Page:China- Its State and Prospects.djvu/75

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53
ITS CREDIBILITY.

gion of the Romish or Greek church, or professing no religion at all; but since it is a matter of mere civil polity, with which they must have a much better acquaintance than others can possibly have, they are allowed to make their own statement, and are believed accordingly. In negociating with foreign powers, or in managing matters which immediately concern their individual interests, the Chinese do sometimes practise deception; but, in matters of sober fact and actual calculation, we do not see why the Chinese should not be credited as well others. We receive, without scruple, their account of the number of their provinces, counties, and districts; the aggregate of their officers, and the amount of their revenue; and why not take their estimate of the population? at least, until we can find one made by those who have better opportunities of ascertaining the fact. It will not do for us, who have only supposition to guide us, to contend with those who are in the habit of counting the people every year, and have such efficient means for arriving at the truth. We may make some deductions for the extravagance of eastern nations, and receive with caution the statements of different years, which we can compare together, and endeavour to ascertain the rate of increase; but we are not at liberty to call them liars, till we can prove them to have erred wilfully in this matter.

It is now time to introduce to the notice of the reader, the various estimates which have been given by the Chinese themselves, with the authorities on which they rest, in order that a complete view may be formed of the gradual growth, and present state of the Chinese population.