Joseph Lowe.

The present state of England in regard to agriculture, trade and finance; with a comparison of the prospects of England and France online

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of the animating picture he lias drawn of a country
with augmenting numbers : yet it seems to form
rather a qualification than a contradiction of his
doctrine ; and to prove nothing at variance with
his creed in regard to a population differently cir-
cumstanced ; we mean so placed as to be near to,
and in a state of co-operation with each other.

Town Population. — What a contrast to this sta-
tionary condition is exhibited by the progress of
towns, whether we go back to the days of antiquity,
or fix our attention on modern history : whether
we contemplate Tyre, Carthage, Athens, Syracuse,
in the former ; or Pisa, Genoa, Venice, Bruges,
Antwerp, Amsterdam, in the latter; or, finallv,
look to tlie growth of the towns of our own coun-
try in the present age. Widely different as is this
})rogress, according to difference of situation, we
can hardly trace in any country an example of
numbers collected in one spot, without an accom-
panying increase of wealth. Even such a place as
Debreczin, in Hungary, an assemblage of 1-es of a concentrated
population? In the subtlivision of labour; in
the power of making the exertions of nuniy con-
cur to one object; in the means otgi\ing em-
ployment, of some kind or other, to persons the
most difierent in education and attainments, lu

))r()|)()rti()ii as employment becomes subdivided,
the eflicieiicy ofihe individual is increased, and the
same labour enables him to furnish commodities,
superior, either in quantity or quality, generally in
l)Oth. Iksides, an assemblage of numbers is highly
favourable to those discoveries and inventions, the
effect of which, whether in agricultin-e, manufacture,
or mechanics, is to increase so remarkably the pro-
ductive })0wers of a country, to render the articles
produced so much chea])er and better. It admits,
we believe, of no doubt that the rate of wages in a
capital, such as London or Paris, or in a large
town," such as Manchester, Birmingham, or Rouen,
exceeds those of a small town in a degree greater
than the difference in the expence of living.

The resources of collected })oj)ulation have been
exemplified in the Dutch provinces of Holland and
Zealand, during two centuries, by the payment of
an amount of taxation almost unparalleled in the
annals of finance. At a time when in England,
the majority of the inhabitants lived, as at present
in France, in the open country, Holland had accu-
mulated the larger part of her population in towns;
and though their numbers have now experienced a
decrease, Amsterdam and the eight cities situated
within a circuit smaller than one of our middle
sized counties, still contain a population of more
than 400,000, a density exceeded only by London
and Paris, and which, rapidly as the numbers of
our manufacturers increase, will hardly be sur-
passed in the present age by the poj)uIation of
either our cotton, our woollen, or our hardware

These districts, however, aiul the parts of our
island rendered populous by navigation, already
confirm the result exhibited bv Holland, the aver-

its stationary Cotiditiun. 241

age income of individuals being considerably greater
in these than in tlie less populous parts of our
island. This was a|)parent from the returns made
under the Property-tax Act. In like manner in
France, the returns made to government under the
J()ncier, or tax on the income of landlords, farmers,
and house pro})rietors, show that the revenue not
only of the public, but of tlie individual, is smaller
where the numbers are thinly scattered, — smaller
in the mountainous departments of the south, than
in the more fertile and populous districts of the
north. In the main articles of food and fuel, the
peasantry are often better provided than the lower
orders in towns, but in other respects, there are on
the Continent the same reasons as in England for
allotting the superiority in property to the latter.
It is in a large association only that activity and
talent find an adequate field ; that the command
of capital, the co-operation of assistants, can be
turned to account : there is, hence, no comparison
between town and country in the proportion of
those who from poverty attain the comfort of a
middle station ; to say nothing of those who reach
a high rank in the scale of property.

Farther, as every country raises food for the far
greater ])art of its consum])tion, density of town-
population implies, in general, an advanced state
of agriculture : it is along with such density that
we find extensive farms, a general ap})lication of
machinery, and a variety of improvements which
enable cultivators to send to market a much larger
proportion of produce than can be spared in a
country like the centre and south of France, where
all work being done by manual labour, the larger
share of the produce is necessarily consumed by
those who raise it. In all respects, therefore, a


JJ42 Population : —

Dumerous town-population seems to us a proof of
wealth ; an evidence of the tendency of individual
as well as national income, to increase as society
advances in improvement. (See Appendix, p. [7^].)

Subsistence more easy of Acquisition as Society
advances. — The late wars, remarkable as they were
ibr the fi-equent recurrence of bad seasons, ex-
hibited no examples of local suffering equal to
those which marked the latter yciU's of the lOth
and 17th centuries ; the scarcities in the reigns of
Elizabeth and William. The cause is to be sought
in the general ease of communication arising ti'om
the improvement of our roads, canals, and maritime
navigation ; also in the more ample means of pur-
chase afforded to the lower orders by the diffusion
of employment, chiefly mechanical and manufac-
turing, throughout almost every corner of the
island. One part of the kingdom is thus enabled
to come to the rehef of the other, and prices are
kept nearly on an equality throughout. To this
source of relief at home, is added, particularly since
the peace, a supply from abroad, arising from the
extension of tillage over countries in a manner un-
known to our ancestors. In our chapter on Agri-
culture, (p. 152.) we took occasion to remark tliat
that which formerly constituted the corn country
of Europe, meaning the country producing corn in
sufficiency for export, is comprised between the
45th and 55th degree of latitude, and has a simi-
larity df climate greater than is supposed by those
of our countrymen who have not travelled or
studied the temperature of the Continent. This
remark applies to the Netherlands, the north of
France, the north of Germany, Denmark, and even
to part of Poland, all too similar to our country in

Acquisition of Subsistence. ^-iS

latitude and vicinity to the sea, to escape a par-
ticipation in those causes of deficiency, whether
arising from want or excess of rain, which, from
time to time, affect our harvests. But the exten-
sion of tillage along the shores of the Kuxine, and
the increased cultivation of the United States, af-
ford new sources of supply : these countries are
distant, indeed, and the amount of import from
them, must, from the cost of conveyance, neces-
Barily be limited ; but as it will proceed from cli-
mates not likely to be affected by the causes which
lead to deficient crops in the north-west of Europe,
it will of course be available in the day of need.

These different inferences, whether deduced
from historical or geographical authority, may be
admitted by the adherents of Mr. Malthus, and
when viewed in connection with our present
abundance of subsistence, may be allowed to be of
a nature to relieve a few generations from the ap-
prehension of scarcity ; but the anti-populationists
will still contend that their principle is correct,
and that a time must come when the world will
be exposed to the misery of over population. The
argument is thus brought to a kind of ne phis ultra,
but even on this final and decisive ground we are
not afraid to meet our antagonists. Without de-
nying that there is in the womb of time, a period
when population will attain its complement, we
contend that such a period is far more distant,
and the intermediate increase of our numbers
likely to be far greater than enters into the con-
ception of either our opponents, or the ])ublic at
large. Nor does it follow that when such a period
shall arrive, it must be necessarily a })eriod of
misery: — but to waive all speculation on this
mysterious point, and to confine ourselves to that

R ^Z

2 1' 1' ropulalion : —

■which is of" nearer interest, we sliall briefly ;i;ive our
reasons for the opinion that our ])osterity, f()r many
generations at least, are hkcly to increase their
numbers with less difficnlty than has been expe-
rienced by us or our ancestors.

1. Our fundamental doctrine, that increase of
produce depends less on the extent of newly-culti-
vated soil, than on the number of hands employed
on the old, will be found proof against tiie scAcrest
analysis. It is supported equally by the experience
of the present age, and the general evidence of
history : it supposes besides, a proportion between
demand and supply, — that ability on the part of
labour to obtain its reward, which corresponds so
clearly with the benevolent ordinations of Provi-

2. From the great diversity of soil and climate in
tlie cultivated portion of the globe, scarcity is never
general : " when famine was in other lands, in the
land of Egypt there was bread." If this applied to
an age when civilization extended over hardly ten
degrees of latitude, how much more does it hold
at present, and how greatly do the advantages aris-
ing from improvements perpetually in progress,
increase the power of mankind to turn to account
the bounty of nature ? Extended communication
by water enables even distant countries to supply
the deficiency of each other ; while in the same
territory improved methods of preserving corn,
additional gianaries, augmented capital, all concur
to enable tlie inliabitants to kee}) over the surplus
of one year, as a pro\ ision tor the possible failure
of the next.

3. The labour employed in raising subsistence,
becomes progressively more effectual, the source of
a larger prodiice, as society advances. This is

Acquisitmn of Subsistence. 245

evinced in two ways ; one, the use of improved
implements, is obvious to the common observer ;
the other the supply of the requisite produce by a
smaller number of agriculturists compared to other
classes, is less obvious and requires the evidence
of statistical documents. A census of our ances-
tors, taken a century and a half ago, would have
given, under the head of agriculturists, above 50
persons in 100, instead of the 33 of tlie ])resent
day. The majori^r of our present po})ulation are
tluis enabled to reside in towns and villages, and
are rendered disj)osable for other purposes : the
himibler orders employ themselves in supplying
clothing or lodging; a higher class minister to
the amusements, the education, or the luxury
of the rich ; while the highest of all are exempt
from the necessity of following any occupation
whatever. Confining our view to the topic at pre-
sent under discussion, in what light may we con-
sider the persons who minister to our luxuries?
They may be said to fbi'm a reserve of caj)ital and
labour a])plicable to the increase of subsistence, in
a case of imperious necessity.

A population return in France, or almost any
])art of the Continent, exhibits, it is true, a larger
number of residents in country than in town, but
many of the former are producers of other articles
than food: the flax, the hemp, the madder of their
fields, the wool of their flocks, the timber of their
forests, the hides of their cattle, are all constituents
of supply or ingredients of consumption, quite
distinct from the raising of provisions.

4. As society advances, and a i)art of the lower
orders })artici})ate in the comfort of the middle
classes, food forms ])rogressively a less considei'-
able proportion of their expenditure. In a })opu-

R 3

24G Popidalion : —

lation like that of" Irelaiul, tlie chief part of France,
and the |)o{)rer counties of P^nghuul, food constitutes
above (iO per cent, of the total family charge ; but
in our more populous rural districts, in our larger vil-
lages, and in our towns generally, the proportion (see
the Appendix, p. [11],) is little above .50 per cent.
What does this im})ly, but the enjoyment of greater
comfort on the part of our lower orders, the pos-
session of a fund with which to ])urchase clothes
and furnitiu-e in years of plenty. /-^nd to pay, in years
of scarcity, the extra price required for provisions ?
Hence, the less severe pressure of high prices of
food on a po{)ulation, such as that of Holland and
England, than on one devoid, in a manner, of ex-
changeable commodities, such as the peasantry of
Poland, Russia, or the inland districts of the High-
lands of Scotland.

Ought Government to take Measures for promote
hig Population. — " The maxim of the politician,*'*
says Mr. Gray, '* ought to be to take care of popu-
lation, as population will take care of subsistence
and of every other species of supply." Though con-
vinced that there is much more truth in this than
in most political apophthegms, we do not go quite
so far as Mr. G., and have no wish to keep in the
back giound the case of a population like that of
Ireland, Brittany, and Poland, in which increase
of numbers is attended by a verv slight increase of
comfort to the individual, or of strength to the
public. Nor do we assert that even in a country
the most fortunately constituted, increase of popu-
lation can bring with it a speedy cure to a dis-
ordered state of productive industry, such as has
existed among us since the peace. In the case>
for example, of agriculturists, distressed by a su*

Prospect of its Increase. 247

perabundance of liome growth, little relief is to be
anticipated from increase of consumers, because
the producers can hardly fail to augment their
numbers in ail equal proportion, leaving relief to
arise from the extension of home manufacture, thfe
removal of hands from country to town, or other
causes uncertain in the tiiiie of their occurrence,
and distinct, in a great measure, from the general
increase of our numbers.

Next, as to men in office, on whom Mr. G. seems
to think it incumbent to take measures, more or
less direct, to i)romote population, we confine our
exhortation to a passive course, satisfied if they
do nothing to obstruct the natural increase of
numbers. Let them carefully guard their minds
against the notion which so naturally follows the
creed of limited subsistence ; viz. that the discou-
ragement of marriage, or the loss of lives in the
field, and in unhealthy colonies, are not, in a sta-
tistical sense, a great misfortune, because they
operate, forsooth, as checks to superabundant
luniibers. — In regard to population, as to national
wealth, the plain rule is to avoid interf6rdhce, to
take no step for the })urj)ose of giving a new di-
rection to the course of events, but to remove ob-
stacles wherever such hav6 been interposed by the
mistaken, though well intended intervention of
preceding legislators. As to town population,
with all our conviction of its advantage, both to
the individual and the community, we should in-
finitely regret the adoption of any measure to in-
crease its relative amount. Let the tide flow in
its natural course : the duties of government evi-
dently extend no farther tlian keeping open the

K 4<


J'ojjulalion : ■

\Vc sliiill now turn aside from general reasoning
and direct the attention of the reader to data of" a
more specific character, to an estimate of the ])0-
pulation and resources of the different states of
Europe :






to a

and public

of such







per head.

Norway, including Fin-

£. s. d.

mark - . .



Sweden, Norway, and

Swedish Lapland



Sweden, distinct from

Norway and Swedish

Lapland - - -





Russia in Europe -



1 8,000,000

9 9

Scotland ; viz. the High-

lands distinct from the

low country


Turkey in Europe, not

ascertained, but proba-

bly not above




12 6

Poland, before the parti-

tion - - -



Poland, the present king-
dom of, distinct from

the provinces incorpo-

rated with the Austrian,

Russian, and Prussian





8 8

Sardinia, island of



Spain - - - .





Denmark, exclusive of

Faroe and Iceland




16 3

Hanover - - .





Portugal - - .




16 3

Switzerland, the twenty-

two cantons





(The pecuniary burden

is very small, but the

Swiss are liable to

military service.)

Wales - - - -



The Austrian empire, in-

cluding Lombardy, and

Austrian Poland




12 4

The Prussian dominions




13 4

Europe taken vullectivelij.






to a

and public

of such







per head.

£. 5. d.

Bavaria - _ .





Sicily, isliind of



Dominions of the king of

Sardinia, viz. Piedmont,

part of the Milanese,

the Genoese territory.

Savoy, and the island

of Sanlinia





States of the Church




7 6

The Neapolitan domi-

nions, inchidins Sicily





France, including Corsica




1 4

Scotland ; the low coun-

try distinct from the




Great Britain exclusive

of Irelxind (the taxes

coniputed according to

the value of money on

the Continent




2 15

Wirtemberg - _ .



1 ,000,000

14 4

Saxony ...





Jtaly, exclusive of Sicily

1 7,000,000


Great Britain and Ireland






The Netherlands*




1 10

Austrian, Italy, or the

Lombardo - Venetian






Ionian islands, republic -



J 00,000

8 9

England, distinct from





3 2

Ireland ...





Holland, province of -



West Flanders



East Flanders



P^urope collectively, a-

bout ...





* The repartition of taxation is here very, tlic Dutch provinces,
particularly those of Holland and Zealand, paying inucli more tlian \l. lO.v. a
head ; the Belgic much less.

Tliese returns, both as to population and j)ul)lic
burdens, are, in general, taken iioni ollieial docu-
ments : they require, liovvever, a tew e.\j)lanations;

*i5() Population : -^

Extent in squaYe Miles. — The amount assigned
to England, Scotland, and Wales is taken from
official returns, but in regard to Ireland and most
j)arts of the Continent, the statements are, in some
measure, conjectural, and to be considered only as

Our Public Burdens. — ThQ sum of 44,000,000/.
as the aggregate of our public burdens, may appear
greatly below the mark, but it is formed by two
important deductions firom our present payments ;
first, by taking credit for a farther reduction of
our taxes, and, in the next place, by making an
abatement (of 20 per cent.) from the numerical
amount of our burdens, to bring their value on a
par with those of the Continent, with which they
are here compared.

Taa:ation of Rural Districts. — It may be ob-
jected to the preceding table, that an estimate
founded on taxation does not do justice to the
property of a rural population, who, in many parts
of the Continent, seem almost to escape the grasp
of the exchequer. This exemption, however, is
limited chiefly to excise dues, and is, in a great
measure, balanced by a heavy land-tax, which,
under different names in different countries, forms
the basis of continental taxation, and is included
in the column of public burdens.

Population per Square Mile. — Mr* S. Cifray as^
sumes, (Happiness of States, p. 421.) that an indi-
vidual for every two acres, or 320 persons for a
square mile, would be a fair complement of popu-
lation for the soil and climate of Europe. From
this rate, however, we are still at a great distance.

Europe taken collectively, 251

having attained it only in Flanders and Holland :
in England and Ireland we are likely, if we pro-
ceed as in the present age, to reach it in somewhat
less than twenty years.

In Iceland the proportion is little more than one
person to a square mile, but the lowest extreme
of European population is exhibited in Lapland,
where tliere is not more than one inhabitant to
two or three square miles.

Europe taken collectively. — Our estimate is
greater in regard to population, and smaller in
respect to public burdens than that which is at
present current on the authority of German statis-
ticians ; but the latter made their computation in
or before the year I8I7, since which, population
has increased, and taxation has experienced a
partial reduction.

If those of our readers who are familiar with
history, will compare tiie present state of Europe
in population and revenue, with what it was two
or three centuries ago, they will })erceive a degree
of extension that is hardly credible. How feeble
do we find tiie establishments of France, even when
administered by Sully ; of England, when guided
by liurleigh ; of Aus.tria, when stinudated by tlie
vigour of Charles V., if we compare them to those
of the same powers at the present day ! The army
of Henry IV. of France, was, when at the highest,
only 40,000 men : the revenue of queen Elizabeth
was 600,000/. * Even the Spain of Phihp II., aided
by the mines of America, is found, when her re-
venue and her army are brouglit to the test of

• Napier's Supplement to tlie Kiuvcloi>. F^rit. uiuk'r the
heads of Englaiul and France.

•^.O^ ropidalioii : —

acc'iiniLc coini)iitati()ii, to have been on a j»a) with
onlv tlio second-rate powers of our a^e.

\V'hat a striking example is here afibrcleil of the
tendency to rapid improvement in those connnu-
nities which have overcome the difficulties of pri-
mitive ignora)ice, and in which safety is afforded
to persons and property ! More than that tiie
inhabitants of the Continent can hardly be said
to have received at the hands of their respective,
go\'ernors, since if some sovereigns have been dis-
anguished by active measures for promoting im-
provement, the beneficial result of their labours
has been balanced or more than balanced by am-
bition and unnecessary warfare on the part of their
brethren. How much more effectually would the
latter have consulted, not merely the happiness of
their subjects, but the increase of their political
power, had they never unsheathed the sword, but
been content to allow individual industry to work
its way, augmenting the number and wealth of the
community by a silent but sure increase !

It would be idle to lament what cannot be re-
called ; but in regard to the future, we may be
allowed to indulge a hope that the sovereigns of the
Continent will pursue a more enlightened course !

Online LibraryJoseph LoweThe present state of England in regard to agriculture, trade and finance; with a comparison of the prospects of England and France → online text (page 19 of 40)