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classes, that is, those classes which have an almost unlimited command over food and all the means of a healthful subsistence, remain single more frequently, marry later, and increase more slowly, than those whose means of subsistence are more scanty; and
and comparing afterwards nation with nation, a similar fact forces itself upon us; and
see populations, whose means are comparatively ample, increasing less rapidly than those who are confessedly most wretched. These facts indicate at once, to an unprejudiced observer, the presence and influence, among communities of men, of causes which coming into action during the progress of plenty and refinement, serve to moderate the exercise of man's physical power of increase', and are not resolvable evidently into misery, and almost as evidently, not into unmixed vice, or into a faultless state of moral restraint. The perception
? We shall not be supposed to refer to the law of nature proclaimed by Mr. Sadler, according to which the fecundity of females is diminished as population becomes dense. Of this we shall have a few words to say hereafter. It is enough for our present purpose to shew, that the glance even of a hasty observer must detect the existence of such moderating causes as we are now speaking of, and see them to be distinct from misery, vice, or a faultless moral restraint. To shew the nature of those causes, to throw light upon their details, to exhibit the manner in which their action is felt in different stages of civilization, and in communities differently organized—this is a serious task, the successful execution of any part of which
of this fact is of itself sufficient to inspire distrust in those dismal systems which teach that the whole human race is under the resistless dominion of an impulse, forcing ever its aggregate numbers forwards to the extreme limit of the subsistence they can procure; and that even wealth and plenty are only forces which impel communities gradually, but inevitably, towards want.
Between the fortunes, then, and varying relative position of the different orders of society, as seen in the ordinary progress of civilization,-and the gloomy fate, the constant tendency to decline, the unceasing opposition of conflicting interests, as exhibited in the later theories of political economy:- there exist essential differences and contradictions which must strike even a superficial observer, who thinks it worth while to recur to facts at all.
It is in vain to deny, that from this, and perhaps from some other causes, a feeling of dislike to the whole subject has been creeping over a portion of the public mind.
Political economy has been distrusted. The facts on which its conclusions must be founded, have been thought too
presupposes wide and patient observation, and very cautious inferences. A portion of that task will be hereafter attempted, with a very deep sense both of its importance and its intricacy.
multitudinous, too variable, and too capricious in their combinations, to admit of their being accurately observed or truly analyzed; or, consequently, of their yielding any safe permanent general principles: and men have been inclined to shrink from the task of even examining opinions, which they have thought doomed only to startle without convincing, and then to disappear, and give place to another crop of paradoxes.
This alienation has had an unkindly effect on the growth of knowledge, and has turned away from the labors necessary to promote its progress, many of those, whose minds were the best gifted with the power of eradicating error, and advancing truth. But a little thought must surely shew, that the distrust earnt by many who have treated of the subject, has unjustly been extended to the subject itself.
It must be admitted that political economy must found all maxims which pretend to be universal on a comprehensive and laborious appeal to experience ;-it must be remembered steadily, that the mixt causes which concur in producing the various phenomena with which the subject is conversant, can only be separated, examined, and thoroughly understood by repeated observation of events as they occur, or have occurred, in the history of nations; and can never be submitted (ex
cept in cases extremely rare) to premeditated experiment; and we must not shrink from the inevitable conclusion, that the progress of knowledge on such a subject must be difficult and slow?; and that, almost in exact proportion to the extent of the field to be observed, and the complexity and intricacy of the results presented by it.
Still even these considerations, while they afford abundant ground for caution, afford none at all for despair. On the contrary, to a mind well instructed in the ordinary road which inductive science has travelled towards perfection, the very abundance and variety of the materials on which we have to work, give rational ground for steadfast hope.
The progress of navigation and the spirit of adventure; a thirst for knowledge, gain, or power; have laid open
the structure of society over the far greater part of the surface of the inhabited globe: and we can now embrace in one wide survey, the influence of that structure on the wealth and happiness of communities of human beings, from their rudest to their most advanced states, and under all their varieties
See in the Appendix some observations by Mr. Herschel, on the different rates of progress of those sciences which are dependent on mere observation for their materials, and of those in which experiment can be resorted to. I have Mr. Herschel's leave to use these observations here, although it is possible that they may not be actually published before this work is out.
of form. To this vast living field of actual observation, the universal story of past times adds another, scarcely less extensive. It is true, that the facts which best illustrate principles in any branch of knowledge, are little likely to be carefully recorded, before some glimmering perception of the principles themselves exists. Hence a neglect in the historians of past days to preserve whole classes of facts which would now be most precious to the philosophical enquirer; and hence, doubtless, in our own times, there pass away daily into oblivion, unnoted by traveller or chronicle, a multitude of events and circumstances, which the more full developement of our present subject will hereafter shew, to have been rich in unheeded instruction. But still, careless or imperfect as have been the observations of contemporary writers, the wide range of history teems everywhere with facts, which may, with care, be made to enlighten or correct us in our pursuit. The past and the present, then, concur in offering to us an abundant harvest of materials for the construction of a system of economical truths, which shall be securely founded on the actual experience of mankind. If we observe these materials thoroughly, and infer from them with modesty and caution, it would be mere intellectual cowardice, to despair of gaining sound knowledge in all the departments of political eco