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scanty means of supporting a miserable existence, should, without hesitation or reflection, snatch at every animal gratification that came within their reach ? Is it not evident, therefore, that mise. ry, far from preventing, is the principal cause by which the pressure of the population against the means of subsistence is produced ? Even if the present unrelieved distress should effect the object contemplated by the patrons of the starving system, and produce an epidemic which should cut off a large portion of the poor at present in want of assistance, the vacuum thus created would speedily be filled up. The same causes still continuing to operate, the same effects would be produced ; and, in a very short time, the pressure of the population on the means of subsistence, and the consequent misery, would become as great as ever! In fact, the destruction of any portion of the poor would not have the smallest effect in meliorating the condition of the survivors. The number subject to a state of misery might be reduced, but the suffering from misery would remain undiminished.
But misery is not only wholly inefficacious in remedying the evils ascribed to the principle of population, or, in other words, of curing itself; - it is the greatest possible enemy of virtue ; the very parent indeed of crimes. This has been acknowledged by all men who have ever thought on the subject, and is fully admitted by those who nevertheless deem misery a necessary check to population. “ A great portion,” it is said, “ of those who suffer at the gallows are produced by the marriages of the poorest class, educated in workhouses, where every vice is propagated, or brought up at home in filth and rags, and ignorant of every moral principle.” Want and misery after the best education, has been productive of the greatest crimes, and after it passes certain limits puts an end to all virtuous exertion. «Squalid and hopeless misery," it is admitted, “is by no means favorable to industry." How, indeed, should it? Exertion will always be proportioned to motive; but what motive can a person have to be industrious, whose utmost exertion can only serve to prolong a state of misery? In whatever light, therefore, it is regarded, misery, far from remedying, will appear to be the chief cause of all the evils supposed to attend the principle of population, the greatest enemy of virtue, and the most prolific parent of vice.
Independent, however, of all consequences, it is in itself the greatest evil to which humanity can be subjected. What, indeed, is evil but a state of misery? What greater evil can be imagined than to be doomed to a life of constant privation, to be for ever suffering from cold orhunger, to live in the midst of rags, and filth, and wretchedness, objects of loathing to themselves as well as to others, and at the same time behold their fellow-creatures wallowing
in every species of luxury and profusion, a small portion of which would more than suffice to place themselves in a state of comfort ? By comparing such a check to the principle of population, with a check that has been adopted in other countries, the latter I am persuaded, although hitherto justly held in abhorrence, will appear in the eye both of reason and humanity, infinitely to be preferred. Let it, for example, be proposed to a reasonable and affectionate parent, who by a volition could decide in one of two ways, on the fate of his child,that it should either die in infancy, or be brought up as a great number of the poor now are, “ either in a workhouse, where every vice is propagated, or at home in filth, and rags, and ignorant of every moral obligation ;" that from the moment it is capable of making the least exertion it should be condemned to hard and incessant labor, without being able to acquire more than what was absolutely necessary to support a most wretched state of existence, and that being from the circumstances in which it is placed, surrounded by so many temptations to crime, as to live in perpetual hazard of falling a victim to the offended - laws, and thus terminating a life of misery and vice by an ignominious death; what parent, I say, to whom such an alternative was proposed, would not decide on its perishing in infancy? There does not appear to me, indeed, the least doubt, but that if no other means existed for remedying the evils, said to arise from the principle of population, than either vice and misery, or the destruction of a certain portion of all the female children that were born ; the latter check ought unquestionably to be preferred, both on account of its being infinitely less prejudicial to the virtue and happiness of society, and also on account of its being certain in its effects.
I am far, very far, however, from intending to recommend infanticide as a substitute for misery, or from thinking either the one or the other at all necessary ; on the contrary, I am most fully pero suaded, that it is by promoting the comfort, the happiness and the virtue of the community at large, instead of having a large portion of our fellow-creatures in a state of misery and vice, that we can ever hope to obviate the evils said to arise from the principle of population.
If we allow of any such thing as design in- creation, man appears to differ so essentially from all other animals, that we must conclude he never was intended to be governed by physical means only. And it is evident from experience, as well as reason, that he never can be so governed for any good purpose. It is, indeed, only by cultivating his reason, that his happiness can be essentially promoted, as he cannot, otherwise, be made to comprehend the nature of those evils, to which he is exposed by the imprudent gratification of the propensities to which he is subject, in common with other animals. And as all reasoning creatures must be governed by motives, he ought to be furnished with such as will make him adopt the line of conduct which is necessary for promoting his own happiness without injuring that of the community. But it must be universally admitted, that persons placed in a state of such hopeless poverty, as that their situation does not admit of deterioration, can have no motive whatever to deny themselves the indulgence of any animal gratification which may come within their reach! The first, and most essential step, therefore, towards establishing the required check to population, is to better the condition of the poor ; and the second, is to give them a suitable education ! But, by education I do not intend merely reading or writing, or, indeed, any other art or science commonly taught at schools ; for, however desirable the attainment of these may be, it is of very little consequence when compared with the attainment of a knowledge of the rules or maxims, by which their conduct ought to be regulated, so as best to promote their own welfare, without injury to the society of which they form a part. These they ought to be taught early in life, for it is surely rather too late to tell a man that he ought not to marry when he comes to church with his intended spouse ; neither is it likely that he will often be deterred from his purpose, merely by a threat of withholding the parish relief in the hour of future necessity. I am far, however, o from thinking that even then such a threat coupled with an explanation of the motives by which it was dictated, a desire of promoting the happiness of the parties as well as of averting evil from the community, might not, on many occasions, have the desired effect. For after all that has been said of the powerful operation of the principle of population, I am still very much inclined to believe, that it is by no means so difficult to be checked as is generally imagined. Many, I am persuaded, many from mere thoughtlessness; many more, especially among the poor, from a notion in which they have been brought up, that they ought to marry, or that it is their destiny; and many from a species of obstinacy, generated by the absurd means employed by their relations or friends for turning them from their purpose. So that I have not the least doubt but that if proper or rational means were adopted, marriage might be deferred or prevented on almost every occasion where it was deemed necessary.
The sooner, however, that young persons are brought to form right notions on the subject, the better. But at all events no time should be lost after the sexual propensity has once begun to display itself, in pointing out in the clearest and most forcible manner all the evils which its imprudent gratification must necessarily produce. It will also be necessary fully to develope all the cares and
anxieties to which marriage, even when contracted under the most favorable circumstances, gives birth; but by no means to represent it, as has been proposed, with all the 'meretricious charms in which it has been dressed by poetry. For, independent of such a representation's being calculated to weaken a check, deemed so essentially necessary to the welfare of society, would it not be the height of cruelty needlessly to expatiate on the happiness of a state to which those we addressed could never aspire? And such is the case with the whole of the poorest class of laborers. “ If,” it has been said, “they do not save money for the common contingencies of marriage they must expect the evils prepared by providence for those who disobey its admonitions.” It is, therefore, according to Mr. Malthus, an ordinance of God, that no man should marry without being in possession of an adequate sum of money. But how is a laborer of the poorest class, whose daily earnings are barely sufficient to supply his daily subsistence, ever to be able to save money sufficient to supply the common contingencies of marriage? It is acknowledged, so that universal industry would totally fail to exempt society from want and misery." It is also admitted that by the variations in the demand for labor, the laboring classes are subject to the most severe distress in every country," and most unquestionably more in this country than in any other. But are not many laborers also dependant for employment on the vicissitudes of weather and seasons ?
Are not many peculiarly subject, from the nature of their employments, to wounds and bruises ? And are they not all subject to accidents, to sickness, to diseases, and to what may be termed premature death? To all these, the husband, the wife, and the children are equally exposed, and form altogether such a multitude of contingencies to which the marriage state is subject, that it is evidently impossible for any class of laborers, but more especially the most numerous, ever to save money sufficient to enable them to marry without incurring “the evils prepared by providence for those who disobey its admonitions." Under such circumstances to hold
matrimony as the supreme good, to represent it as an object to be desired
yond all others, is only presenting the cup of Tantalus, exciting desires which never can be gratified ; a conduct which would be cruel in the extreme, even if the representation were consistent with truth. Such, however, most unquestionably, is very far from being the case. The observation of the Apostle will be found universally correct : “ If those who marry do well, those who do not marry do better.” Could the married and unmarried be made clearly and distinctly to perceive the relative advantages and disadvantages attending their different states, I am persuaded the former would much oftener see cause to wish for a change than the VOL. XVI.
latter. Such is the nature of the human mind, that objects which have been the most desired, after possession soon become indifferent, or, at least, cease to afford any positive pleasure. Parents, for example, may love each other, and love their children, according to the common acceptation of the terms, without being at all happier on that account. Marriage then will have made no permanent addition to their happiness, but it will have greatly multiplied the sources of their misery. A man may be in perfect health, and in possession of a large fortune, yet, if at the same time his wife or children are in sickness or in danger, are perverse or untoward, what happiness can he possibly enjoy.? Nay, even supposing the whole family in good health and generally well-disposed, still, as it is almost impossible that two or more individuals should always will the same thing, or view with equal pleasure or aversion the same actions or objects, cohabitation must demand constant sacrifices on one side or the other, and must consequently be a state of perpetual coercion, restraint, or self-denial. Were matrimony, therefore, exposed to the youth of both sexes, but more particularly to the female, in its true colors, the view, I am persuaded, would form a sufficient check to the principle of population, even when regarded under the most favorable circumstances. But let it be supposed, as is most commonly the case, that marriage is immediately
and obviously to deteriorate the situation of one or of both parties, to deprive them of indulgences or gratifications to which they have been long accustomed, to reduce them from comparative independence to a state of perpetual difficulties, embarrassments, and consequent anxieties--could it be imagined, if these circumstances were calmly, but clearly and forcibly represented by their friends, that there are many who would not be well contented to remain single? It is no doubt such a view of the subject, that has rendered what is termed the prudential check so efficacious among
those of the middle class of society; and were the poor only placed in such a situation as to render their happiness equally dependant on their prudence or discretion, there is every reason to believe that it would soon prove equally efficacious among them, or at least so much so, as wholly to prevent any undue pressure of the population upon the means of subsistence.
If, however, it should still be imagined, that the so much dreaded principle of population is too powerful to be effectually resisted by individual reason, in that case the reason of the public,---law,_the perfection of reason,” must be made to supply its deficiency. Let it be ascertained at what age the sexual intercourse may be safely allowed to commence, without injury to the community, and let cohabitation previous to that period be prohibited by a law having the severest penalties attached to its contravention. For if it be