IN CONNEXION WITH THE MORAL STATE
AND MORAL PROSPECTS OF S0CIETY.
On the Increase and Limit of Food.
1. EACH science has certain commanding positions. whence,
if the observer look rightly around him. he may obtain an extensive view of
important truths and important applications. Such a position, we think, has
been recently gained in Political Economy, although full advantage has not yet
been taken of it. We hold it the more interesting, that it includes within its
range, certain unexplored places of the science ; and, more especially, that
department where the theory of wealth comes into contact with the theory of
population, and where the two, therefore, might be examined in connexion.
2. The doctrine, or discovery, to which we refer is that promulgated some years ago, and both at the same time, by Sir Edward West and Mr Malthus. It respects the land last entered upon for the purposes of cultivation, and which yields no rent. it is obvious, that land of this inferior productiveness must mark the extreme limit of cultivation at the time - as land of still inferior quality could not be broken up without loss to the cultivator.
3. Any land that is cultivated for food to human beings, must, at least, yield as much as shall feed the labourers who are employed in working it. But it must do more than this. These agricultural labourers require to be clothed and lodged, as well as fed. They must be upheld, not in food alone, which is the first necessary; but in, what may be termed, the second necessaries of life. The people whose business it is to work up these, may in contradistinction to the agricultural, be termed the secondary labourers of a country. It is evident, that the worst of cultivated land must, at least, be able to feed those who are directly employed upon the soil, and, moreover, those who prepare for the agricultural labourers all the other articles, beside food, which enter into their support or maintenance. Else the cultivation of it behoved to be abandoned. All that land which, by no possible improvement, either in the processes of husbandry or of manufacturing labour, could yield as much as would subsist the agricultural labourers and their secondaries, is doomed, by nature, to everlasting sterility, and must always remain without the scope of cultivation.
4. The imagination is, that the land of greatest fertility was first occupied. Men would natural soon settle on those soils which yielded the most plentiful return for their labour, or which enabled them to subsist with the least labour. It is farther conceived, that, after all the first-rate land had been cultivated, an increasing population flowed over, as it were, on the second-rate land; which, in virtue of its inferior quality, yielded a scantier return for the same labour. As mankind continued to multiply, a still farther descent behoved to be made, through a gradation of soils, each of less fertility than the one before entered on; and so, either requiring a greater amount of labour to draw from it the same food, or yielding a smaller amount of food to the same labour. This process, it is evident, admits of being extended, till the produce of the soil last entered on shall, by the utmost labour which men will expend on it, be barely sufficient for the subsistence of its agricultural labourers, and of their secondaries.
5. In filling up this sketch, or histoire raisonnée, of the conjunct process of culture and population, economists have given in to certain conceptions, which require to be modified. They sometimes describe the process, as if, at each successive descent to an inferior soil, the comfort and circumstances of the human race underwent deterioration; or as if, under the impulse of a hard and hungerbitten necessity, men were driven, like so many famishing wolves, to those intractable soils, whence they could only force out a more stinted and penurious fare than before and that, at a greater expense of toil and of endurance. Agreeably to this imagination, even economists and calculators have, by a reverse process, found their way to a golden age at the outset of the world - when men reposed in the lap of abundance; and, with no other fatigue than that of a slight and superficial operation on a soil of first-rate quality, richly partook in the bounties of nature. But when all this soil came to be occupied, and the race continued to multiply, land of a second quality behoved to be taken in - and the conception is, that, at every such transition from a better to a worse land, a heavier imposition of toil was laid upon workmen, and a smaller amount of produce was yielded to them in return for their industry. This, certainly, represents to us the species in a course of deterioration, at least, in as far as the comfort of the labouring classes is concerned. They are pictured to the eye, as if goaded on by hard and stubborn necessity at every step of this movement, and going forth in starving multitudes, from that better land, which is now too narrow for them. At each new stretch of cultivation, a more ungrateful soil has to be encountered, on which it is thought that men are more strenuously worked, and more scantily subsisted, than before - till, at the extreme limit of this progression, a life of utmost toil, and utmost penury, is looked to as the inevitable doom that awaits the working classes of society.
6. Now, generally speaking, this is not accordant with historical truth. We do read of extensive emigrations, by men who felt themselves straitened in their native land, and went forth in quest of a settlement. But we do not witness, throughout the various countries of the world, the successive degradation of their peasantry. There may be fluctuations in their economic state, from year to year, or from generation to generation. But on the survey and comparison of centuries, we should rather say, that there had been a general march and elevation in the style of their enjoyments. There is a seeming incompatibility in this fact with the process which has just been described - and this has cast a suspicion over its reality. Men have been at a loss to reconcile the descent of labourers among the inferior soils, with the undoubted rise which has taken place in their circumstances, or in the average standard of their comfort. This has darkened the whole speculation, and brought on a controversy, which admits, however, we think, of a very obvious and easy adjustment.
7. For as the fresh soils that had to be successively entered on became more intractable, the same amount of labour, by the intervention of tools and instruments of husbandry, may have become greatly more effective. The same labour which, by a direct manual operation, could raise a given quantity of subsistence from soil of the first quality, might, with our present implements of agriculture, raise as much from soil of the last quality that has been entered on. If, from one generation to another, a descent had to be made on more stubborn and impracticable soils, and which, therefore required a far more operose treatment, ere they could be brought to yield as abundantly, as did their predecessor soils, in the career of agriculture - it should be remembered that, by this time, the labour of human hands might have been helped and facilitated, to the whole extent of the difference, by the implements of labour. With the scraping and stirring of first-rate land by the branch of a tree, there might be as much of real muscular work required to obtain from it the same quantity of produce, as from second-rate land by means of a wooden spade, or from third-rate land by means of an iron one, or from fourth-rate land by means of a plough, or lastly, from fifth-rate and following lands, by means of those successive improvements in the form of the plough, whereby it is made more effective than before. We will not yet designate the implements of husbandry by the name of capital; but, considering them merely as the products of labour, it is enough at present to affirm, that the whole labour, first, of making the plough, and then of working it on the soil of the last and latest quality, might fetch back as liberal a return of food to the cultivators, as an equal quantity of labour bestowed either directly by the hand, or with the intervention of some rude and clumsy instrument on the land that was earliest entered on. It is thus that there may at once be a progress in agriculture, and yet, through all the gradations of it, the species be upheld in as great ease and sufficiency as at first. Instead of the strong impulse of population driving them helplessly and ungovernably onward, to those more inhospitable regions, where they are doomed to all the miseries of a more stinted provision than before, - they may, simply and spontaneously, and without the pressure of any felt agony or violence, have entered on the possession of these regions, because now furnished by art with the means of extracting, even from the comparative barrenness of nature, as generous a remuneration for their toils, as they before drew from nature's greatest fertility. We are not, therefore, to imagine of the great family of mankind, that as they grew in numbers, and spread themselves over upon tracts of greater sterility than before, they must necessarily sink down into a state of greater endurance, whether in the way of privation or fatigue. It is not always at the call of hunger or distress that these successive movements have been made. They are often made in another character - not in that of famishing hordes, making forcible descent on some untried region, in quest of that which might satiate their cravings; but in the higher character of dominant and devising men, walking forth with master step, and in the triumph of their new energies and acquisitions, to subdue some yet untrodden territory, and force from it as liberal subsistence, as any which their ancestors had ever gotten in more favoured climes. We are not to suppose that every increase of cultivation is marked by an increase of wretchedness. Through its whole process, from the first to the last of it, the species might be sustained on as high a level, and even be made to ascend higher than at the first. And, as at the commencement of cultivation, there might have been impediments to be struggled with at the entrance upon the first land, such as the clearing it of wood, - so, on the extreme verge of our newest cultivation, there might have been helps to labour on the last and worst land, such as the perfection of our modern implements, which could ensure as generous a repayment for the same quantity of work, in the most recent, as .in the most remote stages of this great process.
8. It follows not, that in the act of descending to an inferior soil, men have to put forth a greater quantity of labour for the same return, - because, it may have been some improvement in the modes or operations of husbandry, which has enabled them to make the descent, and to make the same labour as effective on the ground which they are now reclaiming from the waste, as on that which they had last brought within the domain of cultivation. When, therefore, we see the wilds of nature further broken in upon, we are not always to imagine, that it is from the pressure of a felt necessity, by which men have been forced to submit to a more painful endurance, and to put up with a scantier subsistence in return for it. It may have been the pacific, the prosperous result of some enlargement in the powers of agricultural labour; and in consequence of which, men go spontaneously forth on an inferior soil, because now, for the same work, they earn the same recompense as they did on the soil immediately above it. It is thus a possible thing, that cultivation may be extended, without deterioration to the comfort of labourers; and that, along its last possible frontier, there might be stationed as high and well-conditioned a peasantry, as ever flourished in any olden or golden period on the lawns of Arcadia.
9. And cultivation may be extended by an improvement in manufacturing, as well as in agricultural labour. It may be conceived of the land last entered, that in return for a certain quantity of labour, it yields the subsistence of a hundred families; and that the land next inferior to it cannot be profitably cultivated, because in return for the same labour, it yields the subsistence of only ninety families. Now, overlooking for the present the element of profit, one might conceive these hundred families to be made up of seventy belonging to the agricultural, and of thirty belonging to the secondary class, - it being the employment of the latter to prepare, for the whole hundred, the second necessaries of life. It matters not whether there be such an improvement in agricultural labour, that sixty can do the work of seventy, or such an improvement in manufacturing labour, that twenty can do the work of thirty. In either way, ninety labourers can do as much as a hundred did before; and whereas, formerly, land behoved to return for their labour the subsistence of a hundred families, ere it could be taken in, it may now be taken in, though of such inferior quality, as to return the subsistence of but ninety families. By the former improvement, the agricultural labourers necessary for a given effect, became fewer than before, by the latter improvement, though still as numerous, they would require the services of fewer secondaries than before. It is thus that a step of improvement in manufactures alone, can give rise to an onward step of extension in agriculture - and just because a method has been devised for the fabrication of as many yards of cloth, by fewer hands, soils of poorer out-field, than any that had yet been reached, may now be profitably entered upon. An improvement in the form of the stocking machine, may, as well as an improvement in the form of the plough, bring many an else unreclaimed acre within the reach of cultivation.
10. The actual and historical process that has taken place, we believe to be as follows. The labourers of our day work harder than before, but live better than before. They put forth more strength, and receive more sustenance, than they wont to do. There has been an increase on both of these terms; or, such has been the change of habit among workmen, that while greatly more industrious, they, at the same time, have become greatly more luxurious. They at once toil more strenuously, and live more plentifully - putting forth more strength, but withal, drawing the remuneration of a larger and more liberal sustenance. This we apprehend to be the actual change of habit and condition which has taken place, with artisans and labourers, in all the countries of civilized Europe, - so that while, on the one hand, we behold a harder working peasantry, we, on the other hand, behold them more richly upholden, both in the first and second necessaries of life.
11. Now, this may be either a deterioration or an improvement in their circumstances. One can imagine a day of slavish fatigue, followed by an evening of gross and loathsome sensuality, - as is often exemplified in the life of a London coalheaver, whose enormous wage is absorbed in the enormous consumption, by which he repairs the waste and the weariness of an excessive labour. This, surely, is not a desirable habitude for the commonalty of any land; nor do we read the characteristics of a high or a well-conditioned peasantry in a state of existence, made up, first of drudgery to the uttermost of their strength, and then of grovelling dissipation to the uttermost of their means. They spend one part of their revolving day in the exercise of powers, which are merely animal; and the other part in the indulgence of enjoyments, which also are merely animal - like beasts of burden, who are more hardly worked than before, and, in return for this, are better fed, and lodged, and littered than before. They are now in better keep than their forefathers; and this puts them into heart for the greater work that is extracted out of them. Still it is conceivable of the work, that it may be so very extreme, as, on the whole, to degrade and to depress these overdone children of modern industry_and that, in spite of the greater abundance wherewith their senses and their spirits are coarsely regaled, during the intervals of their sore bondage.
12. If this be the extreme to which the workmen of our present day are now tending, there is an extreme opposite to this; from which men only began to emerge at the outset of civilization, and which is still realized among barbarous and demi- barbarous nations. We advert to the sordid condition of those, whom nought but the agonies of hunger can impel to shake off an indolence that is else unconquerable; and who, as soon as they have satisfied its cravings, lapse again into the rooted and habitual lethargy of their nature. If they have but enough of sleep, and enough of surfeiting, they care for no higher gratification; nor will they make one effort, above that level to which they subside, by the weight of their own constitutional sluggishness. Food, of some description or other, they must have - but, having it, they are pleased to live in filth and nakedness, and nearly in utter want of all the secondary accommodations. It is obvious, of such a people, that so long as they abide in this habit, the inferior soils of the earth never will be reached by them. It is even possible that they may stop short at the very first and most fertile of the land; and never taste of that abundance which is within their reach, just because of their insuperable aversion to the labour of extracting it. It is thus that they might doze away their existence on the surface of an earth, whose dormant capabilities they never enter upon; and in vast territories, capable of sustaining millions over and above the few stragglers by whom they are occupied, both cultivation and population may, just because of this moral barrier, have been fixed and limited for many centuries.
13. So that, in reasoning on the causes which have led to the extension of agriculture among sterile and intractable soils, other things must be taken into account, beside the mere energy of the principle of population. We have already shown, how, without bringing this principle into collision with a taste for the enjoyments of life, there may, without any compromise of these enjoyments, and by a mere improvement in the powers of mechanical labour, be a descent among the inferior soils, and so an extension of agriculture, to afford the increasing population as large and liberal a subsistence as before. And it is evident, the very same thing would happen, with every increase that took place in the amount of manual labour, or in the industrious habits of the people. Certain it is, that, in climes and countries the most favourable to production, we may often witness the squalid destitution of whole tribes, restrained, by the mere force of indolence, from the enjoyment of that plenty, which, with but a little effort, they could so easily realize. Now this proceeds, not from the principle of population being of smaller strength there than in other parts of the world, but from the counteractive force of indolence being there of greater strength. There is a lethargy, or love of ease, in certain temperaments, which will even carry it over the love of offspring; so that, should it not prevent early marriages, it will, at least, prevent a larger proportion of the fruits of marriage from ripening into maturity. Of the many children who are born, a few only will survive the sickliness and the spare living to which they are exposed, from that state of voluntary destitution, wherein their parents will rather abide, than put forth those efforts of industry which they feel to be intolerable. Just as the taste for secondary enjoyments has not yet aroused them to exertion, so neither might affection for their famishing and misguided little ones arouse them. This accounts for the population being stationary in many countries, where, as yet, the first-rate soils have scarcely been entered upon - and it should convince us, that something else than the mere energy of this principle must be adverted to, when we reason on that historical progress which has conjunctly taken place, in the extension of husbandry and in the numbers of mankind.
14. But if, by the strength of human indolence, the process of cultivation may be arrested at an earlier stage in the scale of descending fertility, then, should this indolence, by some cause or other, be removed, or got the better of, the process may be again set at liberty. Now, there is no influence by which man is more effectually roused to exertion, than the excitement of new desires, which require exertion ere they can be appeased. Let him, by any chance, come to have a greater number of wants than before; and, to supply these, he may be led to work a greater number of hours than before. His taste for idleness will give way to his taste for other things, when he comes to like these other things better than his idleness. If he will not be satisfied but with a certain style of dress and lodging, or with the epjoyment of certain luxuries which his forefathers never dreamed of - then, rather than be without them, he will put forth a strenuous and sustained effort of regular industry, which his forefathers would have felt to be intolerable. This change of habit has actually taken place in modern Europe. Workmen both labour more, and live better, than their ancestors.
15. This is one important service which commerce has rendered to agriculture, it was the instrument of that great economic change which took place at the termination of the middle ages - when landlords dismissed their retainers, and expended the surplus produce of their estates on the purchase of those articles which trade and manufactures brought to their door. This great transition has been well described both by Adam Smith and Dr Robertson; but it should not be overlooked, that, beside the reaction on landlords, there was also at that time a strong reaction produced on the habit of labourers. With their growing taste for the new enjoyments which had been placed within their reach, there was, in order to obtain them, a willingness to forego the lounging and lazzaroni life which they formerly indulged in, and to brook the restraints and the toils of regular industry. A mighty extension must have arisen to agriculture, not merely from the new power that has been given to the implements of labour, but from the new habit that has been given to the labourers themselves. If they now work double of what they did formerly, then, all other circumstances being equal, the land last entered on will, in return for tl3e same labour, only have to feed half of the number of agricultural labourers which it did formerly. It affords room for an immense enlargement, when, in virtue of this moral transition alone, the cultivation which stopped short at the land that, for a given amount of work, returned the subsistence of twenty families, may now be carried downward to a more barren and uncomplying soil, that, in return for the same work, yields but the subsistence of ten families. In this way too, then, have trade and manufactures widened the domain of cultivation; and the products of the former have stimulated and called forth in greater abundance the products of the latter.
16. Itis thus that, by a more strenuous industry, and a more effective machinery together, the poorer soils may, to a certain extent, be forced to yield an equal, or, perhaps, a more liberal subsistence to the labourer, than at earlier stagesin the process of cultivation. Yet it must be quite evident, that, whether in single countries, or in the whole world, it is a process which cannot go on indefinitely. The time may be indefinitely distant, and indeed may never come, when the absolute and impassable barrier shall at length be arrived at. But to be satisfied that there is such a barrier, one has only to look to the extent and quality of the land in any region of the earth. By labour we might grind even the naked rock into an arable soil,. - but a soil thus formed never would return the expense of food bestowed upon the labourers. In every country there is an upland or outfield territory, which will always bid defiance to agriculture. And even though it were not so though to its last acre it possessed a uniform richness - though the plough might be carried over the whole of the mighty continent, and should find an obstacle nowhere but at the margin of the sea; yet, as sure as that every country has its limit, and every continent its shore, we must acquiesce in it as one of the stern necessities of our condition, that the earth we tread upon, can only be made to yield a limited produce, and so to sustain a limited population.
17. It seems very generally admitted, that should it ever come to this, the population, brought to a stand in respect of numbers, must either have to encounter great positive distress, or must anticipate this distress by a preventive regimen. In the midst of all the minuter criticisms to which the doctrine has been exposed, the great historical fact remains unshaken - that, let the means of subsistence be increased however largely and suddenly, this is sure to be followed by a corresponding increase of population. Every state and country in the world bears evidence to this truth - whether in the steady augmentations of Europe, or in the gigantic strides that are now making in the population of America. The invariable connexion, as of antecedent and consequent, between a great extent of fertile and unoccupied land, and a great multiplication of families, when once it is entered upon, is too palpable to be obscured by any sophistry, or by the allegation of any mystic principle whatever. Yet the power to support, and the power to create a population, are just as distinct, the one from the other, as the constitution of the external world is distinct from the constitution or physiology of human nature. It is not an increase of the former power which gives rise to an increase of the latter - it only gives situation and space for the development of its energies. Should a population, when every let and hinderance of a straitened subsistence is removed, be able to double itself in fifteen years - it would still have the inherent ability of doing so, after that every acre on the face of the globe had been advanced to its state of uttermost cultivation. The power of population would then be kept in perpetual abeyance - with a constant disposition to transgress beyond the limits of the worlds food, and as constant a check on the expansion of the capabilities which belong to it.
18. All this is very generally allowed; but then the imagination of many is, that, not until the world be fully cultivated and fully peopled, shall we have any practical interest in the question. They seem to think of the doctrine of Maithus, that the consideration of it may, with all safety, be postponed, till the agriculture of every country and every clime have been carried to its extreme perfection; and that, meanwhile, the population may proceed as rapidly and recklessly as it may. When a house- hold is straitened by its excessive numbers, or a parish is eppressed by its redundant families - they would bar every argument about the proximate causes of this inconvenience, by the allegation, that there were still thousands of unreclaimed acres at home, or millions in distant places of the earth, though of as little real or substantial consequence to the suffering parties, as if the land were situated in another planet. They appear to conceive, that ere any body can be felt as an obstacle to our progress, it must have come to a dead stand - not aware that to act as a check or impediment, it has only to move more slowly, though in the same direction, than at the rate in which we are advancing ourselves. They proceed on the idea, that no shock or collision can be felt but by the stroke of an impellent on a body at rest - whereas it is enough if the body be but moving at a tardier pace. In the one case, the strength of the collision would be estimated by the whole velocity - yet, in the other, there might still be a very hard collision, though estimated only by a difference of velocities. It is thus that, for the continued pressure of the worlds population on its food, it is far from necessary that the food should have reached that stationary maximum, beyond which it cannot be carried. It is enough, for this purpose, that the limit of the worlds abundance, though it does recede, should recede more slowly than would the limit of the worlds population. A pressure, and that a very severe one, may be felt for many ages together, from a difference in the mere tendencies of their increase. The man, who so runs as to break his head against a wall, might receive a severe contusion, even to the breaking of his head, if, instead of a wall, it had been a slowly-retiring barrier. And therefore we do not antedate matters, by taking up now the consideration of Malthus preventive and positive checks to population. There is scarcely a period, even in the bygone history of the world, when the former checks have not been called for, and the latter have not been in actual operation. To postpone either the argument or its application till the agriculture of the world shall be perfected, is a most unpractical, as well as a most unintelligent view of the question for long ere this distant consummation can be realized, and even now, may the obstacle of a slowly-retiring limit begin to be felt. The tendency of a progressive population to outstrip the progressive culture of the earth, may put mankind into a condition of straitness and difficulty and that for many generations before the earth shall be wholly cultivated. We are not sure, but it may have done so from the commencement of the race, and throughout all its generations. Certain it is, at all events, that the produce of the soil cannot be made to increase at the rate that population would increase. Neither mechanical invention, nor more intense manual labour, is sufficient for this purpose. On the supposition that the numbers of mankind were to increase up to their natural capability of increase, no human skill or human labour, though doing their uttermost, could suffice for raising a produce up to the population_nor will the mass of society ever be upheld in comfort, without the operation of certain other principles, by which to restrain the excess of the population over the produce.
19. The impotency of the one expedient, and efficacy of the other, are nowhere more convincingly exhibited, than along what may be termed, the extreme margin of cultivation. It is there where the land pays no rent ; and, laying aside for the present, the consideration of profit, it is there where the produce that is reared can do no more than feed the labouring cultivators and their secondaries. But let the population increase to the extent of its own inherent power of increase, and it would force the existing limit of cultivation; or, in other words, fiow over upon a soil inferior to that which had last been entered on, or inferior to that which, at the then rate of enjoyment, could do no more than feed the labouring cultivators and their secondaries. The consequence of such a descent is inevitable. The rate of enjoyment must fall. The agricultural workmen must either submit to be worse fed than before; or, parting with so many of their secondaries, they must submit to be worse clothed, or lodged, or furnished than before. The likelihood is, that they would so proportion their sacrifices, as to suffer in both these ways - and so there behoved to be a general degradation of comfort in the working classes of society. There is, to be sure, another way in which they might possibly extract from the more ungrateful soil, on which they had just entered, the same plenty as before. They may submit to harder labour, by putting forth a more strenuous husbandry on the inferior land - but this too is degradation. Whether by an increase of drudgery, or an increase of destitution, there may, in either way, be a sore aggravation to the misery of labourers.
20. If it be not possible, then, to sustain in comfort and sufficiency the working classes, by keeping up the produce to the population, when suffered to proceed according to its own spontaneous energies - there seems only to be another alternative for the achievement of this great problem, that of keeping down the population to the produce. We know of no other right, or comfortable, or efficient way of doing this, than by the establishment of a habit and a principle among the labourers themselves. If they will in general enter recklessly into marriage, itis not possible to save a general descent in their circumstances. By the operation of causes already explained, a population may flow onward, in the way of increase, from one age to another, without any abridgment on the comforts of our peasantry. When these are trenched upon, it is no longer a flow - but we should call it an overflow. And the only way, we apprehend, of preventing this overflow, with all its consequent wretchedness and crime, is by the formation of a higher taste for comfort and decency among the peasantry themselves. Marriage is not necessarily the effect of a headlong impulse; but may be a voluntary act, in the determination of which, prudence and forethought have had an influential share. It is evident, that the more we elevate man into a reflective being, and inspire him with self-respect, and give him a demand for larger and more refined accommodations, and, in one word, raise his standard of enjoyment the mere will the important step of marriage become a matter of deliberation and delay. There is the utmost difference, in this respect, between the man who is content to live on potatoes, and spend his days in a sordid hovel, and the man who aspires, and, indeed, will not be satisfied without that style of food, and furniture, and dress, which we find generally to obtain among a well-conditioned peasantry . There is a sense of character, as well as a taste for comfort, connected with this habit; and when these become general in a land, there is, of consequence, a most sure and salutary postponement in the average date of matrimony. In a newly-settled country, where there is much good land still unoccupied, the moral preventive check might not be called for. In an old country, where it is called for, but not observed, we are sure to behold a wretched and degraded peasantry. There is no other method by which to raise them above this level, or to prevent their falling into it, than by the vigorous operation of this check. Our peasantry, it should be understood by all, have in this way, though in this way only, their comfort and independence in their own hands. They are on high vantage-ground, if they but knew it; and it is the fondest wish of every enlightened philanthropist, that they should avail themselves to the uttermost of the position which they occupy. It is at the bidding of their collective will, what the remuneration of labour shall be; for they have entire and absolute command over the supply of labour, If they will, by their rash and blindfold marriages, over-people the land, all the devices of human benevolence and wisdom cannot ward off from them the miseries of an oppressed and straitened condition. There is no possible help for them, if they will not help themselves. It is to a rise and reformation in the habits of our peasantry that we would look for deliverance, and not to the impotent crudities of a speculative legislation. Many are the schemes of amelioration at all times afloat. We hold, that, without the growth of popular intelligence and virtue, they will, every one of them, be ineffectual. This will at length save the country from the miseries of a redundant population, - and this, we apprehend, to be the great, the only specific for its worst moral and its worst political disorders.
21. It is not, however, by a direct promulgation of the doctrines of Mr Malthus, that the people will be converted to the side of their own interest. We can imagine nothing more preposterous than the diffusion, for this purpose, of tracts on population among the families of the land. The change will be accomplished surely, though indirectly, and by insensible progress, through the means of general instruction, or by the spread of common, and more especially of sound Christian education over the country. There is an indissoluble connexion between the moral character and the economic comfort of a peasantry; and the doctrine of Malthus is the vinculum by which to explain it. But it is not necessary to point out the vinculum to them. To make good the effect, it is not at all necessary that they should understand its dependence upøn the cause. It is enough, if, in the state of their own principles and feelings, they present or provide the cause. Let them only be a well-taught and moralized people; and, in that proportion, will they mix prudence and calculation and foresight, with every step in the history of their lives. The desirable effect will follow without any theory, or any anticipation of theirs. Let it, on the average, be held disreputable to marry without a fair and adequate prospect or provision; and the result would be a certain average of later marriages, or a country less burdened with an excess of population. It is thus, that half a century ago, in the Lowlands of Scotland, the habit of a large preparation often required, for its accomplishment, the delay of years after the virtuous attachment was formed - this habit was nearly universal among our well-schooled and well-ordered families. And so, though poverty was not unknown, yet pauperism was unknown; and notwithstanding the general barrenness of our soil, did the moral prevail over the physical causes, and uphold within our borders an erect and independent peasantry. They exemplified the doctrine of Malthus, and realized its benefits, long before that doctrine was propounded to the world.
22. In the mechanism of human society, it needs not, that, to effectuate a given result, the people, who do in fact bring it about, should be able intelligently to view their own part in it. This is not more necessary in truth, than that, to fulfil the beneficent ends of the planetary system, its various parts should be endued with consciousness - that the satellites of Jupiter, for example, should understand and design their own movements. The multitude may be wholly innocent of economical science themselves - yet may they exemplify, and by their agency sustain, its most wholesome processes. They may realize the full benefits of an operation which they do not comprehend - though, in very deed, they were themselves the operators. We object not to the highest possible education of the peasantry yet it is not to the lessons of the political, but to those of the moral and religious school, that we look for the best and speediest instruments of their economic well-being. Neither teachers nor taught may understand this connexion - nor is it necessary they should. The main object and the collateral good of Christianity may be indissolubly conjoined - but there are thousands who have verified this conjunction in experience, though they have never viewed it in theory. In labouring for the good of their eternity, they have reaped, by the way, those blessings which religion so abundantly sheds over the pilgrimage that leads to it.
23. All the remedies which have been proposed against a state of general destitution in society, may be classified under two descriptions. By the first, it is sought to provide the adequate means for the increasing numbers of mankind. By the second, to keep down the numbers to the stationary, or, comparatively speaking, to the slowly-increasingmeans. The first may, we think, be conveniently designated the external remedies - insomuch as their object is to equalize the means with the population, by an increase on the former term, or by an increase and enlargement of the resources from without. The second may, perhaps, be contradistinguished from the other, by viewing it in the light of an internal remedy - insomuch as its object is to maintain the equality of the two, by preventing an undue increase on the latter term, which can only be achieved, in a right way, by adding to the restraints of prudence and principle from within. It is our main design to demonstrate the insufficiency of one and all the remedies put together which belong to the first class - and to contrast with their operation, the effect of the moral remedy, the prosperous economic state that will surely be realized through the medium of general intelligence and virtue, or by an action on the minds of the people themselves.
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