When we come to preventing conception, the Roman Church takes a modified attitude. It resolutely puts its face against any interference with nature, except by abstinence, which, when we sift it down to its last elements is, like concubinage and prostitution, only one of the numerous ways of preventing conception. This is not the place to discuss these means, as the moral tone of the commuuity will not permit public discussion, though the small size of families leaves no doubt that it is a custom resulting from the trend of events of thousands of years, and has been with us ever since primitive women prolonged lactation for the same purpose. What is universal must eventually become moral, for morals are only the expression of racial necessities. The Protestant churches do not concern themselves with the problem at all - to them it is a natural, not a spiritual matter. In Protestant countries, therefore, the reduction of the birth rate is larger than in the Catholic.
Every now and then the medical journals contain articles inveighing against restricting the birth rate by these means, and written by physicians who do not know that for every extra life they would thus bring into the world, some one must die. Suppose for a minute that these Don Quixotes could have their way, and every American woman bring forth to her maximum until it kills her. We will have a birth rate of fifteen to twenty to a family, or each generation at least six times the last, allowing for accidents. Our population is now 80,000,000, and in thirty years it would be 450,000,000; in sixty years, 2,700,000,000. The writers do not say how these are to be fed. They can't be fed, so that in sixty years we would see 2,200,000,000 of beings die of starvation. This is not the proper way to place the problem, because the deaths would be gradual and would prevent the second generation being so large, but it serves the purpose of showing the law, that prevention of conception must take place if marriages are permitted, or in three centuries there will not be standing room in the United States for native-born American citizens.*
At a discussion of modern sterility at the 1901 meeting of the American Medical Association,* following a paper on "The Increasing Sterility of American Women," by Dr. Geo. J. Engel-mann, of Boston, it was stated that whereas a centuiy ago only two per cent, of American marriages were sterile, it is now over twenty per cent., and that from having an average of six children they now average less than two. There was an outburst of hysteria at this announcement, because not a soul there seemed to be aware of the fact that it was a natural and normal phenomenon which has been happening for millenniums.
Average birth rates always refer to the mass of the people. Now, this average is brought down by the notoriously small families of certain of the higher classes - lines which are constantly being extinguished for this reason. Hence, the average number of children in the families of that middle class which is to survive and carry on the nation, though smaller than in the lowest improvident classes, may be greater than the averages show. In other words, the reduction in number of children in surviving humanity as a natural phenomenon is slower than the figures show, and the time of very small families is quite remote. No one knows what is the proper number of children to a family in our stage of culture. Nature settles the matter for us whether we give the matter any attention or not. If any people or class of people ever limit their offspring to a number just sufficient to overcome losses and keep population fixed - they are crowded to the wall by the increasing numbers of the other classes equally able to struggle for existence, who have a slight surplus. If the number of offspring is below the losses, that class, of course, dies out in time. The future population of any country will then be composed of the descendants of the classes having the largest number of healthy surviving children. It is not necessarily the class having the largest number of births, for such may die out through feebleness, as is the case in most of the mestizo families of the Philippines, where it is not unusual for families of eighteen children to have but two feeble survivors. Other things being equal, the class having the least number of births is quite likely to be the first to become extinct, as they are apt to have fewer healthy survivors than in the moderate families. Dr. Geo. J. Engelmann * proves that the reduction of the birth rate is common to all classes of Americans, but that the educated classes raise more of their children than the others and, therefore, have larger surviving families. It is not true, he states, that education induces fewer births. Finally, it is to be noted that civilized women are too frail to reproduce as the muscular savage. Excessive childbearing would be fatal - indeed, even savage women cannot reproduce as often as the ancestral anthropoids. Physical feebleness is an evolution, and if these frail modern civilized women can bear and raise three strong children, they are far better fitted to continue the race than those who bear ten and raise but two. Tiny little frail mammals survived for this reason where the huge saurians perished in past ages. That is, a smaller and smaller birth rate is a necessity of the evolution of frail types of men fit for survival in modern times when a huge musculature is useless or an actual disadvantage, as requiring excessive nourishment.
* "The fact cannot be disguised that the chief means by which the great lowering of the birth rate in most civilized countries has been brought about has been by the dissemination of instruction as to the means of artificially preventing conception. More attention needs, however, to be given to the production of abortion, which, it is to be feared, is more prevalent than is commonly imagined. The recent discovery of a large number of unburied babies' corpses in an undertaker's establishment in Birmingham illustrates, furthermore, that infanticide is with us as in biblical times." - Charlotte Medical Journal.
* Section on Obstetrics.
* Popular Science Monthly, 1903.