Popular Science Monthly/Volume 1/July 1872/The Migrations of Men III




IS it, then, in our country, in France, in the vicinity of Abbeville, or of Aurignac, that man first appeared? Now, he is found everywhere: did he arise everywhere? or was his original abode at some particular point of the globe, and did he afterward disperse in all directions? If this be so, where is the privileged spot which gave him birth? Such are the questions that arise after that of the antiquity of man.

There has been much discussion on these questions. It has been said, and some still say, that men have originated wherever we find them. But a more careful study, a more profound knowledge of the laws that regulate organic and living beings, leads to the opposite conclusion.

Observe that here we can no longer appeal to the sciences which hitherto have served as our guide. Anatomy and physiology teach us nothing concerning the place of man's origin, his first dispersion, or his original home. It is all the same with regard to physiology, whether man appeared at a single point, or whether he appeared at several points at the same time. To study these questions we must interrogate another order of ideas and facts, but without changing the method on that account. We must always recur to other organized and living beings. It is to botanical and zoological geography that we now appeal.

Plants and animals are not distributed by chance upon the earth. Their distribution is subject to precise laws; and, because living and organic beings in general obey the same laws, man ought to follow the laws of geography as well as animals and plants.

Now, these laws of botanical and zoological geography teach us that in certain parts the flora and fauna are characterized by certain species; that the globe is partitioned off into a certain number of provinces, that have their particular vegetables and animals. These are the kind of provinces that have been called centres of creation.

It is natural enough to ask if each centre of creation has not had its own particular man, as it has had its peculiar vegetables and its peculiar animals. Led astray by certain coincidences, more apparent than real, some naturalists have replied in the affirmative. But, whoever will examine the question closely, will find that this is an error; for this mode of reasoning makes man a single exception among all organic and living beings. Now, you know we do not admit the possibility of this. Man ought to obey the laws of geography as he obeys the laws of physiology.

I cannot enter into all the details required for the complete demonstration of this statement. I limit myself to two facts that I hope will suffice to convince you.

The first is: not a single species of vegetable, not a single species of animal, is found at the same time all over the globe.

The most wide-spread species occupied at first only a small part of the globe, and man must have carried with him not only certain vegetables but also certain annuals, to have them as widely diffused as we find them in our day. Notwithstanding this intelligent and voluntary intervention, you well know that there are certain parts of the globe occupied by man in which neither the vegetables that have accompanied us almost everywhere, nor the animals which we habitually transport, can survive. Man, on the contrary, is cosmopolitan in every sense of the word; that is to say, we find him everywhere, under the ice of the poles, as under the equator.

Hence, if he had originated wherever we find him, he would constitute a single exception among all organic and living beings, whether vegetable or animal.

This reason, by itself, ought to make us accept at least this much: that man has, at all events, peopled a part of the globe by emigration.

But we may go much further; and always, by virtue of the law which I have just stated, we may say that he had his origin in one spot, and that a narrow one.

In fact, when we study animals, we find that the extent occupied by a species, what we call its habitat, is as much less extended as the species is more perfected, more elevated, in the zoological series.

Not only is this true of species, but of types themselves.

Thus, below man, the animal form which most reminds us of the human form is, you know, that of the monkey. Are monkeys among the number of the most widely-distributed animals? No. The monkey-type is found neither in very cold countries nor in the greater part of the temperate regions, but only in the warmest parts of the globe. Besides, a great part of Oceanica contains not a single monkey.

If, now, we no longer consider the type, the entire group of monkeys, but only the species which approaches nearest to us, we see it occupying an area more and more limited. America has not a single species of monkey in common with Africa and Asia. And, when we come to the most perfect monkeys—to those which, by reason of their great resemblance to man, have been called anthropoid, that is, with a human form—we see the area of their habitat is restricted still more and becomes extremely narrow. So the orang-outang, one of those species of monkeys which some have wished to make our ancestor, is found only in the isle of Borneo, or at most, perhaps, in the isle of Sumatra; the gorilla, still another of the species which comes nearest man in his general proportions, occupies only a small part of the western regions of Africa.

Now, man is everywhere, and still he is incontestably, even from the point of view of his body, very superior to the monkeys. He alone has true hands, those marvellous instruments which you know so well how to use; he alone possesses a brain of which the size of the skull attests the development. Without speaking of other characters, man is evidently superior to all species of monkeys by his hand and his brain.

Well, then, the monkey, which, although so distant from man, still comes nearest to him, occupies but a restricted habitat; while man, the superior being par excellence, has originated, you say, simultaneously everywhere! Evidently, gentlemen, to accept this interpretation of facts, will be to make him a single exception among all organized beings; and so, I repeat, we can never accept this conclusion.

So you see, we are led to admit, not only that man originated in one single place upon the globe, but farther, that this was a limited region—of very small extent. It was probably not greater than the habitat now allowed either to the gorillas or the orangs.

Can we go still further? Can we determine the particular spot of the globe where arose this privileged species which was to go forth and conquer the whole earth? We cannot answer this question with the same confidence as the others. But we may answer it with great probability. According to all appearances, the point where man originated, and whence he emigrated to all parts of the globe, was situated somewhere in the centre of Asia.

The reasons which lead us to this conclusion are of many kinds. I can only indicate the two following:

Around the elevated central region that you see pictured upon the chart in the heart of Asia, we find the three fundamental types of humanity: the black man, the yellow man, and the white man. Black men are at the present time widely enough dispersed. We see them still, however, in the peninsula of Malacca and in the isles of Andaman. Again, we find traces of these blacks in the east of Asia, at the isle of Formosa, at the south of Japan, and in the Philippines: the Melanesia belong to them. The yellow race occupies almost all the southeast part and even the centre of Asia; and finally we know that from this elevated central region came the great white race which to-day rules everywhere—the Aryan race, that to which we belong. The groups, more or less pure, are besides related to each other by a multitude of intermediates which may be regarded as transitional.

It is not only by the features, by fundamental physical traits, that the men found around this immense table-land are interrelated, and seem to blend into one another. We see, furthermore, on the sides of this vast table-land, the three essential types of language—of the most striking intellectual manifestation of man.

We shall come to this question by-and-by, but to-day I may say to you that we distinguish three fundamental forms of human language: monosyllabic languages, in which each word has but one syllable; agglutinated languages, in which the words are welded together; and, finally, flexible languages, which resemble the languages now generally spoken in Europe.

Now, we find around this central plateau of Asia the monosyllabic language, par excellence, all over the Chinese Empire; on the north an assemblage of peoples speaking agglutinative languages, and extending even to Europe. Then, again, we have the portion occupied by the Aryan race, speaking the flexible languages. So the three linguistic types are represented around this table-land of Asia, the same as the three fundamental physical types. It seems that, almost from his cradle, man has presented all the essential modifications that he could undergo.

I pass to another question. Man, starting from a single and limited spot, has spread all over the globe. Consequently, he has peopled the globe by way of emigration and colonization. Such is the conclusion drawn from actual facts interpreted by science alone. But, is it possible to people the earth by human migration? Some say no; and make this assertion an objection to the ideas that I have just indicated.

I own that, for my part, this objection has always surprised me.

Migrations—colonizations! why, they occur everywhere in history, and particularly in our own history.

Go back as far as we may, we see populations in movement from one end of continents to the other; so that, to say a priori that man has always lived where we find him, is to contradict all historical documents.

However, some have insisted that certain migrations were beyond human power and intelligence. I will give you two examples to show that migrations are always possible, even when the conditions in the midst of which they take place seem made expressly to arrest them.

We must distinguish, in migrations, those over land from those across seas.

As to migrations by land, it is very evident that, when men have to war only against brute Nature, nothing can prevent their passage, especially when they can choose their moment. But I add that men will emigrate, even when they have to combat all difficulties united, not only the rigors of physical Nature, but also the action of man, who alone absolutely arrests man.

For example, I will cite a fact borrowed from the history of a people of whom I here show you some drawings:

Toward 1616, according to Chinese dates, a horde of Calmucks, for some reason which we do not know, left the country bordering upon China, crossed the whole of Asia, and established themselves on the banks of the Volga. There they accepted the sovereignty of Russia, and for more than a century rendered good service to the empire. But there came a time when the Calmucks found that the Russian yoke was growing more and more oppressive. To throw it off, they decided to emigrate, and return to the country of their ancestors. The tribe had settled on either bank of the Volga, and, in order to come together at a determined place, it had been arranged to start in the dead of winter, at a time when the ice would be strong enough to allow the people on the right bank to gain the left bank of the river. On a given day, all the people of the left bank came together; but some unknown cause hindered the people of the right bank from crossing. The number of emigrants was, however, very considerable, for, including women and children, there were 250,000. The rear-guard was composed of a select body of horsemen, which counted 80,000 men. You see, here was an emigration of an entire people.

From the beginning of the journey, the leaders understood that they must hasten; for, at the first news of their departure, the Russians gave orders to pursue the fugitives. A regular army was soon organized and advancing upon them, preceded by a host of Cossacks. These sworn enemies of the Calmucks massacred all those that strayed away any distance from the main body. Although it was the 5th of January, 1771, when they started, this entire people traversed the regions here indicated, and arrived on the following September on the frontiers of China.

In this long journey of more than 700 leagues, this wandering horde was constantly pursued by the Russian army, obliged to advance always by forced marches, to open a passage through hostile countries, harassed not only by the Cossacks but also by the Kirgheez, and the Bashkeers, the most savage and warlike inhabitants of these countries, who gave them not a single moment's peace.

I forgot to say that the winter, always very severe in these regions, was exceptionally so at this time; that in the first eight days all the beasts of burden perished, and that they had to burn their tents to obtain a moment's warmth. The women, the children, the aged, and men in their vigor, perished by thousands from the cold. This journey was, in reality, for these people, what the retreat from Russia was for the French army; but with this difference, that the Calmucks emigrated in families, with women and children, so that the disaster would be much more terrible. Winter was followed by summer; and, much as they had suffered from cold, they suffered equally from heat, and, above all, from want of water. There was even a time when the entire body of Calmucks, at the sight of water, disbanded to quench the thirst that devoured them. The rear-guard itself yielded to the temptation. The Bashkeers and the Kirgheez, taking advantage of this disorder, fell upon the multitude and put them to great slaughter. Happily, Kien-Long was engaged in the chase in these parts, and, as is usual with the Emperors of China, he was accompanied by a real army, in which were several batteries of artillery. He fired some pieces of cannon on the Kirgheez and the Bashkeers. The Calmucks recovered their coolness, defended themselves, and all that remained of these people were saved. The emperor immediately gave them some food and clothing; then he gave them the country which is occupied by their descendants at the present time.

I will add that Kien-Long caused a column to be erected on the spot where the encounter had taken place. On this column we read an inscription, in very simple words, recording how Kien-Long saved an entire nation. The inscription ends with these words: "Let this place ever be regarded as holy." Gentlemen, I cannot be deceived in saying that you will join in this prayer of one of the greatest sovereigns of China. The place where a nation has been saved merits consecration much more than that where the most brilliant victory has been gained at the price of thousands of human lives.

The hour passes, and I cannot enlarge upon this interesting question of migration as much as I intended. I will content myself with citing one example of migration by sea. It is still more striking, as it bears upon a race constantly referred to when it is wished to prove that men were born where we find them. At the present time, the part of the globe of which I am about to speak is one of those where the peopling by migration is most completely demonstrated. I mean Polynesia.

Here is Polynesia. You see that it occupies a good part of the great Pacific Ocean, and that it is included in a triangle whose sides, from the Sandwich Islands to New Zealand and to the isle of Pâques, measure, in round numbers, 1,800 leagues. The islands dispersed in this immense space are scarcely as much as a grain of sand in the Place de la Concorde. Several among them are smaller than Paris. The isle of Pâques in particular, which forms one of the extremities of the triangle, has precisely the extent of the city-wall of ancient Paris before the annexation of the suburbs—that is to say, 25 kilometres (15½ miles) in circumference.

You understand what in this vast sea an isle of these dimensions amounts to; and there are others much smaller, which are likewise peopled. The argument drawn from this situation would seem, then, to have great force. How do you suppose, says one, that savages, having no improved means of navigation, have been able to cross such spaces? Why were they not lost in this vast ocean before finding these small isles?

Unfortunately, I cannot go into the detail of facts to show you how inexact is this a priori reasoning. I will only say that at the present time we know not only that the people of Polynesia came from some other place, but that they came from the Indian Archipelago. We know, besides, what has been the general course of their migrations, and can trace them on the map. Further, we have been able to determine the epoch when they took place, relying on precise documents, as positive as the charts on which we rely in writing the history of our middle ages.

These people came from Asia, from a point of the Indian Archipelago that we can determine approximately. They reached the Marquesas Isles in the beginning of our era, or in the years immediately preceding. We know with still greater certainty that the emigration to New Zealand, that is to say, to the most distant portion of Polynesia, took place in the beginning of the fifteenth century, and that the emigration from New Zealand to people the Isles of Chatham occurred scarcely a century ago.

Here we meet with a significant fact. When these emigrants established themselves in the islands of which we are speaking, they found them deserted. This circumstance singularly facilitated their new settlement. If the Calmucks, of whom I just sketched the history, suffered so much, it is because they found men on their route. In our day, if it is still difficult to traverse Africa—if the journey from Timbuctoo has cost the lives of so many courageous travellers—it is because the Tuaregs close the passage to us.

The more we study, the better we know that all over the surface of the globe man surmounts every difficulty, so long as he wars only against Nature. If he is arrested, it is when he encounters man. In a word, man alone can arrest man.

I wish to say a few words also on the last of the questions suggested by this subject.

Man, we have seen, took his departure from a particular place on the globe, and now he is everywhere. Consequently, in his long and multiplied journeyings, he has encountered climates the most extreme, and conditions of existence the most opposite. He has adapted himself to all. Does it follow that a new-comer, that a European for example, can establish himself anywhere on the globe and immediately prosper there? You know he cannot. He must become acclimated; and you can easily understand that it ought to be so. The human body, which has developed under certain conditions of existence, is in harmony with them. If they change, and above all if they change suddenly, it is evident that the entire organism receives a shock; and this shock brings with it suffering, that you know often ends in death.

Experience has shown that these sufferings have been more grave and frequent when the course of emigration has been from cold toward warm countries—whence a certain number of physicians and anthropologists have drawn the conclusion that there are some countries on the globe that the European cannot inhabit—in which he can never prosper and multiply Some have even gone further. They have maintained that men could only propagate where they were born; so that, in reality, the Frenchman can only live in France, the Englishman in England, the Dutch in Holland, etc.

This exaggeration needs no refutation. It is already refuted by the existence of our colonies. We know very well that there are some parts of the globe where the European is acclimated almost immediately; not that he can escape all sacrifices, but they are relatively few. I refer you to the case of Acadia, that country in Canada peopled by sixty French families, and which, in a very short time, counted its inhabitants by thousands. I may cite you also to what is passing every day at the Cape, in Australia, at Buenos Ayres.

You see, then, in both worlds, and under the most diverse climates, Europeans prosper, multiply, and work, as they do in Europe. Still there are places where the question is much more difficult of solution, and which have been considered fatal to Europeans. I will name in particular, on the western coast of Africa, our colony of Senegal, and above all that of Gaboon; I will point out, in America, the Antilles generally, and consequently Guadeloupe and Martinique; then French Guiana. Algeria itself has been a subject of lively debate from this point of view. It will seem natural to you that I should dwell a little more upon this last place, because of its special interest for all of us.

From the day of our conquest the question has been, whether the French could be acclimated on the soil of Algeria; and, curiously enough, friends and enemies, Englishmen and Frenchmen, military commanders and physicians, were almost unanimously agreed that it could not be done. They relied on the tables of mortality, which showed an excess of deaths over births. It is easy to see that a country, where the number of those who die gains on that of those who are born, is fated to become depopulated, unless new immigrants repair the annual losses. This is what was said of Algeria, and it is one of the points that I have had to discuss in my lectures.

Now, in spite of documents so often quoted, I do not hesitate to say that Frenchmen have beep acclimated in Algeria, and have lived there very well. To arrive at this conclusion I have not denied the figures—the facts cited by those who reached the opposite one; on the contrary, I have accepted them. But I have interpreted them, resting on this principle, which we never abandon, namely, that, as regards his body, man is an animal and nothing else. Consequently, if the laws that govern animality bear heavily on him in certain circumstances, he profits, in return, by advantages that these same laws bring to animals.

Now, before studying the acclimation of man, I began by studying the acclimation of plants and animals. This study taught me that, from the moment when an organized species changes its environment, be it plant, animal, or man, it must be resigned to make two kinds of sacrifices: sacrifices bearing upon the individual, and sacrifices bearing upon the race. In Algeria, the former were shown by the figures of mortality of the army, which were much more considerable than in France. The latter were made apparent by the figures of mortality of children, which, in Algeria, were double those of France.

But I was aware that, when we Europeans tried to transplant to America certain species of domestic animals, the figures of mortality at first were much more considerable than those of the mortality of our army; that the figures of the sacrifices bearing on the race were much higher than those of the mortality of children in Algiers. However, to-day, those animals are acclimated in America, and prosper so well that certain species have run wild, and are, so to speak, become indigenous.

Relying upon these facts, I said, almost from the first of my lecturing The time will come when Frenchmen will be acclimated in Algeria.

The event has justified me sooner than I hoped. Public documents this year, containing the quinquennial census, show, relatively to the preceding period, an increase of more than 25,000 souls. But, what is more important, they establish that this increase is almost entirely due to the excess of births over deaths.

So that the sacrifices of the French in peopling Algeria already begin to bear fruit; and certainly the time will come when that country, conquered by our armies, will be, for the descendants of our first colonists, as salubrious as France is for ourselves. Then Algeria will truly be the France of the South.

But the sacrifices which accompany colonization are none the less sad, and it is often asked if there are no means of diminishing them. Unhappily, this is always difficult, often impossible.

However, here are two facts that I ask you to reflect upon:

Some of our colonies have the reputation of being particularly unhealthy, and it is said that in them manual labor is impossible for Europeans. The worst of these are on the western coast of Africa. Now, listen to the statement of Captain Bolot, commanding a company employed in the construction of a pier at Great Bassam, made to Captain Vallon, from whom I drew the fact: "A single Sunday put more men in the infirmary than three days of work under the hot sun." This is because the Sunday was given, not to work, but to debauchery.

Captain Vallon profited by the experience thus acquired. In his cruises to Gaboon he maintained on board his ship severe discipline and regular work. When not at sea, he made the sailors of the Dialinate work regularly in the full sun, but he forbade all excess, and in this way he preserved his own health and that of his crew.

I will give you another and much more important example, as it constitutes a true comparative experience.

It is another of the colonies I referred to as devouring Europeans. I mean the Isle of Bourbon, at the east of Madagascar, almost under the tropics—on one of the. warmest points of the globe.

The tables of mortality of this island show a frightful excess of deaths over births. Judged alone by these tables, we must admit that the inferences drawn are perfectly justified. But these tables are true only when we take the population en masse. Now, the people composing it form naturally two parties. One includes the great proprietors, the great planters, the leading merchants, and all those who belong to them, who, so to speak, lead the life of colonists. It is to such, and to such alone, that the desolating figures referred to apply.

The other part of the population is composed of people who till the ground with their hands, and who are disdainfully called by the name of poor whites. These are the descendants of the first colonists, who were all too poor to buy slaves, too proud to enter into the service of others, and who accepted for themselves and their posterity the life of small farmers. This last population keeps very much by itself; it has multiplied, and not only become prosperous, but its physical type has improved so much that travellers all speak of the personal beauty, both of the men and the women, of this race.

So, in this same Island of Bourbon, the rich planter and the working-men in cities, perish from the life of excess and debauchery, for which they are too much inclined in the colonies. The poor whites, who devote themselves to the cultivation of the earth, which is said to be impossible for the European under the tropics, have continued to develop, and have gained in all respects, because they have joined to moderate labor a sober life and pure manners.

Gentlemen, there is in this fact a practical lesson. Perhaps some among you will leave France; perhaps you will go to the colonies or to Algeria to seek your fortune! Let me impress upon you the history of the poor whites of the Isle of Bourbon—they have found that, to maintain health of the body, one of the best means, undoubtedly, is to preserve the health of the soul.