Sir James Steuart (1767)
Mr Derham has furnished some tables, which shew the proportion between marriages and births in England, to be as 1 to 4; that of births to burials as 1 12/100 to 1: from which it appears that multiplication there goes on, though slowly: a mark of youth and vigour. Dr Davenant values this augmentation at 9000 a year. Could matters be kept at that standard, I should prefer it by far to a more rapid multiplication: it amounts to about a million in a century (without entering into accumulations or exact calculations), and the longer youth is preserved so much the better. A rapid multiplication will stop at some period, and this stop, which marks distress, must produce great inconveniences.
These calculations, founded on very precarious suppositions, shew how necessary it is to have authentic recapitulations: since, precarious as they are, it is from these and the like, that Dr Halley, and others, have calculated the value of annuities, which (at a time when all the states of Europe are borrowing money at the expence of every man's private industry or property) ought to be valued at their real worth. Now, in all these calculations of mortality, it appears that what we have called the abuse of marriage or mere procreation is included.
If it be true, as I think it is, from what I have seen and observed, that numbers, especially of children, among the lower classes, perish from the effects of indigence; either directly by want of food, or by diseases contracted gradually from the want of convenient ease; and that others perish for want of care, when the slightest assistance of a surgeon to let them blood, would be sufficient to preserve them against the inflammatory distempers to which they are chiefly exposed: If these things be so, must we not infer, that calculations formed upon a conclusion drawn from the births and deaths of mankind in general, cannot possibly be so exact as if the like were drawn from those of every class of inhabitants taken separately.
It may here be answered, that among the rich and easy, there are found diseases which sweep off numbers, in as great a proportion as other distempers do among the poor: that we see very large families brought up among the lowest classes, while a great man has all the pains in the world to preserve one boy from the wreck of a number of children.
All this I agree may be true; but I should be glad to see in what proportion it is so, and to be made certain of the fact. I want to know the diseases of the rich and of the poor; I want to have as particular details of the births and deaths of every class, as I can have of those of the cities of Paris, London, or Breslaw. I want to know from what parents are sprung those multitudes of poor which I find every where; and most of all to have such accounts from different countries, where different manners prevail. For no just conclusion can be drawn from the comparison of facts, without examining circumstances. The most barren class in one country, may be the most fruitful in another. As an example of this, let any one compare the state of marriage among the footmen of London where most of them are single, and of Paris where most of them have families.
I find error concealed every where under general propositions. The children of the poor, says one, thrive better than those of the rich. If it be so, it ought not to be so in common reason. But the same person will tell you, I have made my son a merchant; he will be a rich man Why? Because (A B) was a merchant, who, from nothing, died worth a hundred thousand pounds. But if you go through all the letters of the alphabet following (A B), among those who set out as he did, you will find, that perhaps every one of them died a bankrupt. Those who prove successful are remarkable: those who miscarry are never heard of. It is just so with respect to the question before us. But to return to our tables, and what are called calculations.
In England, one marriage produces four children at a medium. If you reckon 6,000,000 of people in that country, and that 1/30 part dies annually, then to keep up the stock it is sufficient that 200,000 be annually born; add to this the yearly increase of 9000, the total of births will then be 209,000: for if 200,000 die this year, and if 209,000 be born, this must certainly imply an increase of 9000, provided we suppose the acquisition of foreigners to be equal to the exportation of the natives. As this is meant as an illustration only, I need not examine the matter of fact. The next question is, How many marriages, properly contracted or encouraged as above, will give this increase? For we may know that these subsisting in that kingdom, joined with the effects of extramatrimonial conjunctions, is just sufficient to produce it. I imagine that nothing but experiment can give the solution of this question. Mr King supposes every 104th person in England to marry yearly, that is, 57,682 persons, or 28,841 couples. If this number of marriages be supposed to subsist with fertility for seven years, producing a child every year, the number of 200,000 births would be procured; but I apprehend that marriages, rightly contracted, subsist much longer in general than seven years, even with fertility, though not in proportion to a child every year: consequently the number of marriages constantly subsisting with fertility in England, where it is supposed that 28,841 are yearly contracted, must be much greater than seven times that number, or than 201,887. If we suppose the whole of the 209,000 births to be produced by marriages, at three marriages to every child annually produced, then the number of marriages subsisting will be 627,000. From these speculations (for I do not pretend to call them calculations) I conclude, that the more fruitful marriages are rendered, (not with regard to procreation, merely, but to multiplication, which I have above distinguished,) the fewer become necessary; and the fewer unnecessary marriages are contracted, the better for the state, and the less misery for those who contract them. I shall here stop, and leave to the reader to draw his conclusions, putting him in mind of the wide difference that is always found between theory and practice.
From this reasoning I infer, that no exact judgement can be formed, as to the numbers in any society, from the single datum of the annual number of deaths among them; and although the just proportion between numbers and deaths may exactly be determined in one particular place, yet that proportion will not serve as a general standard, and being taken for granted may lead to error.
Here are the reasons for my opinion:
Were nobody to marry but such as could maintain their children, the bills of births and burials would, I apprehend, diminish, and yet numbers might remain as before; and were every body to marry who could procreate, they certainly would increase, but still numbers would never exceed the proportion of Subsistence. Could we but see bills of births and deaths for the city of Rome, while in all its glory or indeed for the sugar-colonies in America, where slaves are imported, adding the number of those imported to that of births, and suppossing the colony neither upon the growing or the declining hand, then the deaths and births would be equal; but the proportion of them to all in the colony, I apprehend, would be far less than in any state in Europe, where slavery does not prevail.
It may be alleged that, were all to marry, the consequence would be a great multiplication. I say not; or if it were, what sort of multiplication would it be? A multitude of children who never could come to manhood; or who would starve their parents, and increase misery beyond expression. All therefore that can be learned from bills of mortality, &c. is, that if the births exceed the deaths, and that all remain in the country, numbers are increasing; that if the deaths exceed the births, numbers are diminishing; but, while they stand at par, no conclusion can be drawn as to numbers in general: these will be in a less proportion as abusive procreation goes forward: and, vice versa, they will be in a greater.
There still hangs a cloud upon this subject: let me therefore reason upon an example. Suppose the inhabitants of a country to stand at 6,000,000; one thirtieth to die every year, and as many to be born, that is, the births and burials to stand at 200,000; that every three marriages subsisting produce one child every year, that is 600,000 marriages; let the quantity of food be supposed the same, without a possibility of being augmented. Would not the consequence be, that numbers could not increase? Now let me suppose marriages carried to 1,000,000, I say the effect would be, either that they would become in general less fruitful, or if they suffered no diminution in this particular, that the bills of births and deaths would rise to 333,333; that is to say, they would be to the number of inhabitants as 1 to 18, instead of being as 1 to 30. Now this increase of mortality proceeding from want of food, either the old would starve the young, or the young would starve the old; or a third case, more probable than either, would happen; those who could purchase subsistence, would starve those who could not. What would be the consequences in all these three suppositions? In the first, the number of 6,000,000 would be found to diminish; because the proportion of large consumers would rise, and mortality would increase among the children. In the second, the standard number would augment, because the proportion of small consumers would rise, and mortality would increase among the parents. In the third, misery and distress would lay all the lower classes waste. It is computed that one half of mankind die before the age of puberty in countries where numbers do not augment; from this I conclude, that too many are born. If methods therefore are fallen upon to render certain diseases less mortal to children, all the good that will be got by it, in general, will be to render old people of the lower classes more wretched; for if the first are brought to live, the last must die.
From these speculations I cannot help wishing to see bills of mortality made out for different classes, as well as for different ages. Were this executed, it would be an easy matter to perceive, whether the mortality among children proceeds from diseases to which infancy is necessarily exposed, or from abusive procreation. I am pretty much convinced, before I see the experiment, that it proceeds from the latter; but should experience prove it, the principles I have laid down would acquire an additional force. In the mean time, I must conclude, that it is not for want of marrying that a people does not increase, but from the want of subsistence; and it is miserable and abusive procreation which starves so many, and is the fountain of so much wretchedness.
Upon the whole, I may say, that were it possible to get a view of the general state of births and burials in every class of the inhabitants of a country, marriage might surely be put upon a better footing than ever it has been, for providing every year a determinate number of good and wholesome recruits towards supporting national multiplication. This is walking in the light, and is a means of procuring whatever augmentation of hands you wish for. What difficulties may be found in the execution, nothing but experience can shew. and this, to a judicious eye, will point out the remedy. This, in my opinion, will be far better than a general naturalization, which I take to be a leap in the dark. For, however easy it may be to naturalize men, I believe nothing is so difficult as to naturalize customs and foreign habits; and the greatest blessing any nation can enjoy, is an uniformity of opinion upon every point which concerns public affairs and the administration of them.
When God blesses a people, he makes them unanimous, and bestows upon them a governor who loves them, and who is beloved, honoured, and respected by them; this, and this only, can create unanimity.
Let this suffice at present, as to the distribution, employment, and increase of a people. Upon the proper employment of the free hands, the prosperity of every state must depend: consequently the principal care of a statesman should be, to keep all employed, and for this purpose he must acquire an exact knowledge of the state of every denomination, in order to prevent any one from rising above, or sinking below that standard which is best proportioned to the demand made for their particular industry. As the bad consequences resulting from the loss of this exact balance are not immediate, a moderate attention, with the help of the proper recapitulations, will be sufficient to direct him.
This and the two preceding chapters have in a manner wholly treated of the employment of the free hands: I must now consider the effects of an overcharge of those employed in agriculture. Here we shall still discover inconveniences, resulting from the want of that just proportion in the distribution of classes, which gives health and vigour to a state; and we shall see how it may happen, that even an overcharge of inhabitants in general may become a political disease; as an abundance of blood, however rich and good, may affect the health of the human body.
I have taken above of two performances, wherein the authors with equal ability, have treated of the numbers of manors, with notice a subject which has a very close connection with political oeconomy.
Although (as I have said) I do not pretend to decide between them as to the point in dispute, I find that in this chapter I shall be naturally led into a chain of reasoning very unfavourable to that of Mr Wallace, which is a thing I should have dispensed with, did not the merit of his performance in the eyes of the learned world appear sufficient to draw my attention.
Agriculture is, without all doubt, the foundation of multiplication, which must ever be in proportion to it; that is, to the earth's productions, as has been said. But it does not follow, that in proportion to multiplication those produced must of course become useful to one another, and useful to the society in general. Now I consider multiplication as no otherwise useful to a state, than so far as the additional number becomes so to those who are already existing, whom I consider as the body-politic of the society. When it therefore happens, that an additional number produced do no more than feed themselves, then I perceive no advantage gained to the society by their production. If, without rendering any equivalent service, they are fed by others, there is a loss.
Agriculture may be said to be carried to its utmost extent, when the earth is so laboured as to produce the greatest quantity of fruits possible for the use of man; and in judging of the improvement of two spots of ground of the same extent, that may be said to be most improved which produces the greatest quantity of food: but as to population, the question does not stop here; for let the quantity be equal on both, yet if the inhabitants of the one be more frugal livers than those of the other, this circumstance alone will make an inequality. If agriculture therefore be considered with respect to population only, we must consider that country as the best peopled, where productions are the most abundant, and where the inhabitants are the most sober. Thus much with regard to the extent of agriculture and population: we come now to consider the inconveniences which may result to a society from an over-stretch, or from what I call an abuse of either the one or the other.
I call every thing an abuse in society which implies a contradiction to the spirit of it, or which draws along with it an inconvenience to certain classes, which is not compensated by the general welfare.
The political oeconomy of government is brought to perfection, when every class in general, and every individual in particular, is made to be aiding and assisting to the community, in proportion to the assistance he receives from it. This conveys my idea of a free and perfect society, which is, a general tacit contract, from which reciprocal and proportional services result universally between all those who compose it.
Whenever therefore any one is found, upon whom nobody depends, and who depends upon every one, as is the case with him who is willing to work for his bread, but who can find no employment, there is a breach of the contract, and an abuse. For the same reason, if we can suppose any person entirely taken up in feeding himself, depending upon no one, and having nobody depending on him, we lose the idea of society, because there are no reciprocal obligations between such a person and the other members of the society.
Those who are for employing the whole of a people in agriculture may answer, that all their time cannot be employed in this occupation, and that in the intervals they may apply themselves to supply reciprocal wants.
I very readily agree, that any person, who would calculate his labour in agriculture, purely for his own subsistence, would find abundance of idle hours. But the question is, whether in good oeconomy such a person would not be better employed in providing nourishment for others, than in prodding for any other want. When he provides food, he surely provides for a want; and experience shews, that it is better for a man to apply close to one trade, than to turn himself to several.
Hence I conclude, that the best way of binding a free society together is by multiplying reciprocal obligations, and creating a general dependence between all its members. This cannot be better effected, than by appropriating a certain number of inhabitants, for the production of the quantity of food required for all, and by distributing the remainder into proper classes for supplying every other want. I say farther, that this distribution is not only the most rational, but that mankind fall naturally into it; and misery attends and has ever attended those who have been found without a particular employment.
It must not be concluded from this reasoning that abuse is always implied when we find any of the classes of the free hands of a state casually employed in agriculture.
There is such a variety of circumstances in every country, that without a peculiar talent of laying principles together, so as to answer every combination, the most perfect theory which can be proposed must appear defective.
In countries ill-improved, where industry begins only to take root, we are not to conclude, that good policy requires a sudden and immediate separation between the dwellings of the husbandmen and free hands. Sudden revolutions are constantly hurtful, and a good statesman ought to lay down his plan for arriving at perfection by gradual steps.
If he find, as is the case of rude and uncivilized societies, that many are occupied, partly, in providing subsistence for their own family, partly, in other useful pursuits, he may by degrees attach as many as he can to agriculture alone. The most wealthy are the most proper to carry this branch to any degree of perfection. The landed men ought to be encouraged by every means to apply to the study of farming. This employment has been considered as honourable in all ages of the world, and very well suits the rank, the interest, and the amusement of gentlemen.
The next step is to introduce manufactures into the country, and to provide a ready market abroad for every superfluous part of them. The allurement of gain will soon engage every one to pursue that branch of industry which succeeds best in his hands. By these means many will follow manufactures and abandon agriculture; others will prosecute their manufactures in the country, and avail themselves, at the same time, of small portions of land, proper for gardens, grass for cows, and even for producing certain kinds of fruit necessary for their own maintenance.
This I do not consider as a species of farming. It is more properly, in a political light, a sort of village-life; the village here appears dispersed only over a large extent; and I call it a village-life, because here the occupation of the inhabitants is principally directed towards the prosecution of their trades: agriculture is but a subaltern consideration, and will be carried on so far only, as it occasions no great avocation from the main object. It will however, have the effect to parcel out a small part of the lands into small possessions: a system admirably calculated for the improvement of a barren soil, and advantageous to industry is not thereby checked. This is population, when the spirit of not the case when the possessors of small lots apply totally to agriculture, and content themselves with a bare subsistence from it, without industry, or forming any plan which prosecuting any other branch of may enable themselves or their children to emerge from so circumscribed a sphere of life: from this alone proceeds, in most countries, the inconvenience of a minute subdivision of land-property.
We shall presently see, by various examples, the truth of this proposition; and, from what observations I have been able to make, it appears, that a great inconvenience flows from it; the property of the lands, and not the bare possession of them, is vested in the lower classes. While they remain as tenants only, the interest of the proprietor, on one hand, will lead him to incorporate these small possessions into larger farms, the moment the possessors are no longer able to pay a rent above the value of the grounds when let in farms; and the interest of these tenants, on the other hand, will frequently lead them to abandon such small possessions, when the prosecution of their trades, which ought to be their principal occupation, demands a change of habitation. Thus the interest of agriculture will go hand in hand with that of industry, and classes will separate their habitations according as their respective interests require.
It is certainly the interest of every landlord whose lands are ill improved, to multiply the habitations on them; provided the possessors can be made to live by some other branch of industry than bare agriculture: and in many cases, it may be his advantage to incorporate such small possessions into farms, as soon as they have been sufficiently improved by the possessors; whose habitations may then be removed to other barren lands. By following this plan he will improve his estate; he will multiply the useful inhabitants; and he will, at the same time, share the profits of their industry beyond the value which any farmer can pay for the lands which he gives them to possess.
By these means has the woollen manufacture in England, and the linen in Ireland and Scotland been greatly augmented. But as the improvement of land goes on, this oeconomy will decline: towns will swell in consequence of the principles we are now going to deduce; the lands will become more thinly inhabited; and farms will by degrees grow more extensive. I appeal to experience for the justness of this observation.
Hence it plainly appears, that, in every light this matter can be represented, we still find it impossible usefully to employ in agriculture above a certain part of a people. The next question is, how to determine the just proportion. For this purpose we must have recourse to facts, not to theory. We have, in a former chapter, examined the state of this question with regard to one country. I shall here only add, that, in proportion to the culture of the soil, and to the number of crops it is made to produce, a greater or less number will be required; and in proportion to the surplus of food above what is necessary to maintain the labourers, will a number of free hands be provided for. If therefore a species of agriculture can be found established, which produces little or no surplus, there little or no industry can be exercised; few wants can be supplied: this will produce a wonderful simplicity of manners, will ruin the system of modern policy, and produce what I must call an abuse. Let me look for some examples of this, in order to set the question in a clearer light.
In the wine-provinces of France, we find the lands which lie round the villages divided into very small lots, and there cultivation is carried to a very extraordinary height. These lands belong, in property, (not by lease,) to the peasants who cultivate the vines. No frugality can be greater than in the consumption of this produce, and the smallest weed which comes up among the grain, is turned to account, for the food of animals. The produce of such lands, I may say, is entirely consumed by the proprietor and his family, who are all employed in the cultivation, and there is no superfluous quantity here produced for the maintenance of others. Does not this resemble the distribution of lands made by the Romans in favour of 5000 Sabine families, where each received two plethra of ground. (See Numbers of Mankind, p. 117) Now let me examine the political state of agriculture, and of other labour performed by my French vine-dresser.
By the supposition we imply, that the bit of land is sufficient for maintaining the man and his family, and nothing more; he has no grain to sell, no food can by him be supplied to any other person whatever; but the state of other lands capable of yielding a surplus, such as the vineyard, produces a demand for his labour. This labour, considered with respect to the vine-dresser, is a fund for providing all his wants in manufactures, salt, &c. and what is over must be considered as his profits, out of which he pays the royal impositions. The same labour, considered with regard to the proprietor of the vineyard, enters into that necessary deduction out of the fruits, which, when deducted, leaves the remainder, which we call surplus, or what answers to the land-rent. This belongs to the proprietor, and becomes a fund for supplying all his wants.
Here we have an idea of society. The vine-dresser depends upon the proprietor for the price of his labour, the proprietor upon the vinedresser for his surplus. But did we suppose all the kingdom parcelled out, and laboured, as the spot which lies round the village, what would become of the vine-dresser with regard to all his other wants; there would be no vines to dress, no surplus nourishment any where to be found, consequently no employment, not even life, for those who had no land. From this example we discover the difference between agriculture exercised as a trade and as a direct means of subsisting: a distinction to be attended to, as it will very frequently occur in the prosecution of our subject. We have the two species in the vine-dresser: he labours the vineyard as a trade, and his spot of ground for subsistence. We may farther conclude, that, as to the last part, he is useful to himself only; but, as to the first, he is useful to the society, and becomes a member of it: consequently, were it not for his trade, the state would lose nothing, though the vine-dresser and his land were both swallowed up by an earthquake. The food and the consumers would both disappear together, without the least political harm to any body: consequently, such a species of agriculture is no benefit to a state; and consequently, neither is that species of multiplication, implied by such a distribution of property, any benefit. Thus an over-extension of agriculture and subdivision of lands become an abuse, and so, consequently, does an over-multiplication of farmers.
Here I am obliged to conclude, that those passages of Roman authors which mention the frugality of that people, and the small extent of their possessions, cannot be rightly understood, without the knowledge of many circumstances relative to the manners of those times. For if you understand such a distribution of lands to have extended over all the Roman territory, the number of the citizens would have far exceeded what they appear to have been by the Census, and even surpass all belief. But farther, I may be allowed to ask, whether or no it be supposed that these frugal Romans laboured this small portion of lands with their own hands and consumed the produce of it? If I am answered in the affirmative (which is necessary to prove the advantages of agriculture's being exercised by all the classes of a people), then I ask, from whence were the inhabitants of Rome, and other cities, subsisted? who fed the armies when in the field? If these were fed by foreign grain imported or plundered from their neighbours, where was the advantage of this sub-division of lands, and of this extensive agriculture, which could not feed the inhabitants of the state? If it be said, that notwithstanding this frugal distribution of property among the citizens, there were still found surplus enough to supply both Rome and the armies, will it not then follow, that there was no necessity for employing all the people in agriculture, since the labour of a part might have sufficed?
That number of husbandmen, therefore, is the best, which can provide food for all the state; and that number of inhabitants is the best, which is compatible with the full employment of every one of them.
Idle mouths are useful to themselves only, not to the state; consequently, are not an object of the care of the state, any farther than to provide employment for them; and their welfare (while they remain useless to others) is, in a free country, purely a matter of private concern. Let me take another example for the farther illustration of this matter.
Those who travel into the southern provinces of Spain, find large tracts of land quite uncultivated, producing only a scanty pasture for herds of the lesser cattle. Here and there are found interspersed some spots of watered lands, which, from the profusion of every gift which nature can bestow, strike a northern traveller with an idea of paradise. In such places villages are found, and numbers of inhabitants. It must be allowed that industry and labour do not here go forward as in other countries; but to supply this want charity steps in. Charity in Spain (in proportion to its extent) is as powerful a principle towards multiplication as industry and labour. Whatever gives food gives numbers: but charity cannot extend beyond superfluity, and this must ever be in proportion to industry. These watered lands are well laboured and improved. The value of them, in one sense, is in proportion to their fertility, and the surplus of the labourers should naturally be given for an equivalent in money or work: But this equivalent cannot be found; because the poor of the village have neither the one or the other to give; and the charitable farmer considers it to be his duty, to bestow on them gratis whatever he can spare. If the Spaniards therefore were not the most charitable people upon earth, it is very plain that the labouring of those watered spots would diminish until it came upon a level with the demand of such people of the village only, as could purchase the farmer's surplus. But here it is otherwise; labour goes on mechanically; the farmer never complains of the burden of giving, charity; and the poor live in ease in proportion to plenty of the year.
Here then is a third principle of multiplication. The first is slavery, or a violent method of making mankind labour; the second is industry, which is a rational excitement to it; the third is charity, which resembles the manna in the desert, the gift of God upon a very extraordinary occasion, and when nothing else could have preserved the lives of his people. Whether, in all cases, this principle of christianity advances the prosperity of a modern society (when complied with from obedience to precept, without consulting reason as to the circumstances of times and situations), is a question which lies out of my road to examine. The action, considered in the intention of the agent, must in every case appear highly beautiful; and we plainly see how far it contributes to multiplication, though we do not so plainly perceive how such a kind of multiplication can be advantageous to society.
Now if we examine the state of agriculture in this Spanish village, considered as one large family, we find, upon the whole, no more surplus of fruits than upon the French vine-dresser's portion of land; consequently, if all Spain was laboured and inhabited like this village and its small garden, as it is called, it would be the most populous country in the world, the most simple in the manner of living; but it never could communicate the idea of a vigorous or a flourishing state. It is the employment alone of the inhabitants which can impress this character.
Now in this last example, what a number of free hands do we find! Are not all the poor of this class? Would it not be better if all these by their labour could purchase their subsistence, than be obliged to receive it in the precarious manner they do? Can one suppose all these people industrious, without implying what I call superfluity of labour? and does not superfluity of labour imply luxury, according to my definition of it? Where would be the harm if the Spanish farmer, who gives a third of his crop in charity, should in return receive some changes of raiment, some convenient furniture for his house, some embellishment to his habitation: these things would cost him nothing; he would receive them in exchange for what he now gives from a principle of charity, and those who have a precarious, would have a certain livelihood. Let us travel a little farther in search of the abuse of population.
In Germany, we find many small towns, formed into corporations, which enjoy certain privileges. The freedom of such towns is not easily purchased; and one, upon considering outward circumstances, must be not a little surprized to hear of the sums refused, when offered, to obtain it. Round these towns there is a small territory divided into very small portions, and not able to maintain the inhabitants: these lands therefore are infinitely over-stocked with husbandmen; for every proprietor, less or more, concerns himself with the cultivation. Here, one who should aspire to extend his possession, would, according to the sentiment of Manius Curius Dentatus, certainly be considered as a dangerous citizen, and a hurtful member of the society. These lots are divided among the children of the proprietors, who are free of the town, by which means they are constantly splitting by multiplication, and consolidating by death, and by marriage: these nearly balance one another, and property remains divided as before. A stranger is at a loss to find out the reason, why the liberty of so poor a little town should be so valuable. Here it is; first there are certain advantages enjoyed in common, such as the privilege of pasture on the town-lands, and others of a like nature; but I find that the charges which the burgesses are obliged to pay, may more than compensate them. The principal reason appears to be, that no one who has not the liberty of a town, can settle in a way of industry so as to marry and have a family: because without this, his labour can be directed towards furnishing the wants of peasants only, who live in villages; these are few, and little ingenuity is required for it. In towns there is found a greater diversity of wants, and the people there have found out mechanically, that if strangers were allowed to step in and supply them, their own children would starve; therefore the heads of the corporation, who have an interest to keep up the price of work, have also an interest to hold the liberty of their town at a high value. This appears to me a pretty just representation of the present state of some towns I have seen, relative to the present object of inquiry.
But as industry becomes extended, and trade and manufactures are established, this political oeconomy must disappear.
Such a change, however, will not probably happen without the interposition of the sovereign, and a new plan of administration; what else can give a turn to this spirit of idleness, or rather, as I may call it, of this trifling industry? Agriculture never can be a proper occupation for those who live in towns: this therefore is an abuse of it, or rather indeed an abuse of employment.
Ease and plenty never can enter a little town, but by the means of wealth; wealth never can come in but by the produce of labour going out; and when people labour purely for their own subsistence, they make the little money only they have to circulate, but can acquire nothing new and those who with difficulty can maintain themselves, never can hope to increase their numbers.
If in spite of the little industry set on foot in such towns, the generative faculty shall work its effect and increase numbers, this will make the poor parents still divide, and misery will ensue; this may excite compassion, and this again will open the chests of those who have a charitable disposition: hospitals are founded for the relief of the poor, they are quickly filled, and as many necessitous remain as ever. The reason is plain; the hospital applies a palliative for the abuse, but offers no cure. A tree is no sooner discharged of its branches than it pushes new ones. It has been said, that numbers are in proportion to food; consequently, poor are in proportion to charity. Let the King give his revenue in charity, he will soon find poor enough to consume it. Let a rich man spend 100,000 l. a year upon a table, he will find guests (the best in the kingdom) for every cover. These things, in my way of considering them, are all analogous, and flow from the same principle. And the misery found in these little German towns, is another modification of the abuse of population. These examples shew the inconveniences and abuses which result from a misapplication of agriculture, which produces a population more burthensome than beneficial to a modern state.
If the simplicity of the ancients be worthy of imitation, or if it appear preferable to the present system, which it is not my business to decide, then either slavery must be introduced to make those subsist who do not labour, or they must be fed upon charity. Labour and industry can never, I think, be recommended on one hand, and the effects of them proscribed on the other. If a great body of warlike men (as was the case in Sparta) be considered as essential to the well-being of the state; if all trade and all superfluity be forbid amongst them, and no employment but military exercises allowed; if all these warriors be fed at public tables, must you not either have a set of Helotes to plow the ground for them, or a parcel of charitable Spanish farmers to feed them gratis.
Thus much I have thought might be of use to say to illustrate the principles I have laid down. I find it very unfavourable to the reasoning which runs through the whole of the performance which I mentioned above, and which I have had in my eye. A more particular examination of it might be useful, and even amusing; but it would engage me in too long a disquisition for the nature of this work. I cannot however help, in this place, adding one observation more, in consequence of our principles, which seems contrary to the strain of our ingenious author's reasoning. I say seems, because all difference almost of opinion upon such subjects proceeds from the defect of language in clearly transmitting our ideas, when complex or abstract.
The effect of diseases which sweep off numbers of people does not essentially diminish population, except when they come suddenly or irregularly, any more than it would necessarily dispeople the world if all mankind were to be swept off the stage at the age of forty-six years. I apprehend that in man, as in every other animal, the generative faculty is more than able to repair all losses occasioned by regular diseases; and I have shewn, I think, more than once, that multiplication never can stop but for want of food. As long then as the labour of man can continue annually to produce the same quantity of food as at present, and that motives are found to make him labour, the same numbers may be fed, and the generative faculty, which from one pair has produced so many millions, would certainly do more than keep up the stock, although no person were to pass the age above mentioned. Here is the proof; were the life of man confined to forty-six years, the state of mortality would be increased in the proportion which those who die above forty-six bear to those who die under this age. This proportion is, I believe, as 1 to 10; consequently, mortality would increase 1/10, consequently, numbers would be kept up by 1/10 upon births; and surely the generative faculty of man far exceeds this proportion, when the other requisites for propagation, to wit, food, &c. are to be found, as by the supposition.
A letter from Dr Brakenridge, F.R.S. addressed to George Lewis Scott, Esq; which I found in the Danish Mercury for March 1758, furnishes me with a very good opportunity of applying the principles we have been laying down to the state of population in Great-Britain. I shall therefore, according to my plan, pass in review that gentleman's opinion, without entering upon any refutation of it. I shall extract the propositions he lays down, examine the conclusions he draws from them, and then shew wherein they differ from those which result from the theory established in this inquiry.
The author's calculations and suppositions as to matters of fact shall be taken for granted, as I believe the first are as good as any that can be made, upon a subject where all the data required for solving the problem are quite a piece of guess-work.
I must follow the Mercury, not having the original.
Prop. I. After a very close examination, says our author, I find, that our islands gain, as to population, absolutely no more than what is requisite for repairing their losses, and that, in England itself, numbers would diminish, were they not recruited from Ireland and Scotland.
Prop. II. Men, able to carry arms, that is from 18 to 56 years, make, according to Dr Halley, the fourth part of a people; and when a people increase in numbers, every denomination, as to age, increases in this proportion: consequently in England, where the number of inhabitants does not exceed six millions, if the annual augmentation upon the whole do not exceed 18,000, as I am pretty sure it does not, the yearly augmentation of those fit to carry arms will be no more than 4,500.
Prop. III. In England, burials are to births as 100 is to 113. I suppose, that in Scotland and Ireland, they may be as 100 is to 124. And as there may be in these two last kingdoms about two millions and a half of inhabitants, the whole augmentation may be stated at 15,000; and consequently that of such as are fit to carry arms, at 3,750. Add this number to those annually produced in England, and the sum total of the whole augmentation in the British isles will be about 8,250.
Prop. IV. The strangers, who arrive in England, in order to settle, are supposed to compensate those who leave the country with the same intent.
Prop. V. It is out of this number of 8,250, that all our losses are to be deduced. If the colonies, wars, and navigation, carry off from us annually 8,000 men, the British isles cannot augment in people: if we lose more, numbers must diminish.
Prop. VI. By calculations, such as they are, our author finds, that, upon an average of 66 years, from 1690 to 1756, this number of 8,000 has been annually lost, that is, they have died abroad in the colonies, in war, or on the account of navigation.
Prop. VII. That, since the inhabitants of Britain and Ireland are about 8,000,000, and that the augmentation is annually about 8,000, we may conclude in general for all Europe, that, for every million of habitants, there is an annual augmentation of 1,000; consequently, every thousand men slain in war must destroy all the augmentation of a million of inhabitants during a year. Consequently France, which contains 14 millions, according to Sir William Petty, having lost above 14,000 men a-year, during the same 66 years, cannot have augmented in population.
Prop. VIII. That the progress of trade and navigation augmenting the loss of people by sea, must consequently have diminished population over all Europe.
Prop. IX. The exportation of our corn proves what the above propositions have demonstrated. For supposing the progress of agriculture to compensate the additional quantity distilled of late years, there is still one-sixth of the crop exported, which proves that our numbers are small, and that they do not augment.
From these propositions our author concludes, that what stops multiplication in the British isles is, first, That living in celibacy is become a-la-mode: secondly, That wars have been carried on beyond the nation's force: thirdly, That the use of spirituous liquors destroys great numbers of inhabitants.
I shall now shortly apply the principles I have been laying down, in order to resolve every phenomenon here described, as to the population of Great Britain. These phenomena I shall willingly take for granted, as it is of no consequence to my reasoning, whether they be exact or not: it is enough that they may be so; and the question here is only to account for them.
England, says he, would diminish in numbers, were it not recruited from Scotland and Ireland. This, I say, is a contingent, not a certain consequence: for did those grown-up adventurers cease to come in, the inhabitants of England themselves would undoubtedly multiply, provided an additional number of breeders could be found, able to bring up their children. Now the importation of grown men into a country so far resembles the importation of slaves into our colonies, that the one and the other diminishes the price of labour, and thereby prevents marriage among certain classes of the natives, whose profits are not sufficient for bringing up a family: and when any such do marry notwithstanding, they do not multiply, as has been said. Now were the Scots and Irish to come no more into England, the price of labour would rise; those who now cannot bring up children, might then be enabled to do it, and this would make the English multiply themselves; that is, it would augment the number of their own breeders. On the other hand, did the price of labour continue too low to prove a sufficient encouragement for an additional number of English breeders, the contingent consequence would take place; that is, numbers would diminish, according to our author's supposition, and the exportation of grain would increase, in proportion to that diminution; and did foreign demand for grain diminish also, then agriculture would suffer, and every thing would decline.
The representation he gives of the state of population in these countries, is one modification of what I have called a moral incapacity of a people's increasing in numbers. It is just so in Africa, where the inhabitants are sold: just so in Switzerland, and in many mountainous countries, where inhabitants desert in order to seek their fortunes elsewhere. The national stock remains at an equal standard, and the augmentation upon births above burials is constantly in proportion to the exportation of inhabitants. Let this proportion rise ever so high, an increase of national population is noways essentially to be implied from this phenomenon alone, but must proceed from other causes.
I can find nothing advanced by our author to prove, or even to induce one to believe, that had the lives of those eight thousands been yearly preserved from extraordinary dangers, numbers would have augmented. England enjoyed in a manner 26 years peace after the treaty of Utrecht. For many years before this treaty, a very destructive war had been carried on. Had the bills of births been produced from 1701 to 1713, had they been compared with those from this last period to 1739, when the Spanish war began, had we seen a gradual augmentation from year to year during those last 26 years, such as might be expected from the preservation of a considerable number at least of the 8,250 able healthy men, just in the period of life fit for propagation, one might be tempted to conclude, that the preceding war had done hurt to population, by interrupting the propagation of the species. But if, by comparing the bills of births for a considerable number of years, in war and in peace, one can discover no sensible difference, it is very natural to conclude, either that those wars did not destroy many breeders, or that others must have slipt in directly, and bred in the place of those who had been killed. What otherwise can be the reason why the number which our author supposes to have been destroyed abroad, should so exactly compensate the annual augmentation, but only that those nations are stocked to the full proportion of their subsistence: and what is the reason why, after a destructive war, which, by the suddenness of the revolution, sweeps off numbers of the grown men, and diminishes the original stock, numbers should in a few years get up to the former standard, and then stop a-new?
From our author's representation of the bills of births and deaths, I should be apt to suspect, in consequence of my principles, that upon a proper examination it will be found, that, in those years of war, the proportion of births to deaths had been higher than in years of peace, because more had died abroad. And, had the slaughter of the inhabitants gone gradually on, increasing every year beyond the 8,250, I am of opinion, that the proportion of births might very possibly have kept pace with it. On the contrary, during the years of peace, the proportion would have diminished, and had nobody died out of the country at all, the births and deaths would have become exactly equal.
From what I have here said, the reader may perceive, that it is not without reason that I have treated in the general, the principles relating to my subject, and that I avoid as much as possible to reason from facts alleged as to the state of particular countries. Those our author builds upon may be true, and may be false: the proportion of births and deaths in one place is no rule for another we know nothing exactly about the state of this question in the British isles; and it may even daily vary, from a thousand circumstances. War may destroy population as well as agriculture, and it may not, according to circumstances. When the calamity falls upon the breeders, and when these are supposed the only people in the country in a capacity of bringing up their children, births will soon diminish. When it destroys the indigent, who cannot bring up their children, or who do not marry, births will remain the same. The killing the wethers of a flock of sheep does not diminish the brood of lambs next year; the killing of old pigeons makes a pigeon-house thrive. When the calamity falls upon the farmers, who make our lands produce, agriculture is hurt, no doubt: does it fall upon the superfluities of cities, and other classes of the free hands, it may diminish manufacturers, but agriculture will go on, while there is a demand for its produce; and if a diminution of consumption at home be a consequence of the war, the augmentation upon exportation will more than compensate it. I do not find that war diminishes the demand for subsistence.
The long wars in Flanders in the beginning of this century interrupted agriculture now and then, but did not destroy it. That in the Palatinate in the end of the last ruined the country so, that it has hardly as yet recovered it. War has different effects, according to circumstances.
OBJ. The population of the British isles is not stopt for want of food, because one-sixth part of the crop is annually exported. I answer, that it is still stopt for want of food, for the exportation marks only that the home demand is satisfied; but this does not prove that the inhabitants are full fed, although they can buy no more at the exportation price. Those who cannot buy, are exactly those who I say die for want of subsistence; could they buy, they would live and multiply, and no grain perhaps would be exported. This is a plain consequence of my reasoning; and my principal point in view, throughout this whole book, is to find out a method for enabling the indigent to buy up this very quantity which is at present exported. By this application of our principles, I have no occasion to call in question our author's facts. It is no matter what be the state of the case: if the principles I lay down be just, they must resolve every phenomenon.
This question comes immediately under the influence of the principles already laid down, and must be resolved in consequence of them. It is with a view to make the application of these, that I have proposed it; and, in the examination, we shall prove their justness, or discover their defects.
It may be answered in general, that every such difference must proceed from what I call the spirit of the government and of the people, which will not only decide as to numbers, but as to many other things. I must however observe, that the question in itself is of little importance, if nothing but numbers be considered; for of what consequence is it to know how many people are in a country, when the employment of them does not enter into the inquiry? Besides, it is by examining the employment only of a people, that I can form any judgment as to this particular. But as the numbers of mankind have been thought a point worthy of examination, I have chosen this title for a chapter, which might perhaps have more properly stood under another.
While slavery prevailed, I see no reason to conclude any thing against the populousness of the world, as I have said already: when slavery was abolished, and before industry took place, if my principles be true, that period, I think, should mark the time of the thinnest population in Europe; for I believe it will be found, that there never was an example of a country, however fertile by nature, where every one was absolutely free; where there was little or no industry; and where, at the same time, there were many inhabitants, not beggars, nor living upon charity. I have mentioned this so often, that I am afraid of tiring my reader with useless repetitions. I have brought it in here, to give him only an opportunity of applying this principle to the solution of the question before us.
I shall begin my inquiry by asking what is understood by a country's being populous; for this term presents different ideas, if circumstances are not attended to. I have heard it said, that France was a desert, and that there was nobody found in it but in towns; while in England one cannot travel half a mile without finding a farm, perhaps two together; and in looking round, one sees the whole country divided into small possessions. The difference here found, I apprehend, decides nothing in favour of, or against the real populousness of the one or the other, but proceeds entirely from circumstances relative to agriculture, and to the distribution of free hands. These circumstances will be better understood from the examination of facts, than from the best theory in the world. Let one consider the state of agriculture in Picardy and in Beauce, and then compare it with the practice in many provinces in England, and the contrast will appear striking. Were there more forest in England, to supply the inhabitants with fuel, I imagine many inclosures, useful at first for improving the grounds, would be taken away, and the country laid more open; were wolves less common in France, there would be found more scattered farms. Cattle there must be shut up in the night, and cannot be left in the fields; this is a great discouragement to inclosing. Where there are no inclosures, there are few advantages to be found from establishing the farmhouse exactly upon the spot of ground to be laboured; and then the advantages which result to certain classes of inhabitants, from being gathered together, the farmers with the tradesmen, are found to preponderate. Thus the French farmers are gathered into villages, and the English remain upon their fields. But farther; in Picardy and Beauce agriculture has been long established, and, I imagine, that, at the time when lands were first broken up, or rather improved, their habitations must have been closer together.
This drawing together of inhabitants must leave many ruinous possessions, and this, by-the-bye, is one reason why people cry out upon the desolation of France, because ruinous houses (which may oftentimes be a mark of improvement, not of desertion) are found in different places in the country. Paris has grown considerably in bulk, and from this it naturally happens, that the country round is purged of idle mouths. If this makes labour dear in the country, it is the city alone which suffers by it; the country must certainly be the gainers. So much for the two species of population in two of the best inhabited countries of Europe. I now come to another in one of the worst.
In some countries you find every farm-house surrounded with small huts, possessed by numbers of people, supposed to be useful to the farmer. These in Scotland are called cottars (cottagers), because they live in cottages. If you consider them in a political light, they will appear to be inhabitants appropriated for agriculture. In one sense they are so, if by that you understand the gathering in of the fruits; in another they are not, if by agriculture you understand the turning up the surface. I bring in this example, and shall enlarge a little upon it, because I imagine it to be, less or more, the picture of Europe 400 years ago.
The Scotch farmer must have hands to gather in a scanty produce, spread over a large extent of ground. He has six cottars, I shall suppose; but these cottars must have wives, and these wives will have children, and all must be fed before the master's rent can be paid. It never comes into the cottar's head to suppose that his children can gain money by their industry, the farmer never supposes that it is possible for him to pay his rent without the assistance of his cottars to tend his cattle, and gather in his crop; and the master cannot go against the custom of the country, without laying his land waste. All these children are ready at the farmer's disposal; he can, without any expence, send what parcels of sheep he pleases, to different distances of half a mile or more, to feed upon spots of ground which, without the convenience of these children, would be entirely lost. By this plan of farming, landlords who have a great extent of country which they are not able to improve, can let the whole in a very few farms, and at the same time all the spontaneous produce of the earth is gathered in and consumed. If you compare the rent of these lands with the extent, it appears very small; if you compare it with the numbers fed upon the farm, you will find that an estate in the highlands maintains, perhaps, ten times as many people as another of the same value in a good and fertile province. Thus it is in some estates as in some convents of the begging order, the more mouths the better cheer.
I shall now suppose our modern policy to inspire an ingenious or public-spirited lady to set up a weaver or two at a farm-house. The cottars begin to spin; they will be a long time in attaining to a dexterity sufficient to appear at the weaver's house, in competition with others who are accustomed to the trade; consequently this manufacture will be long in a languishing condition; but if the undertaking is supported with patience, these obstacles will be got the better of. Those who tended herds of cattle for a poor maintenance, will turn themselves to a more profitable occupation; the farmer will find more difficulty in getting hands, he will complain, perhaps give way; the master will lose a year's rent, and nobody will take so extensive a farm; it must be divided, then it must be improved, and then it produces more grain upon one tenth, than perhaps formerly was produced upon the whole. This grain is bought with the price of spinning; the parents divide with the children, who are fed, and spin in their turn. When this is accomplished, what is the revolution? Why, formerly the earth fed all the inhabitants with her spontaneous productions, as I may call them; now more labour is exercised upon turning up her surface; this she pays in grain, which belongs to the strong man for his labour and toil; women and children have no direct share, because they have not contributed thereto, as they did in feeding cattle. But they spin, and have money to buy what they have not force to produce: consequently they live; but as they become useless as cottars, they remove from their mother earth, and gather into villages. When this change is effected, the lands appear less inhabited; ruinous huts (nay, villages I may call them) are frequently found, and many would be apt to conclude, that the country is depopulated; but this is by no means found to be the case, when the whole is taken together.
The spirit therefore of the principal people of a country determines the employment of the lower classes; the employment of these determines their usefulness to the state, and their usefulness, their multiplication. The more they are useful, the more they gain, according to our definition of the contract of society; the more they gain, the more they can feed; and consequently, the more they will marry and divide with their children. This increases useful population, and encourages agriculture. Compare the former with the present situation, as to numbers, as to ease, as to happiness!
Is it not plain, that when the earth is not improved, it cannot produce so much nourishment for man as when it is? On the other hand, if industry does not draw into the hands of the indigent, wherewith to purchase this additional nourishment, nobody will be at a considerable first expence to break up grounds in order to produce it. The withdrawing therefore a number of hands from a trifling agriculture forces, in a manner, the husbandman to work the harder: and by hard labour upon a small spot, the same effect is produced as with slight labour upon a great extent.
I have said, that I imagined the state of agriculture in the Scotch farm, was a pretty just representation of the general state of Europe about 400 years ago: if not in every province of every country, at least in every country for the most part. Several reasons induce me to think so: first, where there is no industry, nothing but the earth directly can feed her children, little alienation of her fruits can take place. Next, because I find a wonderful analogy between the way of living in some provinces of different countries with what I have been describing. Pipers, blue bonnets, and oat meal, are known in Swabia, Auvergne, Limousin, and Catalonia, as well as in Lochaber: numbers of idle, poor, useless hands, multitudes of children, whom I have found to be fed, nobody knows how, doing almost nothing at the age of fourteen, keeping of cattle and going to school, the only occupations supposed possible for them. If you ask why they are not employed, their parents will tell you because commerce is not in the country: they talk of commerce as if it was a man, who comes to reside in some countries in order to feed the inhabitants. The truth is, it is not the fault of these poor people, but of those whose business it is to find out employment for them.
Another reason I derive from the nature of the old tenures, where we find lands which now produce large quantities of grain, granted for a mere trifle, when at the same time others in the neighbourhood of cities and abbeys are found charged with considerable rents. This I attribute to the bad cultivation of lands at that time, from which I infer, a small population. In those days of trouble and confusion, confiscations were very frequent, large tracts of lands were granted to the great lords upon different revolutions, and these, finding them often deserted, as is mentioned in history, (the vassals of the former being either destroyed or driven out to make place for the new comers,) used to parcel them out for small returns in every thing but personal service. Such sudden and violent revolutions must dispeople a country; and nothing but tranquility, security, order, and industry, for ages together, can render it populous.
Besides these natural causes of population and depopulation (which proceed, as we have observed, from a certain turn given to the spirit of a people), there are others which operate with irresistible force, by sudden and violent revolutions. The King of Prussia, for example, attempted to people, a country all at once, by profiting of the desertion of the Saltzburgers. America is become very poorly peopled in some spots upon the coast, and in some islands, at the expence of the exportation of millions from Europe and from Africa; such methods never can succeed in proportion to the attempt. Spain, on the other hand, was depopulated by the expulsion of its antichristian inhabitants. These causes work evident effects, which there is little occasion to explain, although the more remote consequences of them may deserve observation. I shall, in another place, have occasion to examine the manner of our peopling America. In this place, I shall make a few observations upon the depopulation of Spain, and finish my chapter.
That country is said to have been anciently very populous under the government of the Moors. I am not sufficiently versed in the politics, oeconomy, and manners of that people, to judge how far these might be favourable to population: what seems, however, to confirm what we are told, is, the large repositories they used for preserving grain, which still remain entire, though never once made use of. They watered the kingdoms of Valencia, Murcia, and Granada. They gathered themselves into cities, of which we still can discover the extent. The country which they now possess (though drier than Spain) furnishes Europe with considerable quantities of grain. The palace of the Moorish King at Granada shews a taste for luxury. The mosque of Cordoua speaks a large capital. All these are symptoms of population, but they only help one to guess. The numbers which history mentions to have been driven out, is a better way still of judging; if the fidelity of historians could be depended upon, when there is any question about numbers.
Here was an example of a country depopulated in a very extraordinary manner: yet I am of opinion, that the scarcity of inhabitants complained of in that country, for a long time after the expulsion, did not so much proceed from the effects of the loss sustained, as from the contrast between the spirit of those christians who remained after the expulsion, and their catholic deliverers. The christians who lived among the Moors, were really Moors as to manners, though not as to religion. Had they adopted the spirit of the subjects of Castile, or had they been governed according to their own, numbers would soon have risen to the former standard. But as the christian lord governed his Murcian, Andalousian, and Granada subjects, according to the principles of christian policy, was it any wonder that in such an age of ignorance, prejudice, and superstition, the country (one of the finest in the world) should be long in recovering? Recover, however, it did; and sooner perhaps than is commonly believed: for I say it was recovered so soon as all the flat and watered lands were brought into cultivation; because I have reason to believe that the Moors never carried their agriculture farther in these southern provinces.
From this I still conclude, that no destruction of inhabitants by expulsion, captivity, war, pestilence or famine, is so permanently hurtful to population, as a revolution in that spirit which is necessary for the increase and support of numbers. Let that spirit be kept up, and let mankind be well governed, numbers will quickly increase to their former standard, after the greatest reduction possible: and while they are upon the augmenting hand, the state will be found in more heart and more vigour, than when arrived even at the former height; for so soon as a state ceases to grow in prosperity, I apprehend it begins to decay both in health and vigour.
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