This paper originally appeared in The
Mankind Quarterly, vol. 35, #3, Spring 1995, p. 229-265.
The Concept of Heredity
by Roger Pearson
in the History of Western Culture, Part I
Institute for the Study of Man
This paper originally appeared in The Mankind Quarterly, vol. 35, #3, Spring 1995, p. 229-265.
However, the general reading public, including possibly a high percentage of those who have been exposed to contemporary politically biased university courses in the humanities, fail to appreciate the true history of Western thought concerning the role of heredity and race for race is nothing if not a matter of heredity. The writer therefore feels that it might be useful to present a brief outline of this history, showing how committed the Western world was to a recognition of the efficacy of heredity until academic and media attitudes were affected in the first half of the present century by changes in the social, political and demographic climate.
This first article is consequently designed to illustrate the deep belief in the importance of heredity and race which prevailed from the earliest times until roughly the end of the first quarter of the present century. It will be followed by a second article, in the Fall issue of The Mankind Quarterly, which will document the rise of politically-motivated egalitarian ideology in the classrooms, which with the support of a substantial portion of the media eventually succeeded in making the idea of biological inequality politically unacceptable. Despite the fact that there is today a rapidly developing body of scientific research which, when viewed without fear or prejudice, clearly validates the age-old comprehension of the role of heredity in shaping the potential limits of individual human abilities, too many people are unaware of the mechanics behind the swing toward the powerful political notion of the biological equality of mankind. It is to be hoped that the following observations will encourage readers to enquire more deeply into this remarkable development.
Western tradition has long recognized that heredity plays a significant role in determining not merely the characteristics of plants and animals but also the mental and physical qualities of human beings. Some elementary recognition of the role of genetics as a causal force may have originated as early as the Neolithic revolution, when cultivators learned how to improve upon the various species of wild grasses and to breed domesticated milk- and meat-giving animals which were biologically more useful to mankind than those they found in the wild. By the time of the great classical civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome it had become commonplace knowledge based on observing and remembering the generations from the same family that heredity also played an important role in determining the character and abilities of men and women.
In most early European societies, as in virtually all early societies that achieved an advanced culture, the social group was seen by its members as an intergenerational affair, with the family and the ancestors playing an important role in the self-concept of the individual. Life does not begin, nor does it end, with the individual. As Fustel de Coulanges pointed out in 1864, in his classic study of ancient Greek and Roman culture entitled The Ancient City (1955), it was the idea of common descent from the same ancestral forebears the idea of belonging to a specific community of families, and of sharing the same, hopefully eternal, thread of life that held the freemen of the Greek city-state together. As long as the lineage survived, the ancestors lived on in the minds and bodies of their descendants; death was only final when the entire nation was eliminated. The biological reality was interpreted into religious terms. The individual was seen as the product of the forces of biological causality, a living link in the chain that was the lineage, just as the lineage comprised a vital component of the nation-state, and the nation-state was a distinctly biological unit, with its own distinctive gene pool:
Reproduction in the ancient community was a religious duty... The religious society was the family, the genos. Paternal dignity and sacerdotal dignity were fused: the eldest son, upon the death of the father, becomes the head and priest of the family. The deceased father is honoured by his children as a kind of divinity. He himself is honoured by his children as a kind of divinity. He himself rendered the same worship to his ancestors: thus the greatest misfortune that his piety had to fear, is that the line shall be stopped. For then his religion would disappear from the earth, his hearth would become extinct, the whole series of his departed ones would fall into oblivion ...
The qualities that characterized individuals were acquired, it was believed, from their ancestors. Thus we find a speaker in the Odyssey (IV, 60) observing that "the blood of your parents was not lost in you, but ye are of the line of men that are sceptered kings, the fosterlings of Zeus, for no churl could beget sons like you." Similarly there are references to the disguised Athena as being "delicate of countenance such as are the sons of kings" (XIII, 216), whereas in the Iliad Thersites is described as ill-formed with a warped head. It was recognized that the even well-born individuals had to be schooled and trained to develop their inborn qualities to the maximum, but basic potential was inborn. In Homeric Greece, even truthfulness a revered value was deemed to be an inherited virtue, and to call a eupatrid, or "person of good ancestry," a liar was tantamount to calling him a bastard, a man of impure, inferior descent. Even as late as Classical Athens, Aristotle defined the physical and moral characteristics that were deemed to constitute nobility as "an inherited virtue" (Pol. IV. 8). In this, as in so many of his opinions, Aristotle was echoing ancient convictions expressed in the Iliad, as when a speaker protests that: "Therefore ye could not say that I am weak and a coward by lineage, and so dishonor my spoken word" (Il. XIV, 126).
According to L. R. Palmer, the authority on the Pylos tablets, Achaean kings held their office by virtue of the purity of their descent. Among the Achaeans, he wrote: "Where the `luck' of the tribe is concerned, there is no substitute for blue blood" (Achaeans and Indo- Europeans 1955, p. 9). Werner Jaeger went even further, describing the Hellenic ideal as an "aristocracy of race (1945, p. 205)." Because of their respect for good breeding, the Greeks honored their women as the progenitors of the race, and it was said that men chose their wives as they chose their horses, by the length of their pedigrees. The desirability of breeding from proven stock had become a cultural requirement, and only children born of legitimate wives (i.e., of quality ancestry) could inherit the social status of the father. Indeed, in ancient Athens and other Greek city-states, the eupatrids were men descended from no less than nine generations of untainted noble stock on both sides of the family tree.
Plato's interest in eugenics is well known, and he praises the Spartan interest in eugenic breeding (Laws, 630). Aristotle is equally impressed by the need to breed good stock. Theognis of Megara constantly praises the importance of heredity, complaining that well-born men and women will sometimes take inferior marriage partners in pursuit of riches, laments that "We seek well-bred rams and sheep and horses and one wishes to breed from these ... [but] men revere money, and the good marry the evil, and the evil the good. Wealth has confounded race." (Theognis, V. 183). Racial purity was linked to physical appearance, with Spartan women being renowned for their beauty; and character was seen as inherited along with personal features: "Thou art pleasing to look upon and thy character is like to thy form" (Stobaeus, lxxxviii, 71). In Greek literature the importance of heredity is repeated again and again: "Noble children are born from noble sires, the base are like in nature their father" (Alcmeaon, Fr. 7); "I bid all mortals beget well-born children from noble sires" (Heraclitus, 7);"If one were to yoke good with bad, no good offspring would be born, but if both parents are good, they will bear noble children" (Meleager, Fr. 9).
The early Romans similarly held lineage in great respect and enforced a system of connubium, whereby freeborn Romans could only marry into certain approved stocks. However, the Romans were relatively few in number and, when their unparalleled military and administrative ability converted the Roman empire into a fully multi- ethnic community of enormous size, the circumstances became ripe for the rise of egalitarian political ideologies. Rome, the "multicultural giant," disappeared before the onslaught of the smaller, more homogeneous, Germanic nations, which still retained a sense of group identity.
The Germanic peoples (the Germans, Dutch, Flemings, Anglo- Saxons, Franks, Lombards, Scandinavians, Goths, Burgundians and Vandals) who founded so many of the modern states of Europe following the demise of the Roman Empire, carried the concept of heredity to its logical conclusion in their virtually unique system of kinship. Unlike their kinsmen, the Greeks, Italics, Celts, Slavs, and East Balts, they did not organize themselves in patrilineal clans and phratries which recognized only their father's kinfolk, but saw kinship in fully genetic terms. The Germanic "kindred" comprised all the individual's relatives on both the paternal and the maternal sides, assessing the degree of closeness according to the closeness of their actual genetic relationship; this was a quite different system from the concept of patrilineal or matrilineal clans so widespread amongst other peoples of the world. This Germanic kindred was the subject of the exhaustive study Kindred and Clan in the Middle Ages and After (Phillpotts, 1917). To this day most North Americans of European descent have come to accept the Germanic tradition, where kinship is determined by the closeness of genetic relationship, whether the relatives be on the maternal or paternal side, as distinct from patrilineal and matrilineal clan systems. In ancient Scandinavia the belief in inherited talents was reflected in the concept of hamingja, an inherited "luck" force. However, it was recognized that siblings inherited qualities in different patterns, and kings who were "unlucky," and under whose leadership things went badly, were readily replaced by more competent individuals from the same royal lineage that had already produced generations of distinguished and successful leaders. The belief in breeding and the intergenerational transmission of genetic qualities was overriding, or as the old Germanic folk dictum expressed it, one could not make a silk purse out of a sow's ear!
Indeed, most Indo-European peoples, including those who resided outside the geographical borders of Europe, seem to have placed considerable trust in the powers of heredity. Max Weber documented the same emphasis on heredity among other Indo-Europeans. In The Religion of India (1958), Weber described the semi-magical xvarenah attributed to Indo-Iranian kings as a belief in inherited ability, calling it "familial charisma." The Indian caste system, he maintained, was sustained by a similar belief in the genetic inheritance of human qualities. The charisma of a caste, of a sib, and of a family, was genetically transmitted; its roots were to be found in the concept of inherited ability.
The coming of Christianity plunged classical philosophy into centuries of near-oblivion and clashed with the established and ancient European belief in the inequality of men. Spreading first among the slaves and lowest classes of the Roman empire, Christianity came to teach that all men were equal in the eyes of a universal Creator God, an idea that was totally alien to older European thought which had recognized a hierarchy of competence among men and even among the gods. Opposing the traditions of classical philosophy and scientific enquiry, Christianity introduced the concept of a single, omnipotent "God of History" who controlled all the phenomena of the universe with men and women being creations of that God. Since all men and women were the "children of God," all were equal before their Divine Maker! Faith in the church's interpretation of supposedly prophetic revelations became more important than scientific or philosophical enquiry; and to question the church's view of reality came to be perceived as sinful.
However, traditional European convictions as to the significance of heredity never completely died. Heroes, aristocrats and other national leaders had been regarded as superior beings by virtue of their descent from famed heroes or even from the gods, just as the Germanic kings claimed descent from Woden.(2) Kings and nobles were believed to inherit qualities superior to those of the average man, and to carry these qualities in their "blood." In ancient myth heroes might even challenge the gods; and the Christian church, jealous of the "divinity" awarded to kings and nobles by virtue of their lineage,(3) but finding it convenient to win their goodwill, offered them the "divine right" to rule as earthly representatives of the Christian God for so long as they obeyed the wishes of the Church as the representatives of God on Earth. The "divine right" to rule with the church's approval was a very different concept from the "divinity" that came from well-born stock.
Consequently, the idea of any disparity in genetic qualities came to be subtly discouraged by the church; and the success of the church was such that by the Middle Ages those who tilled the fields began to ask the rhetorical question: When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the Gentleman?
Stripped of their belief in the significance of human heredity and the notion of the state as a kinship unit "a family writ large" and believing instead in the essential equality of all men and women as the children of God, dissident sects espousing radically egalitarian ideals arose at intervals to protest social and economic inequality, especially at times when this became oppressive.
In time, secular political movements also began to assert the idea of biological equality, a theme which tended to be favorably received whenever the disquietude of a divided society erupted into revolution. Such was the case of the Levellers who fought alongside the Parliamentarians in seventeenth century Britain; of the Jacobins, who decimated the accomplished aristocracy of eighteenth century France; and of the Bolsheviks who wrought genocidal slaughter among the more successful members of Czarist Russian society nobles and peasants alike following the Bolshevik Revolution in the early twentieth century.(4)
In recent times, calls for political revolution have frequently invoked attacks on "genetic determinism" in favor of the alternate, wildly illogical, philosophy of human "biological egalitarianism." Despite the fact that both Marx and Engels personally believed in the significance of heredity and race Marx being particularly fond of resorting to some of the more vulgar racist terms to abuse his rivals in correspondence with his friends the ideological movement that emerged from their teachings eventually yielded to the notion of biological egalitarianism as a necessary ploy to inspire revolutionary passions among members of what they chose to call the proletariat. It was under Stalin, who sought to spread revolution in the Third World against "capitalist imperialism," that communist theoreticians found it convenient to overlook the fact that much economic inequality could be explained by biological inequality: the suggestion that one individual might be inherently more creative or productive than another tended to dampen the feelings of resentment so necessary to incite the masses to revolutionary action.
Yet even while the myth of biological egalitarianism was gaining ground in the Western world, the momentum of scientific enquiry, freed by the Renaissance from the shackles of medieval religious dictates, was deepening Man's knowledge about himself and the world around him. In addition, a renewed enthusiasm for the application of selective breeding to plants and animals in the agricultural revolution of the eighteenth century focused enlightened thought once again on the significance of heredity.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, Charles Darwin finally restored the concept of heredity to its rightful place with the completion of his epic work, The Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life ( 1914). It is of some small interest that his research troubled his deeply religious but loyal wife, because she sensed that it challenged the still dominant pattern of religious thought. Facing the need to defend his overall theory of evolution as applied to all living species, Darwin is described by his biographer, Sir Arthur Keith, as having decided to refrain from extending his evolutionary theory to explain the inequalities between the surviving races of man, which he regarded as being so apparent.(5)
What Darwin found it necessary to avoid, so inundated was he with criticism of his claim that mankind as a whole had evolved from "lower" forms of life, his half-cousin Sir Francis Galton did not hesitate to tackle. Indeed, Galton established the science of statistics as he sought to apply mathematics to the study of inheritance. In his own way, Galton was quite as great a contributor to evolving science as was Darwin, for apart from the attention he directed to the need to study heredity, he not only laid the foundations for the science of meteorology, but together with his close friend, co-worker, and biographer Karl Pearson, he established the basic techniques of modern statistical methods and quite literally founded the science of eugenics. The goal of eugenics, a word created by Galton from the Greek eugnes ("well born"), was to apply scientific knowledge about heredity to the problem of human evolution in order to combat deleterious demographic trends which threatened to lead to a decline of genetic quality in modern societies. In Galton's own words, the purpose of genetic science was "to give the more suitable races or strains of blood a better chance of prevailing speedily over the less suitable." Significantly he described eugenics as "that science which deals with all influences that improve the inborn qualities of a race; also with those that develop them to the utmost advantage" (1909, 35). In short, Galton realized that nature and nurture work in tandem and are not to be seen as mutually exclusive opponents. Heredity was important, but so was a healthy and congenial environment.
Using mathematical techniques to demonstrate the role of genetics in shaping mankind, Galton argued that it was scientifically possible to increase the frequency of desirable qualities among human beings, and to prevent the spread of deleterious qualities, by eugenic measures, and the idea quickly attracted the favorable attention of most serious scholars following the publication of his epoch-making study Hereditary Genius: An Inquiry into Its Laws and Consequences (1869). This seminal text was followed by Natural Inheritance (1889) and Essays in Eugenics (1909).
It is on record that Darwin was impressed by his cousin's work on Hereditary Genius. In a letter dated December 3, 1869 Darwin commended Galton on his "memorable work," stating that "I do not think I ever in my whole life read anything more interesting and original and how well and clearly you put every point You have made a convert." Two years later, in chapter seven of The Descent of Man, he developed Galton's observations concerning the differences between human races, noting that:
... the various races, when carefully compared and measured, differ much from each other as in the texture of hair, the relative proportions of all parts of the body, the capacity of the lungs, the form and capacity of the skull, and even the convolutions of the brain. But it would be an endless task to specify the numerous points of difference. The races differ also in constitution, in acclimatization and in liability to certain diseases. Their mental characteristics are likewise very distinct; chiefly as it would appear in their emotion, but partly in their intellectual faculties. Everyone who has had the opportunity of comparison, must have been struck by the contrast between taciturn, even morose aborigines of S. America and the light-hearted talkative negroes."
Thus both Darwin and Galton came to the same conclusion, expressed by Galton as follows:
It is in the most unqualified manner that I object to pretensions of natural equality. The experiences of the nursery, the school, the university, and of professional careers, are a chain of proofs to the contrary ... In whatever way we may test ability, we arrive at equally enormous intellectual differences.
Galton's younger colleague, Karl Pearson, developed Galton's novel statistical techniques to new levels of effectiveness, laying the foundations of modern scientific method in his publication The Grammar of Science (1892). Like Galton, Pearson realized that the genetic legacy each generation leaves to its successors is of prime importance for the future of mankind. Every generation, in fact, is a bottle-neck which sifts and determines which genes are to survive. Pearson delineated the fundamentals of the new field of eugenic science in a number of publications, including National Life from the Standpoint of Science (1905), Nature and Nurture: The Problem of the Future (1910). He expressed his concern for the genetic future of the British nation in a warning to his fellow-Britons in his Huxley Memorial Lecture of 1903:
…the mentally better stock in the nation is not reproducing itself at the same rate as of old the less able and the less energetic are the more fertile ... The psychical characters which are the backbone of a State in the modern struggle of nations are not so much manufactured by home and school and college; they are bred in the bone, and for the last forty years the intellectual classes of the nation, enervated by wealth or by love of pleasure, or following an erroneous standard of life, have ceased to give in due proportion the men wanted to carry on the ever- growing work of the Empire. (Pearson, 1903)
Any people who recognize the significance of heredity must naturally think in terms of breeding. Once science had revalidated the concept of heredity in the Western world, the reaction in favor of extending the principles by which the quality of plants and animals had been improved to human beings was natural. The conditions of life in modern society seemed to be reversing natural selection and lowering the quality of each succeeding human generation. Support for the eugenic ideal quickly came from a wide range of varied intellectuals, including not only traditionalists who had always retained their belief in good breeding combined with good training, but also progressive thinkers. Those who cared for the unfortunates of this world saw how simply much human suffering could be eliminated in future generations by eugenic policies, and socialists such as George Bernard Shaw, whose Man and Superman (1965, p. 159) (essentially an ode to the inborn instinct to procreate the race) complained of contemporary society that "being cowards, we defeat natural selection under cover of philanthropy." H. G. Wells, another reformer who likewise cared for posterity, proclaimed that "the children people bring into the world can be no more their private concern entirely, than the disease germs they disseminate" (Kevles, 92). Others who supported the eugenic ideal were the youthful J. Maynard Keynes; left-leaning Julian Huxley, who sought not revolution but the reduction of human suffering by genetic improvement; and J. B. S. Haldane, who adopted Marxist values but always opposed its anti-hereditarian extremes. Numerous other social reformers of that time, such as Sidney and Beatrice Webb, likewise embraced the eugenic ideal they were patriotic in the tradition of William Morris and Charles Dickens and eschewed revolutionary socialism, but feared emerging capitalism as a threat to the traditional bliss of agrarian England, and felt that much misery could be eliminated by rearing fit and healthy children rather than those who were burdened by genetic handicaps.
Also joining the eugenics cause was the ardent advocate of social change, Havelock Ellis, who supported the call for female liberation but emphasized the essential role that women played in ensuring the future of the race. Ellis (1912, pps. 4647, 205) declared that the aims of eugenics "could only be attained with the realization of the woman movement in its latest and completest phase as an enlightened culture of motherhood." The new St. Valentine, he observed, would be a scientific saint, not one of folklore, because marriage should be for the procreation and health of the race, not merely for personal pleasure. Scholars and politicians alike applauded the new sense of responsibility in procreation,6 with diverse figures such as the Cambridge biologist Francis Maitland Balfour, founder of the British school of evolutionary biologists, British Prime Minister Arthur James Balfour,(7) and the young politician Winston Churchill, all paying homage to the eugenic ideal. Galton, childless himself, applied his personal fortune toward the promotion of research into heredity and eugenics, funding the establishment of a biometrics laboratory at the University of London under the direction of his fellow-eugenicist Karl Pearson, for the primary purpose of studying heredity in man. He also helped finance the establishment of the Eugenics Education Society, which later changed its name to the more simple Eugenics Society. Patriotic Englishmen who feared a dysgenic trend in national ability eagerly supported the eugenic doctrine that the fittest, most intelligent and creative parents should be encouraged to have larger families. In this, they were joined by Fabian socialists, who sought to decrease what was seen to be an excessive rate of reproduction among the genetically unfortunate, so as to "level up" society instead of "leveling it down" which latter was the usual outcome of revolutionary socialism.
Possibly it was Julian Huxley who best summed up the confidence with which so many British academics who lived during the first half of this century viewed the future, when he wrote (1941, p. 22):
Once the full implications of evolutionary biology are grasped, eugenics will inevitably become part of religion of the future, or whatever complex of sentiments may in future take the place of organized religion. It is not merely a sane outlet for human altruism, but is of all outlets for altruism that which is most comprehensive and of longest range.
In all honesty, although it would seem difficult to envisage his prophecy becoming a reality in any foreseeable date in the Western world, tendencies in Mainland China, and in the Chinese republic of Singapore, strongly indicate that it may be the billion-plus Chinese people who first realize Huxley's dream of the future.
Scientific ideas are seldom confined to one country in the modern world, except where political suppression enters onto the scene, as in Marxist Russia, and although it was in England that the concepts of evolution and eugenics first saw light, European and American scholars soon responded. We will not here attempt to cover the continental scene, although scholars such as Ernest Haeckel, who became an ardent advocate of Darwinian evolution, seeing nations as potentially incipient races and the major racial divisions of mankind as virtually separate species, undoubtedly influenced the English-speaking world. At this time the determination of what constituted a species had not yet come to be linked to the concept of mutual inter-fertility, but was judged purely by the extent of phenotypical variation, as in the Linnaean system of classification still broadly accepted by biologists today. Consistent with such views, Haeckel and others began to urge not only eugenic breeding but also racial purity.
The concept of a new eugenic science was also welcomed in the United States, which shared the same traditional appreciation of the role of heredity held by those Europeans who had remained behind in Europe. At the turn of the century, the United States was still a land of opportunity, yet one which had already acquired a sense of nationhood, so that many of its most important families had developed a profound social conscience and a strong desire to ensure that the hopes they held for the well-being of their descendants, as Americans, would be realized. Idealists such as president Theodore Roosevelt were convinced that the existing American population possessed generally superior genetic qualities, shaped by severe selective evolution over the previous generations. Their forebears had been adventurous individuals who had first elected to undertake, and then survived, what was in earlier centuries a dangerous ocean crossing. After arrival in the New World, they had to protect themselves and their families from the depredations of the native Indian tribes who had the advantage of familiarity with the local environment. While doing this, they had to tame vast primeval forests and grassland wildernesses something Europeans had not seen since their forebears first began to convert the forests of Europe into the rich but increasingly overpopulated farmlands of civilized agrarian and mercantile culture. Thus a century and a half ago, Ralph Waldo Emerson reflected the views of his countrymen when he wrote that: "Where the race is right, the place is right".(8)
Americans at that time did not think of their country as a potential microcosm of all humanity, but as an emerging micro-race of predominantly European origin. President Theodore Roosevelt, credited with advancing the "melting pot" ideology, wanted only quality immigrants from ethnic stocks which would readily assimilate into the "Old American" population a term used to refer to persons descended from Europeans who had settled in North America prior to the War Between the States. While the British eugenicists were primarily concerned with maintaining the breeding quality of the resident population of the British Isles, Americans also debated the question of immigration, since they instinctively knew that immigrants affect what we would today call the national gene pool quite as significantly as differential selection within that pool.
Like Theodore Roosevelt, eugenicists felt that the new America must remain a vital and homogeneous nation. But, Roosevelt strongly believed that the Old Americans were not producing enough children, and that they must either change their ways or submit to an invasion of non-white peoples, most likely from Asia. Selected immigration from Europe was welcome, but those who would not fit in were not wanted. Immigrants should desirably match the genetic character of the existing population, and, to ensure this, most favored the restriction of immigration to the nations from which the predominantly North European pioneers who had built the United States had been drawn. The eugenic ideal matched perfectly the optimistic, forward-looking spirit of the people of the United States as they entered the twentieth century (although Roosevelt was fearful that those who advocated negative eugenics might discourage large families). But when eugenicists looked at increasing Asian and Hispanic immigration, some feared that the "great race" as eugenicist and conservationist Madison Grant (1924) described those whose ancestors had pioneered the establishment of European civilization in North America might be drowned by hordes of immigrants from Asia and Central America, too numerous to be assimilable, if it failed to defend its coasts and increase its own rate of reproduction. Madison Grant's own ancestors, it might be noted, had come to the American colonies from Scotland following the failure of the 1745 Highland uprising led by Bonnie Prince Charlie. His writings were therefore well received by a generation of proud, self-confident, and essentially prosperous Old Americans who wished to see their lovely country remain in the hands of their own kind, and who like the Greeks of old treasured the memory of the achievements of their forebears. American scholars, wealthy self-made industrialists, farmers, and even politicians saw the eugenic ideal as a means of ensuring the future well- being and happiness of the new nation to which they were proud to belong. Indeed, it was those who could claim to be Old Americans who gathered most enthusiastically in support of the eugenic cause.
The hopes of the eugenicists were raised in 1910 by the establishment of the Cold Spring Harbor Eugenics Record Office by the Carnegie Institute of Washington. This was funded by Mrs. Mary Harriman,(9) the widow of E. H. Harriman, whose forebears left England for America in the seventeenth century. The director was Charles B. Davenport, the Harvard zoologist who was twice president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), as well as president of the American Zoological Society. The superintendent was Harry H. Laughlin, a leading light in the eugenics movement which flourished in America during the first half of the present century. The distinguished inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, figured prominently among the members of the Board of Scientific Directors established to support the work of the Eugenics Record Office. In a letter to Davenport, dated December 27, 1912, Bell revealed himself as a "mainstream" eugenicist who believed in "positive eugenics," which aimed at increasing the percentage of healthy and talented individuals in succeeding generations, rather than in "negative eugenics," the term commonly ascribed to measures designed to prevent the spread of deleterious genes. In light of the somewhat limited development of genetic and medical science at that time, and the heavily dysgenic impact of two World Wars which were shortly to follow, his observations reflect the perspicacity of a scientist whose name will live forever in history as a major contributor to technological progress and as a benefactor of the human race. Bell attended eugenics conventions, and himself authored several papers on eugenics, such as his essay entitled "How to Improve the Race," which appeared in the January 1914 issue of the Journal of Heredity, edited by Paul Popenoe.
The Galton Society formed in New York in 1918 at the American Museum of Natural History by Henry Fairfield Osborn, C. B. Davenport, and Madison Grant became actively involved in endeavors to shape U.S. policy relating to population quality. Spontaneous eugenics societies were established in many American cities, and hopes for a bright future for eugenics and future generations were raised when in 1923 (due largely to the efforts of Alexander Graham Bell, Luther Burbank and Charles B. Davenport) the American Eugenics Society was established, with branches in numerous American cities. With the foundation of the Society, the eugenics movement began to take shape in a businesslike manner, placing heavy emphasis on the participation of scholars as scientific advisors on various advisory committees. Other eugenics organizations proliferated at this time, among which were the Eugenics Research Association, the International Federation of Eugenic Organizations, the American Social Hygiene Association, and even such bodies as the American Genetics Association, and the American Association for the Study of Human Heredity. Eugenicists were kept informed of new developments in science through a publication the Eugenical News.
Devoted to the well-being of their young nation, many of the early American eugenicists were proud to claim to be of Old American stock.(10) The term "Old American" was further popularized by the book of the same name, compiled by the anthropologist Ale Hrdlika. Hrdlika was himself a recent European immigrant, of Bohemian origin, who had accompanied his father to America at the age of fourteen and, after working in a cigar factory as a teenager, had entered the Eclectic Medical College of New York and graduated with an M.D. at the top of his class. Hrdlika practiced medicine for a while but soon found his interest turning to the problem of human quality and the significance of racial differences, which he saw in an evolutionary context. Traveling extensively to study the diverse living peoples of the world, as well as paleontological remains, he emerged as America's leading physical anthropologist, serving as editor of The American Journal of Physical Anthropology (which he founded in 1918), and as first president of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. Significantly he found nothing wrong in the historical pride of his new compatriots, and served for many years on the American Eugenics Society subcommittee on anthropometry and on the advisory council, being deeply concerned, as an expert on evolution, with the threat of dysgenics (of a deterioration in genetic stock) facing modern man. In his article "Race Deterioration and Destruction with Special Reference to the American People," published by the Race Betterment Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan as part of the Proceedings of the Third Race Betterment Conference held on January 26, 1928, Hrdlika defined "race deterioration" as "the degradation of its standards of mentality and effectiveness, generally attended also by the lowering of those of physique" (p. 82). "Race destruction," another threat with which he was concerned, meant the loss of racial identity either "through complete submergence into another race" (p. 82) or simply by failure to reproduce itself. History, Hrdlika noted, recorded the rise and fall of nations. Vital, healthy nations tended to rise, but nations could also fall when, weakened by luxury and the exhaustion of ambition, they suffered a "dilution of the physical as well as mental status by admixture with poorer blood" (p. 83). He observed (pp. 84-85):
There are still some benevolent minds who would like to see all men, white and black, potentially equal. Yet they will hold that there are differences between one family and another family, and even between the children of the same family, in the same racial group. If they did not, there would obviously be no use for eugenics ... no use even for much of genetics and biology. As a matter of fact there are similarities but no absolute equality anywhere in living nature, either in races, or families or even individuals. The problem is merely how great in a given case is the dissimilarity. Races, especially the further distant ones ... are not equipotential, or equally effective, or able ...
The Race Betterment Foundation, which sponsored the conference at which Hrdlika presented these views, was first established in 1906 as the American Medical Missionary Board (but soon changed its name to the Race Betterment Foundation). Its founder was John Harvey Kellogg, a descendant of an Englishman named Joseph Kellogg who had arrived in North America as early as 1651. Kellogg, who launched the breakfast cereals industry by introducing granola to the American public as a health food, was chief surgeon at the then world-famous Battle Creek Sanitorium.
Publishing a journal called Good Health, the Race Betterment Foundation became a major center of the new eugenics movement in America. Kellogg himself was an important and respected figure who authored numerous medical and eugenics treatises, and his circle of influence extended to several successful businessmen including J. C. Penney and C. W. Barron, whose names remain familiar to this day. Another member of the Kellogg family, Vernon Lyman Kellogg, a zoologist of international repute, also espoused the eugenics movement. As a personal friend of President Herbert Hoover, he served on various national health and agricultural committees, becoming a trustee of the young Brookings Institute and of the Rockefeller Foundation while continuously taking an active role in the eugenics movement as the latter grew in size and influence.
The movement was also early supported by famed educator David Starr Jordan, first president of Stanford University.(11) Jordan's first American ancestor had arrived in the North American colonies from England circa 1700. Jordan's status in the American education scene of his day is illustrated by the fact that he was a trustee of the Carnegie Foundation and president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Educational Association, and the California and Indiana Academies of Science, as well as vice president of the Eugenics Education Society in Britain. In the opinion of the present writer, his major contribution to eugenic thought was the emphasis he placed on the dysgenic effect of modern warfare in such books as War and the Breed (1915). Charles William Eliot, president of Harvard University, trustee of the Carnegie Institution of New York, and one of the most eminent educators in America, also rallied to the eugenic crusade, as did astronomer William Wallace Campbell, president of the University of California, whose Scottish forebears had migrated to the colonies in the eighteenth century. Livingston Farrand, president of the University of Colorado and subsequently president of Cornell University, chairman of the central committee of the International Red Cross, and editor of the American Journal of Public Health, similarly espoused the eugenics movement, as did innumerable other educators and faculty members of note.
American paleontologists and anthropologists were also generally enthusiastic. Another leading anthropologist who served on the American Eugenics Society subcommittee on anthropometry was Earnest A. Hooton, the respected Harvard professor who later became director of the Peabody Museum. Hooton's father had been born in England, and Hooton himself attended Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship. Returning to America, where he became one of the main pioneers of physical anthropology, Hooton was an active member of the American Genetics Association and the Galton Society. He saw eugenics in terms of different levels of human evolution, and strongly believed that different inherited personalities contributed to susceptibility to engage in criminal behavior. Hooton collated data on some seventeen thousand criminals, and took a keen interest in the effects of race mixing. His Up from the Ape (1931), Apes, Men and Morons (1937) argued that heredity was at least as important as environment as a determinant of human behavior.
Most scholars who were in any way connected with the study of evolution came to see races as representing different levels of human evolutionary development. Ellsworth Huntington, a Yale geologist descended from one, Simon Huntington, who had emigrated from England to the colonies in 1633, was at one time or another president of the Association of American Geographers, president of the Ecological Society of America, director of the Population Association of America, member of the American Eugenics Society advisory council and chairman of its Committee on Biologic Genealogy.(12) A widely traveled scholar, Huntington expressed his fear that the more advanced human stocks would likely be overrun by the less advanced, and, as a prolific author (he wrote no less than twenty books and several hundred articles), his views reached a broad audience of educated men and women. Biologists were naturally prominent among those who recognized the role of heredity in human affairs, and many adopted the eugenics cause. Notable amongst these was H. S. Jennings of The Johns Hopkins University, himself of Old American stock, who wrote several influential books on the subject: notably Prometheus or Biology and the Advancement of Man (1925), which forecast a bright future for mankind through the application of eugenic policies, and The Biological Basis of Human Nature (1930). Jennings was president of the American Society of Zoologists and the American Society of Naturalists, as well as a member of the advisory committee of the American Eugenics Society.
Psychologists who were interested in intelligence also tended to become involved with the new ideal of population improvement. R. M. Yerkes, a descendant of Anthony Yerkes who had come to America from Holland in 1700, became an enthusiastic member of the American Eugenics Society and the Galton Society. A professor of psychology at Harvard, Yerkes is particularly known for his mammoth World War I study of the IQ ratings of one and three-quarter million U.S. military recruits, compiled while he was head of the psychology division of the office of the United States Surgeon General. Yerkes's concern with the different qualities of individuals and races led him to become active in the matter of immigration control, and he was elected chairman of the Committee on Human Migration in 1922. Leaving Washington to take a professorship at Yale, Yerkes recognized the potential for sociobiological studies in helping to explain human behavior, and in 1929 he founded the Laboratory of Primate Biology in Florida for this purpose. He also served as chairman of both the American Psychological Association (1916) and the American Society of Naturalists (1938). Carl C. Brigham, professor of psychology at Princeton University and author of A Study of American Intelligence (1923) was another member of the American Eugenics Society who became involved in immigration control, seeking to ensure that the American gene pool would not be adulterated by inferior genes, and was a keen member of the Galton Society and the Eugenics Research Association.
Possibly the most influential of the early psychologists who were active in the eugenics movement was William McDougall. Born in England, and educated at the universities of Cambridge and Göttingen, McDougall taught at Oxford University before eventually emigrating to the U.S. to take up a position at Harvard. With his experience of anthropological work in Borneo, McDougall was a fellow of the prestigious Royal Society in Britain and the author of numerous major textbooks which earned him preeminence in the field of social psychology. His respect for heredity showed itself in a series of books, beginning with An Introduction to Social Psychology (1908). Acutely conscious of the role of heredity in shaping human behavior, McDougall was an evolutionist who realized that human behavior was shaped by the evolutionary past of the human race. Because of the significant degree of racial diversity within the living peoples of the world, he prophesied that "racial psychology" would one day become a recognized field of study. As a believer in the quality of the North European stock relative to diverse other populations in the contemporary world, McDougall also took an interest in the composition of the future population of America: his book Is America Safe for Democracy? (1926) stressed the need for a selective immigration policy which would ensure that the United States remained a relatively homogeneous nation, and the need to design a truly scientific eugenic policy.
Of equal significance, however, was Lewis Madison Terman, president of the American Psychological Association and of the National Academy of Science. Terman authored a number of popular books on psychology, sex, and mental health, but is academically best known for his revision of the Binet Scale (1916), his co-authorship of the Stanford Achievement Tests, and his massive four-volume Genetic Studies of Genius (1926-30). Terman was a major voice in the eugenics movement, and was a key member of the Eugenics Society committee on psychometry.
Notable sociologists also rallied to the logic of eugenics. Franklin H. Giddings, author of several major works in early American sociology, professor of sociology at Bryn Mawr College, later chairman of the sociology department at Columbia University and president of the American Sociological Society, was a strong supporter of the eugenics movement who helped organize some of the first international conferences on eugenics and population. Giddings was descended from George Giddings who came to the colonies from England as early as 1635. Frank H. Hankins, a Columbia University educated sociologist who taught at Clark and Smith Colleges, was an active member of the board of directors of the American Eugenics Society. President of the American Sociological Society, and of the later-formed Population Association of America, Hankins authored a penetrating study entitled The Racial Basis of Civilization (1926).
Another sociologist who firmly believed in the importance of heredity was Robert M. MacIver, a Scottish immigrant who had been born in Stornaway on the isle of Harris. Well known for his many sociology texts, MacIver taught at Barnard College and Columbia University, and later was president of the New School for Social Research, which did not prevent it from later becoming identified with leftist views. A dedicated humanist, MacIver recognized the importance of good heredity and enthusiastically served on the board of the American Eugenics Society.
Another realist was the renowned sociologist and social psychologist, Emory Stephen Bogardus, who likewise served on the American Eugenics Society advisory council. A professor at the University of Southern California, Bogardus edited the Journal of Sociology and Social Research for over forty years, was founder and editor of the Journal of Applied Sociology, and a contributing editor to the Journal of Social Forces and the Journal of Educational Psychology. He authored numerous textbooks which were widely used and his Development of Social Thought (1960), written toward the end of his life, remained a classic survey of the history of sociology right into the fourth quarter of the present century. Less remembered today is his Immigration and Race Attitudes (1928), which more clearly shows his personal convictions on the importance of an understanding of heredity to the shaping of national policies.
The common cause between liberals and the traditionalists who both initially welcomed eugenics eventually became somewhat strained over the question of the feminist movement. This was not because the traditionalists despised women, but because they saw the outcome of the feminist movement differently. In general, the liberals favored "negative eugenics," a reduction of the number of births among the less favored, while the traditionalists tended to think in terms of the competition between nations and races, and favored "positive eugenics," which sought to encourage a higher rate of reproduction among the better stock.
Women made up an appropriately high proportion of those who attended eugenics lectures in both America and England, showing a proper concern for the future of the children they bore and the nation they nourished. Consequently, feminists such as Margaret Sanger, who for eugenic reasons wanted to make contraceptives equally available to the poor as to the middle and upper income groups, agreed with eugenicist Margaret Stopes when the latter proclaimed: "[m]ore children from the fit, less from the unfit that is the chief issue of birth control" (Hall 1977). Traditionalists such as the British eugenicists W. C. D. and C. D. Whetham, authors of The Family and the Nation: A Study in Natural Inheritance and Family Responsibility (1909), while agreeing with the female liberationists in that statement, nevertheless feared that feminism and the entry of the more intelligent women into the professions would reduce the birth rate among precisely those women who should be having more children: "Woe to the nation whose best women refuse their natural and most glorious burden," they wrote, warning that "freedom from marriage and reproduction ... is suicidal" (pp. 198-99).
Today, the low birth rate in the Western and more advanced nations of the world, and the massive ongoing population explosion in the Third World, have rendered the views of these traditionalist eugenicists prophetic. Even the Singaporeans, who are not a Third World nation, have noted the low birth rate among the more intelligent and educated of their womenfolk. As Leonard Darwin, Charles Darwin's son, a leading supporter of the British Eugenics Education Society and the British Eugenics Review, warned in 1927, the spread of birth control devices has been "racially devastating" to the more advanced countries. Sir Charles Galton Darwin, grandson of the renowned evolutionist and one of the early editorial board members of The Mankind Quarterly, also stressed the threat of overpopulation arising from reduced infant mortality in the Third World as a result of modern medical advances in his book The Next Million Years (1951) and in his 1960 Mankind Quarterly article "World Population: Can Man Control His Numbers?"
Nevertheless in the early decades of this century, both in America and in Britain, there was a generally happy overlap of interest on the subject of eugenics between leading liberals, who espoused negative eugenics aimed at discouraging the genetically defective from procreating, and traditionalists such as Leonard Darwin and Coldstream Guards officer C. P. Blacker, who generally supported positive eugenics and who were more concerned that the talented and healthy should be sure to pass on their genes to future generations. This political overlap was matched by a softening of the attitude of the Church, and the Bishop of Ripon urged the greater procreation of the fit in order to populate the British dominions overseas. The same moderation of attitude toward eugenics among the more progressive churchmen was also to be found in America. As Rudolph M. Binder wrote in his article "Eugenics and Religion," in the Eugenical News:
There has always been a double line in theological reasoning. One holds that God is not only omnipotent but controls absolutely everything; and all the various phenomena in the universe, including human activities are but manifestations of his power. This theory is best known by the term "predestination," and would imply that ... any attempt at contraception is an interference with the will of God. Hence, the opposition to eugenics which, while primarily concerned with the increase of good stock, is at least indirectly opposed to the propagation of poor stock.
This theological theory has gradually yielded to a more ethical conception of the deity. The omnipotence of God is less emphasized than His love. And the new theory permits a different interpretation of man. He has some liberty, he is held responsible for his acts, he is praised for his good actions as a co-worker with God and blamed for his bad ones.
With various other religious leaders such as Dean Inge of St. Paul's Cathedral supporting eugenics, the years between 1900 and the early 1930s were generally marked by a happy collaboration among those who truly desired to improve the conditions of life for future generations of human beings.
Today, continuing and rapid progress in genetic science holds out the promise that gene `splicing' or genetic `surgery' may make the elimination of many hereditary defects a real possibility in the foreseeable future. If individual deleterious genes can be replaced by healthy counterparts so that future generations can inherit all the desirable qualities of their forebears free from adverse mutations and other heritable disabling conditions, one of the major dreams of eugenicists will have been realized. Of course, this will not solve the entire eugenic problem, for although it is easy to repair a disabled Rolls Royce by replacing a leaking hosepipe or other defective part, it is not practicable to attempt to convert a Yugo or Lada into a Rolls Royce by replacing a major number of parts: not only is the task too large, but also many of the Rolls Royce parts would be incompatible with those of the inferior vehicle. The justification for "positive" or "mainline" eugenics the encouragement of an appropriate rate of reproduction among overall healthy and competent individuals would still remain. However, in the early decades of the twentieth century, although the consciousness of responsibility for the well-being of posterity ran high, genetic engineering was still hopelessly out of reach, and eugenicists knew that if the members of their generation were to pass on their genetic heritage to posterity in at least as good a condition as they had received it, it was necessary to avoid an undue proliferation of deleterious genes and to ensure the transmission of at least an undiminished percentage of the more desirable genes. It was obvious to the more conscientious that modern conditions of life had undermined nature's own methods of preserving the quality of the human stock in those populations that had emerged from a feral state of life and had advanced into what they so proudly called a "civilized" existence. Something had to be done to block the dysgenic trends that were weakening the quality of the population in the more technologically advanced nations. Native tribes living in the Amazon were still subject to nature's pruning knife and did not yet face these dysgenic trends, but they too, as their lifestyle became "modernized," were likely in the course of time to face the same dysgenic influences.
As a result, the more responsible members of the advanced Western nations, conscious of their duty to the well-being of future generations, came to press for eugenic laws, and the majority of the more enlightened nations of the West introduced some such kind of legislation. Some might argue today that they should have waited until genetic science had advanced to the level where genetic "surgery" had become a real possibility, but the immediacy of the dysgenic threat introduced by modern conditions did not permit the luxury of delay. The entire genetic potential of future generations was going to be restricted to whatever collation of genes those who were living in the early decades of the twentieth century passed on to their heirs. Eugenicists realized that the future genotype of a nation depends on the reproductive activity of each successive generation, and the massive dysgenic impact of modern warfare, combined with the emergence of disproportionate rates of reproduction between the fit and the unfit, indicated that there was no time to be lost.
In consequence, virtually all the more enlightened nations of the Western world decided to introduce eugenic laws intended to control the reckless spread of deleterious genes. With this objective in mind, eugenic laws were introduced in Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Lithuania, Estonia, Iceland and a number of Swiss cantons. Germany introduced similar laws and has been much criticized for this, but so also did Austria, Hungary, Italy, Greece, and Spain. Britain, which had largely pioneered the eugenics movement and was suffering from the decimation of its leadership class in World War I, did not get around to following suit. Even outside Europe, there were countries such as Argentina, Chile, Peru, Brazil where laws covering hereditary mental pathologies, hereditary feeblemindedness and serious hereditary physical pathologies were enacted.
It is of some interest that these legislative measures, designed to protect future generations, were largely pioneered by the United States; U.S. legislation being copied by many of the other countries, including Germany. By 1931 twenty-seven of the forty-eight states of the U.S. had eugenics laws on their statute books, and no less than thirty states in all passed such laws at one time or another. In addition, many states had statutes prohibiting miscegenation, on the theory that the scrambling together of separate gene pools created by nature might be dysgenic. In Canada, both British Columbia and Alberta adopted similar laws, and it seemed probable that in the course of time all the leading nations of the West would eventually take steps intended to free their future populations from the dysgenic threat already so apparent. Responsible intellectuals were confident that science and moral vision would combine to save Homo sapiens from itself and enable him to take control of the evolutionary steering tiller which modern science would allow them to steal from nature to chart a rational course to a happier future than any to which primitive man could ever have dreamed to aspire. Julian Huxley's prophecy seemed about to be fulfilled.
To truly appreciate the social conscience of those who supported eugenics, it is revealing to note that those who desired to preserve the genetic quality of the human population were also anxious to preserve all that was wonderful in the world of nature. Indeed, it was mainly those who were anxious to conserve the genetic heritage of mankind who pioneered the conservationist movement which similarly sought to conserve the rich variety of plant and animal species that nature had bequeathed to the care of man.
Possibly the most notable figure in this conservationist movement was Gifford Pinchot a grandson of one of Napoleon's generals, who was a professor of forestry at Yale and who had the honor of having Mount Pinchot named after him. A respected and popular figure, who was twice elected governor of Pennsylvania, Pinchot combined his services to the environment with active engagement in the eugenics movement. But the list of eugenicists who were active in the conservation movement is a long one. The foundation of the American Bison Society was largely due to eugenicist Madison Grant and his like- minded personal friends. The Save-the-Redwoods League owed its existence to eugenicists Madison Grant, Henry Fairfield Osborn, and paleontologist John Campbell Merriam (president of the American Paleontological Society and of the Geological Society). Merriam, who was proud of his father's "Old American" ancestry and his mother's Scottish ancestry, also served as president of the Carnegie Foundation of Washington, and as an extremely active president of the Save-the- Redwoods League. Despite a full calendar, he seldom missed a meeting of the Galton Society or of the Eugenics Advisory Council.
With the support of Theodore Roosevelt, eugenicists Madison Grant and Henry Fairfield Osborn founded the New York Zoological Society in 1893, where animals could roam freely in conditions similar to their natural habitats instead of being confined to cramped cages. Irving Fisher of Yale president of the Eugenics Research Association in the 1920s was a member of Theodore Roosevelt's National Conservation Commission in 1919. Antioch College president Arthur Ernest Morgan, a civil engineer by profession, was another keen eugenicist who supported the conservation movement. Botanist and eugenicist James Arthur Harris, of "Old American" English stock, a student of Karl Pearson in London and winner of the Weldon Medal (named after the noted English eugenicist), was also an ardent conservationist, and served as president of the American Society of Naturalists. Perhaps even more typical of the academic naturalist and eugenicist of the day was Francis B. Sumner, a sociologist who began teaching at City College, New York, became director of the laboratory of the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, before moving to the University of California, La Jolla. Sumner combined his various duties as a section chairman of the AAAS and president of the Western Society of Naturalists with active membership of the American Genetics Association and the Save-the- Redwoods League.
It is only logical that eugenicists should be ardent conservationists: the humanitarian idealism of the first decades of the twentieth century was the natural outcome of discerning and cultured men and women who were prepared to devote their lives to obstructing the tide of biological destruction which was already beginning to sweep America, damaging both the human and the non-human genetic heritage alike. These were people who deemed it their duty to leave the world a better place than they had found it or if that were not possible, at least as good a place as previous generations had left it. Eugenicists, after all is said and done, are conservationists first and last, and there are few eugenicists who do not care about the survival of a rich legacy of flora and fauna in a healthy environment as a logical extension of their concern that the earth should be in the care of persons capable of appreciating its qualities and conserving these for future generations. The historical record shows that they put superhuman effort into their struggle as conservationists, both with respect to plants and animals as well as to humans, and much of what in fact has survived to the present day is a result of their efforts.
The success of the conservationist movement in the United States at this vital period in the nation's history was facilitated by the sympathy of President Theodore Roosevelt, who was deeply concerned about the threat to the quality of both the natural and human stock of America. The contemporary generation of "Old American" pioneering origin, he held, were guilty of committing race suicide by allowing their birth rate to drop below the rate necessary to populate the lands their forebears had won.13 But he also cared deeply for the zoological and botanical heritage, and inviting George Bird Grinnell, a pioneer conservationist who had been publicizing the need for conservationist action through the medium of Forest and Stream magazine, to dinner to meet like-minded individuals, Roosevelt formed the highly respected Boone and Crockett Club, without the activities of whose members, such as Madison Grant and Gifford Pinchot, there undoubtedly would be no Yellowstone Park today. Nor would the early conservation laws which saved much wild life, trees, plants, and wildernesses from destruction have been enacted. Glacier National Park is another example of the treasures that exist largely due to the Boone and Crockett Club.
With Madison Grant serving as secretary and later as president, the Boone and Crockett Club was largely comprised of eugenicists and eugenics sympathizers. Renowned as one of the more active members of the eugenics movement, and especially for his efforts to preserve the "Old American" component of the American population, Grant worked just as ardently to preserve the natural heritage for future generations of Americans and should be remembered always with honor as one of the nation's greatest benefactors.
As to legislation, the members of the Club worked both inside the Club and outside to ensure the passage of federal and state laws that would protect certain species of animal and plant life, notably the giant redwoods, from extinction. Their fear was that the increasing population of North America and modern economic development would eliminate the heritage nature had bequeathed to their generation, and that this could also happen worldwide. As Madison Grant prophetically warned in Trail and Camp Fires (1904) that unless active steps were taken:
[i]t may be confidently asserted that [man] ... will have destroyed most, if not all the large African fauna certainly including the most beautiful antelopes in the world and game in India and North America in a wild state will almost have ceased to exist.
Henry Ford, who was concerned about preserving both the quality of the population and the quality of the environment, assigned one of his staff to act as a full-time lobbyist to aid in the passage of a major conservation bill which was signed into law by President Taft on March 4, 1913. It was also no accident that Henry Fairfield Osborn, one of the most active exponents of eugenics, was among those who worked most strongly for passage of the bill.
The opening decades of the Twentieth Century were in many ways a credit to the flowering of American conservationist idealism. Led by patriotic and far-seeing descendants of the early European settlers of North America, and with the whole-hearted collaboration of the nobler- minded among more recent European immigrants, there was a strong dedication to the need to hand down a rich heritage to future generations of Americans. To have personally known any of these farsighted American leaders from the early part of this century is a privilege now denied to all except a few more elderly citizens. The names mentioned are but a few of the dedicated individuals who graced early twentieth century American society and who freely gave their time, talents and money to the effort to save for posterity all that was best of the plant, animal, and human wealth still plentiful in their day. These men and women were inspired by a noble sense of public duty, and although subsequent generations have not preserved the high level of genetic and environmental conservation to which they aspired something at least of their spirit still exists, and the overall logic behind their views has since been demonstrated to have been totally sound.
But just when it seemed that the Western nations of the world were rising to a new level of social consciousness and moral responsibility, World War I wrought political and genetic havoc upon the Western world. Striking Europe the most heavily, with Britain and France suffering genetic losses from which they never recovered, it also led to significant changes in America which were further accentuated by the ensuing Great Depression. The forces of revolutionary socialism, seducing significant segments of the public by painting a fanciful image of a distant egalitarian paradise, were the only beneficiaries of the disastrous maelstrom of genetic and economic destruction wrought by the war. Although eugenicists saw the war losses as additional evidence of the urgent need to preserve the drastically weakened heritage of beneficial genes, the public's confidence in the future was shattered by the Great Depression and the resultant struggle simply to survive. Popular concern, often little directed toward the distant future, was redirected even more strongly to the problems of the present day, and the revolutionary socialist creed of egalitarianism and anti- hierarchicalism steadily won control of the high ground that the eugenicists were unable to retain.
In some countries, as in Russia, the massive losses of World War I led to violent revolutionary victory for those who preached anti- hereditarian views: although this brought with it neither freedom nor equality for the common man, only a truly cruel form of dictatorial government that showed no interest in either environmental conservation or human genetic conservation. Even in Western Europe and North America, where there was no violent Marxist seizure of power, the forces of social revolution made egalitarianism their slogan. This steady slide from idealistic concern for the future to crude appeals to the material interests of the present generation was facilitated by the penetration of the academic world by advocates of social revolution, and the political influenceof the latter gained ground rapidly during an era troubled by economic depression.
Changes also developed at this time within the eugenics movement which first seemed to strengthen the argument in favor of eugenic action, but eventually led to a major setback. Traces of this can be identified in the double-edged manner in which president Theodore Roosevelt had viewed the eugenics movement. Roosevelt strove mightily to persuade healthy Americans to have more children, and fussed against members of the eugenics movement whose advice, he feared, could discourage childbearing among otherwise healthy Americans. Genetic science was not then sufficiently advanced to enable the precise identification of deleterious genes, and Roosevelt and many other supporters of the eugenic ideal justifiably believed that the best route to take in the prevailing circumstances was to encourage the procreation of those stocks that seemed to be generally fit and creative.
Those were days, it must be remembered, when concern about the "yellow peril" was common. This was based on the evidence, already apparent but since then magnified many times, that while the white race was threatened by a decline in numbers and quality, the speed with which the population of Asia was increasing, and the attempts Asians were already making to migrate into North America, constituted a threat to the United States which then perceived itself as a white nation. G. Stanley Hall, president of Clark University, was among those who warned that the traditional character of America as a European-based nation was threatened by the uncontrolled immigraton of Asians logically and prophetically commenting that "the future belongs to those people who bear the most and best children and bring them to maturity". In Britain the Whethams similarly warned against the immigration of genetically quite diverse peoples(14) and echoed the same theme: that the future belongs to the more prolific, and that, if the disparity in births continued, the world could one day fall to the Chinese.
Theodore Roosevelt's criticism of eugenicists who were ignoring the international numbers competition proved to be a forerunner to a division of interest which was to split the young eugenics movement within a few decades of its explosive origin. Roosevelt might be described as being what some have since called a "mainstream eugenicist." Mainstream eugenicists placed emphasis on positive eugenics, on encouraging the reproduction of healthy families chosen from among stock of proven historical capability. Being mostly of Northwest European origin themselves, the mainstream eugenicists saw eugenics as a national issue closely connected with the survival of their own national stock at a time when the birth rate of that stock was declining and the population of non- whites was beginning to increase rapidly.
But mainstream eugenics was doomed to wither. As genetic science continued its initially slow and halting advance, many geneticists became so enthralled with the hunt for biological illneses and defects that could be clearly identified as genetic in origin that they began to lose interest in mainstream eugenics a goal which lent itself less readily to laboratory research. Geneticists began to seek out specific genetic diseases, and took less interest in encouraging creative families to increase or even maintain their birth rate, an activity which fell more realistically into the political arena. This search for inherited diseases was dubbed "reform" eugenics. Its goal could hardly be faulted; but as the memory of the massively dysgenic impact of World War I began to fade in the public mind, reform eugenics increasingly diverted attention away from the ideal of those who sought to preserve an adequate reserve of genetically healthy, creative stock. Unfortunately it would be many long years before scientists could even begin to foresee a day when it might be possible to effectively eliminate individual defects.
Thus the eugenics movement found itself increasingly divided at precisely the time when the eugenic ideal the desire to free future generations of mankind from genetic handicaps and to provide posterity with an adequate heritage of genes for above average creativity came under increasing attack from those who were ideologically committed to egalitarianism. The latter refused to see the eugenic ideal in any light other than as an hierarchical concept implying superiority and inferiority the precise pattern of thought they sought to eliminate from the social consciousness, and the foundations were laid for the highly emotional struggle which today dominates both academia and the media, concerning research into behavioral genetics and the propagation of information about the significance of heredity in shaping human behavioral potential to the general public.
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