Page images

ple; and that there is not one of them which would not be most materially affected, if that necessity did not exist. It might be curious, but would not be very profitable, to speculate on the probable state of human society, were the stimulus to exertion removed, which the demands of food constantly supply. It is, however, of greater importance to our present argument, to inquire to what extent it is true that the population actually exceeds the means of comfortable subsistence.

There are some curious speculations in the recent volume of Turner's 'Sacred History of the World,' from which I extract the following facts and reasonings, bearing directly on this subject.

"At this moment, in what has been deemed the declining years of our world, its powers of produce have been superior to its powers of popular multiplication. Our food exceeds, in its existing quantity, the present demand for it. We have more corn than we consume, and more is coming up than will be required by the present generation. On what is the urgency of some-of several-political economists, who uphold the Malthusian hypothesis, to have our corn-laws abolished,-founded? On the vegetable produce of the earth being as inadequate to the supply of the living numbers, as the opposition of the contrasted geometrical and arithmetical laws must have long since made it? No! They require the repeal of the restrictive regulations which keep foreign corn from our shores, on their perceiving and knowing that there is more corn in the earth,-now on hand, and certain to be produced, than its inhabitants will need.

"Coinciding with this fact, of the mercantile solicitations for liberty of free importation, are also the circumstances which I will mention, from the periodical journals of the day, as the best practical authorities. The foreign dealers, in 1833, complained of the diminution of their trade, and of the value of corn, and of its fall in price, because there was no demand for it elsewhere, to take off the superfluous produce which had been accumulating among them. The countries of Europe had on hand so much more than their population wanted, that bad weath

er was even deemed advantageous, from the hope that, by injuring the shooting vegetation, and preventing a good harvest, it would raise the prices of the stocks on sale. Because war had long ceased, there was no more that extraordinary consumption, which had made subsistence dearer; the superabundant productions of corn and wine, from their ordinary cultivation, were so much beyond the ordinary use of it, that the wine in 1834 was unsaleable, and the corn had become so cheap, that the landowners in Germany were much distressed. The German farmers sent abundance to foreign dealers; but other nations having enough of their own produce, it found so small a sale as to sink in its money-worth. The effect of our cornlaws, which prevented Prussia from sending its superfluity to market, is represented, in 1834, as causing its land to fall in price, and as destroying the agricultural trade of Poland, from its superabundance. So far was the population in Europe from overrunning its subsistence in 1834, that a great part of Poland was not in cultivation; and, of the land in actual husbandry, though only a third part was raised from it, which that portion could produce, yet even this was more than its own consumption required; so that their wheat was given to the cattle, because it had produced more than its people consumed.

"The same state of things, between population and produce, existed also in America in 1834, both in the United States and in the Canadas, though each was so surprisingly multiplying in their numbers, from emigration. Here, also, the demand was so much less than Nature's supply, that the price of it sunk too low to meet with the rate of wages, and to return a profit on the capital employed.

"This over-produce,-its exuberance beyond the consumption of the population,-was not in any one country, or in the most fertile regions, but equally so in the less favored ones; for we find Sweden, though so far in the north, and so near gelid Lapland, and so full of heaths, lakes, and mountains in herself, yet had so much more wheat than she wanted, as to be urging her government, in 1833, for leave to export it.

"From the produce most generally exceeding the demand of the population for it, all countries, in some years, and most countries at all times, are enabled and desirous to export their superabundance, even though some of their provinces receive a partial importation. This has been the case in our own country. Parliament, at the Revolution in 1688, enacted a bounty on exportation, when wheat was at 48s. a quarter, or below; and for fifty-five years, England was an exporting country. In the next fifty-five years, the bounty was sometimes discontinued, and sometimes renewed. Importation was at times allowed, and at others prohibited; but always amounting to a very small part of our actual consumption. At present, notwithstanding our surprising increase of population, we are actually raising more than our numbers use.

"Flanders produces so much, from a soil not distinguished for its natural fertility, that although crowded with inhabitants more densely than perhaps any other country, yet it exports, every year, one-third of its harvest. The produce, as compared with the population, even doubles the amount of ours.

"France is also, in some degree, an exporting country, although its consumption of bread is supposed to be greater than ours; and though it occasionally imports, as harvests fluctuate, yet its exports, in 1834, far exceeded its imports."*

From these and various other facts which he details, and the truth of which he substantiates by quotations from various sources in his foot-notes, Mr. Turner concludes, that so far from the population outrunning the supply, there is, in fact, at this moment, notwithstanding the rapid increase of the former, a superabundant produce in actual existence over the whole face of the civilized world; that although particular districts may be deficient, and although, in some years, the harvests may fail in various parts, there is always found to be enough to supply the want as it arises, by importation from those quarters where the necessaries of life are superabundant; and that, therefore,

* Turner's Sacred History, vol. iii. Letter 29.

the idea of Mr. Malthus, that the population outgrows its subsistence, is "an unfounded fancy."

This conclusion seems, at first sight, to be inconsistent with the known fact, that there are vast numbers of the human race, in very many regions of the world, who are destitute of the common necessaries of life; but when the matter is properly understood, it will be found to involve a very different question from that of vegetable nature not producing what the populations of the earth require. 66 It is not," as our author justly observes," because there is not a sufficient quantity of the alimentary articles on the earth, that any are in want; it is because they have not the means of purchasing or obtaining what they require, from those who possess. If they had the trading medium, they would find in the public markets, every where, the sufficiency they desire." Poverty and want, he therefore argues, are the topics of an individual question between man and man, or between each person and society, and not between mankind and Providence. This is true, in so far as relates to the present subject; but yet the inequality alluded to, is a question of great importance, in reference to the providential system of our globe, and on this subject I must refer the reader to the observations made in another volume, when considering the origin and effects of property in the soil.*

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

THE striking parable by which a Roman statesman, Menenius Agrippa, composed the minds of his fellow citizens, and brought them back to reason, at a time when they were raising a formidable rebellion against their rulers,

*Spring.' Eighth Week-Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

was founded on the union and mutual dependence of the different members of the human body; and the very same image is more than once made use of by the Apostle Paul, to enforce the reasonableness, the duty, and the necessity of mutual sympathy and good offices among Christians. The Apostle, however, takes much higher ground, and, by the aid of Revelation, is enabled to give a more noble and important character to his argument. He represents Christ as our head, and believers as members of His spiritual body. Nothing can more emphatically express the entire dependence of Christians on their Divine Master. The head is the seat of thought, and the chief residence of the senses. Without it, we cannot live for a single moment; and, if we could, all the enjoyments of life would be gone. There would be neither smell, nor taste, nor hearing, nor sight; neither discernment nor knowledge; nothing would remain but a mere animal, or rather vegetable, existence, without intelligence and without pleasure. In a similar manner, Christ, as our Spiritual Head, is the source of life and happiness. Without Him, we should be dead to spiritual sense, spiritual discernment, and spiritual knowledge. We might live, indeed -alas! how many live without Christ!-but the light of life would be wanting; there would be darkness and insensibility,-low and grovelling views and desires ;all that is most noble and excellent in the soul would be dead.

Indeed, in representing Christ as our head, a figure is used, which, more strikingly and more comprehensively than any other, exhibits Him as the Author of all spiritual blessings. Other comparisons intimate that particular gifts and graces are derived from Him; but this includes them all. Thus, when He is said to be the foundation on which the church is built, our dependence on Him is intimated; when He is described as a vine, of which his disciples are the branches, we are reminded of the vital influences which He communicates. In like manner, when He is compared to food, of which it is necessary to eat, that our life may be sustained; to raiment, which we must put on, that we may be clothed; to the sun, by




« PreviousContinue »