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Inquiries into Human Faculty
notably from his fellow-clergymen, whose doctrinaire notions upon the
paternal dispensation of the world were rudely shocked.
The misery check, as Malthus called all those influences that are not
prudential, is an ugly phrase not fully justified. It no doubt includes death
through inadequate food and shelter, through pestilence from
overcrowding, through war, and the like; but t also includes many causes
that do not deserve so hard a name. Population decays under conditions
that cannot be charged to the presence or absence of misery, in the
common sense of the word. These exist when native races disappear
before the presence of the incoming white man, when after making the
fullest allowances for imported disease, for brandy drinking, and other
assignable causes, there is always a large residuum of effect not clearly
accounted for. It is certainly not wholly due to misery, but rather to
listlessness, due to discouragement, and acting adversely in many ways.
One notable result of dulness and apathy is to make a person
unattractive to the opposite sex and to be unattracted by them. It is
antagonistic to sexual affection, and the result is a diminution of offspring.
There exists strong evidence that the decay of population in some parts of
South America under the irksome tyranny of the Jesuits, which crushed
what little vivacity the people possessed, was due to this very cause. One
cannot fairly apply the term “misery” to apathy; I should rather say that
strong affections restrained from marriage by prudential considerations
more truly deserved that name.
It is important to obtain a just idea of the relative effects of early and
late marriages. I attempted this in Hereditary Genius, but I think the
following is a better estimate. We are unhappily still deficient in collected
data as regards the fertility of the upper and middle classes at different
ages; but the facts collected by Dr. Matthews Duncan as regards the lower
orders will serve our purpose approximately, by furnishing the required
ratios, though not the absolute Previous page Top Next page