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back the decline of the productive power of labour by a certain distance: but in the one case as in the other, it immediately resumes its course; the tide which has receded, instantly begins to re-advance. It might seem, indeed, that when a country draws its supply of food from so wide a surface as the whole habitable globe, so little impression can be produced on that great expanse by any increase of mouths in one small corner of it, that the inhabitants of the country may double and treble their numbers, without feeling the effect in any increased tension of the springs of production, or any enhancement of the price of food throughout the world. But in this calculation several things are overlooked.
In the first place, the foreign regions from which corn can be imported do not comprise the whole globe, but those parts of it principally which are in the immediate neighbourhood of coasts or navigable rivers. The coast is the part of most countries which is earliest and most thickly peopled, and has seldom any food to spare. The chief source of supply, therefore, is the strip of country along the banks of some navigable river, as the Nile, the Vistula, or the Mississippi; and of such there is not, in the productive regions of the earth, so great a multitude as to suffice during an indefinite time for a rapidly growing demand, without an increasing strain on the productive powers of the soil. To obtain auxiliary supplies of corn from the interior in any abundance, is, in the existing state of the communications , in most cases impracticable. By improved roads, and by canals and railways, the obstacle will eventually be so reduced as not to be insuperable: but this is a slow progress; in all the food-exporting countries except America, a very slow progress; and one which cannot keep pace with population, unless the increase of the last'is very effectually restrained.
In the next place, even if the supply were drawn from the whole instead of a small part of the surface of the exporting countries, the quantity of food would still be limited, which could be obtained from them without an increase of the proportional cost. The countries which export food may be divided into two classes; those in which the effective desire of accumulation is strong, and those in which it is weak. In Australia and the United States of America, the effective desire of accumulation is strong; capital increases fast, and the production of food might be very rapidly extended. But in such countries population also increases with extraordinary rapidity. Their agriculture has to provide for their own expanding numbers, as well as for those of the importing countries. They must, therefore, from the nature of the case, be rapidly driven if not to less fertile, at least what is equivalent, to remoter and less accessible lands, and to modes of cultivation like those of old countries, less productive in proportion to the labour and expense.
But the countries which have at the same time cheap food and great industrial prosperity are few, being only those in which the arts of civilized life have been transferred full-grown to a rich and uncultivated soil. Among old countries, those which are able to export food, are able only because their industry is in a very backward state; because capital, and hence population, have never increased sufficiently to make food rise to a higher price. Such countries are  Russia, Poland, and the plains of the Danube. In those regions the effective desire of accumulation is weak, the arts of production most imperfect, capital scanty, and its increase, especially from domestic sources, slow. When an increased demand arose for food to be exported to other countries, it would only be very gradually that food could be produced to meet it. The capital needed could not be obtained by transfer from other employments, for such do not exist. The cottons or hardware which would be received from England in exchange for corn, the Russians and Poles do not now produce in the country: they go without them. Something might in time be expected from the increased exertions to which producers would be stimulated by the market opened for their produce; but to such increase of exertion, the habits of countries whose agricultural population consists of serfs, or of peasants who have but just emerged from a servile condition, are the reverse of favourable, and even in this age of movement these habits do not rapidly change. If a greater outlay of capital is relied on as the source from which the produce is to be increased, the means must either be obtained by the slow process of saving, under the impulse given by new commodities and more extended intercourse (and in that case the population would most likely increase as fast), or must be brought in from foreign countries. If England is to obtain a rapidly increasing supply of corn from Russia or Poland, English capital must go there to produce it. This, however, is attended with so many difficulties, as are equivalent to great positive disadvantages. It is opposed by differences of language, differences of manners, and a thousand obstacles arising from the institutions and social relations of the country; and after all it would inevitably so stimulate population on the spot, that nearly all the increase of food produced by its means would probably be consumed without leaving the country: so that, if it were not the almost only mode of introducing foreign arts and ideas, and giving an effectual spur to the backward civilization of those countries, little reliance could be placed on it for increasing the exports, and supplying other countries with a progressive and indefinite increase of food. But to improve the civilization of a country is a slow process, and gives time for so great an increase of population both in the country itself, and in those supplied from it, that its effect in keeping down the price of food against the increase of demand is not likely to be more decisive on the scale of all Europe, than on the smaller one of a particular nation.
The law, therefore, of diminishing return to industry, whenever population makes a more rapid progress than improvement, is not solely applicable to countries which are fed from their own soil, but in substance applies quite as much to those which are willing to draw their food from any accessible quarter that can afford it cheapest. A sudden and great cheapening of food, indeed, in whatever manner produced, would, like any other sudden improvement in the arts of life, throw the natural tendency of affairs a stage or two further back, though without altering its course.1 There is one contingency connected with freedom of importation, which may yet produce temporary effects greater than were ever contemplated either by the bitterest enemies or the most ardent adherents of free-trade in food. Maize, or Indian corn, is a product capable of being supplied in quantity sufficient to feed the whole country, at a cost, allowing for difference of nutritive quality, cheaper even than the potato. If maize should ever substitute itself for wheat as the staple food of the poor, the productive power of labour in obtaining food would be so
1 [This one sentence replaced in the 3rd ed. (1852) the following passage of the original text: "If, indeed, the release of the corn trade from restriction had produced, or should still produce, a sudden cheapening of food, this, like any other sudden improvement in the arts of life, would throw the natural tendency of affairs a stage or two further back, but without at all altering its course. There would be more for everybody in the first instance; but this more would begin immediately and continue always to grow less, so long as population went on increasing, unaccompanied by other events of a countervailing tendency.
"Whether the repeal of the corn laws is likely, even temporarily, to give any considerable increase of margin for population to fill up, it would be premature as yet to attempt to decide. All the elements of the question have been thrown into temporary disorder by the consequences of bad harvests and of the potatoe failure. But as far as can be foreseen, there seems little reason to expect an importation of the customary articles of food either so great in itself, or capable of such rapid increase, as to interfere much with the operation of the general law."]
enormously increased, and the expense of maintaining a family so diminished, that it would require perhaps some generations for population, even if it started forward at an American pace, to overtake this great accession to the facilities of its support.
§ 4. Besides the importation of corn, there is another resource which can be invoked by a nation whose increasing numbers press hard, not against their capital, but against the productive capacity of their land: I mean Emigration, especially in the form of Colonization. Of this remedy the efficacy as far as it goes is real, since it consists in seeking elsewhere those unoccupied tracts of fertile land, which if they existed at home would enable the demand of an increasing population to be met without any falling off in the productiveness of labour. Accordingly, when the region to be colonized is near at hand, and the habits and tastes of the people sufficiently migratory, this remedy is completely effectual. The migration from the older parts of the American Confederation to the new territories, which is to all intents and purposes colonization, is what enables population to go on unchecked throughout the Union without having yet diminished the return to industry, or increased the difficulty of earning a subsistence. If Australia or the interior of Canada were as near to Great Britain as Wisconsin and Iowa to New York; if the superfluous people could remove to it without crossing the sea, and were of as adventurous and restless a character, and as little addicted to staying at home, as their kinsfolk of New England, those unpeopled continents would render the same service to the United Kingdom which the old states of America derive from the new. But, these things being as they are—though a judiciously conducted emigration is a most important resource for suddenly lightening the pressure of population by a single effort—and though in such an extraordinary case as that of Ireland under the threefold operation of the potato failure, the poor law, and the general turning-out of tenantry throughout the country, spontaneous emigration may at a particular crisis remove greater multitudes than it was ever proposed to remove at once by any national scheme l; it still remains to be shown by experience2 whether a permanent stream of emigration can be kept up, sufficient to take off, as in America, all that portion of the annual increase (when proceeding at its greatest
1 [The reference to Ireland (" and though . . . scheme ") was inserted in the 3rd ed. (1852).]
2 [So from the 6th ed. (1865). The original ran: "There is no probability that even under the most enlightened arrangements a permanent stream, &c."] rapidity) which, being in excess of the progress made during the same short period in the arts of life, tends to render living more difficult for every averagely-situated individual in the community. And unless this can be done, emigration cannot, even in an economical point of view, dispense with the necessity of checks to population. Further than this we have not to speak of it in this place. The general subject of colonization as a practical question, its importance to old countries, and the principles on which it should be conducted, will be discussed at some length in a subsequent portion of this treatise.