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Title: Essays in War-Time - Further Studies in the Task of Social Hygiene
Author: Ellis, Havelock, 1859-1939
Language: English
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From the point of view of literature, the Great War of to-day has
brought us into a new and closer sympathy with the England of the past.
Dr. Woods and Mr. Baltzly in their recent careful study of European
Warfare, _Is War Diminishing?_ come to the conclusion that England
during the period of her great activity in the world has been "fighting
about half the time." We had begun to look on war as belonging to the
past and insensibly fallen into the view of Buckle that in England "a
love of war is, as a national taste, utterly extinct." Now we have
awakened to realise that we belong to a people who have been "fighting
about half the time."

Thus it is, for instance, that we witness a revival of interest in
Wordsworth, not that Wordsworth, the high-priest of Nature among the
solitary Lakes, whom we have never forsaken, but the Wordsworth who
sang exultantly of Carnage as God's Daughter. To-day we turn to the
war-like Wordsworth, the stern patriot hurling defiance at the enemies
who threatened our island fortress, as the authentic voice of England.

But this new sense of community with the past comes to us again and
again on every hand when to-day we look back to the records of the past.
I chance to take down the _Epistles_ of Erasmus, and turn to the letters
which the great Humanist of Rotterdam wrote from Cambridge and London
four hundred years ago when young Henry VIII had just suddenly (in 1514)
plunged into war. One reads them to-day with vivid interest, for here
in the supple and sensitive brain of the old scholar we see mirrored
precisely the same thoughts and the same problems which exercise the
more scholarly brains of to-day. Erasmus, as his Pan-German friends
liked to remind him, was a sort of German, but he was, nevertheless,
what we should now call a Pacifist. He can see nothing good in war and
he eloquently sets forth what he regards as its evils. It is interesting
to observe, how, even in its small details as well as in its great
calamities, war brought precisely the same experiences four centuries
ago as to-day. Prices are rising every day, Erasmus declares, taxation
has become so heavy that no one can afford to be liberal, imports are
hampered and wine is scarce, it is difficult even to get one's foreign
letters. In fact the preparations of war are rapidly changing "the
genius of the Island." Thereupon Erasmus launches into more general
considerations on war. Even animals, he points out, do not fight, save
rarely, and then with only those of other species, and, moreover, not,
like us, "with machines upon which we expend the ingenuity of devils."
In every war also it is the non-combatants who suffer most, the people
build cities and the folly of their rulers destroys them, the most
righteous, the most victorious war brings more evil than good, and even
when a real issue is in dispute, it could better have been settled by
arbitration. The moral contagion of a war, moreover, lasts long after
the war is over, and Erasmus proceeds to express himself freely on the
crimes of fighters and fighting.

Erasmus was a cosmopolitan scholar who habitually dwelt in the world of
the spirit and in no wise expressed the general feelings either of his
own time or ours. It is interesting to turn to a very ordinary, it may
be typical, Englishman who lived a century later, again in a period of
war and also of quite ordinary and but moderately glorious war. John
Rous, a Cambridge graduate of old Suffolk family, was in 1623 appointed
incumbent of Santon Downham, then called a town, though now it has
dwindled away almost to nothing. Here, or rather at Weeting or at
Brandon where he lived, Rous began two years later, on the accession of
Charles I, a private diary which was printed by the Camden Society sixty
years ago, and has probably remained unread ever since, unless, as in
the present case, by some person of antiquarian tastes interested in
this remote corner of East Anglia. But to-day one detects a new streak
of interest in this ancient series of miscellaneous entries where we
find that war brought to the front the very same problems which confront
us to-day.

Santon Downham lies in a remote and desolate and salubrious region, not
without its attractions to-day, nor, for all its isolation, devoid of
ancient and modern associations. For here in Weeting parish we have the
great prehistoric centre of the flint implement industry, still lingering
on at Brandon after untold ages, a shrine of the archaeologist. And here
also, or at all events near by, at Lackenheath, doubtless a shrine also
for all men in khaki, the villager proudly points out the unpretentious
little house which is the ancestral home of the Kitcheners, who lie in
orderly rank in the churchyard beside the old church notable for its
rarely quaint mediaeval carvings.

Rous was an ordinary respectable type of country parson, a solid
Englishman, cautious and temperate in his opinions, even in the privacy
of his diary, something of a country gentleman as well as a scholar, and
interested in everything that went on, in the season's crops, in the
rising price of produce, in the execution of a youth for burglary or the
burning of a woman for murdering her husband. He frequently refers to
the outbreak of plague in various parts of the country, and notes, for
instance, that "Cambridge is wondrously reformed since the plague there;
scholars frequent not the streets and taverns as before; but," he adds
later on better information, "do worse." And at the same time he is full
of interest in the small incidents of Nature around him, and notes, for
instance, how a crow had built a nest and laid an egg in the poke of the
topsail of the windmill.

But Rous's Diary is not concerned only with matters of local interest.
All the rumours of the world reached the Vicar of Downham and were by
him faithfully set down from day to day. Europe was seething with war;
these were the days of that famous Thirty Years' War of which we have so
often heard of late, and from time to time England was joining in the
general disturbance, whether in France, Spain, or the Netherlands. As
usual the English attack was mostly from the basis of the Fleet, and
never before, Rous notes, had England possessed so great and powerful a
fleet. Soon after the Diary begins the English Expedition to Rochelle
took place, and a version of its history is here embodied. Rous was kept
in touch with the outside world not only by the proclamations constantly
set up at Thetford on the corner post of the Bell Inn--still the centre
of that ancient town--but by as numerous and as varied a crop of reports
as we find floating among us to-day, often indeed of very similar
character. The vicar sets them down, not committing himself to belief
but with a patient confidence that "time may tell us what we may safely
think." In the meanwhile measures with which we are familiar to-day were
actively in progress: recruits or "voluntaries" were being "gathered up
by the drum," many soldiers, mostly Irish, were billeted, sometimes not
without friction, all over East Anglia, the coasts were being fortified,
the price of corn was rising, and even the problem of international
exchange is discussed with precise data by Rous.

On one occasion, in 1627, Rous reports a discussion concerning the
Rochelle Expedition which exactly counterparts our experience to-day. He
was at Brandon with two gentlemen named Paine and Howlet, when the
former began to criticise the management of the expedition, disputing
the possibility of its success and then "fell in general to speak
distrustfully of the voyage, and then of our war with France, which he
would make our King the cause of"; and so went on to topics of old
popular discontent, of the great cost, the hazard to ships, etc. Rous,
like a good patriot, thought it "foul for any man to lay the blame upon
our own King and State. I told them I would always speak the best of
what our King and State did, and think the best too, till I had good
grounds." And then in his Diary he comments that he saw hereby, what he
had often seen before, that men be disposed to speak the worst of State
business, as though it were always being mismanaged, and so nourish a
discontent which is itself a worse mischief and can only give joy to
false hearts. That is a reflection which comes home to us to-day when we
find the descendants of Mr. Paine following so vigorously the example
which the parson of Downham reprobated.

That little incident at Brandon, however, and indeed the whole picture
of the ordinary English life of his time which Rous sets forth, suggest
a wider reflection. We realise what has always been the English temper.
It is the temper of a vigorous, independent, opinionated, free-spoken
yet sometimes suspicious people among whom every individual feels in
himself the impulse to rule. It is also the temper of a people always
prepared in the face of danger to subordinate these native impulses. The
one tendency and the other opposing tendency are alike based on the
history and traditions of the race. Fifteen centuries ago, Sidonius
Apollinaris gazed inquisitively at the Saxon barbarians, most ferocious
of all foes, who came to Aquitania, with faces daubed with blue paint
and hair pushed back over their foreheads; shy and awkward among the
courtiers, free and turbulent when back again in their ships, they were
all teaching and learning at once, and counted even shipwreck as good
training. One would think, the Bishop remarks, that each oarsman was
himself the arch-pirate.[1] These were the men who so largely went to
the making of the "Anglo-Saxon," and Sidonius might doubtless still
utter the same comment could he observe their descendants in England
to-day. Every Englishman believes in his heart, however modestly he may
conceal the conviction, that he could himself organise as large an army as
Kitchener and organise it better. But there is not only the instinct to
order and to teach but also to learn and to obey. For every Englishman
is the descendant of sailors, and even this island of Britain seemed to
men of old like a great ship anchored in the sea. Nothing can overcome
the impulse of the sailor to stand by his post at the moment of danger,
and to play his sailorly part, whatever his individual convictions may
be concerning the expedition to Rochelle or the expedition to the
Dardanelles, or even concerning his right to play no part at all. That
has ever been the Englishman's impulse in the hour of peril of his island
Ship of State, as to-day we see illustrated in an almost miraculous
degree. It is the saving grace of an obstinately independent and
indisciplinable people.

Yet let us not forget that this same English temper is shown not only in
warfare, not only in adventure in the physical world, but also in the
greater, and--may we not say?--equally arduous tasks of peace. For to
build up is even yet more difficult than to pull down, to create new
life a still more difficult and complex task than to destroy it. Our
English habits of restless adventure, of latent revolt subdued to the
ends of law and order, of uncontrollable freedom and independence, are
even more fruitful here, in the organisation of the progressive tasks of
life, than they are in the organisation of the tasks of war.

That is the spirit in which these essays have been written by an
Englishman of English stock in the narrowest sense, whose national and
family instincts of independence and warfare have been transmuted into a
preoccupation with the more constructive tasks of life. It is a spirit
which may give to these little essays--mostly produced while war was in
progress--a certain unity which was not designed when I wrote them.

[1] O'Dalton, _Letters of Sidonius_, Vol. II., p. 149.



The Great War of to-day has rendered acute the question of the place of
warfare in Nature and the effect of war on the human race. These have
long been debated problems concerning which there is no complete
agreement. But until we make up our minds on these fundamental questions
we can gain no solid ground from which to face serenely, or at all
events firmly, the crisis through which mankind is now passing.

It has been widely held that war has played an essential part in the
evolutionary struggle for survival among our animal ancestors, that war
has been a factor of the first importance in the social development of
primitive human races, and that war always will be an essential method
of preserving the human virtues even in the highest civilisation. It
must be observed that these are three separate and quite distinct
propositions. It is possible to accept one, or even two, of them without
affirming them all. If we wish to clear our minds of confusion on this
matter, so vital to our civilisation, we must face each of the questions
by itself.

It has sometimes been maintained--never more energetically than to-day,
especially among the nations which most eagerly entered the present
conflict--that war is a biological necessity. War, we are told, is
a manifestation of the "Struggle for Life"; it is the inevitable
application to mankind of the Darwinian "law" of natural selection.
There are, however, two capital and final objections to this view. On
the one hand it is not supported by anything that Darwin himself said,
and on the other hand it is denied as a fact by those authorities on
natural history who speak with most knowledge. That Darwin regarded war
as an insignificant or even non-existent part of natural selection must
be clear to all who have read his books. He was careful to state that he
used the term "struggle for existence" in a "metaphorical sense," and
the dominant factors in the struggle for existence, as Darwin understood
it, were natural suitability to the organic and inorganic environment
and the capacity for adaptation to circumstances; one species flourishes
while a less efficient species living alongside it languishes, yet they
may never come in actual contact and there is nothing in the least
approaching human warfare. The conditions much more resemble what, among
ourselves, we may see in business, where the better equipped species,
that is to say, the big capitalist, flourishes, while the less well
equipped species, the small capitalist, succumbs. Mr. Chalmers Mitchell,
Secretary of the London Zoological Society and familiar with the habits
of animals, has lately emphasised the contention of Darwin and shown
that even the most widely current notions of the extermination of one
species by another have no foundation in fact.[1] Thus the thylacine or
Tasmanian wolf, the fiercest of the marsupials, has been entirely driven
out of Australia and its place taken by a later and higher animal, of
the dog family, the dingo. But there is not the slightest reason to
believe that the dingo ever made war on the thylacine. If there was any
struggle at all it was a common struggle against the environment, in
which the dingo, by superior intelligence in finding food and rearing
young, and by greater resisting power to climate and disease, was able
to succeed where the thylacine failed. Again, the supposed war of
extermination waged in Europe by the brown rat against the black rat is
(as Chalmers Mitchell points out) pure fiction. In England, where this
war is said to have been ferociously waged, both rats exist and
flourish, and under conditions which do not usually even bring them into
competition with each other. The black rat (_Mus rattus_) is smaller
than the other, but more active and a better climber; he is the rat of
the barn and the granary. The brown or Norway rat (_Mus decumanus_) is
larger but less active, a burrower rather than a climber, and though
both rats are omnivorous the brown rat is more especially a scavenger;
he is the rat of sewers and drains. The black rat came to Northern
Europe first--both of them probably being Asiatic animals--and has no
doubt been to some extent replaced by the brown rat, who has been
specially favoured by the modern extension of drains and sewers, which
exactly suit his peculiar tastes. But each flourishes in his own
environment; neither of them is adapted to the other's environment;
there is no war between them, nor any occasion for war, for they do not
really come into competition with each other. The cockroaches, or
"blackbeetles," furnish another example. These pests are comparatively
modern and their great migrations in recent times are largely due to
the activity of human commerce. There are three main species of
cockroach--the Oriental, the American, and the German (or Croton
bug)--and they flourish near together in many countries, though not with
equal success, for while in England the Oriental is most prosperous, in
America the German cockroach is most abundant. They are seldom found in
actual association, each is best adapted to a particular environment;
there is no reason to suppose that they fight. It is so throughout
Nature. Animals may utilise other species as food; but that is true of
even, the most peaceable and civilised human races. The struggle for
existence means that one species is more favoured by circumstances than
another species; there is not the remotest resemblance anywhere to human

We may pass on to the second claim for war: that it is an essential
factor in the social development of primitive human races. War has no
part, though competition has a very large part, in what we call
"Nature." But, when we come to primitive man the conditions are somewhat
changed; men, unlike the lower animals, are able to form large
communities--"tribes," as we call them--with common interests, and two
primitive tribes can come into a competition which is acute to the point
of warfare because being of the same, and not of two different, species,
the conditions of life which they both demand are identical; they are
impelled to fight for the possession of these conditions as animals of
different species are not impelled to fight. We are often told that
animals are more "moral" than human beings, and it is largely to the
fact that, except under the immediate stress of hunger, they are better
able to live in peace with each other, that the greater morality of
animals is due. Yet, we have to recognise, this mischievous tendency to
warfare, so often (though by no means always, and in the earliest stages
probably never) found in primitive man, was bound up with his superior
and progressive qualities. His intelligence, his quickness of sense, his
muscular skill, his courage and endurance, his aptitude for discipline
and for organisation--all of them qualities on which civilisation is
based--were fostered by warfare. With warfare in primitive life was
closely associated the still more fundamental art, older than humanity,
of dancing. The dance was the training school for all the activities
which man developed in a supreme degree--for love, for religion, for
art, for organised labour--and in primitive days dancing was the chief
military school, a perpetual exercise in mimic warfare during times of
peace, and in times of war the most powerful stimulus to military
prowess by the excitement it aroused. Not only was war a formative and
developmental social force of the first importance among early men, but
it was comparatively free from the disadvantages which warfare later on
developed; the hardness of their life and the obtuseness of their
sensibility reduced to a minimum the bad results of wounds and shocks,
while their warfare, being free from the awful devices due to the
devilry of modern man, was comparatively innocuous; even if very
destructive, its destruction was necessarily limited by the fact that
those accumulated treasures of the past which largely make civilisation
had not come into existence. We may admire the beautiful humanity, the
finely developed social organisation, and the skill in the arts attained
by such people as the Eskimo tribes, which know nothing of war, but we
must also recognise that warfare among primitive peoples has often been
a progressive and developmental force of the first importance, creating
virtues apt for use in quite other than military spheres.[2]

The case is altered when we turn from savagery to civilisation. The new
and more complex social order while, on the one hand, it presents
substitutes for war in so far as war is a source of virtues, on the
other hand, renders war a much more dangerous performance both to the
individual and to the community, becoming indeed, progressively more
dangerous to both, until it reaches such a climax of world-wide injury
as we witness to-day. The claim made in primitive societies that warfare
is necessary to the maintenance of virility and courage, a claim so
fully admitted that only the youth furnished with trophies of heads or
scalps can hope to become an accepted lover, is out of date in
civilisation. For under civilised conditions there are hundreds of
avocations which furnish exactly the same conditions as warfare for the
cultivation of all the manly virtues of enterprise and courage and
endurance, physical or moral. Not only are these new avocations equally
potent for the cultivation of virility, but far more useful for the
social ends of civilisation. For these ends warfare is altogether less
adapted than it is for the social ends of savagery. It is much less
congenial to the tastes and aptitudes of the individual, while at the
same time it is incomparably more injurious to Society. In savagery
little is risked by war, for the precious heirlooms of humanity have not
yet been created, and war can destroy nothing which cannot easily be
remade by the people who first made it. But civilisation possesses--and
in that possession, indeed, civilisation largely consists--the precious
traditions of past ages that can never live again, embodied in part in
exquisite productions of varied beauty which are a continual joy and
inspiration to mankind, and in part in slowly evolved habits and laws of
social amenity, and reasonable freedom, and mutual independence, which
under civilised conditions war, whether between nations or between
classes, tends to destroy, and in so destroying to inflict a permanent
loss in the material heirlooms of Mankind and a serious injury to the
spiritual traditions of civilisation.

It is possible to go further and to declare that warfare is in
contradiction with the whole of the influences which build up and
organise civilisation. A tribe is a small but very closely knit unity,
so closely knit that the individual is entirely subordinated to the
whole and has little independence of action or even of thought. The
tendency of civilisation is to create webs of social organisation which
grow ever larger, but at the same time looser, so that the individual
gains a continually growing freedom and independence. The tribe becomes
merged in the nation, and beyond even this great unit, bonds of
international relationship are progressively formed. War, which at first
favoured this movement, becomes an ever greater impediment to its
ultimate progress. This is recognised at the threshold of civilisation,
and the large community, or nation, abolishes warfare between the units
of which it is composed by the device of establishing law courts to
dispense impartial justice. As soon as civilised society realised that
it was necessary to forbid two persons to settle their disputes by
individual fighting, or by initiating blood-feuds, or by arming friends
and followers, setting up courts of justice for the peaceable settlement
of disputes, the death-blow of all war was struck. For all the arguments
that proved strong enough to condemn war between two individuals are
infinitely stronger to condemn war between the populations of two-thirds
of the earth. But, while it was a comparatively easy task for a State to
abolish war and impose peace within its own boundaries--and nearly all
over Europe the process was begun and for the most part ended centuries
ago--it is a vastly more difficult task to abolish war and impose peace
between powerful States. Yet at the point at which we stand to-day
civilisation can make no further progress until this is done. Solitary
thinkers, like the Abbé de Saint-Pierre, and even great practical
statesmen like Sully and Penn, have from time to time realised this
fact during the past four centuries, and attempted to convert it into
actuality. But it cannot be done until the great democracies are won
over to a conviction of its inevitable necessity. We need an
international organisation of law courts which shall dispense justice as
between nation and nation in the same way as the existing law courts of
all civilised countries now dispense justice as between man and man; and
we further need, behind this international organisation of justice, an
international organisation of police strong enough to carry out the
decisions of these courts, not to exercise tyranny but to ensure to
every nation, even the smallest, that measure of reasonable freedom and
security to go about its own business which every civilised nation now,
in some small degree at all events, already ensures to the humblest of
its individual citizens. The task may take centuries to complete, but
there is no more urgent task before mankind to-day.[3]

These considerations are very elementary, and a year or two ago they
might have seemed to many--though not to all of us--merely academic,
chiefly suitable to put before schoolchildren. But now they have ceased
to be merely academic; they have indeed acquired a vital actuality
almost agonisingly intense. For one realises to-day that the
considerations here set forth, widely accepted as they are, yet are not
generally accepted by the rulers and leaders of the greatest and
foremost nations of the world. Thus Germany, in its present Prussianised
state, through the mouths as well as through the actions of those rulers
and leaders, denies most of the conclusions here set forth. In Germany
it is a commonplace to declare that war is the law of Nature, that the
"struggle for existence" means the arbitration of warfare, that it is by
war that all evolution proceeds, that not only in savagery but in the
highest civilisation the same rule holds good, that human war is the
source of all virtues, the divinely inspired method of regenerating and
purifying mankind, and every war may properly be regarded as a holy war.
These beliefs have been implicit in the Prussian spirit ever since the
Goths and Vandals issued from the forests of the Vistula in the dawn of
European history. But they have now become a sort of religious dogma,
preached from pulpits, taught in Universities, acted out by statesmen.
From this Prussian point of view, whether right or wrong, civilisation,
as it has hitherto been understood in the world, is of little
consequence compared to German militaristic Kultur. Therefore the German
quite logically regards the Russians as barbarians, and the French as
decadents, and the English as contemptibly negligible, although the
Russians, however yet dominated by a military bureaucracy (moulded by
Teutonic influences, as some maliciously point out), are the most humane
people of Europe, and the French the natural leaders of civilisation as
commonly understood, and the English, however much they may rely on
amateurish methods of organisation by emergency, have scattered the
seeds of progress over a large part of the earth's surface. It is
equally logical that the Germans should feel peculiar admiration and
sympathy for the Turks, and find in Turkey, a State founded on military
ideals, their own ally in the present war. That war, from our present
point of view, is a war of States which use military methods for special
ends (often indeed ends that have been thoroughly evil) against a State
which still cherishes the primitive ideal of warfare as an end in
itself. And while such a State must enjoy immense advantages in the
struggle, it is difficult, when we survey the whole course of human
development, to believe that there can be any doubt about the final

For one who writes as an Englishman, it may be necessary to point out
clearly that that final issue by no means involves the destruction, or
even the subjugation, of Germany. It is indeed an almost pathetic fact
that Germany, which idealises warfare, stands to gain more than any
country by an assured rule of international peace which would save her
from warfare. Placed in a position which renders militaristic
organisation indispensable, the Germans are more highly endowed than
almost any people with the high qualities of intelligence, of
receptiveness, of adaptability, of thoroughness, of capacity for
organisation, which ensure success in the arts and sciences of peace, in
the whole work of civilisation. This is amply demonstrated by the
immense progress and the manifold achievements of Germany during forty
years of peace, which have enabled her to establish a prosperity and a
good name in the world which are now both in peril. Germany must be
built up again, and the interests of civilisation itself, which Germany
has trampled under foot, demand that Germany shall be built up again,
under conditions, let us hope, which will render her old ideals useless
and out of date. We shall then be able to assert as the mere truisms
they are, and not as a defiance flung in the face of one of the world's
greatest nations, the elementary propositions I have here set forth. War
is not a permanent factor of national evolution, but for the most part
has no place in Nature at all; it has played a part in the early
development of primitive human society, but, as savagery passes into
civilisation, its beneficial effects are lost, and, on the highest
stages of human progress, mankind once more tends to be enfolded, this
time consciously and deliberately, in the general harmony of Nature.

[1] P. Chalmers Mitchell, _Evolution and the War_, 1915.

[2] On the advantages of war in primitive society, see W. MacDougal's
_Social Psychology_, Ch. XI.

[3] It is doubtless a task beset by difficulties, some of which are set
forth, in no hostile spirit, by Lord Cromer, "Thinking Internationally,"
_Nineteenth Century_, July, 1916; but the statement of most of these
difficulties is enough to suggest the solution.



In dealing with war it is not enough to discuss the place of warfare in
Nature or its effects on primitive peoples. Even if we decide that the
general tendency of civilisation is unfavourable to war we have scarcely
settled matters. It is necessary to push the question further home.
Primitive warfare among savages, when it fails to kill, may be a
stimulating and invigorating exercise, simply a more dangerous form of
dancing. But civilised warfare is a different kind of thing, to a very
limited extent depending on, or encouraging, the prowess of the
individual fighting men, and to be judged by other standards. _What
precisely is the measurable effect of war, if any, on the civilised
human breed?_ If we want to know what to do about war in the future,
that is the question we have to answer.

"Wars are not paid for in war-time," said Benjamin Franklin, "the bill
comes later." Franklin, who was a pioneer in many so fields, seems to
have been a pioneer in eugenics also by arguing that a standing army
diminishes the size and breed of the human species. He had, however, no
definite facts wherewith to demonstrate conclusively that proposition.
Even to-day, it cannot be said that there is complete agreement among
biologists as to the effect of war on the race. Thus we find a
distinguished American zoologist, Chancellor Starr Jordan, constantly
proclaiming that the effect of war in reversing selection is a great
overshadowing truth of history; warlike nations, he declares, become
effeminate, while peaceful nations generate a fiercely militant
spirit.[1] Another distinguished American scientist, Professor Ripley,
in his great work, _The Races of Europe_, likewise concludes that
"standing armies tend to overload succeeding generations with inferior
types of men." A cautious English biologist, Professor J. Arthur
Thomson, is equally decided in this opinion, and in his recent Galton
Lecture[2] sets forth the view that the influence of war on the race,
both directly and indirectly, is injurious; he admits that there may
be beneficial as well as deteriorative influences, but the former
merely affect the moral atmosphere, not the hereditary germ plasm;
biologically, war means wastage and a reversal of rational selection,
since it prunes off a disproportionally large number of those whom the
race can least afford to lose. On the other hand, another biologist, Dr.
Chalmers Mitchell, equally opposed to war, cannot feel certain that the
total effect of even a great modern war is to deteriorate the stock,
while in Germany, as we know, it is the generally current opinion,
scientific and unscientific, equally among philosophers, militarists,
and journalists, that not only is war "a biological necessity," but that
it is peace, and not war, which effeminates and degenerates a nation. In
Germany, indeed, this doctrine is so generally accepted that it is not
regarded as a scientific thesis to be proved, but as a religious dogma
to be preached. It is evident that we cannot decide this question, so
vital to human progress, except on a foundation of cold and hard fact.

Whatever may be the result of war on the quality of the breed, there can
be little doubt of its temporary effect on the quantity. The reaction
after war may create a stimulating influence on the birth-rate, leading
to a more or less satisfactory recovery, but it seems clear that the
drafting away of a large proportion of the manhood of a nation
necessarily diminishes births. At the present time English Schools are
sending out an unusually small number of pupils into life, and this is
directly due to the South-African War fifteen years ago. Still more
obvious is the direct effect of war, apart from diminishing the number
of births, in actually pouring out the blood of the young manhood of
the race. In the very earliest stage of primitive humanity it seems
probable that man was as untouched by warfare as his animal ancestors,
and it is satisfactory to think that war had no part in the first birth
of man into the world. Even the long Early Stone Age has left no
distinguishable sign of the existence of warfare.[3] It was not until
the transition to the Late Stone Age, the age of polished flint
implements, that we discern evidences of the homicidal attacks of man
on man. Even then we are concerned more with quarrels than with
battles, for one of the earliest cases of wounding known in human
records, is that of a pregnant young woman found in the Cro-magnon Cave
whose skull had been cut open by a flint several weeks before death, an
indication that she had been cared for and nursed. But, again at the
beginning of the New Stone Age, in the caverns of the Beaumes-Chaudes
people, who still used implements of the Old Stone type, we find skulls
in which are weapons of the New Stone type. Evidently these people had
come in contact with a more "civilised" race which had discovered war.
Yet the old pacific race still lingered on, as in the Belgian people
of the Furfooz type who occupied themselves mainly with hunting and
fishing, and have their modern representatives, if not their actual
descendants, in the peaceful Lapps and Eskimo.[4]

It was thus at a late stage of human history, though still so primitive
as to be prehistoric, that organised warfare developed. At the dawn of
history war abounded. The earliest literature of the Aryans--whether
Greeks, Germans, or Hindus--is nothing but a record of systematic
massacres, and the early history of the Hebrews, leaders in the world's
religion and morality, is complacently bloodthirsty. Lapouge considers
that in modern times, though wars are fewer in number, the total number
of victims is still about the same, so that the stream of bloodshed
throughout the ages remains unaffected. He attempted to estimate the
victims of war for each civilised country during half a century, and
found that the total amounted to nine and a half millions, while, by
including the Napoleonic and other wars of the beginning of the
nineteenth century, he considered that that total would be doubled. Put
in another form, Lapouge says, the wars of a century spill 120,000,000
gallons of blood, enough to fill three million forty-gallon casks, or
to create a perpetual fountain sending up a jet of 150 gallons per hour,
a fountain which has been flowing unceasingly ever since the dawn of
history. It is to be noted, also, that those slain on the battlefield by
no means represent the total victims of a war, but only about half of
them; more than half of those who, from one cause or another, perished
in the Franco-Prussian war, it is said, were not belligerents. Lapouge
wrote some ten years ago and considered that the victims of war, though
remaining about absolutely the same in number through the ages, were
becoming relatively fewer. The Great War of to-day would perhaps have
disturbed his calculations, unless we may assume that it will be
followed by a tremendous reaction against war. For when the war had
lasted only nine months, it was estimated that if it should continue at
the present rate (and as a matter of fact its scale has been much
enlarged) for another twelve months, the total loss to Europe in lives
destroyed or maimed would be ten millions, about equal to five-sixths of
the whole young manhood of the German Empire, and nearly the same number
of victims as Lapouge reckoned as the normal war toll of a whole
half-century of European "civilisation." It is scarcely necessary to add
that all these bald estimates of the number of direct victims to war
give no clue to the moral and material damage--apart from all question
of injury to the race--done by the sudden or slow destruction of so
large a proportion of the young manhood of the world, the ever widening
circles of anguish and misery and destitution which every fatal bullet
imposes on humanity, for it is probable that for every ten million
soldiers who fall on the field, fifty million other persons at home are
plunged into grief or poverty, or some form of life-diminishing trouble.

The foregoing considerations have not, however, brought us strictly
within the field of eugenics. They indicate the great extent to which
war affects the human breed, but they do not show that war affects the
quality of the breed, and until that is shown the eugenist remains

There are various circumstances which, at the outset, and even in the
absence of experimental verification, make it difficult, or impossible,
that even the bare mortality of war (for the eugenical bearings of
war are not confined to its mortality) should leave the eugenist
indifferent. For war never hits men at random. It only hits a carefully
selected percentage of "fit" men. It tends, in other words, to strike
out, temporarily, or in a fatal event, permanently, from the class of
fathers, precisely that percentage of the population which the eugenist
wishes to see in that class. This is equally the case in countries with
some form of compulsory service, and in countries which rely on a
voluntary military system. For, however an army is recruited, it is only
those men reaching a fairly high standard of fitness who are accepted,
and these, even in times of peace are hampered in the task of carrying
on the race, which the less fit and the unfit are free to do at their
own good pleasure. Nearly all the ways in which war and armies disturb
the normal course of affairs seem likely to interfere with eugenical
breeding, and none to favour it. Thus at one time, in the Napoleonic
wars, the French age of conscription fell to eighteen, while marriage
was a cause of exemption, with the result of a vast increase of hasty
and ill-advised marriages among boys, certainly injurious to the race.
Armies, again, are highly favourable to the spread of racial poisons,
especially of syphilis, the most dangerous of all, and this cannot fail
to be, in a marked manner, dysgenic rather than eugenic.

The Napoleonic wars furnished the first opportunity of testing the truth
of Franklin's assertion concerning the disastrous effect of armies on
the race, by the collection of actual and precise data. But the
significance of the data proved unexpectedly difficult to unravel, and
most writers on the subject have been largely occupied in correcting the
mistakes of their predecessors. Villermé in 1829 remarked that the long
series of French wars up to 1815 must probably reduce the height of the
French people, though he was unable to prove that this was so. Dufau in
1840 was in a better position to judge, and he pointed out in his
_Traité de Statistique_ that, comparing 1816 and 1835, the number of
young men exempted from the army had doubled in the interval, even
though the regulation height had been lowered. This result, however, he
held, was not so alarming as it might appear, and probably only
temporary, for it was seemingly due to the fact that, in 1806 and the
following years, the male population was called to arms in masses, even
youths being accepted, so that a vast number of precocious marriages of
often defective men took place. The result would only be terrible, Dufau
believed, if prolonged; his results, however, were not altogether
reliable, for he failed to note the proportion of men exempted to those
examined. The question was investigated more thoroughly by Tschuriloff
in 1876.[5] He came to the conclusion that the Napoleonic wars had no
great influence on stature, since the regulation height was lowered in
1805, and abolished altogether for healthy men in 1811, and any defect
of height in the next generation is speedily repaired. Tschuriloff
agreed, however, that, though the influence of war in diminishing the
height of the race is unimportant, the influence of war in increasing
physical defects and infirmities in subsequent generations is a very
different matter. He found that the physical deterioration of war
manifested itself chiefly in the children born eight years afterwards,
and therefore in the recruits twenty-eight years after the war. He
regarded it as an undoubted fact that the French army of half a million
men in 1809 increased by 3 per cent. the proportion of hereditarily
infirm persons. He found, moreover, that the new-born of 1814, that is
to say the military class of 1834, showed that infirmities had risen
from 30 per cent. to 45.8 per cent., an increase of 50 per cent. Nor is
the _status quo_ entirely brought back later on, for the bad heredity of
the increased number of defectives tends to be still further propagated,
even though in an attenuated form. As a matter of fact, Tschuriloff
found that the proportion of exemptions from the army for infirmity
increased enormously from 26 per cent. in 1816-17, to 38 per cent. in
1826-27, declining later to 34 per cent. in 1860-64, though he is
careful to point out that this result must not be entirely ascribed to
the reversed selection of wars. There could, however, be no doubt that
most kinds of infirmities became more frequent as a result of military
selection. Lapouge's more recent investigation into the results of the
Franco-Prussian war of 1870 were of similar character; when examining
the recruits of 1892-93 he found that these "children of the war" were
inferior to those born earlier, and that there was probably an undue
proportion of defective individuals among their fathers. It cannot be
said that these investigations finally demonstrate the evil results of
war on the race. The subject is complicated, and some authorities, like
Collignon in France and Ammon in Germany,--both, it may be well to note,
army surgeons,--have sought to smooth down and explain away the dysgenic
effects of war. But, on the whole, the facts seem to support those
probabilities which the insight of Franklin first clearly set forth.

It is interesting in the light of these considerations on the eugenic
bearings of warfare to turn for a moment to those who proclaim the high
moral virtues of war as a national regenerator.

It is chiefly in Germany that, for more than a century past, this
doctrine has been preached.[6] "War invigorates humanity," said Hegel,
"as storms preserve the sea from putrescence." "War is an integral part
of God's Universe," said Moltke, "developing man's noblest attributes."
"The condemnation of war," said Treitschke, "is not only absurd, it is
immoral."[7] These brave sayings scarcely bear calm and searching
examination at the best, but, putting aside all loftier appeals to
humanity or civilisation, a "national regenerator" which we have good
reason to suppose enfeebles and deteriorates the race, cannot plausibly
be put before us as a method of ennobling humanity or as a part of God's
Universe, only to be condemned on pain of seeing a company of German
professors pointing the finger to our appalling "Immorality," on their
drill-sergeant's word of command.

At the same time, this glorification of the regenerating powers of war
quite overlooks the consideration that the fighting spirit tends to
destroy itself, so that the best way to breed good fighters is not to
preach war, but to cultivate peace, which is what the Germans have, in
actual practice, done for over forty years past. France, the most
military, and the most gloriously military, nation of the Napoleonic
era, is now the leader in anti-militarism, altogether indifferent to the
lure of military glory, though behind no nation in courage or skill.
Belgium has not fought for generations, and had only just introduced
compulsory military service, yet the Belgians, from their King and their
Cardinal-Archbishop downwards, threw themselves into the war with a high
spirit scarcely paralleled in the world's history, and Belgian
commercial travellers developed a rare military skill and audacity. All
the world admires the bravery with which the Germans face death and the
elaborate detail with which they organise battle, yet for all their
perpetual glorification of war there is no sign that they fight with any
more spirit than their enemies. Even if we were to feel ourselves bound
to accept war as "an integral part of God's Universe," we need not
trouble ourselves to glorify war, for, when once war presents itself as
a terrible necessity, even the most peaceable of men are equal to the

This consideration brings us to those "moral equivalents of war" which
William James was once concerned over, when he advocated, in place of
military conscription, "a conscription of the whole youthful population
to form for a certain number of years a part of the army enlisted
against _Nature_."[8] Such a method of formally organising in the cause
of civilisation, instead of in the cause of savagery, the old military
traditions of hardihood and discipline may well have its value. But the
present war has shown us that in no case need we fear that these high
qualities will perish in any vitally progressive civilisation. For they
are qualities that lie in the heart of humanity itself. They are not
created by the drill-sergeant; he merely utilises them for his own, as
we may perhaps think, disastrous ends. This present war has shown us
that on every hand, even in the unlikeliest places, all the virtues of
war have been fostered by the cultivation of the arts and sciences of
peace, ready to be transformed to warlike ends by men who never dreamed
of war. In France we find many of the most promising young scientists,
poets, and novelists cheerfully going forth to meet their death. On the
other side, we find a Kreisler, created to be the joy of the world,
ready to be trampled to death beneath the hoofs of Cossack horses. The
friends of Gordon Mathison, the best student ever turned out from the
Medical Faculty of the Melbourne University and a distinguished young
physiologist who seemed to be destined to become one of the first
physicians of his time, viewed with foreboding his resolve to go to the
front, for "Wherever he was he had to be in the game," they said; and a
few weeks later he was killed at Gallipoli on the threshold of his
career. The qualities that count in peace are the qualities that count
in war, and the high-spirited man who throws himself bravely into the
dangerous adventures of peace is fully the equal of the hero of the
battlefield, and himself prepared to become that hero.[9]

It would seem, therefore, on the whole, that when the eugenist takes a
wide survey of this question, he need not qualify his disapproval of war
by any regrets over the loss of such virtues as warfare fosters. In
every progressive civilisation the moral equivalents of war are already
in full play. Peace, as well as war, "develops the noblest attributes of
man"; peace, rather than war, preserves the human sea from putrescence;
it is the condemnation of peace, rather than the condemnation of war,
which is not only absurd but immoral. We are not called upon to choose
between the manly virtues of war and the effeminate degeneracy of peace.
The Great War of to-day may perhaps help us to realise that the choice
placed before us is of another sort. The virtues of daring and endurance
will never fail in any vitally progressive community of men, alike in
the causes of war and of peace.[10] But on the one hand we find those
virtues at work in the service of humanity, creating ever new marvels of
science and of art, adding to the store of the precious heirlooms of the
race which are a joy to all mankind. On the other hand, we see these
same virtues in the service of savagery, extinguishing those marvels,
killing their creators, and destroying every precious treasure of
mankind within reach. That--it seems to be one of the chief lessons of
this war--is the choice placed before us who are to-day called upon to
build the world of the future on a firmer foundation than our own world
has been set.

[1] D.S. Jordan, _War and the Breed_, 1915; also articles on "War and
Manhood" in the _Eugenics Review_, July, 1910, and on "The Eugenics of
War" in the same Review for Oct., 1913.

[2] J. Arthur Thomson, "Eugenics and War," _Eugenics Review_, April,
1915. Major Leonard Darwin (_Journal Royal Statistical Society_, March,
1916) sets forth a similar view.

[3] It is true that in the Gourdon cavern, in the Pyrenees, representing
a very late and highly developed stage of Magdalenian culture, there
are indications that human brains were eaten (Zaborowski, _L'Homme
Préhistorique_, p. 86). It is surmised that they were the brains of
enemies killed in battle, but this remains a surmise.

[4] Zaborowski, _L'Homme Préhistorique_, pp. 121, 139; Lapouge, _Les
Sélections Sociales_, p. 209.

[5] _Revue d'Anthropologie_, 1876, pp. 608 and 655.

[6] In France it is almost unknown except as preached by the Syndicalist
philosopher, Georges Sorel, who insists, quite in the German manner, on
the purifying and invigorating effects of "a great foreign war," although,
very unlike the German professors, he holds that "a great extension of
proletarian violence" will do just as well as war.

[7] The recent expressions of the same doctrine in Germany are far too
numerous to deal with. I may, however, refer to Professor Fritz
Wilke's _Ist der Krieg sittlich berechtigt?_ (1915) as being the work
of a theologian and Biblical scholar of Vienna who has written a book
on the politics of Isaiah and discussed the germs of historical
veridity in the history of Abraham. "A world-history without war," he
declares, "would be a history of materialism and degeneration"; and
again: "The solution is not 'Weapons down!' but 'Weapons up!' With
pure hands and calm conscience let us grasp the sword." He dwells, of
course, on the supposed purifying and ennobling effects of war and
insists that, in spite of its horrors, and when necessary, "War is a
divine institution and a work of love." The leaders of the world's
peace movement are, thank God! not Germans, but merely English and
Americans, and he sums up, with Moltke, that war is a part of the
moral order of the world.

[8] William James, _Popular Science Monthly_, Oct., 1910.

[9] We still often fall into the fallacy of over-estimating the
advantages of military training--with its fine air of set-up manliness
and restrained yet vitalised discipline--because we are mostly
compelled to compare such training with the lack of training fostered
by that tame, dull sedentary routine of which there is far too much in
our present phase of civilisation. The remedy lies in stimulating the
heroic and strenuous sides of civilisation rather than in letting
loose the ravages of war. As Nietzsche long since pointed out (_Human,
All-too-Human_, section 442), the vaunted national armies of modern
times are merely a method of squandering the most highly civilised
men, whose delicately organised brains have been slowly produced
through long generations; "in our day greater and higher tasks are
assigned to men than _patria_ and _honor_, and the rough old Roman
patriotism has become dishonourable, at the best behind the times."

[10] The Border of Scotland and England was in ancient times, it has
been said, "a very Paradise for murderers and robbers." The war-like
spirit was there very keen and deeds of daring were not too scrupulously
effected, for the culprit knew that nothing was easier and safer than to
become an outlaw on the other side of the Border. Yet these were the
conditions that eventually made the Border one of the great British
centres of genius (the Welsh Border was another) and the home of a
peculiarly capable and vigorous race.



There are some idealistic persons who believe that morality and war
are incompatible. War is bestial, they hold, war is devilish; in its
presence it is absurd, almost farcical, to talk about morality. That
would be so if morality meant the code, for ever unattained, of the
Sermon on the Mount. But there is not only the morality of Jesus, there
is the morality of Mumbo Jumbo. In other words, and limiting ourselves
to the narrower range of the civilised world, there is the morality of
Machiavelli and Bismarck, and the morality of St. Francis and Tolstoy.

The fact is, as we so often forget, and sometimes do not even know,
morality is fundamentally custom, the _mores_, as it has been called,
of a people. It is a body of conduct which is in constant motion, with
an exalted advance-guard, which few can keep up with, and a debased
rearguard, once called the black-guard, a name that has since acquired
an appropriate significance. But in the substantial and central sense
morality means the conduct of the main body of the community. Thus
understood, it is clear that in our time war still comes into contact
with morality. The pioneers may be ahead; the main body is in the thick
of it.

That there really is a morality of war, and that the majority of
civilised people have more or less in common a certain conventional
code concerning the things which may or may not be done in war, has
been very clearly seen during the present conflict. This moral code is
often said to be based on international regulations and understandings.
It certainly on the whole coincides with them. But it is the popular
moral code which is fundamental, and international law is merely an
attempt to enforce that morality.

The use of expanding bullets and poison gases, the poisoning of wells,
the abuse of the Red Cross and the White Flag, the destruction of
churches and works of art, the infliction of cruel penalties on
civilians who have not taken up arms--all such methods of warfare as
these shock popular morality. They are on each side usually attributed
to the enemy, they are seldom avowed, and only adopted in imitation of
the enemy, with hesitation and some offence to the popular conscience,
as we see in the case of poison gas, which was only used by the English
after long delay, while the French still hesitated. The general feeling
about such methods, even when involving scientific skill, is that they
are "barbarous."

As a matter of fact, this charge of "barbarism" against those methods
of warfare which shock our moral sense must not be taken too literally.
The methods of real barbarians in war are not especially "barbarous."
They have sometimes committed acts of cruelty which are revolting to us
to-day, but for the most part the excesses of barbarous warfare have
been looting and burning, together with more or less raping of women,
and these excesses have been so frequent within the last century, and
still to-day, that they may as well be called "civilised" as
"barbarous." The sack of Rome by the Goths at the beginning of the
fifth century made an immense impression on the ancient world, as an
unparalleled outrage. St. Augustine in his _City of God_, written
shortly afterwards, eloquently described the horrors of that time. Yet
to-day, in the new light of our own knowledge of what war may involve,
the ways of the ancient Goths seem very innocent. We are expressly told
that they spared the sacred Christian places, and the chief offences
brought against them seem to be looting and burning; yet the treasure
they left untouched was vast and incalculable and we should be thankful
indeed if any belligerent in the war of to-day inflicted as little
injury on a conquered city as the Goths on Rome. The vague rhetoric
which this invasion inspired scarcely seems to be supported by
definitely recorded facts, and there can be very little doubt that the
devastation wrought in many old wars exists chiefly in the writings of
rhetorical chroniclers whose imaginations were excited, as we may so
often see among the journalists of to-day, by the rumour of atrocities
which have never been committed. This is not to say that no devastation
and cruelty have been perpetrated in ancient wars. It seems to be
generally agreed that in the famous Thirty Years' War, which the
Germans fought against each other, atrocities were the order of the
day. We are constantly being told, in respect of some episode or other
of the war of to-day, that "nothing like it has been seen since the
Thirty Years' War." But the writers who make this statement, with an
off-hand air of familiar scholarship, never by any chance bring forward
the evidence for this greater atrociousness of the Thirty Years'
War,[1] and one is inclined to suspect that this oft-repeated allusion
to the Thirty Years' War as the acme of military atrocity is merely a
rhetorical flourish.

In any case we know that, not so many years after the Thirty Years'
War, Frederick the Great, who combined supreme military gifts with
freedom from scruple in policy, and was at the same time a great
representative German, declared that the ordinary citizen ought never
to be aware that his country is at war.[2] Nothing could show more
clearly the military ideal, however imperfectly it may sometimes have
been attained, of the old European world. Atrocities, whether regarded
as permissible or as inevitable, certainly occurred. But for the most
part wars were the concern of the privileged upper class; they were
rendered necessary by the dynastic quarrels of monarchs and were
carried out by a professional class with aristocratic traditions and a
more or less scrupulous regard to ancient military etiquette. There are
many stories of the sufferings of the soldiery in old times, in the
midst of abundance, on account of military respect for civilian
property. Von der Goltz remarks that "there was a time when the troops
camped in the cornfields and yet starved," and states that in 1806 the
Prussian main army camped close to huge piles of wood and yet had no
fires to warm themselves or cook their food.[3]

The legend, if legend it is, of the French officer who politely
requested the English officer opposite him to "fire first" shows how
something of the ancient spirit of chivalry was still regarded as the
accompaniment of warfare. It was an occupation which only incidentally
concerned the ordinary citizen. The English, especially, protected by
the sea and always living in open undefended cities, have usually been
able to preserve this indifference to the continental wars in which
their kings have constantly been engaged, and, as we see, even in the
most unprotected European countries, and the most profoundly warlike,
the Great Frederick set forth precisely the same ideal of war.

The fact seems to be that while war is nowadays less chronic than of
old, less prolonged, and less easily provoked, it is a serious fallacy
to suppose that it is also less barbarous. We imagine that it must be
so simply because we believe, on more or less plausible grounds, that
our life generally is growing less barbarous and more civilised. But
war, by its very nature, always means a relapse from civilisation into
barbarism, if not savagery.[4] We may sympathise with the endeavour of
the European soldiers of old to civilise warfare, and we may admire the
remarkable extent to which they succeeded in doing so. But we cannot
help feeling that their romantic and chivalrous notions of warfare were
absurdly incongruous.

The world in general might have been content with that incongruity. But
Germany, or more precisely Prussia, with its ancient genius for
warfare, has in the present war taken the decisive step in initiating
the abolition of that incongruity by placing warfare definitely on the
basis of scientific barbarism. To do this is, in a sense, we must
remember, not a step backwards, but a step forward. It involved the
recognition of the fact that War is not a game to be played for its own
sake, by a professional caste, in accordance with fixed rules which it
would be dishonourable to break, but a method, carried out by the whole
organised manhood of the nation, of effectively attaining an end
desired by the State, in accordance with the famous statement of
Clausewitz that war is State policy continued by a different method. If
by the chivalrous method of old, which was indeed in large part still
their own method in the previous Franco-German war, the Germans had
resisted the temptation to violate the neutrality of Luxemburg and
Belgium in order to rush behind the French defences, and had battered
instead at the Gap of Belfort, they would have won the sympathy of the
world, but they certainly would not have won the possession of the
greater part of Belgium and a third part of France. It has not alone
been military instinct which has impelled Germany on the new course
thus inaugurated. We see here the final outcome of a reaction against
ancient Teutonic sentimentality which the insight of Goldwin Smith
clearly discerned forty years ago.[5] Humane sentiments and civilised
traditions, under the moulding hand of Prussian leaders of Kultur,
have been slowly but firmly subordinated to a political realism which,
in the military sphere, means a masterly efficiency in the aim of
crushing the foe by overwhelming force combined with panic-striking
"frightfulness." In this conception, that only is moral which served
these ends. The horror which this "frightfulness" may be expected to
arouse, even among neutral nations, is from the German point of view a
tribute of homage.

The military reputation of Germany is so great in the world, and likely
to remain so, whatever the issue of the present war, that we are here
faced by a grave critical issue which concerns the future of the whole
world. The conduct of wars has been transformed before our eyes. In any
future war the example of Germany will be held to consecrate the new
methods, and the belligerents who are not inclined to accept the
supreme authority of Germany may yet be forced in their own interests
to act in accordance with it. The mitigating influence of religion over
warfare has long ceased to be exercised, for the international Catholic
Church no longer possesses the power to exert such influence, while the
national Protestant churches are just as bellicose as their flacks. Now
we see the influence of morality over warfare similarly tending to
disappear. Henceforth, it seems, we have to reckon with a conception of
war which accounts it a function of the supreme State, standing above
morality and therefore able to wage war independently of morality.
Necessity--the necessity of scientific effectiveness--becomes the sole
criterion of right and wrong.

When we look back from the standpoint of knowledge which we have
reached in the present war to the notions which prevailed in the past,
they seem to us hollow and even childish. Seventy years ago, Buckle, in
his _History of Civilisation_, stated complacently that only ignorant
and unintellectual nations any longer cherished ideals of war. His
statement was part of the truth. It is true, for instance, that France
is now the most anti-military of nations, though once the most military
of all. But, we see, it is only part of the truth. The very fact, which
Buckle himself pointed out, that efficiency has in modern times taken
the place of morality in the conduct of affairs, offers a new
foundation for war when war is urged on scientific principle for the
purpose of rendering effective the claims of State policy. To-day we
see that it is not sufficient for a nation to cultivate knowledge and
become intellectual, in the expectation that war will automatically go
out of fashion. It is quite possible to become very scientific, most
relentlessly intellectual, and on that foundation to build up ideals of
warfare much more barbarous than those of Assyria.

The conclusion seems to be that we are to-day entering on an era in
which war will not only flourish as vigorously as in the past, although
not in so chronic a form, but with an altogether new ferocity and
ruthlessness, with a vastly increased power of destruction, and on a
scale of extent and intensity involving an injury to civilisation and
humanity which no wars of the past ever perpetrated. Moreover, this
state of things imposes on the nations which have hitherto, by their
temper, their position, or their small size, regarded themselves as
nationally neutral, a new burden of armament in order to ensure that
neutrality. It has been proclaimed on both sides that this war is a war
to destroy militarism. But the disappearance of a militarism that is
only destroyed by a greater militarism offers no guarantee at all for
any triumph of Civilisation or Humanity.

What then are we to do? It seems clear that we have to recognise that
our intellectual leaders of old who declared that to ensure the
disappearance of war we have but to sit still and fold our hands while
we watch the beneficent growth of science and intellect were grievously
mistaken. War is still one of the active factors of modern life, though
by no means the only factor which it is in our power to grasp and
direct. By our energetic effort the world can be moulded. It is the
concern of all of us, and especially of those nations which are strong
enough and enlightened enough to take a leading part in human affairs,
to work towards the initiation and the organisation of this immense
effort. In so far as the Great War of to-day acts as a spur to such
effort it will not have been an unmixed calamity.

[1] In so far as it may have been so, that seems merely due to its
great length, to the fact that the absence of commissariat arrangements
involved a more thorough method of pillage, and to epidemics.

[2] Treitschke, _History of Germany_ (English translation by E. and C.
Paul), Vol. I., p. 87.

[3] Von der Goltz, _The Nation in Arms_, pp. 14 _et seq._ This attitude
was a final echo of the ancient Truce of God. That institution, which
was first definitely formulated in the early eleventh century in
Roussillon and was soon confirmed by the Pope in agreement with nobles
and barons, was extended to the whole of Christendom before the end of
the century. It ordained peace for several days a week and on many
festivals, and it guaranteed the rights and liberties of all those
following peaceful avocations, at the same time protecting crops,
live-stock, and farm implements.

[4] It is interesting to observe how St. Augustine, who was as familiar
with classic as with Christian life and thought, perpetually dwells on
the boundless misery of war and the supreme desirability of peace as a
point at which pagan and Christian are at one; "Nihil gratius soleat
audiri, nihil desiderabilius concupisci, nihil postremo possit melius
inveniri ... Sicut nemo est qui gaudere nolit, ita nemo est qui pacem
habere nolit" (_City of God_, Bk. XIX., Chs. 11-12).

[5] _Contemporary Review_, 1878.



The cheerful optimism of those pacifists who looked for the speedy
extinction of war has lately aroused much scorn. There really seem to
have been people who believed that new virtues of loving-kindness are
springing up in the human breast to bring about the universal reign of
peace spontaneously, while we all still continued to cultivate our old
vices of international greed, suspicion, and jealousy. Dr. Frederick
Adams Woods, in the challenging and stimulating study of the prevalence
of war in Europe from 1450 to the present day which he has lately
written in conjunction with Mr. Alexander Baltzly, easily throws
contempt upon such pacifists. All their beautiful arguments, he tells
us in effect, count for nothing. War is to-day raging more furiously
than ever in the world, and it is even doubtful whether it is
diminishing. That is the subject of the book Dr. Woods and Mr. Baltzly
have written: _Is War Diminishing?_

The method adopted by these authors is to count up the years of war
since 1450 for each of the eleven chief nations of Europe possessing an
ancient history, and to represent the results by the aid of charts.
These charts show that certainly there has been a great falling off in
war during the period in question. Wars, as there presented to us, seem
to have risen to a climax in the century 1550-1650 and to have been
declining ever since. The authors, themselves, however, are not quite
in sympathy with their own conclusion. "There is only," Dr. Woods
declares, "a moderate amount of probability in favour of declining
war." He insists on the fact that the period under investigation
represents but a very small fraction of the life of man. He finds that
if we take England several centuries further back, and compare its
number of war-years during the last four centuries with those during
the preceding four centuries, the first period shows 212 years of war,
the second shows 207 years, a negligible difference, while for France
the corresponding number of war-years are 181 and 192, an actual and
rather considerable increase. There is the further consideration that
if we regard not frequency but intensity of war--if we could, for
instance, measure a war by its total number of casualties--we should
doubtless find that wars are showing a tendency to ever-increasing
gravity. On the whole, Dr. Woods is clearly rather discontented with
the tendency of his own and his collaborator's work to show a
diminution of war, and modestly casts doubt on all those who believe
that the tendency of the world's history is in the direction of such a

An honest and careful record of facts, however, is always valuable. Dr.
Woods' investigation will be found useful even by those who are by no
means anxious to throw cold water over the too facile optimism of some
pacifists, and this little book suggests lines of thought which may
prove fruitful in various directions, not always foreseen by the

Dr. Woods emphasises the long period in the history of the human race
during which war has flourished. He seems to suggest that war, after
all, may be an essential and beneficial element in human affairs,
destined to endure to the end, just as it has been present from the
beginning. But has it been present from the beginning? Even though war
may have flourished for many thousands of years--and it was certainly
flourishing at the dawn of history--we are still very far indeed from
the dawn of human life or even of human civilisation, for the more our
knowledge of the past grows the more remote that dawn is seen to be. It
is not only seen to be very remote, it is seen to be very important.
Darwin said that it was during the first three years of life that a man
learnt most. That saying is equally true of humanity as a whole, though
here one must translate years into hundreds of thousands of years. But
neither infant man nor infant mankind could establish themselves firmly
on the path that leads so far if they had at the very outset, in
accordance with Dr. Woods' formula for more recent ages, "fought about
half the time." An activity of this kind which may be harmless, or even
in some degree beneficial at a later stage, would be fatally disastrous
at an early stage. War, as Mankind understands war, seems to have no
place among animals living in Nature. It seems equally to have had no
place, so far as investigation has yet been able to reveal, in the life
of early man. Men were far too busy in the great fight against Nature
to fight against each other, far too absorbed in the task of inventing
methods of self-preservation to have much energy left for inventing
methods of self-destruction. It was once supposed that the Homeric
stories of war presented a picture of life near the beginning of the
world. The Homeric picture in fact corresponds to a stage in human
barbarism, certainly in its European manifestation, a stage also passed
through in Northern Europe, where, nearly fifteen hundred years ago,
the Greek traveller, Posidonius, found the Celtic chieftains in Britain
living much like the people in Homer. But we now know that Homer, so
far from bringing before us a primitive age, really represents the end
of a long stage of human development, marked by a slow and steady
growth in civilisation and a vast accumulation of luxury. War is a
luxury, in other words a manifestation of superfluous energy, not
possible in those early stages when all the energies of men are taken
up in the primary business of preserving and maintaining life. So it
was that war had a beginning in human history. Is it unreasonable to
suppose that it will also have an end?

There is another way, besides that of counting the world's war-years,
to determine the probability of the diminution and eventual
disappearance of war. We may consider the causes of war, and the extent
to which these causes are, or are not, ceasing to operate. Dr. Woods
passingly realises the importance of this test and even enumerates what
he considers to be the causes of war, without, however, following up
his clue. As he reckons them, they are four in number: racial,
economic, religious, and personal. There is frequently a considerable
amount of doubt concerning the cause of a particular war, and no doubt
the causes are usually mixed and slowly accumulative, just as in
disease a number of factors may have gradually combined to bring on the
sudden overthrow of health. There can be no doubt that the four causes
enumerated have been very influential in producing war. There can,
however, be equally little doubt that nearly all of them are
diminishing in their war-producing power. Religion, which after the
Reformation seemed to foment so many wars, is now practically almost
extinct as a cause of war in Europe. Economic causes which were once
regarded as good and sound motives for war have been discredited,
though they cannot be said to be abolished; in the Middle Ages fighting
was undoubtedly a most profitable business, not only by the booty which
might thus be obtained, but by the high ransoms which even down to the
seventeenth century might be legitimately demanded for prisoners. So
that war with France was regarded as an English gentleman's best method
of growing rich. Later it was believed that a country could capture the
"wealth" of another country by destroying that country's commerce, and
in the eighteenth century that doctrine was openly asserted even by
responsible statesmen; later, the growth of political economy made
clear that every nation flourishes by the prosperity of other nations,
and that by impoverishing the nation with which it traded a nation
impoverishes itself, for a tradesman cannot grow rich by killing his
customers. So it came about that, as Mill put it, the commercial
spirit, which during one period of European history was the principal
cause of war, became one of its strongest obstacles, though, since Mill
wrote, the old fallacy that it is a legitimate and advantageous method
to fight for markets, has frequently reappeared.[1] Again, the personal
causes of war, although in a large measure incalculable, have much
smaller scope under modern conditions than formerly. Under ancient
conditions, with power centred in despotic monarchs or autocratic
ministers, the personal causes of war counted for much. In more recent
times it has been said, truly or falsely, that the Crimean War was due
to the wounded feelings of a diplomatist. Under modern conditions,
however, the checks on individual initiative are so many that personal
causes must play an ever-diminishing part in war.

The same can scarcely be said as regards Dr. Woods' remaining cause of
war. If by racialism we are to understand nationalism, this has of late
been a serious and ever-growing provocative of war. Internationalism of
feeling is much less marked now than it was four centuries ago.
Nationalities have developed a new self-consciousness, a new impulse to
regain their old territories or to acquire new territories. Not only
Pan-Germanism, Pan-Slavism, and British Imperialism, like all other
imperialisms, but even the national ambitions of some smaller Powers
have acquired a new and dangerous energy. They are not the less
dangerous when, as is indeed most frequently the case, they merely
represent the ambition, not of the people as a whole, but merely of a
military or bureaucratic clique, of a small chauvinistic group, yet
noisy and energetic enough to win over unscrupulous politicians. A
German soldier, a young journalist of ability, recently wrote home from
the trenches: "I have often dreamed of a new Europe in which all the
nations would be fraternally united and live together as one people; it
was an end which democratic feeling seemed to be slowly preparing. Now
this terrible war has been unchained, fomented by a few men who are
sending their subjects, their slaves rather, to the battlefield, to
slay each other like wild beasts. I should like to go towards these men
they call our enemies and say, 'Brothers, let us fight together. The
enemy is behind us.' Yes, since I have been wearing this uniform I feel
no hatred for those who are in front, but my hatred has grown for those
in power who are behind." That is a sentiment which must grow mightily
with the growth of democracy, and as it grows the danger of nationalism
as a cause of war must necessarily decrease.

There is, however, one group of causes of war, of the first importance,
which Dr. Woods has surprisingly omitted, and that is the group of
political causes. It is by overlooking the political aspects of war
that Dr. Woods' discussion is most defective. Supposed political
necessity has been in modern times perhaps the very chief cause of war.
That is to say that wars are largely waged for what has been supposed
to be the protection, or the furtherance, of the civilised organisation
which orders the temporal benefits of a nation. This is admirably
illustrated by all three of the great European wars in which England
has taken part during the past four centuries: the war against Spain,
the war against France, and the present war against Germany. The
fundamental motive of England's participation in all these wars has
been what was conceived to be the need of England's safety, it was
essentially political. A small island Power, dependent on its fleet,
and yet very closely adjoining the continental mainland, is vitally
concerned in the naval developments of possibly hostile Powers and in
the military movements which affect the opposite coast. Spain, France,
and Germany all successively threatened England by a formidable fleet,
and they all sought to gain possession of the coast opposite England.
To England, therefore, it seemed a measure of political self-defence to
strike a blow as each fresh menace arose. In every case Belgium has
been the battlefield on land. The neutrality of Belgium is felt to be
politically vital to England. Therefore, the invasion of Belgium by a
Great Power is to England an immediate signal of war. It is not only
England's wars that have been mainly political; the same is true of
Germany's wars ever since Prussia has had the leadership of Germany.
The political condition of a country without natural frontiers and
surrounded by powerful neighbours is a perpetual source of wars which,
in Germany's case, have been, by deliberate policy, offensively

When we realise the fundamental importance of the political causation
of warfare, the whole problem of the ultimate fate of war becomes at
once more hopeful. The orderly growth and stability of nations has in
the past seemed to demand war. But war is not the only method of
securing these ends, and to most people nowadays it scarcely seems the
best method. England and France have fought against each other for many
centuries. They are now convinced that they really have nothing to
fight about, and that the growth and stability of each country are
better ensured by friendship than by enmity. There cannot be a doubt of
it. But where is the limit to the extension of that same principle?
France and Germany, England and Germany, have just as much to lose by
enmity, just as much to gain by friendship, and alike on both sides.

The history of Europe and the charts of Mr. Baltzly clearly show that
this consideration has really been influential. We find that there is a
progressive tendency for the nations of Europe to abandon warfare.
Sweden, Denmark, and Holland, all vigorous and warlike peoples, have
long ceased to fight. They have found their advantage in the
abandonment of war, but that abandonment has been greatly stimulated by
awe of their mightier neighbours. And therein, again, we have a clue to
the probable course of the future.

For when we realise that the fundamental political need of
self-preservation and good order has been a main cause of warfare, and
when we further realise that the same ends may be more satisfactorily
attained without war under the influence of a sufficiently firm
external pressure working in harmony with the growth of internal
civilisation, we see that the problem of fighting among nations is the
same as that of fighting among individuals. Once upon a time good order
and social stability were maintained in a community by the method of
fighting among the individuals constituting the community. No doubt all
sorts of precious virtues were thus generated, and no doubt in the
general opinion no better method seemed possible or even conceivable.
But, as we know, with the development of a strong central Power, and
with the growth of enlightenment, it was realised that political
stability and good order were more satisfactorily maintained by a
tribunal, having a strong police force behind it, than by the method of
allowing the individuals concerned to fight out their quarrels between

Fighting between national groups of individuals stands on precisely the
same footing as fighting between individuals. The political stability
and good order of nations, it is beginning to be seen, can be more
satisfactorily maintained by a tribunal, having a strong police force
behind it, than by the method of allowing the individual nations
concerned to fight out quarrels between themselves. The stronger
nations have for a large part imposed this peace upon the smaller
nations of Europe to the great benefit of the latter. How can we impose
a similar peace upon the stronger nations, for their own benefit and
for the benefit of the whole world? To that task all our energies must
be directed.

A long series of eminent thinkers and investigators, from Comte and
Buckle a century ago to Dr. Woods and Mr. Baltzly to-day, have assured
us that war is diminishing and even that the war-like spirit is
extinct. It is certainly not true that the war-like spirit is extinct,
even in the most civilised and peaceful peoples, and we need not desire
its extinction, for it is capable of transformation into shapes of the
finest use for humanity. But the vast conflagration of to-day must not
conceal from our eyes the great central fact that war is diminishing,
and will one day disappear as completely as the mediaeval scourge of
the Black Death. To reach this consummation all the best humanising and
civilising energies of mankind will be needed.

[1] It has been argued (as by Filippi Carli, _La Ricchezza e la Guerra_,
1916) that the Germans are especially unable to understand that the
prosperity of other countries is beneficial to them, whether or not
under German control, and that they differ from the English and French
in believing that economic conquests should involve political conquests.



During recent years the faith had grown among progressive persons in
various countries, not excluding Germany, that civilisation was building
up almost impassable barriers against any great war. These barriers were
thought to be of various kinds, even apart from the merely sentimental
and humanitarian developments of pacific feeling. They were especially
of an economic kind, and that on a double basis, that of Capital and
that of Labour. It was believed, on the one hand, that the international
ramifications of Capital, and the complicated commercial and financial
webs which bind nations together, would cause so vivid a realisation of
the disasters of war as to erect a wholesomely steadying effect whenever
the danger of war loomed in sight. On the other hand, it was felt that
the international unity of interest among the workers, the growth of
Labour's favourite doctrine that there is no conflict between nations,
but only between classes, and even the actual international organisation
and bonds of the workers' associations, would interpose a serious menace
to the plans of war-makers. These influences were real and important.
But, as we know, when the decisive moment came, the diplomatists and the
militarists were found to be at the helm, to steer the ship of State in
each country concerned, and those on board had no voice in determining
the course. In England only can there be said to have been any show of
consulting Parliament, but at that moment the situation had already so
far developed that there was little left but to accept it. The Great War
of to-day has shown that such barriers against war as we at present
possess may crumble away in a moment at the shock of the war-making

We are to-day forced to undertake a more searching inquiry into the
forces which, in civilisation, operate against war. I wish to call
attention here to one such influence of fundamental character, which has
not been unrecognised, but possesses an importance we are often apt to

"A French gentleman, well acquainted with the constitution of his
country," wrote Thicknesse in 1776,[1] "told me above eight years since
that France increased so rapidly in peace that they must necessarily
have a war every twelve or fourteen years to carry off the refuse of the
people." Recently a well-known German Socialist, Dr. Eduard David,
member of the Reichstag and a student of the population question,
setting forth the same great truth (in _Die Neue Generation_ for
November, 1914) states that it would have been impossible for Germany to
wage the present war if it had not been for the high German birth-rate
during the past half-century. And the impossibility of this war would,
for Dr. David, have been indeed tragic.

A more distinguished social hygienist, Professor Max Gruber, of Munich,
who took a leading part in organising that marvellous Exposition of
Hygiene at Dresden which has been Germany's greatest service to real
civilisation in recent years, lately set forth an identical opinion.
The war, he declares, was inevitable and unavoidable, and Germany was
responsible for it, not, he hastens to add, in any moral sense, but in a
biological sense, because in forty-four years Germans have increased in
numbers from forty millions to eighty millions. The war was, therefore,
a "biological necessity."

If we survey the belligerent nations in the war we may say that those
which took the initiative in drawing it on, or at all events were most
prepared to welcome it, were Russia, Austria, Germany, and Serbia. We
may also note that these include nearly all the nations in Europe with a
high birth-rate. We may further note that they are all nations
which--putting aside their cultural summits and taking them in the
mass--are among the most backward in Europe; the fall in the birth-rate
has not yet had time to permeate them. On the other hand, of the
belligerent peoples of to-day, all indications point to the French as
the people most intolerant, silently but deeply, of the war they are so
ably and heroically waging. Yet the France of the present, with the
lowest birth-rate and the highest civilisation, was a century ago the
France of a birth-rate higher than that of Germany to-day, the most
militarist and aggressive of nations, a perpetual menace to Europe. For
all those among us who have faith in civilisation and humanity, and are
unable to believe that war can ever be a civilising or humanising method
of progress, it must be a daily prayer that the fall of the birth-rate
may be hastened.

It seems too elementary a point to insist on, yet the mists of ignorance
and prejudice are so dense, the cataract of false patriotism is so
thick, that for many even the most elementary truths cannot be
discerned. In most of the smaller nations, indeed, an intelligent view
prevails. Their smallness has, on the one hand, rendered them more open
to international culture, and, on the other hand, enabled them to
outgrow the illusions of militarism; there is a higher standard of
education among them; their birth-rates are low and they accept that
fact as a condition of progressive civilisation. That is the case in
Switzerland, as in Norway, and notably in Holland. It is not so in the
larger nations. Here we constantly find, even in those lands where the
bulk of the population are civilised and reasonably level-headed, a small
minority who publicly tear their hair and rage at the steady decline in
the birth-rate. It is, of course, only the declining birth-rate of their
own country that they have in view; for they are "patriots," which means
that the fall of the birth-rate in all other countries but their own is
a source of much gratification. "Woe to us," they exclaim in effect, "if
we follow the example of these wicked and degenerate peoples! Our nation
needs men. We have to populate the earth and to carry the blessings of
our civilised culture all over the world. In executing that high mission
we cannot have too much cannon-fodder in defending ourselves against the
jealousy and aggression of other nations. Let us promote parentage by
law; let us repress by law every influence which may encourage a falling
birth-rate; otherwise there is nothing left to us but speedy national
disaster, complete and irremediable." This is not caricature,[2] though
these apostles of "race-suicide" may easily arouse a smile by the verbal
ardour of their procreative energy. But we have to recognise that in
Germany for years past it has been difficult to take up a serious
periodical without finding some anxiously statistical article about the
falling birth-rate and some wild recommendations for its arrest, for it
is the militaristic German who of all Europeans is most worried by this
fall; indeed Germans often even refuse to recognise it. Thus to-day we
find Professor Gruber declaring that if the population of the German
Empire continues to grow at the rate of the first five years of the
present century, at the end of the century it will have reached
250,000,000. By such a vast increase in population, the Professor
complacently concludes, "Germany will be rendered invulnerable." We know
what that means. The presence of an "invulnerable" nation among nations
that are "vulnerable" means inevitable aggression and war, a perpetual
menace to civilisation and humanity. It is not along that line that hope
can be found for the world's future, or even Germany's future, and
Gruber conveniently neglects to estimate what, on his basis, the
population of Russia will be at the end of the century. But Gruber's
estimate is altogether fallacious. German births have fallen, roughly
speaking, about one per thousand of the population, every year since the
beginning of the century, and it would be equally reasonable to estimate
that if they continue to fall at the present rate (which we cannot, of
course, anticipate) births will altogether have ceased in Germany long
before the end of the century. The German birth-rate reached its climax
forty years ago (1871-1880) with 40.7 per 1,000; in 1906 it was 34 per
1,000; in 1909, 31 per 1,000; in 1912, 28 per 1,000; in an almost
measurable period of time, in all probability long before the end of the
century, it will have reached the same low level as that of France, when
there will be little difference between the "invulnerability" of France
and of Germany, a consummation which, for the world's sake, is far more
devoutly to be wished than that anticipated by Gruber.

We have to remember, moreover, that this tendency is by no means, as we
are sometimes tempted to suppose, a sign of degeneration or of decay;
but, on the contrary, a sign of progress. When we survey broadly that
course of zoological evolution of which we are pleased to regard Man as
the final outcome, we note that on the whole the mighty stream has
become the less productive as it has advanced. We note the same of the
various lines taken separately. We note, also, that intelligence and all
the qualities we admire have usually been most marked in the less
prolific species. Progress, roughly speaking, has proved incompatible
with high fertility. And the reason is not far to seek. If the creature
produced is more evolved, it is more complex and more highly organised,
and that means the need for much time and much energy. To attain this,
the offspring must be few and widely spaced; it cannot be attained at
all under conditions that are highly destructive. The humble herring,
which evokes the despairing envy of our human apostles of fertility, is
largely composed of spawn, and produces a vast number of offspring, of
which few reach maturity. The higher mammals spend their lives in the
production of a small number of offspring, most of whom survive. Thus,
even before Man began, we see a fundamental principle established, and
the relationship between the birth-rate and the death-rate in working
order. All progressive evolution may be regarded as a mechanism for
concentrating an ever greater amount of energy in the production of ever
fewer and ever more splendid individuals. Nature is perpetually striving
to replace the crude ideal of quantity by the higher ideal of quality.

In human history these same tendencies have continually been
illustrated. The Greeks, our pioneers in all insight and knowledge,
grappled (as Professor Myres has lately set forth[3]), and realised that
they were grappling, with this same problem. Even in the Minoan Age
their population would appear to have been full to overflowing; "there
were too many people in the world," and to the old Greeks the Trojan War
was the earliest divinely-appointed remedy. Wars, famines, pestilences,
colonisation, wide-spread infanticide were the methods, voluntary and
involuntary, by which this excessive birth-rate was combated, while the
greatest of Greek philosophers, a Plato or an Aristotle, clearly saw
that a regulated and limited birth-rate, a eugenically improved race, is
the road to higher civilisation. We may even see in Greek antiquity how
a sudden rise in industrialism leads to a crowded and fertile urban
population, the extension of slavery, and all the resultant evils. It
was a foretaste of what was seen during the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries, when a sudden industrial expansion led to an enormously high
birth-rate, a servile urban proletariat (that very word indicates, as
Roscher has pointed out, that a large family means inferiority), and a
consequent outburst of misery and degradation from which we are only now

As we are now able to realise, the sudden expansion of the population
accompanying the industrial revolution was an abnormal and, from the
point of view of society, a morbid phenomenon. All the evidence goes to
show that previously the population tended to increase very slowly, and
social evolution was thus able to take place equably and harmoniously.
It is only gradually that the birth-rate has begun to right itself
again. The movement, as is well known, began in France, always the most
advanced outpost of European civilisation. It has now spread to England,
to Germany, to all Europe, to the whole world indeed, in so far as the
world is in touch with European civilisation, and has long been well
marked in the United States.

When we realise this we are also enabled to realise how futile, how
misplaced, and how mischievous it is to raise the cry of "Race-suicide."
It is futile because no outcry can affect a world-wide movement of
civilisation. It is misplaced because the rise and fall of the
population is not a matter of the birth-rate alone, but of the
birth-rate combined with the death-rate, and while we cannot expect to
touch the former we can influence the latter. It is mischievous because
by fighting against a tendency which is not only inevitable but
altogether beneficial, we blind ourselves to the advance of civilisation
and risk the misdirection of all our energies. How far this blindness
may be carried we see in the false patriotism of those who in the
decline of the birth-rate fancy they see the ruin of their own
particular country, oblivious of the fact that we are concerned with a
phenomenon of world-wide extension.

The whole tendency of civilisation is to reduce the birth-rate, as
Leroy-Beaulieu concludes in his comprehensive work on the population
question. We may go further, and assert with the distinguished German
economist, Roscher, that the chief cause of the superiority of a highly
civilised State over lower stages of civilisation is precisely a greater
degree of forethought and self-control in marriage and child-bearing.[4]
Instead of talking about race-suicide, we should do well to observe at
what an appalling rate, even yet, the population is increasing, and we
should note that it is everywhere the poorest and most primitive
countries, and in every country (as in Germany) the poorest regions,
which show the highest birth-rate. On every hand, however, are hopeful
signs. Thus, in Russia, where a very high birth-rate is to some extent
compensated by a very high death-rate--the highest infantile death-rate
in Europe--the birth-rate is falling, and we may anticipate that it will
fall very rapidly with the extension of education and social
enlightenment among the masses. Driven out of Europe, the alarmist falls
back on the "Yellow Peril." But in Japan we find amid confused
variations of the birth-rate and the death-rate nothing to indicate any
alarming expansion of the population, while as to China we are in the
dark. We only know that in China there is a high birth-rate largely
compensated by a very high death-rate. We also know, however, that as
Lowes Dickinson has lately reminded us, "the fundamental attitude of the
Chinese towards life is that of the most modern West,"[5] and we shall
probably find that with the growth of enlightenment the Chinese will
deal with their high birth-rate in a far more radical and thorough
manner than we have ever ventured on.

One last resort the would-be patriotic alarmist seeks when all others
fail. He is good enough to admit that a general decline in the
birth-rate might be beneficial. But, he points out, it affects social
classes unequally. It is initiated, not by the degenerate and the unfit,
whom we could well dispense with, but by the very best classes in the
community, the well-to-do and the educated. One is inclined to remark,
at once, that a social change initiated by its best social classes is
scarcely likely to be pernicious. Where, it may be asked, if not among
the most educated classes, is any process of amelioration to be
initiated? We cannot make the world topsy-turvy to suit the convenience
of topsy-turvy minds. All social movements tend to begin at the top and
to permeate downwards. This has been the case with the decline in the
birth-rate, but it is already well marked among the working classes, and
has only failed to touch the lowest social stratum of all, too
weak-minded and too reckless to be amenable to ordinary social motives.
The rational method of meeting this situation is not a propaganda in
favour of procreation--a truly imbecile propaganda, since it is only
carried out and only likely to be carried out, by the very class which
we wish to sterilise--but by a wise policy of regulative eugenics. We
have to create the motives, and it is not an impossible task, which will
act even upon the weak-minded and reckless lowest social stratum.

These facts have a significance which many of us have failed to realise.
The Great War has brought home the gravity of that significance. It has
been the perpetual refrain of the Pan-Germanists for many years that the
vast and sudden expansion of the German peoples makes necessary a new
movement of the German nations into the world and a new enlargement of
frontiers, in other words, War. It is not only among the Germans, though
among them it may have been more conscious, that a similar cause has led
to the like result. It has ever been so. The expanding nation has always
been a menace to the world and to itself. The arrest of the falling
birth-rate, it cannot be too often repeated, would be the arrest of all
civilisation and of all humanity.

[1] Ralph Thicknesse, _A Year's Journey Through France and Spain_, 1777,
p. 298.

[2] The last twelve words quoted are by Miss Ethel Elderton in an
otherwise sober memoir (_Report on the English Birth-rate_, 1914, p.
237) which shows that the birth control movement has begun, just where
we should expect it to begin, among the better instructed classes.

[3] J.L. Myres, "The Causes of Rise and Fall in the Population of the
Ancient World," Eugenics Review, April, 1915.

[4] Roscher, _Grundlagen der National—konomie_, 23rd ed., 1900, Bk. VI.

[5] G. Lowes Dickinson, _The Civilisation of India, China, and Japan_,
1914, p. 47.



When we read our newspapers to-day we are constantly met by ingenious
plans for bringing to an end the activities of Germany after the War.
German military activity, it is universally agreed, must be brought to an
end; Germany will have no further need of a military system save on the
most modest scale. Germany must also be deprived of any colonial empire
and shut out from eastward expansion. That being the case, Germany no
longer needs a fleet, and must be brought back to Bismarck's naval
attitude. Moreover, the industrial activities of Germany must also be
destroyed; the Allied opponents of Germany will henceforth manufacture
for themselves or for one another the goods they have hitherto been so
foolish as to obtain from Germany, and though this may mean cutting
themselves aloof from the country which has hitherto been their own best
customer, that is a sacrifice to be cheerfully borne for the sake of
principle. It is further argued that the world has no need of German
activities in science; they are, it appears, much less valuable than we
had been led to believe, and in any case no self-respecting people would
encourage a science tainted by Kultur. The puzzled reader of these
arguments, overlooking the fallacies they contain, may perhaps sometimes
be tempted to ask: But what are Germans to be allowed to do? The implied
answer is clear: Nothing.

The writers who urge these arguments with such conviction may be
supposed to have an elementary knowledge of the history of the
Germans. We are concerned, that is to say, with a people which has
displayed an irrepressible energy, in one field or another, ever since
the time, more than fifteen hundred years ago, when it excited the
horror of the civilised world by sacking Rome. The same energy was
manifested, a thousand years later, when the Germans again knocked at
the door of Rome and drew away half the world from its allegiance to
the Church. Still more recently, in yet other fields of industry and
commerce and colonisation, these same Germans have displayed their
energy by entering into more or less successful competition with that
"Modern Rome," as some have termed it, which has its seat in the
British Islands. Here is a people,--still youthful as we count age in
our European world, for even the Celts had preceded them by nearly a
thousand years,--which has successfully displayed its explosive or
methodical force in the most diverse fields, military, religious,
economic. From henceforth it is invited, by an allied army of
terrified journalists, to expend these stupendous and irresistible
energies on just Nothing.

We know, of course, what would happen were it possible to subject Germany
to any such process of attempted repression. Whenever an individual or a
mass of individuals is bidden to do nothing, it merely comes about that
the activities aimed at, far from being suppressed, are turned into
precisely the direction most unpleasant for the would-be suppressors.
When in 1870 the Germans tried to "crush" France, the result was the
reverse of that intended. The effects of "crushing" had been even more
startingly reverse, on the other side--and this may furnish us with a
precedent--when Napoleon trampled down Germany. Two centuries ago, after
the brilliant victories of Marlborough, it was proposed to crush
permanently the Militarism of France. But, as Swift wrote to Archbishop
King just before the Peace of Utrecht, "limiting France to a certain
number of ships and troops was, I doubt, not to be compassed." In spite
of the exhaustion of France it was not even attempted. In the present
case, when the war is over it is probable that Germany will still hold
sufficiently great pledges to bargain with in safeguarding her own vital
interests. If it were not so, if it were possible to inflict permanent
injury on Germany, that would be the greatest misfortune that could
happen to us; for it is clear that we should then be faced by a yet more
united and yet more aggressively military Germany than the world has
seen.[1] In Germany itself there is no doubt on this point. Germans are
well aware that German activities cannot be brought to a sudden full
stop, and they are also aware that even among Germany's present enemies
there are those who after the War will be glad to become her friends. Any
doubt or anxiety in the minds of thoughtful Germans is not concerning the
continued existence of German energy in the world, but concerning the
directions in which that energy will be exerted.

What is Germany's greatest danger? That is the subject of a pamphlet by
Rudolf Goldscheid, of Vienna, now published in Switzerland, with a
preface by Professor Forel, as originally written a year earlier,
because it is believed that in the interval its conclusions have been
confirmed by events.[2] Goldscheid is an independent and penetrating
thinker in the economic field, and the author of a book on the
principles of Social Biology (_Höherentwicklung und Menschenökonomie_)
which has been described by an English critic as the ablest defence of
Socialism yet written. By the nature of his studies he is concerned
with problems of human rather than merely national development, but he
ardently desires the welfare of Germany, and is anxious that that
welfare shall be on the soundest and most democratic basis. After the
War, he says, there must necessarily be a tendency to approximate
between the Central Powers and one or other of their present foes.
It is clear (though this point is not discussed) that Italy, whose
presence in the Triple Alliance was artificial, will not return, while
French resentment at German devastation is far too great to be appeased
for a long period to come. There remain, therefore, Russia and England.
After the War German interests and German sympathies must gravitate
either eastwards towards Russia or westwards towards England. Which is
it to be?

There are many reasons why Germany should gravitate towards Russia.
Such a movement was indeed already in active progress before the war,
notwithstanding Russia's alliance with France, and may easily become
yet more active after the war, when it is likely that the bonds between
Russia and France may grow weaker, and when it is possible that the
Germans, with their immense industry, economy and recuperative power,
may prove to be in the best position--unless America cuts in--to
finance Russia. Industrially Russia offers a vast field for German
enterprise which no other country can well snatch away, and German is
already to some extent the commercial language of Russia.[3]

Politically, moreover, a close understanding between the two supreme
autocratic and anti-democratic powers of Europe is of the greatest mutual
benefit, for any democratic movement within the borders of either Power
is highly inconvenient to the other, so that it is to the advantage of
both to stimulate each other in the task of repression.[4] It is this
aspect of the approximation which arouses Goldscheid's alarm. It is
mainly on this ground that he advocates a counter-balancing approximation
between Germany and England which would lay Germany open to the West and
serve to develop her latent democratic tendencies. He admits that at some
points the interests of Germany and England run counter to each other,
but at yet a greater number of points their interests are common. It is
only by the development of these common interests, and the consequent
permeation of Germany by democratic English ideas, that Goldscheid sees
any salvation from Czarism, for that is "Germany's greatest danger," and
at the same time the greatest danger to Europe.

That is Goldscheid's point of view. Our English point of view is
necessarily somewhat different. With our politically democratic
tendencies we see very little difference between Russia and Prussia. As
they are at present constituted, we have no wish to be in very close
political intimacy with either. It so happens, indeed, that, for the
moment, the chances of fellowship in War have brought us into a condition
of almost sentimental sympathy with the Russian people, such as has never
existed among us before. But this sympathy, amply justified, as all who
know Russia agree, is exclusively with the Russian people. It leaves the
Russian Government, the Russian bureaucracy, the Russian political
system, all that Goldscheid concentrates into the term "Czarism,"
severely alone. Our hostility to these may be for the moment latent, but
it is as profound as it ever was. Czarism is even more remote from our
sympathies than Kaiserism. All that has happened is that we cherish the
pious hope that Russia is becoming converted to our own ideas on these
points, although there is not the smallest item of solid fact to support
that hope. Otherwise, Russian oppression of the Finns is just as odious
to us as Prussian oppression of the Poles, and Russian persecution of
Liberals as alien as German persecution of War-prisoners.[5] Our future
policy, in the opinion of many, should, however, be to isolate Germany as
completely as possible from English influence and to cultivate closer
relations with Russia.[6] Such a policy, Goldscheid argues, will defeat
its own ends. The more stringently England holds aloof from Germany the
more anxiously will Germany cultivate good relationships with Russia.
Such relationships, as we know, are easy to cultivate, because they are
much in the interests of both countries which possess so large an extent
of common frontier and so admirably supply each other's needs; it may be
added also that the Russian commercial world is showing no keen desire to
enter into close relations with England. Moreover, after the War, we may
expect a weakening of French influence in Russia, for that influence was
largely based on French gold, and a France no longer able or willing to
finance Russia would no longer possess a strong hold over Russia. A
Russo-German understanding, difficult to prevent in any case, is inimical
to the interests of England, but it would be rendered inevitable by an
attempt on the part of England to isolate Germany.[7]

Such an attempt could not be carried out completely and would break down
on its weakest side, which is the East. So that the way lies open to a
League of the Three Kaisers, the Dreikaiserbündnis which would form a
great island fortress of militarism and reaction amid the surrounding sea
of democracy, able to repress those immense possibilities of progress
within its own walls which would have been liberated by contact with the
vital currents outside.

So long as the War lasts it is the interest of England to strike Germany
and to strike hard. That is here assumed as certain. But when the War
is over, it will no longer be in the interests of England, it will
indeed be directly contrary to those interests, to continue cultivating
hostility, provided, that is, that no rankling wounds are left. The
fatal mistake of Bismarck in annexing Alsace-Lorraine introduced a
poison into the European organism which is working still. But the
Russo-Japanese War produced a more amicable understanding than had
existed before, and the Boer War led to still more intimate
relationships between the belligerents. It may be thought that the
impression in England of German "frightfulness," and in Germany of
English "treachery," may prove ineffaceable. But the Germans have been
considered atrocious and the English perfidious for a long time past,
yet that has not prevented English and Germans fighting side by side at
Waterloo and on many another field; nor has it stood in the way of
German worship of the quintessential Englishman, Shakespeare, nor
English homage to the quintessential German Goethe.

The question of the future relations of England and Germany may,
indeed, be said to lie on a higher plane than that of interest and
policy, vitally urgent as their claims may be. It is the merit of
Goldscheid's little book that--with faith in a future United States of
Europe in which every country would develop its own peculiar aptitudes
freely and harmoniously--he is able to look at the War from that
European standpoint which is so rarely attained in England. He sees
that more is at stake than a mere question of national rivalries; that
democracy is at stake, and the whole future direction of civilisation.
He looks beyond the enmities of the moment, and he knows that, unless
we look beyond them, we not only condemn Europe to the prospect of
unending war, we do more: we ensure the triumph of Reaction and the
destruction of Democracy. "War and Reaction are brethren"; on that
point Goldscheid is very sure, and he foretells and laments the
temporary "demolition of Democracy" in England. We have only too much
reason to believe his prophetic words, for since he wrote we have had
a Coalition Government which is predominantly democratic, Liberal and
Labour, and yet has been fatally impelled towards reaction and
autocracy.[8] That the impulse is really fatal and inevitable we cannot
doubt, for we see exactly the same movement in France, and even in
Russia, where it might seem that reaction has so few triumphs to achieve.
"The blood of the battlefield is the stream that drives the mills of
Reaction." The elementary and fundamental fact that in Democracy the
officers obey the men, while in Militarism the men obey the officers,
is the key to the whole situation. We see at once why all reactionaries
are on the side of war and a military basis of society. The fate of
democracy in Europe hangs on this question of adequate pacification.
"Democratisation and Pacification march side by side."[9] Unless we
realise that fact we are not competent to decide on a sound European
policy. For there is an intimate connection between a country's external
policy and its internal policy. An internal reactionary policy means an
external aggressive policy. To shut out English influence from Germany,
to fortify German Junkerism and Militarism, to drive Germany into the
arms of a yet more reactionary Russia, is to create a perpetual menace,
alike to peace and to democracy, which involves the arrest of
civilisation. However magnanimous the task may seem to some, it is not
only the interest of England, but England's duty to Europe, to take the
initiative in preparing the ground for a clear and good understanding
with Germany. It is, moreover, only through England that France can be
brought into harmonious relations with Germany, and when Russia then
approaches her neighbour it will be in sympathy with her more progressive
Western Allies and not in reactionary response to a reactionary Germany.
It is along such lines as these that amid the confusion of the present we
may catch a glimpse of the Europe of the future.

We have to remember that, as Goldscheid reminds us, this War is making
all of us into citizens of the world. A world-wide outlook can no longer
be reserved merely for philosophers. Some of the old bridges, it is true,
have been washed away, but on every side walls are falling, and the petty
fears and rivalries of European nations begin to look worse than trivial
in the face of greater dangers. As our eyes begin to be opened we see
Europe lying between the nether millstone of Asia and the upper millstone
of America. It is not by constituting themselves a Mutual Suicide Club
that the nations of Europe will avoid that peril.[10] A wise and
far-seeing world-policy can alone avail, and the enemies of to-day will
see themselves compelled, even by the mere logic of events, to join hands
to-morrow lest a worse fate befall them. In so doing they may not only
escape possible destruction, but they will be taking the greatest step
ever taken in the organisation of the world. Which nation is to assume
the initiative in such combined organisation? That remains the fateful
question for Democracy.

[1] Treitschke in his _History_ (Bk. I., Ch. III.) has well described
"the elemental hatred which foreign injury pours into the veins of our
good-natured people, for ever pursued by the question: 'Art thou yet on
thy feet, Germania? Is the day of thy revenge at hand!'"

[2] Rudolf Goldscheid, _Deutschlands Grösste Gefahr_, Institut Orell
Füssli, Zürich, 1916.

[3] One may remark that up to the outbreak of war fifty per cent. of
the import trade of Russia has been with Germany. To suppose that that
immense volume of trade can suddenly be transferred after the war from
a neighbouring country which has intelligently and systematically
adapted itself to its requirements to a remote country which has never
shown the slightest aptitude to meet those requirements argues a
simplicity of mind which in itself may be charming, but when translated
into practical affairs it is stupendous folly.

[4] Sir Valentine Chirol remarks of Bismarck, in an Oxford Pamphlet on
"Germany and the Fear of Russia":--"Friendship with Russia was one of
the cardinal principles of his foreign policy, and one thing he always
relied upon to make Russia amenable to German influence was that she
should never succeed in healing the Polish sore."

[5] In making these observations on the Russians and the Prussians, I
do not, of course, overlook the fact that all nations, like

    "Compound for sins they are inclined to
    By damning those they have no mind to,"

and the English treatment of the conscientious objector in the Great
War has been just as odious as Russian treatment of the Finns or
Prussian treatment of war prisoners, and even more foolish, since it
strikes at our own most cherished principles.

[6] There is, indeed, another school which would like to shut off all
foreign countries by a tariff wall and make the British Empire mutually
self-supporting, on the economic basis adopted by those three old ladies
in decayed circumstances who subsisted by taking tea in one another's

[7] Even if partially successful, as has lately been pointed out, the
greater the financial depression of Germany the greater would be the
advantage to Russia of doing business with Germany.

[8] It may be proper to point out that I by no means wish to imply
that democracy is necessarily the ultimate and most desirable form of
political society, but merely that it is a necessary stage for those
peoples that have not yet reached it. Even Treitschke in his famous
_History_, while idealising the Prussian State, always assumes that
movement towards democracy is beneficial progress. For the larger
question of the comparative merits of the different forms of political
society, see an admirable little book by C. Delisle Burns, _Political
Ideals_ (1915). And see also the searching study, _Political Parties_
(English translation, 1915), by Robert Michels, who, while accepting
democracy as the highest political form, argues that practically it
always works out as oligarchy.

[9] Professor D.S. Jordan has quoted the letter of a German officer to
a friend in Roumania (published in the Bucharest _Adverul_, 21 Aug.,
1915): "How difficult it was to convince our Emperor that the moment had
arrived for letting loose the war, otherwise Pacifism, Internationalism,
Anti-Militarism, and so many other noxious weeds would have infected our
stupid people. That would have been the end of our dazzling nobility. We
have everything to gain by the war, and all the chimeras and stupidities
of democracy will be chased from the world for an infinite time."

[10] "Let us be patient," a Japanese is reported to have said lately,
"until Europe has completed her _hara-kiri_."



During more than a century we have seen the slow but steady growth of the
great Women's movement, of the movement of Feminism in the wide sense of
that term. The conquests of this movement have sometimes been described
by rhetorical feminists as triumphs over "Man." That is scarcely true.
The champions of Feminism have nearly as often been men as women, and the
forces of Anti-feminism have been the vague massive inert forces of an
order which had indeed made the world in an undue degree "a man's world,"
but unconsciously and involuntarily, and by an instrumentation which was
feminine as well as masculine. The advocates of Woman's Rights have
seldom been met by the charge that they were unjustly encroaching on the
Rights of Man. Feminism has never encountered an aggressive and
self-conscious Masculinism.

Now, however, when the claims of Feminism are becoming practically
recognised in our social life, and some of its largest demands are being
granted, it is interesting to observe the appearance of a new attitude.
We are, for the first time, beginning to hear of "Masculinism." Just as
Feminism represents the affirmation of neglected rights and functions of
Womanhood, so Masculinism represents the assertion of the rights and
functions of Manhood which, it is supposed, the rising tide of Feminism
threatens to submerge.

Those who proclaim the necessity of an assertion of the rights of
Masculinism usually hold up America as an awful example of the triumph of
Feminism. Thus Fritz Voechting in a book published in Germany, "On the
American Cult of Woman," is appalled by what he sees in the United
States. To him it is "the American danger," and he thinks it may be
traced partly to the influence of the matriarchal system of the American
Indians on the early European invaders and partly to the effects of
co-education in undermining the fundamental conceptions of feminine
subordination. This state of things is so terrible to the German mind,
which has a constitutional bias to masculinism, that to Herr Voechting
America seems a land where all the privileges have been captured by Woman
and nothing is left to Man, but, like a good little boy, to be seen and
not heard. That is a slight exaggeration, as other Germans, even since
the War, have pointed out in German periodicals. Even if it were true,
however, as a German Feminist has remarked, it would still be a pleasant
variation from a rule we are so familiar with in the Old World. That it
should be put forward at all indicates the growing perception of a
cleavage between the claims of Masculinism and the claims of Feminism.

It is not altogether easy at present to ascertain whom we are to
recognise as the champions and representatives of Masculinism. Various
notable figures are mentioned, from Nietzsche to Mr. Theodore Dreiser.
Nietzsche, however, can scarcely be regarded as in all respects an
opponent to Feminism, and some prominent feminists even count themselves
his disciples. One may also feel doubtful whether Mr. Dreiser feels
himself called upon to put on the armour of masculinism and play the part
assigned to him. Another distinguished novelist, Mr. Robert Herrick,
whose name has been mentioned in this connection, is probably too
well-balanced, too comprehensive in his outlook, to be fairly claimed as
a banner-bearer of masculinism. The name of Strindberg is most often
mentioned, but surely very unfortunately. However great Strindberg's
genius, and however acute and virulent his analysis of woman, Strindberg
with his pronounced morbidity and sensitive fragility seems a very
unhappy figure to put forward as the ideal representative of the virtues
of masculinity. Much the same may be said of Weininger. The name of Mr.
Belfort Bax, once associated with William Morris in the Socialistic
campaign, may fairly be mentioned as a pioneer in this field. For many
years he has protested vigorously against the encroachment of Feminism,
and pointed out the various privileges, social and legal, which are
possessed by women to the disadvantage of men. But although he is a
distinguished student of philosophy, it can scarcely be said that Mr. Bax
has clearly presented in any wide philosophic manner the demands of the
masculinistic spirit or definitely grasped the contest between Feminism
and Masculinism. The name of William Morris would be an inspiring
battle-cry if it could be fairly raised on the side of Masculinism.
Unfortunately, however, the masculine figures scarcely seem eager to put
on the armour of Masculinism. They are far too sensitive to the charm of
Womanhood ever to rank themselves actively in any anti-feministic party.
At the most they remain neutral.

Thus it is that the new movement cannot yet be regarded as organised.
There is, however, a temptation for those among us who have all their
lives been working in the cause of Feminism to belittle the future
possibilities of Masculinism. There can be no doubt that all civilisation
is now, and always has been to some extent, on the side of Feminism.
Wherever a great development of civilisation has occurred--whether in
ancient Egypt, or in later Rome, or in eighteenth-century France--there
the influence of woman has prevailed, while laws and social institutions
have taken on a character favourable to women. The whole current of
civilisation tends to deprive men of the privileges which belong to brute
force, and to confer on them the qualities which in ruder societies are
especially associated with women. Whenever, as in the present great
European War, brute force becomes temporarily predominant, the causes
associated with Feminism are roughly pushed into the background. It is,
indeed, the War which gives a new actuality to this question. War has
always been regarded as the special and peculiar province of Man, indeed,
the sacred refuge of the masculine spirit and the ultimate appeal in
human affairs. That is not the view of Feminism, nor yet the standpoint
of Eugenics. Yet, to-day, in spite of all our homage to Feminism and
Eugenics, we witness the greatest war of the world. It is an instructive
spectacle from our present point of view. We realise, for one thing, how
futile it is for Feminism to adopt the garb of masculine militancy. The
militancy of the Suffragettes, which looked so brave and imposing in
times of peace, disappeared like child's play at the first touch of real
militancy. That was patriotic of the Suffragettes, no doubt; but it was
also a necessary measure of self-preservation, for non-combatants who
carry bombs about in time of war, when armed sentries are swarming
everywhere, are not likely to have much time for hunger-striking.

We witness another feature of war which has a bearing on Eugenics. It is
sometimes said that war is necessary for the preservation of heroic and
virile qualities which, without war and the cultivation of military
ideals, would be lost to the race, and that so the race would degenerate.
To-day France, which is the chief seat of anti-Militarism, and Belgium, a
land of peaceful industrialism which had no military service until a few
years ago, and England, which has always been content to possess a
contemptible little army, and Russia whose popular ideals are humane and
mystical, have sent to the front swarms of professional men and clerks
and artisans and peasants who had never occupied themselves with war at
all. Yet these men have proved as heroic and even as skilful in the game
of war as the men of Germany, where war is idolised and where the
practice of military virtues and military exercises is regarded as the
highest function alike of the individual and of the State. We see that we
need not any longer worry over the possible extinction of these heroic
qualities. What we may more profitably worry over is the question whether
there is not some higher and nobler way of employing them than in the
destruction of the finest fruits of civilisation and the slaughter of
those very stocks on which Eugenics mainly relies for its materials.

We can also realise to-day that war is not only an opportunity for the
exercise of virtues. It is also an opportunity for the exercise of vices.
"War is Hell" said Sherman, and that is the opinion of most great
reflective soldiers. We see that there is nothing too brutal, too cruel,
too cowardly, too mean, and too filthy for some, at all events, of modern
civilised troops to commit, whether by, or against, the orders of their
officers. In France, a few months before the present War, I found myself
in a railway train at Laon with two or three soldiers; a young woman came
to the carriage door, but, seeing the soldiers, she passed on; they were
decent, well-behaved men, and one of them remarked, with a smile, on the
suspicion which the military costume arouses in women. Perhaps, however,
it is a suspicion that is firmly based on ancient traditions. There is
the fatally seamy side of be-praised Militarism, and there Feminism has a
triumphant argument.

In this connection I may allude in passing to a little conflict between
Masculinism and Feminism which has lately taken place in Germany.
Germany, as we know, is the country where the claims of Masculinism are
most loudly asserted, and those of Feminism treated with most contempt.
It is the country where the ideals of men and of women are in sharpest
conflict. There has been a great outcry among men in Germany against the
"treachery" and "unworthiness" of German women in bestowing chocolates
and flowers on the prisoners, as well as doing other little services for
them. The attitude towards prisoners approved by the men--one trusts it
is not to be regarded as a characteristic outcome of Masculinism--is that
of petty insults, of spiteful cruelty, and mean deprivations. Dr. Helene
Stöcker, a prominent leader of the more advanced band of German
Feminists, has lately published a protest against this treatment of
enemies who are helpless, unarmed, and often wounded--based, not on
sentiment, but on the highest and most rational grounds--which is an
honour to German women and to their Feminist leaders.[1]

Taken altogether, it seems probable that when this most stupendous of
wars is ended, it will be felt--not only from the side of Feminism, but
even of Masculinism,--that War is merely an eruption of ancient barbarism
which in its present virulent forms would not have been tolerated even by
savages. Such methods are hopelessly out of date in days when wars may be
engineered by a small clique of ambitious politicians and self-interested
capitalists, while whole nations fight, with or without enthusiasm,
merely because they have no choice in the matter. All the powers of
civilisation are working towards the elimination of wars. In the future,
it seems evident, militarism will not furnish the basis for the
masculinistic spirit. It must seek other supports.

That is what will probably happen. We must expect that the increasing
power of women and of the feminine influence will be met by a more
emphatic and a more rational assertion of the qualities of men and the
masculine spirit in life. It was unjust and unreasonable to subject women
to conditions that were primarily made by men and for men. It would be
equally unjust and unreasonable to expect men to confine their activities
within limits which are more and more becoming adjusted to feminine
preferences and feminine capacities. We are now learning to realise that
the _tertiary_ physical, and psychic sexual differences--those
distinctions which are only found on the average, but on the average are
constant[2]--are very profound and very subtle. A man is a man
throughout, a woman is a woman throughout, and that difference is
manifest in all the energies of body and soul. The modern doctrine of the
internal secretions--the hormones which are the intimate stimulants to
physical and psychic activity in the organism--makes clear to us one of
the deepest and most all-pervading sources of this difference between men
and women. The hormonic balance in men and women is unlike; the
generative ferments of the ductless glands work to different ends.[3]
Masculine qualities and feminine qualities are fundamentally and
eternally distinct and incommensurate. Energy, struggle, daring,
initiative, originality, and independence, even though sometimes combined
with rashness, extravagance, and defect, seem likely to remain qualities
in which men--_on the average_, it must be remembered--will be more
conspicuous than women. Their manifestation will resist the efforts put
forth to constrain them by the feminising influences of life.

Such considerations have a real bearing on the problem of Eugenics. As
I view that problem, it is first of all concerned, in part with the
acquisition of scientific knowledge concerning heredity and the
influences which affect heredity; in part with the establishment of sound
ideals of the types which the society of the future demands for its great
tasks; and in part--perhaps even in chief part--with the acquisition of a
sense of personal responsibility. Eugenic legislation is a secondary
matter which cannot come at the beginning. It cannot come before our
knowledge is firmly based and widely diffused; it cannot come until we
are clear as to the ideals which we wish to see embodied in human
character and human action; it cannot come until the sense of personal
responsibility towards the race is so widely spread throughout the
community that its absence is universally felt to be either a crime or a

I fear that point of view is not always accepted in England and still
less in America. It is widely held throughout the world that America is
not only the land of Feminism, but the land in which laws are passed on
every possible subject, and with considerable indifference as to whether
they are carried out, or even whether they could be carried out. This
tendency is certainly well illustrated by eugenic legislation in the
United States. In the single point of sterilisation for eugenic ends--and
I select a point which is admirable in itself and for which legislation
is perhaps desirable--at least twelve States have passed laws. Yet most
of these laws are a dead letter; every one of them is by the best experts
considered at some point unwise; and the remarkable fact remains that the
total number of eugenical sterilising operations performed in the States
_without any law at all_ is greater than the total of those performed
under the laws. So that the laws really seem to have themselves a
sterilising effect on a most useful eugenic operation.[4]

I refrain from mentioning the muddles and undesigned evils produced by
other legislation of a much less admirable nature.[5] But I may perhaps
be allowed to mention that it has seemed to some observers that there is
a connection between the Feminism of America and the American mania for
hasty laws which will not, and often cannot, be carried out in practice.
Certainly there is no reason to suppose that women are firmly
antagonistic to such legislation. Nice, pretty, virtuous little laws,
complete in every detail, seem to appeal irresistibly to the feminine
mind. (And, of course, many men have feminine minds.) It is true that
such laws are only meant for show. But then women are so accustomed to
things that are only meant for show, and are well aware that if one
attempted to use such things they would fall to pieces at once.

However that may be, we shall probably find at last that we must fall
back on the ancient truth that no external regulation, however pretty and
plausible, will suffice to lead men and women to the goal of any higher
social end. We must realise that there can be no sure guide to fine
living save that which comes from within, and is supported by the firmly
cultivated sense of personal responsibility. Our prayer must still be the
simple, old-fashioned prayer of the Psalmist: "Create in me a clean
heart, O God"--and to Hell with your laws!

In other words, our aim must be to evolve a social order in which the
sense of freedom and the sense of responsibility are both carried to the
highest point, and that is impossible by the aid of measures which are
only beneficial for the children of Perdition. That there are such
beings, incapable alike either of freedom or of responsibility, we have
to recognise. It is our business to care for them--until with the help of
eugenics we can in some degree extinguish their stocks--in such refuges
and reformatories as may be found desirable. But it is not our business
to treat the whole world as a refuge and a reformatory. That is fatal to
human freedom and fatal to human responsibility. By all means provide the
halt and the lame with crutches. But do not insist that the sound and the
robust shall never stir abroad without crutches. The result will only be
that we shall all become more or less halt and lame.

It is only by such a method as this--by segregating the hopelessly feeble
members of society and by allowing the others to take all the risks of
their freedom and responsibility even though we strongly disapprove--that
we can look for the coming of a better world. It is only by such a method
as this that we can afford to give scope to all those varying and
ever-contradictory activities which go to the making of any world worth
living in. For Conflict, even the conflict of ideals, is a part of all
vital progress, and each party to the conflict needs free play if that
conflict is to yield us any profit. That is why Masculinists have no
right to impede the play of Feminism, and Feminists no right to impede
the play of Masculinism. The fundamental qualities of Man, equally with
the fundamental qualities of Woman, are for ever needed in any harmonious
civilisation. There is a place for Masculinism as well as a place for
Feminism. From the highest standpoint there is not really any conflict at
all. They alike serve the large cause of Humanity, which equally includes
them both.

[1] "Würdelose Weiber," _Die Neue Generation_, Aug.-Sept., 1914.

[2] Havelock Ellis, _Man and Woman_, fifth ed., 1914, p. 21.

[3] The conception of sexuality as dependent on the combined operation of
various internal ductless glands, and not on the sexual glands proper
alone, has been especially worked out by Professor W. Blair Bell, _The
Sex Complex_, 1916.

[4] H.H. Laughlin, _The Legal, Legislative, and Administrative Aspects of
Sterilisation_, Eugenics Record Office Bulletin, No. 1, OB, 1914.

[5] I have discussed these already in a chapter of my book, _The Task of
Social Hygiene_.



The Great War, which has changed so many things, has nowhere effected
a greater change than in the sphere of women's activities. In all the
belligerent countries women have been called upon to undertake work
which they had never been offered before. Europe has thus become a great
experimental laboratory for testing the aptitudes of women. The results
of these tests, as they are slowly realised, cannot fail to have
permanent effects on the sexual division of labour. It is still too early
to speak confidently as to what those effects will be. But we may be
certain that, whatever they are, they can only spring from deep-lying
natural distinctions.

The differences between the minds of men and the minds of women are,
indeed, presented to all of us every day. It should, therefore, we
might imagine, be one of the easiest of tasks to ascertain what they
are. And yet there are few matters on which such contradictory and often
extravagant opinions are maintained. For many people the question has not
arisen; there are no mental differences, they seem to take for granted,
between men and women. For others the mental superiority of man at every
point is an unquestionable article of faith, though they may not always
go so far as to agree with the German doctor, Mobius, who boldly wrote a
book on "The Physiological Weak-mindedness of Women." For others, again,
the predominance of men is an accident, due to the influences of brute
force; let the intelligence of women have freer play and the world
generally will be straightened out.

In these conflicting attitudes we may trace not only the confidence we
are all apt to feel in our intimate knowledge of a familiar subject we
have never studied, but also the inevitable influence of sexual bias. Of
such bias there is more than one kind. There is the egoistic bias by
which we are led to regard our own sex as naturally better than any other
could be, and there is the altruistic bias by which we are led to find a
charming and mysterious superiority in the opposite sex. These different
kinds of sexual bias act with varying force in particular cases; it is
usually necessary to allow for them.

Notwithstanding the fantastic divergencies of opinion on this matter, it
seems not impossible to place the question on a fairly sound and rational
base. In so complex a question there must always be room for some
variations of individual opinion, for no two persons can approach the
consideration of it with quite the same prepossessions, or with quite the
same experience.

At the outset there is one great fundamental fact always to be borne
in mind: the difference of the sexes in physical organisation. That we
may term the _biological_ factor in determining the sexual mental
differences. A strong body does not involve a strong brain nor a weak
body a weak brain; but there is still an intimate connection between the
organisation of the body generally and the organisation of the brain,
which may be regarded as an executive assemblage of delegates from all
parts of the body. Fundamental differences in the organisation of the
body cannot fail to involve differences in the nervous system generally,
and especially in that supreme collection of nervous ganglia which we
term the brain. In this way the special adaptation of woman's body to the
exercise of maternity, with the presence of special organs and glands
subservient to that object, and without any important equivalents in
man's body, cannot fail to affect the brain. We now know that the
organism is largely under the control of a number of internal secretions
or hormones, which work together harmoniously in normal persons,
influencing body and mind, but are liable to disturbance, and are
differently balanced and with a different action in the two sexes.[1] It
is not, we must remember, by any means altogether the exercise of the
maternal function which causes the difference; the organs and aptitudes
are equally present even if the function is not exercised, so that a
woman cannot make herself a man by refraining from childbearing.

In another way this biological factor makes itself felt, and that is in
the differences in the muscular systems of men and women. These we must
also consider fundamental. Although the extreme muscular weakness of
average civilised women as compared to civilised men is certainly
artificial and easily possible to remove by training, yet even in
savages, among whom the women do most of the muscular work, they seldom
equal or exceed the men in strength; any superiority, when it exists,
being mainly shown in such passive forms of exertion as bearing burdens.
In civilisation, even under the influence of careful athletic training,
women are unable to compete muscularly with men; and it is a significant
fact that on the variety stage there are very few "strong women." It
would seem that the difficulty in developing great muscular strength in
women is connected with the special adaptation of woman's form and
organisation to the maternal function. But whatever the cause may be, the
resulting difference is one which has a very real bearing on the mental
distinctions of men and women. It is well ascertained that what we call
"mental" fatigue expresses itself physiologically in the same bodily
manifestation as muscular fatigue. The avocations which we commonly
consider mental are at the same time muscular; and even the sensory
organs, like the eye, are largely muscular. It is commonly found in
various great business departments where men and women may be said to
work more or less side by side that the work of women is less valuable,
largely because they are not able to bear additional strain; under
pressure of extra work they give in before men do. It is noteworthy that
the claims for sick benefit made by women under the National Insurance
System in England have proved much greater (even three times greater)
than the actuaries anticipated beforehand; while the Sick Insurance
Societies of Germany, France, Austria, and Switzerland also report that
women are ill oftener and for longer periods than men. Largely, no doubt,
that is due to the special strain and the rigid monotony of our modern
industrial system, but not entirely. Nearly two hundred years ago (in
1729) Swift wrote of women to Bolingbroke: "I protest I never knew a very
deserving person of that sex who had not too much reason to complain of
ill-health." The regulations of the world have been mainly made by men on
the instinctive basis of their own needs, and until women have a large
part in making them on the basis of their needs, women are not likely to
be so healthy as men.

This by no means necessarily implies any mental inferiority; it is much
more the result of muscular inferiority. Even in the arts muscular
qualities count for much and are often essential, since a solid muscular
system is needed even for very delicate actions; the arts of design
demand muscular qualities; to play the violin is a muscular strain, and
only a robust woman can become a famous singer.

The greater precocity of girls is another aspect of the biological factor
in sexual mental differences. It is a psychic as well as a physical fact.
This has been shown conclusively by careful investigation in many parts
of the civilised world and notably in America, where the school system
renders such sexual comparison easy and reliable at all ages. There can
now be no doubt that a girl at, let us say, the age of fourteen is on the
average taller and heavier than a boy at the same age, though the degrees
of this difference and the precise age at which it occurs vary with the
individual and the race. Corresponding to this is a mental difference; in
many branches of study, though not all, the girl of fourteen is superior
to the boy, quicker, more intelligent, gifted with a better memory.
Precocity, however, is a quality of dubious virtue. It is frequently
found, indeed, in men of the highest genius; but, on the other hand, it
is found among animals and among savages, and is here of no good augury.
Many observers of the lower races have noted how the child is highly
intelligent and well disposed, but seems to degenerate as he grows older;
In the comparison of girls and boys, both as regards physical and mental
qualities, it is constantly found that while the girls hold their own,
and in many respects more than hold their own, with boys up to the age of
fifteen or sixteen, after that the girls remain almost or quite
stationary, while in the boys the curve of progress is continued without
interruption. Some people have argued, hypothetically, that the greater
precocity of girls is an artificial product of civilisation, due to the
confined life of girls, produced, as it were, by the artificial
overheating of the system in the hothouse of the home. This is a mistake.
The same precocity of girls appears to exist even among the uncivilised,
and independently of the special circumstances of life. It is even found
among animals also, and is said to be notably obvious in giraffes. It
will hardly be argued that the female giraffe leads a more confined and
domestic life than her brother.

Yet another aspect of the biological factor is to be found in the bearing
of heredity on this question. To judge by the statements that one
sometimes sees, men and women might be two distinct species, separately
propagated. The conviction of some men that women are not fitted to
exercise various social and political duties, and the conviction of some
women that men are a morally inferior sex, are both alike absurd, for
they both rest on the assumption that women do not inherit from their
fathers, nor men from their mothers. Nothing is more certain than
that--when, of course, we put aside the sexual characters and the special
qualities associated with those characters--men and women, on the
average, inherit equally from both of their parents, allowing for the
fact that that heredity is controlled and modified by the special
organisation of each sex. There are, indeed, various laws of heredity
which qualify this statement, and notably the tendency whereby extremes
of variation are more common in the male sex--so that genius and idiocy
are alike more prevalent in men. But, on the whole, there can be no doubt
that the qualities of a man or of a woman are a more or less varied
mixture of those of both parents; and, even when there is no blending,
both parents are almost equally likely to be influential in heredity. The
good qualities of the one parent will therefore benefit the child of the
opposite sex, and the bad qualities will equally be transmitted to the
offspring of opposite sex.

There is another element in the settlement of this question which may
also be fairly called objective, and that is the _historical_ factor. We
are prone to believe that the particular status of the sexes that
prevails among ourselves corresponds to a universal and unchangeable
order of things. In reality this is far from being the case. It may,
indeed, be truly said that there is no kind of social position, no sort
of avocation, public or domestic, among ourselves exclusively
appertaining to one sex, which has not at some time or in some part of
the world belonged to the opposite sex, and with the most excellent
results. We regard it as alone right and proper for a man to take the
initiative in courtship, yet among the Papuans of New Guinea a man would
think it indecorous and ridiculous to court a girl; it was the girl's
privilege to take the initiative in this matter, and she exercised it
with delicacy and skill and the best moral results, until the shocked
missionaries upset the native system and unintentionally introduced
looser ways. There is, again, no implement which we regard as so
peculiarly and exclusively feminine as the needle. Yet in some parts of
Africa a woman never touches a needle; that is man's work, and a wife who
can show a neglected rent in her petticoat is even considered to have a
fair claim for a divorce. Innumerable similar examples appear when we
consider the human species in time and space. The historical aspect of
this matter may thus be said in some degree to counterbalance the
biological aspect. If the fundamental constitution of the sexes renders
their mental characters necessarily different, the difference is still
not so pronounced as to prevent one sex sometimes playing effectively the
parts which are generally played by the other sex.

It is not necessary to go outside the white European race to find
evidences of the reality of this historical factor of the question before
us. It would appear that at the dawn of European civilisation women were
taking a leading part in the evolution of human progress. Various
survivals which are enshrined in the myths and legends of classic
antiquity show us the most ancient deities as goddesses; and, moreover,
we encounter the significant fact that at the origin nearly all the arts
and industries were presided over by female, not by male, deities. In
Greece, as well as in Asia Minor, India, and Egypt, as Paul Lafargue has
pointed out, woman seems to have taken divine rank before men; all the
first inventions of the more useful arts and crafts, except in metals,
are ascribed to goddesses; the Muses presided over poetry and music long
before Apollo; Isis was "the lady of bread," and Demeter taught men to
sow barley and corn instead of eating each other. Thus even among our own
forefathers we may catch a glimpse of a state of things which, as various
anthropologists have shown (notably Otis Mason in his _Woman's Share in
Primitive Culture_), we may witness in the most widely separated parts of
the world. Thus among the Xosa Kaffirs, as well as other A-bantu stocks,
Fritsch states that "the man claims for himself war, hunting, occupation
with cattle; all household cares, even the building of the house, as well
as the cultivation of the ground, are woman's affair; hardly in the most
laborious work will a man lend a hand."[2] So that when to-day we see
women entering the most various avocations, that is not a dangerous
innovation, but perhaps merely a return to ancient and natural

It is not until specialisation becomes necessary and until men are
relieved from the constant burden of battle and the chase that the
frequent superiority of woman is lost. The modern industrial activities
are dangerous, when they are dangerous, not because the work is too
hard--for the work of primitive women is harder--but because it is an
unnaturally and artificially dreary and monotonous work which stifles the
mind, depresses the spirits, and injures the body, so that, it is said,
40 per cent. of married women who have been factory girls are treated for
pelvic disorders before they are thirty. It is the conditions of women's
work which need changing in order that they may become, like those of
primitive women, so various that they develop the mind and fortify the
body. This, however, is an evil which will be righted by the development
of the mechanical side of industry, for machines tend constantly to
become larger, heavier, speedier, more numerous and more automatic,
requiring fewer workers to tend them, and these more frequently men.[3]

It may be added that the early predominance of woman in the work of
civilisation is altogether independent of that conception of a primitive
matriarchate, or government of women, which was set forth some fifty
years ago by Bachofen, and has since caused so much controversy. Descent
in the female line, not uncommonly found among primitive peoples,
undoubtedly tended to place women in a position of great influence; but
it by no means necessarily involved any gynecocracy, or rule of women,
and such rule is merely a hypothesis which by some enthusiasts has been
carried to absurd lengths.

We see, therefore, that when we are approaching the question of the
mental differences of the sexes among ourselves to-day, it is not
impossible to find certain guiding clues which will save us from running
into extravagance in either direction.

Without doubt the only way in which we can obtain a satisfactory answer
to the numerous problems which meet us when we approach the question is
by experiment. I have, indeed, insisted on the importance of these
preliminary biological and historical considerations mainly because they
indicate with what safety and freedom from risk we may trust to
experiment. The sexes are far too securely poised by organic constitution
and ancient tradition for any permanently injurious results to occur from
the attempt to attain a better social readjustment in this matter. When
the experiment fails, individuals may to some extent suffer, but social
equilibrium swiftly and automatically rights itself. Practically,
however, nearly every social experiment of this kind means that certain
restrictions limiting the duties or privileges of women are removed, and
when artificial coercions are thus taken away it can merely happen, as
Mary Wollstonecraft long ago put it, that by the common law of gravity
the sexes fall into their proper places. That, we may be sure, will be
the final result of the interesting experiments for which the laboratory
to-day is furnished by all the belligerent countries.

Definitely formulated statistical data of these results are scarcely yet
available. But we may study the action of this natural process on one
great practical experiment in mental sexual differences which has been
going on for some time past. At one time in the various administrations
of the International Postal Union there was a sudden resolve to introduce
female labour to a very large extent; it was thought that this would be
cheaper than male labour and equally efficient. There was consequently a
great outcry at the ousting of male labour, the introduction of the thin
end of a wedge which would break up society. We can now see that that
outcry was foolish. Within recent years nearly all the countries which
previously introduced women freely into their postal and telegraph
services are now doing so only under certain conditions, and some are
ceasing to admit them at all. This great practical experiment, carried
out on an immense scale in thirty-five different countries, has, on the
whole, shown that while women are not inferior to men, at all events
within the ordinary range of work, the substitution of a female for a
male staff always means a considerable increase of numbers, that women
are less rapid than men, less able to undertake the higher grade work,
less able to exert authority over others, more lacking both in initiative
and in endurance, while they require more sick leave and lose interest
and energy on marriage. The advantages of female labour are thus to some
extent neutralised, and in the opinions of the administrations of some
countries more than neutralised, by certain disadvantages. The general
result is that men are found more fitted for some branches of work and
women more fitted for other branches; the result is compensation without
any tendency for one sex to oust the other.

It may, indeed, be objected that in practical life no perfectly
satisfactory experiments exist as to the respective mental qualities of
men and women, since men and women are never found working under
conditions that are exactly the same for both sexes. If, however, we turn
to the psychological laboratory, where it is possible to carry on
experiments under precisely identical conditions, the results are still
the same. There are nearly always differences between men and women, but
these differences are complex and manifold; they do not always agree;
they never show any general piling up of the advantages on the side of
one sex or of the other. In reaction-time, in delicacy of sensory
perception, in accuracy of estimation and precision of movement, there
are nearly always sexual differences, a few that are fairly constant,
many that differ at different ages, in various countries, or even in
different groups of individuals. We cannot usually explain these
differences or attach any precise significance to them, any more than we
can say why it is that (at all events in America) blue is most often the
favourite colour of men and red of women. We may be sure that these
things have a meaning, and often a really fundamental significance, but
at present, for the most part, they remain mysterious to us.

When we attempt to survey and sum up all the variegated facts which
science and practical life are slowly accumulating with reference to the
mental differences between men and women[4] we reach two main
conclusions. On the one hand there is a fundamental equality of the
sexes. It would certainly appear that women vary within a narrower range
than men--that is to say, that the two extremes of genius and of idiocy
are both more likely to show themselves in men. This implies that the
pioneers in progress are most likely to be men. That, indeed, may be said
to be a biological fact. "In all that concerns the evolution of
ornamental characters the male leads; in him we see the trend which
evolution is taking; the female and young afford us the measure of their
advance along the new line which has to be taken."[5] In the human sphere
of the arts and sciences, similarly, men, not women, take the lead. That
men were the first decorative artists, rather than women, is indicated by
the fact that the natural objects designed by early pre-historic artists
were mainly women and wild beasts, that is to say, they were the work of
masculine hunters, executed in idle intervals of the chase. But within
the range in which nearly all of us move, there are always many men who
in mental respects can do what most women can do, many women who can do
what most men can do. We are not justified in excluding a whole sex
absolutely from any field. In so doing we should certainly be depriving
the world of some portion of its executive ability. The sexes may always
safely be left to find their own levels.

On the other hand, the mental diversity of men and women is equally
fundamental. It is rooted in organisation. The well-intentioned efforts
of many pioneers in women's movements to treat men and women as
identical, and, as it were, to force women into masculine moulds, were
both mischievous and useless. Women will always be different from men,
mentally as well as physically. It is well for both sexes that it should
be so. It is owing to these differences that each sex can bring to the
world's work various aptitudes that the other lacks. It is owing to these
differences also that men and women have their undying charm for each
other. We cannot change them, and we need not wish to.

[1] See, for instance, Blair Bell's _The Sex Complex_, 1916, though
the deductions drawn in this book must not always be accepted without

[2] G. Fritsch, _Die Eingeborene Süd-Afrikas_, 1892, p. 79.

[3] 1 D.R. Malcolm Keir, "Women in Industry," _Popular Science Monthly_,
October, 1913.

[4] See, for many of the chief of these, Havelock Ellis, _Man and Woman_,
5th Edition, 1914.

[5] W.P. Pycraft, _The Courtship of Animal_, p. 9.



During recent years we have witnessed a remarkable attempt--more popular
and more international in character than any before--to deal with that
ancient sexual evil which has for some time been picturesquely described
as the White Slave Traffic. Less than forty years ago Professor Sheldon
Amos wrote that this subject can scarcely be touched upon by journalists,
and "can never form a topic of common conversation." Nowadays Churches,
societies, journalists, legislators have all joined the ranks of the
agitators. Not only has there been no voice on the opposite side, which
was scarcely to be expected--for there has never been any anxiety to cry
aloud the defence of "White Slavery" from the house-tops--but there has
been a new and noteworthy conquest over indifference and over that sacred
silence which was supposed to encompass all sexual topics with suitable
darkness. The banishment of that silence in the cause of social hygiene
is, indeed, not the least significant feature of this agitation.

It is inevitable, however, that these periodical fits of virtuous
indignation by which Society is overtaken should speedily be spent. The
victim of the moral fever finds himself exhausted by the struggle,
scarcely able to cope with the complications of the disease, and, at the
best, only too anxious to forget what he has passed through. He has an
uneasy feeling that in the course of his delirium he has said and done
many foolish things which it would now be unpleasant to recall too

There is no use in attempting to disguise the fact that this is what
happened in the White Slave Traffic agitation. It became clear that we
had been largely misled in regard to the evils to be combated, and that
we were seduced into sanctioning various remedies for these evils which
in cold blood it is impossible to approve of, even if we could believe
them to be effective.

It is not even clear that all those who have talked about the "White
Slave Traffic" have been quite sure what they meant by the term. Some
people, indeed, have seemed to think that it meant prostitution in
general. That is, of course, an absurd misapprehension. We are
concerned with a trade which flourishes on prostitution, but that
trade is not itself the trade or (as some prefer to call it) the
profession of prostitutes. Indeed, the prostitute, under ordinary
conditions and unharassed by persecution, is in many respects anything
but a slave. She is much less a slave than the ordinary married woman.
She is not fettered in humble dependence on the will of a husband from
whom it is the most difficult thing in the world to escape; she is
bound to no man and free to make her own terms in life; while if she
should have a child, that child is absolutely her own, and she is not
liable to have it torn from her arms by the hands of the law. Apart
from arbitrary and accidental circumstances, due to the condition of
social feeling, the prostitute enjoys a position of independence which
the married woman is still struggling to obtain.

The White Slave Traffic, therefore, is not prostitution; it is the
_commercialised exploitation of prostitutes_. The independent
prostitute, living alone, scarcely lends herself to the White Slave
trader. It is on houses of prostitution, where the less independent and
usually weaker-minded prostitutes are segregated, that the traffic is
based. Such houses cannot even exist without such traffic. There is
little inducement for a girl to enter such a house, in full knowledge
of what it involves, on her own initiative. The proprietors of such
houses must therefore give orders for the "goods" they desire, and it
is the business of procurers, by persuasion, misrepresentation, deceit,
intoxication, to supply them. "The White Slave Traffic," as Kneeland
states, "is thus not only a hideous reality, but a reality almost
wholly dependent on the existence of houses of prostitution," and as
the authors of _The Social Evil_ state, it is "the most shameful
species of business enterprise in modern times."[1]

In this intimate dependence of the White Slave Traffic on houses of
prostitution, there lies, it may be pointed out, a hope for the future.
We are concerned, for the most part, with the more coarse-grained part
of the masculine population and with the more ignorant, degraded, and
weak-minded part of the army of prostitutes. Although much has been said
of the enormous extension of the White Slave Traffic during recent
years, it is important to remember that that extension is chiefly marked
in connection with the great new centres of population in the younger
countries. It is fostered by the conditions prevailing in crude,
youthful, prosperous, but incompletely blended, communities, which have
too swiftly attained luxury, but have not yet attained the more humane
and refined developments of civilisation, and among whom women are often
scarce.[2] Although there are not yet any very clear signs of the decay
of prostitution in civilisation, there can hardly be a doubt that
civilisation is unfavourable to houses of prostitution. They offer no
inducements to the more intelligent and independent prostitutes, and
their inmates usually present little attraction to any men save those
whose demands are of the humblest character. There is, therefore, a
tendency to the natural and spontaneous decay of organised houses of
prostitution under modern civilised conditions; the prostitute and her
clients alike shun such houses. Along this line we may foresee the
disappearance of the White Slave Traffic, apart altogether from any
social or legal attempts at its direct suppression.[3]

It is sometimes said that the relation of the isolated prostitute to her
_souteneur_ constitutes a form of "white slavery." Undoubtedly that may
sometimes be the case. We are here in a confused field where the facts
are complicated by a number of considerations, and where circumstances
may very widely differ, for the "fancy boy"--selected from affection by
the prostitute herself--may easily become the _souteneur_, or "cadet" as
he is termed in New York, who seduces and trains to prostitution a large
number of girls. The prostitute is so often a little weak in character
and a little defective in intelligence; she is so often regarded as a
legitimate prey by the world in which she moves, and a legitimate object
of contempt and oppression by the social world above her and its legal
officers, that she easily becomes abjectly dependent on the man who in
some degree protects her from this extortion, contempt, and oppression,
even though he sometimes trains her to his own ends and exploits her
professional activities for his own advantage. These circumstances so
often occur that some investigators consider that they represent the
general rule. No doubt they are the most conspicuous cases. But they can
scarcely be regarded as representing the normal relations of the
prostitute to the man she is attracted to. She is earning her own
living, and if she possesses a little modicum of character and
intelligence, she knows that she can choose her own lover and dismiss
him when she so pleases. He may beat her occasionally, but all over the
world this is not always displeasing to the primitively feminine woman.
"It is indeed true," as Kneeland remarks, "that many prostitutes do not
believe their lovers care for them unless they 'beat them up'
occasionally." The woman in this position is not more of a "white slave"
than many wives, and some husbands, who submit to the whims and
tyrannies of their conjugal partners, with, indeed, the additional
hardship and misfortune that they are legally bound to them. And the
_souteneur_, although from the respectable point of view he has put
himself into a low-down moral position, is, after all, not so very
unlike those parasitic wives who, on a higher social level, live lazily
on their husbands' professional earnings, and sometimes give much less
than the _souteneur_ in return.

When, however, we put aside the complicated question of the prostitute's
relationship to the man who is her lover, protector, and "bully," we
have to recognise that there really is a "White Slave Traffic," carried
on in a ruthlessly business-like manner and on an international scale,
with watchful agents, men and women, ever ready to detect and lure the
victims. But even this too amply demonstrated fact was not found
sufficiently highly spiced by the White Slave Traffic agitators. It was
necessary to excite the public mind by sensational incidents. Everyone
was told stories, as of incidents that had lately occurred in the next
street, of innocent, refined, and well-bred girls who were snatched away
by infamous brigands beneath the eyes of their friends, to be immured in
dungeons of vice and never more heard of. Such incidents, if they ever
occurred, would be too bizarre to be justifiably taken into account in
great social movements. But it is even doubtful whether they ever occur.
The White Slave traders are not heroes of romance, even of infamous
romance; less so, indeed, than many more ordinary criminals; they are
engaged in a very definite and very profitable business. They have no
need to run serious risks. The world is full of girls who are
over-worked, ill-paid, ignorant, weak, vain, greedy, lazy, or even only
afflicted with a little innocent love of adventure, and it is among
these that White Slave traders may easily find what their business
demands, while experience enables them to detect the most likely

Careful inquiry, even among those who have made it their special
business to collect all the evidence that can be brought together to
prove the infamous character of the White Slave Traffic, has apparently
failed to furnish any reliable evidence of these sensational stories. It
is easy to find prostitutes who are often dissatisfied with the life (in
what occupation is it not easy?), but it is not easy to find prostitutes
who cannot escape from that life when they sufficiently wish to do so,
and are willing to face the difficulty of finding some other occupation.
The very fact that the whole object of their exploitation is to bring
them in contact with men belonging to the outside world is itself a
guarantee that they are kept in touch with that world. Mrs.
Billington-Grieg, a well-known pioneer in social movements, has
carefully investigated the alleged cases of forcible abduction which
were so freely talked about when the White Slave Bill was passed into
law in England, but even the Vigilance Societies actively engaged in
advocating the bill could not enable her to discover a single case in
which a girl had been entrapped against her will.[4] No other result
could reasonably have been expected. When so many girls are willing, and
even eager, to be persuaded, there is little need for the risky
adventure of capturing the unwilling. The uneasy realisation of these
facts cannot fail to leave many honest Vice-Crusaders with unpleasant
memories of their past.

It is not only in regard to alleged facts, but also in regard to
proposed remedies, that the White Slave Agitation may properly be
criticised. In England it distinguished itself by the ferocity with
which the lash was advocated, and finally legalised. Benevolent bishops
joined with genteel old maids in calling loudly for whips, and even in
desiring to lay them personally on the backs of the offenders,
notwithstanding that these Crusaders were nominally Christians, the
followers of a Master who conspicuously reserved His indignation, not
for sinners and law-breakers, but for self-satisfied saints and
scrupulous law-keepers--just the same kind of excellent people, in
fact, who are most prone to become Vice-Crusaders. Here again, it is
probable, many unpleasant memories have been stored up.

It is well recognised by criminologists that the lash is both a
barbarous and an ineffective method of punishment. "The history of
flagellation," as Collas states in his great work on this subject, "is
the history of a moral bankruptcy."[5] The survival of barbarous
punishments from barbarous days, when ferocious punishments were a
matter of course and the death penalty was inflicted for horse-stealing
without in the least diminishing that offence, may be intelligible. But
the re-enactment of such measures in so-called civilised days is an
everlasting discredit to those who advocate it, and a disgrace to the
community which permits it. This was pointed out at the time by a large
body of social reformers, and will no doubt be realised at leisure by
the persons concerned in the agitation.

Apart altogether from its barbarity, the lash is peculiarly unsuited
for use in the White Slave trade, because it will never descend on the
back of the real trader. The whip has no terrors for those engaged in
illegitimate financial transactions, for in such transactions the
principal can always afford to arrange that it shall fall on a
subordinate who finds it worth while to run the risks. This method has
long been practised by those who exploit prostitution for profit. To
increase the risks merely means that the subordinate must be more
heavily paid. That means that the whole business must be carried on
more actively to cover the increased risks and expenses. It is a very
ancient fact that moral legislation increases the evil it is designed
to combat.[6]

It is necessary to point out some of the unhappy features of this
agitation, not in order to minimise the evils it was directed against,
nor to insinuate that they cannot be lessened, but as a warning against
the reaction which follows such ill-considered efforts. The fiery
zealot in a fury of blind rage strikes wildly at the evil he has just
discovered, and then flings down his weapon, glad to forget all about
his momentary rage and the errors it led him into. It is not so that
ancient evils are destroyed, evils, it must be remembered, that derive
their vitality in part from human nature and in part from the structure
of our society. By ensuring that our workers, and especially our women
workers, are decently paid, so that they can live comfortably on their
wages, we shall not indeed have abolished prostitution, which is more
than an economic phenomenon,[7] but we shall more effectually check the
White Slave trader than by the most draconic legislation the most
imaginative Vice-Crusader ever devised. And when we ensure that these
same workers have ample time and opportunity for free and joyous
recreation, we shall have done more to kill the fascination of the
White Slave Traffic than by endless police regulations for the moral
supervision of the young.

No doubt the element of human nature in the manifestations we are
concerned with will still be at work, an obscure instinct often acting
differently in each sex, but tending to drive both into the same risks.
Here we need even more fundamental social changes. It is sheer
foolishness to suppose that when we raise our little dams in the path of
a great stream of human impulse that stream will forthwith flow calmly
back to its source. We must make our new channels concurrently with our
dams. If we wish to influence prostitution we must re-make our marriage
laws and modify our whole conception of the sexual relationships. In the
meanwhile, we can at least begin to-day a task of education which must
slowly though surely undermine the White Slave trader's stronghold. Such
an education needs to be not merely instruction in the facts of sex and
wise guidance concerning all the dangers and risks of the sexual life;
it must also involve a training of the will, a development of the sense
of responsibility, such as can never be secured by shutting our young
people up in a hot-house, sheltered from every fortifying breath of the
outside world. Certainly there are many among us--and precisely the most
hopeless persons from our present point of view--who can never grow into
really responsible persons.[8] Neither should they ever have been born.
It is our business to see that they are not born; and that, if they are,
they are at least placed under due social guardianship, so that we may
not be tempted to make laws for society in general which are only needed
by this feeble and infirm folk. Thus it is that when we seek to deal
with the White Slave Trader and his victims and his patrons we have to
realise that they are all very much, as we have made them, moulded by
their parents before birth, nourished on their mothers' knees. The task
of making them over again next time, and making them better, is a
revolutionary task, but it begins at home, and there is no home in which
some part of the task cannot be carried out.

It is possible that at some period in the world's history, not only will
the White Slave Traffic disappear, but even prostitution itself, and it
is for us to work towards that day. But we may be quite sure that the
social state which sees the last of the "social evil" will be a social
state very unlike ours.

[1] The nature of prostitution and of the White Slave Traffic and their
relation to each other may clearly be studied in such valuable
first-hand investigations of the subject as _The Social Evil: With
Special Reference to Conditions Existing in the City of New York_, 2nd
edition, edited by E.R.A. Seligman, Putnam's, 1912; _Commercialised
Prostitution in New York City_, by G.J. Kneeland, New York Century Co.,
1913; _Prostitution in Europe_, by Abraham Flexner, New York Century
Co., 1914; _The Social Evil in Chicago_, by the Vice-Commission of
Chicago, 1911. As regards prostitution in England and its causes I
should like to call attention to an admirable little book, _Downward
Paths_, published by Bell & Sons, 1916. The literature of the subject
is, however, extensive, and a useful bibliography will be found in the
first-named volume.

[2] This is especially true of many regions in America, both North and
South, where a hideous mixture of disparate nationalities furnishes
conditions peculiarly favourable to the "White Slave Traffic," when
prosperity increases. See, for instance, the well-informed and temperately
written book by Miss Jane Addams, _A New Conscience and
an Ancient Evil_, 1912.

[3] See Havelock Ellis: _Sex in Relation to Society (Studies in the
Psychology of Sex)_, Vol. VI., Ch. VII.

[4] "The White Slave Traffic," _English Review_, June, 1913. It is just
just the same in America. Mr. Brand-Whitlock, when Mayor of Toledo,
thoroughly investigated a sensational story of this kind brought to him
in great detail by a social worker and found that it possessed not the
slightest basis of truth. "It was," he remarks in an able paper on "The
White Slave" (_Forum_, Feb., 1914), "simply another variant of the story
that had gone the rounds of the continents, a story which had been
somehow psychologically timed to meet the hysteria which the pulpit,
the Press, and the legislature had displayed."

[5] G.F. Collas, _Geschichte des Flagellantismus_, 1913, Vol. I., p. 16.

[6] I have brought together some of the evidence on this point in the
chapter on "Immorality and the Law" in my book, _The Task of Social

[7] The idea is cherished by many, especially among socialists, that
prostitution is mainly an economic question, and that to raise wages is
to dry up the stream of prostitution. That is certainly a fallacy,
unsupported by careful investigators, though all are agreed that the
economic condition of the wage-earner is one factor in the problem. Thus
Commissioner Adelaide Cox, at the head of the Women's Social Wing of the
Salvation Army, speaking from a very long and extensive acquaintance
with prostitutes, while not denying that women are often "wickedly
underpaid," finds that the cause of prostitution is "essentially a
moral one, and cannot be successfully fought by other than moral
weapons."--(_Westminster Gazette_, Dec. 2nd, 1912). In a yet wider
sense, it may be said that the question of the causes of prostitution
is essentially social.

[8] This is a very important clue indeed in dealing with the problem of
prostitution. "It is the weak-minded, unintelligent girl," Goddard
states in his valuable work on _Feeblemindedness_, "who makes the White
Slave Traffic possible." Dr. Hickson found that over 85 per cent. of
the women brought before the Morals Court in Chicago were distinctly
feeble-minded, and Dr. Olga Bridgeman states that among the girls
committed for sexual delinquency to the Training School of Geneva,
Illinois, 97 per cent. were feeble-minded by the Binet tests, and to be
regarded as "helpless victims." (Walter Clarke, _Social Hygiene_, June,
1915, and _Journal of Mental Science_, Jan., 1916, p. 222.) There are
fallacies in these figures, but it would appear that about half of the
prostitutes in institutions are to be regarded as mentally defective.



The final Report of the Royal Commission on Venereal Diseases has brought
to an end an important and laborious investigation at what many may
regard as an unfavourable moment. Perhaps, however, the moment is not so
unfavourable as it seems. There is no period when venereal diseases
flourish so exuberantly as in war time, and we shall have a sad harvest
to gather here when the War is over.[1] Moreover, the War is teaching us
to face the real facts of life more frankly and more courageously than
ever before, and there is no field, scarcely even a battlefield, where a
training in frankness and courage is so necessary as in this of Venereal
Disease. It is difficult even to say that there is any larger field, for
it has been found possible to doubt whether the great War of to-day, when
all is summed up, will have produced more death, disease, and misery than
is produced in the ordinary course of events, during a single generation,
by venereal disease.

There are, as every man and woman ought to know, two main and quite
distinct diseases (any other being unimportant) poetically termed
"Venereal" because chiefly, though not by any means only, propagated in
the intercourse over which the Roman goddess Venus once presided. These
two diseases are syphilis and gonorrhoea. Both these diseases are very
serious, often terrible, in their effects on the individual attacked,
and both liable to be poisonous to the race. There has long been a
popular notion that, while syphilis is indeed an awful disease,
gonorrhoea may be accepted with a light heart. That, we now know, is a
grave mistake. Gonorrhoea may seem trivial at the outset, but its
results, especially for a woman and her children (when it allows her to
have any), are anything but trivial; while its greater frequency, and
the indifference with which it is regarded, still further increase its

About the serious nature of syphilis there is no doubt. It is a
comparatively modern disease, not clearly known in Europe before the
discovery of America at the end of the fifteenth century, and by some
authorities[2] to-day supposed to have been imported from America. But
it soon ravaged the whole of our world, and has continued to do so ever
since. During recent years it has perhaps shown a slight tendency to
decrease, though nothing to what could be achieved by systematic
methods; but its evils are still sufficiently alarming. Exactly how
common it is cannot be ascertained with certainty. At least 10 per
cent., probably more, of the population in our large cities have been
infected by syphilis, some before birth. In 1912 for an average strength
of 120,000 men in the English Navy, nearly 300,000 days were lost as a
result of venereal disease, while among 100,000 soldiers in the Home
Army for the same year, an average of nearly 600 men were constantly
sick from the same cause. We may estimate from this small example how
vast must be the total loss of working power due to venereal disease.
Moreover, in Sir William Osler's words, "of the killing diseases
syphilis comes third or fourth." Its prevalence varies in different
regions and different social classes. The mortality rate from syphilis
for males above fifteen is highest for unskilled labour, then for the
group intermediate between unskilled and skilled labour, then for the
upper and middle class, followed by the group intermediate between this
class and skilled labour, while skilled labour, textile workers, and
miners follow, and agricultural labourers come out most favourably of
all. These differences do not represent any ascending grade in virtue or
sexual abstinence, but are dependent upon differences in social
condition; thus syphilis is comparatively rare among agricultural
labourers because they associate only with women they know and are not
exposed to the temptation of strange women, while it is high among the
upper class because they are shut out from sexual intimacy with women of
their own class and so resort to prostitutes. On the whole, however, it
will be seen, the poison of syphilis is fairly diffused among all
classes. This poison may work through many years or even the whole of
life, and its early manifestations are the least important. It may begin
before birth: thus, one recent investigation shows that in 150
syphilitic families there were only 390 seemingly healthy children to
401 infant deaths, stillbirths, and miscarriages (as against 172 in 180
healthy families), the great majority of these failures being infant
deaths and thus representing a large amount of wasted energy and
expense.[3] Syphilis is, again, the most serious single cause of the
most severe forms of brain disease and insanity, this often coming on
many years after the infection, and when the early symptoms were but
slight. Blindness and deafness from the beginning of life are in a large
proportion of cases due to syphilis. There is, indeed, no organ of the
body which is not liable to break down, often with fatal results,
through syphilis, so that it has been well said that a doctor who knows
syphilis thoroughly is familiar with every branch of his profession.

Gonorrhoea is a still commoner disease than syphilis; how common it is
very difficult to say. It is also an older disease, for the ancient
Egyptians knew it, and the Biblical King Esarhaddon of Assyria, as the
records of his court show, once caught it. It seems to some people no
more serious than a common cold, yet it is able to inflict much
prolonged misery on its victims, while on the race its influence in the
long run is even more deadly than that of syphilis, for gonorrhoea is
the chief cause of sterility in women, that is to say, in from 30 to 50
per cent. of such cases, while of cases of sterility in men (which form
a quarter to a third of the whole) gonorrhoea is the cause in from 70 to
90 per cent. The inflammation of the eyes of the new-born leading to
blindness is also in 70 per cent. cases due to gonorrhoea in the mother,
and this occurs in over six per 1,000 births.

Three years ago a Royal Commission was appointed to investigate the best
methods of controlling venereal disease, as small-pox, typhus, and to a
large extent typhoid, have already been controlled. The Commission was
well composed, not merely of officials and doctors, but of experienced
men and women in various fields, and the final Report is signed by all
the members, any difference of opinion being confined to minor points
(which it is unnecessary to touch on here) and to two members only. The
recommendations are conceived in the most practical and broad-minded
spirit. They are neither faddy nor goody-goody. Some indeed may wish that
they had gone further. The Commission leave over for later consideration
the question of notifying venereal disease as other infectious diseases
are notified, and there is no recommendation for the provision of
preventive methods against infection for use before intercourse, such as
are officially favoured in Germany. But at both these points the
Commissioners have been wise, for they are points to which sections of
public opinion are still strongly hostile.[4] As they stand, the
recommendations should carry conviction to all serious and reasonable
persons. Already, indeed, the Government, without opposition, has
expressed its willingness to undertake the financial burden which the
Commission would impose on it.

The main Recommendations made by the Commission, if we put aside the
suggestions for obtaining a more exact statistical knowledge, may be
placed under the heads of Treatment and Prevention. As regards the
first, it is insisted that measures should be taken to render the best
modern treatment, which should be free to all, readily available for
the whole community, in such a way that those affected will have no
hesitation in taking advantage of the facilities thus offered. The
means of treatment should be organised by County Councils and Boroughs,
under the Local Government Board, which should have power to make
independent arrangements when the local authorities fail in their
duties. Institutional treatment should be provided at all general
hospitals, special arrangements made for the treatment of out-patients
in the evenings, and no objection offered to patients seeking treatment
outside their own neighbourhoods. The expenditure should be assisted by
grants from Imperial Funds to the extent of 75 per cent. It may be
added that, however heavy such expenditure may be, an economy can
scarcely fail to be effected. The financial cost of venereal disease
to-day is so vast as to be beyond calculation. It enters into every
field of life. It is enough merely to consider the significant little
fact that the cost of educating a deaf child is ten times as great as
that of educating an ordinary child.

Under the head of Prevention we may place such a suggestion as that the
existence of infective venereal disease should constitute legal
incapacity for marriage, even when unknown, and be a sufficient cause
for annulling the marriage at the discretion of the court. But by far
the chief importance under this head is assigned by the Commission to
education and instruction. We see here the vindication of those who for
years have been teaching that the first essential in dealing with
venereal disease is popular enlightenment. There must be more careful
instruction--"through all types and grades of education"--on the sexual
relations in regard to conduct, while further instruction should be
provided in evening continuation schools, as well as factories and
works, with the aid of properly constituted voluntary associations.

These are sound and practical recommendations which, as the Government
has realised, can be put in action at once. A few years ago any attempt
to control venereal disease was considered by many to be almost impious.
Such disease was held to be the just visitation of God upon sin and to
interfere would be wicked. We know better now. A large proportion of
those who are most severely struck by venereal disease are new-born
children and trustful wives, while a simple kiss or the use of towels and
cups in common has constantly served to spread venereal disease in a
family. Even when we turn to the commonest method of infection, we have
still to remember that we are dealing largely with inexperienced youths,
with loving and trustful girls, who have yielded to the deepest and most
volcanic impulse of their natures, and have not yet learnt that that
impulse is a thing to be held sacred for their own sakes and the sake of
the race. In so far as there is sin, it is sin which must be shared by
those who have failed to train and enlighten the young. A Pharisaic
attitude is not only highly mischievous in its results, but is here
altogether out of place. Much harm has been done in the past by the
action of Benefit Societies in withholding recognition and treatment from
venereal disease.

It is evident that this thought was at the back of the minds of those
who framed these wise recommendations. We cannot expect to do away all
at once with the feeling that venereal disease is "shameful." It may
not even be desirable. But we can at least make clear that, in so far
as there is any shame, it must be a question between the individual and
his own conscience. From the point of view of science, syphilis and
gonorrhoea are just diseases, like cancer and consumption, the only
diseases with which they can be compared in the magnitude and extent of
their results, and therefore it is best to speak of them by their
scientific names, instead of trying to invent vague and awkward
circumlocutions. From the point of view of society, any attitude of
shame is unfortunate, because it is absolutely essential that these
diseases should be met in the open and grappled with methodically and
thoroughly. Otherwise, as the Commission recognises, the sufferer is
apt to become the prey of ignorant quacks whose inefficient treatment
is largely responsible for the development of the latest and worst
afflictions these diseases produce when not effectually nipped in the
bud. That they can be thus cut short--far more easily than consumption,
to say nothing of cancer--is the fact which makes it possible to hope
for a conquest over venereal disease. It is a conquest that would make
the whole world more beautiful and deliver love from its ugliest
shadow. But the victory cannot be won by science alone, not even in
alliance with officialdom. It can only be won through the enlightened
co-operation of the whole nation.

[1] The increase of venereal disease during the Great War has been
noted alike in Germany, France, and England. Thus, as regards France,
Gaucher has stated at the Paris Academy of Medicine (_Journal de
Medicine_, May 10th, 1916) that since mobilisation syphilis had
increased by nearly one half, alike among soldiers and civilians; it
had much increased in quite young people and in elderly men. In
Germany, Neisser, a leading authority, states (_Deutsche Medizinische
Wochenschrift_, 14th Jan., 1915) that the prevalence of venereal
disease is much greater than in the war of 1870, and that "every day
many thousands, not to say tens of thousands, of otherwise able-bodied
men are withdrawn from the service on this account."

[2] The chief is Iwan Bloch who, in his elaborate work, _Der Ursprung
der Syphilis_ (2 vols., 1901, 1911), has fully investigated the evidence.

[3] N. Bishop Harman, "The Influence of Syphilis on the Chances of
Progeny," _British Medical Journal_, Feb. 5th, 1916.

[4] It is true that in my book, _Sex in Relation to Society_ (Ch. VIII.)
I have stated my belief that notification, as in the case of other
serious infectious diseases, is the first step in the conquest of
venereal disease. I still think it ought to be so. But a yet more
preliminary step is popular enlightenment as to the need for such
notification. The recommendations seem to me to go as far as it is
possible to go at the moment in English-speaking countries without
producing friction and opposition. In so far as they are carried out
the recommendations will ensure the necessary popular enlightenment.



It was inevitable that we should some day have to face the problem of
medical reorganisation on a social basis. Along many lines social
progress has led to the initiation of movements for the improvement
of public health. But they are still incomplete and imperfectly
co-ordinated. We have never realised that the great questions of health
cannot safely be left to municipal tinkering and the patronage of
Bumbledom. The result is chaos and a terrible waste, not only of what
we call "hard cash," but also of sensitive flesh and blood. Health,
there cannot be the slightest doubt, is a vastly more fundamental and
important matter than education, to say nothing of such minor matters
as the post office or the telephone system. Yet we have nationalised
these before even giving a thought to the Nationalisation of Health.

At the present day medicine is mainly in the hands, as it was two
thousand years ago, of the "private practitioner." His mental status
has, indeed, changed. To-day he is submitted to a long and arduous
training in magnificently equipped institutions; all the laboriously
acquired processes and results of modern medicine and hygiene are
brought within the student's reach. And when he leaves the hospital,
often with the largest and noblest conception of the physician's place
in life, what do we do with him? He becomes a "private practitioner,"
which means, as Duclaux, the late distinguished Director of the Pasteur
Institute, put it, that we place him on the level of a retail grocer
who must patiently stand behind his counter (without the privilege of
advertising himself) until the public are pleased to come and buy
advice or drugs which are usually applied for too late to be of much
use, and may be thrown away at the buyer's good pleasure, without the
possibility of any protest by the seller. It is little wonder that in
many cases the doctor's work and aims suffer under such conditions; his
nature is subdued to what it works in; he clings convulsively to his
counter and its retail methods.

The fact is--and it is a fact that is slowly becoming apparent to
all--that the private practice of medicine is out of date. It fails to
answer the needs of our time. There are various reasons why this should
be the case, but two are fundamental. In the first place, medicine has
outgrown the capacity of any individual doctor; the only adequate
private practitioner must have a sound general knowledge of medicine
with an expert knowledge of a dozen specialties; that is to say, he must
give place to a staff of doctors acting co-ordinately, for the present
system, or lack of system, by which a patient wanders at random from
private practitioner to specialist, from specialist to specialist
_ad infinitum_, is altogether mischievous. Moreover, not only is it
impossible for the private practitioner to possess the knowledge
required to treat his patients adequately: he cannot possess the
scientific mechanical equipment nowadays required alike for diagnosis
and treatment, and every day becoming more elaborate, more expensive,
more difficult to manipulate. It is installed in our great hospitals
for the benefit of the poorest patient; it could, perhaps, be set up
in a millionaire's palace, but it is hopelessly beyond the private
practitioner, though without it his work must remain unsatisfactory and
inadequate.[1] In the second place, the whole direction of modern
medicine is being changed and to an end away from private practice; our
thoughts are not now mainly bent on the cure of disease but on its
prevention. Medicine is becoming more and more transformed into hygiene,
and in this transformation, though the tasks presented are larger and
more systematic, they are also easier and more economical. These two
fundamental tendencies of modern medicine--greater complexity of its
methods and the predominantly preventive character of its aims--alone
suffice to render the position of the private practitioner untenable. He
cannot cope with the complexity of modern medicine; he has no authority
to enforce its hygiene.

The medical system of the future must be a national system co-ordinating
all the conditions of health. At the centre we should expect to find a
Minister of Health, and every doctor of the State would give his whole
time to his work and be paid by salary which in the case of the higher
posts would be equal to that now fixed for the higher legal offices, for
the chief doctor in the State ought to be at least as important an
official as the Lord Chancellor. Hospitals and infirmaries would be alike
nationalised, and, in place of the present antagonism between hospitals
and the bulk of the medical profession, every doctor would be in touch
with a hospital, thus having behind him a fully equipped and staffed
institution for all purposes of diagnosis, consultation, treatment, and
research, also serving for a centre of notification, registration,
preventive and hygienic measures. In every district the citizen would
have a certain amount of choice as regards the medical man to whom he
may go for advice, but no one would be allowed to escape the medical
supervision and registration of his district, for it is essential that
the central Health Authority of every district should know the health
conditions of all the inhabitants of the district. Only by some such
organised and co-ordinated system as this can the primary conditions of
Health, and preventive measures against disease, be genuinely socialised.

These views were put forward by the present writer twenty years ago in
a little book on _The Nationalisation of Health_, which, though it met
with wide approval, was probably regarded by most people as Utopian.
Since then the times have moved, a new generation has sprung up, and
ideas which, twenty years ago, were brooded over by isolated thinkers
are now seen to be in the direct line of progress; they have become the
property of parties and matters of active propaganda. Even before the
introduction of State Insurance Professor Benjamin Moore, in his able
book, _The Dawn of the Health Age_, anticipating the actual march of
events, formulated a State Insurance Scheme which would lead on, as he
pointed out, to a genuinely National Medical Service, and later, Dr.
Macilwaine, in a little book entitled _Medical Revolution_, again
advocated the same changes: the establishment of a Ministry of Health,
a medical service on a preventive basis, and the reform of the
hospitals which must constitute the nucleus of such a service. It may
be said that for medical men no longer engaged in private practice it
is easy to view the disappearance of private practice with serenity;
but it must be added that it is precisely that disinterested serenity
which makes possible also a clear insight into the problems and a wider
view of the new horizons of medicine. Thus it is that to-day the
dreamers of yesterday are justified.

The great scheme of State Insurance was certainly an important step
towards the socialisation of medicine. It came short, indeed, of the
complete Nationalisation of Health as an affair of State. But that
could not possibly be introduced at one move. Apart even from the
difficulty of complete reorganisation, the two great vested interests
of private medical practice on the one hand and Friendly Societies on
the other would stand in the way. A complicated transitional period is
necessary, during which those two interests are conciliated and
gradually absorbed. It is this transitional period which State
Insurance has inaugurated. To compare small things to great--as we may,
for the same laws run all through Nature and Society--this scheme
corresponds to the ancient Ptolomaean system of astronomy, with its
painfully elaborate epicycles, which preceded and led on to the sublime
simplicity of the Copernican system. We need not anticipate that the
transitional stage of national insurance will endure as long as the
ancient astronomy. Professor Moore estimated that it would lead to a
completely national medical service in twenty-five years, and since the
introduction of that method he has, too optimistically, reduced the
period to ten years. We cannot reach simplicity at a bound; we must
first attempt to systematise the recognised and established activities
and adjust them harmoniously.

The organised refusal of the medical profession at the outset to carry
on, under the conditions offered, the part assigned to it in the great
National Insurance scheme opened out prospects not clearly realised by
the organisers. No doubt its immediate aspects were unfortunate. It not
only threatened to impede the working of a very complex machine, but it
dismayed many who were not prepared to see doctors apparently taking up
the position of the syndicalists, and arguing that a profession which
is essential to the national welfare need not be carried out on
national lines, but can be run exclusively by itself in its own
interests. Such an attitude, however, usefully served to make clear how
necessary it is becoming that the extension of medicine and hygiene in
the national life should be accompanied by a corresponding extension in
the national government. If we had had a Council of National Health, as
well as of National Defence, or a Board of Health as well as a Board of
Trade, a Minister of Health with a seat in the Cabinet, any scheme of
Insurance would have been framed from the outset in close consultation
with the profession which would have the duty of carrying it out. No
subsequent friction would have been possible.

Had the Insurance scheme been so framed, it is perhaps doubtful whether
it would have been so largely based on the old contract system. Club
medical practice has long been in discredit, alike from the point of
view of patient and doctor. It furnishes the least satisfactory form of
medical relief for the patient, less adequate than that he could obtain
either as a private patient or as a hospital patient. The doctor, on
his side, though he may find it a very welcome addition to his income,
regards Club practice as semi-charitable, and, moreover, a form of
charity in which he is often imposed on; he seldom views his club
patients with much satisfaction, and unless he is a self-sacrificing
enthusiast, it is not to them that his best attention, his best time,
his most expensive drugs, are devoted. To perpetuate and enlarge the
club system of practice and to glorify it by affixing to it a national
seal of approval, was, therefore, a somewhat risky experiment, not
wisely to be attempted without careful consultation with those most

Another point might then also have become clear: the whole tendency of
medicine is towards a recognition of the predominance of Hygiene. The
modern aim is to prevent disease. The whole national system of medicine
is being slowly though steadily built up in recognition of the great
fact that the interests of Health come before the interests of Disease.
It has been an unfortunate flaw in the magnificent scheme of Insurance
that this vital fact was not allowed for, that the old-fashioned notion
that treatment rather than prevention is the object of medicine was
still perpetuated, and that nothing was done to co-ordinate the
Insurance scheme with the existing Health Services.

It seems probable that in a Service of State medical officers the
solution may ultimately be found. Such a solution would, indeed,
immensely increase the value of the Insurance scheme, and, in the end,
confer far greater benefits than at present on the millions of people who
would come under its operation. For there can be no doubt the Club system
is not only unscientific; it is also undemocratic. It perpetuates what
was originally a semi-charitable and second-rate method of treatment of
the poorer classes. A State medical officer, devoting his whole time and
attention to his State patients, has no occasion to make invidious
distinctions between public and private patients.

A further advantage of a State Medical Service is that it will facilitate
the inevitable task of nationalising the hospitals, whether charitable or
Poor-law. The Insurance Act, as it stands, opens no definite path in this
direction. But nowadays, so vast and complicated has medicine become,
even the most skilful doctor cannot adequately treat his patient unless
he has a great hospital at his back, with a vast army of specialists and
research-workers, and a manifold instrumental instalment.

A third, and even more fundamental, advantage of a State Medical Service
is that it would help to bring Treatment into touch with Prevention. The
private practitioner, as such, inside or outside the Insurance scheme,
cannot conveniently go behind his patient's illness. But the State doctor
would be entitled to ask: _Why_ has this man broken down? The State's
guardianship of the health of its citizens now begins at birth (is
tending to be carried back before birth) and covers the school life. If
a man falls ill, it is, nowadays, legitimate to inquire where the
responsibility lies. It is all very well to patch up the diseased man
with drugs or what not. But at best that is a makeshift method. The
Consumptive Sanatoriums have aroused enthusiasm, and they also are all
very well. But the Charity Organisation Society has shown that only about
50 per cent. of those who pass through such institutions become fit for
work. It is not more treatment of disease that we want, it is less need
for treatment. And a State Medical Service is the only method by which
Medicine can be brought into close touch with Hygiene.

The present attitude of the medical profession sometimes strikes people
as narrow, unpatriotic, and merely self-interested. But the Insurance
Act has brought a powerful ferment of intellectual activity into the
medical profession which in the end will work to finer issues. A
significant sign of the times is the establishment of the State Medical
Service Association, having for its aim the organisation of the medical
profession as a State Service, the nationalisation of hospitals, and
the unification of preventive and curative medicine. To many in the
medical profession such schemes still seem "Utopian"; they are blind to
a process which has been in ever increasing action for more than half a
century and which they are themselves taking part in every day.

[1] The result sometimes is that the ambitious doctor seeks to become
a specialist in at least one subject, and instals a single expensive
method of treatment to which he enthusiastically subjects all his
patients. This would be comic if it were not sometimes rather tragic.



The cry is often heard to-day from those who watch with disapproval the
efforts made to discourage the reckless procreation of the degenerate
and the unfit: You are stamping out the germs of genius! It is widely
held that genius is a kind of flower, unknown to the horticulturist,
which only springs from diseased roots; make the plant healthily sound
and your hope of blossoms is gone, you will see nothing but leaves. Or,
according to the happier metaphor of Lombroso, the work of genius is an
exquisite pearl, and pearls are the product of an obscure disease. To
the medical mind, especially, it has sometimes been, naturally and
properly no doubt, a source of satisfaction to imagine that the
loveliest creations of human intellect may perhaps be employed to shed
radiance on the shelves of the pathological museum. Thus we find eminent
physicians warning us against any effort to decrease the vigour of
pathological processes, and influential medical journals making solemn
statements in the same sense. "Already," I read in a recent able and
interesting editorial article in the _British Medical Journal_,
"eugenists in their kind enthusiasm are threatening to stamp out the
germs of possible genius."

Now it is quite easy to maintain that the health, happiness, and sanity
of the whole community are more precious even than genius. It is so
easy, indeed, that if the question of eugenics were submitted to the
Referendum on this sole ground there can be little doubt what the result
would be. There are not many people, even in the most highly educated
communities, who value the possibility of a new poem, symphony, or
mathematical law so highly that they would sacrifice their own health,
happiness, and sanity to retain that possibility for their offspring. Of
course we may declare that a majority which made such a decision must be
composed of very low-minded uncultured people, altogether lacking in
appreciation of pathology, and reflecting no credit on the eugenic cause
they supported; but there can be little doubt that we should have to
admit their existence.

We need not hasten, however, to place the question on this ground. It
is first necessary to ascertain what reason there is to suppose that a
regard for eugenic considerations in mating would tend to stamp out the
germs of genius. Is there any reason at all? That is the question I am
here concerned with.

The anti-eugenic argument on this point, whenever any argument is
brought forward, consists in pointing to all sorts of men of genius and
of talent who, it is alleged, were poor citizens, physical degenerates
the prey of all manner of constitutional diseases, sometimes candidates
for the lunatic asylum which they occasionally reached. The miscellaneous
data which may thus be piled up are seldom critically sifted, and often
very questionable, for it is difficult enough to obtain any positive
biological knowledge concerning great men who died yesterday, and
practically impossible in most cases to reach an unquestionable
conclusion as regards those who died a century or more ago. Many of the
most positive statements commonly made concerning the diseases even of
modern genius are without any sure basis. The case of Nietzsche, who was
seen by some of the chief specialists of the day, is still really quite
obscure. So is that of Guy de Maupassant. Rousseau wrote the fullest and
frankest account of his ailments, and the doctors made a _post-mortem_
examination. Yet nearly all the medical experts--and they are many--who
have investigated Rousseau's case reach different conclusions. It would
be easy to multiply indefinitely the instances of great men of the past
concerning whose condition of health or disease we are in hopeless

This fact is, however, one that, as an argument, works both ways, and
the important point is to make clear that it cannot concern us. No
eugenic considerations can annihilate the man of genius when he is once
born and bred. If eugenics is to stamp out the man of genius it must do
so before he is born, by acting on his parents.

Nor is it possible to assume that if the man of genius, apart from his
genius, is an unfit person to procreate the race, therefore his parents,
not possessing any genius, were likewise unfit to propagate. It is easy
to find persons of high ability who in other respects are unfit for
the ends of life, ill-balanced in mental or physical development,
neurasthenic, valetudinarian, the victims in varying degrees of all
sorts of diseases. Yet their parents, without any high ability, were, to
all appearance, robust, healthy, hard-working, commonplace people who
would easily pass any ordinary eugenic tests. We know nothing as to the
action of two seemingly ordinary persons on each other in constituting
heredity, how hypertrophied intellectual aptitude comes about, what
accidents, normal or pathological, may occur to the germ before birth,
nor even how strenuous intellectual activity may affect the organism
generally. We cannot argue that since these persons, apart from their
genius, were not seemingly the best people to carry on the race,
therefore a like judgment should be passed on their parents and the
germs of genius thus be stamped out.

We only arrive at the crucial question when we ask: Have the characters
of the parents of men of genius been of such an obviously unfavourable
kind that eugenically they would nowadays be dissuaded from
propagation, or under a severe _régime_ of compulsory certificates (the
desirability of which I am far indeed from assuming) be forbidden to
marry? Have the parents of genius belonged to the "unfit"? That is a
question which must be answered in the affirmative if this objection to
eugenics has any weight. Yet so far as I know, none of those who have
brought forward the objection have supported it by any evidence of the
kind whatever. Thirty years ago Dr. Maudsley dogmatically wrote: "There
is hardly ever a man of genius who has not insanity or nervous disorder
of some form in his family." But he never brought forward any evidence
in support of that pronouncement. Nor has anyone else, if we put aside
the efforts of more or less competent writers--like Lombroso in his
_Man of Genius_ and Nisbet in his _Insanity of Genius_--to rake in
statements from all quarters regarding the morbidities of genius, often
without any attempt to authenticate, criticise, or sift them, and never
with any effort to place them in due perspective.[1]

It so happens that, some years ago, with no relation to eugenic
considerations, I devoted a considerable amount of attention to the
biological characters of British men of genius, considered, so far as
possible, on an objective and impartial basis.[2] The selection, that
is to say, was made, so far as possible, without regard to personal
predilections, in accordance with certain rules, from the _Dictionary
of National Biography_. In this way one thousand and thirty names were
obtained of men and women who represent the flower of British genius
during historical times, only excluding those persons who were alive at
the end of the last century. What proportion of these were the
offspring of parents who were insane or mentally defective to a serious

If the view of Maudsley--that there is "hardly ever" a man of genius
who is not the product of an insane or nervously-disordered stock--had
a basis of truth, we should expect that in one or other parents of the
man of genius actual insanity had occurred in a very large proportion
of cases; 25 per cent. would be a moderate estimate. But what do we
find? In not 1 per cent. can definite insanity be traced among the
parents of British men and women of genius. No doubt this result is
below the truth; the insanity of the parents must sometimes have
escaped the biographer's notice. But even if we double the percentage
to escape this source of error, the proportion still remains

There is more to be said. If the insanity of the parent occurred early
in life, we should expect it to attract attention more easily than if
it occurred late in life. Those parents of men of genius falling into
insanity late in life, the critic may argue, escape notice. But it is
precisely to this group to which all the ascertainably insane parents
of British men of genius belong. There is not a single recorded
instance, so far as I have been able to ascertain, in which the parent
had been definitely and recognisably insane before the birth of the
distinguished child; so that any prohibition of the marriage of persons
who had previously been insane would have left British genius
untouched. In all cases the insanity came on late in life, and it was
usually, without doubt, of the kind known as senile dementia. This was
so in the case of the mother of Bacon, the most distinguished person in
the list of those with an insane parent. Charles Lamb's father, we are
told, eventually became "imbecile." Turner's mother became insane. The
same is recorded of Archbishop Tillotson's mother and of Archbishop
Leighton's father. This brief list includes all the parents of British
men of genius who are recorded (and not then always very definitely) as
having finally died insane. In the description given of others of the
parents of our men of genius it is not, however, difficult to detect
that, though they were not recognised as insane, their mental condition
was so highly abnormal as to be not far removed from insanity. This was
the case with Gray's father and with the mothers of Arthur Young and
Andrew Bell. Even when we allow for all the doubtful cases, the
proportion of persons of genius with an insane parent remains very low,
less than 2 per cent.

Senile dementia, though it is one of the least important and
significant of the forms of insanity, and is entirely compatible with a
long and useful life, must not, however, be regarded, when present in a
marked degree, as the mere result of old age. Entirely normal people of
sound heredity do not tend to manifest signs of pronounced mental
weakness or abnormality even in extreme old age. We are justified in
suspecting a neurotic strain, though it may not be of severe degree.
This is, indeed, illustrated by our records of British genius. Some of
the eminent men of genius on my list (at least twelve) suffered before
death from insanity which may probably be described as senile dementia.
But several of these were somewhat abnormal during earlier life (like
Swift) or had a child who became insane (like Bishop Marsh). In these
and in other cases there has doubtless been some hereditary neurotic

It is clearly, however, not due to any intensity of this strain that we
find the incidence of insanity in men of genius, as illustrated, for
example, by senile dementia, so much more marked than its incidence on
their parents. There is another factor to be invoked here: convergent
morbid heredity. If a man and a woman, each with a slight tendency to
nervous abnormality, marry each other, there is a much greater chance
of the offspring manifesting a severe degree of nervous abnormality
than if they had married entirely sound partners. Now both among normal
and abnormal people there is a tendency for like to mate with like.
The attraction of the unlike for each other, which was once supposed
to prevail, is not predominant, except within the sphere of the secondary
sexual characters, where it clearly prevails, so that the ultra-masculine
man is attracted to the ultra-feminine woman, and the feminine man to the
boyish or mannish woman. Apart from this, people tend to marry those who
are both psychically and physically of the same type as themselves. It
thus happens that nervously abnormal people become mated to the nervously
abnormal. This is well illustrated by the British men of genius
themselves. Although insanity is more prevalent among them than among
their parents, the same can scarcely be said of them in regard to their
wives. It is notable that the insane wives of these men of genius are
almost as numerous as the insane men of genius, though it rarely happens
(as in the case of Southey) that both husband and wife go out of their
minds. But in all these cases there has probably been a mutual attraction
of mentally abnormal people.

It is to this tendency in the parents of men of genius, leading to a
convergent heredity, that we must probably attribute the undue tendency
of the men of genius themselves to manifest insanity. Each of the
parents separately may have displayed but a minor degree of neuropathic
abnormality, but the two strains were fortified by union and the
tendency to insanity became more manifest. This was, for instance, the
case as regards Charles Lamb. The nervous abnormality of the parents in
this case was less profound than that of the children, but it was
present in both. Under such circumstances what is called the law of
anticipation comes into play; the neurotic tendency of the parents,
increased by union, is also antedated, so that definite insanity occurs
earlier in the life of the child than, if it had appeared at all, it
occurred in the life of the parent. Lamb's father only became
weak-minded in old age, but since the mother also had a mentally
abnormal strain, Lamb himself had an attack of insanity early in life,
and his sister was liable to recurrent insanity during a great part of
her life. Notwithstanding, however, the influence of this convergent
heredity, it is found that the total insanity of British men and women
of genius is not more, so far as can be ascertained--even when slight
and dubious cases are included--than 4.2 per cent. That ascertainable
proportion must be somewhat below the real proportion, but in any case
it scarcely suggests that insanity is an essential factor of genius.

Let us, however, go beyond the limits of British genius, and consider
the evidence more freely. There is, for instance, Tasso, who was
undoubtedly insane for a good part of his life, and has been much
studied by the pathologists. De-Gaudenzi, who has written one of the
best psychopathological studies of Tasso, shows clearly that his
father, Bernardo, was a man of high intelligence, of great emotional
sensibility, with a tendency to melancholy as well as a mystical
idealism, of somewhat weak character, and prone to invoke Divine aid in
the slightest difficulty. It was a temperament that might be considered
a little morbid, outside a monastery, but it was not insane, nor is
there any known insanity among his near relations. This man's wife,
Porzia, Tasso's mother, arouses the enthusiasm of all who ever mention
her, as a creature of angelic perfection. No insanity here either, but
something of the same undue sensitiveness and melancholy as in the
father, the same absence of the coarser and more robust virtues.
Moreover, she belonged to a family by no means so angelic as herself,
not insane, but abnormal--malevolent, cruel, avaricious, almost
criminal. The most scrupulous modern alienist would hesitate to deprive
either Bernardo or Porzia of the right to parenthood. Yet, as we know,
the son born of this union was not only a world-famous poet, but an
exceedingly unhappy, abnormal, and insane man.

Let us take the case of another still greater and more famous man,
Rousseau. It cannot reasonably be doubted that, at some moments in his
life at all events, and perhaps during a considerable period, Rousseau
was definitely insane. We are intimately acquainted with the details
of the life and character of his relations and of his ancestry. We not
only possess the full account he set forth at the beginning of his
_Confessions_, but we know very much more than Rousseau knew. Geneva
was paternal--paternal in the most severe sense--in scrutinising every
unusual act of its children, and castigating every slightest deviation
from the straight path. The whole life of the citizens of old Geneva may
be read in Genevan archives, and not a scrap of information concerning
the conduct of Rousseau's ancestors and relatives as set down in these
archives but has been brought to the light of day. If there is any great
man of genius whom the activities of these fanatical eugenists would have
rendered impossible, it must surely have been Rousseau. Let us briefly
examine his parentage. Rousseau's father was the outcome of a fine stock
which for two generations had been losing something of its fine
qualities, though without sinking anywhere near insanity, criminality, or
pauperism. The Rousseaus still exercised their craft with success; they
were on the whole esteemed; Jean-Jacques's father was generally liked,
but he was somewhat unstable, romantic, with no strong sense of duty,
hot-tempered, easily taking offence. The mother, from a modern
standpoint, was an attractive, highly accomplished, and admirable woman.
In her neighbours' eyes she was not quite Puritanical enough,
high-spirited, independent, adventurous, fond of innocent gaiety, but a
devoted wife when, at last, at the age of thirty, she married. More than
once before marriage she was formally censured by the ecclesiastical
authorities for her little insubordinations, and these may be seen to
have a certain significance when we turn to her father; he was a thorough
_mauvais sujet_, with an incorrigible love of pleasure, and constantly
falling into well-deserved trouble for some escapade with the young women
of Geneva. Thus on both sides there was a certain nervous instability, an
uncontrollable wayward emotionality. But of actual insanity, of nervous
disorder, of any decided abnormality or downright unfitness in either
father or mother, not a sign. Isaac Rousseau and Susanne Bernard would
have been passed by the most ferocious eugenist. It is again a case in
which the chances of convergent heredity have produced a result which in
its magnitude, in its heights and in its depths, none could foresee. It
is one of the most famous and most accurately known examples of insane
genius in history, and we see what amount of support it offers to the
ponderous dictum concerning the insane heredity of genius.

Let us turn from insanity to grave nervous disease. Epilepsy at once
comes before us, all the more significantly since it has been
considered, more especially by Lombroso, to be the special disease
through which genius peculiarly manifests itself. It is true that much
importance here is attached to those minor forms of epilepsy which
involve no gross and obvious convulsive fit. The existence of these
minor attacks is, in the case of men of genius, usually difficult to
disprove and equally difficult to prove. It certainly should not be so
as regards the major form of epilepsy. Yet among the thousand and
thirty persons of British genius I was only able to find epilepsy
mentioned twice, and in both cases incorrectly, for the National
Biographer had attributed it to Lord Herbert of Cherbury through
misreading a passage in Herbert's _Autobiography_, while the epileptic
fits of Sir W.R. Hamilton in old age were most certainly not true
epilepsy. Without doubt, no eugenist could recommend an epileptic to
become a parent. But if epilepsy has no existence in British men of
genius it is improbable that it has often occurred among their parents.
The loss to British genius through eugenic activity in this sphere
would probably, therefore, have been _nil_.

Putting aside British genius, however, one finds that it has been
almost a commonplace of alienists and neurologists, even up to the
present day, to present glibly a formidable list of mighty men of
genius as victims of epilepsy. Thus I find a well-known American
alienist lately making the unqualified and positive statement that
"Mahomet, Napoleon, Molière, Handel, Paganini, Mozart, Schiller,
Richelieu, Newton and Flaubert" were epileptics, while still more
recently a distinguished English neurologist, declaring that "the
world's history has been made by men who were either epileptics,
insane, or of neuropathic stock," brings forward a similar and still
larger list to illustrate that statement, with Alexander the Great,
Julius Caesar, the Apostle Paul, Luther, Frederick the Great and many
others thrown in, though unfortunately he fails to tell us which
members of the group he desires us to regard as epileptic. Julius
Caesar was certainly one of them, but the statement of Suetonius (not
an unimpeachable authority in any case) that Caesar had epileptic fits
towards the close of his life is disproof rather than proof of true
epilepsy. Of Mahomet, and St. Paul also, epilepsy is alleged. As
regards the first, the most competent authorities regard the convulsive
seizures attributed to the Prophet as perhaps merely a legendary
attempt to increase the awe he inspired by unmistakable evidence of
divine authority. The narrative of St. Paul's experience on the road to
Damascus is very unsatisfactory evidence on which to base a medical
diagnosis, and it may be mentioned that, in the course of a discussion
in the columns of the _British Medical Journal_ during 1910, as many as
six different views were put forward as to the nature of the Apostle's
"thorn in the flesh." The evidence on which Richelieu, who was
undoubtedly a man of very fragile constitution is declared to be
epileptic, is of the very slenderest character. For the statement that
Newton was epileptic there is absolutely no reliable evidence at all,
and I am quite ignorant of the grounds on which Mozart, Handel and
Schiller are declared epileptics. The evidence for epilepsy in Napoleon
may seem to carry slightly more weight, for there is that in the moral
character of Napoleon which we might very well associate with the
epileptic temperament. It seems clear that Napoleon really had at times
convulsive seizures which were at least epileptoid. Thus Talleyrand
describes how one day, just after dinner (it may be recalled that
Napoleon was a copious and exceedingly rapid eater), passing for a few
minutes into Josephine's room, the Emperor came out, took Talleyrand
into his own room, ordered the door to be closed, and then fell down in
a fit. Bourrienne, however, who was Napoleon's private secretary for
eleven years, knew nothing about any fits. It is not usual, in a true
epileptic fit, to be able to control the circumstances of the seizure
to this extent, and if Napoleon, who lived so public a life, furnished
so little evidence of epilepsy to his environment, it may be regarded
as very doubtful whether any true epilepsy existed, and on other
grounds it seems highly improbable.[3]

Of all these distinguished persons in the list of alleged epileptics,
it is naturally most profitable to investigate the case of the latest,
Flaubert, for here it is easiest to get at the facts. Maxime du Camp, a
friend in early life, though later incompatibility of temperament led
to estrangement, announced to the world in his _Souvenirs_ that
Flaubert was an epileptic, and Goncourt mentions in his _Journal_ that
he was in the habit of taking much bromide. But the "fits" never began
until the age of twenty-eight, which alone should suggest to a
neurologist that they are not likely to have been epileptic; they never
occurred in public; he could feel the fit coming on and would go and
lie down; he never lost consciousness; his intellect and moral
character remained intact until death. It is quite clear that there was
no true epilepsy here, nor anything like it.[4] Flaubert was of fairly
sound nervous heredity on both sides, and his father, a distinguished
surgeon, was a man of keen intellect and high character. The novelist,
who was of robust physical and mental constitution, devoted himself
strenuously and exclusively to intellectual work; it is not surprising
that he was somewhat neurasthenic, if not hysterical, and Dumesnil, who
discusses this question in his book on Flaubert, concludes that the
"fits" may be called hysterical attacks of epileptoid form.

It may well be that we have in Flaubert's case a clue to the "epilepsy"
of the other great men who in this matter are coupled with him. They
were nearly all persons of immense intellectual force, highly charged
with nervous energy; they passionately concentrated their energy on the
achievement of life tasks of enormous magnitude, involving the highest
tension of the organism. Under such conditions, even in the absence of
all bad heredity or of actual disease, convulsive discharges may occur.
We may see even in healthy and sound women that occasionally some
physiological and unrelieved overcharging of the organism with nervous
energy may result in what is closely like a hysterical fit, while even
a violent fit of crying is a minor manifestation of the same tendency.
The feminine element in genius has often been emphasised, and it may
well be that under the conditions of the genius-life when working at
high pressure we have somewhat similar states of nervous overcharging,
and that from time to time the tension is relieved, naturally and
spontaneously, by a convulsive discharge. This, at all events, seems a
possible explanation.

It is rather strange that in these recklessly confident lists of
eminent "epileptics" we fail to find the one man of distinguished
genius whom perhaps we are justified in regarding as a true epileptic.
Dostoievsky appears to have been an epileptic from an early age; he
remained liable to epileptic fits throughout life, and they plunged him
into mental dejection and confusion. In many of his novels we find
pictures of the epileptic temperament, evidently based on personal
experience, showing the most exact knowledge and insight into all the
phases of the disease. Moreover, Dostoievsky in his own person appears
to have displayed the perversions and the tendency to mental
deterioration which we should expect to find in a true epileptic. So
far as our knowledge goes, he really seems to stand alone as a
manifestation of supreme genius combined with epilepsy. Yet, as Dr.
Loygue remarks in his medico-psychological study of the great Russian
novelist, epilepsy only accounts for half of the man, and leaves
unexplained his passion for work; "the dualism of epilepsy and genius
is irreducible."

There is one other still more recent man of true genius, though not of
the highest rank, who may possibly be counted as epileptic: Vincent van
Gogh, the painter.[5] A brilliant and highly original artist, he was a
definitely abnormal man who cannot be said to have escaped mental
deterioration. Simple and humble and suffering, recklessly sacrificing
himself to help others, always in trouble, van Gogh had many points of
resemblance to Dostoievsky. He has, indeed, been compared to the
"Idiot" immortalised by Dostoievsky, in some aspects an imbecile, in
some aspects a saint. Yet epilepsy no more explains the genius of van
Gogh than it explains the genius of Dostoievsky.

Thus the impression we gain when, laying aside prejudice, we take a
fairly wide and impartial survey of the facts, or even when we
investigate in detail the isolated facts to which significance is most
often attached, by no means supports the notion that genius springs
entirely, or even mainly, from insane and degenerate stocks. In some
cases, undoubtedly, it is found in such stocks, but the ability
displayed in these cases is rarely, perhaps never, of any degree near
the highest. It is quite easy to point to persons of a certain
significance, especially in literature and art, who, though themselves
sane, possess many near relatives who are highly neurotic and sometimes
insane. Such cases, however, are far from justifying any confident
generalisations concerning the intimate dependence of genius on

We see, moreover, that to conclude that men of genius are rarely or
never the offspring of a radically insane parentage is not to assume
that the parents of men of genius are usually of average normal
constitution. That would in any case be improbable. Apart from the
tendency to convergent heredity already emphasised, there is a wider
tendency to slight abnormality, a minor degree of inaptness for
ordinary life in the parentage of genius. I found that in 5 per cent.
cases (certainly much below the real mark) of the British people of
genius, one parent, generally the father, had shown abnormality from a
social or parental point of view. He had been idle, or extravagant, or
restless, or cruel, or intemperate, or unbusinesslike, in the great
majority of these cases "unsuccessful." The father of Dickens
(represented by his son in Micawber), who was always vainly expecting
something to turn up, is a good type of these fathers of genius.
Shakespeare's father may have been of much the same sort. George
Meredith's father, again, who was too superior a person for the
outfitting business he inherited, but never succeeded in being anything
else, is another example of this group of fathers of genius. The father
in these cases is a link of transition between the normal stock and its
brilliantly abnormal offshoot. In this transitional stage we see, as it
were, the stock _reculer pour mieux sauter_, but it is in the son that
the great leap is made manifest.

This peculiarity will serve to indicate that in a large proportion of
cases the parentage of genius is not entirely sound and normal. We must
dismiss absolutely the notion that the parents of persons of genius
tend to exhibit traits of a grossly insane or nervously degenerate
character. The evidence for such a view is confined to a minute
proportion of cases, and even then is usually doubtful. But it is
another matter to assume that the parentage of genius is absolutely
normal, and still less can we assert that genius always springs from
entirely sound stocks. The statement is sometimes made that all
families contain an insane element. That statement cannot be accepted.
There are many people, including people of a high degree of ability,
who can trace no gross mental or nervous disease in their families,
unless remote branches are taken into account. Not many statistics
bearing on this point are yet available. But Jenny Roller, in a very
thorough investigation, found at Zurich in 1895 that "healthy" people
had in 28 per cent. cases directly, and in 59 per cent. cases
indirectly and altogether, a neuropathic heredity, while Otto Diem in
1905 found that the corresponding percentages were still higher--33 and
69. It should not, therefore, be matter for surprise if careful
investigation revealed a traceable neuropathic element at least as
frequent as this in the families which produce a man of genius.

It may further, I believe, be argued that the presence of a neuropathic
element of this kind in the ancestry of genius is frequently not
without a real significance. Aristotle said in his _Poetics_ that
poetry demanded a man with "a touch of madness," though the ancients,
who frequently made a similar statement to this, had not our modern
ideas of neuropathic heredity in their minds, but merely meant that
inspiration simulated insanity. Yet "a touch of madness," a slight
morbid strain, usually neurotic or gouty, in a preponderantly robust
and energetic stock, seems to be often of some significance in the
evolution of genius; it appears to act, one is inclined to think, as a
kind of ferment, leading to a process out of all relation to its own
magnitude. In the sphere of literary genius, Milton, Flaubert, and
William Morris may help to illustrate this precious fermentative
influence of a minor morbid element in vitally powerful stocks. Without
some such ferment as this the energy of the stock, one may well
suppose, might have been confined within normal limits; the rare and
exquisite flower of genius, we know, required an abnormal stimulation;
only in this sense is there any truth at all in Lombroso's statement
that the pearl of genius develops around a germ of disease. But this is
the utmost length to which the facts allow us to go in assuming the
presence of a morbid element as a frequent constituent of genius. Even
then we only have one of the factors of genius, to which, moreover,
undue importance cannot be attached when we remember how often this
ferment is present without any resultant process of genius. And we are
in any case far removed from any of those gross nervous lesions which
all careful guardianship of the race must tend to eliminate.

Thus we are brought back to the point from which we started. Would
eugenics stamp out genius? There is no need to minimise the fact that a
certain small proportion of men of genius have displayed highly morbid
characters, nor to deny that in a large proportion of cases a slightly
morbid strain may with care be detected in the ancestry of genius. But
the influence of eugenic considerations can properly be brought to bear
only in the case of grossly degenerate stocks. Here, so far as our
knowledge extends, the parentage of genius nearly always escapes. The
destruction of genius and its creation alike elude the eugenist. If
there is a tendency in modern civilisation towards a diminution in the
manifestations of genius--which may admit of question---it can scarcely
be due to any threatened elimination of corrupt stocks. It may perhaps
more reasonably be sought in the haste and superficiality which our
present phase of urbanisation fosters, and only the most robust genius
can adequately withstand.

[1] A Danish alienist, Lange, has, however, made an attempt on a
statistical basis to show a connection between mental ability and mental
degeneracy. (F. Lange, _Degeneration in Families_, translated from the
Danish, 1907). He deals with 44 families which have provided 428 insane
or neuropathic persons within a few generations, and during the same
period a large number also of highly distinguished members, Cabinet
ministers, bishops, artists, poets, etc. But Lange admits that the forms
of insanity found in these families are of a slight and not severe
character, while it is clear that the forms of ability are also in most
cases equally slight; they are mostly "old" families, such as naturally
produce highly-trained and highly placed individuals. Moreover, Lange's
methods and style of writing are not scientifically exact, and he fails
to define precisely what he means by a "family." His investigation
indicates that there is a frequent tendency for men of ability to belong
to families which are not entirely sound, and that is a conclusion which
is not seriously disputed.

[2] Havelock Ellis, _A Study of British Genius_, 1904.

[3] Dr. Cabanès (_Indiscrétions de l'Histoire_, 3rd series) similarly
concludes that, while in temperament Napoleon may be said to belong to
the epileptic class, he was by no means an epileptic in the ordinary
sense. Kanngiesser (_Prager Medizinische Wochenschrift_, 1912, No. 27)
suggests that from his slow pulse (40 to 60) Napoleon's attacks may have
originated in the heart and vessels.

[4] Genuine epilepsy usually comes on before the age of twenty-five; it
very rarely begins after twenty-five, and never after thirty. (L.W.
Weber, _Münchener Medizinische Wochenschrift_, July 30th and Aug. 6th,
1912.) In genuine epilepsy, also, loss of consciousness accompanies the
fits; the exceptions to this rule are rare, though Audenino, a pupil of
Lombroso, who sought to extend the sphere of epilepsy, believes that
the exceptions are not so rare as is commonly supposed (_Archivio di
Psichiatria_, fasc. VI., 1906). Moreover, true epilepsy is accompanied
by a progressive mental deterioration which terminates in dementia; in
the Craig Colony for Epileptics of New York, among 3,000 epileptics
this progressive deterioration is very rarely absent (_Lancet_, March
1st, 1913); but it is not found in the distinguished men of genius who
are alleged to be epileptic. Epileptic deterioration has been
elaborately studied by MacCurdy, _Psychiatric Bulletin_, New York,
April, 1916.

[5] See, _e.g._, Elizabeth du Quesne van Gogh, _Personal Recollections
of Vincent van Gogh_, p. 46. These epileptic attacks are, however, but
vaguely mentioned, and it would seem that they only appeared during the
last years of the artist's life.



The growing interest in eugenics, and the world-wide decline in the
birth-rate, have drawn attention to the study of the factors which
determine the production of genius in particular and high ability in
general. The interest in this question, thus freshly revived and made
more acute by the results of the Great War, is not indeed new. It is
nearly half a century since Galton wrote his famous book on the heredity
of genius, or, as he might better have described the object of his
investigation, the heredity of ability. At a later date my own _Study of
British Genius_ collectively summarised all the biological data available
concerning the parentage and birth of the most notable persons born in
England, while numerous other studies might also be named.

Such investigations are to-day acquiring a fresh importance, because,
while it is becoming realised that we are gaining a new control over the
conditions of birth, the production of children has itself gained in
importance. The world is no longer bombarded by an exuberant stream of
babies, good, bad, and indifferent in quality, with Mankind to look on
calmly at the struggle for existence among them. Whether we like it or
not, the quantity is relatively diminishing, and the question of quality
is beginning to assume a supreme significance. What are the conditions
which assure the finest quality in our children?

A German scientist, Dr. Vaerting, of Berlin, published on the eve of
the War a little book on the most favourable age in parents for the
production of children of ability (_Das günstigste elterliche
Zeugungsalter_).[1] He approaches the question entirely in this new
spirit, not as a merely academic topic of discussion, but as a practical
matter of vital importance to the welfare of society. He starts with the
assertion that "our century has been called the century of the child,"[2]
and for the child all manner of rights are now being claimed. But the
prime right of all, the right of the child to the best ability that his
parents are able to transmit to him, is never even so much as considered.
Yet this right is the root of all children's rights. And when the
mysteries of procreation have been so far revealed as to enable this
right to be won, we shall, at the same time, Dr. Vaerting adds, renew
the spiritual aspect of the nations.

The most easily ascertainable and measurable factor in the production of
ability, and certainly a factor which cannot be without significance, is
the age of the parents at the child's birth. It is this factor with which
Vaerting is mainly concerned, as illustrated by over one hundred German
men of genius concerning whom he has been able to obtain the required
data. Later on, he proposes to extend the inquiry to other nations.

Vaerting finds--and this is probably the most original, though, as we
shall see, not the most unquestionable of his findings--that the
fathers who are themselves of no notable intellectual distinction have
a decidedly more prolonged power of procreating distinguished children
than is possessed by distinguished fathers. The former, that is to say,
may become the fathers of eminent children from the period of sexual
maturity up to the age of forty-three or beyond. When, however, the
father is himself of high intellectual distinction, Vaerting finds that
he was nearly always under thirty, and usually under twenty-five years
of age at his distinguished son's birth, although the proportion of
youthful fathers in the general population is relatively small. The
eleven youngest fathers on Vaerting's list, from twenty-one to
twenty-five years of age, were (with one exception) themselves more or
less distinguished, while the fifteen oldest, from thirty-nine to sixty
years of age, were all without exception undistinguished. Among these
sons are to be found much greater names (Goethe, Bach, Kant, Bismarck,
Wagner, etc.) than are to be found among the sons of young and more
distinguished fathers, for here there is only one name (Frederick the
Great) of the same calibre. The elderly fathers belonged to large
cities and were mostly married to wives very much younger than
themselves. Vaerting notes that the most eminent geniuses have most
frequently been the sons of fathers who were not engaged in
intellectual avocations at all, but earned their livings as simple
craftsmen. He draws the conclusion from these data that strenuous
intellectual energy is much more unfavourable than hard physical labour
to the production of ability in the offspring. Intellectual workers,
therefore, he argues, must have their children when young, and we must
so modify our social ideals and economic conditions as to render this
possible. That the mother should be equally young is not, he holds,
necessary; he finds some superiority, indeed, provided the father is
young, in somewhat elderly mothers, and there were no mothers under
twenty-three. The rarity of genius among the offspring of distinguished
parents is attributed to the unfortunate tendency to marry too late,
and Vaerting finds that the distinguished men who marry late rarely
have any children at all. Speaking generally, and apart from the
production of genius, he holds that women have children too early,
before their psychic development is completed, while men have children
too late, when they have already "in the years of their highest psychic
generative fitness planted their most precious seed in the mud of the

The eldest child was found to have by far the best chance of turning
out distinguished, and in this fact Vaerting finds further proof of
his argument. The third son has the next best chance, and then the
second, the comparatively bad position of the second being attributed
to the too brief interval which often follows the birth of the first
child. He also notes that of all the professions the clergy come
beyond comparison first as the parents of distinguished sons (who are,
however, rarely of the highest degree of eminence), lawyers following,
while officers in the army and physicians scarcely figure at all.
Vaerting is inclined to see in this order, especially in the
predominance of the clergy, the favourable influence of an unexhausted
reserve of energy and a habit of chastity on intellectual
procreativeness. This is one of his main conclusions.

It so happens that in my own _Study of British Genius_, with which Dr.
Vaerting was unacquainted when he made his first investigation, I dealt
on a larger scale, and perhaps with somewhat more precise method, with
many of these same questions as they are illustrated by English genius.
Vaerting's results have induced me to re-examine and to some extent to
manipulate afresh the English data. My results, like Dr. Vaerting's,
showed a special tendency for genius to appear in the eldest child,
though there was no indication of notably early marriage in the
parents.[3] I also found a similar predominance of the clergy among the
fathers and a similar deficiency of army officers and physicians. The
most frequent age of the father was thirty-two years, but the average
age of the father at the distinguished child's birth was 36.6 years,
and when the fathers were themselves distinguished their age was not,
as Vaerting found in Germany, notably low at the birth of their
distinguished sons, but higher than the general average, being 37.5
years. There have been fifteen distinguished English sons of
distinguished fathers, but instead of being nearly always under thirty
and usually under twenty-five, as Vaerting found in Germany, the
English distinguished father has only five times been under thirty and
among these five only twice under twenty-five. Moreover, precisely the
most distinguished of the sons (Francis Bacon and William Pitt) had the
oldest fathers and the least distinguished sons the youngest fathers.

I made some attempt to ascertain whether different kinds of genius
tend to be produced by fathers who were at different periods of life.
I refrained from publishing the results as I doubted whether the
numbers dealt with were sufficiently large to carry any weight. It
may, however, be worth while to record them, as possibly they are
significant. I made four classes of men of genius: (1) Men of
Religion, (2) Poets, (3) Practical Men, and (4) Scientific Men and
Sceptics. (It must not, of course, be supposed that in this last group
all the scientific men were sceptics, or all the sceptics scientific.)
The average age of the fathers at the distinguished son's birth was,
in the first group, 35 years, in the second and third groups 37 years,
and in the last group 40 years. (It may be noted, however, that the
youngest father of all in the history of British genius, aged sixteen,
produced Napier, who introduced logarithms.) It is difficult not to
believe that as regards, at all events, the two most discrepant
groups, the first and last, we here come on a significant indication.
It is not unreasonable to suppose that in the production of men of
religion, in whose activity emotion is so potent a factor, the
youthful age of the father should prove favourable, while for the
production of genius of a more coldly intellectual and analytic type
more elderly fathers are demanded. If that should prove to be so, it
would become a source of happiness to religious parents to have their
children early, while irreligious persons should be advised to delay
parentage. It is scarcely necessary to remark that the age of the
mothers is probably quite as influential as that of the fathers.
Concerning the mothers, however, we always have less precise
information. My records, so far as they go, agree with Vaerting's for
German genius, in indicating that an elderly mother is more likely to
produce a child of genius than a very youthful mother. There were only
fifteen mothers recorded under twenty-five years of age, while
thirteen were over thirty-nine years; the most frequent age of the
mothers was twenty-seven. On all these points we certainly need
controlling evidence from other countries. Thus, before we insist with
Vaerting that an elderly mother is a factor in the production of
genius, we may recall that even in Germany the mothers of Goethe and
Nietzsche were both eighteen at their distinguished sons' birth. A
rule which permits of such tremendous exceptions scarcely seems to
bear the strain of emphasis.

It must always be remembered that while the study of genius is highly
interesting, and even, it is probable, not without significance for the
general laws of heredity, we must not too hastily draw conclusions from
it to bear on practical questions of eugenics. Genius is rare and
abnormal; laws meant to apply to the general population must be based
on a study of the general population. Vaerting, who is alive to the
practical character which such problems are to-day assuming, realises
how inadequate it is to confine our study to genius. Marro, in his
valuable book on puberty, some years ago brought forward interesting
data showing the result of the age of the parents on the moral and
intellectual characters of school-children in North Italy. He found
that children with fathers below twenty-six at their birth showed the
maximum of bad conduct and the minimum of good; they also yielded the
greatest proportion of children of irregular, troublesome, or lazy
character, but not of really perverse children who were equally
distributed among fathers of all ages. The largest number of cheerful
children belonged to young fathers, while the children tended to become
more melancholy with ascending age of the fathers. Young fathers
produced the largest proportion of intelligent, as well as of
troublesome children, but when the very exceptionally intelligent
children were considered separately they were found to be more usually
the offspring of elderly fathers. As regards the mothers, Marro found
that the children of young mothers (under twenty-one) are superior,
both as regards conduct and intelligence, though the more exceptionally
intelligent children tended to belong to more mature mothers. When the
parents were both in the same age-group the immature and the elderly
groups tended to produce more children who were unsatisfactory, both as
regards conduct and intelligence, than the intermediate group.[4]

But we need to have such inquiries made on a more wholesale and
systematic scale. They are no longer of a merely speculative character.
We no longer regard children as the "gifts of God," flung into our
helpless hands; we are beginning to realise that the responsibility is
ours to see that they come into the world under the best conditions,
and at the moments when their parents are best fitted to produce them.
Vaerting proposes that it should be the business of all school
authorities to register the ages of the pupils' parents. This is
scarcely a provision to which even the most susceptible parent could
reasonably object, though there is no cause to make the declaration
compulsory where a "conscientious" objection existed, and in any case
the declaration would not be public. It would be an advantage--though
this might be more difficult to obtain--to have the date of the
parents' marriage, and of the birth of previous children, as well as
some record of the father's standing in his occupation. But even the
ages of the parents alone would teach us much when correlated with the
school position of the pupil in intelligence and in conduct. It is
quite true that there are unavoidable fallacies. We are not, as in the
case of genius, dealing with people whose life-work is complete and
open to the whole world's examination. The good and clever child is not
necessarily the forerunner of the first-class man or woman; and many
capable and successful men have been careless in attendance at lectures
and rebellious to discipline. Moreover, the prejudice and limitations
of the teachers have also to be recognised. Yet when we are dealing
with millions most of these fallacies would be smoothed out. We should
be, once for all, in a position to determine authoritatively the exact
bearing of one of the simplest and most vital factors of the betterment
of the race. We should be in possession of a new clue to guide us in
the creation of the man of the coming world. Why not begin to-day?

[1] He has further discussed the subject in _Die Neue Generation_,
Aug.-Nov., 1914, and in a more recent (1916) pamphlet which I have not

[2] The reference is to _The Century of the Child_, by Ellen Key, who
writes (English translation, p. 2): "My conviction is that the
transformation of human nature will take place, not when the whole of
humanity becomes Christian, but when the whole of humanity awakens to
the consciousness of the 'holiness of generation.' This consciousness
will make the central work of Society the new race, its origin, its
management, and its education; about these all morals, all laws, all
social arrangements will be grouped."

[3] It is not only ability, but idiocy, criminality and many other
abnormalities which specially tend to appear in the first-born. The
eldest-born represents the point of greatest variation in the family,
and the variation thus yielded may be in either direction, useful or
useless, good or bad. See, _e.g._, Havelock Ellis, _A Study of British
Genius_, pp. 117-120. Sören Hansen, "The Inferior Quality of the
First-born Children," _Eugenics Review_, Oct., 1913.

[4] Marro, _La Pubertà_ (French translation _La Puberté_), Ch. XI.



We contemplate our marriage system with satisfaction. We remember the
many unquestionable evidences in favour of it, and we marvel that it so
often proves a failure. For while we remember the evidence in favour of
it, we forget the evidence against it, and we overlook the important
fact that our favourable evidence is largely based on the vision of an
abstract or idealised monogamy which fails to correspond to the
detailed and ever varying system which in practice we cherish. We point
to the fact that monogamic marriage has probably flourished throughout
the history of the world, that it exists among savages, even among
animals, but we fail to observe how far that monogamy differs from
ours, even assuming that our monogamy is a real monogamy and not a
disguised polygamy, especially in the fact that it is a free union and
only subject to the inherent penalties that follow its infraction, not
to external penalties. Ours is not free; our faith in its natural
virtues is not quite so firm as we assert; we are always meddling with
it and worrying over its health and anxiously trying to bolster it up.
We are not by any means willing to let it rest on the sanction of its
own natural or divine laws. Our feeling is, as James Hinton used
ironically to express it: "Poor God with no one to help Him!"

The fact is that when we compare our civilised marriage system with
marriage as it exists in Nature, we fail to realise a fundamental
distinction. Our marriage system is made up of two absolutely different
elements which cannot blend. On the one hand, it is the manifestation
of our deepest and most volcanic impulses. On the other hand, it is an
elaborate web of regulations--legal, ecclesiastical, economic--which is
to-day quite out of relation to our impulses. On the one hand, it is a
force which springs from within; on the other hand, it is a force which
presses on us from without.[1] One says broadly that these two elements
of marriage, as we understand it, are out of relation to each other.
But there is an important saving qualification to be made. The inner
impulse is not without law, and the external pressure is not without an
ultimate basis of nature. That is to say, that under free and natural
conditions the inner impulse tends to develop itself, not licentiously
but with its own order and restraints, while, on the other hand, our
inherited regulations are largely the tradition of ancient attempts to
fix and register that natural order and restraint. The disharmony comes
in with the fact that our regulations are traditional and ancient, not
our own attempts to fix and register the natural order but inextricably
mixed up with elements that are entirely alien to our civilised habits
of life. Whatever our attitude towards mediaeval Canon Law may
be--whether reverence or indifference or disgust--it yet holds us and
is ingrained into our marriage system to-day. Canon Law was a good and
vital thing under the conditions which produced it. The survival of
Canon Law to-day, with the antiquated and ascetic conception of the
subordination of women associated with it, is the chief reason why we
in the twentieth century have not yet progressed so far towards a
reasonable system of marriage as the Romans had reached on the basis of
their law, nearly two thousand years ago.[2] Marriage is conditioned
both by inner impulse and outward pressure. But a healthy impulse
bears within it an order and restraint of its own, while a truly moral
outward pressure is based, not on the demands of mediaeval days, but on
the demands of our own day.

How far this is from being the case yet we find well illustrated by our
divorce methods. All our modern culture favour a sense of the
sacredness of the sexual relations; we cherish a delicate reserve
concerning all the intimacies of personal relationship. But when the
magic word "Divorce" is uttered we fling all our civilisation to the
winds, and in the desecrated name of Law we proceed to an inquisition
which scarcely differs at all from those public tests of mediaeval
law-courts which now we dare not venture even to put into words.

It is true that we are not bound to be consistent when it is an
advantage to be inconsistent. And if there were a method in our madness
it would be justified. But there is no method. From first to last the
history of divorce (read it, for instance, in Howard's _Matrimonial
Institutions_) is an ever shifting record of cruel blunders and
ridiculous absurdities. Divorce began in modern times in flagrant
injustice to one of the two partners, the wife, and it has ended--if we
may hope that the end is approaching--in imbecilities that to future
ages will be incredible. For no legal jargon has ever been invented
that will express the sympathies and the antipathies of human
relationship; they even escape the subtlest expression. Law-makers have
tortured their brains to devise formulas which will cover the
legitimate grounds for divorce. How vain their efforts are is
sufficiently shown by the fact that by no chance can they ever agree on
their formulas, and that they are changing them constantly with
feverish haste, dimly realising that they are but the antiquated
representatives of mediaevalism, and that soon their occupation will be
gone for ever.

The reasons for the making or the breaking of human relationships can
never be formulated. The only result of such legal formulas is that
they bring law into contempt because they have to be ingeniously and
methodically cheated in order to adapt them in any degree to civilised
human needs. Thus such laws not only degrade the name of Law, but they
degrade the whole community which tolerates them. There is only one
ultimate reason for either marriage or divorce, and that is that the
two persons concerned consent to the marriage or consent to the
divorce. Why they consent is no concern of any third party, and, maybe,
they cannot even put it into words.

At the same time, let us not forget, marriage and divorce are a very
real concern of the State, and law cannot ignore either. It is the
business of the State to see to it that no interests are injured. The
contract of marriage and the contract of divorce are private matters,
but it is necessary to guard that no injury is thereby done to either
of the contracting persons, or to third parties, or to the community as
a whole. The State may have a right to say what persons are unfit for
marriage, or at all events for procreation; the State must take care
that the weaker party is not injured; the State is especially bound to
watch over the interests of children, and this involves, in the best
issue, that each child shall have two effective parents, whether or not
those parents are living together. A large scope--we are beginning to
recognise--must be left alike to freedom of marriage and freedom of
divorce, but the State must mark out the limits within which that
freedom is exercised.

The loosening hold of the State on marriage is by no means connected
with any growing sense of the value of divorce. At the best, it is
probable that divorce is merely a necessary evil. One of the chief
reasons why we should seek to promote education in relation to sexual
relationships and to inculcate the responsibilities of such
relationships, so making the approach to marriage more circumspect, is
in order to obviate the need for divorce. For divorce is always a
confession of failure. Very often, indeed, it involves not only a
confession of failure in one particular marriage but of failure for
marriage generally. One notes how often the people who fail in a first
marriage fail even more hopelessly in the second. They have chosen the
wrong partners; but one suspects that for them all partners will prove
the wrong partners. One sometimes hears nowadays that a succession of
marriage relationships is desirable in order to develop character. But
that depends on many things. It very much depends on what character
there is to develop. A man may have relationships with a hundred women
and develop much less character out of his experience, and even acquire
a much less intimate knowledge of women, than the man who has spent his
life in an endless series of adventures with one woman. It depends a
good deal on the man and not a little on the woman.

Thus the work of marriage in the world must depend entirely on the
nature of that world. A fine marriage system can only be produced by a
fine civilisation of which it is the exquisite flower. Laws cannot
better marriage; even education, by itself, is powerless, necessary as
it is in conjunction with other influences. The love-relationships of
men and women must develop freely, and with due allowance for the
variations which the complexities of civilisation demand. But these
relationships touch the whole of life at so infinite a number of points
that they cannot even develop at all save in a society that is itself
developing graciously and harmoniously. Do not expect to pluck figs
from thistles. As a society is, so will its marriages be.

[1] It is this artificial and external pressure which often produces a
revolt against marriage. The author of a remarkable paper entitled,
"Our Incestuous Marriage," in the _Forum_ (Dec., 1915), advocates a
reform of social marriage customs "in conformance with the
freedom-loving modern nature," and the introduction of "a fresh
atmosphere for married life in which personality can be made to appear
so sacred and free that marriage will be undertaken and borne as
lightly and gracefully as a secret sin."

[2] See Sir James Donaldson, _Woman: Her Position and Influence in
Ancient Greece and Rome, 1907_; also S.B. Kitchin's excellent _History
of Divorce_, 1912; this author believes that the tendency in modern
civilisation is to return to the simple principles of Roman law
involving divorce by consent. See also Havelock Ellis, _Sex in Relation
to Society_, Ch. X.



The history of educated opinion concerning the birth-rate and its
interpretation during the past seventy years is full of interest. The
actual operative factors--natural, pathological, economic, social, and
educational--in raising or lowering the birth-rate, are numerous and
complicated, and it is difficult to determine exactly how large a part
each factor plays. But without determining that at all, it is still
very instructive to observe the evolution of popular intelligent
opinion concerning the significance of a high and a low birth-rate.

Popular opinion on this matter may be said to have passed through three
stages. I am referring to Western Europe and more particularly to
England and Germany, for it must be remembered that, in this matter,
England and Germany are running a parallel course. England happens to
be, on the whole, a little ahead, having reached its period of full
expansion at a somewhat earlier period than Germany, but each people is
pursuing the same course.

In the first stage--let us say about the middle of the last century and
the succeeding thirty years--the popular attitude was one of jubilant
satisfaction in a high and rising birth-rate. There had been an immense
expansion of industry. The whole world seemed nothing but a great field
for the energetic and industrial nations to exploit. Workers were
needed to keep up with the expansion and to keep down wages to a rate
which would make industrial expansion easy; soldiers and armaments were
needed to protect the movements of expansion. It seemed to the more
exuberant spirits that a vast British Empire, or a mighty Pan-Germany,
might be expected to cover the whole world. France, with its low and
falling birth-rate, was looked down at with contempt as a decadent
country inhabited by a degenerate population. No attempts to analyse
the birth-rate, to ascertain what are really the biological, social,
and economic accompaniments of a high birth-rate, made any impression
on the popular mind. They were drowned in the general shout of

That era of optimism was followed by a swift reaction. Towards 1880 the
upward movement of the birth-rate began to be arrested; it soon began
steadily to fall, as it is continuing to do to-day. In France it is
falling slowly, in Italy more rapidly, in England and Prussia still
more rapidly. As, however, the fall began earliest in France, the
birth-rate is lower there than in the other countries named; for the
same reason it is lower in England than in Prussia, although England
stands in this respect at almost exactly the same distance from Prussia
to-day as thirty years ago, the fall having occurred at the same rate
in both countries. It is quite possible that in the future it may
become more rapid in Prussia than in England, for the birth-rate of
Berlin is lower than the birth-rate of London, and urbanisation is
proceeding at a more rapid rate in Germany than in England.

The realisation of such facts as these produced a period of pessimism
which marks the second stage in this evolution. The great movement of
expansion, which seemed to promise so much to ambitious nations anxious
for world-power, was being arrested. Moreover, it began to be realised
that the rapid growth of a community was accompanied by phenomena which
had not been foreseen by the enthusiasts of the first period of
optimism. They had argued--not indeed verbally but in effect--that the
higher the birth-rate the cheaper labour and lives would become, and
the cheaper labour and lives were, the easier it would be for a nation
with its industrial armies and its military armies to get ahead of
other rival nations. But they had not realised that, with the growth of
popular education in modern democratic states, cheap labour is no
longer willing to play without protest this humble and suffering part
in national progress. The workers of the nations began to declare,
clearly or obscurely, as they were able, that they no longer intended
to sell their labour and their lives so cheaply. The rising birth-rate
of the middle of the nineteenth century coincided with, and to a large
extent doubtless produced, the organisation of labour, trades unions,
the political activity of the working classes, Socialism, as well as
the extreme forms of Anarchism and Syndicalism. It was when these
movements began to attain a high degree of organisation and power that
the birth-rate began to decline. Thus the pessimists of the second
period were faced by horrors on both sides. On the one hand, they saw
that the ever-increasing rate of human production which seemed to them
the essential condition of national, social, even moral progress, had
not only stopped but was steadily diminishing. On the other hand, they
saw that, even in so far as it was maintained, it involved, under
modern conditions, nothing but social commotion and economic

There are still many pessimists of this second period alive among us,
and actively proclaiming their gospel of despair, alike in England and
in Germany. But a new generation is growing up, and this question is
now entering a third period. The new generation rejects alike the
passive optimism of the first period and the passive pessimism of the
second period. Its attitude is hopeful but it realises that mere hope
is vain unless there is clear intellectual vision and unless there is
individual and social action in accordance with that vision.

It is to-day beginning to be seen that the old notion of progress by
means of reckless multiplication is vain. It can only be effected at a
ruinous cost of death, disease, poverty, and misery. We see this in the
past history of Western Europe, as we still see it in the history of
Russia. Any progress effected along that line--if "progress" it can be
called--is now barred, for it is absolutely opposed to those democratic
conceptions which are ever gaining greater influence among us.

Moreover, we are now better able to analyse demographic phenomena and
we are no longer satisfied with any crude statements regarding the
birth-rate. We realise that they need interpretation. They have to be
considered in relation to the sex-constitution and the age-constitution
of the population, and, above all, they must be viewed in relation to
the infant mortality-rate. The bad aspect of the French birth-rate is
not so much its lowness as that it is accompanied by a high infantile
mortality. The fact that the German birth-rate is higher than the
English ceases to be a matter of satisfaction when it is realised that
German infantile mortality is vastly greater than English. A high
birth-rate is no sign of a high civilisation. But we are beginning to
feel that a high infantile death-rate is a sign of a very inferior
civilisation. A low birth-rate with a low infant death-rate not only
produces the same increase in the population as a high birth-rate with
the high death-rate, which always accompanies it (for there are no
examples of, a high birth-rate with a low death-rate), but it produces
it in a way which is far more worthy of our admiration in this matter
than the way of Russia and China where opposite conditions prevail.[1]

It used to be thought that small families were immoral. We now begin to
see that it was the large families of old which were immoral. The
excessive birth-rate of the early industrial period was directly
stimulated by selfishness. There were no laws against child-labour;
children were produced that they might be sent out, when little more
than babies, to the factories and the mines to increase their parents'
incomes. The diminished birth-rate has accompanied higher moral
transformation. It has introduced a finer economy into life, diminished
death, disease, and misery. It is indirectly, and even directly,
improving the quality of the race. The very fact that children are born
at longer intervals is not only beneficial to the mother's health, and
therefore to the children's general welfare, but it has been proved to
have a marked and prolonged influence on the physical development of

Social progress, and a higher civilisation, we thus see, involve a
reduced birth-rate and a reduced death-rate; the fewer the children
born, the fewer the risks of death, disease, and misery to the children
that are born. The fact that civilisation involves small families is
clearly shown by the tendency of the educated and upper social classes
to have small families. As the proletariat class becomes educated and
elevated, disciplined to refinement and to foresight--as it were
aristocratised--it also has small families. Civilisational progress is
here in a line with biological progress. The lower organisms spawn
their progeny in thousands, the higher mammals produce but one or two
at a time. The higher the race the fewer the offspring.

Thus diminution in quantity is throughout associated with augmentation
in quality. Quality rather than quantity is the racial ideal now set
before us, and it is an ideal which, as we are beginning to learn, it
is possible to cultivate, both individually and socially. The day is
coming, as Engel remarks in his useful book on _The Elements of Child
Protection_, when fatherhood and motherhood will only be permitted to
the strong. That is why the new science of eugenics or racial hygiene
is acquiring so immense an importance. In the past racial selection has
been carried out crudely by the destructive, wasteful, and expensive
method of elimination, through death. In the future it will be carried
out far more effectively by conscious and deliberate selection,
exercised not merely before birth, but before conception and even
before mating. It is idle to suppose that such a change can be exerted
by mere legislation, for which, besides, our scientific knowledge is
still inadequate. We cannot, indeed, desire any compulsory elimination
of the unfit or any regulated breeding of the fit. Such notions are
idle. Man can only be bred from within, through the medium of his
intelligence and will, working together under the control of a high
sense of responsibility. Galton, who recognised the futility of mere
legislation to elevate the race, believed that the hope of the future
lay in eugenics becoming a part of religion. The good of the race lies,
not in the production of a super-man, but of a super-humanity. This can
only be attained through personal individual development, the increase
of knowledge, the sense of responsibility towards the race, enabling
men to act in accordance with responsibility. The leadership in
civilisation belongs not to the nation with the highest birth-rate but
to the nation which has thus learnt to produce the finest men and

[1] For a more detailed discussion of these points see the author's
_Task of Social Hygiene_.



It was inevitable that the Great War of to-day should lead to an
outcry, in all the countries engaged, for more children and larger
families. In Germany and in Austria, in France and in England,
panic-stricken fanatics are found who preach to the people that the
birth-rate is falling and the nation is decaying. No scheme is too wild
for the supposed benefit of the country in a fierce coming fight for
commercial supremacy, as well as with due regard to the requirements in
cannon fodder of another Great War twenty years hence.

It may be well, however, to pause before we listen to these Quixotic
plans.[1] We may then find reason to think, not only that any attempt
to arrest the falling birth-rate is scarcely likely to be effective in
view of the fact that it affects not one country only but all the
countries that count, but that even if it could be successful it would
be mischievous. Whatever the results of the War may be, one result
is fairly certain and that is that, under the most favourable
circumstances, every country will emerge laden with misery and debt;
whatever prosperity may follow, living will be expensive for a long
time to come and the incomes of all classes heavily burdened. A Bounty
on Babies would hardly make up for these difficulties. The happy
family, under the conditions that seem to be immediately ahead of us,
is likely to be the small family. The large family--as indeed has been
the case in the past--is likely to be visited by disease and death.

But there is more to be said than this. We must dismiss altogether the
statement so often made that a falling birth-rate means "an old and
dying community." The Germans have for years been making this remark
contemptuously regarding the French. But to-day they have to recognise
a vitality in the French which they had not expected, while in recent
years, also, their own birth-rate has been falling more rapidly than
that of France. Nor is it true that a falling birth-rate means a
falling population; the French birth-rate has long been steadily
falling, yet the French population has been steadily increasing all the
time, though less rapidly than it would had not the death-rate been
abnormally high. It is not the number of babies born that counts, but
the net result in surviving children. An enormous number of babies are
born in China; but an enormous number die while still babies. So that
it is better to have a few babies of good quality than a large number
of indifferent quality, for the falling birth-rate is more than
compensated by the falling death-rate. That is what we are attaining in
England, and, as we know, our steadily falling birth-rate results in a
steadily growing population.

There is still more to be said. Small families and a falling birth-rate
are not merely no evil, they are a positive good. They are a gain for
humanity. They represent an evolutionary rise in Nature and a higher
stage in civilisation. We are here in the presence of great fundamental
principles of progress which have been working through life from the

At the beginning of life on the earth reproduction ran riot. Of one
minute organism it is estimated that, if its reproduction were not
checked by death or destruction, in thirty days it would form a mass a
million times larger than the sun. The conger-eel lays fifteen million
eggs, and if they all grew up, and reproduced themselves on the same
scale, in two years the whole sea would become a wriggling mass of
fish. As we approach the higher forms of life reproduction gradually
dies down. The animals nearest to man produce few offspring, but they
surround them with parental care, until they are able to lead
independent lives with a fair chance of surviving. The whole process
may be regarded as a mechanism for slowly subordinating quantity to
quality, and so promoting the evolution of life to ever higher stages.

This process, which is plain to see on the largest scale throughout
living nature, may be more minutely studied, as it acts within a
narrower range, in the human species. Here we statistically formulate
it in the terms of birth-rate and death-rate; by the mutual relationship
of the two courses of the birth-rate and the death-rate we are able to
estimate the evolutionary rank of a nation, and the degree in which it
has succeeded in subordinating the primitive standard of quantity to
the higher and later standard of quality.

It is especially in Europe that we can investigate this relationship by
the help of statistics which in some cases extend for nearly a century
back. We can trace the various phases through which each nation passes,
the effects of prosperity, the influence of education and sanitary
improvement, the general complex development of civilisation, in each
case moving forward, though not regularly and steadily, to higher
stages by means of a falling birth-rate, which is to some extent
compensated by a falling death-rate, the two rates nearly always
running parallel, so that a temporary rise in the birth-rate is usually
accompanied by a rise in the death-rate, by a return, that is to say,
towards the conditions which we find at the beginning of animal life,
and a steady fall in the birth-rate is always accompanied by a fall in
the death-rate.

The modern phase of this movement, soon after which our precise
knowledge begins, may be said to date from the industrial expansion,
due to the introduction of machinery, which Professor Marshall places
in England about the year 1760. That represents the beginning of an era
in which all civilised and semi-civilised countries are still living.
For the earlier centuries we lack precise data, but we are able to form
certain probable conclusions. The population of a country in those ages
seems to have grown very slowly and sometimes even to have retrograded.
At the end of the sixteenth century the population of England and Wales
is estimated at five millions and at the end of the seventeenth at six
millions--only 20 per cent. increase during the century--although
during the nineteenth century the population nearly quadrupled. This
very gradual increase of the population seems to have been by no means
due to a very low birth-rate, but to a very high death-rate. Throughout
the Middle Ages a succession of virulent plagues and pestilences
devastated Europe. Small-pox, which may be considered the latest of
these, used to sweep off large masses of the youthful population in the
eighteenth century. The result was a certain stability and a certain
well-being in the population as a whole, these conditions being,
however, maintained in a manner that was terribly wasteful and

The industrial revolution introduced a new era which began to show its
features clearly in the early nineteenth century. On the one hand, a
new motive had arisen to favour a more rapid increase of population.
Small children could tend machinery and thereby earn wages to increase
the family takings. This led to an immediate result in increased
population and increased prosperity. But, on the other hand, the rapid
increase of population always tended to outrun the rapid increase of
prosperity, and the more so since the rise of sanitary science began to
drive back the invasions of the grosser and more destructive infectious
diseases which had hitherto kept the population down. The result was
that new forms of disease, distress, and destitution arose; the old
stability was lost, and the new prosperity produced unrest in place of
well-being. The social consciousness was still too immature to deal
collectively with the difficulties and frictions which the industrial
era introduced, and the individualism which under former conditions had
operated wholesomely now acted perniciously to crush the souls and
bodies of the workers, whether men, women, or children.

As we know, the increase of knowledge and the growth of the social
consciousness have slowly acted wholesomely during the past century to
remedy the first evil results of the industrial revolution. The
artificial and abnormal increase of the population has been checked
because it is no longer permissible in most countries to stunt the
minds and bodies of small children by placing them in factories. An
elaborate system of factory legislation was devised, and is still ever
drawing fresh groups of workers within its protective meshes. Sanitary
science began to develop and to exert an enormous influence on the
health of nations. At the same time the supreme importance of popular
education was realised. The total result was that the nature of
"prosperity" began to be transformed; instead of being, as it had been
at the beginning of the industrial era, a direct appeal to the
gratification of gross appetites and reckless lusts, it became an
indirect stimulus to higher gratifications and more remote aspirations.
Foresight became a dominating motive even in the general population,
and a man's anxiety for the welfare of his family was no longer
forgotten in the pleasure of the moment. The social state again became
more stable, and mere "prosperity" was transformed into civilisation.
This is the state of things now in progress in all industrial
countries, though it has reached varying levels of development among
different peoples.

It is thus clear that the birth-rate combined with the death-rate
constitutes a delicate instrument for the measurement of civilisation,
and that the record of their combined curves registers the upward or
downward course of every nation. The curves, as we know, tend to be
parallel, and when they are not parallel we are in the presence of a
rare and abnormal state of things which is usually temporary or

It is instructive from this point of view to study the various nations
of Europe, for here we find a large number of small nations, each with
its own statistical system, confined within a small space and living
under fairly uniform conditions. Let us take the latest official
figures (which are usually for 1913) and attempt to measure the
civilisation of European countries on this basis. Beginning with the
lowest birth-rate, and therefore in gradually descending rank of
superiority, we find that the European countries stand in the following
order: France, Belgium, Ireland, Sweden, the United Kingdom,
Switzerland, Norway, Scotland, Denmark, Holland, the German Empire,
Prussia, Finland, Spain, Austria, Italy, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria,
Roumania, Russia. If we take the death-rate similarly, beginning with
the lowest rate and gradually proceeding to the highest, we find the
following order: Holland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the
United Kingdom, Belgium, Scotland, Prussia, the German Empire, Finland,
Ireland, France, Italy, Austria, Serbia, Spain, Bulgaria, Hungary,
Roumania, Russia.

Now we cannot accept the birth-rates and death-rates of the various
countries exactly at their face value. Temporary conditions, as well as
the special composition of a population, not to mention peculiarities
of registration, exert a disturbing effect. Roughly and on the whole,
however, the figures are acceptable. It is instructive to find how
closely the two rates agree. The agreement is, indeed, greater at the
bottom than at the top; the eight countries which constitute the lowest
group as regards birth-rate are the identical eight countries which
furnish the heaviest death-rates. That was to be expected; a very high
birth-rate seems fatally to involve a very high death-rate. But a very
low birth-rate (as we see in the cases of France and Ireland) is not
invariably associated with a very low death-rate, though it is never
associated with a high death-rate. This seems to indicate that those
qualities in a highly civilised nation which restrain the production of
offspring do not always or at once produce the eugenic racial qualities
possessed by hardier peoples living under simpler conditions. But with
these reservations it is not difficult to combine the two lists in a
fairly concordant order of descending rank. Most readers will agree,
that taking the European populations in bulk, without regard to the
production of genius (for men of genius are always a very minute
fraction of a nation), the European populations which they are
accustomed to regard as standing at the head in the general diffusion
of character, intelligence, education, and well-being, are all included
in the first twelve or thirteen nations, which are the same in both
lists though they do not follow the same order. These peoples, as
peoples--that is, without regard to their size, their political
importance, or their production of genius--represent the highest level
of democratic civilisation in Europe.

It is scarcely necessary to add that various countries outside Europe
equal or excel them; the death-rate of the United States, so far as
statistics show, is the same as that of Sweden; that of Ontario, still
better, is the same as Denmark; while the death-rate of the Australian
Commonwealth, with a medium birth-rate, is lower than that of any
European country, and New Zealand holds the world's championship in
this field with the lowest death-rate of all. On the other hand, some
extra-European countries compare less favourably with Europe; Japan,
with a rather high birth-rate, has the same high death-rate as Spain,
and Chile, with a still higher birth-rate, has a higher death-rate than
Russia. So it is that among human peoples we find the same laws
prevailing as among animals, and the higher nations of the world differ
from those which are less highly evolved precisely as the elephant
differs from the herring, though within a narrower range, that is to
say, by producing fewer offspring and taking better care of them.

The whole of this evolutionary process, we have to remember, is a
natural process. It has been going on from the beginning of the living
world. But at a certain stage in the higher development of man, without
ceasing to be natural, it becomes conscious and deliberate. It is then
that we have what may properly be termed _Birth Control_. That is to
say, that a process which had before been working slowly through the
ages, attaining every new forward step with waste and pain, is
henceforth carried out voluntarily, in the light of the high human
qualities of reason and foresight and self-restraint. The rise of birth
control may be said to correspond with the rise of social and sanitary
science in the first half of the nineteenth century, and to be indeed
an essential part of that movement. It is firmly established in all the
most progressive and enlightened countries of Europe, notably in France
and in England; in Germany, where formerly the birth-rate was very
high, birth control has developed with extraordinary rapidity during
the present century. In Holland its principle and practice are freely
taught by physicians and nurses to the mothers of the people, with the
result that there is in Holland no longer any necessity for unwanted
babies, and this small country possesses the proud privilege of the
lowest death-rate in Europe. In the free and enlightened democratic
communities on the other side of the globe, in Australia and New
Zealand, the same principles and practice are generally accepted, with
the same beneficent results. On the other hand, in the more backward
and ignorant countries of Europe, birth control is still little known,
and death and disease flourish. This is the case in those eight
countries which come at the bottom of both our lists.

Even in the more progressive countries, however, birth control has not
been established without a struggle, which has frequently ended in a
hypocritical compromise, its principles being publicly ignored or
denied and its practice privately accepted. For, at the great and
vitally important point in human progress which birth control
represents, we really see the conflict of two moralities. The morality
of the ancient world is here confronted by the morality of the new
world. The old morality, knowing nothing of science and the process of
Nature as worked out in the evolution of life, based itself on the
early chapters of Genesis, in which the children of Noah are
represented as entering an empty earth which it is their business to
populate diligently. So it came about that for this morality, still
innocent of eugenics, recklessness was almost a virtue. Children were
given by God; if they died or were afflicted by congenital disease, it
was the dispensation of God, and, whatever imprudence the parents might
commit, the pathetic faith still ruled that "God will provide." But in
the new morality it is realised that in these matters Divine action can
only be made manifest in human action, that is to say through the
operation of our own enlightened reason and resolved will. Prudence,
foresight, self-restraint--virtues which the old morality looked down
on with benevolent contempt--assume a position of the first importance.
In the eyes of the new morality the ideal woman is no longer the meek
drudge condemned to endless and often ineffectual child-bearing, but
the free and instructed woman, able to look before and after, trained
in a sense of responsibility alike to herself and to the race, and
determined to have no children but the best. Such were the two
moralities which came into conflict during the nineteenth century. They
were irreconcilable and each firmly rooted, one in ancient religion and
tradition, the other in progressive science and reason. Nothing was
possible in such a clash of opposing ideas but a feeble and confused
compromise such as we still find prevailing in various countries of Old
Europe. It was not a satisfactory solution, however inevitable, and
especially unsatisfactory by the consequent obscurantism which placed
difficulties in the way of spreading a knowledge of the methods of
birth control among the masses of the population. For the result has
been that while the more enlightened and educated have exercised a
control over the size of their families, the poorer and more
ignorant--who should have been offered every facility and encouragement
to follow in the same path--have been left, through a conspiracy of
secrecy, to carry on helplessly the bad customs of their forefathers.
This social neglect has had the result that the superior family stocks
have been hampered by the recklessness of the inferior stocks.

We may see these two moralities in conflict to-day in America. Up till
recently America had meekly accepted at Old Europe's hands the
traditional prescription of our Mediterranean book of Genesis, with its
fascinating old-world fragrance of Mount Ararat. On the surface, the
ancient morality had been complacently, almost unquestionably, accepted
in America, even to the extent of permitting a vast extension of
abortion--a criminal practice which ever flourishes where birth-control
is neglected. But to-day we suddenly see a new movement in the United
States. In a flash, America has awakened to the true significance of
the issue. With that direct vision of hers, that swift practicality of
action, and, above all, that sense of the democratic nature of all
social progress, we see her resolutely beginning to face this great
problem. In her own vigorous native tongue we hear her demanding: "What
in the thunder is all the secrecy about, anyhow?" And we cannot doubt
that America's own answer to that demand will be of immense
significance to the whole world.

Thus it is that as we get to the root of the matter the whole question
becomes clear. We see that there is really no standing ground in any
country for the panic-monger who bemoans the fall of the birth-rate and
storms against small families. The falling birth-rate is a world-wide
phenomenon in all countries that are striving toward a higher
civilisation along lines which Nature laid down from the beginning. We
cannot stop it if we would, and if we could we should merely be
impeding civilisation. It is a movement that rights itself and tends to
reach a just balance. It has not yet reached that balance with us in
this country. That may be seen by anyone who has read the letters from
mothers lately published under the title of _Maternity_ by the Women's
Co-operative Guild; there is still far more misery caused by having too
many babies than by having too few; a bonus on babies would be a
misfortune, alike for the parents and the State--whether bestowed at
birth as proposed in New Zealand, or at the age of twelve months as
proposed in France, or fourteen years as proposed in England--unless it
were confined to children who were not merely alive at the appointed
age, but able to pass examination as having reached a definitely high
standard. The falling birth-rate, which, it must be remembered, is
affecting all civilised countries, should be a matter for joy rather
than for grief.

But we need not therefore fold our hands and do nothing. There is still
much to be effected for the protection of Motherhood and the better
care of children. We cannot, and should not, attempt to increase the
number of children. But we may well attempt to work for their better
quality. There we shall be on very safe ground. More knowledge is
necessary so that all would-be parents may know how they may best
become parents and how they may, if necessary, best avoid it.
Procreation by the unfit should be, if not prohibited by law, at all
events so discouraged by public opinion that to attempt it would be
counted disgraceful. Much greater public provision is necessary for the
care of mothers during the months before, as well as during the period
after, the child's birth. The system of Schools for Mothers needs to be
universalised and systematically carried out. Along such lines as these
we may hope to increase the happiness of the people and the strength of
the State. We need not worry over the falling birth-rate.

[1] Those who wish to study the latest restatements of opinions in
England may be recommended to read the Report of the Commission of
Inquiry into Great Britain's falling birth-rate, appointed in 1913 by
the National Council of Public Morals, under the title of _The
Declining Birth-rate: Its Causes and Effects_, 1916.





The study of the questions relating to sex, so actively carried on
during recent years, has become more and more concentrated on to the
practical problems of marriage and the family. That was inevitable. It
is only reasonable that, with our growing scientific knowledge of the
mysteries of sex, we should seek to apply that knowledge to those
questions of life which we must ever regard as central. How can we add
to the stability or to the flexibility of marriage? How can we most
judiciously regulate the size of our families?

At the outset, however, we cannot too deeply impress upon our minds the
fact that these questions are not new in the world. If we try to find
an answer to them by confining our attention to the phenomena presented
by our own species, at our own particular moment of civilisation, it is
very likely indeed that we may fall into crude, superficial, even
mischievous conclusions.

The fact is that these questions, which are agitating us to-day, have
agitated the world ever since it has been a world of life at all. The
difference is that whereas we seek to deal with them consciously,
voluntarily, and deliberately, throughout by far the greater part of
the world's life they have been dealt with unconsciously, by methods of
trial and error, of perpetual experiment, which has often proved
costly, but has all the more clearly brought out the real course of
natural progress. We cannot solve problems so ancient and deeply rooted
as those of sex by merely rational methods which are only of yesterday.
To be of value our rational methods must be the revelation in
deliberate consciousness of unconscious methods which go far back into
the remote past. Our conscious, deliberate, and purposive methods,
carried out on the plane of reason, will not be sound unless they are a
continuation of those methods which have already, in the slow evolution
of life, been found sound and progressive on the plane of instinct.
This must be borne in mind by those people--always to be found among
us, though not always on the side of social advance--who desire their
own line of conduct in matters of sex to be so closely in accord with
natural and Divine law that to question it would be impious.

A medical friend of my own, when once in the dentist's chair under the
influence of nitrous oxide anaesthesia (a condition, as William James
showed, which frequently leads us to believe we are solving the
problems of the universe), imagined himself facing the Almighty and
insistently demanding the real object of the existence of the world.
And the Almighty's answer came in one word: "Reproduction." My friend
is a man of philosophic mind, and the solution of the mystery of the
world's purpose thus presented to him in vision may perhaps serve as a
simple and ultimate statement of the object of life. From the very
outset the great object of Nature to our human eyes seems to be
primarily reproduction, in the long run, indeed, an effort after
economy of method in the attainment of an ever greater perfection, but
primarily reproduction. This tendency to reproduction is indeed so
fundamental, it is impressed on vital organisation with so great a
violence of emphasis, that we may regard the course of evolution as
much more an effort to slow down reproduction than to furnish it with
any new facilities.

We must remember that reproduction appears in the history of life before
sex appears. The lower forms of animal and plant life often reproduce
themselves without the aid of sex, and it has even been argued that
reproduction and sex are directly antagonistic, that active propagation
is always checked when sexual differentiation is established. "The
impression one gains of sexuality," remarks Professor Coulter, foremost
of American botanists, "is that it represents reproduction under
peculiar difficulties."[1] Bacteria among primitive plants and protozoa
among primitive animals are patterns of rapid and prolific reproduction,
though sex begins to appear in a rudimentary form in very lowly forms of
life, even among the protozoa, and is at first compatible with a high
degree of reproduction. A single infusorian becomes in a week the
ancestor of millions, that is to say, of far more individuals than could
proceed under the most favourable conditions from a pair of elephants in
five centuries, while Huxley calculated that the progeny of a single
parthenogenetic aphis, under favouring circumstances, would in a few
months outweigh the whole population of China.[2] That proviso--"under
favouring conditions"--is of great importance, for it reveals the weak
point in this early method of Nature's for conducting evolution by
enormously rapid multiplication. Creatures so easily produced could be,
and were, easily destroyed; no time had been spent on imparting to them
the qualities that would enable them to lead, what we should call in our
own case, long and useful lives.

Yet the method of rapid multiplication was not readily or speedily
abandoned by Nature. Still speaking in our human way, we may say that
she tried to give it every chance. Among insects that have advanced so
far as the white ants, we find that the queen lays eggs at an enormous
rate during the whole of her active life, according to some estimates
at the rate of 80,000 a day. Even in the more primitive members of the
great vertebrate group, to which we ourselves belong, reproduction is
sometimes still on almost as vast a scale as among lower organisms.
Thus, among herrings, nearly 70,000 eggs have been found in a single
female; but the herring, nevertheless, does not tend to increase in the
seas, for it is everywhere preyed upon by whales and seals and sharks
and birds, and, not least, by man. Thus early we see the connection
between a high death-rate and a high birth-rate.

The evidence against reckless reproduction at last, however, proved
overwhelming. With whatever hesitation, Nature finally decided, once
and for all, that it was better, from every point of view, to produce a
few superior beings than a vast number of inferior beings. For while
the primary end of Nature may be said to be reproduction, there is a
secondary end of scarcely less equal urgency, and that is evolution. In
other words, while Nature seems to our human eyes to be seeking after
quantity, she is also seeking, and with ever greater eagerness, after
quality. Now the method of rapid and easy reproduction, it had become
clear, not only failed of its own end, for the inferior creatures thus
produced were unable to maintain their position in life, but it was
distinctly unfavourable to any advance in quality. The method of sexual
reproduction, which had existed in a germinal form more or less from
the beginning, asserted itself ever more emphatically, and a method
like that of parthenogenesis, or reproduction by the female unaided by
the male (illustrated by the aphis), which had lingered on even beside
sexual reproduction, absolutely died out in higher evolution. Now the
fertilisation involved by the existence of two sexes is, as Weismann
insisted, simply an arrangement which renders possible the
intermingling of two different hereditary tendencies. The object of
sex, that is to say, is by no means to aid reproduction, but rather to
subordinate and check reproduction in order to evolve higher and more
complex beings. Here we come to the great principle, which Herbert
Spencer developed at length in his _Principles of Biology_, that, as he
put it, Individuation and Genesis vary inversely, whence it followed
that advancing evolution must be accompanied by declining fertility.
Individuation, which means complexity of structure, has advanced, as
Genesis, the unrestricted tendency to mere multiplication, has receded.
This involves a diminished number of offspring, but an increased amount
of time and care in the creation and breeding of each; it involves also
that the reproductive life of the organism is shortened and more or
less confined to special periods; it begins much later, it usually ends
earlier, and even in its period of activity it tends to fall into
cycles. Nature, we see, who, at the outset, had endowed her children so
lavishly with the aptitude for multiplication, grown wiser now, expends
her fertile imagination in devising preventive checks on reproduction
for her children's use.

The result is that, though reproduction is greatly slackened, evolution
is greatly accelerated. The significance of sex, as Coulter puts it,
"lies in the fact that it makes organic evolution more rapid and far
more varied." It is scarcely necessary to emphasise that a highly
important, and, indeed, essential aspect of this greater individuation
is a higher survival value. The more complex and better equipped
creature can meet and subdue difficulties and dangers to which the more
lowly organised creature that came before--produced wholesale in a way
which Nature seems now to look back on as cheap and nasty--succumbed
helplessly without an effort. The idea of economy begins to assert
itself in the world. It became clear in the course of evolution that it
is better to produce really good and highly efficient organisms, at
whatever cost, than to be content with cheap production on a wholesale
scale. They allowed greater developmental progress to be made, and they
lasted better. Even before man began it was proved in the animal world
that the death-rate falls as the birth-rate falls.

If we wish to realise the vast progress in method which has been made,
even within the limits of the vertebrates to which we ourselves belong,
we have but to compare with the lowly herring, already cited, the
highly evolved elephant. The herring multiplies with enormous rapidity
and on a vast scale, and it possesses a very small brain, and is almost
totally unequipped to grapple with the special difficulties of its
life, to which it succumbs on a wholesale scale. A single elephant is
carried for about two years in his mother's womb, and is carefully
guarded by her for many years after birth; he possesses a large brain;
his muscular system is as remarkable for its delicacy as for its power
and is guided by the most sensitive perceptions. He is fully equipped
for all the dangers of his life, save for those which have been
introduced by the subtle devilry of modern man, and though a single
pair of elephants produces so few offspring, yet their high cost is
justified, for each of them has a reasonable chance of surviving to old
age. The contrast from the point of view of reproduction of the herring
and the elephant, the low vertebrate and the high vertebrate, well
illustrates the tendency of evolution. It clearly brings before us the
difference between Nature's earlier and later methods, the ever growing
preference for quality of offspring over quantity.

It has been necessary to touch on the wider aspects of reproduction in
Nature, even when our main concern is with particular aspects of
reproduction in man, for unless we understand the progressive tendency
of reproduction in Nature, we shall probably fail to understand it in
man. With these preliminary observations, we may now take up the
question as it affects man.

It is not easy to ascertain the exact tendencies of reproduction in our
own historical past or among the lower races of to-day. On the whole,
it seems fairly clear that, under ordinary savage and barbarous
conditions, rather more children are produced and rather more children
die than among ourselves; there is, in other words, a higher birth-rate
and a higher infantile death-rate.[3] A high birth-rate with a low
death-rate seems to have been even more exceptional than among
ourselves, for under inelastic social conditions the community cannot
adjust itself to the rapid expansion that would thus be rendered
necessary. The community contracts, as it were, on this expanding
portion and largely crushes it out of life by the forces of neglect,
poverty, and disease.[4] The only part of Europe in which we can to-day
see how this works out on a large scale is Russia, for here we find in
an exaggerated form conditions, which once tended to rule all over
Europe, side by side with the beginnings of better things, with
scientific progress and statistical observation. Yet in Russia, up till
recently, if not even still, there has only been about one doctor to
every twelve thousand inhabitants, and the witch-doctor has flourished.
Small-pox, scarlet fever, diphtheria, typhoid, and syphilis also
flourish, and not only flourish, but show an enormously higher
mortality than in other European countries. More significant still,
famine and typhus, the special disease of filth and overcrowding and
misery--both of them banished, save in the most abnormal times, from
the rest of Europe--have in modern times ravaged Russia on a vast
scale. Ignorance, superstition, insanitation, filth, bad food, impure
water, lead to a vast mortality among children which has sometimes
destroyed more than half of them before they reach the age of five; so
that, enormously high as the Russian birth-rate is, the death-rate has
sometimes exceeded it.[5] Nor is it found, as some would-be sagacious
persons confidently assert, that the high birth-rate is justified by
the better quality of the survivors. On the contrary, there is a very
large proportion of chronic and incurable diseases among the survivors;
blindness and other defects abound; and though there are many very
large and fine people in Russia, the average stature of the Russians is
lower than that of most European peoples.[6]

Russia is in the era of expanding industrialism--a fateful period for
any people, as we shall see directly--and the results resemble those
which followed, and to some extent exist still, further west. The
workers, whose hours often extended to twelve or fourteen, frequently
had no homes but slept in the factory itself, in the midst of the
machinery, or in a sort of dormitory above it, with a minimum of space
and fresh air, men and women promiscuously, on wooden shelves, one
above the other, under the eye of Government inspectors whose protests
were powerless to effect any change. This is, always and everywhere,
even among so humane a people as the Russians, the natural and
inevitable result of a high birth-rate in an era of expanding
industrialism. Here is the goal of unrestricted reproduction, the same
among men as among herrings. This is the ideal of those persons,
whether they know it or not, who in their criminal rashness would dare
to arrest that fall in the birth-rate which is now beginning to spread
its beneficent influence in every civilised land.

We have no means of ascertaining precisely the birth-rate in Western
Europe before the nineteenth century, but the estimates of the
population which have been made by the help of various data indicate
that the increase during a century was very moderate. In England, for
instance, families scarcely seem to have been very large, and, even
apart from wars, many plagues and pestilences, during the eighteenth
century more especially small-pox, constantly devastated the
population, so that, with these checks on the results of reproduction,
the population was able to adjust itself to its very gradual expansion.
The mortality fell heavily on young children, as we observe in old
family records, where we frequently find two or even three children of
the same Christian name, the first child having died and its name been
given to a successor.

During the last quarter of the eighteenth century, a new phase of
social life, profoundly affecting the reproductive habits of the
community, made its appearance in Western Europe, at first in England.
This was the new industrial era, due to the introduction of machinery.
All the social methods of gradual though awkward adaptation to a slow
expansion were dislocated. Easy expansion of population became a
possibility, for factories were constantly springing up, and "hands"
were always in demand. Moreover, these "hands" could be children for it
was possible to tend machinery at a very early age. The richest family
was the family with most children. The population began to expand

It was an era of prosperity. But when it began to be realised what this
meant it was seen that such "prosperity" was far from an enviable
condition. A community cannot suddenly adjust itself to a sudden
expansion, still less can it adjust itself to a continuous rapid
expansion. Disease, misery, and poverty flourished in this prosperous
new industrial era. Filth and insanitation, immorality and crime, were
fostered by overcrowding in ill-built urban areas. Ignorance and
stupidity abounded, for the child, placed in the monotonous routine of
the factory when little more than an infant, was deprived alike of the
education of the school and of the world. Higher wages brought no
higher refinement and were squandered on food and drink, on the lowest
vulgar tastes. Such "prosperity" was merely a brutalising influence; it
meant nothing for the growth of civilisation and humanity.

Then a wholesome movement of reaction set in. The betterment of the
environment--that was the great task that social pioneers and reformers
saw before them. They courageously set about the herculean task of
cleansing this Augean stable of "Prosperity." The era of sanitation
began. The endless and highly beneficent course of factory legislature
was inaugurated.[7]

That is the era which, in every progressive country of the world, we
are living in still. The final tendency of it, however, was not
foreseen by its great pioneers, or even its humble day-labourers of the
present time. For they were not attacking reproduction; they were
fighting against bad conditions, and may even have thought that they
were enabling reproduction to expand more freely. They had not realised
that to improve the environment is to check reproduction, being indeed
the one and only way in which undue reproduction can be checked. That
may be said to be an aspect of the opposition between Genesis and
Individuation, on which Herbert Spencer insisted, for by improving the
environment we necessarily improve the individual who is rooted in that
environment. It is not, we must remember, a matter of conscious and
voluntary action. That is clearly manifest by the fact that it occurs
even among the most primitive micro-organisms; when placed under
unfavourable conditions as to food and environment they tend to pass
into a reproductive phase and by sporulation or otherwise begin to
produce new individuals rapidly. It is the same in Man. Improve the
environment and reproduction is checked.[8] That is, as Professor
Benjamin Moore has said, "the simple biological reply to good economic
conditions." It is only among the poor, the ignorant, and the wretched
that reproduction flourishes. "The tendency of civilisation," as
Leroy-Beaulieu concludes, "is to reduce the birth-rate." Those who
desire a high birth-rate are desiring, whether they know it or not, the
increase of poverty, ignorance, and wretchedness.

So far we have been dealing with fundamental laws and tendencies, which
were established long before Man appeared on the earth, although Man
has often illustrated, and still illustrates, their inevitable
character. We have not been brought in contact with the influence of
conscious design and deliberate intention. At this point we reach a
totally new aspect of reproduction.



In tracing the course of reproduction we have so far been concerned
with what are commonly considered the blind operations of Nature in the
absence of conscious and deliberate volition. We have seen that while
at the outset Nature seems to have impressed an immense reproductive
impetus on her creatures, all her energy since has been directed to the
imposition of preventive checks on that reproductive impetus. The end
attained by these checks has been an extreme diminution in the number
of offspring, a prolongation of the time devoted to the breeding and
care of each new member of the family, in harmony with its greatly
prolonged life, a spacing out of the intervals between the offspring,
and, as a result, a vastly greater development of each individual and
an ever better equipment for the task of living. All this was slowly
attained automatically, without any conscious volition on the part of
the individuals, even when they were human beings, who were the agents.
Now occurred a change which we may regard as, in some respects, the
most momentous sudden advance in the whole history of reproduction: the
process of reproductive progress became conscious and deliberately

We often fancy that when natural progress becomes manifested in the
mind and will of man it is somehow unnatural. It is one of the wisest
of Shakespeare's utterances in one of the most mature of his plays that

    "Nature is made better by no mean
    But Nature makes that mean ...
              This is an art
    Which does mend Nature, change it rather, but
    The art itself is Nature."

Birth control, when it ceases to be automatic and becomes conscious, is
an art. But it is an art directed precisely to the attainment of ends
which Nature has been struggling after for millions of years, and,
being consciously and deliberately an art, it is enabled to avoid many
of the pitfalls which the unconscious method falls into. It is an art,

    "The art itself is Nature."

It is always possible for the narrow-eyed fanatic to object to the
employment of birth control, precisely as he might object to the use of
clothes, as "unnatural." But, if we look more deeply into the matter,
we see that even clothes are not truly unnatural. A vast number of
creatures may be said to be born in clothes, clothes so naturally such
that, when stripped from the animals they belong to, we are proud to
wear them ourselves. Even our own ancestors were born in clothes, which
they lost by the combined or separate action of natural selection,
sexual selection, and the environment, which action, however, has not
sufficed to abolish the desirability of clothes.[9] So that the impulse
by which we make for ourselves clothes is merely a conscious and
volitional form of an impulse which, in the absence of consciousness
and will, had acted automatically. It is just the same with the control
and limitation of reproductive activity. It is an attempt by open-eyed
intelligence and foresight to attain those ends which Nature through
untold generations has been painfully yet tirelessly struggling for.
The deliberate co-operation of Man in the natural task of birth-control
represents an identification of the human will with what we may, if we
choose, regard as the divinely appointed law of the world. We can well
believe that the great pioneers who, a century ago, acted in the spirit
of this faith may have echoed the thought of Kepler when, on discovering
his great planetary law, he exclaimed in rapture: "O God! I think Thy
thoughts after Thee."

As a matter of fact, however, it was in no such spirit of ecstasy that
the pioneers of the movement for birth control acted. The Divine
command is less likely to be heard in the whirlwind than in the still
small voice. These great pioneers were thoughtful, cautious,
hard-headed men, who spoke scarcely above a whisper, and were far too
modest to realise that a great forward movement in natural evolution
had in them begun to be manifested. Early man could not have taken this
step because it is even doubtful whether he knew that the conjunction
of the sexes had anything to do with the production of offspring, which
he was inclined to attribute to magical causes. Later, although
intelligence grew, the uncontrolled rule of the sexual impulse obtained
so firm a grip on men that they laughed at the idea that it was
possible to exercise forethought and prudence in this sphere; at the
same time religion and superstition came into action to preserve the
established tradition and to persuade people that it would be wicked
to do anything different from what they had always done. But a saner
feeling was awakening here and there, in various parts of the world. At
last, under the stress of the devastation and misery caused by the
reproductive relapse of the industrial era, this feeling, voiced by a
few distinguished men, began to take shape in action.

The pioneers were English. Among them Malthus occupies the first place.
That distinguished man, in his great and influential work, _The
Principle of Population_, in 1798, emphasised the immense importance of
foresight and self-control in procreation, and the profound
significance of birth limitation for human welfare. Malthus relied,
however, on ascetic self-restraint, a method which could only appeal to
the few; he had nothing to say for the prevention of conception in
intercourse. That was suggested, twenty years later, very cautiously by
James Mill, the father of John Stuart Mill, in the _Encyclopedia
Britannica_. Four years afterwards, Mill's friend, the Radical
reformer, Francis Place, advocated this method more clearly. Finally,
in 1831, Robert Dale Owen, the son of the great Robert Owen, published
his _Moral Physiology_, in which he set forth the ways of preventing
conception; while a little later the Drysdale brothers, ardent and
unwearying philanthropists, devoted their energies to a propaganda
which has been spreading ever since and has now conquered the whole
civilised world.

It was not, however, in England but in France, so often at the head of
an advance in civilisation, that birth control first became firmly
established, and that the extravagantly high birth-rate of earlier
times began to fall; this happened in the first half of the nineteenth
century, whether or not it was mainly due to voluntary control.[10] In
England the movement came later, and the steady decline in the English
birth-rate, which is still proceeding, began in 1877. In the previous
year there had been a famous prosecution of Bradlaugh and Mrs. Besant
for disseminating pamphlets describing the methods of preventing
conception; the charge was described by the Lord Chief Justice, who
tried the case, as one of the most ill-advised and injudicious ever
made in a court of justice. But it served an undesigned end by giving
enormous publicity to the subject and advertising the methods it sought
to suppress. There can be no doubt, however, that even apart from this
trial the movement would have proceeded on the same lines. The times
were ripe, the great industrial expansion had passed its first feverish
phase, social conditions were improving, education was spreading. The
inevitable character of the movement is indicated by the fact that at
the very same time it began to be manifested all over Europe, indeed in
every civilised country of the world. At the present time the
birth-rate (as well as usually the death-rate) is falling in every
country of the world sufficiently civilised to possess statistics of
its own vital movement. The fall varies in rapidity. It has been
considerable in the more progressive countries; it has lingered in the
more backward countries. If we examine the latest statistics for Europe
(usually those for 1913) we find that every country, without exception,
with a progressive and educated population, and a fairly high state of
social well-being, presents a birth-rate below 30 per 1,000. We also
find that every country in Europe in which the mass of the people are
primitive, ignorant, or in a socially unsatisfactory condition (even
although the governing classes may be progressive or ambitious) shows a
birth-rate above 30 per 1,000. France, Great Britain, Belgium, Holland,
the Scandinavian countries and Switzerland are in the first group.
Russia, Austro-Hungary, Italy, Spain and the Balkan countries are in
the second group. The German Empire was formerly in this second group
but now comes within the first group, and has carried on the movement
so energetically that the birth-rate of Berlin is already below that of
London, and that at the present rate of decline the birth-rate of the
German Empire will before long sink to that of France. Outside Europe,
in the United States just as much as in Australia and New Zealand, the
same great progressive movement is proceeding with equal activity.

The wide survey of the question of birth limitation here taken may seem
to some readers unnecessary. Why not get at once to matters of
practical detail? But, if we think of it, our wide survey has been of
the greatest practical help to us. It has, for instance, settled the
question of the desirability of the adoption of methods of preventing
conception and finally silenced those who would waste our time with
their fears lest it is not right to control conception. We know now on
whose side are the laws of God and Nature. We realise that in
exercising control over the entrance gate of life we are not only
performing, consciously and deliberately, a great human duty, but
carrying on rationally a beneficial process which has, more blindly and
wastefully, been carried on since the beginning of the world. There are
still a few persons ignorant enough or foolish enough to fight against
the advance of civilisation in this matter; we can well afford to leave
them severely alone, knowing that in a few years all of them will have
passed away. It is not our business to defend the control of birth, but
simply to discuss how we may most wisely exercise that control.

Many ways of preventing conception have been devised since the method
which is still the commonest was first introduced, so far as our
certainly imperfect knowledge extends, by a clever Jew, Onan
(_Genesis_, Chap. XXXVIII), whose name has since been wrongly attached
to another practice with which the Mosaic record in no way associates
him. There are now many contraceptive methods, some dependent on
precautions adopted by the man, others dependent on the woman, others
again which take the form of an operation permanently preventing
conception, and, therefore, not to be adopted save by couples who
already have as many children as they desire, or else who ought never
to have children at all and thus wisely adopt a method of
sterilisation. It is unnecessary here, even if it were otherwise
desirable, to discuss these various methods in detail. It is even
useless to do so, for we must bear in mind that no method can be
absolutely approved or absolutely condemned. Each may be suitable under
certain conditions and for certain couples, and it is not easy to
recommend any method indiscriminately. We need to know the intimate
circumstances of individual cases. For the most part, experience is the
final test. Forel compared the use of contraceptive devices to the use
of eyeglasses, and it is obvious that, without expert advice, the
results in either case may sometimes be mischievous or at all events
ineffective. Personal advice and instruction are always desirable. In
Holland nurses are medically trained in a practical knowledge of
contraceptive methods, and are thus enabled to enlighten the women of
the community. This is an admirable plan. Considering that the use of
contraceptive measures is now almost universal, it is astonishing that
there are yet so many so-called "civilised" countries in which this
method of enlightenment is not everywhere adopted. Until it is adopted,
and a necessary knowledge of the most fundamental facts of the sexual
life brought into every home, the physician must be regarded as the
proper adviser. It is true that until recently he was generally in
these matters a blind leader of the blind. Nowadays it is beginning to
be recognised that the physician has no more serious and responsible
duty than that of giving help in the difficult path of the sexual life.
Very frequently, indeed, even yet, he has not risen to a sense of his
responsibilities in this matter. It is as well to remember, however,
that a physician who is unable or unwilling to give frank and sound
advice in this most important department of life, is unlikely to be
reliable in any other department. If he is not up to date here he is
probably not up to date anywhere.

Whatever the method adopted, there are certain conditions which it must
fulfil, even apart from its effectiveness as a contraceptive, in order
to be satisfactory. Most of these conditions may be summed up in one:
the most satisfactory method is that which least interferes with the
normal process of the act of intercourse. Every sexual act is, or
should be, a miniature courtship, however long marriage may have
lasted.[11] No outside mental tension or nervous apprehension must be
allowed to intrude. Any contraceptive proceeding which hastily enters
the atmosphere of love immediately before or immediately after the
moment of union is unsatisfactory and may be injurious. It even risks
the total loss of the contraceptive result, for at such moments the
intended method may be ineffectively carried out, or neglected
altogether. No method can be regarded as desirable which interferes
with the sense of satisfaction and relief which should follow the
supreme act of loving union. No method which produces a nervous jar in
one of the parties, even though it may be satisfactory to the other,
should be tolerated. Such considerations must for some couples rule out
certain methods. We cannot, however, lay down absolute rules, because
methods which some couples may find satisfactory prove unsatisfactory
in other cases. Experience, aided by expert advice, is the only final

When a contraceptive method is adopted under satisfactory conditions,
with a due regard to the requirements of the individual couple, there
is little room to fear that any injurious results will be occasioned.
It is quite true that many physicians speak emphatically concerning the
injurious results to husband or to wife of contraceptive devices.
Although there has been exaggeration, and prejudice has often been
imported into this question, and although most of the injurious results
could have been avoided had trained medical help been at hand to advise
better methods, there can be no doubt that much that has been said
under this head is true. Considering how widespread is the use of these
methods, and how ignorantly they have often been carried out, it would
be surprising indeed if it were not true. But even supposing that the
nervously injurious effects which have been traced to contraceptive
practices were a thousandfold greater than they have been reported to
be--instead of, as we are justified in believing, considerably less
than they are reported--shall we therefore condemn contraceptive
methods? To do so would be to ignore all the vastly greater evils which
have followed in the past from unchecked reproduction. It would be a
condemnation which, if we exercised it consistently, would destroy the
whole of civilisation and place us back in savagery. For what device of
man, since man had any history at all, has not proved sometimes

Every one of even the most useful and beneficent of human inventions
has either exercised subtle injuries or produced appalling
catastrophes. This is not only true of man's devices, it is true of
Nature's in general. Let us take, for instance, the elevation of man's
ancestors from the quadrupedal to the bipedal position. The experiment
of making a series of four-footed animals walk on their hind-legs was
very revolutionary and risky; it was far, far more beset by dangers
than is the introduction of contraceptives; we are still suffering all
sorts of serious evils in consequence of Nature's action in placing our
remote ancestors in the erect position. Yet we feel that it was worth
while; even those physicians who most emphasise the evil results of the
erect position do not advise that we should go on all-fours. It is just
the same with a great human device, the introduction of clothes. They
have led to all sorts of new susceptibilities to disease and even
tendencies to direct injury of many kinds. Yet no one advocates the
complete disuse of all clothing on the ground that corsets have
sometimes proved harmful. It would be just as absurd to advocate the
complete abandonment of contraceptives on the ground that some of them
have sometimes been misused. If it were not, indeed, that we are
familiar with the lengths to which ignorance and prejudice may go we
should question the sanity of anyone who put forward so foolish a
proposition. Every great step which Nature and man have taken in the
path of progress has been beset by dangers which are gladly risked
because of the advantages involved. We have still to enumerate some of
the immense advantages which Man has gained in acquiring a conscious
and deliberate control of reproduction.



Anyone who has followed this discussion so far will not easily believe
that a tendency so deeply rooted in Nature as Birth Control can ever be
in opposition to Morality. It can only seem to be so when we confuse
the eternal principles of Morality, whatever they may be, with their
temporary applications, which are always becoming modified in
adaptation to changing circumstances.

We are often in danger of doing injustice to the morality of the past,
and it is important, even in order to understand the morality of the
present, that we should be able to put ourselves in the place of those
for whom birth control was immoral. To speak of birth control as having
been immoral in the past is, indeed, to underestimate the case; it was
not only immoral, it was unnatural, it was even irreligious, it was
almost criminal. We must remember that throughout the Christian world
the Divine Command, "Increase and Multiply," has seemed to echo down
the ages from the beginning of the world. It was the authoritative
command of a tribal God who was, according to the scriptural narrative,
addressing a world inhabited by eight people. From such a point of view
a world's population of several thousand persons would have seemed
inconceivably vast, though to-day by even the most austere advocate of
birth limitation it would be allowed with a smile. But the old
religious command has become a tradition which has survived amid
conditions totally unlike those under which it arose. In comparatively
modern times it has been reinforced from unexpected quarters, on the
one hand by all the forces that are opposed to democracy and on the
other by all the forces of would-be patriotic militarism, both alike
clamouring for plentiful and cheap men.

Even science, under primitive conditions, was opposed to Birth Control.
Creation was regarded as a direct process in which man's will had no
part, and knowledge of nature was still too imperfect for the
recognition of the fact that the whole course of the world's natural
history has been an erection of barriers against wholesale and
indiscriminate reproduction. Thus it came about that under the old
dispensation, which is now for ever passing away, to have as many
children as possible and to have them as often as possible--provided
certain ritual prescriptions were fulfilled--seemed to be a religious,
moral, natural, scientific, and patriotic duty.

To-day the conditions have altogether altered, and even our own
feelings have altered. We no longer feel with the ancient Hebrew who
has bequeathed his ideals though not his practices to Christendom, that
to have as many wives and concubines and as large a family as possible
is both natural and virtuous, as well as profitable. We realise,
moreover, that the Divine Commands, so far as we recognise any such
commands, are not external to us, but are manifested in our own
deliberate reason and will. We know that to primitive men, who lacked
foresight and lived mainly in the present, only that Divine Command
could be recognisable which sanctified the impulse of the moment, while
to us, who live largely in the future, and have learnt foresight, the
Divine Command involves restraint on the impulse of the moment. We no
longer believe that we are divinely ordered to be reckless or that God
commands us to have children who, as we ourselves know, are fatally
condemned to disease or premature death. Providence, which was once
regarded as the attribute of God, we regard as the attribute of men;
providence, prudence, self-restraint--these are to us the
characteristics of moral men, and those persons who lack these
characteristics are condemned by our social order to be reckoned among
the dregs of mankind. It is a social order which in the sphere of
procreation could not be reached or maintained except by the systematic
control of offspring.

We may realise the difference between the morality of to-day and the
morality of the past when we come to details. We may consider, for
instance, the question of the chastity of women. According to the ideas
of the old morality, which placed the whole question of procreation
under the authority (after God) of men, women were in subjection to
men, and had no right to freedom, no right to responsibility, no right
to knowledge, for, it was believed, if entrusted with any of these they
would abuse them at once. That view prevails even to-day in some
civilised countries, and middle-class Italian parents, for instance,
will not allow their daughter to be conducted by a man even to Mass,
for they believe that as soon as she is out of their sight she will be
unchaste. That is their morality. Our morality to-day, however, is
inspired by different ideas, and aims at a different practice. We are
by no means disposed to rate highly the morality of a girl who is only
chaste so long as she is under her parents' eyes; for us, indeed, that
is much more like immorality than morality. We are to-day vigorously
pursuing a totally different line of action. We wish women to be
reasonably free, we wish them to be trained in the sense of
responsibility for their own actions, we wish them to possess
knowledge, more especially in that sphere of sex, once theoretically
closed to them, which we now recognise as peculiarly their own domain.
Nowadays, moreover, we are sufficiently well acquainted with human
nature to know, not only that at best the "chastity" merely due to
compulsion or to ignorance is a poor thing, but that at worst it is
really the most degraded and injurious form of unchastity. For there
are many ways of avoiding pregnancy besides the use of contraceptives,
and such ways can often only be called vicious, destructive to purity,
and harmful to health. Our ideal woman to-day is not she who is
deprived of freedom and knowledge in the cloister, even though only the
cloister of her home, but the woman who, being instructed from early
life in the facts of sexual physiology and sexual hygiene, is also
trained in the exercise of freedom and self-responsibility, and able to
be trusted to choose and to follow the path which seems to her right.
That is the only kind of morality which seems to us real and worth
while. And, in any case, we have now grown wise enough to know that no
degree of compulsion and no depth of ignorance will suffice to make a
girl good if she doesn't want to be good. So that, even as a matter of
policy, it is better to put her in a position to know what is good and
to act in accordance with that knowledge.

The relation of birth control to morality is, however, by no means a
question which concerns women alone. It equally concerns men. Here we
have to recognise, not only that the exercise of control over
procreation enables a man to form a union of faithful devotion with the
woman of his choice at an earlier age than would otherwise be possible,
but it further enables him, throughout the whole of married life, to
continue such relationship under circumstances which might otherwise
render them injurious or else undesirable to his wife. That the
influence thus exerted by preventive methods would suffice to abolish
prostitution it would be foolish to maintain, for prostitution has
other grounds of support. But even within the sphere of merely
prostitutional relationships the use of contraceptives, and the
precautions and cleanliness they involve, have an influence of their
own in diminishing the risks of venereal disease, and while the
interests of those who engage in prostitution are by some persons
regarded as negligible, we must always remember that venereal disease
spreads far beyond the patrons of prostitution and is a perpetual
menace to others who may become altogether innocent victims. So that
any influence which tends to diminish venereal disease increases the
well-being of the whole community.

Apart from the relationship to morality, although the two are
intimately combined, we are thus led to the relationship of birth
control to eugenics, or to the sound breeding of the race. Here we
touch the highest ground, and are concerned with our best hopes for the
future of the world. For there can be no doubt that birth control is
not only a precious but an indispensable instrument in moulding the
coming man to the measure of our developing ideals. Without it we are
powerless in the face of the awful evils which flow from random and
reckless reproduction. With it we possess a power so great that some
persons have professed to see in it a menace to the propagation of the
race, amusing themselves with the idea that if people possess the means
to prevent the conception of children they will never have children at
all. It is not necessary to discuss such a grotesque notion seriously.
The desire for children is far too deeply implanted in mankind and
womankind alike ever to be rooted out. If there are to-day many parents
whose lives are rendered wretched by large families and the miseries of
excessive child-bearing, there are an equal number whose lives are
wretched because they have no children at all, and who snatch eagerly
at any straw which offers the smallest promise of relief to this
craving. Certainly there are people who desire marriage, but--some for
very sound and estimable reasons and others for reasons which may less
well bear examination--do not desire any children at all. So far as
these are concerned, contraceptive methods, far from being a social
evil, are a social blessing. For nothing is so certain as that it is an
unmixed evil for a community to possess unwilling, undesirable, or
incompetent parents. Birth control would be an unmixed blessing if it
merely enabled us to exclude such persons from the ranks of parenthood.
We desire no parents who are not both competent and willing parents.
Only such parents are fit to father and to mother a future race worthy
to rule the world.

It is sometimes said that the control of conception, since it is
frequently carried out immediately on marriage, will tend to delay
parenthood until an unduly late age. Birth control has, however, no
necessary result of this kind, and might even act in the reverse
direction. A chief cause of delay in marriage is the prospect of the
burden and expense of an unrestricted flow of children into the family,
and in Great Britain, since 1911, with the extension of the use of
contraceptives, there has been a slight but regular increase not only
in the general marriage rate but in the proportion of early marriages,
although the _general_ mean age at marriage has increased. The ability
to control the number of children not only enables marriage to take
place at an early age but also makes it possible for the couple to have
at least one child soon after marriage. The total number of children
are thus spaced out, instead of following in rapid succession.

It is only of recent years that the eugenic importance of a
considerable interval between births has been fully recognised, as
regards not only the mother--this has long been realised--but also the
children. The very high mortality of large families has long been
known, and their association with degenerate conditions and with
criminality. The children of small families in Toronto, Canada, are
taller than those of larger families, as is also the case in Oakland,
California, where the average size of the family is smaller than in
Toronto.[12] Of recent years, moreover, evidence has been obtained that
families in which the children are separated from each other by
intervals of more than two years are both mentally and physically
superior to those in which the interval is shorter. Thus Ewart found in
a northern English manufacturing town that children born at an interval
of less than two years after the birth of the previous child remain
notably defective, even at the age of six, both as regards intelligence
and physical development. When compared with children born at a longer
interval and with first-born children, they are, on the average, three
inches shorter and three pounds lighter than first-born children.[13]
Such observations need to be repeated in various countries, but if
confirmed it is obvious that they represent a fact of the most vital

Thus when we calmly survey, in however summary a manner, the great
field of life affected by the establishment of voluntary human control
over the production of the race, we can see no cause for anything but
hope. It is satisfactory that it should be so, for there can be no
doubt that we are here facing a great and permanent fact in civilised
life. With every rise in civilisation, indeed with all evolutionary
progress whatever, there is what seems to be an automatic fall in the
birth-rate. That fall is always normally accompanied by a fall in the
death-rate, so that a low birth-rate frequently means a high rate of
natural increase, since most of the children born survive.[14] Thus in
the civilised world of to-day, notwithstanding the low birth-rate which
prevails as compared with earlier times, the rate of increase in the
population is still, as Leroy-Beaulieu points out, appalling, nearly
half a million a year in Great Britain, over half a million in
Austro-Hungary, and three-quarters of a million in Germany. When we
examine this excess of births in detail we find among them a large
proportion of undesired and undesirable children. There are two opposed
alternative methods working to diminish this proportion: the method of
preventing conception, with which we have here been concerned, and the
method of preventing live birth by producing abortion. There can be no
doubt about the enormous extension of this latter practice in all
civilised countries, even although some of the estimates of its
frequency in the United States, where it seems especially to flourish,
may be extravagant. The burden of excessive children on the overworked
underfed mothers of the working classes becomes at last so intolerable
that anything seems better than another child. "I'd rather swallow the
druggist's shop and the man in it than have another kid," as, Miss
Elderton reports, a woman in Yorkshire said.[15]

Now there has of late years arisen a movement, especially among German
women, for bringing abortion into honour and repute, so that it may be
carried out openly and with the aid of the best physicians. This
movement has been supported by lawyers and social reformers of high
position. It may be admitted that women have an abstract right to
abortion and that in exceptional cases that right should be exerted.
Yet there can be very little doubt to most people that abortion is a
wasteful, injurious, and almost degrading method of dealing with the
birth-rate, a feeble apology for recklessness and improvidence. A
society in which abortion flourishes cannot be regarded as a healthy
society. Therefore, a community which takes upon itself to encourage
abortion is incurring a heavy responsibility. I am referring more
especially to the United States, where this condition of things is most
marked. For, there cannot be any doubt about it, just as all those who
work for birth control are diminishing the frequency of abortion, so
_every attempt to discourage birth control promotes abortion_. We have
to approach this problem calmly, in the light of Nature and reason. We
have each of us to decide on which side we shall range ourselves. For
it is a vital social problem concerning which we cannot afford to be

There is here no desire to exaggerate the importance of birth control.
It is not a royal road to the millennium, and, as I have already
pointed out, like all other measures which the course of progress
forces us to adopt, it has its disadvantages. Yet at the present moment
its real and vital significance is acutely brought home to us.

Flinders Petrie, discussing those great migrations due to the
unrestricted expansion of barbarous races which have devastated Europe
from the dawn of history, remarks: "We deal lightly and coldly with the
abstract facts, but they represent the most terrible tragedies of all
humanity--the wreck of the whole system of civilisation, protracted
starvation, wholesale massacre. Can it be avoided? That is the
question, before all others, to the statesman who looks beyond the
present time."[16] Since Petrie wrote, only ten years ago, we have had
occasion to realise that the vast expansions which he described are not
confined to the remote past, but are at work and producing the same
awful results, even at the very present hour. The great and only
legitimate apology which has been put forward for the aggressive
attitude of Germany in the present war has been that it was the
inevitable expansive outcome of the abnormally high birth-rate of
Germany in recent times; as Dr. Dernburg, not long ago, put it: "The
expansion of the German nation has been so extraordinary during the
last twenty-five years that the conditions existing before the war had
become insupportable." In other words, there was no outlet but a
devastating war. So we are called upon to repeat, with fresh emphasis,
Petrie's question: _Can it be avoided_? All humanity, all civilisation,
call upon us to take up our stand on this vital question of birth
control. In so doing we shall each of us be contributing, however
humbly, to

              "one far-off divine event,
    To which the whole creation moves."

[1] J.M. Coulter, _The Evolution of Sex in Plants_, 1915; Geoffrey
Smith, "The Biology of Sex," _Eugenics Review_, April, 1914.

[2] See, _e.g._, Geddes and Thomson, _The Evolution of Sex_, Ch. XX.;
and T.H. Morgan, _Heredity and Sex_, Ch. I.

[3] To quote one of the most careful investigators of this point,
Northcote Thomas, among the Edo-speaking people of Nigeria, found
that the average number of living children per husband was 2.7;
including all children, alive and dead, the average number was per
husband 4.5, and per wife 2.7. "Infant mortality is heavy" (Northcote
Thomas, _Anthropological Report of Edo-speaking People of Nigeria_,
1910, Part I., pp. 15, 63).

[4] The same end has been rather more mercifully achieved in earlier
periods by infanticide (see Westermarck, _Origin and Development of the
Moral Ideas_, Vol. I., Ch. 17). It must not be supposed that infanticide
was opposed to tenderness to children. Thus the Australian Dieyerie,
who practised infanticide, were kind to children, and a mother found
beating her child was herself beaten by her husband.

[5] See Havelock Ellis, _The Nationalisation of Health_.

[6] Similar results appear to follow in China where also the birth-rate
is very high and the mortality very great. It is stated that physical
development is much inferior and pathological defects more numerous
among Chinese as compared with American students. (_New York Medical
Journal_, Nov. 14th, 1914, p. 978.) The bad conditions which produce
death in the weakest produce deterioration in the survivors.

[7] The law is thus laid down by P. Leroy-Beaulieu (_La Question de la
Population_, 1913, p. 233): "The first degree of prosperity in a rude
population with few needs develops prolificness; a later degree of
prosperity, accompanied by all the feelings and ideas stimulated by
the development of education and a democratic environment, leads to
a gradual reduction of prolificness."

[8] This is too often forgotten. Birth control is a natural process,
and though in civilised men, endowed with high intelligence, it
necessarily works in some measure voluntarily and deliberately, it is
probable that it still also works, as in the evolution of the lower
animals, to some extent automatically. Sir Shirley Murphy (_Lancet_,
Aug. 10th, 1912), while admitting that intentional restriction has
been operative, remarks: "It does not appear to me that there is any
more reason for ignoring the likelihood that Nature has been largely
concerned in the reduction of births than for ignoring the effects of
Nature in reducing the death-rate. The decline in both has points of
resemblance. Both have been widely manifest over Europe, both have in
the main declined in the period of 1871-1880, and indeed both appear
to be behaving in like manner."

[9] I do not overlook the fact that the artificial clothing of primitive
man is in its origin mainly ornament, having myself insisted on that
fact in discussing this point in "The Evolution of Modesty" (_Studies
in the Psychology of Sex_, Vol. I.). It is to be remembered that, in
animals--and very conspicuously, for instance, in birds--natural
clothing is also largely ornament of secondary sexual significance.

[10] At the end of the eighteenth century there were in France four
children on the average to a family; a movement of rapid increase
in the population reached its climax in 1846; by 1860 the average
number of children to a family had slowly fallen to but little over
three. Broca, writing in 1867 ("Sur la Prétendue Dégénérescence de la
Population Francaise"), mentioned that the slow fall in the birth-rate
was only slightly due to prudent calculation and mainly to more general
causes such as delay in marriage.

[11] Havelock Ellis, _Studies in the Psychology of Sex_, Vol. VI., "Sex
in Relation to Society," Ch. XI., The Art of Love.

[12] The exact results are presented by F. Boas (abstract of Report on
_Changes in Bodily Form of Descendants of Immigrants_, Washington, 1911,
p. 57), who concludes that "the physical development of children, as
measured by stature, is the better the smaller the family."

[13] R.J. Ewart, "The Influence of Parental Age on Offspring," _Eugenics
Review_, Oct., 1911.

[14] In New Zealand the birth-rate is very low; but the death-rate of
children in the first year is only 58 per thousand as against 130 in

[15] E.M. Elderton, _Report on the English Birth-rate_, Part I.,
1914. See also the collection of narratives of their experiences by
working-class mothers, published under the title of _Maternity_
(Women's Co-operative Guild, 1915).

[16] Flinders Petrie, _Journal of the Anthropological Institute_,
1906, p. 220.

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