py Pa

Ls. oF

AN ESSAY

ON THE

PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION;

oR, A VIEW OF ITS PAST AND PRESENT EFFECTS

ON

HUMAN HAPPINESS;

WITH

AN INQUIRY INYO "OUR PROSPECTS RESPECTING THE FUTURE REMOVAL OR MITIGATION OF THE EVILS WHICH IT OCCASIONS.

BY Tue Rey. T. R. MALTHUS, A.M. F.R.S.

LATE FELLOW OF JESUS COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE, AND PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AND POLITICAL ECONOMY IN THE EAST-INDIA COLLEGE, HERTFORDSHIRE.

oa SIXTH EDITION. IN TWO VOLUMES.

VOL. II.

LONDON : JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET.

MDCCCXXVI.

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CONTENTS

THE SECOND VOLUME.

BOOK IIL.

OF THE DIFFERENT SYSTEMS OR EXPEDIENTS WHICH HAVE BEEN PROPOSED OR HAVE PREVAILED IN SOCIETY, AS THEY AFFECT THE EVILS ARISING FROM THE PRIN- CIPLE OF POPULATION.

CuHap. Page I. Of Systems of Equality. Wallace, Condorcet. 1 II. Of Systems of Equality. Godwin... . . . .18 III. Of Systems of Equality Sia i Sees.

TV.-Of Emigration.” dutaret at wg artto dS d ig: (2 | V. Of Poor-Laws. . . wt ae aot Oe aan’ aha Coe VI. Of Poor-Laws (eabidteaeete eee ar an area oe VII. Of Poor-Laws (continued), . . . . . . 96 VIII. Of the Agricultural System. © 2. °. 1 118 IX. Of the Commercial System. aes Ane

X. Of Systems of Agriculture ‘aid Gamers: com- Baned:. * sais. tae SOR ars ahr, ot 2S

XI. Of Corn-Laws. Binlutsee upon Exportation. 162 XII. Of Corn-Laws. Restrictions upon Importation. 185 XIII. Of i increasing Wealth, as it affects the Condition

ofithe:Poor, . haere SPL RT Oo ah ary XIV. General Observations, ... . . . . . . 229

lv CONTENTS.

BOOK IV.

OF OUR FUTURE PROSPECTS RESPECTING THE REMOVAL OR MITIGATION OF THE EVILS ARISING FROM THE PRIN-

CIPLE OF POPULATION.

Cuap. I. Of moral Restraint, and our iy eee Be to practise this Virtue. : II. Of the Effects which would mefult' to Sockely from the Prevalence of Moral Restraint.

III. Of the only effectual Mode of improving the

Condition of the Poor. . IV. Objections to this Mode att uA ae:

V. Of the Consequences of pursuing the opposite

Mode.

VI. Effects of the orowicdie MG; the aed eat

of Poverty on Civil Liberty. VII. Continuation of the same Subject. °.

VIII. Plan of the gradual Abolition of the Poor-Laws

proposed.

IX. Of the Modes of correcting os BAS

Opinions on Population. X. Of the Direction of our Charity.

XI. Different Plans of improving the Condition of

the Poor considered. : XII. Continuation of the same Subject. .

XIII. Of the Necessity of general i on this

Subject.

XIV. Of our rational Eaicieeens -daiedaens the

future Improvement of Society. Apperndixi. «> +> 5 Aloe

Page

311 3528

335 .

351 361

374 394

412

431 443

ESSAY, nC. Cae

BOOK III.

OF THE DIFFERENT SYSTEMS OR EXPEDIENTS WHICH HAVE BEEN PROPOSED OR HAVE PRE- VAILED IN SOCIETY, AS THEY AFFECT THE EVILS ARISING FROM THE PRINCIPLE OF POPU- LATION.

CHAP. I. Of Systems of Equality. Wallace. Condorcet.

To a person who views the past and present states of mankind in the light in which they have appeared in the two preceding books, it cannot but be a matter of astonishment, that all the writers on the perfectibility of man and of so- ciety, who have noticed the argument of. the principle of population, treat it always very lightly, and invariably represent the difficulties arising from it as at a great and almost immeasurable distance. Even Mr. Wallace, who thought the argument itself of so much weight as to de- VOL. Il. B

2 Systems of Equality. Bk. in.

stroy his whole system of equality, did not seem to be aware that any difficulty would arise from this cause, till the whole earth had been culti- vated like a garden, and was incapable of any further increase of produce. If this were really the case, and a beautiful system of equality were in other respects practicable, 1 cannot think that our ardour in the pursuit of such a scheme ought to be damped by the contemplation of so remote a difficulty. Anevent at such a distance might fairly be left to Providence. But the truth is, that, if the view of the argument given in this essay be just, the difficulty, so far from being re- mote, is imminent and immediate. At every pe- riod during the progress of cultivation, from the present moment to the time when the whole earth was become like a garden, the distress for want of food would be constantly pressing on all mankind, if they were equal. Though the produce of the earth would be increasing every year, population would have the power of increasing much faster, and this superior power must necessarily be checked by the periodical or constant action of moral restraint, vice, or misery.

M. Condorcet’s Esquisse d'un Tableau Historique des Progres de l Esprit Humain was written, it is said, under the pressure of that cruel proscription which terminated in his death. If he had no hopes of its being seen during his life, and of its interest- ing France in his favour, it is a singular instance of the attachment of a man to principles, which every day’s experience was, so fatally for himself,

Ch. i. Wallace. Condorcet. 3

contradicting. To see the human mind in one of the most enlightened nations of the world, de- based by such a fermentation of disgusting pas- sions, of fear, cruelty, malice, revenge, ambition, madness and folly, as would have disgraced the most savage nations in the most barbarous age, must have been such a tremendous shock to his ideas of the necessary and inevitable progress of the human mind, as nothing but the firmest con- viction of the truth of his principles, in spite of all appearances, could have withstood.

This posthumous publication is only a sketch of a much larger work, which he proposed should be executed. It necessarily wants therefore that de- tail and application, which can alone prove the truth of any theory. A few observations will be sufficient to shew how completely this theory is contradicted, when it is applied to the real, and not to an imaginary, state of things.

In the last division of the work, which treats of the future progress of man towards perfection, M. Condorcet says that, comparing in the different civilized nations of Europe the actual population with the extent of territory, and observing their cultivation, their industry, their divisions of la- bour, and their means of subsistence, we shall see that it would be impossible to preserve the same means of subsistence, and consequently the same population, without a number of individuals who have no other means of supplying their wants than their industry.

Having allowed the necessity of such a class of

B2

4 Systems of Equality. Bk. ii.

men, and adverting afterwards to the precarious revenue of those families that would depend so entirely on the life and health of their chief,* he says very justly, ‘‘ There exists then a necessary “* cause of inequality, of dependence, and even of ‘“‘ misery, which menaces without ceasing the most ‘“< numerous and active class of our societies.” The difficulty is just and well stated; but his mode of removing it will, I fear, be found totally ineffica- cious.

By the application of calculations to the proba- bilities of life, and the interest of money, he pro- poses that a fund should be established, which should assure to the old an assistance produced in part by their own former savings, and in part by the savings of individuals, who in making the same sacrifice die before they reap the benefit of it. The same or a similar fund should give as- sistance to women and children who lose their husbands and fathers ; and afford a capital to those who were of an age to found a new family, suffi- cient for the developement of their industry. These establishments, he observes, might be made in the name and under the protection of the society. Going still further, he says, that by the just ap- plication of calculations, means might be found of more completely preserving a state of equality, by preventing credit from being the exclusive privi-

* To save time and long quotations, I shall here give the sub- stance of some of M. Condorcet’s sentiments, and I hope that I shall not misrepresent them; but I refer the reader to the work itself, which will amuse, if it do not convince him.

Ch. i. Wallace. Condorcet. 5

lege of great fortunes, and yet giving it a basis equally solid, and by rendering the progress of in- dustry and the activity of commerce less depend- ent on great capitalists.

Such establishments and calculations may appear very promising upon paper; but when applied to real life, they will be found to be abso- lutely nugatory. M. Condorcet allows that a class of people which maintains itself entirely by in- dustry, is necessary to every state. Why does he allow this? No other reason can well be assigned, than because he conceives, that the labour ne- cessary to procure subsistence for an extended po- pulation will not be performed without the goad of necessity. If by establishments upon the plans that have been mentioned, this spur to industry be removed ; if the idle and negligent be placed upon the same footing with regard to their credit and the future support of their wives and families, as the active and industrious ; can we expect to see men exert that animated activity in bettering their condition, which now forms the master-spring of public prosperity? If an inquisition were to be established to examine the claims of each indivi- dual, and to determine whether he had or had not exerted himself to the utmost, and to grant or re- fuse assistance accordingly, this would be little else than a repetition upon a larger scale of the English poor-laws, and would be completely de- structive of the true principles of liberty and equality.

But independently of this great objection to

6 Systems of Equality. Bk. iii.

these establishments, and supposing for a moment that they would give no check to production, the greatest difficulty remains yet behind.

If every man were sure of a comfortable provi- sion for a family, almost every man would have one; and if the rising generation were free from the fear of poverty, population must increase with unusual rapidity. Of this M. Condorcet seems to be fully aware himself; and after having described further improvements, he says,

‘* But in this progress of industry and happi- “« ness, each generation will be called to more ex- ** tended enjoyments, and in consequence, by the ‘* physical constitution of the human frame, to an ‘** increase in the number of individuals. Must ‘* not a period then arrive when these laws, equally ** necessary, shall counteract each other; when, ** the increase of the number of men surpassing * their means of subsistence, the necessary result “must be, either a continual diminution of hap- *‘ piness and population—a movement truly re- trograde; or at least a kind of oscillation be- *“tween good and evil? In societies arrived at “this term, will not this oscillation be a con- ** stantly subsisting cause of periodical misery ? “« Will it not mark the limit, when all further me- ** lioration will beccme impossible, and point out “that term to the perfectibility of the human “‘ race, which it may reach in the course of ages, *‘ but can never pass?” He then adds,

«« There is no person who does not see how ‘very distant such a period is from us. But

Ch. i. Wallace. Condorcet. 7

«shall we ever arrive at it? It is equally im- possible to pronounce for or against the future “< realization of an event, which cannot take place ‘* but at an era when the human race will have “attained improvements, of which we can at present scarcely form a conception.”

M. Condorcet’s picture of what may be ex- pected to happen, when the number of men shall surpass their means of subsistence, is justly drawn. The oscillation which he describes will certainly take place, and will without doubt be a constantly subsisting cause of periodical misery. The only point in which I differ from M. Con- dorcet in this description is with regard to the period when it may be applied to the human race. M.Condorcet thinks that it cannot possibly be applicable but at an era extremely distant. If the proportion between the natural increase of population and of food in a limited territory, which was stated in the beginning of this essay, and which has received considerable confirmation from the poverty that has been found to prevail in every stage of human society, be in any degree near the truth; it will appear, on the contrary, that the period when the number of men surpasses their means of easy subsistence has long since arrived ; and that this necessary oscillation, this constantly subsisting cause of periodical misery, has existed in most countries ever since we have had any histories of mankind, and continues to exist at the present moment.

M. Condorcet, however, goes on to say, that

8 Systems of Equality. Bk. iil.

should the period which he conceives to be so distant, ever arrive, the human race, and the ad- vocates of the perfectibility of man, need not be alarmed at it. He then proceeds to remove the difficulty in a manner which I profess not to un- derstand. Having observed that the ridiculous prejudices of superstition would by that time have ceased to throw over morals a corrupt and de- grading austerity, he alludes either to a promis- cuous concubinage, which would prevent breeding, or to something else as unnatural. To remove the difficulty in this way will surely, in the opinion of most men, be to destroy that virtue and purity of manners, which the advocates of equality and of the perfectibility of man profess to be the end and object of their views.

The last question which M. Condorcet proposes for examination is the organic perfectibility of man. He observes, if the proofs which have been already given, and which, in their develope- ment, will receive greater force in the work itself, are sufficient to establish the indefinite perfecti- bility of man, upon the supposition of the same natural faculties and the same organization which he has at present; what will be the certainty, what the extent of our hopes, if this organization, these natural faculties themselves, be susceptible of melioration ?

From the improvement of medicine; from the use of more wholesome food and habitations ; from a manner of living, which will improve the strength of the body by exercise, without impairing it by

Ch. i. Wallace. Condorcet. 9

excess; from the destruction of the two great causes of the degradation of man, misery and too great riches; from the gradual removal of trans- missible and contagious disorders by the im- provement of physical knowledge, rendered more efficacious by the progress of reason and of social order; he infers, that though man will not abso- lutely become immortal, yet the duration between his birth and natural death will increase without ceasing, will have no assignable term, and may properly be expressed by the word indefinite. He then defines this word to mean either a con- stant approach to an unlimited extent without ever reaching it; or an increase in the immensity of ages to an extent greater than any assignable quantity.

But surely the application of this term in either of these senses to the duration of human life is in the highest degree unphilosophical, and _ totally unwarranted by any appearances in the laws of nature. Variations from different causes are es- sentially distinct from a regular and unretrograde increase. The average duration of human life will, toa certain degree, vary from healthy or unhealthy climates, from wholesome or unwholesome food, from virtuous or vicious: manners, and other causes; but it may be fairly doubted whether there has been really the smallest perceptible ad- vance in the natural duration of human life, since first we had any authentic history of man. The prejudices of all ages have indeed been directly contrary to this supposition; and though I would

10 Systems of Equality. Bk. iii.

_not lay much stress upon these prejudices, they must have some tendency to prove that there has been no marked advance in an opposite direction.

It may perhaps be said, that the world is yet so young, so completely in its infancy, that it ought not to be expected that any difference should appear so soon.

If this be the case, there is at once an end of all human science. The whole train of reasonings from effects to causes will be destroyed. We may shut our eyes to the book of nature, as it will no longer be of any use to read it. The wildest and most improbable conjectures may be advanced with as much certainty, as the most just and sublime theories, founded on careful and re- iterated experiments. We may return again to the old mode of philosophizing, and make facts bend to systems, instead of establishing systems upon facts. The grand and consistent theory of Newton will be placed upon the same footing as the wild and eccentric hypotheses of Descartes. In short, if the laws of nature be thus fickle and inconstant; if it can be affirmed, and be believed, that they will change, when for ages and ages they have appeared immutable; the human mind will no longer have any incitements to inquiry, but must remain sunk in inactive torpor, or amuse itself only in bewildering dreams and extravagant fancies.

The constancy of the laws of nature, and of effects and causes, is the foundation of all human knowledge; and if, without any previous observ-

Ch. i. Wallace. Condorcet. 11

able symptoms or indications ofa change, we can infer that a change will take place, we may as well make any assertion whatever; and think it as unreasonable to be contradicted, in affirming that the moon will come in contact with the earth to-morrow, as in saying that the sun will rise at its expected time.

With regard to the duration of human life, there does not appear to have existed, from the earliest ages of the world to the present moment, the smallest permanent symptom or indication of increasing prolongation. The observable effects of climate, habit, diet, and other causes, on length of life, have furnished the pretext for as- serting its indefinite extension; and the sandy foundation on which the argument rests is, that because the limit of human life is undefined, be- cause you cannot mark its precise term, and say so far exactly shall it go, and no farther, therefore its extent may increase for ever, and be properly termed indefinite or unlimited. But the fallacy and absurdity of this argument will sufficiently appear from a slight examination of what M. Condorcet calls the organic perfectibility or de- generation of the race of plants and animals, which, he says, may be regarded as one of the general laws of nature.

I have been told that it is amaxim among some of the improvers of cattle, that you may breed to any degree of nicety you please; and they found this maxim upon another, which is, that some of the offspring will possess the desirable qualities of

12 Systems of Equality. Bk. iii.

.the parents in a greater degree. In the famous Leicestershire breed of sheep, the object is to procure them with small heads and small legs. Proceeding upon these breeding maxims, it 1s evident that we might go on, till the heads and legs were evanescent quantities; but this is so palpable an absurdity, that we may be quite sure the premises are not just, and that there really is a limit, though we cannot see it, or say exactly where it is. Inthis case, the point of the greatest degree of improvement, or the smallest size of the head and legs, may be said to be undefined ;_ but this is very different from unlimited, or from in- definite, in M. Condorcet’s acceptation of the term. Though I may not be able in the present instance to mark the limit, at which further im- provement will stop, I can very easily mention a point, at which it will not arrive. I should not scruple to assert, that were the breeding to con- tinue for ever, the heads and legs of these sheep would never be so small as the head and legs of a rat.

It cannot be true therefore, that, among ani- mals, some of the offspring will possess the desi- rable qualities of the parents in a greater degree; or that animals are indefinitely perfectible.

The progress of a wild plant to a beautiful gar- den-flower is perhaps more marked and striking than any thing that takes place among animals; yet, even here, it would be the height of absur- dity to assert that the progress was unlimited or indefinite. One of the most obvious features of

Ch. i. Wallace. Condorcet. 13

the improvement is the increase of size. The flower has grown gradually larger by cultiva- tion. If the progress were really unlimited, it might be increased ad infinitum; but this is so eross an absurdity, that we may be quite sure that, among plants as well as among animals, there is a limit to improvement, though we do not exactly know where itis. Itis probable that the gardeners who contend for flower-prizes have often applied stronger dressing without success. At the same time it would be highly presump- tuous in any man to say, that he had seen the finest carnation or anemone that could ever be made to grow. He might, however, assert, without the smallest chance of being contradicted by a future fact, that no carnation or anemoné could ever, by cultivation, be increased to the size of a large cabbage ; and yet there are assignable quantities greater than a cabbage. No man can say that he has seen the largest ear of wheat, or the largest oak, that could ever grow; but he might easily, and with perfect certainty, name a point of mag- nitude at which they would not arrive. In all ‘these cases, therefore, a careful distinction should be made between an unlimited progress, and a progress where the limit is merely undefined.

It will be said, perhaps, that the reason why plants and animals cannot increase indefinitely in size is, that they would fall by their own weight. I answer, how do we know this but from experi- ence? from experience of the degree of strength, with which these bodies are formed. I know,

14 Systems of Equality. Bk. im.

that a carnation long before it reached the size of ‘a cabbage would not be supported by its stalk; but I only know this from my experience of the weakness and want of tenacity in the materials of a carnation-stalk. There might be substances of the same size that would support as large a head as a cabbage.

The reasons of the mortality of plants are at present perfectly unknown to us. No man can say why such a plant is annual, another biennial, and another endures for ages. The whole affair in all these cases, in plants, animals, and in the human race, is an affair of experience; and I only conclude, that man is mortal, because the invariable experience of all ages has proved the mortality of that organized substance, of which his visible body is made.

*«« What can we reason but from what we know ?”

Sound philosophy will not authorize me to alter this opinion of the mortality of man on earth, till it can be clearly proved that the human race has made, and is making, a decided progress to- wards an illimitable extent of life. And the chief reason why I adduce the two particular instances from animals and plants was to expose and illus- trate, if I could, the fallacy of that argument, which infers an unlimited progress merely because some partial improvement has taken place, and that the limit of this improvement cannot be pre- cisely ascertained.

The capacity of improvement in plants and

Ch. i. Wallace. Condorcet. 15

animals, to a certain degree, no person can possi- bly doubt. A clear and decided progress has al- ready been made; and yet I think it appears that it would be highly absurd to say, that this pro- gress has no limits. In human hfe, though there are great variations from different causes, it may be doubted whether, since the world began, any organic improvement whatever of the human frame can be clearly ascertained. The founda- tions, therefore, on which the arguments for the organic perfectibility of man rest are unusually weak, and can only be considered as mere con- jectures. It does not, however, by any means, seem impossible that, by an attention to breed, a certain degree of improvement similar to that among animals might take place among men. Whether intellect could be communicated may be a matter of doubt; but size, strength, beauty, complexion, and, perhaps, even longevity, are in a degree transmissible. The error does not lie in supposing a small degree of improvement possi- ble, but in not discriminating between a small improvement, the limit of which is undefined, and an improvement really unlimited. As the human race, however, could not be improved in this way, without condemning all the bad speci- mens to celibacy, it is not probable that an atten- tion to breed should ever become general; in- deed I know of no well-directed attempts of this kind, except in the ancient family of the Bicker- staffs, who are said to have been very successful in whitening the skins and increasing the height

16 Systems of Equality. Bk. 11.

of their race by prudent marriages, particularly by that very judicious cross with Maud the milk- maid, by which some capital defects in the con- stitutions of the family were corrected.

It will not be necessary, I think, in order more completely to shew the improbability of any ap- proach in man towards immortality on earth, to urge the very great additional weight, that an increase in the duration of life would give to the argument of population.

M. Condorcet’s book may be considered not only asa sketch of the opinions of a celebrated individual, but of many of the literary. men in France at the beginning of the revolution. As such, though merely a sketch, it seems worthy of attention.

Many, I doubt not, will think that the attempt- ing gravely to controvert so absurd a paradox, as the immortality of man on earth, or, indeed, even the perfectibility of man and society, is a waste of time and words; and that such un- founded conjectures are best answered by neglect. I profess, however, to be of a different opinion. When paradoxes of this kind are advanced by in- genious and able men, neglect has no tendency to convince them of their mistakes. | Priding themselves on what they conceive to be a mark of the reach and size of their own understandings, of the extent and comprehensiveness of their views, they will look upon this neglect merely as an indication of poverty and narrowness in the mental exertions of their contemporaries, and only

Ch. 1. Wallace. Condorcet. 17

think that the world is not yet prepared to receive their sublime truths.

On the contrary, a candid investigation of these subjects, accompanied with a perfect readiness to adopt any theory warranted by sound philoso- phy, may have a tendency to convince them that, in forming improbable and unfounded hypotheses, so far from enlarging the bounds of human sci- ence, they are contracting it; so far from pro- moting the improvement of the human mind, they are obstructing it: they are throwing us back again almost into the infancy of knowledge; and weakening the foundations of that mode of philosophizing, under the auspices of which sci- ence has of late made such rapid advances. The late rage for wide and unrestrained speculation seems to have been a kind of mental intoxication, arising perhaps from the great and unexpected dis- coveries, which had been made in various branches of science. To men elate and giddy with such successes, every thing appeared to be within the grasp of human powers; and under this illusion they confounded subjects where no real progress could be proved, with those where the progress had been marked, certain and acknowledged. Could they be persuaded to sober themselves with a little severe and chastised thinking, they would see that the cause of truth and of sound philoso- phy cannot but suffer, by substituting wild flights and unsupported assertions for patient investiga- tion and well-supported proofs.

VOL. Il. Cc

me 3)

CHAP. II. Of Systems of Equality. Godwin.

Iw reading Mr. Godwin’s ingenious work on po- litical justice, itis impossible not to be struck with the spirit and energy of his style, the force and precision of some of his reasonings, the ar- dent tone of his thoughts, and particularly with that impressive earnestness of manner which gives an air of truth to the whole. At the same time it must be confessed that he has not proceeded in his inquiries with the caution that sound philoso- phy requires; his conclusions are often unwar- ranted by his premises; he fails sometimes in re- moving objections which he himself brings for- ward; he relies too much on general and abstract propositions, which will not admit of application ; and his conjectures certainly far outstrip the mo- desty of nature. The system of equality, which Mr. Godwin proposes, is, on a first view of it, the most beautiful and engaging of any that has yet appeared. A melioration of society to be pro- duced merely by reason and conviction gives more promise of permanence than any change effected and maintained by force. The unlimited exercise of private judgment is a doctrine grand and ‘cap- tivating, and has a vast superiority over those

Ch. ii. Of Systems of Equality. Godwin. 19

systems, where every individual is in a manner the slave of the public. The substitution of be- nevolence, as the master-spring and moving prin- ciple of society, instead of self-love, appears at first sight to be a consummation devoutly to be wished. In short, it is impossible to contemplate the whole of this fair picture, without emotions of delight and admiration, accompanied with an ar- dent longing for the period of its accomplishment. But alas! that moment can never arrive. The whole is little better than a dream—a phantom of the imagination. These gorgeous palaces” of happiness and immortality, these ‘solemn temples” of truth and virtue, will dissolve, like the base- “‘ less fabric of a vision,” when we awaken to real life, and contemplate the genuine situation of man on earth.

Mr. Godwin, at the conclusion of the third chapter of his eighth book, speaking of popula- tion, says, “‘ there is a principle in human society, by which population is perpetually kept down ** to the level of the means of subsistence. Thus ‘*among the wandering tribes of America and ** Asia we never find, through the lapse of ages, that population has so increased, as to render ‘necessary the cultivation of the earth.”* This principle, which Mr. Godwin thus mentions as some mysterious and occult cause, and which he does not attempt to investigate, has appeared to be the law of necessity—misery, and the fear of misery. |

* P. 460, 8vo. 2d edit. c2

20 Of Systems of Equality. Godwin. Bk. iii.

. The great error under which Mr. Godwin la- bours throughout his whole work is, the attri- buting of almost all the vices and misery that pre- vail in civil society to human institutions. Political regulations and the established administration of ‘property are, with him, the fruitful sources of all evil, the hotbeds of all the crimes that degrade mankind. Were this really a true state of the -ease, it would not seem an absolutely hopeless task, to remove evil completely from the world; and reason seems to be the proper and adequate instrument for effecting so great a purpose. But the truth is, that though human institutions ap- pear to be, and indeed often are, the obvious and ‘obtrusive causes of much mischief to society, they are, in reality, light and superficial, in comparison with those deeper-seated causes of evil, which re- sult from the laws of nature and the passions of mankind.

In a chapter on the benefits attendant upon a system of equality, Mr. Godwin says, ‘‘ The spirit ‘of oppression, the spirit of servility, and the ‘« spirit of fraud, these are the immediate growth ‘‘ of the established administration of property. «« They are alike hostile to intellectual improve- “ment... The other vices of envy, malice and re- “‘ venge, are their inseparable companions. Ina ‘< state of society where men lived in the midst of ‘* plenty, and where all shared alike the bounties * of nature, these sentiments would inevitably ex- ‘‘ pire. The narrow principle of selfishness would ‘‘vanish. No man being obliged to guard his

Ch. ii. Of Systems of Equality. Godwin. 21

‘little store, or provide with anxiety and pain << for his restless wants, each would lose his indi- «‘ vidual existence in the thought of the general *«cood. No man would be an enemy to his “‘ neighbours, for they would have no subject of *‘ contention; and of consequence philanthropy ** would resume the empire which reason assigns “her. Mind would be delivered from her perpe- ‘* tual anxiety about corporal support; and be free ‘« to expatiate in the field of thought which is con- ‘“‘ genial to her. Each would assist the inquiries “< of all.”*

This would indeed be ahappy state. But that it is merely an imaginary picture with scarcely a feature near the truth, the reader, I am afraid, is already too well convinced.

. Man cannot live in the midst of plenty. All cannot share alike the bounties of nature. Were there no established administration of property, every man would be obliged to guard with force his little store. Selfishness would be triumphant. The subjects of contention would be perpetual. Every individual’ would be under a constant anxiety about corporal support, and not a single intellect would be left free to Bapaiate in the field of thought.

How little Mr. Godwin has turned his attention to the real state of human society, will sufficiently appear from the manner in which he endeavours to remove the difficulty of a superabundant popu-

* Political Justice, b. viii. c. iii. p. 458.

22 Of Systems of Equality. Godwin. Bk. iii.

lation. He says, ‘“‘ The obvious answer to this ob- ** jection is, that to reason thus is to foresee dif- “ficulties at a great distance. Three-fourths of “‘ the habitable globe are now uncultivated. The ** parts already cultivated are capable of immea- surable improvement. Myriads of centuries of “« still increasing population may pass away, and ‘‘ the earth be still found sufficient for the subsist- ‘* ence of its inhabitants.”*

I have already pointed out the error of sup- posing that no distress or difficulty would arise from a redundant population, before the earth ab- solutely refused to produce any more. Butletus imagine for a moment Mr. Godwin’s system of equality realized, and see how soon this difficulty might be expected to press, under so perfect a form of society. A theory that will not admit of application cannot possibly be just.

Let us suppose all the causes of vice and misery in this island removed. War and contention cease. Unwholesome trades and manufactories do not exist. Crowds no longer collect together in great and pestilent cities for purposes of court intrigue, of commerce, and of vicious gratification. Simple, healthy and rational amusements take place of drinking, gaming and debauchery. There are no towns sufficiently large to have any prejudicial effects on the human constitution. The greater part of the happy inhabitants of this terrestrial Paradise live in hamlets and farm-houses scattered

* Polit. Justice, b. viii, c. x. p. 510.

Ch. u. Of Systems of Equality. Godwin. 23

over the face of the country. All men are equal. The labours of luxury are at an end; and the ne- cessary labours of agriculture are shared amicably among all. The number of persons and the pro- duce of the island we suppose to be the same as at present. The spirit of benevolence, guided by impartial justice, will divide this produce among all the members of society according to their wants. Though it would be impossible that they should all have animal food every day, yet ve- getable food, with meat occasionally, would sa- tisfy the desires of a frugal people, and would be sufficient to preserve them in health, strength and spirits.

Mr. Godwin considers marriage as a fraud and a monopoly.* Let us suppose the commerce of the sexes established upon principles of the most perfect freedom. Mr. Godwin does not think him- self, that this freedom would lead to a promiscuous intercourse; and in this I perfectly agree with him. The love of variety is a vicious, corrupt and unna- tural taste, and could not prevail in any great degree in a simple and virtuous state of society. Each man would probably select for himself a partner, to whom he would adhere, as long as that adherence continued to be the choice of both par- ties. It would be of little consequence, according to Mr. Godwin, how many children a woman had, or to whom they belonged. Provisions and assist- ance would spontaneously flow from the quarter

* Polit. Justice, b. viii. c. viii. p. 498, et seq.

24 Of Systems of Equality. Godwin. Bk. iii.

in which they abounded to the quarter in which they were deficient.* And every man, according to his capacity, would be ready to furnish instruc- tion to the rising generation.

¥ cannot conceive a form of society so favourable upon the whole to population. The irremediable- ness to marriage, as it is at present constituted, undoubtedly deters many from entering into this state. Anunshackled intercourse on the contrary would be a most powerful incitement to early at- tachments; and as we are supposing no anxiety about the future support of children to exist, I do not conceive that there would be one woman in a hundred, of twenty-three years of age, without a family. .

With these extraordinary encouragements to population, and every cause of depopulation, as we have supposed, removed, the numbers would necessarily increase faster than in any society that has ever yet been known. I have before mentioned that the inhabitants of the back settle- ments of America appear to double their numbers in fifteen years. England is certainly a more healthy country than the back settlements of Ame- rica; and as we have supposed every house in the island to be airy and wholesome, and the encou- ragements to have a family greater even than in America, no probable reason can be assigned, why the population should not double itself in less, if possible, than fifteen years. But to be quite sure,

* Political Justice, b. viii. c. viii. p. 504.

Ch. ii. Of Systems of Equality. Godwin. 25

that we do not go beyond the truth, we will only suppose the period of doubling to be twenty-five years; a ratio of increase, which is slower than is known to have taken place throughout all the United States of America.

There can be little doubt that the equalization of property which we have supposed, added to the circumstance of the labour of the whole com- munity being directed chiefly to agriculture, would tend greatly to augment the produce of the country. But to answer the demands of a population in- creasing so rapidly, Mr. Godwin’s calculation of half an hour a day would certainly not be sufficient. It is probable that the half of every man’s time must be employed for this purpose. Yet with such or much greater exertions, a person who is" acquainted with the nature of the soil in this coun- try, and who reflects on the fertility of the lands already in cultivation, and the barrenness of those that are not cultivated, will be very much disposed to doubt, whether the whole average produce could possibly be doubled in twenty-five years from the present period. The only chance of success would be from the ploughing up of most of the grazing countries, and putting an end almost entirely to animal food.’ Yet this scheme would probably defeat itself. The soil of England will not produce much without dressing; and cattle seem to be necessary to make that species of ma- nure, which best suits the land.

Difficult however as it might be to double the average produce of the island in twenty-five years, let us suppose it effected. At the expiration of

26 Of Systems of Equality. Godwin. Bk. iii.

‘the first period therefore, the food, though almost entirely vegetable, would be sufficient to support in health the population increased from 11 to 22 millions.*

During the next period, where will the food be found,