10 MARCH 1928, Page 15

Letters to the Editor

FOR A BETTER ENGLAND [To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.] Sin,—As President of, and for over a quarter of a century intimately connected with, Diocesan Societies for Befriending Women and Girls by Preventive and Rescue work, may I say how valuable are the discussions in the Spectator on Mental Defectives, Slum Housing, and the Drink question, three problems so closely intertwined that they cannot really be considered . apart. _

I would like incidentally to plead that advocacy for the

cure for many of the evils of our bloated towns—viz., the provision of Garden Cities, taking the means of livelihood and the people together into fairer surroundings,—should be pursued simultaneously by that champion of a better England —the Spectator. .

Discussing recently with a group of Rescue workers the

proportion of mental defectives amongst their " cases," I was struck by their agreement that it was more than half. In fact, some said that it was only the exceptions that were otherwise. In the light of such opinions, which other prac- tical workers share, the views of some of your correspondents on mental deficiency and its perpetuation would seem informed by sentimentality and lack of perspective. The consideration of the burden cast on the sane and • useful members of the community, who ultimately bear, whether voluntarily or com- pulsorily, what is already a crushing one, seems to have no place in their thoughts. Neither does the miserable fate of the children for whose production mental defectives are respon- sible. Nor, again, the horrible results of permitting men who are, sexually, as dangerous beasts, to roam at will, attacking innocent victims—to be punished at the most by temporary imprisonment. As to this last question, I believe enfranchised women will, in the not distant future, be able to insist that men convicted of assaults on children be at once sterilized, and, if necessary, also segregated for life—having been proved unfit for life in a community.

• It appears to those constantly dealing with the sad results

of " laissez faire " a cruel form of sentiment that dooms the unborn to feeble-minded, unmoral, unstable parentage. No breeder of valuable animals would tolerate the parentage

- practically fostered in the name of the liberty of the subject.

We are constantly interfering with Nature's law of the survival of the fittest in the cause of Christian charity. A sense of proportion would suggest that it is therefore on Dr. Parry and those who oppose one method of stopping degenerate output at its source, by sterilization, that is thrown the duty of proving it is not effective and desirable. Segregation as well is another and a supplementary method. It seems strange too that a practice patronized for aesthetic reasons

. by the Roman Catholic Church for centuries—indeed down to one's own times, as it was only stopped by Leo should be opposed now, when advocated for a better reason— the survival of a healthy, sane, and moral national stock.

If I am not encroaching on your space I would like to say that a sense of proportion is again needed when dealing with the resultant output of our lack of sense of reality. The standard, of _housing, for mental defectives enforced by. the Board of Control seems sadly lacking in this quality. The regulations: for buildings work out, I understand (and I have had personal experience of the difficulty of proving a really palatial mansion to be " up to standard "), at a bricks and mortar cost of £420 per head. As a very able worker has pointed out, if the same standard were enforced in housing of the working classes, it would give cottages for six persons necessarily costing £2,520. Comment is needless, but sum-

marizing is tempting. . . In order. of imbecility. of government, in its broad sense, an individual Spectator might surely place : 1. Our tolerating excessive drink facilities, pushed for private gain on our people, regardless of their wishes : these facilities predisposing

to •crime, disease, and disability. _ 2. _,OUr tolerating breeding the unfit on the, plea of the erty of the individual. . 3.

Our tolerating slums, largely the product of 1 and 2, and also of private greed and lack of social conscience. 4. Our tolerating-the housing of some of the worst resultant products of 1, 2, and 3 at a cost about six times of that for the normal part of the community. Verily, there is work for the collective Spectator to do.—I am, Sir, &e.,


Hayes Rectory, Kent.

[We cordially agree with our correspondent on the majority of points she makes : we would add another, namely, the supervision of the M.D. woman. Much as we dislike the present Drink Trade, we cannot in fairness say it is fostered against the wishes of the electorate : our hope is that the electorate will come to see the unwisdom of allowing it to remain in private hands.—En. Spectator.]