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would be little listened to except paradise dispelled ; after Godwin's for their tendency to pessimism. “Political Justice” had thrilled the There is a sense in which medita- world with an enthusiasm comtive souls “love darkness rather parable for intensity and brief than the light.” The moon, that duration only to electricity ;--after is said to disorder the minds of this, men were prepared to listen to men, makes the earth fairer with what such a man as Malthus had her silver than the sun with his to say to them, with some patience, gold. So the mysteriously potent and even encouragement. The evil gives us firm outlines and sug- perfectibility, either of the poetical gestive shadows possessed of almost state of nature or of the highest irresistible fascination. But it is civilisation, was declared to be an when we are tired of the day that idea utterly chimerical. We were we love the night. An era of in- said to be hastening, not to social tellectual illumination has closed harmony, and wealth, and ease, but for us ; under the few stars left to to over-population, and starvation, us we ponder the work done.
and misery. Blind, indeed, had we It has just been said that about been, priding ourselves on producthe beginning of the present cen- tive powers, forgetting that only tury the Renaissance wave spent its some produce, and that the possiforce. It was a mighty wave, yet bility of production has bounds, perhaps it had died away before while every being that draws the then. Goethe, at any rate, com- breath of life is of necessity a conbined in himself the whole philo- sumer. Certain commodities we sophy of the Renaissance ; Byron have been rather proud of producplucked from it the individualism ing—children—we were to produce it produced; Shelley etherealised no longer ad libitum; we were it; Godwin added to it the ethics rather to check the begetting of of government. For these, what them. Since the days of Plato how have we now? The English poem much invention had been wasted in is “In Memoriam;" the continental contriving the hatching of every poet is Alfred de Musset; Euro- egg that looked goodly! Undepean philosophy is the cold system terred by the failure of all such inof Mill, the fierce despair of Scho. ventions, Plato's especially, Malpenhauer, or the dregs of Hume's thus proposed an artificial-or, at nonchalant scepticism—too non- least, a hitherto neglected mode of chalant to take any name; and in regulating marriage and the whole economics the Malthusian theory— relation of the sexes. He showed verily a“ dismal science”—is either us, for a picture of society, the accepted as proved, or accepted as board spread by Nature for her unrefuted, like Berkeley's theory of favourites by a kind of predestinaperception. It would have been tion; but to this board some came strange if the result to economics hungry, and were turned away to had not been the same as that to die. The Mirza Bridge rocked with literature and philosophy. A critical the load of human beings trampling age is never a joyful age.
across it. At the entrance sat After the Revolution had com- Death, and snatched innocent babes pressed the lesson of human his. from brothers and sisters, or gave tory into the deeds of a few months; them load of disease they sank after poets like Southey and Cole under ere they had travelled far. ridge, and philosophers like Robert The crowd could only proceed by Owen and Fourier and St. Simon launching the old and infirm from had seen their visions of earthly the other end into the yawning
river. These were the pictures men no, says Malthus. Death has no were led to form for themselves. credit by his adroitness; it is you Or they looked still further forward. who put yourselves to pains that The old-world traditions had framed he may have victims. You may many a legend of the last man left educate and morally purify the to die monarch of the universe. masses, but you are in this only How different the truth! Mankind making Death's morsel the daintier. grows hungrier and poorer; cities It is your nature to produce chil. swallow up the fields; the whole dren too fast; your very constituearth becomes one gigantic city, tion and instincts are leading the a cosmopole city of death. What world to ruin. imagination can picture or describe This was bold of Malthus. A the writhing, swarming, groaning pious bishop once thought to make blaspheming mortals turned to men believe in God by causing beasts of prey, with only garbage to them to throw overboard what they prey upon, gasping, gaping in the had understood to be common agonies of hunger and death, and sense, and agree that there was no falling, millions together, to such thing as matter. The few blacken and rot-a hecatomb to the who did convincedly accept his sun! The words of Goncourt echo theory were by no means thereby in the heart of him who is forced disposed to adore God. Quite the to believe this the deliverance of contrary. They founded modern Fate: “Nature is for me an enemy; philosophical scepticism. the country seems to me funereal. So Mr. Malthus, perhaps as truly This green earth suggests a ceme- pious a man as lived, by destroytery awaiting its dead. That grass ing our faith in the instincts of feeds on man. Those trees grow nature would have us led to rely upon and blossom from what the more upon Providence. I have has died. This sun which shines never heard that any man has so brightly, imperturbable and declared the reading of Malthus's peaceful, is but the great force books to have strengthened his which putrifies. Trees, sky, water, belief in the mercy of God. Unless all appear to me merely as a life- Adam and Eve were intended by grant of land, where the gardener the Creator to be unique patterns sets out a few new flowers every of a species, and unless the sexual spring around a small basin of gold instinct be from beginning to end fish.”
identified with original sin, it is But surely there is something in impossible to doubt that instincts each of us that condemns this are the commands of God. The morbid plaint, and human feeling Malthusian doctrine seems capable is difficult to subdue by the rules of of producing nothing but sceptiLogic.
cism. How strange to find two A picture would be nothing men so different as Godwin and without shadow; life would be Malthus coming to conclusions weary but for the presence of regarding the same problem quite death. The curious thing is the opposite to those we might expect fertility of Death's invention ; for from them. Both inquired into he has killed his man a minute for existing evils and their cure. But some thousands of years, yet each the sceptical Godwin found goodin a different way. Death used to ness everywhere in man's original be a strong arguer for socialism. nature, and proclaimed that he He whipped off a duke as easily as might yet attain perfection were a beggar; so it was thought. But he rightly to govern circumstances
under his own control. The Rev. the sowing of seed in the field. Mr. Malthus proclaimed that man The smallness of population was by his nature was drifting to deplored. Montesquieu, in his misery, and could only save him- “Lettres Persanes,” calculated that self by mutilating that nature. in Julius Cæsar's time there existed Not only the hunger of the senses, fifty times more people than in his but the hunger of the heart must time. Those were found who be denied gratification. If this maintained that riches increased as were so, how much oftener should population increased. we hear the still too frequent ques- And what becomes of all the tion, Is life worth living? The dreams of civilisation and educa. world has lived till now with tion and the spiritual elevation of shackles enough ; it could scarcely man? To produce men in order endure more. All the innocent to educate them must be wrong, poetry of life must now be looked to some extent at least: we must upon with caution. There is no be educated not to produce meil
. ut its invisible twin Our glory has been that, rising brother sorrow. And gaiety of heart above the wants of the body, we has only lied when it sang, “ C'est are gaining time for the wants of l'amour qui fait la ronde et le the soul. But, if this theory be monde.” That one heart the more true, future generations must should be broken for this theory bestow less and less attention on would be strong argument against the soul, and more and more on
provision for the body. We may The theory, then, with which we therefore conclude that humanity have to deal is that population in- has reached its highest level of creases in geometrical proportion, prosperity. subsistence in arithmetical. The survey of facts must have been 1. The actual fecundity of the very exact to produce so exact a human race has never approached formula. Further, we are told its possible fecundity. that but three checks
this The possible rate of increase in tendency to over-population exist the human species is said, upon -vice, misery, and moral restraint. good and almost undisputed It would seem, this doctrine, to authority, to be a doubling in say that one comfort is only to be every ten years. Nothing like this, obtained by loss of another, since at any rate upon any considerable the subsistence necessary for all is scale, has occurred. Humboldt only to be gained by the death of judged, according to the rate of countless innocent babes, dearer to births and deaths, that in some parents than bread-by the pre- parts of Mexico population might mature decay of the flower of man double itself in nineteen years. -or by foregoing habitually for a This is the highest instance of season—and that the season when fecundity. In the States, and in it acts most powerfully-and often Canada, population is supposed to foregoing altogether, ihe strongest double in twenty-five years. This instinct of our nature—that, as is the next highest instance. Montaigne declares, which is to Again, the possible number of the others as sun to planets. children to a marriage, since it has
How should this teaching, if been sometimes attained, may be true, change the face of society! moderately put at twenty-five. The peopling of the world was But how much smaller the average formerly furthered as eagerly as number? In England, for in
stance, Mr. Malthus himself calcu- One potato produces twenty in lates the average family at 4:5. the course of a single year. We In Switzerland the average is said all know the story of the woman to be 5.5; but it is not so. The who was presented with a potato, calculation was made for mothers. and promised land for so many Now, every married woman is not years wherein to cultivate its pro
mother. Without entering into duce. She quickly gained a small statistics any further, we may
estate. Godwin calculated, perhaps affirm without fear of contradic- extravagantly, that if
, every intion that in the case of no nation, dividual in a community devoted however crowded, however half an hour in the day to cultiscattered, has actual fecundity vation of the earth, that comapproached possible fecundity. munity would be supplied with an What is the reason of this? Has abundance of food. There can be the check been vice, misery, or no doubt, at any rate, that a commoral restraint? The last it has paratively small portion of the day never been, nor has it been in would be spent for mankind in great part either of the others. work if each individual were to In the healthiest countries, where continue producing, whether for food was to be had in abundance, direct consumption or for where the parents were in the change. A man is at present easily enjoyment of the full vigour of able to produce food to sustain life, where every encouragement himself and all dependent on him, was given to fecundity by oppor- and also food to exchange for tunity for marriage, the population other necessaries, and fell far short of the possible luxuries. This, of
when number. Health, then morals, those disabled by disease or age favourable situation, wealth-all are excluded from consideration. combined have not produced any- “Some seed brought forth an hunthing like what this theory might dredfold, some sixtyfold, some lead us to expect. We may there. thirtyfold.” Malthus himself adfore conclude that the possible is mits that “the rate at which food not probable, and that reproduction could be made to increase would of the species will never propor
far exceed what was necessary to tionately increase. But what does keep pace with the most rapid inthis limitation of actual fecundity crease of population which the laws point to—in no way related, it of nature in relation to human kind would appear, to the ratio of vice permit.” or misery? It points to some In considering nature, we cannot hidden check far more powerful fail to find cause for wonder in the than any moral; one that exists, prodigious power of increase in and has existed, in all places and plants. What is used in cultivaat all times, in the beginning of tion is often less than what is the world as now, when the great wasted. In the growth of wheat, ambition of nations and families for example, a vast amount of seed and mothers was to beget sons, is lost. When it is dibbled, inwhen there was neither vice nor stead of being sown in the common misery nor moral restraint to curb way, two pecks of seed wheat yield fecundity.
as large a crop as two bushels; and II. The natural rate of increase thus they quadruple the proportion of man's food is out of all propor- of the return to the quantity of tion greater than man's own rate seed put into the ground. There of increase.
is on record an experiment in which,
may be said that
by the separation of roots obtained out of the town, and find the adjafrom a single grain of wheat and cent fields as listless-looking and their transference to a favourable neglected as the men themselves. soil, a return was obtained of over Think what a want there must be 500,000 grains. Humboldt entered of masters of labour, that those into such questions with laborious hands and these weeds are not in minuteness, and made it appear
closer contact!” that in France, the north of Ger- If, then, the reproduction of man many, Poland, and Sweden, one be by nature in geometric ratio, grain produces from five to six his food, by nature, increases in a grains; the most fertile parts of geometric ratio still more rapid. France, indeed, produce fifteen for It may be said that all of the one; Picardy produces nine for earthy portion of the globe could one; Hungary, Croatia, and Scla- never be brought under cultivation, vonia yield from eight to ten account of unsuitability in grains for one ; in La Plata twelve various
It are produced for one; near Buenos the best soils are first laid under Ayres, sixteen for one; in the nor- contribution, afterwards the inthern parts of Mexico, seventeen ; ferior. It may be said that the in the equinoctial regions of Mexico, Malthusian theory points incestwenty-four. These facts show, santly to the truth that, however first, that in the majority of coun- fertile man's brain be, the earth tries, at any rate, the production of has a limit to its fertility. food does not nearly approach its As to the first statement, we possible rate of production ; and, need only allow that, in present secondly, that, even in countries circumstances, much of the entire below the average, wheat increases surface of the globe is not praein at least a geometric ratio.
It ticable for cultivation ; but we have has been calculated that if the rate no absolute proof that any single of production in one single acre spot will for ever remain devoid of were six grains for one, and if soil utility to the farmer. of the same kind could be prepared The second statement admits of fast enough, the whole earthy por- no contradiction, so far as it points tion of the globe would be covered to the principle that guides man in fourteen years. Even after food in selecting soils; but there is this necessary for the present population to be borne in mind, that perhaps of the globe is deducted from this, the richest soils have not yet been there remains by far the greater por
discovered ; and, at any rate, many tion. That such a quantity is not rich soils are yet uncultivated. produced is owing to one of these two The third statement, we allow, facts-either that mankind are not must always be kept in view as willing to exert themselves to the absolutely true.
absolutely true. But the scientific necessary cultivation, or that the achievements of civilisation hare ground cannot be prepared fast year by year lightened the toil enough. That the first is the cause,
that is, have made and not the second, is shown by the the earth yield more per unit of number of idle labourers in every labour; and to what invention still town. “Look at the listless loi. may do towards the fertilisation of terers about an Irish town,” writes the soil, we have no right to preSir Arthur Helps; " “you would scribe limits. The great result of naturally say to yourself, Surely
Surely science is insight into the thrift of this people have done all that there Nature. As we grow more sciencan be for them to do.' You walk tific we learn to copy nature, wast