The Fertility of the Unfit
by William Allan Chapple
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The Fertility of the Unfit


W.A. CHAPPLE, M.D., Ch.B., M.R.C.S., D.P.H.





The problem with which Dr. Chapple deals in this book is one of extreme gravity. It is also one of pressing importance. The growth of the Criminal is one of the most ominous clouds on every national horizon. In spite of advances in criminology the rate of increase is so alarming that the "Unfit" threatens to be to the new Civilization what the Hun and Vandal were to the old. How to deal with this dangerous class is perhaps the most serious question that faces Sociologists at this hour. And something must be done speedily, else our civilization is in imminent peril of being swamped by the increasingly disproportionate progeny of the Criminal.

Various methods have from time to time been suggested to ward off this danger. In my judgment one of the most effective has yet to be tried in the Colony—the system of indeterminate sentences. Nothing can be more futile than the present method of criminal procedure. After a certain stated period in gaol, we allow Criminals—even of the most dangerous character—to go out free without making the slightest effort to secure that they are fit to be returned to society. We quarantine the plague-stricken or small-pox ship, and keep the passengers isolated till the disease is eradicated. But we send up the Criminal only for a definite time, and at the end of that, he is allowed to go at large even though we may know he is a more dangerous character than when he entered the gaol. This is egregious folly.

Dr. Chapple's treatise, however, takes things as they are. He proposes to save society from the multiplication of its Criminals by a remedy of the most radical kind. When he was good enough to ask me to write a preface for his book I hesitated somewhat. I read the substance of it in MS.S. and was deeply impressed by it. But still I am in some doubt. I am not quite prepared to accept at once Dr. Chapple's proposed remedy. Neither am I prepared to reject it. I am simply an enquirer, trying to arrive at the truth regarding this clamant social problem. The time has certainly come when the issues raised in Dr. Chapple's book must be faced. It is very desirable therefore, that the public should have these put before it in a frank, cautious way, by experts who understand what they are writing about, and have a due sense of the grave responsibilities involved. Dr. Chapple's contribution seems to me very fully to satisfy these requirements. No doubt both his premises and conclusions are open to criticism at various points. It is, indeed, not unlikely that the plan whereby he proposes to limit the "fertility of the Unfit" may come with a sort of shock to some readers.

It is, perhaps, well that it should, for it may lead to thought and criticism. In any case, this policy of drift must be dropped and Dr. Chapple's remedy, or some other, promptly adopted. A preface is not the place to discuss the pro's and con's of Dr. Chapple's treatise. My main object in this foreword is to commend to the public who take an interest in this grave problem a discussion of it, which is alike timely and thorough and reverent. And this, I believe, readers will find in the following pages.



Dec. 9th, 1903.



You are aware that I gave your Treatise on the "Fertility of the Unfit" a very careful perusal. It is a subject to which I have devoted some attention, both at College and since I left College, and I feel competent to say that no finer work on the subject has been accomplished than that contained in your Treatise. I consider it of value, not only from a statistical point of view, but also from a point of view of scientific originality.

I have no doubt that if the work were published in New Zealand it would be read and bought by a large number of people. I may add that I discussed your views with competent critics, and they share the opinion which I have expressed in this letter. I sincerely hope that the volume will be published, and need not add that my friends and myself will be subscribers for copies.

Yours sincerely,


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I am pleased to hear that your MS. is to be published. The subject is one that must attract an increasing amount of attention on the part of all who have the true interests of the state at heart. There can be no doubt that the Parliamentary machine has failed, lamentably, to grapple with the problems you have referred to. At the present time, when some of our most earnest statesmen and greatest thinkers are discussing the supposed commercial decadence of the nation, the publication of such a treatise as you have prepared is opportune, and a perusal of it prompts the thought that the main remedy lies deeper, and may be found in sociological even more than in economic reform.

I do not profess myself competent to express any opinion regarding the remedy you propose. That is a matter for a carefully selected expert Royal Commission. The whole question, however, is one that might with advantage be discussed, both in the Press and the Parliament, at the present time, and I feel sure your book will be welcomed as a valuable contribution on the subject.

Yours sincerely,


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I have read your MSS., and am much pleased with it. It puts the problem of our times very plainly, and I think should be published in England. I have a friend in England who would, I think, be glad to help, and he is engaged by one of the large publishing firms in England. If you decide on sending it to England I shall be glad to write to him, and ask his assistance. The subject is one that certainly required ventilation, and whether your remedy is the proper one or not, it ought certainly to be discussed.

Yours truly,





The spread of moral restraint as a check.—Predicted by Malthus.—The declining Birth-rate.—Its Universality.—Most conspicuous in New Zealand. Great increase in production of food.—With rising food rate falling birth-rate.—Malthus's checks.—His use of the term "moral restraint."—The growing desire to evade family obligations.—Spread of physiological knowledge.—All limitation involves self-restraint.—Motives for limitation.—Those who do and those who do not limit.—Poverty and the Birth-rate.—Defectives prolific and propagate their kind.—Moral restraint held to include all sexual interference designed to limit families.—Power of self-control an attribute of the best citizens.—Its absence an attribute of the worst.—Humanitarianism increases the number and protects the lives of defectives.—The ratio of the unfit to the fit.—Its dangers to the State.—Antiquity of the problem.—The teaching of the ancients.—Surgical methods already advocated.


The teaching of Aristotle and Plato.—The teaching of Malthus.—His assailants.—Their illogical position.—Bonar on Malthus and his work.—The increase of food supplies held by Nitti to refute Malthus.—The increase of food and the decrease of births.—Mr. Spencer's biological theory—Maximum birth-rate determined by female capacity to bear children.—The pessimism of Spencer's law.—Wider definition of moral restraint.—Where Malthus failed to anticipate the future.—Economic law operative only through biological law.


Declining birth-rates rapid and persistent.—Food cost in New Zealand.—Relation of birth-rate to prosperity before and after 1877.—Neo-Malthusian propaganda.—Marriage rates and fecundity of marriage.—Statistics of Hearts of Oak Friendly Society.—Deliberate desire of parents to limit family increase.


Family responsibility—Natural fertility undiminished.—Voluntary prevention and physiological knowledge.—New Zealand experience.—Diminishing influence of delayed marriage.—Practice of abortion.—Popular sympathy in criminal cases.—Absence of complicating issues in New Zealand.—Colonial desire for comfort and happiness.


Influence of self-restraint without continence.—Desire to limit families in New Zealand not due to poverty.—Offspring cannot be limited without self-restraint.—New Zealand's economic condition.—High standard of general education.—Tendency to migrate within the colony.—Diffusion of ideas.—Free social migration between all classes.—Desire to migrate upwards.—Desire to raise the standard of ease and comfort.—Social status the measure of financial status.—Social attraction of one class to next below.—Each conscious of his limitation.—Large families confirm this limitation.—The cost of the family.—The cost of maternity.—The craving for ease and luxury. Parents' desire for their children's social success.—Humble homes bear distinguished sons.—Large number with University education in New Zealand.—No child labour except in hop and dairy districts.—Hopeless poverty a cause of high birth-rates.—High birth-rates a cause of poverty.—Fecundity depends on capacity of the female to bear children.


Fertility the law of life.—Man interprets and controls this law.—Marriage law necessary to fix paternal responsibility.—Malthus's high ideal.—If prudence the motive, continence and celibacy violate no law.—Post-nuptial intermittent restraint.—Ethics of prevention judged by consequences.—When procreation is a good and when an evil.—Oligantrophy.—Artificial checks are physiological sins.


Desire for family limitation result of our social system.—Desire and practice not uniform through all classes.—The best limit, the worst do not.—Early marriages and large families.—N.Z. marriage rates.—Those who delay, and those who abstain from marriage.—Good motives mostly actuate.—All limitation implies restraint.—Birth-rates vary inversely with prudence and self-control.—The limited family usually born in early married life when progeny is less likely to be well developed.—Our worst citizens most prolific. Effect of poverty on fecundity.—Effect of alcoholic intemperance.—Effect of mental and physical defects.—Defectives propagate their kind.—The intermittent inhabitants of Asylums and Gaols constitute the greatest danger to society.—Character the resultant of two forces—motor impulse and inhibition.—Chief criminal characteristic is defective inhibition.—This defect is strongly hereditary.—It expresses itself in unrestrained fertility.


The State's ideal in relation to the fertility of its subjects.—Keen competition means great effort and great waste of life.—If in the minds of the citizens space and food are ample multiplication works automatically.—To New Zealanders food now includes the luxuries as well as the necessities of life.—Men are driven to the alternative of supporting a family of their own or a degenerate family of defectives.—The State enforces the one but cannot enforce the other.—New Zealand taxation.—The burden of the bread-winner.—As the State lightens this burden it encourages fertility.—The survival of the unfit makes the burden of the fit.


Ancient methods of preventing the fertility of the unfit.—Christian sentiment suppressed inhuman practices.—Christian care brings many defectives to the child-bearing period of life.—The association of mental and physical defects.—Who are the unfit?—The tendency of relatives to cast their degenerate kinsfolk on the State.—Our social conditions manufacture defectives and foster their fertility.—The only moral force that limits families is inhibition with prudence.—Defective self-control transmitted hereditarily.—Dr. MacGregor's cases.—The transmission of insanity.—Celibacy of the insane is the prophylaxis of insanity in the race.—The environment of the unfit.—Defectives snatched from Nature's clutches.—At the age of maturity they are left to propogate their kind.


Education of defectives in prudence and self-restraint of little avail.—Surgical suggestions discussed.


The fertility of the criminal a greater danger to society than his depredations.—Artificial sterility of women.—The menopause artificially induced. Untoward results.—The physiology of the Fallopian tubes.—Their ligature procures permanent sterility.—No other results immediate or remote.—Some instances due to disease.—Defective women and the wives of defective men would welcome protection from unhealthy offspring.


The State's humanitarian zeal protects the lives and fosters the fertility of the degenerate.—A confirmed or hereditary criminal defined.—Law on the subject of sterilization could at first be permissive.—It should apply, to begin with, to criminals and the insane.—Marriage certificates of health should be required.—Women's readiness to submit to surgical treatment for minor as well as major pelvic diseases.—Surgically induced sterility of healthy women a greater crime than abortion.—This danger not remote.



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Biology is the Science of Life. It seeks to explain the phenomena of all life, whether animal or vegetable. Its methods are observation and experiment. It observes the tiny cell on the surface of an egg yolk, and watches it divide and multiply until it becomes a great mass of cells, which group off or differentiate, and rearrange and alter their shapes. It observes how little organs unfold themselves, or evolve out of these little cell groups—how gradual, but how unvarying the change; how one group becomes a bone, another a brain, another a muscle, to constitute in three short weeks the body of a matured chick. Those little tendons like silken threads, that run down those slender pink legs to each and every toe, and move its little joints so swiftly that we hardly see them—that little brain, no bigger than a tiny seed, in which is planted a mysterious force that impels it to set all those brand-new muscles in motion, and to dart after a fly with the swiftness of an arrow—all this wondrous mechanism, all this beauteous structure, all this perfection of function, all this adaptation to environment, have evolved from a few microscopic cells in three short weeks.

Biology is the science that observes all this, and enunciates the law that the life history of this animal cell, i.e., its history from a simple unicellular state in the egg, to its complex multicellular state in the matured chick, represents the history of the race to which the chick belongs. If we could trace that chicken back through all its ancestry, we would discover at different periods in the history of life upon the globe (about 100 million years, according to Haeckel) exactly the stages of development we found in the life history of the chick, and arrive at last at a primordial cell.

What is true of the chick is true of all life. This is the law of evolution. It is true of all plant and animal life; it is true of man as an individual; it is true of his mind as well as of his body; it is true of society as an aggregation of individuals. As men have evolved from a lower to a higher, a simple to a complex state, so they are still evolving and rising "on stepping stones of their dead selves to higher things."

Natural selection, or the survival of the fittest, is one of the processes by which evolution takes place. According to this law, only the fittest survive in the struggle for life. Darwin was led to this discovery on reading Malthus's thesis regarding the disproportion between the rates of increase in population and food, and the consequent struggle for existence.

All living organisms require food and space. The power of multiplication in plants and animals is so great that food or space is sooner or later entrenched upon, and then commences this inevitable struggle for existence. In this struggle for life, the individuals best able to conform to their environment, i.e., the best able to resist adverse circumstances, to sustain hardships, to overcome difficulties, to defend themselves, to outstrip their fellows, in short, to harmonise function with environment, survive. These propagate their kind according to the law of heredity. Variations exist in the progeny, and the individuals whose variations best adapt them to their environment are the fittest to, and do, survive.

In a state of nature the weaklings perish. If man interferes with this state of nature in the lower animals, he may make a selection and cultivate some particular attribute. This is artificial selection, and is best exemplified in the experiments with pigeons. Pasteur saved the silk industry of France, and perhaps of the whole world, by the application of this law of artificial selection. The disease of silkworms, known as Pebrine, was spreading with ruinous rapidity in France. Pasteur demonstrated that the germ of the disease could be detected in the blood of affected moths by the aid of the microscope. He proved that the eggs of diseased moths produced unhealthy worms, and he advised that the eggs of each moth be kept apart, until the moth was examined for germs. If these were found, the eggs were to be burned. Thus the eggs of unhealthy moths were never hatched, and artificial selection of healthy stock stamped out a disease, and saved a great industry.

Each individual plant in the struggle for life has only itself to maintain. In the higher forms of animal life, each animal has its offspring as well as itself to maintain. In a state of nature, that is in a state unaffected by man's rational interference, defective offspring and weaker brethren were the victims of the inexorable law of natural selection. When Christ gave his reply to the question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" the defective and the weakling became the special care of their stronger brother. They constituted thenceforth The Fit Man's Burden. The work a man has to do during life, in order to support himself, is the unit of measurement of the burden he has to bear. Many factors in modern times have helped to reduce that work to a minimum. The invention of machinery has multiplied his eyes, his hands, his feet; and one man can now produce, for his own maintenance and comfort, what it took perhaps a score of men to produce even a century ago. Man's disabilities from incidental and epidemic disease have been immeasurably reduced by modern sanitation, and the teaching and practice of preventive medicine. Agricultural chemistry has made the soil more productive, and manufacturing arts have aided distribution as well as production.

All the departments of human knowledge have been placed under contribution to man's necessity, and longer life, better health, and more food and clothing for less work, are the blessings on his head to-day.

While the burden has been lessened by the industrial and scientific progress of the last half century, it has been augmented by the fertility of the unfit; and the maintenance in idleness and comfort of the great and increasing army of defectives constitutes the fit man's burden. The unfit in the State include all those mental and moral and physical defectives who are unable or unwilling to support themselves according to the recognised laws of human society. They include the criminal, the pauper, the idiot and imbecile, the lunatic, the drunkard, the deformed, and the diseased. We are now face to face with the startling fact that this army of defectives is increasing in numbers and relative fertility.

Consider what a burden is the criminal. Every community is more or less terrorised by him; our property is liable to be plundered, our houses invaded, our women ravished, our children murdered. To restrain him we must build gaols, and keep immense staffs of highly paid officials to tend him in confinement, and watch him when he is at liberty. Notwithstanding these, crime is rife, and is rapidly increasing. Says Douglas Morrison:—"It is perfectly well known to every serious student of criminal questions, both at home and abroad, that the proportion of habitual criminals in the criminal population is steadily on the increase, and was never so high as it is now.... The population under detention in reformatory institutions is increasing more rapidly than the growth of the community as a whole, and, as far as it is possible to see, the juvenile population in prisons is doing the same thing." Havelock Ellis ("The Criminal," p. 295), Boies, and McKim, all corroborate this testimony. "Among the three or four millions of inhabitants of London, one in every five dies in gaol, prison, or workhouse." ("Heredity and Human Progress," p. 32.)

All these defectives are prolific, and transmit their fatal taints. "In a certain family of sixteen persons, eight were born deaf and dumb, and one at least of this family transmitted the defect as far as the third generation." ("Heredity and Human Progress.") A murderer was the son of a drunkard; of three brothers, one was normal, one a drunkard, and the third was a criminal epileptic. Of his three paternal uncles, one was a murderer, one a half idiot, and one a violent character. Of his four cousins, sons of the latter, two were half idiots, one a complete idiot, and the other a lunatic.

There is an agricultural community of about 4000 in the rich and fertile district in the valley of Artena, in Italy, who have been thieves, brigands, and assassins since 1155 A.D. They were outlawed by Pope Paul IV., in 1557, but they still live and flourish in their crime, the victims of a criminal inheritance. The ratio of homicides in Italy and Artena is as 9 to 61; of assault and battery as 34 to 205; of highway robbery as 3 to 145; of theft as 47 to 111. Professor Pellman, of Bonn University, has traced the careers of a large number of defectives, and shown their cost to the State. Take this example:—A woman who was a thief, a drunkard, and a tramp for forty years of her life, had 834 descendants, 709 of whom were traced; 106 were born out of wedlock, 142 were beggars, and 64 more lived on charity. Of the women, 181 lived disreputable lives. There were in the family 76 convicts, 7 of whom were convicted of murder. In 75 years, this family cost their country in almshouses, trials, courts, prisons, and correctional establishments about L250,000. The injury inflicted by this one family on person and property was simply incalculable.

In New Zealand, the ratio of those dependent upon the State, or on public or private support, has gone up from 16.86 per thousand of population, over 15 years of age in 1878, to 23.01 in 1901. The ratio of defectives, including deaf and dumb, blind, lunatics, epileptics, paralytics, crippled and deformed, debilitated and infirm, has gone up from 5.4 per thousand, over fifteen years, in 1874, to 11.4 in 1896, declining slightly to 10.29 in 1901. The ratio of lunatics has gone up from 1.9, in 1874, to 3.4 in 1901. This is the period of the most rapid and persistent decline in the New Zealand birth-rate; and, coincident with this period, the marriage-rate went down from 8.8 per thousand in 1874, to 5.8 in 1886, and then gradually rose to 7.83 in 1901. The number of weekly rations (Parkes's standard), purchasable by the average weekly wages of an artisan in Wellington province, has gone up from 11 to 16.5 between the years 1877 and 1897. In other words, the price of food and the rate of wages in 1897 would enable an artisan to fill 51/2 more mouths than he could have done at the rates prevailing in 1877.

Notwithstanding the development of civilising, Christianising, and educational institutions, crime, insanity, and pauperism are increasing with startling rapidity. The true cause is to be found deep down in biological truth. Society is breeding from defective stock. The best fit to produce the best offspring are ceasing to produce their kind, while the fertility of the worst remains undisturbed. The most striking demographical phenomenon of recent years is the declining birth-rate of civilised nations. In Germany the birth-rate has fallen from 40 to 35 per thousand of the population; in England from 35 to 30; in Ireland from 26 to 22; in France from 26 to 21; and in the United States from 36 to 30 during the last twenty years; while, in New Zealand, it has declined from 40.8, in 1880, to 25.6, in 1900. In Australia there were 47,000 less births in 1899 than would have occurred under the rates prevailing ten years ago.

There is a consensus of opinion among demographists that this decline is due to the voluntary curtailment of the family in married life. Prudence is the motive, and self-restraint the means by which this curtailment is made possible. But prudence and self-restraint are the characteristic attributes of the best citizens. They are conspicuous by their absence in the worst; and it is a matter of common observation that the hopelessly poor, the drunken and improvident, the criminal and the defective have the largest families, while those in the higher walks of life rejoice in smaller numbers. The very qualities, therefore, that make the social unit a law-abiding and useful citizen, who could and should raise the best progeny for the State, also enable him to limit his family, or escape the responsibility of family life altogether; while, on the other hand, the very qualities which make a man a social burden, a criminal, a pauper, or a drunkard—improvidence and defective inhibition—ensure that his fertility will be unrestrained, except by the checks of biological law. And it now comes about that the good citizen, who curtails his family, has the defective offspring of the bad citizen thrown upon his hands to support; and the humanitarian zeal, born of Christian sentiment, which is at flood-tide to-day, ensures that all the defectives born to the world shall not only be nursed and tended, but shall have the same opportunities of the highest possible fertility enjoyed by their defective progenitors.

A higher and nobler human happiness is attainable only through social evolution, and this comes from greater freedom of thought, from bolder enquiry, from broader experience, and from a scientific study of the laws of causation. What "is" becomes "right" from custom, but with our yearnings for a higher ideal, sentiment slowly yields to the logic of comparison, and, often wiping from our eyes the sorrows over vanishing idols, we behold broader vistas of human powers, possibilities, duties, and destiny.

As the proper study of mankind is man, influenced wholly by a desire to be useful to a society to which I am indebted for the pleasures of civilised life, I offer this brief volume as a comment on a phase of the social condition of the times, and as my conclusions regarding its interest for the future.

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The spread of moral restraint as a check.—Predicted by Malthus.—The declining Birth-rate.—Its Universality.—Most conspicuous in New Zealand.—Great increase in production of food.—With rising food rate falling birth-rate.—Malthus's checks.—His use of the term "moral restraint."—The growing desire to evade family obligations.—Spread of physiological knowledge.—All limitation involves self restraint.—Motives for limitation.—Those who do and those who do not limit.—Poverty and the Birth-rate. Defectives prolific and propagate their kind.—Moral restraint held to include all sexual interference designed to limit families.—Power of self-control an attribute of the best citizens.—Its absence an attribute of the worst.—Humanitarianism increases the number and protects the lives of defectives.—The ratio of the unfit to the fit.—Its dangers to the State.—Antiquity of the problem.—The teaching of the ancients.—Surgical methods already advocated.

A century has passed since Malthus made his immortal contribution to the supreme problem of all ages and all people, but the whole aspect of the population question has changed since his day. The change, however, was anticipated by the great economist, and predicted in the words:—"The history of modern civilisation is largely the history of the gradual victory of the third check over the two others" (vide Essay, 7th edition, p. 476). The third check is moral restraint and the two others vice and misery.

The statistics of all civilized nations show a gradual and progressive decline in the birth-rate much more marked of recent years. In Germany, between the years 1875 and 1899, it has diminished from 40 to 35.9 per thousand of the population. In England and Wales, it dropped from 35 to 29.3 during the same time; in Ireland, from 26 to 22.9; in France, from 26 to 21.9; in the United States of America (between the years 1880 and 1890) the decline has been from 36 to 30; while in New Zealand it gradually and persistently declined from 40.8 in 1880 to 25.6 in 1900.

During the period, 1875-1890, the rapid strides made in industry and production have been unparallelled in the history of the world. Wealth has accumulated on all sides, and production and distribution have far outrun the needs and demands of population. To-day food is far more abundant, cheaper, and therefore more accessible to all classes of the people than it was 50 years ago, and coincident with this rapid and abundant increase in those things which go to supply the necessities, the comforts, and even the luxuries of life, there has been a constant and uniform decline in the birth-rate, and this decrease is even more conspicuous in those nations in which the rate of production has been most pronounced. It would even be true to say that the birth-rate during recent years is in inverse proportion to the rate of production.

At first sight this might appear to falsify the law of population enunciated by Malthus. Malthus maintained that population tended to increase beyond the means of subsistence; that three checks constantly operated to limit population—vice, misery, and moral restraint: vice, due largely to diseased conditions, misery, due to poverty and want, and moral restraint due to a dread of these. I shall show later that nothing has been said or written to add to or take away from the truth and force of these great principles, but, that the moral restraint of Malthus has been practised to an extent, and in a direction of which the great economist never dreamt. By moral restraint in the limitation of families Malthus meant only delayed marriage. In so far as men and women abstained from, or delayed their marriage, on the ground of inability to support a family, they fulfilled the law, and followed the advice of Malthus. Continence without the marriage bond was assumed; incontinence was classed with another check vice.

Contrary to the expectations arising out of the famous progressions, wealth and production have increased and the birth-rate has decreased. It is the purpose of this work to show what are the causes that have led to this decline, that those causes are not equally operative through all classes of the people, and that the chief cause of the decline of the birth-rate is the desire on the part of both sexes to limit the number they have to support and educate. The considerations that lead up to, and, to some extent, justify this desire, will be discussed later.

The fact remains that an increasingly large number of people have come to the conclusion that the burden and responsibility of family obligations limit their enjoyments in life, their ambition, and even their scope for usefulness, and have discovered, through the spread of physiological information, means by which marriage may be entered upon without necessarily incurring these responsibilities and limitations.

It is the knowledge of these physiological laws and the practice of rules arising out of that knowledge, that account for the declining birth-rate of civilized nations.

If it be true that the birth-rate is controlled by a voluntary effort on the part of married people to limit their families, and that that effort implies self restraint and self denial, it would not be too much to claim that those most capable of exercising self-control and with the strongest motives for such exercise, are those most responsible for the declining birth-rate, and that those with least self-control and the fewest motives for exercising the control they have, are most likely to have the normal number of children.

It has already been suggested, that the desire to limit families is due to a consciousness of responsibility on the part of prospective parents. They realise the stress of competition in the struggle for existence, they are anxious for their own pecuniary and social stability, and even more anxious that the children, for whose birth they are responsible, should be provided with the necessities and comforts of life which health and development require. They are eager, too, that their children should be equipped with a good education, and thus be given a fair advantage in the race of life.

To the great mass of people this is possible only when the numbers of the family are limited. As the numbers of the family increase, the difficulties of clothing and feeding and educating increase, and each member is the poorer for every birth, and in this sense an increasing birth-rate is a cause of poverty. The sense in which poverty causes a high birth-rate will be dealt with later on.

It will be readily conceded, that those actuated by the motives just considered, those with the keenest sense of responsibility in life, those capable of exercising the self-restraint which family limitation requires, constitute the best type of citizens in any community. From such the State has good reason to expect the best stock.

It is one purpose of this work to show that this class, which can and should produce the best in the largest numbers, is being overwhelmed with the burden of supporting an ever-increasing number of incapables, and, largely in consequence of this increasing burden and responsibility, are unwilling to produce, because they are unable adequately to support their own kind.

There is a class in every large community, whose sense of responsibility in life is at zero, whose self-control is substituted by the law and its sanctions, and whose modes and habits of life are little better than those of the lower animals. Their appetites are stronger, their desires, though fewer, are more intense, and their self-control less easily and less frequently exerted than those in the highest planes of life.

In the first place then they have less desire to limit their families, and less power to exercise the self-restraint that is necessary to do so. Less sense of responsibility is attached to the rearing of a family, whilst the education of their children gives them little or no concern. They entertain no ambition that members of their family should compete in the struggle for social status. Their instincts and their impulses are their guide in all things. They marry early, and procreation is unrestrained except by the hardships of life.

This constitutes a numerous class in every large community, and includes the criminal, the drunkard, and the pauper, and many defectives such as epileptics and imbeciles. Now all these propagate their kind. The checks to the increase of this class, are the checks which are common to the lower animals, and which were elaborated in his first essay by Malthus. They are vice and misery.

If it were not for moral restraint (not the limited restraint of Malthus, delayed marriages simply), but restraint in the wider sense, within as well as without the marriage bond, and including all artificial checks to conception, these two checks, vice and misery, would absolutely control the population of the world.

The mind of man has added to the checks which control increase in the lower animals, a new check, which applies to, and can be exercised only by himself, and the problem is, how far will misery and vice as checks to the population be eliminated, and moral restraint take their places? And if this restraint must control and determine the population of the future how far will its exercise affect the moral and mental evolution of the race?

If moral restraint with the consequent limitations of families is the peculiar characteristic of the best people in the state, and the absence of this characteristic expressing itself in normal fertility is peculiar to the worst people of the state, the future of the race may be divined, by reference to the history of the great nations of antiquity.

An accumulating amount of evidence shows that society is face to face with this grave aspect of the population question. The birth-rate of the unfit is steadily maintained. Improved conditions of life increase the number that arrive at maturity and enter the procreative period, so that not only are defectives born into the world at a constant rate, but sanitary laws and a growing impatience with the sufferings of the poor, tend so to improve their conditions of life, as to increase their birth-rate and their chances of arriving at adult life.

Shortly stated then, the problem that society has to solve is this,—The birth-rate is rapidly declining amongst the most fit to produce the best offspring, while it is steadily maintained amongst the least fit, so that the relative proportion of the unfit born into the world is annually increasing.

What should be the State's attitude to this problem, and how it should attempt to solve it will be discussed in detail in a subsequent chapter. Let it suffice to say now, that the right of the State to interfere directly with the limitation of families amongst the best classes would find few advocates amongst reformers.

The right of the State to say, however, that the criminal, the drunkard, the diseased, and the pauper, shall not propagate their kind should be stoutly maintained by all rational men.

Most of the nations of history have recognized the gravity of the population question, but they were mostly concerned with the tendency of the numbers in the State to increase beyond the means of subsistence, instead of the tendency to degeneration as it now concerns us.



The Teaching of Aristotle and Plato.—The teaching of Malthus.—His assailants.—Their illogical position.—Bonar on Malthus and his work.—The increase of food supplies held by Nitti to refute Malthus.—The increase of food and the decrease of births.—Mr. Spencer's biological theory.—Maximum birth-rate determined by female capacity to bear children.—The pessimism of Spencer's law.—Wider definition of moral restraint.—Where Malthus failed to anticipate the future.—Economic law operative only through Biological law.

Births, deaths, and migration are the factors which make up the population question.

The problem has burned in the minds of all great students of human life and its conditions.

Aristotle says (Politics ii. 7-5) "The legislator who fixes the amount of property should also fix the number of children, for if they are too many for the property, the law must be broken." And he proceeds to advise (ib. vii. 16-15) "As to the exposure and rearing of children, let there be a law that no deformed child shall live, but where there are too many (for in our State population has a limit) when couples have children in excess and the state of feeling is adverse to the exposure of offspring, let abortion be procured."

The difficulty of over-population was conspicuous in the minds of Aristotle and Plato, and these philosophers both held that the State had a right and a duty to control it.

But some States were almost annihilated because they were not sufficiently populous, and Aristotle attributes the defeat of Sparta on one celebrated occasion to this fact. He says:—"The legislators wanting to have as many Spartans as they could, encouraged the citizens to have large families, and there is a law at Sparta, that the father of three sons should be exempt from military service, and he who has four, from all the burdens of the State. Yet it is obvious that if there were many children, the land being distributed as it is, many of these must necessarily fall into poverty."

The problem in the mind of the Greek philosophers was this. Over-population is a cause of poverty; under-population is a cause of weakness. Defectives are an additional burden to the State. How shall population be so regulated as to established an equilibrium between the stability of the State, and the highest well-being of the citizens?

The combined philosophy of the Greeks counselled the encouragement of the best citizens to increase their kind, and the practice of the exposure of infants and abortion.

A century of debate has raged round the name of Malthus, the great modern analyst of the population problem. He published his first essay on population in 1798, a modest pamphlet, which fed so voraciously on the criticism supplied to it, that it developed into a mighty contribution to a great social problem, second only in time and in honour to the work of his great predecessor in economic studies, Adam Smith.

Malthus's first essay defined and described the laws of multiplication as they apply only to the lower animals and savage man. It was only in his revised work, published five years later, that he described moral restraint as a third check to population.

Adverse criticism had been bitter and severe, and Malthus saw that his first work had been premature. He went to the continent to study the problem from personal observation in different countries. He profited by his observation, and by the writings of his critics, and published his matured work in 1803.

The distinguishing feature about this edition was the addition of moral restraint as a check, to the two already described, vice and misery.

Malthus maintained that population has the power of doubling itself every 25 years. Not that it does so, or had done so, or will do so, but that it is capable of doing so, and he instanced the American Colonies to prove this statement.

One would scarcely think it was necessary to enforce this distinction, between what population has done, or is doing, and what it is capable of doing. But when social writers, like Francesco Nitti (Population and the Social System, p. 90), urge as an argument against Malthus's position that, if his principles were true, a population of 176,000,000 in the year 1800 would have required a population of only one in the time of our Saviour, it is necessary to insist upon the difference between increase and the power of increase.

One specific instance of this doubling process is sufficient to prove the power of increase possessed by a community, and the instance of the American Colonies, cited by Malthus, has never been denied.

A doubling of population in 25 years was thus looked upon by Malthus as the normal increase, under the most favourable conditions; but the checks to increase, vice, misery, and moral restraint are operative in varying degrees of intensity in civilized communities, and these may limit the doubling to once in 50, or once in 100 years, stop it altogether, or even sweep a nation from the face of the earth.

The natural increase among the lower animals is limited by misery only, in savage man by vice and misery only, and in civilized man by misery, vice, and moral restraint.

Misery is caused by poverty, or the need of food or clothing, and is thus proportionate to the means of subsistence. As the means of subsistence are abundant, misery will be less, the death-rate lower, and caeteris paribus the birth-rate higher. The increase will be directly proportional to the means of subsistence.

Vice as a check to increase, is common to civilized and savage man, and limits population by artificial checks to conception, abortion, infanticide, disease, and war. The third check, moral restraint, is peculiar to civilized man, and in the writings of Malthus, consists in restraint from marriage or simply delayed marriage.

Bonar says (Malthus and his Work, p. 53), "Moral restraint in the pages of Malthus, simply means continence which is abstinence from marriage followed by no irregularities."

These checks have their origin in a need for, and scarcity of food,—food comprising all those conditions necessary to healthy life. The need of food is vital and permanent. The desire for food, immediate and prospective, is the first motive of all animal activity, but the amount of food available in the world is limited, and the possible increase of food is estimated by Malthus at an arithmetical ratio.

Whether or not this is an accurate estimate of the ratio of food increase is immaterial. Malthus's famous progressions, the geometrical ratio of increase in the case of animals, and the arithmetical ratio of increase in the case of food, contain the vital and irrefutable truth of the immense disproportion between the power of reproduction in man and the power of production in food.

Under the normal conditions of life, the population tends constantly to press upon, and is restrained by the limits of food. The true significance of the word tends must not be overlooked, or a similar fallacy to that of Nitti's will occur, when he overlooked the significance of the term "power to multiply." It is perfectly true to say, that population tends to press upon the limits of subsistence, and unrestrained by moral means or man's reason actually does so.

Some social writers appear to think that, if they can show that production has far outstripped population, that, in other words, population for the last fifty years at least has not pressed upon the limits of food, Malthus by that fact is refuted.

Nitti says (Population and the Social System, p. 91), "But now that statistics have made such great progress, and the comparison between the population and the means of subsistence in a fixed period of time is no longer based upon hypothesis, but upon concrete and certain data in a science of observation it is no longer possible to give the name of law to a theory like that of Malthus, which is a complete disagreement with facts. As our century has been free from the wars, pestilences and famines which have afflicted other ages, population has increased as it never did before, and, nevertheless, the production of the means of subsistence has far exceeded the increase of men."

And later on (p. 114) he says "Malthus's law explains nothing just as it comprehends nothing. Bound by rigid formulas which are belied by history and demography, it is incapable of explaining not only the mystery of poverty, but the alternate reverses of human civilization."

Nitti's conclusions are based largely on the fact that while food supplies have become abundant and cheap, birth-rates have steadily and persistently declined.

No-one who has studied the economic and vital statistics of the last half century can fail to be impressed with the change that has come over the relative ratios of increase in population and food.

Bonar says (Malthus and his Work, p. 165), "The industrial progress of the country (France) has been very great. Fifty years ago, the production of wheat was only half of what it is to-day, of meat less than half. In almost every crop, and every kind of food, France is richer now than then, in the proportion of 2 to 1. In all the conveniences of life (if food be the necessaries) the increased supply is as 4 to 1, while foreign trade has become as 6 to 1."

In a remarkable table prepared by Mr. F.W. Galton, and quoted by Mr. Sydney Webb in "Industrial Democracy," it is clearly shown, that, while the birth-rate and food-rate (defined as the amount of wheat in Imperial quarters, purchased with a full week's wages) gradually increased along parallel lines between 1846 and 1877, the former suddenly decreased from 36.5 per thousand in 1877 to 30 per thousand in 1895, the latter increasing from .6 to 1.7 for the same period.

The remarkable thing about the facts that this table so clearly discloses is that with a gradual increase of the means of subsistence from 1846 to 1877 there is also a gradual increase in the proportion of births to population. But at the year 1877 there, is a very sudden and striking increase in food products, and the purchasing power of the people coincides exactly with a very sudden and striking decrease in the birth-rate of the people. The greater the decrease in the birth-rate, the greater the increase in the people's purchasing power. Now, what has brought about this change in the ratios of increase in population and in food respectively?

Some serious factor, inoperative during the thirty years prior to 1877 must have suddenly been introduced into the social system, to work such a marvellous revolution during the last twenty years.

Some economic writers find it easy here to discover a law, and declare that the birth-rate is in inverse ratio to the abundance of food. (Doubleday quoted by Nitti, Population and the Social System, p. 55).

Other economic writers of recent date attribute this great change in ratio of increase to economic causes. Only a few find the explanation in biological laws.

Herbert Spencer is the champion of the biological explanation of a decreasing birth-rate.

With the intellectual progress of the race there is a decadence of sexual instinct. In proportion as an individual concentrates his energies and attention on his own mental development, does the instinct to, and power of, generation decrease.

It may be true, it certainly is true, that if an individual's energies are concentrated in the direction of development of one system of the body, the other systems to some extent suffer. A great and constant devotion to the development of the muscular system will produce very powerful muscles, and great muscular energy, with a strong tendency to, and pleasure in exercise. It is true also, that time and energy are monopolized in this creation of muscle, and that less time and energy are available for mental pursuits and mental exercise.

Up to a certain point muscular exercise aids mental development, but beyond that point concentration of effort in the direction of muscular development starves mental growth.

On the other hand, if the education and exercise of the mind receive all attention, the muscular system will suffer, and to some extent remain undeveloped. Or generally, one system of the body can be highly developed only at the expense of some other system, not immediately concerned.

It is true that the more an individual concentrates his efforts on his own intellectual development, the more his sexual system suffers, and the less vigorous his sexual instincts.

And the converse of this is also true, for examples of those with great sexual powers are numerous.

In plant life, this same law is also in operation. If one system in a plant, the woody fibre for instance, takes on abundant growth, the fruit is starved and is less in quality and quantity, and vice versa.

But to what extent does this affect fertility? Sexual power and fertility are not synonymous terms.

The vast profusion of seed in plant and animal life, would allow of an enormous reduction in the amount produced, without the least affecting fertility. Even admitting the application of Spencer's law to sexual vitality, and allowing him to claim that, with the progress of "individuation," there is a decline in sexual instinct, would the fertility of the race be affected thereby?

To have any effect at all on the birth-rate, the instinct would have either to be killed or to be so reduced in intensity as to stop marriage, or to delay it till very late in life.

When once marriage was contracted sexual union once in every two years, would, under strictly normal conditions, result in a very large family.

For according to Mr. Spencer's theory, it is the instinct that is weakened not the power of the spermatozoa to fertilize.

Evidence is wanting, however, to show that there is a decrease in the sexual power of any nation.

France might be flattered to be told that her low birth-rate is due to the high intellectual attainments of her people, and that the rapidly decreasing birth-rate is due to a rapid increase of her intellectual power during recent years.

Ireland and New Zealand would be equally pleased could they believe that their low, and still decreasing birth-rate is due to the lessening of the sexual instinct, attendant upon, and resulting from a high and increasing intellectual power and activity.

The fact is, that the sexual instinct is so immeasurably in excess of the maximum power of procreation in the female, that an enormous reduction in sexual power would require to take place before it would have any effect on the number of children born.

The number of children born is controlled by the capacity of the human female to bear children, and one birth in every two years during the child-bearing period of life is about the maximum capacity.

A moderate diminution in the force of the sexual instinct might lead to a decrease in the marriage rate, but it would require a very serious diminution bordering on total extinction of the instinct to exert any serious effect on the fecundity of marriage.

All that can be claimed for this theory of population is, that, reasoning from known physiological analogies, we might expect a weakening of the desire for marriage, coincident with the general development of intellect in the race.

There are as yet no facts to prove that such weakening has taken or is taking place, nor are there facts to prove that population has in any way suffered from this cause.

If such a law obtained, and resulted in a diminished birth-rate, the future of the race would be the gloomiest possible. An inexorable law would determine that there could be no mental evolution, for the best of the race would cease to propagate their kind. All who would arrive at this standard of mental growth would become barren. And against this there could be no remedy.

One of the main contentions of this work is that the best have to a large extent ceased to propagate their kind, but it is not maintained that this is the result of a biological law, over which there is no control. It can be safely claimed that to Malthus's three checks to population—vice, misery, and moral restraint, the demographic phenomena of a century have added no other. The third check, however, moral restraint, must be held to include all restraint voluntarily placed by men and women on the free and natural exercise of their powers of procreation.

Malthus used the term "moral" in this connection, not so much in relation to the motive for the restraint, but in relation to the result, viz., the limitation of the family. The "moral restraint" of Malthus meant to him, restraint from marriage only, chiefly because of the inability to support a family. It implied marriage delayed until there was reasonable hope that the normal family, four in number, could be comfortably supported, continence in the mean time being assumed. Bonar interpreting Malthus says (p. 53) that impure celibacy falls under the head of "vice," and not of "moral restraint."

To Malthus, vice and misery, as checks to population, were an evil greatly to be deplored in civilized man, and not only did he declare that moral restraint obtained as a check, but he also declared it a virtue to be advocated and encouraged in the interest of society, as well as of the individual.

His moral restraint was delayed marriage with continence. He trusted to the moral force of the sexual passion in a continent man to stimulate to work, to thrift, to marriage; to work and save so that he may enter the marriage state with a reasonable prospect of being able to support a wife and family.

Malthus never anticipated the changes and developments of recent years. He advised moral restraint as a preventive measure in the hope that vice and misery, as checks would be superseded, and that no more would be born into the world than there was ample food to supply. He believed that moral restraint was the check of civilized man, and as civilization proceeded, this check would replace the others, and prevent absolutely the population pressing upon the limits of subsistence.

He saw in moral restraint only self-denial, constant continence, and entertained not a doubt, that the generative instinct would be cheated of its natural fruit. The passion for marriage is so strong (thought Malthus) that there is no fear for the race; it cannot be over-controlled.

The gratification of the sexual instinct, and procreation were the same thing in the mind of Malthus.

But this is not so.

A physiological law makes it possible, in a large proportion of strictly normal women, for union to take place without fertilisation. If it were possible to maintain an intermittent restraint in strict conformity with this law, it would control considerably the population of the world.

It is easier to practice intermittent than to practice constant restraint.

It is just here that Malthus failed to anticipate the future. Malthus believed that "moral restraint" would lessen the marriage rate, but would have no direct effect on the fecundity of marriage.

A man would not put upon himself the self-denial and restraint, which abstinence from marriage implied, for a longer period than he could help.

The greater the national prosperity, therefore, the higher the birth-rate. But prosperity keeps well in advance of the birth-rate; in other words, population, though it still tends to, does not actually press upon the food supply.

If the moral restraint of Malthus be extended so as to include intermittent moral restraint within the marriage bond, then, under one or other, or all of his three checks, vice, misery, and moral restraint, will be found the explanation of the remarkable demographic phenomena of recent years.

Misery will cover deaths from starvation and poverty, the limitation of births from abortion due to hardship, from deaths due to improper food, clothing, and housing; and emigration to avoid hardship.

Vice will cover criminal abortions, limitation of births from venereal disease, deaths from intemperance, etc., and artificial checks to conception. Malthus included artificial checks of this kind under vice (7 ed. of Essay, p. 9.n.), though they have some claim to be considered under moral restraint. But the question will be referred to in a later chapter.

Moral restraint will cover those checks to conception, voluntarily practised in order to escape the burden and responsibility of rearing children—continence, delayed marriage, and intermittent restraint.

No other checks are directly operative.

Misgovernment and the unequal distribution of wealth and land affect population indirectly only, and can only act through one or other or all of the checks already mentioned.



Decline of birth-rates rapid and persistent.—Food cost in New Zealand.—Relation of birth-rate to prosperity before and after 1877.—Neo-Malthusian propaganda.—Marriage rates and fecundity of marriage.—Statistics of Hearts of Oak Friendly Society.—Deliberate desire of parents to limit family increase.

It is not the purpose of this work to follow any further the population problem so far as it relates to deaths and emigration. Attention will be concentrated on births, and the influences which control their rates.

A rapid and continuous decline in the birth-rate of Northern and Western Europe, in contravention of all known biological and economic laws, has filled demographists with amazement.

A table attached here shows the decline very clearly. According to Parkes ("Practical Hygiene," p. 516), the usual food of the soldier may be expressed as follows:—

Articles. Daily quantity in oz. av. Meat 12.0 Bread 24.0 Potatoes 16.0 Other vegetables 8.0 Milk 3.25 Sugar 1.33 Salt 0.25 Coffee 0.33 Tea 0.16 Total 65.32 Butter 2.4—(Moleschott.)

The New Zealand Official Year Book gives the following as the average prices of food for the years mentioned:—

1877 1887 1897 1901 s d. s d. s d. s d. Bread per lb. 0 21/4 0 13/4 0 11/2 0 11/2 Beef per lb. 0 51/4 0 31/2 0 3 0 5 Mutton per lb. 0 4 0 23/4 0 2 0 41/2 Sugar per lb. 0 53/4 0 3 0 21/2 0 23/4 Tea per lb. 3 0 2 3 2 0 1 10 Butter (fresh) per lb. 1 3 1 0 0 8 0 11 Cheese (col'n'l) per lb. 0 10 0 53/4 0 6 0 6 Milk per qt. 0 41/2 0 3 0 3 0 31/2

The official returns give the average daily wage for artisans for the years 1877, 1887, 1897, and 1901 as 11s., 10s. 6d., 9s. 9d., and 10s. 3d., respectively.

The weekly rations (the standard food supply for soldiers—Parkes's) purchaseable by the weekly wages for these years respectively are 11.1, 14.3, 16, and 12.4; i.e., the average weekly wage of an artisan in constant employment in 1877 would purchase rations for 11.1 persons, in 1887 for 14.3 persons, in 1897 for 16 persons, and in 1901 for 12.4 persons.

Up to the year 1877, the birth-rate in England and Wales conformed to the law of Malthus, and kept pace with increasing prosperity; but, after that year, and right up to the present time, the nation's prosperity has gone on advancing at a phenomenal rate pari passu with an equally phenomenal decline in the number of births per 1000 of the population.

Now, it is a remarkable coincidence that in this very year, 1877, the Neo-Malthusians began to make their influence felt, and spread amongst all classes of the people a knowledge of preventive checks to conception.

People were encouraged to believe that large families were an evil. A great many, no doubt, had already come to this conclusion; for there is no more common belief amongst the working classes, at least, than that large families are a cause of poverty and hardship. And this is even more true than it was in the days of the Neo-Malthusians, for then child and women labour was a source of gain to the family, and a poor man's earnings were often considerably augmented thereby.

The uniform decrease of the birth-rate is a matter of statistics, and admits of no dispute. It has been least rapid in the German Empire, and most rapid in New Zealand.

With the declining birth-rate the marriage-rate must be considered.

Malthus would have expected a declining birth-rate to be the natural result of a declining marriage-rate, and a declining marriage-rate to be due to the practice of moral restraint, rendered imperative because of hard times, and a difficulty in obtaining work, wages, and food.

Given the purchasing power of a people, Malthus would have estimated, according to his laws, the marriage-rate, and, given the marriage-rate, he would have estimated the birth-rate.

But anticipations in this direction, based on Malthus's laws, have not been realised. The purchasing power of the people we know has enormously increased; the marriage-rate has not increased, it has, in fact, slightly decreased; but the birth-rate per marriage, or the fecundity of marriage, has decreased in a remarkable degree.

In "Industrial Democracy," by Sydney and Beatrice Webb (p. 637), the following occurs:—"The Hearts of Oak Friendly Society is the largest centralised Benefit Society in this country, having now over two hundred thousand adult male members. No one is admitted who is not of good character, and in receipt of wages of twenty-four shillings a week or upwards. The membership consists, therefore, of the artisan and skilled operative class, with some intermixture of the small shopkeeper, to the exclusion of the mere labourer. Among its provisions, is the "Lying-in Benefit," a payment of thirty shillings for each confinement of a member's wife."

From 1866 to 1880 the proportion of lying-in claims to membership slowly rose from 21.76 to 24.78 per 100. From 1880 to the present time it has continuously declined, until now it is only between 14 and 15 per 100.

The following table (from the annual reports of the Committee of Management of the Hearts of Oak Friendly Society, and those of the Registrar-General) shows, for each year from 1866 to 1895 inclusive, the number of members in the Hearts of Oak Friendly Society at the beginning of the year, the number of those who received Lying-in Benefit during the year, the percentage of these to the membership at the beginning of the year, and the birth-rate per thousand of the whole population of England and Wales.


Year. Number of Number of Cases Percentage of England and Members at of lying-in cases paid to Wales: births the beginning Benefit paid total Membership per 1000 of of each year. during year. at beginning the total of year. population.

1866 10,571 2,300 21.76 35.2 1867 12,051 2,853 23.68 35.4 1868 13,568 3,075 22.66 35.8 1869 15,903 3,509 22.07 34.8 1870 18,369 4,173 22.72 35.2 1871 21,484 4,685 21.81 35.0 1872 26,510 6,156 23.22 35.6 1873 32,837 7,386 22.49 35.4 1874 40,740 9,603 23.57 36.0 1875 51,144 13,103 23.66 35.4 1876 64,421 15,473 24.02 36.3 1877 76,369 18,423 24.11 36.0 1878 84,471 20,409 24.16 35.5 1879 90,603 22,057 24.34 34.7 1880 91,986 22,740 24.72 34.2 1881 93,615 21,950 23.45 33.9 1882 96,006 21,860 22.77 33.8 1883 98,873 21,577 21.82 33.5 1884 104,339 21,375 20.51 33.6 1885 105,622 21,277 20.14 32.9 1886 109,074 21,856 20.04 32.8 1887 111,937 20,590 18.39 31.9 1888 115,803 20,244 17.48 31.2 1889 123,223 20,503 16.64 31.1 1890 131,057 20,402 15.57 30.2 1891 141,269 22,500 15.93 31.4 1892 153,595 23,471 15.28 30.5 1893 169,344 25,430 15.02 30.8 1894 184,629 27,000 14.08 29.6 1895 201,075 29,263 14.55 30.4 1896 206,673 30,313 14.67

In this remarkable table the percentage of births to total membership gradually rose from 21.76, in 1866, to 24.72, in 1880, and then gradually declined to 14.67 in 1896.

This is a striking instance of the fact that the decrease in the total birth-rate is due more to a decrease in the fecundity of marriage, than to a decrease of the marriage-rate.

Mr. Webb adds:—"The well-known actuary, Mr. R.P. Hardy, watching the statistics year by year, and knowing intimately all the circumstances of the organisation, attributes this startling reduction in the number of births of children to these specially prosperous and specially thrifty artisans entirely to their deliberate desire to limit the size of their families."

The marriage-rate in England and Wales commenced to decline about three years before the sudden change in the birth-rate of 1877, and continued to fall till about 1880, but has maintained a fairly uniform standard since then, rising slightly in fact, the birth-rate, meanwhile, descending rapidly.



Family Responsibility—Natural fertility undiminished.—Voluntary prevention and physiological knowledge.—New Zealand experience.—Diminishing influence of delayed marriage.—Practice of abortion.—Popular sympathy in criminal cases.—Absence of complicating issues in New Zealand.—Colonial desire for comfort and happiness.

There is a gradually increasing consensus of opinion amongst statisticians, that the explanation of the decrease in the number of births is to be found in the desire of married persons to limit the family they have to rear and educate, and the voluntary practice of certain checks to conception in order to fulfil this desire.

It is assumed that there is no diminution in the natural fertility of either sex. There is no evidence to show that sexual desire is not as powerful and universal as it ever was in the history of the race; nor is there any evidence to show that the generative elements have lost any of their fertilizing and developmental properties and power.

Dr. J.S. Billings in the June number of the Forum for 1893, says that "the most important factor in the change is the deliberate and voluntary avoidance or prevention of child-bearing on the part of a steadily increasing number of married people, who not only prefer to have but few children, but who know how to obtain their wish."

He further says, "there is no good reason for thinking that there is a diminished power to produce children in either sex."

M. Arsene Dumont in "Natalite et Democratie" discusses the declining birth-rate of France, and finds the cause to be the voluntary prevention of child-bearing on the part of the people, going so far as to say that where large families occur amongst the peasantry, it is due to ignorance of the means of prevention.

The birth-rate in none of the civilized countries of the world has diminished so rapidly as in New Zealand. It was 40.8 in 1880; it was 25.6 in 1900, a loss of 15.2 births per 1000 of the population in 20 years.

There is no known economic cause for this decline. The prosperity of the Colony has been most marked during these years.

Observation and statistics force upon us the conclusion that voluntary effort upon the part of married couples to prevent conception is the one great cause of the low and declining birth-rate. The means adopted are artificial checks and intermittent sexual restraint, within the marriage bond, the latter tending to replace the former amongst normal women, as physiological knowledge spreads.

Delayed marriage still has its influence on the birth-rate, but with the spread of the same knowledge, that influence is a distinguishing quantity.

Delayed marriage under Malthusian principles would exert a potent influence in limiting the births, because early marriages were, and, under normal circumstances would still be, fruitful.

In the 28th annual report relating to the registration and return of Births, Marriages and Deaths in Michigan for the year 1894 (p. 125), it is stated that "The mean number of children borne by females married at from 15 to 19 years of age inclusive, is 6.76. For the next five year period of ages, it is 5.32, or a loss of 1.44 children per marriage, this attending an advance of five years in age at marriage."

Voluntary effort frequently expresses itself in the practice of abortion. Many monthly nurses degenerate into abortionists and practise their calling largely, while many women have learned successfully to operate on themselves.

The extent to which this method of limiting births is practised, and the absence of public sentiment against it, in fact the wide-spread sympathy extended to it, may be surmised from the facts that at a recent trial of a Doctor in Christchurch, New Zealand, for alleged criminal abortion, a large crowd gathered outside the Court, greeting the accused by a demonstration in his favour on his being discharged by the jury. A similar verdict in a similar case in Auckland, New Zealand, was greeted by applause by the spectators in a crowded Court, which brought down the indignant censure of the presiding Judge.

In New Zealand there is no oppressive misgovernment, there is no land question in the sense in which Nitti applies the term, there is no poverty to account for a declining birth-rate or to confuse the problem. There is prosperity on every hand, and want is almost unknown. And yet, fewer and fewer children, in proportion to the population, and in proportion to the number of marriages, are born into the colony every year. The only reason that can be given is that the people, though they want marriage and do marry, do not wish to bear more children than they can safely, easily, and healthfully support, with a due and ever-increasing regard for their own personal comfort and happiness. They have learned that marriage and procreation are not necessarily inseperable and they practice what they know.



Influence of self-restraint without continence.—Desire to limit families in New Zealand not due to poverty.—Offspring cannot be limited without self-restraint.—New Zealand's economic condition.—High standard of general education.—Tendency to migrate within the colony.—Diffusion of ideas.—Free social migration between all classes.—Desire to migrate upwards.—Desire to raise the standard of ease and comfort.—Social status the measure of financial status.—Social attraction of one class to next below.—Each conscious of his limitation.—Large families confirm this limitation.—The cost of the family.—The cost of maternity. The craving for ease and luxury.—Parents' desire for their children's social success.—Humble homes bear distinguished sons. Large number with University education in New Zealand.—No child labour except in hop and dairy districts.—Hopeless poverty a cause of high birth-rates.—High birth-rates a cause of poverty.—Fecundity depends on capacity of the female to bear children.

The first or direct cause of this decline in the birth-rate then, is the inhibition of conception by voluntary means, on the part of those capable of bearing children.

This inhibition is the result of a desire on the part of both sexes to limit their families.

Conception is inhibited by means which do not necessitate continence, but which do necessitate some, and in many cases, a great amount of self-restraint. But how comes it, that in these days of progress and prosperity, especially in New Zealand, a desire to limit offspring should exist amongst its people, and that the desire should be so strong and so universal?

The desire for this limitation must be strong, for there is absolutely no evidence that the passion for marriage has lost any of its force; it must be extensive for the statistics show its results, and the experience of medical men bears the contention out.

While the marriage passion remains normal, offspring cannot be limited without the exercise of self-restraint on the part of both parties to the marriage compact. Artificial means of inhibiting conception, and intermittent restraint are antagonistic to the sexual instinct, and the desire for limitation must be strong and mutual to counteract this instinct within the marriage bond.

The reasons for this strong and very general desire, that marriage should not result in numerous births must have some foundation. What is it?

It cannot be poverty. New Zealand's economic experience has been one of uniform progress and prosperity. There is abundant and fertile land in these islands where droughts, floods, and famine years, are practically unknown. Blissards and destructive storms are mysterious terms. Fluctuations in production take place of course, but not such as to result in want, to any noticeable extent. There are no extremes of heat and cold, no extremes of drought and flood, no extremes of wealth and poverty. The climate is equable, the progress is uniform, the classes are at peace.

Every natural blessing that a people could desire in a country, is to be found in New Zealand. Climate, natural fertility, and production, unrivalled scenery in mountain, lake, and forest, everything to bless and prosper the present, and inspire hope in the future. Why is it that, with all this wealth, and with the country still progressing and yet undeveloped, a desire exists in the heart of the people to limit families.

The reason is social not economic, if one may contrast the terms.

Take women's attitude to the question first. Our women are well educated. A state system of compulsory education has placed within the reach of all a good education, up to what is known as the VI. or VII. Standard, and only a very few in the colony have been too poor or too rich to take advantage of it.

Most women can and do read an extensive literature, and to this they have abundant access, for even small country towns have good libraries. Alexandra, a little town of 400 inhabitants amongst the Central Otago mountains, has a public library of several thousand volumes, and the people take as much pride in this institution as in their school and church.

People move about from place to place, and it is surprising how small and even large families keep migrating from one part of the colony to another. They are always making new friends and acquaintances, and with these interchanging ideas and information.

Class distinctions have no clear and defined line of demarcation, and there is a free migration between all the classes; the highest, which is not very high, is always being recruited from those below, and from even the lowest, which is not very low.

The highest class is not completely out of sight of any class below it, and many families are distributed evenly over all the classes. A woman is the wife of a judge, a sister is the President of a Woman's Union, another sister is in a shop, and a fourth is married to a labourer.

If one of the poorer (they do not like "lower") class rises in the social scale, he or she is welcome—if one of the richer (they do not like "higher") falls, no effort is made by the class they formerly belonged to to maintain her status in order to save its dignity or repute.

In other words, there are not the hindrances to free migration between the various strata of society that obtain in other lands. Not only is that migration continually taking place, but there are very few who are not touched by a consciousness of it.

Members of the lower strata, all well educated voters, can give instances of friends, or relatives, or acquaintances, who are higher up than themselves—have "made their way," have "risen in society," have "done well," are "well off." And this consciousness inspires in all but the very lowest classes an ambition to rise.

Because it is possible to rise, because others rise, the desire to be migrating upwards soon takes possession of members of all but the lowest or poorest class, or those heavily ballasted with a large or increasing family.

The desire to rise in social status is inseparably bound up with the kindred desire to rise in the standard of comfort and ease.

Social status in New Zealand is, as yet, scarcely distinguishable from financial status. Those who are referred to as the better classes, are simply those who have got, or who have made, money. All things, therefore, are possible to everyone in this democratic colony.

There is thus permeating all classes in New Zealand a spirit of social rivalry, which shows no tendency to abate nor to be diverted. The social status of one class exerts an attractive force on the class next below.

But, apart from the influence of status, one class keeps steadily in view, and persistently strives to attain, the ease, comfort, and even luxury of the class above it.

Because the members of different grades are so migratory, there are many in one class known well to members in some class or classes below, and the ease and luxury which the former enjoy are a constant demonstration of what is possible to all.

Many who do not acquire wealth enough to make any appreciable difference in their social status, are able, through family, to improve their position. Their sons and daughters are given an University education, and by far the largest number of those entering the learned professions in New Zealand are the sons of farmers, tradespeople, and retail dealers.

The great mass of the people in our Colony are conscious of the fact that their social relations and standard of comfort, or shall one say standard of ease, are capable of improvement, and the desire to bring about that improvement is the dominant ambition of their lives.

Anything that stands in the way of this ambition must be overcome. A large family is a serious check to this ambition, so a large family must be avoided.

This desire to rise, and this dread too of incurring a responsibility that will assuredly check individual progress were counselled by Malthus, and resulted, and he said should result, in delayed marriage, lest a man, in taking to himself a wife, take also to himself a family he is unable to support.

But if this man can take to himself a wife without taking to himself a family, what then?

Men and women, in this Colony at least, have discovered that conformity to physiological law makes this possible.

A wife does not really add very much to a man's responsibility—it is the family that adds to his expense, and taxes all his resources. It is the doctor and the nurse, the food and the clothing, and the education of the uninvited ones to his home, that use up all his earnings, that keep him poor, or make him poorer.

Then there is one aspect of the question peculiar to the women themselves. Women have come to dread maternity. This is part of a general impatience with pain common to us all. Chloroform, and morphia, and cocaine, and ethyl chloride have taught us that pain is an evil.

When there was no chance of relieving it, we anaesthetised ourselves and each other with the thought that it was necessary, it was the will of Providence, the cry of our nerves for succour.

Now it is an evil, and if we must submit we do so under protest. Women now engage doctors on condition that chloroform will be administered as soon as they scream, and they scream earlier in their labour at each succeeding occasion.

Women are less than ever impressed with the sacredness and nobility of maternity, and look upon it more and more as a period of martyrdom. This attitude is in consonance with the crave for ease and luxury that is beginning to possess us.

It is, however, no new phase in human experience. It characterised all the civilisations of ancient times, at the height of their prosperity, and was really the beginning of their decay.

Women with us are more eager to limit families than are their husbands. They feel the burdens of a large family more. They are often heard to declare that, with a large family around her, and limited funds at her disposal with which to provide assistance, a woman is a slave. A large number think this, and, if there is a way out of the difficulty, they will follow that way. And they are not content to escape the hardships of life. They want comforts, and seek them earnestly. With the advent of comfort, they seek for ease, and, when this is found, they seek for luxury and social position.

Parents with us have a high ideal of what upbringing should be. Every parent wants his children to "do better" than himself. If he does not wish to make a stepping-stone of them, on which to rise to higher social things, he certainly wishes to give them such a "start in life" as will give them the best prospects of keeping pace with, or outstripping their fellows.

The toil and self-denial that many poor parents undergo, in order to give their children a good education, is almost pathetic, and is not eclipsed by the enthusiasm for education even in Scotland.

There is a shoemaker in a small digging town in New Zealand, still toiling away at his last, whose son is a distinguished graduate of our University, author of several books, and in a high position in his profession.

There is a grocer in another remote inland village whose son is a doctor in good practice. There is a baker in a little country district whose sons now hold high positions in the medical profession, one at home and the other abroad.

These facts are widely known amongst the working classes, and inspire them with a spirit of rivalry.

With regard to the general education of the people, the Registrar-General says, (New Zealand Official Year Book for 1898, page 164) "In considering the proportions of the population at different age periods, the improvement in education is even more clearly proved. It is found that, in 1896, of persons at the age-period 10-15 years, 98.73 per cent, were able to read and write, while 0.65 per cent. could merely read, and 0.62 per cent. were unable to read. The proportion who could not read increased slowly with each succeeding quinquennial period of age, until at 50-55 years it stood at 4.04 per cent. At 75 to 80 years the proportion was 7.05, and at 80 and upwards it advanced to 8.07. Similarly, the proportion of persons who could read only increased from 0.65 at 10-15 years to 3.66 at the period 50-55 years, and again to 9.74 and upwards. The better education of the people at the earlier stages is thus exhibited."

Further evidences of improved education will be found in the portion of his work relating to marriages, where it is shown that the proportion of persons in every thousand married, who signed by mark, has fallen very greatly since 1881. The figures for the sexes in the year 1881 were 32.04 males, and 57.04 females, against 6.19 males and 7.02 females in 1895.

For the position of teacher in a public school in New Zealand, at a salary of L60 a year, there were 14 female applicants, 10 of whom held the degree of M.A., and the other four that of B.A.

The number of children, 5-15 years of age, in New Zealand, was estimated as on 31st December, 1902, at 178,875. The number of children, 7-13 years of age (compulsory school age), was estimated as on 31st December, 1902, at 124,986. The attendance at schools, public and private, during the fourth quarter of 1902, was European 150,332, Maoris and half-castes 5,573. If children spend their useful years of child life at school, they can render little or no remunerative service to their parents.

Neither boys or girls can earn anything till over the age of 14 years. Our laws prohibit child labour.

In New Zealand, children, therefore, while they remain at home, are a continual drain on the resources of the bread-winner. More is expected from parents than in many other countries.

At our public schools children are expected to be well clad; and it is quite the exception, even in the poorest localities of our large cities, to see children attending school with bare feet.

During child-life, nothing is returned to the parent to compensate for the outlay upon the rearing and educating of children.

If a boy, by reason of a good education, soon, say, at from 14-18 years, is enabled to earn a few shillings weekly, it is very readily absorbed in keeping him dressed equally well with other boys at the same office or work.

An investment in children is, therefore, from a pecuniary point of view, a failure. There are, perhaps, two exceptions in New Zealand—in dairy farming in Taranaki, where the children milk outside school hours; and in the hop districts of Nelson, where, during the season, all the children in a family become hop-pickers, and a big cheque is netted when the family is a large one.

Quite apart from considerations of self, parents declare that the fewer children they have, the better they can clothe and educate them; and they prefer to "do well" for two or three, than to "drag up" twice or three times as many in rags and ignorance.

Clothing is dear in New Zealand. The following is a labourer's account of his expenditure. He is an industrious man, and his wife is a thrifty Glasgow woman. It is drawn very fine. No. 7 is less than he would have to pay in the city by two or three shillings a week for a house of similar size. No. 9 is rather higher than is usual with Benefit Societies, which average about sixteen shillings a quarter.


Per Week. L s. d. 1. Groceries and milk 0 15 0 2. Coal and light 0 4 0 3. Butcher 0 4 0 4. Baker 0 4 0 5. Boots, with repairing 0 2 6 6. Clothing and underclothing 0 5 0 7. Rent in suburbs 0 10 0 8. Sundries 0 2 0 9. Benefit Society 0 2 0 —————- Weekly total L2 8 6

Most young people make a good start in New Zealand. Even men-servants and maid-servants want for nothing. They dress well, they go to the theatres and music-halls, they have numerous holidays, and enjoy them by excursions on land or sea. It is when they marry, and mouths come crying to be filled, that they become poor, and the struggle of life begins.

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