Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Modest Proposal...

…for preventing poor children from being a burden on their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the publick.

It is a melancholy experience to those who walk through the streets of our great cities, or travel through small rural towns, to see the streets, roads, and doorways crowded with beggars and prostitutes. Especially those of the female sex with 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 sell themselves to the black market drug lords, or leave the country to go train with terrorists.

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 nation 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 society, 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 who are as little able to support them without welfare, as those who demand our charity in the streets.

As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years upon this important subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of other thinkers, I have always found them grossly mistaken in the computation. A child just dropped from the mother’s belly may be supported by her milk for a solar year, with little other nourishment, at most not above the value of two thousand dollars, which the mother may certainly get, or the value in scraps, by her occupation of begging or from welfare, 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.

Now, there are a about three hundred million souls in this country. Of those, there are about four point three million couples who breed each year. Now I subtract half of those couples who are able to maintain their own brood. Although, I admit that under the present distress of the nation the number is more likely even less than half, but the general figure being granted, there are two point one five million breeders in a given year. 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. They neither build houses, 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 Brooklyn, who protested to me that he never knew above one or two instances under the age of six, even in a part of the country so renowned for the quickest proficiency in that art.

I am assured by our merchants, that a boy or a girl before fourteen years old is no salable commodity. And even when they come to this age they will not yield wages enough to account either to the parents or the state, 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 African 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 ragu.

I do therefore humbly offer it to public consideration that of the two million, one hundred and fifty thousand children already computed, one hundred and fifty 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. Then now the remaining two million 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 and executives, 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 Summer, and a little before and after. The Census Bureau reports that August has more births than any other month, and of course there is the common knowledge that the poor people and inferior races are more prone to rutting during the cold weather months having nothing else better to do. This will have the collateral advantage of lessening the number of inferior peoples among us.

I have already computed the charge of nursing a beggar's child to be about two thousand dollars per annum, rags included. And I believe no gentleman would repine to give ten thousand dollars 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 thousand dollars 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 leather goods for wear by both ladies and fine gentlemen.

As to our city of New York, slaughterhouses 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 country, 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. 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 African 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 that 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 a famous tribal native of another African nation, 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, fetching a wonderful price. Neither indeed can I deny, that if the same use were made of several plump young girls in this town, who, without one single penny to their fortunes, go about to present themselves as privileged, and demanding of things which they never will pay for, the country 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, maimed, or morally bankrupted, 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, and in prisons and murdered, 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 racial inferiors, 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 country to the Communists, hoping to take their advantage by the absence of so many good Capitalists, who have chosen rather to leave their country than stay at home and pay tithes against their conscience to a black President.

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 things of value being already seized, and money a thing unknown.

Thirdly, whereas the maintenance of two million children, from two years old and upward, cannot be computed, the nation's stock will be thereby increased per annum, beside the profit of a new dish introduced to the tables of all gentlemen of fortune in the nation 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 thousand dollars 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. And what better season than summer to make great traditions of cooking fine meat, when gatherings and barbecues are so frequent?

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 thousands of carcasses in our exportation of 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 mayor's feast or any other public entertainment. But this and many others I omit, being studious of brevity.

I can think of no one objection, that will possibly be raised against this proposal. Unless one is worried that the number of people will be thereby much lessened in the nation. This I freely own, and 'twas indeed one principal design in offering it to the world. I desire the reader will observe, that I calculate my remedy for this one individual class of inferiors, and for no other that ever was, is, or, I think, ever can be upon Earth. Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients. Of imposing fines on absentee landlords. Of using neither cloaths, nor houshold furniture, except what is of our own growth and manufacture. Of utterly rejecting the materials and instruments that promote foreign luxury. Of curing the expensiveness of pride, vanity, idleness, and gaming in our women. Of introducing a vein of parsimony, prudence and temperance. Of learning to love our country, wherein we differ even from Canada, and the inhabitants of Africa. Of quitting our animosities and factions, nor acting any longer like the Jews, who were murdering one another at the very moment their city was taken. Of being a little cautious not to sell our country and consciences for nothing. Of teaching landlords to have at least one degree of mercy towards their tenants. Lastly, of putting a spirit of honesty, industry, and skill into our corporations, who, if a resolution could now be taken to buy only our native goods, would immediately unite to cheat and exact upon us in the price, the measure, and the goodness, nor could ever yet be brought to make one fair proposal of just dealing, though often and earnestly invited to it.

Therefore I repeat, let no man talk to me of these and the like expedients, 'till he hath at least some glympse of hope, that there will ever be some hearty and sincere attempt to put them into practice.

But, as to my self, having been wearied out for many years with offering vain, idle, visionary thoughts, and at length utterly despairing of success, I fortunately fell upon this proposal, which, as it is wholly new, so it hath something solid and real, of no expence and little trouble, full in our own power, and whereby we can incur no danger in disobliging the rest of the world. For this kind of commodity will not bear exportation, and flesh being of too tender a consistence, to admit a long continuance in salt, although perhaps I could name a country, which would be glad to eat up our whole nation without it.

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 millions of useless mouths and backs. And secondly, there being a round forty million of creatures in human figure throughout this land, whose whole subsistence put into a common stock would leave them in debt millions upon millions of dollars, adding those who are beggars by profession to the bulk of farmers, tenement dwellers, 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 now by which I can propose to get a single penny.

The End


(Adapted from the original work of Doctor Jonathan Swift)

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