terms of "laws" - a classic Enlightenment approach. His arguments were directed
againts William Godwin (1756-1836) whose
Enquiry Concerning Political
argued in favor of a more egalitarian society and economics in order to end
From Thomas Malthus.
First Essay on Population (1798)
The following Essay owes its origin to a conversation with a friend, on the subject of
Mr. Godwin's Essay, on avarice and profusion, in his Enquirer. The discussion, started
the general question of the future improvement of society; and the Author at first sat
down with an intention of merely stating his thoughts to his friend, upon paper, in a
clearer manner than he thought he could do, in conversation. But as the subject
opened upon him, some ideas occurred, which he did not recollect to have met with
before; and as he conceived, that every, the least light, on a topic so generally
interesting, might be received with candour, he determined to put his thoughts in a
form for publication.
I think I may fairly make two postulata.
First, That food is necessary to the existence of man.
Secondly, That the passion between the sexes is necessary, and will remain nearly
in its present state.
These two laws ever since we have had any knowledge of mankind, appear to have
been fixed laws of our nature; and, as we have not hitherto seen any alteration in them,
we have no right to conclude that they will ever cease to be what they now are,
without an immediate act of power in that Being who first arranged the system of the
universe; and for the advantage of his creatures, still executes, according to fixed laws,
all its various operations.
I do not know that any writer has supposed that on this earth man will ultimately be
able to live without food. But Mr. Godwin has conjectured that the passion between
the sexes may in time be extinguished. As, however, he calls this part of his work, a
deviation into the land of conjecture, I will not dwell longer upon it at present, than to
say, that the best arguments for the perfectibility of man, are drawn from a
contemplation of the great progress that he has already made from the savage state,
and the difficulty of saying where he is to stop. But towards the extinction of the
passion between the sexes, no progress whatever has hitherto been made. It appears to
exist in as much force at present as it did two thousand, or four thousand years ago.
There are individual exceptions now as there always have been. But, as these