Open main menu

Popular Science Monthly/Volume 87/September 1915/Biological Effects of Race Movements

BIOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF RACE MOVEMENTS
By Chancellor DAVID STARR JORDAN

STANFORD UNIVERSITY

THERE are but three ways in which the force of a race or a nation may be permanently lowered: (1) Emigration, the transfer of stronger elements to other regions; (2) immigration, filling up the gaps with people of lower native ability or energy; (3) war, the destruction of the virile and soldierly.

Emigration has played a large part in the depletion of peoples in different districts of Europe and even in older sections of the United States. This may mark a loss to the particular region involved, but none to the world, the value of a man and his posterity, broadly speaking, being as great in one place as in another. Moreover, the pioneer gains by travel, picking up something on the road, though he may also lose through separation from the framework of society. In the new freedom he tends to fall out of touch with the achievements of the old social fabric. Much of human effectiveness consists in entering into the work of others. But, on the other hand, the pioneer will escape many hampering traditions, and the sturdiness of racial stock is in no way dependent upon culture, the social values of native strength reasserting themselves when opportunity offers. Meanwhile, the gains in the new world may be traced as losses in the old. For example, from the counties of Devon and Somerset arose, primarily, the colony of Massachusetts Bay. From the loins of Old England, New England arose, and from self-governing New England, the democracy of the United States. From Devon especially came forth the Puritan conscience, most precious political heritage of the republic. Under its influence every public act finds its final test in moral standards. Such standards still rank more highly in America than in any other land. The American people may consent to unrighteous deeds under the impulse of falsehood or greed, but only for a time. They make many mistakes in the rush of events. They may apply standards wrongly, but, if they do, the case comes up again for settlement until at last it is settled rightly.

By immigration, lands scantily occupied by barbarous races have been replaced by peoples more efficient or more aggressive. Through the same agency strong nations have sucked in weaker groups to fill the vacuum caused by war or to meet the demands of industry. The history of America, North and South, has furnished examples of all these. Through conquest by war as well as out of industrial needs grew up the institution of slavery. In Rome, "whole tribes were borrowed" for the work of agriculture, while conquered groups were utilized as menials or slaves.

Everywhere, under these conditions, the blood of the slave or the conquered has diluted that of the dominating race, usually to its detriment. For example, in most Spanish and Portuguese colonies Latin blood has been mixed with the aboriginal, producing crosses showing few of the virtues of the European stock. Indeed, in Portugal, the mixture from subject races in Brazil, Africa and India, has invaded the parent itself to its social and political confusion.

Two main facts appear in this connection. In many racial crossings occurs the mingling of the least desirable types of each. Naturally where the dregs of one race mix with the offscourings of another arise distressing possibilities of vice and incompetence. For instance, the Eurasian in Asiatic sea-ports "is damned from his birth and on both sides." But when good European blood mingles with Asiatic strains as good, there is no evidence that the progeny is inferior to either parent stock.

The words "hybrid" or "mongrel," terms of reproach as usually applied to the human race, relate commonly to the union of widely different peoples. But the question of "race or mongrel" can not be settled by a priori assertions as to superiority of pure over mixed races. There is no general law that mongrels are sterile, inert and non-resistant. It is a matter to be determined in any individual case of crossing by a study of the results derived. Experiments of the sort have no pertinency unless best is mated with best, and even then they might prove conclusive only if many times repeated. And no result shown in individuals need be valid as a general law of crossing. It would apply only to the particular types in question. No important information could be expected from the study of the first generation. One would need to know the nature of the recessive characters involved as well as of the dominant ones. The final Mendelian disposition of mixed race characters must determine the final answer.

The intermarriage of European races can hardly be called crossing at all, as the racial differences concerned are of slight order, little more than temperamental at the best, and most of the traits we commonly recognize are matters of education. All those qualities which disappear in a generation in America must be chargeable to education, not to race. And, in general, other things being equal, the advantage seems to be on the side of the blended races which belong to the same general stock. Moreover, in civilized lands, there are only blended races. Blending is part of civilization. Pure strains confined to isolated islands or valleys, thus withdrawn from competition, by no means represent the best of any race. There is no wide-spread race which is pure. There is no such thing as a pure-blooded German or Frenchman. "Norman and Saxon and Dane are we" of England. Likewise are we Briton and Welsh and Cornish; also Scotchmen, Highland and Lowland, Manxmen, Ulstermen and Irishmen.

That the crossing of the closely allied European races in America has, of itself, brought no disaster to our republic is a matter of visible observation. That wide crosses necessarily work always for evil is not proved. Apparently the mulatto in America, as a whole, is superior to the pure African negro. And the ultimate fate of the negro race in America is apparently to become mulatto, even though the introduction of white blood is relatively much less frequent now than in the days of slavery. But, in all these matters, we are much in need of scientific, that is, exact and systematized information.

However, it can be clearly seen that the introduction of black blood has not been a gain to the republic. And we may also admit that much of our later immigration from Europe and Asia has lowered our own average. The original impulse to America was that of escape from paternalism and oppression, two words for the same thing. America was a haven of refuge from senseless tyranny. Immigration thus brought to the new world a wealth of initiative and adaptability, such as no nation ever inherited before. But in later days tins current has changed. Wider opportunity has opened before the common man in the more progressive nations, and the incentive of freedom has been less acute. Moreover, while still "America means opportunity," this is not always to be had for the asking.

The demands of manufacturers, the operations of steamship companies and the possibilities of earning money without economic freedom, and later, the ruinous cost of war are drawing another type of immigrant from other parts of the world. Among the immigrants of to-day there are some with magnificent personal possibilities, men of the stuff that makes republics. But most of them are not such, and, while their presence adds to our material wealth, they constitute, as a whole, a burden on our democracy. Only a man who can take care of himself and have something left over for the common welfare is a good citizen. It is hard to maintain the principle of equality before the law among people who have never felt and never demanded such equality.

The claim is sometimes made on an assumed basis of science, that all races of men are biologically equal, and that the differences of capacity which appear are due to opportunity and to education. But opportunity has come to no race as a gift. By effort it has created its own environment. Powerful strains make their own opportunity. The progress of each race has depended on its own inherent qualities. There has been no other leverage. Physical surroundings have played only a minor part. To say that one race as a whole is inferior to another is only to repeat what is said every day by individual men. This does not imply that the lower man or the lower race need be robbed, enslaved or exterminated. Nor that a lower race may not produce its own prophets or scholars or heroes. The tribe of Australian bushmen is counted one of the lowest on earth. Not long ago I met in Adelaide, a full-blooded "Black-fellow," broad-minded and competent, a mechanical engineer by profession, a man who would hold his own in any community. That race is lowest which shows, on the whole, least capacity for self-elevation.

"All men are born free and equal," it is asserted, but such equality is political only. It can not be biological. In every race are certain strains having capacities not attainable by the mass. There should be equality of start, equality before the law, but there will always be differences of attainment. The gifts of potentiality, unit characters of the germ-plasm, are not shared by all people of the same race. The average status of one may be below that of another, and the highest possibilities of one type may be greater than that of another. In general, the highest range of possibilities in every field has been reached by the "blonde races" of Europe. Groups of less individual or of less aggregate achievement may properly be regarded as "lower."