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ENGL 1410 (11)
Lee Baxter (10)

A Modest Proposal

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ENGL 1410
Lee Baxter

A Modest Proposal It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town or travel in the country when they see the streets the roads and cabin doors crowded with beggars of the female sex followed by 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 leave their dear native country to fight for the Pretender in Spain or sell themselves to the BarbadoesI 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 kingdom 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 the commonwealth would deserve so well of the public as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nationBut 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 in effect as little able to support them as those who demand our charity in the streetsAs to my own part having turned my thoughts for many years upon this important subject and maturely weighed the several schemes of other projectors I have always found them grossly mistaken in the computation It is true a child just dropped from its dam may be supported by her milk for a solar year with little other nourishment at most not above the value of 2s which the mother may certainly get or the value in scraps by her lawful occupation of begging 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 thousandsThere 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 breastThe number of souls in this kingdom being usually reckoned one million and a half of these I calculate there may be about two hundred thousand couple whose wives are breeders from which number I subtract thirty thousand couples who are able to maintain their own children although I apprehend there cannot be so many under the present distresses of the kingdom but this being granted there will remain an hundred and seventy thousand breeders I again subtract fifty thousand for those women who miscarry or whose children die by accident or disease within the year There only remains one hundred and twenty thousand children of poor parents annually born 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 we neither build houses I mean in the country 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 Cavan who protested to me that he never knew above one or two instances under the age of six even in a part of the kingdom so renowned for the quickest proficiency in that artI am assured by our merchants that a boy or a girl before twelve years old is no salable commodity and even when they come to this age they will not yield above three pounds or three pounds and halfacrown at most on the exchange which cannot turn to account either to the parents or kingdom the charge of nutriment and rags having been at least four times that valueI shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts which I hope will not be liable to the least objection
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