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Even this immense disproportion between the supply of food and the number of mouths does not satisfy the worthy father, who, after stating that there is not rice enough raised to support more than a third of the people, remarks, as you have seen, in another part of the same passage, that there is not territory enough to furnish food for more than a quarter. “ Four times as much territory would be necessary to place the people at their ease.”Now, the extent of the territory of China, including Chinese Tartary, is reckoned by the best geographers, as I have already stated, at 5,350,000 square miles. The portion of the earth's surface, available for agricultural purposes, is about twenty million square miles. Four times the territory of China would be equal to the whole surface of the earth, so far as it is susceptible of cultivation. According to the statement of Father Premare, therefore, it would require the whole possible produce of the globe to supply with food the population of the Empire of China, which, when he wrote, amounted to about a hundred and fifty millions. Truly, the Jesuit, if he calculated their appetites upon his own, must have been, like Shylock's attendant in the play, a "huge feeder.” It is estimated that in England, which is not a productive country, an acre laid down in wheat will supply more than enough for the food of two men,-laid down in potatoes, it will furnish food for six. As rice is one of the most productive articles that can be raised, and as, in China, two crops are regularly gathered every year from the same land, it would be fair to take a higher number than six, as that of the men who can be supported in China by the produce of an acre : but assuming the same ratio for the sake of moderation, and reckoning the five million square miles of territory at four thousand million English acres, we shall have, multiplying these by six, twenty-four thousand millions as the number of men who might be supported by the produce of the present territory of China, if it were all under cultivation. There is, therefore, even now, when the population is about triple what it was in the time of Premare, "ample room to raise enough” for a still larger addition. Four times the territory of China, on the same calculation, would feed about a hundred thousand millions of men.
So much for the scientific value of Father Premare's observations in political economy. The general considerations that I have now presented might, perhaps, be sufficient of themselves to refute statements resting upon so little evidence, and carrying with them such decisive internal proof of inaccuracy-nct to say the wildest jumping in the dark. But the real test of truth is, after all, an appeal to facts. Are the mass of the people in China in the state of abject wretchedness here supposed, or are they not? Is the reward of labor barely sufficient to keep soul and body together? or is it, at least, equal to what it is in the most prosperous and flourishing communities in Christendom? It is rather remarkable, that neither the present missionaries, who have given their appalling accounts of the misery of the people, nor their modern British disciples, have thought it worth while to inform themselves as to what the rate of wages, and the cost of the necessaries of life, really are. A few facts of this kind would elucidate the subject more than whole volumes of mere speculation.
The average rate of wages paid to the daily laborer is the most correct index that we can have of the average reward of mere labor in all its branches, taken independently of skill in every other extraneous circumstance. The wages usually paid to domestic servants in China are five dollars a month. I am also informed on good authority, and find it stated in a well-written article in the Chinese Repository, now before me, that the wages paid to servants by foreigners here, are about the same with those which they receive from their own countrymen. It appears, from the same
authority, that the wages of a laborer in the field or the workshop, are generally one mace a day. Porters, menials, and other mere laborers, get about the same. One mace a day may, therefore, be assumed as the average rate of the reward of mere daily labor in China. A mace is the tenth part of a tael, and about the seventh part of a Spanish dollar, or from fourteen to fifteen cents.
Persons of the description here mentioned can be boarded at from a dolJar to a dollar and a half a month. Mine are boarded at $1.50. Their food, as thus provided, is not, as Father Premare describes that of the poor Chinese in general, a little spoonful of rice,” nor their drink, the “insipid water in which it was boiled.” They have for their $1.50 the month, as much rice as they can eat three times a day. This is the great staple of food with all classes, from the Emperor downwards. In addition to this, they have fish, fowls, and pork in abundance: beef and mutton are scarce and dear. They have also an ample supply of vegetables and fruitssuch as oranges and bananas. For drink, they have tea at discretion at all hours. This is the universal beverage throughout the empire. I may
add here, that the worthy Father Premare, who has rendered important services to Chinese literature by his excellent Grammar, but who is naturally not so much at home in the kitchen as he is in the library, has made a rather amusing mistake in regard to this matter of the water in which the rice is boiled.” The Chinese, who are very particular in preparing their rice, employ but little water in boiling it; and permit the whole to evaporate before they consider the rice as fit for use The rice, when served, is perfectly dry; each kernel is entirely separate from the rest, and “the insipid water in which it was builed,” has all gone off in vapor. Famine-struck, as Father Premare supposes him to be, the poorest Chinese would not touch a dish of rice which should have left behind it in the vessel in which it was boiled, this “insipid potation," although a similar mess is daily consumed with infinite relish throughout our well-fed and luxurious New-England. At the South they understand the matter better, and boil their rice as well as the Chinese.
I mentioned above that good, common board may be had at from one to one dollar fifty the month. As an instance of the former rate, Mr. Brown, a missionary clergyman, who keeps a school for Chinese boys at HongKong, in which there are from twenty to thirty pupils, boards them at the rate of a dollar a month, in the manner described above.
The average cost of rice is about one and a half taels the pearl, (133) lbs.,) or a cent a pound; and a pound of rice is as much as a inan in a day. The daily laborer receives, therefore, in his mace, an amount of money equivalent in value to the daily subsistence of fourteen or fifteen
If he be the head of a family, comprised of four or five persons, he has at his disposal, aster providing for his and their subsistence, the means of subsistence for nine or ten persons, to be employed in providing himself and his family with clothes, lodging, books and other necessaries and comforts. These are all to be had at the most moderate rates. "A common laborer," says the authority, I just quoted, “can live for $2.25 a month, including clothes and rent ; but $3 is probably nearer the average, Cotton clothing costs from $4 to $5 a year.” The people, as I have already remarked, are very much in the habit of living together in large establishments, composed of several branches of the same family. In consequence of this truly admirable system, which combines all the supposed advantages of the visionary scheme of communities,” without any of its dangers and absurdities, the expenses of individuals are greatly reduced. Eight, twelve fifteen, forty, and even sixty persons," says the authority I have al
ready quoted, "sometimes live in one house. This, of course, reduces the individual expenses; and this practice is so common, that $2.50 may be taken as the average rate of board.” It is much to be wished, that this economical, social and truly Christian custom might extend itself to other countries. It is constantly recommended to the Chinese by the highest authorities in the empire, and forms the subject of one of the chapters of the famous Sacred Edict, written by the Emperor Yoong-Ching, about a century ago—a sort of summary of political and social duty, which is read publicly every month by the provincial magistrates to assemblies of the people throughout the whole empire. In this, as well as in some other matters, to which I need not here allude, our philosophers, philanthropists, and even missionaries, might with advantage take a few lessons in political, moral and religious doctrine from the people whom they are so anxious to enlighten, and whom they consider as so far below themselves in the scale of civilization.
Such, however, are the facts in reference to the condition of the working classes in China. The account of a laborer of the lowest class with the world will stand, on an average, nearly as follows:
Annual income, at $5 the month,....
$60 00 27 00
Surplus, to be employed in supporting a family, books, luxuries and savings,.
..... $33 00
The correctness of the statements given is, for the most part, within my own knowledge; and where they rest on evidence, the authority is unquestionable. You will judge for yourself how far they are consistent with the theory of “ abject wretchedness.” From a view of these statements, as well as of what I see around me, in the actual condition of the people, I should say on the contrary, that the working population of China are better fed, better clothed, better lodged, on the whole happier, and even higher in the scale of intellectual and moral culture, than, perhaps, any other on the globe. I doubt whether, even in New-England, where the money-price of labor is so much higher, either the laborer or the small cultivator enjoys so many of the comforts of life as the Chinese. Certainly the half-starved and over-worked wretches that crowd the factories, mines and work-houses of England, and pass from one to the other of these establishments with every oscillation in the ever-varying scale of prices, cannot pretend to an equality with him.
But without adverting to these less forward classes, although they compose more than half of the working population of England, and taking into view only the best paid and the best situated portion of the agricultural laborers, the proportion between the money price of their labor and the usual supply of the means of subsistence is far below what it is in China. The laborers on Sir Robert Peel's estate had their wages raised very recently from twelve to fifteen shillings a week, on account of the present scarcity. Their ordinary wages are twelve shillings, and the average reward of agricultural labor does not exceed ten, or £26 a year. A quarter of wheat is considered as the usual supply for the subsistence of an individual. This, at sixty shillings, or £3, absorbs about an eighth of his income, and leaving him but seven eighths for his family, clothing, rent, and other expenses; while the personal subsistence of the labourer in China, absorbs, as we have seen, only one-fifteenth of his money wages. The comparative dearness of all the necessaries and comforts of life in England increases the difference still further. The tea which the Chinese laborer drinks from morning till night for next to
nothing, pays in England a duty of a shilling a pound, in addition to the cost, and is, of course, beyond the reach of the poor. I cannot here pursue the subject into further details, but I trust that I have said enough to satisfy you beyond a doubt, of the truth of my general proposition, that the reward of labor in China is fully sufficient for the comfortable support of the laborer, and quite equal to what it is in the most prosperous communities of Europe and America.
The account given by Father Premare, in the above extract, of the condition of the working classes in China, though vague, and when analyzed, entirely without value for any scientific purpose, is yet fitted to leave a disagreeable impression upon the mind; and coming, as it does, from an intelligent eye-witness, can hardly fail, unless contrasted with other representations of the same kind, from equally good authority, to produce some effect. It forms, however, a sort of exception to the general character of the accounts given by the Jesuit missionaries; and I cannot help thinking it a little unfair in Mr. Malthus, to pick out those two or three passages from a large mass of matter contained in the same collection, almost the whole of which has a directly opposite tendency. Indeed, the disposition of the Jesuits to see everything here en beau, has been a standing topic of reproach against these worthy fathers; and, if their authority can be depended on, China must be regarded, not merely as a flourishing and prosperous community, but as a sort of earthly Elysium At the risk of making my letter tedious, I will extract one or two passages of this kind, as an offset to the Jérémiade of Father Primare, who, inconsistently enough, in the midst of his lamentation over the “abject wretchedness” and “utter destitution” of the people, himself pronounces China to be the
most prosperous and flourishing community on the globe."
The following passage is taken from a letter from Father Fontaney to Father de la Chaise, the well-known confessor to Louis XIV. It describes the aspect of the country between Peking and Shen-See.
“ The road from Peking to the province of Shen-See, is one of the most agreeable that I ever saw. You pass through nine or ten cities, and among others, that of Pao-tim-foo, the residence of the Viceroy. The whole country is level and well cultivated, the road smooth, and in many places bordered with trees, and with walls to protect and secure the fields. For the whole way there is a continual passing of men, carts, and beasts of burden. In the course of every league, you meet with two or three villages, not including those which you see at a distance from the road. The rivers are crossed by solid bridges of several arches. The most considerable of them is that of Loo-Ko-Kias, three leagues from Peking. The parapets of this bridge are of marble, and on each side are a hundred and forty-eight marble posts; at each extremity, four elephants, recumbent in marble, guard the entrance.”
This is not the picture of a country where the working classes are in a state of abject wretchedness. Take now a more rural scene. The following is part of a letter from Father Du Mailla, and gives a description of the Chinese part of the Island of Formosa :
" The part of Formosa possessed by the Chinese certainly deserves the name that has been given to it. It is a post beautiful country. The air is pure, and the sky always clear. The soil is watered by a number of small rivers, and produces every species of grain-wheat, rice, barley, and others—also, most of the fruits peculiar to the Indies, such as oranges, bananas, ananas, guagavas, papayas, and cocoanuts, together with peaches, apricots, figs, grapes, chestnuts, pomegranates, and the rest that flourish in Europe and America. Their water-melons are much larger than ours, and are highly relished by the Chinese, although they are not equal to those of Brazil. Tobacco and sugar succeed perfectly well. All these trees, shrubs and plants, are so beautifully arranged, that, after the rice has been transplanted and set out again in squares, the whole plain has the appearance of a vast garden rather than a field.”
But, without dwelling on the mere external appearance of the country, which is, after all, only an indirect, though sure test of the condition of the people, I will direct your attention somewhat more particularly to the description given by Father Jacquemin, of the Island of Tsong-ming, at the mouth of the river Yang-Tse-Kiang, (Child of the Ocean,) and the mode of subsistence of the inhabitants.
This island is not one of the most favorably situated or of the most fertile spots in the empire. It was originally like the Netherlands, a sand-bank, and was gradually raised by deposits from the current of the river, until it became an island, some eighty English miles in length, and twenty in breadth ; separated from the continent by a strait twenty miles wide. The first inhabitants were convicts, sentenced to reside there, as a punishment for their crimes; the place being, at the time, a mere unproductive marsh, overgrown with weeds. By them it was gradually brought under cultivation; and, as the settlement increased in numbers and importance, other persons of a better character came over from the continent, and the population thickened, until, notwithstanding the natural disadvantages of the situation, it has become as dense as in any part of the empire. Father Jacquemin does not give the exact proportion between the territory and the population, but describes the whole island, as in a manner one continuous village." His account of the appearance of it is as follows:
“The aspect of the island is very agreeable. The multitude of houses with which the whole country is covered, delight ihe eye. At short distances from each other, are large towns, having numerous warehouses and shops, provided in abundance with every sort of desira le articles ; some with rich silks and other stuffs ; some with necessaries, comforts and luxuries for the table ; others with furniture and all sorts of household articles. Between these towns are scattered about as many separate houses, as there are families employed in agricultural labors. These houses are of different kinds; the best are of brick, roofed with tiles ; others are made of bamboo and roofed with straw. The whole island is intersected in all directions with canals, both sides of which are commonly planted with trees. The high-ways, which are very narrow, on account of the limited extent of the territory, are bordered everywhere with small houses of entertainment for the use of travellers. You would almost imagine that the whole island is one immense village !"
This, you will perceive, is the picture of one of the divisions of the Celestial Empire, least favored by nature, and in which subsistence, so far as it depends on fertility of soil, is attainable with the greatest difficulty. It is, nevertheless, fully as populous as the most fertile provinces; and it is here, therefore, if anywhere in China, that we shall find this pressure of the population against the means of subsistence, of which the British economists are in so much dread. Unfortunately for their theories, it appears that in this case, as in that of the Netherlands, and various other parts of Europe, the most densely peopled countries are precisely those, in which the means of subsistence are cheapest and most abundant. Father Jacquemin anticipates the difficulty, and enters with a good deal of detail into the manner in which it is solved. This he was able to do from having resided many years on the island, which was the scene of his mission. The passage is, therefore, on every account, peculiarly instructive and valuable. This must be my excuse for troubling you with an extract of some length.
"You will, doubtless, inquire, my reverend father," he writes to his correspondent, " how so great a number of inhabitants can subsist upon so small and naturally so unproductive an island ? The details that I shall proceed to give you, will show you with what facility this apparently difficult work is accomplished.
“ In the first place, every inch of ground is turned to account. The land is of three kinds. The marshes on the coast produce nothing but bamboo. This is employed as material for the poorer sort of houses as an article
of trade with the neighboring coastas fire, wood, and as fuel to be used in the furnaces in preparing salt. “You see,' said one of his converts to the worthy missionary, “the goodness of Providence in supplying us