Page:EB1922 - Volume 31.djvu/35

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17
EUGENICS


College, London, to which his friend Prof. Karl Pearson was appointed. Prof. Pearson has established a biometrical laboratory in which a large amount of valuable statistical work has been accomplished and much evidence adduced bearing on such questions as the inheritability of consumption, etc. The Eugenics Education Society, the object of which was not research but an endeavour to make the results of research widely known, was founded in London under the honorary presidency of Sir Francis Gallon. Its first president was Sir James Crichton-Browne, its second president Mr. Montagu Crackanthorpe, to whom succeeded Maj. Leonard Darwin in 1911.

The cause of eugenics owes a great debt to Maj. Darwin for having pointed out clearly wherein fitness to survive in the eugenic sense really consists. On this subject much confusion has reigned not only in the minds of the general public but also in the minds of the first enthusiasts for eugenic reform. Attention was at first concentrated on physical health and muscular development, and it was an easy task for opponents to point out that the "big blonde beast" of Nietzsche was not the most desirable type of man, and that men of great talent and initiative often were so in spite of the handicaps of physical disease or infirmity, that Caesar and Mahomet both suffered from epilepsy and that Robert Louis Stevenson died of consumption.

As Bateson[1] has well put it: "We animals live not only on account of but in spite of what we are." Maj. Darwin[2] has emphasized the fact that the decisive factor in the human struggle for existence is general ability and that, broadly speaking, when we compare together members of the same profession the greater the ability the greater the pay.

It is an easy task for the critic to point to individuals who though able and virtuous have become poor, and to others who though rich are idle and vicious, but these exceptional cases do not detract from the generalization insisted on by Maj. Leonard Darwin that on the whole the poor deserve to be poor and that their ranks are continually swollen by the descent of the unfit from the superior strata of society. It may be added that if the rich persist in being idle and vicious then riches have a strong tendency to disappear a fact borne witness to by the Lancashire proverb, " It takes three generations to pass from clogs to clogs "; further, that if the able and. virtuous poor persist in well-doing they invariably rise to affluence in one or two generations, so that these apparent exceptions to Maj. Darwin's generalization have a way of righting themselves.

Birth Control

The Dean of St. Paul's (the Rev. Dr. Inge),[3] a prominent member of the Eugenics Education Society, has pointed out that during the first half of the ipth century, when no free education was provided, there were far more emergences of men of talent and ability from the masses than during the second half when every effort had been made to "raise the poor" by education, sanitation and doles. Maj. Darwin has called attention to the discovery of harmless and painless means of sterilization by X-rays: so that limitation of the birth'-rate by preventing conception is now easily accomplished.

Formerly the natural fecundity of all classes of society was allowed to flow on unchecked: even under these circumstances larger families were born to the poor than to the rich because the poor marry early and im'providently, which is one of the main causes of their poverty, but the greater death-rate amongst their children prevented the poorer strata of society from increasing relatively to the rich. Now, however, the rich limit their families to a number which they can easily support, and this number tends to become smaller and smaller as heavier taxation is levied to provide for the survival and education of large families of the poor. Eugenists contend that the State is in this way deliberately cutting off its best stocks which raised it to greatness in the past, and on the continuance of which its whole future depends. Against this whole policy the Eugenics Education Society has raised a continuous protest and the Eugenics Record Office of America has published a valuable series of bulletins[4] showing the awful progeny of criminals, paupers and lunatics that have sprung from a single worthless family during the last ioo years, and some American states have passed somewhat hastily conceived laws designed to cause criminals and idiots confined in state prisons to be sterilized.[5]

It is indeed obvious that mere restraint of marriage will avail little since it by no means prevents illegitimate union, and amongst the lowest strata of society the marriage ceremony is frequently dispensed with. The only way in which the cruel methods of natural selection can ultimately be avoided is by the sterilization of the unfit ; in a word, by preventing parents who are unable properly to support the offspring which they have already produced from producing any more. A first feeble step in this direction may be found in the regulation which until recently was enforced in English poorhouses, forbidding husbands and wives to live together, but public opinion would now be opposed to any extension of this principle: people generally are so obsessed with the liberty of the subject that the liberty of the depraved and worthless to pollute society by a stream of worthless progeny has not been seriously challenged.

The reckless reproduction of the poor in England is sometimes defended on the ground that it contributes to the population of the British overseas dominions and so to the up-building of the British Empire. But on closer analysis we find that this defence will not hold. The great British dominions have very clear conceptions about the type of immigrant whom they desire and whom alone they will admit. They desire people of initiative and adaptability and these are just the qualities which are lacking in our submerged tenth. Incidentally the submerged tenth are without the means of emigration, and the dominions have wisely refused to accept immigrants who come to them on "assisted passages." As things were in 1921 England was being threatened more and more with the fate of becoming a reservoir of the unfit, since it is the fit who both emigrate and limit their families in accordance with their means. The Dean of St. Paul's has pointed out that between the years 1700 and 1800 the population of Great Britain increased by 30% but that between 1800 and 1900 it increased by no less than 300%. Statistically, therefore, it appears that the' British Isles are rapidly approaching a condition of over-population, even if they have not already attained it. What is needed is not an increase in the birth-rate but a rigorous selection of those who are to be the parents of the future generation. In former ages this selection was accomplished by famine and pestilence. Ireland in 1846 had eight millions of starving peasantry living a life little better than that of the pigs which they housed in their cabins. The famine and emigration in 40 years reduced the population to four millions who might be described as thriving farmers. The Black Death in the i4th century wiped out two-thirds of the population of England: the following century was the most prosperous and happy time for the agricultural labourers of England of which there is any record. Well has it been said: " In the good old days people died in the country as fast as they now die in the slums of cities, and they died in the cities as fast as white people die on the coast of Guinea." If things go on as they are such a selection will again sooner or later be accomplished by nature; the whole purpose of eugenic propaganda is to make clear that we are approaching such a catastrophe; and to endeavour by humane and wise methods to avert it; to so arrange matters by legislation that the enterprising and provident shall be the parents of the future race and that drunkards, wastrels and reckless shall be debarred from handing on their vices to posterity.

See Francis Galton, Hereditary Genius (1869; 2nd ed. 1882); Human Faculty (1883); Essays in Eugencis (Eugenics Education
  1. Materials for the Study of Variation (1894).
  2. "Presidential Address to the Eugenics Education Society," Eugenics Review, Oct. 1914.
  3. Outspoken Essays (1920).
  4. A. H. Estabrook and C. B. Davenport, The Nam Family, Eugenics Record Office (1912).
  5. Indiana, Washington, California, Connecticut, Nevada, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Michigan, Kansas, Wisconsin. For details see Popenoe, Applied Eugenics, pp. 1914.