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Crusades. Such books as that of Luchaire, on France in the reign of Philip Augustus, bring vividly before us the horrible condition of society in feudal times, and explain amply the sparsity of the population.
The early modern period contains another notable example of a sudden and unaccountable decline in population. The scene is Spain, which, after playing an active and very prominent part in the world's history, sank quickly into the lethargy from which it has never recovered. It may be noted that here, as in the case of Rome, the decay of population and energy followed a great influx of plundered wealth. On the other hand, the increase of population in our newly-planted North American colonies must have been phenomenal for two or three generations.
The enormous multiplication of the European races since the middle of the eighteenth century is a phenomenon quite unique in history, and never likely to be repeated.* It was rendered possible by the new labour-saving inventions which immensely increased the exports which could be exchanged for food, and by the opening up of vast new food-producing areas. The chief method by which the increase was effected, especially in the later period, has been the lengthening of human life by improved sanitation and medical science. † Since 1865 the average duration of life in England and Wales has been raised by a little more than one-third. Other European countries show the same ratio of improvement. This astonishing result, so little known and so seldom referred to, was bound to have a great effect on the birth-rate. So long as the swarming period continued at its height, a net annual increase of 15 or even 20 per thousand could be sustained ; but the expansion of the European peoples has now passed its zenith, and a tendency to revert to more normal conditions is almost everywhere observable. One of the most advanced
* The population of England and Wales is said to have been 4,800,000 in 1600, 6,000,000 in 1700, and 6,500,000 in 1750. It was 8,890,000 in 1801, 32,530,000 in 1901, and approximately 37,000,000
† Statistics are wanting for the early part of the industrial revolution, but my study of pedigrees leads me to think that the average duration of life was considerably increased in the eighteenth century.
nations, France, has already reached the equilibrium towards which other civilised nations are moving. The old-established families in the United States are believed to be actually dwindling
The student of international vital statistics will be struck first by the very wide differences in the birth-rate of different countries. He will then notice that the more backward countries have on the whole a considerably higher birth-rate than the more advanced. Thirdly, he will observe the parallelism between the birth-rate and death-rate, which makes the net increase in countries with a high birth-rate very little larger than that of countries with a low birth-rate. The following figures will illustrate these points; they are taken from the Registrar General's Blue Book for 1912.
Birth-Rate Death-Rate Net rate of increase United Kingdom 23.9 13.8
14:2 New Zealand
15:1 It will be seen that Australia and New Zealand, with low birth-rates and the lowest death-rates in the world, increase more rapidly than Russia with an enormous birth-rate and proportionately high death-rate. No one can doubt that our colonies achieve their increase with far less friction and misery than the prolific but short-lived Slavs. Civilisation in a high form is incompatible with such conditions as these figures disclose in Russia. The figures for Egypt and India are similar to the Russian, but in India, which is overfull, the mortality is greater than even in Russia, and the same is true of China, in which we are told that seven out of ten children die in infancy. It has been suggested that the fairest measure of a country's well-being, as regards its actual vitality, is the square of the death-rate divided by the birth-rate. The order of descending well-being in Europe would, according to this test, be Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, England,
Scotland, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Italy, Austria, France, Spain.*
It is well known that a decline in the birth-rate set in about forty years ago in this country, and has gone on steadily ever since, till the fall now amounts to about one-third of the total births. It thus corresponds very nearly to the fall in the death-rate during the same period. It is also well known that this decline is not evenly distributed among different classes of the people. Until the decline began, large families were the rule in all classes, and the slightly larger families of the poor were compensated by their somewhat higher mortality. But since 1877 large families have become increasingly rare in the upper and middle classes, and among the skilled artisans. They are frequent in the thriftless ranks of unskilled labour, and in one section of well-paid workmen-the miners. The highest birth-rates at present are in the mining districts and in the slums. The lowest are in some of the learned professions. In the Rhondda Valley the birth-rate is still about forty, which is double the rate in the prosperous residential suburbs of London. In the seats of the textile industry the decline has been very severe, although wages are fairly good; among the agricultural labourers the rate is also low. It will be found that in all trades where the women work for wages the birth-rate has fallen sharply; the miner's wife does not earn money, and has therefore less inducement to restrict her family. In agricultural districts the housing difficulty is mainly responsible; in the upper and middle classes the heavy expense of education and the burden of rates and taxes are probably the main reasons why larger families are not desired. Mr. and Mrs. Whethamt have found that, before 1870, 143 marriages of men whose names appear in Who's Who'resulted in 743 children, an average of 5'2 each ; after 1870 the average is only 3:08. Celibacy also is commoner among the educated. ' From the reports issued by two Women's Colleges, it appears
that, excluding those who have left college within three years 'or less, out of 3000 women only 22 per cent. have married,
and the number of children born to each marriage is un'doubtedly very small.' The writers consider that this state
* Havelock Ellis, 'The Task of Social Hygiene,' p. 153.
of things is extremely dangerous for the country, inasmuch as we are now breeding mainly from our worst stocks (the feebleminded are very prolific), while our best families are stationary or dwindling. Without denying the general truth of this pessimistic conclusion,* it may be pointed out that the miners are, physically at least, above the average of the whole population, and that the very low birth-rate of residential districts is partly due to the presence in large numbers of unmarried domestic servants. The death-rate of the slums is also very high.
The fears of the eugenist about the quality of the population are far more reasonable than the invectives of the fanatic about its defective quantity. Of the latter class we may say with Havelock Ellis that 'those who seek to restore the birth-rate of half a century ago are engaged in a task which would be criminal if it were not based on ignorance, and which is in any case fatuous.' And yet I hope to show before the close of this article that for two or three generations the British Empire could absorb a more rapid increase, and that the Government might with advantage stimulate this by schemes of colonisation. The lament of the eugenist resounds in all countries alike. The German complains that the Poles, whom he considers an inferior race, breed like rabbits, while the gifted exponents of Kultur only breed like hares. The American is nervous about the numbers of the negro; he has more reason to be nervous about the fecundity of the Slav and South Italian immigrant. Everywhere the tendency is for the superior stock to dwindle till it becomes a small aristocracy. The Americans of British descent are threatened with this fate. Pride and a high standard of living are not biological virtues. The man who earns little and spends less is the ultimate inheritor of the earth. I know of no instance in history in which a ruling race has not ultimately been ousted or absorbed by its subjects. Complete extermination or expropriation is the only successful method of conquest. The Anglo-Saxon race has thus established itself in the greater
* The births per 1000 married men under 55 in the different classes are :
-Upper and middle class, 119; Intermediate, 132; Skilled workmen, 153 ; Intermediate, 158; Unskilled workmen, 213.
part of Britain, and in Australasia. In North America it has destroyed the Indian hunter, who could not be used for industrial purposes ; but the temptation to exploit the negro and the lower European races was too strong to be resisted, and Nature's heaviest penalty is now being exacted against the descendants of our sturdy colonists. We did not lose America in the eighteenth century; we are losing it now. As for South Africa, the Kaffir can live like a gentleman (according to his own ideas) on six months' ill-paid work every year, the Englishman finds an income of $200 too small. There is only one end to this kind of colonisation. The danger at home is that the larger part of the population is now beginning to insist upon a scale of remuneration and a standard of comfort which are incompatible with any survival-value. We all wish to be privileged aristocrati, with no serfs to work for us. Dame Nature cares nothing for the babble of politicians and trade-union regulations. She says to us what Plotinus, in a remarkable passage, makes her say : You should not ask questions ; you should try to understand. I am not in the habit of talking.' In Nature's school it is a word and a blow, and the blow first. Before the close of this article I will return to the eugenic problem, and will consider whether anything can be done to solve it.
At the present time, when an apparently internecine conflict is raging between the British Empire and Germany, a more detailed comparison of the vital statistics of the two countries will be read with interest. In England and Wales the birth-rate culminated in 1876 at a little over 36, after slowly rising from 33 in 1850. From 1876 the line of decline is almost straight, down to the ante-war figure of about 24. In Prussia, owing partly to wars, the fluctuations have been violent. In 1850 the figure (omitting decimals) was 39; in 1855, 34; in 1859, 40 ; in 1871, 34; in 1875, nearly 41. From this date, as in England, the steady decline began. , In 1907 the rate had fallen to 33 ; in 1913 (German Empire) to 27'5. Here we may notice the abnormally high rate in the years following the great war of 1870, a phenomenon which was marked also throughout Europe after the Napoleonic wars. We may also notice that the decline has been of late slightly more rapid in Germany, falling from a high birth-rate, than in England, where the maximum was never so high. Another