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In the early 1700s, Jonathan Swift published “A Modest Proposal,” his treatise “for Preventing the Poor People in Ireland from being a Burden to their Parents or Country, and for making them Beneficial to the Public.” Midway through the essay, he claims he was assured by “a very knowing American” of his acquaintance 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.”
There was quite an uproar among the general public, many who didn’t recognize the satire in his suggestion that Ireland could solve the problem of poverty by having poor people sell their children to the well-heeled as a gourmet delicacy. The poor parents would have one less mouth to feed and the aristocrat could have a “well-grown, fat yearling child, which roasted whole ...