the last two often the consequences of vice—are causes which keep population down. In fact, the way in which abundance, increase of numbers, want, increase of deaths, succeed each other in the natural economy, when reason does not intervene, had been fully explained by Joseph Townsend in his Dissertation on the Poor Laws (1786) which was known to Malthus. Again, it is surely plain enough that the apprehension by individuals of the evils of poverty, or a sense of duty to their possible offspring, may retard the increase of population, and has in all civilized communities operated to a certain extent in that way. It is only when such obvious truths are clothed in the technical terminology of “ positive ” and “ preventive checks ” that they appear novel and profound; and yet they appear to contain the whole message of Malthus to mankind. The laborious apparatus of historical and statistical facts respecting the several countries of the globe, adduced in the altered form of the essay, though it contains a good deal that is curious and interesting, establishes no general result which was not previously well known.
It would seem, then, that what has been ambitiously called Malthus's theory of population, instead of being a great discovery as some have represented it, or a poisonous novelty, as others have considered it, is no more than a formal enunciation of obvious, though sometimes neglected, facts. The pretentious language often applied to it by economists is objectionable, as being apt to make us forget that the whole subject with which it deals is as yet very imperfectly understood—the causes which modify the force of the sexual instinct, and those which lead to variations in fecundity, still awaiting a complete investigation. It is the law of diminishing returns from land, involving as it does—though only hypothetically—the prospect of a continuously increasing difficulty in obtaining the necessary sustenance for all the members of a society, that gives the principal importance to population as an economic factor. It is, in fact, the confluence of the Malthusian ideas with the theories of Ricardo, especially with the corollaries which the latter deduced from the doctrine of rent (though these were not accepted by Malthus), that has led to the introduction of population as an element in the discussion of so many economic questions in modern times.
Malthus had undoubtedly the great merit of having called public attention in a striking and impressive way to a subject which had neither theoretically nor practically been sufficiently considered. But he and his followers appear to have greatly exaggerated both the magnitude and the urgency of the dangers to which they pointed. In their conceptions a single social imperfection assumed such portentous dimensions that it seemed to overcloud the whole heaven and threaten the world with ruin. This doubtless arose from his having at first omitted altogether from his view of the question the great counteracting agency of moral restraint. Because a force exists, capable, if unchecked, of producing certain results, it does not follow that those results are imminent or even possible in the sphere of experience. A body thrown from the hand would, under the single impulse of projection, move for ever in a straight line; but it would not be reasonable to take special action for the prevention of this result, ignoring the fact that it will be sufllciently counteracted by the other forces which will come into play. And such other forces exist in the case we are considering. If the inherent energy of the principle of population (supposed everywhere the same) is measured by the rate at which numbers increase under the most favourable circumstances, surely the force of less favourable circumstances, acting through prudential or altruistic motives, is measured by the great difference between this maximum rate and those which are observed to prevail in most European countries. Under a rational system of institutions, the adaptation of numbers to the means available for their support is effected by the felt or anticipated pressure of circumstances and the fear of social degradation, within a tolerable degree of approximation to what is desirable. To bring the result nearer to the just standard, a higher measure of popular enlightenment and more serious habits of moral reflection ought indeed to be encouraged. But it is the duty of the individual to his possible offspring, and not any vague notions as to the pressure of the national population on subsistence, that will be adequate to influence conduct.
It can scarcely be doubted that the favour which was at once accorded to the views of Malthus in certain circles was due in part to an impression, very welcome to the higher ranks of society, that they tended to relieve the rich and powerful of responsibility for the condition of the working classes, by showing that the latter had chiefly themselves to blame, and not either the negligence of their superiors or the institutions of the country. The application of his doctrines, too, made by some of his successors had the effect of discouraging all active effort for social improvement. Thus Chalmers “ reviews seriatim and gravely sets aside all the schemes usually proposed for the amelioration of the economic condition of the people ” on the ground that an increase of comfort will lead to an increase of numbers, and so the last state of things will be worse than the first.
Malthus has in more modern times derived a certain degree of reflected lustre from the rise and wide acceptance of the Darwinian hypothesis. Its author himself, in tracing its filiation, points to the phrase “ struggle for existence ” used by Malthus in relation to the social competition. Darwin believed that man advanced to his present high condition through such a struggle, consequent on his rapid multiplication. He regarded, it is true, the agency of this cause for the improvement of the race as largely superseded by moral influences in the more advanced social stages. Yet he considered it, even in these stages, of so much importance towards that end that, notwithstanding the individual suffering arising from the struggle for life, he deprecated any great reduction in the natural, by which he seems to mean the ordinary, rate of increase.
Besides his great work, Malthus wrote Observations on the Effect of the Corn Laws; An Inquiry into the Nature and Progress of Rent; Principles of Political Economy; and Definitions in Political Economy. His views on rent were of real importance.
For his life see Memoir by his friend Dr Otter, bishop of Chichester (prefixed to 2nd ed., 1836, of the Principles of Political Economy), and Malthus and his Work, by J. Bonar (London, 1885). Practically every treatise on economics deals with Malthus and his essay, but the following special works may be referred to: Soetbeer, Die Stellung der Sozialisten zur Malthusschen Bevölkerungslehre (Berlin, 1886); G. de Molinari, Malthus, essai sur le principe de population (Paris, 1889); Cossa, Il Principio di popolazione di T. R. Malthus (Milan, 1895); and Ricardo, Letters to Malthus, ed. J. Bonar (1887).
MALTON, a market town in the Thirsk and Malton parliamentary division of Yorkshire, England, 21 m. N.E. of York by a branch of the North Eastern railway. The town comprises Old Malton and New Malton in the North Riding, and Norton on the opposite side of the river Derwent, in the East Riding. Pop. of urban district of Malton (1901), 4758; of urban district of Norton 3842. The situation, on the wooded hills rising from the narrow valley, is very picturesque. The church of St Michael is a fine late Norman building with perpendicular tower; the church of St Leonard, of mixed architecture, with square tower and spire, has three Norman arches and a Norman font. The church of St Mary at Old Malton was attached to a Gilbertine priory founded in 1150; it is transitional Norman and Early English, with later insertions. Remains of the priory are scanty, but include a crypt under a modern house. In the neighbourhood of Malton are the slight but beautiful fragments of Kirkham Abbey, an Early English Augustinian foundation of Walter l'Espec (1131); and the fine mansion of Castle Howard, a massive building by Vanbrugh, the seat of the earls of Carlisle, containing a noteworthy collection of pictures. Malton possesses a townhall, a corn exchange, a museum, and a grammar-school founded in 1547. There are iron and brass foundries, agricultural implement works, corn mills, tanneries and breweries. In the neighbourhood are lime and whinstone quarries.
Traces of a Romano-British village exist on the east side of the town, but there appears to be no history of Malton before the Norman Conquest. The greater part of Malton belonged to the crown in 1086 and was evidently retained until Henry I.
- Malthus himself said, “ It is probable that, having found the bow bent too much one way, I was induced to bend it too much the other in order to make it straight."