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their brute instincts without due consideration. But society is possible, precisely because man is not necessarily a brute. Civilization in every one of its aspects is a struggle against the animal instincts. Over some even of the strongest of them, it has shown itself capable of acquiring abundant control. It has artificialized large portions of mankind to such an extent, that of many of their most natural inclinations they have scarcely a vestige or a remembrance left. If it: has not brought the instinct of population under as much restraint as is needful, we must remember that it has never seriously tried. What efforts it has made, have mostly been in the contrary direction. Religion, morality, and statesmanship have vied with one another in incitements to marriage, and to the multiplication of the species, so it be but in wedlock. Religion has not even yet discontinued its encouragements. The Roman Catholic clergy (of any other clergy it is unnecessary to speak, since no other have any considerable influence over the poorer classes) everywhere think it their duty to promote marriage, in order to prevent fornication. There is still in many minds a strong religious prejudice against the true doctrine. The rich, provided the consequences do not touch themselves, think it impugns the wisdom of Providence to suppose that misery can result from the operation of a natural propensity; the poor think that “God never sends mouths but he sends meat.” No one would guess from the language of either, that man had any voice or choice in the matter. So complete is the confusion of ideas on the whole subject, owing in a great degree to the mystery in which it is shrouded by a spurious delicacy, which prefers that right and wrong should be mismeasured and confounded on one of the subjects most momentous to human welfare, rather than that the subject should be freely spoken of and discussed. People are little aware of the cost to mankind of this scrupulosity of speech. The diseases of society can, no more than
corporal maladies, be prevented or cured without being spoken about in plain language. All experience shows that the mass of mankind never judge of moral questions for themselves, never see anything to be right or wrong until they have been frequently told it; and who tells them that they have any duties in the matter in question, while they keep within matrimonial limits? Who meets with the smallest condemnation, or rather, who does not meet with sympathy and benevolence, for any amount of evil which he may have brought upon himself and those dependent upon him, by this species of incontinence ? While a man who is intemperate in drink, is discountenanced and despised by all who profess to be moral people, is it not to this hour the favorite recommendation for any parochial office bestowed by popular election, to have a large family and to be unable to maintain them? Do not the candidates placard their intemperance on walls, and publish it through the town in circulars ? .
One cannot wonder that silence on this great department of human duty should produce unconsciousness of moral obligations, when it produces oblivion of physical facts:
That it is possible to delay marriage, and to live in abstinence while unmarried, most people are willing to allow ; but when persons are once married, the idea, in this country, never seems to enter any one's mind that having or not having a family, or the number of which it shall consist, is at all amenable to their own control. One would imagine that children were rained down upon married people, direct from heaven, without their being art or part in the matter; that it was really, as the common phrases have it, God's will, and not their own, which decided the numbers of their offspring. Let us see what is a continental philosopher's opinion on this point; a man among the most benevolent of his time, and the happiness of whose married life has been celebrated.
“ Lorsque des préjugés dangereux," says Sismondi,* "ne sont point accrédités, lorsqu'une morale contraire à nos vrais devoirs envers les autres et surtout envers les créatures qui nous doivent la vie, n'est point enseignée au nom de l'autorité la plus sacrée, aucun homme sage ne se marie avant de se trouver dans une condition qui lui donne un moyen assuré de vivre ; aucun père de famille n'a plus d'enfans qu'il n'en peut convenablement élever. Ce dernier compte à bon droit que ses enfans devront se contenter du sort dans lequel il a vécu; aussi doit-il désirer que la génération naissante représente exactement celle qui s'en va; qu’un fils et une fille arrivés à l'âge nubile remplacent son père et sa mère ; que les enfans de ses enfans le remplacent à son tour avec sa femme ; que sa fille trouve dans une autre maison, précisément le sort qu'il donnera à la fille d'une autre maison dans la sienne, et que le revenu qui suffisait aux pères suffise aux enfans.” In a country increasing in wealth something more than this would be allowable, but that is a question of detail, not of principle. “ Une fois que cette famille est formée, la justice et l'humanité exigent qu'il s'impose la même contrainte à laquelle se soumettent les célibataires. Lorsqu'on voit combien est petit, en tout pays, le nombre des enfans naturels, on doit reconnaître que cette contrainte est suffisamment efficace. Dans un pays où la population ne peut pas s'accroître, ou du moins dans lequel son progrès doit être si lent qu'il soit à peine perceptible, quand il n'y a point de places nouvelles pour de nouveaux établissemens, un père qui a huit enfans doit compter, ou que six de ses enfans mourront en bas âge, ou que trois de ses contemporains et trois de ses contemporaines, et dans la génération suivante, trois de ses fils et trois de ses filles ne se marieront pas à cause de lui.”
* Nouveaux Principes, liv. vii. ch. 6.
§ 2. Those who think it hopeless that the laboring classes should be induced to practice a sufficient degree of prudence in regard to the increase of their families, because they have hitherto stopt short of that point, show an inability to estimate the ordinary principles of human action. Nothing more would probably be necessary to secure that result, than an opinion generally diffused that it was desirable. As a moral principle, such an opinion has never yet existed in any country; it is curious that it does not so exist in countries in which, from the spontaneous operation of individual forethought, population is, comparatively speaking, efficiently repressed. What is practised as prudence, is still not recognized as duty; the talkers and writers are mostly on the other side, even in France, where a sentimental horror of Malthus is almost as rife as in this country. Many causes may be assigned, beside the modern date of the doctrine, for its not having yet gained possession of the general mind. Its truth has, in some respects, been its detriment. Ove may be permitted to doubt whether, except among the poor themselves (for whose prejudices on this subject there is no difficulty in accounting) there has ever yet been, in any class of society, a sincere and earnest desire that wages should be high. There has been plenty of desire to keep down the poor rate ; but, that done, people have been very willing that the working classes should be ill off. Nearly all who are not laborers themselves, are employers of labor, and are not sorry to get the commodity cheap. It is a fact, that even Boards of Guardians, who are supposed to be official apostles of anti-population doctries, will seldom hear patiently of anything which they arm pleased to designate as Malthusianism. Boards of Guardians principally consist of farmers, and farmers, it is well known, in general dislike even allotments, as making the laborers "too independent." From the gentry, who are in less immediate contact and collision of interest with the VOL. I.
laborers, better things might be expected, and the gentry of England are usually charitable. But charitable people have human infirmities, and would, very often, be secretly not a little dissatisfied if no one needed their charity; it is from them one oftenest hears the base doctrine, that God has decreed there shall always be poor. When one adds to this, that nearly every person who has had in him any active spring of exertion for a social object, has had some favorite reform to effect, which he thought the admission of this great principle would throw into the shade; has had corn laws to repeal, or taxation to reduce, or small notes to issue, or the charter to carry, or the church and the aristocracy to pull down, and looked upon every one as an enemy who thought anything important except his object; it is scarcely wonderful that since the population doctrine was first promulgated, nine tenths of the talk has always been against it, and the remaining tenth only audible at intervals; and that it has not yet penetrated far among those who might be expected to be the least willing recipients of it, the laborers themselves.
But let us try to imagine what would happen if the idea became general among the laboring class, that the competition of too great numbers was the principal cause of their poverty; so that every laborer looked (with Sismondi) upon every other who had more than the number of children which the circumstances of society allowed to each, as doing him a wrong--as filling up the place which he was entitled to share—as helping to prevent him from haring the number of children who would not be a burden but an advantage to him. Any one who supposes that this state of opinion would not have a great effect on conduct, must be profoundly ignorant of human nature; can never have considered how large a portion of the motives which induce the generality of men to take care even of their own interest, is derived from regard for opinion, from the expec