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those who hold them are a small number; a privileged class, having a status above the common level, which they are unwilling to lose. They are also, no doubt, almost always, originally a select class, composed of the most favourable specimens of the labouring people: which, however, is attended with the inconvenience, that the persons to whom the system facilitates marrying and having children, are precisely those who would otherwise be the most likely to practise prudential restraint. As affecting the general condition of the labouring class, the scheme, as it seems to me, must be either nugatory or mischievous. If only a few labourers have allotments, they are naturally those who could do best without them, and no good is done to the class: while, if the system were general, and every or almost every labourer had an allotment, I believe the effect would be much the same as when every or almost every labourer had an allowance in aid of wages. I think there can be no doubt that if, at the end of the last century, the Allotmen t instead of the Allowance system had been generally adopted in England, it would equally have broken down the practical restraints on population which at that time did really exist; population would have started forward exactly as in fact it did; and in twenty years, wages plus the allotment would nave been, as wages plus the allowance actually were, no more than equal to the former wages without any allotment. The only difference in favour of allotments would have been, that they make the people grow their own poor-rates.
I am at the same time quite ready to allow, that in some circumstances, the possession of land at a fair rent, even without ownership, by the generality of labourers for hire, operates as a cause not of low, but of high wages. This, however, is when their land renders them, to the extent of actual necessaries, independent of the market for labour. There is the greatest difference between the position of people who live by wages, with land as an extra resource, and of people who can,
in case of necessity, subsist entirely on their land, and only work for hire to add to their comforts. Wages are likely to be high where none are compelled by necessity to sell their labour. "People who have at home some kind of property to apply their labour to, will not sell their labour for wages that do not afford them a better diet than potatoes and maize, although in saving for themselves, they may live very much on potatoes and maize. We are often surprised in travelling on the Continent, to hear of a rate of day's wages very high, considering the abundance and cheapness of food. It is want of the necessity or inclination to take work, that makes daylabour scarce, and, considering the price of provisions, dear, in many parts of the Continent, where property in land is widely diffused among the people."* There are parts of the Continent where, even of the inhabitants . of the towns, scarcely one seems to be exclusively dependent on his ostensible employment; and nothing else can explain the high price they put on their services, and the carelessness they evince as to whether they are employed at all. But the effect would be far different if their land or other resources gave them only a fraction of a subsistence, leaving them under an undiminished necessity of selling their labour for wages in an overstocked market. Their land would then merely enable them to exist on smaller wages, and to carry their multiplication so much the further before reaching the point below which they either could not. or would not, descend.
To the view I have taken of the effect of allotments, I see no argument which can be opposed, but that employed by Mr. Thornton,f with whom on this subject I am at issue. His defence of allotments is grounded on the general doctrine, that it is only the very poor who multiply without regard to consequences, and that if the condition of the existing generation could be greatly improved, which he thinks
• Laing's Notet of a Travelltr, p. 456. t See Thornton on Ooer PopuUition,eh. vui.
might be done by the allotment system, their successors would grow up with an increased standard of requirements, and would not have families until they could keep them in as much comfort as that in which they had been brought up themselves. I agree in as much of this argument as goes to prove that a sudden and very great improvement in the condition of the poor, has always, through its effect on their habits of life, a chance of becoming permanent. What happened at the time of the Trench Revolution is an example. But I cannot think that the addition of a quarter or even half an acre to every labourer's cottage, and that too at a rack rent, would (after the fall of wages which would be necessary to absorb the already existing mass of pauper labour) make so great a difference in the comforts of the family for a generation to come, as to raise up from childhood a labouring population with a really higher permanent standard of requirements and habits. So small a portion of land could only be made a permanent benefit, by holding out encouragement to acquire by industry and saving, the means of buying it outright: a permission which, if extensively made use of, would be a kind of
education in forethought and frugality to the entire class, the effects of which might not cease with the occasion. The benefit would however arise, not from what was given them, but from what they were stimulated to acquire.
No remedies for low wages have the smallest chance of being efficacious, which do not operate on and through the minds and habits of the people. While these are unaffected, any contrivance, even if successful, for temporarily improving the condition of the very poor, would but let slip the reins by which population was previously curbed; and could only, therefore, continue to produce its effect, if, by the whip and spur of taxation, capital were compelled to follow at an equally accelerated pace. But this process could not possibly continue for long together, and whenever it stopped, it would leave the country with an increased number of the poorest class, and a diminished proportion of all except the poorest, or, if it continued long enough, with none at all. For "to this complexion must come at last" all social arrangements, which remove the natural checks to population without substituting any others.
THE REMEDIES FOR LOW WAOE3 FURTHER CONSIDERED.
§ 1. Bt what means, then, is poverty to be contended against? How is the evil of low wages to be remedied? If the expedients usually recommended for the purpose are not adapted to it, can no others be thought of? Is the problem incapable of solution? Can political economy do nothing, but only object to everything, and demonstrate that nothing can be done?
If this were so, political economy might have a needful, but would have a melancholy, and a thankless task. If the bulk of the human race are
always to remain as at present, slaves (.0 toil in which they have no interest, and therefore feel no interest—drudging from early morning till late at night for bare necessaries, and with all the intellectual and moral deficiencies which that implies—without resources either in mind or feelings—untaught, for they cannot be better taught than fed; selfish, for all their thoughts are required for themselves; without interests or sentiments as citizens and members of society, and with a sense of injustice rankling in their minds, equally for what they have not, and
for what others have; I know not what there is which should make a person with any capacity of reason, concern himself about the destinies of the human race. There would be no wisdom for any one but in extracting from life, with Epicurean indifference, as much personal satisfaction to himself and those with whom he sympathizes, as it can yield without injury to any one, and letting the unmeaning bustle of so-called civilized existence roll by unheeded. But there is no ground for such a view of human affairs. Poverty, like most social evils, exists because men follow their brute instincte 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. O ver 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 infm.ence 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 •conseq uences 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 on 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, it is one of the chief grounds made use of in appeals to the benevolent, that the applicant has a large family and is unable to maintain them.*
One cannot wonder that silence on this great department of human dutyshould 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 persona are once married, the idea, m thia country, never seems to enter any one's mind that having or not having a family, or the number of which it shall
• Little improvement can be expected in morality until the producing large families is regarded with the same feelings as drunkenness or any other physical excess. But while the aristocracy and clergy are foremost to set the example of this kind of incontinence, | what can be expected from the poor?
consist, is 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.
"When dangerous prejudices," says Sismondi,* "have not become accredited, when a morality contrary to our true duties towards others,and especially towards those to whom we have given life, is not inculcated in the name of the most sacred authority; no prudent man contracts matrimony before he is in a condition which gives him an assured means of living, and no married man has a greater number of children than he can properly bring up. The head of a family thinks, with reason, that his children may be contented with the condition in which he himself has lived ; and his desire will be that the rising generation should represent exactly the departing one: that one son and one daughter arrived at the marriageable age should replace his own father and mother; that the children of his children should in their turn replace himself and his wife; that his daughter should find in another family the precise equivalent of the lot which will be given in his own family to the daughter of another, and that the income which sufficed for the parents will suffice for the children." In a country increasing in wealth, some increase of numbers would be admissible, but that is a question of detail, not of principle. "Whenever this family has been formed, justice and humanity require that he should impose on himself the same restraint which is submitted toby the unmarried. When we consider how small, in every country, is the number of natural children, we must admit that this restraint is on the whole suffiiiently effec
* yew Principles of Political Economy^ book vii., ch. R.
tual. In a country where population has no room to increase, or in which its progress must be so slow as to be hardly perceptible, when there are no places vacant for new establishments, a father who has eight children must expect, either that six of them will die in childhood, or that three men and three women among his cotemporaries, and in the next generation three of his sons and three of his daughters, will remain unmarried on hia account."
§ 2. Those who think it hopeless that the labouring classes should be induced to practise 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 recognised 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, besides 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. One 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 labourers themselves, are employers of labour, 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 antipopulation doctrines, will seldom hear patiently of anything which they are pleased to designate as Malthusianism. Boards of Guardians in rural districts, principally consist of farmers, and farmers, it is well known, in general dislike even allotments, as making the labourers " too independent." From the gentry, who are in less immediate contact and collision of interest with the labourers, better things might be expected, and the gentry of England are usually charitable. But charitable people hare 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 favourite 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 to revive or abolish, or 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 labourers themselves.
But let us try to imagine what would happen if the idea became general among the labouring class, that the competition of too great numbers was the principal cause of their poverty; so that every labourer 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. 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 interests, is derived from regard for opinion—from the expectation of being disliked or despised for not doing it. In the particular case in question, it is not too much to say that over-indulgence is as much caused by the stimulus of opinion as by the mere animal propensity; since opinion universally, and especially among the most uneducated classes, has connected ideas of spirit and power with the strength of the instinct, and of inferiority with its moderation or absence; a perversion of sentiment caused by its being the means, and the stamp, of a dominion exercised over other human beings. The effect would be great of merely removing this factitious stimulus; and when once opinion shall have turned itself into an adverse direction, a revolution will soon take place in this department of human conduct. We are often told that the most thorough perception of the dependence of wages on population will not influence the conduct of a labouring man, because it is not the children ha himself can have that will produce any effect in generally depressing the labour market. True: and it is also true, that one soldier's running away will not lose the battle; accordingly it is not that consideration which keeps each soldier in his rank: it is the disgrace which naturally and inevitably attends on conduct by any one individual, which if pursued by a majority, everybody can see would be fatal. Men are seldom found to brave the general opinion of their class, unless supported either by some principle higher than regard for opinion, or by some strong body of opinion elsewhere.
It must be borne in mind also, that the opinion here in question, as soon as it attained any prevalence, would have powerful auxiliaries in the great majority of women. It is seldom by the choice of the wife that families are too numerous; on her devolves (along