Page:Descent of Man 1875.djvu/198

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182
Part I.
The Descent of Man.

different from any other, ancient or modern, that we have heard of."[1] It differed, therefore, from the quaternary race of the caverns of Belgium.

Man can long resist conditions which appear extremely unfavourable for his existence.[2] He has long lived in the extreme regions of the North, with no wood for his canoes or implements, and with only blubber as fuel, and melted snow as drink. In the southern extremity of America the Fuegians survive without the protection of clothes, or of any building worthy to be called a hovel. In South Africa the aborigines wander over arid plains, where dangerous beasts abound. Man can withstand the deadly influence of the Terai at the foot of the Himalaya, and the pestilential shores of tropical Africa.

Extinction follows chiefly from the competition of tribe with tribe, and race with race. Various checks are always in action, serving to keep down the numbers of each savage tribe, – such as periodical famines, nomadic habits and the consequent deaths of infants, prolonged suckling, wars, accidents, sickness, licentiousness, the stealing of women, infanticide, and especially lessened fertility. If any one of these checks increases in power, even slightly, the tribe thus affected tends to decrease; and when of two adjoining tribes one becomes less numerous and less powerful than the other, the contest is soon settled by war, slaughter, cannibalism, slavery, and absorption. Even when a weaker tribe is not thus abruptly swept away, if it once begins to decrease, it generally goes on decreasing until it becomes extinct.[3]

When civilised nations come into contact with barbarians the struggle is short, except where a deadly climate gives its aid to the native race. Of the causes which lead to the victory of civilised nations, some are plain and simple, others complex and obscure. We can see that the cultivation of the land will be fatal in many ways to savages, for they cannot, or will not, change their habits. New diseases and vices have in some cases proved highly destructive; and it appears that a new disease often causes much death, until those who are most susceptible to its destructive influence are gradually weeded out;[4] and so it may be with the evil effects from spirituous liquors, as well as with the unconquerably strong taste for them shewn by so many

  1. 'Transact. Internat. Congress of Prehistoric Arch,' 1868, pp. 172-175. See also Broca (translation) in 'Anthropological Review,' Oct., 1868, p. 410.
  2. Dr. Gerland, 'Ueber das Aussterben der Naturvölker,' 1868, s. 82.
  3. Gerland (ibid. s. 12) gives facts in support of this statement.
  4. See remarks to this effect in Sir H. Holland's 'Medical Notes and Reflections,' 1839, p. 390.