Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/551

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
541
THE CONQUEST OF THE TROPICS.

imploring shipments of ale and beer, because the water was 'wholly unfit to drink.' What held concerning New England was doubtless maintained about every other portion of the Continent settled by the English, and, in some cases, these views prevailed until recent times.

It is well known that our ancestors thought it would never be possible for white people, or, indeed, for any people, to live on the treeless prairies of the great West. The earliest settlers always occupied the wooded belts, and only seventy years ago the prairies, which now sustain millions of happy and healthy whites, were looked upon probably in much the same way as we regard the plains of the Amazon, of the Orinoco, or even the Sahara of Africa.

Many persons yet living can recall the terrible struggles with disease which the first settlers passed through in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and even in salubrious California. The early settlers in these States were doubtless as sallow, as cadaverous looking, and with as little prospect of leaving vigorous descendants as the present white inhabitants in Cuba, Porto Rico or the Philippines. The reputations of Florida, Louisiana and Texas were no better.

Adults can live without deterioration in the Tropics. This has been proven by English and Dutch officers in India, Ceylon, Java, Sumatra and elsewhere. In the West Indies are men from the United States and from all the countries of Europe, who have been in the islands twenty, thirty, forty, and in some cases even fifty, years, who are to-day the picture of good health, active and vigorous in their work. The same is true in all parts of the tropical world. Adults can live in good health there.

Children born in the Tropics, if educated in temperate latitudes, can return to the Tropics, and this can continue indefinitely in the same families without deterioration. This has been found true in India, Java, the Sandwich Islands and in the West Indies.

It has been assumed, heretofore, that the bracing climate of the north-lands has produced vigorous constitutions in the children sent from the Tropics. That this was of some value will not be denied, but it is insisted that of greater value is the education in the higher ideals of the temperate latitudes. In the Tropics, ideas of morality, of sanitation, of correct living, are very crude. A child born and reared in the midst of low ideals unconsciously absorbs them, and assimilates readily with the population around him. The Spanish idea that everyone born in a tropical colony is necessarily a 'degenerate' is practically true, if he is also reared among 'degenerates.' The custom which exists in these colonies of giving each child born a 'degenerate' native child as a companion and playfellow, only makes more sure the outcome. Isolated families exist in Cuba and Porto Rico, where, high ideals having been maintained and inculcated in the children, we now