Imágenes de páginas

get subsistence from his parents, on whom he has a just demand, and if the society do not want his labour, has no claim of right to 'the smallest portion of food, and, in fact, has no business where he is. At nature's mighty feast there is no vacant cover for him. She tells him to be gone; and will quickly execute her own orders, if he do not work upon the compassion of some of the guests. If these guests get up and make room for hiin, other intruders imme. diately appear, demanding the same favour. The report of a provision for all that come, fills the hall with numerous claimants; the order and harmony of the feast is disturbed; the plenty that before reigned is changed into scarcity; and the happiness of the guests is destroyed by the spectacle of misery and dependence in every part of the hall, and by the clamorous importunity of those, who are justly enraged at not finding the provision they were taught to expect. The guests learn too late their error, in counteracting those strict orders against all intruders, issued by the great mistress of the feast, who wishing that her guests should have plenty, and knowing that she could not provide for unlimited numbers, humanely refused to admit fresh comers, when her table was already full*.”

The foregoing we believe to be a fair view of his opponent's case, when Mr. Godwin resumed his pent. And

• Essay, 4to. edit. 1803, p. 531.

+ In the anecdotes of Bishop Watson's Life, published by his son, we are presented with an able application to that prelate, on the part of a clergyman, to answer Mr. Malthus, and the bishop's reply. The former characterizes the Essay on Population, as a book which endeavours to establish a code of morality in opposition to the morality of the gospel.” “ To me," says the writer, “ it appears the most insidious attack ever made on Christianity, though the author pretends to be a Christian divine. As your Lordship. bis answered those writers who have endeavoured to undermine the doctrines of Christianity, perhaps you will show the same zeal in defending its moral precepts. The design of the present letter is to prevail on your Lordship to answer Mr. Malthus. If my sentiments should not happen to meet with your Lordship's approbation; if you should think favourably of Mr. Malthus, it would give me infinite satisfaction to hear the grounds on which your Lordship thinks his Essay can be justified, and on which it can be reconciled to the spirit of Christianity; for to me they appear so much at variance, that I am compelled to give up either the one or the other."

The Bishop says, " Though I have not read this book, I have looked into it: but perceiving that the author was endeavouring to show the utility of bringing down the population of the earth to the level of the subsistence requisite for the support of man, (a proposition [?] wanting no proof, since where there is no food men must die), I thought his time and talents would have been better employed in the investigation of the means of increasing the subsistence to the level of the population : and I laid the book aside. I thought myself justified in thus neglecting to peruse a book thwarting the strongest propensity of human nature, and contradicting the most express command of God, increase and multiply;" especially as I was persuaded that the earth had not, in the course of six thousand years from the creation, ever been replenished with any thing like one half of the number of inhabitants it would sustain." - Anecdoles of the Life of Bishop Walson, 1820, 8vo. vol. ii. p. 325-329.

shall we say, that in sitting down to our critical labours, we feel a rising blush at the partial triumph of infidelity, which is involved in the present position of the combatants? It

however, but a partial triumph. Mr. Malthus, a clergyman of the established church, assuming the attitude and language of Hamlet

“ 'Tis not alone my inky cloak Or suit of solemn black that best befits me" avoids drawing any portion either of his data or arguments from Revelation, and puts off the Christian, with regard to any peculiarity in his morals or views of human history, for the mere politician, and the moralist of expediency: while, practically, his eloquence is employed in teaching the comfortable doctrine of self-love to the rich; to all classes that have any thing to lose or give away, the easy art of keeping what they have; and to a large portion of the poorer class, that they really have “no business” in a world so much “possessed” as this! From the public and legal channels of benevolence, (for the poor-laws, however confused and imperfect, are nothing else) he proposes at once to drain off their shallow stream, and more than suggests the danger of the private exercise of that virtue. The guilt, in the poor, of having a large family. “ without a prospect,” is with him of such immediate and threatening evil to society, that the severest penalties of want and starvation should be immediately enacted against it, in terrorem, and in two short years inflicted—actual famine inflicted on the unhappy offspring of imprudent marriages, lest a famine should occur in other quarters, and among the more considerate of mankind. This writer's exhausted “ Nature,” has no room for them at her feast; and Christianity, as a system of benevolence above and beyond unen. lightened nature; a system that multiplies her bread while it divides it, has slipped from his recollection. Not only 6 he that will not,” but he that cannot work,” must not be suffered to eat, and in the face of all the wretched details of a Colquhoun on the Metropolis, and the Reports of the Magdalen and the Penitentiary, “it is better,” with him, “ to burn than to marry.” Mr. Godwin, on the other hand, a recorded unbeliever, appears on the Christian side of this argument. His theory is not inconsistent with the annals of the Bible. The erroneous speculation (if such it be) which first exposed him to the animadversions of Mr. Mal. thus, was an excessive application of the principle of benevolence. He calls upon the rich to "consider the poor.'

He traces to the corrupt influence of their idle self-love, and to the unnatural state of opposition and envy in which merely human institutions often place man against man, much of the vice and misery which we see in the world ; and Scripture so disposes of much of it. Above all, while cautiously avoiding to pledge himself for the truth, he derives from the precepts of Christianity his strongest and most successful opposition to the spirit and morals of Mr. Malthus's book.

Far as this is, with regard to these writers, very far from what we could have desired; with regard to the systems of Infidelity and Christianity, in so much as they are concerned, it is exactly as we should expect it to be. The Christian writer enticed from his only proper ground, Revelation as the standard of morals, and of all large views of man, is soon led captive, particularly with regard to the morals of his work, by the Philistines; and blind, and in fetters, makes sport for them ; while the unbelieving champion, finding no principles of self-denial and good-will to men equal to those of his neglected Bible; no moralist like Christ; nothing that can stand before the ark; no God like the God of Israel reasons as wisely and as practically as the “ priests and diviners” of Philistia, in a certain memorable case of old *, and, contrary to his nature, comes lowing down“ the straight way to Bethshemesh,” actually supporting the ark of the Lord !

Our author, somewhat inconsistently with his metaphor of finding only“ a house of cards” to demolish, expresses his surprise, in the Preface of his work, that Mr. Malthus's book should have been twenty years before the public unanswered in its main principle; and adds, “ It is in reality the complexity and thorniness of the question that have had the effect of silencing Mr. Malthus's adversaries respecting it t." Like a wise traveller in such a region, he keeps, therefore, to certain main points in his progress.

In Book I. he endeavours to ascertain " The population of Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America, in ancient and modern times.” With Mr. Malthus our author rejects all the data of Revelation on the subject of the original peopling of the world. “ I have undertaken,” he says, “ to write a refutation of his theories. He has chosen his ground; and I follow him to the contest. He had [has] made no allusion to Adam and Eve, and has written just as any speculator in

* 1 Samuel, vi. 3, &c.

+ Godwin, Preface, p, vii.

political economy might have done, to whom the records of the Bible were unknown. If there is any thing irreverend in this, to Mr. Malthus, and not to me, the blame is to be imputed. He has constructed his arguments upon certain daia, and I have attempted nothing more than the demolishing of these arguments.” He accordingly resorts to profane history, which, as he observes, extends our knowledge of the population of Europe and Asia, backward, some few thousand years. America has been discovered about three centuries, but no stable colonies, keeping tables and population, have been established there more than 100 years. Of Africa we know to this day little or nothing to our purpose. The inquiry then naturally recurs, how stands the question of population in regard to the old world? Of its changes and habits, its revolutions and emigrations, we have authentic and long-continued history.

Mr. Godwin proposes to begin with the population of China; a subject to which his opponent has also devoted considerable attention, that country being supposed to be more fully peopled than any other part of the globe. Now this is precisely a country in which the system of Mr. Malthus, if correct, would have been brought into full development. Preserving, in common with all the eastern nations, a remarkable permanency of manners and economy, its institutions afford the greatest encouragement to marrying early; celibacy is universally regarded as a disgrace; and the women are remarkably fruitful. “ As an encouragement to marriage,” says Lord Macartney, every male child may be provided for, and receive a stipend from the moment of his birth, by his name being enrolled in the military list.”. Yet Du Halde and Sir George Staunton, the one writing at the beginning, and the other at the end of the last century, demonstrate that in this portion of the old world, at least, population has been at a stand for the last 100 years; and Mr. Malthus concurs in the statement. What, then, has retarded the progress of this mighty empire toward all the evils of the geometrical ratio? Sometimes Mr. Malthus seems evidently to suppose that the various “ checks” he enumerates cut off a given number of children in countries, where, from whatever cause, marriage is freely encouraged; which keeps them from rising into an overwhelming population. China has been said to number 333,000,000 of souls within its confines. On the system of an invariable tendency in population to double itself “ by procreation only” in twenty-five years, 999,000,000 infants, at least, must have been born and destroyed (or three times the number of the existing population) within the last century, over and above the usual average of mortality in other countries. But where are the records or indications of such mighty havoc? It involves an increased mortality of 13,320,000 children annually; a number more than equal to the whole population of Great Britain. We have no reason to believe in the recurrence of any of Mr. Malthus's eleven“ checks" in such an increased proportion in that country; the testimony of travellers, and the statements of that author himself, go to prove a considerable exemption from many of them- why then has not the population of China doubled, quadrupled; and then doubled and quadrupled again, within the century? We almost want regular denominations of figures to tell us what it ought to have been, on his showing, at the conclusion of that period.

In the fruitful parts of India we have a similar abundance of population. While the average number of persons subsisting on a square mile in England is not more than 200; in the district of Burdwan, Bengal, according to a recent statistical statement*, 600 persons subsist on every square mile : and with the same pertinacious ignorance, all the great legislators of this part of the world have for ages, as in China, encouraged population, and found no alarming symptoms of increase. According to the ordinances of Menu, one of the first duties of a citizen is to beget a son for his country; and early marriages are here accordingly, as Mr. Malthus admits, « almost universal.” Here then, again, we should have found the redoubling, or the redoubled and incredible destruction of children which his system assumes. cannot pass over quite so slightly as Mr. Godwin does, some of the reasoning and allusions of his opponent on the subject of “ Indostan and Tibet." One proposed object of the Essay on Population was to ascertain the checks to population in different parts of the world, and to recommend certain methods of preventing or remedying its excess.

In the chapter in question he instances the customs of the Nayrs with regard to marriage, and the measures of the government of Tibet, as operating in this direction. He tells us of the practice of one Nayr woman having attached to her “ two males, or four, or perhaps more ;" that in Tibet,“ perhaps the only country where to repress rather than to encourage population is a public object,” the Bootea is recommended to distinction by his celibacy; and the higher orders, wholly engrossed by political or ecclesiastical duties, leave to the

Asiatic Researches, vol. xii. No. 13.

But we

« AnteriorContinuar »