It is with the greatest diffidence that I present to the public this attempt towards reducing to principles, and forming into a regular science, the complicated interests of domestic policy. When I consider the time and labour employed in the composition, I am apt to value it from selfish considerations. When I compare it even with my own abilities, I still think favourably of it, for a better reason; because it contains a summary of the most valuable part of all my knowledge. But when I consider the greatness of my subject, how small does the result of my application appear!
The imperfections, therefore, discovered in this work, must be ascribed to the disproportion between the extent of the undertaking, and that of my capacity. This, I can assure my reader, has been exerted to the utmost: and if, after all, I have failed, it may, at least, with justice, be said, that I have miscarried in an attempt of the greatest importance to mankind.
I no where, I think, have shewn a desire to make my court to any particular minister, whose administration might have been hinted at. I have freely followed the thread of my reasoning without a bias, either in favour of popular opinions, or of any of the numberless systems which have been formed by those who have written upon particular parts of my subject. The warmth of my temper may have led me sometimes into commendations when I have been pleased; but when I felt the effects of ill humour on being dissatisfied with particular circumstances, relating to countries, to men, and to things, which I had in my eye at the time I was writing, I was immediately aware of the danger of blaming the steps of any administration, without being well formed of the whole combination of circumstances which the minister may have had before him at the time.
This composition being the successive labour of many years spent in travelling, the reader will find some passages in which the unities of time and place have not been observed. These I could have corrected with ease, had I not been advised to leave them as characters to point out the circumstances under which I wrote, and thereby to confirm the authenticity of certain facts.
The modes of thinking, also, peculiar to the several countries where I have lived, have, no doubt, had an influence on what I have written concerning their customs: this work, therefore, will not, in general, correspond to the meridian of national opinions any where; and of this it is proper the reader should be apprised, that he may not apply to the domestic circumstances of his own country what was intended to refer to those of other nations; nor impute to wilful prejudice, what was the irresistible effect of my experience and conviction.
Since the first publication of this work some criticisms upon it have been published in which little regard has been paid to this advertisement.
The greater part of it by far, (the three first books particularly) was composed abroad. Can it be supposed, that during an absence of near twenty years, I should in my studies have all the while been modelling my speculations upon the standard of English notions.
It has been alleged that I have imbibed prejudices abroad, by no means consistent with the present state of England, and the genius of Englishmen.
To which I answer, that I flatter myself to have imbibed no prejudices either abroad or at home, at least I think I have exhibited none of them in my work; because there I have rejected all party opinions whatever.
According to my way of treating this subject no general rule can be laid down in political matters: every thing there must be considered according to the circumstances and spirit of the nations to which they relate. Accordingly we shall find in this inquiry some reasonings built on the principles of arbitrary power, others on those of national liberty, others again on those of democracy. Had I, in compliment to the sentiments of Englishmen, suppressed every combination which might apply to the circumstances of those very countries where I was studying my subject, from the actual inspection of their policy, what merit should I have had to plead with my own countrymen from my travels and from my studies, any local English writer describing English policy and sounding through every page the most peculiar opinions of this nation, might have amused his readers far better than ever I could pretend to.
If, from this work, I have any merit at all, it is by divesting myself of English notions, so far as to be able to expose in a fair light, the sentiments and policy of foreign nations, relatively to their own situation.
Now the principal attention of an intelligent reader who peruses a book like this, will be directed towards the investigatory part of it: every step of the reasoning will be weighed by him until the final conclusion be drawn; he will then give his assent to it in proportion to the accuracy of the induction; but he never will recoil from what he has once assented to, in order to form a general notion conceding any result by comparing it with his own animal feelings or with the popular opinion of his countrymen.
This much I am obliged to say in my own justification, with respect to several passages which have been written at times when England was very distant from my thoughts.
I have read many authors on the subject of political economy; and I have endeavoured to draw from them all the instruction I could. I have travelled, for many years, through different countries, and have examined them, constantly, with an eye to my own subject. I have attempted to draw information from every one with whom I have been acquainted: this, however, I found to be very difficult until I had attained to some previous knowledge of my subject. Such difficulties confirmed to me the justness of Lord Bacon's remark, that he who can draw information by forming proper questions, must be already possessed of half the science.
I could form no consistent plan from the various opinions I met with: hence I was engaged to compile the observations I bad casually made, in the course of my travels, reading, and experience. From these I formed the following work after expunging the numberless inconsistencies and contradictions which I found had arisen from my separate inquiries into every particular branch.
I had observed so many persons declining in knowledge as they advanced in years, that I resolved early to throw upon paper whatever I had learned; and to this I used to have recourse, as others have to their memories. The unity of the object of all my speculations, rendered this practice more useful to me than it would be to one whose researches are more extended.
Whoever is much accustomed to write for his own use merely, must contract a more careless style than another who has made language his study, and who writes in hopes of acquiring a literary reputation. I never, till very lately, thought of appearing as an author on this subject; and, in the frequent perusals of what I had written, my corrections were chiefly in favour of perspicuity. add to this, that the language in which I now write was, for many years, foreign to those with whom I lived and conversed. When these circumstances are added to the intricacy of my subject, which constantly carried off my attention from every ornament of language, I flatter myself that those of my readers, at least, who enter as heartily as I have done into the spirit of this work, will candidly overlook the want of that elegance which adorns the style of some celebrated authors in this Augustan age.
I present this enquiry to the public as nothing more than an essay which may serve as a canvass for better hands than mine to work upon.
It contains such observations only as the general view of the domestic policy of the countries I have seen, has suggested. It is a speculation, and no more. It is a rough drawing of a mighty plan, proportioned in correctness to my own sagacity, to my knowledge of the subject, and to the extent of my ideas.
It goes little farther than to collect and arrange some elements relating to the most interesting branches of modern policy, such as population, agriculture, trade, industry, money, coin, interest, circulation, banks, exchange, public credit, and taxes. The principles deduced from all these topics, appear tolerably consistent; and the whole is a train of reasoning, through which I have adhered to the connection of subjects as faithfully as I could: but the nature of the work being a deduction of principles, not a collection of institutions, I seized the opportunities which my reasoning threw in my way, to connect every principle, as I went along, with every part of the inquiry to which it could refer; and when I found the connexion sufficiently shewn, I broke off such disquisitions as would have led me from the object then present.
When principles thus casually applied in one part, to matters intended to be afterwards treated of in another, came to be taken up a-new, they involved me in what may appear prolixity. This I found most unavoidable, when I was led to thoughts which were new to myself, and consequently such as must have cost me the greatest labour to set in a clear and distinct point of view. Had I been master of my subject on setting out, the arrangement of the whole would have been rendered more concise: but had this been the case, I should never have been able to go through the painful deduction which forms the whole chain of my reasoning, and upon which, to many readers slow in forming combinations, the conviction it carries along with it in a great measure depends: to the few, again, of a more penetrating genius, to whom the slightest hint is sufficient to lay open every consequence before it be drawn, in allusion to Horace, I offer this apology, Clarus esse laboro, prolixus fio.
The path I have taken was new to me, after all I had read on the subject. I examined, by my own principles, what I had gathered from others; and adopted it as far as I found it tally with collateral circumstances. When, on the other hand, I found a disagreement, I was apprized immediately of some mistake; and this I found constantly owing to the narrowness of the combinations upon which it had been founded.
The great danger of running into error upon particular points relating to this subject, proceeds from our viewing them in a light too confined, and to our not attending to the influence of concomitant circumstances, which render general rules of little use. Men of parts and knowledge seldom fail to reason consequentially on every subject; but when inquiries are made concerning the complicated interests of society, the vivacity of an author's genius is apt to prevent him from attending to the variety of circumstances which render uncertain every consequence, almost, which he can draw from his reasoning. To this I ascribe the habit of running into what the French call Systèmes. These are no more than a chain of contingent consequences, drawn from a few fundamental maxims, adopted, perhaps, rashly. Such systems are mere conceits; they mislead the understanding, and efface the path to truth. An induction is formed, from whence a conclusion, called a principle, is drawn and defined; but this is no sooner done, than the author extends its influence far beyond the limits of the ideas present to his understanding, when he made his definition. The best method, therefore, to detect a pretended system, is always to substitute the definition in place of the term.
The imperfection also of language engages us frequently in disputes merely verbal; and instead of being on our guard against the many unavoidable ambiguities attending the most careful speech, we place a great part of our learning when at school, and of our wit when we appear on the stage of the world, in the prostitution of language. The learned delight in vague, and the witty in equivocal terms. In general, we familiarize ourselves so much to words, and think so little, when we speak and write, that the signs of our ideas take the place of the images which they were intended to represent.
Every true proposition, when understood, must be assented to universally. This is the case always, when simple ideas are affirmed or denied of each other. Nobody ever doubted that sound is the object of hearing, or colour that of sight, or that black is not white. But whenever a dispute arises concerning a proposition, wherein complex ideas are compared, we may often rest assured, that the parties do not understand each other. Luxury, says one, is incompatible with the prosperity of a state. Luxury is the fountain of a nation's welfare and happiness, says another. There may, in reality, be no difference in the sentiments of these two persons. The first may consider luxury as prejudicial to foreign trade, and as corrupting the morals of a people. The other may consider luxury as the means of providing employment for such as must live by their industry, and of promoting an equable circulation of wealth and subsistence, through all the classes of inhabitants. If each of them had attended to the other's complex idea of luxury, with all its consequences, they would have rendered their propositions less general.
The difference, therefore, of opinion between men is frequently more apparent than real. When we compare our own ideas, we constantly see their relations with perspicuity; but when we come to communicate these relations to other people, it is often impossible to put them into words sufficiently expressive of the precise combination of them we have made in our own minds.
This being the case, I have avoided, as much as possible, condemning such opinions as I have taken the liberty to review; because I have examined such only as have been advanced by men of genius and reputation; and since all matters of controversy regard the comparison of our ideas, if the terms we use to express them were sufficiently understood by both parties, most political disputes would, I am persuaded, be soon at an end.
Here it may be objected, that we frequently adopt an opinion, without being able to give a sufficient reason for it; and yet we cannot persuade ourselves to give it up, though we find it combated by the strongest arguments. To this I answer, that in such cases we do not adhere to our own opinions, but to those of others received upon trust. It is our regard for the authority, and not for the opinion, which makes us tenacious: for were the opinion truly our own, we could not fail of seeing, or at least we should not long be at a loss in recollecting, the ground upon which it is built. But when we assent implicitly to any political doctrine, there is no room for reason: we then satisfy ourselves with the persuasion that those whom we trust have sufficient reasons for what they advance. While our assent therefore is implicit, we are beyond conviction; not because we do not perceive the force of the arguments brought against our opinion, but because we are ignorant of the force of those which can be brought to support it: and as no body will sell what belongs to him, without being previously informed of its value, so no body will give up an implicit opinion, without knowing all that can be said for it. To this class of men I do not address myself in this inquiry.
But I insensibly run into a metaphysical speculation, in order to prove, that in political questions it is better for people to judge from experience and reason, than from authority to explain their terms, than to dispute about words; and to extend the combinations of their own ideas, than to follow conceits, however decorated with the name of systems. How far I have avoided such defects, the reader will determine.
Every writer values himself upon his impartiality; because he is not sensible of his fetters. The wandering and independent life I have led may naturally have set me free, in some measure, from strong attachments to popular opinions. This may be called impartiality. But as no man can be deemed impartial, who leans to any side whatever, I have been particularly on my guard against the consequences of this sort of negative impartiality; because I have found it sometimes carrying me too far from that to which a national prejudice might have led me.
In discussing general points, the best method I found to maintain a just balance in this respect, was to avert my eye from the country in which I lived at the time; and to judge of absent things by the absent. Objects which are present, are apt to produce perceptions too strong to be impartially compared with those recalled by memory only.
When I have had occasion to dip into any question concerning the preference to be given to certain forms of government above others, and to touch upon points which have been the object of sharp disputes, I have given my opinion with freedom, when it seemed proper: but in stating the question, I have endeavoured to avoid all trite, and, as I may call them, technical terms of party; which in such disputes every side chooses to take in their own acceptation: and as there is no sentiment of concord or good-will in their hearts, instead of coming to explanations together, they are charmed to find an occasion to differ concerning general propositions, from those they hate for particular considerations.
I have sometimes entered so heartily into the spirit of the statesman, as to be apt to forget my station in the society where I live; and when as a private man I have read over the work of the politician, my natural partiality in favour of individuals has led me to condemn, as Machiavellian principles, every sentiment, approving the sacrifice of private concerns in favour of a general plan.
In order, therefore, to reconcile me to myself in this particular, and to prevent certain expressions here and there interspersed, from making the slightest impression upon a reader of delicate sentiments, I must observe, that nothing would have been so easy as to soften many passages, where the politician appears to have snatched the pen out of the hand of the private citizen: but as I write for such only who can follow a close reasoning, and attend to the general scope of the whole inquiry, I have, purposely, made no correction; but continued painting, in the strongest colours, every inconvenience which must affect certain individuals living under our free modern governments, whenever a wise statesman sets about correcting old abuses, proceeding from idleness, sloth, or fraud in the lower classes, arbitrary jurisdictions in the higher, and neglects in administrations with respect to the interests of both. The more any cure is painful and dangerous, the more ought men carefully to avoid the disease. This leads me to say a word concerning the connection between the theory of morals and that of politics.
I lay it down as a general maxim, that the characteristic of a good action consists in the conformity between the motive, and the duty of the agent. Were there but one man upon earth, his duty would contain no other precepts than those dictated by self-love. If he come to be a father, a husband, a friend, his self-love falls immediately under limitations: he must withhold from himself, and give to his children; he must know how to sacrifice some of his fancies, in order to gratify, now and then, those of his wife, or of his friend. If he come to be a judge, a magistrate; he must frequently forget that he is a friend, or a father: and if he rise to be a statesman, he must disregard many other attachments more comprehensive, such as family, place of birth, and even, in certain cases, his native country. His duty here becomes relative to the general good of that society of which he is the head: and as the death of a criminal cannot be imputed to the judge who condemns him, neither can a particular inconvenience resulting to an individual, in consequence of a step taken for a general reformation, be imputed to him who sits at the helm of government.
If it should be asked, of what utility a speculation such as this can be to a statesman, to whom it is in a manner addressed from the beginning to the end: I answer, that although it seem addressed to a statesman, the real object of the inquiry is to influence the spirit of those whom he governs; and the variety of matter contained in it, may even suggest useful hints to himself. But his own genius and experience will enable him to carry such notions far beyond the reach of my abilities.
I have already said that I considered my work as no more than a canvass prepared for more able hands than mine to work upon. Now although the sketch it contains be not sufficiently correct, I have still made some progress, I think, in preparing the way for others to improve upon my plan, by contriving proper questions to be resolved by men of experience in the practical part of government.
I leave it therefore to masters in the science to correct and extend my ideas: and those who have not made the principles of policy their particular study, may have an opportunity of comparing the exposition I have given of them with the commonly received opinions concerning many questions of great importance to society. They will, for instance, be able to judge how far population can be increased usefully, by multiplying marriages, and by dividing lands: how far the swelling of capitals, cities and towns, tends to depopulate a country: how far the progress of luxury brings distress upon the poor industrious man: how far restrictions laid upon the corn trade, tend to promote an ample supply of subsistence in all our markets: how far the increase of public debts tends to involve us in a general bankruptcy: how far the abolition of paper currency would have the effect of reducing the price of all commodities: how far a tax tends to enhance their value: and how far the diminution of duties is an essential requisite for securing the liberty, and promoting the prosperity and happiness of a people.
Is it not of the greatest importance to examine, with candour, the operations by which all Europe has been engaged in a system of policy so generally declaimed against, and so contrary to that which we hear daily recommended as the best? To shew, from the plain principles of common sense, that our present situation is the unavoidable consequence of the spirit and manners of the present times; and that it is quite compatible with all the liberty, affluence, and prosperity, which any human society ever enjoyed in any age, or under any form of government? A people taught to expect from a statesman the execution of plans, big with impossibility and contradiction, will remain discontented under the government of the best of Kings. Book I Of Population and Agriculture Introduction
Economy, in general, is the art of providing for all the wants of a family, with prudence and frugality.
If any thing necessary or useful be found wanting, if any thing provided be lost or misapplied, if any servant, any animal, be supernumerary or useless, if any one sick or infirm be neglected, we immediately perceive a want of economy. The object of it, in a private family, is therefore to provide for the nourishment, the other wants, and the employment of every individual. In the first place, for the master, who is the head, and who directs the whole; next for the children, who interest him above all other things; and last for the servants, who being useful to the head, and essential to the well-being of the family, have therefore a title to become an object of the master's care and concern.
The whole economy must be directed by the head, who is both lord and steward of the family. It is however necessary, that these two offices be not confounded with one another. As lord, he establishes the laws of his economy; as steward, he puts them in execution. As lord, he may restrain and give his commands to all within the house as he thinks proper; as steward, he must conduct with gentleness and address, and is bound by his own regulations. The better the economist, the more uniformity is perceived in all his actions, and the less liberties are taken to depart from stated rules. He is not so much master, as that he may break through the laws of his economy, although in every respect he may keep each individual within the house, in the most exact subordination to his commands. Economy and government, even in a private family, present therefore two different ideas, and have also two different objects.
What economy is in a family, political economy is in a state: with these essential differences, however, that in a state there are no servants, all are children: that a family may be formed when and how a man pleases, and he may there establish what plan of economy he thinks fit; but states are found formed, and the economy of these depends upon a thousand circumstances. The statesman (this is a general term to signify the legislature and supreme power, according to the form of government) is neither master to establish what economy he pleases, or, in the exercise of his sublime authority, to overturn at will the established laws of it, let him be the most despotic monarch upon earth.
The great art therefore of political economy is, first to adapt the different operations of it to the spirit, manners, habits, and customs of the people; and afterwards to model these circumstances so, as to be able to introduce a set of new and more useful institutions.
The principal object of this science is to secure a certain fund of subsistence for all the inhabitants, to obviate every circumstance which may render it precarious; to provide every thing necessary for supplying the wants of the society, and to employ the inhabitants (supposing them to be free-men) in such a manner as naturally to create reciprocal relations and dependencies between them, so as to make their several interests lead them to supply one another with their reciprocal wants.
If one considers the variety which is found in different countries, in the distribution of property, subordination of classes, genius of people, proceeding from the variety of forms of government, laws, climate, and manners, one may conclude, that the political economy in each must necessarily be different, and that principles, however universally true, may become quite ineffectual in practice, without a sufficient preparation of the spirit of a people.
It is the business of a statesman to judge of the expediency of different schemes of economy, and by degrees to model the minds of his subjects so as to induce them, from the allurement of private interest, to concur in the execution of his plan.
The speculative person who, removed from the practice, extracts the principles of this science from observation and reflection, should divest himself, as far as possible, of every prejudice in favour of established opinions, however reasonable, when examined relatively to particular nations: he must do his utmost to become a citizen of the world, comparing customs, examining minutely institutions which appear alike, when in different countries they are found to produce different effects: he should examine the cause of such differences with the utmost diligence and attention. It is from such inquiries that the true principles are discovered.
He who takes up the pen upon this subject, keeping in his eye the customs of his own or any other country, will fall more naturally into a description of one particular system of it, than into an examination of the principles of the science in general; he will applaud such institutions as he finds rightly administered at home; he will condemn those which are administered with abuse; but, without comparing different methods of executing the same plan in different countries, he will not easily distinguish the disadvantages which are essential to the institution, from those which proceed from the abuse. For this reason a land-tax excites he indignation of a Frenchman, an excise that of an Englishman. One who looks into the execution of both, in each country, and in every branch of their management, will discover the real effects of these impositions, and be able to distinguish what proceeds from abuse, from what is essential to the burden.
Nothing is more effectual towards preparing the spirit of a people to receive a good plan of economy, than a proper representation of it. On the other hand, nothing is better calculated to keep the statesman, who is at the head of affairs, in awe.
When principles are well understood, the real consequences of burdensome institutions are clearly seen: when the purposes they are intended for are not obtained, the abuse of the statesman's administration appears palpable. People then will not so much cry out against the imposition, as against the misapplication. It will not be a land-tax of four shillings in the pound, nor an excise upon wines and tobacco, which will excite the murmurs of a nation; it will be the prodigal dissipation and misapplication of the amount of these taxes after they are laid on. But when principles are not known, all inquiry is at an end, the moment a nation can be engaged to submit to the burden. It is the same with regard to many other parts of this science: while people remain blind they are always mistrustful.
Having pointed out the object of my pursuit, I shall only add, that my intention is to attach myself principally to a clear deduction of principles, and a short application of them to familiar examples, in order to avoid abstraction as much as possible. I farther intend to confine myself to such parts of this extensive subject, as shall appear the most interesting in the general system of modern politics; of which I shall treat with that spirit of liberty, which reigns more and more every day, throughout all the polite and flourishing nations of Europe.
When I compare the elegant performances which have appeared in Great Britain and in France with my dry and abstracted manner of treating the same subject, in a plain language void of ornament, I own I am discouraged on many accounts. If I be obliged to set out by laying down, as fundamental principles, the most obvious truths, I dread the imputation of pedantry, and of pretending to turn common sense into science. If I follow these principles through a minute detail, I may appear trifling. I therefore hope the reader will believe me, when I tell him, that these defects have not escaped my discernment, but that my genius, the nature of the work, and the connection of the subject, have obliged me to write in an order and in a style, where every thing has been sacrificed to perspicuity.
My principal aim shall be to discover truth, and to enable my reader to touch the very link of the chain where I may at any time go astray.
My business shall not be to seek for new thoughts, but to reason consequentially; and if any thing new shall be found, it will be in the conclusions.
Long steps in political reasoning lead to error: close reasoning is tedious, and to many appears trivial: this, however, must be my plan, and my consolation is, that the farther I advance, I shall become the more interesting.
Every supposition must be considered as strictly relative to the circumstances presupposed; and though, in order to prevent misapplication, and to avoid abstraction as much as possible, I frequently make use of examples for illustrating every principle; yet these, which are taken from matters of fact, must be supposed divested of every foreign circumstance inconsistent with the supposition.
I shall combat no particular opinion in such intricate matters; though sometimes I may pass them in review, in order to point out how I am led to differ from them.
I pretend to form no system, but, by tracing out a succession of principles, consistent with the nature of man and with one another, I shall endeavour to furnish some materials towards the forming of a good one.
Man we find acting uniformly in all age, in all countries, and in all climates, from the principles of self-interest, expediency, duty, or passion. In this he is alike, in nothing else.
These motives of human actions produce such a variety of circumstances, that if we consider the several species of animals in the creation, we shall find the individuals of no class so unlike to one another, as man to man. No wonder then if people differ in opinion with regard to every thing almost which relates to our species.
As this noble animal is a sociable creature, both from necessity and inclination, we find also, in all ages, climates and countries, a certain modification of government and subordination established among them. Here again we are presented with as great a variety, as there are different societies; all however agreeing in this, that the end of a voluntary subordination to authority is with a view to promote the general good.
Constant and uninterrupted experience has proved to man, that virtue and justice, in those who govern, are sufficient to render the society happy, under any form of government. Virtue and justice, when applied to government, mean no more than a tender affection for the whole society, and an exact and impartial regard for the interest of every class.
All actions, and all things indeed, are good or bad by relation only. Nothing is so complex as relations when considered with regard to a society, and nothing is so difficult as to discover truth, when involved and blended with these relations.
We are not to conclude from this, that every operation of government must become problematical and uncertain as to its consequences: some are evidently good; others are notoriously bad; those, the tendency of which is less evident, are always the least essential, and the more complex they appear to a discerning eye, the more trivial they are found to be in their immediate consequences.
A government must be continually in action, and one principal object of its attention must be, the consequences and effects of new institutions.
Experience alone will shew, what human prudence could not foresee; and mistakes must be corrected as often as expediency requires.
All governments have what they call their fundamental laws; but fundamental, that is, invariable laws, can never subsist among men, the most variable thing we know: the only fundamental law, salus populi, must ever be relative, like every other thing. But this is rather a maxim than a law.
It is however expedient, nay absolutely necessary, that in every state, certain laws be supposed fundamental and invariable: both to serve as a curb to the ambition of individuals, and to point out to the statesman the outlines, or sketch of that plan of government, which experience has proved to be the best adapted to the spirit of his people.
Such laws may even be considered as actually invariable, while a state subsists without convulsions or revolutions; because then the alterations are so gradual, that they become imperceptible to all, but the most discerning, who can compare the customs and manners of the same people in different periods of time and under different circumstances.
As we have taken for granted the fundamental maxim, that every operation of government should be calculated for the good of the people, so we may with equal certainty decide, that in order to make a people happy, they must be governed according to the spirit which prevails among them.
I am next to explain what I mean by the spirit of a people, and to show how far this spirit must be made to influence the government of every society.
The spirit of a people is formed upon a set of received opinions relative to three objects; morals, government, and manners: these once generally adopted by any society, confirmed by long and constant habit, and never called in question, form the basis of all laws, regulate the form of every government, and determine what is commonly called the customs of a country.
To know a people, we must examine them under these general heads. We acquire the knowledge of their morals with ease, by consulting the tenets of their religion, and from what is taught among them by authority.
The second, or government, is more disguised, as it is constantly changing from circumstances, partly resulting from domestic and partly from foreign considerations. A thorough knowledge of their history, and conversation with their ministers of state, may give one, who has access to these helps, a very competent knowledge of this branch.
The last, or the knowledge of the manners of a people, is by far the most difficult to acquire, and yet is the most open to every person's observation. Certain circumstances with regard to manners are supposed by every one in the country to be so well known, so generally followed and observed, that it seldom occurs to any body to inform a stranger concerning them. In one country nothing is so injurious as a stroke with a stick, or even a gesture which implies a design or a desire to strike. in another a stroke is not near so offensive as an opprobrious expression. An innocent liberty with the fair sex, which in one country passes without censure, is looked upon in another as the highest indignity. In general, the opinion of a people with regard to injuries is established by custom only, and nothing is more necessary in government, than an exact attention to every circumstance peculiar to the people to be governed.
The kingdom of Spain was lost for a violence committed upon chastity; the city of Genoa for a blow; the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily have ever been ready to revolt; because having been for many ages under the dominion of strangers, the people have never been governed according to the true spirit of their manners. Let us consult the revolutions of all countries, and we shall find, that the most trivial circumstances have had a greater influence on such events, than the more weighty reasons, which are always set forth as the real motives. I need not enlarge upon this subject, my intention is only to suggest an idea which any one may pursue, and which will be applied upon many occasions as we go along; for there is no treating any point which regards the political economy of a nation, without accompanying the example with some supposition relative to the spirit of the people.
I have said, that the most difficult thing to learn concerning a people, is the spirit of their manners. Consequently, the most difficult thing for a stranger to adopt, is their manner. Men acquire the language, nay even lose the foreign accent, before they lose the peculiarity of their manner. The reason is plain. The inclinations must be changed, the taste for amusements must be new-modelled; established maims upon government, manners, nay even upon some moral actions, must undergo certain new modifications, before the stranger's conversation and behaviour can become consistent with the spirit of the people with whom he lives.
From these considerations, we may find the reason, why nothing is more heavy to bear than the government of conquerors, in spite of all their endeavours to render themselves agreeable to the conquered. Of this, experience has ever proved the truth, and princes are so much persuaded of it, that when a country is subdued in our days, or when it otherwise changes masters, there is seldom any question of altering, but by very slow degrees and length of time, the established laws and customs of the inhabitants. I might safely say, there is no form of government upon earth so excellent in itself, as, necessarily, to make the people happy under it. Freedom itself, imposed upon a people groaning under the greatest slavery, will not make them happy, unless it is made to undergo certain modifications, relative to their established habits.
Having explained what I mean by the spirit of a people, I come next to consider, how far this spirit must influence government.
If governments be taken in general, we shall find them analogous to the spirit of the people. But the point under consideration is, how a statesman is to proceed, when expediency and refinement require a change of administration, or when it becomes necessary from a change of circumstances.
The great alteration in the affairs of Europe within these three centuries, by the discovery of America and the Indies, the springing up of industry and learning, the introduction of trade and the luxurious arts, the establishment of public credit, and a general system of taxation, have entirely altered the plan of government every where.
From feudal and military, it is become free and commercial. I oppose freedom in government to the feudal system, to mark only that there is not found now that chain of subordination among the subjects, which made the essential part of the feudal form. The head there had little power, and the lower classes of the people little liberty. Now every industrious man, who lives with economy, is free and independent under most forms of government. Formerly, the power of the barons swallowed up the independency of all inferior classes. I oppose commercial to military; because the military governments now are made to subsist from the consequences and effects of commerce only, that is, from the revenue of the state, proceeding from taxes. Formerly, every thing was brought about by numbers; now, numbers of men cannot be kept together without money.
This is sufficient to point out the nature of the revolution in the political state, and of consequence in the manners of Europe.
The spirit of a people changes no doubt of itself, but by slow degrees. The same generation commonly adheres to the same principles, and retains the same spirit. In every country we find two generations upon the stage at a time; that is to say, we may distribute into two classes the spirit which prevails; the one amongst men between twenty and thirty, when opinions are forming; the other of those who are past fifty, when opinions and habits are formed and confirmed. A person of judgment and observation may foresee many things relative to government, from an exact attention to the rise and progress of new customs and opinions, provided he preserve his mind free from all attachments and prejudices, in favour of those which he himself has adopted, and in that delicacy of sensation necessary to perceive the influence of a change of circumstances. This is the genius proper to form a great minister.
In every new step the spirit of the people should be first examined; and if this be not found ripe for the execution of the plan, it ought to be put off, kept entirely secret, and every method used to prepare the people to relish the innovation.
The project of introducing popery into England was blown before it was put in practice, and so miscarried. Queen Elizabeth kept her own secret, and succeeded in a similar attempt. The scheme of a general excise was pushed with too much vivacity, was made a matter of party, was ill-timed, and the people nowise prepared for it; hence it will be the more difficult to bring about at another time, without the greatest precautions.
In turning and working upon the spirit of a people, nothing is impossible to an able statesman. When a people can be engaged to murder their wives and children, and to burn themselves, rather than submit to a foreign enemy, when they can be brought to give their most precious effects, their ornaments of gold and silver, for the support of a common cause; when women are brought to give their hair to make ropes, and the most decrepit old men to mount the walls of a town for its defence; I think I may say, that by properly conducting and managing the spirit of a people, nothing is impossible to be accomplished. But when I say, nothing is impossible, I must be understood to mean, that nothing essentially necessary for the good of the people is impossible; and this is all that is required in government.
That it requires a particular talent in a statesman to dispose the minds of a people to approve even of the scheme which is the most conducive to their interest and prosperity, appears from this, that we see examples of wise, rich, and powerful nations languishing in inactivity, at a time when every individual is animated with a quite contrary spirit; becoming a prey to their enemies, like the city of Jerusalem, while they are taken up with their domestic animosities, merely because the remedies proposed against these evils contradict the spirit of the times.
The great art of governing is to divest oneself of prejudices and attachments to particular opinions, particular classes, and above all to particular persons; to consult the spirit of the people, to give way to it in appearance, and in so doing to give it a turn capable of inspiring those sentiments which may induce them to relish the change, which an alteration of circumstances has rendered necessary.
Can any change be greater among free men, than from a state of absolute liberty and independence to become subject to constraint in the most trivial actions? This change has however taken place over all Europe within these three hundred years, and yet we think ourselves more free than ever our fathers were. Formerly a gentleman who enjoyed a bit of land, knew not what it was to have any demand made upon him, but in virtue of obligations by himself contracted. He disposed of the fruits of the earth, and of the labour of his servants or vassals, as he thought fit. Every thing was bought, sold, transferred, transported, modified, and composed, for private consumption, or for public use, without ever the state's being once found interested in what was doing. This, I say, was formerly the general situation of Europe, among free nations under a regular administration; and the only impositions commonly known to affect landed men, were made in consequence of a contract of subordination, feudal or other, which had certain limitations; and the impositions were appropriated for certain purposes.
Daily experience shews, that nothing is more against the inclinations of a people than the imposition of taxes; and the less they are accustomed to them, the more difficult it is to get them established.
The great abuse of governors in the application of taxes contributes not a little to entertain and augment this repugnancy in the governed: but besides abuse, there is often too little management used to prepare the spirits of the people for such innovations; for we see them upon many occasions submitting with cheerfulness to very heavy impositions, provided they be well-timed, and consistent with their manners and disposition. A French gentleman, who cannot bear the thought of being put upon a level with a peasant in paying a land-tax, pays contentedly, in time of war, a general tax upon all his effects, under a different name. To pay for your head is terrible in one country; to pay for light appears as terrible in another.
It often happens, that statesmen take the hint of new impositions from the example of other nations, and not from a nice examination of their own domestic circumstances. But when these are rightly attended to, it becomes easy to discover the means of executing the same plan, in a way quite adapted to the spirit, temper, and circumstances of the people. When strangers are employed as statesmen, the disorder is still greater, unless there be extraordinary penetration, temper, and, above all, flexibility and discretion.
Statesmen have sometimes recourse to artifice instead of reason, because their intentions often are not upright. This destroys all confidence between them and the people; and confidence is necessary when you are in a manner obliged to ask a favour, or when what you demand is not indisputably your right. A people thus tricked into an imposition, though expedient for their prosperity, will oppose violently, at another time, a like measure, even when essential to their preservation.
At other times, we see statesmen presenting the allurement of present ease, precisely at the time when people's minds are best disposed to receive a burden. I mean when war threatens, and when the mind is heated with a resentment of injuries. Is it not wonderful, at such a time as this, to increase taxes in proportion only to the interest of money wanted; does not this imply a short-sightedness, or at least an indifference as to what is to come? Is it not more natural, that a people should consent to come under burdens to gratify revenge, than submit to repay a large debt when their minds are restored to a state of tranquillity.
From the examples I have given, I hope what I mean by the spirit of a people is sufficiently understood, and I think I have abundantly shewn the necessity of its being properly disposed, in order to establish a right plan of economy. This is so true, that many examples may be found, of a people's rejecting the most beneficial institutions, and even the greatest favours, merely because some circumstance had shocked their established customs. No wonder then, if we see them refuse to come under limitations, restraints, and burdens, when the utmost they can be flattered with from them, is a distant prospect of national good.
I have found it necessary to premise these general reflections, in order to obviate many objections which might naturally enough occur in the perusal of this inquiry. I shall have occasion to make a number of suppositions, and to draw consequences from them, which are abundantly natural, provided a proper spirit in the people be presupposed, but which would be far from being natural without this supposition. I suppose, for example, that a poor man, loaded with many children, would be glad to have the state maintain them; that another, who has waste lands, would be obliged to one who would gratuitously build him a farm-house upon it. Yet in both suppositions I may prove mistaken; for fathers there are, who would rather see their children dead than out of their hands; and proprietors are to be found, who, for the sake of hunting, would lay the finest country in Europe into a waste.
In order to communicate an adequate idea of what I understand by political economy, I have explained the term, by pointing out the object of the art; which is, to provide food, other necessaries, and employment to every one of the society.
This is a very simple and a very general method of defining a most complicated operation.
To provide a proper employment for all the members of a society, is the same as to model and conduct every branch of their concerns.
Upon this idea may be formed, I think, the most extensive basis for an inquiry into the principles of political economy.
The next thing to be done, is to fall upon a distinct method of analysing so extensive a subject, by contriving a train of ideas, which may be directed towards every part of the plan, and which, at the same time, may be made to arise methodically from one another.
For this purpose I have taken a hint from what the late revolutions in the politics of Europe have pointed out to be the regular progress of mankind, from great simplicity to complicated refinement.
This first book shall then set out with taking up society in the cradle, as I may say. I shall here examine the principles which influence their multiplication, the method of providing for their subsistence, the origin of their labour, the effects of their liberty and slavery, the distribution of them into classes, with some other topics which relate to mankind in general.
Here we shall find the principles of industry influencing the multiplication of mankind, and the cultivation of the soil. This I have thrown in on purpose to prepare my reader for the subject of the second book; where he will find the same principle (under the wings of liberty) providing an easy subsistence for a numerous populace, by the means of trade, which sends the labour of an industrious people over the whole world.
From the experience of what has happened these last two hundred years, we find to what a pitch the trade and industry of Europe has increased alienations, and the circulation of money. I shall therefore closely adhere to these, as the most immediate consequences of the preceding improvement; and, by analysing them, I shall form my third and fourth books, in which I intend to treat of money and credit.
We see also how credit has engaged nations to avail themselves of it in their wars, and how, by the use of it, they have been led to contract debts; which they never can satisfy and pay, without imposing taxes. The doctrine, then, of debts and taxes will very naturally follow that of credit in this great chain of political consequences.
By this kind of historical clue, I shall conduct myself through the great avenues of this extensive labyrinth; and in my review of every particular district, I shall step from consequence to consequence, until I have penetrated into the inmost recesses of my own understanding.
When a subject is broken off, I shall render my transitions as gradual as I can, by still preserving some chain of connexion; and although I cannot flatter myself (in such infinite variety of choice, as to order and distribution) to hit at all times on that method, which may appear to every reader the most natural and the most correct, yet I shall spare no pains in casting the materials into different forms, so as to make the best distribution of them in my power.
The multiplication of mankind has been treated of in different ways; some have made out tables to show the progression of multiplication, others have treated the question historically. The state of numbers in different ages of the world, or in different countries at different times, has been made the object of inquiry; and the most exact scrutiny has been made into ancient authors, as the means of investigating the truth of this matter. All passages relative to the subject have been laid together, and accompanied with glosses and interpretations the most plausible, in order to determine the main question. The elaborate performances of Mr Hume, and Dr Wallace, who have adopted opposite opinions in regard to the populousness of the ancient world, have left nothing new to be said upon this subject; at least the application they appear to have given in examining the ancients, is a great discouragement to any one who might otherwise still flatter himself to find out circumstances in them, proper to cast a new light upon the question.
My intention in this chapter is not to decide, nor even to give my opinion upon that matter, far less to combat the arguments advanced on either side. I am to consider the question under a different point of view; not to inquire what numbers of people were found upon the earth at a certain time, but to examine the natural and rational causes of multiplication. If we can discover these, we may perhaps be led to judge how far they might have operated in different ages and in different countries.
The fundamental principle of the multiplication of all animals, and consequently of man, is generation; the next is food: generation gives existence, food preserves it. Did the earth produce of itself the proper nourishment for man with unlimited abundance, we should find no occasion to labour in order to procure it. Now in all countries found inhabited, as in those which have been found desolate, if the state of animals be inquired into, the number of them will be found in proportion to the quantity of food produced by the earth, regularly throughout the year, for their subsistence. I say, regularly throughout the year, because we perceive, in those animals which produce in great abundance, such as all the feathered sort, that vast multitudes are destroyed in winter; they are brought forth with the fruits of the earth, and fall in proportion to their decay. This principle is so natural, that I think it can hardly be controverted.
As to man, the earth does not spontaneously produce nourishment for him in any considerable degree. I allow that as some species of animals support life by devouring others, so may man; but it must be observed, that the species feeding must always be much inferior in number to the species fed upon. This is evident in reason and in fact.
Were the earth therefore uncultivated, the numbers of mankind would not exceed the proportion of the spontaneous fruits which she offers for their immediate use, or for that of the animals which might be the proper nourishment of man.
There is therefore a certain number of mankind which the earth would be able to maintain without any labour: allow me to call this quantity (A). Does it not, from this exposition of the matter, appear plain, that without labour (A) never can increase any more than animals, which do not work for themselves, can increase beyond the proportion of food provided for them by nature? Let it be however observed, that I do not pretend to limit (A) to a determinate number. The seasons will no doubt influence the numbers of mankind, as we see they influence the plenty of other animals; but I say (A) will never increase beyond the fixed proportion above mentioned.
Having resolved one question with regard to multiplication, and shewn that numbers must become greater or smaller according to the productions of nature, I come to the second thing proposed to be treated of in the chapter; to wit, what will become of the generative faculty after it has produced the full proportion of (A), and what effects will afterwards follow.
We see how beneficent, I might have said prodigal, nature is in bestowing life by generation. Several kinds of animals, especially insects, multiply by thousands, and yet the species does not appear annually to increase. Nobody can pretend that particular individuals of any species have a privilege to live, and that others die from a difference in their nature. It is therefore reasonable to conclude, that what destroys such vast quantities of those produced, must be, among other causes, the want of food. Let us apply this to man.
Those who are supposed to be fed with the spontaneous fruits of the earth, cannot, from what has been said, multiply beyond that proportion; at the same time the generative faculty will work its natural effects in augmenting numbers. The consequence will be, that certain individuals must become worse fed, consequently weaker. consequently, if, in that weakly state, nature should withhold a part of her usual plenty, the whole multitude will be affected by it; a disease may take place, and sweep off a far greater number than that proportioned to the deficiency of the season. What results from this? That those who have escaped, finding food more plentiful, become vigorous and strong. generation gives life to additional numbers, food preserves it, until they rise up to the former standard.
Thus the generative faculty resembles a spring loaded with a weight, which always exerts itself in proportion to the diminution of resistance: when food has remained some time without augmentation or diminution, generation will carry numbers as high as possible; if then food come to be diminished, the spring is overpowered; the force of it becomes less than nothing. Inhabitants will diminish, at least, in proportion to the overcharge. If, upon the other hand, food be increased, the spring which stood at 0, will begin to exert itself in proportion as the resistance diminishes; people will begin to be better fed; they will multiply, and, in proportion as they increase in numbers, the food will become scarce again.
I must here subjoin a remark very analogous to this subject. That the generative faculty in man (which we have compared to a spring), and the care and love we have for our children, first prompt us to multiply, and then engage us to divide what we have with our little ones. Thus from dividing and subdividing it happens, that in every country where food is limited to a certain quantity, the inhabitants must be subsisted in a regular progression, descending down from plenty and ample subsistence, to the last periods of want, and even sometimes starving for hunger.
Although the examples of this last extremity are not common in some countries, yet I believe they are more so than is generally imagined; and the other stages of want are productive of many diseases, and of a decay which extinguishes the faculty of generation, or which weakens it, so as to produce children less vigorous and less healthy. I appeal to experience, if this reasoning be not just.
Put two or three pairs of rabbits into a field proper for them, the multiplication will be rapid; and in a few years the warren will be stocked: you may take yearly from it a hundred pairs, I shall suppose, and keep your warren in good order: give over taking any for some years, you will perhaps find your original stock rather diminished than increased, for the reasons above mentioned. Africa yearly furnishes many thousands for the cultivation of America; in this she resembles the warren. I have little doubt but that if all her sons were returned to her at once, by far the greater part would die of hunger.
I now suppose man to add his labour and industry to the natural activity of the soil: so far, as by this he produces an additional quantity of food, so far he lays a foundation for the maintenance of an additional number. This number I shall call (B). From this I conclude, that as (A) is supposed to be in a constant proportion to the spontaneous fruits, so (B) must be in proportion to agriculture (by this term I understand at present every method of augmenting food by labour), consequently the number maintained by the labour of mankind must be to the whole number of mankind as (B) is to (A + B), or as (B) is to (A) and (B) jointly.
By this operation we find mankind immediately divided into two classes; those who, without working, live upon the spontaneous fruits of the earth; that is, upon milk, cattle, hunting, &c. The other part, those who are obliged to labour the soil. It is proper next to inquire what should naturally oblige a man to labour; and what are the natural consequences of it as to multiplication.
We have already said, that the principle of generation is inherent in man, and prompts him to multiply. Another principle, as naturally inherent in the mind, as the first is in the body, is self-love, or a desire of ease and happiness, which prompts those who find in themselves any superiority, whether personal or political, to make use of every natural advantage. Consequently, such will multiply proportionably: because by appropriating to themselves the fruits of the earth, they have the means of subsisting their offspring. The others, I think, will very naturally become their servants; as this method is, of all others, the most easy to procure subsistence. This is so analogous to the nature of man, that we see every where, even among children, that the smallest superiority in any one over the rest, constantly draws along with it a tribute of service in one way or other. Those who become servants for the sake of food, will soon become slaves: for slavery is but the abuse of service, established by a civil institution; and men who find no possibility of subsisting otherwise, will be obliged to serve upon the conditions prescribed to them.
This seems a consequence not unnatural in the infancy of the world: yet I do not pretend to affirm that this was the origin of slavery. Servants, however, there have always been; and the abuse of service is what we understand by slavery. The subordination of children to their parents, and of servants to their masters, seems to be the most rational origin of society and government. The first of these is natural, and follows as the unavoidable consequence of an entire dependence: the second is political, and may very naturally take place as to those who cannot otherwise procure subsistence. This last species of subordination may, I think, have taken place, the moment man became obliged to labour for subsistence, but no sooner.
The wants of man are not confined to food, merely. When food is to be produced from the rude surface of the earth, a great part of his time must be taken up with this object, even supposing him to be provided with every utensil proper for the exercise of his industry: he must therefore be in a worse condition to provide for his other wants: consequently, he may be willing to serve any one who will do it for him. Whereas, on the other hand, if we suppose all mankind idle and fed, living upon the spontaneous fruits of the earth, the plan of universal liberty becomes quite natural: because under such circumstances they find no inducement to come under a voluntary subordination.
Let us now borrow the idea of a primitive society, of a government, of a king, from the most ancient history we have, the better to point out the effects of agriculture and multiplication. The society is the whole taken together; it is Jacob, his sons, their wives, their children, and all the servants. The government regards the institutions prescribed by Jacob, to every one of the family, concerning their respective subordination and duty. Multiplication will here go forward, not in proportion to the generative faculty, but according to the employment of the persons already generated. If Jacob continue pasturing his herds, he must extend the limits of his right of pasture; he must multiply his stock of cattle, in proportion as the mouths of his family augment. He is charged with all this detail: for he is master, and director, and statesman, and general provider. His servants will work as they are ordered; but if he has not had the proper foresight, to break up lands so soon as his family comes nearly up to that proportion which his flocks can easily feed; if in this case, a dry season should burn up the grass in Palestine, he will be obliged to send some of his stock of cattle, by some of his family, to market, there to be sold; and with the price he must buy corn. For in this early age, there was money, there were manufactures of sackcloth, of common raiment, and of party-coloured garments; there was a trade in corn, in spicery, balm, and myrrh. Jacob and his family were shepherds, but they lived not entirely on flesh; they eat bread: consequently there was tillage in those days, though they exercised none. The famine however was ready to destroy them, and probably would have done it, but for the providential circumstance of Joseph's being governor of Egypt. He relieved their distress, he gave to his family the best country in the whole kingdom for pasture; and they had a gratuitous supply of bread.
No doubt, so long as these favourable circumstances subsisted, multiplication would go on apace. What supernatural assistance God was pleased to grant for the increase of his chosen people, does not concern my inquiry.
I have mentioned transiently this example of the patriarch, to point out only how ancient the use of money, the invention of trade and manufactures appear to have been. Without such previous establishments, I consider mankind as savages, living on the spontaneous fruits of the earth, as in the first supposition; and confined, as to numbers, to the actual extent of these productions.
From what has been said, we may conclude, that the numbers of mankind must depend upon the quantity of food produced by the earth for their nourishment; from which, as a corollary, may be drawn.
That mankind have been, as to numbers, and must ever be, in proportion to the food produced; and that the food produced will be in the compound proportion of the fertility of the climate, and the industry of the inhabitants.
From this last proposition it appears plain, that there can be no general rule for determining the number of inhabitants necessary for agriculture, not even in the same country. The fertility of the soil when laboured, the ease of labouring it, the quantity of good spontaneous fruits, the plenty of fish in the rivers and sea, the abundance of wild birds and beasts, have in all ages, and ever must influence greatly the nourishment, and, consequently, regulate the multiplication of man, and determine his employment.
To make an establishment in a country not before inhabited, to root out woods, destroy wild and venomous animals, drain marshy grounds, give a free course to water, and to lay down the surface into corn fields, must surely require more hands than to cultivate the same after it is improved. For the truth of this, I appeal to our American brethren.
We may therefore conclude, that the most essential requisite for population, is that of agriculture, or the providing of subsistence. Upon this all the rest depends: while subsistence is upon a precarious footing, no statesman can turn his attention to any thing else.
The great importance of this object has engaged some to imagine, that the luxurious arts, in our days, are prejudicial both to agriculture and multiplication. It is sometimes of ill consequence to fix one's attention too much upon any one object, however important. Nobody can dispute that agriculture is the foundation of multiplication, and the most essential requisite for the prosperity of a state. But it does not follow from this, that every body almost in the state should be employed in it; that would be inverting the order of things, and turning the master into the servant. The duty and business of man is not to feed; he is fed, in order to do his duty, and to become useful in his profession; whether agriculture, art, or science.
It is not sufficient for my purpose to know, that the introduction of agriculture, by multiplying the quantity of the earth's productions, does evidently tend to increase the numbers of mankind. I must examine the political causes which must concur, in order to operate this effect.
For this purpose, my next inquiry shall be directed towards discovering the true principles which influence the employment of man, with respect to agriculture. I shall spare no pains in examining this point to the bottom, even though it should lead me to anticipate some branches of my subject.
I shall endeavour to lay down principles consistent with the nature of man, with agriculture, and with multiplication, in order, by their means, to discover both the use and abuse of the two last. When these parts are well understood, the rest will go on more smoothly, and I shall find the less occasion to interrupt my subject, in order to explain the topics upon which the whole depends.
I have already shewn, how the spontaneous fruits of the earth provide a fund of nourishment for a determinate number of men, and have slightly touched upon the consequences of adding labour to the natural activity of the soil.
Let me now carry this inquiry a little farther. Let me suppose a country fertile in spontaneous productions, capable of improvements of every kind, inhabited by a people living under a free government, and in the most refined simplicity, without trade, without the luxurious arts, and without ambition. Let me here suppose a statesman, who shall inspire a taste for agriculture and for labour into those who formerly consumed the spontaneous fruits of the earth in ease and idleness. What will become of this augmentation of food produced by this additional labour?
The sudden increase of food, such as that here supposed, will immediately diffuse vigour into all; and if the additional quantity be not very great, no superfluity will be found. No sooner will the inhabitants be fully nourished, but they will begin to multiply a-new: then they will come to divide with their children, and food will become scarce again.
Thus much is necessary for the illustration of one principle; but the effects, which we have been pointing out, will not be produced barely by engaging those who lived by hunting (I suppose) to quit that trade, and turn farmers. The statesman must also find out a method to make the produce of this new branch of industry circulate downwards, so as to relieve the wants of the most necessitous: Otherwise, the plenty produced, remaining in the hands of those who produced it, will become to them an absolute superfluity; which, had they any trade with a neighbouring state, they would sell, or exchange, and leave their fellow-citizens to starve. And as we suppose no trade at all, this superfluity will perish like their cherries, in a year of plenty; and consequently the farmers will immediately give over working.
If, to prevent this inconveniency, the statesman shall force certain classes to labour the soil, and, with discretion, distribute the produce of it to all that have occasion for subsistence, taking in return their services for the public benefit; this will prove an infallible way of multiplying inhabitants, of making them laborious, and of preserving a simplicity of manners; but it is also the picture of ancient slavery, and is therefore excluded from the supposition.
If he acts consistently with that spirit of liberty, which we have supposed to animate his subjects, he has no method left, but to contrive different employments for the hands of the necessitous, that, by their labour, they may produce an equivalent which may be acceptable to the farmers, in lieu of this superfluity; for these last certainly will not raise it, if they cannot dispose of it; nor will they dispose of it, but for a proper equivalent. This is the only method (in a free state) of procuring additional food, and of distributing it through the society, as the price of those hours which before were spent in idleness: and, as this will prove a more certain and more extensive fund of subsistence, than the precarious productions of spontaneous fruits, which cannot be increased at discretion, and in proportion to demand, it will greatly increase numbers; but, on the other hand, it must evidently destroy that simplicity of manners which naturally reigns among nations who do not labour.
A people, therefore, who have an industrious turn, will multiply in proportion to the superfluity produced by their farmers; because the labour of the necessitous will prove an equivalent for it.
Now this additional number of inhabitants, being raised and fed with the superfluity actually produced by the farmers, can never be supposed necessary for providing this quantity, which (though relatively to the farmers it be called a superfluity) is merely a sufficiency relatively to the whole society. and, therefore, if it be found necessary to employ the new inhabitants also in farming, it must be with a view only to a still greater multiplication.
Farther, we may lay it down as a principle, that a farmer will not labour to produce a superfluity of grain relatively to his own consumption, unless he finds some want which may be supplied by means of that superfluity'. neither will other industrious persons work to supply the wants of the farmer for any other reason than to procure subsistence, which they cannot otherwise so easily obtain. These are the reciprocal wants which the statesman must create, in order to bind the society together. Here, then, is one principle: Agriculture among a free people will augment population, in proportion only as the necessitous are put in a situation to purchase subsistence with their labour.
If, in any country which actually produces nourishment for its inhabitants, according to the progression above-mentioned, a plan is set on foot for the extension of agriculture; the augmentation must be made to bear a due proportion to the progress of industry and wants of the people, or else an outlet must be provided for disposing of the superfluity. And if, at setting out, a foreign consumption cannot be procured for the produce of husbandry, the greatest caution must be had to keep the improvement of the soil within proper bounds: for, without this, the plan intended for an improvement will, by over-doing, turn out to the detriment of agriculture. This will be the case, if the fruits of the earth be made to increase faster than the numbers and the industry of those who are to consume them. For if the whole be not consumed, the regorging plenty will discourage the industry of the farmer.
But if, together with an encouragement to agriculture, a proper outlet be found for the superfluity, until the numbers and industry of the people, by increasing, shall augment the home-consumption, which again by degrees will diminish the quantity of exportation, then the spring will easily overcome the resistance; it will dilate; that is, numbers will continue to increase.
From this may be derived another principle: That agriculture, when encouraged for the sake of multiplying inhabitants, must keep pace with the progress of industry; or else an outlet must be provided for all superfluity.
In the foregoing example, I have supposed no exportation, the more to simplify the supposition: I was, therefore, obliged to throw in a circumstance, in order to supply the want of it; to wit, an augmentation of inland demand from the suspension of hunting; and I have supposed those who formerly supported themselves by this, to consume the superfluous food of the farmers for the price of their labour. This may do well enough as a supposition, and has been made use of merely to explain principles. but the manners of a people are not so easily changed; and therefore I have a little anticipated the supposition of trade, to shew only how it must concur with industry, in the advancement of agriculture and multiplication.
Let me next consider the consequences of an augmentation of agriculture in a country where the inhabitants are lazy; or where they live in such simplicity of manners, as to have few wants which labour and industry can supply. In this case, I say, the scheme of agriculture will not succeed; and, if set on foot, a part of the grounds will soon become again uncultivated.
The laziest part of the farmers, disgusted with a labour which produces a plenty superfluous to themselves, which they cannot dispose of for any equivalent, will give over working, and return to their ancient simplicity. The more laborious will not furnish food to the necessitous for nothing: such therefore who cannot otherwise subsist, will naturally serve the industrious, and thereby sell their service for food. Thus by the diminution of labour, a part of the country, proportional to the quantity of food which the farmers formerly found superfluous, will again become uncultivated.
Here then will be found a country, the population of which must stop for want of food; and which, by the supposition, is abundantly able to produce more. Experience every where shews the possible existence of such a case, since no country in Europe is cultivated to the utmost: and that there are many still, where cultivation, and consequently multiplication, is at a stop. These nations I consider as in a moral incapacity of multiplying: the incapacity would be physical, if there was an actual impossibility of their procuring an augmentation of food by any means whatsoever.
These principles seem to be confirmed by experience; whether we compare them with the manner of living among the free American savages, or among the free, industrious, and laborious Europeans. We find the productions of all countries, generally speaking, in proportion to the number of their inhabitants; and, on the other hand, the inhabitants are most commonly in proportion to the food.
I beg that this may not be looked upon as a quibble, or what is called a vicious circle. I have qualified the general proposition by subjoining that it is found true most commonly; and from what is to follow, we shall better discover both the truth and meaning of what is here advanced. While certain causes operate, food will augment, and mankind will increase in proportion; when these causes cease, procreation will not augment numbers; then the general proposition will take place; numbers and food will remain the same, and balance one another. This I imagine to be so in fact; and I hope to shew that it is rational also. Let me now put an end to this chapter, by drawing some conclusions from what has been laid down, in order to enlarge our ideas, and to enable us to extend our plan.
First, One consequence of a fruitful soil, possessed by a free people, given to agriculture, and inclined to industry, will be the production of a superfluous quantity of food, over and above what is necessary to feed the farmers. Inhabitants will multiply; and, according to their increase, a certain number of the whole, proportional to such superfluity of nourishment produced, will apply themselves to industry and to the supplying of other wants.
Secondly, From this operation produced by industry, we find the people distributed into two classes. The first is that of the farmers who produce the subsistence, and who are necessarily employed in this branch of business; the other I shall call free hands; because their occupation being to procure themselves subsistence out of the superfluity of the farmers, and by a labour adapted to the wants of the society, may vary according to these wants, and these again according to the spirit of the times.
Thirdly, If, in the country we are treating of, both money and the luxurious arts be supposed to be unknown, then the superfluity of the farmers will be in proportion to the number of those whose labour will be found sufficient to provide for all the other necessities of the inhabitants; and, so soon as this is accomplished, the consumption and produce becoming equally balanced, the inhabitants will increase no more, or at least very precariously, unless their wants be multiplied.
If the country we were treating of in the former chapter be supposed of a considerable extent and fruitfulness, and if the inhabitants have turn for industry, in a short time luxury, and the use of money (or of something participating of the nature of money), will infallibly be introduced.
By LUXURY, I understand the consumption of any thing produced by the labour or ingenuity of man, which flatters our senses or taste of living, and which is neither necessary for our being well fed, well clothed, well defended against the injuries of the weather, or for securing us against every thing which can hurt us.
By MONEY, I understand any commodity, which purely in itself is of no material use to man for the purposes above-mentioned, but which acquires such an estimation from his opinion of it, as to become the universal measure of what is called value, and an adequate equivalent for any thing alienable.
Here a new scene opens. This money must be found in the hands of some of the inhabitants; naturally, of such as have had the wit to invent it, and the address to make their countrymen fond of it, by representing it as an equivalent value for food and necessaries; that is to say, the means of procuring, without work or toil, not only the labour of others, but food itself.
Here then is produced a new object of want. Every person becomes fond of having money; but how to get it is the question. The proprietors will not give it for nothing, and, by our former supposition, every one within the society was understood to be abundantly supplied with food and necessaries; the farmers, from their labouring the ground; the free hands, by the return of their own ingenuity, in furnishing necessaries. The proprietors therefore of this money have all their wants supplied, and still are possessors of this new kind of riches, which we now suppose to be coveted by all.
The natural consequence here will be, that those who have the money will cease to labour, and yet will consume; and they will not consume for nothing, for they will pay with money.
Here then is a number of inhabitants, who live and consume the produce of the earth without labouring; food will soon become scarce; demand for it will rise, and that will be paid with money, this is the best equivalent of all; many will run to the plough; the superfluity of the farmers will augment; the rich will call for superfluities; the free hands will supply them, and demand food in their turn. These will, the rich, who not be found a burden on the husbandman, as formerly hired of them their labour or service, must pay them with money, and this money in their hands will serve as an equivalent for the superfluity of nourishment produced by additional agriculture.
When once this imaginary wealth (money) becomes well introduced into a country, luxury will very naturally follow; and when money becomes the object of our wants, mankind become industrious, in turning their labour towards every object which may engage the rich to part with it; and thus the inhabitants of any country may increase in numbers, until the ground refuses farther nourishment. The consequences of this will make the subject of another chapter.
Before we proceed, something must be said, in order a little to restrain these general assertions.
We have supposed a very rapid progress of industry, and a very sudden augmentation of inhabitants, from the introduction of money. But it must be observed, that many circumstances have concurred with the money to produce this effect.
We have supposed a country capable of improvement, a laborious people, a taste for refinement and luxury in the rich, an ambition to become so, and an application to labour and ingenuity in the lower classes of men. According to the greater or less degree of force, or concurrence of these and like circumstances, will the country in question become more or less cultivated, and consequently peopled.
If the soil be vastly rich, situated in a warm climate, and naturally watered, the productions of the earth will be almost spontaneous: this will make the inhabitants lazy. Laziness is the greatest of all obstacles to labour and industry. Manufactures will never flourish here. The rich, with all their money, will not become luxurious with delicacy and refinement; for I do not mean by luxury the gratification of the animal appetites, nor the abuse of riches, but an elegance of taste and in living, which has for its object the labour and ingenuity of man; and as the ingenuity of workmen begets a taste in the rich, so the allurement of riches kindles an ambition, and encourages an application to works of ingenuity, in the poor.
Riches therefore will here be adored as a god, but not made subservient to the uses of man; and it is by the means of swift circulation only (as shall be observed in its proper place) that they become productive of the effects mentioned above.
When money does not circulate, it is the same thing as if it did not exist; and as the treasures found in countries where the inhabitants are lazy do not circulate, they are rather ornamental than useful.
It is not therefore in the most fruitful countries of the world, nor in those which are the best calculated for nourishing great multitudes, that we find the most inhabitants. It is in climates less favoured by nature, and where the soil produces to those only who labour, and in proportion to the industry of every one, where we may expect to find great multitudes; and even these multitudes will be found greater or less, in proportion as the turn of the inhabitants is directed to ingenuity and industry.
In such countries where industry is made to flourish, the free hands (of whom we have spoken above) will be employed in useful manufactures, which, being refined upon by the ingenious, will determine what is called the standard of taste; this taste will increase consumption, which again will multiply workmen, and these will encourage the production of food for their nourishment.
Let it therefore never be said, that there are too many manufacturers employed in a country; it is the same as if it were said, there are too few idle persons, too few beggars, and too many husbandmen.
We have more than once endeavoured to shew, that these manufacturers never can be fed but out of the superfluity of the farmers. It is a contradiction, I think, to say, that those who are fed upon the surplus of those who cultivate the soil are necessary for producing a sufficiency to themselves. For if even this surplus were to diminish, the manufacturers, not the labourers, would be the first to be extinguished for want of nourishment.
The importance of the distributive proportion of mankind into labourers and free hands appears so great, and has so intimate a connection with this subject, that it engages me to seek for an illustration of the principles I have been laying down, in an example drawn from facts, as they are found to stand in one of the greatest and most flourishing nations in Europe. But before I proceed farther in this part of my subject, I must examine the consequences of slavery with regard to the subject we are now upon. Relations here are so many and so various, that it is necessary to have sometimes recourse to transitions, of which I give notice to my reader, that he may not lose the connection.
Before I go on to follow the consequences of the above reasoning, I must stop to consider a difference of no small importance between ancient and modern times, which will serve to illustrate the nature of slavery, with regard to population and the employment of mankind.
We have endeavoured to lay down the principles which seem to influence this question, supposing all to be free. In this case, I imagine the human species will multiply pretty much in proportion to their industry; their industry will increase according to their wants, and these again will be diversified according to the spirit of the times.
From this I conclude, that the more free and simple the manners of any country are, caeteris paribus, the fewer inhabitants will be found in it. This is proved by experience every where. The Tartars, who freely wander up and down a country of vast extent, multiply but little; the savages in America, who live upon hunting, in a state of great independence; the inhabitants of several mountainous countries in Europe, where there are few manufactures, and where the inhabitants do not leave the country; in all such places mankind do not multiply. What is the reason of this? One would imagine, where there is a great extent of ground capable of producing food, that mankind should multiply until the soil refused to give more. I imagine the answer may be easily discovered from the principles above laid down.
Where mankind have few wants, the number of free hands necessary to supply them is very small, consequently very little surplus from the farmers is sufficient to maintain them. When therefore it happens, that any poor family in the class of free hands is very numerous, division there comes to be carried to its utmost extent, and the greatest part become quite idle, because there is no demand for their work. As long as they can be fed by the division of the emoluments arising from the labour of their parents, or by the charity of others, they live; when these resources fail, they become miserable. In so wretched a situation it is not easy to find bread. The farmers will not double their diligence from a charitable disposition. Those who have land will not allow those indigent people a liberty to raise grain in it for nothing; and although they should, the poor are not in a capacity to provide what is necessary for doing it. All other work is fully stocked, the wretched die, or extinguish without multiplying.
To make this more evident, let us suppose the wants of mankind, in any polite nation of Europe, which lives and flourishes in our days upon the produce of its own soil, reduced all at once to the simplicity of the ancient patriarchs, or even to that of the old Romans. Suppose all the hands now employed in the luxurious arts, and in every branch of modern manufactures, to become quite idle, and all foreign trade to be cut off, how could they be subsisted? What economy could be set on foot, able to preserve so many lives useful to the state? Yet it is plain by the supposition, that the farmers of the country are capable of maintaining them, since they actually do so. It would be absurd to propose to employ them in agriculture, since there are enough employed in this, to provide food for the whole.
If it be certain that such people would die for want without any resource; must it not follow that, unless their parents had found the means of maintaining them when children, and they themselves the means of afterwards subsisting by their industry in supplying wants, they could not have existed beyond their first infancy?
This seems to strike deep against the populousness of the old world, where we know that the wants of mankind, with regard to trades and manufactures, were so few.
But in those days the wants of mankind were of a different nature. At present, there is a demand for the ingenuity of man; then, there was a demand for his person and service. Now, provided there be a demand for man, whatever use he be put to, the species will multiply; for those who stand in need of them will always feed them, and, as long as food is to be found, numbers will increase.
In the present times food cannot, in general, be found, but by labour, and that cannot be found but to supply wants. Nobody will feed a free man, more than he will feed the wild birds or beasts of the field, unless he has occasion for the labour of the one or flesh of the other.
In the old world the principles were the same, but the spirit of nations was different. Princes wanted to have numerous armies. Free states sought for power in the number of their citizens. The wants of Mankind being few, and a simplicity of manners established, to have encouraged industry, excepting in agriculture, which in all ages has been the foundation of population, would have been an inconsistency. To make mankind labour beyond their wants, to make one part of a state work to maintain the other gratuitously, could only be brought about by slavery, and slavery was therefore introduced universally. Slavery was then as necessary towards multiplication, as it would now be destructive of it. The reason is plain. If mankind be not forced to labour, they will labour for themselves only; and if they have few wants, there will be little labour. But when states come to be formed, and have occasion for idle hands to defend them against the violence of their enemies, food at any rate must be procured for those who do not labour; and, as by the supposition, the wants of the labourers are small, a method must be found to increase their labour above the proportion of their wants.
For this purpose slavery was calculated: it had two excellent effects with respect to population. The first, that, in unpolished nations, living upon the spontaneous fruits of the earth, and almost continually in war, lives were preserved for the sake of making slaves of the captives. These, sold to private people, or different states, were sure of being fed; whereas, remaining in their own country, they occupied a place only, which, by the force of the generative faculty, as has been observed, was soon to be filled up by propagation: for it must not be forgot, that when numbers are swept off, by any sudden calamity, which does not proportionally diminish subsistence, a new multiplication immediately takes place. Thus we perceive the hurt done by plagues, by war, and by other devastations, either among men, or cattle, repaired in a few years, even in those countries where the standard number of both is seldom found to increase. What immense quantities of cattle are yearly slaughtered ! Does any body imagine that if all were allowed to live, numbers would increase in proportion? The same is true of men.
The second advantage of slavery was, that in countries where a good police prevailed, and where the people had fewer wants by far than are felt in modern times, the slaves were forced to labour the soil which fed both them and the idle freemen, as was the case in Sparta; or they filled all the servile places which freemen fill now, and they were likewise employed, as in Greece and in Rome, in supplying with manufactures those whose service was necessary for the state.
Here then was a violent method making mankind laborious in raising food; and provided this be accomplished, (by any means whatever,) numbers will increase.
Trade, industry, and manufactures, tend only to multiply the numbers of men, by encouraging agriculture. If it be therefore supposed, that two states are equally extended, equally fruitful, and equally cultivated, and the produce consumed at home, I believe they will be found equally peopled. But suppose the one laboured by free men, the other by slaves, what difference will be found in making war? In the first, the free hands must, by their industry and labour, purchase their food, and a day lost is in a manner a day of fasting: in the last, the slaves produce the food, they are first fed, and the rest costs nothing to the body of free men, who may be all employed in war, without the smallest prejudice to industry.
From these principles it appears, that slavery in former times had the same effect in peopling the world that trade and industry have now. Men were then forced to labour because they were slaves to others; men are now forced to labour because they are slaves to their own wants.
I do not, however, pretend, that in fact slavery in ancient times did every where contribute to population, any more than I can affirm that the spirit of industry in the Dutch is common to all free nations in our days. All that is necessary for my purpose is, to set forth the two principles, and to shew the natural effects of the one and the other, with respect to the multiplication of mankind and advancement of agriculture, the principal objects of our attention throughout this book.
I shall at present enlarge no farther upon this matter, but return to where I left off in the preceding chapter, and take up the farther examination of the fundamental distribution of inhabitants into labourers and free hands.
I have proposed this question, not with an intention to answer it fully, but to point out, how, with the proper lights given, it may be answered.
As I write under circumstances not the most favourable for having recourse to books, I must employ those I have. The article Political Arithmetic, of Mr Chambers's Cyclopedia, furnishes me with some extracts from Sir William Petty, and Dr Davenant, which I here intend to employ, towards pointing out a solution of the question proposed. These authors consider the state of England as it appeared to them, and what they say is conclusive with respect to that state only.
Sir William Petty supposes the inhabitants of England to be six millions, the value of grain yearly consumed by them ten millions sterling, the bushel of wheat reckoned at 5s., and that of barley at 2s. 6d. If we cast the two together, and reckon upon an average, this will make the quarter, or eight bushels of grain, worth 1l. 10s.: but in regard, the barley cannot amount to one half of all the grain consumed, especially as there is a good quantity of rye made use of, which is worth more than the barley, though less than the wheat; let us suppose the grain worth 32s. per quarter, at a medium; then ten millions sterling will purchase six millions of quarters of grain, or thereabouts; which, used for nourishment, in bread and beer, gives the mean quantity of one quarter, or 512 pounds troy of grain for every inhabitant, including the nourishment of his proportional part of animals; supposing that Sir William attended to this circumstance, for it is not mentioned by Chambers. And I must observe, by-the-bye, that this computation may hold good as to England, where people eat so little bread; but would not answer in France, nor in almost any other country I have seen.
Dr Davenant, correcting Sir William's calculation, makes the inhabitants 5,545,000. These, according to Sir William's prices and proportions, would consume to the amount of 8,872,000l. sterling. but the Dr carries it, with reason, a little higher, and states it at 9,075,000l. sterling; the difference, however, is inconsiderable. From this he concludes the gross produce of the corn-fields to be about 9,075,000l. sterling. I make no criticism upon this computation.
Next, as to the value of other lands; I find Sir William reckons the gross produce of them in butter, cheese, milk, wool, horses yearly bred, flesh for food, tallow, hides, hay, and timber, to amount to 12,000,000l. sterling: The amount therefore of the gross produce of all the lands in England must be equal to these two sums added together, that is, to 21,075,000l. sterling.
From these data, the Dr values the yearly rent of corn-lands at two million sterling, and those of pasture, &c. at seven millions; in all, nine millions.
From this it appears, that the land-rents of England are to the gross produce, as nine is to twenty-one, or thereabouts.
Let me now examine some other proportions.
The rents of the corn-lands are to the gross produce of them, as two is to nine; those of pasture, as seven to twelve.
Now it is very certain, that all rents are in a pretty just proportion to the gross produce, after deducting three principal articles.
First, The nourishment of the farmer, his family, and servants.
Secondly, The necessary expences of his family, for manufactures, and instruments for cultivating the ground.
Thirdly, His reasonable profits, according to the custom of every country.
Of these three articles, let us distinguish what part implies the direct consumption of the pure produce, from what does not.
Of the first sort are the nourishment of men and cattle, wool and flax for clothing, firing, and other smaller articles.
Of the second are all manufactures bought, servants' wages, the hire of labourers occasionally, and profits, either spent in luxury, (that is, superfluity,) lent, or laid up.
The three articles above mentioned (which we have distributed under two heads) being deducted from the gross produce, the remaining value shews the land-rent.
This being the case, I am next to examine the cause of the great disproportion between the rents of corn-lands, and those of pasture, when compared with the gross produce, in order to draw some conclusion, which may lead to the solution of the question here proposed.
This difference must proceed from the greater proportion of labouring and other inhabitants employed in consequence of tillage; which makes the expence of it far greater than that of pasture. And since, in the one and the other, every article of necessary expence or consumption ought naturally to be proportionally equal among those concerned in both, that is, proportional to the number of labouring inhabitants; it follows, that the proportion of people employed in agriculture, and upon the account of it, in different countries, is nearly in the ratio of the gross produce, to the land-rent; or, in other words, in the proportion of the consumption made by the farmers, and by those employed necessarily by them, to the net produce, which is the same thing.
Now as the consumption upon corn-farms is 7/9, and that upon pasture 5/12, the proportion of these two fractions must mark the ratio between the populousness of pasture-lands, and those in tillage; that is to say, tillage-lands in England were, at that time, peopled in proportion to pasture-lands, as 84 is to 45, or as 28 to 15.
This point being settled, I proceed to another: to wit, the application of this net produce or surplus of the quantity of food and necessaries remaining over and above the nourishment, consumption, and expence, of the inhabitants employed in agriculture; and which we have observed above to be equal to the land-rents of England, that is to say, to nine millions yearly.
Must not this of necessity be employed in the nourishment, and for the use of those whom we have called the free hands; who may be employed in manufactures, trades, or in any other way, according to the taste of the times?
Now the numbers of a people, I take to be very nearly in the proportion of the quantity of food they consume; especially when a society is taken thus, in such accumulative proportion, and when all are supposed to be under the same circumstances as to the plenty of the year.
The whole gross produce of England we have said to be 21,000,000 l. sterling, of which 9 millions have remained for those not employed in agriculture; the farmers, therefore, and their attendants, must annually consume 12 millions; consequently the last class is to the first as 12 is to 9. If, therefore, according to Dr Davenant, there be 5,545,000 people in that kingdom, there must be about 3,168,571 employed or dependent upon agriculture, and 2,376,429 free hands for every other occupation. But this proportion of farmers will be found far less, if we reflect, that we have reckoned for them the total amount of the three articles above mentioned, that is to say, the total consumption they make, as well in manufactures, profits upon their labour, &c. as for food and necessaries: whereas there has been nothing reckoned for the free hands, but the land-rent; consequently there should be added to the number of the latter as many as are employed in supplying with all sorts of manufactures the whole of the farmers of England, and all those who depend upon them; and this number must be taken from one and added to the other class. If this number be supposed to amount to four hundred thousand, it will do more than cast the balance upon the opposite side.
From these matters of fact (so far as they are so) we may conclude:
First, That the raising of the rents of lands shows the increase of industry, as it swells the fund of subsistence consumed by the industrious; that is, by those who buy it.
Secondly, That it may denote either an increase of inhabitants, or the depopulation of the land, in order to assemble the superfluous mouths in villages, towns, &c, where they may exercise their industry with greater convenience.
While the land-rents of Europe were very low, numbers of the inhabitants appeared to be employed in agriculture; but were really no more than idle consumers of the produce of it. This shall be further illustrated in the subsequent chapters.
Thirdly, The more a country is in tillage, the more it is inhabited, and the smaller is the proportion of free hands for all the services of the state. The more a country is in pasture, the less it is inhabited, but the greater is the proportion of free hands.
I do not pretend, as I have said above, that there is any calculation to be depended on in this chapter; I have only endeavoured to point out how a calculation might be made, when the true state of England comes to be known.
This question not being of a nature to enter into the chain of our reasoning, may be considered rather as incidental than essential; I have therefore treated it superficially and chiefly for the sake of the conclusions.
Our next inquiry will naturally be into the principles which determine the residence of inhabitants, in order to discover why, in all flourishing states, cities are now found to be every where on the growing hand.
Having pointed out the natural distribution of inhabitants into the two capital classes of which we have been treating, I am going to examine how far their employment must decide as to their place of residence.
First, When mankind is fed upon the spontaneous fruits of the earth, the distribution of their residence depends upon the division of the lands. If these are in common to all, then the inhabitants will be scattered abroad, or gathered together, according as the productions of the earth are equally distributed over the face of the country, or confined to some fruitful spots only.
Hence the Tartars wander with their flocks and feed upon them: hence the hunting Indians are scattered in small societies, through the woods, and live upon game: hence others, who feed upon the fruits of the earth, are collected in greater numbers upon the sides of rivers, and in watered valleys.
Where therefore the surface of the earth is not appropriated, there the place producing the food determines the place of residence of every one of the society, and there mankind may live in idleness, and remain free from every constraint.
Secondly, When the earth is not in common to those who live upon her spontaneous fruits, but is appropriated by a few, there either slavery or industry must be introduced among those who consume the surplus of the proprietors; because these will expect either service or work in return for their superfluity. In this case, the residence of the inhabitants will depend upon the circumstances we are going to consider; and the object of agriculture in countries where the surface of the earth is not broken up, being solely directed towards the gathering in of fruits, will determine the residence of those only who are necessary for that purpose: consequently it will follow, that in climates where the earth produces spontaneously, and in vast abundance, there may be found large cities; because the number of those who are necessary for gathering in the fruits is small in proportion to the quantity of them; whereas in other countries, where the earth's productions are scanty, and where the climate refuses those of the copious and luxuriant kind, there will hardly be found any considerable town, because the number of those who are necessary for collecting the subsistence, bears a great proportion to the fruits themselves. I do not say, that in the first case there must be large towns, or that in the other there can be none; but I say that, in the first case, those who may be gathered into towns, bear a great proportion to the whole society; and that, in the second, they bear a small one.
I think I have found this principle confirmed by experience. When I compare the bulk and populousness of the cities of Lombardy, and still more, those of the watered provinces of Spain, with the inhabitants of the territory which maintains them, I find the proportion of the first vastly greater than in those of France and England; and still more again in these two last mentioned kingdoms, than in the more northern countries and provinces, where the earth's productions bear a less proportion to the labour bestowed in producing them. Now, although I allow that neither the one or the other is fed by spontaneous productions, yet still it may be inferred, that the more the climate contributes to favour the labour of man, the more the productions participate of the spontaneous nature.
Again, in countries where labour is required for feeding a society, the smaller the proportion of labourers, the greater will be that of the free hands. Fruits which are produced by annual labour, and still more, such as are the consequence of a thorough cultivation, (such as luxuriant pasture,) give returns far superior to the nourishment of those employed in the cultivation; consequently, all the surplus is consumed by people not employed in agriculture; consequently, by those who are not bound to reside upon the spot which feeds them, and who may choose the habitation best adapted for the exercise of that industry which is most proper to produce an equivalent to the farmers for their superfluities.
From this it is plain that the residence of the farmers only is essentially attached to the place of cultivation. Hence, farms in some provinces, villages in others.
I now proceed to the other class of inhabitants; the free hands who live upon the surplus of the farmers.
These I must subdivide into two conditions. The first, those to whom this surplus directly belongs, or who, with a revenue in money already acquired, can purchase it. The second, those who purchase it with their daily labour or personal service.
Those of the first condition may live where they please; those of the second, must live where they can. The residence of the consumers determines, in many cases, that of the suppliers. In proportion, therefore, as those who live where they please choose to live together, in this proportion must the others follow them. And in proportion as the state thinks fit to place the administration of government in one place, in the same proportion must the administrators, and every one depending upon them, be gathered together. These I take to be principles which influence the swelling of the bulk of capitals, and smaller cities.
When the residence of the consumer does not determine that of him who supplies it, other considerations are allowed to operate. This is the case in what may properly be called manufactures, distinguished from trades, whether they be for home-consumption, or foreign exportation. These considerations are,
First, Relative to the place and situation of the establishment; which gives a preference to the sides of rivers and rivulets, when machines wrought by water are necessary; to the proximity of forests and collieries, when fire is employed; to the place which produces the substance of the manufacture; as in mines, collieries, brick-works, &c.
Secondly, Relative to the convenience of transportation, as upon navigable rivers, or by great roads.
Thirdly, Relative to the cheapness of living, consequently not (frequently) in great cities, except for their own consumption. But it must be observed, that this last consideration can hardly ever be permanent: for the very establishment being the means of raising prices, the advantage must diminish in proportion as the undertaking comes to succeed. The best rule therefore is, to set down such manufactures upon the banks of navigable rivers, where all necessary provisions may be brought from a distance at a small cost. This advantage is permanent, the others are not; and may prove in time hurtful, by a change in those very circumstances which decided as to the choice of the situation. From the establishment of manufactures we see hamlets swell into villages, and villages into towns.
Sea-ports owe their establishment to foreign trade. From one or other of these and similar principles, are mankind gathered into hamlets, villages, towns, and cities.
I am next going to examine the consequences resulting to the state, to the citizens, and to the landed interest, from this kind of separation, as I may call it, between the parent earth and her laborious children, which naturally takes place every where in proportion to the progress of industry, luxury, and the swift circulation of money.
As to the state, it is, I think, very plain, that, without such a distribution of inhabitants, it would be impossible to levy taxes. For as long as the earth nourishes directly those who are upon her surface, as long as she delivers her fruits into the very hand of him who consumes them, there is no alienation, no occasion for money, consequently no possibility of establishing an extensive taxation, as shall in its place be fully explained. From this principle is, I imagine, to be deduced the reason, why we find taxation so little known under the feudal form of government.
The personal service of the vassals, with their cattle and servants upon all occasions, made the power and wealth of the lords, and their rents were mostly paid in kind. They lived upon their lands, were commonly jealous of one another, and had constant disputes. This was a very good reason to keep them from coming together. Towns were situated round their habitations. These were mostly composed of the few tradesmen and manufacturers that were in the country. The lord's judge, his fiscal, and his court of record, added to these numbers; lawsuits, and the lord's attendance, brought the vassals frequently together; this gave encouragement to houses of entertainment; and this I take to be the picture of the greatest part of small towns, if we ascend three or four hundred years from the present time.
Cities were the residence of bishops. These lords were very independent of the civil government, and had at the same time the principal direction in it. They procured privileges to their cities, and these communities formed themselves by degrees into small republics: taxes here have ever been familiar. The feudal lords seldom appeared here, and the inferior classes of the people enjoyed liberty and ease in these cities only.
In some countries of Europe, as in Germany, the principal citizens, in time, became patricians. In France certain offices of public trust sometimes procured nobility to those who bore them, and always consideration. The representatives of the citizens were even admitted into the states, and formed the tiers êtat. Elsewhere they received casual marks of distinction from the sovereign, as the Lord Mayor of London does to this day usually receive knighthood. In short, the only dawning of public liberty to be met with during the feudal government, was in the cities; no wonder then if they increased.
Upon the discovery of America and the East-Indies, industry, trade, and luxury, were soon introduced in the kingdoms of Spain, France, and England: the grandeur and power of the Hanstowns had already pointed out to sovereigns the importance of these objects.
The courts of princes then became magnificent; the feudal lords insensibly began to frequent them with more assiduity than formerly. The splendor of the prince soon eclipsed those rays which shone around them upon their own lands. They now no more appeared to one another as objects of jealousy, but of emulation. They became acquainted, began to relish a court life, and every one proposed to have a house in the capital. A change of habitation made a change of circumstances, both as to city and country. As to the city; so far as inhabitants were increased, by the addition of the great lords, and of those who followed their example, so far demand increased for every sort of provision and labour; and this quickly drew more inhabitants together. Every one vied with another in magnificence of palaces, clothes, equipages. Modes changed and by turns enlivened the different branches of ingenuity. Whence came so great a number of inhabitants all of a sudden? He who would have cast his eyes on the deserted residences of the nobility, would quickly have discovered the source; he would there have seen the old people weeping and wailing, and nothing heard among them but complaints of desolation: the youth were retired to the city: there was no change as to them.
This is no doubt a plain consequence of a sudden revolution, which never can happen without being attended with great inconveniences. Many of the numerous attendants of the nobility who uselessly filled every house and habitation belonging to the great man, were starving for want. He was at court, and calling aloud for money, a thing he was seldom accustomed to have occasion for, except to lock up in his chest. In order to procure this money, he found it expedient to convert a portion of the personal services of his vassals into cash: by this he lost his authority. He then looked out for a farmer (not a husbandman) for an estate which he formerly consumed in its fruits. This undertaker, as I may call him, began by dismissing idle mouths. Still greater complaints ensued. At last, the money spent in the city began to flow into the hands of the industrious: this raised an emulation and the children of the miserable, who had felt the sad effects of the revolution, but who could not foresee the consequences, began to profit by it. They became easy and independent in the great city, by furnishing to the extravagance of those under whose dominion they were born.
This progression is perhaps too minutely traced to be exact; I therefore stop, to consider the situation of affairs at that period, when all the inconveniences of the sudden revolution had ceased, and when things were come to the state in which we now find them. Capitals swelled to a great extent; Paris and London appearing monstrous to some, as being a load upon the rest of the country. This must be examined.
We agree, I suppose, that the inhabitants of cities are not employed in agriculture, and we may agree that they are fed by it: we have examined into the causes of the increase of cities, and we have seen the fund provided for their subsistence, to wit, the surplus of fruits produced by husbandmen.
What are then the advantages resulting to the citizens from this great increase of their city? I cannot find any great benefit resulting to each individual from this circumstance; but I conclude, that the same advantages which many find in particular, must be common to great numbers, consequently great numbers are gathered together.
The principal objections against great cities are, that health there is not so good, that marriages are not so frequent as in the country, that debauchery prevails, and that abuses are multiplied.
To this I answer, that these objections lie equally against most cities, and are not peculiar to those complained of for their bulk; and that the evils proceed more from the spirit of the inhabitants, than from the size of the capital.
It is further urged, that the number of deaths exceeds the number of births in great cities; consequently smaller towns, and even the country, is stripped of its inhabitants, in order to recruit these capitals.
Here I first deny, that in all capitals the number of deaths exceeds the number of births; for in Paris it is otherwise. But supposing the assertion to be true, what conclusion can be drawn from it, except that many people who are born in the country die in town. That the country should furnish cities with inhabitants is no evil. What occasion has the country for supernumerary hands? If it has enough for the supply of its own wants, and of the demands of cities, has it not enough? Had it more, the supernumeraries would either consume without working, or, if added to the class of labourers, instead of being added to the number of free hands, would overturn the balance between the two classes; grain would become too plentiful, and that would cast a general discouragement upon agriculture: whereas, by going to cities, they acquire money, and therewith purchase the grain they would have consumed, had they remained in the country; and this money, which their additional labour in cities will force into circulation, would otherwise have remained locked up, or at least would not have gone into the country, but in consequence of the desertion of the supernumeraries. The proper and only right encouragement for agriculture, is a moderate and gradual increase of demand for the productions of the earth: this works a natural and beneficial increase of inhabitants; and this demand must come from cities, for the husbandmen never have occasion to demand; it is they who offer to sale.
The high prices of most things in large cities is a benefit surely, not a loss to the country. But I must observe, that the great expence of living in capitals does not affect the lower classes, nor the moderate and frugal, in any proportion to what it does the rich. If you live on beef, mutton, bread, and beer, you may live as cheap in London and in Paris as in most cities I know. These articles abound, and though the demand be great, the provision made for supplying it is in proportion. But when you come to fish, fowl, and game; delicacies of every kind brought from far, by the post, by ships, and by messengers; when you have fine equipages, large houses, expensive servants, and abundance of waste in every article, without one grain of economy in any, it is no wonder that money should run away so fast. I do not, from what has been said, conclude, that there is any evident advantage in having so overgrown a capital as London in such a kingdom as England; but that I do not find great force in the objections I have met with against it. That there may be others which I do not know, I will not deny, because I am not sufficiently acquainted with that kingdom to be a competent judge of the matter.
Let me now conclude this chapter, by mentioning in what respects I think cities an advantage, in general, to a country; and, as I go along, I shall point out wherein they prove a disadvantage, in particular, to some parts of it.
The general advantages of them are:
First, To remove the necessary load upon the land; those idle people, who eat up a part of the produce of labour without contributing to it.
Secondly, The opportunity of levying taxes, and of making these affect the rich, in proportion to the consumption they make, without hurting industry or exportation.
Thirdly, The advantages resulting to the landed interest are no less considerable. This is proved by universal experience; for we see every where, that the moment any city, town, or village, begins to encrease, by the establishment of trade or manufactures, the lands round about immediately rise in their value. The reason of this seems easily deduced from the above principles.
When a farmer has got his economy under right regulations, not one supernumerary, nor useless mouth, but abundance of hands for every kind of labour, which is generally the case near towns and cities, the proximity of them discharges him of every superfluity. His cattle consume the exact quantity of grain and of forage necessary; what remains is money, a superfluous egg is money; a superfluous day of a cart, of a horse, a superfluous hour of a servant, is all money to the farmer. There is a constant demand for every thing he can do or furnish. To make this the more sensibly perceived, remove into a province, far from a town, and compare situations. There you find abundance of things superfluous, which cannot be turned into money, which therefore are consumed without much necessity, and with little profit. It is good to have an estate there, when you want to live upon it; it is better to have one near the great town, when you do not.
It may be alleged, that the disadvantages felt by the distant farmer and proprietor, when they compare situations with those residing near the town, proceed from the town: this must be examined.
If the town consume the produce of this distant farm, it must consume it in competition with every place at a smaller distance; consequently this competition must do more good than harm to the distant farm. If the city consume none of the produce, wherein does it affect it? It may be answered, that, by entering into competition with the distant farmer for the labouring inhabitants, these desert agriculture, in favour of a more lucrative occupation, to be found in the city. Scarcity of hands in the country raises the price of labour on one hand, while it diminishes the price of subsistence on the other; consequently the farmer suffers a double disadvantage. Of this there can be no doubt; but as these revolutions cannot by their nature be sudden, it becomes the duty of the statesman, whom I suppose constantly awake, directly to set on foot some branch of industry in every such distant part of the country; and as prices of subsistence will diminish for a while, for the reasons above-mentioned, this will prove an encouragement to the establishment; this again will accelerate propagation, as it will prove an outlet for children, and, in a short time, the farmer will find himself in a better situation than ever. But even without this assistance from industry the state, a few years will set all to rights, provided the spirit of is kept up: for cities, by swelling, extend their demand to the most distant corners of a country; the inhabitants who desert do not cease to consume, and thereby they repair the hurt they do by their desertion. I appeal to experience for the truth of this. Do we not perceive demand extending every year farther and farther from great capitals? I know places in France which, twenty years ago, never knew what it was to send even a delicacy to Paris, but by the post, and which now send thither every week loaded waggons, with many thousand weight of provisions, so much that I may almost say, that a fatted chicken in the most distant province of that country can be sold with great profit in the Paris market during all the winter season; and cattle carry thither their own flesh cheaper than any waggon can. What distant farm then can complain of the greatness of that noble city? There is however a case, where a distant part of a country may suffer in every respect, to wit, when the revolution is sudden; as when a rich man, who used to spend his income in his province, for the encouragement of industry, goes to Paris or London, and stays away for a year or two, without minding the interest of the estate he abandons. No doubt this must affect his province in proportion; but in every revolution which comes on gradually by the desertion of such only as lived by their industry, new mouths are born and supply the old. The only question is about employing them well: while you have superfluous food and good economy, a country will always reap the same benefit from her natural advantages.
Fourthly, Another advantage of cities is, the necessity arising from thence of having great roads, and these again prove a considerable encouragement to agriculture.
The miserable condition of roads over all Europe almost, till within these hundred years, is a plain proof of the scanty condition of the cities, and of the small encouragement formerly given towards extending the improvement of the soil.
Let any one examine the situation of the landed interest before the making of great roads in several provinces in France, and compare it with what it is at present. If this be found a difficult inquiry, let him compare the appearance of young gentlemen of middling fortune, as he finds them at Paris, or in their regiment, with that of their fathers, who live in their province in the old way, and he will have a very good opportunity of perceiving the progress of ease and refinement in this class, which has proceeded from no other cause than the improvement of the soil. People complain that prices are risen; of this there is no doubt with regard to many articles. Is not this quite consistent with our principles? It is not because there is now a larger mass of money in the kingdom, though I allow this to be true, and also that this circumstance may have contributed to raise prices; but the direct principle which has influenced them, and which will always regulate their rise and fall, is the increase of demand. Now the great roads in a manner carry the goods to market; they seem to shorten distances, they augment the number of carriages of all sorts, they remove the inconveniences above-mentioned resulting from the distance of the city. The more distant parts of the country come to market, in competition with the farmers in the neighbourhood of the cities. This competition might make the rents of lands lying round such cities as were the first to encourage industry, sink in their value. But the hurt in this respect done to the proprietors of these lands would soon be repaired. The cities would increase in bulk, demand would increase also, and prices would rise a-new. Every thing which employs inhabitants usefully promotes consumption; and this again is an advantage to the state, as it draws money from the treasures of the rich into the hands of the industrious. The easy transportation of fruits produces this effect: the distant farmer can employ his idle hours in providing, and the idle days of his servants and cattle in sending things to market, from farms which formerly never knew what it was to sell such productions.
I shall carry these speculations no farther, but conclude by observing, that the making of roads and navigable canals must advance population, as they contribute to the advancement of agriculture.
Having deduced the effects of modern policy, in assembling so large a proportion of inhabitants into cities, it is proper to point the principles which should direct the statesman to the proper means of providing, supporting, and employing them. Without this they neither can live nor multiply. Their parent, Earth, has in a manner banished them from her bosom; they have her no more to suckle them in idleness; industry has gathered them together, labour must support them, and this must produce a surplus for bringing up children. If this resource should fail, misery will ensue: the depopulation of the cities will be followed by the ruin of the lands, and all will go to wreck together. We have already laid down the principles which appear the most natural to engage mankind to labour, supposing all to be free and we have observed how slavery, in former times, might work the same effect, as to peopling the world, that trade and industry do now; men were then forced to labour because they were slaves to others, men are forced to labour now because they are slaves to their own wants: provided man be made to labour, and make the earth produce abundantly, and provided that either authority, industry, or charity, can make the produce circulate for the nourishment of the free hands, the principle of a great population is brought to a full activity.
I shall now suppose these principles to be well understood. Wants promote industry, industry gives food, food increases numbers: the next question is, how numbers are to be well employed?
It is a general maxim in the mouth of every body; increase the inhabitants of the state: the strength and power of a state is in proportion to the number of its inhabitants.
I am not fond of condemning opinions; but I am very much for limiting general propositions. I have hardly ever escaped being led into error by every one I have laid down. Nothing is so systematical, nothing so pretty in a treatise as general maxims; they facilitate the distribution of our ideas, and I have never been able to dash them out but with a certain regret.
As I often recur to private economics for clearing up my ideas it be a general rule, that concerning the political, I have asked myself, if it be a general rule, that, the master of a family should increase the mouths of it, to the full proportion of all he can feed? Now it is my opinion, that in a small family well composed, and where every one is properly employed, both master and servants are much happier than in others vastly more numerous, where the same order and regularity is not kept up; and that a small number of well disciplined soldiers is more formidable, and really stronger, than the numerous populace of a large city.
The use of inhabitants is to be mutually serviceable one to another in particular, and to the society in general. Consequently, every state should, in good policy, first apply itself to make the inhabitants they have answer this purpose, before they carry their views towards augmenting their numbers. I think it is absurd to wish for new inhabitants, without first knowing how to employ the old; and it is ignorance of the real effects of population, to imagine that an increase of numbers will infallibly remove inconveniences which proceed from the abuses of those already existing.
I shall then begin by supposing that inhabitants require rather to be well employed than increased in numbers.
If I know the number of inhabitants, I may know the proportion which die every year: consequently, I know how many pairs of breeders are necessary to keep up the stock. If I want to raise twenty bushels of grain only, I do not sow my lands with twenty bushels. If I have as many children born as there are people who die, I have enough by the supposition. But these children must be raised proportionally, from the different classes of inhabitants, which I here consider as distributed into two conditions; those who do not labour, and those who do. May I not venture to say, that there is no absolute necessity that those of the first class should multiply in order to recruit the second. If then the second class is kept up to its proper standard by its own multiplication, and if their work be all consumed, will it not be found that the diminution of those mouths who do not work, and which appear useful in consideration only of the consumption they make, is no real loss to the nation? But to this it is objected, that if the number of the first class be diminished, the work of the second will lie upon hand.
Here I look for my answer from what daily experience points out. Two persons (A) and (B) have each 1000 l. a year; (A) has many children, (B) has none: they both spend their income; (A) upon the necessaries of life for his family, and for the education of his children; for the supplying of which, those of the working class only are employed, for whoever does or gives any thing for money, I consider as a worker: (B) spends his income as a fashionable young gentleman: he has a fine chariot, abundance of footmen in laced liveries; in short, without examining into the particulars of his expence, I find the whole 1000 l. spent at the end of the year. Neither (A) or (B) do any work; or are any of (A's) children necessary as a supply to the working hands, by the supposition. Is it not true then, that (B) has consumed as much work or service, for these I consider as the same thing, as (A) with his family? Nay, I may still go farther, and affirm, that (B) has contributed as much, if not more, to population than (A). For if it he true, that he who gives food gives numbers, I say, that the expence of (B) has given food to the children of the industrious employed by him: consequently, instead of having directly contributed to the increase of the idle of the state, which is the case with (A), he has indirectly contributed to the multiplication of the industrious. What good then does the state reap from (A's) children, from his marriage, from his multiplication? Indeed, I see no harm although he had remained a batchelor: for those who produce idle consumers only, certainly add neither riches, strength, or ease to a state. And it is of such people alone that there is any question here.
From this I conclude, that there can be no determinate number of rich idle consumers necessary to employ a determinate number of industrious people, no more than of masters to employ a fixed number of menial servants. Do we not see a single man frequently attended by more servants than are necessary when he gets a wife and family? nay, it many times happens, that a young man, upon his marriage, diminishes the number of his domestics, in order to give bread to his children.
If riches be calculated, as I hope to prove, for the encouragement of industry; if circulation is to be accelerated by every method, in order to give bread to those who are disposed to work, or, in other words, who are disposed to become vigorous members of the commonwealth, by contributing with their strength, their ingenuity, or their talents, to supply her wants, to augment her riches, to promote and administer a good government at home, or to serve it abroad: then, I say, the too great multiplication of those who come under none of these classes, the idle consumers as I have called them, contribute directly to make the other part languish.
There is no governing a state in perfection, and consequently no executing the plan for a right distribution of the inhabitants, without exactly knowing their situation as to numbers, their employment, the gains upon every species of industry, the numbers produced from each class. These are the means of judging how far those of a particular trade or occupation are in a situation to bring up a family. To examine, on the other hand, the state of the higher classes who do not labour, the ease of their circumstances, and the use the state has for their service; this may appear superfluous; since those who do not work, must be supposed to have wherewithal to live; and consequently, not to stand in need of assistance. But this is not every where, nor always the case; and many excellent subjects are lost to a state, for want of a proper attention in the statesman to this object.
I have observed how necessary a thing it is to govern a people according to their spirit; now by governing I understand, protecting, cherishing, and supporting, as well as punishing, restraining, and exacting. If, therefore, there be found in any country, a very numerous nobility, who look upon trade and the inferior arts as unbecoming their birth; a good statesman must reflect upon the spirit of former times, and compare it with that of the present. He will then perceive, that these sentiments have been transmitted from father to son, and that six generations are not elapsed since, over all Europe, they were universally adopted: that, although the revolution we talked off in the 10th chapter has in effect rendered them less adapted to the spirit of the present times, they are however productive of excellent consequences; they serve as a bulwark to virtue, against the allurements of riches; and it is dangerous to force a set of men who form a considerable body in a state, from necessity, to trample under foot, what they have been persuaded from their infancy to be the test of a noble and generous mind.
About two hundred years ago, the nobility of several nations, (I mean, by this term, all people well born, whether adorned with particular marks of royal favour or not,) used to live upon the produce of their lands. In those days there was little luxury, little circulation; the lands fed numbers of useless mouths, in the modern acceptation of useless, consequently produced a very moderate income in money to the proprietors, who notwithstanding were the most considerable persons in the state. This class of inhabitants remaining inactive in the country, during the revolution above mentioned, have, in consequence of the introduction of industry, trade and luxury, insensibly had the balance of wealth, and consequently of consideration turned against them. Of this there is no doubt. This class however has retained the military spirit, the lofty sentiments; and notwithstanding their depression in point of fortune, are found calculated to shine the brightest, when set in a proper elevation. In times of peace, when trade flourishes, the lustre of those who wallow in public money, the weight and consideration of the wealthy merchant, and even the ease and affluence of the industrious tradesman, eclipse the poor nobility; they become an object of contempt to bad citizens, an object of compassion to the good; and political writers imagine they render them an important service, when they propose to receive them into the lower classes of the people. But when danger threatens from abroad, and when armies are brought into the field, compare the behaviour of those conducted by a warlike nobility, with those conducted by the sons of labour and industry; those who have glory, with those who have gain for their point of view. Let the state suffer only this nobility to languish without a proper encouragement, there is no fear but they will soon disappear; their lands will become possessed by people of a way of thinking more à-la-mode, and the army will quickly adopt new sentiments, more analogous to the spirit of a moneyed interest.
I find nothing more affecting to a good mind, than to see the distress of a poor nobility in both sexes. Some have proposed trade for this class. Why do you not trade? I answer, for the nobility; because, in order to trade, I must have money. This objection is unanswerable. Why then do you not apply to other branches of industry? If it is the state who is supposed to ask the question, I ask, in my turn, What advantage she can reap from their industry? What profit from their becoming shop-keepers, weavers, or taylors? Are not, or ought not all these employments to be provided with hands from their own multiplication? What advantage can she reap by the children of one class taking the bread out of the mouths of another?
If the sentiments in which the nobility have been educated, prove detrimental to the state, throw a discouragement upon them. If birth is to be no mark of distinction, let it not be distinguished by any particular privilege, which in appearance sets this class above the level of those with whom the state intends it should be incorporated. You do not make your valet-de-chambre get behind your coach, though upon an occasion it might be convenient, and though perhaps he had been your footman the day before; you would even turn him out of doors, did he not change his company with his rank.
If you cannot afford to have a nobility, let it die away: grant, as in England, the title of noble to one of a family only, and let all the rest be commoners; that is to say, distinguished by no personal privilege whatsoever from the lowest classes of the people. But if you want them to serve you as soldiers, and wish they should preserve those sentiments you approve of in a soldier, take care at least of their children. If these appear to you poor and ragged, while they are wandering up and down their father's lands, chasing a wretched hare or a partridge compare them, when in the troops, with those of your wealthy neighbours, if any such you have.
The establishment of an hôtel militaire shews that there are some people at least who lend an ear to such representations. I do not propose that a prince should divert into this channel those streams of wealth which flow from every part of the state, though nothing is more reasonable than for men to pay in order to protect their gains; but let a tax be imposed upon noble property, and let it be appropriated for the education of the generous youth from their earliest years. There the state will have all under her eye, they are her children, her subjects, and they ask no more than to be taken from the obscurity of their habitations, and rendered capable of being employed while young and vigorous. When they have done their task, the country which produced them will receive them back into her warm bosom; there they will produce others like themselves, and support the spirit and propagation of their own class, without becoming any charge upon others.
A statesman should make it his endeavour to employ as many of every class as possible, and when employment fails in the common run of affairs, to contrive new outlets for young people of every denomination. The old and idle are, in many particulars, lost beyond recovery.
The mutual relations likewise, through industry, between class and class, should be multiplied and encouraged to the utmost. Relations by marriage, I am apt to believe, prove here more hurtful than beneficial. That is to say, I would rather discourage the intermarriage of the persons of different classes; but I would encourage, as much as possible, all sorts of mutual dependences between them, in the way of their trades. The last tends to keep every one employed, according to the wants and spirit of his class; the first is productive in general of no good effect that I can perceive; which is reason sufficient for a state to give at least no encouragement to such marriages, and this is all the restraint proper to be imposed.
Such members of the society as remain unemployed, either from natural infirmities or misfortunes, and who thereby become a load upon others, are really a load upon the state. This is a disease which must be endured. There is no body, no thing, without diseases. A state should provide retreats of all sorts, for the different conditions of her decayed inhabitants: humanity, good policy, and christianity, require it. Thus much may be said in general upon the principles which direct the employment and distribution of inhabitants, which in every state must be different, according to circumstances relating to the extension, situation, and soil of the country, and above all, to the spirit of the people. I am next to offer some considerations with regard to the proper methods of augmenting numbers.
We have the happiness to live in an age where daily opportunities offer, of perceiving the difference between exercising an art according to the mechanical received practice, and according to the principles which study and refinement have introduced for bringing it to perfection. This will appear in the strongest light to one who compares the operation of building an ordinary house, with that of executing a great public work, where the most able architects are employed; the making a common parish road, with that of a military way, through mountains, forests, and marshes. In the first, every difficulty appears unsurmountable: in the second, the greatest obstacles are made to vanish. By comparing these things, we distinguish between the artist, who proceeds by the rules of the science, and the ordinary tradesman, who has no other resource than common practice, aided by his own ingenuity.
Every branch of science must be carried to perfection by a master in it, formed by the hand of nature, and improved by application and experience. The great genius of Mr de Colbert saw through the confusion and perplexity of the administration of the French finances; he invented resources for swelling the public treasure, which never would have been liable to so many inconveniences as are complained of, had the administration been conducted with as much disinterestedness, as it was set on foot with ability. The genius of Mr Law was original as to figures and paper credit. Sir Robert Walpole discovered new principles of taxation; he extended the plan of public credit, and reduced the application of it to a science. These were horn statesmen in the common acceptation of the word, they were creators of new ideas, they found out new principles for the government of men, and led them by their interest to concur in the execution of their plans. Men of a speculative disposition may broach hints, although the force of theory, destitute of practice, and unassisted by experiment, be not sufficient to carry them the length of forming a plan. A great genius, with power and authority, has occasion for no more than a hint to strike out the system, and to carry it, with success, into execution.
No problems of political economy seem more obscure than those which influence the multiplication of the human species, and which determine the distribution and employment of them, so as best to advance the prosperity of each particular society.
I have no where found these matters treated to my wish, nor have I ever been able to satisfy myself concerning them. There are many clouds which still cover the fruitful fields of this science; and until these be dissipated, the political eye cannot take in the whole landscape, nor judge of the deformities which appear in the many representations which our modern painters are daily giving of it.
I may here, without an imputation of vanity, put myself so far upon a level with the great Montesquieu, as to adopt the saying of Correggio, Io anche son pittore; I am also a dauber; for I frankly acknowledge my own incapacity to treat this subject with all the perspicuity it deserves: my frequent repetitions, and my often returning to it at different times, in order to clear up my ideas and those of my readers, shews plainly, that I am sensible of my own insufficiency. By setting it, however, in different lights, and viewing it as it were from different stations, perhaps both my reader and I may come at last to see a little clearer.
In a former chapter, I have endeavoured to lay down the principles which influence multiplication; but alas! they are all so general, that they can be considered only as the most remote. They may satisfy a slight speculation, but can be of little use in practice. I have principally insisted upon those which are found to operate at all times among societies where primitive simplicity prevails. Now this matter comes to be examined in a more complex light, as relative to the manners of modern mankind, which no statesman, however able, can change; where trade, industry, luxury, credit, taxes, and debts, are introduced. In these the most polite nations of Europe are involved. This is a chain of adamant, it hangs together by a cohesion, which the successive revolutions of three centuries have so cemented with the spirit of nations, that it appears to be indissoluble. It is not my business to examine how far the modern system is to be preferred to the ancient; my point of view is, to investigate how a statesman may turn the circumstances which have produced this new plan of economy to the best advantage for mankind, leaving the reformation of such a plan to time and to events, of which I am not the master. Schemes for recalling ancient simplicity and for making mankind honest and virtuous, are beautiful speculations: I admire them as much as any body, but not enough to believe them practicable in our degenerate age.
If therefore the principles I here lay down appear contradictory to so amiable a system of policy, let no man thence conclude any thing to my disadvantage upon the account of my particular opinion concerning it, which is a matter of no importance whatsoever. My object is to examine the consequences of what we feel and see daily passing, and to point out how far the bad may be avoided, and the good turned to the best advantage.
The loss of ancient simplicity, and the introduction of this complicated scheme of living, has rendered the mechanism of government infinitely more difficult, and almost every disorder in the political body affects multiplication. Depopulation is as certain a mark of political diseases, as wasting is of those of the human body. The increase of numbers in a state shews youth and vigour: when numbers do not diminish, we have an idea of manhood, and of age when they decline.
The importance of the subject therefore requires me to bring it once more upon the carpet, in order to inquire into the proper methods of restoring and preserving youth, and of diffusing vigour into every articulation, into every vein, into every nerve, as I may say, of a modern society.
In the republic of Lycurgus an unmarried man met with no respect; because no reason but debauchery could prevent his marrying. Marriage was no load in a state where all were fed and taken care of at the public charge. A Spartan who did not marry, was considered as one who refused to contribute towards recruiting of the army, merely to gratify a vicious habit.
The jus trium liberorum, and the other encouragements given by Augustus Caesar to engage the Romans to marry, were calculated chiefly for the nobility, and for the citizens only, but not at all for the inferior class (the slaves) bound to labour. The vice to be corrected, and that which the emperor had in his eye in those institutions, was the prodigal and dissolute life of rich men who lived in celibacy. This affected the Roman state, and deprived it of its principal force, the military power, the equites. Judge of the force of this class by the numbers of them destroyed at Cannae. In those days, the chief encouragement to multiplication was to be directed towards the higher classes: the lower classes of the people (by far the most numerous in all countries and in all ages) were easily recruited, by the importation of slaves, as they are now in the West Indies, where, consequently, the same principle must naturally operate, which fixed the attention of the wise emperor. The state of affairs in Europe, and in England particularly, is changed entirely, by the establishment of universal liberty. Our lowest classes are absolutely free; they belong to themselves, and must bring up their own children, else the state becomes depopulated. There is no resource to us from importation, whether by ships, or acts of parliament for naturalization. We shall always have a numerous and free common people, and shall constantly have the same inconveniences to struggle with, as long as the lowest classes remain in such depression as not to be able to support their own numbers. Here then lies the difficulty. In order to have a flourishing state, which Sir William Temple beautifully compared to a pyramid, we must form a large and solid basis of the lowest classes of mankind. As the classes mount in wealth, the pyramid draws narrower until it terminate in a point, (as in monarchy,) or in a small square, as in the aristocratical and mixed governments. This lowest class therefore must be kept up, and, as we have said, by its own multiplication. But where every one lives by his own industry, a competition comes in, and he who works cheapest gains the preference. How can a married man, who has children to maintain, dispute this preference with one who is single? The unmarried therefore force the others to starve; and the basis of the pyramid is contracted. Let this short sketch of a most important part of our subject suffice at present; it shall be taken up and examined at more length, in the chapter concerning physical necessaries, or natural wants.
From this results the principal cause of decay in modern states: it results from liberty, and is inseparably connected with it.
Several modern writers upon this subject, recommend marriage, in the strongest manner, to all classes of inhabitants; yet a parish priest might, properly enough, be warranted not to join a couple unless they could make it appear that their children were not likely to become a burden to the parish. Could any fault be found, reasonably, with such a regulation? Those who are gratuitously fed by others are a load upon the state, and no acquisition, certainly, so long as they continue so. Nothing is so easy as to marry; nothing so natural, especially among the lower sort. But as in order to reap, it is not sufficient to plow and to sow, so in order to bring up children, it is not sufficient to marry. A nest is necessary for every animal which produces a helpless brood: a house is the nest for children; but every man who can beget a child cannot build or rent a house.
These reflections lead me to make a distinction which I apprehend may be of use in clearing up our ideas concerning population. Let me therefore consider the generation of man in a political light, and it will present itself under two forms. The one as a real multiplication; the other as procreation only.
Children produced from parents who are able to maintain them, and bring them up to a way of getting bread for themselves, do really multiply and serve the state. Those born of parents whose subsistence is precarious, or which is proportioned to their own physical necessary only, have a precarious existence, and will undoubtedly begin their life by being beggars. Many such will perish for want of food, but many more for want of ease; their mendicity will be accompanied with that of their parents, and the whole will go to ruin; according to the admirable expression of the Marechal de Vauban, in his Dixime Royale. La mendicite, says he, est un mal qui tue bientot son homme. He had many examples of the truth of it before his eyes; whoever has not, must have seen little of the world.
When marriage is contracted without the requisites for multiplication, it produces a procreation, attended with the above mentioned inconveniences; and as by far the greater part of inhabitants are in the lower classes, it becomes the duty of a statesman to provide against such evils, if he intends, usefully to increase the number of his people.
Every plan proposed for this purpose, which does not proceed upon an exact recapitulation of the inhabitants of a country, parish by parish, will prove nothing more than an expedient for walking in the dark. Among such recapitulations or lists I would recommend, as an improvement upon those I have seen in the Marechal de Vauban's excellent performance above cited, and in the states of his Prussian Majesty, or elsewhere, to have one made out, classing all the inhabitants, not only by the trades they exercise, but by those of their fathers, with a view to distinguish those classes which multiply, from those which only procreate. I should be glad also to see bills of mortality made out for every class, principally to compare the births and deaths of the children in them.
Let me take an example. Suppose then, that I have before me a general recapitulation of all the inhabitants of a country, parish by parish, where they may appear distributed under the respective denominations of their fathers' employment. I shall immediately find a considerable number produced from the higher classes; from those who live upon an income already provided, and upon branches of industry which produce an easy and ample subsistence. These have no occasion for the assistance of the state in bringing up their children, and you may encourage marriage, or permit celibacy in such classes, in proportion to the use you find for their offspring when they are brought up. When I come to the lower classes, I examine, for example, that of shoemakers, where I find a certain number produced. This number I first compare with the number of shoemakers actually existing, and then with the number of marriages subsisting among them, (for I suppose recapitulations of every kind,) from which I discover the fertility of marriage, and the success of multiplication in this part. When the state of the question is examined, class by class, I can decide where marriage succeeds, and where it does not. I have said, that I imagine it an advantage that every class should support at least its own numbers; and when it does more, I should wish (were it possible) that the higher classes might be recruited from the lower, rather than the lower from the higher; the one seems a mark of prosperity, the other of decay: but I must confess that the first is by far the most difficult to be obtained.
According therefore to circumstances, and in consistence with these principles, I would encourage marriage by taking the children off the hands of their parents. Where marriage succeeds the worst, if it happens to be in a very low class, great encouragement should be given to it; perhaps the whole children should be taken care of. Certain trades may be left with the care of one child, others with two, and so progressively. But of this, more in another place. I beg it may not here be imagined that I propose, that the whole of the lower classes of people should marry and propagate, and that the state should feed all their offspring. My view extends no farther, than to be assured of having such a number of children yearly taken care of as shall answer the multiplication proposed, and that these be proportionally raised from each class, and from each part of the country, and produced from marriages protected by the state, distinguished from the others, which under a free government never can be prevented, but which must always be found exposed to the inconveniences of want and misery. To guard against such evils ought to be another object of public care. Hospitals for foundlings are an admirable institution; and colonies are an outlet for superfluous inhabitants. But I insensibly enter into a detail which exceeds my plan. To lay down a scheme, you must suppose a particular state to be perfectly known. This lies beyond my reach, and therefore I shall go no farther, but illustrate what I have said, by some observations and reflections which seem analogous to the subject.
I have not here proposed plans of multiplication inconsistent with the spirit of the nations with which I am a little acquainted; nor with the religion professed in Europe, for many reasons, obvious to any rational man. But principally, because, I believe, it will be found, that a sufficient abundance of children are born already; and that we have neither occasion for concubinage, or polygamy, to increase their numbers. But we want a right method of taking care of those we have, in order to produce a multiplication proportioned to the possibility of our providing nourishment and employment. I have therefore proposed, that a statesman, well informed of the situation of his people, the state of every class, the number of marriages found in each, should say, let a particular encouragement be given to so many marriages among the lower classes and let these be distributed in a certain proportion for every parish, city, borough, &c. in the country; let rules be laid down to direct a preference, in case of a competition, between different couples; and let the consequence of this approbation be, to relieve the parents of all children above what they can maintain, as has been said. I propose no new limitations upon marriage, because I am a friend to liberty, and because such limitations would shock the spirit of the times. I therefore would strongly recommend hospitals for foundlings over all the country; and still more strongly the frugal maintenance of children in such hospitals, and their being bred up early to fill and recruit the lowest classes of the people.
From what has been throw out in this chapter, let no one conclude, that such economical principles would lead to regulations much too minute to be consistent with a just spirit of manly freedom and self-government in the common affairs of life. The regulations I have been recommending, regard those only who cannot support their families without the assistance of the state. In vain do we look for self-government or manly freedom among such classes of inhabitants.
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 economy.
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 economy 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 economy 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 economy 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 economy 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, economy, 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.
In a former chapter I have examined this question, relatively to mankind fed by the hand of nature: I now come nearer home, and shall keep close to modern times, considering circumstances and effects which by daily experience we see and feel.
I have often said, that numbers are in proportion to the produce of the earth. I now say, that in most countries of Europe, the food produced in the country is nearly consumed by the inhabitants: and by nearly I understand, that the part exported bears a small proportion to the home-consumption. I do by no means establish this as an universal proposition; but I say it is true for the most part: and the intention of this chapter is to enable us to judge how far these limitations should extend. I allow, for example, that Holland, not producing food for its inhabitants, must draw it from some country which produces a superfluity, regularly. but let it be observed that Poland, Germany, Flanders, and England, with many other countries, contribute their contingents to supply the demand of the Dutch; and of several large trading towns which have small territories. This being the case, the quota furnished by each country, must be in a small proportion to the respective quantity growing in it. But these are general conclusions upon vague suppositions, which throw no light on the question. I shall therefore endeavour to apply our reasoning to facts, and then examine consequences.
There are few countries, I believe, in Europe more abounding in grain than England: I shall therefore keep that kingdom in my eye while I examine this matter. Nothing is more common than to hear that an abundant crop furnishes more than three years' subsistence: nay, I have found it advanced by an author of consideration, (Advantages and Disadvantages of France and Great Britain, &c. article Grain,) that a plentiful year produces five years' nourishment for the inhabitants. If this be a mistake, it may prove a very hurtful one in many respects. I am, on the contrary, apt to believe, that no annual produce of grain ever was so great in England as to supply its inhabitants fifteen months, in that abundance with which they feed themselves in a year of plenty. If this be the case, at what may we compute the surplus in ordinary good years? I believe it will be thought a very good year which produces full subsistence for fourteen months; and crops which much exceed this are, I believe, very rare. Here follow my reasons for differing so widely from the gentleman whom I have cited. If I am in the wrong, I shall have the most sensible pleasure in being set right; and nothing will be so easy to any one who has access to be better informed as to facts than I can pretend to be.
I consider all the yearly crop of grain in England as consumed at home, except what is exported; for I cannot admit that any considerable quantity is lost: that it may be abused, misapplied, drunk when it should be eat, I do not deny. These are questions which do not regard the present inquiry. Whether therefore it be consumed in bread, beer, spirits, or by animals, I reckon it consumed; and in a year when the greatest consumption is made at home, this I call the abundance with which the inhabitants feed themselves in years of plenty. Now I find in the performance above cited, a state of exportations for five years, from 1746 to 1750 inclusive, where the quantity exported amounts in all to 5,289,847 quarters of all sorts of grain. This is not one year's provision, according to Sir William Petty's calculation, of which we have made mention above. The bounties upon corn (continues the author above mentioned) have amounted in one year to 500,000l, sterling. He does not mention the year, and I am little able to dispute that matter with him. I suppose it to be true; and still farther, let it be understood that the whole exportation was made out of the produce of one crop. I do not find that this sum answers to the bounty upon 3,000,000 of quarters, which, according to Sir William Petty, make six months' provision. I calculate thus: The bounty upon wheat is 5s. a quarter, that upon rye 3s. 6d. that upon barley 2s. 6d. these are the species of grain commonly exported: cast the three premiums together, and divide by three, the bounty will come to 3s. 8d. at a medium; at which rate 500,000l. sterling will pay the bounty of 2,727,272 quarters of grain. An immense quantity to be exported! but a very inconsiderable part of a crop supposed capable to maintain England for five years. It may be answered, that the great abundance of a plentiful year is considerably diminished when a scanty crop happens to precede it, or to follow upon it. In the first case, it is sooner begun upon; in the last, it supplies the consumption in the year of scarcity, considerably. This I allow to be just; but as it is not uncommon to see a course of good years follow one another, the state of exportation at such times must certainly be the best, nay, the only method of judging of the real extent of superfluity.
On the other hand, I am apt to believe, that there never was a year of such scarcity as that the lands of England did not produce greatly above six months, subsistence, such as the people are used to take in years of scarcity. Were six months of the most slender subsistence to fail, I imagine all Europe together might perhaps be at a loss to supply a quantity sufficient to prevent the greatest desolation by famine.
As I have no access to look into records, I content myself with less authentic documents. I find then by the London news-papers, that, from the 9th of April to the 13th of August 1757, while great scarcity was felt in England, there were declared in the port of London no more than 71,728 quarters of wheat, of which 15,529 were not then arrived. So that the whole quantity there imported to relieve the scarcity, was 56,199 quarters. Not one month's provision for the inhabitants of that city, reckoning them at 800,000 souls! One who has access to look into the registers of the trade in grain, might in a moment determine this question. (8)
Another reason which induces me to believe what the above arguments seem to prove, I draw from what I see at present passing in Germany; I mean the universal complaints of scarcity in those armies which are now assembled (1757). When we compare the numbers of an army, let it be of a hundred thousand men, and forty thousand horses; suppose the suit of it to be as many more, all strangers (for the others I reckon nothing extraordinary); what an inconsiderable number does this appear, in proportion to the inhabitants of this vast country of Germany! Yet let us observe the quantity of provisions of all sorts constantly coming down the Rhine, the Moselle, and many other rivers, collected from foreign provinces on all hands; the numbers of cattle coming from Hungary; the loads of corn from Poland; and all this in a year which has produced what at any other time would have been called an excellent crop. After these foreign supplies, must not one be astonished to find scarcity complained of in the provinces where the war is carried on, and high prices every where else. From such circumstances I must conclude, that people are generally very much deceived in their estimation of plenty and scarcity, when they talk of two or three years' subsistence for a country being found upon their lands at once. I may indeed be mistaken in my conclusions; but the more I have reflected upon this subject, the more I find myself confirmed in them, even from the familiar examples of the sudden rise of markets from very inconsiderable monopolies, and of their sudden fall by inconsiderable quantities imported. I could cite many examples of these vicissitudes, were it necessary, to prove what every one must observe.
I come now to resolve a difficulty which naturally results from this doctrine, and with which I shall close the chapter.
If it be true, that a crop in the most plentiful year is nearly consumed by the inhabitants, what becomes of them in years of scarcity? for nobody can deny, that there is a great difference, between one crop and another. To this I answer, first, That I believe there is also a very great deception, or common mistake, as to the difference between crops: a good year for one soil, is a bad one for another. But I shall not enlarge on this; because I have no sufficient proof to support my opinion. The principal reason upon which I found it, is, that it is far from being true, that the same number of people consume always the same quantity of food. In years of plenty every one is well fed; the price of the lowest industry can procure subsistence sufficient to bear a division; food is not so frugally managed; a quantity of animals are fatted for use; all sorts of cattle are kept in good heart; and people drink more largely, because all is cheap. A year of scarcity comes, the people are ill fed, and when the lower classes come to divide with their children, the portions are brought to be very small; there is great economy upon consumption, few animals are fatted for use, cattle look miserably, and a poor man cannot indulge himself with a cup of generous ale. Add to all these circumstances that in England the produce of pasture is very considerable, and it commonly happens, that a bad year for grain, which proceeds from rains, is for the same reason a good year for pasture; and in the estimation of a crop, every circumstance must be allowed to enter.
From what has been said I must conclude in general, that the best corn country in the world, provided slavery be not established, does not produce wherewithal fully to maintain, as in years of plenty, one third more than its own inhabitants; for if this should be the case, all the policy of man would not be able to prevent the multiplication of them, until they arose nearly up to the mean proportion of the produce in ordinary years, and it is only what exceeds this standard, and proceeds from unusual plenty, which can be exported. (9) Were plentiful years more common, mankind would be more numerous; were scarcity more frequent, numbers would be less. Numbers therefore must ever be, in my humble opinion, in the ratio of food, and multiplication will never stop until the balance comes to be nearly even.
In the titles of my chapters, I rather seek to communicate a rough idea of the subject than a correct one. In truth and in reason, there is no such thing as a country actually peopled to the full, if by this term numbers only are meant, without considering the proportion they bear to the consumption they make of the productions of their country. I have in a former chapter established a distinction between the physical and moral impossibility of increasing numbers. As to the physical impossibility, the case can hardly exist, because means of procuring subsistence from other countries, when the soil refuses to give more, seem, if not inexhaustible, at least very extensive. A country therefore fully peopled, that is, in a physical impossibility of increasing their numbers, is a chimerical and useless supposition. The subject here under consideration is, the situation of a people, who find it their interest to seek for subsistence from abroad. This may happen, and commonly does, long before the country itself is fully improved: it decides nothing as to the intrinsic fertility of the soil, and proves no more, than that the industry of the free hands has made a quicker progress in multiplying mouths, than that of the farmers in providing subsistence. To illustrate this idea, let me propose the following question: Is multiplication the efficient cause of agriculture, or is agriculture that of multiplication?
I answer, that multiplication is the efficient cause of agriculture, though I allow, that, in the infancy of society, the spontaneous fruits of the earth, which are free to all, are the efficient cause of a multiplication, which may rise to the exact proportion of them; as has been said above. This I am now to explain.
I have already distinguished the fruits of agriculture from the earth's spontaneous productions: I must farther take notice, that when I employ the term agriculture in treating of modern policy, I always consider it to be exercised as a trade, and producing a surplus, and not as the direct means of subsisting, where all is consumed by the husbandman, as has been fully explained above. We have said that it is the surplus produced from it, which proves a fund for multiplying inhabitants. Mow there must be a demand for this surplus. Every person who is hungry will make a demand, but every such demand will not be answered, and will consequently have no effect. The demander must have an equivalent to give: it is this equivalent which is the spring of the whole machine; for without this the farmer will not produce any surplus, and consequently he will dwindle down to the class of those who labour for actual subsistence. The poor, who produce children, make an ineffectual demand, and when they cannot increase the equivalent, they divide the food they have with the newcomers, and prove no encouragement to agriculture. By dividing, the whole become ill fed, miserable, and thus extinguish. Now because it is the effectual demand, as I may call it, which makes the husbandman labour for the sake of the equivalent, and because this demand increases, by the multiplication of those who have an equivalent to give, therefore I say that multiplication is the cause, and agriculture the effect. On the other hand, I think the spontaneous fruits of the earth, as in the supposition, may be considered as the cause of a certain limited multiplication; because in this case there is no equivalent demanded. The earth produces, whether her fruits be consumed or not: mankind are fed upon these gratuitously, and without labour, and the existence of the fruits is anterior to the production of those who are to consume them. Those who are first fed, draw their vigour from their food, and their multiplication from their vigour. Those who are produced, live freely upon their parent earth, and multiply until all the produce be consumed: then multiplication stops, as we have said; but establish agriculture, and multiplication will go on a-new. Consequently, my reader will say, agriculture is as much the cause of this new multiplication, as the spontaneous fruits were of the first. Here is a very natural conclusion, which seems directly to contradict what we have been endeavouring to prove; but the knot is easily untied. We have seen how the existence of agriculture depends upon the industry of man; and how this industry is the only means of establishing agriculture. Now, as this industry is chiefly promoted by the motive of providing for our children, the procreation of them must be considered as the first, or at least the most palpable political cause of setting mankind to work, and therefore may be considered as anterior to agriculture; whereas, on the other hand, the earth's spontaneous productions being in small quantity, and quite independent of man, appear, as it were, to be furnished by nature, in the same way as a small sum is given to a young man, in order to put him in a way of industry, and of making his fortune. The small sum sets him a-going, but it is his industry which makes the fortune. From this illustration it appears, that if the demand for food can be more readily supplied from abroad than from home, it will be the foreign subsistence, which will preserve numbers, produced from industry, not from domestic agriculture; and these numbers will, in their turn, produce an advancement of it at home, by inspiring a desire in the husbandman to acquire the equivalent which their countrymen give to strangers.
Such nations, whose statesmen have not the talent to engage the husbandmen to wish for the equivalent, which the labour of their fellow-citizens can produce, or, in other words, who cannot create reciprocal wants and dependences among their subjects, must stand in a moral incapacity of augmenting in numbers. Of such states we have no occasion to treat in this chapter, any more than of those who are supposed to be in the physical incapacity of multiplying: our point of view is, to examine the natural consequences resulting from a demand for subsistence extending itself to foreign countries. This I take to be the mother of industry at home, as well as of trade abroad; two objects which come to be treated of in the second book.
A country may be fully peopled (in the sense we understand this term) in several different ways. It may be fully stocked at one time with six millions, and at another may maintain perhaps eight or even nine millions with ease, without the soil's being better cultivated or improved. On the other hand, a country may maintain twenty millions with ease, and by being improved as to the soil, become over-stocked with fifteen millions. These two assertions come next to be explained.
The more frugal a people are, and the more they feed upon the plentiful productions of the earth, the more they may increase in numbers.
Were the people of England to come more into the use of living upon bread, and give over consuming so much animal food, inhabitants would certainly increase, and many rich grass fields would be thrown into tillage. Were the French to give over eating so much bread, the Dutch so much the fish, the Flemish so much garden stuff, and the Germans so much sourkraut, and all take to the English diet of pork, beef, and mutton, their respective numbers would soon decay, even although their lands were better improved than at present. These are but reflections, by-the-bye, which the reader may enlarge upon at pleasure. The point in hand is, to know what are the consequences of a country's being so peopled, no matter from what cause, that the soil, in its actual state of fertility, refuses to supply a sufficient quantity of such food as the inhabitants incline to live upon. These are different according to the diversity of spirit in the people.
If they be of an indolent disposition, directed in their political economy by established habits and old prejudices, which prevent innovations, although a change of circumstances may demand them, the effect will be to put a stop to population; which cannot augment without an increase of food on one hand, and of industry on the other, to make the first circulate. These must go hand in hand: the precedence between them is a matter of mere curiosity and speculation.
If, on the contrary, a spirit of industry has brought the country to a certain degree of population, this spirit will not be stopped by the want of food; it will be brought from foreign countries, and this new demand, by diminishing among them the quantity usually produced for their own subsistence, will prompt the industrious to improve their lands, in order to supply the new demand without any hurt to themselves. Thus trade has an evident tendency towards the improvement of the world in general, by rendering the inhabitants of one country industrious, in order to supply the wants of another, without any prejudice to themselves. Farther:
The country fully stocked can offer in exchange for this food, nothing but the superfluity of the industry of the free hands, for that of the farmers is supposed to be consumed by the society; except indeed some species of nourishment or productions, which, being esteemed at a higher value in other countries than in those which produce them, bring a more considerable return than the value of what is exported, as when raw silk and delicate wines, &c. are given in exchange for grain and other provisions.
The superfluity of industry must, therefore, form the principal part of exportation, and if the nation fully stocked be surrounded by others which abound in grain and articles of subsistence, where the inhabitants have a taste for elegance, and are eager of acquiring the manufactures and improvements of their industrious neighbours; it is certain, that a trade with such nations will very considerably increase the inhabitants of the other, though fully stocked relatively to the production of their own soil; and the additional inhabitants will increase the number of manufacturers only, not of husbandmen. This is the case with Holland, and with many large trading cities which are free and have but a small territory.
If, on the contrary, the nation fully stocked be in the neighbourhood of others who take the same spirit as itself, this supply of food will become in time more difficult to be had, in proportion as their neighbours come to supply their own wants. They must therefore seek for it at a greater distance, and as soon as the expence of procuring it comes to exceed the value of the labour of the free hands employed in producing the equivalent, their work will cease to be exported, and the number of inhabitants will be diminished to the proportion of the remaining food.
I do not say that trade will cease on this account; by no means. Trade may still go on, and even be more considerable than before; but it will be a trade which never can increase inhabitants, because for this purpose there must be subsistence. It may have however numberless and great advantages: it may greatly advance the wealth of the state, and this will purchase even power and strength. A trading nation may live in profound peace at home, and send war and confusion among her enemies, without even employing her own subjects. Thus trade, without increasing the inhabitants of a country, can greatly add to its force, by arming those hands which she has not bred, and employing them for her service.
This I find has been made a question in modern times. The ancients held in great veneration the inventors of the saw, of the lathe, of the wimble, of the potter's wheel; but some moderns find an abuse in bringing mechanism to perfection (see Les Interets de la France mal entendus, p. 272. 3 13.): the great Montesquieu finds fault with watermills, though I do not find that he has made any objection against the use of the plough.
Did people understand one another, it would be impossible that such points could suffer a dispute among men of sense; but the circumstances referred to, or presupposed, which authors always almost keep in their eye, though they seldom express them, render the most evident truths susceptible of opposition.
It is hardly possible suddenly to introduce the smallest innovation into the political economy of a state, let it be ever so reasonable, nay ever so profitable, without incurring some inconveniences. A room cannot be swept without raising dust, one cannot walk abroad without dirtying one's shoes; neither can a machine, which abridges the labour of men, be introduced all at once into an extensive manufacture, without throwing many people into idleness.
In treating every question of political economy, I constantly suppose a statesman at the head of government, systematically conducting every part of it, so as to prevent the vicissitudes of manners, and innovations, by their natural and immediate effects or consequences, from hurting any interest within the commonwealth. When a house within a city becomes crazy, it is taken down; this I call systematical ruin: were it allowed to fall, the consequences might be fatal in many respects. In like manner, if a number of machines are all at once introduced into the manufactures of an industrious nation, (in consequence of that freedom which must necessarily be indulged to all sorts of improvement, and without which a state cannot thrive,) it becomes the business of the statesman to interest himself so far in the consequences, as to provide a remedy for the inconveniences resulting from the sudden alteration. It is farther his duty to make every exercise even of liberty and refinement an object of government and administration; not so as to discourage or to check them, but to prevent the revolution from affecting the interests of the different classes of the people, whose welfare he is particularly bound to take care of.
The introduction of machines can, I think, in no other way prove it: and I have hurtful by making people idle, than by the suddenness of frequently observed, that all sudden revolutions, let them be ever so advantageous, must be accompanied with inconveniences. A safe, honourable, and lasting peace, after a long, dangerous, and expensive war, forces a number of hands to be idle, and deprives them of bread. Peace then may be considered as a machine for defending a nation, at the political loss of making an army idle; yet nobody, I believe, will allege that, in order to give bread to soldiers, sutlers, and undertakers, the war should be continued. But here I must observe, that it seems to be a palpable defect in policy, if a statesman shall neglect to find out a proper expedient (at whatever first expence it may be procured) for giving bread to those who, at the risk of their lives, have gone through so many fatigues for the service of their country. This expence should be charged to the account of the war, and a state ought to consider, that as their safety required that numbers should be taken out of the way of securing to themselves a lasting fund of subsistence, which would have rendered them independent of every body, (supposing that to have been the case,) she becomes bound by the contract of society which ties all together, to find them employment. Let me seek for another illustration concerning this matter.
I want to make a rampart cross a river, in order to establish a bridge, a mill, a sluice, &c. For this purpose, I must turn off the water, that is, stop the river: would it be a good objection against my improvement to say, that the water would overflow the neighbouring lands? as if I could be supposed so improvident as not to have prepared a new channel for it? Machines stop the river; it is the business of the state to make the new channel, as it is the public which is to reap the benefit of the sluice. I imagine what I have said will naturally suggest an answer to all possible objections against the introduction of machines; as for the advantages of them, they are so palpable that I need not insist upon them. There is, however, one case, in which I think they may be disapproved of; but it seems a chimerical supposition, and is brought in here for no other purpose than to point out and illustrate the principle which influences this branch of our subject.
If you can imagine a country peopled to the utmost extent of the fertility of the soil, and absolutely cut off from any communication with other nations; all the inhabitants fully employed in supplying the wants of one another, the circulation of money going forward regularly, proportionally, and uniformly through every vein, as I may call it, of the political body; no sudden or extraordinary demand at any time for any branch of industry; no redundancy of any employment; no possibility of increasing either circulation, industry, or consumption. In such a situation as this, I should disapprove of the introduction of machines, as I disapprove of taking physic in an established state of perfect health. I disapprove of a machine for no other reason but because it is an innovation in a state absolutely perfect in these branches of its political economy: and where there is perfection there can be no improvement. I farther disapprove of it because it might force a man to be idle, who would be found thereby in a physical impossibility of getting his bread, in any other way than that in which he is supposed to be actually employed.
The present situation of every country in Europe is so widely distant from this degree of perfection, that I must consider the introduction of machines, and of every method of augmenting the produce or assisting the labour and ingenuity of man, as of the greatest utility. Why do people wish to augment population, but in order to compass these ends? Wherein does the effect of a machine differ from that of new inhabitants?
As agriculture, exercised as a trade, purges the land of idle mouths, and pushes them to a new industry which the state may turn to her own advantage; so does a machine introduced into a manufacture, purge off hands which then become superfluous in that branch, and which may quickly be employed in another.
If therefore the machine proves hurtful, it can only be because it presents the state with an additional number of hands bred to labour; consequently, if these are afterwards found without bread, it must proceed from a want of attention in the statesman: for an industrious man, made idle, may constantly be employed to advantage, and with profit to him who employs him. What could an act of naturalization do more, than to furnish industrious hands, forced to be idle, and demanding employment? Machines therefore I consider as a method of augmenting (virtually) the number of the industrious, without the expence of feeding an additional numbers: this by no means obstructs natural and useful population, for the most obvious reasons.
We have shewn how population must go on, in proportion to subsistence, and in proportion to industry: now the machine eats nothing, therefore does not diminish subsistence; and industry (in our age at least) is in no danger of being over-stocked in any well-governed state: for let all the world copy your improvements, they still will be the scholars. And if, on the contrary, in the introduction of machines you are found to be the scholars of other nations, in that case you are brought to the dilemma of accepting the invention with all its inconveniences, or of renouncing every foreign communication.
In speculations of this kind, one ought not, I think, to conclude, that experience must of necessity prove what we imagine our reasoning has pointed out.
The consequences of innovations in political economy, admit of an finite variety, because of the infinite variety of circumstances which attend them: no reasoning, therefore, however refined, can point out a priori, what upon such occasions must indispensibly follow. The experiment must be made, circumstances must be allowed to operate; inconveniences must be prevented or rectified as far as possible; and when these prove too many, or too great to be removed, the most rational, the best concerted scheme in theory must be laid aside, until preparatory steps be taken for rendering it practicable.
Upon the whole, daily experience shews the advantage and improvement acquired by the introduction of machines. Let the inconveniences complained of be ever so sensibly felt, let a statesman be ever so careless in relieving those who are forced to be idle, all these inconveniences are only temporary; the advantage is permanent, and the necessity of introducing every method of abridging labour and expence, in order to supply the wants of luxurious mankind, is absolutely indispensable, according to modern policy, according to experience, and according to reason.
I have hitherto considered the object of agriculture, as no more than the raising of grain; the food of mankind has been estimated by the quantity they consume of this production; and husbandmen have been supposed to have their residence in the country. As my subject has but an indirect connection with the science of agriculture, I have simplified many things complex in themselves, the better to adapt them to the principal object of my inquiry, and the better to keep my attention fixed upon one idea at a time. I am now going to return to some parts of my subject, which I think I have treated too superficially; and to examine, as I go along, some miscellaneous questions which will naturally arise from what is to be said.
QUEST. I. Every one almost who has written upon population, and upon agriculture, considered as an essential concomitant of it, has recommended the equal distribution of the property of lands as useful to both.. a few reflections upon this question, after what has been thrown out in the course of the foregoing chapters, may not be improper; more in order to examine and apply the principles laid down, than with a view to combat the opinion of others.
I have already, upon several occasions, taken notice of the great difference between the political economy of the ancients, and that of modern times; for this reason, among others, that I perceive that the sentiments of the ancients, which were founded upon reason and common sense, relative to their situation, have been adopted by some moderns, who have not perhaps sufficiently attended to the change of our manners, and to the effects which this change must operate upon every thing relative to our economy. The ancients recommended strongly an equal distribution of lands as the best security for liberty, and the best method, not only to preserve an equality among the citizens, but also to increase their number.
In those days, the citizens did not compose one half, perhaps not one fourth, of the state relatively to numbers; and there was no such thing almost as an established moneyed interest, which can nowhere be founded but upon trade, and an extensive industry. In those days there was no solid income, but in land: and this being equally divided among the citizens, was favourable to their multiplication and produced equality. But in our days, riches do not consist in lands only; nay we sometimes find the most considerable proprietors of these in very indifferent circumstances; loaded with debts, and depending upon the indulgence of men who have not an acre, and who are their creditors. Let us therefore divide our lands as we please, we shall never produce equality by it. This, with respect to one point, is an essential difference between us and the ancients. Now as to the other; to wit, population.
The equal division of lands tends greatly, no doubt, to increase the numbers of one class of inhabitants, to wit, the landlords. In ancient times, as has been observed, the chief attention was to increase the citizens, that is, the higher classes of the state; and the equal division of property so effectually produced this effect, that some Greek states were obliged to allow the exposition of children; and Aristotle looked upon it as a thing indispensably necessary, as M. de Montesquieu has very judiciously observed. The multiplication of the lowest classes, that is, of the slaves, never entered into the consideration of the public, but remained purely a matter of private concern; and we find it was a question with some, whether or not it was worth while to breed from them at all. But in our days the principal object is to support the lower classes from their own multiplication; and for this purpose, an unequal division of property seems to me the more favourable scheme; because the wealth of the rich among us, falls naturally into the pockets of our industrious poor; whereas the produce of a very middling fortune does little more than feed the children of the proprietor, who in course become very commonly and very naturally an useless burthen upon the land. Let me apply this to an example. Do we not familiarly observe, that the consolidation of small estates, and the diminution of gentlemen's families of middling fortune, do little harm to a modern state. There are always abundance of this class of inhabitants to be found whenever there is occasion for them. When a great man buys up the lands of the neighbouring gentry, or small proprietors, all the complaints which are heard, turn upon the distress which thence results to the lower classes, from the loss of their masters and protectors; but never one word is heard of that made by the state, from the extinction of the former proprietor's family. This abundantly shews that the object of modern attention is the multiplication of the lower classes; consequently it must be an inconsistency to adopt the practice of the ancients, when our economy is entirely opposite to theirs.
QUEST. II. Let this suffice to point out how far the difference of our manners should influence the division of our lands. I shall now examine a question relative to the science of agriculture, not considered as a method of improving the soil, (this will come in more naturally afterwards,) but of making it produce to the best advantage, supposing it to be already improved.
In treating of the productions of the earth, in consequence of agriculture, I have all along distinguished them from those which spontaneously proceed from the force of nature: these are the immediate gift of God, those are the return of the labour of his creatures. Every one knows that the labour of mankind is not in proportion to their numbers, but to their industry. The produce therefore of agriculture must be estimated, not according to the quantity of fruits only, but also according to the labour employed to produce them. These things premised, the question here proposed to be examined arises, viz. Which species of agriculture is the most advantageous to a modern society, that which produces the greatest quantity of fruits absolutely taken, or that which produces the greatest quantity relatively taken, I mean to the labour employed?
This question might easily be resolved, in general, by the application of principles already deduced; although it cannot admit of a direct answer, in the manner I have put it. One, therefore, may say indeterminately, that species is the best which produces a surplus the best proportioned to the industry, and to the demands of all the free hands of the state. But as this solution would not lead me to the object I have in view, I have thrown in an alternative in order to gain attention to the principles which I am going to examine, and which influence and determine the establishment of the one or the other species of agriculture.
The principal difficulty I find in the examination of this question, is to distinguish the effects of agriculture from those of this spontaneous production of the earth. The returns from pasture, for example, relatively taken, are, as we have observed, both from reason and from experience, far greater than those of corn fields, (vid. supra, Chapter 8.) though I little doubt but that, absolutely taken, the case is quite otherwise; that is to say, that an acre of the finest corn-land will produce more nourishment for man, than an equal portion of the finest pasture: but here we are following the proportion of space and produce, not of labour; for if the produce of both acres be considered relatively to the labour necessary for the cultivation, as well as to the extent, the produce of pasture will be found far greater, this however I ascribe to the spontaneous operation of nature, and not to the superior utility of this kind of agriculture.
Since therefore it is impossible rightly to separate the effects of nature from those of art and industry, in this species of improvement, let us confine our speculations to those only which have for their object the turning up the surface, and the sowing or cultivating annual vegetables. For the better conveying our ideas, let us take an example, and reason from a supposition.
Let me suppose an island of a small extent and fruitful soil, sufficiently improved, and cultivated after the manner of the best lands of England, in the ordinary method of farming.
In this case we may infer, from what was laid down in the 8th chapter, that the number of people employed about farming may be nearly about one half of the whole society. Let the whole inhabitants of the island be called 1000, that is 500 farmers, and as many free hands. The 500 farmers must then feed 1000; the 500 free hands must provide for all the other wants of 1000. By this supposition, and allowing that there is an equal degree of industry in these two classes, the providing of food will appear to be an occupation just equal to that of providing for all other wants.
One of the society proposes to augment the number of inhabitants by introducing a more operose species of agriculture, the produce of which may be absolutely greater, though relatively less.
The first question the statesman would naturally put to this reformer would be: What is your view in increasing the number of our inhabitants; is it to defend us against our enemies; is it to supply the wants of strangers, and thereby to enrich ourselves; is it to supply our own wants with more abundance; or is it to provide us more abundantly with food? I can hardly find out any other rational view in wishing for an additional number of people in any country whatsoever. Let it be answered, that all these ends may be thereby obtained: and now let us examine how far this reformation upon agriculture will have the effect of increasing inhabitants, how far such increase will procure the ends proposed, and how far the execution of such a plan is a practicable scheme to an industrious people.
If the inhabitants be not sufficiently fed, which is the only thing that can prevent their multiplication, it must proceed from one of two causes. Either first, that those do procreate who cannot produce an equivalent for the food of their children; or secondly, that industry making a quicker progress than agriculture, the industrious come too strongly in competition with one another, for the surplus of food to be found; which has the effect of raising the prices of it, and reducing the portions too low to suffer a division; and thereby of preventing marriage and multiplication in the lower classes of the free hands.
In the first case, it is to no purpose to increase the produce of agriculture, by rendering it more expensive; for those who have no equivalent to give when food is cheap, will still be in greater necessity when it rises in the price. In the second case, it is hurtful to diminish the surplus of the farmers, because the supposition proves that the balance is already too heavy upon the side of the free hands, that is, that the surplus of the farmers is already become insufficient fully to feed them.
Two remedies may be proposed for this inconvenience, the one tending to population, the other to depopulation; and as the end to be compassed is to set the balance even between husbandmen and freehands, I shall explain both, and point out how far from principles it appears, that in either way the end may be attained.
The first tending to increase population is the remedy proposed, and, no doubt, were it possible to introduce a new system of agriculture of a larger absolute production, although the relative production should be less, the inhabitants of the state, becoming thereby better fed, though at a greater cost, would infallibly multiply. Let me therefore examine this first part before I say any thing of the other; and for the greater distinctness I shall return to my example, and examine both the consequences and the possibility of putting such a plan in execution.
Let me suppose, that by using the spade and rake, instead of the plough and harrow, the lands of our island might be brought to produce with more abundance; this is a method of increasing the expence of agriculture, which would require an additional number of husbandmen.
Now, by the supposition, 500 farmers fed, though scantily, the whole of the inhabitants, that is 1000 persons. If therefore 100 of the free hands can be engaged to become farmers, the end may be attained: more nourishment will be produced; the people will be better fed; they will multiply. that is, their number will rise above 1000. Let us next endeavour to form a judgment of this increase, and of the consequence of the revolution.
The society will now be composed of 600 farmers and 400 free hands. The 600 will certainly produce more fruits than formerly; but as their labour is relatively less productive by the supposition, it will be impossible for them to furnish a surplus equal to their own consumption; consequently, the free hands never will be able to rise to a number equal to theirs; that is, the society will never get up to 1200. But we supposed, that the other wants of the society required the industry of one half of the inhabitants to supply them; that is, of all the 500 free hands; and, as the number of these has been already reduced, and can never more rise to the former proportion, as has been said, must not either the people voluntarily adopt a more simple way of living; or must not the demand for work rise very considerably? Let me consider the consequences in both cases. In the first, you perceive, that if the inhabitants themselves are obliged to simplify their way of living, for want of hands to supply what they formerly consumed, three of the four objects proposed by the reformation become impossible to be attained; to wit, the defending themselves against their enemies, the supplying the wants of strangers, and the supplying their own with more abundance. And with regard to the fourth, the being better fed, this must cease to be the case, the moment the end is obtained; that is, the moment the inhabitants are multiplied up to the proportion of additional food. Consequently, by simplifying their way of life, and allowing farming to stand upon the new footing, they compass not any one of the ends they proposed.
Next, if we suppose, that the inhabitants do not incline to simplify their way of life, but that the wealthy among them insist upon purchasing all the instruments of luxury which they formerly were used to enjoy, must not demand for work greatly rise, and must not, of consequence, an additional encouragement be given to that species of labour which had been diminished, in taking 100 persons from industry, to throw them into the class of farmers? Will not this make them quickly desert their spade, and the rather, as they have taken to an employment less lucrative than that of farming, according to the former system?
So much for the consequences which would follow, in case the plan proposed was found practicable; that is, supposing it to be a thing possible to transport into agriculture a part of an industrious society, already otherwise employed, and to change all at once the relative proportion between those who supply food, and those who purchase it with their industry. We have begun, by taking this first step for granted; and now I am to shew what obstacles will be found in the execution.
We have said, that it is the multiplicity and complexity of wants which give an encouragement to agriculture, and not agriculture, or an abundance of food, which inspires mankind with a disposition to labour. Now, if this principle be true, the supposition we have proceeded upon is absurd. I am afraid, both reason and experience will abundantly prove that it is so.
The natural and necessary effect of industry, in trades and manufactures, is to promote the increase of relative husbandry; which by augmenting the surplus, tends of course to increase the proportion of the free hands relatively to the farmers. A river may as easily ascend to its source, as a people voluntarily adopt a more operose agriculture than that already established, supposing the lands to be fully improved, the spirit of industry to prevail on one hand, and the farmers to have profit only in view on the other.
What farmer could sell the surplus of an expensive agriculture in competition with another who exercised a species relatively more productive?
When lands are improved, the simplification of agriculture is a necessary concomitant of industry, because diminishing expence is the only method of gaining a preference at market.
QUEST. III. When industry is set on foot, it gives encouragement to agriculture exercised as a trade: and by the allurements of ease, which a large surplus procures to the farmers, it does hurt to that species which is exercised as a method of subsistence. Lands become more generally, and less thoroughly laboured. In some countries, tillage is set on foot and encouraged; this is an operose agriculture. While industry goes forward, and while a people can remain satisfied with a nourishment consisting chiefly of bread, this system of agriculture will subsist, and will carry numbers very high. If wealth increases, and if those who have it begin to demand a much greater proportion of work than formerly, while they consume no more food, then I believe numbers may diminish from the principles I am now going in quest of.
I return to the council of the island where the proposition laid down upon the carpet is, The scanty subsistence of the inhabitants requires redress.
A Machiavelian stands up (of such there are some in every country) and proposes, instead of multiplying the inhabitants, by rendering agriculture more operose, to diminish their number, by throwing a quantity of corn-fields into grass. What is the intention of agriculture, says he, but to nourish a state? By our operose method of plowing and sowing, one half of the whole produce is consumed by those who raise it; whereas by having a great part of our island in pasture, one half of the husbandmen may be saved. Pray what do you propose to do with those whom you intend to make idle? replies a citizen. Let them betake themselves to industry. But industry is sufficiently, nay more than sufficiently, stocked already. If, says Machiavel, the supernumerary husbandmen be thrown out of a way of living, they may go where they please; we have no occasion for them, nor for any one who lives to feed himself alone. But you diminish the number of your people, replies the citizen, and consequently your strength; and if afterwards you come to be attacked by your enemies, you will wish to have those back again for your defence, whom in your security you despised. To this the other makes answer: there you trust to the Egyptian reed. If they be necessary for feeding us at present, how shall we be able to live while we employ them as soldiers? We may live without many things, but not without the labour of our husbandmen. Whether we have our grounds in tillage or in pasture, if this class be rightly proportioned to the labour required, we never can take any from it. In those countries where we see princes have recourse to the land to recruit their armies, we may safely conclude, that there the land is overstocked; and that industry has not as yet been able to purge off all the superfluous mouths: but with us the case is different, where agriculture is justly proportioned to the number of husbandmen. If I propose a reform, it is to augment only the surplus, upon which all the state, except the husbandmen, are fed; if the surplus, after the reform, is greater than at present, the plan is good, although 250 of our farmers should thereby be forced to starve for hunger.
Though no man is, I believe, capable to reason in so inhuman a style, and though the revolution here proposed be an impossible supposition, if meant to be executed all at once, the same effects however must be produced, in every country where we see corn-fields by degrees turned into pasture: the change is gradual only, industry is not overstocked anywhere, and subsistence may be drawn from other countries, where the operose species of agriculture can be carried on with profit.
I must now touch again upon another part of my subject, which I think has been treated too superficially.
In a former chapter I have shewn how industry has the natural effect of collecting into towns and cities the free hands of a state, leaving the farmers in their farms and villages. This distribution served the purpose of explaining certain principles; but when examined relatively to other circumstances which at that time I had not in my eye, it will be found by far too general. Let me therefore add some farther observations upon this matter.
The extensive agriculture of plowing and sowing, is the proper employment of the country, and is the foundation of population in every nation fed upon its own produce. Cities are commonly surrounded by kitchen-gardens, and rich grass-fields; these are the proper objects of agriculture for those who live in suburbs, or who are shut up within the walls of small towns. The gardens produce various kinds of nourishment, which cannot easily be brought from a distance, in that fresh and luxuriant state which pleases the eye, and conduces to health. They offer a continual occupation to man, and very little for cattle; therefore are properly situated in the proximity of towns and cities. The grass fields again are commonly either grazed by cows, for the production of milk, butter, cream, &c. which suffer by long carriage; or kept in pasture for preserving fatted animals in good order until the markets demand them; or they are cut in grass for the cattle of the city. They may also be turned into hay with profit; because the carriage of a bulky commodity from a great distance is sometimes too expensive. Thus we commonly find agriculture disposed in the following manner. In the center stands the city, surrounded by kitchen-gardens; beyond these lies a belt of fine luxuriant pasture or hay-fields; stretch beyond this, and you find the beginning of what I call operose farming, plowing and sowing; beyond this lie grazing farms for the fattening of cattle; and last of all come the mountainous and large extents of unimproved or ill improved grounds, where animals are bred. This seems the natural distribution, and such I have found it almost every where established, when particular circumstances do not invert the order.
The poorness of the soil near Paris, for example, presents you with fields of rye-corn at the very gates, and with the most extensive kitchen-gardens and orchards, even for cherries and peaches, at a considerable distance from town. Other cities I have found, and I can cite the example of this which I at present inhabit (Padoua), where no kitchen-garden is to be found near it, but every spot is covered with the richest grain; two thirds with wheat, and the remaining third with Indian corn. The reason of this is palpable. The town is of a vast extent, in proportion to the inhabitants; the gardens are all within the walls, and the dung of the city enables the corn-fields to produce constantly. Hay is brought from a greater distance, because the expence of distributing the dung over a distant field, would be greater than that of transporting the hay by water-carriage. The farm-houses here appear no larger than huts, as they really are, built by the farmers, because the space to be laboured is very small, in proportion to the produce; hence it is, that a farmer here pays the value of the full half of the crop to the landlord, and out of the remaining half, not only sows the ground and buys the dung, but furnishes the cattle and labouring instruments, nay even rebuilds his house, when occasion requires.
When first I examined these fertile plains, I began to lament the prodigal consumption of such valuable lands, in a multitude of very broad highways, issuing to all quarters; many of which I thought might be saved, in consideration of the vast advantage accruing upon such economy. but upon farther rejection I perceived, that the loss was inconsiderable; for the fertility of the soil proceeding chiefly from the manure laid upon it, the loss sustained from the roads ought to be computed at no more than the value of the land when uncultivated. The case would be very different, were roads now to be changed, or new ones carried through the corn-fields; the loss then would be considerable, though even this would be temporary, and affect particular persons only; for the same dung, which now supports these lands in their fertility, would quickly fertilize others in their place, and in a few years matters would stand as at present.
These last reflections naturally lead me to examine a question which has been treated by a very polite French writer, the author of l'Ami de l'Homme, and which comes in here naturally enough, before I put an end to this first book. Here it is.
QUEST. IV. Does an unnecessary consumption of the earth's productions, either in food, clothing, or other wants; and a prodigal employment of fine rich fields, in gardens, avenues, great roads, and other uses which give small returns, hurt population, by rendering food and necessaries less abundant, in a kingdom such as France, in its present situation?
My answer is, That, were France fully cultivated and peopled, the introduction of superfluous consumption would be an abuse, and would diminish the number of inhabitants; as the contrary is the case, it proves an advantage. I shall now give my reasons for differing in opinion from the gentleman whose performance I have cited.
As the question is put, you perceive the end to be compassed is, to render food and necessaries abundant; because the abuse is considered in no other light, than relatively to the particular effect of diminishing the proper quantity of subsistence, which the king would incline to preserve, for the nourishment and uses of his people. I shall confine myself therefore chiefly to this object, and if I shew, that these superfluous employments of the surface of the earth, and prodigal consumptions of her fruits, are really no harm, but an encouragement to the improvement of the lands of France in her present state, I shall consider the question as sufficiently resolved: because if the abuse, as it is called, prove favourable to agriculture, it can never prove hurtful to population; however, from the inattention of government, it may affect foreign trade: This is an object entirely foreign to the present question. But before I enter upon the subject, it is proper to observe, that I am of opinion, that any system of economy which necessarily tends to corrupt the manners of a people, ought by every possible means to be discouraged, although no particular prejudice should result from it, either to population, or to plentiful subsistence.
Now in the question before us, the only abuse I can find in these habits of extraordinary consumption, appears to be relative to the character of the consumers, and seems in no way to proceed from the effects of the consumption. The vices of men may no doubt prove the cause of their making a superfluous consumption; but the consumption they make can hardly ever be the cause of this vice. The most virtuous man in France may have the most splendid table, the richest clothes, the most magnificent equipages, the greatest number of useless horses, the most pompous palace, and most extensive gardens. The most enormous luxury to be conceived, in our acceptation of this term, so long as it is directed to no other object than the consumption of the labour and ingenuity of man, is compatible with virtue as well as with vice. This being premised, I come to the point in hand.
France, at present, is in her infancy as to improvement, although the advances she has made within a century excite the admiration of the world. I shall not go far in search of the proof of this assertion. Great tracts of her lands are still uncultivated, millions of her inhabitants are idle. When all comes to be cultivated, and all are employed, then she will be in a state of perfection, relatively to the moral possibility of being improved. The people are free, slavery is unknown, and every man is charged with feeding himself, and bringing up his children. The ports of the country are open to receive subsistence, and this nation, as much as any other, may be considered as an individual in the great society of the world; that is, may increase in power, wealth, and ease, relatively to others, in proportion to the industry of her inhabitants. This being the case, all the principles of political economy, which we have been inquiring after, may freely operate in this kingdom.
France has arrived at her present pitch of luxury, relatively to consumption, by slow degrees. As she has grown in wealth, her desire of employing it has grown also. In proportion as her demands have increased, more hands have been employed to supply them; for no article of expence can be increased, without increasing the work of those who supply it. If the same number of inhabitants in the city of Paris consume four times as much of any necessary article as formerly, I hope it will be allowed, that the production of such necessaries must be four times as abundant, and consequently, that many more people must be employed in providing them.
What is it that encourages agriculture, but a great demand for its productions? What encourages multiplication, but a great demand for people; that is, for their work? Would any one complain of the extravagant people in Paris, if, instead of consuming those vast superfluities, they were to send them over to Dover, for a return in English gold? Where is the difference between the prodigal consumption and the sale? The one brings in money, the other brings in none: but as to food and necessaries, for providing the poor and frugal, their contingent, in either case, stands exactly the same.
But, says one, were it not for this extraordinary consumption, every thing would be cheaper. This I readily allow; but will any body say, that reducing the price of the earth's productions is a method to encourage agriculture; especially in a country where grounds are not improved, and where they cannot be improved; chiefly, because the expence surpasses all the profits which possibly can be drawn from the returns? High prices therefore, the effect of great consumption, are certainly advantageous to the extension of agriculture. If I throw my rich corn fields into gravel-walks and gardens, they will no more, I suppose, come into competition with those of my neighbour, the laborious husbandman. Who will then lose by my extravagance? Not the husbandman. It will perhaps be said, the nation in general will lose; because you deprive them of their food. This might be true, were the laying waste the cornfields a sudden revolution, and extensive enough to affect the whole society and were the sea-ports and barriers of the kingdom shut: but that not being the case, the nation, upon the smallest deficiency, goes to market with her money, and loses none of her inhabitants.
Obj. But if living is made dear, manufacturers must starve, for want of employment.
Answ. Not those who supply home consumption, but those only who supply foreigners living more cheaply; and of such I know but few. The interest of this class shall be fully examined in another place. At present I shall only observe, that the laying waste corn-fields in an industrious country, where refinement has set on foot a plan of useful husbandry, will have no other effect, than that of rendering grain for a while proportionally dearer: consequently, agriculture will be thereby encouraged; and in a few years the loss will be repaired, by a farther extension of improvement. This will make food plentiful and cheap: then numbers will increase, until it become scarce again. It is by such alternative vicissitudes, that improvement and population are carried to their height. While the improvement of lands goes forward, I must conclude, that demand for subsistence is increasing; and if this be not a proof of population, I am much mistaken.
I can very easily suppose, that a demand for work may increase considerably, in consequence of an augmentation of riches only because there are no bounds to the consumption of work; but as for articles of nourishment, the case is quite different. The most delicate liver in Paris will not put more of the earth's productions into his belly, than another: he may pick and choose, but he will always find, that what he leaves will go to feed another: victuals are not thrown away in any country I have ever been in. It is not in the most expensive kitchens where there is found the most prodigal dissipation of the abundant fruits of the earth; and it is with such that a people is fed, not with ortolans, truffles, and oysters, sent from Marenne.
From what has been said, I must conclude, that while the consumption of the earth's produce, and of the work of man tends to excite industry, in providing for extraordinary demands; when the interest of foreign trade does not enter into the question; and while there are lands enough remaining unimproved, to furnish the first matter, namely, subsistence, flax, wool, silk, timber, etc. there can be no political abuse from the misapplication or unnecessary destruction of either fruits or labour. The misapplier, or dissipator, is punished by the loss of his money; the industrious man is rewarded by the acquisition of it. We have said, that vice is not more essentially connected with superfluity, than virtue with industry and frugality. But such questions are foreign to my subject. I would however recommend it to moralists, to study circumstances well, before they carry a pretended reformation so far, as to interrupt an established system in the political economy of their country.
1. Although in common language we call minsters of state, and even such as are eminent for their knowledge in state affairs, by the name of statesmen, the reader is here advertised to attend carefully to the definition of this word in the text, because the term statesman is uniformly taken in the same acceptation through this whole work.
2. By Roderigo, the last king of the Gothic line.
3. Given by an Austrian officer to a Genoese, which occasioned the revolt in 1747 by which the Germans were expelled the city.
4. As my subject is different from the doctrine of morals, I have no occasion to consider the term luxury in any other than a political sense, to wit, as a principle which produces employment, and gives bread to those who supply the demands of the rich. For this reason I have chosen the above definition of it, which conveys no idea, either of abuse, sensuality, or excess; nor do I, at present, even consider the hurtful consequences of it as to foreign trade. Principles here are treated of with regard to mankind in general, and the effects of luxury are only considered relatively to multiplication and agriculture. Our reasoning will take a different turn, when we come to examine the separate interest of nations, and the principles of trade.
5. I beg, therefore, that at present my reasoning may be carried no farther (from inductions and suppositions) than my intention is that it should be. I am no patron, either of vice, profusion, or the dissipation of private fortunes; although I may now and then reason very coolly upon the political consequences of such diseases in a state, when I consider only the influence they have as to feeding and multiplying a people. My subject is too extensive of itself to admit of being confounded with the doctrine either of morals, or of government, however closely these may appear connected with it; and did I not begin by simplifying ideas as nuc as possible, and by banishing combinations of them, I should quickly lose my way, and involve myself in perplexities inextricable.
6. Every transition of money from hand to hand, for a valuable consideration, implies some service done, something wrought by man, or performed by his ingenuity, or some consumption of something produced by his labour. The quicker therefore the circulation of money is in any country, the more strongly it may be inferred, that the inhabitants are laborious; and vice versa: but of this more hereafter.
7. Hence we may conclude, that in those countries where the people live upon the spontaneous fruits, the whole society (considered in a political light) is found composed of free hands. Nature there supplies the place of the whole class of farmers.
We have said that industry and manufactures are the occupation of the free hands of a state; consequently, where the proportion of them is the largest, industry should flourish to the greatest advantage; that is to say, in countries where the inhabitants live upon the spontaneous fruits: but this is not the case. Why? Because there is another circumstance of equal weight which prevents it. These people are unacquainted with want, and want is the spur to industry. Let this suffice, in general, as to the distribution of inhabitants in countries unacquainted with labour.
8. This question is now with the greatest precision resolved by the publisher of a pamphlet intitled, Three Tracts on the Corn Trade and Corn Laws, with a Supplement; Lond. 1766. Second Edit. (C. Smith).
We have there, authentic accounts of all the grain exported from England, or imported into it from abroad, from 1697 to 1765, from which it appears (p. III.) that the greatest quantity of all sorts of grain ever exported, viz. of wheat, barley, oats, oatmeal, and rye, was in the year 1750, and amounted to 1,606,688 English quarters; and (p. 144.) we have an ingenious computation of the growth, consumption, export, and import of these grains, upon averages taken from the 68 years above mentioned; where the ordinary or mean consumption of England is rated at 13,555,850 quarters. So the greatest exportation ever known in one year very little exceeds 1/8 of the ordinary consumption, and is equivalent to about 46 days' provision only.
On the other hand, the greatest importation ever known, was in the year 1757, when the total quantity imported, was 151,743 quarters of all sorts of grain as above, which does not amount to 1/89 of the ordinary consumption of the people of England, and is equivalent to their subsistence for 4 days 2 hours and 24 minutes (p. 124).
These facts were unknown to me when I wrote this chapter. I had at that time been long abroad, and had very little communication with my own country: and though I very strongly felt the consequences of my own reasoning, I was so far overawed by the force of the popular opinion, that I durst not venture to rate either the surplus or the deficiency otherwise than it is found in the text.
9. The truth of this, also, is made evident from the tracts cited in the last note: but to a far greater extent, than I could take upon me to affirm from theory alone.
It is there said (p. 144.) that the mean export in England, is barely 1/33 (1/32) part of the growth exclusive of the seed; and that the mean import is equal to 1/571 part of the consumption, and 1/18 part of the export.
It would be amazing indeed, were a people, so circumstanced with respect to subsistence, ever found in a real want of foreign supply. But it is nowise amazing, that those who have no interest in agriculture, should complain, and cry out for importation, when a bad policy in the corn trade, and the want of a small granary, equal to the national consumption during five days only, make prices occasionally rise, and when the smallest quantity imported from abroad is found to make them immediately fall, though at a considerable loss both to the agriculture and the trade of the nation.
If it be asked, how so small a deficiency as 1/571 part of the ordinary consumption, should make so sensible a difference to a nation, as to raise prices to an exorbitant height? And how an overplus so small as 1/33 should be considered as great plenty, and make prices fall universally? I answer, that if in a good year, after every man, and every animal has been fully fed, there shall still remain on hand a quantity equal to 1/33 of what has been consumed, this overplus, considered by itself, is a very great quantity, though small if considered relatively to the total consumption of the kingdom; and were it not exported, it would sink prices too much and ruin the farmer. That in a bad year, again, the deficiency of 1/571 part of the ordinary consumption, though very inconsiderable relatively to the whole, is still very great when we consider, that before prices can rise so high as to make government think of opening the ports to importation, the lowest classes of the industrious inhabitants, whose gains are small, must have been already reduced to the minimum of their consumption; and when people are brought to the minimum, a very small diminution upon their food may bring on the greatest distress.
In good years, we are therefore to consider the quantity exported, as that part of the crop which is over and above the full nourishment for men and cattle: And in bad years, we are to consider what is imported, to be what is wanting of the scrimply necessary, for subsisting the lowest classes of our people, at the price they can afford to pay for it.
But among all the ingenious inquiries which the English have made into this subject, I have never seen (till of late in a new publication intitled the Farmer's Letters) any attempt made, to compare the prices of subsistence with the rate of the lowest gains of the industrious who must go to market. From the exposition of this matter by this ingenious author, it appears very plain to me, that prices have never risen so high in England, as to make importation necessary. The very lowest manufacturer and day-labourer there, may live better at the highest price of subsistence in any year since the beginning of this century, than the generality of such of their order actually do, in any country in Europe which I have seen. From which I conclude that as long as matters stand in this situation, all importation of subsistence from foreign nations, not under the dominion of Great Britain should be intirely suspended.
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