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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/760

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

tion of rulers, to the reckless turbulence of the ruled, to the debasing effects of wealth and luxury, and to the devastating wars which have formed a great part of the occupation of mankind, as the causes of the decay of states and the foundering of old civilizations, and thereby point their story with a moral. No doubt immoral motives of all sorts have figured largely among the minor causes of these events. But, beneath all this superficial turmoil, lay the deep-seated impulse given by unlimited multiplication. In the swarms of colonies thrown out by Phoenicia and by old Greece; in the "ver sacrum" of the Latin races; in the floods of Gauls and of Teutons which burst over-the frontiers of the old civilization of Europe; in the swaying to and fro of the vast Mongolian hordes in late times, the population problem comes to the front in a very visible shape. Nor is it less plainly manifest in the everlasting agrarian questions of ancient Rome than in the Arreoi societies of the Polynesian Islands.

In the ancient world and in a large part of that in which we now live, the practice of infanticide was or is a regular and legal custom; the steady recurrence of famine, pestilence, and war were and are normal factors in the struggle for existence, and have served, in a gross and brutal fashion, to mitigate the intensity of its chief cause.

But, in the more advanced civilizations, the progress of private and public morality has steadily tended to remove all these checks. We declare infanticide murder, and punish it as such; we decree, not quite successfully, that no one shall die of hunger; we regard death from preventable causes of other kinds as a sort of constructive murder, and eliminate pestilence to the best of our ability; we declaim against the curse of war and the wickedness of the military spirit, and we are never weary of dilating on the blessedness of peace and the innocent beneficence of industry. In their moments of expansion, even statesmen and men of business go thus far. The finer spirits look to an ideal "civitas Dei"; a state when, every man having reached the point of absolute self-negation, and having nothing but moral perfection to strive after, peace will truly reign, not merely among nations, but among men, and the struggle for existence will be at an end.

Whether human nature is competent, under any circumstances, to reach, or even seriously advance toward, this ideal condition, is a question which need not be discussed. It will be admitted that mankind has not yet reached this stage by a very long way, and my business is with the present. And that which I wish to point out is that, so long as the natural man increases and multiplies without restraint, so long will peace and industry not only permit, but they will necessitate, a struggle for existence as sharp as any that ever went on under the régime of war. If Istar is to reign on the one hand, she will demand her human sacrifices on the other.

Let us look at home. For seventy years, peace and industry have