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THERE is a very broad line of demarcation between mankind and the rest of the animal kingdom in the substitution of reason for instinct. Man requires a long and careful education to enable him even to exist ; while education does nothing for the inferior animals, which are endowed by Nature with all the faculties required for their subsistence. As soon as brute animals have acquired sufficient strength, they begin to seek their food in the same manner as the rest of their species. The experience of a hundred generations adds not to their knowledge. How beautiful and how wonderful is the architecture and the economy of the bee !—yet the first hives they ever constructed were as artfully formed:
and the yax-mail still invades their dwellings with the same impunity that it did in the beginning Take a dog that has never been off the dry land and throw him into the water-he will swing":"thröviz man into the water for the first time he will as certainly be drowned. But man by art learns to swim, and the accumulated experience of ages enables his posterity to circumnavigate the globe—while the swimming of the dog undergoes no improvement.
Here are two broad distinctions between man and the inferior animals—the original helplessness of the individual man, and his subsequent acquired superiority. Secondly, his original weakness as a race, and his subsequent knowledge and power derived from the experience of his predecessors and the ingenuity of the existing generation. Man continues from age to age, and from year to year, acquiring fresh knowledge, fresh enjoyments, and fresh power.
The present work confines itself to an inquiry into the general nature of the alterations gradually and constantly taking place in mankind as a race. This investigation will be found attended
with considerable difficulty, from the infinite variety of distinct causes co-existing in a civilized and complicated state of society—crossing and counteracting one another at every turn. So that, however clearly it may be shewn in theory that a certain effect is produced by a particular cause, a hundred instances may perhaps be adduced in which that cause has been followed by no such effect. If, for instance, it were asserted that the wages of a labourer are in proportion to the value of his labour to the employer, it would be no answer to this to say that, under the operation of the old poor laws, the idle, the drunken, and the profligate were rewarded by a higher scale of remuneration than the frugal, industrious, hard-working labourer ; because here another cause is introduced, sufficient to counteract the former.
It is therefore necessary to caution the reader, that whenever he meets with an assertion that a certain cause will produce à particular effect, he must understand it as meaning, other causes capable of counteracting it not being in operation. Just as the mechanic must first learn the
properties of the screw, the lever, and the wheel, before he can judge of their combined operation.
Considerable difficulty.also presents itself to a writer upon a subject of this nature, arising from the small number of well-authenticated statistical records that can be brought to bear upon particular points. Some of these are, as it were, in such a manner isolated, that, from want of other facts to throw light upon them, however interesting they may be in themselves, they lead to no practical result. For example, one of the elements of the statistics of population that fluctuates the least, is the relation that the number of male births bears to the female. The number of boys always exceeds the number of girls ; but, what is very remarkable, the relation that one bears to the other is different in different countries. In France there are about 22 boys born to 21 girls ; in London it is calculated at 19 boys to 18 girls ; and at Naples at 21 boys to 20 girls : but in each country the proportion between them appears to be liable to little variation, *
* “ Statistiques de Paris,” &c., Vol. I., 28me tableau.