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Title: Darwinism and Race Progress
Author: Haycraft, John Berry
Language: English
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[Transcriber’s Note: Italic text is denoted by _underscores_ and
bold text by =equal signs=.]




  M.D., D.Sc., F.R.S.E.
  _Professor of Physiology, University College, Cardiff_

  [Illustration: Publisher’s logo]


_April, 1900_.


M. W. H. AND L. S. H.


In 1890 I gave a lecture to the Edinburgh Health Society, which
appeared as No. 2 of their Eleventh Series. Its title is “The
Importance of Ideals of Health, Beauty, etc., in Race Progress.”

Much the same thesis considerably expanded was given by me in the
form of three Milroy Lectures to the Royal College of Physicians
of London in March, 1894, and appeared at the time almost verbatim
in the _Lancet_.

The present volume contains these lectures somewhat arranged to
suit a less technically instructed audience. I am indebted to my
colleague, Professor Richards, for his kindness and care in revising
the proofs.

                                           JOHN BERRY HAYCRAFT.

     _18th October, 1894._


  Muscle and Brain versus Political Organisation--The
      Muscles and Brains of a Race are not bound to
      decay--The Fall of Greek and Roman Political
      and Jewish Types--Possible Racial Degeneration in
      Spain--Our Power to ensure our own Racial Progress--The
      Knowledge we possess regarding the Laws of Racial
      Change--Evolution--Modern Philanthropic Effort--Are
      these conducive to Racial as well as to Individual
      Well-being?                                                 1–18


  Lamarck’s View on Heredity--Darwin’s Law of
      Selection--Three Ideas involved in Selection--Selection
      is a Fact, not a Theory--How much is explainable
      by Selection?--Galton and Weismann--Are Acquired
      Characters Transmitted?--Many Cases of Supposed
      Transmission to be explained by Selection--Paucity
      of Experimental Evidence of such Transmission--The
      Reproductive and the Body Cells--Reproductive
      Cells unaffected by Local Changes in the Body
      Cells--Constitutional Change may, though it rarely
      does, affect the Reproductive Cell--The Facts of
      Evolutive Selection known to the Gardener and Breeder      19–43


  Modern Care for the Individual--Preventive
      Medicine--Micro-organisms of Diseases and their
      Extermination--The Reproductive Cells as a Rule
      unaffected by them--Man has been selected by
      the Action of the Microbes of Fever--Leprosy an
      Exterminator of the Unhealthy--Germs of Phthisis
      and Scrofula, our Racial Friends--If we stamp out
      Infectious Diseases we perpetuate Poor Types--Births,
      Deaths, and Marriages--Increase of Constitutional
      Weakness--Death-rate for Advanced Years on the
      Increase--Life Tables compared--Physical Degeneration
      of the Race already indicated                              44–68


  Nerve Derangements, Insanity--The Importance of
      preventing its Transmission--Marriages of Insane
      Persons--Alcoholism a Habit, and Alcoholism a
      Sign of Mental Instability--Drink is a Selective
      Agency--Parents who drink from Habit may have
      Debilitated Offspring--Preventive Measures--Drink
      among Australian Convicts--Drink and Prevention
      in America--Public Habit and Conscience the best
      Preventive--The Power of the Community over the
      Individual--The Necessity for replacing one Selective
      Agency by another--How it is that the Production
      of Children by Diseased Parents is tolerated--The
      Necessity for producing Posterity out of our Best Types    69–89


  Crime is often an Acquired Habit--The Innate Criminal--The
      Jukes Family--Intermarriage does not stamp out Criminal
      Tendencies--Segregation of the Criminal an Ultimate
      and Effectual Resort--Our Unfortunate Use of the Word
      “Poor”--The Unfortunate, the Aged, the Incapables, and
      the Vicious, are treated alike--Our Poor-law Regulations
      are at Fault--The Idle and Vicious are Subjects for
      the Criminal Law--The Poor in very Deed--Our Misguided
      Attitude to these--The Incapables--Segregation
      Ultimately Required for their Elimination--Incapables
      to be Treated like Chronic Hospital Patients              90–110


  Competition of Brain against Brain--Does the Race show
      Increased Brain Capacity?--The Neolithic compared
      with the Modern English Skulls--Abeyance of Brain
      Development since Neolithic Times--Social Communities
      do not permit of the Destruction of the Less
      Intellectually Capable--Human Brain Power results
      merely in Wealth Accumulation--Further Study of
      Individual Competition--Those Competing are Handicapped
      by Property--Property is not always acquired by the
      Most Capable--Property Holders Less Capable than
      Property Acquirers--The Poor Child is scratched against
      the Rich Child--Modern Democratic Attempts to equalise
      the Struggle--Those who Succeed are Not Always the Best  111–134


  Are the More Capable Relatively Sterile?--If so, we are
      Breeding from our Incapables--Capable and Ambitious
      Men Marry Late in Life--Many Unmarried Persons among
      Upper Classes--Lower Class Marriages are the Most
      Prolific--Their Infant Mortality is Greater--Artificial
      Restriction of the Family--Fertility of French and
      English Marriages Contrasted--Possible Swamping of the
      Capables by the Incapables--Artificial Restrictions at
      Present Most Disastrous                                  135–153


  Are we prepared to carry out Selective Methods?--Rights
      of the Individual, and Obligations to the
      Community--Rights of Children and our Obligation to
      them--Our Sense of Obligation is Developing--Social
      Philosophers and Social Reformers--Segregation is
      Not yet Practicable--Segregation no New Idea, and
      ultimately a Necessary Practice--The Masses must be
      Taught the Main Facts of Heredity and Evolution--The
      End and Aim of Marriage--Our False Ideas regarding
      Marriage--The Stream of Life                             154–170

  APPENDIX                                                     171–180




_Muscle and Brain versus Political Organisation._

In the history of the world, nations have arisen from comparative
obscurity, have occupied positions of eminence and power, and have
then sunk into obscurity again. The Egyptians, who built their
pyramids and temples by the hands of the peoples they had conquered
in war and enslaved, were themselves conquered by Greeks; and these
conquerors, at first ignorant and savage, developed on the bases of
Eastern and Egyptian civilisation to a point never before reached.
But the Greeks in their turn were replaced by the younger Latin
race, who were also at first less civilised than the nations they
conquered. The Romans then developed and established an empire,
which men believed would be everlasting, but it, too, disappeared,
to give place to the Teutonic states of modern Europe. So strikingly
alike in their progression have been the histories of the peoples
of the past that it is quite a commonplace to hear the life of a
nation compared to that of a man as being a history of growth,
maturity and decay.

But the analogy is at most a very imperfect one, and, if content
with having made it, we leave the subject, we shall fail to note
the real facts of racial development as indicated in the pages of

We may regard a nation from two points of view. First, we may look
at the muscle and brain power of the individuals who comprise it;
secondly, we may view it as a political organisation struggling
against the effects of climate, geographical position and other
rival organisations. These aspects are, of course, not mutually
exclusive, for the success of a nation in its political struggle
will depend in great measure upon its innate muscle and brain power;
but, on the other hand, a nation possessing admirable innate or
organic qualities may fail as a political organisation on account
of insurmountable obstacles placed in its way. When therefore we
read of the fall of the Roman Empire or the conquest of the Greek
states, we may be dealing with a question of actual racial and
organic deterioration comparable in some slight degree to senility;
or, on the other hand, we may have before us a question entirely
apart from this, that of the struggle of a people against obstacles
which have at last become insuperable. It will be necessary to
examine the facts of history in greater detail in order to find out
whether a race undergoes of necessity any organic change comparable
to growth, maturity and decay, exclusive of the changes which may
occur in the political organisation of the race and its fortuitous
position in respect to other organisations.

_The Muscles and Brains of a Race are not bound to decay._

We are dealing in the following pages with race rather than nation;
with muscle, blood and brain, rather than with political power and
influence; let us turn then to history in order to find out whether
or not organic deterioration must actually close the history of
every race, for if this is the case, our studies of racial change,
though of none the less intellectual interest, will have lost their
promise of practical utility. But, fortunately for the hopefulness
of our future work, we may anticipate by saying that history shows
us that the innate and organic is that which is most permanent and
lasting, and that change and catastrophe in a nation’s career have in
most cases been due to circumstances which we may term surrounding
or accidental. We shall see that races, unlike individuals, may
remain through the whole of their historic period without any
sign of organic decay, but that the organisations, on the part of
individuals of the race for purposes of trade or protection, may
be prone to dangers which sooner or later overtake them.

_The Fall of Greek and Roman Political Organisation._

A few illustrations will assist in making these points clear, and
we may begin with the fall of the Greek states under Macedonian
rule. It is here quite wrong to assume that the Greeks were at the
time of their first conquest a deteriorated race; individually
their conquerors were probably inferior to them; indeed, Alexander,
the Macedonian, is reported to have said in a burst of passion,
“The Greeks are demigods among Macedonian brutes.” The Greeks from
earliest times lived in small and independent states, jealously
competing with each other, and unwilling to join hands in the face
of a common danger. Their political organisation was from the first
of the weakest kind, and they were at all times in their history
liable to fall a prey to any aggressors who might have a stronger
and bigger political organisation than theirs. This want of cohesion
all but gave Greece to Persia; indeed during the Persian invasion
the independence of Greece was almost lost owing to the selfish
neutrality or active treachery of several Greek states. It is evident,
therefore, that the want of cohesion between a collection of small
states carried with it an element of danger, and that the chances
were that they would fall a prey sooner or later to foreign conquest.
In the case of the Roman Empire we are dealing with a political
organisation which has a place in the world’s history only second in
importance to that of the British Empire. In its growth, maturity
and fall, we do not trace the history of any particular race, for
it bound together nearly all the ancient world. It is said that
when Constantine removed the seat of government from the Tiber to
the Bosphorus, there were no Romans of pure blood in Rome itself,
and the inhabitants of Rome, who migrated with Constantine, and
took up their residence in Constantinople, soon lost even the Latin
tongue, and Greek became the language of the Eastern Roman Empire.
But this organisation of Greeks, Thracians, Persians, Egyptians and
Hellenized Asiatics lasted till Constantinople was taken by the
Turks in 1453, and here the climax was due to other causes than
those resulting from internal racial decay. Constantinople, the gate
of the East, was by its position the richest and the most powerful
city of the Eastern world, and while this was so, the organisation
of which it was the centre remained comparatively secure. When,
however, the merchants of Genoa and Venice opened up other routes
of trade, the Eastern Roman capital lost its importance by the
source of its power being diverted into other channels, and it was
conquered by a race that formerly it had held in check. With the
conquest of Constantinople the organisation of the Eastern Roman
Empire ceased to exist.

These two examples will serve to indicate how slow must we be to
assume that race deterioration has occurred merely because a state
or empire has fallen to the ground.

We shall seek in vain either in Greek or Roman history for any
answer to the question, “Must a race sooner or later organically
deteriorate?” During the Roman Empire so great a commingling of
blood occurred, and the modern Italian is so different--as far as
race is concerned--from an inhabitant of the peninsula at the time
of the Cæsars, that a comparison of their qualities would not give
an answer to the question we are seeking. The same objection would
be raised to a comparison between the modern Greek said to excel
even the Jew in barter (the chief outlet to his intelligence), and
a Greek of the time of the Macedonian conquest, because in the
interval race intermixture has been incessant. There are, however,
many examples of races which have existed through long periods of
time without mixing to any great extent with their neighbours. If
we can find amongst these a single example in which their physical
and mental powers have shown undiminished activity, this will
serve to establish the fact that racial decay is not a necessary
termination to the history of a people.

_The Permanence of the Scandinavian and Jewish Types._

Bearing this in mind, it is interesting to turn to the Scandinavian
races from which we spring. These races, when kept as far as
possible from interbreeding with other races, have shown wonderfully
persistent characteristics for a great many centuries. For their
powers of conquest and settlement, witness their early occupation of
the sea borders of Britain, Iceland and Normandy, their expeditions
to the Mediterranean, and even to North America, of which they were
the first discoverers: these are the precursors of our British
colonisation on a larger scale. The Lothians of Scotland are to-day
peopled by almost as pure a type of Scandinavian as you will find
in Bergen or Trondhjem, and they are perhaps the hardest headed,
as they are the longest limbed, of all the British. In Iceland, a
country peopled by those who fled from the rule of Harold, the first
king of Norway, because they were not used to kings, and would not
tolerate a novel form of government, we have a pure race isolated
for centuries, who to-day have the same characters as their Norse
forefathers, and who have developed and are developing as far as
their narrow limits will permit.

In even a more striking manner the Jewish race illustrates the same
point. Always of striking capacity, they suffered national extinction
at the hands of an enemy who had, so to speak, specialised in the
ways of warfare. So far from this national extinction indicating
any race enfeeblement, we have clear proof to the contrary, for to
the present day the Jews are more than fairly represented amongst
artists, musicians, scientists and men of affairs; and in our own
mercantile community, with the disadvantage of having two holidays
in the week against the Gentile’s one, the Jew more than holds his
own in the race for wealth.

_Possible Racial Degeneration in Spain._

We are not, however, bound to assume from these two examples that,
_bar_ political catastrophe, a race will always progress, or even
continue to possess its original characteristics.

In the case of Spain, a country which at one period of history
took a distinct lead amongst European nations, and explored and
conquered large areas in America and elsewhere, we find that to
this activity followed a period of lethargy and want of initiative.
But even here it would be wrong to assume a condition of national
senility, for old age in the individual is, in the millions of cases
under observation, an inevitable necessity, while the decline of
Spain was due to causes which might have been avoided, and the ill
effects of which might have been readily removed.

The Spaniards, unlike the English and the French, mix freely with
lower races, and in the Spanish colonies the race diluted its blood,
and thus influenced the home country. Not only was this so, but there
can be little doubt that much of that which possessed intelligence
and independence was taken out of the race during the days of the
Inquisition. When we remember that, from 1481–1808, no less than
340,000 persons were punished, of whom 32,000 were burnt alive,
and that thousands who represented the nation’s capacity and moral
backbone left the country, we need hardly wonder at the inevitable
result. If this be a true reading of history, we have here a case
of organic race deterioration, but it must be noted that it was
brought about by conditions which were under control, and, unlike
causes of true senility, were not universally operative.[1]

_Our Power to ensure our own Racial Progress._

We may conclude, I venture to think, from these examples in history,
that a race may continue to preserve its racial character for long
periods of time without deterioration, but it is suggested to us
that there are distinct dangers to be understood and avoided. If,
therefore, we ask ourselves, “Is our own preservation as a race
possible?” the answer comes to us that, guided by the historical
knowledge we possess, and with our better acquaintance with man
himself, and the laws of his growth and well-being, we have an
advantage over all who have gone before us, so that, if misadventure
should befall us, it will be most assuredly because of our own
indifference, and because we wilfully shut our eyes to the light
of truth.

It would be well once more to emphasise the difference between what
is meant by racial preservation and the preservation of political
organisation. It would be quite possible for our empire to crumble
away from us. It is a political organisation depending upon ties
of mutual advantage and sentiment, and likewise upon the tolerance
and weakness of other nations. But we may lose our colonies, and
be stripped of our prestige, and yet remain, man for man, as fine
individually as when we gained them; for bones, muscle and brains
are one thing, whilst the political union that binds us together
is another.

_The Knowledge we possess regarding the Laws of Racial Change._

A knowledge of the individual must be obtained before we can fitly
study the facts observable when individual succeeds individual,
making the generations to follow each other, and thereby building up
the history of a race of men. The facts of individual development,
both in the case of man and of the lower animals, have already
been minutely studied. We know much of the life-histories of many
species, and can say what conditions are favourable and what are
inimical to healthy and active individual existence. Much of this
information has been turned to practical uses, and preventive
medicine has arisen as a noble art, which, by its application,
permits of a successful war against disease and even against death
itself. We have also learned much of that longer history which
traces out the life of a species, generation after generation, and
noted those changes for the better or for the worse which occur in
the characteristics of groups of the individuals of those species
as they succeed each other. We have of late years accumulated in
government returns vast quantities of exact statistical information,
so that by comparing the facts obtained at one decade with those
of another we can observe many racial changes as they take place.

These more exact inquiries are, however, but slowly accumulating,
for man is a long-lived animal, and our impatience is great. We
must wait often for many generations, before small, though no doubt
important, changes are revealed by our methods of research. For this
reason much attention has been given to the race histories of the
lower animals, for in their case we may in a few years have many
generations under observation, and we can follow out their histories
in a comparatively short period of time. We are justified in making
use of the facts so obtained and of utilising them cautiously for
the interpretation of human race history, for we constantly and in
every day life assume points of similarity between man and the lower
animals. The blow or the spear thrust which injures us we know will
also injure them, and we infer that the contortions which follow
their application are symptoms of the pain that we, too, should
feel. We know,--and scientific inquiry has vastly extended our
knowledge,--that animals have all of them many points of structural
similarity, and that their life and race histories are in many
ways strikingly like our own. The chief muscles and nerves in man
may be recognised in the dog; the main lines of development are in
both cases the same, and the action of food and poison produces
results in which there are few points of difference. Of course,
when we infer from the facts observable in the study of animal
life that similar facts will be observable in human life as well,
we have to exercise due caution. It is here that the acumen of a
scientific mind is exercised to the fullest degree; we are liable
to error, and our results are perhaps tentative, and must be viewed
as such, but no one can doubt the suggestiveness and consequent
utility of these studies. Just as our knowledge of comparative
anatomy and physiology has been essential to a proper understanding
of human anatomy and physiology, so the few facts we at present
possess concerning human racial development receive significance
when examined by the side of a similar but far more extended array
of facts drawn from a study of animal racial development.

If, then, it be true that we have before us a small but increasing
mass of evidence regarding the laws of racial change, is not this
evidence worthy of our closest study? Is it not at least as worthy
as the study of the politics of the hour which absorbs so much of
our best energies; for what are the petty combinations of parties,
or even those temporary associations of individuals, which aim at
a common or national policy, by the side of the health and the
capacity of that race of which we are but passing representatives,
a race whose future we can make or mar by the course we now pursue?


The belief in our power to modify not only our own but other races
is a partial expression of the great fact called “evolution,”
accepted now by all who have had time and opportunity to examine the
structures of living plants and animals placed side by side with
the remains of older forms preserved to us in the earth’s crust.
These structures testify without equivocation to that development
of type from type which has gradually led to the present condition
of plant and animal life, and which, in view of the changes still
observable, we are bound to conclude must still be progressing at
the present day.

_Modern Philanthropic Effort._

But over and above the fact that racial modifications can and do
occur, something is known about the method by means of which these
modifications are brought about. Knowledge on this point is so
definite, that we are justified in its acceptance, and must take
it into consideration in all discussions relating to our racial
well-being. Viewed from the side-light thus thrown upon our actions,
it will appear that modern civilisation, with all its care and
solicitude for the individual comforts of the race, will be, after
all, fatal to our successors, unless we adopt the wise precautions
which our present knowledge indicates as essential.

During the last few decades, mankind has learned from Nature many
of her secrets, and the knowledge thus obtained has been utilised
to free him from those hardships and even diseases which have
beset him. This knowledge, and the results of its application,
have increased like an avalanche, which adds to itself first by
pounds, then by hundredweights, and finally by hundreds of tons.
For instance, every climate now contributes to supply us with an
infinite variety of foods, to satisfy every necessity and gratify the
most dainty palate; and those who lack the power of digestion can
be supplied with food artificially digested in the laboratory. The
dangers of cold are now minimised by better drainage of the surface
soil, by admirable systems of heating, and by the substitution of
woollen for cotton underclothing. Excessive toil is prohibited by
laws, especially in the case of those occupations in which it is
most apt to prove inimical to personal well-being. Education, on
the lines most approved by educational departments, is forced by
fear of penalty upon the unwilling, and some would even follow the
example of certain American states, and make us sober by depriving
us of drink. Even disease is being attacked and driven across the
border; the microbe is going the way of the great auk and the dodo,
and the probability of human life is on the increase. While the
advantages of past civilisation fell to the few, our advantages
fall, nay, are forced, upon the many.

_Are these conducive to Racial as well as to Individual Well-being?_

But those scientific men who have given much attention to the
study of life in its widest manifestations in plants, in animals
and in man himself, have, with great show of unanimity, come to a
conclusion which appears to indicate that, although we may improve
an individual during his or her lifetime, both in physical capacity
or mental and moral power, this improvement is not transmitted in
appreciable degree to their offspring, who have therefore to begin
again in their lives just where the parents began in theirs. This
teaching strongly indicates that parents cannot pass on to their
offspring in any but a most limited degree the improvements they
themselves have made in their own physical or mental condition, in
the same way that they can bequeath to them the purses they have

If these conclusions, however, are correct, the action of healthy
surroundings will never by itself produce a robust out of a feeble
race, nor will the action of the best educational system ever
devised develop a race of wise men out of a race of fools. With this
non-inheritance of personally-acquired characteristics, the work of
individual improvement has to begin again in each generation, for
the gained ground is always lost, and racial improvement on these
lines must be at best immeasurably slow.

Racial change, improvement, or deterioration, is brought about, so
the biologists say, by what is termed selection, that is, by the
death or non-productiveness of certain individuals of a race, whereby
the others alone remain. If this remnant is organically superior,
the next generation inheriting only from them will be themselves
organically superior, and racial improvement will be brought about.
If this teaching be true, it follows that all our efforts for the
good of mankind will be of no avail unless selective agencies are
maintained, unless we are prepared to see that each generation of
children is the product of the best amongst us in our day. It is
quite possible therefore that, even under the present conditions
of better hygienic education and moral teaching, the race may be
deteriorating, and, indeed, from the biological standpoint, there is
every reason to suppose that it is. Our present efforts may therefore
be, after all, misplaced, so that it behoves us very carefully to
study the whole position. We have first critically to examine the
arguments which point to the non-inheritance of acquired character,
to understand the operation of selection, at present considered to
be by far the greatest factor in the production of race change,
and then to study man in his modern surroundings, with a view to
determining how far these are conducive to his ultimate good, and
how they may with greatest advantage be modified, with a view to
his improvement and advance.


[1] The Spaniards have lost possession of Cuba and the Philippines
since this was first written.



_Lamarck’s View on Heredity._

In this chapter I shall invite attention to what the biologists
have discovered concerning racial change, and the conditions under
which the change occurs.

Before the simultaneous publication in 1858 by Darwin and Wallace
of their “Law of Natural Selection,” biologists believed in the
Lamarckian view of heredity, a notable follower of Lamarck being
our own Herbert Spencer. Lamarck briefly sums up his views in the
following passage: “All that nature has caused individuals to acquire
or lose through the circumstances to which their race has found
itself for a time exposed, and consequently, through the predominant
exercise of certain organs, or through a failure to exercise certain
parts, it preserves through heredity to the new individuals that are
produced by them, provided the changes acquired are common to the
two sexes, or to those that have produced these new individuals.”
Now this view is the one that is popularly held to this day, and
it is the very view which the new school of biologists have set
themselves to combat.

Lamarck would have accounted for the long neck of the giraffe by
supposing that in remote ages its ancestors were short-necked like
other animals, but that it exercised this neck in browsing off high
trees, that the necks elongated in consequence of this stretching,
and that this elongation was transmitted by heredity, although even
by imperceptibly slight degrees, from one generation to another,
until the part gradually grew to the present length. Lamarck would
cordially have agreed with the modern educationalist in the belief
that the children of a man who gives himself to learning will
have better head-pieces than if the father had been a soldier or
professional cricketer.

In this Lamarckian view of heredity we have two ideas; first, that
fresh characters may be acquired during an individual’s lifetime,
due to the action of his surroundings or environment; and secondly,
that these fresh characters are transmitted to the offspring and may
produce in time marked racial change. The first idea is undoubtedly
and admittedly true. The build of a soldier, a clerk, a ploughman,
and an athlete is distinctive; the horn that grows upon a mechanic’s
hand, and the development of the muscles of a blacksmith’s arm, are
commonplace facts. It is the second idea, the supposed transmission
of these acquired characters, which is now so seriously called in

_Darwin’s Law of Selection._

The law of selection brought forward by Darwin and Wallace may be
stated as follows:--No two offspring of the same parents are quite
similar to each other, indeed they often vary to a considerable
extent. Under the conditions in which they live, some of these
offspring will have an advantage over the rest, dependent upon an
inborn peculiarity. Inasmuch, therefore, as more progeny are produced
than can ever survive, those most fitted to these surroundings will
have the better chance of living. These will, in larger numbers,
perpetuate the race and transmit their inborn qualities to the
race, thus gradually eliminating the less suitable ones.

Keeping to the case of the giraffe, Darwin and Wallace would
explain the length of the neck somewhat as follows: With Lamarck
they believe that the ancestor was short-necked, but the subsequent
elongation they would explain in quite another way. They would
take for granted that there are times when grass and foliage are
scarce, that short-necked animals would soon exhaust the herbage
and shrubs, but that the taller shrubs and trees would afford
subsistence to animals with a higher reach. Amongst the ancestral
giraffes those born with the longest necks would at such times have
an advantage over the rest, who in large numbers would die out.
The longer necked ones, more suited to their environment, would
perpetuate their inborn quality of long-neckedness: of the next
generation those again with the longest necks would survive, and
so on. The Darwin and Wallace school of thinkers would, I quite
believe, be prepared to state that by attention to education it
would be possible to improve the mental qualities of the race,
but they would teach that this improvement could only take place
provided that the system made it possible for the clever man and
woman to earn a better livelihood, _marry early_, and _have large
families_, while the stupid ones should produce fewer children, a
condition which at present is far from being the rule.

[Illustration: FIG. 1.

Diagram to illustrate: A, the transmission of acquired characters,
B, modification of type by natural selection. In A an individual of
rounded proportions, at the top of the diagram, has two children.
Environment is represented by a board with holes through which they
must pass. In so doing they become thinner, transmit the thinness
to their children, and so on. In B, a man of rounded proportions
has two sons who vary, one being fat, the other thin. The fat one
cannot get through the hole in the board; but the thin one does,
has children who again vary, the thin one having an advantage.]

_Three Ideas involved in Selection._

Now there are three ideas in this law of natural selection: first,
that there are inborn variations among the offspring even of the
same family; secondly, that these various individuals living in
surrounding conditions on the whole uniform and common to all of
them, will start in life, some with an advantage and others with
a relative disadvantage, and that those possessing an advantage
will, more of them, tend to produce offspring; thirdly, that the
variations, inborn in this case and not acquired, will probably be
transmitted. That there are marked variations--physical, mental, and
moral--among a litter of kittens or puppies is within the experience
of everyone who has kept them, and that variations in human families
are as marked is known to everyone who has brothers and sisters.
Even twins frequently differ considerably from each other, and it
is said that the last years of the lives of the Siamese twins were
sadly marred by their opposing views as to the rights and wrongs
of the American Civil War! It stands to reason also that these
variations may be of advantage or disadvantage to their possessors,
and that among animals and plants, where there are no social props
given to the weak, the variations may and do determine survival.
To give an idea of the rigorous operation of selection which we
find among the lower animals, we have only to enumerate the number
of the progeny produced by each pair, which is often prodigious,
and knowing as we do that the number of individuals in a species
remain virtually the same in a given district for long periods of
time together, we conclude that the room of the parents is just
filled by a younger pair, and all the excess of their progeny over
and above this one pair must have succumbed to surrounding want
and hardship. To give one concrete example out of hundreds that
might be selected, let us take the case of the golden eagle given
by Weismann in his essay on the “Duration of Life.” He says: “Let
us fix the duration of life in the golden eagle at sixty years, and
its period of immaturity (of which the length is not exactly known)
at ten years, and let us assume that it lays two eggs a year, then
a pair will produce one hundred eggs in fifty years, and of these
only two will develop into adult birds, and thus on an average a
pair of eagles will only succeed in bringing a pair of young to
maturity once in fifty years; and so far from being an exaggeration,
this calculation rather under-estimates the proportion of mortality
among the young.”

But in all probability most of us are more conversant with the ways
of the domesticated cat than with those of the golden eagle. The cat
produces its first litter of three or four before it is a year old.
Its kitten-producing life lasts, say, for eight years, and it may, on
a low estimate, be supposed to produce a litter of four kittens once
in each year. In all a cat will have, on a fair estimate, thirty-two
kittens, and may be a great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother
in her lifetime, yet we do not observe in town or village such an
alarming increase in the cats from year to year. Their number is
pretty stationary, kept so by the enormous destruction of their
progeny. The enormous capacity for reproduction of a race of
animals, where for a time their surroundings are favourable, will
be appreciated by the lowland farmers whose fields were laid waste
a few years ago by armies of short-tailed field-mice, whose natural
enemies, the hawks, the cats, and the weasels, had been extensively
shot or trapped.

The struggle to survive among the savage tribes of man must be
excessive. Whole races come and go, and their survivors again fall
victims to privations, disease, or natural enemies, before the
white man with his better brain and capacity for adaptation.

_Selection is a Fact, not a Theory._

The third idea in the law of natural selection--namely, that inborn
variations are transmitted--is also a fact that is universally
admitted not only among biologists at the present day, but by those
who trust only to their everyday experience. “The child has its
father’s temper,” or “its mother’s eyes,” are expressions heard in
every nursery, while the innumerable cases of the transmission of
inborn drooping eyelids and supernumerary fingers and toes show
the same thing in a more striking manner.

The law of selection is therefore no mere unproved fancy, it is a
statement of fact, and of one which is so obviously true that it is
now almost universally admitted, not only among specialists, but
by most intelligent and educated persons. It was understood, and
its significance partly appreciated by Malthus, and I find that
even he acknowledges a prior claim of Franklin’s.[2] Romanes[3]
tells us that the idea occurred in 1813 to Dr. Wells, and in 1831
to Mr. Patrick Matthew, and the wonder is that other thinkers have
passed unnoticed such an obvious phenomenon.

_How much is explainable by Selection?_

While, however, natural selection as an agent capable of producing
racial change is accepted by almost every well-instructed biologist,
there are some who are still inclined to give some value to the
operation of the Lamarckian transmission of acquired characters.
They do not deny that to selection is due by far the most obvious
racial changes, and that experimentally the most potent factor in
the production of a new variety of a plant or animal is selection.
They are, however, inclined to believe that along with this, there
may be some transmission of acquired character, only discernible
after the lapse of many generations. Darwin himself thought that this
was the case; he held that certain racial distinctions were due to
the action of the environment on the parents and the transmission
of the change thus produced upon their offspring. In his great work
upon “The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication,”[4]
he enumerates some of these. They may be divided roughly into two
classes: first, instincts and habits; and, secondly, results of
use and disuse. Darwin believed that the trained habits of dogs
and horses, the tameness of the rabbit and other domestic animals,
were due to the direct and transmitted effects of man’s contact. He
held that the large size of the leg and small size of the wing of
the domestic as compared with the wild duck are gradually acquired
and transmitted by use and disuse.

But Darwin, as Huxley points out,[5] was inclined to lay less
stress upon the transmission of acquired characters in his later
writings; and we find that in the “Origin of Species” he is inclined
to abandon them altogether, and accept the position now held by the
Neo-Darwinian School of Galton and Weismann. He says (pp. 117, 118),
“If under changed conditions of life, a structure, before useful,
becomes less useful, its diminution will be favoured, for it will
profit the individual not to have its nourishment wasted in building
up useless structures.... Thus, I believe, natural selection will
tend in the long run to reduce any part of the organism as soon as
it becomes through changed habits superfluous.”

Just as Darwin himself, as time went on, laid more and more stress
upon the importance of selection, and less and less upon the
transmission of acquired characters, most naturalists have tended
to follow him in the same direction. It may be said, I think,
without gainsay, that, since Darwin’s death, the most important
and outstanding work done by the biologists has been the uprooting
of much of the Lamarckian doctrine, originally held, not without
question, however, by Darwin himself. The biologist of to-day is
more Darwinian than Darwin, and explains on the Darwinian hypothesis
even those cases which had presented difficulties to Darwin’s own

_Galton and Weismann._

Amongst those who were pioneers are Galton and Weismann, and,
curiously enough, in England and Germany these two men, independently
of each other, came to the same conclusion respecting the
non-inheritance of acquired qualities, and pointed out that the
facts of development indicate that the generative matter is passed
on from one generation to another, remaining intact in the body of
the parent, and that we have no reason to suppose that it could be
influenced by changes in other parts of the parental organism. It is
not uninteresting to note and contrast in these two investigators
the action of the typically English and typically German mind, more
especially as the comparison is perhaps equally complimentary to
the two nationalities, and indicates the value of results arrived
at by workers of different individualities.

Galton was first in the field, and as long ago as 1876[6] made the
following clear and concise statement:--“The conclusion to be drawn
from the foregoing arguments is that we might almost reserve our
belief that the structural cells can react on the sexual elements
at all, and we may be confident that at most they do so in a very
faint degree: in other words, that acquired modifications are
barely, if at all, inherited in the correct sense of the term.”
Thirteen years later[7] he expresses himself in practically the
same terms. An untiring investigator, chiefly in the facts of human
heredity, he briefly sums up as above one of his most important
general conclusions. It is all he has to say, it is all that his
facts permit him to say.

In 1882, Weismann[8] questioned whether there is as yet any proof that
acquired characters are transmitted; he writes:--“The theoretical
conception of variation as a reaction of the organism to external
influences has also not yet been experimentally shown to be correct.
Our experiments are still too coarse, as compared with the fine
distinctions which separate one individual from another, and the
difficulty of obtaining clear results is greatly increased by the
circumstance that a portion of the individual difference always
depends upon heredity, so that it is frequently not only difficult,
but absolutely impossible, to separate those which are inherited
from those which are acquired.”

Since that time, Weismann, in a series of important essays,[9]
indicating a profound knowledge not only of comparative morphology,
but of the habits and modes of life of a vast number of animals and
plants, has shown that many of the cases which Darwin was doubtful
about may reasonably be explained by selection, and he has marshalled
a vast mass of evidence in support of the argument that acquired
characters, experimentally produced, are not transmitted.

These essays are profoundly interesting, and will supply food for
thought for many years, but it must be admitted that Weismann has
gradually been led away to speculations of the most elaborate kind,
built upon the most flimsy substratum of fact. There is evidence
of this tendency even in his early writings, but in his later
essays, especially his recent work on “The Germ Plasm: a Theory of
Heredity,”[10] the speculative part quite overpowers the rest.

As those who are interested in heredity will probably read his works
with the greatest attention, I have ventured in an appendix to
make clear what in his works may, in my opinion, safely be looked
upon as speculative rather than legitimate, or even provisional,
generalisation, and what, therefore, may be altogether omitted from
the study of a practical problem such as that with which we are

_Are Acquired Characters transmitted?_

The practical issues which both Galton and Weismann have raised
cannot, however, be underestimated, and, in respect to the
non-inheritance of acquired characters, the mass of modern thinkers
may already be said to have given their allegiance to the views of
those two thinkers.

But we are living in times when mere authority is at a discount,
and we may well demand the facts for ourselves. The point which
we are inclined to question is one as to which a doubt was often
present in Darwin’s mind. Granted that selection is a factor, we are
inclined to believe that the transmission of acquired characters
must also take place, at any rate, to some extent. In attempting
to decide this question upon the facts themselves we may take two
lines of research. In the first place, we may examine every case
of racial change, the production of new or different parts, the
development of a new instinct, or the degeneration or loss of parts
or instincts present at some past epoch. If in every case we are
not compelled to exclude natural selection, and if in every case
that we can directly and experimentally follow, selection is the
outstanding factor, then there is strong presumptive evidence that
racial change is caused by selection and not by the inheritance
of acquired characters. In the second place, we may artificially
induce the acquisition of some character, and notice whether this
is transmitted; if it is not, then the general operation of this
kind of transmission is rendered very doubtful.

_Many Cases of Supposed Transmission to be explained by Selection._

It is upon these two lines that Galton and Weismann worked, and
we may now follow in rough outline the evidence they adduced.
Darwin had been able to explain, to universal satisfaction, the
evolution of many types and varieties, as a result of selection
alone; though certain cases of the supposed inheritance of use
and disuse, and of acquired instincts, caused at times doubts to
arise in his mind. But Weismann has questioned this inheritance,
and has shown that--as Darwin himself sometimes believed--these
may readily be explained by selection alone. The gradual increase,
generation after generation, in the size of a useful limb or the
perfection of a valuable organ of sense may readily be explained by
selection. The fact that the limb or organ is of use to the race in
its struggle will determine the survival of those born with these
serviceable parts well-formed, and these in their turn will produce
others as favourably or more favourably constituted, from whom
further selection can take place. We cannot shut our eyes to the
operation of selection in such instances, nor have we any reason
for saying that part of the effect must be due to some other cause.
In the case of organs which become useless and finally disappear
in the course of generations, a selective agency will sufficiently
account for this disappearance. As Darwin himself pointed out, a
useless organ is an expense and a drain upon an animal’s capital;
it requires blood, and its exercise uses up some of the sum total
of energy the animal possesses. The truth of this can be shown
experimentally, as when compensatory growth occurs in the rest of
the body after amputation of a limb, or when one lung or kidney
enlarges subsequently to the disease or removal of the other. In
cases where an organ is useless, those who have it badly developed,
and in consequence have other and useful parts more fully formed,
will have a distinct advantage over those born with a well-formed
but useless organ. We may thus explain the small size of the wings
of the tame as compared with the wild duck, an instance in which
Darwin saw difficulty in excluding inherited disuse. In this way we
may explain the occurrence of the still smaller wings of the running
ostrich and apteryx; also the blind fish of the Kentucky Cave, and
the visionless eyes of the burrowing mole. As an illustration, an
animal or man may, in this respect, be compared to an individual
with a given amount of capital, who, if he spends his money in
one direction, will thereby have less for another purpose. In this
way a big leg may be obtained at the expense of a small arm, or a
good ear be the cause of an indifferent eye.

When we turn to the question of the supposed transmission of acquired
instincts and habits, we find that it is possible by means of the
principle of selection, to explain some, at least, of the cases
which presented difficulties to Darwin’s mind. Thus the tameness of
rabbits, cats, and dogs, which animals have for countless generations
been subjected to domestication, need not necessarily be accounted
for by supposing that the results of training are transmitted.
For it is easy to understand how those that would have rebelled
most against man’s authority, and who were by nature the least
tractable, would have been less cared for by man, and probably would
finally have suffered extermination, while the docile received his
attention, and were allowed to reach maturity and perpetuate the
race. That this selection must be going on at the present time is
very obvious, and as instances we may note the savage dogs that are
constantly being destroyed, and the house dogs and domestic pets
that are, in most cases, continually being selected from the docile
animals and those of good temper. A dog that does not possess these
good qualities can have no existence in town or village, and so by
continual extermination of the unfriendly, the “friend of man”
has gradually been evolved.

_Paucity of Experimental Evidence of such Transmission._

Turning now to those cases in which characters can be acquired or
experimentally stamped upon an individual, we find that no single
reliable instance can be adduced in which transmission takes place.
Mutilations have been practised upon male infants by Jews and other
Semitic races for thousands of years; yet, in spite of this, the
operation has still to be performed, for the lost parts appear in
the offspring of to-day as in the earlier periods of their race’s
history. Certain breeds of dogs and sheep have for many generations
been systematically docked, and yet the young are born with as
long tails as those of other breeds. Chinese women have compressed
their feet from times long past in their history, yet Chinese
female infants are still born with large feet, and have to undergo
afresh the torture of their compression. More curious still, for
it affects an organ of paramount importance, the brain, there is a
tribe of Indians who flatten their heads in early life, entirely
changing the shape not only of the skull, but of the brain itself,
yet their children are born with normal rounded heads; the induced
change is not transmitted.

It must be admitted that this evidence is pretty strong, and we
need not wonder that it has produced such widespread conviction,
although it has been so lately taken up by the thinking public.

_The Reproductive and the Body Cells._

The body of a plant or animal is composed of small living bodies,
most of them of microscopic size, called cells. These lead, to a
certain extent, individual lives, and have individual characters,
but they are built, as it were, together, like the bricks and stones
of a house, to form the body. The cells are, all of them, nourished
by the blood and lymph, and some are connected together by strands
of connecting matter termed nerves. All the cells of the body are
descendants from a single fertilised egg, which has resulted from
the fusion of a paternal and maternal sexual cell. Among the cells
of the body, and situated in special organs, are the sexual cells,
likewise nourished by blood, but not connected by nerves with other
parts of the body.

_Reproductive Cells unaffected by Local Changes in the Body Cells._

Now there is no reason to suppose that these sexual cells residing
in the bodies of the parent will be influenced by a change in the
muscle or brain cells of the parent unless this change in some
way or another influences the blood, the common go-between. But
the blood is now known to be but a food and oxygen carrier, and
an eliminator of used-up products. It is like a river laden with
vessels carrying corn for the food of the big city, and nothing
more. The life, the energy, the character of the body is the sum of
the lives, the energies, and the characters of the cells--although
these necessarily require the nourishment derived from healthy
blood--just as the life of the city is the sum of the life of its
citizens who require the nourishment of the corn.

_Constitutional Change may, though it rarely does, affect the
Reproductive Cell._

Let us suppose that an average healthy man during his lifetime
acquires, by use, accident, or disease, some change in his right
arm. There is no reason to suppose that the sexual cells, rather
than any other cells in the body, will be affected. If, on the other
hand, this local change in the arm affects the blood, depriving it
of nutritive power, or casting into it obnoxious matter, then it is
possible that all the cells of the body may be affected. We have many
instances of such a thing, as when the blood and whole constitution
are involved after maybe a primary local affection, and when, in
consequence, the hair drops off, or marks and irregularities of the
nails appear. In these cases the sexual cells may suffer from want
of nourishment, or from what we may term a poison, and may produce
less vigorous and perhaps diseased or malformed offspring, but they
will show no tendency to develop in the offspring that primary local
affection which caused ailment in the parent. But, as we shall
see in the next chapter, the sexual cells in most cases get off
scot-free, and the most dangerous acquired constitutional diseases
leave no trace of their passage upon the reproductive elements. It
is indeed difficult to point to a case, with the notable exception
of syphilis, in which acquired constitutional blood disorders leave
any trace in the organisation of the progeny, and we are indeed
fortunate that this is so.

There seems to be some evidence that we may stunt the growth of a
plant or animal by insufficient or unsuitable food, and that all the
cells of the body may thereby be reduced in size, the sexual cells
among the rest, and that these reduced cells give rise to small
progeny in the next generation. Here again the evidence in the case
of animals seems rather doubtful, and rests on a few statements,
such as that of De Quatrefages, that horses taken from Normandy to
the hilly and less fertile country in Brittany become distinctly
smaller in the course of three generations. In our own country
large horses are found in the plains and small horses and ponies in
the hilly districts of Wales and Scotland. But the obvious utility
to man of small breeds in hilly districts, and of heavily-built
horses on the plains, and the fact that horses have been bred for
hundreds of years in view of their services to man, throws great
doubt upon this particular evidence of De Quatrefages’, and we may
well leave it out of account, unaccompanied as it is with evidence
as to the total exclusion of the interbreeding of the Normandy with
the Brittany variety.

On the other hand, among plants it really appears as if by adjusting
the soil and climate you may produce stunted varieties, whose seed
produce small plants. The poor and exposed ground of our hilltops
are covered with dwarfed varieties of the bigger plants growing
luxuriously in the adjacent plains, and a classical case mentioned
by Lemaire[11] is that of the hemp which, removed from Piedmont
to the less suitable soil of France, becomes a smaller variety,
growing to only half its former height in the course of two or three
generations. The enormous dwarfing that one can subject a plant to
is illustrated in the case of the conifer, which the Japanese can
cause to remain the size of a tiny shrub during its hundred years’
growth, by simply keeping the soil at the starvation edge, and by
pruning the branches and roots.

It appears then to be pretty certain that every man and woman
possesses a store of sexual cells, derived directly from the original
sexual cells from which he or she was developed. These in the main
are like the original cell, being as they are of its substance, but
they show minor differences amongst themselves, and give rise in their
turn to offspring no two of which are alike. These sexual cells,
residing within the paternal or maternal body, are uninfluenced by
the course of life led by that body, except, perhaps, in some few
cases in which the whole system and the blood are impoverished,
saturated with alcohol, or infected with the microbes of disease,
which microbes in some cases, perhaps, directly attack the sexual

_The Facts of Evolutive Selection known to the Gardener and Breeder._

Scientific men are often very slow at arriving at a truth, and
there are many instances of valuable knowledge held by sections
of the people in perhaps an empirical fashion, which has at last
found acceptance by the learned. The practical results of all
this biological teaching has been in the hands of cattle-breeders
and nurserymen for centuries. The various breeds of cattle have
been produced by man, not by any new method of ventilating the
cow-sheds, or by some freshly discovered patent fodder, but simply
by selecting for breeding purposes those individuals that most
suited the breeder’s purpose. The racing stallion was kept which
most resembled a greyhound, the hog that most resembled a beer
barrel, and the cow that gave the best combination of milk and
flesh. The gardener produces the hundreds of new varieties placed
every year in the market by keeping the seeds and propagating from
any variety he may wish to perpetuate, and these varieties are
always spontaneously occurring. He perfects his stock by selecting
the seed only from the very best.

The testimony not only of the learned but of those who in their
lives, unbiassed by any theory, have been engaged in modifying breeds
of animals and plants, is unanimously in favour of the view that
selection is the only, or, at any rate, by far the most powerful
factor in producing racial change. So far these facts have had little
or no application to the question of human race progress. People
are still too much biassed by archaic anthropocentric ideas; they
view man by himself, under his own special laws, and would often be
shocked by an attempt to draw obvious parallels between him and the
lower animals. Amongst the thinking few this attitude has changed,
and broader and sounder views are rapidly gaining ground.

People, too, are apt to feel what may be called a false delicacy
in speaking of questions relating to race change, but this may more
rightly be termed the shyness necessarily associated with an unusual
topic of discussion. We English laugh at the American woman who, from
notions of extreme modesty, will not speak of the “leg” of a piano;
but we in our turn draw our own often exaggerated lines, beyond
which we will not pass. Just as there is no subject which will not
yield food for the evil-minded, so there is no subject--having to
do with the laws of nature--which cannot be naturally approached
in all simple-mindedness. As soon, therefore, as it is realised,
that this question we are dealing with is one which demands not
only our closest attention, but also the advantage of public and
private discussion, so soon shall we have acquired the habit of
regarding it in quite a matter-of-fact and pure-minded way.


[2] “Franklin’s Miscellany,” p. 9.

[3] “Darwin and after Darwin,” vol. i., p. 257.

[4] Chapter xxvii., vol. ii., 1875.

[5] “Life and Letters,” vol. ii., p. 14.

[6] “Journal of the Anthropological Institute,” vol. v., pp. 344–7.

[7] “Natural Inheritance” (1889), p. 14.

[8] “Studies in the Theory of Descent,” translated by Raphael
Meldola, p. 692.

[9] “Essays upon Heredity,” translated by Poulton, Schönland and
Shipley; vol. i. published in 1889, vol. ii. in 1892.

[10] Translated by W. Newton Parker (1893).

[11] D’Orbigny’s “Dictionary.”



_Modern Care for the Individual._

In the last chapter we saw that while selection is an evident
and powerful factor in the production of racial change, there is
but slight and in many cases questionable evidence that acquired
characters are ever transmitted. During their lifetime a man or
woman may be subject to the most varied conditions, and yet the
quality of his or her offspring will not be affected by these
conditions except in cases where impoverishment or poisoning of
the blood has ensued, thereby enfeebling his or her reproductive
cells. These facts have not been gained by a study of the lower
animals alone, for most researchers have kept man in view, while
others, like Malthus and Galton, have confined their observations
almost exclusively to the human kind. In this chapter we shall see
how these generalisations are borne out by the study of disease,
and we shall see what effect the modern methods for the treatment
of the sickly and feeble are having upon the race. We moderns as
individuals have many advantages over those who have gone before
us; we owe to the untiring energy of our ancestors the facilities
for travel, the pleasures of accumulated music and literature,
etc., but among these hundreds of advantages we possess none are
more marked than those we owe to the scientific followers of the
profession of medicine, the application of whose learning gives
in our day to the less robust a possibility of life and happiness
they never had before.

_Preventive Medicine._

The words “mederi,” to heal, “medicus,” the healer, and “medicina,”
the remedy, indicate pretty clearly the almost superstitious feeling
current in early times regarding the attributes of the medical man;
but physicians have in more recent years begun to doubt in some
measure of their power to cure disease when once established. With
increased knowledge, and with growth of professional acumen, the
limits of this power are more clearly seen, and the solution of a
metallic salt, or decoction of a herb is now withheld when at one
time it would have been administered with the fullest confidence.
With this healthy scepticism as to their power to cure has come
very certain and exact knowledge of how to prevent, and preventive
medicine has recently exercised an influence upon disease and upon
mortality which is unique in the history of humanity. But while
the benefit of our changed and more healthy surroundings are to
the advantage of us all individually, we shall have to consider
whether as a people we shall in the long run be the better for this
change, or, on the other hand, whether in obtaining this individual
advantage we are not imperilling the vigour of the race.

_Micro-organisms of Diseases and their Extermination._

Nowhere has preventive medicine achieved greater triumph than in the
extermination of certain micro-organisms which gain access to the
body and cause the febrile class of diseases, such as small-pox,
measles, typhoid fever, and very many others. At present none of
these micro-organisms can be said to be extinct, but they have in
some cases been banished to distant parts of the globe, and in other
cases the conditions suitable to their existence, and the means of
their propagation are so well understood that their banishment is
being systematically and successfully carried out, so much so that
a disease such as small-pox, which at one time headed the list of
fatal diseases, does not come in the category of anxieties of the
mother of to-day; and pyæmia and puerperal fever, which twenty
years ago were at times dreaded scourgers in most hospitals, now
occur only from culpable and punishable neglect.

_The Reproductive Cells are as a Rule unaffected by them._

A short study of these diseases should well repay us, showing as
it will do that in by far the greater number of cases these severe
constitutional derangements produce no effect upon the reproductive
cells; that they are in fact incapable of producing a change that
will be hereditarily transmitted. We shall learn, moreover, the
part that they have played, and can play, in producing racial
change by selection. The micro-organisms of disease are of many
varieties, and each variety is capable of setting up its own peculiar
disturbance. The disturbance set up by one kind we call small-pox,
that arising from another kind, cholera, and so on. Now, the very
curious point comes out that in most of these diseases, although
the composition of the blood is profoundly altered, and many of the
tissues undergo marked change, this change, fortunately for us, is
quite of a temporary character, and when the attack is over there
is only one test which will enable us to say that the body is not
just in the same condition as it was before. This test is that it
cannot be infected again for a long time, if at all, by the same

This induced immunity from further attacks has received in the
hands of Metschnikoff a curious and very interesting explanation.
He has shown that an army of small cells, called phagocytes, which
wander through the blood and tissues, are able to attack the
microbes of disease, and that after a struggle they are able in
many cases to kill these voracious invaders. In so doing, however,
the weaker phagocytes succumb to the struggle, while those which
are left alive within the body of the convalescent patient possess
the power of resisting and destroying the particular microbe which
had undertaken the invasion. These resisting phagocytes, selected
from the rest, together with their descendants, who share their
resisting qualities, are able to prevent fresh inroads of the same
enemy. We need not, therefore, assume that this acquired immunity,
the sole relic of the attack, indicates any change in the ordinary
muscle or brain cells of the body, or that the reproductive cells
are in any way altered, for the immunity is due only to a change
in the phagocytic army.

The germ cells in almost every case get off scot-free, and there is
nothing in the organisation of a child to indicate whether or not
his father or mother suffered from measles, or scarlet fever. It
might at first sight be urged, in opposition to this fact, that,
although we cannot recognise the child of a man who suffered from
measles or scarlet fever by any visible sign, yet the child is in
some way different, inasmuch as he is to some extent immune to those
diseases. In favour of this belief, the many instances in which a
fever has been brought to a country never before accessible to the
germ (for instance, the introduction of measles and small-pox to
newly discovered America, where fearful ravages were caused thereby),
may be brought up as evidence to prove that those habitually living
among the germs must have become immune and have transmitted this
immunity to their progeny. Again, the black population of Sierra
Leone have only a mortality of 24 per cent. from malaria, while the
mortality of the white settlers is 47 per cent.;[12] and, in this
case, it may be urged that the black race has become by transmission
of immunity partially immune. But these cases which appear to be
examples of transmitted immunity may receive another, and a much
more simple, explanation. No two children of the same parents are
alike in colour of hair, shape of limb, temperament, etc., and
they also differ widely in their capacity to receive and combat
infection. An epidemic of fever, therefore, will always select to
kill those organically most liable to fall a prey to it, while the
remnant, having by nature greater power of resistance, not only
survive, but may also be calculated upon to produce progeny, on
the whole, as resistant as they are themselves.

_Man has been selected by the Action of the Microbes of Fever._

Races, therefore, subject to epidemics of a particular fever,
suffer selections in the hands of the microbe of that particular
fever, and those living are survivals cast in the most resisting
mould. It may not be flattering to our national vanity to look upon
Englishmen as the product of the selection of the micro-organisms
of measles, scarlet fever, small-pox, etc., but the reasonableness
of the conclusion seems to be forced upon us when we consider his
immunity from these diseases as compared with that of natives of the
interior of Africa, or of the wilds of America, whose races have
never been so selected, and who, when attacked for the first time
by these diseases, are ravaged almost to extermination. We find,
then, that an ordinary attack of measles, scarlet fever, whooping
cough, erysipelas, typhoid, or typhus fever, when it has passed away,
leaves the tissues of the body in as sound and healthy a condition
as before; and, indeed, were it not for this fact, the human race
could hardly have existed at all, continually exposed as it has
been, for countless ages, to the aggressions of these microbes. By
exterminating these diseases, we shall, no doubt, preserve countless
lives to the community, who will in their turn become race producers,
but, inasmuch as the individuals thus preserved will in many cases
belong to the feebler and less resisting of the community, the race
will not become more robust. In fact, it is probable that, as a
race, we shall thereby suffer, for the banishment of the disease
will enable the feebler members of the community to live, and in
larger proportion contribute to the progeny of the future. That
this is actually the case will shortly be pointed out.

_Leprosy an Exterminator of the Unhealthy._

But there are other microbes which, in addition to the production
of blood changes, have a profound and lasting effect upon many
of the tissues of the body. Such are the microbes of leprosy and

The terrible ravages that the microbe of leprosy is capable of
effecting are appreciated only by those who in Norway or elsewhere
have visited those death-houses now fortunately to be found in but
one or two parts of Europe. Yet, even in this case, strange to say,
the germ cells do not seem to be reached by this loathsome disease,
and it is not transmitted from parent to child.[13] A disease of
mediæval, not of modern, Europe, we need not discuss its action on
racial change more than to say that, hideous as are its aspects, it
must be looked upon as a friend to humanity; for, while the microbe
of typhoid fever will attack a man who is healthy and living in
healthy surroundings--excepting for the microbe that lurks in his
well--the microbe of leprosy feeds upon those who are debilitated
by conditions under which healthy and strong racial development is
impossible. It is a depopulator of starved, ill-nourished districts,
and the race recruits to its advantage from those more favourably

In the case of syphilis, serious and often permanent tissue change
is produced as a result of the action of the microbe, and in this
disease, to an absolute certainty, an effect may be produced upon
the offspring. Many suppose that this is due to the transmission
of the specific microbe itself from the body of one or both of the
parents to the developing egg. That such a thing is not impossible
is shown in the case of silk-worm disease, in which the spores are
to be found within the egg of the silk-worm moth. These spores
subsequently develop and attack the tissues of the grub of the next
generation. In syphilis the same kind of thing no doubt occurs;
for a syphilitic child may subsequently infect the mother or nurse
during the period of suckling. But there are other cases in this
disease which appear hardly to be explained so easily, and we have
to assume that the germinal cells are themselves changed in some
way during their sojourn in the parental body, for after a certain
time the disease is no longer capable of transmission by the
parent, and the children born after this period, though themselves
diseased, are incapable of infecting those who tend them. We have
every reason to believe, therefore, that there are no specific germs
or microbes left in the body of the parent, and that we have to do
solely with the more or less permanent change in the reproductive
cells, produced by the microbes during their residence in the body
of the parent. The children born during this period are frequently
ill-nourished, possess recognisable indications of disease, and
are subject to nervous and other affections.

We have here, therefore, for the first time, distinct evidence that
an obviously acquired constitutional disease is transmitted, and
that that transmission is in some cases due to a direct effect of
the action of the microbe upon the germinal cells. The microbe of
syphilis, unlike the microbe of leprosy, but like that of measles,
feeds on healthy blood and tissue. It attacks the strong as well
as the weak, and, if the weak more readily succumb, yet the strong
and vigorous are more apt to acquire it. It is not, therefore,
selective, like leprosy, and this fact, added to that of its capacity
of transmission, ranks it as a disease distinctly inimical to race

_Germs of Phthisis and Scrofula, our Racial Friends._

During recent years it has been discovered that the symptoms of
phthisis and scrofula are due to a microbe, the tubercle bacillus.
It appears, however, that this bacillus cannot gain access to, or
multiply in, the tissues of a healthy and vigorous man or woman;
most of us probably have often carried this micro-organism within
the mouth or stomach, and though our gastric juice has not been able
to destroy it, as is the case with so many of our invisible foes, it
has been unable to pass into our blood or lacteals. Dr. Woodhead puts
this fact strongly.[14] He says: “A perfectly healthy individual,
placed under favourable conditions as regards food, fresh air, and
exercise, is never attacked successfully by tubercle bacilli, the
active, vigorous tissue cells being perfectly able to destroy any
bacilli that make their way into the lungs, the pharynx, or the

It appears, too, that a certain type of individual is readily
attacked by this microbe, while the normal individual, debilitated
though he may be by unfavourable external conditions, falls far less
readily a victim. As Prof. Sir Lauder Brunton[15] remarks: “We
are constantly meeting with persons belonging to very consumptive
families who escape the disease by living under conditions where
the bacillus tuberculosus is likely to be absent. On the other
hand, persons such as nurses are in all probability frequently
inhaling the microbe, and yet are not attacked by the disease.
In the first case immunity is probably due to the absence of the
seed, notwithstanding the favourable condition of the soil; in the
second it is due to the barrenness of the soil, notwithstanding
the presence of the seed.”

Inasmuch as phthisis is markedly hereditary, we may look upon the
_type_, not the disease, as being transmitted. A phthisical type of
person is one who comes of a family liable to fall a prey to this
microbe, and he is recognisable by many distinctive characteristics
of hair and complexion, and by qualities of temperament, feature,
and figure.

Sufferers from phthisis are prone to other diseases, such as pulmonary
and bronchial attacks, so that over and above the vulnerability to
this one form of microbe they are to be looked upon as unsuited not
only for the battle of life, but especially for parentage and for
the multiplication of the conditions from which they themselves

The phthisical are attractive in personal appearance on account of
their rich skin and hair colouring and their frequent brightness
and vivacity, and their obvious delicacy also elicits a feeling
of pity and wish to protect them. In consequence of this they
easily marry, and they are as a rule very fertile. Galton[16] says:
“There is fair doubt whether a group of young persons destined
to die of consumption contribute considerably less to the future
population than an equally large group who are destined to die of
other diseases.” Now this phthisical type is very common with us
indeed, and it appears to be an innate variation to which our race
is liable. It is evident, therefore, that those people with the
tuberculous variation who, even under the present circumstances,
manage to contribute their quota to the population, would, were the
bacillus tuberculosus altogether exterminated, contribute more than
their share, and the type would become more common. And let it be
remembered that this type, apart from the action of the bacillus,
is a delicate and fragile one and liable to other affections, and
the effect of giving the type any advantage in the struggle for
life would surely imperil the well-being of the future of the race.
When, some years ago, it was thought that a cure for phthisis had at
last been obtained, great tribute was naturally and rightly paid to
its discoverer; but had this cure proved as efficient as the more
sanguine were led to expect, it would be terrible to contemplate
the eventual suffering that would have resulted from the constantly
increasing numbers of the phthisical type that would have been
born with each generation.

_If we stamp out Infectious Diseases we perpetuate Poor Types._

It is a hard saying, but none the less a true one, that the bacillus
tuberculosus is a friend of the race, for it attacks no healthy man
or woman, but only the feeble. It is like the bacillus of leprosy
in this respect, but in this respect only, for leprosy attacks
anyone living under certain unhygienic conditions. Remove these
conditions--as we have done long ago--and the bacillus of leprosy
disappears; its duties are over, like those of the extinct plants
and fishes in the rocks.

The tubercle bacillus on the other hand attacks a type to be found
not only in the poor, ill-fed, and ill-conditioned, but also those
who live well. It is a disease of all classes, and those who
live in well-ventilated rooms, and who conform to every sanitary
regulation, may still belong to the type who fall a prey to it. It
is certain, therefore, that, improve the external conditions of
life how you will, this type will remain. It is also as certain
that in giving the type a better chance than it has already, by
preventing infection or by delaying the disease, the type will be
more and more prevalent as each generation comes to life.

It comes out pretty clearly from our short study of the infective
diseases that some of the microbes that cause these, such as the
bacillus of tubercle, only feed on unhealthy human tissue, while
the greater number of them kill, if anything, the weak rather than
the strong. They are, therefore, on the whole, and as a natural
consequence, our race friends rather than our foes, and if we attempt
seriously to do away with their selective influence--_viz._, the
elimination of the weak and the preservation of the strong--we must
supply this selective influence by one equally potent, or the race
will tend to deteriorate. What can be done in the future, and what
it is expedient for us to do at the present time, will be more fully
discussed in a subsequent chapter; but I may state at once that
_pari passu_ with our endeavour to prevent these diseases must be
our efforts to enlist the co-operation of the human charity that
would avert suffering in such selection as shall necessitate the
birth of future generations from the healthiest and best of those
amongst us. As selection is the race-changer, we must replace the
selection of the microbe by the selection of human forethought.

A number of diseases, which are due probably to innate family
predispositions, are known to us. Of these diabetes, hæmophilia,
and some others are of comparative rarity, and may be left on one
side in this necessarily contracted sketch. Others, such as cancer
and constitutional weakness of the respiratory and other organs, as
well as insanity, are frequent enough to merit our close attention.
Of cancer we at present know too little, and I propose to leave
it on one side. Of inherited weakness of special systems we have
many examples, such as a delicate respiratory or digestive mucous
membrane, inherited variations in the mechanism of assimilation,
and also gout and obesity--in fact, innate delicacy of all kinds,
which renders their possessor less able to cope with his natural
surroundings, let these be what they may.

There is hardly a family that can boast of the complete want of
hereditary weakness, and among the children of particular families,
where these weaknesses exist, some show the taint more than others.
In times of hardship, cold, exposure, coarse food, etc., these
weaker ones perish, and the race is consequently propagated from
the stronger ones. Within certain limits cold, exposure and coarse
food are compatible with great physical excellence, for the cold
and exposure, hurtful to the sickly, braces and hardens the more
robust, and coarse but nutritive food supplies him with energy and
strengthens the powers of digestion. The finest races have been bred
by hardship. It is proverbial to speak of “the hardy mountaineer,”
and one cannot look at a lowland Scot without feeling that his stock
had, in days gone by and for many centuries, run the gauntlet of
oatmeal porridge and cold east wind.

But we are rapidly diminishing those selective agencies which in the
past have developed race vigour. As we shall presently see, skill
in nurturing the sickly has, in modern times, wonderfully reduced
the mortality amongst infants; improvements in methods of nursing,
the replacement of cotton by flannel and wool, and the use of many
foods, some of them artificially digested, gives a sickly infant a
chance of living, and it survives its first most dangerous years.
Then its chances are again improved, for the infective diseases
are being held in check, and it has comparatively little to fear
from them. Thus it survives and lives to adult age, when, like the
hothouse plant, it is still protected from hardships to which the
race had formerly been freely exposed. It lives to lower the average
physique of the mothers or fathers who produce the next generation
of children.

This increased preservation of the sickly has had the effect of
increasing the life period of an average child, and this increase in
the life probability is often and very rightly cited as an indication
of the improved sanitary conditions of the people. Improved sanitary
surroundings, as we have seen, are taken advantage of chiefly by
the sickly, and thus with our increased probability of life we
have diminished the average robustness of constitution, or innate
healthiness of the race, for a larger proportion of sickly ones are
living amongst us. In our day a greater number of parents suffer
from phthisical, scrofulous and other taints than in days gone by,
and these and other taints are passed on to their children.

So far we have seen what of necessity follows from our biological
premises, but it is also possible, I think, to show by statistics
that already very observable deterioration has taken place.

_Births, Deaths, and Marriages._

If we examine one of the reports of the Registrar General for
births, deaths and marriages, we shall gain pretty full information
concerning the deaths from disease, accident, old age, etc., that
have occurred during the last thirty or forty years.

_Increase of Constitutional Weakness._

In Report 54, Table 17, the annual death-rates from various causes
per million of population are given, and arranged in groups of
five years from 1858 to 1890. We have there a history of thirty
years, and even in that time a notable change in this history is
to be observed. I have arranged the greater number of facts given
in Table 17 in the following table, so as best to bring out those
points which we are discussing. In the first group of disease are
those due to micro-organisms, and a diminution of these diseases
to a marked extent is to be observed of late years. Phthisis and
scrofula placed by themselves in this group share in this decrease.
In the second group are diseases that are due in great measure to
carelessness, want of management, neglect and ignorance, such as
convulsions, diseases of dentition, parturition and registered
accidents. These, too, as one would expect, diminish yearly in a
country where surrounding comforts and a sense of responsibility
are on the increase. When we turn to the third group, that of
constitutional disease, where the hereditary tendency comes in, we
find an increase in almost all the hereditary diseases. A tendency
to an increase of neurotic affections is shown by an increase in
the deaths from nervous diseases, suicide and intemperance. A large
increase in the diseases of the respiratory system is due in part to
the increasing number of tuberculous patients who, kept from inroads
of microbes, nevertheless readily fall a prey to other affections:
there is, too, an increase in diseases of the circulatory system,
in cancer, diabetes and other constitutional diseases.

Annual death-rates in England from various causes, per million
persons living, in groups of years 1858–1890--

  A: Phthisis and scrofula
  B: Other diseases of micro-organisms
  C: Diseases of dentition, parturition, convulsions, accident and
  D: Some constitutional diseases

  OF DEATH.  1858–60. 1861–65. 1866–70. 1871–75. 1876–80. 1881–85. 1886–90.
    A         3304·0   3311·0   3300·2   2940·6   2816·8   2540·8   2322·2
    B[17]     4403·9   4498·6   4677·2   4055·8   3233·6   2708·8   2417·0

    C         2257·0   2262·0   2191·0   2077·2   1860·4   1678·6   1538·0

    D[18]     6056·3   6311·4   6594·6   7199     7536·4   7531·2   7929·4

[17] These include small-pox, measles, scarlet fever, simple and
ill defined fever, whooping cough, diphtheria, miasmatic diseases,
cholera, diarrhœa, dysentery, erysipelas, puerperal fever and thrush.

[18] Diseases of the nervous, circulatory and respiratory systems,
cancer, diabetes and other constitutional diseases.

This table demonstrates, therefore, in a most marked manner, the
action of modern civilisation and of preventive medicine, which, by
removing the microbe and diminishing the dangers of child-rearing,
has diminished the rate of mortality to a very notable extent in
the early years of life. The increase in the number of deaths from
constitutional diseases, occurring as they do in middle or advanced
age, are probably due to the survival of an increased number of
individuals into the period of maturity. From this table it is
difficult to say whether or no these individuals are below the mean
average type. We have to die at one period of life or at another,
and if men and women are preserved from the dangers of childhood
and youth, there will be more to fall victims to the lung and chest
complaints of more advanced life.

But it is possible by other sets of figures, obtainable from the
Registrar General’s reports, to arrive at some sort of decision as
to the healthiness of the middle-aged and elderly people living
to-day, and to compare these results with similar ones drawn from
the statistics of twenty or thirty years ago.

_Death-rate for Advanced Years on the Increase._

In table 13 (Report of the Registrar General for 1891) the death-rates
per 1,000 are given for different age periods, and these results
date from 1841 to 1890, and are arranged in groups of ten years.

The table was prepared in the following way. At each period given,
say from 1841–50, the number of persons living at a certain age was
calculated from the census returns. The numbers dying at that age
being known, these are given in the table per 1,000 persons of that
age. In order to reduce the number of figures, I have shown the
death-rates of two groups only, the first group of persons (males)
younger, and the second group of persons older than 35 years.


             GROUP I.     GROUP II.
           0–35 years.  35 and upwards.
  1841–50     112·0          591·0
  1851–60     111·2          581·9
  1861–70     110·8          595·1
  1871–80     101·0          616·7
  1881–90      87·8          589·3

Group I. shows the very steady diminution in the death-rate of the
earlier years of life, and similar results are also brought out by
a corresponding table showing the death-rates among females.

Group II. showing the death-rates of individuals above 35 years of
age, at first sight seems to give no very satisfactory predications
of either increase or decrease of mortality, indeed the last period
indicates a very decided fall in the mortality. We have, however,
to remember that climatic influences are variable, and that certain
groups of years are especially healthy and others inimical to
well-being. That the last period is a very healthy one is indicated
by the excessive fall seen in Group I., and by a corresponding fall
in the number of deaths of females. These climatic variations may
be assumed to influence the numbers of Group II. more than those of
Group I.; indeed, on reference to the details given in the full
report, I see that the fall in that period is in large measure due
to the decreased mortality of those over 75, a time of life very
susceptible to climatic influences.

On the whole, Group II. indicates that the death-rate above 35 is
increasing, for if we add together any two consecutive periods, say
1841–50 and 1851–60, we shall find that the mortality of the last
twenty years is greater than that of the first. By taking in this
way longer periods of time, we can eliminate factors other than
the time factor, and we can, at any rate, feel strongly suspicious
that the mortality of middle and advanced life is on the increase.

The same results can, perhaps, even more conclusively be demonstrated
by a study of tables showing the expectancy of life.

_Life Tables compared._

The late Dr. Farr constructed tables showing the expectancy of life
calculated upon the death-rates of the years 1838–54, and similar
tables have more recently been constructed by Dr. Ogle, from the
death-rates of the years 1871–80. In the case of male children
newly-born, a child born in the first period could expect to live
39·91 years if he lived to an average age; a child born in the second
period had a longer expectancy of life, namely, 41·35 years. While,
however, the expectancy at birth during childhood and youth has been
increased, the following table (extracted from their tables) will
show that the expectancy during manhood has diminished; that is to
say, men are either not so strong, or their surrounding conditions
are less favourable than they were, and they cannot expect to live
for so long a period. The details of this table are as follows:--


          GROUP I.    GROUP II.
  Ages.  1838–1854.  1871–1880.
     0     39·91       41·35
     5     49·71       50·87
    10     47·05       47·60
    15     43·18       43·41
    20     39·48       39·40
    25     36·12       35·68
    30     32·76       32·10
    35     29·40       28·64
    40     26·06       25·30
    45     22·76       22·07
    50     19·54       18·93
    55     16·45       15·95
    60     13·53       13·14
    65     10·82       10·55
    70      8·45        8·27
    75      6·49        6·34
    80      4·93        4·79
    85      3·73        3·56
    90      2·84        2·06
    95      2·17        2·01
   100      1·68        1·61

_Physical Degeneration of the Race already indicated._

It seems improbable that the short expectancy of middle age can be
due to modern overstrain, for external conditions are on the whole
improving, and the same fact may be observed in the expectancy of
women, who certainly have not been placed under more unfavourable
external conditions. Calculations from other periods of years would
be here of great value, in order further to eliminate the effects of
climatic changes, etc., and it must be remembered that the figures
which are the basis of all statistics are only approximate to, and
never exactly represent, the true condition of things. For these
reasons, it seems important to pursue statistical investigations
still further, and to examine the returns of other nations in order
to determine whether or no their facts are similar to ours.

In the meantime, we may view, and not without inquietude, the
probability that our statistics, as far as they go, indicate that
racial deterioration has already begun as a sequence to that care
for the individual which has characterised the efforts of modern
society. The biologist, from quite another group of facts, has
independently arrived at conclusions which render this view in the
highest degree probable.


[12] Billing’s “Text-book of the Theory and Practice of Medicine,” p. 8.

[13] Report of Leprosy Commission in India, 1890–1.

[14] “Bacteria and other Products,” p. 230.

[15] “Introduction to Modern Therapeutics” (1892), p. 15.

[16] “Natural Inheritance,” p. 182.



_Nerve Derangements--Insanity._

We saw in the preceding chapter that during quite recent years the
dangers of early life have been greatly lessened because of our
increased knowledge of infantile hygiene, and from the fact that the
infective diseases, which are always most dangerous to the young,
have been greatly abated. We saw, however, at the same time, that
the constitutional weaknesses of humanity are by no means lessened,
and that there are strong grounds for believing that during the
last thirty years the race has observably degenerated, a result to
be anticipated from the withdrawal of selective influences during
childhood and early life. Amongst these constitutional weaknesses
we may specially notice defects in the respiratory, circulatory,
nervous and other systems, as being of interest and importance,
and their observation worthy of our close attention. In this
little treatise it is impossible however to do more than shortly
to allude to hereditary defects in the nervous system associated
with incapacity, a tendency to insanity, or to excesses in the use
of alcohol. The subject is not only one of popular interest, but
it can be understood by those who are not technically instructed.

Just as no two men agree in the possession of equally sound mucous
membranes or lung tissues, so we may have decided variations in the
brain tissues. Together with unsound brain tissue we have symptoms
which we call mental derangement, and of these we have an infinite
variety, starting from the mentally too excitable, or too inert, and
passing on to those who are more obviously diseased and useless, and
finally to those who are dangerous to society at large. Now, these
brain affections are markedly hereditary--proverbially so indeed.
It is true that an overplus of work, or anxiety, or depressing
surroundings, may produce insanity or other nervous conditions in
one who under better surroundings would undoubtedly escape. These
are, no doubt, true exciting factors, but they act with alarming
ease in the case of certain types, while in others their action
is relatively inoperative. This type, an organic variation, is
transmitted, it is not destroyed. As Dr. Bastian says: “It is now a
well-established fact that persons who are endowed with a neurotic
habit of body very frequently transmit a similar tendency to their
children. It is not a tendency to any particular nervous disease,
but a vulnerability of the nervous system as a whole, which is
transmitted, so that under the influence of even a comparatively
slight strain the weakness may manifest itself in one or other of
several ways.” Speaking of the suicidal tendency, Dr. Maudsley
remarks: “It is, indeed, striking and startling to observe how
strong the suicidal bent is apt to be in those who have inherited
it, and how seemingly trivial a cause will stir it into action.
Persons affected by it will sometimes put an end to themselves on
the occasion of a petty contrariety, or when they are a little out
of sorts, and with almost as little concern as if they were taking
only a slight journey.” In half his cases Dr. Maudsley traced an
inherited fault of organisation. And again, speaking of the many
ways in which a neurotic taint may manifest itself, he says: “In
families where there is a strong predisposition to insanity, one
member will sometimes suffer from one form of nervous disease, and
another from another form: one perhaps has epilepsy, another is
afflicted with a severe neuralgia, or with hysteria, a third may
commit suicide, a fourth become maniacal or melancholic, and it
might even happen sometimes that a fifth evinced remarkable artistic

It is generally supposed by the members of the medical profession
that insanity is on the increase, and this is in accordance with
the fact that deaths from several diseases of the nervous system
are on the increase too. This supposition has, however, been hotly
disputed, and may be left in other hands for final settlement,
for it must be remembered that our statistics date back but a few
years, a day as it were in history, and we must not presume to be
able to settle offhand every problem that arises.

_The Importance of preventing its Transmission._

For our present purpose the hereditary nature of the neurotic
temperament is the important point that we have to consider, for
its hereditary nature places it in the category of affections,
which ought to be eliminated by selective means, instead of being
provided for merely by the personal treatment of those who suffer
from it. It is true that by the selection suggested the world might
lose the occasional genius which is found here and there in families
with a strong taint of insanity, but on the other hand it must be
remembered that by far the greater number of distinguished men and
women have been derived from vigorous and mentally sound parentage;
for the association which we make between genius and insanity is
due not so much to its common occurrence as to the possibility of
the co-existence at all in the same family circle of these two
things that at first sight must appear so strangely opposed to each

With a certain amount of sacrifice, humanity by selection might free
itself from those types who are a drag upon the resources of the
community, and who suffer themselves, certainly in the melancholic
cases, to a degree which it is impossible for an ordinary individual
to experience.

_Marriages of Insane Persons._

While there has so far been no organised effort to bring about
this selection, for we have not yet turned our attention with
sufficient interest to the race as a whole, yet there is a popular
and widespread feeling against the marriage of those with a distinct
family history of insanity. This feeling has had in the past an
undoubtedly selective influence, and has in some measure diminished
the number of marriages with neurotic families; and the strengthening
of this feeling in the future is the only thing we have to look
to, as matters stand, as a means whereby the race may free itself
from an inherent weakness of a most distressing kind.

_Alcoholism a Habit, and Alcoholism a Sign of Mental Instability._

Not unfrequently we hear of the hereditary tendency to alcoholism,
and it is generally understood that a specific tendency to drink
alcohol is transmitted. To me it appears that the facts at our
disposal seem rather to warrant the conclusion that most of those
cases which are supposed to be examples of transmission, are really
due to the permanence of intemperate habits in the same family or
district perhaps for generations, and that in these cases the children
drink from the force of imitation. In other cases I would rather
infer that unbalanced vicious temperaments are transmitted, but that
as to the way in which these will manifest themselves it depends
much upon the circumstances and surroundings of the individual, who
may become a drinker, an opium eater, or a profligate, or perhaps
a combination of all three.

_Drink is a Selective Agency._

Among the lower classes at the present day there are, no doubt,
whole families who generation after generation have had a bad
name for drunkenness; but it would appear that in these cases the
drunkenness is but one manifestation of the same careless or vicious
temperament, which shows itself also in idleness and crime. Among
the middle and upper classes a generation or two ago families of
hard drinkers were often known. In these cases, as one may learn
nowhere better than from Barrington’s “Sketches of Irish Life,” the
drinking was a part of a general devil-may-care temperament, or was
even in many cases associated with a pride in the accomplishment
itself. At the present day, when drunkenness is looked down upon
as disgraceful by the better and more educated classes, excessive
drinking has vastly diminished. It is fair, therefore, to conclude
that, while what we may term unbalanced temperaments and instincts
of self-indulgence are inherited, the actual way in which these
instincts will manifest themselves depends upon the surrounding
conditions which may happen to prevail. Such unbalanced persons
would under certain surroundings of training and education fall a
prey to drink, as when they are associated with drunken parents
or friends; under other surroundings they may be guilty of crime
or debauchery and tend in any case to avoid the quiet, orderly
routine of citizenship. While, therefore, we can hardly say that
the tendency to drink is hereditary, yet we may affirm that certain
type variations, running, no doubt, in families, are especially
liable to drink and other forms of vice. It follows, too, that drink
may be looked upon as a selective agency--one constantly thinning
the ranks of those who are weak enough by nature to give way to
it, and leaving unharmed those with healthy tastes and sound moral

_Parents who drink from Habit may have Debilitated Offspring._

In a former chapter we have suggested that the alcohol circulating
in the parental veins may affect the germinal cells, not in such
a manner as to make those cells develop into individuals with a
tendency to drink, but rather with the result that debilitated
offspring are often thereby produced. It is quite conceivable that
this latter effect may be brought about, although our study of the
infective diseases has indicated to what lengths the whole system
may be affected without the production of any permanent change in
the germ cells; but it is, I think, greatly over-stating the case
to adduce examples such as one brought forward by Galton, in which
we are told of a man who had begotten children of the ordinary type
becoming a drunkard, and afterwards having imbecile children. This
seems to me to be very questionable evidence indeed. We can seldom
ground any general rule on the basis of a few isolated cases, and
just as one may support almost any argument by means of a text of
Scripture, so one might bring forward isolated cases to support almost
any view of heredity. Amongst the some forty million instances of
transmission to be seen at the present day in the British Islands
and the many thousands of imbeciles and drunken parents, one hardly
wonders at what may after all be only a coincidence. That this is
a coincidence, and that the production of the imbecile children
had no necessary connection with the drunken habits of the parent
will seem to us very probable when we reflect that in the Scottish
Lowlands, large English towns, and in parts of Germany, habitual
heavy drinking is exceedingly common; therefore, did such startling
cases of transmission occur, they would occur frequently, and be
matter of common observation and comment. While refusing to accept
this case in evidence, it is still probable on general grounds
that the offspring of habitual drunkards suffer hereditarily, but
definite evidence on this score appears still to be wanting.

_Preventive Measures._

This leads us to the question as to whether or not legislation
with a view to prevent the sale of alcohol would further or retard
race progress. Experiments of this kind have been, and are being
tried--notably in Scandinavia and the United States; and there
are those who strongly advocate preventive legislation in our own

But has this enforced diminution of one particular form of vice
given us any guarantee as to immunity from the other forms into
which the habitual drunkard may develop? That preventive measures
have diminished drunkenness cannot for a moment be denied, but this
diminution is certainly not more notable than the corresponding
change in the habits of the English upper classes brought about
entirely by the force of conscience and habit. Granted that preventive
measures will improve the individual, we have to ask ourselves the
question, how will they improve the race?

_Drink among Australian Convicts._

Dilke informs us[19] that the convict element may now be disregarded
in Australian society. In the case of some their crime was an
accident, and criminal tendencies would not be transmitted to the
children they left behind them. On the other hand, the genuine
criminal and also the drunken ne’er-do-well left no children. Drink
and vice among the “assigned servants” class of convicts, and an
absence of all facilities for marriage worked them off the face
of the earth, and those who had not been killed before the gold
discovery generally drank themselves to death upon the diggings.

We have here a very clear case in which alcohol acted as a most
beneficial selecting influence. Had there been prohibiting laws,
preventing the sale of alcohol, the innately depraved would have
left behind them descendants imbued with the paternal instincts.

_Drink and Prevention in America._

In the United States there is and has been a strong feeling against
the liquor traffic, not only on the part of those who hold that
drinking is in itself wrong, and leads to crime and misery, but
on political grounds as well. The Americans drink, not at meals
as we do, but at the drinking-saloons and bars, and the habit of
“treating” to liquor is universal. These drinking-saloons are,
too, the cause of much of the political corruption deplored by the
better class of Americans; there are many reasons, therefore, for
the introduction of local option, or even prohibition, and in many
of the states stringent anti-liquor laws are consequently enforced.
Inasmuch as these laws have been in operation for some years, we
can study their effect on those who have been subjected to them.

We are told[20] that in Maine a Prohibitionary Law was enforced
in 1851, lapsed for two years (1856 and 1857), but has continued
since that time up to the present date. We have, therefore, an
experiment in liquor prohibition lasting for forty years. In
Maine, the manufacture and sale of alcohol in any form is illegal,
and punished by imprisonment and fine. The law is enforced, and we
are told[21] regarding its operation that, “by tending to drive
the traffic into by-ways and disreputable ‘dives,’ by removing the
visible temptation offered by open bars and saloons, by making it
relatively if not absolutely difficult to obtain drink, and by
throwing a general atmosphere of subterfuge and disrepute about the
trade, it has been a material agent in suppressing a demand which is
not only regarded by many as morally wrong and physically ruinous,
but is rendered by the operation of the law disreputable. These
tendencies, receiving support from the general voice and sentiment
of the women, have so influenced manners that, whatever share in
the result ought to be assigned to the effect of prohibition, it
is a fact that the demand for liquor, or the desire for it, either
in large quantities or small, proceeds only from a limited section
of the population.” If now we turn to the statistics of crime,
pauperism, and insanity, we shall find a result which may appear a
startling one to many. The statistics of the Insane Hospital show
a great and progressive increase of patients, from 75 in 1850–51
to 685 in 1891–92. In regard to in-door paupers, the ratio is
slightly lower than that of the neighbouring states:--

                                                     1880.  1890.
  Maine--ratio of paupers per million of population  2319   1756
  Other states, non-prohibitive                      2339   1790

In regard to out-door paupers, the census attaches to Maine a number
very considerably in excess of the average. As regards prison
population, Maine has a low but decidedly increasing ratio, which
comes out especially clearly in the case of the juvenile offenders
in reform schools:--

                                                            1880.  1890.
  Maine--ratio per million of population in reform schools   176    256
  Average in other nine North-Eastern states                 469    425

In Kansas, another state in which prohibition prevails, dating from
1881, the United States census tells us that there were more prisoners
in its penitentiary and county gaols in proportion to its population
in 1890 than there were in 1880, and that of all the neighbouring
states Kansas had in 1890 absolutely the largest ratio of prisoners
to population. In Iowa, the third state in which prohibition has
been most effectually carried out, we are told[22] that “in one
small town prohibition was so effectually enforced that, when the
bishop of the diocese visited it, an intended celebration of the
Sacrament had to be abandoned because no wine could be obtained.
In this town we are also told that opium dens are formed as the
alleged result of prohibition, and my informant, whose testimony
was unimpeachable, was told by a physician practising there that
the use of opium in the place was a positive curse; he had twenty
or thirty cases on his hands of persons suffering from the habit,
both men and women.”

_Public Habit and Conscience the best Preventive._

One may often draw false deductions from statistical evidence through
ignorance of facts, which qualify and give quite another colour to
the figures quoted, but the above data suggest that any lasting
prohibition, other than the dictates of a man’s own conscience and
sense of self-respect, may do more harm than good; for when not
upheld as a fashion, excessive drinking can only be looked upon as a
symptom of a debilitated or depraved nature, which, without access
to drink, would show itself depraved in other ways, and which, if
artificially kept sober and assisted thereby to live, will tend to
perpetuate itself and widen the circle of its depravity.

May it not be said that a clear case is to be made out for the
introduction of preventive measures in districts where drunkenness
has become a matter of universal habit or fashion, where, therefore,
the selective action of alcohol--from the fact that almost all take
it--is reduced to a minimum, and where, from its general consumption
in injurious quantity, the debility possibly transmitted may be
considered as reaching towards a maximum? In this case preventive
measures, introduced perhaps for a few years only, would be
instrumental in getting the people into more reasonable habits of
living, and might enable those who possessed the necessary tastes
to cultivate such pastimes and recreations as mould keep them free
from falling victims to a vice, to which they had previously given
way rather from force of imitation than from any strong _personal_
predilection. On the other hand, from our point of view, that of
racial progress, the case for preventive interference is not so
clear when introduced into a district where the population have in
the mass learnt to lead sober lives, where drunkenness is looked
upon as a vice, and where only those naturally without self-respect
and proper self-control fall victims to drink; the artificial
interference prevents the operation of a selective influence which
eliminates from society many of its most undesirable elements.
Under these conditions excessive drinking is but the symptom of
something which lies deeper, namely, an organic defect, a poor
and vicious type, and its prevention cures the symptom, while the
disease remains and perpetuates itself to the hapless children of
the future.

_The Power of the Community over the Individual._

It might appear to the superficial reader that I am advancing
arguments which would give a moral sanction to the broadcast
scattering of the germs of phthisis and enteric fever, and to the
leaving of unlimited whisky as a stumbling block at the doorsteps
of one’s weaker neighbours. This is far from being the case. While
it is undoubtedly true that the germs of phthisis have from time
immemorial been freeing humanity from an unhealthy variation to
which we are subject, and while alcohol has on the whole been
ridding us of the vicious and uproarious since our forefathers
first drank mead from the teats of the she-goat Heidhrun, yet it
does not follow that any individual or set of individuals have a
right to take upon themselves the responsibility of retaining and
meting out such selective treatment.

Were there, indeed, no other means of improving the race and
eliminating its at present inherent faults, it might be different,
and, perhaps, one could hardly say that society might not take upon
itself the responsibility of the actual outrooting of these faults by
drastic measures; but other ways are open to it. At present society
claims the right to exterminate the murderer, and a few decades
back the life of the thief was also taken. But while these lives
were taken by a custom which is the survival of retribution, and in
which the State takes the place of the injured person or family,
there is a growing feeling that such a motive is not of the best
or highest, and that the only excuse for the disposal of the life
or person of the individual is that of the seeking of the general
well-being of the State. When we consider the enormous sacrifice
in modern times of what were at one period thought to be personal
rights (such as the right of every man to ill-treat and neglect his
wife or children, or to live in whatever insanitary house or room he
pleases, or to work as long as he wishes, etc. etc.), we can hardly
draw, even in imagination, a line beyond which the State may not,
at some future time, see its way to make claim upon the individual.
It is, however, very improbable that the advanced politicians of
any century will ever call for a general battue upon the inveterate
drunkards or consumptives, nor is there any likelihood of the work
of preventive medicine abating for one single instant, even for the
sake of the race. The love of the individual is antecedent, both in
the history of humanity and in the life history of each individual,
to any regard for the race, and the latter is but an extension of
the former feeling. While, therefore, there are certain and sure
means of improving the race by simple and unheroic measures, no one
would for a moment dream of depriving the individual of all that
modern medicine and civilisation can do for him.

_The Necessity for replacing One Selective Agency by Another._

The microbes and other selective agencies have been improving
the race, or at any rate have in the past been preventing its
deterioration, but it by no means follows that this action is to
be permitted to them in the future. We have studied them and have
followed out their life histories; we know on what they thrive, and
also that which is injurious to them; we can exterminate them; and
human affection, that emotion beyond all others that we have to
trust to for race perfection, demands complete control over “their
reckless inroads.” But if the selecting microbe is to disappear, we
have to replace it by something else. If the individuals of to-day
are to have the advantage of better surface drainage, and an absence
of their microscopic foes, the children of the future must not be
the sufferers; and we must replace the selective influence of the
microbe by the selective action of man’s forethought, which shall
provide that these children shall alone be produced by healthy
parents. We need have no fear of the removal of the selective
influences that at present surround us, provided a selection is still
carried on; but if we remove selective influences without replacing
them by others, then racial decay is certainly and inevitably upon
us. At the present time people with strong strains of insanity or
phthisis marry freely. The dangers are to a certain extent realised,
but these are generally overcome by the power either of personal
attraction or dowry. A man may be summoned for neglecting to send
his son to school, but at present there is no strong public feeling
against the knowingly begetting a son who all his life may suffer
from weak lungs or brain, and hence obvious disease is no bar in
the marriage market.

_How it is that the Production of Children by Diseased Parents is

We cannot wonder at this state of things when we recall the fact
that in less advanced times than the present a rapidly recruited
population was often the determining cause of a nation’s continued
existence. The depopulation produced by war and zymotic disease was
often so dreadful that nations with great fertility alone survived;
and thus it came about that all minor questions were sunk in the
one great necessity, namely, that of keeping the population large
enough to resist extinction or to effect foreign conquest.

Added to this, most of the sickly diseased offspring died in infancy
as a result of improper feeding or want of care, and there was no
such thing as the existence of a large section of the community
evincing an increase of hereditary weakness. Under these conditions
the parents of large families added so much the more to the strength
and power of the community, and the production of children came to
be regarded as a virtue. This view of the question very naturally
survives, and is probably the reason why at the present day marriage
with a diseased person is not viewed as a sin against the children
that are to be produced, and against the community at large.

_The Necessity for producing Posterity out of our Best Types._

But the end towards which we have to aim is the production in
each generation of children from the best and healthiest of the
population alone, for it is surely only reasonable that we should
as a community pay the same care and attention to our own race
propagation that a gardener does to his roses or chrysanthemums,
or a dog-fancier to his hounds or terriers, or a cattledealer to
his southdowns or shorthorns. That there is no means of improving
our race so efficaciously as by selection we may be certain, and
that there is no other way is highly probable; our interest in the
subject, and the value we place upon changes the effects of which
we shall never live to see, will determine whether we are prepared
to adapt our ideas and modes of action to the lines that reason and
the knowledge of the times have clearly pointed out as the only
ones which it is expedient to follow.

I have so far only indicated in most general terms the aim which in
my opinion we should have in view. We have in the two succeeding
chapters to consider several problems somewhat similar to those
which we have already discussed, and then it will be more easy to
obtain a general view of the whole question. We may then consider
what steps it may be advisable to take with a view to bringing
about satisfactory selection of the population, remembering always
that in such a matter nothing can be accomplished which has not the
sanction and approval of the mass of the community. The education
and conviction of the masses must precede legislation, so that we
shall have to consider what is expedient, from a practical point
of view, for us to do at the present time, and we shall leave
speculation as to possible future action to those who have greater
gifts of foresight, and who believe in the possibility of predicting
the future action of such a complex machine as an empire of men
and women.


[19] “Problems of Greater Britain,” vol. i., chap. ii.

[20] “Liquor Legislation in the United States and Canada.” Rathbone
and Fanshawe.

[21] _Op. cit._, p. 104.

[22] _Op. cit._, p. 170.



We have seen in the last two chapters that there is every reason to
believe that, on account of improved external conditions, and notably
of the sanitary advances which result from the efforts of preventive
medicine, the race is deteriorating in general constitutional
robustness. Those selective agencies which in more primitive times
destroyed the sickly, especially during their early years of life,
have in part been removed or modified, with the result that the
sickly are preserved and in larger numbers live through and into
the child-bearing period, raising the mean duration of life, but
notably increasing the rate of mortality after middle age. These
sickly ones leave children behind, who, as a matter of course,
transmit their constitution to the race. In our study of disease
we included intemperance, for in cases where there is a distinct
liability to give way to drunken habits, and apart from those cases
where it is merely a habit acquired in bad company, we may look
upon it as a symptom of some innate variation from the normal, and
it is therefore the physician’s duty to treat it like any other
constitutional disease. In the same light we are bound to view the
cases of many criminals and persons who from some inborn defect
are incapable of doing their share in the work of the community.

_Crime is often an Acquired Habit._

It is probable that a large proportion of criminals are the creatures
of accident or of vicious training. Children are very imitative, and
are apt to acquire the habits and even modes of thought of those
who surround them; and bad example in their homes, or the neglect
of parents who, perhaps, in their turn had also suffered from bad
example and neglect, has often stamped a child’s character for
life. At school again, the child is surrounded by influences which
often affect him throughout life for good or for evil, and later on
he is still susceptible to many evil temptations which may in his
case be exceedingly strong. We are therefore all of us a compound
of our innate inborn qualities, and those that have been stamped,
as it were, upon us by contact with the external world; and we have
no right to judge in an off-hand manner of the innate qualities of
a criminal without a very extensive knowledge of his upbringing,
and of the temptations and influences which have surrounded him.
Theft by a person in necessity need by no means imply so vicious
a temperament as that of a man who spends his life in getting the
better of his less clever neighbours, and enriches himself by the
loss of others, as is done in many so-called legitimate ways; and
the killing of a man in passion may be done by one who would be
incapable of settling an old grudge by taking a mean advantage of an
enemy. Again, many criminals are incapables driven to crime through
their incapacity; therefore with the incapables let us study them.

_The Innate Criminal._

Over and above those we have just mentioned, however, are a band of
innate criminals whose feet take by nature the crooked rather than
the straight path, whose lives alternate between abuse of public
law and the punishment thereby entailed. These beget children, and
the suffering they inflict and have to endure is continued from
parent to offspring. In every locality these inveterate criminals
are well-known to the administrators of justice. Time after time
they come up for punishment, and wantonly and wilfully all chances
of improvement are thrown away; they seem wanting in those feelings
of individual responsibility, and in the wish to be held in esteem,
that are among the necessary first principles of life in an organised

_The Jukes Family._

The histories of many of these criminal families have been written,
and perhaps the best known and most striking is that of the Jukes
family, written by R. L. Dugdale. This family was traced by Dugdale
for seven generations, and during that time it contributed to the
welfare of the State an unparalleled history of pauperism and crime.
It is seldom, indeed, that the history of crime can be traced so far
as it can be in the case of the Jukes, and the reason is that most
families disperse by intermarriage, and the taint becomes diluted
and no longer stands out in prominence. The distinguished French
novelist, Emile Zola, who, in a series of novels, traces out the
history of a criminal family, falls into the error of supposing that
such a thing as a long family history of crime is possible without
isolation from the rest of the community. The family of the Jukes
lived in a district by themselves in America, and they formed a
family clan, and intermarried amongst themselves, thus complying
with this isolation which is a necessity for the long continuation
of any family characteristic.

_Intermarriage does not stamp out Criminal Tendencies._

It might, perhaps, then be said that intermarriage and dispersion
of the criminal taint is, indeed, the most ready way of getting
rid of it. But this cannot be so, for it is more reasonable to
suppose that although by intermarriage the intensity of the criminal
tendency may be diminished, yet for the same reason individuals
with this innate tendency will be all the more increased, and that
the further intermarriage of these individuals with others having
similar taints of character, may at any time tend to again reproduce
the inveterate criminal in perpetual recurrence. We may dilute ink
with water so that we can no longer see that it is black, but we
dare not draw the inference that the ink has been destroyed. It
is equally as impossible to believe that the criminal taint can
disappear unless the criminals are prevented altogether from adding
their progeny to those of the rest of society.

It might be urged that in the case of the family of the Jukes
their crime was due to imitations of bad habits kept up in the
isolated district in which they lived. It must be at once granted
that much of their crime and pauperism was no doubt due to bad
upbringing, and the polluted moral atmosphere in which they lived;
nevertheless, we are justified in believing in the existence of
such a thing as innate want of moral backbone, of which they were
a probable example. We have not to go far to find in our everyday
experience of life that out of a family whose members are most of
them docile, yielding to discipline, and capable of affection and
self-sacrifice, one or two, perhaps, seem by nature to be wanting
in these qualities. Such sporadic cases are only to be explained
on the ground that imperfections in their ancestry have cropped
up in the new generation, for the criminal taint is a fact to be
observed and accounted for like any so-called physical peculiarity
of form or feature. It follows, too, that we are bound to look with
the greatest pity and commiseration upon the inveterate criminal as
upon a person diseased, and that we should use our best endeavour
to prevent the recurrence or continued permanence of such a type.

_Segregation of the Criminal an Ultimate and Effectual Resort._

We, therefore, come face to face with the necessity for practical
action on our own part if we would fulfil our obligations to those
who will come after us. As Pike remarks,[23] “Perpetual imprisonment
of the irreclaimable--imprisonment not only nominally but really for
life--would be among many causes of that change in the general tone
of society which is shown by history to be the greatest preventive
of crime as now understood. Like persons affected with scarlet fever
or other infectious maladies, the propagandist criminal should be
confined in his proper hospital--a prison--and if incurable should
be detained until his death. Like phthisis or other hereditary
disease, the criminal disposition would in the end cease to be
inherited, if all who were tainted with it were compelled to live
and die childless. The remedy may be painful, and even cruel, but
perhaps greater cruelty and greater pain may be inflicted by the
neglect which leaves physical and social ills to spread themselves

Many of the innate criminals, and those who have committed crime
rather from the effect of want, or bad example, than from any inherent
tendency, sooner or later fall upon the parish. Within the same
wards of the poorhouse, or receiving the same out-door relief, we
find this criminal class together with the incapables and deserving
poor. This is, indeed, a most unfortunate state of things, for we
are bound to draw a strong line of demarcation between those, on
the one hand, who are in want through acquired habits of idleness,
those who are innately incapable, and those, on the other hand,
who are afflicted during their lifetime by sickness, adversity, or
old age. We habitually speak of these classes as “the poor,” and
the unfortunate use of this term as a common description of totally
distinct conditions has led to most undesirable consequences.

_Our Unfortunate Use of the Word “Poor.”_

With us everyone who has not sufficient means of subsistence we term
“poor,” we assist them out of the public purse, and we consider
that in so doing we obey Christian teaching. This theory and its
practice are due to a slovenly habit of mind, and perhaps also to
an incomplete acquaintance with Scriptural teaching. The “poor”
of Bible language means obviously the deserving and unfortunate,
probably the incapable, but certainly not the habitually idle and
vicious. We are not led simply to infer this, for there are positive
statements to this effect. St. Paul said: “If any man will not work
neither shall he eat,”[24] and again: “He that doth not provide
for his own house is worse than an infidel.”[25]

_The Unfortunate, the Aged, the Incapables, and the Vicious, are
treated alike._

Our forefathers were more discriminating in this respect than we are,
and even in the reign of Henry VIII. the line was drawn between
“poor, impotent, sick, and diseased folk, the sick in very deed and
not able to work, who may be provided for, holpen and relieved,
and such as be strong and lusty, who, having their limbs strong
enough to labour, may be daily kept in continual labour whereby
everyone of them may get their living with their own hands.” If,
however, we look a little closer into the matter we shall be able to
recognise at least three quite distinct classes of persons grouped
together under the term “poor,” and all of whom are treated by the
community very much on an equality. As we shall presently see, the
rough and ready way in which we view these three groups has led to
gross cruelty and injustice on the one hand, and to ill-advised
assistance and help on the other.

Within the same rooms and wards of the poorhouse, or receiving
assistance under the same system of out-door relief, we find
those who, from innate or acquired vice, form the criminal class,
undistinguished from worthy and respectable men and women and
their children, whose only fault was, perhaps, that their small
savings over and above the necessities of their life had been spent
too carelessly, or even had, perhaps, been invested in a society
administered by dishonest men; we find widows and orphans of men
who have died from accident or disease while in the course of
regular and honourable employment. With these will be mixed the
class we have especially to study--the incapables; a poor type,
with physical and mental defects, such as insanity, epilepsy, and
idiocy, and with these many vagrants must be included. Where laws
or regulations are framed to deal with these three classes, as if
they formed one natural class, the greatest injustice of necessity
follows. The law-makers have to deal with the idle and vicious as
well as with the deserving and distressed, and by grouping these
classes together and framing regulations to apply to all, some are
of necessity treated more kindly than they deserve, while others
become the victims of unmerited brutality.

This fact was first brought forcibly home to me by a case in a
north country poorhouse--a case which quite represents the present
disgraceful method of treating those without means of subsistence.
A woman, a soldier’s widow, whose husband and three sons (all
soldiers) had been killed in active service, was left without
relatives. She supported herself and lived soberly until old age,
when feebleness and commencing gangrene of the foot compelled her
to seek the poorhouse, where she died alone and unvisited by any
friend. I saw her in the next bed to a drunken prostitute. The one
woman had given of her body to the country’s defence, the other had
given of her body to its ruin, and yet the country treated them
both alike because they were alike in want of bread.

Lawyers and law-makers have tried, with limited success, to cope with
these questions ever since the first Poor-law in 1601; they have
failed, perhaps, because of their point of view and of approach.
The physician, accustomed as he is to study his cases, each with
their peculiar symptoms, and each with their appropriate methods of
treatment, would, perhaps, have done better than his legal brother.
We must look deeper than the mere surface, we must not be content
to give bread and pass away, and feel that our duty is done.

_Our Poor-law Regulations are at Fault._

In reference to the first class, those who are lazy and vicious,
and will not work although capable of it, we have to remember that
the community is itself to some extent to blame for the present
state of things.

Before 1834, the Poor-law in country districts habitually supplied
the unemployed with what was considered a sufficiency, and those
who maintained themselves by independent industry and capacity
often fared worse than those in receipt of regular Poor-law aid.
“Poor is the diet of the pauper, poorer is the diet of the small
ratepayer, and poorest is the diet of the independent labourer,”
remarked a witness in the Poor-law Commissioners’ Report of 1834.
It cannot be denied, therefore, that there is a certain want of
independence (especially perhaps in rural districts) engendered by
methods of relief administered in past times. As a result of this,
those without physical and mental disqualification for work fall
back on the Poor-law for relief in time of distress, and, counting
on the certainty of this relief, are less strenuous in their efforts
to provide against the evil hour. Vice, too, is increased in those
who know that during the incapacity which may follow its exercise
the workhouse door is open to them, and that food and shelter are
to be had between the intervals of each debauch.

It was for the benefit of the sickly, the aged and other really
deserving poor, that organised charity came into existence, but it
too often has been the lazy and vicious who have profited thereby.

_The Idle and Vicious are Subjects for the Criminal Law._

But though society has made so great a mistake in the past, it is
no reason that this system should continue. And that it should do
so is inadvisable, both in the interests of the ratepayers and in
the interests of those upon whom the rates are spent.

The poor-rates are generally paid with extreme reluctance, whereas
were it felt that they were to be props to the aged and needy, this
reluctance would largely vanish. People are generous enough--witness
the cordial support universally given to supplementary charities--but
few pay their poor-rates willingly, for they know that in most cases
these rates go to the support of the drunken, vicious and lazy. As
to the paupers themselves, not only would increased funds be at
the disposal of the deserving poor, but the moral atmosphere of
the poorhouse and relieving office would be altogether purged by
the exclusion of the sturdy beggars, of those who are able-bodied,
but idle and vicious, who should be placed apart and treated under
separate regulations. They are subjects for the police and for the
criminal law; as outcasts from humanity, we may endeavour to reclaim
them, but whilst unreclaimed, let them feel the full effects of
their misconduct. The prison cell is warmer than the rock cranny or
pit in which the primitive Briton sheltered himself, and the prison
fare is better than was his food. Why, then, should the idle and
reprobate vagabond receive the advantages of a civilisation built
up by the busy toil of those around him, a toil in which he will
take no part?

To this class we may, if we will, offer work, but in offering bread,
we undertake a greater responsibility than we perhaps are aware
of. Food and clothing means the power to live and marry, and as
there are limits to everyone’s resources, when we give anything,
even a penny to a passing beggar, we are giving some of this power,
we are taking upon ourselves the responsibility of “selecting,”
and are influencing this selection, let it be in never so small a
degree. We are playing with humanity the part of the gardener with
his flowers, or the farmer with his stock.

This is a very high function, and a difficult one to perform
judiciously, yet we all of us presume to exercise it without thought
or training. There can be no doubt that the lawgivers responsible
for the present condition of public charity, and private individuals
who assist cases whose thorough investigation they have been too
lazy to take up, are in part responsible for the perpetuation of
the criminal classes in the community.

_The Poor in very Deed._

If we place the vicious and idle, though capable, pauper on one
side, in a class by himself--a criminal class--we can deal fairly
and reasonably with the other two classes.

Under the varying conditions of life some people are hardly pressed
upon, and the burden is light upon other persons’ shoulders. Our
conditions of life, although perhaps selective in the main, are by
no means uniformly so, and thus it happens that the amount of money
in a man’s pocket is no certain criterion of even his capacity to
make it. Especially in a community such as ours, where men pass in a
lifetime from poverty to riches or the reverse, and often as a result
of surrounding conditions over which they have no control, we may
have stupidity and vice reposing sumptuously on inlaid Florentine,
while intelligence and virtue are seated on rush-bottom. As I hope
to bring out shortly, there is too little selective influence in
a civilised state. Some of our old aristocratic families were
headed no doubt by men of great capacity at their commencement,
but it was the organisation of Romish civilisation that gave them
the conquest over their worse organised fellow-kinsmen settled in
England. Blood for blood, innate quality for innate quality, there
was little to choose between them, yet circumstances made one the
villein and the other the lord. Selective influences that might
have operated in a savage community have been kept in abeyance to
a great measure by inherited property and class distinction; and
though, fortunately, good men are continually rising, and vicious,
idle men are falling, yet this is to a great extent kept in check.
Thus we find in the lower class many men and women of excellent
physique and mental capacity doing in their lives as much as can be
expected from anybody. From the biological point of view--that of
blood, bone, muscle and brain, a view which we, in our biological
study, are bound to take--the lower labouring class is little
inferior in quality, whilst they exceed in numbers the upper and
middle classes. From the changing conditions of life (conditions
that are not uniform in any class) they especially suffer, for they
are nearer the limit which, if passed, means deprivation of that
which is necessary.

_Our Misguided Attitude to these._

We have, therefore, no right to assume that when we find destitution
around us the destitute are of necessity more to blame in their lives
than we are in ours. They may have been hardworking and provident,
and yet have fallen victims to want. Any note of condescension in
our attitude towards this class is an impertinence of the grossest
nature, and it is our duty, if we help at all, to do so as one
brother to another, simply and naturally. The recipients of help
should be allowed to feel that they are receiving only what they
would themselves be prepared to give; that they should receive it,
not as a dole to be eaten in bitterness, but as a friend’s gift to
be enjoyed.

In these cases we are far too apt to stand aloof and do nothing,
or to interfere only when it is too late, so that while the very
scum of the criminal classes are being supported, worthy members
of society are allowed to pass through circumstances of the utmost
distress without a helping hand. The numberless stories, many of
them undoubtedly true, of the large sums yearly made by well got-up
begging swindlers, show how little our emotions are guided by our
reasoning faculties. We are too prone to give when our feelings get
a shock, and we are too often incapable of acting in anticipation
of a catastrophe which is not already before our eyes. How many
there are around us in difficulty, who, with some judicious help,
might themselves regain prosperity. Too often we wait till it is too
late, till all is practically lost--till, in fact, our “feelings”
have been sufficiently acted upon.

_The Incapables._

While the first of the classes into which we have divided the “poor”
are destitute as the result of vicious training, and the second from
the hardships of their special surroundings, the third class are
destitute from innate incapacity. To the idiots, insane, epileptics
and others suffering from severe constitutional defects, there must
be added the vagrants who will not, because they cannot, do regular
work. I say “cannot,” for I believe the vagrant class forms an
interesting and ill-understood body by themselves. They fill our
workhouses, to which they crowd in inclement weather, leaving the
towns for the country in spring, and returning to them in autumn.
They sleep in barns, under ricks or hedges, and live on what they
can find or beg or steal. They marry and have children, who are
often a source of profit from the increased charity they bring.
Give them a spade to dig, a hammer with which to break stones, or
a garden to weed, and they tire of the constantly repeated action,
be it ever so simple; complex manipulations, or tasks requiring
forethought or attention, are for them quite out of the question.
They will keep rooks out of the fields, tramp after bulrushes,
or trap a rabbit, but an unexciting occupation with a result not
immediately attainable is to them unendurable. We can hardly fail
to see in this class, in many cases, the direct descendants of
our more savage ancestors, who most probably never mingled in the
streams of civilisation that have flowed by their side. They have
continued to exist by the primitive and precarious means adopted
by early men to gain their livelihood. Charity, firstly of the
monastery, and secondly of the Poor-law, has kept them alive, and
we have them by our side to-day.

_Segregation Ultimately Required for their Elimination._

Whatever be their origin, there they are, leading an existence that
is an anachronism and an anomaly in our civilisation. Theirs are
the hardships and privations of the savage, but from their position
in society, of which they form the lowest dregs, they have not his
advantages. Their neolithic ancestor who lived in the Sussex Downs
or the Yorkshire Wolds, and shot buzzards with flint-tipped arrows,
felt a superiority amidst his surroundings, and we have every reason
to believe he was as proud a man as any one of us. But the poor
tramp, an outcast and a dependent, lives a life worse than that of
the shepherd-dog in the fields, and perpetuates this misery from
century to century. Here, as with the idiot or epileptic and others
of this class, there is clearly a case for segregation. All are
obviously unfit to perpetuate themselves, and in the best interests
of the human species they should be prevented from so doing.

We have seen in this chapter that just as preventive medicines
and the luxuries and comforts of modern civilisation have so far
tended towards race deterioration, so in like manner our law-framers
have done their best to perpetuate some of the worst strains that
society possesses, strains that in a community without poor-laws
would many of them have long ago ceased to exist. While, therefore,
it is quite clear that the end that we should have in view is the
non-perpetuation of the criminals and incapables, any proposal to
segregate these would in the meanwhile probably be unfavourably
received. In the case of the unhealthy we may hope by force of public
opinion soon to prevent such marriages as are to-day of too common
an occurrence, but in the case of the criminals and incapables
the case is different. They are not to be touched by a sense of
public duty, for they only obey the preponderating influences of
the moment. Their lives will have to be ordered for them, and the
responsibility of action must fall upon other shoulders. One cannot
help thinking that a great step could be taken in the meanwhile
by purging the poorhouses of all unworthy occupants. The criminal
classes would then stand by themselves, and the public, learning
gradually to regard them in their true light, would probably very
soon grudge to support them, generation after generation, and would
come to see that their segregation under circumstances involving
no personal hardship would diminish and in time remove the evil.

_Incapables to be Treated like Chronic Hospital Patients._

The incapables seen side by side with the distressed and aged would
then be viewed with that commiseration they truly merit. Their lives
might be made better worth the living than they are at present, and
the poorhouse might come to be regarded as a hospital and shelter
for the unfortunate, rather than as a refuge for drunkenness and
vice. The denizens of these dreary buildings might then partake
in their share of kindly attention, and feel some warmth of human
sympathy now denied to them.


[23] “A History of Crime in England,” vol. ii., pp. 579, 580.

[24] 2 Thessalonians iii. 10.

[25] 1st Epistle to Timothy v. 8.



_Competition of Brain against Brain._

In the last chapter we had evidence enough that in human societies,
just as in the animal world, a very keen struggle is going on. This
struggle is seen on a colossal scale when whole races enter into
combat with each other, and success attends the one which is superior
in some quality of mind or body, or that is rich in the possession
of some machine of war. We have the spectacle of the Eastern king
using a captive nation for the construction of irrigation works,
or for the building of a temple or a pyramid; or, coming to more
modern times, we see the Mexican civilisation destroyed by the
Spaniards, or the wholesale extermination of savage races by the
British. So, likewise, amongst the individual members of any given
community very much the same struggle may be seen, in which the
poor are the conquered ones, and the rich the vanquishers in the

_Does the Race show Increased Brain Capacity?_

This competition of individuals in our own community has always been
one in which brain power has been pitted against brain power, rather
than muscle volume against muscle volume, and it is interesting to
investigate whether or no, as a result of this struggle, our race
has increased its innate intellectual capacity during the historic
period, and, furthermore, what changes are likely to take place in
the future.

Before we can venture to proceed with this investigation, it is
necessary at once to separate from each other the question of our
innate intellectual activity, and that of our intellectual property.
We, in this nineteenth century, are the inheritors of a vast fund of
accumulated knowledge--an intellectual property--which is infinitely
greater than that possessed by the Greeks at the time of Socrates
and Plato, yet I do not think that anyone would venture to assert
that an average Englishman of to-day has better brain tissue and
corresponding intellectual activity than that which was possessed
by an average ancient Greek; indeed, some with Galton would say
that the Englishman’s brain power is very inferior. We have always
to bear in mind that, owing to our possession of the faculty of
language spoken and written, our intellectual property, like our
material property in houses, land, etc., has been, and is being,
transmitted to us from generation to generation, and that we at the
present time are recipients of the accumulations amassed by the
restless intellectual activity of our direct and indirect ancestors.
We cannot, therefore, determine whether we are increasing in our
intellectual activity by the amount of knowledge we possess, and
we must seek some other evidence.

Equally valueless would be a comparison between the intellectual
activity of the Greeks or Romans and ourselves, taking as a test
say the number of distinguished writers per million of population;
for the Greek and Roman people are not related to us in direct
line of descent, but are remote cousins. We can, however, obtain
information which is of the greatest value as to the intellectual
power of our direct forefathers at dates which may be counted back
by thousands of years. Although they have left no written records
behind them--for writing, even at the later part of the period
referred to, was a rough implement, and placed in the hands of very
few--yet they have left behind them, buried in their sepulchral
mounds, their skulls, silent witnesses of the power and activity
of the minds that once inhabited them.

_The Neolithic compared with the Modern English Skulls._

The skull is the bony covering to the brain and the great organs of
sense placed in the head; it develops with them, and is adapted with
them as these organs during growth assume their proper racial and
family characteristics. By an exhaustive examination and comparison
of the skulls of different individuals of different races, the
anthropometrist is able with certainty to affirm regarding the
skulls of unknown persons their race and their general position in
the scale of intellectual development. In a race where brain power
is great, the brain pan is large and capacious, to accommodate the
organ within it; it is a large-brain-small-jaw skull. In a race in
which the brain power is limited, we have the small-brain-big-jaw
skull. In races on much the same intellectual level, but who differ
from each other in special physical and mental characters, the
skull is generally a recognisable feature, and one can pick out at
once the long skull of an Aryan from the broader skull of a Finn
or Magyar.

Many of the sepulchral mounds just alluded to have been opened,
notably by General Pitt-Rivers and Canon Greenwell, and the remains
of well-preserved skulls have in several hundreds of instances been
found. These go back to very remote antiquity, in many instances
to the Stone Age, which we may place at least before the Christian
era. When these skulls are examined, they are found to be similar
to many of our own. When we look at them, we feel that there is
no reason to assume that they are of a lower type than our own,
or that the men and women of whom they are the remains would not,
were they possessed of our advantages of education, etc., take an
equal status in society with us. Some of them, especially those
removed from the Vikings’ graves, must have belonged to magnificent
specimens of humanity.

_Abeyance of Brain Development since Neolithic Times._

The evidence, and it is of a most substantial kind, would seem to
point strongly to the practical abeyance of organic intellectual
development from the time mankind first formed simple communities
for purposes of self-defence and mutual aid up to the present
time. It would follow, therefore, that although we have been
accumulating intellectual property, we have not necessarily become
more intellectually active.

_Social Communities do not permit of the Destruction of the Less
Intellectually Capable._

But it may not unnaturally be asked, How is this state of things
compatible with our views regarding selection? for we have seen that
struggle and competition between brain and brain has incessantly
been going on, and it seems to be a natural sequence that the
brains of the community must be improved by selection.

We come here, however, to an outstanding difference between the
results of the competition of one animal and another, and with that
of one member of a community with another. In the animal world, the
sickly, or the feeble, or deficient, have always tended towards
destruction, their more capable fellows having as a rule an interest
in their destruction. A sickly fowl or pigeon has not only to
compete at great disadvantage with its fellows for its food, but
it has to face a pitiless instinct which leads the healthy ones to
destroy it as soon as its weakness is apparent. In the animal world,
competition is to the death; it is competition without compromise,
in which the conqueror alone remains to continue the race.

But man has become a social animal and lives in communities, and the
very existence of a social community implies that the members of it
have already acquired a certain regard for the well-being of their
fellows, for the end and aim of society even in its most primitive
form is advantage to the many. It is true that in a human community
everyone does the best for himself, yet even amongst the so-called
outcasts of society there are social bonds not to be found in the
animal world, which link man to man often with strange tenacity.
We regard our own interests as by far the most important, yet we
have some regard for the interests of others, and the most savage
man is capable of that very human virtue called friendship. Hence
it is that although we may pursue our own ends and aims in life,
we are not always entirely regardless of others. We are content to
become rich and influential while our neighbour remains poor; and
so strong are our instincts of self-love, that it wounds us sorely
for him to overtake or outstrip us in the race for wealth, though,
in spite of this, we shrink from doing him actual injury.

_Human Brain Power results merely in Wealth Accumulation._

The struggle between members of the same community is not therefore
so much a struggle for existence as a struggle for a superfluity of
the good things obtainable. It is a struggle for property, and not
therefore necessarily a struggle in which the most successful will
be the largest race producer. While the young lion is killed by his
stronger rival, and while the rat with an injured limb is at once
attacked, killed and eaten by its fellows, men compete with each
other for power and position, and for the means of gratifying whims
and obtaining pleasure. It may truly be called a race for greed
in which, in the nature of things, all cannot come in first. The
well-to-do tradesman has more meat and wine than he can consume, more
books than he can read, more works of art than he can understand,
and yet he is not satisfied; but there is one thing sweeter to
him than anything else, and that is to pass his neighbours in the
race of life, and in his turn to be equal with those who once ran
before him, and who at one time looked back at him with scorn. The
brute unconsciously struggles to survive through instinct of the
dire necessity of self-preservation, but man’s struggle in too many
cases is a pastime that is sweet to him, and one which he will
pursue through his whole life-time, and will follow eagerly with
the tottering steps of extreme old age, although he thereby dwarfs
what is noblest and best in his humanity.

While society has been unable, until lately, to do much towards the
active preservation of the sickly, who have in consequence tended to
fall a prey to disease and hardship, yet the foolish and mentally
incapable, while they have suffered in the race for wealth, have not
to any great extent been permitted to undergo extreme privation,
and it remains to be seen whether they have contributed their share
of progeny, for if they have done so it is easy to understand how
little advance in organic mental activity can have taken place. And
this is indeed indicated by a comparison between our skulls and
those taken from sepulchral barrows since early neolithic times.

_Further Study of Individual Competition._

Before, however, we attempt to arrive at a conclusion as to whether
or not a man, unsuccessful in the world’s competition, as a rule
contributes more or less progeny than one who has been more fortunate,
let us examine more closely the details of this competition, with
a view to the better comprehension of those conditions under which
it takes place.

Let us take a familiar illustration. In an ordinary foot-race the
best man gets in first, provided he is in his proper form, and
the race is looked upon as a test of merit. In order to encourage
competitors who otherwise would be without a chance of winning, it
is usual to handicap some of these races, giving points of advantage
to all except the very best man who is termed “scratch.” The result
of such a race is no proper test of merit, and the winner is often
the worst of limb and wind in the whole competing team; he wins it
because of the handicap he has received. Now while the wild beast
and very primitive savage are all “scratch” and no “handicap” is
given, on the other hand civilised communities, as soon as they have
become firmly established, introduce the system of handicapping,
which does not necessarily give the advantage to those most needing
it, but which all the same causes the struggle or race to cease to
be so true and efficient a test of pure merit as it was before.

_Those Competing are Handicapped by Property._[26]

This is brought about in many ways, but by none more effectively
than by the amassing and transmission of property. Instead of living
a hand-to-mouth existence, all communities have very naturally
instituted what is known as personal property; they have permitted
individuals to acquire and transmit large quantities of food or
clothing, etc., or that which can be converted into this, namely
money. By lending this property to those who are in need of it, and
by exacting a percentage increase in payment of this loan, wealth
may yield in perpetuity a sufficiency to support without further
expenditure of labour. By the earning, with physical or mental labour,
of wealth, and by the increments produced by the loan of wealth, this
wealth has accumulated in certain families and in certain classes,
and this power is handed down from generation to generation. In
order to obtain wealth in any quantity, great physical skill or
mental training is, as a rule, required, and this is only to be
obtained for a child by the expenditure of wealth on the parent’s
part. The wealthier families in a community have therefore either
sufficient wealth to support their children in idleness, or, at
any rate, they can put them in such positions as will enable them
to produce wealth for themselves. The children of those families
who possess little wealth are from the first at a disadvantage, and
only those with very exceptional powers can possibly succeed in a
struggle against their more fortunate neighbours.

_Property is not always acquired by the Most Capable._

But if riches and power had always remained in the hands of the most
capable, and if these had always married women of capacity, then
riches and power would be where they would be of most advantage;
but this has certainly not been the case. As already remarked, the
awards of land and wealth at the time of the conquest were given
to those of the conquering side who had showed most prowess in war
and intrigue, at the expense of equally capable men amongst the
vanquished. England thus received a nobility who were practically
on an equality with her common people, but who, on account of
previous contact with the wonderfully organising power of the Romish
Church, and with the more civilised communities of the South, had
acquired the art of organised warfare, and thereby the necessary
subordination of the many to the few, lessons that the races living
in England had not had the chance of learning. In more recent times
wealth and consequent power, acquired by manufacture and trade,
have likewise fallen to the share of the incapable as well as to
the capable, to the exclusion of the greater number of individuals
belonging to both classes. Those who lived on the seacoast where
to the south and east the construction of harbourage was possible,
profited by the development of the trade which at one time arose
in those districts; while later on, and after the establishment of
colonies to the west, in the States and Canada, those who lived in the
coast district to the west profited in their turn by western trade.
Individuals holding land of value to the agriculturist alone, and
in its turn yielding great return, have found themselves penniless
on account of the importation, at low prices, of agricultural
produce. Others holding land containing certain mineral wealth have
found themselves greatly increased in riches, and everyone in the
district has profited by the find. It does not follow, therefore,
that because A has acquired wealth and B has not, that A is even a
better acquirer of wealth than B, let alone other qualities in which
B may have an advantage. It might follow, and would follow in most
cases, that A and B would determine their equality or inequality,
were they placed under similar conditions. But as we have seen,
their conditions seldom are similar; indeed, to a great extent,
wealth acquisition is a lottery. While it cannot be granted that
every man who acquires wealth is clever at acquiring it, it must
at the same time be admitted that a fair proportion of those who
succeed are above the average intelligence.

_Property Holders Less Capable than Property Acquirers._

But the chances that the children of such a man will also be clever
in acquiring wealth are again diminished by the chances that his
wife will be deficient in that very quality. We do not know exactly
what part the father, or what part the mother contributes to the
making of the progeny, and this very fact indicates strongly that
they each give much alike; were there any marked differences between
their contributions these would have been observed, for we have
so many chances in everyday life for the study of such problems.
We may conclude, therefore, that an average child depends for its
faculties as much upon the mother as upon the father. Now, even if
we put on one side the probabilities of the choice of a mate having
rather opposing qualities than otherwise--for we are attracted in
marriage to our unlikes rather than to our likes--the chances are
that the wife of the man who has acquired wealth will not have more
than average capacity. According to this view, the children born
of the marriage will, on an average, have less than the father’s
capacity, supposing him to be a capable man.

We see, then, that the chances of finding capable men and
women--innate capacity is, of course, referred to--among families
inheriting wealth and position, are less than the chances of finding
these qualities among those who have themselves acquired wealth,
and also that it is indeed probable that the average capacity of
wealth-holders is only slightly above that of the average of the
whole community. That there is a slight difference we must allow,
for capacity has its own value, and the ranks of the rich are
continually being recruited by capables, while at the same time
the ranks of the poor are being recruited by incapables.

While this is the case the sifting referred to is very incomplete,
and we find in every class every range of intellectual capacity,
from that of the idiot to the man capable of giving a permanent
impulse to thought and action.

_The Poor Child is scratched against the Rich Child._

The riches of the well-to-do give their children--who, as we have
seen, are not necessarily the most capable--an immense pull in
life’s competition with the sons of the poor, with the result that,
certainly in the great majority of cases, the poor man’s child is
beaten. Putting on one side the question of the father’s personal
influence in the way of obtaining advantageous positions for his
children, who generally have an opening in his profession or line
of business, the rich man is able to equip them with an expensive
education which is essential to their getting on in the world.
A vigorous personality always counts for much, but training is
essential, and training has until quite recently only been obtainable
by the well-to-do classes. The English universities and public schools
had until lately become the monopoly of the upper and professional
classes, to the exclusion, even among these classes, of many who
differed in creed from the majority of the community. The doors of
every profession were barred except to those who possessed capital,
and the children of the poor were frequently unable to obtain even
the elements of book knowledge, except in Scotland, where primary
education had the start of England by three hundred years. The
fact that as many as 41 per cent. of persons married in 1839 were
unable to write their own names, illustrates how enormously a large
mass of the community must have been handicapped by their want of

Not only have the richer classes been able to start their children
with capital and a better training than their poorer neighbours,
but the poorer classes have--and this, too, in comparatively recent
times--been actively repressed. We can in this connection recall
the fact that before the sixteenth century, English labourers were
compelled to receive wages fixed in some cases by law, and in other
cases by justices, who were often themselves employers of labour.
Their wages were determined chiefly by the price of provisions,
and in order to prevent migration with a view to the bettering of
their wages, they were confined to the place of their birth by the
imposition of very serious punishment, if they left their native
places to work elsewhere. It is not sought in any way in these pages
to adduce these instances of what we should now call unfair dealing
with a view to bringing discredit upon the holders of wealth. We
have no reason to suppose that our forefathers were consciously
unfair, and there is little doubt that many usages current at the
present day will be viewed by our descendants as gross outrages
upon the principles of justice as understood by them.

Each generation acts according to its own lights, and if our public
conscience is sharpening, and our ideas of right and wrong are
becoming clearer and are ruling our actions more emphatically, we
must remember that this moral advance is a heritage which, like our
intellectual and material possessions, we owe to our ancestors,
and we may humbly endeavour that this, the most worthy of all
possessions, shall not be lessened as it passes through our hands.

The point that is desired to be emphasised is the want, in civilised
communities, of advantages equally distributed to every child born
within the community. Without this condition the united effort of
the community can never reach its maximum, for much individual power
is suppressed, and much incompetency is bolstered up in quite an
artificial manner, and competition fails in great measure to bring
forward the most capable competitors.

_Modern Democratic Attempts to equalise the Struggle._

While this is an undoubted fact, it seems pretty certain that
latterly a change has come about in the direction which gives more
scope for individual attainments irrespective of birth and wealth.

Organised efforts are being made to connect the Board Schools with
the universities, so that the children of the poor may, if capable
enough, climb at once into the professional classes. In the interests
of intellectual effort this is very desirable, for the universities
will then draw their students from a larger area, and men possessing
brain power will be rescued from mere mechanical pursuits. One can
hardly explain, on the assumption of race superiority alone, the
wonderful potentiality of the Scottish Lowlands, the birthplace of
so many who have been distinguished for personal attainments, for
the East Coast Englishman is of the same blood as the Lowlander,
and the division between England and Scotland is by no means an
ethnological one, it is rather a political division of the old
kingdom of Northumberland.

But it may more reasonably be explained by the excellent primary
education throughout Scotland, and the link that has long ago been
formed between the universities and almost every parish in the
country. The best education the country can produce has for many
years been within the reach of every thrifty farmer, who, if he has
a clever son, can pay the relatively small cost of his education.

England has been hitherto a laggard in her educational system, but
education is now at last being brought to the door of the poor as
well as of the rich. Primary education has been recast, and the
universities and colleges in the great centres of population, and
suited to the wants of, and within the means of, the poorer classes,
are now being established, and an altogether different set of
students are being equipped for the intellectual battle of life,
students that are drawn not alone from the ranks of the English
gentry, but also from the lower middle and artisan class.

By the institution, amongst other means, of technical schools and
colleges, the mechanical arts can now be learnt at little or no
expense by the children of the poor, and organised public bounty
is replacing occasional private patronage.

Thus not only have the poor an increasing chance of rising into
the upper ranks of life, but the upper classes are beginning to
regard occupations, at one time beneath their notice, as, after all,
most suited to the less bright and capable of their children, so
that there is a greater passing up and passing down of the ladder
of life than was the case some fifty years ago. The surgeon and
medical practitioner were at one time looked down upon and classed
with the shopkeepers, and trade in all its branches was viewed as a
necessary occupation, but only to be undertaken by the uneducated
and unrefined. But nowadays parents are taking what appears to be
a more commonsense view of the question. Their sons cannot all
of them be landed proprietors, clergymen, lawyers, or soldiers,
and they are, therefore, sent to banks and offices and breweries,
or may be they are exported to grow oranges or to mind sheep in
one of the colonies. Positions in life once looked down upon are
now thought better of, for men and women do not speak ill of the
positions which may be occupied by their children or by their near

But while it would appear that we are beginning to give fuller
play to individual power and industry, no one would be prepared
for a moment to assert that these qualities have as yet free
scope for their action. Still the tendency has recently been in
the direction of a breaking up of the more artificially imposed
barriers between class and class, so that wealth and power is more
readily accessible to those who were once debarred from all hope
of it by birth; while the children of the well-to-do can take up
positions which were at one time thought to be quite unworthy of
them. This, then, seems to be the tendency of modern democratic
effort, but it is very questionable whether the result eventually
achievable is one which, if understood, will be very acceptable to
the democracy. Class distinctions of a very artificial kind are,
undoubtedly, being rapidly destroyed, but only by the reconstruction
of others of a most enduring character. The advantages which the
future holds out are, as they always have been, to the few and not
to the many, for the struggle and competition is still there, and
all cannot come in abreast. By a more complete and thorough sifting
from all classes of the capable and intelligent, we are forming,
and shall continue rapidly to form an aristocracy of real worth
and distinction, separated more and more sharply from the masses,
as each generation goes by.

We can hardly doubt that the more capable will always have at their
disposal more to satisfy their wants than the relatively incapable
masses will have, for society will always continue to expend upon the
musical composer or upon the skilful engineer a care which would be
thrown away upon a man capable of only a limited development, since
the resources of a community, nay of the whole earth itself, are
strictly limited, and a due proportion only of these resources must
be utilised as necessity dictates. It is quite possible that the
present standard of comfort of the labouring classes may be in the
future greatly raised, and their horizon widened; still, relatively
to others, they will always be poor. If everyone is able to dress
in silk and to eat lamb and green peas, then this privilege will
cease to be valued, for we set store not on what we possess, but
on what we do not possess. The field and town labourers to-day eat
better food, dress better, and have far greater advantages than had
their fathers, yet relatively to other classes they remain what
their fathers were. They are “poor men,” they pity themselves, and
the more ambitious strive for what they see others in possession
of. At the present time the poor man may, with some show of reason
and hope of succeeding in greater things, be discontented with
his lot, and wish for other pursuits and other advantages, for
which he may feel himself to be, and in many cases is, most aptly
fitted; but if the present tendencies continue, whereby the best
amongst them rise to higher things as the necessary consequence of
their ambition, there will not be found amongst the labourers of
the future any considerable number left who will have sufficient
innate capacity to undertake pursuits requiring much mental effort
and bodily skill. Class will then be separate from class by real
organic differences, and the idea of social equality, ridiculous
enough as it now appears to most of us, will then have become a
demonstrated absurdity, as having contained the impossible idea
that things that are unlike can be at the same time alike.

_Those who Succeed are Not Always the Best._

We cannot leave this question of the struggle between one individual
and another without noticing a point of great interest and importance.
We have seen that society is giving to the capable of all classes
increased facilities to acquire wealth and position, and is tending
to form of this capable section an upper class.

Now, unfortunately, this selection is carried out only on certain
lines, and it does not follow that this upper class will invoke our
entire sympathy and approbation. In biological works we frequently
hear of the “survival of the fittest,” and the expression is used by
biologists in quite a special and technical sense. It does not mean
of necessity that the most active or intelligent always survive;
indeed, this is far from being a rule of universal application.
Often the most fit are inactive and mentally inert, as when the tame
duck with useless wings and the mole with useless eyes is preserved
while others die off. In these cases the wings and eyes are useless,
and, although the animals looked at by themselves would appear to
have become less excellent, yet in view of their surroundings they
have a better chance than would be the case were their endowments
of a higher order. Biologists use then the term “fit,” simply in
the sense of “fit to get on in the world,” and often intrinsically
inferior animals and men are “fit” in this sense of the term.

Now, those who are to form this upper class, or classes, of which
we have been speaking, will be fit in the technical meaning of
the word, for they will have been able best to conform to the
conditions necessary for their advancement laid down by society at
large. Whether or not these fit will form an aristocracy of high
merit will depend upon the kind of conditions with which they have
to comply, in fact it will depend upon the selection that society

Does it not appear that the present tendency is rather to give an
advantage to the man who is capable, pushing and diplomatic; are we
not selecting men with qualities of value in a struggle, qualities
which savour still rather of talons and claws, while we are careless
of qualities which we have learned already to value as those of
a higher order? In following out a train of reasoning like this,
where there are no means of obtaining definite evidence, one can
only go upon the general impressions of life which it has been in
our power to obtain. Do not these impressions force us to believe
that the man who most invariably gets on best is he who untiringly
follows out his own advantage, who has one end and aim in life,
which he pursues regardless of everything else; and that a course of
life like this necessarily implies selfishness and want of regard
for the well-being of others? We see so many men around us of the
greatest capacity, unselfish and unblemished at the same time, and
yet they do not get on, but are passed by men who, in most ways
their inferiors, possess instinctively the power to follow out in
detail that course which leads quickest to success. How often do we
not hear of the generosity of the poor, and of the way in which they
assist each other in need and sickness? Do we ever ask ourselves if
it could not more truly be said that the _generous are the poor_,
that generosity almost of necessity implies a temperament unsuited
to the neck to neck struggle which society is increasingly imposing
upon those of her citizens who aspire to be rich?

Therefore, although we may be thoroughly in sympathy with the
democratic changes just alluded to, and may view these as necessarily
preludes to a better condition of things, we must not shut our
eyes to their dangers, and must not be deceived into looking upon
them as capable of achieving by themselves very desirable or final


[26] Consult “Darwinism and Politics,” by Professor D. G. Ritchie,
2nd Edit., p. vi., upon the interference of property with natural



We saw, in the last chapter, that in social communities the struggle
of one individual with another for wealth and power is not a fair
and open contest, but that all are more or less handicapped by
surrounding conditions, lack of capital, education, or influence.
We saw that recently more equal chances for success are being given
to all, and with the result that the more capable and pushing are
gradually tending to form a new upper class, and thereby draining
from the labouring classes all those who possess the qualities we
have alluded to.

_Are the More Capable Relatively Sterile?_

So far we have viewed this as a struggle for wealth and position, and
have purposely kept out of view its influence upon those who will
come after us: this we have now to consider. Provided the successful
and capable competitors contribute on an average an equal number of
children per head, as do the unsuccessful and less capable, it is
evident that talent will neither increase nor suffer decrease; it
will merely undergo a sifting process, and tend to find its place
more and more in the ranks of the aristocracy. If, however, it
should be found that the successful ones are less prolific, from
one cause or another, then talent will tend to diminish, and the
aristocracies will tend to dwindle by the side of the more prolific
democracy, and will possibly eventually disappear. In assuming this
result, we, of course, conclude that there will be comparatively
few marriages between members of widely different classes, and
we have reason for conjecturing that this will be the case from
the fact that distinctions of class have ever been a bar to free
intermarriage, even when these class distinctions have been of the
most artificial kind.

_If so, we are Breeding from our Incapables._

Now there is good reason to believe that the career necessary to
individual success in the life-struggle of modern societies is one
which carries with it and necessitates relative sterility; and if
this is so, we have to face the certainty that talent is being bred
out of us, as it were, and that the average capacity of the race must
therefore assuredly deteriorate. And whereas, in the animal world,
those qualities which determine the success of an individual in the
battle of life become stamped upon its progeny, our modern system
entails just the reverse. In the animal world, fitness results in
life and reproduction, and unfitness in death and sterility; while
amongst men, the capable and successful are rewarded by honour and
wealth, but are relatively sterile, and the man that society is
inclined to overlook contributes a large percentage to the race of
the future.

It would indeed be difficult to conceive any plan more inimical
to the future of a race, or better devised to sap and undermine
the power of a nation, than that of taking from it in perpetuity
those possessed of innate capacity, a result which follows when
the best citizens are induced, for the sake of gifts and honours,
to relinquish their obligation to the race of being the parents
of many children. Such a plan must continually withdraw from the
nation those qualities which are most admired, and which, it must be
presumed, it is most desirable to preserve.[27] A nation subjected
for long to such a treatment can only become, like the mould of a
garden from which the produce has been taken for many years, but
to which nothing has been added in return, a soil prolific enough
in weeds and brambles, but incapable of growing any of the choicer

If, then, we find that our more democratic views of to-day are
tending to bring about such a result, we must admit the danger
into which we are passing, and see whether there is not a way of
escape. We cannot but feel a strong sympathy with every plan which
tends to place a round man in a round hole, and to develop to the
utmost whatever of capacity, whatever of goodness, there may be
present at any one time in the social community. Our sympathy for
the downtrodden, and our efforts to assist those who are willing
to do life’s better work, are but expressions of the fact that we
live and have lived together socially, because we have it in us to
love, and to value the love of others. It would indeed be a sad
tale if that love had never acted in perhaps unwise excess, if it
had not prompted us to action, which we may afterwards realise is
not in itself and by itself the most judicious.

As already maintained, we naturally consider our fellows first, and
we study the picture of life around us; our power of foretelling the
future and the results of our present actions comes later on. So
it is that our politicians, in cases where sincerity is undoubted,
have aimed at the betterment of the individual, and the adjustment
in the community of individual capacity to suitable occupation. Few
have ever asked themselves the question, What will be the result of
my present action on the next generation born? For this there is
every excuse, for until recently these questions were unanswerable
in the face of our great ignorance of the chief facts of evolution.

_Capable and Ambitious Men Marry Late in Life._

When we turn to the experiences of life common to most of us,
we shall find, I think, pretty strong evidence that surrounding
conditions determine that, as a rule, the capable and ambitious
man has fewer children than his fellows. Let us examine some of
these facts of common experience. The agricultural labourer, of
the intellectual value of whose education I have by no means a low
opinion, nevertheless obtains this education without cost. Bred on
the farm, he insensibly imbibes from what he sees around him the
multifarious bits of information a farm hand requires. The manual
labour which he is called upon to perform implies a very varied,
although often underrated, skill, but this skill, and, indeed, his
whole education, may easily be acquired, and that without cost, by the
age of twenty. He is then capable of earning a maximum wage, for he
has reached the period of life at which he is a full-farm-labourer,
and at forty he does nothing more and receives no higher wage. Now
this maximum wage which he is capable of earning at so early an
age is sufficient to support a wife and family. In consequence of
this condition of things the countryman generally marries in his
early twenties, and selects in preference to an older woman one of
about his own age. The pair are married during nearly the whole of
their child-bearing period, and have as many children as they, in
the ordinary course of nature, can produce. Much the same sort of
statement applies to the lower artisan, factory hand, etc. In these
cases perfect accomplishment of the set routine of their especial
work can be obtained at a very early age, and for the rest of life
no further advance is made. The manual dexterity required in most
of these occupations is indeed best acquired during youth, and at
twenty or thereabouts the full standard of efficiency is reached, and
full wages demanded in return. Need we wonder at the fertility of
these marriages, or at the swarms of children seen in every street
where the town labourers and lower artisans reside. Now, rightly
or wrongly, the man who dresses fashionably, who drives a pen or
serves behind a counter, is held of much more account than one who
pursues the more manly occupations of tilling the ground or of laying
drains. How this sentiment has arisen we need not discuss; there
it is, and it has the effect of drawing from the agricultural and
lower artisan classes the more ambitious and capable, and turning
them into clerks and shop attendants. The slightly-increased wage
is not more than is required in the new position, and is expended
on dress and those appearances and pleasures which associate
themselves with town life. The future has, no doubt, possibilities,
for the clerk may rise, and the shop attendant may become himself a
master, and with these possibilities in view most are inclined to
wait in hope, many fondly believing in their power and certainty
of eventual success. Marriage, however, is a very serious thing,
for though the country hand is comfortable enough with his fifteen
shillings a week, free cottage, etc., and a wife used to roughing
it, the clerk has to mate with a woman who has to be dressed like
a lady, and who has placed a foot on that ladder which strikes all
who find themselves upon it with the folly of wishing to appear to
be on one rung above that on which they really rest. His means are,
therefore, quite inadequate for marriage, unless with discomfort
and privation, and it tends, therefore, to be postponed. This
especially will be the case with those whose capacity is opening
out a brighter future, and who would naturally hesitate before they
imperil this by a course which, to say the least, might complicate
the issue.

A step further we come to occupations which require a long preliminary
training, and we find that the time of marriage is postponed maybe
to the later years of life. An artist requires years of careful
training before his work can reach a standard which is of marketable
value, and even then his progress is generally delayed while a
connection is being established, and a reputation built up. The
manufacturer requires general education of a fairly advanced kind,
to be followed by a more or less protracted acquaintance with the
special business to which he may be devoted, an acquaintance which
tends to be wider and of greater value as time goes on; he frequently
has to wait for openings only obtainable on the decease of those
with whom he is associated. The lawyer and doctor are only able
to marry comparatively late in life owing again to the prolonged
and special training required of them. The medical student must
continue his studies for at least five years after he has left his
school, and then almost invariably continues for a few years to act
as assistant or partner, content to learn the practical aspects of
his profession, with but a small monetary return. Amongst these the
most ambitious aim at special knowledge of some small branch, and
here again a longer training is required and years of patience,
until their work has received sufficient recognition to bring the
rich harvest to which they ultimately aspire.

_Many Unmarried Persons among Upper Classes._

For such reasons ambitious rising men fear marriage, and the
possibility of large families. In many cases marriage is never
contracted, and the middle and upper classes are full of men and
women living single lives, without contributing their share to
the production of the race. The lower classes, less hampered by
a sense of prudence, contract marriages most freely, increasing
thereby the relative fertility of their class. While the success of
a woman in the upper classes who has several daughters to dispose
of is proverbially precarious, we read that in the East End of
London every girl in the lowest classes can get married, and with
hardly one exception does marry.[28] Those in the upper classes
who marry at all do so, as already remarked, at a later period. In
verification of this fact we have not only the statements previously
adduced from the circumstances of every-day experience, but we also
have statistical information at hand in the Forty-Ninth Report on
Births, Deaths, and Marriages, where we can find the average age of
marriage given for a variety of trades and occupations as follows:--


      Occupations.       Bachelors.  Spinsters.
  Miners                   24·06       22·46
  Textile hands            24·38       23·43
  Shoemakers, tailors      24·92       24·31
  Artisans                 25·35       23·70
  Labourers                25·56       23·66
  Commercial clerks        26·25       24·43
  Shopkeepers, shopmen     26·67       24·22
  Farmers and sons         29·23       26·91
  Professional and    }
    independent class }    31·22       26·40

We shall see from a study of this table that marriage is contracted
at a more advanced age by those who occupy what in the world’s
estimation are high positions, and this implies diminished fertility
on the part of the women. We should expect from common observation
that the younger women would be more prolific, and this is borne out
by exact statistical observation. Matthews Duncan[29] concludes that
women who marry from twenty to twenty-four are the most prolific,
and that the only period which at all rivals this is the five years
from fifteen to nineteen inclusive, and that women married later
in life than twenty-four are distinctly less prolific.

_Lower Class Marriages are the Most Prolific._

Not only do the wives of the working classes produce individually
more children than those of the professional classes, but, owing
to these earlier marriages, generations succeed each other with
greater rapidity. In order to realise how soon a slight advantage
like this tells upon the composition of the race, we will suppose
for the nonce that the labourer’s wife A marries at twenty-three,
and the lawyer’s wife B marries at twenty-six, and that they have
the same number of children, in each case four. In the case of A
the population will double, say roughly, every twenty-seven years,
and in the case of B every thirty years, allowing in each case four
years for the birth of the family. As we shall see by the following
table, the population produced by the labourer’s wife A will in
270 years be 2,048, while the population produced by the lawyer’s
wife B will be half as much, namely, 1,024 in the same period.[30]

              | Years required to produce it.
    No. of    +------------------------------
  Population. |       A             B
         4    |       27            30
         5    |       54            60
         6    |       81            90
        32    |      108           120
        64    |      135           150
       128    |      162           180
       256    |      189           210
       512    |      216           240
     1,024    |      243           270
     2,048    |      270           300

As regards the men, it is also probable that those who marry at
thirty will on the whole be fathers of smaller families than those
who marry at twenty-five, even did they mate with women of the
same age. Of this, however, I cannot adduce reliable statistical

_Their Infant Mortality is Greater._

The lower classes appear, therefore, to be more fertile; they more
frequently marry, and they marry at earlier and more fertile ages.

On the other hand it must at once be admitted that they manage
to rear a smaller percentage of their off-spring. The mortality
amongst the infants and children is often alarmingly great through
ignorance and neglect on the parent’s part.

While, therefore, the lower classes are undoubtedly the most
fertile, it is not certain how far this is counterbalanced by the
lower mortality which exists among the children and youth of the
upper classes.

_Artificial Restriction of the Family._

That the counterbalance is not complete is generally believed, and
we must view with dismay any agencies which tend still more to make
the middle and upper classes sterile relatively to the lower. There
can be little doubt that this has recently, and to an increasing
extent, been brought about by the wilful avoidance, on the part of
the parents of the middle and upper classes, of the full duties of
parenthood. It can no doubt be urged that whereas, in many instances,
the care of one or two children can be undertaken in such a manner
as to insure their careful upbringing and education, the rearing
of a large family would be quite beyond the power of the parents,
and would lead to their neglect, or deprivation of some of those
advantages which we have already seen to be so necessary for life’s

However true this may be, and however we may sympathise with a
parent’s desire to do his best by his offspring, it is likewise
true that this is an important means, and probably one of greatly
increasing importance, by which the upper and middle classes are
becoming, relatively speaking, sterile. It is probable, too, that
this sterility will be mostly found in the case of those who rise
in life and have a longer and more difficult battle to fight, and
who have, therefore, most cause to avoid unnecessary complication.

_Fertility of French and English Marriages Contrasted._

We can see very clearly in the pages of contemporary history the
disastrous effects which may follow diminished fertility. Owing
to custom, and subsequently to legislation, property in France is
divided equally among the children of a family; and in consequence
of this, were there many children to a marriage, this property would
be split up into smaller and smaller portions, insufficient at last
to furnish the necessities of life. Among the rural population, a
farmer by thrift can live and marry on his small farm, but half
the farm would be a piece of property upon which no one could live
an independent existence.

It is necessary, therefore, that this property should be passed on
intact, and this can be done when on an average a farmer brings
to maturity two children. Of these, on an average, one will be a
boy and the other a girl, so that by adjustment farmer A can marry
his daughter to farmer B, and marry the daughter of farmer C to
his own son. In this case the son of farmer A gains by his wife’s
dowry what his family lost by his sister’s marriage. As a result
of this artificial limitation of the family, the population of
France remains stationary, there is no pressure of numbers, and
by thrift and care the people are prosperous and happy. While,
however, this may suit the convenience of individual French men
and women, it is fatal for the future of the French race, who are
becoming insignificant in numbers and influence as compared with
those nations whose citizens have more fully accepted the duties of
parenthood. It is interesting in this relationship to contrast the
births, deaths and marriages, together with the estimated population
of France, with those of the United Kingdom, which may be done by
reference to the following table taken from Tables 40 and 54 of the
Fifty-Fourth Annual Report of the Registrar General’s Returns.


       |        United Kingdom.        |            France.
       |            |  Proportion per  |            |  Proportion per
  Year.|            |   1000 Persons.  |            |   1000 Persons.
       | Population.+------------------+ Population.+------------------
       |            | Mar.  Bths. Dths.|            | Mar.  Bths. Dths.
  1867 | 30,409,132 | 15·2  33·8  20·8 | 38,188,749 | 15·7  26·4  22·7
  1871 | 31,555,694 | 15·4  33·7  21·5 | 36,544,067 | 14·4  22·6  24·81
  1875 | 32,838,758 | 15·3  33·9  22·1 | 36,638,163 | 16·4  26·0  23·0
  1879 | 34,302,557 | 13·8  33·3  20·5 | 37,365,544 | 15·1  25·0  22·5
  1883 | 35,449,411 | 14·4  32·0  19·6 | 37,866,000 | 15·0  24·8  22·2
  1887 | 36,598,235 | 13·5  30·7  19·0 | 38,320,000 | 14·5  23·5  22·0
  1891 | 37,795,475 | 14·6  30·4  20·0 | 38,343,000 | 15·0  22·6  22·6

We see that from 1867 till 1891 the population of the United Kingdom
has increased twenty-five per cent., but that of France has remained
stationary. While the marriage-rate--the number of persons married
per 1000 of the population--is about the same in both countries,
the births are over fifty per cent. in excess of the deaths in
the United Kingdom; while in France they are but very slightly in
excess. It cannot be doubted that, in very large measure, it is due
to this relative sterility that France has failed as a colonising
power. The French have ever been full of enterprise, and have long
desired to establish colonies, but they have in the main been ousted
by the British. Colonisation to them has been an ambition, an idea,
but not a necessity; to us the alternative has been overcrowding
and misery on the one hand, and extensive emigration on the other.
Can we wonder that British necessity has overmatched French vanity?
One cannot read the accounts of the struggle between the British
and French in North America, antecedent to the War of Independence,
without feeling that from the first the issue was certain. The French,
who took the palm in enterprise and exploration, were nevertheless
rapidly outnumbered by the British settlers, who crowded out of
their own congested country into the new land, and increased there
with enormous rapidity, the population doubling during the period
of fifteen years in many districts.

It is in their relative fertility by the side of the French that
the English-speaking race, at first a smaller people, have now far
outnumbered their Gaelic neighbours, and have peopled the choicest
portions of the inhabitable world, and formed dominions by the
side of which France is already becoming a small and unimportant

_Possible Swamping of the Capables by the Incapables._

We have here, then, a demonstration of the effects of diminishing
the fertility of a group of persons, and, returning once more to a
consideration of the relative infertility of the upper classes in
our own country, we cannot doubt that, if the present tendencies
continue, we shall here also find that the ranks of those who
possess the qualities suited to worldly success will increasingly
be outnumbered by those more deficient in these qualities. If we
tend to the production of aristocracy of innate worth, there is a
danger that these aristocracies will die out, or, at any rate, that
the number of capables of whom they are comprised will constitute
an ever-diminishing number of the whole community.

_Artificial Restrictions at Present Most Disastrous._

It may be truly urged that, at some time or another, the present
increase of population must come to an end, for as new countries
become filled up, the limits of subsistence must at last be reached.
The discovery of America, Australia, and the opening up of vast
tracts of country in Africa and Asia, has for some hundreds of years
permitted certain European nations to increase their birth-rate
above their death-rate, and we are so accustomed to such a condition
of things that we do not realise that it is exceptional, and that
countries, once they have reached a stable condition, only permit
of the maintenance of a given number of population. Increased care
and knowledge in agriculture may, as time goes on, gradually allow
of a slight increase in the number of the inhabitants, but this will
be slight indeed, as compared with the present ratio of increase.

We may therefore rest assured that, at some time or another, we
shall have to reduce the birth-rate to that of the death-rate,[31]
but we are certainly not called upon to do so at present. It is the
experience of many men of practical knowledge that at the present
time any healthy Englishman, who is fairly capable, industrious and
sober, will be able to earn a living for himself, wife, and family.
He may have to face a possibility of temporary misfortune, and even
catastrophe, in the event of sickness, but his chances are as good,
and the comforts that he can obtain for his wage are greater than
those of wage-earners in other countries. We are not, therefore,
called upon at present to diminish a population which, by its
increase, has been enabled to possess itself of a large portion of
the inhabitable world, and upon whose future increase will depend
in great measure our faculty for keeping it; but we are called upon
to see that this increase is derived from the best, and not from
the worst, members of the community. It will be most disastrous not
only to our Empire, whose strength depends in great measure upon
the numbers of our citizens, but also to the quality of the race,
if the more prudent and capable are bred out of and eliminated from
the community. These, in the nature of things, will be the first
to limit their fertility, no doubt to their individual advantage,
but to the detriment of the race at large. The work on population
by Malthus reads like a modern book. His contributions to social,
and his stimulus to biological science can never be underestimated,
but his advocacy of those measures which insure relative sterility,
such as late marriages, etc., will lead to the final extermination
of those who follow his advice. The world will fall to the share of
those who produce most offspring. Let us be sure that in our own
nation it shall not be to the offspring of the deteriorated, but
that the generations that succeed us shall possess those qualities
of mind and body which we admire most among our fellowmen, and
which will only be preserved to the race if those possessing them
carry out fully their duties of motherhood and fatherhood.


[27] It is here taken for granted that the successful are the best.
This is, however, open to question, as was seen in the last chapter.

[28] “Labour and Life of the People,” p. 472, by Miss Collett.

[29] “Fecundity, Fertility, and Sterility,” second edition,
chapter xiv.

[30] For the sake of simplicity the ages at which the men marry have
been omitted; their inclusion would make the case even stronger.

[31] See a most instructive paper by Dr. Ogle in the Journal of
the Royal Statistical Society, June, 1890.



Our conclusion, based on the evidence detailed in the preceding
chapters, has been that our race, viewed from a physiological
standpoint, is not on the way towards improvement.

I do not feel that this is an alarmist view of the question,
even though it points in the direction of both the physical and
intellectual degeneration of our countrymen. It is a view based
upon facts, and forced upon us by the knowledge of our surroundings
gained impartially in other fields. Still, all social problems are
of extreme complexity, and one must not lay too much stress upon
any individual effort to gauge them. It will be sufficient for all
practical purposes if attention has been drawn to these questions,
and a serious inquiry started.

It may be urged that, after all, the fears expressed are groundless
in view of other facts not understood, and that humanity, if left
to itself, will continue for another few thousand years making no
important change in its innate racial qualities. But even if this is
so, there is one point which stands out clearly in this discussion;
and about this point there need be no shadow of doubt, for of its
truth, humanity has had wide experience. It is, that we can improve
our race by adopting the one and only adequate expedient, that of
carrying on the race through our best and most worthy strains. We
can be as certain of our result as the gardener who hoes away the
weeds and plants good seed, and who knows that he can produce the
plants he wants by his care in the selection of the seed. The human
animal varies as much or more than the dog or pigeon, and there
can be no doubt that just as by selection, all the varieties of
dogs and pigeons have been bred from one or two original stocks, so
races of men could be produced as different from ourselves as the
tumbler from the wood pigeon, or the bulldog from the old Sussex

_Are we prepared to carry out Selective Methods?_

So much for the extreme possibilities of the future, which we need
hardly consider; for the present, humanity would be glad enough to
be represented by men and women of our best types, sound in lung
and limb and brain, full of bodily vigour and capable of enjoying
exercise both of body and of mind. One cannot for a moment doubt
that, by selection, England in a hundred years might have its
average man and woman as well endowed in body and mind as are the
best of us to-day. This is not much to claim, for this potent agent
selection has formed the higher animals and man himself from lower
forms, and has evolved the multitudinous varieties of structure and
form we see around us. What we may more reasonably doubt is whether
our countrymen will have intelligence and unselfishness enough to
bring this about, to sow where others will reap, to distract their
thoughts from the pursuit of self-interest and turn their attention
to a course of action which will produce its results when their
individual lives have passed away.

_Rights of the Individual, and Obligations to the Community._

But even here the outlook seems hopeful, for no historical fact is
more striking than the gradual subordination of individual interests
to those of the community, which for many years has been going
on. The clamorous appeals for personal rights are giving way to a
growing sense of obligation and a desire to further the interests of
others. At a time when the labouring classes had too little power of
establishing their claims to just treatment and proper consideration,
the sense of public obligation was naturally not so strong. Men
and women were struggling, and very rightly, for what unjustly
was withheld from them; for though men had united in communities
for self-interest and self-defence, wealth and its transmission
had set up barriers between those who felt their equality as men,
and who resented social disqualifications due probably to the ill
fortune of their ancestors; under these circumstances men thought
and talked more about their rights than about their obligations.

Long ago, when the family or clan formed a unit, the right of the
father over the children and the women was a part of a very necessary
discipline upon which probably the existence of all depended. These
ideas have very naturally survived, for custom clings with wonderful
pertinacity, and we have had the strange spectacle of the house
divided against itself, the father clinging to his old rights, the
wife and children clamouring for their new ones. As an instance
which illustrates how long the woman continued to be viewed as
part of the property of her husband, it is but necessary to recall
the fact that only since the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1858 was
it rendered impossible for a husband after deserting his wife to
return to her and _lawfully_ possess himself of all the property she
had herself acquired during the time of his desertion. So too with
our old ideas regarding parental rights, which were so tenacious
a survival that until as late as 1891 a father could not forfeit
these either by contract or neglect. Before the Act to amend the
law relating to the custody of children passed in March, 1891, a
man who had deserted his children could afterwards insist on their
returning to him, and, although a reprobate in every way, he could
claim them from the parish or custodian who had been responsible for
their upbringing. These and many other injustices have been and are
being removed, and it must be remembered that this has been done
not by a forcible adjustment gained by strength of numbers, but by
the force of public opinion and the sense of justice of all classes
and of both sexes. The rights have been given, they have not been
taken; the poor have had rich men on their side, and the promoters
of women’s independence and advancement have in large numbers been
the men themselves. It is true that much unnecessary inequality
remains, and that we treat certain sections of the community in a
most undesirable fashion--witness the herding of the profligate with
the unfortunate or aged pauper--but the very fact that justice has
come as the result of claims put forward and recognised as just,
rather than at the point of the sword in open rebellion of the many
against the few, shows that as a nation we are instinct with the
feeling of obligation. There is a feeling that whatever is right
will ultimately be done, that so-called injustices are survivals
of past ages from which emancipation must take place, and that
all we have to encounter is that right and necessary conservatism
which adapts itself slowly and cautiously to changing conditions of
things, clinging to that which is because the present is the best
to which we have yet achieved, yet willing to change this for what
we have reason to believe will be really better. With this modern
development of the sense of obligation, we may anticipate that
all those who are really dependent upon their own actions will be
seriously considered, and have their welfare fully assured.

_Rights of Children and our Obligation to them._

Political agitation has in the past been one of the most potent
forces by the movement of which men and women have obtained redress
from their disabilities, and have put forward their own views and
enlisted sympathy in their own troubles. But infants and children,
although provided with most effectual means of calling attention
to certain of their personal wants, are unable even to formulate
grievances of which they are not conscious, and posterity has
naturally no voice in determining the course of our present actions
although its very existence depends upon these.

This is already partly realised, and there are not wanting those
who are prepared to sacrifice much in order to champion the cause
of those who have no means of establishing the claims they have to
our consideration. Already, four years ago, public opinion expressed
itself in public rule that a man and woman in begetting a child must
take upon themselves the obligation and responsibility of seeing
that that child is not subjected to cruelty and hardship.[32] It
is but one step more to say that a man and woman shall be under
obligation not to produce children when it is certain that from
their want of physique they will have to undergo suffering, and
will keep up but an unequal struggle with their fellows.

_Our Sense of Obligation is Developing._

But our sense of obligation, just as it has grown in the past, is
capable of development in the future, and that this sense will
develop is probable from the fact that we are beholden to our
fellowmen and ancestry far more than we at present realise. Not
only do we owe our existence to others, but we owe to them most
of our necessities, all our luxuries, our intellectual food, our
music, poetry and language. Our possessions and even our ideas we
owe to those millions who have for numberless generations toiled
in their own behalf and ours. Alone we might obtain subsistence
from roots and shell-fish, but as citizens of an organised State
we have food and clothing for an easy expenditure of energy, and
can obtain for the trying much of that which may be termed luxury,
but which in reality is that which makes life worth living.

This debt that we owe to those who have gone before us we can only
repay to those who come after us, and the sense of obligation will
grow as we become better educated in the broad facts of life and
history. We shall increasingly be prepared to forego our pleasures,
and to undertake that which may be personally disagreeable for the
sake of others. The good of others has been, and will increasingly
be, that to which our energies will turn, and the most fundamental
good that we can achieve is that which will add to the organic
excellence of the race.

Can we doubt for a moment that men will hesitate about fulfilling
these obligations, or draw a line beyond which in their
disinterestedness they will not eventually be prepared to go? History
shows that mankind is ever ready to sacrifice itself if cause be
shown; that men and women will go far beyond the lengths of their
devotion to self-interest, in their devotion to a cause, a hero,
a religion, an ideal. If then it be shown that by sacrifice of
the individual so great a thing as racial reconstruction can be
accomplished on certain well-understood lines, then from what we
know of the stuff that is in humanity this racial reconstruction
most assuredly will be carried out.

_Social Philosophers and Social Reformers._

There are two classes of persons--Social Philosophers and Social
Reformers; the former discuss what might be done, the latter endeavour
to bring about that which it is possible to do. Nothing would be
easier than to frame a set of suggestions which, when followed out,
would lead to the desired ends; but as reformers (not philosophers)
we have only to discuss those suggestions which the public would be
prepared to view with an open mind and eventually to act upon. It
is true that this will take us but one step towards the end, but
the futility of discussing further steps, for which people are not
prepared, has often enough been demonstrated in matters social.
After all we have not to argue these questions in the abstract;
they are associated in their very essence with the qualities and
nature of the average citizen, and we have to think of what will
best appeal to him. He sits as the judge of the case; he has to be
instructed; his sentiments, and probably his vanity, enlisted; if
we go too far he will dismiss the case, and it may be long before
it can be taken up again.

_Segregation is Not yet Practicable._

No one in their senses would at the present moment venture to bring
in a Bill for the segregation of criminals and vagrants, for we
are not prepared for such a measure. A certain number would, no
doubt, be strongly in its favour, but they would be in a small
minority. At present the community at large have hardly even
discussed their obligations as race producers, and the enforcement
of these obligations could only follow a strong growth of public
feeling and public practice. Long, too, before the question can be
discussed in a practical form, the criminals and vagrants must be
separated from the deserving poor; it is probable that this step
would commend itself to all, indeed in all probability the present
system continues to exist solely on account of a widespread ignorance
of the real state of things. Our workhouses and institutions for
the relief of the poor have never elicited much personal interest;
they are rarely visited by the public, who have never realised the
scandalous herding together of the very scum of humanity with the
respectable but unfortunate and aged of the labouring class which
is nowadays prevalent. Once this state of things were ended, once
the public could see the inveterate criminal and vagrant class by
itself, it would be able to deal with it on rational lines. It would
view it as a hopelessly inferior class, having no place among the
workers of the State; a class to be cared for and controlled, but
whose perpetuation, on the score of pity for the offspring, must
in duty be prevented.

_Segregation no New Idea, and Ultimately a Necessary Practice._

The idea of segregation is no new one, for at the call of religion
man and woman have in most countries, and in all times, separated
themselves from their fellows. They have denied themselves the
pleasures of love, and of the table; they have foregone worldly
ambition, and have lived lives often of utter solitude, and of
miserable privation, in order to fulfil what they considered to be
a higher duty. Believing in the advent of some sudden change, of
the destruction of the present condition of things, they naturally
thought and cared little for the preservation of a race, destined
soon to have spiritual existence alone. Thus, it came about that
millions of the most thoughtful and noble-minded men and women have
in the past committed the fatal mistake of leaving the rest of
humanity to carry on the race. Theirs was a voluntary segregation
which must have had the most direful results upon the race. That
which we speak of is an enforced segregation which would eliminate
from it some of its worst qualities.

Were this segregation proposed, it would be impossible to oppose
it except by prejudice and that inertia which every change has to
encounter. If our pity is enlisted on the side of suffering, it must
be used to prevent the production of those who are bound to suffer.
Parents on an average produce from four to five children, and the
criminals and incapables are reckless as to the condition of their
offspring. The “ins and outs” of our workhouses take refuge there;
they live on the organised charity of the land; they have not the
physical and moral power to support themselves; they can leave at
any moment and return mothers and fathers of children, who, like
themselves, must be clothed and fed by the toil of others. Those
who cannot support themselves, from poverty of physique, disease,
or mental or moral incapacity, are yet permitted by the community
to exercise the functions of parenthood, which, in its nature and
essence, implies an excess of power over and above that which is
required for the individual’s own self-preservation.

_The Masses must be Taught the Main Facts of Heredity and Evolution._

In addition to our attempts to separate the deserving poor from the
criminal and vagrant classes, which should be done on the grounds
of common decency, every endeavour may with advantage be made to
further a clear understanding of the action of selection in general
evolution, and in this undertaking we shall have the assistance of
the workers in most sciences; for everywhere the thoughtful man is
regarding the facts in his own department under this new light.

By pointing out the marked racial change resulting from the action
of selection, which shows itself every ten years in the production
of some new variety of dog or pigeon, and every year in the
production of many varieties of flowering plants, we can convince
the uninstructed by ocular demonstration which they cannot deny.
They must learn to look upon mankind as organically related to
other animals, and it must be pointed out to them that the facts of
human evolution are in the main similar to, and form but a section
of, the facts of general evolution. It must be pointed out that in
many families there are perhaps one or two of the children, bred
under conditions like the rest, who are delicate, of ungovernable
temper, or have some deformity. They will know by experience that
these children will in their turn have children like themselves,
and the wonderful benefit to the race which would result from the
selection of the strongest in mind and body as race producers will
of necessity follow. It would then be possible to develop a strong
public feeling against any marriages contracted by obviously sickly
people, for the suffering which may be inflicted by producing sickly
offspring may reasonably be urged against those who would otherwise
be willing to gratify their convenience or personal predilection,
and perhaps eventually this might lead to prohibition of such
marriages. It should be pointed out that temperaments, and moral
and mental qualities, are transmitted just as surely as physical
traits; that all, in fact, of the qualities of the future race will
depend upon those which are blended together to-day in parenthood.
It follows, therefore, that the greatest of all responsibilities
is taken by the assumption of parenthood, and everyone may well
ask himself or herself, before undertaking it, Will the world be
better for any more of me?

_The End and Aim of Marriage._

To-day we are apt to be cautious before marriage; we are very keen
to be assured on the question of dowry, and one hears of private
inquiry as to money matters through the family solicitor. We have
pride in so-called “birth,” which is of very fictitious biological
value, and think much of an alliance with one of good family. Men
and women have already, therefore, learned to tread with caution on
the pathway which leads towards the altar, and for the most part
no longer give full play to vanity and passion pure and simple. We
are prepared, therefore, to look before we leap, but we look in the
wrong direction, we avoid inconvenience and plunge into catastrophe.
The reason for this is that we are but partially educated in the
real ends and aims of life, and do not know the course which leads
to ultimate success provided we follow it.

_Our False Ideas regarding Marriage._

We have instincts, right perhaps in the main, but these have
been followed blindly. Pride in illustrious ancestry is most
reasonable, and the wish to carry on the family name is allied to
that praiseworthy egotism which makes every cat prefer her own
kittens to any others. These natural instincts have, however,
up to the present led us to desire wealth and position for our
offspring rather than robust constitutions and mental activity. We
have avoided in many cases, by what we term suitable marriages,
poverty and inconvenience, yet in contracting these marriages we
have sacrificed the organic possibilities of our children.

_The Stream of Life._

The most superficial consideration of the question will convince
us that the organic stream of life is that which is of all things
the most permanent. We are so apt to lose sight of the ephemeral
nature of rank and wealth. We forget that the gold and silver is
constantly changing hands, the houses are being rebuilt, the old
landmarks destroyed. Our individual thoughts and passions are, and
are then no more; whole families, even races, disappear. Yet man
is here to-day, he has come down from remote posterity, and some
of us will give our blood in large measure to mankind as he will
be found in future ages. In this stream of life the shepherd who
weds a healthy, thrifty wife is of more account than an emperor who
destroys the chances of his posterity by marriage with a sickly
princess. Life is brain and muscle, wealth and position are apart
and accessory. In marriage we must bear in mind its end and aim,
for the individual lives only till he has reproduced himself; each
generation lives only to produce the next. If these facts are once
widely understood there can be little doubt that they will influence
men’s actions in respect to marriage, and with a growing sense of
obligation to others, the ratio of sickly and feeble-minded children
may be diminished.

With the judicious selection of parents to be the race-producers,
we need have no fear as to the care that modern civilisation and
preventive medicine bestow upon the individuals. If the community
undertakes its own selection we can dispense with the selecting
influence of the micro-organism of whooping-cough, scarlet fever,
or tubercle. Our remedies and our digested foods may be used with
advantage to help the members of a robust and energetic stock
through those dangers which must at all times beset them.


[32] An Act for the Prevention of Cruelty to, and the Better
Protection of, Children, August 26th, 1889, and previous Acts.


In Chapter II. we saw that many of the valuable and carefully
reasoned results which Weismann had obtained are accompanied by much
detailed speculation based upon an extremely limited fact basis. In
his later writings especially, the reader who searches for the facts
and reasoning which refer to such questions as the non-transmission
of acquired characters will find everywhere an abundant commingling
with speculations concerning the mechanical process of heredity. I
have ventured in the appendix to sketch shortly this speculation
of Weismann’s, and to give my own estimation of its value.

Weismann was not the first to speculate or found a mechanical theory
of heredity; Darwin himself published a theory of “pangenesis,”
and this was, I believe, the only piece of speculation of which
Darwin was ever guilty. That he might picture to himself, by means
of material particles, the views that he held of heredity, Darwin
supposed that during their lifetime every cell of the parent
disengages small living particles--gemmules--which find their way
to and are stored up in the generative cells, ready to develop in
the next generation into cells similar to those from which they
came. This theory was actually framed to support those cases where
Darwin supposed that acquired characters are transmitted, for he
says in one of his replies to Huxley’s letters:[33] “I do not doubt
your judgment is perfectly just, and I will try to persuade myself
not to publish. The whole affair is much too speculative; yet I
think some such view will have to be adopted when I call to mind
such facts as the inherited effects of use and disuse,” etc. In the
theory of pangenesis the gemmules residing in the body or somatic
cells will be subject to such influences as affect the cells, and
will naturally transmit any change to which they have been subjected
to the offspring that they eventually build up. Darwin’s view may
be graphically represented by Fig. 2. Since Darwin’s time most
biologists have come to doubt whether there is any evidence that
acquired characters are transmitted at all, and incline rather to
view racial change as altogether due to inborn variations, some of
which variations have an advantage over others; Darwin himself,
as Huxley pointed out,[34] laid less weight on the influence of
acquired habits in his later than in his earlier writings. Modern
biologists tend, therefore, to be more Darwinian than Darwin in
respect to their thoroughgoing adherence to the action of selective
influence; but of necessity they discard his theory of pangenesis,
which was a pictorial expression of Darwin’s lingering Lamarckian
tendencies. Let me give some idea of what the Neo-Darwinians picture
to themselves as the “process of heredity.” It has been known now for
many years that every cell in the body, including the sperm cells
and ova, are descended from a fertilised ovum. Of these cells of
the body all obviously die except those sperm cells and ova which
give rise to the next generation, and so on. We have, therefore,
a continuing chain of actual organic matter linking every living
form with those that are most ancestral and remote, and from these
chains all the so-called living individuals that have ever existed
have, as it were, been thrown off. Many have emphasised this point,
Owen, Haeckel and others; but perhaps Francis Galton must be given
much of the credit of clearly stating it as a fact to be remarked,
though similar views have more recently been popularised among
biologists by the delightful pen of Weismann. The “continuity of
the germ plasm,” the title by which this view is generally known,
expresses the fact that germ substance continues in an unbroken
line from generation to generation; a man is similar to his parents
because he develops out of a similar plasm. The continuity of germ
plasm (_stirp_ of Galton), like Darwin’s selection, is a fact, not
a theory.

[Illustration: FIG. 2.

Diagram to illustrate: A, Darwin’s theory of pangenesis; B, the
continuity of the germ plasm. A. An ovum above, full of gemmules
(only three of which are represented) develops into an individual
made up of cells, three of which are shown. These cells give off
gemmules, which collect and form the substance of the ovum of the
next generation. One can see how the gemmules formed by the body
cells will be influenced by any change in these. B. An ovum gives
rise on the one hand to body cells, and on the other hand to the
substance of the ovum of the next generation. A change in the
somatic cells does not influence the ovum.]

Now while Darwin’s fancy regarding pangenesis compels one to believe
that the effects of use and disuse, the action of disease and
mutilation, must be transmitted, the continuity of the germ plasm
in the isolated reproductive cells of the parents renders this
extremely doubtful. The anatomical conditions actually found are
fully reconcilable with the observed non-transmission of acquired

This fact was shortly and precisely stated by Galton in 1875, and
by Weismann in his “Studies in the Theory of Descent,” published
in English in 1882. In 1883, in his essay upon Life and Death,[35]
Weismann looked upon the germ plasm as the substance of the germinal
or reproductive cells, and on p. 148 he defines “germ” as follows:
“I should propose to include under this term every cell, cytode, or
group of cells which, while not possessing the structure of the mature
individual of the species, possess the power of developing into it
under certain circumstances.” So far Weismann was a fact man, and
gave to the facts observed their true and full significance. Since
that time, however, he has speculated upon the nature of the germ
plasm. To him it consists of ultimate living particles, to which
he assigns various and specific purposes, and groups them at will,
group within group, like nests of Chinese boxes. The biophores (his
conceived units) have the capacity of growth and reproduction--a
generous concession indeed. They are groups of chemical molecules,
far beyond the highest powers of the microscope, and cannot therefore
be investigated by our senses; they are conceptions, not perceptions.
These biophores are arranged in groups, called determinants, one
for every part of the adult which is capable of variation; groups
of determinants are termed “ids,” and groups of ids are termed
“idants,” the last being visible in the ovum as a brightly-stained
rod of unclear matter. By the multiplication, differentiation, and
disintegration of these various groups, the adult body is formed,
and Weismann is prepared to explain every step.

Speaking in 1883[36] of Darwin’s theory of pangenesis, Weismann
remarks: “We become lost in unfounded hypotheses.” I think this is
a true and allowable criticism, but I also think that it applies in
far greater measure to the theory of the germ plasm developed by
Weismann himself. It may be pointed out that Darwin placed little
store upon his theory, and apologised for its speculative nature,
not only in the letters already referred to, but in his work upon
“The Variations of Plants and Animals under Domestication,” where
it appears in a single chapter at the end of a large work of 800
pages. Darwin here says (vol. ii., p. 349): “I am aware that my
view is merely a provisional hypothesis or speculation; but until a
better one be advanced, it will serve to bring together a multitude
of facts which are at present left disconnected by any efficient
cause.” Weismann’s speculations, equally unfounded on fact, are
nevertheless viewed by him as being of sufficient importance to
demand the most detailed elaboration. Do not suppose for an instant
that I am decrying the use of fancy or provisional hypotheses;
the world advances upon the steps, generally the ruined steps, of
hypotheses. The value of an hypothesis depends, however, entirely
upon whether we can put it to the test of experiment. If it is
intangible, then it remains an hypothesis, while the great body of
fact workers go on building their sciences, and in the completion
of these it has no part. Darwin’s pangenesis has no value as an
hypothesis, it seems to me, apart from its being a pictorial way
of illustrating how use and disuse might be inherited. This latter
is a question which can be solved experimentally; pangenesis was a
mental picture present to Darwin’s mind, and he threw it out for what
it was worth. In this picture the gemmules were supposed to pass
from the cells of the body through the blood into the reproductive
cells, and the experiments which Galton, and subsequently Romanes,
undertook to disprove pangenesis by showing that certain samples
of blood did not contain gemmules, and that therefore pangenesis
did not occur, appear to me to show a want of appreciation of the
fact that Darwin intended this theory merely as a temporary mental
picture, and nothing more.

But Weismann puts forward his views in most sober earnest, elaborates
the details of his theory, and remodifies his conceptions so that
his story may fit in with the fresh discoveries in embryology and
comparative anatomy as these are made. Our criticism is simply this,
that the hypothesis, being nothing more than a personal conception
of the author’s, is not to be tested by experiment, and that the
author could always escape from the clutch of refutation. We are
left, moreover, in the same difficulty with which we started, for by
giving his living units the functions of growth and reproduction,
which must involve heredity itself, Weismann shunts back the
question from animal and plant, which we can see and handle, to
particles quite beyond our ken. We may also point out that there is
no reason to assume that living matter is made up of little parts,
or persons, molecules or groups of molecules; experiment, in fact,
strongly contradicts this assumption. Let us see how humanity first
obtained the idea that matter is made up of little bits, how we
obtained the idea of molecule or atom. The idea is an ancient one,
and it is easy to see how it occurred to thinkers even in primitive
times. Most solids, such as chalk, sand, and rock, and fluids too
and gases, are, when broken or divided, of obviously similar parts.
If we break a piece of writing chalk across, each fragment of it
is chalk--that is, it appears to us to be white and hard, it will
write upon the board, etc. If we continue to break it we shall
always have smaller particles of chalk, never anything else. Thus
men generalised from their commoner experiences, and got the idea
that all things are built up of small parts or molecules. Anaxagoras
(70th Olympiad), from experiences such as those just described, in
all probability arrived at his theory of elements (homœomeriæ),
viewing all things as built up of elementary things of the same
nature, flesh and blood of elements of flesh and blood, etc. Similar
views are held to the present day, and are an expression of the
fact that you can break most things into similar but smaller parts.
Quoting from Tait’s “Properties of Matter,” 1885, p. 21, we find:
“But the really extraordinary fact, already known in this part of our
subject, is the apparently perfect similarity and equality of any
two particles of the same kind of gas, probably of each individual
species of matter, when it is reduced to a state of vapour. Of such
parts, therefore, whether they be further divisible or not, each
species of solid or liquid must be looked upon as built up.” It
will be noted that the moderns would make a distinction which the
ancients did not; a modern will speak of a molecule of a gas or of
incandescent iron, but he hesitates before speaking of a molecule
of an ordinary solid at ordinary temperature, and would certainly,
if an exact thinker, never dream of speaking of a molecule of wood
or flesh or bone. If we carefully prepare as perfect a cylinder
of wood as we may wish, and divide it into two equal parts, these
(unlike the piece of chalk or iron) will not be the same; the
graining will show a difference to the naked eye. The microscope
will show that the wood is not uniform in its smallest parts; it is
what we may term “organised,” the structure being different as we
shift the eye along the smallest distance of the thinnest section.
The same applies to bone and muscle; in fact, to all parts of the
bodies of all animals and plants. The idea, then, of molecule is
a conception of an ultimate bit of a substance towards which our
experimental breaking has in actual experience partially reduced
it, and would never have occurred to the ancients had the commonest
objects of nature been, like variegated marble or granite, of obvious
heterogeneous structure. When, therefore, we translate this idea
to the realm of biology, where bodies are not made up of similar
parts, it is obvious that we do this without warrant, in face of our
biological experience, and that we are thoughtlessly accepting a
physical theory of gases and incandescent solids without appreciating
the foundation upon which this theory rests. The fact of the matter
is, we are in utter ignorance as to the ultimate constitution of
any living matter; but so far as microscopic investigation goes,
we learn that it has unlike--not like--parts. Our experience,
therefore, rather contradicts the belief that it will be found to
consist of ultimate parts, each part having the function of living
protoplasm, biophores, or whatever name may be attached to them;
and we recall Clifford’s rule that we may believe what goes beyond
our experience only when it is inferred from that experience by
the assumption that what we do not know is like what we know.[37]



[33] “Life and Letters,” first edition, vol. iii., p. 44.

[34] “Life and Letters,” vol. ii., p. 14.

[35] Essay to be found in vol. i.; English translation, 1889.

[36] Lecture on Heredity, _op. cit._, p. 77.

[37] “Lectures and Essays,” vol. ii., p. 210.

_Printed by Cowan & Co., Limited, Perth._



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  24. =Luxury.=                            Prof. EMILE DE LAVELEYE.

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  25. =The Land and the Labourers.=         Rev. C. W. STUBBS, M.A.

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  26. =The Evolution of Property.=                   PAUL LAFARGUE.

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  27. =Crime and its Causes.=                  W. DOUGLAS MORRISON.

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  28. =Principles of State Interference.=       D. G. RITCHIE, M.A.

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  29. =German Socialism and F. Lassalle.=             W. H. DAWSON.

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  30. =The Purse and the Conscience.=
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  86. =Parasitism, Organic and Social.=    MASSART and VANDERVELDE.

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  91. =Revolution and Counter-Revolution.=               KARL MARX.

  92. =Over-Production and Crises.=                   K. RODBERTUS.

  93. =Local Government and State Aid.=              S. J. CHAPMAN.

  94. =Anglo-American Trade.=                        S. J. CHAPMAN.


  1. =Life of Robert Owen.=                            LLOYD JONES.

  2. =The Impossibility of Social Democracy=: a Second Part of
        “The Quintessence of Socialism”.           Dr. A. SCHÄFFLE.

  3. =Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844.=
                                                  FREDERICK ENGELS.

  4. =The Principles of Social Economy.=                YVES GUYOT.

  5. =Social Peace.=                    G. VON SCHULTZE-GAEVERNITZ.

  6. =A Handbook of Socialism.=                     W. D. P. BLISS.

  7. =Socialism: its Growth and Outcome.=  W. MORRIS and E. B. BAX.

  8. =Economic Foundations of Society.=                   A. LORIA.


[Transcriber’s Notes:

  Punctuation errors were corrected.
  Inconsistent hyphenation was retained.
  Capitalization of section headings in Contents was matched to
    that in the main text.
  Except for the following changes, spelling has been preserved
    as printed in the original.
    In footnote [18], “and” changed from “nd” (and other
    In no. 68 of the advertisement Social Science Series, “OSTROGORSKI”
      changed from “OSTRAGORSKI”.
    In no. 77 of the same advertisement,
      “and” changed from “anb” (Suicide and Insanity).
      “interesting” changed from “interestesting” (An interesting
  The illustration “FIG. 1” was not labelled as such in the original.
  In no. 63 of the advertisement Social Science Series, the source of
    the quotation is missing in the original.]

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