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What is it then, we are naturally led to ask, that causes any man to starve, or prevents him from cultivating the earth, and subsisting upon its fruits, so long as there is a portion of soil in the country in which he dwells, that has not been applied to the producing as much of the means of human subsistence, as it is capable of producing?

Though to marry, in this case, is in my opinion clearly an immoral act, yet it is not one Edition: current; Page: [ 19 ] which society can justly take upon itself to prevent or punish.

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To the punishment of Nature therefore he should be left d. At Nature's mighty feast there is no vacant cover for him. She tells him to be gone, and will quickly execute her own orders e.


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Never surely was there so flagrant an abuse of terms, as in this instance. Malthus is speaking of England, where there are many thousands of acres wholly uncultivated, and perhaps as many more scarcely employed in any effectual manner to increase the means of human subsistence; for these passages occur in chapters of his Essay where he is treating of our Poor-laws, and the remedies that might be applied to the Edition: current; Page: [ 20 ] defects he imputes to them.

I grant him then, that it is Law which condemns the persons he speaks of to starve. So far we are agreed. This Law Mr. Malthus may affirm to be just, to be wise, to be necessary to the state of things as we find them. All this would be open to fair enquiry.

Great and cogent no doubt are the reasons that have given so extensive a reign to this extreme inequality. But it is not the Law of Nature. It is the Law of very artificial life.


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Compare this then with Mr. But to return, and resume the point with which this chapter commenced. Malthus's doctrine is true, why is the globe not peopled? On which side then lies the evidence? Do the numbers of mankind actually and in fact increase or decrease? If mankind has so powerful and alarming a tendency to increase, how is it that this tendency no where shews itself in general history?

Malthus and his followers are reduced to confess the broad and glaring fact that mankind do not increase, but he has found out a calculation, a geometrical ratio, to shew that they ought to do so, and then sits down to write three volumes, assigning certain obscure, vague, and undefinable causes, why his theory and the stream of ancient and modern history are completely at variance with each other.

Mr Malthus's theory is certainly of a peculiar structure, and it is somewhat difficult to account for the success it has met with. It has been agreed among the best philosophers in Europe, especially from the time of Lord Bacon to the present day, that the proper basis of all our knowledge respecting man and nature, respecting what has been in times that are past, and what may be expected in time to come, is experiment. This standard is peculiarly applicable to the subject of population. Malthus seems in one respect fully to concur in this way of viewing the subject. There are two methods of approaching the question, the first, by deriving our ideas respecting it from the volumes of sacred writ, and the second, by having recourse to such enumerations, statistical tables, and calculations, as the industry of mere uninspired men has collected; and Mr.

Malthus has made his election for the latter.

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Robert Wallace, an able writer on these subjects, whose works have lately engaged in a considerable degree the attention of curious enquirers, Edition: current; Page: [ 23 ] has taken the opposite road. Malthus, on the contrary reposes throughout his Essay on the pure basis of human experience and unenlightened human reason; and I have undertaken to write a refutation of his theories. He has chosen his ground; and I follow him to the contest. He had made no allusion to Adam and Eve, and has written just as any speculator in political economy might have done, to whom the records of the Bible were unknown.

If there is any thing irreverend in this, to Mr. Malthus, and not to me, the blame is to be imputed.

He has constructed his arguments upon certain data , and I have attempted nothing more than the demolishing of those arguments. If any one shall be of opinion that the whole question is in the jurisdiction of another court, the Treatise I am writing has nothing to do with this. I design nothing more than an investigation of mere human authorities, and an examination of the theories of the Essay on Population; and I leave the question in all other respects as I found it a. To return. It will appear, I think, in the course of our discussion, that population is a subject with which mankind as yet are very little acquaint, ed.

But let us first recollect what it is that we are supposed to know. And I will first state those things which are admitted by Mr. Malthus, and which appear to make very little for the support of his system. The globe we inhabit may be divided into the Old World and the New.


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Our knowledge of the history of Europe and Asia extends backward some thousand years. We know a little of the history of Africa. America was discovered about three hundred years ago, but has not in many of its parts been by any means so long a place of reception for European colonies. Malthus does not venture to carry his appeal on the subject of population there, farther back than one hundred and fifty years b.

Well then, how stands the question of population in the Old World?

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Malthus freely and without hesitation admits, that on this side of the globe population is, and has long been, at a stand he might safely have added that it has not increased as far back as any authentic records of profane history will carry us. He brings forward some memorable examples of a striking depopulation c : he might have added many more: he would certainly have found it difficult Edition: current; Page: [ 25 ] to produce an example equally unequivocal, of an increase of population, in any quarter of the Old World.

As to South America, and the indigenous inhabitants of North America, it is hardly to be disputed, and Mr. Malthus is very ready to admit, that they have sustained a melancholy diminution since the voyage of Columbus d. Such then is, so far, the foundation of our knowledge, as afforded us by experience, on the subject of population.

Malthus has brought forward an exception to all this, which I shall hereafter take occasion fully to examine, in a certain tract of the globe, now known by the. The pith of Mr. Malthus's book therefore, and a bolder design has seldom entered into the mind of man, is to turn the exception into the rule, and the whole stream of examples in every other case, into exceptions, that are to be accounted for without detracting from the authority of the rule. The Essay on Population is the most oddly constructed, of any book, pretending to the character of science, that was perhaps ever given to the world.

The first chapter, containing sixteen pages, comprises the whole doctrine upon which the work is founded. He that should read the first chapter, and no more, would be in possession of every thing in the book, that is solid and compressed, and bears so much as the air of science. The next pages, f the most considerable portion of the work, are wholly employed in assigning causes why every region of the globe, in every period of its history, part of the United States of America for the last one hundred and fifty years excepted, appears to contradict the positions of Mr.

Malthus's theory. This is done by exhibiting certain checks on population, the whole of which, as will more fully appear hereafter, falls under the two heads of vice and misery. The remainder of the work treats of the different systems or expedients which have been proposed or have prevailed, as they affect the evils which arise out of the author's principle of population g , and of our future prospects respecting the removal or mitigation of these evils h. Now upon this shewing, I affirm that Mr. Edition: current; Page: [ 27 ] Malthus is the most fortunate man that ever lived, Sterne's king of Bohemia himself not being excepted i.

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Notwithstanding this glaring rottenness and fallacy in the first concoction of his work, the author has carried the whole world before him; no other system of thinking on the subject is admitted into the company of the great; hundreds of men who were heretofore earnest champions of the happiness of mankind have become his converts; and though, I believe, from thirty to forty answers have been written to the Essay on Population, not one of them, so far as I know, has undertaken to controvert the main principle and corner-stone of his system.

The strength of Mr. Malthus's writing wholly depends upon his intrenching himself in general statements. If we hope for any victory over him, it must be by drawing him out of his strong hold, and meeting him upon the fair ground of realities. The hypothesis of the Essay on Population is this. The human species doubles itself in the United States of America every twenty-five years: therefore it must have an inherent tendency so to double itself: therefore it would so double itself in the Old World, were not the Edition: current; Page: [ 28 ] increase intercepted by causes which have not yet sufficiently engaged the attention of political enquirers.

To clear up this point let us consider how many children may be allowed to a marriage, upon the supposition that the object is barely to keep the numbers of the human species up to their present standard. In the first place it is clear, that every married pair may be allowed two upon an average, without any increase to the population, nay, with the certainty of diminution if they fall short of this, In the next place it is unquestionable, that every child that is born, does not live to years of maturity, so as to be able to propagate the.

I should have thought therefore, that we might safely allow of three children to every marriage, without danger of overstocking the community. It will hereafter appear that all political economists allow four, it being the result of various censuses and tables of population, that one-half of the born die under years of maturity k. To this number of children to be allowed to every marriage upon an average, the purpose being barely to keep up the numbers of our species to the present standard, something must be added, Edition: current; Page: [ 29 ] in consideration of the known fact, that every man and woman do not marry, and thus put themselves in the road for continuing their species.

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When Mr. Malthus therefore requires us to believe in the geometrical ratio, or that the human species has a natural tendency to double itself every twenty-five years, he does nothing less in other words, than require us to believe that every marriage among human creatures produces upon an average, including the prolific marriages, those in which the husband or wife die in the vigour of their age or in the early years of their union, those in which the prolific power seems particularly limited, and the marriages that are totally barren, eight children.

All this Mr. Malthus requires us to believe, because he wills it. Let it never again be made one of the reproaches of the present day, that we are fallen upon an age of incredulity. I am sure no false prophet, in the darkest ages of ignorance, could ever boast of a greater number of hoodwinked and implicit disciples, than Mr. Malthus in this enlightened period. How comes it, that neither this author, nor any one for him, has looked into this view of the question?

There are such things as registers of marriages and births. To these it was natural Edition: current; Page: [ 30 ] for Mr. Malthus to have recourse for a correlative argument to support his hypothesis. For the difference between the United States and the Old World does not, I presume, lie in the superior fecundity of their women, but that a greater number of children are cut off in the Old World in years of nonage, by vice and misery. We double very successfully if they double in the first period; but we do not, like them, rear our children, to double over again in the second.

Naturally therefore he would have produced a strong confirmation of his hypothesis, by shewing from the registers of different parts of the world, or of different countries of Europe, that every marriage does upon an average produce eight children: and if he had done this, I think he would have saved me the trouble of writing this volume.

Something however has been done in the way of collating the registers of marriages and births; and of this I shall make full use in my Second Book. It may however be objected, that there are Edition: current; Page: [ 31 ] two ways in which an increase of population may be intercepted; either by the number of children who shall perish in their nonage, through the powerful agency, as Mr. Malthus informs us, of vice and misery; or by certain circumstances which shall, cause a smaller number to be born: it may not therefore be merely by the ravages of an extensive mortality, that population in the Old World is kept down to its level.

Malthus himself has furnished me with a complete answer to this objection.