Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/622

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

fact that the quality of a society is physically lowered by the artificial preservation of its feeblest members, there is an habitual neglect of the fact that the quality of a society is lowered morally and intellectually, by the artificial preservation of those who are least able to take care of themselves.

If any one denies that children bear likenesses to their progenitors in character and capacity—if he holds that men whose parents and grandparents were habitual criminals have tendencies as good as those of men whose parents and grandparents were industrious and upright—he may consistently hold that it matters not from what families in a society the successive generations descend. He may think it just as well if the most active, and capable, and prudent, and conscientious people die without issue, while many children are left by the reckless and dishonest. But, whoever does not espouse so insane a proposition, must admit that social arrangements which retard the multiplication of the mentally-best, and facilitate the multiplication of the mentally-worst, must be extremely injurious.

For, if the unworthy are helped to increase by shielding them from that mortality which their unworthiness would naturally entail, the effect is to produce, generation after generation, a greater unworthiness. From decreased use of self-conserving faculties already deficient, there must result, in posterity, the smaller amounts of self-conserving faculties. The general law which we traced above, in its bodily applications, may be traced here in its mental applications. Removal of certain difficulties and dangers, which have to be met by intelligence and activity, is followed by a diminished ability to meet difficulties and dangers. Among children born to the more capable who marry with the less capable, thus artificially preserved, there is not simply a lower average power of self-preservation than would else have existed, but the incapacity reaches in some a greater extreme. Smaller difficulties and dangers become fatal in proportion as greater ones are warded off. Nor is this the whole mischief. For such members of a population as do not take care of themselves, but are taken care of by the rest, inevitably bring on the rest extra exertion, either in supplying them with the necessaries of life, or in maintaining over them the required supervision, or in both. That is to say, in addition to self-conservation and the conservation of their own offspring, the best, having: to undertake the conservation of the worst, and of their offspring, are subject to an overdraw upon their energies. In some cases this stops them from marrying; in other cases it diminishes the numbers of their children; in other cases it causes inadequate feeding of their children; in other cases it brings their children to orphanhood—in every way tending to arrest the increase of the best, to deteriorate their constitutions, and to pull them down toward the level of the worst.

Fostering the good-for-nothing at the expense of the good is an extreme cruelty. It is a deliberate storing-up of miseries for future