As I suspected, Cantillon didn't write exactly what many have subsequently attributed to him:
In the lower classes of the state also there are men who from pride and from reasons similar to those of the nobility, prefer to live in celibacy and to spend on themselves the little that they have rather than settle down in family life. But most of them would gladly set up a family if they could count upon keeping it up as they would wish: they would consider themselves to do an injustice to their children if they brought them up to fall into a lower class than themselves. Only a few men in a state avoid marriage from sheer flightiness. All the lower orders wish to live and bring up children who can live like themselves. When labourers and mechanics do not marry it is because they wait till they save something to enable them to set up a household or to find some young woman who brings a little capital for that purpose, since they see every day others like them who for lack of such precaution start housekeeping and fall into the most frightful poverty, being obliged to deprive themselves of their own food to nourish their children.
From the observations of Mr Halley, at Breslaw in Silesia, it is found that of all the females capable of child bearing, from 16 to 45 years of age, not one in six actually bears a child every year, while, says Mr Halley, there ought to be at least 4 or 6 who should have children every year, without including those who are barren or have still births. The reason why four women out of six do not bear children every year is that they cannot marry because of the discouragements and difficulties in their way. A young woman takes care not to become a mother if she is not married; she cannot marry unless she finds a man who is ready to run the risk of it. Most of the people in a state are hired or are undertakers; most are dependent and live in uncertainty whether they will find by their labour or their undertakings the means of supporting their household on the footing they have in view. Therefore they do not all marry, or marry so late that of six women, or at least four, who should produce a child every year there is actually only one in six who becomes a mother.
The increase of population can be carried furthest in the countries where the people are content to live the most poorly and to consume the least produce of the soil. In countries where all the peasants and labourers are accustomed to eat meat and drink wine, beer, etc. so many inhabitants cannot be supported.
Men multiply like mice in a barn if they have unlimited means of subsistence; and the English in the colonies will become more numerous in proportion in three generations than they would be in thirty in England, because in the colonies they find for cultivation new tracts of land from which they drive the savages.
A state which has conquered several provinces may, by tribute imposed on the vanquished, acquire an increase of subsistence for its own people. The Romans drew a great part of their subsistence from Egypt, Sicily and Africa and that is why Italy then contained so many inhabitants.
A state where mines are found, having manufactures which do not require much of the produce of the land to send them into foreign countries, and drawing from them in exchange plentiful merchandise and produce of the land, acquires an increased fund for the subsistence of its subjects.
The Dutch exchange their labour in navigation, fishing or manufactures principally with foreigners, for the products of their land. Otherwise Holland could not support of itself its population. England buys from abroad considerable amounts of timber, hemp and other materials or products of the soil and consumes much wine for which she pays in minerals, manufactures, etc. That saves the English a great quantity of the products of their soil. Without these advantages the people of England, on the footing of the expense of living there, could not be so numerous as they are. The coal mines save them several millions of acres of land which would otherwise be needed to grow timber.
It is also a question outside of my subject whether it is better to have a great multitude of inhabitants, poor and badly provided, than a smaller number, much more at their ease: a million who consume the produce of 6 acres per head or 4 million who live on the product of an acre and a half.
Essai sur la nature du commerce en general
Part One: Chapter Fourteen The Fancies, the Fashions, and the Modes of Living of the Prince, and especially of the Landowners, determine the use to which Land is put in a State and cause the variations in the Market price of all things
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