Population is really a very different branch, but it is quite essential to understand the general problem which we ultimately come to of the progress of nations — the cause of poverty or prosperity. This subject was brought before the public for the first time in a distinct form by Malthus in his essay upon population published in 1798,1 since which time there have been many other editions. It is not to be supposed that Malthus entirely discovered the very germs of his own theory. As usually happens there were anticipations more or less distinct, and we find in the writings of Hume even,2 and of Adam Smith,’3 Dr. Price,4 Wallace,5 and in the writings of Jeremy Bentham6 a distinct assertion of the general principle, namely, that to increase the numbers of a nation you must begin by increasing their prosperity. The whole point in dispute in fact is which is cause and which effect. Is a nation numerous because it is prosperous, or is it prosperous because it is numerous. Previous to the time of Malthus almost everybody thought that you must make a nation strong and prosperous by making it numerous, and the policy of governments and laws was distinctly directed to this end. It was thought well to put a tax on bachelors in the Roman law. And in various times in the middle ages down even to the present day some consideration is shown to those who make large additions to the population. Certainly it was not long ago put on the ground that they added to the number and the strength of the nation. Now Malthus took the precisely opposite view- that to make a nation numerous you must make it prosperous, and then there is no doubt it will become numerous. And he took this view to almost an extreme extent, asserting that the tendency to numerical increase was so great that the larger part of the population would be upon the verge of famine.


Natural Agent Geometrical Series Money Wage Geometrical Ratio Large Addition 
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© R. D. Collison Black and Rosamond Könekamp 1977

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  • R. D. Collison Black

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