An Essay on the Principle of Population

Thomas Robert Malthus
Malthus, Thomas Robert
(1766-1834)
CEE
Display paragraphs in this book containing:
Editor/Trans.
First Pub. Date
1798
Publisher/Edition
London: John Murray
Pub. Date
1826
Comments
6th edition
Start PREVIOUS
11 of 60
NEXT End

Book I, Chapter VIII

Of the Checks to Population in different parts of Africa.

I.VIII.1

The parts of Africa visited by Park are described by him as neither well cultivated nor well peopled. He found many extensive and beautiful districts entirely destitute of inhabitants; and in general the borders of the different kingdoms were either very thinly peopled or perfectly deserted. The swampy banks of the Gambia, the Senegal, and other rivers towards the coast, appeared to be unfavourable to population, from being unhealthy;*60 but other parts were not of this description; and it was not possible, he says, to behold the wonderful fertility of the soil, the vast herds of cattle proper both for labour and food, and reflect on the means which presented themselves of vast inland navigation, without lamenting that a country so abundantly gifted by nature should remain in its present savage and neglected state.*61

I.VIII.2

The causes of this neglected state clearly appear, however, in the description which Park gives of the general habits of the negro nations. In a country divided into a thousand petty states, mostly independent and jealous of each other, it is natural, he says, to imagine that wars frequently originate from very frivolous provocations. The wars of Africa are of two kinds, one called Killi, that which is openly avowed; and the other, Tegria, plundering or stealing. These latter are very common, particularly about the beginning of the dry season, when the labours of harvest are over, and provisions are plentiful.—These plundering excursions always produce speedy retaliation.*62

I.VIII.3

The insecurity of property arising from this constant exposure to plunder, must necessarily have a most baneful effect on industry. The deserted state of all the frontier provinces sufficiently proves to what degree it operates. The nature of the climate is unfavourable to the exertion of the negro nations; and, as there are not many opportunities of turning to advantage the surplus produce of their labour, we cannot be surprised that they should in general content themselves with cultivating only so much ground as is necessary for their own support.*63 These causes appear adequately to account for the uncultivated state of the country.

I.VIII.4

The waste of life in these constant wars and predatory incursions must be considerable; and Park agrees with Buffon in stating, that independently of violent causes, longevity is rare among the negroes. At forty, he says, most of them become grey-haired and covered with wrinkles, and few of them survive the age of fifty-five or sixty.*64 Buffon attributes this shortness of life to the premature intercourse of the sexes, and very early and excessive debauchery.*65 On this subject perhaps he has been led into exaggerations; but without attributing too much to this cause, it seems agreeable to the analogy of nature to suppose that, as the natives of hot climates arrive much earlier at maturity than the inhabitants of colder countries, they should also perish earlier.

I.VIII.5

According to Buffon, the negro-women are extremely prolific; but it appears from Park that they are in the habit of suckling their children two or three years, and as the husband during this time devotes the whole of his attention to his other wives, the family of each wife is seldom numerous.*66 Polygamy is universally allowed among the negro nations;*67 and consequently without a greater superabundance of women than we have reason to suppose, many will be obliged to live unmarried. This hardship will principally fall on the slaves, who, according to Park, are in the proportion of three to one to the free men.*68 A master is not permitted to sell his domestic slaves or those born in his own house, except in case of famine, to support himself and family. We may imagine therefore that he will not suffer them to increase beyond the employment which he has for them. The slaves which are purchased, or the prisoners taken in war, are entirely at the disposal of their masters.*69 They are often treated with extreme severity, and in any scarcity of women arising from the polygamy of the free men, would of course be deprived of them without scruple. Few or no women, probably, remain in a state of strict celibacy; but in proportion to the number married, the state of society does not seem to be favourable to increase.

I.VIII.6

Africa has been at all times the principal mart of slaves. The drains of its population in this way have been great and constant, particularly since their introduction into the European colonies; but perhaps, as Dr. Franklin observes, it would be difficult to find the gap that has been made by a hundred years' exportation of negroes which has blackened half America.*70 For notwithstanding this constant emigration, the loss of numbers from incessant war, and the checks to increase from vice and other causes, it appears that the population is continually pressing against the limits of the means of subsistence. According to Park, scarce years and famines are frequent. Among the four principal causes of slavery in Africa, he mentions famine next to war;*71 and the express permission given to masters to sell their domestic slaves for the support of their family, which they are not allowed to do on any less urgent occasion,*72 seems to imply the not unfrequent recurrence of severe want. During a great scarcity which lasted for three years in the countries of the Gambia, great numbers of people became slaves. Park was assured by Dr. Laidley that at that time many free men came, and begged with great earnestness to be put upon his slave chain to save them from perishing with hunger.*73 While Park was in Manding, a scarcity of provisions was severely felt by the poor, as the following circumstance painfully convinced him. Every evening during his stay, he observed five or six women come to the Mansa's house and receive each of them a certain quantity of corn. "Observe that boy," said Mansa to him, pointing to a fine child about five years of age—"his mother has sold him to me for forty days' provision for herself and the rest of her family. I have bought another boy in the same manner."*74 In Sooseeta, a small Jallonka village, Mr. Park was informed by the master that he could furnish no provisions, as there had lately been a great scarcity in that part of the country. He assured him that before they had gathered in their present crops all the inhabitants of Kullo had been for twenty-nine days without tasting corn; during which time they had supported themselves entirely on the yellow powder which is found in the pods of the nitta, (so called by the natives,) a species of mimosa, and upon the seeds of the bamboo cane, which when properly pounded and dressed taste very much like rice.*75

I.VIII.7

It may be said perhaps that as, according to Park's account, much good land remains uncultivated in Africa, the dearths may be attributed to a want of people; but if this were the case, we can hardly suppose that such numbers would yearly be sent out of the country. What the negro nations really want is security of property, and its general concomitant, industry; and without these, an increase of people would only aggravate their distresses. If, in order to fill up those parts which appeared to be deficient in inhabitants, we were to suppose a high bounty given on children, the effects would probably be, the increase of wars, the increase of the exportation of slaves, and a great increase of misery, but little or no real increase of population.*76

I.VIII.8

The customs of some nations, and the prejudices of all, operate in some degree like a bounty of this kind. The Shangalla negroes, according to Bruce, hemmed in on every side by active and powerful enemies, and leading a life of severe labour and constant apprehension, feel but little desire for women. It is the wife, and not the man, that is the cause of their polygamy. Though they live in separate tribes or nations, yet these nations are again subdivided into families. In fighting, each family attacks and defends by itself, and theirs is the spoil and plunder who take it. The mothers therefore, sensible of the disadvantages of a small family, seek to multiply it by all the means in their power; and it is by their importunity, that the husband suffers himself to be overcome.*77 The motives to polygamy among the Galla are described to be the same, and in both nations the first wife courts the alliance of a second for her husband; and the principal argument she makes use of is, that their families may be joined together and be strong, and that her children, by being few in number, may not fall a prey to their enemies in the day of battle.*78 It is highly probable that this extreme desire of having large families defeats its own purpose; and that the poverty and misery, which it occasions, cause fewer children to grow up to maturity, than if the parents confined their attention to the rearing of a smaller number.

I.VIII.9

Bruce is a great friend to polygamy, and defends it, in the only way in which it is capable of being defended, by asserting, that in the countries in which it principally prevails the proportion of girls to boys born is two or three to one. A fact so extraordinary however cannot be admitted upon the authority of those vague inquiries on which he founds his opinion. That there are considerably more women living than men in these climates, is in the highest degree probable. Even in Europe, where it is known with certainty that more boys are born than girls, the women in general exceed the men in number; and we may imagine that in hot and unhealthy climates, and in a barbarous state of society, the accidents to which the men are exposed must be very greatly increased. The women, by leading a more sedentary life, would suffer less from the effects of a scorching sun and swampy exhalations; they would in general be more exempt from the disorders arising from debauchery; but, above all, they would escape in great measure the ravages of war. In a state of society in which hostilities never cease, the drains of men, from this cause alone, must occasion a great disproportion of the sexes, particularly where it is the custom, as related of the Galla in Abyssinia,*79 to massacre indiscriminately all the males, and save only the marriageable women from the general destruction. The actual disproportion of the sexes arising from these causes probably first gave rise to the permission of polygamy, and has perhaps contributed to make us more easily believe, that the proportion of male and female children in hot climates is very different from what we have experienced it to be in the temperate zone.

I.VIII.10

Bruce, with his usual prejudices on this subject, seems to think that the celibacy of a part of the women is fatal to the population of a country. He observes of Jidda that, on account of the great scarcity of provisions, which is the result of an extraordinary concourse of people to a place almost destitute of the necessaries of life, few of the inhabitants can avail themselves of the privilege granted by Mahomet. They cannot therefore marry more than one wife; and from this cause arises, he says, the want of people and the large number of unmarried women.*80 But it is evident that the want of people in this barren spot arises solely from the want of provisions, and that, if each man had four wives, the number of people could not be permanently increased by it.

I.VIII.11

In Arabia Felix, according to Bruce, where every sort of provision is exceedingly cheap, where the fruits of the ground, the general food of man, are produced spontaneously, the support of a number of wives costs no more than that of so many slaves or servants. Their food is the same, and a blue cotton shirt, a habit common to them all, is not more chargeable for the one than for the other. The consequence is, he says, that celibacy in women is prevented, and the number of people increased in a fourfold ratio by polygamy, to what it is in those countries that are monogamous.*81 And yet, notwithstanding this fourfold increase, it does not appear that any part of Arabia is really very populous.

I.VIII.12

The effect of polygamy in increasing the number of married women and preventing celibacy is beyond dispute; but how far this may tend to increase the actual population is a very different consideration. It may perhaps continue to press the population harder against the limits of the food; but the squalid and hopeless poverty which this occasions is by no means favourable to industry; and in a climate in which there appears to be many predisposing causes of sickness, it is difficult to conceive that this state of wretchedness does not powerfully contribute to the extraordinary mortality which has been observed in some of these countries.

I.VIII.13

According to Bruce, the whole coast of the Red Sea, from Suez to Babelmandel, is extremely unwholesome, but more especially between the tropics. Violent fevers, called there Nedad, make the principal figure in this fatal list, and generally terminate the third day in death.*82 Fear frequently seizes strangers upon the first sight of the great mortality which they observe on their first arrival.

I.VIII.14

Jidda, and all the parts of Arabia adjacent to the eastern coast of the Red Sea, are in the same manner very unwholesome.*83

I.VIII.15

In Gondar, fevers perpetually reign, and the inhabitants are all of the colour of a corpse.*84

I.VIII.16

In Sirè, one of the finest countries in the world, putrid fevers of the very worst kind are almost constant.*85 In the low grounds of Abyssinia, in general, malignant tertians occasion a great mortality.*86 And every where the small-pox makes great ravages, particularly among the nations bordering on Abyssinia, where it sometimes extinguishes whole tribes.*87

I.VIII.17

The effect of poverty, with bad diet, and, its almost constant concomitant, want of cleanliness, in aggravating malignant distempers, is well known; and this kind of wretchedness seems generally to prevail. Of Tchagassa, near Gondar, Bruce observes that the inhabitants, notwithstanding their threefold harvests, are miserably poor.*88 At Adowa, the capital of Tigré, he makes the same remark, and applies it to all the Abyssinian farmers. The land is let yearly to the highest bidder, and in general the landlord furnishes the seed and receives half of the produce; but it is said that he is a very indulgent master who does not take another quarter for the risk he has run; so that the quantity which comes to the share of the husbandman is not more than sufficient to afford a bare sustenance to his wretched family.*89

I.VIII.18

The Agows, one of the most considerable nations of Abyssinia in point of number, are described by Bruce as living in a state of misery and penury scarcely to be conceived. We saw a number of women, he says, wrinkled and sun-burnt so as scarcely to appear human, wandering about under a burning sun with one and sometimes two children upon their backs, gathering the seeds of bent grass to make a kind of bread.*90 The Agow women begin to bear children at eleven years old. They marry generally about that age, and there is no such thing as barrenness known among them.*91 In Dixan, one of the frontier towns of Abyssinia, the only trade is that of selling children. Five hundred are exported annually to Arabia; and in times of scarcity, Bruce observes, four times that number.*92

I.VIII.19

In Abyssinia polygamy does not regularly prevail. Bruce, indeed, makes rather a strange assertion on this subject; and says that, though we read from the Jesuits a great deal about marriage and polygamy, yet that there is nothing which may be averred more truly than that there is no such thing as marriage in Abyssinia.*93 But, however this may be, it appears clear that few or no women lead a life of celibacy in that country; and that the prolific powers of nature are nearly all called into action, except so far as they are checked by promiscuous intercourse. This, however, from the state of manners described by Bruce, must operate very powerfully.*94

I.VIII.20

The check to population from war appears to be excessive. For the last four hundred years, according to Bruce, it has never ceased to lay desolate this unhappy country;*95 and the savage manner in which it is carried on surrounds it with tenfold destruction. When Bruce first entered Abyssinia, he saw on every side ruined villages destroyed to their lowest foundations by Ras Michael in his march to Gondar.*96 In the course of the civil wars, while Bruce was in the country, he says, "The rebels had begun to lay waste Dembea, and burnt all the villages in the plain from south to west, making it like a desert between Michael and Fasil.**** The king often ascended to the top of the tower of his palace, and contemplated with the greatest displeasure the burning of his rich villages in Dembea."*97 In another place he says, "The whole country of Degwessa was totally destroyed; men, women and children were entirely extirpated without distinction of age or sex; the houses razed to the ground, and the country about it left as desolate as after the deluge. The villages belonging to the king were as severely treated; an universal cry was heard from all parts, but no one dared to suggest any means of help."*98 In Maitsha, one of the provinces of Abyssinia, he was told that, if ever he met an old man, he might be sure that he was a stranger, as all that were natives died by the lance young.*99

I.VIII.21

If the picture of the state of Abyssinia drawn by Bruce, be in any degree near the truth, it places in a strong point of view the force of that principle of increase, which preserves a population fully up to the level of the means of subsistence under the checks of war, pestilential diseases and promiscuous intercourse, all operating in an excessive degree.

I.VIII.22

The nations which border on Abyssinia are universally short-lived. A Shangalla woman at twenty-two is, according to Bruce, more wrinkled and deformed by age than an European woman at sixty.*100 It would appear, therefore, that in all these countries, as among the northern shepherds in the times of their constant emigrations, there is a very rapid succession of human beings; and the difference in the two instances is, that our northern ancestors died out of their own country, whereas these die at home. If accurate registers of mortality were kept among these nations; I have little doubt that it would appear, that, including the mortality from wars, 1 in 17 or 18 at the least dies annually, instead of 1 in 34, 36, or 40, as in the generality of European states.

I.VIII.23

The description, which Bruce gives of some parts of the country which he passed through on his return home, presents a picture more dreadful even than the state of Abyssinia, and shews how little population depends on the birth of children, in comparison of the production of food and those circumstances of natural and political situation which influence this produce.

I.VIII.24

"At half past six," Bruce says, "we arrived at Garigana, a village whose inhabitants had all perished with hunger the year before; their wretched bones being all unburied and scattered upon the surface of the ground where the village formerly stood. We encamped among the bones of the dead; no space could be found free from them."*101

I.VIII.25

Of another town or village in his route he observes, "The strength of Teawa was 25 horse. The rest of the inhabitants might be 1200 naked miserable and despicable Arabs, like the rest of those which live in villages.**** Such was the state of Teawa. Its consequence was only to remain till the Daveina Arabs should resolve to attack it, when its corn-fields being burnt and destroyed in a night by a multitude of horsemen, the bones of its inhabitants scattered upon the earth would be all its remains, like those of the miserable village of Garigana."*102

I.VIII.26

"There is no water between Tedwa and Beyla. Once Indedidema and a number of villages were supplied with water from wells, and had large crops of Indian corn sown about their possessions. The curse of that country, the the Daveina Arabs, have destroyed Indedidema and all the villages about it; filled up their wells, burnt their crops, and exposed all the in habitants to die by famine."*103

I.VIII.27

Soon after leaving Sennaar, he says, "We began to see the effects of the quantity of rain having failed. There was little corn sown, and that so late as to be scarcely above ground. It seems the rains begin later as they pass northward. Many people were here employed in gathering grass-seeds to make a very bad kind of bread. These people appear perfect skeletons, and no wonder, as they live upon such fare. Nothing increases the danger of travelling and prejudice against strangers more, than the scarcity of provisions in the country through which you are to pass."*104

I.VIII.28

"Came to Eltic, a straggling village about half a mile from the Nile, in the north of a large bare plain; all pasture, except the banks of the river which are covered with wood. We now no longer saw any corn sown. The people here were at the same miserable employment as those we had seen before, that of gathering grass-seeds."*105

I.VIII.29

Under such circumstances of climate and political situation, though a greater degree of foresight, industry and security, might considerably better their condition and increase their population, the birth of a greater number of children without these concomitants would only aggravate their misery, and leave their population where it was.

I.VIII.30

The same may be said of the once flourishing and populous country of Egypt. Its present depressed state has not been caused by the weakening of the principle of increase, but by the weakening of the principle of industry and foresight, from the insecurity of property consequent on a most tyrannical and oppressive government. The principle of increase in Egypt at present does all that is possible for it to do. It keeps the population fully up to the level of the means of subsistence; and, were its power ten times greater than it really is, it could do no more.

I.VIII.31

The remains of ancient works, the vast lakes, canals and large conduits for water destined to keep the Nile under control, serving as reservoirs to supply a dry year, and as drains and outlets to prevent the superabundance of water in wet years, sufficiently indicate to us that the former inhabitants of Egypt by art and industry contrived to fertilize a much greater quantity of land from the overflowings of their river, than is done at present; and to prevent, in some measure, the distresses which are now so frequently experienced from a redundant or insufficient inundation.*106 It is said of the governor Petronius, that, effecting by art what was denied by nature, he caused abundance to prevail in Egypt under the disadvantages of such a deficient inundation, as had always before been accompanied by dearth.*107 A flood too great is as fatal to the husbandman as one that is deficient; and the ancients had, in consequence drains and outlets to spread the superfluous waters over the thirsty sands of Lybia, and render even the desert habitable. These works are now all out of repair, and by ill management often produce mischief instead of good. The causes of this neglect, and consequently of the diminished means of subsistence, are obviously to be traced to the extreme ignorance and brutality of the government, and the wretched state of the people. The Mamelukes, in whom the principal power resides, think only of enriching themselves, and employ for this purpose what appears to them to be the simplest method, that of seizing wealth wherever it may be found, of wresting it by violence from the possessor, and of continually imposing new and arbitrary contributions.*108 Their ignorance and brutality, and the constant state of alarm in which they live; prevent them from having any views of enriching the country, the better to prepare it for their plunder. No public works therefore are to be expected from the government, and no individual proprietor dares to undertake any improvement which might imply the possession of capital, as it would probably be the immediate signal of his destruction. Under such circumstances we cannot be surprised that the ancient works are neglected, that the soil is ill cultivated; and that the means of subsistence, and consequently the population, are greatly reduced. But such is the natural fertility of the Delta from the inundations of the Nile, that even without any capital employed upon the land, without a right of succession, and consequently almost without a right of property, it still maintains a considerable population in proportion to its extent, sufficient, if property were secure, and industry well directed, gradually to improve and extend the cultivation of the country and restore it to its former state of prosperity. It may be safely pronounced of Egypt that it is not the want of population that has checked its industry, but the want of industry that has checked its population.

I.VIII.32

The immediate causes which keep down the population to the level of the present contracted means of subsistence, are but too obvious. The peasants are allowed for their maintenance only sufficient to keep them alive.*109 A miserable sort of bread made of doura without leaven or flavour, cold water, and raw onions make up the whole of their diet. Meat and fat, of which they are passionately fond, never appear but on great occasions, and among those who are more at their ease. Their habitations are huts made of earth, where a stranger would be suffocated with the heat and smoke; and where the diseases generated by want of cleanliness, by moisture and by bad nourishment, often visit them and commit great ravages. To these physical evils are added a constant state of alarm, the fear of the plunder of the Arabs, and the visits of the Mamelukes, the spirit of revenge transmitted in families, and all the evils of a continual civil war.*110

I.VIII.33

In the year 1783 the plague was very fatal; and in 1784 and 1785 a dreadful famine reigned in Egypt, owing to a deficiency in the inundation of the Nile. Volney draws a frightful picture of the misery that was suffered on this occasion. The streets of Cairo, which at first were full of beggars, were soon cleared of all these objects, who either perished or fled. A vast number of unfortunate wretches, in order to escape death, spread themselves over all the neighbouring countries, and the towns of Syria were inundated with Egyptians. The streets and public places were crowded by famished and dying skeletons. All the most revolting modes of satisfying the cravings of hunger were resorted to; the most disgusting food was devoured with eagerness; and Volney mentions the having seen under the walls of ancient Alexandria two miserable wretches seated on the carcase of a camel, and disputing with the dogs its putrid flesh. The depopulation of the two years was estimated at one-sixth of all the inhabitants.*111


Notes for this chapter


60.
Park's Interior of Africa, c. xx. p. 261. 4to.
61.
Id. c. xxiii. p. 312.
62.
Park's Interior of Africa, c. xxii. p. 291 & seq.
63.
Id. c. xxi. p. 280.
64.
Park's Africa, c. xxi. p. 284.
65.
L'usage prémature des femmes est peut-être la cause de la briéveté de leur vie; les enfans sont si débauchés, et si peu contraints par les pères et mères que dès leur plus tendre jeunesse ils se livrent à tout ce que la nature leur suggère; rien n'est si rare que de trouver dans ce peuple quelque fille qui puisse se souvenir du tems auquel elle a cessée d'être vierge. Histoire Naturelle de l'Homme, vol. vi. p. 235. 5th edit. 12mo. 31 vols.
66.
Park's Africa, c. xx. p. 265. As the accounts of Park, and those on which Buffon has founded his observations, are probably accounts of different nations, and certainly at different periods, we cannot infer that either is incorrect because they differ from each other; but as far as Park's observations extend, they are certainly entitled to more credit than any of the travellers which preceded him.
67.
Park's Africa, c. xx. p. 267.
68.
Park's Africa, c. xxii. p. 287.
69.
Id. p. 288.
70.
Franklin's Miscell. p. 9.
71.
Park's Africa, c. xxii. p. 295.
72.
Id. p. 288, note.
73.
Id. p. 295.
74.
Park's Africa, c. xix. p. 248.
75.
Id. c. xxv. p. 336.
76.
The two great requisites just mentioned for a real increase of population, namely, security of property, and its natural concomitant, industry, cannot be expected to exist among the negro nations, while the traffic in slaves on the coast gives such constant encouragement to the plundering excursions which Park describes. Were this traffic at an end, we might rationally hope that, before the lapse of any long period, future travellers would be able to give us a more favourable picture of the state of society among the African nations, than that drawn by Park.
77.
Bruce's Travels to discover the Source of the Nile, vol. ii. p. 556. 4to.
78.
Bruce's Travels, vol. ii. p. 223.
79.
Bruce's Travels to discover the Source of the Nile; vol. iv. p. 411.
80.
Id. vol. i. c. xi. p. 280.
81.
Bruce, vol. i. c. xi. p, 281.
82.
Bruce, vol. iii. p. 33.
83.
Id. vol. i. p. 279.
84.
Id. vol. iii. p 178.
85.
Id. p. 153.
86.
Id. vol. iv. p. 22.
87.
Id. vol. iii. c. iii. p. 68. c. vii. p. 178; vol. i. c. xiii, p. 353.
88.
Bruce, vol. iii. c. vii. p. 195.
89.
Id. c. v. p. 124.
90.
Id. c. xix. p. 738.
91.
Bruce, vol. iii. c. xix. p. 739.
92.
Id. c. iii. p. 88.
93.
Id. c. xi. p. 306.
94.
Id. p. 292.
95.
Id. vol. iv. p. 119.
96.
Bruce, vol. iii. c. vii. p. 192.
97.
Id. vol. iv. c. v. p. 112.
98.
Id. vol. iv. p. 258.
99.
Id. c. i. p. 14.
Bruce, vol. ii. p. 559.
Bruce, vol. iv. p. 349.
Id. p. 353.
Id. p. 411.
Bruce, vol. iv. p. .511.
Id. p. 511.
Bruce, vol. iii. c. xvii. p. 710.
Voyage de Volney, tom. i. c. iii. p. 33. 8vo.
Voyage de Volney, tom. i. c. xii. p. 170.
Voyage de Volney, tom. i. c. xii. p. 172.
Volney, tom. i. c. xii. p. 173. This sketch of the state of the peasantry in Egypt given by Volney seems to be nearly confirmed by all other writers on this subject; and particularly in a valuable paper entitled Considerations générales sur l'Agriculture de l'Egypte, par L. Reynier. (Mémoires sur l' Egypte, tom. iv. p. 1.)
Voy. de Volney, tom. i. c. xii. s. ii. .

End of Notes


Start PREVIOUS
12 of 60
NEXT End

Book I, Chapter IX

Of the Checks to Population in Siberia, Northern and Southern.

I.IX.1

The inhabitants of the most northern parts of Asia subsist chiefly by hunting and fishing; and we may suppose therefore that the checks to their increase are of the same nature as those which prevail among the American Indians; except that the check from war is considerably less, and the check from famine perhaps greater, than in the temperate regions of America. M. de Lesseps, who travelled from Kamtschatka to Petersburgh with the papers of the unfortunate Pérouse, draws a melancholy picture of the misery sometimes suffered in this part of the world from a scarcity of food. He observes, while at Bolcheretsk, a village of Kamtschatka; "Very heavy rains are injurious in this country, because they occasion floods which drive the fish from the rivers. A famine, the most distressing to the poor Kamtschadales, is the result; as happened last year in all the villages along the western coast of the peninsula. This dreadful calamity occurs so frequently in this quarter, that the inhabitants are obliged to abandon their dwellings, and repair with their families to the border of the Kamtschatka river where they hope to find better resources, fish being more plentiful in this river. Mr. Kasloff (the Russian officer who conducted M. de Lesseps) had intended to proceed along the western coast; but the news of this famine determined him, contrary to his wishes, to return rather than be driven to the necessity of stopping half way or perishing with hunger."*1 Though a different route was pursued, yet in the course of the journey almost all the dogs, which drew the sledges, died for want of food; and every dog, as soon as he failed, was immediately devoured by the others.*2

I.IX.2

Even at Okotsk, a town of considerable trade, the inhabitants wait with hungry impatience for the breaking up of the river Okhota in the spring. When M. de Lesseps was there, the stock of dried fish was nearly exhausted. Meal was so dear that the common people were unable to purchase it. On drawing the river prodigious numbers of small fish were caught, and the joy and clamour redoubled at the sight. The most famished were first served. M. de Lesseps feelingly says, "I could not refrain from tears on perceiving the ravenousness, of these poor creatures;****whole families contended for the fish, which were devoured raw before my eyes."*3

I.IX.3

Throughout all the northern parts of Siberia, the small-pox is very fatal. In Kamtschatka, according to M. de Lesseps, it has carried off three fourths*4 of the native inhabitants.

I.IX.4

Pallas confirms this account; and, in describing the Ostiacks on the Obi, who live nearly in the same manner, observes that this disorder makes dreadful ravages among them, and may be considered as the principal check to their increase.*5 The extraordinary mortality of the small-pox among these people is very naturally accounted for by the extreme heat, filth and putrid air of their underground habitations. Three or four Ostiack families are crowded together in one hut; and nothing can be so disgusting as their mode of living. They never wash their hands, and the putrid remains of the fish, and the excrements of the children, are never cleared away. From this description, says Pallas, one may easily form an idea of the stench, the fœtid vapours and humidity of their Yourts.*6 They have seldom many children. It is a rare thing to see three or four in one family; and the reason given by Pallas is that so many die young on account of their bad nourishment.*7 To this, perhaps, should be added the state of miserable and laborious servitude to which the women are condemned,*8 which certainly prevents them from being prolific.

I.IX.5

The Samoyedes, Pallas thinks, are not quite so dirty as the Ostiacks, because they are more in motion during the winter in hunting; but he describes the state of the women amongst them as a still more wretched and laborious servitude;*9 and consequently the check to population from this cause must be greater.

I.IX.6

Most of the natives of these inhospitable regions live nearly in the same miserable manner, which it would be therefore mere repetition to describe. From what has been said, we may form a sufficient idea of the principal checks that keep the actual population down to the level of the scanty means of subsistence which these dreary countries afford.

I.IX.7

In some of the southern parts of Siberia, and in the districts adjoining the Wolga, the Russian travellers describe the soil to be of extraordinary fertility. It consists in general of a fine black mould of so rich a nature as not to require or even to bear dressing. Manure only makes the corn grow too luxuriantly, and subjects it to fall to the ground and be spoiled. The only mode of recruiting this kind of land which is practised is, by leaving it one year out of three in fallow; and proceeding in this way, there are some grounds, the vigour of which is said to be inexhaustible.*10 Yet, notwithstanding the facility with which, as it would appear, the most plentiful subsistence might be procured, many of these districts are thinly peopled, and in none of them, perhaps, does population increase in the proportion that might be expected from the nature of the soil.

I.IX.8

Such countries seem to be under that moral impossibility of increasing, which is well described by Sir James Steuart.*11 If either from the nature of the government, or the habits of the people, obstacles exist to the settlement of fresh farms or the subdivision of the old ones, a part of the society may suffer want, even in the midst of apparent plenty. It is not enough that a country should have the power of producing food in abundance, but the state of society must be such as to afford the means of its proper distribution; and the reason why population goes on slowly in these countries is, that the small demand for labour prevents that distribution of the produce of the soil, which, while the divisions of land remain the same, can alone make the lower classes of society partakers of the plenty which it affords. The mode of agriculture is described to be extremely simple, and to require very few labourers. In some places the seed is merely thrown on the fallow.*12 The buck-wheat is a common culture; and though it is sown very thin, yet one sowing will last five or six years, and produce every year twelve or fifteen times the original quantity. The seed which falls during the time of the harvest is sufficient for the next year, and it is only necessary to pass a harrow once over it in the spring. And this is continued till the fertility of the soil begins to diminish. It is observed, very justly, that the cultivation of no kind of grain can so exactly suit the indolent inhabitants of the plains of Siberia.*13

I.IX.9

With such a system of agriculture, and with few or no manufactures, the demand for labour must very easily be satisfied. Corn will undoubtedly be very cheap; but labour will in proportion be still cheaper. Though the farmer may be able to provide an ample quantity of food for his own children, yet the wages of his labourer may not be sufficient to enable him to rear up a family with ease.

I.IX.10

If, from observing the deficiency of population compared with the fertility of the soil, we were to endeavour to remedy it by giving a bounty upon children, and thus enabling the labourer to rear up a greater number, what would be the consequence? Nobody would want the work of the supernumerary labourers that were thus brought into the market. Though the ample subsistence of a man for a day might be purchased for a penny, yet nobody would give these people a farthing for their labour. The farmer is able to do all that he wishes, all that he thinks necessary in the cultivation of the soil, by means of his own family and the one or two labourers that he might have before. As these people therefore can give him nothing that he wants, it is not to be expected that he should overcome his natural indolence, and undertake a larger and more troublesome concern, merely to provide them gratuitously with food. In such a state of things, when the very small demand for manufacturing labour is satisfied, what are the rest to do? They are, in fact, as completely without the means of subsistence as if they were living upon a barren sand. They must either emigrate to some place where their work is wanted, or perish miserably of poverty. Should they be prevented from suffering this last extremity by a scanty subsistence given to them, in consequence of a scanty and only occasional use of their labour, it is evident that, though they might exist themselves, they would not be in a capacity to marry and continue to increase the population.

I.IX.11

If in the best cultivated and most populous countries of Europe the present divisions of land and farms had taken place, and had not been followed by the introduction of commerce and manufactures, population would long since have come to a stand from the total want of motive to further cultivation, and the consequent want of demand for labour; and it is obvious that the excessive fertility of the country now under consideration would rather aggravate than diminish the difficulty.

I.IX.12

It will probably be said that, if there were much good land unused; new settlements and divisions would of course take place, and that the redundant population would raise its own food, and generate the demand for it, as in America.

I.IX.13

This would, no doubt, be the case under favourable circumstances; if, for instance, in the first place, the land were of such a nature as to afford all the other materials of capital as well as corn; secondly, if such land were to be purchased in small lots, and the property well secured under a free government; and, thirdly, if habits of industry and accumulation generally prevailed among the mass of the people. But the failure of any of these conditions would essentially check; or might altogether stop, the progress of population. Land that would bear the most abundant crops of corn might be totally unfit for extensive and general settlements from a want either of wood or of water. The accumulations of individuals would go most reluctantly and slowly to the land, if the tenures on which farms were held were either insecure or degrading; and no facility of production could effect a permanent increase and proper distribution of the necessaries of life under inveterate habits of indolence and want of foresight.

I.IX.14

It is obvious that the favourable circumstances here alluded to have not been combined in Siberia; and even on the supposition of there being no physical defects in the nature of the soil to be overcome, the political and moral difficulties in the way of a rapid increase of population could yield but slowly to the best-directed efforts. In America the rapid increase of agricultural capital is occasioned in a great degree by the savings from the high wages of common labour. The command of thirty or forty pounds at the least, is considered as necessary to enable an active young man to begin a plantation of his own in the back settlements. Such a sum may be saved in a few years without much difficulty in America, where labour is in great demand and paid at a high rate; but the redundant labourer of Siberia would find it extremely difficult to collect such funds as would enable him to build a house, to purchase stock and utensils, and to subsist till he could bring his new land into proper order and obtain an adequate return. Even the children of the farmer, when grown up, would not easily provide these necessary funds. In a state of society where the market for corn is extremely narrow, and the price very low, the cultivators are always poor; and though they may be able amply to provide for their family in the simple article of food, yet they cannot realize a capital to divide among their children, and enable them to undertake the cultivation of fresh land. Though this necessary capital might be very small, yet even this small sum the farmer perhaps cannot acquire; for when he grows a greater quantity of corn than usual, he finds no purchaser for it,*14 and cannot convert it into any permanent article which will enable any of his children to command an equivalent portion of subsistence or labour in future.*15 He often, therefore, contents himself with growing only what is sufficient for the immediate demands of his family, and the narrow market to which he is accustomed. And if he has a large family, many of his children probably fall into the rank of labourers, and their further increase is checked, as in the case of the labourer before described, by a want of the means of subsistence.

I.IX.15

It is not therefore a direct encouragement to the procreation and rearing of children that is wanted in these countries, in order to increase their population; but the creation of an effectual demand for the produce of the soil, by promoting the means of its distribution. This can only be effected by the introduction of manufactures, and by inspiring the cultivator with a taste for them, and thus enlarging the internal market.

I.IX.16

The late empress of Russia encouraged both manufacturers and cultivators; and furnished to foreigners of either description capital free of all interest for a certain term of years.*16 These well directed efforts, added to what had been done by Peter I., had, as might be expected, a considerable effect; and the Russian territories, particularly the Asiatic part of them, which had slumbered for centuries with a population nearly stationary, or at most increasing very languidly, seem to have made a sudden start of late years. Though the population of the more fertile provinces of Siberia be still very inadequate to the richness of the soil; yet in some of them agriculture flourishes in no inconsiderable degree, and great quantities of corn are grown. In a general dearth which happened in 1769, the province of Isetsk was able, notwithstanding a scanty harvest, to supply in the usual manner the founderies and forges of the Ural, besides preserving from the horrors of famine all the neighbouring provinces.*17 And in the territory of Krasnoyarsk, on the shores of the Yenissey, in spite of the indolence and drunkenness of the inhabitants, the abundance of corn is so great that no instance has ever been known of a general failure.*18 Pallas justly observes that, if we consider that Siberia not two hundred years ago was a wilderness utterly unknown, and in point of population even far behind the almost desert tracts of North America, we may reasonably be astonished at the present state of this part of the world, and at the multitude of its Russian inhabitants, who in numbers greatly exceed the natives.*19

I.IX.17

When Pallas was in Siberia, provisions in these fertile districts, particularly in the environs of Krasnoyarsk, were most extraordinarily cheap. A pood, or forty pounds, of wheaten flour, was sold for about two-pence halfpenny, an ox for five or six shillings, and a cow for three or four.*20 This unnatural cheapness, owing to a want of vent for the products of the soil, was perhaps the principal check to industry. In the period which has since elapsed, the prices have risen considerably;*21 and we may conclude therefore that the object wanted has been in a great measure attained, and that the population proceeds with rapid strides.

I.IX.18

Pallas, however, complains that the intentions of the empress respecting the peopling of Siberia were not always well fulfilled by her subordinate agents, and that the proprietors to whose care this was left, often sent off colonists, in every respect unfit for the purpose in regard to age, disease and want of industrious habits.*22 Even the German settlers in the districts near the Wolga are, according to Pallas, deficient in this last point,*23 and this is certainly a most essential one. It may indeed be safely asserted that the importation of industry is of infinitely more consequence to the population of a country, than the importation of men and women considered only with regard to numbers. Were it possible at once to change the habits of a whole people, and to direct its industry at pleasure, no government would ever be reduced to the necessity of encouraging foreign settlers. But to change long existing habits is of all enterprises the most difficult. Many years must elapse under the most favourable circumstances, before the Siberian boor will possess the industry and activity of an English labourer. And though the Russian government has been incessant in its endeavours to convert the pastoral tribes of Siberia to agriculture, yet many obstinately persist in bidding defiance to any attempts that can be made to wean them from their injurious sloth.*24

I.IX.19

Many other obstacles concur to prevent that rapid growth of the Russian colonies, which the procreative power would permit. Some of the low countries of Siberia are unhealthy from the number of marshes which they contain;*25 and great and wasting epizooties are frequent among the cattle.*26 In the districts near the Wolga, though the soil is naturally rich, yet droughts are so frequent, that there is seldom more than one good harvest out of three.*27 The colonists of Saratof, after they had been settled for some years, were obliged to remove on this account to other districts; and the whole expense of building their houses, amounting to above a million of rubles, was remitted to them by the empress.*28 For purposes either of safety or convenience, the houses of each colony are all built contiguous or nearly so, and not scattered about upon the different farms. A want of room is in consequence soon felt in the immediate neighbourhood of the village; while the distant grounds remain in a state of very imperfect cultivation. On observing this in the colony of Kotschesnaia, Pallas proposed that a certain part should be removed by the empress to other districts, that the remainder might be left more at their ease.*29 This proposal seems to prove that spontaneous divisions of this kind did not often take place, and that the children of the colonists might not always find an easy mode of settling themselves, and rearing up fresh families. In the flourishing colony of the Moravian brethren in Sarepta, it is said that the young people cannot marry without the consent of their priests; and that their consent is not in general granted till late.*30 It would appear, therefore, that among the obstacles to the increase of population, even in these new colonies, the preventive check has its share. Population can never increase with great rapidity but when the real price of common labour is very high, as in America; and from the state of society in this part of the Russian territories, and the consequent want of a proper vent for the produce of industry, this effect, which usually accompanies new colonies and is essential to their rapid growth, does not take place in any considerable degree.*31


Notes for this chapter


1.
Travels in Kamtschatka, vol. i. p. 147. 8vo. Eng. trans. 1790.
2.
Id. p. 264.
3.
Id. vol. ii. p. 252, 253.
4.
Travels in Kamtschatka, vol. i. p. 128.
5.
Voy. de Pallas, tom. iv. p. 68. 4to. 5 vols. 1788, Paris.
6.
Id. p. 60.
7.
Id. p. 72.
8.
Id. p. 60.
9.
Voy. de Pallas, tom. iv. p. 92.
10.
Id. p. 5.
11.
Polit. Econ. b. i. c. v. p. 30. 4to.
12.
Voy. de Pallas, tom. i. p. 250.
13.
Découv. Muss. vol. iv. p. 329. 8vo. 4 vols. Berne.
14.
Il y a fort peu de débit dans le pays, parceque la plupart des habitans sont cultivateurs, et élèvent eux-mêmes des bestiaux.—Voy. de Pallas, tom. iv. p. 4.
15.
In addition to the causes here mentioned, I have lately been informed that one of the principal reasons why large tracts of rich land lie uncultivated in this part of the world is the swarm of locusts, which at certain seasons covers these districts, and from the ravages of which it is impossible to protect the rising crop.
16.
Tooke's View of the Russian Empire, vol. ii. p. 242. The principal effect, perhaps, of these importations of foreigners, was the introduction of free men instead of slaves, and of German industry instead of Russian indolence; but the introduction of that part of capital which consists in machinery would be a very great point, and the cheapness of manufactures would soon give the cultivators a taste for them.
17.
Voy. de Pallas, tom. iii. p. 10.
18.
Id. tom. iv. p. 3.
19.
Voy. de Pallas, tom. iv. p. 6.
20.
Id. p. 3.
21.
Tooke's View of the Russian Empire, vol. iii. p 239.
22.
Voy. de Pallas, tom. v. p. 5.
23.
Id. p. 253.
24.
Tooke's Russian Empire, vol. iii. p. 313.
25.
Voy. de Pallas, tom. iii. p. 16. Though in countries where the procreative power is never fully called into action, unhealthy seasons and epidemics have but little effect on the average population; yet in new colonies, which are differently circumstanced in this respect, they materially impede its progress. This point is not sufficiently understood. If in countries which were either stationary or increasing very slowly, all the immediate checks to population, which had been observed, were to continue in force, no abundance of food could materially increase the number of people. But the precise way in which such an abundance operates is by diminishing the immediate checks which before prevailed. Those, however, which may remain, either from the difficulty of changing habits, or from any unfavourable circumstances in the soil or climate, will still continue to operate in preventing the procreative power from producing its full effect.
26.
Voy. de Pallas, tom. iii. p. 17. tom. v. p. 411
27.
Id. tom. v. p. 252, et seq.
28.
Tooke's Russian Empire, vol. ii. p. 245.
29.
Voy. de Pallas, tom. v. p. 253.
30.
Voy. de Pallas, tom, v. p. 175.
31.
Other causes may concur in restraining the population of Siberia, which have not been noticed by Pallas. In general, it should be observed, with regard to all the immediate checks to population, which I either have had or shall have occasion to mention, that, as it is evidently impossible to ascertain the extent to which each acts, and the proportion of the whole procreative power which it impedes, no accurate inferences respecting the actual state of population can be drawn from them à priori. The prevailing checks in two different nations may appear to be exactly the same as to kind, yet if they are different in degree, the rate of increase in each will, of course, be as different as possible. All that can be done, therefore, is to proceed as in physical inquiries; that is, first to observe the facts, and then account for them from the best lights that can be collected. .

End of Notes


Start PREVIOUS
13 of 60
NEXT End

Book I, Chapter X

Of the Checks to Population in the Turkish Dominions and Persia.

I.X.1

In the Asiatic parts of the Turkish dominions it will not be difficult, from the accounts of travellers, to trace the checks to population and the causes of its present decay; and as there is little difference in the manners of the Turks, whether they inhabit Europe or Asia, it will not be worth while to make them the subject of distinct consideration.

I.X.2

The fundamental cause of the low state of population in Turkey, compared with its extent of territory, is undoubtedly the nature of the government. Its tyranny, its feebleness, its bad laws and worse administration of them, together with the consequent insecurity of property, throw such obstacles in the way of agriculture that the means of subsistence are necessarily decreasing yearly, and with them, of course, the number of people. The miri, or general land-tax paid to the sultan; is in itself moderate;*32 but by abuses inherent in the Turkish government, the pachas and their agents have found out the means of rendering it ruinous. Though they cannot absolutely alter the impost which has been established by the sultan, they have introduced a multitude of changes which, without the name, produce all the effects of an augmentation.*33 In Syria, according to Volney, having the greatest part of the land at their disposal, they clog their concessions with burdensome conditions, and exact the half, and sometimes even two-thirds, of the crop. When the harvest is over, they cavil about losses, and as they have the power in their hands, they carry off what they think proper. If the season fail, they still exact the same sum, and expose every thing that the poor peasant possesses to sale. To these constant oppressions are added a thousand accidental extortions. Sometimes a whole village is laid under contribution for some real or imaginary offence. Arbitrary presents are exacted on the accession of each governor; grass, barley and straw are demanded for his horses; and commissions are multiplied, that the soldiers who carry the orders may live upon the starving peasants, whom they treat with the most brutal insolence and injustice.*34

I.X.3

The consequence of these depredations is that the poorer class of inhabitants, ruined, and unable any longer to pay the miri, become a burden to the village, or fly into the cities; but the miri is unalterable, and the sum to be levied must be found somewhere. The portion of those who are thus driven from their homes falls on the remaining inhabitants, whose burden, though at first light, now becomes insupportable. If they should be visited by two years of drought and famine the whole village is ruined and abandoned; and the tax which it should have paid, is levied on the neighbouring lands.*35

I.X.4

The same mode of proceeding takes place with regard to the tax on the Christians, which has been raised by these means from three, five, and eleven piastres, at which it was at first fixed, to thirty-five and forty, which absolutely impoverishes those on whom it is levied, and obliges them to leave the country. It has been remarked that these exactions have made a rapid progress during the last forty years; from which time are dated the decline of agriculture, the depopulation of the country and the diminution in the quantity of specie carried into Constantinople.*36

I.X.5

The food of the peasants is almost every where reduced to a little flat cake of barley or doura, onions, lentils and water. Not to lose any part of their corn, they leave in it all sorts of wild grain, which often produce bad consequences. In the mountains of Lebanon and Nablous, in time of dearth, they gather the acorns from the oaks, which they eat after boiling or roasting them in ashes.*37

I.X.6

By a natural consequence of this misery, the art of cultivation is in the most deplorable state. The husbandman is almost without instruments, and those he has are very bad. His plough is frequently no more than the branch of a tree cut below a fork, and used without wheels. The ground is tilled by asses and cows, rarely by oxen, which would bespeak too much riches. In the districts exposed to the Arabs, as in Palestine, the countryman must sow with his musket in his hand; and scarcely does the corn turn yellow before it is reaped, and concealed in subterraneous caverns. As little as possible is employed for seed-corn, because the peasants sow no more than is barely necessary for their subsistence. Their whole industry is limited to a supply of their immediate wants; and to procure a little bread, a few onions, a blue shirt, and a bit of woollen, much labour is not necessary. "The peasant lives therefore in distress; but at least he does not enrich his tyrants, and the avarice of despotism is its own punishment."*38

I.X.7

This picture, which is drawn by Volney, in describing the state of the peasants in Syria, seems to be confirmed by all other travellers in these countries; and, according to Eton, it represents very nearly the condition of the peasants in the greatest part of the Turkish dominions.*39 Universally, the offices of every denomination are set up to public sale; and in the intrigues of the seraglio, by which the disposal of all places is regulated, every thing is done by means of bribes. The pachas, in consequence, who are sent into the provinces, exert to the utmost their power of extortion; but are always outdone by the officers immediately below them, who, in their turn, leave room for their subordinate agents.*40

I.X.8

The pacha must raise money to pay the tribute, and also to indemnify himself for the purchase of his office, support his dignity, and make a provision in case of accidents; and as all power, both military and civil, centres in his person from his representing the sultan, the means are at his discretion, and the quickest are invariably considered as the best.*41 Uncertain of tomorrow, he treats his province as a mere transient possession, and endeavours to reap, if possible, in one day the fruit of many years, without the smallest regard to his successor, or the injury that he may do to the permanent revenue.*42

I.X.9

The cultivator is necessarily more exposed to these extortions than the inhabitant of the towns. From the nature of his employment, he is fixed to one spot, and the productions of agriculture do not admit of being easily concealed. The tenure of the land and the rights of succession are besides uncertain. When a father dies, the inheritance reverts to the sultan, and the children can only redeem the succession by a considerable sum of money. These considerations naturally occasion an indifference to landed estates. The country is deserted; and each person is desirous of flying to the towns, where he will not only in general meet with better treatment, but may hope to acquire a species of wealth which he can more easily conceal from the eyes of his rapacious masters.*43

I.X.10

To complete the ruin of agriculture, a maximum is in many cases established, and the peasants are obliged to furnish the towns with corn at a fixed price. It is a maxim of Turkish policy, originating in the feebleness of the government and the fear of popular tumults, to keep the price of corn low in all the considerable towns. In the case of a failure in the harvest, every person who possesses any corn is obliged to sell it at the price fixed, under pain of death; and if there be none in the neighbourhood, other districts are ransacked for it.*44 When Constantinople is in want of provisions, ten provinces are perhaps famished for a supply.*45 At Damascus, during the scarcity in 1784, the people paid only one penny farthing a pound for their bread, while the peasants in the villages were absolutely dying with hunger.*46

I.X.11

The effect of such a system of government on agriculture need not be insisted upon. The causes of the decreasing means of subsistence are but too obvious; and the checks, which keep the population down to the level of these decreasing resources, may be traced with nearly equal certainty, and will appear to include almost every species of vice and misery that is known.

I.X.12

It is observed in general that the Christian families consist of a greater number of children than the Mahometan families in which polygamy prevails.*47 This is an extraordinary fact; because though polygamy, from the unequal distribution of women which it occasions, be naturally unfavourable to the population of a whole country; yet the individuals who are able to support a plurality of wives, ought certainly, in the natural course of things, to have a greater number of children than those who are confined to one. The way in which Volney principally accounts for this fact is that, from the practice of polygamy, and very early marriages, the Turks are enervated while young, and impotence at thirty is very common.*48 Eton notices an unnatural vice as prevailing in no inconsiderable degree among the common people, and considers it as one of the checks to the population;*49 but the five principal causes of depopulation which he enumerates, are,

    1. The plague, from which the empire is never entirely free.
    2. Those terrible disorders which almost always follow it, at least in Asia.
    3. Epidemic and endemic maladies in Asia, which make as dreadful ravages as the plague itself, and which frequently visit that part of the empire.
    4. Famine.
    5. And lastly, the sicknesses which always follow a famine, and which occasion a much greater mortality.*50

I.X.13

He afterwards gives a more particular account of the devastations of the plague in different parts of the empire, and concludes by observing, that if the number of the Mahometans have decreased, this cause alone is adequate to the effect;*51 and that, things going on in their present train, the Turkish population will be extinct in another century.*52 But this inference, and the calculations which relate to it, are without doubt erroneous. The increase of population in the intervals of these periods of mortality is probably greater than he is aware of. At the same time it must be remarked that in a country where the industry of the husbandman is confined to the supply of his necessary wants, where he sows only to prevent himself from starving, and is unable to accumulate any surplus produce, a great loss of people is not easily recovered; as the natural effects arising from the diminished numbers cannot be felt in the same degree as in countries where industry prevails, and property is secure.

I.X.14

According to the Persian legislator Zoroaster, to plant a tree, to cultivate a field, to beget children, are meritorious acts; but it appears from the accounts of travellers, that many among the lower classes of people cannot easily attain the latter species of merit; and in this instance, as in numberless others, the private interest of the individual corrects the errors of the legislator. Sir John Chardin says, that matrimony in Persia is very expensive, and that only men of estates will venture upon it, lest it prove their ruin.*53 The Russian travellers seem to confirm this account, and observe that the lower classes of people are obliged to defer marriage till late; and that it is only among the rich that this union takes place early.*54

I.X.15

The dreadful convulsions to which Persia has been continually subject for many hundred years must have been fatal to her agriculture. The periods of repose from external wars and internal commotions have been short and few; and even during the times of profound peace, the frontier provinces have been constantly subject to the ravages of the Tartars.

I.X.16

The effect of this state of things is such as might be expected. The proportion of uncultivated to cultivated land in Persia, Sir John Chardin states to be ten to one;*55 I and the mode in which the officers of the Shah and private owners let out their lands to husbandmen is not that which is best calculated to reanimate industry. The grain in Persia is also very subject to be destroyed by hail, drought, locusts, and other insects,*56 which probably tends rather to discourage the employment of capital in the cultivation of the soil.

I.X.17

The plague does not extend to Persia; but the small-pox is mentioned by the Russian travellers as making very fatal ravages.*57

I.X.18

It will not be worth while to enter more minutely on the checks to population in Persia, as they seem to be nearly similar to those which have been just described in the Turkish dominions. The superior destruction of the plague, in Turkey, is perhaps nearly balanced by the greater frequency of internal commotions in Persia.


Notes for this chapter


32.
Voy. de Volney, tom. ii. c. xxxvii. p. 373. 8vo. 1787.
33.
Voy. de Volney, tom. ii. c. xxxvii. p. 373.
34.
Id. p. 374.
35.
Voy. de Volney, tom. ii. c. xxxvii. p. 375.
36.
Id. p. 376.
37.
Id. p. 377.
38.
Voy. de Volney, tom. ii. c. xxxvii. p. 379.
39.
Eton's Turkish Emp. c. viii. 2d edit. 1799.
40.
Eton's Turkish Emp. c. ii. p. 55.
41.
Voy. de Volney, tom. ii. c. xxxiii. p. 347.
42.
Id. p. 350.
43.
Voy. de Volney, tom. ii. c. xxxvi. p. 369.
44.
Id. c. xxxviii. p. 38.
45.
Id. c. xxxiii. p. 345.
46.
Id. c. xxxviii. p. 381.
47.
Eton's Turkish Emp. c. vii. p. 275.
48.
Voy. de Volney, tom. ii. c. xl. p. 445.
49.
Eton's Turkish Emp. c. vii, p. 275.
50.
Eton's Turkish Emp. c. vii. p. 264.
51.
Id. p. 291.
52.
Id. p. 280.
53.
Sir John Chardin's Travels, Harris's Collect. b. iii. c. ii. p. 870.
54.
Découv. Russ. tom. ii. p. 293.
55.
Chardin's Travels, Harris's Collect. b. iii. c. ii. p. 902.
56.
Id.
57.
Découv. Russ, tom. ii. p. 377. .

End of Notes


Start PREVIOUS
13 of 60
NEXT End

Return to top