An Essay on the Principle of Population
1. To save time and long quotations, I shall here give the substance of M. Condorcet's sentiments, and I hope that I shall not misrepresent them; but I refer the reader to the work itself, which will amuse, if it do not convince him.
Book III, Chapter II.
Book III, Chapter III.
11. See this subject very ably treated in a work on the Records of the Creation, and the Moral Attributes of the Creator, by the Rev. John Bird Sumner, not long since published; a work of very great merit, which I hope soon to see in as extensive circulation as it deserves.
12. In the Spencean system, as published by the secretary of the Society of Spencean Philanthropists, it unfortunately happens, that after the proposed allowances have been made for the expenses of the government, and of the other bodies in the state which are intended to be supported, there would be absolutely no remainder; and the people would not derive a single sixpence from their estate, even at first, and on the supposition of the national debt being entirely abolished, without the slightest compensation to the national creditors.
The annual rent of the land, houses, mines, and fisheries, is estimated at 150 millions, about three times its real amount; yet, even upon this extravagant estimate, it is calculated that the division would only come to about four pounds a head, not more than is sometimes given to individuals from the poor's rates; a miserable provision! and yet constantly diminishing.
Book III, Chapter IV.
Book III, Chapter V.
20. Supposing the lower classes to earn on an average ten shillings a week, and the classes just above them twenty, it is not to be doubted, that in a scarcity these latter would be more straightened in their power of commanding the necessaries of life, by a donation of ten shillings a week to those below them, than by the subtraction of five shillings a week from their own earnings. In the one case, they would be all reduced to a level; the price of provisions would rise in an extraordinary manner from the greatness of the competition; and all would be straightened for subsistence. In the other case, the losses above the poor would still maintain a considerable part of their relative superiority; the price of provisions would by no means rise in the same degree; and their remaining fifteen shillings would purchase much more than their twenty shillings in the former case.
21. See a small pamphlet published in November, 1800, entitled, An Investigation of the Cause of the present high Price of Provisions. This pamphlet was mistaken by some for an inquiry into the cause of the scarcity, and as each it would naturally appear to be incomplete, adverting, as it does, principally to a single cause. But the sole object of the pamphlet was to give the principal reason for the extreme high price of provisions, in proportion to the degree of the scarcity, admitting the deficiency of one-fourth, as stated in the Duke of Portland's letter; which, I am much inclined to think, was very near the truth.
Book III, Chapter VI.
23. Sir F. M. Eden, speaking of the supposed right of the poor to be supplied with employment while able to work, and with a maintenance when incapacitated from labour, very justly remarks, "It may however be doubted, whether any right, the gratification of which seems to be impracticable, can be said to exist," vol. i. p.447. No man has collected so many materials for forming a judgement on the effects of the poor-laws as Sir F. M. Eden, and the result he thus expresses: "Upon the whole therefore there seems to be just grounds for concluding, that the sum of good to be expected from a compulsory maintenance of the poor will be far outbalanced by the sum of evil which it will inevitably create," vol. i. p. 467—I am happy to have the sanction of so practical an inquirer to my opinion of the poor-laws.
Book III, Chapter VII.
26. 1825. This has, in a considerable degree, taken place; but it has been owing rather to the latter causes noticed than to the former. It appeared, by the returns of 1821, that the scarce years of 1817 end 1818 had but a slight effect in diminishing the number of marriages and births, compared with the effect of the great proportion of plentiful years in increasing them; so that the population proceeded with great rapidity during the ten years ending with 1820. But this great increase of the population has prevented the labouring classes from being so fully employed as might have been expected from the prosperity of commerce and agriculture during the last two or three years.
29. This has since been altered; but the subsequent part of the passage is particularly applicable to the present time—the end of the year 1825. The workmen are beginning to find that, if they could raise their wages above what the state of the demand and the prices of goods will warrant, it is absolutely impossible that all, or nearly all, should be employed. The masters could not employ the same number as before, without inevitable ruin.
Book III, Chapter IX.
36. It is a curious fact, that among the causes of the decline of the Dutch trade, Sir William Temple reckons the cheapness of corn, which, he says, "has been for these dozen years, or more, general in these parts of Europe." (Vol. i. p. 69.) This cheapness, he says, impeded the vent of spices and other Indian commodities among the Baltic nations, by diminishing their power of purchasing.
Book III, Chapter X.
37. A rise, which is occasioned exclusively by the increased quantity of labour which may be required in the progress of society to raise a given quantity of corn on the last land taken into cultivation, must, of course, be peculiar to raw produce, and will not be communicated to those commodities, in the production of which there is no increase of labour.
Book III, Chapter XI.
43. It is certainly a very remarkable fact, that although Adam Smith repeatedly states, in the most distinct manner, that labour alone is the true measure of the value of silver and of all other commodities, he should suppose that silver was rising at the very time when he says the money price of labour was rising. There cannot be a more decided contradiction.
44. As far as the bounty might tend to force the cultivation of poorer land, so far no doubt it would have a tendency to raise the price of corn; but we know from experience that the rise of price naturally occasioned in this way is continually counteracted by improvements in agriculture. A, a matter of fact it must be allowed, that, during the period of the last century when corn was falling, more land must have been taken into cultivation.
45. The average price is different from the growing price. Years of scarcity, which must occasionally occur, essentially affect the average price; and the growth of a surplus quantity of corn, which tends to present scarcity, will tend to lower this average, and make it approach nearer to the growing price.
Book III, Chapter XII.
52. No restrictions upon the importation of grain, however absurdly severe, could permanently maintain our corn and labour at a much higher price than in the rest of Europe, if such restrictions were essentially to interfere with the prosperity of our foreign commerce. When the money price of labour is high in any country, or, what is the same thing, when the value of money is low, nothing can prevent it from going out to find its level, but some comparative advantages, either natural or acquired, which enable such country to maintain the abundance of its exports, notwithstanding the high money price of its labour.
55. According to the evidence before the House of Lords (Reports, p. 49), the freight and insurance alone on a quarter of corn were greater by 48 shillings in 1811 than in 1814. Without any artificial interference then, it appears that war alone may occasion unavoidably a prodigious increase of price.
56. According to Mr. Tooke (High and Low Prices, p. 215), if the last war had found us with a growth beyond our consumption, we should have witnessed a totally different set of phenomena connected with prices. It will be found upon examination, that the prices of our corn led the way to the excess and diminution of our paper currency, rather than followed, although the prices of corn could never have been either so high or so low if this excess and diminution had not taken place.
57. Almost all the corn merchants who gave their evidence before the committees of the two houses in 1814 seemed fully aware of the low prices likely to be occasioned by an abundant crop in Europe, if our ports were open to receive it.
58. [1825.] In the sixth number of the Westminster Review, in which prodigious stress is laid upon the necessary effect of the corn laws in occasioning great fluctuation, in the prices of corn, a table, said to be from the very highest mercantile authority, is given of the average prices of wheat at Rotterdam for each of the ten years ending with 1824. The purpose for which the table is produced, is to shew the average price of wheat in Holland during these ten years; but it incidentally shews that, even in Holland, which in many respects must be peculiarly favourable to steady prices, a free trade in corn can by no means secure them.
In the year 1817, the price per last of 86 Winchester bushels was 574 guilders; and in 1824, it was only 147 guilders; a difference of nearly four times. During the same period of ten years the greatest variation in the average price of each year in England, was between 94s. 9d. which was the price in 1817, and 43s. 9d. which was the price in 1822, (Appendix to Mr. Tooke's work on High and Low Prices. Table xii. p. 31.)—a difference short of 2 1/5! ! [Note: There are in fact two exclamation points in the original text of the 6th edition (p. 207). The arithmetic change does work out to being just short of 2.2 times: there is no missing unit of measurement as a potential typographical error. Additionally, there are very few typographical errors in this edition. Quite possibly this is one of the first instances in print of a doubling of exclamation points for extra emphasis.—Econlib Editor.]
It is repeated over and over again, apparently without the slightest reference to facts, that the freedom of the trade in corn would infallibly secure us from the possibility of a scarcity. The writer of the article Corn Laws in the supplement to the Encyclopædia Britannica goes so far as to say, "it is constantly found that when the crops of one country fail, plenty reigns in some other quarter**** There is always abundance of food in the world. To enjoy a constant plenty, we have only to lay aside our prohibitions and restrictions, and cease to counteract the benevolent wisdom of Providence." The same kind of language is repeated in the Review above adverted to: "If there be a bad harvest," it is said, "in one country, there is a good one in another, and the surplus produce of the latter supplies the deficiency of the former, &c. &c:." Now there are the best reasons for believing that these statements are decidedly contradicted by the most enlarged experience. In the first place, if they were true, and if the general plenty alluded to were only prevented by the want of a free trade in corn, we should necessarily see a great rise of prices in one country, contemporaneous with a great fall in others; but a slight glance at the prices of corn in the countries of the commercial world for the last one or two centuries will be sufficient to convince any impartial person that, on the contrary, there is a very remarkable sympathy of prices at the same periods, which is absolutely inconsistent the truth of the above statements. Secondly, all travellers who have paid any attention to the seasons, agree in stating that the same sort of weather often prevails in different countries at the same time. The peculiar and excessive heats of the very last summer not only prevailed generally over the greatest part of Europe, but extended even to America. Mr. Tooke, On High and Low Prices, (p. 247. 2d Edit.) quotes a passage from Mr. Lowe's work on the Present State of England, in which he observes, that "The public, particularly the untravelled part of the public, are hardly of the similarity of temperature prevailing throughout what may be called the corn-country of Europe, we mean Great Britain, Ireland, the North of France, the Netherlands, Denmark, the northwest of Germany, and in some measure Poland and the northeast of Germany." He then goes on to state instances of scarcity in different countries of Europe at the same time. And in the justness of these remarks, on the prevalence of a general similarity of seasons in Europe within certain latitudes, Mr. Tooke says he perfectly concurs. Many of the corn-merchants examined before the Committees of the two Houses, both in 1814 and 1821, expressed similar opinions; and I do not recollect a single instance of the opinion, that good and bad harvests generally balance each other in different countries, being stated by any person who had been in a situation to observe the facts. Such statements, therefore, must be considered as mere assertions quite unsupported by the least shadow of proof.
I am very far however from meaning to say that the circumstance of different countries having often an abundance or deficiency of corn at the same time, though it must prevent the possibility of steady prices, is a decisive reason against the abolition or alteration of the corn-laws. The most powerful of all the arguments against restrictions is their unsocial tendency, and the acknowledged injury which they must do to the interests of the commercial world in general. The weight of this argument is increased rather than diminished by the numbers which may suffer from scarcity at the same time. And at a period when our ministers are the most laudably setting an example of a more liberal system of commercial policy, it would be greatly desirable that foreign nations should not have so marked an exception as our present corn-laws to cast in our teeth. A duty on importation not too high, and a bounty nearly such as was recommended by Mr. Ricardo, would probably be best suited to our present situation, and best secure steady prices. A duty on foreign corn would resemble the duties laid by other countries on our manufactures as objects of taxation, and would not in the same manner impeach the principles of free trade.
But whatever system we may adopt, it is essential to a sound determination, and highly useful in preventing disappointments, that all the arguments both for and against corn-laws should be thoroughly and impartially considered; and it is because on a calm, and, as far as I can judge, an impartial review of the arguments of this chapter, they still appear to me of weight sufficient to deserve such consideration, and not as a kind of protest against the abolition or change of the corn-laws, that I republish them in another edition.
Book III, Chapter XIII.
61. How far this latter opinion is to be depended upon it is not very easy to say. Improved skill and a saving of labour would certainly enable the Chinese to cultivate some lands with advantage which they cannot cultivate now, but the more general use of horses, instead of men, might prevent this extended cultivation from giving any encouragement to an increase of people.
62. P. 219. Dr. Aikin says that endeavours have been made to remedy these evils, which in some factories have been attended with success. And it is very satisfactory to be able to add, that, since this account was written, the situation of the children employed in the cotton-mills has been further very essentially improved, partly by the interference of the legislature, and partly by the humane and liberal exertions of individuals.
64. Almost the only instance on record in this country is that which has lately taken place (1815 and 1816), occasioned by an unparalleled fall in the exchangeable value of the raw produce, which has necessarily disabled the holders of it from employing the same quantity of labour at the same price.
Book III, Chapter XIV.
67. Among others, I allude more particularly to Mr. Anderson, who, in a Calm Investigation into the Circumstances which have led to the present Scarcity of Grain in Britain (published in 1801,) has laboured with extraordinary earnestness, and I believe with the best intentions, to impress this curious truth on the minds of his countrymen. The particular position which he attempts to prove is, that an increase of population in any state, whose fields have not been made to attain their highest possible degree of productiveness (a thing that probably has never yet been seen on this globe), will necessarily have its means of subsistence rather augmented than diminished by that augmentation of its population; and the reverse. The proposition is, to be sure, expressed rather obscurely; but from the context his meaning evidently is, that every increase of population tends to increase relative plenty, and vice versâ. He concludes his proofs by observing that, if the facts which he has thus brought forward and connected do not serve to remove the fears of those, who doubt the possibility of this country producing abundance to sustain its increasing population, (were it to augment in a ratio greatly more progressive than it has yet done,) he should doubt whether they could be convinced of it, were one even to rise from the dead to tell them so. I agree with Mr. A. entirely, respecting the importance of directing a greater part of the national industry to agriculture; but from the circumstance of its being possible for a country, with a certain direction of its industry, always to grow corn sufficient for its own supplies, although it may be very populous, he has been led into the strange error of supposing, that an agricultural country could support an unchecked population.
69. Sir James Steuart explains himself afterwards by saying, that he means principally the multiplication of those persons, who have some valuable consideration to give for the products of agriculture: but this is evidently not mere increase of population, and such an explanation seems to admit the incorrectness of the general proposition.
71. According to the principle of population, the human race has a tendency to increase faster than food. It has therefore a constant tendency to people a country fully up to the limits of subsistence, but by the laws of nature it can never go beyond them, meaning, of course, by these limits, the lowest quantity of food which will maintain a stationary population. Population, therefore, can never, strictly speaking, precede food.
73. It may be thought that the effects here referred to as resulting from greatly increased resources, could not take place in a country where there were towns and manufactories; and that they are not consistent with what was said in a former part of this work, namely, that the ultimate check to population (the want of food) is never the immediate check, except in cases of actual famine.
If the expressions are unguardedly strong, they will certainly allow of considerable mitigation, without any sensible diminution in the practical force and application of the argument. But I am inclined to think that, though they are unquestionably strong, they are not very far from the truth. The great cause which fills towns and manufactories is an insufficiency of employment, and consequently the means of support in the country; and if each labourer, in the parish where he was born, could command food, clothing, and lodging for ten children, the population of the towns would soon bear but a small proportion to the population of the country. And if to this consideration we add that, in the case supposed, the proportion of births and marriages in towns would be greatly increased, and all the mortality arising from poverty almost entirely removed, I should by no means be surprised (after a short interval for the change of habits) at an increase of population, even in China, equal to that which is referred to in the text.
With regard to this country, as it is positively known that the rate of increase has changed from that which would double the population in 120 years, or more, to that which would double it in 55 years, under a great increase of towns and manufactures, I feel very little doubt that, if the resources of the country were so augmented and distributed, as that every man could marry at 18 or 20, with the certainty of being able to support the largest family, the population of the British Isles would go on increasing at a rate which would double the population in 25 years, It appears, from our registers, that England is a healthier country than America. At the time that America was increasing with extraordinary rapidity, in some of the towns the deaths exceeded the births. In the English towns, with their present improvements, I do not think this would ever be the case, if all the lower classes could marry as soon as they pleased, and there was little or no premature mortality from the consequences of poverty.
But whether the habits and customs of an old state could be so changed by an abundance of food, as to make it increase nearly like a new colony, is a question of mere curiosity. The argument only requires that a change from scanty to abundant means of supporting a family should occasion, in old states, a marked increase of population; and this, it is conceived, cannot possibly be denied.
End of Book III Notes.
Book IV, Chapter I.
Book IV, Chapter II.
3. Dr. Currie, in his interesting observations on the character and condition of the Scotch peasantry, prefixed to his Life of Burns, remarks, with a just knowledge of human nature, that, "in appreciating the happiness and virtue of a community, there is perhaps no single criterion on which so much dependence may be placed as the state of the intercourse between the sexes. Where this displays ardour of attachment, accompanied by purity of conduct, the character and the influence of women rise, our imperfect nature mounts in the scale of moral excellence; and from the source of this single affection, a stream of felicity descends, which branches into a thousand rivulets that enrich and adorn the field of life. Where the attachment between the sexes sinks into an appetite, the heritage of our species is comparatively poor, and man approaches to the condition of the brutes that perish." Vol. i. p. 18.
4. Dr. Currie observes, that the Scottish peasant in the course of his passion often exerts a spirit of adventure, of which a Spanish cavalier need not be ashamed." Burns' Works, vol. i. p. 16. It is not to be doubted that this kind of romantic passion, which, Dr. C. says, characterizes the attachment of the humblest people of Scotland, and which has been greatly fostered hp the elevation of mind given to them by a superior education, has had a most powerful and most beneficial influence on the national character.
Book IV, Chapter III.
Book IV, Chapter IV.
7. Mr. Colquhoun, speaking of the poor-laws, observes, that "In spite of all the ingenious arguments which have been used in favour of a system, admitted to be wisely conceived in its origin, the effects it has produced incontestably prove that, with respect to the mass of the poor, there is something radically wrong in the execution. If it were not so, it is impossible that there could exist in the metropolis such an inconceivable portion of human misery, amidst examples of munificence and benevolence unparalleled in any age or country," Police of Metropolis, c. xiii. p 359.
In the effects of the poor-laws I fully agree with Mr. Colquhoun; but I cannot agree with him in admitting that the system was well conceived in its origin. I attribute still more evil to the original ill conception, than to the subsequent ill execution.
11. Police of the Metropolis, c. xiii. p. 353, et seq. In so large a town as London, which must necessarily encourage a prodigious influx of strangers from the country, there must be always a great many persons out of work; and it is probable, that some public institution for the relief of the casual poor, upon a plan similar to that proposed by Mr. Colquhoun (c. xiii. p. 371) would, under very judicious management, produce more good than evil. But for this purpose it would be absolutely necessary that, if work were provided by the institution, the sum that a man could earn by it should be less than the worst paid common labour; otherwise the claimants would rapidly increase, and the funds would soon be inadequate to their object. In the institution at Hamburgh, which appears to have been the most successful of any yet established, the nature of the work was such, that, though paid above the usual price, a person could not easily earn by it more than eighteen pence a week. It was the determined principle of the managers of the institution, to reduce the support which they gave lower than what any industrious man or woman in such circumstances could earn. (Account of the Management of the Poor in Hamburgh, by C. Voght, p. 18.) And it is to this principle that they attribute their success. It should be observed however, that neither the institution at Hamburgh, nor that planned by Count Rumford in Bavaria, has subsisted long enough for us to be able to pronounce on their permanent good effects. It will not admit of a doubt, that institutions for the relief of the poor, on their first establishment, remove a great quantity of distress. The only question is, whether, as succeeding generations arise, the increasing funds necessary for their support, and the increasing numbers that become dependent, are not greater evils than that which was to be remedied; and whether the country will not ultimately be left with as much mendicity as before, besides all the poverty and dependence accumulated in the public institutions. This seems to be nearly the case in England at present. It may be doubted whether we should have more beggars if we laid no poor-laws.
Book IV, Chapter V.
12. Necker, speaking of the proportion of the births in France, makes use of a new and instructive expression on this subject, though he hardly seems to be sufficiently aware of it himself. He says, "Le nombre des naissances est à celui des habitans de un à vingt-trois et vingt-quatre daps les lieux contrariés par la nature, ou par des circonstances morales; ce même rapport, dans la plus grande partie de la France, est de un à 25, 25½, & 26." Administ. des Finances, tom. i. c. ix. p. 254. 12mo. It appears, therefore, that we have nothing more to do, than to settle people in marshy situations, and oppress them by a bad government, in order to attain what politicians have hitherto considered as so desirable—a great proportion of marriages and a great proportion of births.
Book IV, Chapter VI.
Book IV, Chapter VII.
Book IV, Chapter VIII.
26. If the poor's rates continue increasing as rapidly as they have done on the average of the last ten years, how melancholy are our future prospects! The system of the poor-laws bus been justly stated by the French to be la plaie politique de l'Angleterre la plus devorante. (Comité de Mendicité.)
27. I fully agree with Sir F. M. Eden, in thinking that the constant public support which deserted children receive is the cause of their very great numbers in the two most opulent countries of Europe, France and England. State of the Poor, vol. i. p. 339.
28. "That many of the poorer classes of the community avail themselves of the liberality of the law, and leave their wives and children on the parish, the reader will find abundant proof in the subsequent part of this work." Sir F. M. Eden on the State of the Poor, vol. i. p. 339.
Book IV, Chapter IX.
30. Adam Smith proposes, that the elementary parts of geometry and mechanics should be taught in these parish schools; and I cannot help thinking, that the common principles by which markets are regulated might be made sufficiently clear, to be of considerable use. It is certainly a subject that, as it interests the lower classes of people very nearly, would be likely to attract their attention. At the same time it must be confessed, that it is impossible to be in any degree sanguine on this point, recollecting how very ignorant in general the educated part of the community is of these principles. If, however, political economy cannot be taught to the common people, I really think that it ought to form a branch of university education. Scotland has set us an example in this respect, which we ought not to be so slow to imitate. It is of the utmost importance, that the gentlemen of the country, and particularly the clergy, should not from ignorance aggravate the evils of scarcity, every time that it unfortunately occurs. During the late dearths, half of the gentlemen and clergymen in the kingdom richly deserved to have been prosecuted for sedition. After inflaming the minds of the common people against the farmers and corn dealers, by the manner in which they talked of them or preached about them, it was but a feeble antidote to the poison which they had infused, coldly to observe that, however the poor might be oppressed or cheated, it was their duty to keep the peace. It was little better than Antony's repeated declaration, that the conspirators were all honourable men; which did not save either their houses or their persons from the attacks of the mob. Political economy is perhaps the only science, of which it may be said that the ignorance of it is not merely a deprivation of good, but produces great positive evil.
[1825.] This note was written in 1803; and it is particularly gratifying to me, at the end of the year 1825, to see that what I stated as so desirable twenty-two years ago, seems to be now on the eve of its accomplishment. The increasing attention which in the interval has been paid generally to the science of political economy; the lectures which have been given at Cambridge, London, and Liverpool; the chair which has lately been established at Oxford; the projected University in the Metropolis; and, above all, the Mechanics Institution, open the fairest prospect that, within a moderate period of time, the fundamental principles of political economy will, to a very useful extent, be known to the higher, middle, and a most important portion of the working classes of society in England.
Book IV, Chapter XI.
44. Mr. Crumpe's Prize Essay on the best means of finding employment for the people is an excellent treatise, and contains most valuable information; but till the capital of the country is better proportioned to its population, it is perfectly chimerical to expect success in any project of the kind. I am also strongly disposed to believe that the indolent and turbulent habits of the lower Irish can never be corrected, while its potatoe system enables them to increase so much beyond the regular demand for labour.
47. It is certainly to be wished that every cottage in England should have a garden to it well stocked with vegetables. A little variety of food is in every point of view highly useful. Potatoes are undoubtedly a most valuable assistance, though I should be very sorry ever to see them the principal dependence of our labourers.
49. In this observation I have not the least idea of alluding to Mr. Young, who, I firmly believe, ardently wishes to improve the condition of the lower classes of people; though I do not think that his plan would effect the object in view. He either did not see those consequences which I apprehend from it; or he has a better opinion of the happiness of the common people in Ireland than I have. In his his Irish Tour he seemed much struck with the plenty of potatoes which they possessed, and the absence of all apprehension of want. Had he travelled in 1800 and 1801, his impressions would by all accounts have been very different. From the facility which has hitherto prevailed in Ireland of procuring potatoe-grounds, scarcities have certainly been rare, and all the effects of the system have not yet been felt, though certainly enough to make it appear very far from desirable.
Mr. Young has since pursued his idea more in detail, in a pamphlet entitled, An Inquiry into the Propriety of applying Wastes to the better Maintenance and Support of the Poor. But the impression on my mind is still the same; and it appears to be calculated to assimilate the condition of the labourers of this country to that of the lower classes of the Irish. Mr. Young seems, in a most unaccountable manner, to have forgotten all his general principles on this subject. He has treated the question of a provision for the poor, as if it was merely, How to provide in the cheapest and best manner for a given number of people. If this had been the sole question, it would never have taken so many hundred years to resolve. But the real question is, How to provide for those who are in want, in such a manner as to present a continual accumulation of their numbers? and it will readily occur to the reader, that a plan of giving them land and cows cannot promise much success in this respect. If, after all the commons had been divided, the poor-laws were still to continue in force, no good reason can be assigned why the rates should not in a few years be as high us they are at present, independently of all that had been expended in the purchase of land and stock.
Book IV, Chapter XII.
Book IV, Chapter XIII.
53. At present the loss of a cow, which must now and then happen, is generally remedied by a petition and subscription; and as the event is considered as a most serious misfortune to a labourer, these petitions are for the most part attended to; but if the cow system were universal, losses would occur so frequently, that they could not possibly be repaired in the same way, and families would be continually dropping from comparative plenty into want.
57. Perhaps, however, this is not often left to his choice, on account of the fear which every parish has of increasing its poor. There are many ways by which our poor-laws operate in counteracting their first obvious tendency to increase population, and this is one of them. I have little doubt that it is almost exclusively owing to these counteracting causes, that we have been able to persevere in this system so long, and that the condition of the poor has not been so much injured by it as might have been expected.
58. The act of Elizabeth, which prohibited the building of cottages, unless four acres of land were annexed to than, is probably impracticable in a manufacturing country like England; but, upon this principle, certainly the greatest part of the poor might possess land; because the difficulty of procuring such cottages would always operate as a powerful check to their increase. The effect of such a plan would be very different from that of Mr. Young.
60. Vol. ii. c. xi. p. 359. From a passage in Paley's Natural Theology, I am inclined to think that subsequent reflection induced him to modify some of his former ideas on the subject of population. He states most justly (ch. xxv. p. 539.) that mankind will in every country breed up to a certain point of distress. If this be allowed, that country will evidently be the happiest, where the degree of distress at this point is the least; and consequently, if the diffusion of luxury, by producing the check sooner, tend to diminish this degree of distress, it is certainly desirable.
Book IV, Chapter XIV.
63. Mr. Howard found fewer prisoners in Switzerland and Scotland than in other countries, which is attributed to a more regular education among the lower classes of the Swiss and the Scotch. During the number of years which the late Mr. Fielding presided at Bow-street, only six Scotchmen were brought before him. He used to say, that of the persons committed the greater part were Irish. Preface to vol. iii. of the Reports of the Society for bettering the Condition of the Poor, p. 32.
64. I cannot believe that the removal of all unjust grounds of discontent against constituted authorities would render the people torpid and indifferent to advantages, which are really attainable. The blessings of civil liberty are so great that they surely cannot need the aid of false colouring to make them desirable. I should be sorry to think that the lower classes of people could never by animated to assert their rights but by means of such illusory promises, as will generally make the remedy of resistance much worse than the disease which it was intended to cure.
End of Book IV Notes.
1. This opinion I have expressed, page 491 of the 4to. edit. and p. 266, vol. ii. of this edit (the 6th). [par. IV.I.19-20.—Ed.]
4. I do not mention these numbers here, as vouching in any degree for their accuracy, but merely for the sake of illustrating the subject. I have reason to think that the proportion given in the Statistique Générale was not taken from actual enumerations; and that mentioned in the text, for England, is conjectural, and probably too small. Of this, however, we may be quite sure, that when two countries, from the proportion of their births to deaths, increase nearly at the same rate, the one, in which the births and deaths bear the greatest proportion to the whole population, will have the smallest comparative number of persons above the age of puberty. That England and Scotland have, in every million of people which they contain, more individuals fit for labour than France, the data we have are sufficient to determine; but in what degree this difference exists not be ascertained, without better information than we at present possess. On account of the more rapid increase of population in England than in France before the revolution, England ought, cæteris paribus, to have had the largest proportion of births; yet in France the proportion was 1/25 or 1/26, and in England only 1/30.
The proportion of persons capable of bearing arms has been sometimes calculated at one-fourth, and sometimes at one-fifth, of the whole population of a country. The reader will be aware of the prodigious difference between the two estimates, supposing them to be applicable to two different countries. In the one case, a population of twenty millions would yield five millions of effective men; and in the other case, the same population would only yield four millions. We cannot surely doubt which of the two kinds of population would be of the most valuable description, both with regard to actual strength and the creation of fresh resources. Probably, however, there are no two countries in Europe in which the difference in this respect is so great as great between one-fourth and one-fifth.
5. This subject is strikingly illustrated in Lord Selkirk's lucid and masterly observations "On the present State of the Highlands, and on the Causes and probable consequences of Emigration," to which I can with confidence refer the reader.
6. It should be remarked, however, that a young person saved from death is more likely to contribute to the creation of fresh resources than another birth. It is a great loss of labour and food to begin over again. And universally it is true that, under similar circumstances, that article will come the cheapest to market, which is accompanied by fewest failures.
7. I should like much to know what description of facts this gentleman had in view, when he made this observation. If I could have found one of the kind, which seems here to be alluded to, it would indeed have been truly original.
8. Both Norway and Switzerland, where the preventive check prevails the most, are increasing with some rapidity in their population; and in proportion to their means of subsistence, they can produce more males of a military age than any other country of Europe.
10. It has been said, that I have written a quarto volume to prove, that population increases in a geometrical, and food in an arithmetical ratio; but this is not quite true. The first of these propositions I considered as proved the moment the American increase was related, and the second proposition as soon as it was enunciated. The chief object of my work was to inquire what effects these laws, which I considered as established in the first six pages, had produced, and were likely to produce, on society; a subject not very readily exhausted. The principal fault of my details is, that they are not sufficiently particular; but this was a fault which it was not in my power to remedy. It would be a most curious, and, to every philosophical mind, a most interesting, piece of information, to know the exact share of the full power of increase which each existing check prevents; but at present I see no mode of obtaining such information.
11. In saying this let me not be supposed to give the slightest sanction to the system of morals inculcated in the Fable of the Bees, a system which I consider as absolutely false, and directly contrary to the just definition of virtue. The great art of Dr. Mandeville consisted in misnomers.
12. It seems proper to make a decided distinction between self-love and selfishness, between that passion, which under proper regulations is the source of all honourable industry, and of all the necessaries and conveniences of life, and the same passion pushed to excess, when it becomes useless and disgusting, and consequently vicious.
13. The National Assembly of France, though they disapproved of the English poor-laws, still adopted their principle, and declared that the poor had a right to pecuniary assistance; that the Assembly ought to consider such a provision as one of its first and most sacred duties; and that, with this view, an expense ought to be incurred to the amount of 50 millions a year. Mr. Young justly observes that he does not comprehend how it is possible to regard the expenditure of 50 millions as a sacred duty, and not extend that 50 to 100 (if necessity should demand it), the 100 to 200, the 200 to 300, and so on in the same miserable progression which has taken place in England.—Travels in France, c. xv. p. 439.
I should be the last man to quote Mr. Young against himself, if I thought he had left the path of error for the path of truth, as such kind of inconsistency I hold to be highly praiseworthy. But thinking, on the contrary, that he has left truth for error, it is surely justifiable to remind him of his former opinions. We may recal to a vicious man his former virtuous conduct, though it would be useless and indelicate to remind a virtuous man of the vices which he had relinquished.
15. Book iv. c. iii. p. 506, 4to. edit. vol. ii. pp. 286, 287 of this edition [par. 5—Ed.].
18. With regard to the resources of emigration, I refer the reader to the chapter on that subject in the Essay. Nothing is more easy than to say that three-fourths of the habitable globe are yet unpeopled; but it is by no means so easy to fill these parts with flourishing colonies. The peculiar circumstances which have caused the spirit of emigration in the Highlands, so clearly explained in the able work of Lord Selkirk before referred to, are not of constant recurrence; nor is it by any means to be wished that they should be so. And yet without some such circumstances, people are by no means very ready to leave their native soil, and will bear much distress at home, rather than venture on these distant regions. I am of opinion, that it is both the duty and interest of governments to facilitate emigration; but it would surely be unjust to oblige people to leave their country and kindred against their inclinations.
20. (1825). It appears from the three returns of the Population Act, in 1801, 1811, and 1821, that the proportion of marriages has been diminishing with the increasing health of the country, notwithstanding the augmented rate of increase in the population.
21. The lowest prospect, with which a man can be justified in marrying, seems to be the power, when in health, of earning such wages as, at the average price of corn, will maintain the average number of living children to a marriage.
22. In any plan, particularly of a distribution of land, as a compensation for the relief given by the poor-laws, the succeeding generations would form the grand difficulty. All others would be perfectly trivial in comparison. For a time every thing might go on very smoothly, and the rates be much diminished; but, afterwards, they would either increase again as rapidly as before, or the scheme would be exposed to all the same objections which have been made to mine, without the same justice and consistency to palliate them.
24. The most favourable light, in which the poor-laws can possibly be placed, is to say that under all the circumstances, with which they have been accompanied, they do not much encourage marriage and undoubtedly the returns of the Population Act seem to warrant the assertion. Should this be true, some of the objections which have been urged in the Essay against the poor-laws will be removed; but I wish to press on the attention of the reader, that they will in that case be removed in strict conformity to the general principles of the work, and in a manner to confirm, not to invalidate, the main positions which it has attempted to establish.
25. It should always be recollected that a diminished proportion of births may take place under a constant annual increase of the absolute number. This is in fact exactly what has happened in England and Scotland during the last forty years.
26. We should be aware that a scarcity of men, owing either to great losses, or to some particular and unusual demand, is liable to happen in every country; and in no respect invalidates the general principle that has been advanced. Whatever may be the tendency to increase, it is quite clear that an extraordinary supply of men cannot be produced either in six months, or six years; but even with a view to a more than usual supply, causes which tend to diminish mortality are not only more certain but more rapid in their effects, than direct encouragements to marriage. An increase of births may, and often does, take place, without the ultimate accomplishment of our object; but supposing the births to remain the same, it is impossible for a diminished mortality not to be accompanied by an increase of effective population.
We are very apt to be deceived on this subject by the almost constant demand for labour, which prevails in every prosperous country; but we should consider that in countries which can but just keep up their population, as the price of labour must be sufficient to rear a family of a certain number, a single man will have a superfluity, and labour would be in constant demand at the price of the subsistence of an individual. It cannot be doubted that in this country we could soon employ double the number of labourers, if we could have them at our own price; because supply will produce demand, as well as demand supply. The present great extension of the cotton-trade did not originate in an extraordinary increase of demand at the former prices, but in an increased supply at a much cheaper rate, which of course immediately produced an extended demand. As we cannot, however, obtain men at sixpence a day by improvements in machinery, we must submit to the necessary conditions of their rearing; and there is no man, who has the slightest feeling for the happiness of the most numerous class of society, or has even just views of policy on the subject, who would not rather choose that the requisite population should be obtained by such a price of labour, combined with such habits, as would occasion a very small mortality, than from a great proportion of births of which comparatively few would reach manhood.
27. The misery and vice arising from the pressure of the population too hard against the limits of subsistence, and the misery and vice arising from promiscuous intercourse, may be considered as the Scylla and Charybdis of human life. That it is possible for each individual to steer clear of both these rocks is certainly true, and a truth which I have endeavoured strongly to maintain; but that these rocks do not form a difficulty independent of human institutions, no person with any knowledge of the subject can venture to assert.
28. While the last sheet of this Appendix was printing (1807,) I heard with some surprise, that an argument had been drawn from the Principle of Population in favour of the slave-trade. As the just conclusion from that principle appears to me to be exactly the contrary, I cannot help saying a few words on the subject.
If the only argument against the slave-trade had been, that, from the mortality it occasioned, it was likely to unpeople Africa, or extinguish the human race, some comfort with regard to these fears might, indeed, be drawn from the Principle of Population; but as the necessity of the abolition has never, that I know of, been urged on the grounds of these apprehensions, a reference to the laws which regulate the increase of the human species was certainly most unwise in the friends of the slave-trade.
The abolition of the slave-trade is defended principally by the two following arguments:—
2d. That the culture of the West-India islands could go on with equal advantage and much greater security, if no further importation of slaves were to take place.
With regard to the first argument, it appears, in the Essay on the Principle of Population, that so great is the tendency of mankind to increase, that nothing but some physical or moral check operating in an excessive and unusual degree, can permanently keep the population of a country below the average means of subsistence. In the West-India islands a constant recruit of labouring negroes is necessary; and consequently the immediate checks to population must operate with excessive and unusual force. All the checks to population mere found resolvable into moral restraint, vice and misery. In a state of slavery moral restraint cannot have much influence; nor in any state will it ever continue permanently to diminish the population. The whole effect, therefore, is to be attributed to the excessive and unusual action of vice and misery; and a reference to the facts contained in the Essay incontrovertibly proves that the condition of the slaves in the West Indies, taken altogether, is most wretched, and that the representations of the friends of the abolition cannot easily have been exaggerated.
It will be said that the principal reason, why the slaves in the West Indies constantly diminish, is, that the sexes are not in equal numbers, a considerable majority of males being always imported; but this very circumstance decides at once on the cruelty of their situation, and must necessarily be one powerful cause of their degraded moral condition.
It may be said also, that many towns do not keep up their numbers, and yet that the same objection is not made to them on that account. But the cases will admit of no comparison. If, for the sake better society or higher wages, people are willing to expose themselves to less pure air and greater temptations to vice, no hardship is suffered that can reasonably be complained of. The superior mortality of towns falls principally upon children, and is scarcely noticed by people of mature age. The sexes are in equal numbers; and every man, after a few years of industry, may look forward to the happiness of domestic life. If during the time that he is thus waiting, he acquires vicious habits which indispose him to marriage, he has nobody to blame except himself. But with the negroes the case is totally different. The unequal number of the sexes shuts out at once the majority of them from all chance of domestic happiness. They have no hope of this kind to sweeten their toils and animate their exertions; but are necessarily condemned either to unceasing privation or to the most vicious excesses; and thus shut out from every cheering prospect, we cannot be surprised that they are in general ready to welcome that death, which so many meet with in the prime of life.
The second argument is no less powerfully supported by the Principle of of Population than the first. It appears, from a very general survey of different countries, that, under every form of government, however unjust and tyrannical, in every climate of the known world, however apparently unfavourable to health, it has been found that population, almost with the sole exception above alluded to, has been able to keep itself up to the level of the means of subsistence. Consequently, if by the abolition of the trade to Africa the slaves in the West Indies were placed only in a tolerable situation, if their civil condition and moral habits were only made to approach to those which prevail among the mass of the human race in the worst-governed countries of the world, it is contrary to the general laws of nature to suppose that they would not by able by procreation fully to supply the effective demand for labour; and it is difficult to conceive that a population so raised would not be in every point of view preferable to that which exists at present.
It is perfectly clear therefore, that a consideration of the laws which govern the increase and decrease of the human species, tends to strengthen, in the most powerful manner, all the arguments in favour of the abolition.
With regard to the state of society among the African nations, it will readily occur to the reader that, in describing it, the question of the slave-trade was foreign to my purpose; I might naturally fear that, if I entered upon it, I should be led into too long a digression. But certainly all the facts which I have mentioned, and which are taken principally from Park, if they do not absolutely prove that the wars in Africa are excited and aggravated by the traffic on the coast, tend powerfully to confirm the supposition. The state of Africa, as I have described it, is exactly such as we should expect in a country where the capture of men was considered as a more advantageous employment than agriculture or manufactures. Of the state of these nations some hundred years ago, it must be confessed, we have little knowledge that we can depend upon. But allowing that the regular plundering excursions, which Park describes, are of the most ancient date; yet it is impossible to suppose that any circumstance which, like the European traffic, must give additional value to the plunder thes acquired, would not powerfully aggravate them and effectually prevent all progress towards a happier order of things. As long as the nations of Europe continue barbarous enough to purchase slaves in Africa, we may be quite sure that Africa will continue barbarous enough to supply them.
41. Vol. iii. p. 46, et seq. [The most relevant note to the last chapter of the third book is on p. 243 of the third volume of this edition, not on p. 46, which contains paragraphs III.III.15-16.—Ed.]
44. The merchants and manufacturers who so loudly clamour for cheap corn and low money wages, think only of selling their commodities abroad, and often forget that they have to find a market for their returns at home, which they can never do to any great extent, when the money wages of the working classes, and monied incomes in general are low.
45. With regard to the indisposition to marriage in towns, I do not believe that it is greater than in the country, except as far as it arises from the greater expense of maintaining a family, and the greater facility of illicit intercourse.