Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/548

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it is what we might call a bilateral question. The right to place children in the world is not a right merely individual and personal; there is in it an act that concerns not the parents alone, hut all society as well. When the idle and careless call new beings into life, the task of feeding them falls back unjustly upon industrious and thrifty men. One does not have to take his children to the dispensary to put them in charge of society; the man who fills his house with children he can not support changes his house itself into a hospital, and that by his own authority, without consulting the convenience or considering the resources of any other one. The act involves an evident violation of stipulative justice. The state might, in such a case, say to the laborer: "You demand a promise of me, but are you disposed to give another one in exchange for it '? My duty is correlative with your duty, and your right is not unconditional, but is subordinate to indispensable conditions. Will you give up the right of propagation? If you will, assistance is possible; if not, it is not, for you can not require those who have labored, produced, and saved, before you, to abstain from the enjoyment of the fruits of their labor till they have assured the support of all the beings whom it may be convenient for you or your descendants to call into existence." The procreation of children is not an act of individual whim, it is of the nature of a social act and of a contract. It is proper to have paternal and maternal duties determined by law. The false principle that every one has the right to procreate according to his fancy, without showing any more foresight than a brute, will eventually be rejected, says Stuart Mill, the same as the right of a merchant to buy and sell without keeping accounts is already rejected. To place children in the world without being able to support them will be regarded as a new kind of failure; it is, in fact, frequently more than a failure; it is a homicide by imprudence, because the children are destined to a certain misery and an almost certain death. All liberty involves responsibility.

Stuart Mill undoubtedly attaches too much importance to the legal regulation of population for the present time. In some countries, as in France, the population is now tending to diminish, rather than to increase too much. Furthermore, the bringing of American and Australian lands under cultivation assures subsistence to mankind for a long time, even if the population should increase rapidly. It nevertheless remains true that the relief given by the state can not be unlimited, and that assistance can not be erected into a right on which the individual can found a claim. Experience has shown us what kind of work we may look for out of the shops opened by public philanthropy. "When we do not give wages for work that we need," says Stuart Mill, "but give out work so as to furnish wages to those who need them, we may be sure that the work will not be worth what it costs." When we shall have no longer the power of dismissing the workmen, we shall not be able to get work except by the lash. Assist-