Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/377

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363
HEREDITY.

away, exposing the old barbarism of the under-nature! The sanguinary and destructive instincts of a people, once thoroughly let loose, can overturn in a few days a social fabric painfully wrought by generations. Of popular outbreaks of fury history has many terrible records, and none more so than of those revolts against order which, as in the French Revolution, had a core of justice in them. The natural differences among men in ability are very marked; much less so are their different capabilities of enjoying the rewards of skill and power: hence inevitably arise discontent and the ignoble spirit of envy; any artificial increase of the gulfs drawn by Nature between one man and another excites this discontent and envy by a conviction of injustice, and endangers order. From these causes the artificial enrichment of nobles and clergy by exemption from taxation has again and again deluged Europe with blood; and the enormous accumulations of property in private hands by bequest and increment have even in America excited concern. In considering this subject. Mill proposed that there should be a moderate limit to the amount one might legally receive by gifts and bequests; and the same thinker, and others of equal eminence, have declared their conviction that land shall at some future time, near or remote, be redistributed on some equitable plan.

The law of heredity has an important bearing, not only on questions of education and property, but also on the problem as to the best treatment of the criminal classes. Since the human character is so much dependent on inheritance, and so indelibly impressed by depraved associations in early life, it is thought that all incorrigible offenders, as soon as their state can be proved, should in some right way, by imprisonment or otherwise, be prevented from propagating their kind. Dr. Dugdale, of New York, followed the lines of descent from one Margaret Jukes, through six generations, including in all seven hundred and nine persons—thieves, prostitutes, murderers, and idiots. The Chinese so firmly believe depravity to be a taint of blood, that a criminal's father and grandfather are sometimes required to perish with him; conversely, this nation of ancestor-worshipers deem a man so much indebted to his parents for all that makes him great, that when a citizen is ennobled for eminent services, titles are bestowed upon the ascending line of the family, and not the descending, as with us.

Important as the relations of the law of heredity may be in the various topics adverted to in this paper, none can be so much so as the comprehension of the law, and obedience to it in marriage. The lower animals are carefully bred, while men and women mate with rarely any rational reflection as to their fitness for each other, thus often entailing upon themselves and their offspring woes unspeakable. The plain sense which should forbid the consumptive, syphilitic, or scrofulous, from marrying is disregarded, and the results are terrible. When one's constitution is impaired by some not serious organic ailment, special pains should be taken to avoid the like in selecting a partner for life. Physi-