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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/555

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551
THE WASTE OF CHILDREN

babes, believed more largely in a Providence whose decree was inexorable, who gave and who took away? From this morbid fatalism the medical advance of the past one hundred years and the strenuous efforts of men with human sympathies applying themselves to problems of social betterment have freed the majority of our kind, and the doctrine is properly relegated to the category of abandoned beliefs. The triumph over small-pox has been one of the results contributing to this end. Formerly it was a scourge carrying away large portions of the population. Two thirds of all new-born children are said to have been attacked, of whom one eighth or more regularly died. A frightful mortality thus obtained, and this was minimized only through the introduction of vaccination, which in some countries increased the average duration of life as much as three and one half years. Owing to this direful experience of the past, foreign countries are still more insistent than we are upon employing that method of preventing the disease.

France has paralleled the record of England, and, when once inaugurated, improvements and reforms succeeded with astonishing rapidity. During the first seven years of the last century, the number of male inhabitants reaching an age sufficient to subject them to conscription was but 45 per cent, of the total number born, yet by 1825 the percentage had risen to 61—a most healthful gain in the proportion of those attaining adult life. Backward Russia has been equally a laggard in its attention to the moral and social requirements winch result in a low infantile death rate. At the beginning of the nineteenth century it permitted one third only of the children of its peasants to grow up to maturity and as few as 36 per cent, of its population reached the age of twenty years. Even here science has made advance.

The great changes in the social and economic conditions of the European people have had a marked effect upon the growth of the population. As the power and ability of men to control the conditions of their environment were increasingly realized, beneficent effects were everywhere noticeable. To recuperate the strength lost in war and disaster, men urged the device of a decreased death rate instead of striving as formerly for a larger percentage of births. An observing demographer in the first half of the last century thus expressed himself, 'Population does not so much increase because more are born as because fewer die.' Yet the population of nearly every country has increased wonderfully during the past century, and in view of the new conditions of its expansion what a fine commentary upon the advance of modern civilization and the practical efficiency of government this tremendous fact has been!

From this former dismal reality with its merciless slaughter of helpless babes we in America have made much progress. Accurate