Margaret Sanger, "Sixth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference Welcoming Address," 25 Mar 1925.
Source: " "International Aspects of Birth Control", Proceedings of the Sixth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference, (New York, 1925) pp. 3-8 Margaret Sanger Papers Microfilm, Collected Documents Series, C16:241."
Margaret Sanger gave this speech to open the Sixth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference at the Hotel McAlpin in New York City. For a draft version see Library of Congress Microfilm 128:267.
Mr. President and Delegates:
In the name of the American Birth Control League I welcome you to America and to the Sixth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference. I am proud of this privilege. For the first time in the history of these United States men and women have come from other countries to these shores to consider the population problem. Such a conference as we now inaugurate is unique in our experience and in our national history. It is, moreover, fitting that it should meet here in the center of our greatest city. For almost a century ago- just ninety- five years, to be exact- Robert Dale Owen published in this city his brief and plain treatise on the population question and birth control, entitled "Moral Physiology." And only two years afterward, in 1832, Dr. Charles Knowlton published in Boston his epoch-making "Fruits of Philosophy." His little book wandered for forty years around the world. It was translated into several languages. It was reprinted again and again. Its circulation was at fist unmolested. In 1857, it was edited and revised Mr. President, by your courageous uncle,George R. Drysdale. Its circulation in Great Britain led finally to the historic trial of Mrs. Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh. This was just a little less than half a century ago. This little book, written by a courageous American, republished by courageous Englishmen, became internationally famous, and was instrumental in the founding of the first Neo-Malthusian leagues, by Charles R. Drysdale and Alice Drysdale Vickery, our honorary president, and the illustrious, courageous parents of the president of this conference, whom we welcome here today.
We welcome you to the presidency of this Conference, Dr. Drysdale, fully aware of the honor you confer upon us. You come here as the living representative of a family of indomitable heroes and founders of the Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control movement. your presence links this gathering with that great historic movement for racial salvation which began with Robert Malthus himself. Without the unselfish, disinterested courage of your father and mother, and your self-effacing uncle, we would not be gathered here to-night. I wish to thank you for the honor you have conferred upon us, in crossing the Atlantic, to act as president of this Conference. We look upon this act of generosity as a sign that you consider us worthy to keep alive and to carry on the torch of Neo-Malthusian truth, which for three quarters of a century has so nobly been held aloft by the heroic Drysdale family. May we in America who ourselves worthy of the Drysdale tradition!
To delegates from all foreign countries, I wish to extend a welcome no less grateful. I want also to apologize-- if I may do so without any disrespect–- for the obstacles you have had to meet, the obstructions placed in your way by some of the rules and regulations of our American government. Not being familiar with all our customs, perhaps you do not know that the government of the United States has enacted laws aiming to exclude from this country all "undesirable" foreigners. These laws, like all such restrictive legislation, make it difficult for all foreigners to pass unmolested our famous Statue of Liberty. There is a Quota restriction. Only so many foreigners from each country are allowed to enter each month. No: this is not Birth Control, though it is a crude method adopted by the United States to control our population. It is the latest method adopted by our Government to solve the population problem. And so you delegates from foreign countries have been made the innocent victims of an unsuccessful attempt of the American Government to cut down the number of "undesirable" citizens. I am glad that you have overcome these obstacles. As convinced Neo-Malthusians I knew you would. I welcome you to this Conference.
While the United States shuts her gates to foreigners, and is less hospitable than other countries in welcoming visitors to this land no attempt whatever is made to discourage the rapid multiplication of undesirable aliens--and natives--within our own borders. On the contrary: the Government fo the United States deliberately encourages and even makes necessary by its laws the breeding-- with a breakneck rapidity--of idiots, defectives, diseased, feeble minded and criminal classes.
Billions of dollars are expended by our state and federal governments and by private charities and philanthropies for the care, the maintenance, and the perpetuation of these classes. Year by year their numbers are mounting. Year by year more money is expended. The American public is taxed- heavily taxed- to maintain an increasing race of morons which threatens the very foundations of our civilization. More than one-quarter of the total incomes of our States is spent upon the maintenance of asylums, prisons and other institutions for the care of the defective, the diseased and the delinquent. Do not conclude however, that all of our feeble-minded and mentally defective are segregated in institutions. No, indeed. This is a free country, a democratic country, a country of universal suffrage. We can all vote, even the mentally arrested. And so it is no surprise to find the morons vote as good as the geniuses. The outlook is not a cheerful one.
You, friends from foreign countries who have come here to our greatest city, must have noticed the intricate systems of signals which regulates the crowded traffic in our streets and thoroughfares. By this system, the pedestrian is assured some degree of safety. But while the congestion of American population in our cities has forced upon us a system to regulate traffic in city streets and country roads, America as a nation refuses to open her eyes to the problem of biological traffic and racial roads. Biologically this country is "joy-riding" with reckless carelessness to an inevitable smash-up. Is it too late to prevent national destruction? This question we must face- and answer.
France is making a vain attempt to increase her population by awarding bonuses to those parents who will produce large families. The day is here when the Government of the United States should award bonuses to discourage large families. If the United States were to expand some of its vast appropriations on a system of bonuses to decrease or to restrict the incessant and uninterrupted advent of the hordes of the unfit, we might look forward to the future of this country with less pessimism. If the millions upon millions of dollars which are now expended in the care and maintenance of those who in all kindness should never have been brought into this world were converted to a system of bonuses to unfit parent, paying them to refrain from further parenthood, and continuing to pay them while they controlled their procreative faculties, this would not only be a profitable investment, but the salvation of American civilizations. If we could, by such a system of awards or bribes or whatever you choose to call it, discourage the reproduction of the obviously unfit, we would be lightening the economic and social burden now hindering the progress of the fit, and would be taking the first sensible step toward the solution of one of the most menacing problems of the American democracy. It is not too late to begin.
From the moment this gathering was planned, it has been my deepest desire that this Sixth International Conference, brief as it must necessarily be, might be made a real turning point in the never ending battle for human emancipation. Let us, all of us from other countries and from other fields, aim to convert these few crowded house into an assembly of world importance. Let us aim to carry on the great tradition of honesty, courage, and bravery which is so nobly personifies for us in the figure of our president,Charles Vickery Drysdale. Let us express our innermost convictions. Let us not fear opposition, nor the sharp clash of opinion. Apathy, not opposition, is the only real enemy of truth. And it is truth and the love of truth that has brought all of us here together. Let none of us be afraid to express his truth, to bring it in to play in this conference, for we must not forget that it is the truth which is going to set us free. I hope we do arouse opposition. For in arousing opposition, are killing apathy and lethargy. It is my hope that this conference will be instrumental in lighting and spreading the fire of truths so illuminating they cannot be extinguished.
You, Dr. Drysdale, and you; delegates from older and wiser countries than this; you do not wear decorations or medals. But I know that all of you hide the scars of wounds won in our never-ending warfare for the emancipation of the human race. I welcome you. And to all of you, my fellow citizens, who have so generously responded to our call and have cooperated with us in our effort to make this conference of international as well as national significance, I extend the warmest welcome of the American Birth Control League. And I know that all of you join me in welcoming to the presidency of the Sixth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference our President, Charles Vickery Drysdale.
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project