Margaret Sanger, "Pressure of Population as a Cause of War," [1938] .

Typed Draft Speech. Source: Margaret Sanger Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College , Margaret Sanger Microfilm S71:1124 .

For draft versions, see Margaret Sanger Microfilm S71:1064, 1070, 1082, and 1091. For excerpts see Library of Congress Microfilm 130:509 and Margaret Sanger Microfilm S71:1014. Handwritten insertions and emphasis added by Margaret Sanger.

↑Pressures of Population as a Cause of War↓

The Causes of War are manifold and diverse. There have been wars of aggression and wars of defense.

Motives have been hidden behind religious and dynastic interests. Today more than ever before in the history of our complex civilizations is it difficult to attribute a given war to any one particular cause.

It is certain that the official reasons given are seldom the actual causes which plunge nations and peoples into war. One stands appalled at the trumped up motives of despots, tyrants dictators, for which tens of thousands ↑of able bodied men↓ have been slain in battles, while cities, towns, even countries of beauty and wealth have been sacked and destroyed.

The reasons given (if given at all) for this wholesale mad destruction are usually “blinds” or “leads” for popular prejudice to inflame the masses into action.

Reasons for “wars of defense” are manipulated by diplomats.

Wars to end wars become an occasion and a pretext.

Wars of Idealistic and Religious motives seem more righteous and worthy than motives of economic rivalry for markets and world trade. So these sordid motives are kept in the background.

We acknowledge that racial and religious differences have been the cause of war, and though religion teaches the duty of loving our neighbors as ourselves, “religious wars” have continued unabated.

In Ireland it is the Catholics against the Protestants.

In India the Mohammedans against the Hindus who continue to attack each other in savage fury, and while we realize that religious and racial animosities have been the cause of war in many parts of the world in the past, it is now generally accepted by experts in the field that economic factors have been preeminent in causing wars and that religious or racial differences have become subjected to the all-important factor of economic rivalry, which was the dominant factor in the World War, as it has continued to be in World Politics at the present time.

From 1910 to 1914 German authorities were issuing statements of warnings to the world that her population was increasing to the explosion point, and that her needs of expansion were dominating her every political and economic move.

1901 -- “In Conquest and Kultur” by Arthur Dix:

“Because the German people nowadays increase at the rate of 800,000 inhabitants in a year, they need both room and nourishment for the surplus....

“As a world power in the world market we must assert our place and make it secure in order that the younger hands may find room and opportunity for employment.”

Von Berhardi in his “Germany and the Next War” published in 1911 states: “Strong, healthy, flourishing nations increase in number. From a given moment they require a continual expansion of their frontiers. “They require new territory for the accommodation of their surplus population. “Since almost every part of the globe is inhabited, new territory must be obtained at a cost to its possessors -- that is to say by conquest which thus becomes a law of necessity. Again in 1912 -- von Bernhardi wrote: “We must endeavor to acquire new territories throughout the world by all means in our power, because we must preserve to Germany the millions of Germans who will be born in the future, and we must provide for them food and employment. They ought to be able to live under a German sky, and to lead a German life.” These statements by German writers and statesmen ↑express↓ a simple, universal and eternal truth. That the growth of population with the resulting desire and need for economic expansion was a necessary cause of war Yesterday is Today and will be Tomorrow, unless we recognize that vital factor and do something about it. The World War had brought out startling facts regarding population growth . While the birth rate of Europe has steadily declined during the last 100 years, the population from 1800, which was 200,000,000 rose to 600,000,000 by the year 1914, and during this period -- from 1845 to 1914 -- (or a period of 70 years) 50,000,000 persons emigrated from Europe to other parts of the globe, and yet we have as an example of this 70-year period the explosion of the dynamic power of fertility which ended ina World War and nearly destroyed our civilization!!! Emigration is not the answer to prevent war.

General Population Facts

Before taking up the problem of the separate nations, which we will designate as high pressure and low pressure countries, I would like to state the following: Man’s inherent capacity to incrrase his numbers is practically unlimited, while the earth’s tillable surface and its natural resources are definitely limited. ↑H. G. Wells↓ before the 19th Century the growth of population was everywhere slow even stationary in some places. While accurate population statistics for the whole world are lacking, a conservative estimate would indicate the following: That the population of the world is approximately 2,000 million people, It has increased 27,000,000 in 8 years, (or from 1924 to 1932). The density of population was estimated 1932 to be about 40 per square mile. Later we will see that this is conservative ↑ [underestimate?] ↓ . “MULTIPLYING MAN” by Pearl “In the last analysis the living of every human being must come out of the earth “Each individual now living has available about 16 acres of land, half of which is useless.” Pearl then turns to the chemical aspect of the population problem -- Carbon, the most important element for the maintenance of life -- The most serious aspect of the problem is not food production but the rapid rate at which industrial and commercial modes of life are using up basic resources.


100 acres of wheat land will support 208 persons a year 100 acres of milk producing pasture supports 41 persons 100 acres beef producing pasture supports 9 persons About one-half the population of the world lives on rice or cereal, and know nothing of meat, cheese and milk ↑eggs or fruits↓ . According to Prof. E.M. East there are 13 thousand million acres of tillable soil available, of which two-fifths is now under cultivation. And since it takes 2 1/2 acres of land, according to our own present standards of living, to support each individual in countries like the United States, England and France, it is clear that these standards cannot be maintained if the population continues to increase, and that even on a lower standard of living the world cannot sustain more than 5 thousand million at the most. If we deduct from this area now under cultivation the mountains the deserts, the rivers, streams, towns, roads, forests, far less than two-fifths would be left. It is safer to say that the density of population in the world is 80 people per square mile today. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has published four dietetic scales, with the necessary land to support them. the lowest diet necessary to keep very poor people ↑ Germany 9 months of war↓ from starving on a temporary basis, requires 1.2 acres of land an adult. The next minimum diet consistent with the average health is 1.8 acres of land. And the third ordinary diet of the middle-class standard is 2.3 acres. And the ideal for health and vitality demands 3.1 acres per individual. The League of Nations statistics on the facts of living show that the highest standards of life are maintained for the largest number of people in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand -- all which have a thin population and low birth rate. We must know that the majority of the population of the world, especially in countries like India and China. ↑Even↓ Russia with high birth rates, live permanently on the lowest standard, which only “low pressure” countries like the United States, France, England, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, low birth rate countries, can maintain the ideal diet. So much for the diet and the food possibilities and the land! And now let us take ↑up↓ some of the vital factors in our population growth: Population experts have recently been shedding crocodile tears and issuing grave warnings to the people of the “low pressure” population countries, because the birth rates of these countries are declining. They emphasize the declining birth rate but they fail to tell us that the population of these countries are nevertheless increasing. Let me give you a simple example of birth rates and how to compute them. Interest 40% on $1000. would equal $400. Interest 2% on $1,000,000 would give you $20,000.

“High Pressure” -- “Low Pressure” Countries

↑High↓ Germany, Italy and Japan constitute what is now termed the “high pressure” nations. ↑Low↓ England, United States, South America, Australia, Canada, Scandinavian countries constitute the “low pressure” nations. In 43 years or from the end of the Franco-Prussian war to 1910, Germany’s population increased 24,000,000. At the beginning of the World War in 1914 her population was approximately 68,000,000 with an area of 208,780 square miles. ↑20 years later↓ Today, nearly twenty years later, or 1933 her population is approximately 66,000,000 in an area of 186,000 square miles.


The World War costs Germany 27,000 square miles thru her territorial loss and deaths approximately 10,000,000 in population.


In 1914 the density of population was 404 per square mile -- the danger signal for any nation. In her density is 256 per square mile!!! ↑What does density mean.↓

ACREAGE: per person

When we remember that there are 640 acres to the square mile and it takes at least 2 1/2 acres to feed every individual, you can figure out for yourselves what is bound to happen if this condition continues.

Birth Rates

The birth rate in Germany went up in 1934 to 18.9 and her death rate went down 11.8. ↑In spite of Heroic Efforts.↓ The birth rate thruout the world seemed to take a step upward in that year 1934, except in Italy. ↑!!↓ Depression.


Any further agricultural development in Germany ↑is↓ impossible as even in ↑as far back as↓ 1914 she had already utilized all fertile land.


Emigration, however, was her release. All doors of the world were open to German emigrants up to the World War.


A German was an asset to any nation Educated robust, strong, intelligent, thorough in his undertakings and habit, clean, highly trained mechanics, experts in all lines of industry, linguists in the various languages of Europe and the Balkans; scientists taking no second place with any nation; advanced in medicine, the arts and chemistry.


For all this training from childhood by the Govt. Germany had no returns on this human investment, because she did not have sufficient colonies to utilize this human equipment. ↑While↓ Few Germans went to South Africa colonies, Large numbers went elsewhere. ↑Brazil, Argentine USA↓

Industrial People

Today the only country in the world that has not ↑yet↓ banned emigrants is South America. But a large industrial population such as might emigrate from Germany is not useful where agricultural needs are urgent and required.


Germany like Italy and Japan needs raw material for her industries, the manufacturing of which she will exchange for food.


She lacks oil, rubber, cotton, steel, and copper as well as food. The condition of Germany today is that she is not ready for war. She is not going to be trapped in isolation again as she was in the World War. Her new program of rearmament is not only military preparedness by industrial as well and she is bending all her efforts on a system of self-sufficiency for these necessities which she is lacking. Nevertheless she does not intend to decrease her birth rate nor to control her population growth.

↑Gen Goering↓

In November, 1936, General Goering stated: “The territory in which the Germans live is too small for the 66,000,000 inhabitants and will soon be too small for the 70,000,000, 80,000,000, 90,000,000 which we want to become.” Where is the League of Nations and what is their reply to this challenge to International Peace? ABSOLUTE SILENCE Had the jurists, lawyers, professors, soldiers, politicians, who made the Treaty of Versailles been less ignorant of concrete realities that after having disarmed Germany, instead of providing a safety valve against the day when the population boiler would again bubble and explode, they had either made provision for Germany’s expansion or insisted that she restrain her increasing fertility to the territory assigned to her. Voluntary controlled population was the best war debt the Allies could have demanded ↑of the Cental Powers↓ . Let all peace-loving people remember that the greatest asset to militarism is the uncontrolled prolific breeding among the laboring classes. Without this, militarism could not exist. So much for Germany.


Italy became a “high pressure” zone as soon as the United States and other nations raised barriers against emigration.

Emigration previous to 1914:

Italy had been sending into this country more than 90,000 Italians a year. As soon as this was no longer possible she had to come face to face with the problem of her own surplus numbers. She has had to feed, educate, and maintain them, arrange for their employment in so short a time that that is why her problems become suddenly so acute. The present territory of Italy is approximately 120,000 square miles. Only 9,000 square miles of this was attained thru the World War.


Her population in 1933 was 43,000,000 Her density population 344 persons to the square mile. ↑higher today.↓


Italy thru >Mussolini was embittered by its ↑small↓ spoils of the World War. She wanted much more territory from the Allies and like Japan decided to become a military force where “might would make right.”


She set herself a policy to increase her population. The age of marriage was reduced from 18 years to 16 years for boys, and from 15 years to 14 years for girls. ↑Barbaric & Sadistic↓ But in spite of all provisions made for larger famillies and the medals and doles to fathers, Italy’s birth ratehas steadily decreased. ↑Angry, embittered rattles the sword & in↓ Desperation makes War ↑& enters Ethiopia!↓ 1921: Birth rates: 29.7 Death rates: 17.3 1926: Birth rates: 26.8 Death rates: 16.0 1931: Birth rates: 24.9 Death rates: 14.8 1932: Birth rates: 23.8 Death rates: 14.6 1936: Birth rates: 23.3 Death rates: 13.9


650,000 persons left annually ↑previous to 1914.↓

United States Emigration:

90,000 Italians settled permanently each year -- almost 1,000 a day. 25% of her natural yearly increase came to the U.S.A.

Government Bureau of Statistics

of 1931 claimed 10,000,000 Italians reside outside of Italy. Riviera, USA

Unemployment increased

1922 -- 541,775 1935 -- 638,100


1/3 of population

Standards of Living

close to subsistence level.


cannot support her population -- one acre of tillable land to each adult person in Italy.

Poor agricultural country

Soil dry, poor, stony.

Mountains and non-tillable

About 1/3 of territory useful (only)

↑Has to↓ Import

cereals and cotton. ↑Soil↓ Cannot support these. ↑ needs↓ ↑Natural↓ Needs resources ↑few↓ . Especially lacking coal, iron ore petroleum.


Italy like Japan is not rich in minerals or natural chemicals.

Water Power:

excellent, uses to fullest extent. Milan, Turin, manufacturers.

Textile Industry:

good but not enough to develop national industry by this means.


Cheap, unskilled but cannot compete with China, India, or Japan, without natural resources will not enable her to produce as cheaply as manufactured goods in other countries.

Hand Work:

compete with Belgians and French, India and China.

Colonies -

chiefly poor grazing lands and deserts.

Eyes on Asia Minor

-- Syria and Mesopotamia. ↑But↓ She will need to reckon with France and Great Britian. ↑Mussolini↓ Science applied and swamp lands reclaimed -- wheat production increased to fullest capacity, but not enough for her people. If Italy can bluff the statesmen of Europe to give her outlets for her bursting hordes she will feel that she has the right to go on breeding and swarming until the same explosive point is reached again. When a nation has deliberately brought about conditions through encouraging an increasing population, ↑for War↓ it cannot justify a course of action which it would not have done had the population been stationary or controlled. ↑Pope Pious↓


Pope Pius XI, great champion of Peace, defending Italy’s action in Ethiopia, is quoted as saying in August, 1935: “We cannot think of an unjust war. We cannot envisage this possibility and we discard it deliberately ------ On the other hand, in Italy there is a question of a just war of defense to secure frontiers against continual and incessant dangers -- a war made necessary by a population which increases day by day -- a war undertaken to defend or assure material security of a country -- such a war is justifiable.” Intellectual dishonest is unworthy of one, in so exhalted a position. So we see the future in these terms! ↑That↓ Populations are to be increased to make war, and wars are justifiable to increase populations. Mankind is doomed to extinction if this continues or is tolerated. ↑Predictions↓ Italy -- quote from Warren Thompson, ↑Danger Spots World and Population, 1925↓ . “It appears then, that Italy has neither the agricultural nor industrial resources to care for the present growth of population for more than a few years. "If they must remain at home the pressure of population will shortly become intolerant and we may look for some kind of an explosion.” Francesco Coppola “Land of Italy” -- 1931. Harvard. “There is only one solution for Italy’s problem -- Land. Colonial land for Italy or at least land under Italy’s political control -- land for Italian people who are too crowded in their own country; land for her power; land for her freedom on the Mediterranean.” 1927 -- Mussolini before the Chamber of Deputies outlined his plans for Greater Italy: (Geneva World Population Conference) “If Italy is to amount to anything it must enter into the second half of this century with a population of at least 60,000,000 inhabitants.” “We must at a given moment be able to mobilize 5,000,000 men thoroughly armed. We must strengthen our Navy, while aviation must be on such a large scale, and so powerful that the noise of its motors must surpass any other noise and the are of the wings of our airplanes must obscure the sun from our land.” “Then between 1935 and 1940 we will be able to make our voice heard.”


The tendency on the part of all nations since the War to be self-sufficient, and create their own industries, and build up walls of protective tariffs, has created a world situation which continues to baffle statesmen. This condition has spread to other countries like Japan. Standards of living, wants and demands increase with industrial growth and education. People will refuse to remain docile and starving as they awaken to educational advantages. The choice between death, with starvation and hard work, and death from battle, and a chance of better living, thru expansion, is not hard to make. Japanese seem destined to expand and to acquire lands for her needs. Like Italy -- Doors ↑the world were↓ closed against her surplus numbers. ↑MS in Japan 1922↓ Japan proper Danger Zones


148,756 square miles


- 1935 - 69,254,148 7% increase since 1930 4,804,143 increase in 1934) ↑deaths about half↓ ↑Or↓ 4 babies a minute a year ↑1934↓ Increase on a territory scarcely able to sustain 20,000,000. Japan has tripled its population in 50 years to 70,000,000.

Density population

-- 404 per square mile. Danger mark.

Tillable soil

-- 23,000 square miles only, moderately fertile


-- Three fourths (3/4) cannot be cultivated - about the size of California.


-- 1,500,000 employed at this (Alaska)


-- lacks iron ore, petroleum, coal, steel, seeks control over latent ore deposits in Northern China. Poor quality and not sufficient for shipping or Navy -- grave problem for military authorities.


-- cheap, plentiful, literate 98% Industrial development not ↑easily↓ possible -- ↑as she↓ lacks natural resources.


= Doors of world (except South America) closed ↑to Japan↓ .


-- Not sufficient food for increasing population 1,000,000 a year. ↑”Bandits” in Manchuria↓


-- Supposed to be rich in coal and iron, excellent quality, easily mined -- Disappointment Railroad well organized for mining.


Great disappoint over these resources.

1931 Manchuria

-- Japanese statesmen “viewed with alarm” the doings of “bandits” -- walked in to form to puppet state of Manchuko. This action was supposed to (1) increase her area of tillable land (2) given her room for expansion (3) given her access to minerals and fuel. railroads which were to enable Japan to become an Industrial Center for the Far East. ↑Disappointed↓


General Education

- Public Health, higher standards of living, Western influence has created demands. ↑Tremendous [ illegible] of Population↓ Chick inside egg -- inevitable -- Explosion.

Racial Pride, Political Arrogance, Loose Face.

↑Aggressive↓ The natural resources of Manchuria are not what were hoped for.


Latent ore deposits of North China are now the goal.

The Way Out Before Manchuria ↑Japan↓

(1) Lower the standard of living like China and India. ↑will try to avoid↓ (2) Encourage and adopt the general practice of Birth Control and sterilization, rapidly and generally for stationary Population ↑great interest -- Military against↓ (3) Colonize and use more territory in her own possessions -- Korea, Formosa. (4) Expand into ↑low Pressure Country↓ territories where ready access to fuel and iron supplies and other mineral resources through which ↑her↓ industry might be built to provide for her rapidly growing population. ↑Manchuria, China, This means Tyranny, Despotism, & War↓ . “Foreign trade is the way out; foreign markets will be open to our manufacturers.” “We need not decrease our numbers but must be able to provide employment for our increasing population..” 1933 Prof. Nyeda, Professor of Economics at Tokyo University, Institute of Pacific Relations, says -- “It is unfortunate for our country which is so thickly populated, and whose inhabitants are increasing so rapidly that no suitable territory lies open to which we can send a large number of emigrants, while to the more thinly populated countries entrance is refused despite the fact that these countries are in no danger of becoming over-populated by their own people.” “To bottle up a growing nation, such as the Japanese, in narrow islands and to refuse them to expand overseas is not only unreasonable but also to court danger for the world, for if the lack of food and other raw materials should become the cause of suffering no one can predict a future of internal and external peace. Four remedies suggested ↑by liberal statesmen in Japan↓ (1) Reorganization of economic system (2) Expansion of export industries (3) Emigration to own territory (4) Slow down birth rate through Birth Control and sterilization -- for Culture and Peace Birth Control has made its way into Japan. It has already begun to work by later marriage and small families. Experts predict that by 1945 her population will become static and will not go beyond 80,000,000 -- never reach the 100,000,000 goal her Militarists have set for it. It has become clear that the population of the earth is fast arriving at its possible maximum; that its density is badly distributed; that redistribution of space can only be rectified by displacements; and that Birth Control in over-populated countries is the first and surest method whereby the balance may be peacefully restored. Consequently -- There must be action on the part of “low pressure” nations.

Way Out for “Low Pressure” Nations

For immediate action: 1. Open gates of “low pressure” countries for selected quotas. U.S.A. Russia South America New Zealand Canada Australia 2. ↑Allow↓ the purchase of unused lands by “high pressure” countries for surplus, not only land but natural resources are essential. 3. Raise tariff bars and encourage exchange of products -- Thus “Live and Let Live.” 4. Also form a League of low birth rate countries to create cultural interests and defend intellectual entities as ↑who are↓ a product of civilization which no one nation has a right to destroy. ↑Germany Russia Japan & Italy↓ 6. World Congress to set up a special University for study of Population problems, its rate of growth, its distribution, its quality. This University should be composed of men and women representing the various branches of science and medicine from all countries. ↑International in scope. Thus truly lay↓ Truly a Foundation for International Peace ↑on Earth. Good Will to men over the entire face of the globe.↓

Subject Terms:

Copyright 2003. Margaret Sanger Project