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Cannibalism: 1729Category: (general)
Wednesday, 15 August 2012
01:17:50 AM (GMT)
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 Barbadoes.
I 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 nation.

But 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 streets.

”I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that
a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and
wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled ...”

As 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 thousands.

There 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 breast.

The 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 art.

I 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 half-a-crown 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 value.

I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable
to the least objection.

I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a
young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and
wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that
it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.

I do therefore humbly offer it to public consideration that of the hundred and twenty
thousand children already computed, twenty thousand may be reserved for breed,
whereof only one-fourth part to be males; which is more than we allow to sheep, black
cattle or swine; and my reason is, that these children are seldom the fruits of
marriage, a circumstance not much regarded by our savages, therefore one male will be
sufficient to serve four females. That the remaining hundred thousand may, at a year
old, be offered in the sale to the persons of quality and fortune through the
kingdom; always advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month,
so as to render them plump and fat for a good table. A child will make two dishes at
an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind
quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will
be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.

I have reckoned upon a medium that a child just born will weigh 12 pounds, and in a
solar year, if tolerably nursed, increaseth to 28 pounds.

I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords,
who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title
to the children.

Infant's flesh will be in season throughout the year, but more plentiful in March,
and a little before and after; for we are told by a grave author, an eminent French
physician, that fish being a prolific diet, there are more children born in Roman
Catholic countries about nine months after Lent than at any other season; therefore,
reckoning a year after Lent, the markets will be more glutted than usual, because the
number of popish infants is at least three to one in this kingdom: and therefore it
will have one other collateral advantage, by lessening the number of papists among

I have already computed the charge of nursing a beggar's child (in which list I
reckon all cottagers, laborers, and four-fifths of the farmers) to be about two
shillings per annum, rags included; and I believe no gentleman would repine to give
ten shillings for the carcass of a good fat child, which, as I have said, will make
four dishes of excellent nutritive meat, when he hath only some particular friend or
his own family to dine with him. Thus the squire will learn to be a good landlord,
and grow popular among his tenants; the mother will have eight shillings net profit,
and be fit for work till she produces another child.

Those who are more thrifty (as I must confess the times require) may flay the
carcass; the skin of which artificially dressed will make admirable gloves for
ladies, and summer boots for fine gentlemen.

As to our city of Dublin, shambles may be appointed for this purpose in the most
convenient parts of it, and butchers we may be assured will not be wanting; although
I rather recommend buying the children alive, and dressing them hot from the knife,
as we do roasting pigs.

A very worthy person, a true lover of his country, and whose virtues I highly esteem,
was lately pleased in discoursing on this matter to offer a refinement upon my
scheme. He said that many gentlemen of this kingdom, having of late destroyed their
deer, he conceived that the want of venison might be well supplied by the bodies of
young lads and maidens, not exceeding fourteen years of age nor under twelve; so
great a number of both sexes in every country being now ready to starve for want of
work and service; and these to be disposed of by their parents, if alive, or
otherwise by their nearest relations. But with due deference to so excellent a friend
and so deserving a patriot, I cannot be altogether in his sentiments; for as to the
males, my American acquaintance assured me, from frequent experience, that their
flesh was generally tough and lean, like that of our schoolboys by continual
exercise, and their taste disagreeable; and to fatten them would not answer the
charge. Then as to the females, it would, I think, with humble submission be a loss
to the public, because they soon would become breeders themselves; and besides, it is
not improbable that some scrupulous people might be apt to censure such a practice
(although indeed very unjustly), as a little bordering upon cruelty; which, I
confess, hath always been with me the strongest objection against any project,
however so well intended.

But in order to justify my friend, he confessed that this expedient was put into his
head by the famous Psalmanazar, a native of the island Formosa, who came from thence
to London above twenty years ago, and in conversation told my friend, that in his
country when any young person happened to be put to death, the executioner sold the
carcass to persons of quality as a prime dainty; and that in his time the body of a
plump girl of fifteen, who was crucified for an attempt to poison the emperor, was
sold to his imperial majesty's prime minister of state, and other great mandarins of
the court, in joints from the gibbet, at four hundred crowns. Neither indeed can I
deny, that if the same use were made of several plump young girls in this town, who
without one single groat to their fortunes cannot stir abroad without a chair, and
appear at playhouse and assemblies in foreign fineries which they never will pay for,
the kingdom would not be the worse.

Some persons of a desponding spirit are in great concern about that vast number of
poor people, who are aged, diseased, or maimed, and I have been desired to employ my
thoughts what course may be taken to ease the nation of so grievous an encumbrance.
But I am not in the least pain upon that matter, because it is very well known that
they are every day dying and rotting by cold and famine, and filth and vermin, as
fast as can be reasonably expected. And as to the young laborers, they are now in as
hopeful a condition; they cannot get work, and consequently pine away for want of
nourishment, to a degree that if at any time they are accidentally hired to common
labor, they have not strength to perform it; and thus the country and themselves are
happily delivered from the evils to come.

I have too long digressed, and therefore shall return to my subject. I think the
advantages by the proposal which I have made are obvious and many, as well as of the
highest importance.

For first, as I have already observed, it would greatly lessen the number of papists,
with whom we are yearly overrun, being the principal breeders of the nation as well
as our most dangerous enemies; and who stay at home on purpose with a design to
deliver the kingdom to the Pretender, hoping to take their advantage by the absence
of so many good protestants, who have chosen rather to leave their country than stay
at home and pay tithes against their conscience to an episcopal curate.

Secondly, The poorer tenants will have something valuable of their own, which by law
may be made liable to distress and help to pay their landlord's rent, their corn and
cattle being already seized, and money a thing unknown.

Thirdly, Whereas the maintenance of an hundred thousand children, from two years old
and upward, cannot be computed at less than ten shillings a-piece per annum, the
nation's stock will be thereby increased fifty thousand pounds per annum, beside the
profit of a new dish introduced to the tables of all gentlemen of fortune in the
kingdom who have any refinement in taste. And the money will circulate among
ourselves, the goods being entirely of our own growth and manufacture.

Fourthly, The constant breeders, beside the gain of eight shillings sterling per
annum by the sale of their children, will be rid of the charge of maintaining them
after the first year.

Fifthly, This food would likewise bring great custom to taverns; where the vintners
will certainly be so prudent as to procure the best receipts for dressing it to
perfection, and consequently have their houses frequented by all the fine gentlemen,
who justly value themselves upon their knowledge in good eating: and a skilful cook,
who understands how to oblige his guests, will contrive to make it as expensive as
they please.

Sixthly, This would be a great inducement to marriage, which all wise nations have
either encouraged by rewards or enforced by laws and penalties. It would increase the
care and tenderness of mothers toward their children, when they were sure of a
settlement for life to the poor babes, provided in some sort by the public, to their
annual profit instead of expense. We should see an honest emulation among the married
women, which of them could bring the fattest child to the market. Men would become as
fond of their wives during the time of their pregnancy as they are now of their mares
in foal, their cows in calf, their sows when they are ready to farrow; nor offer to
beat or kick them (as is too frequent a practice) for fear of a miscarriage.

Many other advantages might be enumerated. For instance, the addition of some
thousand carcasses in our exportation of barreled beef, the propagation of swine's
flesh, and improvement in the art of making good bacon, so much wanted among us by
the great destruction of pigs, too frequent at our tables; which are no way
comparable in taste or magnificence to a well-grown, fat, yearling child, which
roasted whole will make a considerable figure at a lord mayor's feast or any other
public entertainment. But this and many others I omit, being studious of brevity.

Supposing that one thousand families in this city, would be constant customers for
infants flesh, besides others who might have it at merry meetings, particularly at
weddings and christenings, I compute that Dublin would take off annually about twenty
thousand carcasses; and the rest of the kingdom (where probably they will be sold
somewhat cheaper) the remaining eighty thousand.

I can think of no one objection, that will possibly be raised against this proposal,
unless it should be urged, that the number of people will be thereby much lessened in
the kingdom. This I freely own, and 'twas indeed one principal design in offering it
to the world. I desire the reader will observe, that I calculate my remedy for this
one individual Kingdom of Ireland, and for no other that ever was, is, or, I think,
ever can be upon Earth. Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients: Of
taxing our absentees at five shillings a pound: Of using neither cloaths, nor
houshold furniture, except what is of our own growth and manufacture: Of utterly
rejecting the materials and instruments that promote foreign luxury: Of curing the
expensiveness of pride, vanity, idleness, and gaming in our women: Of introducing a
vein of parsimony, prudence and temperance: Of learning to love our country, wherein
we differ even from Laplanders, and the inhabitants of Topinamboo: Of quitting our
animosities and factions, nor acting any longer like the Jews, who were murdering one
another at the very moment their city was taken: Of being a little cautious not to
sell our country and consciences for nothing: Of teaching landlords to have at least
one degree of mercy towards their tenants. Lastly, of putting a spirit of honesty,
industry, and skill into our shop-keepers, who, if a resolution could now be taken to
buy only our native goods, would immediately unite to cheat and exact upon us in the
price, the measure, and the goodness, nor could ever yet be brought to make one fair
proposal of just dealing, though often and earnestly invited to it.

Therefore I repeat, let no man talk to me of these and the like expedients, 'till he
hath at least some glympse of hope, that there will ever be some hearty and sincere
attempt to put them into practice.

But, as to my self, having been wearied out for many years with offering vain, idle,
visionary thoughts, and at length utterly despairing of success, I fortunately fell
upon this proposal, which, as it is wholly new, so it hath something solid and real,
of no expence and little trouble, full in our own power, and whereby we can incur no
danger in disobliging England. For this kind of commodity will not bear exportation,
and flesh being of too tender a consistence, to admit a long continuance in salt,
although perhaps I could name a country, which would be glad to eat up our whole
nation without it.

After all, I am not so violently bent upon my own opinion as to reject any offer
proposed by wise men, which shall be found equally innocent, cheap, easy, and
effectual. But before something of that kind shall be advanced in contradiction to my
scheme, and offering a better, I desire the author or authors will be pleased
maturely to consider two points. First, as things now stand, how they will be able to
find food and raiment for an hundred thousand useless mouths and backs. And secondly,
there being a round million of creatures in human figure throughout this kingdom,
whose whole subsistence put into a common stock would leave them in debt two millions
of pounds sterling, adding those who are beggars by profession to the bulk of
farmers, cottagers, and laborers, with their wives and children who are beggars in
effect: I desire those politicians who dislike my overture, and may perhaps be so
bold as to attempt an answer, that they will first ask the parents of these mortals,
whether they would not at this day think it a great happiness to have been sold for
food, at a year old in the manner I prescribe, and thereby have avoided such a
perpetual scene of misfortunes as they have since gone through by the oppression of
landlords, the impossibility of paying rent without money or trade, the want of
common sustenance, with neither house nor clothes to cover them from the inclemencies
of the weather, and the most inevitable prospect of entailing the like or greater
miseries upon their breed for ever.

I profess, in the sincerity of my heart, that I have not the least personal interest
in endeavoring to promote this necessary work, having no other motive than the public
good of my country, by advancing our trade, providing for infants, relieving the
poor, and giving some pleasure to the rich. I have no children by which I can propose
to get a single penny; the youngest being nine years old, and my wife past

The End

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