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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/282

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there will be no reason to regret the props and stays and leading-strings that helped to steady the morality of the past.




We published in our last number an interesting article under the above title, by Mr. Alfred Russel Wallace. Mr. Wallace is much concerned over the fact that modern society is being recruited chiefly from the ranks of its less worthy members, and is thus undergoing a constant process of deterioration. Under any form of government this would be a serious danger, but, where democratic institutions prevail, it forebodes, unless it can be arrested, nothing less than social dissolution. The more favored classes marry late, for the most part, if at all. Their children are comparatively few. The improvident and worthless marry early, without the least regard for consequences, and flood the community with their degenerate offspring. That is the situation as described by certain writers, and the remedies proposed are many and varied. One writer wants restrictions placed on marriage, whether of a physical or merely legal kind we are not sure. From the very careful manner in which Mr. Wallace touches upon this suggestion, we rather fancy that something radical in the way of surgery has been proposed. Another authority, who ought to be better advised, wishes to substitute a very high-toned system of concubinage for the present institution of marriage, so that the female sex may be able to select worthy sires for the children they are disposed to bear. Another would have premiums given to young couples of unexceptionable strain, physical, mental, and moral, so that they may start early in life to contribute good citizens to the commonwealth. Mr. Wallace does not look upon any of these plans with approval, and rightly pronounces the second "detestable." He thinks, for his own part, that we ought to have an economically reformed society a little after Mr. Bellamy's ideas, and that, if we had, the women might be trusted to take care of the future of the race.

If Mr. Bellamy had done more than dream a very incoherent dream, we might think that Mr. Wallace had struck into the right path. We believe in female selection as an influence destined to be very potent in the future, but we do not look to any such scheme as Mr. Bellamy's to bring it into play. It is being brought into play now through the growing independence and intelligence of women, and there is no doubt at all that, as women are more and more trained to practical usefulness, not only in the family but in the business world, they will consult both their own dignity and the interests of posterity more than they have hitherto done in their acceptance of the married state.

We are not disposed to consider the situation quite so serious as Mr. Wallace describes it; but doubtless there is some room for apprehension as to the future, and, if we might venture to make a suggestion in our turn, it would be that our troubles, such as they are, largely arise from over-legislation, leading to a hurtful decline in the sense of individual responsibility, and from altogether too weak methods of dealing with crime and pauperism. On the former point we have often dilated, and shall not do so further on the present occasion. On the latter point we may remark that nothing can possibly be more obvious than the necessity of isolating—permanently if necessary—the anti-social from the social members of society. In dealing with contagious diseases we carry out a rigorous system of isolation, and maintain it just as long as the danger of infection lasts. Criminals we imprison for a time, and then turn loose to prey anew upon society and beget offspring in their own depraved image. Paupers and various grades of helpless people we assist to support,