The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 30
Chapter II. Its Consequences
Chapter II. Its Consequences.
It is abundantly clear, from experience, that population does not, as a general rule, increase at anything like the rate spoken of in the preceding chapter. the earth would, long ere now, have become unable to support her offspring if they had multiplied at the pace which the naturalist tolls us is possible—if, for instance, all rabbits had increased in the same ratio as those taken over to Australia and naturalised there. Some cause must therefore be at work checking the increase and preventing over-rapid multiplication, holding the balance, in fact, roughly even between the means of subsistence and the living creatures who consume them. In the vegetable kingdom the checks to increase are not difficult to find. Every plant needs for its development suitable soil, moisture, air, and light; these are its means of subsistence. The amount of these is limited, while the power of multiplication in the vegetable is unlimited. "What is the necessary consequence'? That of the myriad seeds produced only a few will develop into seed-bearing plants; each seed needs a certain proportion of soil, moisture, air, light; if they fall round the parent stem and sprout into seedlings they so crowd each other that the weaker perish; every gardener knows that his seedlings need thinning if any are to grow into useful plants, that his plantations must be thinned out if any tree is to have full development; an over-crowded plantation, page 12 an over-crowded garden-bed, gives a crop of dwarfed, stunted, weak, and useless plants. These facts are so commonplace that they pass continually before our eyes, and the simple inference from them is unregarded. There is another check of a severe character on vegetable increase. Birds cat the seeds; animals browse on the plants; man uses many kinds for his own support; the wheat sown in one year not only produces the seed-corn for the ensuing season, but also affords so vast a multiplication as to supply the world with bread; the animal world preys on the vegetable, and so is made a chock which destroys the mature, as well as the check of want of room and nourishment which destroys the infant, growth. Out of 357 seedlings of English weeds, carefully watched by Mr. Darwin, 295 were destroyed. On some heaths near Farnham, in the portions enclosed during ten years previously, self-sown firs were observed by him springing up so closely that all could not live, while in the unenclosed portions not one young tree was to be seen. On close examination Mr. Darwin found in one square yard thirty-two little trees no higher than the heather, one with twenty-six rings of growth; the check here was the browsing of cattle over the open part of the heath. In the animal kingdom the same class of checks is found; the rabbit which in Australia has become an intolerable plague, is kept down to a fair level in England, not because he multiplies less rapidly, but because the check of destruction is brought to bear upon him; food is scarcer in the more cultivated land; guns and traps send him to the market in millions; hawks, weasels, cats, prey upon his young; he produces life rapidly, but the check of death waits upon him and keeps him down. the swift increase of plants and animals under favorable circumstances, dealt with in Chapter I., shows the enormous power of the destructive checks which generally keep in subjection the life-producing force. Once more turning to Mr. Darwin, we read:—
"Of the many individuals of any species which are periodically born, but a small number can survive . . . . A struggle for existence inevitably follows from the high rate at which all organic beings tend to increase. Every being, which during its natural lifetime produces several eggs or seeds, must suffer destruction during some period of its life, and during some season or occasional year, otherwise on the principle of geometrical increase, its numbers would quickly become so inordinately great that no country could page 13 support the product. Hence, as more in [unclear: deciduals] are produced than can possibly survive, there must in every case be a struggle for existence, either one individual with another of the same species, or with the individuals of distinct species, or with the physical conditions of life. It is the doctrine of Malthus applied with manifold force to the whole animal and vegetable kingdoms; for in this case there can be no artificial increase of food, and no prudential restraint from marriage. Although some specks may be now increasing more or less rapidly in numbers, all cannot do so, for the world would not hold them . . . . . Our familiarity with the larger domestic animals tends, I think, to mislead us; we see no groat destruction falling on them, and we forget that thousands are annually slaughtered for food, and that in a state of nature an equal number would have somehow to be disposed of. . . . . In looking at nature, it is most necessary to keep the foregoing considerations always in mind—never to forget that every single organic being around us may be said to be striving to the utmost to increase in numbers; that each lives by a struggle at some period of its life; that heavy destruction inevitably falls either on the young or old during each generation or at recurrent intervals. Lighten any check, mitigate the destruction ever so little, and the number of the species will almost instantaneously increase to any amount."
If there be such vast destruction of life throughout the vegetable and animal kingdoms, necessarily consequent on the superabundance of life produced, is man exempt from the same law?
|"1.||Population is necessarily limited by the means of subsistence.|
|"2.||Population invariably increases where the means of subsistence increase, unless prevented by some very powerful and obvious checks.|
|"3.||These checks, and the checks which repress the superior power of population, and keep its effects on a level with the means of subsistence, are all resolvable into moral restraint, vice, and misery.|
"The ultimate check to population appears to be a want of food, arising necessarily from the different ratios according to which population and food increase. But this ultimate check is never the immediate check, except in cases page 14 of actual famine. The immediate check may be stated to consist in all those customs and all those diseases, which seem to be generated by a scarcity of the means of subsistence; and all those causes, independent of this scarcity, whether of a moral or physical nature, which tend prematurely to weaken and destroy the human frame." These causes which retard the growth of population by killing human beings, either slowly or rapidly, are all classed together by Malthus under the head of "positive" cheeks; they are the "natural" cheeks to population, common alike to vegetables, to animals, to man; they are all checks of suffering, of want, of disease; they are life-destroying, anti-human, brutal, irrational.
These checks are, as might be imagined, more striking, more openly repulsive, more thorough, among savage than among civilised nations. "War, infanticide, hardship, famine, disease, murder of the aged, all these are among the positive checks which keep down the increase of population among savage tribes. War carries oil the young men, full of vigor, the warriors in their prime of life, the strongest, the most robust, the most fiery—those, in fact, who, from their physical strength and energy would be most likely to add largely to the number of the tribe. Infanticide, most prevalent where means of existence are most restricted, is largely practised among barbarous nations, the custom being due, to a great extent, to the difficulty of providing food for a large family. Hardship carries away many a child in savage life: "Women," says Malthus, "obliged, by their habits of living, to a constant change of places, and compelled to an unremitting drudgery for their husbands, appear to be absolutely incapable of bringing up two or three children nearly of the same age. If another child be born before the one above it can shift for itself, and follow its mother on foot, one of the two must almost necessarily perish from want of care." Famine, so easily caused among a primitive community, sweeps off young and old together; epidemics carry away almost a whole tribe at one swoop; the aged are often slain, or left to perish, when their feebleness no longer permits them to add to the productive force of the community.
All these miseries are the positive and natural checks to population among uncivilised beings; among the more civilised the checks are the same in kind although more decently veiled. But the moment we come among civilised nations a new factor is introduced into the problem which page 15 complicates it very considerably. Hitherto we have seen Nature—apart from man—going her own way, producing and destroying without let or hindrance. But when we examine civilised nations we find a new agent at work; Nature's grandest product, the brain of man, now comes into play, and a new set of circumstances arises. Men, women, and children, who would be doomed to death in the savage state, have their lives prolonged by civilisation; the sickly, whom the hardships of the savage struggle for existence would kill off, are carefully tended in hospitals, and saved by medical skill; the parents, whose thread of life would be cut short, are cherished on into prolonged old age; the feeble, who would be left to starve, are tenderly shielded from hardship, and life's road is made the smoother for the lame; the average of life is lengthened, and more and more thought is brought to bear on the causes of preventible disease; better drainage, better homos, better food, better clothing, all these, among the more comfortable classes, remove many of the natural checks to population. Among these nations wars become less frequent and less bloody; famines, owing to improved means of intercommunication, become for a time almost impossible; epidemics no longer depopulate whole districts. In England, in A.D. 1258, no less than 15,000 people were starved to death in London alone; in France, in A.D. 1348, one-third of the whole population perished from the same cause; in Borne, from A.D. 250-265, a plague raged, that, for some time, carried off daily 5,000 persons; in England, in A.D. 1506 and 1517, the sweating sickness slew half the inhabitants of the large towns and depopulated Oxford; in London, in A.D. 1603-4, the plague killed 30,578 persons, and in A.D. 1664-5 it destroyed 68,596; in Naples, in A.D. 1656, 400,000 died, and in Egypt, A.D. 1792, above 800,000. These terrible epidemics and famines have ceased to sweep over Europe, but for how long? This decrease of natural checks to population, consequent on advancing civilisation, has, unfortunately, a very dark side. Darwin has remarked: "Lighten any check, mitigate the destruction ever so little, and the number of the species will almost instantaneously increase to any amount." A signal instance of the truth of this remark is now being given to us in our Indian empire by the introduction there of Western civilisation; Lord Derby says: "We have established there order and peace; we have done away with local wars; we have lessened the ravages of pestilence; and we do what page 16 we can—and, in ordinary' seasons, we do it with success—to mitigate the effects of destitution. The result is, naturally and necessarily, a vast increase in population; and, if present appearances can be trusted, we shall have in every generation a larger aggregate of human beings relying upon us for help in those periods of distress which must, from time to time, occur in a country wholly agricultural and liable to droughts." So that it appears that our civilisation in India, taking away the ordinary natural cheeks to population, and introducing no others in their stead, brings about a famine which has already destroyed more than 500,000 people in one Presidency alone, and has thrown about one and a half million more on charity. From this point of view civilisation can scarcely be regarded as an unmixed blessing, and it must not be forgotten that what is happening in India now must, sooner or later, happen in every country where science destroys the balance of nature.
Turning to England, we find that our population is growing rapidly enough to cause anxiety; although there are some severe checks, with which we shall deal presently, England has almost doubled her population during the last fifty years. In 1810 the population of England and Wales was about 10,000,000, and in 1860 it was about 20,000,000. "At the present time," writes Professor Fawcett, "it is growing at the rate of 200,000 every year, which is almost equivalent to the population of the county of Northampton. If in fifty years the descendants of one million become two millions, it is obvious that in 100 years the two millions will have become four millions, so that if the population of England were eight millions in 1810 it would be 80 millions in 1960." Forty years hence, if we maintain the rate of increase which we have kept up since the commencement of this century, some 40 millions of people will be crowded into our little island; yet "at the present time it is said that there is a great redundancy of labor. Many who are willing to work cannot find employment; in most of our important branches of industry there has been great overproduction; every trade and every profession is overcrowded; for every vacant clerkship there are hundreds of applications. Difficult as it is for men to obtain a livelihood, it is ten times more difficult for women to" do so; partly on account of unjust laws, and partly because of the tyranny of society, they are shut out from many employments. 'All that has just been stated is admitted by com- page 17 mon consent—it is the topic of daily conversation, and of daily complaint—and yet with the utmost complacency we observe 200,000 added to our population every year, and we often congratulate ourselves upon this addition to our numbers, as if it were an unerring sign of advancing prosperity. But viewed in relation to the facts just mentioned, what does this addition to our numbers indicate? To this question only one reply can be given—that in ten years' time, where there are a hundred now seeking employment there will then be a hundred and twenty. This will not apply simply to one industry, but will be the case throughout the whole country. It will also further happen that in ten years' time for every hundred who now require food, fuel, and clothing, a similar provision will have to be made for one hundred and twenty. It therefore follows that, low as the general average standard of living now is, it cannot by any means be obtained, unless in ten years' time the supply of all the commodities of ordinary consumption can be increased by 20 per cent., without their becoming more costly." The continually rising price of food is one of the most certain signs that population in England is pressing over hard on the means of subsistence; although our own corn and meat production is enormously supplemented by supplies from abroad, prices are always going up, and the largo amount of adulteration practised in every food-supplying trade is, to a great extent, an effort to equalise the supply and the demand. Much of the food on which our poor live is unwholesome in the extreme; let anyone walk through the poorer districts of London, or of any large town, and see the provisions lying for sale in the shops; it is not only the meat sold for cooking at home, the doubtful sugar, and not doubtful apology for butter, the blue milk, the limp and flabby vegetables—but let the enquirer stop at the cook-shop and inspect the fish, unpleasant both to eye and smell, in itself and in its cooking; the "faggots "—the eating of which killed a child the other day; the strangely shaped and strangely marked lumps of what should be moat; and, after an hour's walk, the searcher will not wonder at the wan, haggard fares of those who support life on this untempting fare. Even of this fare, however, there is not enough; the low fever so sadly common in poor districts, the "falling away," the hollow cough, the premature old age, all these are the results of insufficiency of food—insufficiency which does not kill at once, but slowly and surely starves away the life. Much of the page 18 drunkenness, most common in the poorest districts, has its root in lack of food; the constantly craving stomach is stilled with drink, which it would not desire if it were better filled.
But the pressure on the means of subsistence has other consequences than the living on unwholesome food. One of the earliest signs of too rapidly increasing population is the overcrowding, of the poor. Just as the overcrowded seedlings spoil each other's growth, so do the overcrowded poor injure each other morally, mentally, and physically. Whether we study town or country the result of our enquiries is the same—the houses are too small and the families are too large. Take, as illustrating this, the terrible instances given by Mr. George Godwin, in his essay on "Overcrowding in London." In Lincoln Court he states that: "In the majority of the houses the rooms are small, and the staircases are narrow and without ventilation. In two of them it was admitted that more than thirty-five persons lived in each; but it would probably be nearer truth to say that each house of eight rooms contains on' an average, including children, forty-five persons." "A child was found dead in Brown low Street, and on enquiry it was Learnt that the mother, a widow, and six children slept in one bed' in a small room. The death of the child was attributed to the bedclothes." "In a model lodging house for families, a father, who with his wife and one child occupies one room, has accommodated six of his nine other children the crossway on two camp bedsteads, while three elder girls, one sixteen years old, sleep on a small bedstead near." "In a respectable house not far from the last, occupied by steady artisans and others, 1 found that nine persons slept in one of the rooms (12 feet by 14 feet), a father, mother and seven children. Eleven shoemakers worked in the attics; and in each of the other five rooms there was a separate family. I could quote scores of such cases of overcrowding in what would seem to be decent houses." "Hundreds of modern houses, built in decent suburban neighborhoods, as if for one family only, are made to contain several. The neat external appearance of many of them gives no suggestion of the dangerously crowded state of the houses. A description of one of them in Bemerton Street, Caledonian Load, will be more truthful. The basement below the level of the street contains in the front room an old man and his wife; in the back room, two lodgers: in the parlors there are a man and his wife and page 19 eight children. On the first floor, a man and his wife and infant; two girls, sixteen and eighteen years of age, and occasionally their mother—all in the front room; and in the small back room, two women, a girl, and two young children. On the second floor, a father, mother, two grownup sons, an infant, and a brood of rabbits. Two women and two boys in the back room make the whole population of the house thirty-four. In the next there were thirty-three persons similarly divided." "In one small house, with staircase in the centre, there were in the four small rooms on each side of it, forty persons in the daytime. How many there may be at night I cannot say. The atmosphere on the staircase was sickening." Who can wonder that the death-rate is so high in large cities, and that the difference in the death-rate between the rich and poor sections of the same city is appalling? In Glasgow, for the quarter ending Juno 30th, the death-rate in the Blythswood division was 19; that in the Bridgegate and Wynds division 52½. Many of the deaths in the richer districts might be prevented by better sanitary arrangements and wider sanitary knowledge; the excess in the poorer districts is dearly preventible; with our present knowledge, and preventible death is manslaughter. As might be expected, the rate of infant mortality is very high in these overcrowded districts; where 200 children under the age of five; years die among the rich, 600 die among the poor; a young child is easily killed, and the bad air and unwholesome food rapidly murder the little ones; again quoting from the Glasgow report: "A large number of the deaths, bearing the relation of 13½ per cent, to the total births, were those of children under one year." In addition to the actual deaths caused by overcrowding, we must add to the mass of misery accruing from it, the non-fatal diseases and the general debility and lack of vigorous life so common in our large centres of industry. "Overcrowding," says Mr. Godwin, "means want of pure air; and want of pure air means debility, continued fever, death, widowhood, orphanage, pauperism, and money loss to the living." Epidemics are most fatal in over-crowded districts, not only because they pass so rapidly from one to another, but also because the people dwelling in those districts have less vitality, less vigor of resistance, than those more fortunately circumstanced. "The great reason," said Dr. Drysdale in the late trial in the Court of Queen's Bench, "that typhus fever is so terrible a disease is that people are crowded. It page 20 is impossible to have health with large crowded families." Here then is one of the commonest checks to population in all great cities. Nor must the results to morality be omitted in this imperfect summary of the evils which grow out of over-crowding. What modesty, what decency, what self-respect is possible to these men and women, boys and girls, herded together, seven, ten, fourteen in a room? Only the absence of these virtues could make the life endurable for four-and-twenty hours; no delicacy of feeling can exist there, and we cannot wonder at Dr. Drysdale's sad answer in the recent trial: "They do not know what modesty is."
Can there be any doubt that it is the large families so common among the English poor that are at the root of this over-crowding? For not only would the "model lodging house "spoken of above have been less crowded if the parents, instead of having ten children, had had only two, but with fewer children less money would be needed for food and clothing, and more could be spared for rent. The artisan with six children, forced to live in a stilling pair of rooms in a back street in London in order to be near his work, might, if he had only two, spare money enough to pay his rail to and fro from the suburbs, where the same rent would give him decent accommodation; and not only would he have a better home, but the two children would grow strong in the free air, where the six pine in the London street, and the two would have plenty of food and clothing, where the six lack both. Mr. Godwin, recognises this fact; he says: "Amongst the causes which lead to the evil we are deploring we must not overlook the gradual increase of children, while in the case of the laboring: man the income mostly remains the same . . . . . As the children increase in number the wife is prevented from adding by her earnings to the income, and many years must elapse before the children can be put to work." "Ought to be put to work" would be a truer phrase, for the age at which young children are forced to help in winning their daily bread is one of the disgraces of our civilisation.
Overcrowding in country districts is, naturally, not so injurious to health as it is in the towns; the daily work in the open air, the fresh breeze blowing round the cottage, and cleansing, to some extent, the atmosphere within, the fields and lanes where the children can play, all these things may do much to neutralise the harm to health wrought by overcrowding at night. The injury to health page 21 caused by large families among the agricultural poor, arises more from other causes than from over-crowding; the low wage cannot pay for a house sufficiently good, and the cheap ill-built cottage, damp, draughty, badly-drained, brings to those who live in it the fever and the ague and the rheumatism so sadly common among these laboring classes. But the moral effect of over-crowding is, as the present Bishop of Manchester said—when serving as the Rev. J. Eraser in the Royal Commission on the employment of children, young persons, and women in agriculture—"fearful to contemplate." "Modesty," he goes on, "must be an unknown virtue, decency an unimaginable thing, where, in one small chamber, with the beds lying as thickly as they can be packed, father, mother, young men, lads, grown and growing up girls—two and sometimes three generations—are herded promiscuously; where every operation of the toilette and of nature—dressings, undressings, births, deaths—is performed by each within the sight or hearing of all; where children of both sexes, to as high an age as twelve or fourteen, or even more, occupy the same bed; where the whole atmosphere is sensual, and human nature is degraded into something below the level of the swine."
The too early putting of the children to work is one of the consequences of over-large families. In the country the children working in gangs in the fields learn evil speech and evil act at an age when they should be innocent, at school and at play. In town, in the factory and in the workroom, the seeds of disease are sown in the child-laborers. "Children in big families," says Dr. Drysdale, "are taken out to work very early, and premature exertion often injures them for life. . .. . . Children are not tit to do very much work so long as they are half developed, and early death is often the consequence." Children should not work for their bread; the frame is not fit for toil, the brain is not ready for the effort of long attention; those who give the life should support and protect it until the tenderness of childhood is passed away, and the young body is firm-knit and strong, prepared to take its share of the battle, and bear the burden and heat of the day.
From the same pressure and struggle for existence, consequent on the difficulty of winning the means of life in an over-crowded land, arise the unhealthy conditions among which many kinds of work are carried on. page 22 Mr. Godwin remarks, as to artificial flower-making: "In an upper room in Oxford Street, not ten feet square, I have seen a dozen delicate young women closely shut up, pursuing this occupation . . . . . Many of the workrooms of fashionable milliners are similarly over-crowded, as are those where young girls are engaged in book-stitching. Take, as an example, a house in Fleet Street, looked at not long ago. The passage is narrow; a door in it shuts with a spring; the staircase is confined and without ventilation; the atmosphere is steamy and smells of glue; ascending, it is seen that all the doors shut with springs. In the first room looked into, forty young women and girls were sorting and stitching books. . . . . Poor creatures so placed are being slowly slain." Dr. Symes Thompson, writing on the "Influence of Occupation on Health and Life," points out the death-bringing circumstances tinder which too many of our wealth-producers toil; if there were fewer of them their lives would be more valuable than they are; horses and cattle are cared for and protected; the very machinery used is oiled and polished; only the human machines are worked under life-ruining conditions, and are left to struggle on as best they may. Dr. Thompson gives cases of printers—which every one connected with journalism can supplement by his own experience—where unwholesome atmosphere and preposterously long hours destroy the constitution. He tells us how the shoddy-grinders, the cocoa-matting weavers, the chaff-cutters, the workers in flax, woollen, and cotton factories, suffer from a "peculiar kind of bronchitis, arising from the irritation of the dust" and other matters inhaled, and the cough "is followed by expectoration, and, if the occupation is continued, emphysema, or, in those-predisposed to phthisis, tubercle is developed." At Sheffield the "inhalation of metal filings" is "destructive" to the knife and fork grinders, and although this might be prevented by the use of respirators the men's lives are not sufficiently valuable to be thus saved. If grit got into the works of a machine and ruined them the works would be covered over, but it may pass into men's lungs and kill them, and no one troubles. Brass-finishers and stonemasons labor under the same disadvantages; lead-poisoning is common among plumbers, painters, &e.; "women employed in lead works rarely bear healthy children; in a large number of cases miscarriage occurs at the fifth or seventh month, and if the children are born alive they page 23 rarely survive long. Lead exerts a similar influence on the reproductive, powers in the male sex; men with lead affections seldom produce healthy children." Many of these diseases might be prevented, if the excessive number of workers did not make the prevention a matter of indifference to those concerned. Dr. Thompson says: "Let over-crowding and over-heating be avoided. There should be an abundant supply of pure air. The hours of work should be moderate, with fair intervals for meals. If there is much dust or other foreign matter in the air a suitable respirator should be used, or the offensive particles should be carried off by a current of air produced by a chimney or revolving wheel. Again, mechanical appliances may often take the place of hand-labor, and much may often be accomplished by the application of practical science and chemical knowledge." Thus we see indifference to life resulting from the over-crowding of the labor market, and in the unhealthy conditions among which many kinds of work are carried on we find a widely-spread check to population.
Baby-farming has only too justly been called the "hideous social phænomenon of the nineteenth century." It is the direct result of the pressure of over-large families, and is simply a veiled form of infanticide. Mr. Benson Baker, one of the medical officers of Marylebone, has written a sad notice of baby-farming. He speaks of a notorious case: "One of the stock from that model baby-farm is now under my care. This child, three years old, was employed by the proprietress as a gaffer or ganger over the younger babies. His duties were to sit up in the middle of the bed with eight other babies round him, and the moment any one of them awoke to put the bottle to their mouth. He was also to keep them quiet, and generally to superintend them." A vast number of children are slowly murdered annually in this way, and the death-rate is also very high in every place where many infants are kept together, whether it be in workhouse, hospital, or creche.
Another consequence of large families which must not be overlooked is the physical injury caused to the mothers. Among the poor, cases of prolapsus uteri, or falling of the womb, are only too common; prolapsus uteri results frequently from "getting about" too rapidly after child-birth, it being impossible for the mother of the increasing family to he by for that period of rest which nature absolutely en- page 24 joins. "Women," says Dr. Drysdale, "ought never to get up from confinement for some weeks after the child is born; but these poor women are so utterly unable to do without work that they are compelled to get up in a day or two. The womb being full of blood, falls down and produces infirmity for life." The doctor also says of this disease: "It is extremely common. Indeed, when I was obstetrical assistant at Edinburgh, it was one of the commonest diseases among women—the principal one, in fact." "Prolapsus, or falling of the womb," says Dr. Graily Hewett, "is an affection to which women are in one form or other exceedingly liable, and it is one which is not unfrequently productive of very much inconvenience and distress." The reason of the disease is not far to see. The womb, in its unimpregnated state, is "from two and a half to three inches long, and an inch and a half wide, more or less, at its largest part, and about an inch thick" (Dr. Marion Sims). During the nine months of pregnancy this organ is stretched more and more, until, at the end of nine months, it is capable of containing the fully developed infant. During these nine months the muscular substance of the womb "increases in thickness, while the whole organ enlarges in order to accommodate the growing fœtus and its appendages" (Dr. Dalton). At birth the muscular fibres begin to contract, and the womb ought to return to almost its original size. But in order that it may so return, the horizontal position is absolutely necessary for some days, and much rest for some weeks, until the muscles connected with the womb have regained something of their natural elasticity. If the mother be forced to leave her bed too early, if she be compelled to exert herself in housekeeping cares, to stand over the wash-tub, to bend over the fire—what happens? The womb, so long distended, has no chance of healthy contraction; the muscles which support it in its proper position have not recovered from the long strain; the womb itself is heavy with the blood flowing from the vessels yet unclosed, and it naturally falls and "produces infirmity for life." Too frequent pregnancy is another cause of prolapsus vteri, and of many other diseases of the womb. "We frequently find that the uterus becomes diseased from the fact that the pregnancies rapidly succeed each other, the uterus not having recovered its natural size when it becomes again occupied by an ovum" (Dr. Graily Hewett). The womb is too constantly put on the stretch, and is not allowed sufficient rest to recover its original page 25 vigor and elasticity. It takes about two months for the womb to thoroughly reconstruct itself after the delivery of a child; a new mucous membrane developes, and a degeneration and reconstruction of the muscles takes place, technically known as "the involution of the uterus." During pregnancy, the uterine muscles "increase very considerably in size. Their texture becomes much more distinctly granular, and their outlines more strongly marked . . . . The entire walls of the uterus, at the time of delivery, are composed of such muscular fibres, arranged in circular, oblique, and longitudinal bundles. About the end of the first week after delivery, these fibres begin to undergo a fatty degeneration. . . . The muscular fibres which have become altered by the fatty deposit, are afterwards gradually absorbed and disappear, their place being subsequently taken by other fibres of now formation, which already begin to make their appearance before the old ones have been completely destroyed. As this process goes on, it results finally in a complete renovation of the muscular substance of the uterus. The organ becomes again reduced in size, compact in tissue, and of a pale ruddy hue, as in the ordinary unimpregnated condition. This entire renewal or reconstruction of the uterus is completed, according to Heschl, about the end of the second month after delivery" (Dr. Dalton). No words can add strength to this statement, proving the absolute right of women to complete repose from sexual disturbance during this slow recovery of the normal condition of the womb. Many a woman in fairly comfortable circumstances suffers from lack of knowledge of physical laws, and from the reckless English disregard of all conjugal prudence. Short of absolute displacement of the womb, and of grave uterine diseases, various disorders result from weakness of the over-taxed generative organs. Leucorrhea is one of the commonest of these, producing general debility, pain in the back, indigestion, &c. It is not right, it is not moral, that mothers of families should thus ruin their health, causing suffering to themselves and misery to those around them; it is only a perverted moral sense which leads men and women to shut their eyes to these sad consequences of over-large families, and causes them thus to disregard the plainest laws of health. Sexual intemperance, the over-procreation of children, is as immoral as intemperance in drink.
Among the melancholy consequences of over-population page break we must not omit the foolish and sometimes criminal attempts made by ignorant people to limit the family; the foolish attempt is the prevalent habit of over-lactation arising from the mistaken idea that conception is impossible during the nursing of a child; the criminal attempt is the procuring of abortion by means of drugs or by the use of instruments. These will be more fully dealt with in Chapter III., and are only alluded to here as among the consequences of the pressure of over-population. Too often, indeed, do these come under the head of the positive, the life-destroying checks.
To turn to a different and more immediately life-destroying class of checks, that of war cannot, of course, be left out of this melancholy picture. Great famines are positive checks on a still more frightful scale. Lord Derby says as to India: "If present appearances can be trusted, we shall have in every generation a larger aggregate of human beings relying upon us for help in those periods of distress which must from time to time occur in a country wholly agricultural and liable to droughts." But what a confession of helplessness' Is it possible to sit down with folded hands and calmly contemplate the recurrence at regular intervals of such a famine as lately slew its tens of thousands? Yet the law of population is "an irrefragable truth," and these people are starved to death according to natural law; early marriages, large families, these are the promises; famine and disease, these are the conclusions. The same consequences will, sooner or later—sooner in an agricultural country, dependent on its crops, later in a manufacturing country commanding large foreign supplies, but always inexorably—produce the same fearful results.
One more melancholy positive check must be added, the last to which we shall here refer. It is the absolute child-murder by desertion or by more violent means: Dr: Lankester said that "there were in London alone 16,000 women who had murdered their offspring." Dr. Attwood lately stated of Macclesfield that the doctors in that town often had moral, though not legal, proof that-children were "put away," and that Macclesfield was "no worse than any other manufacturing town."
Such are some of the consequences of the law of population; the power of production is held in check by the continual destruction, the number of births is balanced by the number of deaths. Population struggles to increase, page 27 but the want of the means of existence heats it back, and men, women, and children perish in the terrible straggle. The more civilisation advances the more hopeless becomes the outlook. The checks imposed by "nature and providence," in which Sir Hardinge Giffard trusts for the prevention of over-population, are being removed, one by one, by science and by civilisation. War will be replaced by arbitration, and those who would have fallen victims to it will become fathers of families; sanitary knowledge will bring sanitary improvement, and typhus fever and smallpox will disappear as the plague and black death have done; children will not die in their infancy, and the average length of human life will increase. The life-destroying checks of "nature and providence" will be met with the life-preserving attempts of science and of reason, and population will increase more and more rapidly. What will be the result? Simply this: India to-day is a microcosm of the world of the future, and the statesman of that time will re-echo the words of the present Foreign Secretary with a wider application. Ought we then to encourage positive checks so as to avert this final catastrophe? Ought we to stir up war? Ought we to prevent sanitary improvements? ought we to leave the sickly to die? Ought we to permit infants to perish unaided? Ought we to refuse help to the starving? These checks may be "natural," but they are not human; they may be "providential," but they are not rational. Has science no help for us in our extremity? has reason no solution to this problem? has thought no message of salvation to the poor?