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Godwin, William. Of Population. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown, Paternoster Row, 1820.



The history of India bears a striking resemblance to that of China; and therefore it seems necessary to say something on that subject. The learning of the Bramins is not less ancient; and the history of their improvements and their sciences is lost in the abyss of antiquity. The natives of Indostan strongly resemble the Chinese in the unchangeableness of their institutions; what is to-day, equally existed yesterday, and has remained without alteration, as far back as their annals, their laws and their literature can carry us. The Chinese were conquered by the Tartars; but their records present to us the singular spectacles of the conquerors adopting the manners, the customs, and the institutions of the people they conquered. India has been less fortunate. Their Mahometan invaders fixed an empire amoung them, claiming a superiority over the nations they found there, rejecting their system of policy and religion, and looking down with ignorant disdain upon their science and literature. But the Hindoo institutions have survived amidst these disadvantages.


The population of India does not seem to be less considerable than that of China I have conversed with a few persons, the best informed, and the most learned as to every thing that relates to India, that are to be found in Great Britain, and they are decisively of that opinion a. There are forests that exist in China, and there are large tracts of waste land in India; but the districts favourable to population are not less thickly inhabited in the latter than in the former. This statement I find strongly corroborated in a paper in the Asiatic Researches b, entitled, A Statistical View of the Population of Burdwan, and Some Neighbouring Districts of the Government of Bengal, by W. B. Bayley, late Judge and Chief Magistrate of Burdwan. His statement is, that" the district of Burdwan contains 262,634 dwelling-houses, of which 218,853 are occupied by Hindoos, and 43,781 by Mahometans: allowing therefore 5 ½ inhabitants to each dwelling, the total population of Burdwan will amount to 1,444,487 souls. The area of the district of Burdwan, as its boundaries are at present arranged, comprises about 2400 English square miles. On an average therefore each sqaure mile contains a population of more than 600 persons." He adds," The total population of England gives an average of near two hundred inhabitants to each square mile; but, if some particular counties are selected, the proportion will be found to approximate much more nearly to that of Burdwan. The county of Lancaster, for instance, furnishes, according to the last population reports of 1811, an average of 476 inhabitants to a square mile."

The situation of India then, as far as the subject I am here examining is concerned, is precisely the same as that of China. The great men who founded her institutions had no apprehensions of the evils of over-population. These institutions are grey with the hoar of many thousand years; and yet in all that time no one of her politicians and statesmen has ever suspected the tremendous mischief Mr. Malthus has brought to light. The Ordinances of Menu, as translated by Sir William Jones, treat marriage as one of the first duties of a citizen, and the begetting a son as a debt which every man owes to his country. And yet, if population is at a stand in India, and if marriage, and "early marriage c," as Mr Malthus state it, is almost universal, then, upon the hypothesis of the geometrical ratio, it is indispensible that six out of eight, and fifteen millions out of twenty that are born, must perish in years of nonage. God knows how much vice and misery may be necessary to effect this purpose, which however, upon Mr. Malthus's principles, always is effected. But every sober and reflecting man must infallibly conclude that this is not so. And every rational man must stand astonished, when he enquires by what evidence the author of the Essay of Population endeavours to make out this most revolting and incredible of all propositions. Mr. Malthus observes that India "has in all ages been subject to the most dreadful famines d." But what is this to the purpose? If all marry, and if, wherever marriage is "very greatly encouraged e, a sufficient number of children are born to support a doubling of population every twenty-five years, then, wherever that population is at a stand, fifteen out of twenty millions of shildren that are born, must perish in years of nonage. Does Mr. Malthus think, that the famines, here and there, or if he will frequently, scatter through the history of India, are sufficient to account for this? We have nothing to do, in the case of so monstrous an hypothesis as that of the Essay on Population, but to keep the object of our contemplation fixed, and to look into it intently, and it will speedily vanish from our sight, and sink into nothing.


a Among others, I would beg leave to name Mr. H. T. Colebroke, President of the Asiatic Society in London.

b Asiatic Researches, vol. XII. No. xiii.

c Vol. I. p. 277.

d P. 278

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