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An Essay on the Principle of Population


the existence of most of the evils of life, but whether it will
have the same eect upon others must be left to the judgement of
his readers.
If he should succeed in drawing the attention of more able
men to what he conc eives to be the principal diculty in the
way to the improvement of society and should, in consequenc e, see
this diculty removed, even in theory, he will gladly retract
his present opinions and rejoice in a conviction of his error.
7 June 1798
CHAPTER 1
Question stated–Little prospect of a det ermination of it, from
the enmity of the opposing parties–The principal argument
against the perfectibility of man and of society has never been
fairly answered–Nature of the diculty arising from
population–Outline of the principal argument of the Essay
The great and unlooked for discoveries that have taken place of
late years in nat ural philosophy, the increasing diusion of
general knowledge from the extension of the art of printing, the
ardent and unshackled spirit of inquiry that prevails throughout
the lettered and even unlettered world, the new and extraordinary
lights that have been thrown on political sub jects which dazzle
and astonish the understanding, and particularly that tremendous
phenomenon in the political horizon, the French Revolution,
which, like a blazing comet, seems destined either to inspire
2
with fresh life and vigour, or to scorch up and destroy the
shrinking inhabitants of the earth, have all conc urred to lead
many able men into the opinion that we were touching on a period
big with the most important changes, changes that would in some
measure be decisive of the future fate of mankind.
It has been said that the great question is now at issue,
whet her man shall henceforth start forwards with accelerated
velocity towards illimitable, and hitherto unconceived
improvement, or be condemned to a perpetual oscillation bet ween
happiness and misery, and after every eort remain still at an
immeasurable distance from the wished-for goal.
Yet, anxiously as every friend of mankind must look forwards
to the termination of this painful suspense, and eagerly as the
inquiring mind would hail every ray of light that might assist
its view into futurity, it is much to be lamented that the
writers on each side of this momentous question still keep far
aloof from each other. Their mutual arguments do not meet with a
candid ex amination. The question is not brought to rest on fewer
points, and even in theory scarcely seems to be approaching to a
decision.
The advocate for the present order of things is apt to treat
the sect of speculative philosophers either as a set of art ful
and designing knaves who preach up ardent be nevolence and draw
captivating pictures of a happier state of society only the
better to enable them to destroy the present establishments and
to forward their own deep-laid schemes of ambition, or as wild
and mad-headed ent husiasts whose silly speculations and absurd
paradoxes are not worthy the attention of any reasonable man.
The advocate for the perfectibility of man, and of society,
retorts on the defender of establishments a more than equal
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