Other writings by Wallace indeed point to the fact that the commercial era he was living in was quite propitious to population growth. In his Characteristics of the Present State of Great Britain and in his View of the Internal Policy of Great Britain , he shows how a commercial society relies heavily on an industrious body of people, and how industry begets population growth. Population is a central issue in utopian schemes. What matters to most writers of utopias is how to control the people: how to choose and organise daily activities, how to ensure that nothing or no one threatens the established order so that the community can expect to live eternally without altering their perfect way of life.
In short, Nature has furnished the richest materials for our comfort, and bestows them on mankind, with an amazing munificence.
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Neither is she wanting in her instructions to the sons of men, to make a proper improvement of such mighty advantages. She has endowed them with a discerning spirit, an acute genius, which teaches them to turn their riches to use for procuring the general happiness of society, and every individual member of this great community. Wallace, Various Prospects 5.
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Writers of utopias like Thomas More Utopia , or James Harrington The Commonwealth of Oceana , did listen to the voice of nature and offer models that would have been adopted, had men been wiser. Let us suspend our judgment till once we have considered whether we can conceive a consistent idea of it. This organisation should be based on two essential premises:. Suppose that this plan was to be carried into execution by all the members of the society, in such sort that none of them would be idle, or wholly exempted from working, nor should any be over-burdened, or obliged to such hard and severe labour as might be prejudicial to their health, or indispose them for study and contemplation.
That every one should work for the public and be supported by the public. Wallace, Various Prospects 40, In this model, all men are equal citizens thanks to an equal distribution of labour that saves time for universal education. At a time when many figures of the Scottish Enlightenment saw the commercial age as the ultimate step in the history of mankind, Wallace added this final utopian stage as the true sign of human perfection.
Yet, there were a human and a divine reason why this ultimate stage could not be reached:. Different maxims of government, different customs and notions are too deeply rooted ever to be eradicated in any ordinary way. One would be a madman to attempt it.
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Though Lycurgus and Solon, Plato and Aristotle, Demosthenes and Cicero, Sir Thomas More and Harrington, with the ancient and modern philosophers, law-givers and orators were to appear together, and endeavour to persuade the inhabitants of Great Britain or France, to establish such a government, their efforts would be in vain. In order to bring about such a grand revolution, there would be a necessity for real miracles and inspiration.
Wallace, Various Prospects For Wallace, God had good reasons not to perform that miracle. Most utopias are set in remote areas of the world, often protected by deep and wide rivers or oceans, or by high impassable cliffs or mountains. Separated from the rest of the world, their inhabitants can remain unspoiled.
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Besides, these bounded communities are of a convenient size similar to that of the small republics that many writers take as their ideal models. And yet, the question of how many inhabitants they can hold is rarely asked. They might later need to settle outside their original boundaries, but the perfection and happiness of their community would soon convince their potential neighbours that it was worth adopting their traditions, and utopian principles would naturally spread to larger areas of South America.
In this case, a growing population was evidence of the perfection of this social organisation. Nowhere does Burgh raise the issue of a finite world that could be overburdened by a multiplying population. At first, he argues, a community that adopts a utopian organisation would spread by convincing its immediate neighbours to abide by their principles.
This expansion could even continue over boundaries from Britain to France and then over continents. At a time when British colonies were growing overseas and especially in North America, Wallace also celebrated the wise plans that had been set up by the first founders of Carolina and Pennsylvania. About the latter, he especially insisted that all citizens had an equal right to petition their authorities if they had been wronged, which meant that truly equitable justice was accessible to all:.
Mr Penn began his settlement of Pennsylvania, seconded by the society of Quakers, among whom he was a leading man. Wallace, View They offered new markets and new sources of raw materials that were precious to the emerging commercial society. Besides, trade with the colonies reinforced industry at home, thus also reinforcing population growth. Unlike others, Wallace does not voice concerns at the emigration of British citizens to the colonies.
Quite to the contrary, he seems confident that it will ultimately benefit Britain.
This is one of the peculiar advantages of such a constitution. It produces wisdom and virtue, as naturally as our imperfect governments produce vice and folly. All its maxims and rules conspire to this excellent purpose.
Thus a government, once happily established upon equitable footing, may be as durable as any other, notwithstanding the love of distinction, and the powerful principle of ambition so conspicuous in human nature. There would, however, come a time when the whole Earth would be inhabited by happy people who would continue to multiply beyond what nature could provide them with Various Prospects This could only end in utter disaster, as Robert Luehrs suggests:.
Unfortunately all things must also decay, and in the case of utopia, its very success would eventually destroy it. The mushrooming population would eventually expand beyond the available resources, and the government would be forced to impose limits on marriages, the number of offspring, even lifespans. Such restrictions would violate both the fundamental principle of utopia and the natural passions of man, and social strife would reappear, bringing utopia to an end. Luehrs Excess of population would cause a strain on resources even of the few necessaries that this reformed mankind would still produce and use, which would result in renewed competition and wars.
The only solutions, Wallace argues, would lie in implementing inhumane and outdated traditions:. In such a cruel necessity, must there be a law to restrain marriage? Must multitudes of women be shut up in cloisters like the ancient vestals, or modern nuns? To keep a balance between the two sexes, must a proportionable number of men be debarred from marriage? Shall the Utopians, following the wicked policy of superstition, forbid their priests to marry; or shall they rather sacrifice men of some other profession for the good of the state?
Or, shall they appoint the sons of certain families to be maimed at their birth and give a sanction to the unnatural institutions of eunuchs? If none of these expedients can be thought proper, shall they appoint a certain number of infants to be exposed to death as soon as they are born, determining the proportion according to the exigencies of the state? Or must they shorten the period of human life by law, and condemn all to die after they had completed a certain age, which might be shorter or longer, as provisions were either more scanty or plentiful?
How unnatural and inhuman must every such expedient be accounted! Wallace had already discussed the various ways of keeping population within manageable proportions in his Dissertation on the Numbers of Mankind , concluding that these were pernicious and unnatural. What is particularly original in his text is that he considers the whole earth as finite, with obvious boundaries that are far more impassable than any ocean or mountain.
The faults of society as it is are a way to keep population down and to avoid any excesses:. There are certain primary determinations in nature, to which all other things of a subordinate kind must be adjusted. A limited earth, a limited degree of fertility and the continual increase of mankind are three of these original constitutions […] on which account it is more contrary to just proportion to suppose that such a perfect government should be established in such circumstances, than that by permitting vice, or the abuse of liberty in the wisdom of Providence, mankind should never be able to multiply so greatly as to overstock the earth.
Injustice is a lesser problem than overpopulation:. How often do the most worthless enjoy great honours and estates from their ancestors, or by the foolish and indiscreet favour of princes, by the influence of friends, and by the wicked arts of party and cabal? Hence such frequent murmurs, such dangerous convulsions, such fatal revolutions. What else can be expected? Evil and corruption are allowed in society only to prevent the worse evil of overpopulation and the exhaustion of finite resources. Perfect happiness would lead to overpopulation, which is why God tolerates human injustice.
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Emma Rothschild points out that some form of social justice was promoted by others who were not utopists:. A civilized society is one in which even the poor have the right to secure lives. Smith was a fervent supporter of high wages, to take a first illustration, which he considered as both cause for and effect of national prosperity.
Perhaps those who believed that commerce marked the ultimate stage of human progress also saw greater social justice as a sign of this progress. Though this text is more utopian than others in that there are only two social groups who both own the same amount of property and who both labour a few hours a day , it is well in keeping with other essays by Wallace in which he describes society as a pyramid with an aristocracy at the top and wider and wider groups of population toward the bottom with the majority of uneducated and unarmed labourers at its base.
Like his contemporaries he saw the size of modern states as a major obstacle to the realisation of this model. Meanwhile it is obvious, upon the slightest view, that those political systems, and those maxims of education which have prevailed universally hitherto, are altogether inconsistent with a perfect state of human society.
Poverty, which discourages great numbers from marrying, by rendering them unable to take proper care of families, is a great hindrance to the increase of mankind. Intemperance and debauchery have likewise a most fatal influence. Wallace was aware both of the faults of human institutions and of those of a perfect system that would foster exponential population growth.
He embodied the two sides of the debate over population and utopia that was to be famously waged by Godwin and Malthus in the s. An Author, who has speculated widely upon the subjects of government, has recommended equal, or, which was rather his idea, common property, as a complete remedy to the usurpations and distress which are at present the most powerful enemies of human kind, the vices which infect education in some instances, and the neglect it encounters in more, to all the turbulence of passion, and all the injustices of selfishness.
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