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Nay, a ship may be made to describe a half circle, and to end by following
a course exactly opposite to the first, without attracting the notice of the
Over-population and its attendant miseries may not improbably
become a more serious subject of consideration than it ever yet has been,
owing to improved sanatation and consequent diminution of the mortality
of children, and to the filling up of the spare places of the earth which are
still void and able to receive the overflow of Europe. There are no doubt
conflicting possibilities which I need not stop to discuss.
The check to over-population mainly advocated by Malthus is a
prudential delay in the time of marriage; but the practice of such a
doctrine would assuredly be limited, and if limited it would be most
prejudicial to the race, as I have pointed out in Hereditary Genius but may
be permitted to do so again. The doctrine would only be followed by the
prudent and self-denying; it would be neglected by the impulsive and self-
seeking. Those whose race we especially want to have, would leave few
descendants, while those whose race we especially want to be quit of,
would crowd the vacant space with their progeny, and the strain of
population would thenceforward be just as pressing as before. There
would have been a little relief during one or two generations, but no
permanent increase of the general happiness, while the race of the nation
would have deteriorated. The practical application of the doctrine of
deferred marriage would therefore lead indirectly to most mischievous
results, that were overlooked owing to the neglect of considerations
bearing on race. While criticising the main conclusion to which Malthus
came, I must take the opportunity of paying my humble tribute of
admiration to his great and original work, which seems to me like the rise
of a morning star before a day of free social investigation. There is
nothing whatever in his book that would be in the least offensive to this
generation, but he wrote in advance of his time and consequently roused
virulent attacks, Previous page Top Next page