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

Dr. Alfred R. Wallace on Poverty
and Population (S356aa: 1882)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A letter to the Editor printed on page 1 of the 28 October 1882 issue of the London newspaper The Echo. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S356AA.htm

To the Editor of The Echo:

     Sir,--There is truly much virtue in an "if." Dr. Drysdale says that if the people of Hampstead were to have a birth-rate as high as the people of Whitechapel, they would soon be as poor, and vice versa. But the fact remains that neither they nor any considerable body of people in a similar social position do have so high a birth-rate; and I have given the reason, dependent on simple social laws, why they do not. Dr. Drysdale's conclusion as to what would happen is, therefore, a mere supposition, not founded on direct experience. But we have some facts which show that his conclusion is incorrect. Among many savages there is a low birth-rate, but that does not make them any better off, or less subject to disease and starvation; and among some classes of our own people there is a high birth-rate, without necessarily leading to destitution. For example, clergymen of the Church of England have proverbially large families; yet it has never been alleged, much less proved, that their descendants usually come to want, or that any considerable number of the inhabitants of Whitechapel are the sons or grandsons of clergymen.

     The only other point requiring notice is my reference to Mr. Mill. In the chapter on "Peasant Proprietors" in his "Political Economy," Mr. Mill refers to the objection that to give labourers land would cause them to multiply still more rapidly, and soon to become paupers; and he answers this, not by any opinions or theories, but by a copious reference to facts, showing that in every place and country without exception the exact reverse is the case, and that wherever the peasants are made comfortable by the possession of land in secure tenure, marriage is invariably delayed and the rate of increase diminished. This exposition of actual facts is surely of more weight than the mere opinions quoted by Dr. Drysdale.

     In conclusion, I can only express my wish that the worthy Doctor, whose earnestness in teaching what he believes to be for the good of humanity I fully recognise, would make himself acquainted with what I really propose. He will find that by our scheme of Nationalisation we fully establish a virtual peasant proprietorship guarded from the evils which have arisen in Belgium, Austria, and parts of France and Germany, from peasant landlordism and unlimited mortgaging, which inevitably accompany it in its ordinary form.

     Space does not allow me now to reply to your other correspondent, "W. L. H.," the tenant-farmer. He will, however, find his queries fully answered in my volume on Land Nationalisation, and also in some letters which appeared in the Mark Lane Express, and a copy of which he can obtain by applying to the secretary of the Land Nationalisation Society, 15, Parliament-street, S.W.--I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

Alfred R. Wallace.

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