‘An anti-Malthusian magistrate’ saves the day

Edward Gibbs was lying on the pavement in Farringdon Street when a policeman came across him at ten o’clock one July night. The bobby on his beat found him in a state of intoxication and asked him what he was doing there. Gibbs told him he had taken poison and in a rush the policeman took him to get help. At a Mr Henderson’s he was given an emetic which drew off some laudanum before he was then taken to hospital where his stomach was pumped.

One of Gibbs’ friends swore that the man had been jilted at the altar by his fiance but Edward denied this was the case. Instead he said he not the funds for the wedding as money that was being sent by ship had not arrived in time.

Edward said he had ‘no quarrel’ with his sweetheart and the magistrate clearly took pity on him. While suicide was a crime he did not think people generally attempted it for reasons such as this. Instead of punishing the young man he ordered the court to pay him 7s so he could proceed with his marriage.

The paper headed the report: ‘An anti-Malthusian magistrate’ and we might wonder why. Thomas Malthus was an economist whose ‘Essay on the Principle of Population’ (1798) was very influential at the time. Malthus argued that the world needed to either curb its population growth or find new ways to feed an expanding number of people. He doesn’t always get a very good press, perhaps because he is sometimes misquoted or misinterpreted. However, the reporter here might have been suggesting that by encouraging marriage (and thereby procreation) when there were insufficient funds available (to Edward Gibbs at least), the magistrate was going against Malthusian principles.

[from Daily News, Saturday, July 18, 1846]

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