- A n E s s a y o n t h e
P r i n c i p l e o f P o p u l a t i o n
as it affects the Future Improvement
of Society, with Remarks on the
Speculations of Mr Godwin,
M. Condorcet and Other Writers.
Francisco José de Goya, The Fire, 1793 (montage)
- Chapter 1
Question stated - Little prospect of a
determination of it, from the enmity of the opposing parties - The
principal argument against the perfectibility of man and of society has never
been fairly answered - Nature of the difficulty arising from population
- Outline of the principal argument of the Essay.
The different ratio in which population and
food increase - The necessary effects of these different ratios of
increase - Oscillation produced by them in the condition of the lower
classes of society - Reasons why this oscillation has not been so much
observed as might be expected - Three propositions on which the general
argument of the Essay depends - The different states in which mankind have
been known to exist proposed to be examined with reference to these three
The savage or hunter state shortly reviewed
- The shepherd state, or the tribes of barbarians that overran the Roman
Empire - The superiority of the power of population to the means of
subsistence - the cause of the great tide of Northern Emigration.
State of civilized nations - Probability
that Europe is much more populous now than in the time of Julius Caesar -
Best criterion of population - Probable error of Hume in one the
criterions that he proposes as assisting in an estimate of Population -
Slow increase of population at present in most of the states of Europe -
The two principal checks to population - The first, or preventive check
examined with regard to England.
The second, or positive check to population
examined, in England - The true cause why the immense sum collected in
England for the poor does not better their condition - The powerful
tendency of the poor laws to defeat their own purpose - Palliative of the
distresses of the poor proposed - The absolute impossibility, from the fixed
laws of our nature, that the pressure of want can ever be completely removed
from the lower classes of society -All the checks to population may be resolved
into misery or vice.
New colonies - Reasons for their rapid
increase - North American Colonies - Extraordinary instance of
increase in the back settlements - Rapidity with which even old states recover
the ravages of war, pestilence, famine, or the convulsions of nature.
A probable cause of epidemics - Extracts
from Mr. Suessmilch's tables - Periodical returns of sickly seasons to be
expected in certain cases - Proportion of births to burials for short periods
in any country an inadequate criterion of the real average increase of
population - Best criterion of a permanent increase of population -
Great frugality of living one of the causes of the famines of China and
Indostan - Evil tendency of one of the clauses in Mr. Pitt's Poor Bill
- Only one proper way of encouraging population - Causes of the
Happiness of nations - Famine, the last and most dreadful mode by which
nature represses a redundant population - The three propositions
considered as established.
Mr. Wallace - Error of supposing that
the difficulty arising from population is at a great distance - Mr.
Condorcet's sketch of the progress of the human mind- Period when the
oscillation, mentioned by Mr. Condorcet, ought to be applied to the human race.
Mr. Condorcet's conjecture concerning the
organic perfectibility of man, and the indefinite prolongation of human life
- Fallacy of the argument, which infers an unlimited progress from a
partial improvement, the limit of which cannot be ascertained, illustrated in
the breeding of animals, and the cultivation of plants.
Mr. Godwin's system of equality - Error
of attributing all the vices of mankind to human institutions - Mr.
Godwin's first answer to the difficulty arising from population totally
insufficient - Mr. Godwin's beautiful system of equality supposed to be
realized - In utter destruction simply from the principle of population in
so short a time as thirty years.
Mr. Godwin's conjecture concerning the
future extinction of the passion between the sexes - Little apparent
grounds for such a conjecture - Passion of love not inconsistent either with
reason or virtue.
Mr. Godwin's conjecture concerning the
indefinite prolongation of human life - Improper inference drawn from the
effects of mental stimulants on the human frame, illustrated in various
instances - Conjectures not founded on any indications in the past not to
be considered as philosophical conjectures - Mr. Godwin's and Mr.
Condorcet's conjecture respecting the approach of man towards immortality on
earth, a curious instance of the inconsistency of scepticism.
Error of Mr. Godwin is considering man
too much in the light of a being merely rational - In the compound being,
man, the passions will always act as disturbing forces in the decisions of the
understanding - Reasonings of Mr. Godwin on the subject of coercion -
Some truths of a nature not to be communicated from one man to another.
Mr. Godwin's five propositions respecting
political truth, on which his whole work hinges, not established - Reasons
we have for supposing, from the distress occasioned by the principle of
population, that the vices and moral weakness of man can never be wholly
eradicated - Perfectibility, in the sense in which Mr. Godwin uses the
term, not applicable to man - Nature of the real perfectibility of man
Models too perfect may sometimes rather
impede than promote improvement - Mr. Godwin's essay on 'Avarice and
Profusion' - Impossibility of dividing the necessary labour of a society
amicably among all -Invectives against labour may produce present evil, with
little or no chance of producing future good - An accession to the mass of
agricultural labour must always be an advantage to the labourer.
Probable error of Dr Adam Smith in
representing every increase of the revenue or stock of a society as an increase
in the funds for the maintenance of labour - Instances where an increase
of wealth can have no tendency to better the condition of the labouring poor
- England has increased in riches without a proportional increase in the
funds for the maintenance of labour - The state of the poor in China would
not be improved by an increase of wealth from manufactures.
Question of the proper definition of the
wealth of a state - Reason given by the French economists for considering all
manufacturers as unproductive labourers, not the true reason - The labour
of artificers and manufacturers sufficiently productive to individuals, though
not to the state - A remarkable passage in Dr Price's two volumes of
Observations - Error of Dr Price in attributing the happiness and rapid
population of America, chiefly, to its peculiar state of civilization - No
advantage can be expected from shutting our eyes to the difficulties in the way
to the improvement of society.
The constant pressure of distress on man,
from the principle of population, seems to direct our hopes to the future
- State of trial inconsistent with our ideas of the foreknowledge of God
- The world, probably, a mighty process for awakening matter into mind
- Theory of the formation of mind - Excitements from the wants of the
body - Excitements from the operation of general laws - Excitements
from the difficulties of life arising from the principle of population.
The sorrows of life necessary to soften
and humanize the heart - The excitement of social sympathy often produce
characters of a higher order than the mere possessors of talents - Moral
evil probably necessary to the production of moral excellence -
Excitements from intellectual wants continually kept up by the infinite variety
of nature, and the obscurity that involves metaphysical subjects - The
difficulties in revelation to be accounted for upon this principle - The
degree of evidence which the scriptures contain, probably, best suited to the
improvements of the human faculties, and the moral amelioration of mankind
- The idea that mind is created by excitements seems to account for the
existence of natural and moral evil.