Popular Science Monthly/Volume 55/October 1899/Scientific Literature

Scientific Literature.


Evidences are apparent in many quarters of a reaction against the headlong rush toward aggression and territorial aggrandizement in which the American people have allowed themselves to be carried away. For a time the lovers of the Constitution of the United States as the fathers of the republic left it and Lincoln glorified it were bewildered, stunned by the revolution suddenly precipitated upon us from Washington, while the people at large seemed to be wild with enthusiasm for they knew not what, and men suffered themselves to be led—they knew not whither. Very slowly the true patriots recovered their voices, and signs appear that the people are at last getting into a mood to listen to reason. President David Starr Jordan's Imperial Democracy[1] comes very opportunely, therefore, to call to the minds of those who can be induced to think some of the forgotten principles of American policy, and to depict, in the terse, incisive style of which the author is master, the true nature and bearing of those iniquitous proceedings to which the American people, betrayed by treacherous leaders, have allowed themselves to become a party. President Jordan was one of the first who dared, in this matter, to make a public protest agaist this scheme of aggression. His first address on the subject—Lest we Forget—delivered to the graduating class of Leland Stanford University, May 25, 1898, was separated only a few days in time from Prof. Charles Eliot Norton's exposure of the reversal of all our most cherished traditions and habits which the precipitation of the war with Spain had brought about. The two men must share the honor of leadership in the awakening movement. In this address President Jordan gives a true definition of patriotism as "the will to serve one's country; to make one's country better worth saving"—not the shrilling of the mob, or trampling on the Spanish flag, or twisting the lion's tail. Even so early he foresaw the darkness of the future we were bringing upon ourselves, and said: "The crisis comes when the war is over. What the? Our question is not what we shall do with Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. It is what these prizes will do to us." This, with the wickedness of the whole business, is the burden of most of the other papers in the volume. In the paper on Imperial Expansion we are told of three "world crises" in our history when we were confronted with momentous questions. The first was after the Revolution. The second came through the growth of slavery. The third is upon us now." It is not the conquest of Spain, not the disposition of the spoils of victory which first concerns us. It is the spirit that lies behind it. Shall our armies go where our institutions can not? Shall territorial expansion take the place of democratic freedom? Shall our invasion of the Orient be merely an incident, an accident of a war of knight-errantry, temporary and exceptional? Or is it to mark a new policy—the reversion from America to Europe, from democracy to imperialism?" President Jordan has an answer to the question, What are we to do in the shape affairs have assumed? The right thing would be "to recognize the independence of the Philippines, under American protection, and to lend them our army and navy and our wisest counselors; not our politicians, but our jurists, our teachers, with foresters, electricians, manufacturers, mining engineers, and experts in the various industries.… The only sensible thing to do would be to pull out some dark night and escape from the great problem of the Orient as suddenly and as dramatically as we got into it." Yet President Jordan recognizes that some great changes in our system, are inevitable, and belong to the course of natural progress. They must not be shirked, but should be met manfully, soberly, with open eyes. A paper on Colonial Lessons of Alaska presents as an object lesson the muss we have made with colonial government in that Territory.

Mr. A. H. Keane's Man Past and Present[2] is a part fulfillment of a promise held out in his Ethnology, the first volume of the Cambridge Geographical Series, that it might be followed by another dealing more systematically with the primary divisions of mankind. In it the "four varietal divisions" of man over the globe are treated more in detail, with the primary view of establishing their independent specialization in their several geographical zones, and of elucidating the difficult questions associated with the origins and interrelations of the chief subgroups. The work consequently deals to a large extent with the prehistoric period, when the peoples had already been fully constituted in their primeval homes and had begun their subsequent developments and migratory movements. The author has further sought to elucidate those general principles which are concerned with the psychic unity, the social institutions, and religious ideas of primitive and later peoples. The two principles, already insisted upon in the Ethnology, of the specific unity of all existing varieties of the human family and the dispersion of their generalized precursors over the whole world in Pleistocene times are borne in view throughout. Subsequent to this dispersion, the four primary divisions of man have each had its Pleistocene ancestor, from whom each has sprung independently and divergently by continuous adaptation to their several environments. Great light is believed to have been thrown on the character of the earliest men by the discovery of the Pithecanthropus erectus, and this is supplemented as to the earliest acquirements by Dr. Noetling's discovery, in 1894, of the works of Pliocene man in upper Burmah. The deductions made from these discoveries strengthen the view Mr. Keane has always advocated, that man began to spread over the globe after he had acquired the erect posture, but while in other physical and in mental respects he still did not greatly differ from his nearest of kin. As to the age when this development was taking place, agreement is expressed with Major Powell's remark that the natural history of early man becomes more and more a geological and not merely an anthropological problem. The human varieties are shown to be, like other species, the outcome of their environments, and all sudden changes of those environments are disastrous. In both hemispheres the isocultural bands follow the isothermal lines in all their deflections—temperate regions being favorable, and tropical and severe ones unfavorable, to development. Of the metal ages, the existence of a true copper age has been placed beyond reasonable doubt. The passage from one metal to another was slow and progressive. In art the earliest drawings were natural and vital. The apparent inferiority of the drawings of the metal period to those of the cave dwellers and of the present Bushmen is due to the later art having been reduced to conventions. The development of alphabetical writing from pictographs is briefly sketched. Thus light is sought from all quarters in dealing with the questions of the book, and due weight is given to all available data—physical and mental characters, usages, religion, speech, cultural features, history, and geographical range. The general discussion of these leading principles is brief but clear and comprehensive. The bulk of the volume, following them, is occupied with the detailed and minute studies of the four main groups of mankind—the Negro, Mongol, American Indian, and Caucasic—and their subgroups, the discussion of each being preceded by a conspectus showing its Primeval Home, Present Range, Physical Characters, Mental Characters (Temperament, Speech, Religion, and Culture), and Main Divisions. The text is full, clear, good reading, instructive and suggestive, and in it the author has sought to make the volume a trustworthy book of reference on the multifarious subjects dealt with.

  1. Imperial Democracy. A Study of the Relation of Government by the People, Equality before the Law, and other Tenets of Democracy, to the Demands of a Vigorous Foreign Policy, and other Demands of Imperial Dominion. By David Starr Jordan. New York: D. Appleton and Company. Pp. 293. Price, $1.50.
  2. Man Past and Present. By A. H. Keane, F. R G. 8. (Cambridge Geographical Series). Cambridge, England: At the Univercity Press. New York: The Macmillan Company. Pp.584. Price, $3.