Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/275

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
265
THE SOCIAL PROBLEM

and the cry is against race suicide. One is told that the early settlers of this land had large families and that the children were strong, physically and mentally. But they were a fine stock, and, like all pioneers, they were the best of their race—and natural selection came to their aid. Sheltered in only too well-ventilated houses and exposed to a severe climate, the feeble perished in infancy, the strong survived. No such selection exists in the class under consideration, which, unfortunately, lacks the original physique. More than that. Pure food laws, sewerage, proper construction of houses, sanitary regulations and the rest antagonize the operations of natural laws, whereby the sins of the parents are visited upon the children. Those who, under former conditions, would have died in infancy now survive the perils of the earliest years, in increasing proportions reach maturity, marry and reproduce themselves—a menace to the health and well-being of the community. The reports of surgeons employed by the New York Board of Education prove that a great part of the children in some portions of the city suffer from congenital defects, which, uncorrected by surgical treatment, lead to mental as well as moral deficiency; while teachers have discovered that much of the mental obtuseness observed in pupils is due to lack of proper nourishment. Quality, not quantity is all important in a population. It is said that a nation with stationary or decreasing population is in decadence and much ado has been made over the sad condition of France. Yet the thoughtful Frenchman is prompt to remark that he prefers 35,000,000 healthy, well-fed and contented Frenchmen to 100,000,000 of wretched Russians. It is true that in France war material is not increasing so rapidly as in some other lands; but the civilized world is outgrowing the notion that men should be bred as horses, to be killed in settlement of disputes which do not concern them.

It may be well enough for wandering savages, such as the Australian aborigines, to multiply heedlessly like rabbits and weeds, but it is not well enough in civilized lands where masses congregate in cities and the food problem becomes complex. Philanthropists, as they think themselves, would not prevent the multiplication of children, for that is a natural right of which man may not be deprived, even though he can not provide food for his offspring. The "cry of the child" is made the basis of bitter attacks on the constitution of society and demands are made that the state, whatever that may mean, should not only protect but also provide for needy children. In recent months, the pensioning of mothers left with children has been urged as the community's duty. An association for aid of the poor lately published in its annual report the picture of a despairing man sitting by the bedside of his wife and her newly born infant, with the query below, "And what will he do with the sixth?" A missionary out west with