10 MARCH 1906, Page 16


[To TUB EDITOR OP THE "SPECTATOR...] SIR,—It seems to me that just now, when so much is being heard of the Imperial idea in connection with the Navy, the Army, the Volunteers, rifle clubs, &c., we should—in view of the diminishing birth-rate—do well to turn our attention to the question of supplying them with men. Some of the causes of the diminishing birth-rate are very simple ones. I do not think the dread of suffering is at the root of the -evil. or even the prospect of the care and anxiety of bringing up children. I am afraid that motherhood has not the meaning and sacredness it used to have either for men or for women, and a dread of ridicule and a false shame have much to do with it. Then, too, the young wife of the present day is afraid of losing the comradeship of her husband. She is accustomed to cycle, motor, and play golf with him, and it is hard to give this up ; and she knows he will not sit in the garden reading, play croquet, or walk out with a mail- cart. Of course there is the money question; but this is a minor consideration—or a selfish one—in the classes in which the birth-rate has dropped most seriously. Surely the very best remedy for this state of things is to try to teach women to look at it from an Imperial point of view. The nation needs men; are they not, then, in supplying them, doing their share of Empire-building ? Did not the mothers of Raleigh, Drake, and Nelson do as much for England as Queen Eliza- beth? "Men make the World, but women make the men." As we sit apparently "cooped up" in our nurseries our power is boundless and limitless, and we need not grumble if there is a price to pay. Englishwomen are still ready to send their loved ones to fight the country's battles; but that is not all the gaps in the ranks must be filled. Let us ourselves teach our sons while they are babies at our knees, and not shift the responsibility to Kindergartens, nurses, and schools. Let us keep them with us while we may, and give their minds the care we bestow on their bodies, and we shall be repaid a hundredfold. If through delicate health we miss for a time some of the timings we would dearly see and take part in, let us think, instead of fretting, that we are chosen and privileged to work for the Empire with such men as Lord Roberts, Lord Cromer, Lord Kitchener, Sze. This may sound high-flown and impracticable, but surely if we women have pride and patriotism it should help us to fulfil our work and our destiny. The Princess of Wales, the Czarina of Russia, and the Empress of Germany in their busy lives find time to devote to their children ; there can, then, be no real excuse for us. Do not let us have our little Japanese sisters pointing the finger of scorn at us and saying, "The women are women no longer, and soon there will be no men.", —I am, Sir, &c., FRANCES J. BALFOUR. Arcadia, Endeliffe, Sheffield.

[We are in the heartiest sympathy with our correspondent's views, and, though we canuot open our columns to a general discussion of the subject, we gladly publish her letter. That soul-shaking phrase of Wordsworth's, "the patriot mother's anxious weight of cares," worthily recognises the Imperial duties of motherhood. "No younger sons, no Empire ! " is a political truth which none can gainsay.—ED. Spectator.]