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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 30

Preface to Seventieth Thousand. — English Edition, 1882

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Preface to Seventieth Thousand.

English Edition, 1882.

Four-and-a-Half years have passed away since this little book was first issued; it was written for the poor, in the hope that by the information therein given—information long familiar to and long acted upon by the wealthier classes of society—poor men and women might make the home happy, and rear in respectability and comfort a limited number of children, children who should hereafter bless the parents whose wisdom and forethought had given them a fair chance in the life-race. That hope has been largely realised. During these years fifty thousand copies of the book have found their way into English homes; across the Atlantic it has found warm welcome, and very large American editions have been sold. It has been translated into German, Italian, French, Swedish, and Dutch, and has thus spread over the Continent of Europe, while the English edition has been largely sold in Hindustan, Australia, and New Zealand. A circulation so wide is the sign of the need which this pamphlet has striven to supply. Everywhere men and women are struggling for life; everywhere the labor market is overcrowded and the workers are starving; no longer are the masses content to labor and die without effort to change their condition; education is spreading, and men in becoming rational become prudent and far-seeing. Parents see the labor market over-crowded to-day, and can calculate the result of largo families growing up in the near future, so that ten shall fight for the work which is already too little for two. Hence the determination to limit the number of the family within the means of sustaining it in decency and in comfort.

This growing determination has been largely spread by the work of the Malthusian League. This body was founded to defend and promulgate the doctrine of early marriage, parental responsibility, and limitation of the family. By tracts, leaflets, and lectures these doctrines have been taught from one end of the United Kingdom to the other; doctors and clergymen are found within the page iv ranks of these workers for humanity; wives and mothers have pressed in to aid in the good work. To the President of the League, C. Drysdale, M.D., the poor owe largo debt of thanks, and in the days to come his name will not he unremembered by those to whom he has devoted his means and his life.

The progress made by the views advocated in this pamphlet has been startlingly rapid. At first no words were too strong to hurl against the audacious teachers of doctrines offensive to the wealthy although welcomed by the poor. Mr. Truelove was imprisoned for selling a publication identical in object with the present work, and Sir George Jessel, the Master of the Polls, thought no words too coarse and too brutal for condemnation of myself. Today, all thoughtful people are recognising the absolute necessity of grappling with the growing poverty of the masses, and the leading journals even of London, deprecate the reckless multiplication which renders nugatory all attempts to cure the sore of pauperism. People are beginning to understand that some change must be made; they see France growing in prosperity, peaceful and contented, and they see the threatening socialism of Germany; they contrast the conjugal prudence of the French with the conjugal recklessness of the German; they note the birth-rate of the two countries, and see therein one of the reasons for the contrast. They see the high birth-rate of England and of Ireland, the constant strain of living, the scarcity of work and of food. Rational human beings cannot fold their arms idly in face of these perils, and they are gradually accepting as an axiom the doctrines which they at first repelled with scorn.

"The world moves," and it moves onward. Early marriage and limitation of the family mean growth of social purity and of homo happiness among the people. The bigots and the persecutors may, if they will, still fight against the inevitable, but the people have caught a glimpse of the path, out of poverty and none can turn them back. Persecution has only popularised our doctrines. The first issue of this little book was a rallying flag held firmly in the whirl of the struggle; the present issue of the seventieth thousand is the triumphal flag planted on the citadel which has been won from the foe.

Annie Besant.

In issuing another twenty thousand of this little book, I have nothing to add to the above.—A. B., 1884.