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inherent tendency to this duplication; and that consequently it would thus double itself always and every where, were not the increase prevented by causes to which sufficient attention has not been paid. Further, he maintains, that while a thousand millions of people are as easily doubled every twenty-five years by the power of population, as a thousand, the food to support this vast increase can by no means be obtained with the same facility; that man is necessarily confined in room; that all the fertile land must soon be occupied; and, in short, that the ascertained law is, that population increases in geometrical, but subsistence in arithmetical progression. The consequence is obvious. Suppose the average produce of the Island of Great Britain could be doubled in the first twenty-five years. In the next twenty-five years it is impossible to suppose it could be quadrupled. Suppose it however quadrupled. Call the population of the Island eleven millions, and suppose the present produce equal to the easy support of such a number. In the first twenty-five years the population would be twenty-two millions, and the food being also doubled, the means of subsistence, would be equal to this increase. In the next twenty-five years, the population would be forty-four millions, and the means of subsistence only equal to the support of thirty-three
millions. In the next period, the population would be eighty-eight millions, and the means of subsistence just equal to the support of half that number. And, at the conclusion of the first century, the population would be one hundred and seventy-six millions, and the means of subsistence only equal to the support of fifty five millions, leaving a population of one hundred and twenty-one millions, totally unprovided for.
Moreover, it is contended, that the consequence of this principle is immediate ; that, long before all the land in a country is brought under cultivation, or that which best repays the labor of the husbandman affords the utmost it is capable of producing; as soon, in fact, as the quantity of food actually raised, is inadequate to the comfortable support of the number of persons actually existing; want, and its inseparable companions, vice and misery, must appear. That, although by that law of nature which renders food necessary to the life of man, population cannot actually increase beyond the lowest nourishment capable of supporting it; yet, it may, and its constant tendency is, and, in point of fact, it always does increase, beyond the supply of food necessary to support it in ease and comfort; whence this hypothesis explains why in every country of which there is any record, excepting only amongst the first possessors of uncleared land, poverty prevails amongst some of its mem
bers; because, from a principle inherent in human nature, the tendency of the human race is to increase, till the population presses against the limit of the means of subsistence, so that in every country there will always be a greater number of persons, than the actual and available supply of food can easily and comfortably nourish. Into the controversy to which these speculations have given origin, and which is still agitated, this is not the place to enter. It is necessary only to observe, that an actual increase of the human species in a geometrical ratio, for any considerable period together, is impossible, and that this impossibility is distinctly admitted. The late advocates of the hypothesis of Mr. Malthus, are anxious to disclaim all idea of an increase in any proportion that is strictly regular. But it is contended, that if it be conceded that the increase at the assigned rate is not regular, the nature of the proposition is wholly changed; the geometrical ratio is given up, and all that can be said of the increase, however great and rapid, is, that there is a power in the human species to multiply its numbers greatly and rapidly. Mr. Malthus says, that population, when unchecked, goes on doubling itself every twenty-five years; that is, goes on increasing in the order of 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, &c. This, it is argued, is not possible, because the first term in the series does not at any fixed period with invariable certainty become two, the second term ; nor does two at any fixed period, with invariable certainty become three ; nor three, four, and so on. That the quantity represented by these terms should, at the period stated in the proposition, with invariable certainty be doubled, is plainly indispensable to the progression. The slightest alteration in that quantity, must be fatal to the uniformity of the result; fatal, that is, to the geometrical progression. The proposition is, that the quantity represented by 1, say 10,000,000, in twentyfive years becomes 2, that is 20,000,000; in fifty years 4, that is, 40,000,000; in seventy-five years 8, that is, 80,000,000; in one hundred years 16, that is 160,000,000; and so on. But if, in the precise period specified, this quantity be not invariably augmented in this precise ratio; if it be not so augmented in every successive period; if, at one period, the number remain stationary, at another increase, and at another diminish, there can be no proper geometrical progression.”
* Since, indeed, the second generation possesses the power of increasing as fast as the first, and the third as fast as the second, and so on; the increase may not improperly be said to be of a geometrical character. And, in this sense, it may be of a geometrical character, without being in strict geometrical progression. The two propositions are by no means identical. If an increase at a fixed rate, has never gone on with regularity beyond three or four periods, but the regularity of the progression has uniformly been interrupted, and always must be inter
Nothing, then, it is contended, in human affairs is certain, if it be not certain, that the increase in the numbers of mankind is most irregular. Sometimes for a certain period, say twenty-five years, there is an increase; that increase has never been known to proceed, in the same proportion, four periods together. Sometimes for a certain period, there is a diminution, that diminution has never been known to proceed, in the same proportion four periods together. Sometimes for a certain
rupted, by those circumstances which are denominated checks, in what real or practical sense, can the increase be said to be in geometrical progression ? What is gained by this mode of expression? Mr. Malthus himself affirms that “in the actual state of every society, which has come within our view, the natural progress of population has been constantly and powerfully checked, and that no improved form of government, no plans of emigration, no benevolent institutions, and no degree or direction of national industry, can prevent the continued action of a great check to population in some form or other.” (Essay on Population, Vol. III. book iv. chap. i. pp. 63, 64. fifth edition.) What then is the utility of saying, that population, if unchecked, would increase in geometrical progression, when it is thus expressly conceded, that population can never be without the continued action of a great check? Surely without clouding the subject with the geometrical progression, it would be better to say, that there is a constant tendency in population to a great and rapid increase; that population must always possess the inherent power of doubling its numbers as easily after the second and third, or after the hundredth or thousandth duplication, as after the first, but that this cannot possibly be the case for ever with subsistence.