« 前へ次へ »
preceding view of Society.
120 to 100. Great and astonishing as this difference is, we ought not to be so wonder-struck at it, as to attribute it to the miraculous interposition of heaven. The causes of it are not remote, latent, and mysterious, but near us, round about us, and open to the investigation of every inquiring mind. It accords with the most liberal spirit of philosophy to believe, that not a stone can fall or plant rise without the immediate agency of divine power. But we know from experience, that these operations of what we call nature have been conducted almost invariably according to fixed laws. And since the world began the causes of population and depopulation have been probably as constant as any of the laws of nature with which we are acquainted.
The passion between the sexes has appeared in every age, to be so nearly the same, that it may always be considered, in algebraic language, as a given quantity. The great law of necessity which prevents population from increasing in any country beyond the food which it can either produce or acquire, is a law so open to our view, so obvious and evident to our understandings that we cannot for a moment doubt it. The different modes which nature takes to repress a redundant population, do not appear indeed to us so certain and re
General deductions from the
gular; but though we cannot always predict the mode we may with certainty predict the fact. If the proportion of the births to the deaths for a few years indicates an increase of numbers much be yond the proportional increased or acquired food of the country, we may be perfectly certain, that unless an emigration take place the deaths will shortly exceed the births, and that the increase that had been observed for a few years cannot be the real average increase of the population of the country. If there were no other de populating causes, and if the preventive check did not operate, very strongly, every country would, without doubt, be subject to periodical plagues and famines,
The only true criterion of a real and permanent increase in the population of 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 in'creased permanently without an increase in the means of subsistence. China, India, and the countries possessed by the Bedoween Arabs, as we have
preceding view of Society.
seen in the former part of this work, appear to an- • swer 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 labor 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 laborers 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 laborers of the south of England are so accustomed to eat fine wheaten bread, that they will suffer themselves to be half-starved before they will submit to live like. the Scotch peasants,
General deductions from the
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 country 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.
every country the population of which is not absolutely decreasing, the food must be necessarily sufficient to support and to continue the race of laborers, 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 labor 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
preceding view of Society,
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 favorable 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 di. vided 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 a people more advanced in arts, but left to its own natural progress
in civilization; from the time that its produce might be considered as a 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 vol. ii.