining cause seems to be not so much individual prudence, as some general and perhaps even accidental habit of the country. In the rural districts of England, during the last century, the growth of population was very effectually repressed by the difficulty of obtaining a cottage to live in. It was the custom for unmarried laborers to lodge and board with their employers; it was the custom for married laborers to have a cottage : and the rule of the English poor laws by which a parish was charged with the support of its unemployed poor, rendered land-owners averse to promote marriage. About the end of the century, the great demand for men in war and manufactures, made it be thought a patriotic thing to encourage population; and about the same time the growing inclination of farmers to live like rich people, favored as it was by a long period of high prices, made them desirous of keeping inferiors at a greater distance, and, pecuniary motives arising from abuses of the poor laws being superadded, they gradually drove their laborers into cottages, which the landlords now no longer refused permission to build. In some countries, an old standing custom that a girl should not marry until she had spun and woven for herself an ample trousseau, is said to have acted as a substantial check to population. In England at present, the influence of prudence in keeping down multiplication is seen by the diminished number of marriages in the manufacturing districts in years when trade is bad.
But whatever be the causes by which population is anywhere limited to a comparatively slow rate of increase, there is always an immense residuary power behind, ready to start into activity as soon as the pressure which restrained it is taken off. It is but rarely that improvements in the condi
tion of the laboring classes do anything more than give a temporary margin, speedily filled up by an increase of their numbers. The use they commonly choose to make of any advantageous change in their circumstances, is to take it out in the form which, by augmenting the population, deprives the succeeding generation of the benefit. Unless their idea and their habitual standard of comfortable living can be raised, nothing permanent can be done for them; the most promising schemes end only in having a more numerous, but not a happier people. By their habitual standard, I mean that down to which they will multiply, but not lower. Every advance they make in education, civilization, and social improvement, tends to raise this standard ; and there 18 no doubt that it is gradually, though slowly, rising in the more advanced countries of Western Europe. Subsistence and employment in England have never increased more rapidly than in the last sixteen years; but the census of 1811 showed a smaller proportional increase of population than that of 1831; and the produce of French agriculture and industry is increasing in a progressive ratio, while the population exhibits, in every quinquennial census, a smaller proportion of births to the population.
The subject however of population, in its connection with the condition of the laboring classes, will be considered in another place; in the present we have to do with it solely as one of the elements of Production ; and in that character we could not dispense with pointing out the unlimited exdent of its natural powers of increase, and the causes owing to which so small a portion of that unlimited power is for the most part actually exercised. After this brief indication, ve shall proceed to the other elements.