Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States
POPULATION. I. POSITION OF THE QUESTION OF POPULATION.—The Principle of Population, imperfectly seen by several Economists, demonstrated by Malthus, and strangely misapprehended. The term population embraces the most extensive subject of political economy; for in treating of questions of population, even though we restrict ourselves to labor and its remuneration, we might traverse the whole field of the science and write a complete course of political economy. Population is, in fact, at once the end and the means of human industry. For it and by it production takes place. By it also consumption is effected. We shall not, therefore, here consider this vast subject under its general aspect, but will confine ourselves to the questions suggested by the number of people, the elucidation of which must precede those connected with the fundamental questions of demand and supply, competition, wages, and social conditions. This range is still, as will be seen, very extended. The questions it embraces have been frequently discussed, especially during the past century, and in our own time: but of all writers, he who has most thoroughly investigated them, he whose ideas on this subject are, so to speak, the pivot of the discussions of economists, moralists, and publicists of every class, is the celebrated Malthus. To his investigations, and, we may say, discoveries, we will first give our attention.
—It was Malthus who stated the question. He it was who first showed its supreme importance. He brought together the scientific elements of the discussion, in his celebrated "Essay on the Principle of Population," published in 1803. This had been preceded by a preliminary sketch of the subject in 1798, in his reply to some propositions by Godwin, who was, in his turn, twenty years later, to attempt to refute him, but without success. Not that before Malthus some correct ideas on population had not appeared from a few writers, among others those of the physiocratie school, and James Stewart, Adam Smith, Wallace, Hume, and Gian Maria Ortès; but to the English philosopher belongs the honor of having seen and pointed out the profundity of the problem, of having made it the subject of numerous statistical and historical researches, and obtained a great amount of information upon it. Until the beginning of this century, i.e., up to the time of Malthus, legislators, statesmen and philosophers set out with this aphorism: "Where there is population, there is power." They took no account of the conditions under which the population might be living; no one questioned the proposition, and all social institutions aimed to increase the number of the people. Colbert, Pitt, and even Napoleon, favored granting rewards to the producers of large families; and it was not until 1852 that the parliament of Sardinia repealed a law to the same effect. People had no idea, that, in order for capital and labor to produce their greatest effect, the number of men must bear some relation to the disposable capital; they supposed that if, for example, a thousand laborers produced a million dollars, it was only necessary that two thousand laborers should be born to the state, to obtain two millions. The laws of all European countries originated when that idea prevailed, and even to-day there are legislators and publicists, priests and philosophers, moralists and poets, who appeal to that doctrine. It is still a quite common belief that a good government will do everything in its power to increase population.
—Malthus pointed out the dangers to society in general from this error, and especially to the poorer classes, who are the first to suffer from violations of natural laws. We will therefore, at the outset, give an exposition of his ideas, and indicate, as we proceed, the support he has received, and the modifications which his doctrine has experienced, from other eminent economists, as well as the exaggerations which have been substituted for it, the follies for which ignorance has made it responsible, and the principal objections or criticisms of which it has been the object. But first of all, we will say a few words concerning the way in which his ideas and sentiments have been misrepresented.
—Malthus affords a curious example of popular aberrations, for which fact many publicists and some economists, who have opposed, or even approved him, are responsible. Not only is Malthus not known, not only are people ignorant of his actual ideas, but men have succeeded in creating in the minds of the public a Malthus that never existed, a chimerical Malthus, to whom the strangest propositions are attributed, and who has been the subject of harsh reproaches and violent imprecations. This strange phenomenon may be thus explained: Most of those who have spoken of Malthus, have spoken of him without having read him and without knowing him otherwise than by extracts or by mutilated, if not incorrect, quotations. They have thus created the most deplorable confusion concerning him, by attributing to him ideas which he never had; by making of a philanthropist especially interested in the condition of the poor, a theorist favoring aristocracy; by holding him responsible for sentiments and errors belonging to his adversaries; or, it may be, for absurd propositions emanating from unhealthy minds.
—It must be confessed, however, that this condition of things is in part attributable to Malthus himself. The different parts of his book are not logically put together; his scattered reasons are nowhere presented in orderly sequence, in support of the principles he lays down; his style, moreover, is not particularly engaging. The great truths which he has set forth in regard to population would, without doubt, have become much more popular had he written like Rousseau or Lamennais, or with the ardent style of a pamphleteer, that one finals in the writings of Godwin and Proudhon, his sharpest critics. Malthus, however, though immovable in his principles, was considerate and good-natured to his opponents, who had no difficulty in obtaining control of public opinion at his expense.
—II. STATEMENT OF THE PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION.—Doctrine of Malthus. This doctrine is stated, as we have said, in his "Essay on the Principle of Population." After having formulated, in his two celebrated propositions, the law of the development of population and that of the increase of food, this illustrious economist verifies it by means of the history and statistics of ancient and modern peoples, and shows by what checks the growth of population has been arrested. At the same time he points out the dangers, both to private families and to society in general, arising from a misconception of these laws, and shows by what means the evils may be avoided which have resulted and still result from the improvidence in which the greater part of mankind have lived and do live. These laws of the increase in the number of human beings and of the means of subsistence, and these means of obviating the evils he points out, are what he has called the "principle of population." The evils he sums up as "vice" and "misery." The remedy he proposes, and which is one of the forms of foresight, he calls "moral restraint." To show the importance of this means, Malthus was led to discuss the value of the doctrines put forth the latter part of the last century and the beginning of the present one, on population and the means of raising it to a better material and moral condition, as well as the checks to its excessive growth. He then examines the social theories which had then appeared; among others, those of Godwin and Owen, Condorcet's theory of indefinite progress, the efficacy of emigration, and the effects and dangers of charity. In treating of the latter subject, Malthus makes a profound criticism of the poor laws, and is led to an examination of the question so much agitated in our times, of the right to employment and the right to state aid.
—Statement of the two propositions. In the first pages of his book, after stating a few facts and considerations corroborated in the course of the work, Malthus says: "It may safely be pronounced, therefore, that population, when unchecked, goes on doubling itself every twenty-five years, or increases in a geometrical ratio." (7th ed., p. 4, London, 1872.) "It may be fairly pronounced, therefore, that, considering the present average state of the earth, the means of subsistence, under circumstances the most favorable to human industry, could not possibly increase faster than in an arithmetical ratio." (Ibid., p. 5.) Translating these two laws into figures, Malthus adds, a little further on: "The human species would increase as the numbers 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256; and subsistence as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. In two centuries the population would be, to the means of subsistence, as 256 to 9," etc. (Ibid., p. 6.)
—These propositions are true, if not literally, at least approximately. And here we will anticipate certain objections, less serious than is generally supposed, by observing that Malthus, in using a geometrical progression to express the increase of population, and an arithmetical progression to represent the increase in means of subsistence, meant nothing more than to express a tendency. Some persons did not thus understand him, but their dissertations in reference to the matter lead to false conclusions.
—The first proposition demonstrated by the increase of the population of the United States, and conformable to the laws of nature. Near the close of the last century, when Malthus began to write, Dr. Price stated, that, according to data examined by himself, in certain parts of North America, the period of doubling the population was fifteen years. ("Price's Observations," vol. i., p. 282, and vol. ii., p. 260.) He supported this statement by some extracts from a sermon by Dr. Hyles, who had found, in 1748, that the period of doubling was twenty-five years in Rhode Island, taken as a whole, and twenty and fifteen years in certain districts in the interior of that state. The period was twenty years in the county of Kent, and eighteen years in Providence county. Euler had constructed a table based on statistics taken from the registers of births and deaths, according to which the doubling had taken place in less than thirteen years. W. Petty had advanced the opinion, that, under particularly favorable circumstances, a population might double in ten years. Malthus, relying on these three authorities and the United States census, thought he was safe from exaggeration in saying, that, when population is not arrested in its growth from any cause, it goes on doubling every twenty-five years, thus increasing from period to period in geometrical progression. If the fact of doubling in twenty-five years, independently of immigration, had been once proven, science would be justified in adopting a posteriori the assertion of Malthus.
—We have now valuable statistics on this subject in the decennial census of the United States, covering nearly four times the Malthusian period of twenty-five years. In 1790 the United States were free, and organized under one general government. They have continued to live under the same government. The civil war is the only important event which has put a serious check upon the natural course of things. Moreover, the United States, not having yet attained the limits of disposable land and subsistence, have continued to obey the law indicated by the census previous to this century, and which served Malthus as a starting point. We have here one of the most remarkable facts in regard to population, a fact remarkable both for its clearness and its continuity. According to the official census statistics, the progress of population has been, in round numbers, as follows:
If from the population of 1850, we deduct that of the then newly annexed territory, including Texas, New Mexico, Utah and California (166,000 persons in all, a large part of whom, however, were immigrants from the United States), we have remaining a population of 22,990,000 for that year. If we divide the population of 1840 by that of 1790, we find that the population more than quadrupled in these fifty years. Dividing that of 1850 by that of 1800, we find the population quadrupled in the first two periods of twenty-five years in this century. Taking, in like manner, the fifty-year periods from 1810 to 1860, 1820 to 1870, and 1830 to 1880, we find the population more than quadrupled in all but the last period, and very nearly quadrupled in that. Comparing periods of ten years, we find that the population had increased—
The smaller per cent. of increase between 1860 and 1870 was a result of the civil war.
—When we examine the census of the individual states, we find several in which the increase has varied greatly from the above rates. The population of the state of New York increased more than sevenfold in the fifty years from 1790 to 1840, and has more than doubled from 1840 to 1880. The population of Ohio more than tripled from 1820 to 1850. It had previously increased more than twelve-fold from 1800 to 1820; but this was largely the result of immigration from other states. Pennsylvania quadrupled her population in the fifty years from 1790 to 1840, and has little more than doubled it from 1840 to 1880. That of Virginia did not double in the fifty years from 1790 to 1840, and (including West Virginia) has barely doubled in the sixty years from 1820 to 1880.
—The statistics previously given of the general population show, however, that the ratio given by Malthus, which he had based on the increase observed in the second half of the last century, continues to express the facts during the present century, and over a wider area of territory.
—But, aside from the results of the census, we might have conceived this ratio a priori, as many economists have shown. J. B. Say reasons on the subject as follows: "If we leave out of account all the causes which limit the increase of the human race, we find that a man and woman, married as soon as they are mature, may easily have at least a dozen children. * * Experience, indeed, shows us that about half of those who are born die before the age of twenty-six. Consequently, if each couple can not rear twelve children who will have progeny, they can rear six as capable of increase as themselves. Hence we may conclude, that, if there were no check to this increase, the population of any country would be tripled at the end of twenty-six years." Rossi accepts Malthus' ratio, and adds: "This is easily demonstrated. Whenever you have several products, each with a reproductive power equal to that of the producer, you will necessarily have a more or less rapid geometrical progression. If one produces two, and these have each the same productive power as the first, the two will produce four, the four eight, and so on. Abstractly speaking, Malthus announced an indisputable principle, as true in regard to man as it is with animals and plants. Obstacles not being taken into account, it is evident that at the end of a certain number of years, the earth would be covered with men, as it is certain that the entire soil would be soon covered with wheat, and the ocean filled with fishes, if nothing checked the reproductive power of each grain of wheat and each fish." The observations of naturalists support Rossi's statement. A single plant of Indian corn produces 2,000 seeds, a sunflower 4,000, the poppy 32,000, an elm 100,000. A carp spawns 340,000 eggs. It has been calculated that one henbane plant would cover the earth in four years, and that two herrings would fill the sea in ten years, if the ocean covered the whole earth, were there no check to their increase.
—Objections drawn from immigration and the exceptional case presented by the United States. Attacks more animated than serious have been made upon Malthus' first proposition, which is one of the principal foundations of his argument. Godwin, among others, went so far as to maintain that the exceptionally large increase of population in the United States must be attributed entirely to immigration. We will consider the untenability of this position. Up to 1783 war and various other circumstances hindered immigration, and took from the United States more persons than Europe added to the population. The immigration occasioned by the French Revolution was soon interrupted by the war of 1793; and from that time to the peace of 1815 but few immigrants came from Europe, and these almost exclusively from England: These facts are obtained from the "Statistical Annals of the United States," by Dr. Adam Seybert, of Philadelphia, and are based on official documents from 1780 to 1818. (Seybert's valuable work was published in Philadelphia in the latter year, and a copy may now be found in the Astor library, New York.—Translator.) Dr. Seybert states there, that the immigrants came principally from Great Britain, Ireland and Germany; that in 1794 there was a strong tendency in Great Britain to emigrate to the United States, which, however, had been restrained by acts of the British government; that in 1794, according to Cooper, the number of immigrants had been 10,000; and that in 1806 Mr. Blodgett had stated, that, according to the records and estimates most worthy of credence, the annual average for the ten years preceding 1806 had not exceeded 4,000. Admitting that, in 1794, 10,000 foreigners landed in the United States, Dr. Seybert did not admit that they arrived in as great numbers during any of the preceding or subsequent years up to 1817; and, in view of the facts he had been able to obtain, he arrived at the conclusion that the number of immigrants who settled in the United States from 1790 to 1810 could not have exceeded 6,000 annually, on the average. The official records published in England of passengers to America, are confirmatory of Dr. Seybert's conclusion, or, where they differ from it, differ only by making the numbers less. Even were we to admit an annual immigration of 10,000 persons, we should still fall far short of the number necessary to explain the rapid increase of population in the United States. Hence the term of twenty-five years, assigned by Malthus for doubling the population by procreation alone, is far from being exaggerated.
—This testimony has also the confirmation of Mr. Warden (a former United States consul and correspondent of the Institut de France), who was a careful collector of all statistics pertaining to the United States. In his opinion, the population of the United States had doubled in every twenty-one years, and the immigrants, in 1820, had not exceeded an annual average of 4,000. Now, 4,000 immigrants could not have produced more than 84,000 inhabitants: and yet the population increased 5,000,000 in the twenty-one years up to 1820.
—Inasmuch as, prior to 1820, no statistics of immigration were officially kept in all the ports of the United States, we will admit that the records of passengers landed in the ports of the Union previous to 1820 were inaccurate, and in several places negligently kept: we will also leave out of account those returning to Europe, or who passed over into Canada; and we will suppose, that, instead of 4,000 immigrants a year, there were double, triple or even quadruple that number: the marriages, during this period of twenty-one years, must, nevertheless, have given an increase of 4,500,000, so that even this exaggerated immigration would not have added more than from 150,000 to 300,000 new inhabitants.
—From 1820 to 1856, although a record was kept of all foreign-born persons arriving in the ports of the United States, no separate account was made of those who came to remain permanently; of those, that is, to whom the term immigrants would now be applied. To obtain the number of this class of persons during the decennial periods from 1790 to 1840, a calculation was made (which appeared both in the "British Review," and in vol. xxiii. of the Revue des Economistes), according to the following method pointed out by Godwin. The children under ten years of age were subtracted from each general census, for the reason that all the children who, e.g., at the census of 1830, had not attained the age of ten years, were born since 1820, and belonged to the natural increase by means of birth. The difference was taken between this number of children and the increase of population indicated by the census; and this difference was considered to be the number of foreign immigrants. In this way it was calculated that there must have been 160,000 immigrants from 1790 to 1800, 229,000 from 1800 to 1810; 312,000 from 1810 to 1820; 494,000 from 1820 to 1830; and 862,000 from 1830 to 1840: making a total, in fifty years, of about 2,000,000. Admitting this estimate as correct, the total population, nevertheless, increased from 1790 to 1840 from nearly 4,000,000 to more than 17,000,000. Admitting, also, that 862,000 settled in the United States from 1830 to 1840, the population had increased in that period from 12,866,020 to 17,069,453, an increase of 4,203,433, or of 3,341,433 after deducting the number of immigrants; that is to say, an increase of nearly 26 per cent.
—Since 1856 a separate record has been required to be kept, by United States collectors of customs, of all foreign-born passengers arriving in their respective districts, who have come to the United States to settle here, and a quarterly return of the same is made to the United States treasury department. From these tables we learn that the total immigration of settlers from June 30, 1869, to June 30, 1879, was 2,742,137 persons. The total increase of population, as indicated by the census, from 1870 to 1880, was 11,597,412. If from this number we deduct the above number of immigrants, we have left 8,855,275 persons, as the increase exclusive of immigration, an increase of about 23 per cent. This calculation, however, does not leave out of account (as it should do in order to exhibit accurately the natural increase of population) such of the children of these immigrants as were born in the United States between 1870 and 1880, nor of the immigrants themselves during the same time; nor have we yet the statistics for a just estimate of this matter. It is to be hoped, however, that the completed census of 1880, when published, will furnish the desired data. The above given per cent. is, consequently, in excess of the ratio of increase from births alone.
—Since, however, the conditions of the population of the United States have changed since Malthus wrote, and there are now obstacles to its increase which did not then exist, we deem ourselves authorized to conclude, from the above given data, that Malthus was within the limits of truth in estimating that any population would double in a quarter of a century, if there were no obstacle in the way of its increase. He did not say that population in fact doubles in that period. On the contrary, he said the fact was not manifest; and he sought to ascertain the checks by which this increase was prevented.
—Proposition second, relating to subsistence. The second proposition of Malthus amounts to saying that subsistence has a tendency to increase less rapidly than population. Its demonstration results from a comparison of the ease with which families may multiply, and the difficulty with which harvests are obtained. But few considerations need be presented to make this apparent.
—First, it must be remarked that cultivated land, that which yields the means of subsistence, is limited; that it produces only by the aid of capital, which is limited, and is obtained only through difficulty and sacrifices; that it is only by the aid of capital, hard labor, and time, that people succeed in rendering these lands productive and maintain their productiveness. This power of the earth becomes, in fact, quickly exhausted; and in a few years the soil would refuse all return, if rotation of crops, fertilizers and following did not renew its strength. Now, rotation of crops, fertilizers, drainage, and improvements of any kind, imply capital; and following implies cessation of production. Suppose we grant the wholly inadmissible hypothesis, that capital can increase as rapidly as population, it might be said, that, in agriculture, though every increase of labor and capital increases the product, this increase of product is not in the ratio of the increase of labor and capital. Let us suppose, that in consequence of well-directed improvements, the product is doubled within a certain time; can it be supposed, that, by doubling the outlay in another like period of time, the product can be again doubled, and so on continually? Would any agriculturist reply in the affirmative?
—III. CONTINUATION OF THE EXPOSITION OF THE PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION.—Consequences of the two propositions. Obstacles in the way of the increase of population in a geometrical ratio. Evidently, then, population and subsistence do not follow the same principle. The course of the one tends naturally to become accelerated; that of the other is much less, and tends to come retarded, and to vary more and more from the former, in long-settled countries which are wholly occupied. In other words, the productive power of man to increase his species is greater than that to increase his means of subsistence. Hence, wherever both kinds of reproduction take place without any obstacle being voluntarily interposed by man, population is always pressed for means of subsistence, and the balance between the two is only maintained by physical evil or death.
—This energy of the principle of population, added to the wants inherent in our nature, is, then, a powerful spur to the human race, who must make a constant appeal to all their intellectual, moral and physical faculties to avoid being overtaken by the pangs of hunger and by other privations. Since it incites the species to gradual increase, and since, on the other hand, this same species is endowed with faculties susceptible of development and an ambition to better its condition, the law of increase results in progress when it is maintained within certain bounds, and is a cause of unhappiness and destruction when arrested by no constraining influence.
—This being granted, let us ascertain by what checks the force of these two principles has been and can be counteracted. The checks are of two kinds, and of an opposite nature. One class prevents births, and the other produces premature deaths. The former checks are preventive, and the latter repressive. Malthus called the latter positive checks. This term, however, is not a good one, and may lead to confusion, for the checks which prevent population are as positive as those which cause its destruction. Among the checks to the increase of population through the action of its principle, are the insalubrity of localities inhabited; the un-cleanliness of dwellings, or their insufficient shelter; the lack of suitable clothing and hygienic care; unwholesome or insufficient food; irregular habits; the abuse of tobacco, strong drink and other irritants; famines, and industrial and financial panics, the effects of which are felt for many years; war, which entails the waste of a vast amount of capital, the devastation of crops, and diminished agricultural production; diminution of labor, and false economic measures; anxieties and moral sufferings; and abortion, and even infanticide, terrible means which are more frequently employed than is generally supposed. Most of these causes produce epidemics, or render them more fatal, prevent the proper development of children, weaken the faculties of maturer years, and cause a considerable mortality, which counterbalances the effects of reproduction. Malthus comprehended them all in his expression, "vice and poverty," which he regarded as by turns cause and effect of each other, and as shortening human life.
—Preventive checks belong to two quite distinct classes, one of which comprehends those which result from vice, and the other those which come from the exercise of reason. Those caused by vice are: debauchery, promiscuity of the sexes, and prostitution, which destroy fecundity; polygamy, which acts in the same direction, as is shown by the statistics of the people of oriental countries:*43 slavery, which acts both as a repressive check, in consequence of the bad treatment of slaves, and as a preventive check, by trampling on the family sentiment.
—Preventive checks of a different kind are all those prudential considerations which lead men to defer marriage or to limit their number of children to their means of supporting and educating them. These checks have at all times contributed more or less to retard the increase of population. It would be impossible to tell precisely to what extent they have acted, but it is not unlikely that their action has, from time to time, been extended or restricted concurrently with certain moral influences which have given direction to the minds of mankind.
—Among the number of checks to the increase of population at a given point, Malthus omitted to mention emigration. This may exceed immigration, and may in part (much less, however, than is generally supposed) neutralize the effects of the increase of the poorer classes. Malthus, however, discusses this question in speaking of the means proposed to remedy excess of population. Emigration, in fact, has only existed in a marked degree in recent times, since the improvements in maritime communication; and it had not, in his day, been an important check to the increase of continental population in Europe. Two brilliant writers, Louis Reybaud, in the Journal des Economistes, and Blanqui, in his charming "History of Political Economy," in explaining the doctrines of Malthus, have rightly said that emigration has rendered immense service to the civilization and industry of all nations. They find the fears of Malthus chimerical, and his law sufficiently counteracted; and they count on emigration to maintain the equilibrium. But, without denying the civilizing effects of emigration, what we desire to know is, whether it has proved a sufficient check to population in the past, and will prove sufficient in the future. This subject we shall examine farther on.
—Malthus has also been accused of having omitted to take into account the happy effects of increased wealth and of the industrial and economic progress which produce it. Now, with wealth, it is said, and the remark is just, the fecundity of families diminishes. Whence this consoling result would follow, that civilization is at once remedy and check to the evil capable of arising from the principle of population. Malthus did not ignore this fact.
—The effects of wealth in retarding the growth of population were long ago observed, and it was noticed that rich families (save numerous exceptions) have a tendency to propagate less than poor families. But what is the cause of this phenomenon? Does competency diminish the fecundity of people? or is it rather better adapted that want and misery to increase morality, forethought and parental dignity, and to render people more fitted to exercise their free will, and more capable of prudence in marriage? It is evident that the tranquil life of a well-to-do couple is far more favorable to healthful reproduction, to pregnancy, and to the cares which early childhood demands, than is a life of destitution. There may be as many births among the poorer classes; but, other things being equal, death will take his victims more frequently from the abodes of poverty and wretchedness.
—The check arising from competence brings us naturally to the doctrine of the plethoric check, or fatness, which is an exaggerated form of it, advanced by Fourier, and also presented by Doubleday, in his book entitled "The True Law of Population shown to be connected with the Food of the People." Doubleday's doctrine may be summed up as follows: 1, when animal or vegetable species are threatened with death from insufficiency of nutritious food, nature makes a supreme effort, and increases their prolific power, and gives them an impulse which is checked only when proper nourishment is again afforded; 2, when these species receive food luxurious in kind, or excessive in amount, they pass to the plethoric or sterile condition, and reproduction is assisted or altogether ceases; 3, if the individuals are moderately fed, and their food is not luxurious in kind, the generative principle acts wisely, the race is continued, but does not increase; 4, when ill-fed species are brought into union with others whose food has been abundant and strengthening, the balance is at once restored: the increase of the former compensates for the decrease of the latter, and the race remains stationary.
—Doubleday and Fourier are not contradicted on the subject of plethoric races:*44 but, on the subject of the relative fecundity of races which live moderately, physical anthropology would, we think, have more than one reservation to make. Villermé (Journal des Economistes, November, 1843) earnestly combated this theory of Doubleday by arguments based on facts, in a report to the French academy of political and moral sciences. A consideration of the arguments drawn from natural history would unduly extend the limits of this article: so we refrain from recapitulating them.
—Let us now consider the objections offered against the theory of checks limiting population. In the first place, it has been denied that repressive or preventive checks have acted or do act. A sufficient answer to this objection is a statement of the facts of ancient and modern history, and the reports of travelers, and these are confirmed by geography and statistics. Malthus devoted a part of his work to a consideration of these facts, and every one can complete his argument by observations of his own. It is an indisputable fact that men die more or less rapidly according to the places where they reside, their conditions of existence, their occupations, and the classes to which they belong. In France it has been observed that rich or well to-do men, from forty to forty-five years old, die at the rate of .85 of 1 per cent. annually; but that men of the same age who are poor and needy die at the rate of 1.87 per cent., that is to say, two and a fifth times as many of the poor die. In the British colonies there was a time in which negro slaves died in the proportion of one to six annually, and free negroes in the proportion of one to thirty-three: that is, five and a half times as many slaves died. In Paris, from 1817 to 1836, one inhabitant in fifteen died in the twelfth arrondissement, which was peopled mostly by the poor; and one inhabitant in sixty-five in the second, occupied by a different class. At Manchester, Eng., the average of life in certain districts was formerly only seventeen years, while in others it was forty-two. There are places and occupations in which children are reared more successfully, and in which more old men are found, than in others. What do these facts prove, if not that there are places, districts, occupations, classes and families in which men die prematurely, and in consequence of the causes pointed out by Malthus? If this is the case, can we deny that it would have been better if the greater part of these men, especially those who die in childhood and youth, had never been born, since they came into the world only to suffer, and to occasion suffering and privation directly to their families, and indirectly to society?
—In investigating the question of population, there is need to take large account of the difference of localities, occupations and social conditions. For lack of knowledge of these, statistics are of comparatively little value. Present communities are the resultants of an infinite number of causes, and if they are considered as a whole, no proper judgment can be formed of the changes which take place in them. Take, for instance, the tables of the mortality in cities in the United States in 1880. We perceive, that in that year the city of Yonkers, N. Y., had 14.3 deaths to 1,000 inhabitants, and that Savannah, Ga., had 32.6 in 1,000. Before we can form a just judgment in regard to the comparative salubrity of these two cities, we must know their location, atmospheric conditions, drainage, the social condition of their inhabitants, their character, age, and many other circumstances. Again, there are certain departments in France in which the population has actually diminished for many successive years, but before we can base any judgment of value in reference to this fact, we must know certain other facts, among which are the loss by war and by emigration, and how much of the decrease is due to intemperance and other vices, how much to destitution, how much to disease, how much to heredity, sanitary conditions and other causes. Then we might form some proper estimate of the measure of decrease resulting from prudence, and be able to judge whether or not there was a failure of what Malthus called the "principle of population."
—Another objection is made, based on the price of cereals. From the stability of the price, the conclusion is drawn that progress in agriculture has kept and will keep pace with the growth of population. M. Passy, a French authority who investigated this question about thirty years ago, attributed the steadiness of the price of grain for the fifty years from 1797 to 1847 to the improvements in agriculture. On examining the prices of wheat (as given in Spofford's American Almanac for 1882, p. 102) from 1825 to 1880 inclusive, i.e., for fifty-six years, we find twenty-six years in which the price was higher than in 1880, and twenty-nine years in which it was less. Many elements, however, are always to be considered in connection with prices, among which are short crops in our own or in other countries, wars at home or abroad, cost of transportation, and other causes which affect supply or vary demand, not the least of which is the value, i.e., the purchasing power, of money: and as there is no way of determining, otherwise than approximately, the amount of effect from each of these various causes, it is impossible to say to what degree the prices have been affected by them, or whether wheat, if we consider only the causes which are constant in their action, tends to increase or diminish in price. This, however, we do know, that some classes of the population have, at all periods of which history gives us information, experienced at times the repressive check of a lack of sufficient nutritive food; and we might, a priori, conclude, that if the world continues to be populated increasingly, the time must eventually come, when, with all conceivable facilities for the production and transportation of food, not enough of the latter could be produced (for lack of room) to afford nourishment to all the inhabitants. That time is, however, in a future so remote that the question of population, as presented by Malthus, derives its chief practical value from the motives to prudence it presents, rather than from the danger it threatens of increase of population beyond means of subsistence.
—Another objection to Malthus' doctrine has been drawn from the advantages and productive resources which a population finds in its own density, or, in other words, from the benefits civilization derives from an increase in the number of men. Mr. Everett, of Boston (author of "New Ideas on Population"), and Henry Carey, of Philadelphia, in particular, reproached Malthus with not having taken sufficient account of this density of population. Mr. Carey stated that increase of population is accompanied by an increase in the quantity of products, and an increase in the share of the laborers in that increased quantity; and, finally, that the doctrine of Malthus is false and dangerous, since he makes assertions which might arouse had feeling in the masses. Let us say, in the first place, that the doctrine of Malthus can not be held responsible for the bad feeling of the masses misled by false assertions; and that, in any case, the feelings of the masses can not be regarded as the criterion of scientific truth. We will next say, that, as a general fact, it may be true that increase of population leads to facility of association, and the latter to increase of wealth; but, for Mr. Carey to be right, the capital needed by the population must also necessarily always increase in like ratio with production and facility of association. Moreover, the wealth produced must always be sufficient for the increasing population; for, as Bastiat says, (Harmonies Economiques, 2d ed., 1851, p. 427), "if, as wealth increases, the number of men among whom it is divided increases still more, the absolute wealth may be greater, and individual wealth less." Finally, this wealth must comprise a sufficient quantity of the means of subsistence. Then alone would the counsels of Malthus and the wisdom and forethought of the heads of families be unnecessary, without, however, being dangerous; for there is never danger in preaching prudence to the poor, destroying their illusions, and enlightening them in regard to anti-social rights. Things have taken place, as Mr. Carey says, in several parts of the United States, and they may take place again in various states of this new country, and in some localities in Europe even; but we can not admit that this is the general expression of constant and universal facts.
—Bastiat thought that Malthus did not take sufficient account of the progressive principle of the human race, perfectibility. In virtue of this principle, he said, man sees his wants increase. When the natural wants are satisfied, others arise which habit renders natural in their turn; and this habit, which has so appropriately been called second nature, performing the functions of valves in the human system, interposes an obstacle to any retrograde step. Consequently the intelligent and moral restraint he exercises over his own propagation, is affected and inspired by these efforts, and combines with his progressive habits. The first inference which M. Bastiat draws from this view of the matter, is, that in proportion as people become accustomed to superior means of subsistence, or to more means of living, to use the broader expression of Mr. Tracy and of J. B. Say, forethought is stimulated, the moral and preventive check neutralizes more and more the brutal and repressive check, and better living and forethought engender each other. Bastiat's second inference is, that in critical times, people may sacrifice many enjoyments before encroaching on their food, or may even come down from food of the first quality to that which is inferior. "It is not so," he says, "in China or in Ireland. When men have nothing in the world but a little rice or potatoes, with what will they buy other food if this rice and these potatoes fail?" A third inference is, that an intelligent man may make an unlimited use of the preventive check. "He is perfectible," says Bastiat; "he aspires to improvement; deterioration is repugnant to him; progress is his normal condition. Progress implies a more or less enlightened use of the preventive check: consequently, the means of existence will increase more rapidly than population. If it were true, as Malthus says, that to each excess of the means of subsistence, corresponds a greater excess of population, the poverty of our race would be fatally progressive, civilization would be at the beginning, and barbarism at the end, of time. The contrary is true: consequently the law of limitation has had sufficient power to restrict the increase of men below that of products."
—Our first remark upon this is, that all that Bastiat says before his conclusion, and which appears to us perfectly correct, is found here and there in Malthus' work. Our second remark is, that it is a gratuitous assumption of Bastiat that Malthus advanced the idea that to each excess of means of subsistence there corresponds a greater excess of population. Malthus did say that such a correspondence might easily arise from the law of human propagation, but that it could be avoided by the preventive check; and he composed his work only to point out the dangers of that correspondence and the advantages of men using their limitative faculties, which are the more efficacious the more an appeal is made to reason.
—One word in reference to the two conclusions. Bastiat claims that, in the past, the increase of mankind has been restrained by forethought. This opinion, which he elsewhere more than once himself contradicts, would be more consoling than that of Malthus, who attributes the greater influence to the action of repressive and preventive checks of a bad kind. But an assertion is not a demonstration; and the demonstration, by means of history, geography and statistics, is found in the work of Malthus. Bastiat also claims that the means of subsistence increase faster than population; but as he supposes this to be by the action of foresight, he juggles, so to speak, with the difficulty, solving the question by the question. If he had said or had meant that the means of subsistence might, by the aid of foresight, or, as he calls it, of the preventive limitation, increase more rapidly than population, he would have simply formulated the desideratum of the problem of population, the very end that Malthus, and all those who treated the question after him, had in view.
—IV. MEANS OR REMEDIES PROPOSED TO COUNTERBALANCE THE PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION.—Moral restraint and forethought. The various checks to the increase of population are so many means of counterbalancing this principle; but all, with the exception of forethought, are outside of our present discussion. We will, however, mention the grossest charge brought against Malthus. Some have asserted, and others repeated, that Malthus counseled prostitution and debauchery as a remedy for the evils that might result from a disproportion between the quantity of subsistence and the number of people; or again, that not only did he not deplore, but that he even desired, the action of these repressive checks. To serious men the mere mention of such nonsense is its sufficient answer. There are, however, frequent traces of these absurdities in the ideas current concerning Malthus and his doctrines.
—The check to the principle of population which Malthus recommends, in order to avoid the great number of deaths resulting from the action of repressive checks, is prudence in marriage, which he calls "moral restraint." The substance of his doctrine is in the advice of that father who instructs his children to take the greatest care to proportion the number of their children to their means for supporting them. "Do not marry," he says, "and have children, except when you can support them. Remember that your family have no other support than you, and that those causes which have rendered dormant your judgment and your forethought will be powerless to extricate you from the misery into which you will fall, by which you will be continually exposed to become the prey of evils and vices which drive generations of men to the grave."
—Malthus discussed in detail the various improvements which might ameliorate the condition of the needy classes, and, after having considered their bearing, repeated and reinforced his advice with much power in an appendix, which forms the fifth part of his work. In this appendix, after having again confuted the principal objections made to his ideas, he summed up his doctrines.
—Certain publicists, Sismondi among others, admitting the tendency of population to outrun the limits of subsistence, proclaimed the fatality of this condition of things, and the inutility of the remedy. Malthus did not fall into such an error. He thought it possible to prevent births; for man is intelligent and free; he can anticipate the evil, and avoid the danger when he knows it. It is because of not having read Malthus thoroughly, or of having forgotten what he wrote, that people have brought such charges against him: for he took much pains to show the efficacy of the remedy as well as the reality of the danger: he, in fact, spared no effort to show how pauperism could be prevented.
—The principle of moral restraint, or, the preventive check, which finds expression in abstinence and late marriages, has been accused of being aristocratic, contrary to the teachings of the gospel, and inefficacious. Is it to be considered aristocratic, because it recognizes that people of wealth or competence can rear larger families? The reproach is ill-founded. The happiness of parents depends not so much on the number as on the health and well-being of their children; and from this point of view it is better not to have children than to see them deprived of the necessities of life. In the second place, to recommend to poor people not to take upon themselves the cares of married life too early, is to exhort them to an abstention which will enable them to have a family under better conditions, and one not too numerous, and will also help them not to create too great a competition, and, consequently, to be more independent. Considered in this light, the advice of Malthus is essentially democratic. As to the religious aspect of the question, we would say that Crescite et multiplicamini is not an exhortation to incessant procreation: it is rather a benediction. We consider its true significance to be: "Increase and prosper." But, in order to prosper, we must use freedom, reason and forethought, those qualities in which man is superior to a quadruped or to an oviparous animal. This is not alone the idea of Malthus, although he was himself a minister of the gospel; it is also that of St. Paul, who, in advising the Corinthians of the imprudence of marrying in those troublous times, says: "Such shall have tribulation in the flesh: and I would spare you."
—The charge of inefficacy seems better founded; because, in the first place, conjugal unions, though late, may be very prolific, and the more so because of being late, since the parties may be in a better condition for having a well-constituted progeny; secondly, because it would seem that celibacy for an entire life should be only exceptional; and thirdly, because there seem to be people to whom chastity or entire abstention seems impossible. So we are led to say that forethought not only means late marriages, and celibacy for those who can live thus, but also prudence in marriage. Malthus did not in very explicit terms include this prudence in what he called moral restraint, but it is evident that he implied it.
—By late marriages we must then understand those in which the contracting parties wait for the capital or the employment needed, in order to provide for the wants of a family, rather than marriages from which young people are excluded; for experience shows that men who marry early lead more regular lives, and this prevents illegitimate births. These marriages, however, must be prudently conducted, in order to avoid misery. If the begetting of children is a chief object in marriage, a no less evident object is the care for these same children, that from the moment of conception to the time when they can support themselves, they should have the necessary means of existence, in material and hygienic respects, as well as in intellectual and moral ones. Consequently, parents are wanting in the foremost and most indispensable of their duties, if they have more children than they can support, properly educate, and have taught some occupation which will at least provide them with the necessaries of life. It is certainly incumbent on parents to exercise the will in this matter more than in any other, and to act as intelligent, moral and responsible beings.
—Will a man be immoral, if, wishing to have only a limited number of children, proportionate to his means and the future his affection dreams of for them, he nevertheless does not, with this object in view, devote himself to the most rigorous and unconditional abstinence? It is useless to discuss this question, and we shall merely appeal to every enlightened conscience to say whether it is more moral, more in conformity with the sense of human right, to bring children into the world in the midst of privations, than to prevent their existence.
—Some have claimed (Proudhon among others), that in the latter case, lack of affection is added to lack of bread. We are unable to see that this is the case, when the number of children of poor people is restricted because of prudence and foresight. The contrary seems to us evidently true. Nor are we able to comprehend how prudence will lead, as some assert, to the suppression of marriage and the debauchery of youth. Is it not a legitimate effect of prudence to render the marriage state more prosperous and attractive? and does not experience prove that a lack of foresight is one of the causes of concubinage and demoralization, either through violation of the marriage covenant, or in consequence of the culpable heedlessness which leads people to render themselves liable to have a family without undertaking to support one?
—There is also another point of view which should not be disregarded. It is that marriage, apart from the consideration of a family, may be regarded as a most natural partnership for mutual aid. From this point of view, marriage is far from being a superfluous institution. We will not speak of abuse of pleasures of sense, save to say that improvident unions are not exactly those which are most exempt from it. Finally, far from weakening the social bond, ideas of forethought, prudence and responsibility seem to us to tend to strengthen the family principle, and likewise that of property. Young people are more encouraged to marry by the example of prosperous and well-conducted households, than by those suffering the pangs of wretchedness.
—But this conjugal forethought is amenable to morals and to hygiene, both of which are, from their respective points of view, in accord in prescribing to the head of a family respect for his life companion. Maxima debetur sponsœ reverentia is a precept which perhaps is not given its due prominence in the confidential education which a father owes his son when he has attained years of discretion and aspires to have a family of his own. This respect can not be too thoroughly instilled into the minds of all classes of society, especially of those addicted to intemperate indulgence in the pleasures of the table and to intoxicating drinks. Excesses of all kinds, and particularly in the matter of drink, have a great part in the miseries of this world; they make men lose the feeling of self-respect, and the sense of their duty to their families; they stifle the voice of reason; they neutralize all domestic forethought; they bring on despondency, quickly followed by a weakening of the mainsprings of morality.
—Having reached this point in our discussion, it seems unnecessary to reply to the two following sophisms. We are told that we ought not to deprive the poor of the only pleasure which nature has given them, and that if the poor have more children, it is because Providence wills it so, to counterbalance the debauchery of the rich. Strange means for Providence to take, to punish some for the fault of others, which fault, besides, is much exaggerated! Must we repeat that the children of the needy die sooner and more frequently, and that when they arrive, they fill no deficiency?
—We will now conclude this important part of our subject by repeating that to labor and good conduct every man should add foresight in all its forms, including that prudence which will render him extremely careful to avoid having a family more numerous than comports with the resources his industry furnishes. This is the principal means upon which men may reasonably rely, because it is at their disposal: it is also the only really efficacious means, as we shall see on making a rapid review of the other means proposed as remedies to the force of the principle of population.
—V. OTHER MEANS PROPOSED TO COUNTERBALANCE THE PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION.—Plan of Dr. Loudon. Strange means proposed by Fourier, Pierre Leroux, Marcus, Greek philosophers, etc. Dr. Loudon, a doctor of medicine and an inspector of factory children in England, deriving the suggestion from natural history and physiology, thought he had found a solution of the problem of population and subsistence in the plan of having infants suckled for three years, and the contrariety of function between the breasts and the uterus. ("Solution of the Problem of Population and Subsistence." 2 vols., 1842.) He calculated that with the nursing period thus prolonged, a woman could not give birth to more than three or four children. Were we to admit Dr. Loudon's premises (which, by the way, are much disputed), it is easy to see that families might still become large, and exceed the limits of their resources. A woman might still give birth to eight or more children. Consequently, there would always be reason for commending foresight to heads of families, even with triennial nursing, admitting the latter to be practicable for the industrial and agricultural classes.*45 We now ask pardon of our readers for introducing the following theories: Fourier calculated that with work carried on according to his system of association, land would yield a "four-fold product," i.e., there would be four times the present produce, if men combined in phalansteries and worked in the ways he describes; but, after having uttered these words of hope, he calls attention to the fact that population would soon again reach the limit of subsistence, in its future social condition. In this his views correspond with those of Malthus; but he holds in contempt this corypheus of "economism," who could find nothing but forethought as a remedy for excess of population, which excess Fourier would remedy by means far more efficacious. His methods are: 1, the complete exercise of all the passions, and attractive labor, to divert the sexes from the act of procreation; 2, gastrosophy, or the science of feeding wisely and acquiring a stoutness little adapted to that act; 3, the vigor of the women, which, in his opinion, was in inverse ratio to their fecundity; 4, the customs of the society he dreams of, which he calls phanerogamic, which are to produce effects analogous to those of the polygamy practiced in oriental countries, and the polyandry and polygyny found among civilized peoples. We will make no other comment here, than to say that the teaching of forethought was treated by Fourier and his disciples as immoral! and that, on the other hand, Leroux (Lettres sur le Fourierisme, par M. Pierre Leroux, in the Revue Sociale), and Proudhon (Avertissement aux propriétaires, by M. Proudhon, pamphlet, 1841), rendered severe justice to the monstrosities of Fourier. But Pierre Leroux did not confine himself to criticism: he, too had a theory on population. He called it the circulus, and meant by this word the principle in virtue of which every man produces sufficient fertilizing material for his subsistence! But Leroux does not state how agriculture must go to work to feed the human race from this source. He also makes the customary attack on Malthus and the Economists. (Malthus et les Economistes, 1 vol., 16mo.) As to Proudhon, after having both attacked Malthus and confuted the arguments of the latter's opponents, he ended by arriving at nearly the same conclusions as did Malthus; so that the most ardent Malthusian would cheerfully indorse many eloquent pages of his book. (Contradictions Economiques, 1846, 2d vol., p. 453.) But this only applies to the matter in some studies published by this writer in 1846. Later, in 1848, when the right of labor to employment was discussed in the national assembly, Proudhon wrote a very caustic pamphlet (Representant du Peuple, Aug. 10, 1848; republished by Garnier Frères), aimed at the opponents of this right, whom he called Malthusians. This writing, full of censurable misstatements and arguments made for the occasion, was merely the work of a political writer, and is not worth discussion as of scientific value. (See Journal des Economistes, of March, 1849, article by Du Puynode on "Malthus and Socialism," also a discourse by Michel Chevalier on "Political Economy and Socialism.")
—But to continue the account of singular methods. A German writer, Weinhold, a town councillor in Saxony, proposed, some fifty years ago, to prevent a surplus population by the same means employed by the Roman Catholic churches in Europe to obtain a certain quality of voices for their choirs, and by the Turks to secure faithful guardians for their wives. (De l'excès de population dans l'Europe centrale, Halle, 1827.) Another writer, an Englishman of great celebrity, (so says Rossi) whose name we do not venture to give, since he was unwilling it should be made public, but who wrote under the nom de plume of Marcus, proposed to prevent a surplus population by asphyxiating newly-born infants with carbonic acid. Was this work that of a mind diseased? or could its object have been to caricature Malthus? Neither would seem to be the case, for its tone and style are serious. But, however this may be, the traducers of Malthus took it up, and, because of the resemblance between the two names, east renewed reproach on the doctrines of the author of the "Essay on the Principle of Population," to whom the ignorant attributed the travesty by Marcus.
—Nor are these all. Proudhon has revealed to us the process of a certain Dr. G...who proposes "the extraction of the fœtus and the extirpation of germs that had found lodgment contrary to the intention of the parents," and one or two other means which we will not mention. (Contradictions Economiques, vol. ii., 1846, p. 453.)
—Is not the mere mention of such ideas their sufficient refutation, and enough to clear from responsibility for them the worthy, humane and reasonable man who wrote on the "Principle of Population"? It is of little use to-day to compare the eccentricities of our times with the ideas of the Greek philosophers on this subject; but we will cite a few of the latter taken from Montesquieu. (Esprit des Lois, book xxiii., chap. 17.) "The policy of the Greeks had particularly in view the regulation of the number of citizens. Plato wished procreation to be checked or encouraged, when necessary, by honors, shame, and the admonitions of the elders. He even wished ('Laws,' book v.) the number of marriages might be regulated in such a way as to maintain the population, without having the republic overstocked. 'If the law of the country,' says Aristotle ('Politics,' book vii., chap. 16), 'prohibits the exposure of infants, it will be necessary to limit the number of children which each man may beget.' When people have more children than the law allows, he recommends abortion before the fœtus has life. The infamous means employed by the Cretans are mentioned by Aristotle; but modesty would be shocked were I to describe them."
—VI. OTHER METHODS PROPOSED TO COUNTERBALANCE THE FORCE OF THE PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION.—Prohibition of marriage and immigration. Political changes in the form of government. Remodeling society, and a better distribution of its products. Emigration. Charity. Economic reforms and agricultural and industrial progress. We are glad to arrive at the discussion of more serious methods. These are very many. It has been proposed to restrict the liberty to marry, and to prohibit immigration into countries where an excess of population is manifest. It has also been maintained that if a population suffered from its density, this was due either to a bad form of government, a bad organization of society, or in particular to a vicious distribution of the social revenues; and people have consequently come to believe that some other form of government, some especial method of reorganizing society, or some socialistic system, would have power to correct these evils. The adequacy of emigration and colonization has been maintained: the extension of charitable measures has been advocated as a sufficient solution of the problem: and finally, it has been contended that it would be enough to create economic and financial reforms, or to cause an increase of production in all the activities of society; and that, in consequence of such a course, there would be no reason for concern about the power of the principle of population and its results. The discussion of most of these questions would furnish material for volumes; but the elucidation of our subject does not require us to enter into them at length here.
—It is said that restriction of the liberty to marry has at times been demanded and introduced in the legislation of certain German states. Without examining here the principles of justice and equality which oppose this restriction, we will simply say that measures of this kind would be wholly ineffectual, either because of promoting illegitimate births or of interposing but a slight obstacle to legitimate ones. It is as wrong to prohibit people from marrying as to offer rewards for large families. There should be entire freedom in forming this alliance, and the contracting parties should be wholly responsible for its results; and customs, we think, will be found more efficacious than laws in this matter.
—On the subject of immigration, Destutt de Tracy, (Traite d'Economie Politique, 1825, p. 244) has given utterance to the following opinion: "Immigration is always useless and even harmful, unless it be that of a few men who introduce new ideas: but, in this case, their knowledge, and not their persons, is what is of value; and such men are never very numerous. Immigration may be prohibited without injustice,*46 though this is a subject to which governments have never given due consideration. Nor have they often given many reasons for desiring immigration." Destutt de Tracy is right in some respects; but he has perhaps taken too little account of the moral, economic and providential advantages of immigration. It is well and useful for the various nations of the globe to come in contact with one another, to mingle together and to know something of one another's interests; it is advantageous for races to cross; and all the results of such intermingling can only be attained by emigration. Still, it is evident that certain immigrations have the effect to lower wages and deprive those people among whom the emigrants settle, of a part of the advantages their foresight gave them; but, in any case, the advantage always remains on the side of the prudent man. We here see the solidarity of nations, and that all nations have a common interest in helping one another to become moral by the example of good habits. We think with Malthus that there should be freedom of immigration; but we will say that restriction would be more easily justified in this case than in that of products. When the Parisian populace demanded, in 1848, the departure of the foreign operatives, they were barbarous, but logical; and we remember that the protectionist school at that time had some difficulty in explaining, through its press, how those who opposed competition in labor were less right than those who opposed competition in provisions and other products. However, prohibition of immigration would not be sufficient to counteract the force of the principle of population.
—Godwin, and many publicists before and after him, maintained that the fate of populations depended chiefly on the nature and form of the government, and on the good will and ability of those in power. This is a great and deplorable error, has given rise to many revolutions, and has been a partial cause of most of the political changes in France since 1789, to the great detriment of society. All political parties who wish to come into power, take advantage of this error; and when they have attained their end, it is useless for them to advocate the opposite doctrine: their opponents take up the same arguments, and the people listen to them.—"The greatest danger, perhaps, of modern times," said the president of the French republic in 1849, addressing the exhibitors of industrial products, "arises from the false idea which has taken hold of people's minds, that a government can do everything, or that it is in the essence of any system to answer every requirement, to remedy every evil." This belief, entertained without due consideration, was combated by Malthus, and his ideas as a whole are in accord with the sentiments of almost all economists since Quesnay. Malthus doubtless spoke in hyperbole when he said that the evils arising from a bad government, compared with those produced by the passions of men, were but as feathers floating on the water; but there is no such exaggeration in the spirit of his book. We can but acknowledge that bad governments may do much injury to a people, may ruin, and, what is worse, demoralize them; still, experience shows that the action of the best government should be limited to guaranteeing security and justice, and superintending certain public services which can not, as advantageously, be left to private industry; and if, in the exercise of this supreme and natural function, good governments may be of great utility to civilization, they are, nevertheless, wholly powerless to bring about the happiness of the citizens, who are the only agents of their own fortunes, their own competence, and their own social position.
—This fundamental error, shown to be such by all economic studies, has engendered all socialistic doctrines properly so called, and all those which, without having this term applied to them, are connected more or less logically with the same principle, which is the principle of communism: such as the absorption of private activity and responsibility into governmental action; the transformation of citizens into employés, and of private industries into society workshops; a system which leads to the conception of the existence of organized society where there is no distinction of meum et tuum, that is, to a radical transformation of the human race.
—Admitting the hypothesis that any one of these systems is practicable, and has been put in practice, and that it secured the happiness of the people living under it, such a system (as Fourier himself would be the first to acknowledge), far from checking the power of the principle of population, would surely be its promoter, acting in this like the combined physical and moral conditions which exist in North America. Consequently, although the errors of these systems may be easily proven, those who are liable to become the victims of such illusions should be especially warned to follow the counsels of wisdom and foresight.
—In view of the facts we must admit that emigration is not likely to relieve a country of any considerable portion of its population; that, whatever the amount of the emigration may be, it is more than counterbalanced by the natural increase in numbers. Molinari estimated that the tide of human beings from Europe to the new world in 1850 might be half a million. This was due to the following causes: the already confirmed tendency of the people of Germany and England to leave their country; the monetary pressure of 1846-7; improved means of traveling; and the discovery of gold mines in California and Australia. But who does not see, that, admitting the permanence of this current, the emigration is but a small fraction in comparison with the increase by births in Europe? Let us consider, in the second place, that emigration is an exportation of capital and labor; that the exportation of capital is a cause of misery to the country abandoned; that those who leave their native land are the more enterprising and industrious, and their departure is for this reason another cause of degeneration and poverty to their country. Finally, let us consider that the emigration of needy classes often turns to their disadvantage; and consequently, instead of saying to them, "Increase without consideration of the results," it is more humane, more charitable, more Christian, to say: "It is better not to increase your families than to bring them up in privation, and take them to distant lands to perish." One school (a numerous one) thinks the solution of the problem of population lies in the development of public and private charity. In reply to this, the economic school, especially Malthus, and those writers who have been occupied with philanthropic questions, call attention to the serious difficulties resulting both to society and to the needy classes, from ill-directed charity. "If care is not taken, the person aided or relieved becomes accustomed to seek alms, his feeling of dignity is blunted, the spring of his morality is weakened, and he slips rapidly down to vice, which, in its turn, augments his poverty. He then becomes selfish, thoughtless of the future of his children, as well as of that of his unfortunate companion, and even of his own, intemperate, incapable of the least restraint, and at last even sometimes insensible to the loss of his little ones, from the care of whom death delivers him, and for whom he well knows the loss of a lot like his own is not to be deplored." Montesquieu (Esprit des Lois, book xxiii., chap. 11) had already said: "People who have absolutely nothing, like beggars, have many children, who are born supplied with the implements needed for that art."
—These effects are notably produced by official and public charity, which, to those assisted, easily takes the matter-of-course character of public dues. These people, being at least as ignorant as other men, do not see that what they receive often comes from the pockets of people as miserable as they, and that it is diminished by all the charges paid to tax collectors and administrators, through whose hands the money passes. Hence we see that public charity demands intelligent superintendence by the public authorities, and that the unfortunate should not be able to count upon it, save in exceptional cases, and then temporarily; that the greater number of them can not experience its good effects, and that it would be the greatest of wrongs for them to count upon it to bring up their families and improve their condition. The greatest aid a state, county or town could give, would not be worth one hour's labor daily, or one degree more of activity, morality and foresight in the family.
—If public charity is inadequate, private charity is still more so. Few men seem naturally inclined to share with their fellow-men, and the sublime precepts of the gospel seem to be neither practicable nor practiced save by a small number of elect souls, or by a greater number of persons in quite exceptional cases where human sympathy is excited to an unwonted degree. Berenger spoke reasonably, when, presiding over a benevolent society, he said that charity is a sentiment which must be continually aroused by new demonstrations, by the attraction of pleasures, by the allurements offered to vanity, so to speak; and finally, that it procures but ephemeral resources: that if it were otherwise, as men are constituted, some would take advantage of the self-sacrifice of others, and would be the more improvident, indolent and intemperate, because they could count on the aid of their more sober and industrious brethren. This is the difficulty with which all communistic associations have to contend. Nothing is simpler in theory than to say: "Let us live like brethren"; nothing is more difficult in practice. This, then, is another illusion which it is both useful and charitable to dispel in the needy classes, who must be repeatedly taught that they can only find the means of improving their condition in themselves, and that they should endeavor to be charitable in their turn, and not live at the expense of their fellow-citizens. This subject admits of lengthy discussion. We shall not treat of it here, but will simply refer the reader to the article CHARITY, with the conclusions of which we are in accord.
—It was with similar ideas that Malthus approached this great question of charity; he was led to make a profound study of charitable institutions in general, and notably of the poor tax in England. This tax his critics caused to be very considerably modified for the better, in 1834. In the course of his treatment of this extensive subject, Malthus found in his way the doctrine of the right of the poor to aid; which was maintained by several publicists of the last century, was included in the French constitution of 1791 and of 1793, proclaimed again by the socialistic schools, under the names of right to employment, right to assistance, right to live, and right to a minimum of wages, and again embodied in the French constitution of 1848, and is invoked from time to time by all who desire to flatter the passions and prejudices of the populace. We will not dwell longer on this question, but will recall the fact that it was in connection with this subject that Malthus used the phrase which served as a text for most of the declamations against him. This phrase was suppressed in his second edition, but it was taken up by Godwin, and used thousands of times by the opponents of Malthus, who represented it as the foundation of his system. "The socialists," says Bastiat (Harmonies Economiques, 2d ed., 1854, p. 424), "repeat it to satiety; Pierre Leroux repeats it in a little 18mo volume at least forty times; it affords a theme for declamation to all second-class reformers." Here it is: "A man born into a world already full, if his family can no longer support him, or if society can not utilize his labor, has not the least right to demand any portion whatever of food, and is really superfluous on the earth. There is no place for him at the great banquet of nature. Nature orders him to withdraw, and she delays not to put this order into execution." The first phrase simply denies the right to employment and to existence. This is not the one which has been most criticised. The second is a rhetorical figure, quite affected and useless, since the idea expressed by it is found again in the third; and this last, it must be said, was neither accurate nor in conformity with the ideas of so excellent a man as Malthus. Malthus did not mean to tell one who has not a family able to support him, or whose labor can not be utilized by society, to depart, but to convey to him, in the most positive and most peremptory, in the most frank and true manner, that he has naught to expect save from the kindness of his fellow-men, from whom he has no rights to demand, and nothing to exact, under penalty of dissolving society. He meant to say to heads of families and all who help increase the human race, that the limits of charity are very restricted, and that miseries and sufferings are not slow in shortening the days of those whose services society can not buy, or, which amounts to the same thing, who can not render it useful service.
—We do not mean that this truth is not really distressing, and that it should not astound those who have cherished the illusion that by means of emigration, the cultivation of waste lands, the common use of potatoes, economical soups, or any other means devised by compulsory philanthropy or credulous policy, we might be relieved from uneasiness in regard to the increase of unfortunates; but it should be clearly recognized that if this condition of things is alarming, Malthus did not invent it nor counsel it: he simply showed its existence, and warned heads of families in regard to it, as well as others who help increase the human race out of proportion to their means of labor. It is nature, and not Malthus, that placed human beings on the verge of a precipice, and yet this unfortunate scholar is held responsible; much as if a sentinel should be punished for his cry of alarm, in warning of impending danger!
—We desired to quote this passage, because it has a scientific and historic interest, and because it has been said that Malthus shrank from facing his own work. Malthus, far from retracting his statement, reproduced the same idea in another passage in his last edition, in speaking of the liberty which he desires shall be left to the father of a family, at his risk and peril. Malthus always manifested a good disposition in his writings; but he never allowed himself to be turned aside, even by injustice, from what he believed to be the truth; for his calmness, his self-possession, his courtesy toward opponents (who were far from reciprocating it) were truly remarkable. I might cite here many respectable authorities in support of the opinions of Malthus; but I will only quote Bastiat, whom some have represented as against him. Bastiat wrote in 1844 (in a pamphlet on the "Assessment of the Land Tax in Landes," p. 25): "The doctrine of Malthus has been attacked of late; he has been accused of being gloomy and discouraging. Doubtless it would be a happy thing, if the means of subsistence could diminish and even disappear, without mankind being the worse fed, clothed, lodged and cared for in infancy, old age and sickness. But this is not the fact, nor is it possible: it is even contradictory. I can not understand the outcry of which Malthus has been the object. What has this celebrated economist revealed? His system is, after all, but a methodical commentary on this very old and evident truth: When men can no longer produce a sufficient quantity of such things as support life, they must diminish in numbers; and if prudence and foresight do not provide these things, suffering must ensue." This is, in other words, the very proposition which brought so much reproach on Malthus, most of whose opinions were shared by Bastiat in his Harmonies, who, nevertheless, erroneously reproaches him on some points.
—We now arrive at the last category of methods enumerated, and the one to which, as we acknowledge, we attribute the greatest efficacy. Economists are the first to maintain that the suppression of abuses and monopolies, the repeal of bad legislative or reglementary measures, that all economic and financial reforms, may, by producing a cessation of the causes of impoverishment and misery, revive labor, bring competence to a population subjected to a bad government, and with competence, morality and instruction, and with morality, foresight. They aim to find the means of increasing capital, the conditions under which land, capital and labor may be more productive, and the laws of distributive justice for the apportionment of the social revenue. They are the first to proclaim that when over-crowded populations exist, the best means of either ameliorating their lot or of preventing the increase of misery, consist in the development of labor and the increase of capital, which raise wages. We might dwell at length on this point; but we limit ourselves to recalling the good effects of the reforms in England, which have had so happy an influence on the condition of the people of that country, since they have resulted in obtaining for them more food, clothing and other means of subsistence, which they have paid for with more and better remunerated labor. Now, what does this example prove? and what are we to conclude from the remedies favored by economists to improve the lot of the people, if not that legislators should study into abuses and charge the government with the responsibility of making them disappear? But while waiting for the termination of these abuses, so slow in becoming eradicated, while waiting for these improvements, so tardy in arriving, generations are successively passing away, and the need of counsels of prudence and foresight continually exists.
—Doubtless humanity has progressed, through all its misfortunes, by its inherent attribute of perfectibility; doubtless the arts of production in general, and of agricultural production in particular, have continually distributed a larger share of comfort in the world; doubtless men multiply on the face of the earth, finding in their very numbers resources unknown in countries sparsely populated: but all this in no wise weakens the force of the principle of population, the difficulty of procuring means of subsistence, and the need of men depending first of all on themselves, that is to say, on their own activity, foresight and industry, for their support and that of their families.
—VII. CONCLUSION. If we now attempt to formulate the fundamental propositions we have set forth in this article, we shall say: 1. Population has an organic tendency to increase more rapidly than means of subsistence. 2. In fact, every population is necessarily limited by the extent of the means of subsistence. 3. But this limitation may be morally preventive and dependent on the will of man, or physically repressive through the suffering, misery and vice which an excess of population entails, or which arise from the disproportion between the number of men and the capital which may give them employment. 4. The absence of the preventive limitation of the number of children is prejudicial to the interests of families and society, and, consequently, to morals.
—To these conclusions we add the following, which embrace the principal points of Mr. Thornton's book on population ("Over-Population and its Remedy," London, 1846 8vo): 5. A country is over-populated when part of the inhabitants, although able bodied and capable of labor, are permanently unable to earn a sufficiency of the necessaries of life. 6. Over-population is generally produced by misery, the essential characteristic of which is improvidence, which leads to premature (and, we may add, to prolific) marriages.*47 7. By parity of reasoning, competence checks the increase of population by giving those who enjoy it a desire to retain it, and by consequently opposing the inclination to marriage; and, we may add, by causing prudence in the married. 8. In countries where population exceeds, not subsistence, but the resources of labor, or, to speak more accurately, the capital which remunerates labor, the inhabitants either live in poverty, or in complete misery. In the former case the population increases with a rapidity which is not counterbalanced for a greater or less time; in the latter, its progress is retarded by the mortality which results from privation and suffering. 9. The theory of Malthus is true, if not precisely as he stated it, yet according to his general tenor. 10. There are three circumstances which can restore competence to a population a prey to misery: emigration on a large scale; the increase of the capital which remunerates labor, or an extended market for products; and a fall in the price of such things as are essential to life, in consequence of trade being unrestricted, though the rate of wages may be unchanged. 11. A good law in regard to public aid, which shall provide that the poor never receive, either in money or goods, more than the minimum of wages earned by a workman; that aid at the workhouse be the rule, and home aid the exception; and the prevention of the more disastrous effects of competition of workmen, by maintaining a sufficient rate of wages. This last conclusion has more especial reference to England.
—To these conclusions we add the following: 12. People should not depend on the power of political constitutions, on plans for reorganizing society, or on the ephemeral resources of charity, to counterbalance the effects of the principle of increase. 13. Emigration, improvement in agriculture, progress in the industrial arts, increase of capital, reforms and economic progress may neutralize, to some extent, the force of the principle of population; but their good effects are produced more slowly than the number of men increases. 14. Families should rely, above all, on themselves, on their labor, their conduct, their foresight, and especially their prudence in the marriage relation. 15. The principle of population, far from being an invincible obstacle to the amelioration of the fate of the masses, is on the contrary, the leaven of progress, when it is supported by the prudence of man. 16. It is for the interest of society that the people be made acquainted with the actual facts, with the condition of things such as they may be according to the laws of nature, and such as political economy, coming to the aid of morals, shows them to be. This knowledge will lead people to ask what is possible, and will enable them to obtain, sooner or later, what is just. It will protect them against the moral epidemics caused by those adventurers in the realm of thought, who throw out upon the world a confused mixture of truth and error; it will give form to those ideas of wisdom and dignity, of order and foresight, without which all conceivable improvements would be, for the poorest classes in particular, and for society in general, almost without object and without significance. (The statistics in this article have been brought down to date by the translator.) (See
E J. L., Tr.
Notes for this chapter
According to Niebuhr, monogamous marriages resulted in more children than polygamous. Volney stated (Voyage dans la Turquie, vol. ii., p. 445), that married men in Turkey were frequently impotent at the age of the thirty. Roscher (vol. ii., p. 300, Amer. translation) says: "Polygamy, also, is a hindrance to the increase of population. Abstract physiology must indeed admit that a man may, even without any danger to his health, generate more children than a woman can bear. But, in fact, the simultaneous enjoyment of several women leads to excess and early exhaustion. * * In the civilized countries of the east the polygamy of the great may lead to the compulsory celibacy of the many in the lower classes, as a species of compensation. The monstrous institution of eunuchism, which has existed time out of mind in the east, is a consequence of this condition of things, as well as of the natural jealousy of the harem." The reader will find much of value in Roscher's chapters on "Population," and their copious notes.—Translator.
Roscher (Polit. Econ., vol. ii., p. 287, foot notes) quotes the "Edinburgh Review" and other authorities to the contrary.—Translator.
According to Dr. P. H. Chevasse, a child should not be nursed more than nine months; and he quotes Dr. Archer Farr as follows: "It is generally recognized that the healthiest children are those weaned at nine months complete. Prolonged nursing hurts both child and mother: in the child, causing a tendency to brain disease, probably through disordered digestion and nutrition; in the mother, causing a strong tendency to deafness and blindness." Dr. Chevasse adds: "If he be suckled after he be twelve months old, he is generally pale, flabby, unhealthy and rickety, and the mother is usually nervous, emaciated and hysterical. * * A child nursed beyond twelve months is very apt, if he should live, to be knock-kneed, and bow-legged, and weak-ankled, to be narrow-chested 'and chicken-breasted."—Translator.
Roscher, in his chapter on "Temporary Emigration," thinks such emigration would be a great national misfortune to the country from which the immigrants obtain their wages, inasmuch as its working class may thus be forced to a lower standard of living; and he queries whether the immigration of Chinese into Australia and the United States may not have a like result. In Australia a fine of £10 per capita was imposed to prevent such immigration. Recently (1882) the United States has passed restrictive laws in this regard. Even J. S. Mill, at the time when the national life of the English people seemed threatened by the immigration of Irish laborers, would have had no hesitation in prohibiting this immigration, so as to keep the economic contagion from spreading to English workmen.—Translator.
Mr. Thornton's language is as follows: "Misery, the inevitable effect and symptom of over-population, seems to be likewise its principal promoter." "Except when people are placed in situations in which, being unable to estimate correctly the amount of employment, they overrate their means of subsistence; or, when some political arrangement, such as a charitable provision for the poor, encourages them to get families around them which they can not themselves maintain, it will, I think, be found that wherever population has received an undue influence, the people have been first rendered reckless by privation"—Translator.
End of Notes
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