Quick Links
-Search Website
-Have A Question?
-Wallace News
-About This Site

Misinformation Alert!
Wallace Bio & Accomplishments
Wallace Chronology
Frequently Asked Questions
Wallace Quotes
Wallace Archives
Miscellaneous Facts

Bibliography / Texts
Wallace Writings Bibliography
Texts of Wallace Writings
Texts of Wallace Interviews
Wallace Writings: Names Index
Wallace Writings: Subject Index
Writings on Wallace
Wallace Obituaries
Wallace's Most Cited Works

Taxonomic / Systematic Works
Wallace on Conservation
Smith on Wallace
Research Threads
Wallace Images
Just for Fun
Frequently Cited Colleagues
Wallace-Related Maps & Figures

Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

Mr. Wallace on the Population Question
(S337a: 1881)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A letter to the Editor of The Radical (London), printed on pages 4 to 5 of its 16 July 1881 issue. Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S337A.htm

[[p. 4]] To the Editor of The Radical.

    Sir,--Dr. Drysdale’s letter in your issue of June 25th contains several reckless statements and assumptions, and as he is one of the chief supporters of "Modern Malthusianism," it may be as well to show your readers on how rotten a foundation that unwholesome doctrine rests. Dr. D. tells us that "we tend to double in about 20-30 years at most, and this is the real reason why food in our day must be sought for at such distances. The rapid birth rate (36 per 1,000) of Great Britain tends to raise the price of butchers’ meat, milk, butter, and all those farm products which do not easily bear transportation without deterioration."

    Now, it is evident that it is not the "tendency to double" or the "rapid birth-rate" themselves, that can have any of the effects stated, but the actual density of population produced by them. This density is in Great Britain about 285 per square mile, or, in England and Wales alone, a little under 300 per square mile; and this it is, Dr. Drysdale positively assures us, that renders us unable to feed our population unless we diminish their numbers! Chronic pauperism and partial starvation are the necessary results of a population of 300 per square mile in such a country as England! This monstrous statement is, however, overwhelmingly refuted within sight of our shores. The little Channel Islands possess a population of over 1,200 per square mile, or more than four times as dense as that of England. Yet they are not even yet peopled to the starvation point; for, there, paupers are almost or quite unknown, the whole population is well-fed and contented, while the produce of the soil not only supports themselves, but affords a surplus which they export to us to the amount of £737,000 annually, consisting almost wholly of fruit, vegetables, and [[p. 5]] live stock for the English market! Neither the soil nor the climate of these islands is sufficiently superior to our own to account for one twentieth part of their marvelous difference; and it may be positively asserted that England also could support its thousand inhabitants per square mile in ease and comfort if better social and political arrangements prevailed. The secret of the prosperity of the Channel Islands lies in the fact that there are no great landlords living in idleness on the labour of the people. The land is all cultivated in small farms by occupying owners whose loving care and attention is such that the produce is at least two or three times as great as the best English farmers obtain from much better land; while as we have seen the population supported by agriculture is four times as dense as that which we can support by agriculture and manufactures combined. With this example at our very doors, what are we to think of teachers who assure us that all improvement of our condition is hopeless--that our too dense population "must be checked" somehow, or we must continue to have starved children and an army of paupers. Those who wish to see the direct connection--as cause and effect--of landlordism and pauperism, should read Mr. George’s book on "Progress and Poverty," undoubtedly the most remarkable and important work of the present century. They will then be convinced that to impute our chronic pauperism to over-population is a gross error, and one that can serve only to uphold landlordism and Tory rule.

Alfred R. Wallace.
London, July 13th, 1881.

*                 *                 *                 *                 *

Return to Home