A Modest Proposal
For preventing the children of poor people in Ireland,
from being a burden on their parents or country,
and for making them beneficial to the public.
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 Barbados.
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 and useful members of the
common-wealth, 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.
As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years, upon this important
subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of our projectors, I have always found them
grossly mistaken in their computation. It is true, a child just dropt from its dam, may be
supported by her milk, for a solar year, with little other nourishment: at most not above the value
of two shillings, 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