Margaret Sanger, "Margaret Sanger's Own Corner," Feb 1924.
Source: " Birth Control Review, Feb. 1924, p. 45-47."
Under this column name, the Birth Control Review published letters written to Margaret Sanger with occasional commentary. For others in this series see Margaret Sanger's Own Corner, Jan. 1924, Mar. 1924, Apr. 1924 May 1924, and June 1924.
This time we give in full the letter of our correspondent along with our answer to it.Dear Madam
Pardon me for trespassing on your time but I feel so strongly in the matter of birth control that it is impressed deeply into my heart and soul.
In one of your circulars, it is stated that the present social condition is carried on by beginning at the wrong end, that is, we are taking care of the unfortunates when we ought to prevent such unfortunates from coming into the world. You claim that we are forced to go to vast expense for all kinds of elecmosynary and penal institutions for those who ought never to have been allowed to come into being. It appears to me that the advocates of birth control are the ones who are working from the wrong end.
Some scientist whose name I can not recall said that if properly cultivated the state of Texas could raise sufficient food for the whole world. Another in speaking of the financial state of Germany said that if that country were rightly managed they could pay off the whole indemnity and grow rich at the same time. These may be foolish estimates but we all know that agriculture and all our resources have barely given a small sample of what there is stored away for man's use just below the surface of the earth.
Further than this, look at the vast sums of money spent in foolishness, sin and crime--candy, chewing gum, tobacco and alcohol. Then we ought to consider the wasted money in the great banquets and balls of the elite in all the large cities. Also we may observe the fabulous sums spent for basketball, baseball, and football.
Most of the above enumerations will be upheld by many good people but the fact remains that these things do not contribute in any way to the upbuilding of a righteous nation, and they do not lessen the tendency of the human heart to rush into folly and transgression. If a portion of this wealth were employed in caring for those who come into the world under adverse circumstances much good could be done. Then more than all the above combined is spent for war and war materials. It appears to me that it would be far better for us to expend our energies in educating people to use their surplus means in charitable work rather than in educating them how to prevent the increase of population.
I will refrain from giving instances of astounding immorality among students in high schools, colleges and universities, as you have undoubtedly learned of these sad occurrences from the public journals and court records. And then the question arises before every thinking person, what would be the condition in these institutions, if the young people were posted on methods of prevention, for we surely can not imagine that these measures which are given to the married can be kept secret from the single.
If it were possible, we might put the question to ourselves as to what we would think if some legislative politicians or enthusiastic reformers had prevented our birth and thus deprived us of immortal life. It seems to me to be a great sin to prevent the coming into existence of a soul destined to everlasting life. The Father above gave man this wonderful power of peopling heaven and it appears to me that any tampering with this incomprehensible gift will be fraught with unknown dangers and poignant sorrow.
The veiled object of the control of births is to allow perfect freedom in the exercise of our animal natures with no fear of the consequences. The passions that the Father designed us to curb so as to develop the soul are to be given free rein, and we are to enjoy to the full our lower propensities without let or hindrance. Not that this power of procreation is necessarily a low propensity, but the overindulgence makes both man and woman fall below the beasts of the field, and what should be the culmination and crown of perfect human love is made but the groveling of hideous and brutal lust.
I hope that you will not consider this as in any manner personal but simply a very brief essay for all who are studying this extremely serious subject. I am nearing the close of a somewhat long and eventful life, and I do not wish to say or do anything to cause grief or unrest, but if possible, I want to assist my fellow travelers to find the straight and narrow path, and point them to the Man of Galilee and show them that belief in Him as God manifest in the flesh constitutes the only Door opening into the glory-land where we may see the Saviour face to face.M. J. MARTIN
In his letter Dr. Martin summarizes the objections commonly brought against Birth Control. It can hardly be said, however, that he fairly meets a single one of the many arguments that can be brought in its support.
1. In his second paragraph he hints that the resources of the world are equal to any increase of population. In reply, we can quote Professor East, the best authority on food production and agricultural possibilities in the world. In "Mankind at the Crossways" (p. 153) Professor East attributes to "an editorial in the N.Y. Tribune" the remark quoted by Dr Martin concerning Texas, and adds "It is extraordinary, it is even somewhat amusing, that there should be persons without the slightest knowledge of the trend of population or the possibilities of agriculture, who will write thus, but it is also serious." It is serious when a man so earnest and sincere as Dr. Martin is taken in by such assertions. Professor East sets a maximum population of 5,200 millions as the limit of the world's capacity to feed, and adds that at the present rate of increase, this limit would be reached in just a little over a century. Surely it is time to consider the population question seriously when children now being born may live to see the world so crowded that there will be room for no further expansion.
2. The vast sums of money spent on foolish or unnecessary things, such as chewing gum or candy cannot greatly affect the problems of population. They represent part of the energy of the people, but chewing gum and candy are not inheritable diseases, and the habits do not affect the coming generation. As for basketball, baseball and other games, these should be considered as part of the health activities of our young people. They certainly do contribute to the welfare of the nation, and the building up of clean and healthy bodies and minds in the manhood of the country.
Dr. Martin is distressed at the waste of war, but does not realize that it is now pretty generally agreed that there is no more potent cause of war than the pressure of over-population.
The old objection that knowledge must be kept from the people lest they abuse it for evil purposes, applies equally to the knowledge of reading and writing, as it does to a knowledge of the functioning of sex, and of methods of encouraging or checking reproduction. America settled that point when the nation accepted universal education as the groundwork of her existence.
Is it a sin to prevent the coming into existence of a soul destined to eternal life? Our opponents have never answered this question. If they assert that it is a sin, they should condemn celibacy, for any cause whatever, they should also condemn abstinence, and they should approve--or consistently should approve, illegitimacy, polygamy or any other sexual conduct that would result in more births. Does Dr. Martin really believe that it is a sin and accept the consequences of such a belief? If not, how has he the right to decide that the soul may be prevented from being born by celibacy but not by Birth Control, especially as in many cases Birth Control may be inspired by higher and more unselfish motives than actuate the bachelor.
The objects of the Birth Control movement are not veiled. We desire to remove fear of consequences as a motive for what is falsely called "moral" conduct. True morality was never the result of fear. We assert this openly and with pride. Why should our sex powers, the powers wherein man comes nearly to the Divine, be denominated our "animal nature." Please explain.M. S.
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project