From: "Zero Powers" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> don't we just sterilize everyone living in poverty until they can prove that
> they are financially responsible
While your question is of course insincere (not to mention disingenuous and
mean-spirited), you're a few centuries too late in your presentation.
A Modest Proposal
For Preventing The Children of Poor People in Ireland
>From Being Aburden to Their Parents or Country, and
For Making Them Beneficial to The Public
It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town or travel
in the country, when they see the streets, the roads, and cabin doors, crowded
with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all
in rags and importuning every passenger for an alms. These mothers, instead of
being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their
time in strolling to beg sustenance for their helpless infants: who as they
grow up either turn thieves for want of work, or leave their dear native
country to fight for the Pretender in Spain, or sell themselves to the
I think it is agreed by all parties that this prodigious number of children in
the arms, or on the backs, or at the heels of their mothers, and frequently of
their fathers, is in the present deplorable state of the kingdom a very great
additional grievance; and, therefore, whoever could find out a fair, cheap,
and easy method of making these children sound, useful members of the
commonwealth, would deserve so well of the public as to have his statue set up
for a preserver of the nation.
But my intention is very far from being confined to provide only for the
children of professed beggars; it is of a much greater extent, and shall take
in the whole number of infants at a certain age who are born of parents in
effect as little able to support them as those who demand our charity in the
As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years upon this
important subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of other
projectors, I have always found them grossly mistaken in the computation. It
is true, a child just dropped from its dam may be supported by her milk for a
solar year, with little other nourishment; at most not above the value of 2s.,
which the mother may certainly get, or the value in scraps, by her lawful
occupation of begging; and it is exactly at one year old that I propose to
provide for them in such a manner as instead of being a charge upon their
parents or the parish, or wanting food and raiment for the rest of their
lives, they shall on the contrary contribute to the feeding, and partly to the
clothing, of many thousands.
There is likewise another great advantage in my scheme, that it will prevent
those voluntary abortions, and that horrid practice of women murdering their
bastard children, alas! too frequent among us! sacrificing the poor innocent
babes I doubt more to avoid the expense than the shame, which would move tears
and pity in the most savage and inhuman breast.
The number of souls in this kingdom being usually reckoned one million and a
half, of these I calculate there may be about two hundred thousand couple
whose wives are breeders; from which number I subtract thirty thousand couples
who are able to maintain their own children, although I apprehend there cannot
be so many, under the present distresses of the kingdom; but this being
granted, there will remain an hundred and seventy thousand breeders. I again
subtract fifty thousand for those women who miscarry, or whose children die by
accident or disease within the year. There only remains one hundred and twenty
thousand children of poor parents annually born. The question therefore is,
how this number shall be reared and provided for, which, as I have already
said, under the present situation of affairs, is utterly impossible by all the
methods hitherto proposed. For we can neither employ them in handicraft or
agriculture; we neither build houses (I mean in the country) nor cultivate
land: they can very seldom pick up a livelihood by stealing, till they arrive
at six years old, except where they are of towardly parts, although I confess
they learn the rudiments much earlier, during which time, they can however be
properly looked upon only as probationers, as I have been informed by a
principal gentleman in the county of Cavan, who protested to me that he never
knew above one or two instances under the age of six, even in a part of the
kingdom so renowned for the quickest proficiency in that art.
I am assured by our merchants, that a boy or a girl before twelve years old is
no salable commodity; and even when they come to this age they will not yield
above three pounds, or three pounds and half-a-crown at most on the exchange;
which cannot turn to account either to the parents or kingdom, the charge of
nutriment and rags having been at least four times that value.
I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be
liable to the least objection.
I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London,
that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious,
nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and
I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.
I do therefore humbly offer it to public consideration that of the hundred and
twenty thousand children already computed, twenty thousand may be reserved for
breed, whereof only one-fourth part to be males; which is more than we allow
to sheep, black cattle or swine; and my reason is, that these children are
seldom the fruits of marriage, a circumstance not much regarded by our
savages, therefore one male will be sufficient to serve four females. That the
remaining hundred thousand may, at a year old, be offered in the sale to the
persons of quality and fortune through the kingdom; always advising the mother
to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump and
fat for a good table. A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for
friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a
reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good
boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.
I have reckoned upon a medium that a child just born will weigh 12 pounds, and
in a solar year, if tolerably nursed, increaseth to 28 pounds.
I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for
landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to
have the best title to the children.
Infant's flesh will be in season throughout the year, but more plentiful in
March, and a little before and after; for we are told by a grave author, an
eminent French physician, that fish being a prolific diet, there are more
children born in Roman Catholic countries about nine months after Lent than at
any other season; therefore, reckoning a year after Lent, the markets will be
more glutted than usual, because the number of popish infants is at least
three to one in this kingdom: and therefore it will have one other collateral
advantage, by lessening the number of papists among us.
I have already computed the charge of nursing a beggar's child (in which list
I reckon all cottagers, laborers, and four-fifths of the farmers) to be about
two shillings per annum, rags included; and I believe no gentleman would
repine to give ten shillings for the carcass of a good fat child, which, as I
have said, will make four dishes of excellent nutritive meat, when he hath
only some particular friend or his own family to dine with him. Thus the
squire will learn to be a good landlord, and grow popular among his tenants;
the mother will have eight shillings net profit, and be fit for work till she
produces another child.
Those who are more thrifty (as I must confess the times require) may flay the
carcass; the skin of which artificially dressed will make admirable gloves for
ladies, and summer boots for fine gentlemen.
As to our city of Dublin, shambles may be appointed for this purpose in the
most convenient parts of it, and butchers we may be assured will not be
wanting; although I rather recommend buying the children alive, and dressing
them hot from the knife, as we do roasting pigs.
A very worthy person, a true lover of his country, and whose virtues I highly
esteem, was lately pleased in discoursing on this matter to offer a refinement
upon my scheme. He said that many gentlemen of this kingdom, having of late
destroyed their deer, he conceived that the want of venison might be well
supplied by the bodies of young lads and maidens, not exceeding fourteen years
of age nor under twelve; so great a number of both sexes in every country
being now ready to starve for want of work and service; and these to be
disposed of by their parents, if alive, or otherwise by their nearest
relations. But with due deference to so excellent a friend and so deserving a
patriot, I cannot be altogether in his sentiments; for as to the males, my
American acquaintance assured me, from frequent experience, that their flesh
was generally tough and lean, like that of our schoolboys by continual
exercise, and their taste disagreeable; and to fatten them would not answer
the charge. Then as to the females, it would, I think, with humble submission
be a loss to the public, because they soon would become breeders themselves;
and besides, it is not improbable that some scrupulous people might be apt to
censure such a practice (although indeed very unjustly), as a little bordering
upon cruelty; which, I confess, hath always been with me the strongest
objection against any project, however so well intended.
But in order to justify my friend, he confessed that this expedient was put
into his head by the famous Psalmanazar, a native of the island Formosa, who
came from thence to London above twenty years ago, and in conversation told my
friend, that in his country when any young person happened to be put to death,
the executioner sold the carcass to persons of quality as a prime dainty; and
that in his time the body of a plump girl of fifteen, who was crucified for an
attempt to poison the emperor, was sold to his imperial majesty's prime
minister of state, and other great mandarins of the court, in joints from the
gibbet, at four hundred crowns. Neither indeed can I deny, that if the same
use were made of several plump young girls in this town, who without one
single groat to their fortunes cannot stir abroad without a chair, and appear
at playhouse and assemblies in foreign fineries which they never will pay for,
the kingdom would not be the worse.
Some persons of a desponding spirit are in great concern about that vast
number of poor people, who are aged, diseased, or maimed, and I have been
desired to employ my thoughts what course may be taken to ease the nation of
so grievous an encumbrance. But I am not in the least pain upon that matter,
because it is very well known that they are every day dying and rotting by
cold and famine, and filth and vermin, as fast as can be reasonably expected.
And as to the young laborers, they are now in as hopeful a condition; they
cannot get work, and consequently pine away for want of nourishment, to a
degree that if at any time they are accidentally hired to common labor, they
have not strength to perform it; and thus the country and themselves are
happily delivered from the evils to come.
I have too long digressed, and therefore shall return to my subject. I think
the advantages by the proposal which I have made are obvious and many, as well
as of the highest importance.
For first, as I have already observed, it would greatly lessen the number of
papists, with whom we are yearly overrun, being the principal breeders of the
nation as well as our most dangerous enemies; and who stay at home on purpose
with a design to deliver the kingdom to the Pretender, hoping to take their
advantage by the absence of so many good protestants, who have chosen rather
to leave their country than stay at home and pay tithes against their
conscience to an episcopal curate.
Secondly, The poorer tenants will have something valuable of their own, which
by law may be made liable to distress and help to pay their landlord's rent,
their corn and cattle being already seized, and money a thing unknown.
Thirdly, Whereas the maintenance of an hundred thousand children, from two
years old and upward, cannot be computed at less than ten shillings a-piece
per annum, the nation's stock will be thereby increased fifty thousand pounds
per annum, beside the profit of a new dish introduced to the tables of all
gentlemen of fortune in the kingdom who have any refinement in taste. And the
money will circulate among ourselves, the goods being entirely of our own
growth and manufacture.
Fourthly, The constant breeders, beside the gain of eight shillings sterling
per annum by the sale of their children, will be rid of the charge of
maintaining them after the first year.
Fifthly, This food would likewise bring great custom to taverns; where the
vintners will certainly be so prudent as to procure the best receipts for
dressing it to perfection, and consequently have their houses frequented by
all the fine gentlemen, who justly value themselves upon their knowledge in
good eating: and a skilful cook, who understands how to oblige his guests,
will contrive to make it as expensive as they please.
Sixthly, This would be a great inducement to marriage, which all wise nations
have either encouraged by rewards or enforced by laws and penalties. It would
increase the care and tenderness of mothers toward their children, when they
were sure of a settlement for life to the poor babes, provided in some sort by
the public, to their annual profit instead of expense. We should see an honest
emulation among the married women, which of them could bring the fattest child
to the market. Men would become as fond of their wives during the time of
their pregnancy as they are now of their mares in foal, their cows in calf,
their sows when they are ready to farrow; nor offer to beat or kick them (as
is too frequent a practice) for fear of a miscarriage.
Many other advantages might be enumerated. For instance, the addition of some
thousand carcasses in our exportation of barreled beef, the propagation of
swine's flesh, and improvement in the art of making good bacon, so much wanted
among us by the great destruction of pigs, too frequent at our tables; which
are no way comparable in taste or magnificence to a well-grown, fat, yearling
child, which roasted whole will make a considerable figure at a lord mayor's
feast or any other public entertainment. But this and many others I omit,
being studious of brevity.
After all, I am not so violently bent upon my own opinion as to reject any
offer proposed by wise men, which shall be found equally innocent, cheap,
easy, and effectual. But before something of that kind shall be advanced in
contradiction to my scheme, and offering a better, I desire the author or
authors will be pleased maturely to consider two points. First, as things now
stand, how they will be able to find food and raiment for an hundred thousand
useless mouths and backs. And secondly, there being a round million of
creatures in human figure throughout this kingdom, whose whole subsistence put
into a common stock would leave them in debt two millions of pounds sterling,
adding those who are beggars by profession to the bulk of farmers, cottagers,
and laborers, with their wives and children who are beggars in effect: I
desire those politicians who dislike my overture, and may perhaps be so bold
as to attempt an answer, that they will first ask the parents of these
mortals, whether they would not at this day think it a great happiness to have
been sold for food, at a year old in the manner I prescribe, and thereby have
avoided such a perpetual scene of misfortunes as they have since gone through
by the oppression of landlords, the impossibility of paying rent without money
or trade, the want of common sustenance, with neither house nor clothes to
cover them from the inclemencies of the weather, and the most inevitable
prospect of entailing the like or greater miseries upon their breed for ever.
I profess, in the sincerity of my heart, that I have not the least personal
interest in endeavoring to promote this necessary work, having no other motive
than the public good of my country, by advancing our trade, providing for
infants, relieving the poor, and giving some pleasure to the rich. I have no
children by which I can propose to get a single penny; the youngest being nine
years old, and my wife past child-bearing.
Useless hypotheses, etc.:
consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, Cyc, Eliza, cryonics, individual
Everything that can happen has already happened, not just once,
but an infinite number of times, and will continue to do so forever.
(Everything that can happen = more than anyone can imagine.)
We won't move into a better future until we debunk religiosity, the most
regressive force now operating in society.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri Oct 12 2001 - 14:40:18 MDT