"Two-thirds of the rural population in England nowadays taste beef perhaps once a month, and have milk, if at all, only in teaspoonfuls with tea."* This is an old, old phenomenon, for Draper*¡ says of England of about the sixteenth century: "The houses of the rural population were huts covered with straw and thatch; their inmates, if able to procure fresh meat once a week, were considered to be in prosperous circumstances. One half of the families in England could hardly do that. Children six years old were not infrequently set to labor. About the time of Queen Anne, or a little earlier, the country beyond the Trent was still in a state of barbarism, and near the sources of the Tyne there were people scarcely less savage than American Indians, their half-naked women chanting, while the men with brandished dirks, danced a wild measure." We often read of the dreadful conditions of the poor in overcrowded France of the time of Louis XIV and XV, and think that the distress was unusual and the cause of the French revolution, but those conditions differ in no respects from modern ones in every other country.
* New York Medical Journal, January 14. 1905.
* James Cantlie: Journal of Tropical Medicine, October 15, 1906.
*¡ Intellectual Development of Europe.
Poverty of the unfit as a sign of overpopulation is never mentioned by those who write upon the subject - and a library of books has been published on this one topic. The last and best by all odds, is the one written by Robert Hunter and published in 1905. It is full of interesting data, which we might quote if we had space, for it is a mine of valuable proofs that there are too many people in the world for the food. He describes those in poverty as in a condition wherein it is not possible to obtain those necessaries which will permit them to maintain a state of physical efficiency. They all feel necessity's sharp pinch, though only the most miserable among them are starving or dependent upon charity. The details of the sad picture do not concern us here; we are only interested in his estimate that 10,000,000 people in the United States are in this condition of poverty - unable to get the necessaries of life - one in eight. The editor of Charities and the Commons calculates that there is underfeeding in three-fourths of the families in New York City having a less income than $600 a year, and one-third of those having between $600 and $700.
The investigations of Charles Booth in England give worse results - thirty per cent, of London's population, or 1,300,000 people, are in poverty, the smaller towns having a less rate and the country districts still less.* Of our 10,000,000 in distress, Hunter says that 4,000,000 are public paupers, and 2,000,000 working men are unemployed four to six months every year, and yet in 1905 over 1,000,000 immigrants poured in to share the poverty because it is less than in Europe.
* " Life and Labor in London".
The number of paupers per 1,000 of our population would give a fair indication of overpopulation were it not for the fact that newly settled States have very few compared to old ones, and also that some places like California, have pauper sick dumped on them. Making due allowance for these disturbing factors, it is evident from the census figures that in a general way pauperism in the United States is proportional to the density of population, and of course the greatest percentage of overpopulation is found in the densest areas.
Over one-quarter of the people of New York get some kind of public or private relief every year - and that's what keeps them alive. In ancient times, they died. Nowadays, the better types are taxed to keep the worst alive, and this would look like survival of the unfit were it not for the fact that survival is the only test of fitness to survive. They are the fittest for our modern maudlin sentimental charity, so frightfully overworked by neurotic busybodies. Every such life saved only increases the burdens of the future, for incompetence to make his own living is the basis of poverty and pauperism, and the children are apt to inherit the disability.