ページの画像
PDF
ePub

Observations on the reply of Mr. Godwin.

[ocr errors]

only in theory, provided that theory be consistent and founded on a knowledge of human nature, that his system will really tend to drive vice and misery from the earth, he may depend upon having me one of its steadiest and warmest advocates.

Mr. Godwin observes, that he should naturally be disposed to pronounce that man strangely indifferent to schemes of extraordinary improvement in society, who made it a conclusive argument againt them, that when they were realized, they might peradventure be of no permanence and duration. And yet, what is morality individual or political, according to Mr. Godwin's own definition of it, but a calculation of consequences ? Is the physician the patron of pain who advises his patient to bear a present evil rather than betake himself to a remedy, which though it might give momentary relief would afterwards greatly aggravate all the symptoms? Is the moralist to be called an enemy to pleasure, because he recommends to a young man just entering into life not to ruin his health and patrimony in a few years by an excess of present gratifications, but to economize his enjoyments that he may spread them over a longer period? Of Mr. Godwin's system, according to the present arguments by which it is

Observations on the reply of Mr. Godwin.

supported, it is not enough to say, peradventure it will be of no permanence; but we can pronounce with certainty that it will be of no permanence: and under such circumstances an attempt to execute it would unquestionably 'be a great political immorality.

Mr. Godwin observes, that after recovering from the first impression made by the Essay on Population, the first thing that is apt to strike every reflecting mind is, that the excess of power in the principle of population over the principle of subsistence has never, in any past instance, in any quarter or age of the world, produced those great and astonishing effects, that total breaking up of all the structures and maxims of society, which the essay leads us to expect from it in certain cases in future. This is undoubtedly true ; and the reason is, that in no past instance, nor in any quarter or age of the world, has an attempt been made to establish such a system as Mr. Godwin's, and without an attempt of this nature none of these great effects will follow. The convulsions of the social system, described in the last chapter, appear

[merged small][ocr errors]

Observations on the reply of Mr. Godwin.

ed by a kind of irresistible necessity, to terminate in the establishment of the laws of property and marriage ; but in countries where these laws are already established, as they are in all the common constitutions of society with which we are acquainted, the operation of the principle of population will always be silent and gradual, and not different to what we daily see in our own country. Other persons beside Mr. Godwin have imagined, that I looked to certain periods in future, when popula. tion would exceed the means of subsistence in a much greater degree than at present, and that the evils arising from the principle of population were rather in contemplation than in existence ; but this is a total misconception of the argument.' Poverty, and not absolute famine, is the specific effect of the principle of population, as I have before endeavored to show. Many countries are now suffering all the evils that can ever be expected to flow from this principle, and even if we were' arrived at the absolute limit to all further increase of produce, a point which we shall certainly neyer reach, I should by no means expect that these evils would be in any marked manner aggravated.

In other parts of his Reply, Mr. Godwin does not fala into this error.

Observations on the reply of Mr. Godwin.

The increase of produce in most European countries is so very slow compared with what would be required to support an unrestricted increase of people, that the checks which are constantly in action to repress the population to the level of a produce increasing so slowly would have very little more to do in wearing it down to a produce absolutely stationary.

But Mr. Godwin says, that if he looks into the past history of the world, he does not see that increasing population has been controlled and confined by vice and misery alone. In this observation I cannot agree with him. I believe Mr. Godwin would find it difficult to name any check, which in past ages has contributed to keep down the population to the level of the means of subsistence, that does not fairly come under some form of vice or misery; except indeed the check of moral restraint, which I have mentioned in the course of this work; and which, to say the truth, whatever hopes we may entertain of its prevalence in future, has undoubtedly in past ages operated with inconsiderable force.'

1 It should be recollected always, that by moral rese traint I mean a restraint from marriage from prudential

Observations on the reply of Mr. Godwin.

I do not think that I should find it difficult to justify myself in the eyes of my readers from the imputation of being the patron of vice and misery; but I am not clear that Mr. Godwin would find such a justification so easy. For though he has positively declared that he does not “regard them with complacency;" and“ hopes that it may not be con“ sidered as a taste absolutely singular in him that “ he should entertain no vehement partialities for “ vice and misery;" yet he has certainly exposed himself to the suspicion of having this singular taste, by suggesting the organization of a very large portion of them for the benefit of society in general. On this subject. I need only observe, that I have always ranked the two checks which he

motives which is not followed by irregular gratifications. In this sense I am inclined to believe that the expression I have here used is not too strong.

1 Reply, p. 76.

2 Mr. Godwin does not acknowledge the justice of Hume's observation respecting infanticide ; and yet the extreme population and poverty in China, where this custom prevails, tend strongly to confirm the observation. It is still however true, as Mr. Godwin observes, that the expedient is, in its own nature, adequate to the end for which it was cited, (p. 66,) but to make it so in fact, it must be done by the magistrate, and not left to the

« 前へ次へ »