BLTC Press Titles

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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll

The Souls of Black Folk

W. E. B. DuBois

Further Adventures of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross

The Story of Doctor Dolittle

Hugh Lofting

An Essay on the Principle of Population, as it Affects the Future Improvement of Society

by Thomas Robert Malthus


It has been universally remarked that all new colonies settled in healthy countries, where room and food were abundant, have constantly made a rapid progress in population. Many of the colonies from ancient Greece, in the course of one or two centuries, appear to have rivalled, and even surpassed, their mother cities. Syracuse and Agrigentum in Sicily; Tarentum and Locri in Italy; Ephesus and Miletus in Lesser Asia; were, by all accounts, at least equal to any of the cities of General deductions from the, etc.

ancient Greece. All these colonies had established themselves in countries inhabited by savage and barbarous nations, which easily gave place to the new settlers, who had of course plenty of good land. It is calculated that the Israelites, though they increased very slowly, while they were wandering in the land of Canaan, on settling in a fertile district of Egypt doubled their numbers every fifteen years during the whale period of their stay.» But not to dwell on remote instances, the European settlements in America bear ample testimony to the truth of a remark, that has never, I believe, been doubted. Plenty of rich land to be had for little or nothing is so powerful a cause of population as generally to overcome all obstacles.

No settlements could easily have been worse managed than those of Spain in Mexico, Peru, and Quito. The tyranny, superstition, and vices of the mother country were introduced in ample quantities among her children. Exorbitant taxes were exacted by the crown ; the most arbitrary restrictions were imposed on their trade; and the governors were not behind hand in rapacity and

'Short's New Observ.on Bills of Mortality, p. 259, 8vo.

General deductions from the

extortion for themselves as well as their master. Yet under all these difficulties, the colonies made a quick progress in population. The city of Quito, which was but a hamlet of Indians, is represented by Ulloa as containing fifty or sixty thousand inhabitants above fifty years ago.' Lima, which was founded since the conquest, is mentioned by the same author as equally or more populous, before the fatal earthquake in 1746. Mexico is said to contain a hundred thousand inhabitants, which, notwithstanding the exaggerations of the Spanish writers, is supposed to be five times greater than what it contained in the time of Montezuma.

In the Portuguese colony of Brazil, governed with almost equal tyranny, there were supposed to be above thirty years ago six hundred thousand inhabitants of European extraction.'

The Dutch and French colonies, though under the government of exclusive companies of merchants, which, as Dr. Smith justly observes, is the

1 Voy. d-Ulloa, torn. i. liv. v. ch. v. p. 229. ito. 1752. ? Smith's Wealth of Nations, vol. ii.b. iv. ch. vii.p. 363. I Jd. p. Ms.


preceding view of Society.

worst of all possible governments, still persisted in thriving under every disadvantage.'

But the English North American colonies, now the powerful people of the United States of America, far outstripped all the others, in the progress of their population. To the quantity of rich land which they possessed in common with the Spanish and Portuguese colonies, they added a greater degree of liberty and equality. Though not without some restrictions on their foreign commerce, they were allowed the liberty of managing their own internal affairs. The political institutions which prevailed were favorable to the alienation and division of property. Lands which were not cultivated by the proprietor within a limited time were declared grantable to any other person. In Pennsylvania, there was no right of primogeniture; and in the provinces of New England, the eldest son had only a double share. There were no tithes in any of the States, and scarcely any taxes. And on account of the extreme cheapness of good land, a capital could not be more advantageously employed than in agriculture, which at the same General deductions from the

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