Popular Science Monthly/Volume 62/April 1903/Mental and Moral Heredity in Royalty IX

1413619Popular Science Monthly Volume 62 April 1903 — Mental and Moral Heredity in Royalty IX1903Frederick Adams Woods




Regression to the Mean.

BY taking each country separately and analyzing it minutely, we have seen how almost perfect heredity appears to be as a cause of the mental and moral peculiarities wherever found. In order to ascertain if talent is properly related to genius in point of consanguinity, so that we have a progressive falling off in relationship to 9, 10 grades as we descend from the high ranks to the mediocrities, a count has been made of the number of geniuses (9, 10 grades) which each person possesses as a blood relation both in the first degree of consanguinity and in the second. By the first degree is meant the number of geniuses who are as closely related as father, mother, brother, sister, son or daughter.

The second degree includes also grandparents, uncles, aunts, grandchildren, nephews and nieces. If the proportionate relationship of geniuses to men and women of their own type is greater for the first degree of relationship than for the second, we shall see the principle of heredity satisfied, especially if the ratio is the same as found by other observers for physical traits.

The curves show that such is the case, and we have an almost perfect rise in eminent relationship as we ascend from mediocrity to the highest scale. This is true for both the males and females. The average of both sexes smoothes out the curve and gives an even more regular rise than is given by each sex separately. It is to be remembered that such facts mean a great deal since were the geniuses scattered over the entire number, without any law of distribution in regard to blood—as I claim they should be from the effect of environment on the intellectual side at least—there would be instead a reverse of the facts, or an actual falling off in percentage of eminent relations among the higher grades.

This can be made clear by considering any one instance. Take the case of Catherine II. of Russia. All her near relations receive one count for being related to her, yet she herself receives no count, since none of her near relations stand in a 9 or 10 grade. The same would be true of Frederick the Great were he the only one in his immediate family who belonged to 9 or 10 grade. As a matter of fact he counts 6 such relations.

The accompanying curves (Plate I.) show the percentage of eminent (or 9, 10) relations which each grade possesses. The lower lines show the considerable falling off for mediocrity when only the first degree of relationship is considered, but it will be seen that the falling off is relatively greater when we consider the eminent relations of mediocrities than when we regard the eminent relations of geniuses.

In the second degree of relationship the average of the 9, 10 have about 1.7 eminent relations while the mediocrities have about .6. In the first degree the average of the 9, 10 have about .85 eminent relations while the mediocrities have but about 2.. In other words, in

the second degree the geniuses have about 2.83 times as many relations in the genius grades as the mediocrities have, while in the first degree they have about 4.25 or the regression from the first to the second degree is .6659. This is strikingly close to Galton's first estimate for filial and fraternal regression given in 'Natural Inheritance,' p. 133, as 23.

With regard to the relationship between genius and insanity, it is to be observed that the line does not fall off as we go from the mediocre to the lowest grades. This would confirm the results obtained by Havelock Ellis in his study of British genius that there is a slight relationship between genius arid insanity, though nothing like as much as is claimed by Lombroso.

Grade 10 for intellect contains, as Plate I. shows, only fourteen persons. The names of the men are here given as a sample: also the eighteen who belong to grade 9. Probably few will question the right of the following to enter these elect grades, though some might place one or two a grade higher or lower. The number of relations in the 9 or 10 grades which each person possesses is placed on the left, the first figure being for the first and second degree, the second figure being the number in the first degree alone or the number of (9, 10) relations as close as father or son.

Grade 10 (Names alphabetically).

1,1, Bourbon, Condé, Louis II., 'The Great Condé.'

4,1, Orange, William the Silent.

1,1, Portugal, John I., 'The Great.'

0,0, Prussia, Hohenzollern, Frederick William the 'Great Elector.'

6,3, Prussia, Frederick the Great.

1,0, Sweden, Gustavus Vasa, Founder of the Dynasty.

2,1, Sweden, Gustavus Adolphus, 'The Great.'


The fractions 15/7 and 7/7 give us the averages 2.14 and 1.00 found on Plate I. (See dotted line for males.)

Grade 9.

1,0, Austria, The Archduke Charles, who commanded against Napoleon, b. 1771.

1,0, Don John of Austria. Celebrated naval commander.

1,1, Austria, Maximilian I., Emperor, b. 1459.

3,1, Bourbon, Henry IV., King of France.

0,0, Caspard de Coligny. The great admiral of France.

1,0, Alexander Farnese.

6,3, Hohenzollern. Henry, brother of Frederick the Great. Considered by many to be the equal of Frederick.

4.1, Orange, Maurice of Nassau. One of the greatest captains of modern times.

1,0, Orange, William III., King of England.

0,0, Portugal, Alfonso I., Founder of the Kingdom.

1,0, " Diniz, 'Father of his Country.'

1,1, " Henry 'the Navigator' celebrated as a mathematician. Son of John 'The Great.'

1,1, Romanhof, Peter the Great of Russia.

0,0, Savoy, Prince Eugene, celebrated general.

1,0, Saxony, Maurice Elector of, celebrated general.

0,0, Sweden, Charles XII., military genius. 5,1, Sweden. Gustavus III., extraordinary mind. His large eminent relationship is Hohenzollern due to his being a nephew of Frederick the Great.

3,0, Tour. Great Turenne, celebrated commander.


Since there are eighteen persons in this group, the fractions 30/18 and 9/18 give us the averages 1.67 and .50 seen in Plate I. to be the figures for grade 9.

The Inheritance of Moral Qualities.

The reasons for the belief that heredity is almost the entire cause for the mental achievements of these men and women and that environment

must consequently play a very minor role, have already been given. The reasons are of a twofold nature. First, the practically perfect results derived from what might be expected of heredity, both from the internal study of the families separately and from the curves of correlated relationships in the first and second degree. Second, the belief of the author that environment would not cause the great names to be associated in blood.

If a great king succeeds in building up an extended empire, it does not appear to the writer that his son would have an easier task in becoming famous as a great governor. The importance which Prussia assumed under the Great Elector did not make his son, Frederick I., rank any higher than 3 in our scale. Still the genius has always been properly perpetuated somewhere, in some of the descendants. Also the times have continually 'called for great men.' Never did a dying country call more urgently than Spain in her last three centuries; yet none appeared. Italy had to wait fifty years for Cavour, Garibaldi and Victor Emanuel. England could not get a good Stuart, but in a descendant of William the Silent she found a hero in William III.

When we come to analyzing the moral qualities we find more difficulty than in the mental. First, because good parentage would tend to bring a better environment; and, second, because the curves of distribution, though in general entirely compatible with hereditary influence, are less perfect. Still it has come to be the belief of the author that even on the moral side heredity is more important than surroundings for the following reasons: First let us consider the curves of relationship. It will be seen (Plate II.) that the men and women in the high grades have some three times as many relations of their own kind as the bad characters have in the way of relationship to these best ranks. The degenerates (grades 1, 2, 3,) have between two or three times as many relations of their own ilk as the best have in these lower grades, while the best have actually more in their own 9, 10 grades than they have in the three lower grades put together. A second reason is drawn from a count of the different grades relative to the period in which they lived. We might expect that in the old days, when the standard of morality was rough, lawlessness and licentiousness would be found in a greater percentage than during more recent times. Three divisions have been made.

The period prior to the year 1(300 is here called 'old'; from 1600 to 1800, 'middle'; from 1800 onward, 'recent.' It will be seen in the chart (Plate III.) that the proportionate distinction of characters according to this method arranges them in each rank, almost perfectly according to the law of 'deviation from an average,' each group old, middle and recent, falling off equally from the mediocrities, so that when we attempt to make curves for old, middle and recent, according to the percentage in each rank, we get no curves at all, but lines almost flat. The only irregularities are at the edges 1, 2 and 9, 10 grades, and mean only that here the instances are too few to make them group themselves in perfect harmony.

I was somewhat surprised that the recent royalty should not give a better showing than the more ancient members, but this is because modern royalty, that is, from 1600 up to 1850, has such a large percentage of badly selected Bourbon blood in it. If we took royalty as it exists to-day we should undoubtedly find a much higher tone, but this is to be ascribed to the fact that most of the existing members are derived from Saxe-Coburg and other excellent German families. Up to 1850 France, Spain, Portugal and Italy were full of Bourbon blood, and we have seen that nineteenth century demands or the awful example of predecessors had no effect on it.

Another way of attacking the problem is the study of each country separately. Spain, France and Russia give us most of the moral degenerates. In all these the individuals are closely associated in blood with a marked mental neurosis. This is of itself a coincidence to be explained by those who doubt the inherited nature of morality, and besides this we have to consider the fact that prior to the appearance of the moral depravity and mental unbalance as well, there was a period when these countries were relatively free from such degenerate types.

Why did the three rulers of the Romanhof dynasty who lived before Peter the Great, in whose generation the neurosis first appeared, exhibit such mild and amiable characteristics, although arbitrary rulers of an ignorant people, and living in the rudest epochs? Then suddenly, with the appearance of the epilepsy and imbecility, we find such examples of moral depravity as the Empress Elizabeth. Strangely among the degenerates we find her sister Anne 'serious, cultivated and virtuous.' Some might contend that rude conditions brought out both good and bad, but then they would have to explain why in Germany (Saxe-Coburg, etc.) even in the earliest times here traced, we find practically no such variation in characters. They also would have to explain why in Spain and Italy in the nineteenth century, we also find a variation in moral characters exactly like that found in Russia in the early eighteenth or in Spain in the sixteenth centuries.

Another aspect of the question, that is more in line with heredity than environment, is the fact that variations among the children are always duplicated by corresponding variations in the ancestry. This is equally true of both mental and moral and indeed facial characteristics. Children born of the same parents and reared in the same court must usually have pretty nearly the same surroundings, yet instead of their being molded to any standard type, we find that when the blood is diverse in character, just about the proper proportion of children show these same peculiarities both for good and bad. It is only when the blood is uniformly good as in the families of Brunswick, Saxe-Coburg and Sallefeld that we find unanimity in the morality of the descendants.

So that heredity appears to the writer to have exercised in mental life a factor not far from nine tenths, while from the moral side it is something over one half. As to anything in the nature of 'soul' or 'free-will' in the sense of a motive power lying outside of natural laws, such evidence can not, of course, exclude its existence. It does, however, show that such a power, if it exists at all, has only a very minor influence, and even the arch argument of theology, the heroic soul who tries and tries again, is found to be but the reduplication of another. So it appears that the three possible factors in mental and moral life are to be expressed in the following order: Heredity, Environment, and finally, printed with the same old question mark. Free-will.

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