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Title: Love—Marriage—Birth Control - Being a Speech delivered at the Church Congress at - Birmingham, October, 1921
Author: Dawson, Bertrand Edward Dawson, Viscount, 1864-1945
Language: English
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                            LOVE—MARRIAGE—
                             BIRTH CONTROL


                Being a Speech delivered at the Church
                Congress at Birmingham, October, 1921:


                            WITH A FOREWORD

                                  BY
                          LORD DAWSON OF PENN


                         [Illustration: logo]


                                London
                           NISBET & CO. LTD.
                        22 BERNERS STREET, W.1



    _First Published January, 1922_
    _Reprinted January, 1922_
    _Reprinted February, 1922_
    _Reprinted April, 1922_

    _All rights reserved_



                               FOREWORD


At the Church Congress held this autumn at Birmingham I was honoured by
an invitation to speak on “Sexual Relationships.”

The subject-matter of that speech has aroused widespread interest and
some controversy. It is being published in response to numerous requests
and because most of the reports, being of necessity condensed,
inadequately and even in some instances incorrectly set forth the views
I endeavoured to champion; for any speech on a subject so difficult to
handle needs to be read in its entirety if misapprehensions are to be
avoided.

And first, may I thank numerous correspondents; and those in
disagreement equally with those in agreement with me. One and all they
bear testimony, if indeed such were needed, to how widespread and
responsible is the interest on this question, and therefore to the
wisdom of its full consideration. Amongst the letters are intimate human
documents which pathetically disclose, as does professional experience,
how frequently happiness is marred by ignorance of either the principles
or the methods which should condition the true conception of sexual
relationships.

I elected to deal with these relationships in their healthy rather than
their morbid aspects, because the study of health is a sure way to
lessen disease. Mere denunciations of evil serve but small purpose. The
aim of statesmanship is rather to seek out causes and ponder over
remedies, and prominent among remedies is surely the study of the
significance and purport of sex love in a well-ordered and Christian
community and provision for its healthy outlet. To this the first part
of my speech was devoted. The view there upheld has brought forth a
large measure of agreement and no reasoned disagreement.

The second part of my speech dealing with birth control (or what in
strict accuracy should be called conception control) has aroused more
controversy, but I venture to think that some, at least, of the
criticism directed against my argument will disappear with a perusal of
this full text of my speech. Therein will be found condemnation of
infertile marriages and a strong plea that children are essential to the
health and happiness of man and woman, are necessary to each other and
of vital importance to the nation.

The difference between my critics and myself is not as to the vital
necessity of the family following marriage, but rather this—they would
like to see the large families prevalent fifty years ago restored (and
where means and circumstances are favourable, such large families may be
the source of much happiness); whereas under present-day conditions I
should regard them as seldom attainable and desirable, and would favour
smaller families of children born at predetermined intervals.

A married couple who have produced four children in twenty years cannot
be said to have ignored the precept “be fruitful and multiply and
replenish the earth” because they have so selected the times for the
conceptions of their children as to enable them to give those children a
better upbringing rather than have selfishly left the sequence of their
offspring to blind chance.

The argument that the nation should foster large families in order more
quickly to people the untenanted portions of the Empire, and so add to
the strength and wealth of the British Dominions, requires serious
attention, not in isolation, but in conjunction with other
considerations, and calls forth varying opinions from economists.

On the other hand, emigration into _foreign_ lands would seem to be a
source of weakness to a nation. The feeding, clothing and educating of a
young Briton cost the nation a definite sum of money, say, £400; if at
the age of twenty, when he is ready to produce, that young Briton
emigrates to a foreign state, he is a definite loss to the country of
his birth and the country of his adoption is the gainer.

From another standpoint the criticism is made that I have not urged the
paramount necessity of diminishing the population of these islands. With
the economic soundness of this view others are better fitted to deal,
but no economic considerations would outweigh the importance of child
life inspiring the homes of the land, and if the number and sequence of
children can be regulated by the parents’ circumstances, these homes
will increase in number, will start when parents are younger and confer
greater benefits alike on the family and the State. If need be, the
State could grant a progressive rebate of taxation, and educational
facilities for each of three children born after the second and where
the father is twenty-five years of age or upwards.

It is held by some that artificial birth control is contrary to
Christian morals. This is the view firmly held by the Roman Catholic
Church, and since the governance of the Roman communion is based on
“authority,” its decisions are binding on its members and command our
respect. But pronouncements of Protestant communions do not owe their
force to “authority,” but to the conviction they carry in the minds and
consciences of their people, and no clear scriptural sanction for the
condemnation of birth control has been given, nor does the report of the
Lambeth Conference vouchsafe any reasons why it is physically and
morally harmful.

A distinguished prelate of our Church has characterised the views herein
set forth as “very unguarded.”[1] If by that expression he means
“careless,” he cannot have done me the honour of reading my speech,
which, whatever its demerits, bears ample evidence of carefully
considered thought and expression. If by “unguarded” he means
“outspoken,” I will plead justification. For is it not time that a
question which deeply concerns not only the thought, but the practice of
the thinking portions of communities should be fully considered and its
strength and its weakness disclosed by full discussion? The world looks
to its leaders for reasoned guidance, not for assertion which may be but
the husk of a thought that has gone. What is wanted is reasoned
consideration, not unreasoned condemnation. For churchmen and statesmen
alike, opportunism helps in situations which are small, but never in
those which are large; there clarity of principle alone stands forth as
a beacon to light the path.

    [Footnote 1: Diocesan Conference at York.]

The fear that discussion of this vital problem will endanger morality
surely loses sight of the fact of knowledge being so fundamental to our
well-being, that incidental dangers encountered along its path must not
deter us from its continued pursuit.

Moreover, it will be noticed that I have discriminated between the
principle of birth control and the methods of its application, the
latter being preferably determined by the advice of the family doctor
rather than by the perusal of books in general circulation.

The attitude of mind of the Church towards the problems of sexual
relationships is part of a larger question, viz., the ever-widening gap
between the formal teaching of the Church and the actual belief of the
present generation, including many who by baptism and early training
belong to her fold.

This gap between authority and actuality of belief imposes a strain on
intellectual integrity and weakens the foundations of a real allegiance.
For those of us who are of mature years the gap is bridged by the tender
associations of our childhood and the memory of parents, for whom no
such gap existed, and whose faith and character have left indelible
impressions on our lives. But for the youth of to-day no such bridge
exists. The War has caused a hiatus and thought has broken with
tradition. Thus, youth is no longer willing to accept forms and formulæ
only on account of their age. So it has set out on a voyage of inquiry,
and finding some things which are doubtful and others which are
insufficient, is searching for forms of expression more in harmony with
the realities of life and knowledge. Although becoming estranged in
thought from the Church, it is possessed of deep religious feeling and,
firm on the rock foundation of faith, is trying to build a
superstructure more in accord with the progress of revelation, not only
in religion, but in science, and the needs of the world in which it
moves and has its being.


    Far be it, that I should write thee sin or blame,
    Or think thee unbefitting holiest place,
    Perpetual fountain of domestic sweets,
    Whose bed is undefiled and chaste pronounced,
    Present, or past, as saints and patriarchs used.
    Here Love his golden shafts employs, here lights
    His constant lamp, and waves his purple wings,
    Reigns here and revels; not in the bought smile
    Of harlots, loveless, joyless, unendeared,
    Casual fruition; nor in court-amours,
    Mixed dance, or wanton mask, or midnight ball,
    Or serenate, which the starved lover sings
    To his proud fair, best quitted with disdain.
    These, lulled by nightingales, embracing slept,
    And on their naked limbs the flowery roof
    Showered roses, which the morn repaired.

                                        _Paradise Lost,_
                                                    Book IV.



                      LOVE—MARRIAGE—BIRTH CONTROL


May I make certain preliminary observations? Painters and poets depict
Love to us in golden hues and arouse in us happy and sympathetic, and, I
trust, reminiscent response, helping us to realise that life without the
love of man and woman would be like the world without sunshine.

Though, therefore, the social student in his approach to the subject is
not helped by the beauties of colour and song, it behoves him to avoid
undue solemnity, and still more an air of portentous foreboding.

In each age customs have been deplored as heralds of evil, but the evils
have seldom materialised.

One of the difficulties of this subject is that those who are called
upon to give counsel are apt to forget the strength of the forces to be
dealt with, for it is during youth especially that sex attractions are
so powerful, and, may I add, so delightful. Middle-aged people may be
divided into three classes.

Those who are still young.

Those who have forgotten they were young.

Those who were never young.

And it is with the first class before my eyes that I am privileged to
address this audience.

I will confine my attention to the sexual relationships between
unrelated adult people in youth and prime.

It is common ground that sex love between such people should be the
physical expression of a lasting affection, and be so intimately blended
with the feelings of helpfulness, sympathy, and intimate friendship as
to form a union of body, mind and spirit. It further should be
associated with the love of and desire for children.

This complex is best secured by the institution of marriage.

All its constituent features, except two, are vividly realised in
intimate friendship, and above all, in that unique bond between mother
and son which with some of us is the most wonderful thing in our lives.

Its two exclusively distinctive features are: _sex love_ and _child
love_.

These are the real problems before us to-day, particularly the former,
and if in these remarks I seem to concentrate on the problems of sex
love, be it understood I do so from a desire to save the time of the
meeting and not because I think sex love should reign alone in
unbalanced supremacy.

And by sex love I mean that love which involves intercourse or the
desire for such.

It is necessary to my argument to emphasise that sex love is one of the
clamant dominating forces of the world. Not only does history show the
destinies of nations and dynasties determined by its sway—but here in
our every-day life we see its influence, direct or indirect, forceful
and ubiquitous beyond aught else.


                        AN IMPERIOUS INSTINCT.

Any statesmanlike review, therefore, will recognise that here we have an
instinct—so fundamental, so imperious—that its influence is a fact which
has to be accepted: suppress it you cannot. You may guide it into
healthy channels—but an outlet it will have, and if that outlet is
inadequate or unduly obstructed, irregular channels will be forced.

We uphold the control of sex love outside marriage by the individual—and
that we are right in so doing is incontestable. But let us realise that
in practice self-control has a breaking point, and that if in any
community marriage is difficult or late of attainment, an increase of
irregular unions will inevitably result.

That the Church recognises this is shown by the statement that marriage
was instituted to prevent sin. In considering the problem of illicit
intercourse and its attendant evils the social conditions that make for
a wholesome life are of more efficiency than Acts of Parliament to
suppress vice.

My desire, however, on this occasion is rather to consider sex love in
relation to marriage. The first point I wish to make is that people need
more knowledge of the scientific bearings of sex relations and more
clearly defined guidance of their rightful purport and practice. They
are imperfectly provided with both. We talk about instructing the young
when we are neither clear nor agreed amongst ourselves, and the young
are endangered as much by crudity as by absence of instruction.

All are agreed that union of body should be in association with union of
mind and soul; all are agreed that the rearing of children is a
pre-eminent purpose. But what purport is there beyond these? Here there
is a lack of precision.


                       THE CHURCH AND MARRIAGE.

What does the Church service say? It says “Marriage was ordained for a
remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have
not the gift of continency might marry and keep themselves undefiled
members of Christ’s body.”

Now this is a very negative blessing. It implies that where
unfortunately people cannot be continent that marriage gives the best
way out—enables them to get relief within the pale of virtue. This
attitude affords to sex love no positive purport or merit of its own,
and is in striking conflict with the facts of life through the
ages—facts which carry social approval.

The recent pronouncement of the Church as set forth in Resolution 68 of
the Lambeth Conference seems to imply condemnation of sex love as such,
and to imply sanction of sex love _only_ as a means to an end—namely,
procreation, though it must be admitted it lacks that clearness of
direction which in so vital a matter one would have expected. It almost
reminds me of one of those diplomatic formulæ which is not intended to
be too clear. Allow me to quote from it:—

“In opposition to the teaching which under the name of science and
religion encourages married people in the deliberate cultivation of
sexual union as an end in itself, we steadfastly uphold what must always
be regarded as the governing consideration of Christian marriage. One is
the primary purpose for which marriage exists—namely, the continuation
of the race through the gift and heritage of children; the other is the
paramount importance in married life of deliberate and thoughtful
self-control.”


                          THE FACTS OF LIFE.

Now the plain meaning of this statement is that sexual union should take
place for the sole purpose of procreation, that sexual union as _an_ end
in itself—not, mind you, _the_ only end—(there we should all agree), but
sexual union as _an_ end in itself is to be condemned.

That means that sexual intercourse should rightly take place _only_ for
the purpose of procreation.

Now the large majority of conceptions take place immediately after and
before the monthly period.

Quite a large family could easily result from quite a few sexual unions.
For the rest the couple should be celibate. Any intercourse not having
procreation as its intention is “sexual union as an end in itself,” and
therefore by inference condemned by the Lambeth Conference.

Think of the facts of life. Let us recall our own love—our marriage,
our honeymoon. Has not sexual union over and over again been the
physical expression of our love without thought or intention of
procreation? Have we all been wrong? Or is it that the Church lacks that
vital contact with the realities of life which accounts for the gulf
between her and the people?

The love envisaged by the Lambeth Conference is an invertebrate joyless
thing—not worth the having. Fortunately it is in contrast to the real
thing as practised by clergy and laity.

Fancy an ardent lover (and what respect have you for a lover who is not
ardent)—the type you would like your daughter to marry—virile,
ambitious, chivalrous—a man who means to work hard and love hard. Fancy
putting before these lovers—eager and expectant of the joys before
them—the Lambeth picture of marriage. Do you expect to gain their
confidence?

They ask for bread; you give them a stone.


                       ALLEGIANCE OF THE YOUNG.

Authority, and I include under authority the Churches, will never gain
the allegiance of the young unless their attitude is more frank, more
courageous, and more in accordance with realities.

And to tell you the truth, I am not sure that too much prudent
self-restraint suits love and its purport. Romance and deliberate
self-control do not, to my mind, rhyme very well together. A touch of
madness to begin with does no harm. Heaven knows life sobers it soon
enough. If you don’t start life with a head of steam you won’t get far.

Sex love has, apart from parenthood, a purport of its own. It is
something to prize and to cherish for its own sake. It is an essential
part of health and happiness in marriage. And now, if you will allow me,
I will carry this argument a step further.

If sexual union is a gift of God it is worth learning how to use it.
Within its own sphere it should be cultivated so as to bring physical
satisfaction to both, not merely to one. The attainment of mutual and
reciprocal joy in their relations constitutes a firm bond between two
people and makes for durability of their marriage tie.

Reciprocity in sex love is the physical counterpart of sympathy. More
marriages fail from inadequate and clumsy sex love than from too much
sex love.


                     PASSION A WORTHY POSSESSION.

The lack of proper understanding is in no small measure responsible for
the unfulfilment of (connubial) happiness, and every degree of
discontent and unhappiness may from this cause occur, leading to rupture
of the marriage bond itself. How often do medical men have to deal with
these difficulties, and how fortunate if such difficulties are disclosed
early enough in married life to be rectified. Otherwise how tragic may
be their consequences, and many a case in the Divorce Court has thus
had its origin.

To the foregoing contentions it might be objected you are encouraging
passion. My reply would be, passion is a worthy possession; most men,
who are any good, are capable of passion.

You all enjoy ardent and passionate love in art and literature. Why not
give it a place in real life?

Why some people look askance at passion is because they are confusing it
with sensuality. Sex love without passion is a poor, lifeless thing.
Sensuality, on the other hand, is on a level with gluttony—a physical
excess—detached from sentiment, chivalry, or tenderness.

It is just as important to give sex love its place as to avoid its over
emphasis. Its real and effective restraints are those imposed by a
loving and sympathetic companionship, by the privileges of parenthood,
the exacting claims of career and that civic sense which prompts men to
do social service.

Now that the revision of the Prayer Book is receiving consideration, I
should like to suggest, with great respect, that an addition be made to
the objects of marriage in the Marriage Service, in these terms: “The
complete realisation of the love of this man and this woman, the one for
the other.”


                            BIRTH CONTROL.

And now, if you will permit me, I will pass on to consider the
all-important question of Birth Control.

First, I will put forward with confidence the view that birth control
is here to stay. It is an established fact, and for good or evil has to
be accepted. Although the extent of its application can be and is being
modified, no denunciations will abolish it.

Despite the influence and condemnations of the Church, it has been
practised in France for well over half a century, and in Belgium and
other Catholic countries is extending. And if the Roman Catholic Church,
with its compact organisation, its power of authority, and its
discipline, cannot check this procedure, is it likely that Protestant
Churches will be able to do so?—for Protestant religions depend for
their strength on the conviction and esteem they establish in the heads
and hearts of their people.

The reasons which lead parents to limit their offspring are sometimes
selfish, but more often honourable and cogent. The desire to marry and
to rear children well equipped for life’s struggle, limited incomes, the
cost of living, burdensome taxation, are forcible motives; and, further,
amongst the educated classes there is the desire of women to take a part
in life and their husband’s careers, which is incompatible with
oft-recurring pregnancies. Absence of birth control means late
marriages, and these carry with them irregular unions and all the
baneful consequences.

It is idle to decry illicit intercourse and interpose obstacles to
marriage at one and the same time.

But, say many whose opinions are entitled to our respect: “Yes—birth
control may be necessary, but the only birth control which is
justifiable is voluntary abstention from connubial relations.” Such
abstention would be either ineffective or, if effective, impracticable
and harmful to health and happiness.

To limit the size of a family to, say, four children during a
child-bearing period of 20–25 years, would be to impose on a married
couple an amount of abstention which for long periods would almost be
equivalent to celibacy, and when one remembers that owing to economic
reasons the abstention would have to be most strict during the earlier
years of married life when desires are strongest, I maintain a demand is
being made which for the mass of people it is impossible to meet; that
the endeavours to meet it would impose a strain hostile to health and
happiness and carry with them grave dangers to morals.

Imagine a young married couple in love with each other—the parents, say,
of one child, who feel they cannot afford another child for, say, three
years—being expected to occupy the same room and to abstain for two
years. The thing is preposterous. You might as well put water by the
side of a man suffering from thirst and tell him not to drink it.

And further than that, if the efforts to abstain are seriously made the
strain involved is harmful to the health and temper—if the efforts do
not succeed the minds of husband and wife are troubled by doubts and
anxieties which are damaging to their intimate relationships. And,
moreover, if this harmful restraint succeeds in preventing conception
there eventuates the inevitable prevalence of sex excitement followed
by abortive and half-realised satisfaction, and the enhanced risk of the
man or woman yielding to outside sex temptations.

No—birth control by abstention is either ineffective, or, if effective,
is pernicious.


                      THE HOME’S TRUE INTERESTS.

I will next consider Artificial Control. The forces in modern life which
make for birth control are so strong that only convincing reasons will
make people desist from it. It is said to be unnatural and intrinsically
immoral. This word unnatural perplexes me. Civilisation involves the
chaining of natural forces and their conversion to man’s will and uses.
Much of medicine and surgery consists of means to overcome nature.

When anæsthetics were first used at childbirth there was an outcry on
the part of many worthy and religious people that their use under such
circumstances was unnatural and wicked, because God meant woman to
suffer the struggles and pains of childbirth. Now we all admit it is
right to control the process of childbirth, and to save the mother as
much pain as possible. It is no more unnatural to control conception by
artificial means than to control childbirth by artificial means. Surely
the whole question turns on whether these artificial means are for the
good or harm of the individual and the community! Do all contraceptive
measures damage the individual? The answer to that depends on the
purpose for which they are used. If they are used to render unions
childless or inadequately fruitful they are harmful. There are grounds
for thinking that unrealisation of maternity favours sterility.

Generally speaking, birth control before the first child is inadvisable.
On the other hand, the justifiable use of birth control is to limit the
number of children, and to spread out their arrival in such a way as to
serve their true interests and those of their home.

That such applications of birth control produce no harm receives support
from the study of the numbers and distribution of the children of the
professional classes.

The advantage and disadvantage of this or that contraceptive is a
technical matter for the doctors to determine.

Again, it has been stated that artificial control is harmful because it
leads to excessive indulgence. Experience and evidence are against this
being a fact.

Contraceptives by the time and circumstance of their application involve
prudence and control. The proper and efficient restraints on undue
sexual indulgence are to be found in mutual consideration, sympathy, and
tenderness and the pressing claims of life’s duties.

The sensualist who is not deterred from excess by these considerations
will be completely careless whether his indulgence results in children
or not—he is moved by his selfish impulses alone.


                         CAREFUL DISTINCTION.

Once more, careful distinction needs to be made between the use and the
bad effects of the abuse of birth control. That its abuse produces harm
I fully agree—harm to parents, to families, and to the nation. But abuse
is not a just condemnation of legitimate use. Over-eating,
over-drinking, over-smoking, over-sleeping, over-work do not carry
condemnation of eating, drinking, smoking, sleeping, work.

But the evils of excessive birth control are very real. There is first
the individual—every woman is better in body and mind for child
bearing—the periodic completion of the maternal cycle brings out the
best, preserves youth and maintains vital contact with life. Maternity
gives to woman her most beautiful attributes. Fancy being mad enough to
suppress it! If one watches the woman with one child and all maternity
finished before thirty, and compare her at forty with the woman of the
same age who has had, say, four children at proper intervals, who
usually has the advantage in preservation of youth and beauty? Not the
former.

On the other hand, it must be admitted that baby after baby every year
or eighteen months wears and often exhausts a woman’s strength. The
inference is that the use of birth control is good, its abuse bad.

Next, the children. Is it even necessary to refer to the failure of the
single-child household? Poor little thing! Surrounded by over-anxious
parents, spoilt, no children to play with, bored stiff by adults. And
then, perhaps, illness, and it may be death—and when it is too late to
produce another.

Of the many tragedies I met in the war none exceeded that attaching to
the loss of only children. It often means the end of all things; nothing
to live for—just blank despair.


                         THE WAY OF HAPPINESS.

The parents and the home both need children of varying ages. That is the
way of happiness and enduring youth.

And lastly, the national aspect may be stated very briefly. If England
is not to lose her place in the world her population must be maintained.
Unless fathers and mothers produce an average of over three children
that population will not be maintained.

If you say to a young husband and wife with their one or two children,
“Do you like to contemplate that when you both leave life your country
will, through your action, be worse off than when you entered life?”
that is an appeal to patriotism, and likely to be a successful appeal.

There are signs of a public opinion forming which will condemn the
selfishness of marriages without their proper heritage of children, but
such public opinion will not be strengthened by an indiscriminate
condemnation of birth control.

May I end my speech with an appeal that the Church approaches this
question, in common with certain others, in the light of modern
knowledge and the needs of a new world, and unhampered by traditions
which have outworn their usefulness?



                      PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY
          THE WHITEFRIARS PRESS, LTD., LONDON AND TONBRIDGE.





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