Page:Descent of Man 1875.djvu/207

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Chap. VII.
191
The Extincion of Races.

the males and females being in exactly equal numbers. What a contrast does this case present with that of the Tasmanians; the Norfolk Islanders increased in only twelve and a half years from 194 to 300; whereas the Tasmanians decreased during fifteen years from 120 to 46, of which latter number only ten were children.[1]

So again in the interval between the census of 1866 and 1872 the natives of full blood in the Sandwich Islands decreased by 8081, whilst the half-castes, who are believed to be healthier, increased by 847; but I do not know whether the latter number includes the offspring from the half-castes, or only the half-castes of the first generation.

The cases which I have here given all relate to aborigines, who have been subjected to new conditions as the result of the immigration of civilised men. But sterility and ill-health would probably follow, if savages were compelled by any cause, such as the inroad of a conquering tribe, to desert their homes and to change their habits. It is an interesting circumstance that the chief check to wild animals becoming domesticated, which implies the power of their breeding freely when first captured, and one chief check to wild men, when brought into contact with civilisation, surviving to form a civilised race, is the same, namely, sterility from changed conditions of life.

Finally, although the gradual decrease and ultimate extinction of the races of man is a highly complex problem, depending on many causes which differ in different places and at different times; it is the same problem as that presented by the extinction of one of the higher animals – of the fossil horse, for instance, which disappeared from South America, soon afterwards to be replaced, within the same districts, by countless troups of the Spanish horse. The New Zealander seems conscious of this parallelism, for he compares his future fate with that of the native rat now almost exterminated by the European rat. Though the difficulty is great to our imagination, and really great, if we wish to ascertain the precise causes and their manner of action, it ought not to be so to our reason, as long as we keep steadily in mind that the increase of each species and each race is constantly checked in various ways; so that if any new check, even a slight one, be superadded, the race will surely decrease in number; and decreasing numbers will sooner or

  1. These details are taken from 'The Mutineers of the "Bounty,"' by Lady Belcher, 1870; and from 'Pitcairn Island,' ordered to be printed by the House of Commons, May 29, 1863. The following statements about the Sandwich Islanders are from the 'Honolulu Gazette,' and from Mr. Coan.