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Of systems of equality. Godwin.

" 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 ne

cessary 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 grinding law of necessity----misery, and the fear of misery..

The great error under which Mr. Godwin labors throughout his whole work is, the attributing of almost all the vices and misery that prevail 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 case, 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 appear to be the obvious and obtrusive causes of much

Page 460, 8vo. Id edit.

Of systems of equality. Godwin.

mischief to mankind, they are, in reality, light and superficial, in comparison with those deeper-seated causes of evil which result from the laws of nature.

In a chapter on the benefits attendant upon a system of equality, Mr. Godwin says,

16 The spirit of oppression, the spirit of servility, and “ the spirit of fraud, these are the immediate

growth of the established administration of pro"perty. They are alike hostile to intellectual im

provement. The other vices of envy, malice, “ and revenge, are their inseparable companions. “ In a state of society where men lived in the “ midst of plenty, and where all shared alike the « bounties of nature, these sentiments would in“ evitably expire. The narrow principle of sel“ fishness would vanish. No man being obliged “ to guard his little store, or provide with anxiety " and pain for his restless wants, each would lose “his individual existence in the thought of the “ general good. No man would be an enemy to “his neighbors, 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 per

petual anxiety about corporal support ; and free

Of systems of equality. Godwin.

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“ to expatiate in the field of thought which is

congenial to her. Each would assist the inquiries of all."

This would indeed be a happy 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 convineed.

Man cannot live in the midst of plenty. All cannot share alike the bounties of nature. \Vere 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 expatiate 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 endeavors to remove the difficulty of an overcharged popupulation. He says, “ The obvious answer to this

objection is, that to reason thus is to foresee dif: “ficulties at a great distance. Three fourths of

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

Of systems of equality. Godwin.

1

“ 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 subsist66 ence of its inhabitants.'

I have already pointed out the error of supposing that no distress or difficulty would arise from a redundant population, before the earth absolutely refused to produce any more.

But let us imagine for a moment Mr. Godwin's system of equality realized in its utmost extent, 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 vicious gratification. Simple, healthy, and rational amusements take place of drinking, gaming, and de

1. Political Justice, b. viii. c. ix. p. 510.

Of systems of equality. Godwin.

bauchery. 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 over the face of the country. All men are equal. The labors of luxury are at an end; and the necessary labors of agriculture are shared amicably among all. The number of persons and the produce of the island we suppose to be the same as at present. The spirit of bene. volence 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 vegetable food, with meat occasionally, would satisfy 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 himself that this freedom would lead to a promiscuous intercourse ; and in this I perfectly agree

i Political Justice, b. viii. c. viii. p. 498 et seq.

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