Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 85.djvu/251

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247
DECREASING POPULATION OF FRANCE

THE DECREASING POPULATION OF FRANCE
By Professor JAMES W. GARNER
THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS

I. The Present Status of the Population

ONE of the leading newspapers of France, in an editorial in February, 1912, declared that the day on which the results of the next quinquennial census were known would be one of national mourning for the people of France. The Parisian journals in commenting on the census returns when they were made public in May, 1912, characterized the conditions which they revealed by such terms as "deplorable," "profoundly desolating," "extremely disquieting," "lamentable" and "dolorous." The prevailing tone of their comments was as if the country had experienced some great calamity or had suffered a national bereavement. So profoundly impressed was the government that it proceeded at once to appoint an extra-parliamentary commission (the second since 1902), to "investigate the question of depopulation, and to recommend measures for combatting the evils which threaten the extinction of the nation." M. Klotz, minister of finance, in his address to the commission, urged upon it the necessity of prosecuting its investigations with celerity, for, he said, "depopulation is no longer a vague menace to our country; it is a national danger, at once pressing and immediate, and one which demands rapid and efficient measures." M. Léon Bourgeois, addressing the Congress for Social Hygiene about the same time, spoke in a similar tone, declaring that France was threatened with two dangers, one foreign and one domestic. While she was prepared to make any sacrifice, he said, for the cause of national defense, she must also consider seriously the danger with which the country is confronted by the decline of the birth-rate and the comparatively high rate of mortality among the French people. Speaking before the same congress, Senator Ribot, a former premier, declared that "our people must be instructed in the perils that menace us; it will require all the resources and strength of the government to combat successfully the dangers which now imperil the very existence of the French people." No one can read the comments of the statistical experts, sociologists, economists and publicists on the census returns of 1911 without feeling that the nation is really alarmed at the seriousness of the danger with which it is confronted. The census revealed the fact that in 64 of the 87 departments into which France is divided the population had decreased during the past five years and that the number