Manuscripts/Mixed Material Article by Alexander Graham Bell, November 1920
At the present time considerable alarm has been expressed at the apparently growing disinclination of American women to bear children, and a cry has been raised against what people call “Race Suicide.” Whatever the cause—it is undoubtedly the fact that in America the children of foreign-born parents are increasing at a much greater rate than the children of native-born parents—and the position is sufficiently grave for serious consideration.
The desire to avoid maternity is a characteristic associated with lack of offspring, and cannot therefore go on increasing indefinitely in a community. Its natural tendency is to die out through lack of offspring to inherit it, leaving the more fertile part of the community alone to propagate the race.
Reflection therefore leads to the somewhat startling conclusion that even wholesale abstention from children, so far from lessening the fertility of the community as a whole will eventually increase it instead. Actual race suicide will not result from such a cause alone, so long as the race is left to itself to work out its own destiny.
Just consider the case of a race of people in which the women show a disinclination for motherhood, surrounded by prolific immigrant races ready to take its place, then of course there would be serious danger of the native race being displaced by the immigrants. The immigrants might absorb the native race instead of the native race absorbing the immigrants; but such a result would be due to the presence of the competing races and not due directly to the operation of natural causes within the race itself.
THE DESTINY OF AN ISLAND RACE
In order to appreciate this, imagine our native race to be placed upon an island protected by suitable immigration laws from competition with other races. Then it becomes obvious that the sentiment in favor of avoiding the production of offspring must necessarily diminish in process of time, on account of the lack of offspring to inherit it; and that the opposite sentiment of a desire to have children will grow, and ultimately become predominant, because each succeeding generation will be composed exclusively of the descendants of the people who had children. If the desire for offspring is an inheritable characteristics, and it certainly is, then of course the next generation will inherit it from their parents to a certain extent; whereas there will be no descendants at all to inherit the characteristics of those who abstained from offspring.
We have placed the people upon an island, and protected them from interference from other races, so as to leave them to themselves to carry on their lives in their own way, as they desire.
Some of these people love little children, and desire to have children of their own. Others look upon children as nuisances, perhaps necessary evils for the continuance of the race—but why should they be bothered with them when they don't want them? Let others have them if they want them, but leave them alone. Well—let them have their desires.
Let those who desire children have them, and those who don't, have none, and see how it will all work out.
Now does it not become at once evident that so long as any of the people desire offspring and have them, complete race suicide is impossible? Some offspring will be produced and a second generation will appear.
Suppose for example the boom against maternity reaches such proportions that 99 per cent of the population decide to have no children—and surely this is an extreme case—will the race die out? No—not immediately at all events. There will be another generation composed exclusively of the descendants of the one per cent who desire to have children. The whole of the next generation will be composed of their children; and there will be no descendants at all of the other ninety-nine per cent.
This is the critical time for our islanders. Only one per cent of the