Page:Descent of Man 1875.djvu/45

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


completely subjugated by other men, as that certain individuals should be preserved, and thus unconsciously selected, from somehow excelling in utility to their masters. Nor have certain male and female individuals been intentionally picked out and matched, except in the well-known case of the Prussian grenadiers; and in this case man obeyed, as might have been expected, the law of methodical selection; for it is asserted that many tall men were reared in the villages inhabited by the grenadiers and their tall wives. In Sparta, also, a form of selection was followed, for it was enacted that all children should be examined shortly after birth; the well-formed and vigorous being preserved, the others left to perish.[1]

If we consider all the races of man as forming a single species, his range is enormous; but some separate races, as the Americans and Polynesians, have very wide ranges. It is a well-known law that widely-ranging species are much more variable than species with restricted ranges; and the variability of man may with more truth be compared with that of widely-ranging species, than with that of domesticated animals. Not only does variability appear to be induced in man and the lower animals by the same general causes, but in both the same parts of the body are effected in a closely analogous manner. This has been proved in such full detail by Godron and

  1. Mitford's 'History of Greece,' vol. i., p. 282. It appears from a passage in Xenophon's 'Memorabilia,' B. ii. 4 (to which my attention has been called by the Rev. J. N. Hoare), that it was a well recognised principle with the Greeks, that men ought to select their wives with a view to the health and vigour of their children. The Grecian poet, Theognis, who lived 550 B. C., clearly saw how important selection, if carefully applied, would be for the improvement of mankind. He saw, likewise, that wealth often checks the proper action of sexual selection. He thus writes:

    With kine and horses, Kurnus! we proceed
    By reasonable rules, and choose a breed
    For profit and increase at any price;
    Of a sound stock, without defect or vice.
    But, in the daily matches that we make,
    The price is everything: for money's sake,
    Men marry: women are in marriage given;
    The churl or ruffian, that in wealth has thriven,
    May match his offspring with the proudest race:
    Thus everything is mix'd, noble and base!
    If then in outward manner, form, and mind,
    You find us a degraded, motley kind,
    Wonder no more, my friend! the cause is plain,
    And to lament the consequence is vain.
     (The Works of J. Hookham Frere, vol. ii., 1872, p. 334.)