Popular Science Monthly/Volume 26/December 1884/The Perils of Rapid Civilization

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THE PERILS OF RAPID CIVILIZATION.
By CHARLES F. WITHINGTON, M. D.

THAT civilization exerts upon the older societies of the world an influence which is on the whole favorable to physical perfection and longevity has been abundantly shown. While certain forms of disease, more particularly those affecting the nervous system, are increasing in frequency as a result of the increased demands upon the workers in our large cities, yet there is no question that a more than countervailing influence is exerted by the greater knowledge of sanitary science and the increased resistant power which modern civilization has conferred on mankind. The prolonged "expectation of life" which tables of life-insurance exhibit is of itself sufficient to demonstrate this fact; and much has been written to show in what the elements of this gain consist.

On the other hand, however, there is reason to believe that, for the newer races, the immediate effect of a contact with civilization has been disastrous. The rapid growth out from barbarism is not always a safe or a simple process. The birth of "a nation in a day" is not devoid of grave perils. A brief consideration of the physical effects of civilization upon primitive peoples is the object of this paper. First, as to the facts. There are upon our globe numerous barbarous and semi-barbarous tribes who have never come much in contact with the world's progress, and we have no reason to believe that these peoples are in any degree dying out. Nature keeps them, like the lower animals which the hunter has never molested, in full and probably somewhat increasing ranks. It is obvious that figures are very difficult to obtain regarding such races—almost as difficult as in respect to the dumb animals with which we have compared them. Both alike undergo reduction from the attacks of their natural enemies, and from famine, disease, flood, fire, and hurricane. Yet no general law of survival of the fittest sweeps these races entirely from the earth, or even greatly reduces their numbers. This law may and probably does have effect within the tribes themselves, bringing the strongest to the front and leaving the weakest in the rear, but it does not operate against the existence of the tribe as a whole so long as there is no contact or conflict with a superior race, any more than it operates against the increase of the human species as a whole. In China and Japan, almost alone of such peoples, we have means of judging of the population at different intervals; and, while there is room for doubt as to the absolute accuracy of the census, yet the figures are so numerous and the general tendency so uniform that it may be taken to show with certainty an increase within the last few centuries almost equal to that of England. For instance, we have statements of the population of China at many periods within the last five hundred years, in part from native and in part from European authorities, showing an increase of from eight to ten hundred per cent in the number of inhabitants.[1] This enormous gain has been in spite of many and terrible famines, of sanguinary wars, and of extensive infanticide. It is reasonable to suppose that in other lands, of which we have no figures to inform us, there has also been a like fertility, and that savages have a vigor of stock which has led to increase and multiplication on a scale not greatly different from that of our own race.

When, however, barbarous peoples come in contact with a higher civilization, they almost invariably undergo a decay pretty nearly proportional to the intimacy of the contact, or rather to the readiness with which they endeavor to conform themselves to the manners of their new neighbors. Here is an important point. There is no mysterious influence, no "blight," caused by civilization. There is much loose talk about barbarians "melting away" before the light of progress. It may do for the poet to speak of the withering breath of civilization as blasting the child of Nature, but the real cause of the depressing effect of our civilization upon the savage lies in himself, and in his sudden attempt to assimilate what is foreign to the whole tenor of his personal habits, confirmed as they are by centuries of inherited experience. The instances, plentiful enough, of race-decay following civilization, are all in peoples in whom circumstances have led to a sudden and unnatural conformity with the manners of a stronger and more advanced nation. This has occurred generally where the savages have been brought in contact either with a conquering people or with missionaries, the latter cause operating for the most part only when the barbarous tribe was small and the Christianizing influence therefore especially strong, as in the Sandwich Islands. In one notable case the method of contact has been by the barbarians themselves becoming conquerors. Let us examine this latter instance first. The earliest authentic historical record of the Goths as a people shows them in the latter half of the third century living north of the Danube. For a hundred years they had very little connection with any more civilized nation. Then, on the appearance of the Huns in 376, a part of the nation (later to be known as the Visigoths) advanced south of the Danube, the eastern division of the tribe, or Ostrogoths, remaining on the northern side of the river, and mingling with the invading Huns. The latter portion, therefore, were not brought into connection with either branch of the Roman Empire, while the western Goths, gradually adopting a form of the Christian faith, and being enlisted in the Roman armies, were slowly being acted upon by southern civilization. Of course, the effect of the change was much less marked than that of the contact of barbarism with modern civilization; still, undoubtedly, a considerable modification of the character and customs of the western Goths was made, and it occurred gradually enough to diminish its shock. For many years they fought, alternately under and against the eagles, and when finally, under Alaric, their power became supreme in Italy, early in the fifth century, they retired into Gaul very soon after the first sack of Rome. Afterward, though they joined with the Italians against the combined forces of the Huns and Ostrogoths, yet their association was mostly with the provincial representatives of the Roman civilization, and they gradually assumed their permanent position in Aquitania and Spain, where they left their impress as a constituent part of the Provence nation.[2]

In marked contrast with this was the contact of the Ostrogoths with Roman civilization, it occurring more suddenly and lasting longer. Joined in fortunes with the Huns, they shared in the terrific defeat of Attila at Châlons in 451. At just about this time Theodoric, destined to become their great leader, was born. Brought up at Constantinople, as a hostage, he was imbued with the best culture of the Eastern Empire. In 489 he led his people into Italy, and, overcoming the resistance of a usurping king, speedily made himself master of that country. Two hundred thousand men, with their wives and children, were settled in Italy. For thirty-three years they mingled as conquerors in the current of a new and untried civilization. They conformed themselves to the Roman administration and policy. So far from destroying the monuments of art, they took measures for their restoration and preservation. Agriculture and the arts of peace revived, and Italy almost regained the prosperity of her palmiest days. The "barbarian" set himself and his soldiers to do police duty for the Roman officers of law and government, who were retained in their titles and functions. An Arian himself, he respected and tolerated the Catholic faith.[3] In fact, we have here a most marked instance of a people in the position of conquerors adopting, in a generation, the civilization of their vanquished foes. And what is the result? Their wise and beneficent king died in 526. In the next twenty-five years the prosperous and strong nation rapidly declines in power and numbers, Belisarius and his successor Narses overcome them, now by strategy, now by force, until, in 553, their last king is slain, and the nation of the Ostrogoths becomes extinct.[4]

We can only allude, in passing, to the Huns, who never fairly reached the seat of the Roman power in Italy, though they were sought in alliance by the timorous emperors—and it is remarkable, in view of their vast numbers, how completely they disappear from history, within twenty years of their first aggressions on Roman territory, in the defeat and death of their one great chief.

The Vandals demand a word of attention. Though they appear in history as early as the second century, they are peaceably disposed of and remain quiet in Pannonia till the beginning of the fifth century, when they attack Gaul; thence they overrun Spain, to be displaced by the western Goths, and cross to Africa, Each of the barbarian races seems to have had its one great man, and the Vandals had their Genseric, In Africa they numbered from fifty thousand to eighty thousand men, and took their turn at sacking the Imperial City. For fourteen days they ravaged it. But it was only a foray, not a conquest. They did not stay among the Italians, as the Ostrogoths had done. Early in the following century Belisarius had slain their last king. A few of their soldiers were enlisted to fight in the Persian wars, but the sacrifice of these is, in the words of Gibbon, "insufficient to explain the fate of a nation whose numbers, before a short and bloodless war, amounted to more than six hundred thousand persons."[5]

All these races, except the Huns, were of Teutonic or kindred lineage. What we wish particularly to call attention to is, that while they, powerful in numbers, vigorous in body, and indomitable in spirit, under the influence of the old civilization of the South speedily became extinct as races, and, except in the single case of the Visigoths, even left no visible impress of themselves upon a subsequent people, while, in fact, they dropped out of existence; yet, on the other hand, similar nations, coming also from Northern Europe, of the Teutonic family, driven by the same impulse for adventure and conquest, but going instead among the barbarous Britons, with whom they were amalgamated, became, by a slow, a natural process of evolution, the foremost nation of the globe.

These instances from antiquity are sufficiently striking. But it is in modern times only that we can really study to advantage the effect of a sudden civilization upon barbarians. In the cases thus far considered we can judge of effects only when they are extreme, as leading to the extinction of a race. There is no means of estimating those lesser changes which are best measured by the aid of the census. Nor is it possible at this distance of time to appreciate fully those different elements of deterioration which can be observed in contemporary races. Hence we pass to some of the more recent illustrations of the point under discussion.

The present century has witnessed in the Sandwich Islands what is probably the most remarkable instance of civilization in the history of the world. A little more than one hundred years ago Captain Cook was killed by the natives, who, though not cannibals, were as degraded as any tribe on the face of the earth. The story of this people is too familiar to need repetition. The first missionary visited the islands in 1820. In 1853, just one generation later, the American Board of Foreign Missions declared that the people were Christianized, and withdrew its support from the churches. Since that time they have not only maintained themselves, but are supporting missionaries in Polynesia. The formation of a constitutional government, the negotiation of treaties, the development of a system of education, the grateful and graceful contributions made in aid of the United States Government during our late civil war, all have happened within the memory of middle-aged men. Mr. Charles Nordhoff, who is certainly not prejudiced in favor of the missionaries, says[6] that they "have eradicated the grosser crimes of murder and theft so completely that. . . people leave their houses open all day and unlocked all night, without thought of theft; and there is not a country in the world where the stranger may travel in such absolute safety as in these islands. In 1880 there were two hundred and ten schools, having an attendance of over seven thousand children." Even in 1873 Mr. Nordhoff said, "The natives of these islands are, there is reason to believe, the most generally educated people in the world." Yet, with the phenomenal advance in intellect and morals which this race has made, there is a most rapid and melancholy decay of their physical organization. With an abundance of schools and churches, there are every year fewer scholars and worshipers; with an admirable system of government, there are constantly becoming fewer to govern.

The successive census returns tell this sad story: In 1832 the inhabitants of the islands were 130,313; in 1836, 108,579; in 1850, 84,165; in 1860, 69,700; in 1866, 62,959; in 1872, 56,897; in 1878, 57,985.[7] And even this seeming arrest, shown by the last census, in the process of decay in the native race, is not real; for during the last six years the Hawaiian population decreased over four thousand, the total gain being caused by an increase of foreigners to the extent of over live thousand. The Government, in a frantic effort to save itself from extinction, is importing immigrants: during the two years ending in 1880 it introduced over nine hundred Portuguese from the Madeira Islands, and more than eleven hundred Polynesians from the Gilbert Islands. Besides these, many Chinese have come. We are told, moreover, that the physical type of the natives has deteriorated; that the great stature and forms noted by the early visitors to the islands have passed away.

The history of the Hawaiians for the last sixty years might be almost condensed into three words—Christianization, civilization, extermination.

In 1860 Mr. F. D. Fenton was instructed by the New Zealand Government to prepare a statement with reference to the decay of the aboriginal Maori race, together with an investigation into its causes. His report, which is contained in Volume XXIII of the "Journal of the Statistical Society," shows a marked decrease, amounting to nineteen and a half per cent in the fourteen years from 1844 to 1858. This loss of numbers occurred in the absence of most of the causes commonly assigned for the decay of races. Mr. Fenton shows that all the tribes occupied healthful situations, that the climate was benign, and that the fertility of the soil was such as to secure an abundance of nutritious food. In fact, while the United States was increasing at the rate of thirty-five per cent every decade, this ancient race was diminishing at the rate of fourteen per cent every ten years; and, so far as the natural advantages of soil and climate are concerned, there seems to be little to choose between the two countries. Moreover, this deterioration was of recent origin. It was first noticed in 1841 by Bishop Broughton, and the Maories themselves say that it has commenced within the recollection of the present generation. The fact that there are more males than females disposes of the theory that war is the cause of the decrease; and infanticide, which chiefly affected the females, has ceased since 1836. Small-pox has now visited the island; measles may be said to be the only epidemic disease brought by the Europeans, and this did not appear till 1853. There is very little intoxication, and the "vice-diseases" are said to take a very mild type. Finally, that some radical cause is in operation is shown by the fact that actually fewer children are born than before the colonization of the island, and that, while the half-breed families are large, the native families are small, and the infantile mortality is very great. In view of the wide extent of country over which this process is going on, the author sees nothing to expect but the speedy extinction of the race.

The history of the American Indians should obviously not be omitted in this consideration. Unfortunately, figures here are unreliable. Estimate necessarily replaced enumeration regarding the aboriginal population when the whites landed, and has continued in large degree to do so since. Doubtless terror and perhaps vain-glory added something to the report of the numbers of the savages whom our ancestors fought and vanquished. But we have some ground for a comparative estimate of the native population. In 1822 a census was taken by the Government of the Indians east of the Mississippi, with reference to the removal of them which was then contemplated. According to this enumeration, they were 120,000. Bancroft's estimate of the Eastern Indians in the first half of the seventeenth century is 180,000. This would indicate a diminution of thirty-three per cent in two centuries, during which the Indians had been more or less in contact with the whites, and during the latter part of which they had doubtless begun to modify their way of living in accordance with the customs of their neighbors. It was about this time that the policy of removal to reservations beyond the Mississippi was inaugurated. A few of the Cherokees had accepted a reservation in Arkansas in 1817, but it was not till 1828 that the majority of them left Georgia, and the emigration continued through the following ten years. In 1838, 81,000 had been removed, 39,000 remaining east of the Mississippi.[8] In 1853 only 18,000 remained in their original locality, and 00,000 out of a total of 90,000 removed Indians had been settled in the Indian Territory.

Now, according to the report of the Indian Commissioner for 1879, the population of the five so-called civilized tribes in that Territory, viz., the Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks, and Seminoles, was 60,000; and the remaining reservations in the same Territory, some six or seven in number, include several thousands, so that the civilized tribes must have undergone considerable increase. Colonel Otis estimates that the Cherokee tribe has doubled in the last century.[9] He believes that some 10,000 or more of the tribe are elsewhere than in the Indian Territory, making 30,000 in all, and cites an enumeration by the War Department in 1827, preparatory to their removal, showing 13,567 individuals at that time. If we do not accept the view of an increase of one hundred per cent in a hundred years, we must at least concede a gain of fifty per cent in the last fifty years, and it is probable that the increase has occurred mainly in that time. The same authority says the Creeks, Choctaws, and Chickasaws are increasing in numbers. The fifth tribe, the Seminoles, who, after our war with them, in 1842, were reduced to three hundred, now number 2,560.[10] The "Six Nations," who remained by preference in New York, rather than migrate, are of course under circumstances permitting an accurate census, and their numbers seem to remain constant at about 7,000.

The remainder of the tribes are decreasing in numbers. This can not be doubted. The figures of the Government reports of the aggregate Indian population within the last fifty years are as follows: 1822, 457,000; 1830, 313,000; 1840, 400,000; 1855, 350,000; 1872, 300,000; 1879, 252,897. Even if we were to admit with Colonel Otis that such enumerations are vague and unreliable, and that the aggregate number of Indians remains about the same that it has been for the past two centuries, the increase of the civilized tribes necessarily implies the decrease of the remainder to keep the total unchanged.

The same thing is shown directly by the history of such of the uncivilized tribes as by reason of fortuitous historical associations have been brought under special observation. For instance, the Delaware Indians, made famous by Penn's negotiations with them, were, two hundred and fifty years ago, undoubtedly a large and powerful tribe, occupying much of the present States of Pennsylvania (Central) and New Jersey. In 1703 they had six hundred warriors, and it was even proposed to organize this tribe into a fourteenth State of the American Confederation, in 1778. After the Revolution, they removed to Ohio, then to Missouri, then to Kansas, then to the Cherokee country. Now the remains of the tribe in the Indian Territory number only about a thousand. The history of the Pueblo tribes confirms the same view. In 1540 the Spanish explorers found these people as a large and flourishing kingdom. Even making the great allowance which modern investigation seems to show necessary for the exaggeration of the Spaniards as to the power and wealth of the aborigines, even admitting that there was never any Aztec or Maya empire,[11] and that what did exist was only a military democracy or league of free tribes, it can not be doubted that the tribes were of great strength and importance. The ruined Pueblos themselves bear witness to this. In fact, it is only twelve years ago (1872) since a census showed these Indians as numbering 7,683. Yet now the Zuñis, made familiar to all by Mr. Cushing's recent residence among them, are almost the sole survivors of that ancient race, and they number only about sixteen hundred persons. And, what is especially to the purpose of the present discussion, this tribe was of all the most isolated, and the least contaminated by either Spanish or Anglo-American civilization; all the other (river) Pueblos, now practically extinct, having been brought more into contact with the influence of the whites.[12] What civilization the Zuñis have (if indeed that term can be used at all where there is no written language), the agriculture, the manufacture of pottery and blankets, are wholly historic in origin, this conservative people never having borrowed anything from the Anglo-Saxon or any other race.

From this brief view of the Indian population we must conclude that, so far from its being on the increase as a whole, as some recent writers have claimed, the gain is entirely confined to those few tribes which deserve in a great degree the epithet commonly applied to them, of the "civilized Indians." Taking the Cherokees as representatives of these tribes, we find that they have been under missionary influence for two hundred and fifty years, and that there were eight thousand religious converts among them so long ago as 1700. The traveler Bartram,[13] writing about 1762, said of them: "They are just, honest, liberal, and hospitable to strangers; considerate, loving, and affectionate to their wives and relations; fond of their children, industrious, frugal, temperate, and persevering, charitable and forbearing." He speaks, moreover, of their wearing woven fabrics, of their police arrangements, their domestic economy, and particularly of their marked loyalty to the dictates of conscience. The Cherokees, then, had fairly entered on the path of progress a hundred and twenty years ago. Today they possess sufficient property, if equally divided, to give each man, woman, and child, a thousand dollars. Their school expense amounts to thirty-five dollars annually per scholar, a sum greater than that similarly expended, even in our great center of philosophy. The proportion of illiteracy is smaller than that throughout the United States. "Their condition is far better than that of the agricultural classes of England."[14] The five civilized tribes have, on the average, a house for every three or four persons, and one hundred and ninety-five schools and one hundred and thirty-one church edifices for the population of sixty thousand individuals.[15]

In view, then, of the time spent and the result reached, we may consider that those tribes which are increasing in numbers have passed through their period of acclimation, and we may still believe that the law of arrest, exemplified in the early history of the Cherokees, is now in operation in the majority of the Indian tribes, as in all other peoples exposed to the sudden contact of a new culture. A late Commissioner of Indian affairs[16] says, "Indian blood, thus far in the history of this country, has tended decidedly toward extinction." And the most recent writer on the Indian question tells us that wherever civilization is attempted among those people "the results are at first discouraging, with increased mortality and disease."[17]

These three races, the Hawaiian, the Maori, and the American, have been selected as the best instances of the adoption of a civilization involving complete and radical changes in mental, moral, and physical circumstances, made with some spontaneity, perhaps, in a few cases, but still essentially alien from the natural tendencies of the people, and devoid of that great safeguard of gradualness which Nature, when left to herself, throws about that critical process. In these peoples the exposure to the new leaven has been most sudden and most complete. We may allude, however, in passing, to some of the less perfect illustrations of the same process. The African negro has been in contact with the whites nearly as long as the Indian, but under circumstances widely different. Up to twenty years ago he was sedulously kept from becoming civilized. It was the express aim of his masters to repress his intellectual nature as completely as possible. The effect of his enslavement, then, was not to civilize him in any sense, but merely to change him from a wild animal into a domesticated or "tame" one. Since the war, his condition as a whole, in the South, has not materially changed in this respect. Of course, now and then an individual has emerged into an intellectual consciousness, and has become an intelligent and civilized member of society. But the great multitude, ignorant, improvident, lazy, have undergone no sufficient change in their natural way of living to disturb their physical equipoise, and with food enough to keep their bodies well nourished, and with scarcely a conscious nervous system, they increase and multiply faster than our white population.[18]

Japan is a country which has undergone a most remarkable and sudden mental awakening. But here we are deterred by two facts from tracing any effect upon the stability of the physical organization of the people. In the first place, the intellectual development has not permeated the whole social structure. Only a small class have as yet felt it. In the second place, the movement is so recent, beginning since the revolution of 1868, that sufficient time has not elapsed for it to show an effect upon the bodily condition even of those whom it has affected.

If, as appears to be the case, a markedly increased mortality attends upon the rapid civilization of a race, to what are we to ascribe it? Obviously, not to the same influences which, in a cultivated nation, we have found to be sources of physical weakness. For in the latter case the factors are such as have acted through several generations; while in the former they are expended most strongly on the generation upon which the sudden change of régime has fallen, and which has not yet had time to develop (for instance) a neuropathic tendency. In considering some of the additional and peculiar elements operating in these peoples, we may say, first, that the diminished number and vigor of the population are in some degree a temporary result of the sudden abolition of polygamy. It is true that observation shows clearly that monogamous parents propagate a more vigorous and on the whole a more numerous race than polygamous ones. In the latter case more children are born, but much fewer grow up, and those who do attain years of manhood are less virile than in nations where the unions are single.[19] An Oriental gentleman remarked to a European traveler that by his various wives he had had sixty children born to him, but that only seven had lived to grow up. This may perhaps be taken as a fair indication of the results of such unions. But, while polygamy is as debasing to the physical as to the moral nature, it is entirely possible that the primary effect of a sudden abolition of multiple marriages may be a reduction in the birth-rate, while the children that are born do not as yet participate in the physical benefits which, after two or three generations, will follow the improved marital relation.

Again, we have to consider the so-called "vices of civilization"—a term which, in itself, involves a contradiction. Properly speaking, the alcohol and opium habits, and other diseases (not to be here mentioned), form no part of civilization. There should be no connection between it and any vice. The word, in its true and original meaning, signifies a fault, an abnormality. Surely, the blemish which occurs on any growth is not to be fairly reckoned as a part of that growth. Civilization is not responsible for its so-called vices. Yet the fact is indisputable that these evil habits and passions are, as it were, beasts of prey, skulking along the march of progress, seizing upon those who fail or falter by the way, and indeed finding their victims among all but the best-disciplined and the most steadfast of the host. They do not belong to civilization, but they invariably attend upon it; and the people along the line of progress are, until they become firmly incorporated in the moving column, especially subject to becoming the prey of those hyenas.

The most frequent agent which establishes connection between civilized and barbarous peoples is trade. Even when the initial move has been made by the missionary, the trader, scenting the chance for gain, is not slow to follow. In this way one of the earliest forces brought to bear upon the barbarian is that of the sailor and the trader. Unfortunately, there is hardly a class of Anglo-European society whose moral influence is so bad as that of the seamen. The trader sends those commodities which will prove most attractive to the barbarian; and the latter, with his moral nature as yet uneducated, and his power of self-denial undeveloped, is impelled toward the grossest pleasures of intemperance and licentiousness. Even if he only exchange his native indulgences for those brought by the white traders, the effect is most disastrous. The raw American whisky does its deadly work faster than his own "palmy wine."

The policy of the trader finds a response in the attraction of the untutored mind toward the new indulgence; and, too often, the preaching of the missionary is more than offset by the practices of the money seeking trader who has come in the same ship with him. Yet this, it should be remembered, is only incidental. Civilization is to the savage what education is to the child, and one of its objects, attainable perhaps not in one or two generations, is to teach him self-restraint. It certainly is not responsible for his failures in that quality.[20]

The positive influences which are for a time deleterious to a people in process of civilization are probably much more physical than mental. The mind is not sufficiently taxed to create any disturbance in the economy; and the history of the Indian children who have been brought to the schools at Hampton and Carlisle for education does not show any evil consequences to their health from the intellectual impetus given them, they being selected from tribes where the physical condition, food, clothing, etc., were already approximated to the usages of the whites.

Probably no single influence has had so deleterious an effect upon the physique of the rapidly civilized peoples as clothing. Of course, no one will deny Carlyle's doctrine that man is essentially a clothe-swearing animal, and that dress is absolutely necessary in a cultivated community. The climatic conditions of many denizens of the tropics do not require clothing as a matter of protection or comfort, and consequently they do not wear it to any extent. When civilization reaches those people it says, "You must be dressed." Indeed, too often a European or a New England culture says, "You must be dressed in European or in New England fashion." This is only one phase of a wide-spread and mischievous tendency to impose the particular habits of the new teachers, as being an essential element in race-development, without regard to the natural leanings of the people in question. Many of our customs are purely arbitrary, and it is worse than folly to attempt to impose them upon a new-found race. The civilization of New England is undoubtedly an admirable one, but why insist on making New-Englanders out of Hottentots? Educate them. Christianize them, but do not oblige them to conform to customs which are the accident of another climate and another race. In nothing is this disposition to enforce conformity with an arbitrary standard more injurious and yet more absurd than in the matter of clothes. It would be hard to maintain that the frock-coat or the linen shirt-front of the present representatives of the Anglo-Saxon race are either graceful in the abstract or especially adapted to the use and comfort even of their wearers. Why, then, impose them upon the Sandwich-Islander, or why make them a test of the civilization of the American Indian, by classifying the tribes into the savages and those that wear "citizens' clothes"? We affirm with all seriousness that there is no reason why the inhabitant of the tropics should be expected to wear clothing in form or material like what happens to be in vogue among the dwellers in the temperate zone on the other side of the globe. The grotesque combinations in the habiliments of the Hawaiians, as described by Mark Twain, are as painful to the reason as they are ludicrous to the imagination. Why, for example, need the good missionary women have exerted themselves to make a broadcloth coat for the king of the islands? It and what it represented have been a fruitful source of disease and death to the simple people of that balmy summer clime.

But we may go a step further, and declare that even if a wise liberality allows the savage to dress somewhat in accordance with the requirements of his climate and his pursuits, there yet remains a certain conflict between the minimum demands of civilization in this respect and his bodily welfare, at least until he and his descendants become educated into a tolerance of the new requirement, dress. Consider that we are supposing the case of a dweller in the tropics, where, as a matter of protection, clothing is not required. The temperature is for the most part balmy, and, when it does grow colder, that wonderful mechanism whereby the body is protected from the changes in the surrounding medium does its perfect work. The skin, shiny, tough, and hardy, performs its function well, and "catching cold" is a rare thing. The man, as an animal, has no more need of clothing than the beasts around him. But, when he becomes civilized, this must all change. His smooth, dark skin must be covered. Decency and the laws of society require it. It is inevitable, so soon as he begins to be anything more than an animal. What happens? That skin, shut in from the sun and air, loses its quick power of accommodation. Its natural moisture is not allowed to dry. The man is in an atmosphere, now hot and moist, now cold and moist. His clothing can not adjust itself to the changes of temperature so well as his skin once could. He gets wet in a rain, and is chilled by the drenched clothing which does not dry as his skin would have done. He begins to experience the phenomenon of taking cold. The multiform ailments which thus originate begin to beset him. The lungs especially are apt to suffer, and his health is seriously broken. Once he had a thick skin, the perfect clothing which Nature gives her animals. Now, a thinner, more sensitive one grows under the habiliments that mark the new social order. This is not merely theory. The New-Zealanders themselves ascribe their physical decay in part to their assumption of clothing.[21] Mr. Nordhoff, in his book on the Sandwich Islands, also alludes to this as one possible cause of the decay of that people. In the case of the African slaves the element of clothing is of less consequence. For here the people have been removed from their native climate to one which necessitates some clothing on grounds of actual comfort. Morover, they were not as a rule obliged to wear more than the real demands of the climate required; so that there was not even a temporary decrease of their numbers from this cause. But in tropical peoples, and in all others where the innovation in the matter of dress is independent of any real physical requirements, theory and fact agree in ascribing a malign influence to the change. In the ancient myth, Hercules untiringly endured his mighty labors, and was victorious in all his sturdy conflicts with opposing forces; but, at last, the poisoned robe of Nessus brought him to his death. So to many a child of Nature has the garb of civilization proved an envenomed mantle, consuming its wearer.

Closely connected with the subject of clothing is that of food; for physiology shows us a reciprocal relation between them. The life of a starving animal can be prolonged by retaining his warmth, or, in other words, by clothing him; and, conversely, an increase of clothing diminishes the consumption of food. When our newly civilized barbarian puts on clothing which the temperature of his climate does not require, he must lower his diet in a corresponding degree. The extent of this influence may be appreciated from a brief view of the physiology of nutrition. The non-nitrogenous articles of food and the non-nitrogenous modicum which remains after the splitting up of the nitrogenous (proteid) foods furnish the energy of the body. This is estimated in the average man at one million metre-kilogrammes daily; the force required to raise one kilogramme in weight one metre in height being the unit of force. Now, of this force, 150,000 metre-kilogrammes are expended in muscular work, and the remainder, four fifths or more, are required to maintain the animal heat. But three fourths of the entire heat expenditure is made by radiation and conduction from the surface of the body.[22] Of course, the adoption of clothing does not prevent the whole of this radiation of heat. But it does affect most strongly the one strongest factor in the demand for food. It relieves to a considerable extent an expenditure which has required for its maintenance at least three fifths of the whole food-consumption of the body. This sudden and remarkable curtailment in the alimentation of the individual can but produce a profound effect upon the whole nutrient apparatus of the body. Or, if, escaping this danger, the individual does not lessen his diet to correspond to the new scale of requirements, he is exposed to the perils of overfeeding, because he is taking an amount of food which has now become largely in excess of his necessities. Moreover, the risks from quantity of food are enhanced by others from its quality. The new civilization brings new kinds of food. Meat-eating is encouraged as being in accord with the usages of temperate climes, without regard to what the requirements of the tropical animal may be. With the new kinds of food comes new cooking. Rational cooking is not a characteristic of early periods of civilization, or of frontier methods; and irrational cooking—always harmful—is particularly so to those who have never been hardened to it. And so it comes to pass that the frying-pan is added to the dangerous weapons put by civilization into the savage's hand.

Connected with these agencies, but more especially operative among the more northern peoples, as for instance the American Indians, are the influences of ill-ventilated and improperly heated dwellings. Ventilation and domestic sanitation are among the most recent of sciences, and even in the oldest centers of civilization are only just beginning to be given the consideration due to their importance. what wonder, then, that the Indian, accustomed to the airiness of a loosely built wigwam or a hut of boughs, should find, in the closely joined cabin that the white man teaches him to build, a source of foul and poisoned air to which his previous wild life makes him especially sensitive? Between the Scylla of carbonic-acid gas and animal effluvia and the Charybdis of cold draughts the savage steers a troublous course in the early years of his living under his "own roof." And, if, perchance, the trader has sold him an "air-tight stove" as a substitute for his former camp-fire, his perils truly thicken.

Finally, we must not omit to mention the moral and psychical influences which, though not tangible, are nevertheless powerful, and whose effect in the very awakening of a people is not altogether favorable to a calm and healthy life. There is a sudden disturbance of the mental equipoise by the introduction of new wants and new aims. A savage once brought directly into the current of the activities of civilization can never be again just what he was. An undefined but powerful desire and unrest have taken possession of him. When once the note of progress has sounded in a people's ears, its echoes do not easily die out. Tecumseh struggled in vain against this impelling force, and pleaded that his people might be suffered to be as they were, but in vain.

The new leaven has been deposited, and its working is inevitable. Men say: "Let the savage alone; do not try to teach him civilization; he is happier in the state of nature than he can be in any that is more artificial"—and perhaps they tell the truth. It is a thorny path—this of progress—and the first step costs the most. We may even admit, with a recent distinguished sympathizer in the retrogressive leanings toward the simplicity of savagedom: "It is the direct tendency of our civilization to carry human beings toward an extreme as far beyond the simple elements of happiness and every form of good as savage life falls short of them."[23]

Doubtless, development increases the capacity both for enjoyment and for suffering. And if it be questioned whether joy or sorrow predominates in the experiences of our highest civilization, it may well be doubted whether, in the first awakenings of a people, when the power of judging between good and evil has not yet been formed, and when self-control is as yet unknown, the evil influences do not out-weigh the good. Left to himself, the child in his early gropings gets many a bruise, many a tumble; yet, once having breathed the breath of life, the infant race is thenceforward impelled by a law inexorable as human destiny. If, as some advise, we abandon these people, and say: "We will not help you along a path which is one of toil and unrest; be as you were," they will not, it is true, progress in any orderly or efficient manner, but they will not be as they once were. We can guide them, or we can leave them to the painful and disordered action of their own struggling spirits. They can not return to their former quiet and contented sphere. Restlessness is an essential antecedent to progress; but restlessness implies conflict and labor. It is something higher than purposeless repose; but it is something harder. Of old it was said to the woman, "In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children"; and, by a law as universal, the birth of mind, in nations as well as in individuals, is not without a pang.

 
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  1. See a list of various censuses in the "Journal of the Statistical Society," vol. xx, p. 51.
  2. Gibbon's "Decline and Fall," chapter xxxi, et seq.
  3. Vide Gibbon, chapter xxxix.
  4. Ibid., chapter xliii.
  5. Loc. cit., chapter xli.
  6. "Northern California, Oregon, and the Sandwich Islands," p. 24.
  7. Mrs, Judd, "Honolulu," vide Appendix, by Albert Judd.
  8. Vide "The Indian Question," by Elwell S. Otis, lieutenant-colonel United States Army, chapter i.
  9. Ibid., p. 44.
  10. Report of the Indian Commissioner, 1879.
  11. Vide T. W. Higginson, in "Harper's Monthly Magazine," August, 1882; also, Lewis H. Morgan, in the "North American Review," April, 1876.
  12. Vide "The Last of the Pueblos," "Harper's Monthly," June, 1882.
  13. Vide note to the journal of Father Charlevoix, "Historical Collections of Louisiana," vol. iii, p. 130.
  14. "The Indian Question," by Francis A. Walker, p. 57.
  15. Vide report of the Indian Commissioner for 1879.
  16. General Walker, he. cit., p. 54.
  17. "The Red Man and the White Man in America," George E. Ellis, p. 624.
  18. The census returns of the colored population are in round numbers as follows, for the successive decades of this century: 1810, 1,191,000; 1820, 1,538,000; 1830, 2,009,000; 1840,2,487,000; 1850,3,254,313; 1860, 8,954,000; 1870,4,880,000; 1880, 6,581,000.
  19. Vide "Journal of the Statistical Society," vol. xxviii, p. 271.
  20. We may quote in this connection the words of Morel ("Traité des dégénêreseences, physiques, intellectuelles, et morales, de l'espèce humaine," p. 494): "For limited societies, like the indigenous tribes which still exist in America, for other societies even more numerous, that have yet only passed through the period of infancy, which is that of desire, the contact of civilization is a fatal thing—when, instead of the moral law of which it ought to be the harbinger, civilization only brings to them the means of satisfying their grosser appetites as well as the bad tendencies, fruit of the complete lack of instruction, cither acquired or inherited."
  21. Vide F. D. Fenton, loc. cit., "Journal of the Statistical Society," pp. 524, 529.
  22. Vide Foster's "Physiology," p. 323, et seq.
  23. Dr. George E. Ellis, loc. cit, p. 597.