Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/319

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establishes at the same time the foundation and the limit of the right of property, on the one side, and of the right to live on the other. The first is not more absolute than the second, but we can not ignore the one without injuring the other.

We can not, however, from the fact that the philanthropic duty of assistance may not be unlimited and unconditional, conclude with Malthus and the naturalists of his school that the duty does not exist. If such a conclusion were logical, we should have to apply it to all real rights, for there is not one of them that is absolute and without limits; not the right of property any more than the others. The only legitimate conclusion is, that it is necessary to confine assistance within certain boundaries, to restrict it by the consideration of other rights, to submit it to conditions, and consequently to make it the object of a contract, and thus to realize on this point as on all the others the ideal of stipulative justice. The practical limitation of a right is always by another right: the right of property, for example, is limited by the right of circulation, by that of condemning it for public uses, etc., and vice versa and the means of fixing the limit is free parleying between the parties, resulting in a contract. All legislation which neglects to give a form of contract to the laws it promulgates, prepares conflicts of every kind for society, and leaves a germ of war in the law itself.

But, while true philanthropy, which has to do only with social justice, ought to consider the present and the past, it has also to deal with the future. It is in this point of view that the theories of Malthus and Darwin gain the advantage; here moral and juridical considerations are complemented by considerations borrowed from natural history. We have already recognized, with Malthus and Stuart Mill, that we can not put this point aside unless we would produce artificially, in a more or less distant future, an excessive multiplication of the species. It now remains to examine, with Mr. Spencer and Mr. Darwin, another rock in the way of the philanthropist—the danger of producing a physical and intellectual deterioration of the species by overlooking the laws of natural selection and heredity.

Philanthropy, apart from science, sees only the immediate influence of the measures it proposes; it entirely neglects their influence, infinitely more important, on the physical status and the morals of future generations. It forgets that every new measure in legislation or policy tends to produce modifications, for better or worse, in human nature.[1] These modifications are the inevitable effect of biological laws,

  1. Religious fanaticism, for instance, by its measures of persecution, has produced effects which its partisans were far from foreseeing, and a kind of cross-action. "By a course of penalties and poisonings," says Galton, in his "Hereditary Genius," "the Spanish nation has been deprived of free-thinkers and drained, as it were, of a thousand persons a year, during the three centuries between 1474 and 1784; for an average of one hundred persons were executed and an average of nine hundred persons imprisoned every year during that period. During the three centuries, 32,000 persons were burned, 17,000 burned in effigy (the most of the persons themselves died in prison, or left Spain), and