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Instead of reading a paper I shall submit a series of propositions for discussion. These propositions have been printed and are found in the leaflet which is distributed through the room. They are as follows:


A. One large factor in the bad distribution of wealth is the bad distribution of men among the different occupations, too many crowding into the unskilled and too few going into the skilled and the learned occupations.

B. Children born of parents who have not been able to rise out of the poorly paid occupations are themselves less likely, on the average, to rise out of these occupations than are the children of parents who have risen into the more highly skilled and better paid occupations.

C. Therefore it would help matters if the birth rate could be reduced among those who remain in the overcrowded, underpaid, and unskilled occupations.


So long as immigrants enter the ranks, particularly the lower ranks, of labor1 in larger proportions, and the ranks of the business and professional classes in smaller proportions than the native born, continuous immigration will produce the following results:

A. As to Distribution. It will keep competition more intense among laborers, particularly in the lower ranks, and less intense among business and professional men, than it otherwise would be. This will tend to increase the incomes of the employing classes, and to depress wages, particularly the wages of the lower grades of labor.

B. As to Production. It will give a relatively low marginal productivity to a typical immigrant, particularly in the lower 1Cf. Commons, Races and Immigrants in America. Table between pages 108 and 109.

grades of labor, and make him a relatively unimportant factor in the production of wealth-a few more or a few less will make relatively little difference in the total production of national wealth.2

C. As to Organization of Industry. Because of their low individual productivity, they can only be economically employed at low wages and in large gangs.3

D. As to Agriculture. If immigrants go in large numbers into agriculture, it will lead to one or the other of the following results, in all probability the latter:

1. The continuous morcellement or subdivision of farms, resulting in an inefficient and wasteful application of labor, and smaller crops per man, though probably larger crops per acre; or 2. The development of a class of landed proprietors on the one hand, and a landless agricultural proletariat on the other.*

A disproportionately large supply of one grade of labor as compared with the supply of other grades of labor with which it has to be combined in production, tends to make each laborer in that grade an unimportant factor in production, so that one laborer more in that grade adds very little to, and one laborer less subtracts very little from, the total quantity which can be produced. By way of illustration, charcoal, sulphur, and saltpetre have to be mixed in the production of gun powder. The proportions may vary within rather narrow limits. Suppose that there is more charcoal than can be satisfactorily combined with the existing supply of sulphur and saltpetre. No matter how much demand for gunpowder there may be, no more can be made than the scarcer factors will permit. However excellent the charcoal may be, it cannot all be used advantageously. Under such conditions, one pound of charcoal more or less will have very little influence on the total production of gunpowder.

The different factors of production, including the various kinds of human ability, have to be combined in production. The proportions may vary within somewhat wider limits than can the ingredients in the manufacture of gunpowder, but the principle is the same.

'Just as scarce labor and abundant land lead inevitably to extensive farming where a small quantity of the scarce factor, labor, is combined with a large quantity of the abundant factor, land, so a relatively small supply of managing ability and a relatively large supply of the kind of labor which must be superintended leads inevitably to a combination of a small quantity of the scarce form with a large quantity of the abundant form, i. e., one superintendent, foreman, or boss, over a large gang. Again, just as in the former case there will be high wages and low rent, so in the latter case there will be high salaries and low wages.


So long as labor is scare and dear, and land abundant and cheap, the way is easy from the position of farm laborer to that of farm owner, and many there be that find it; but when labor becomes abundant and cheap, and land scarce and dear, the way becomes hard, and few there will be who will find it.


If there are large numbers of immigrants belonging to races or nationalities which do not fuse with the rest of the population by free intermarriage, or with which the rest of the population will not intermarry freely, there will result one of the three following conditions:

1. Geographical separation of races; or

2. Social separation of races, i e., in the formation of classes or castes; one race or the other becoming subordinate; or

3. Continual race antagonism, frequently breaking out into

race war.




Notoriously, the birth-rate in countries of our civilization has for years been falling. Notoriously, too, a chief factor in this decline of the birth-rate has been the spread of so-called neoMalthusian practices which render the fertility of marriage almost completely subject to voluntary control. The wide extent of these practices is not always recognized, and can be only vaguely known; but in proportion to the adequacy of our information we must acknowledge that a sudden substitution of rational calculation for instinct as the influence determining human increase constituted, for good or for ill, one of the profoundest social changes of the last century. Despite its importance, the history of the movement has remained obscure.

In countries where the English language is read and spoken the general diffusion of neo-Malthusian ideas is commonly traced back to the noisy publicity of the prosecutions which were carried on in England in the years from 1876 to 1878, culminating in the trials of Charles Bradlaugh and Mrs. Besant, and of Edward Truelove, charged with offending against public morals by offering for sale Dr. Knowlton's book, "The Fruits of Philosophy." But this book and others of similar purport, which like it were effectually advertised by the scandal of the trial, had been first published decades before the ill-judged attempt to suppress them. The checks to population which they advocated were not newly devised. It is abundantly clear that the precursors of the neo-Malthusian movement established an active propaganda in England in the decade of the 1820's, when, after the shock of the industrial revolution, the shattering idealism of the Revolution in France, and the burden of the French war, the British populace was straining in so many ways to fit itself to its new economic situation.

The present paper is an attempt to give an account of the beginnings of such propagandism in England. It is only a fragment: a tentative study of one episode in the development of population theory since Malthus. The source from which it has been chiefly derived is the unique and invaluable collection of

manuscript records, newspaper clippings, and fugitive printed matter gathered by Francis Place. This material, though unfortunately somewhat scattered, has found its way partly to the library of Professor Seligman, but principally to the British Museum, where it fills some two hundred and fifty bulky volumes, and comprises references to nearly every social problem which was stirring in the early nineteenth century. Buried in the mass, almost unknown, are documents revealing contemporary efforts to promote the use of artificial means for the restriction of births. Half revealing, one might better say, for apprehension of public censure has from the first operated to keep the record obscure. The narrative based upon such documents as are at hand will doubtless require amplification, and perhaps considerable correction, by the results of further study; but provisional as it is, I venture to lay it before you in the hope that it may shed new light on the beginnings of our present-day problem of the declining birth-rate.

When Malthus published, in 1803, the second edition of his "Essay", he made a most important departure from his former classification of the checks by introducing, expressly and with new emphasis, the concept of moral restraint. The first "Essay" had depicted the menace of population for purposes of destructive argument: the second took the form of a treatise on population by and for itself; and so, in revising the work, Malthus was moved to indicate not only the difficulties of the situation which he saw, but also his hope of a way out. This hope, such as it was, lay in moral restraint. By moral restraint Malthus meant, as he expressly stated in the last edition of the "Essay" published during his lifetime, "a restraint from marriage, from prudential motives, with a conduct strictly moral during the period of restraint." From this meaning, he insisted, he had never in tentionally deviated.1

The idea of restraint in the marriage relation was in fact foreign to Malthus' doctrine. He warmly repudiated the allegation that he advocated anything of the sort. The usage which has connected his name with neo-Malthusianism and its devices is therefore but an example of the irony which the course of scientific thinking has in store for those whose influence proves too far-reaching to remain within the limits of their own mental 1Sixth Edition, London, 1826, Vol. i, p. 15, note.

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