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any country, is the increase of the means of subsistence. But even this criterion is subject to some slight variations, which however are completely open to our observation. In some countries population seems to have been forced ; that is, the people have been habituated by degrees to live almost upon the smallest possible quantity of food. There must have been periods in such countries, when population increased permanently without an increase in the means of subsistence. China, India and the countries possessed by the Bedoween Arabs, as we have seen in the former part of this work, appear to answer to this description. The average produce of these countries seems to be but barely sufficient to support the lives of the inhabitants, and of course any deficiency from the badness of the seasons must be fatal. Nations in this state must necessarily be subject to famines.
In America, where the reward of labour is at present so liberal, the lower classes might retrench very considerably in a year of scarcity, without materially distressing themselves. A famine therefore seems to be almost impossible. It may be expected, that in the progress of the population of America, the labourers will in time be much less liberally rewarded. The numbers will in this case permanently increase, without a proportional increase in the means of subsistence.
In the different countries of Europe there must be some variations in the
proportion of the number of inhabitants and the quantity of food consumed, arising from the different habits of living which prevail in each state. The labourers of the south of England are so accustomed to eat fine wheaten bread, that they will suffert hemselves to be half starved before they will submit to live like the Scotch peasants.
They might perhaps, in time, by the constant operation of the hard law of necessity, be reduced to live even like the lower classes of the Chinese, and the coun try would then with the same quantity of food support a greater population. But to effect this must always be a difficult,
and every friend to humanity will hope, an abortive attempt.
I have mentioned some cases where population may permanently increase without a proportional increase in the means of subsistence. But it is evident that the variation in different states between the food and the numbers supported by it is restricted to a limit beyond which it cannot pass. In every country, the population of which is not absolutely decreasing, the food must be necessarily sufficient to support and continue the race of labourers.
Other circumstances being the same, it may be affirmed that countries are populous according to the quantity of human food which they produce or can acquire; and happy, according to the liberality with which this food is divided, or the quantity which a day's labour will purchase. Corn countries are more populous than pasture countries, and rice countries more populous than corn countries. But their happiness does not depend either upon their being thinly or fully inhabited, upon their poverty or their riches, their youth or their
age; but on the proportion which the population and the food bear to each other. This proportion is generally the most favourable in new colonies, where the knowledge and industry of an old state operate on the fertile unappropriated land of a new
In other cases the youth or the age of a state is not, in this respect, of great importance. It is probable that the food of Great Britain is divided in more liberal shares to her inhabitants at the present period, than it was two thousand, three thousand or four thousand years ago. And it has appeared that the poor and thinly-inhabited tracts of the Scotch Highlands are more distressed by a redundant population than the most populous parts of Europe.
If a country were never to be overrun by à people more advanced in arts, but left to its own natural progress in civilization ; from the time that its produce might be considered as an unit, to the time that it might be considered as a million, during the lapse of many thousand years, there would not be a single period when the mass of the people could be said to be free from
distress, either directly or indirectly, for want of food. In every state in Europe, since we have first had accounts of it, millions and millions of human existencies have been repressed from this simple cause, though perhaps in some of these states an absolute famine may never have been known.
Must it not then be acknowledged by an attentive examiner of the histories of mankind, that, in every age and in every state in which man has existed or does now exist,
The increase of population is necessarily limited by the means of subsistence:
Population invariably increases when the means of subsistence increase , unless
prevented by powerful and obvious checks :
These checks, and the checks which keep the population down to the level of the means of subsistence, are moral restraint, vice, and misery?
In comparing the state of society which
By an increase in the means of subsistence, as the expression is used here, is always meant such an increase as the mass of the population can command; otherwise it can be of no avail in encouraging an increase of people.