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cular rules to every particular case.
But an arrangement of the following nature may perhaps enable a collective body to form a general rule upon the subject.
The indigence which we have been speaking of and classifying, though actually existing, may have arisen from unexpected and uncontrollable events, unaccompanied by any crime or folly of the object,—nay more, attended by actual worth ; from simple improvidence; from idleness, or from vice in various degrees.
The lowest possible description of shelter and clothing, and the lowest species of provision, sufficient merely to support existence, and to continue it, should be afforded to the lowest degree of merit, as generalized in the above scale ; and the gradation should be ascending, until it arises to comfortable, but not superfluous, provision of each kind. Those who are in health may thus have the consequences of their present conduct placed before them as a warning or an example.
In the sound exercise of this discriminative judgement, those who undertake the meritorious office of parochial superintendance will do their duty by acting as faithful stewards to the contributors to the funds destined to the support of the indigent; and they will, as far as our human
and imperfect natures can imitate infallibility, pursue a course analogous to that of God's moral government of the world, by holding up the con
, sequences of vice as the strongest incitement to the practice of virtue. With respect to those who are commencing life, and to whom guilt cannot attach,—to the children of families, where there is an excess beyond what the parents can support
-to the orphan and the illegitimate child,—the discrimination of character is out of the question. But with reference to this part of the general subject, and to that of illegitimacy, as far as it affects the public morals, there are some circumstances to which attention may be usefully drawn.
I think my readers will be disposed to admit the undeniable truth, deduced by Mr. Sumner in the clearest way from Mr. Malthus's general principle of population, that there will be always,
inhabited country, as many persons existing as it will support at all, and always more than it will support well. It was stated at the beginning of this Essay, and I believe truly, that the cultivators of the soil will always form the most indigent class in society. So long as these cultivators were slaves, their pressure on subsistence could not be so great as that of free labourers. We know, in fact, that slavery, which takes away the better half of man, prevents him
also from propagating his species to the same extent as the free labourer *.
Dugald Stewart considers this fact as one of the axioms of political economy. The following abstract of the census of the
United States in 1820 furnishes an additional proof of the above.
Hence it appears that there is a deficiency of no less than fourteen persons of each sex in relation to the assumed number, for the class of 26 and under 45, occasioned, it may be fairly said, by hard labour and the many miseries necessarily attendant on slaveryt.
But since free labourers, as in England, France, and Italy, and the more civilized parts of Europe, have become the cultivators of the soil, their tendency to increase bears a greater proportion to the means of subsistence.
* See Robertson’s India, p. 182, with a reference to the Report of Lords of the Privy Council, 1788. Dugald Stewart in the passage quoted, infra, p. 123.
† Harvey on the Increase of Population of the United States of North America, in Brewster's Philosophical Journal, No. 17,
Mr. Sumner states, that there will be more manufacturers, more artificers, more agriculturists, than can be kept in activity by the funds destined for their maintenance*. But perhaps this is too general. The supply of artists, mechanics, &c. in some degree accommodates itself to the demand; and, in fact, we find that, except in extraordinary cases either of depression of trade or excessive prices of provisions, the wages of the artist and mechanic are sufficient to provide for almost any number of family, and to enable him, if prudent, to lay by a provision for his old age or advancement in life. The excess of population will therefore be found among the labourers in the lower mechanical professions and in agriculture; in which latter occupation little more than bodily health and strength are required. As, consequently, there will be, in this case, a supply of labourers greater than the demand, the average price of agricultural wages will generally be lower than the sum which can support the average number of a family; and as wages do not immediately accommodate themselves to the change in the prices of the necessaries of life; with respect to England, perhaps, if the children exceed three in number, the maintenance of the fourth, under ordinary circumstances, will devolve on the State. In countries where there is no local provision for this excess of children beyond the capability of the parents to maintain them, and for illegitimate children, if infanticide, or practices (if possible) still more degrading to human nature, are not resorted to, the state has established what are generally denominated Foundling Hospitals, but which, in fact, contain a very large proportion of legitimate children.
* Supra, p. 63.
The proportion of legitimate children received into the Foundling Hospital in Paris is stated at one-eighth of the number*; that of Russia, from Mr. Malthus's account below, appears to be much larger.
I have made repeated comparisons between England and France, with respect to the general modes adopted for the relief of indigence, because that country approaches nearest to England and Scotland in civilization ; because the general system there adopted has sometimes been recommended for imitation in England; and because the valuable works of MM.De Gerando and Dupin, repeatedly quoted in this Essay, afford authentic evidences as to the facts stated by me. In the French laws and French history repeated allusions are made to the fact of frequent expositions of infants up. In the English law and history I do not trace such facts or allusions; but I do not
* Dupin, p. 337.
† Ibid. p. 287, &c.