Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/35

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25
THE DOCTRINE OF NATURAL SELECTION.

not immediately connected with the science in which he is so great an authority. The most important, though not the longest, essay in the volume is that on "Selection in the Human Race," in which he arrives at some results which differ considerably from those of previous writers. In a section on "Selection in Human Societies or Nations," we find a somewhat novel generalization as to the progress and decay of nations. Beginning with small, independent states, we see a gradual fusion of these into larger and larger nations, sometimes voluntary, sometimes by conquest, but the fusion always goes on, and tends to become more and more complete, till we have enormous aggregations of people under one government, in which local institutions gradually disappear, and result in an almost complete political and social uniformity. Then commences decay; for the individual is so small a unit, and so powerless to influence the government, that the mass of men resign themselves to passive obedience. There is then no longer any force to resist internal or external enemies, and by means of one or the other the "vast fabric" is dismembered, or falls in ruins. The Roman Empire and the Spanish possessions in America are examples of this process in the past; the Russian Empire and our Indian possessions will inevitably follow the same order of events in a not very distant future.

Although M. de Candolle is a firm believer in Natural Selection, he takes great pains to show how very irregular and uncertain it is in its effects. The constant struggles and wars among savages, for example, might be supposed to lead to so rigid a selection that all would be nearly equally strong and powerful; and the fact that some savages are so weak and incapable as they are shows, he thinks, that the action of natural selection has been checked by various incidental causes. He omits to notice, however, that the struggle between man and the lower animals was at first the severest, and probably had a considerable influence in determining race-characters. It may be something more than accidental coincidence that the most powerful of all savages—the negroes—inhabit a country where dangerous wild beasts most abound; while the weakest of all—the Australians—do not come into contact with a single wild animal of which they need be afraid.

Selection among barbarous nations will often favor cunning, lying, and baseness; vice will gain the advantage, and nothing good will be selected but physical beauty. Civilization is defined by the preponderance of three facts—the restriction of the use of force to legitimate defence and the repression of illegitimate violence, speciality of professions and of functions, and individual liberty of opinion and action under the general restriction of not injuring others. By the application of the above tests we can determine the comparative civilization of nations; but too much civilization is often a great danger, for it inevitably leads to such a softening of manners, such a hatred of bloodshed, cruelty, and injustice, as to expose a nation to conquest by