Popular Science Monthly/Volume 20/April 1882/Chinese Immigration: A Sociological Study
|←Notes||Popular Science Monthly Volume 20 April 1882 (1882)
Chinese Immigration: A Sociological Study
By Gerrit L. Lansing
|The Scholastic Prelude to Modern Science→|
TO any one who has thought about the Chinese, the contrast presented by a comparison of their civilization with the civilization of the Western nations must have given rise to frequent speculation as to the cause of so great a difference. Should we be brought into communication with another planet, we could hardly expect to find a people more unlike us than the inhabitants of China. They have existed substantially as at present from, a time long before a single language existed which is spoken to-day in Europe, and even before our classic dead languages were born. While the tribes, nations, and civilizations of the West have come and gone, the Chinese have remained the same, generation after generation and century after century, content always to live and die in the conditions that Fate has imposed upon them in the Middle Kingdom. A century and a half ago Du Halde wrote of their incurable conservatism, "that they have continued the same with regard to the attire, morals, laws, customs, and manners, without deviating in the least from the wise institutions of their ancient legislators." And in our time we are told by the Abbé Huc—than whom no one has had better opportunities from which to judge—that "they seem to have been always living in the same stage of advancement as in the present day." Peaceful occupations, untiring industry, and a careful frugality have characterized the habits of the people in the past as they do in the present. Wars were never justified except to secure peace, and upon the cessation of hostilities the armies eagerly returned to their peaceful pursuits.
The Western nations present a different picture. Our Aryan ancestors, wandering with their herds over the plains of Central Asia, encouraged, by the habits and necessities of their lives, that liberty of action and individual freedom which have characterized those of their descendants who by their emigrations have peopled Europe and America. It seems more than probable, also, that this spirit has been strengthened by the natural selection of those individuals as emigrants in whom the feelings of discontent and curiosity were associated with a temperament that neither hesitated through fear nor turned back from obstacles. These it was who braved and triumphed over the natural hardships of an unbroken wilderness and the not less fearful supernatural obstacles which occupy all unknown countries in the minds of uncivilized man. Century after century were these hardy and indomitable characters strengthened by use and transmitted by inheritance. Whether we consider the ancient civilized nations, the rude Germanic tribes, or their modern descendants, illustrations will everywhere be presented of the universal tendency to independence and change among all the Indo-European peoples. We are told by Heeren, in the "Political History of Ancient Greece," that, "while Asia, during all the changes in its extensive empires, shows only the continued reproduction of despotism, it was in Europe that the germ of political freedom unfolded itself, and, under the most various forms, in so many parts of the same soil, bore the noblest fruits; which again were transplanted thence to other parts of the world." Similar testimony is borne by Hume to the character of the uncivilized tribes of the north of Europe."History of England," chap, iii, appendix. "The government of the Germans," he says, "and that of all the northern nations who established themselves on the ruins of Rome, was always extremely free. . . . The free constitutions then established, however impaired by the encroachments of succeeding princes, still preserve an air of independence and legal administration which distinguish the European nations; and, if that part of the globe maintains sentiments of liberty, honor, equity, and valor superior to the rest of mankind, it owes these advantages chiefly to the seeds implanted by those generous barbarians."
That the modern descendants of these ancient nations and tribes still possess the predominant characters of their ancestors, is sufficiently illustrated by the estimate given by Buckle of his own countrymen. "We, in England," he says, "are a critical, dissatisfied, and captious people, constantly complaining of our rulers, suspecting their schemes, discussing their measures in a hostile spirit, allowing very little power either to the church or to the crown, and managing our own affairs in our own way." By the complete possession of these characters, the American people involuntarily acknowledge their English descent.
It is unnecessary to multiply examples; from the earliest history of our race to the present generation, similar impulses have prevailed and have been followed by similar actions. Dissatisfaction with existing conditions has encouraged the spirit of rebellion; oppression has been followed by revolt; the employment of force in the support of injustice has been followed by force in the maintenance of justice. Everywhere appears the spirit of discontent with existing conditions, and constant effort for their improvement.
The difference in the characters of the Chinese and European peoples is older than their histories, as it is the same when their histories commence. It is fundamental, and as immutable as are the physical characteristics of the races—subject to but slight change in long periods of time. The Chinese are constant in their adherence to old established customs and ideas. The genius of the Western nations is that of change and progress. As the Chinese mandarin confers honors by his rank upon his father, and the European transmits his titles to his son, so in all things the former receives his highest inspiration from the past, the latter from the future.
The cause of this contrast is that underlying the vital question of Chinese immigration; it exists in the different races of the people composing the different societies, and finds its explanation in the operation of the same laws which govern the evolution of all races and species of the animal kingdom.
Considering, then, the Chinese as a race, let us notice some of the laws of development of races and species, for they hold equally well with man as with other members of the animal kingdom. The transmission of race-characters by inheritance is not only strongly persistent and subject to but slight change in long periods of time, but also the development of certain characters is often continued long after they have passed the condition of usefulness. A character, which from selection may have become fixed in a species or race, may also continue in its development from the strengthening tendency of heredity as the race increases in age, and by the development from use of all those parts which give it nourishment.
In the classification of species or races, physical characters alone have usually been employed; but those mental traits which are made manifest in habits and customs, though less easy of observation, are equally constant, and therefore suitable.
The distinguishing characteristics of genera, species, race, or tribe, physical and mental alike, are constant in. the order named. As their development is in an inverse order—as slight variation must precede great change and tribes develop before races, races before species, and species before genera—the degree of constancy in all is controlled by the general law that the inheritance of characters is persistent in proportion to the length of time they have been inherited. The characters which mark a species are more constant and uniform than those which distinguish races, tribes, or families.
If the Chinese are a different race from the nations of the West, we may expect to find among them a different civilization, based upon different mental characters and temperament. If their customs, laws, and government have remained the same from a remote antiquity, we may expect to find them so persistent as to resist all effort at change; and we may find forms, which were anciently of great benefit, still transmitted by inheritance, though they may now have become injurious by interfering with the introduction of new forms of greater utility. These expectations, as will hereafter appear, are fully justified by the facts.
As nations are the necessary product of their parts—as the government is as it is because the people are as they are—it follows that a certain degree of homogeneity is necessary to secure peace and permanence. A majority of the people must have sentiments, instincts, and temperaments, as nearly similar as possible, where a difference in circumstances, occupations, and position is necessary. It is a constant strain upon the coherence of a nation, where the parts are of different civilizations. This would in fact be opposed to the very idea of a nation. As defined by Bagehot, "a nation means a like body of men, because of that likeness capable of acting together, and because of that likeness inclined to obey similar rules." A nation may, like the United States, be composed of parts of various other nations, but they must be of a common race and civilization. The history of the Indians and the negroes in America too plainly demonstrates the truth that, where the races are different and the societies have different civilizations, rapid assimilation is impossible. As long as such a difference exists there will be a conflict, which can be ended only by the slow process of assimilation by variation of race, or by the extermination of the weaker. The permanence of national structure can be maintained only by the homogeneity of its civilization. "So long," says Spencer, "as the characters of the citizens remain unchanged, there can be no substantial change in the political organization which has slowly evolved from them." Conversely, it follows that, upon the introduction of inharmonious foreign elements, the society must be proportionately modified. The introduction of the Chinese into our American society would be a union of different civilizations and different races. Each would stand by itself, from being too different to appreciate the other. They would be united only in the common interests of protection to life and property, and would defeat those primary objects by differing so fundamentally as to the method of their accomplishment. Very little assimilation could take place, and, by the law of heredity, the newer institutions would be the more readily changed, the older and more deeply rooted would be the more persistent. If the immigration should be so small—though there are reasons for believing it would not be—that the American population would always be in a large majority, there would still result the establishment of a non-assimilable class, that would be looked upon as an inferior caste, and would be ruled without regard to their wishes or interests. Such a class, in a republican government, would be as much of an anomaly, and as impossible of permanence, as the institution of slavery.
That the evolution of societies is governed by the same general laws which govern the evolution of organisms might be assumed, a priori, from the fact that societies are but aggregates of organisms. So, a society itself may be considered as an organism, for its existence as an aggregate necessitates the homogeneity of the parts composing it. The people must be of the same race and civilization, and in their institutions, laws, and customs, represent those instincts and temperaments which are characteristic of their race.
In past ages; war has been the chief means by which different civilizations have been brought together. The customs of the conquerors have been forced upon the conquered, thus leading to the common belief that the force thus employed was the cause of the resulting change in the society. The fact that the conquering race or nation generally prevails by virtue of superior numbers—the most important element, perhaps, in the conquest of a civilization—gives further color to this interpretation. But the numerous instances in which the civilization of the conquered nation is that which has prevailed show that the conquest by armed forces has been followed by a conflict of civilization, in which the dominant form has been determined, not by success in arms, but by persistence of characters, and by the relative number and fitness of the contending societies. That hatred of strange peoples which formerly characterized the intercourse of nations, that was born in ignorance and nourished by wars, has been weakened also by the better knowledge of one another which the same conflicts have brought about. Where formerly was only the crossing of arms is now a growing friendly intercourse. Invasions by armies have been succeeded by peaceful immigrations; but, though the conflict of arms may pass away, the peaceful mingling of nations and races will be followed still by the same conflict of civilizations. This is illustrated throughout the whole range of human history; but it may be sufficient to briefly consider for this purpose two civilizations, which were represented by the most powerful monarchies of the Eastern and Western hemispheres, in which the conquerors in war became the conquered in peace, and in which the mingling of races resulted in the subversion of the higher civilizations. Such was the history of the Romans and the Mexicans.
The civilization of the Romans, to which the modern civilized nations are to so great an extent indebted, has naturally attracted the particular attention of scholars and philosophers. In attempting to account for the fall of that mighty structure, and the following period of ignorance and barbarism, there have been given nearly as many reasons as there have been writers. Among the many causes that were more or less instrumental in producing this melancholy page of history, have been noticed the decay of religious faith; the loss of the love of freedom, produced by a system which made half of the population slaves; accumulation of wealth, and destruction of the middle class, the society consisting only of the very rich and the very poor; disinclination to marriage of the Roman citizens, which became so general that the government was led to offer a premium for marriages; and the decimation of the Roman youths by constant wars. In so complicated a problem, in which so many causes have led to the same result, it is necessary, in order to discover the primary and fundamental cause, to rise above those more transitory and local elements which confuse rather than aid the observer. So, if we look above all these, there will appear a further cause—the cause, indeed, of these causes—in the conflict of societies, of different races, or of different civilizations.
In the middle of the second century b. c., the arms of the Roman Republic encompassed the Mediterranean from Carthage to Cadiz; the world obeyed the mandates and bowed to the authority of the Senate and the Roman people. The acquisition, however, of this great power and wealth became the cause of her subsequent weakness and poverty. The victorious arms of the legions were the plowshares which prepared the soil to receive the seed of final dissolution. Of the century following we read, that "the vast admixture of foreign elements produced boundless self-indulgence, and general faithlessness and corruption. New vices were imported, mainly from Greece and Asia, new creeds from all parts of the world." Prisoners of war were retained as slaves by their conquerors, and to these so many had been added by purchase that, when it was proposed to discriminate the slaves by a peculiar habit, it was justly apprehended that there would be too much danger in acquainting them with their numbers. The slave population in the first century has been estimated to have been sixty million, "and at least equal in numbers to the free inhabitants of the Roman world." These, by their services, aided the degeneration and hastened the mortality of their masters; they became citizens, soldiers, senators, and emperors. The Romans themselves had become a fast-decreasing minority in their own empire. From the adoption of the luxurious customs of their Oriental provinces, the Roman soldier became too weak to bear the ancient armor. The deserted ranks of the legions were replenished with the hardy barbarians from the frontier provinces. The name of emperor had lost its significance, by his deserting the field for a more easy and agreeable residence in the capital; but his warlike character was redeemed by the accession to the purple of the Thracian peasant Maximin, who during his reign disdained to visit either Rome or Italy.
In this mighty tragedy the time had come for the final act; the stage was set, and all awaited the entrance of the actors. When Alaric and his savage Goths descended upon Rome, they were met with as little resistance as are the play-warriors upon the smaller stage. The Romans of old were not there to oppose the barbarians; many had been destroyed by wars, "but these," as Draper says, "were an insignificant proportion to that fatal diminution, that mortal adulteration, occasioned by their mingling in the vast mass of humanity with which they came in contact. . . . Whoever inquires the cause of the fall of the Roman Empire will find his answer in ascertaining what had become of the Romans."
The early union of the neighboring tribes into the Roman state was a union of similar elements, which became strengthened by numbers, without being weakened by conflicting natures. Their subsequent conquest of the Greek colonies gave them an element which encouraged the development of art and learning, and was still of the same race as themselves, with a civilization of a like genius. Thus the Roman state grew in strength as it increased in size. Her victorious arms then humbled city after city, and nation after nation, till the savage tribes of Europe and the civilized nations of Asia and Africa acknowledged the rule of the mistress of the world. Year after year the flower of the Roman youth were marched to her distant colonies and died upon foreign fields; and in return the Gauls and Thracians> Syrians and Egyptians, were brought to Italy and Rome. The art, learning, and civilization of Rome, which had thrived upon their native soil, and had each year grown more deeply rooted, were like plants pulled up and strewed broadcast over the earth, to take root where they could, or to be crowded out by the more vigorous but rank native growth. Those that were left became weakened by the rude foreign growths that were brought and placed beside them. Only an occasional seed was preserved, to finally bear fruit in future ages. The individual representatives of the civilization of Rome were absorbed in the much greater mass with which they had surrounded themselves, as the fresh waters of the river are lost in the greater volume of the ocean.
The Spanish invasion of Mexico affords a similar illustration of the distinctive results following the union of different civilizations. The Mexicans were a homogeneous people, having similar wants, instincts, and capabilities. Undisturbed by foreign influence, they were slowly developing to a higher stage of civilization—a condition of greater good for a larger number. In the sixteenth century there was every indication of an increasing population and an advancing intellectual state. The mixed population to-day of the valley of Anahuac is but a fraction of the numbers who opposed the arms of Cortes. The Spaniards and the Aztecs were too unlike to be brought harmoniously into one society. The government and customs of neither were suited to both. Forced together as they were, there could only result a struggle for supremacy, and the gradual assimilation of the more yielding characters of each. Passions and vices were earlier the habits of mankind than reason and virtues: the former were, therefore, the more constant, the latter the more readily destroyed. The mental characters and customs were more alike also among primitive than among advanced societies, and would more readily assimilate. So we find, for many generations after the union, that the new society is lower in the scale of civilization than were either of the parts which composed it.
Now, after three and a half centuries, the conflicting elements have been so far eliminated, and the remaining parts have become so far assimilated, that the society consists of a people who are of an increasing homogeneity, and which represents a civilization that has been reared upon an Aztec foundation, with a Spanish superstructure.
If, however, these general principles be admitted—that societies by mingling produce a new society having the characteristics of each of its parts, and the persistence of the characters of the respective parts are controlled by laws, the operation of which may be approximately determined by a knowledge of the several societies—it may still be objected that the application of the principles to the influence of the Chinese in the United States would lead to a conclusion favorable to their immigration. Why, it may be asked, is not the civilization of the Chinese one which would affect ours for the better? With an antiquity which fades away in the prehistoric past, it still exists with the apparent vigor of youth, and controls under one government a larger population than has existed in any nation which history mentions. Why are not its antiquity and success an exemplification of the survival of the fittest? We have received from the Chinese silk, tea, and paper; and by the invention of gunpowder and printing they have added to those great agents of civilization, the sword and the pen, a thousand-fold. We have been told that the dream of the Western political reformer was long since realized among this people whom we teach our children to call semi-civilized; that government offices, from the highest to the lowest, the most prized honors and social position, are all based upon an educational qualification. By the adoption of the Chinese system England, and, following her, the United States, are endeavoring to advance the efficiency and to raise the moral and intellectual standard of their civil services. For these and many other products of the civilization of the Chinese they must always command the respect of Christendom. Is not, then, the conclusion justified that, if we have heretofore profited so much from our slight knowledge of that people, we may be indefinitely benefited by their absorption into our body politic?
A reply to these objections can only properly be made by such a review of the history and institutions of the Chinese as will indicate the genius of their civilization.
In that period of the existence of the human species when all races were occupied with the common struggle with the elements and with their four-footed rivals, the ancestors of the Aryan and Mongolian, perhaps, possessed no distinguishing characters. If they have descended from a common stock, they separated at a period before the present races of the world had yet become differentiated. There is no evidence which indicates a later connection between our race and the Chinese. Language, the most certain guide to prehistoric history, affords decided testimony to this conclusion. The study of the Aryan family of languages has shown that the complicated forms our words now have in their divisions into parts of speech, in their inflections, in their prefixes and suffixes qualifying the roots, and in the general prevalence of polysyllabic words, are but a development from a form of language in which all words were simple sounds for simple things or thoughts—were monosyllabic.
Long before our Aryan ancestors left their early home in Central Asia and commenced their great Western emigration, our language had passed out of the monosyllabic stage. But the Chinese may be said still to retain its simple monosyllabic form; from which fact it has been thought by some to be "the primitive language." Whitney tells us that "it is a language which possesses neither inflections nor parts of speech, and it has changed less in four thousand years than most others in four hundred, or than many another in a single century. . . . It is, in certain respects of fundamental importance, the most rudimentary and scanty of all known languages."
The testimony thus afforded by these languages proves, beyond a doubt, that the Aryan race could have had no union with the ancestors of the Chinese later than that remote past when our language was in a like state of monosyllabic simplicity. From that remote time, when the savage ancestors of our race shaped their rude weapons of stone, the Chinese have been developing upon one small portion of the earth—we have spread over much of the rest. They have been comparatively isolated, and their growth has been therefore more homogeneous, constant, and persistent in one type. From the earliest time to the present, the same people, guided by the same impulses and controlled by the same surroundings, have developed in an unbroken course.
As some of the characteristics of families of languages are found to be less variable than many of the physical characteristics of races, the former is a better guide in classifying the human races than the latter. A comparison of the language of the Indo-European peoples with the language of the Chinese affords the strongest reason for classifying them as different races. This conclusion receives constant corroboration upon an examination of the civilization of the Chinese, the genius of which is forcibly illustrated in their government and religion.
The family is the first social aggregate, and the natural head of the family is the head of the primitive society. As families unite together for common interests in defense or attack, one of the heads of the family is chosen as leader of the tribe. A similar union of tribes forms a nation. The paternal form of government thus naturally becomes the form common among early societies. Particularly is this likely to be the form adopted by those tribes whose instincts and surroundings early lead them to an agricultural life. With these the head is not chosen for his bravery and success in arms—which are lessened instead of being increased by his increasing age—but he is chosen rather for his counsel and advice, to which age but adds wisdom and authority.
Early superstitions and religious beliefs receive their form from the same model of the family. The simple interpretation of dreams and various experiences lead the uncivilized man to a belief in the existence of an accompanying spirit, or a double existence. When he calls out among the hills, an answering voice calls back; and, while gazing into the placid waters of the lake, he sees a shadowy image of himself. Thus to him death is but the separation of the body and the spirit; though the spirit still hovers around its former dwelling-place, and retains an interest in the affairs of its former companions. The father, who was the absolute ruler of the family while living, thus carries his authority beyond the grave. At the funeral, as at festivals, food is offered to his spirit; and his favor is solicited and enmity propitiated by offerings and sacrifices. As the spirit of the father becomes the tutelary deity of the family, the spirit of the chief becomes the tutelary deity of the tribe, and the spirit of the king receives the worship of the nation.
This primitive form of religion and government, originating in the smallest social aggregate, is to-day represented in the oldest and largest society upon the earth. The Emperor of the Chinese is the father of four hundred million people; and their universal religion—whatever other forms are observed with it—is ancestor-worship.
The government still maintains its ancient simple paternal form, with only those changes which have been necessary in adapting the family code to so vast a nation. Descending from the imperial throne, the whole government is found to be formed upon the same plan, repeated over and over. The viceroy of a province, the governor of a city, the elder of a village, and the father of a family, are each based upon the extension of the last. This relationship finds recognition in the "Ta Hioh," one of the four classic books of the Chinese, which is summed up as tending to "the improvement of one's self, the regulation of a family, the government of a state, and the rule of an empire." The paternal idea is strengthened by education, from the commencement as children to the attainment of the highest literary degrees conferred upon mandarins. In the "Classic of Three Characters," one of four small tracts that are placed in the hands of Chinese children, they are taught that "filial piety and a due regard to elders we consider as holding the first place, the acquisition of knowledge we rank in a secondary place." Again, in one of those canonical works which form the basis of Chinese education, religion, and government, the opinions of Confucius are recorded upon the same subject. Being asked "whether in the virtue of the sages there was not something greater than filial piety," he replied: "Of all (creatures with their different) natures produced by heaven and earth, man is the noblest. Of all of the actions of man there is none greater than filial piety. In filial piety there is nothing greater than the reverential awe of one's father. In the reverential awe shown to one's father there is nothing greater than making him the correlate of Heaven. There is in all of their institutions a recognition of the paternal model; it is constantly recited, in their religious worship, in their state ceremonies, in their education, and in their literature. Sir John Davis says: "There is nothing more remarkable in their ritual and in their criminal code than the exact parallel which is studiously kept up between the relations in which every person stands to his own parents and to the Emperor. For similar offenses against both he suffers similar punishments; at the death of both he mourns the same time and goes the same period unshaven; and both possess nearly the same power over his person."
The genius of the Chinese civilization, which is characterized by the greatest persistence in primitive or early forms, is illustrated equally in their religion as in their government. The two are, indeed, to a great degree united. The duties which are paid by all to their parents and sovereign while living, are continued in their worship after death. As this has been taught by the sages, and forms the foundation of the government, it is allowed by the teachers to be consistent with all forms of faith. Ancestor-worship has thus become the universal religion, to which all newer forms have adapted themselves. All forms of faith are at least tolerated, so long as no organization is affected, or no doctrines taught which are considered dangerous by their strength, or opposed by their influence to the political power. And the strict interference with any attempt by religious societies to usurp any temporal authority has conduced to that common toleration and individual independence of belief which make it possible to accept the not inconsistent parts of various creeds. We are not surprised, then, to read the statement of the Abbé Hue that "the whole nation has proclaimed this famous formula, with which everybody is satisfied—the three religions are one. Thus, all the Chinese are at the same time partisans of Confucius, Lao-tze, and Buddha." The institutions and faith which were handed down by Confucius have been embraced by the Taoists, Buddhists, Mohammedans, and Christians, in turn. And it may reasonably be asserted that any form of religion which hopes to prevail in China must permit the practice and belief of their popular superstitions. In the seventeenth century, the Catholic Church was flourishing in China, and made—nominally, at least—many converts. As it grew stronger, however, it became less tolerant of these native ceremonies which it had at first allowed. This produced an immediate discussion between the Emperor and the priests. The matter was referred to the Pope, and Clement XI settled the dispute, and his cause, by decreeing that the Chinese ceremonies should not be permitted the proselytes. The Emperor thereupon banished the missionaries, and upward of one hundred thousand souls were lost to the Church.
This remarkable preservation of the most primitive form of government and religion, in so vast and ancient a nation, well illustrates the law of heredity—that characters which have been long transmitted are more persistent than those of more recent origin. All newer forms have yielded to those ancient institutions and beliefs which originated before their civilization, and, aided by unchanged surroundings, have been developed in a nation composed of a homogeneous people and transmitted by inheritance to the present time.
The practical arts of the Chinese, which have added to the comforts and luxuries of the Western nations, from the time of the Greeks to the present day, will appear, upon consideration, to be unchanged in their effects upon our society, either in the event of an entire exclusion or an unlimited immigration of the people. It would be difficult to imagine a nation, existing for forty-five centuries, having any claim to being called civilized, which had not made many useful discoveries and inventions. This would be still more difficult to understand of a people like the Chinese, whose instincts have always directed them in the paths of peace. So we find that, in the course of centuries, they have made no mean progress in the useful arts, however slow that progress may have been. The Western nations seem to have derived their early knowledge of many useful inventions from the Chinese; among these, not the least important are those mighty engines of civilization—gunpowder, paper, and printing. The history of these inventions, however, but adds another illustration to the different characters of the civilizations of China and Christendom. It shows, equally, their continued adherence to old knowledge, with no disposition to improvement; and our inventive and progressive genius, in improving to the highest degree those suggestions which we have received from them.
As they have taught us many useful arts in the past, it is not improbable that we may learn from them still others in the future. But inventions may be adopted by those who wish them; customs are acquired by contact with those who practice them. Arts may be learned from a distance, or by the casual contact of travel, with equal certainty and greater safety than by a union of the societies. Inventions and arts are regulated in their distribution, rather as commerce is, by the laws of supply and demand, than by the involuntary influence of social contact.
The most complete account of the customs and institutions of the Chinese would but add to the testimony here presented of the wonderfully conservative character of their civilization. The development of a society from a single race, under one government, with constantly similar surroundings and but little subject to the influence of foreign races or nations, has produced a homogeneous society, which is constant in the repetition, for generation after generation, of the characters which marked it at its commencement.
The nations of the West, on the other hand, have developed, with ever-varying surroundings, and under the influence of various nations and races. We have our language from India, our alphabet from Phœnicia, and our religion from Israel. Our civilization bears the impress of the various peoples who have spread around the Mediterranean Sea, from the builders of the pyramids of Egypt to the Moorish philosophers of Cordova.
In government, the Chinese have always been well content with a monarchy; with the Aryan nations there has been an ever-increasing tendency to democracy. This difference of civilizations is made intelligible only by that theory which is an explanation also of the physical varieties of races. It is the effect of development through ages, under the influence of different environments. There is more than an analogy between this development of the civilization and the physical characters of a race. It is the same relation that exists between the mind and the brain; they can not be separated. The mental characters which determine the genius of a civilization are thus but a manifestation of the physical organization of the individuals composing the society. The characters of the civilization and of the physical organization must, therefore, be controlled by the operation of the same laws. A change in one is the cause or the effect of a change in the other.
The application of the law of heredity, that older characters are more constant than those of later development, we find is exemplified in the unparalleled persistence of the ancient habits and institutions of the Chinese; and to such a degree is this extended, that it seems an illustration of that persistence of characters, once beneficial, after they have become injurious. The paternal system, which in a small and rude society was of the greatest benefit, is now so strongly inherent in the Chinese character as to be an injury to society by retarding its development; and perhaps, also, by preventing the introduction of Western knowledge and arts.
That vital relation which exists between the mind and the body would of itself lead us to expect the operation of the same general laws in social development which control the evolution of organisms. We are led to the same conclusion by an examination of the history of the past and by the social condition of the present. Their operation in the future follows as a necessary corollary. The union of the civilizations of China and America, which differ as their races differ, would produce a society with parts so fundamentally antagonistic that permanent national existence—for which homogeneity is necessary—would be impossible. Assimilation could be effected only by the gradual and slow change of the more yielding characters of each. In the involuntary conflict ensuing, those characters which originated before the dawn of an ancient history, and have been strengthened through the inheritance of unnumbered generations, would persist with greater force than those new and changing characters which seem by comparison like the fashions of a season. The manners and customs which were described by the Arabs in the ninth century the same as they are by the travelers in the nineteenth century would be little affected by the changing forms of the society around them. The new society would assume more the character of its persistent than of its more yielding part. Intense conservatism would check the progress of reform and improvement. That liberty of personal thought and action, the assertion and exercise of which have secured the freedom and independence of governmental or religious control we now enjoy, would receive a severe shock, were our society composed in part of a people whose first and highest duty has always been to obey and depend implicitly upon an authority, and who have no word for liberty in their language.
If the further development of our civilization is to be desired, it must be guarded from the retarding influence of a different race. If our institutions and governmental principles are worthy of preservation, they must be protected from a people who represent in all the instincts of their nature different feelings and forms. If we ignore the plain teachings of history upon the effect of the mingling of societies composed of different races, or having different civilizations, and, as is commonly the case with individuals, will learn only from our own experience, the experience is likely to come too late for us to profit by it.
The permanence of a civilization and of a nation depends upon their homogeneity. The Chinese present their uniform and unparalleled record of centuries as having escaped the influence of great or frequent immigrations, while the short-lived nations of the West have been repeatedly changed or destroyed by the admixture of foreign elements. The laws which have controlled the destinies of nations in the past are still in operation; as the Preacher has said, "That which has been done is that which will be done, and there is no new thing under the sun."
- "History of China," vol. i, p. 237, folio edition, London, 1738.
- "Chinese Empire," vol. ii, p. 255, London, 1855.
- Oxford, 1833, p. 1.
- "History of Civilization in England," vol. ii, p. 29.
- "Physics and Politics," p. 21.
- "Study of Sociology," "Popular Science Monthly," vol. ii, p. 263.
- Johnson's "Cyclopædia," vol. iii, p. 1707.
- Gibbon, "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," vol. i, p. 27.
- "Intellectual Development of Europe," vol. i, p. 255.
- "Language and the Study of Language," p. 334.
- Williams's "Middle Kingdom," vol. i, p. 516.
- Morrison's "Horæ Sinicæ," p. 7.
- Legge, "Sacred Books of China," "Hsiao King," p. 476.
- Davis's "China," vol. i, p. 24.
- "Chinese Empire," vol. ii, p. 98.
- Williams, "The Middle Kingdom," vol. i, p. 321.