Everywhere a cry of alarm goes up at the diminishing birth-rate. The biologist deplores the apparent decrease in the virility and fecundity of the species; the publicist shudders at the possibility of the extinction or decreased importance of the nation.
The subject of the birth-rate, increasing or diminishing, is one which always seems to arouse agitation; it is one, moreover, about which opinion has oscillated for more than a hundred years. About half a century ago, John Stuart Mill, coolest and least emotional of thinkers, wrote apprehensively of Great Britain as "a country overpeopled or threatened with being so." In the eighteenth century, on the other hand, learned writers, with equal pessimism, maintained that the population of the known world had declined since the palmy days of the great nations of antiquity; and grave fears were entertained, even as they are to-day, lest the tendency might continue indefinitely.