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Of systems of equality. Godwin.

earth would be absolutely inadequate to produce food for the population which would inevitably ensue ; that even if the whole attention and labor of the society were directed to this sole point, and if by the most perfect security of property, and every other encouragement that could be thought of, the greatest possible increase of produce were yearly obtained; yet still the increase of food would by no means keep pace with the much more rapid increase of population ; that some check to population therefore was imperiously called for; that the most natural and obvious check seemed to be to make every man provide for his own children; that this would operate in some respect as a measure and a guide in the increase of population, as it might be expected that no man would bring beings into the world for whom he could not find the means of support; that where this notwithstanding was the case, it seemed necessary for the example of others, that the disgrace and inconvenience attending such a conduct should fall upon

that individual who had thus inconsiderately plunged himself and his innocent children into want and misery.

The institution of marriage, or at least of some express or implied obligation, on every man to

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Of systems of equality. Godwin.

port his own children, seems to be the natural result of these reasonings in a community under the difficulties that we have supposed.

The view of these difficulties presents us with a very natural reason why the disgrace which attends a breach of chastity should be greater in a woman than in a man. It could not be expected that women should have resources sufficient to support their own children. When, therefore, a women had lived with a man who had entered in. to no compact to maintain her children; and, aware of the inconveniences that he might bring upon himself, had deserted her, these children must necessarily fall upon the society for support, or starve. And to prevent the frequent recurrence of such an inconvenience, as it would be highly unjust to punish so natural a fault by personal restraint or infliction, the men might agree to punish it with disgrace. The offence is besides more obvious and conspicuous in the woman, and less liable to any mistake. The father of a child may not always be known: but the same uncertainty cannot easily exist with regard to the mother. Where the evidence of the offence was most complete, and the inconvenience to the society at the same time the

Of systems of equality. Godwin.

greatest; there it was agreed that the largest share of blame should fall. The obligation on every man to support his children, the society would enforce by positive laws; and the greater degree of inconvenience or labor to which a family would necessarily subject him, added to some portion of disgrace, which

every human being must incur who leads another into unhappiness, might be considered as a sufficient punishment for the man.

That a woman should at present be almost driven from society for an offence which men commit nearly with impunity, seems to be undoubtedly a breach of natural justice. But the origin of the custom, as' the most obvious and effectual method of preventing the frequent recurrence of a serious inconvenience to a community, appears to be natural, though not perhaps perfectly justifiable. This origin however is now lost in the new train of ideas, that the custom has since generated. What at first might be dictated by state necessity is now supported by female delicacy; and operates with the greatest force on that part of the society, where, if the original intention of the custom were preserved, there is the least real occasion for it.

When these two fundamental laws of society,

Of systems of equality. Godwin.

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the security of property, and the institution of mar. riage were once established, inequality of conditions must necessarily follow. Those who were born after the division of property would come into a world already possessed. If their parents from having too large a family were unable to give them sufficient for their support, what could they do in a world where every thing was appropriated ? We have seen the fatal effects that would result to society, if every man had a valid claim to an equal share of the produce of the earth. The members of a family which was grown too large for the ori. ginal division of land appropriated to it could not then demand a part of the surplus produce of others as a debt of justice. It has appeared, that from the inevitable laws of human nature some human beings will be exposed to want. These are the unhappy persons who in the great lottery of life have drawn a blank. The number of these persons would soon exceed the ability of the surplus produce to supply. Moral merit is a very difficult criterion except in extreme cases.

The owners of surplus produce would in general seek some more obvious mark of distinction ; and it seems to be both natural and just, that except upon

Of systems of equality. Godwin.

particular occasions their choice should fall upon those who were able, and professed themselves willing to exert their strength in procuring a further surplus produce, which would at once beneft the community, and enable the proprietors to afford assistance to greater numbers. All who were in want of food would be urged by imperious necessity to offer their labor in exchange for this article, so absolutely necessary to existence. The fund appropriated to the maintenance of labor would be the aggregate quantity of food possessed by the owners of land beyond their own consumption. When the demands upon this fund were great and numerous it would naturally be divided into very small shares. Labor would be ill paid. Men would offer to work for a bare subsistence; and the rearing of families would be checked by sickness and misery. On the contrary, when this. fund was increasing fast; when it was great in proportion to the number of claimants, it would be divided in much larger sbares. No man would exchange his labor without receiving an ample quantity of food in return. Laborers would live in ease and comfort, and would consequently be able to rear a numerous and vigorous offspring.

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