« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
its wealth. “God hath made the round world so sure,” that not only cannot it be moved, but its nutritive powers cannot be exhausted : sober calculation has shown, from the square miles and their relative inhabitants of China and Britain, that nine thousand millions of human beings might live upon the planet without crowding its area or impoverishing its supply. Were there any danger, any evil, in this almost inconceivable augmentation, the given amount is a pure chimera. If some countries be now well replenished, which the ancient landmarks did not recognise, — others are but the wrecks of a mighty depopulation. The ascertained fruit of Marriage restrains every fear. The law of Increase is almost mathematically established. Perhaps the quantity of human creatures is not greater now than at some former periods of our globe. Let us welcome all who emerge among us into life, let us confess their equal title with our own, not daring to speak of anterior possession, not grudging one against another, not charging God foolishly with a disparity which it is most profane to suppose. Justly and benevolently let us think of any imaginable addition of man as a happy consummation : as calling upon us for a more active and zealous discharge of the duties of philanthropy. O! precious is the life of man! Well may we hail him who now has begun to live for ever! If the Heathen could speak of him : “Animal providum, sagax, multiplex, acutum, memor, plenum rationis et consilii, quem vocamus Hominem, preclara quadem conditione generatum esse a summo Deo:"* how should we honour all men! How unworthy is every contemptuous expression towards any on our tongues! Is he to be despised ? Is "he a vessel in which is no pleasure ?"
If a spirit of disparagement be entertained towards any man, as the consuming animal, as the supernumerary disturber, - his entrance on this earth an encroachment, his mingling with its tribes an impertinence,-one who came uninvited and who departs undesired, -such a temper is not drawn from Revelation. When we pray unto our Father which is in heaven for our daily bread, we acknowledge all mankind for our brethren, and include them in the prayer. Each man is the brother for whom Christ died. None may be indifferent nor displeasing to us. We are our Brother's Keeper. The most distressed is most proximately our neighbour. We are debtors to all. We owe to love one another. The Christian Charity courses each drop of our common blood through all the windings of the human heart, and identifies all its great principles with universal man. And at least our native country makes a noble investment, though not more than just, for the needy. It mortgages its whole property for the service of the poor. It has no
* “That the creature, far-seeing, ingenious, unrestricted, examining, recollective, full of reason and purpose, whom we call man, must have been formed with such renowned qualities by the Supreme God.”—Cicero. De Legibus, lib. i.
Apothetæ,* like Sparta, for the deformed infant: it provides, unlike the ancient Massagetai,t no living grave for age.
But let us indulge no visionary ideas of man in his most perfect state on earth. He must always be a labourer. The furrow must be turned, the forge must be lighted, the anvil must be struck. There will be required the miner, the excavator, the builder, the husbandman. Most minute processes must be conducted: most menial tasks must be performed. The drudgery of present occupation may be somewhat mitigated. Yet bodily exertion will ever be exacted. Though his brow shall be raised still higher to heaven, the sweat of toil must be always there. A law proclaims this necessity. Population stands in a relation to the supply of food. There is invariably, in every civilised country, a certain proportion between the two. By some restraint or check, population is not suffered a permanent or common advancement upon the means of subsistence prepared for that population. They do not swell in diverse ratios to each other. Increase of human kind seems to know no indefinite expansion : increase of food for human kind as little knows a wasteful superfluity. We speak not now of certain affirmed calculations. We diffide in them. The multiplication of the species is, to our conviction, extravagantly computed. The sources of its support are placed, in our belief, most unduly low. But the
* Plutarch. Lycur: + Herodotus. Cleio.
true inequality, though very far from the arithmetical and geometric figures, we consider a most important principle. It is the great incentive to industry and competition. Too rife and too easy a provision for our wants would weaken the mainspring of every social movement : he who will not work ought not to eat: and the place of every one who feeds upon the universal garner must be properly apportioned and eagerly sought. He cannot sit down to the feast without having first earned his share and vindicated his title.
In the treatment of enquiries which affect population, we are betrayed into a style of language, perfectly innocent, but not equally felicitous. We speak, when looking on the crowds of the town and city, of the masses discovered there. Now we, in this wise, talk of every congeries and conglomerate. We correct ourselves by qualifying the phrase : they are living masses, the masses of human beings. But our judgments are distorted by the phrase. We unconsciously glide into a prejudice. We have gained a total, without thinking of the parts. It is a heap, but it has strangely become indivisible. These masses present to us no delineations, no individualities. When we speak of mind in reference to them, it is as though there was but one mind informing all; or of capacity for feeling, as though there was but one capacity for feeling exciting all. In reckonings of their number to a given space, or to a particular period, we absolutely break
down these quantities, not into integers, but aliquots and fractions. We must reduce the sums into fifths, and thirds, and eighths. We call decimals to our aid. If disaster overtake the throng,—if military execution befall some lawless multitude,—we hear without surprise, that perhaps only two, or four, of the dense mass have suffered harm or death. From the extenuation which this is supposed to urge, we might imagine that the catastrophe was universally diffused: that the deadly missive, that the sabre gash, were equally distributed. But each component was a perfect system of existence in himself. He who was wounded, only he was harmed; he who was killed, only he has died. There was no common nerve nor life in the crowd. We might say, only these were injured or were slain. But it is a solecism to say that only these of the multitude were thus affected. There is no compendium of men. All others of the multitude escaped, and these suffered as if they had stood alone. They lost nothing of themselves in their associates. They were but their uncompounded selves. To himself, to his hereafter, to his God, each man is a separate entity,
- you cannot divide nor multiply him, —you cannot make him something more or something less,—amidst whatever congregation of his fellows he is found, in whatever circumstances of relationship he stands, he is distinct from all, as though he wandered the lone pilgrim across the tuftless desert, or in solitary skiff traversed a shoreless sea.