Popular Science Monthly/Volume 87/August 1915/War Selection in Western Europe
|WAR SELECTION IN WESTERN EUROPE|
EUROPE had no finer human stock than that of France, and no modern people has suffered more from the ravages of war and glory. The Gauls, as they appear in early history, were a Celtic race. Conquest made them Gallo-Roman. Later, especially in the north and east, their blood was strengthened by Teutonic strains—the Normans from Scandinavia and the Franks from Central Germany. In later days a large influx from Germanic Alsace has made German names common in French society.
Through reversal of selection by war, the men of France lost in stature, and the nation in initiative. But a good stock possesses power of recuperation, and regenerative processes have been evident in France for the last twenty years. Peace and security, industry and economy enable the natural forces of selection to operate. This means race regeneration. The nation had been sorely wounded by her own sons. She has been making a healthy recovery.
In the Wiertz gallery in Brussels is a striking painting, dating from the time of Napoleon, called "A Scene in Hell" ("Une Scène dans l'Enfer"). It represents the great marshal with folded arms and face unmoved descending slowly to the land of the shades. Before him filling all the background of the picture, their faces expressing every form of reproach, are the men sent to death before their time by his unbridled ambition. Four millions there were in all, more than half of them Frenchmen. And behind the legions shown or hinted at, one seems to discern the millions on millions who might have been and are not—the huge widening wedge of the possible descendants of those who fell in battle, youth without blemish ("l'élite de l'Europe"), made "flesh for the cannon" in the rush of Napoleon's great campaigns.
These came from the farm, the workshop, the school, "the best that the nation could bring," men from eighteen to thirty-five years of age at first, but afterwards the older and the younger. Napoleon said:
Says Professor Haeckel:
In the career of Napoleon campaign followed campaign, against enemies, against neutrals, against friends. Conscription followed victory, both victory and conscription debasing the human species. Again conscription after conscription.
Still more conscription. After Wagram, France began to feel its weakness, the "Grand Army" being no longer the army which had fought at Ulm and Jena.
After Moscow, homeward
—in these words some one has summed up the life-work of Napoleon. "J'ai cent mille hommes de rente," "My income is a hundred thousand men," said Napoleon. But to a terrible degree he lived beyond his income.
French writers have been very frank in the discussion of national deficiencies and mistakes. They have wished to conceal nothing from France and therefore nothing from the world. Their admissions have been exaggerated by unfriendly critics. It has been claimed that modern France, with the other Latin nations, is a "decadent state," that she has passed her prime and is now in the weakness and sterility of old age, her place as the dominating force on the continent of Europe having been yielded to a younger and more aggressive power. If its strong strains are not wholly extirpated, peace and security will renew its youth. Decrepitude in a nation is due not to age, but to the operations of war, as we have several times insisted, followed by the loss of its best strains of blood and their replacement by recruiting from immigrants of the weaker races. Though France has suffered grievously from war, as a nation she has lost little from immigration and not much from emigration.
Certain features of French life have been indicated as evidences of injury from reversal of selection. The birthrate of France, already low, has been steadily falling. This is apparently a result of the survival of the cautious, for Napoleon's dashing grenadiers could hardly be imagined to limit their families for prudential reasons of economy. Indeed, the French in Canada, not affected by war, are notoriously fecund. Another evidence of the survival of the cautious is found in the relative lack of business enterprise in France. The gold hoarded in her stockings has been used mainly for international loans, rarely for business development, foreign loans yielding a higher interest with less personal responsibility. And the absence of factory towns emphasizes the fall in the birthrate, as in civilized nations a high rate of increase occurs mainly in industrial centers.
Edmond Demolins in a clever book asks: "In what constitutes the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon?" He finds his answer in the false standards in French life, in defects of training and of civic and personal ideals. The desire for seats in a government bureau and for similar safe places of routine and without initiative has been termed in Italy "Impiegomania," the "craze for sitting down." The eagerness to secure such positions is said to be a besetting sin of the youth of both Italy and France. But the fault may be due to over-centralization of government, too many officials and too little opportunity in the provincial centers, rather than to any fault in the nature of the individual man. Nationalization of effort, whether through socialism or through "efficient organization," must contribute to the spread of "impiegomania."
If the strictures of Demolins be true in any degree, this may be the interpretation. Inferior standards are the work of inferior men. Great men there are in France, and these have persistently turned the nation's face toward the light since Demolins's book was written. War's effect has been to rob France of her due proportion of leaders, but not to dilute or to weaken the message of those who survive. The evolution of a race is always selective, never collective. Collective evolution among men or beasts, the movement upward or downward of the whole as a whole, irrespective of training or selection, is never a fact. As La Pouge has said:
Another line of criticism of France finds its ablest exponent in Dr. Max Nordau, whose book on "Degeneration" aroused the attention of the world some twenty years ago. Nordau finds abundant evidences of degeneration in the art and literature of every land, all forms of eccentricity, pessimism and perversity being regarded as such. In France, such evidences he finds peculiarly conspicuous. The cause of this condition he ascribes to the inherited strain of an overwrought civilization. "Fin de siècle," "end of the century" is the catch-phrase expressing the weariness, mental, physical and spiritual of a race "tired before it was born." To Nordau, this theory adequately explains all eccentricities of French literature, art, politics or jurisprudence.
But in fact we have no knowledge of the existence of nerve-stress inheritance. In any event, the peasantry of France have not been subjected to it. Their life is hard, but not stressful; and they suffer more from monotony than from any form of enforced nerve-activity. The kind of degeneration Nordau pictures is not a matter of heredity. When not simply personal eccentricity, it is a phase of personal decay. It finds its causes in bad habits, bad training, bad morals, or in the desire to catch public attention for personal advantage. It has no permanence in the blood of the race. The presence on the Paris boulevards of eccentric painters, maudlin musicians, absinthine poets and sensation-mongers, proves nothing as to race degeneracy. When the fashion changes, they will change also. The "end of the century" is past and already the fad of "strenuous life" is blowing them away. Any man of any race withers in an atmosphere of vice, absinthe and opium. The presence of such an atmosphere may be a disheartening symptom, but it is not a proof of national decline. The ghastliest and the most depraved of Parisian sensations are invented to meet the jaded fancy of gilded youth from across the sea.
A French cartoon more than a century old pictures a peasant ploughing in the field, hopeless and dejected, a frilled and cynical marquis on his back, tapping his gilded snuff-box. A recent one shows the peasant still at the plough and equally hopeless. The marquis is gone, but in his place sits a soldier armed to the teeth, who ought himself to be at the plough, while on the soldier's back rides the money-lender, colder and more crushing than the dainty marquis, for the money-lender is the visible exponent of the war-trader, most sinister and most burdensome of all purveyors of implements of destruction.
For more than forty years past France has lived under the shadow of war. The loss of Alsace-Lorraine cut a deep wound in French emotions as well as in French pride. The noble attitude of the lost provinces stimulated the natural determination for the "war of honor," the "war of revenge." But as time went on, it became more and more evident that such a war could never be successful. And after the collapse of the inflated militarism of Boulenger, and in view of the sordid failure of military honor as shown in the "Dreyfus case," the people of France began generally to doubt the righteousness as well as the wisdom of war against Germany. In 1913, the influential men of France were willing to meet half way the "Friedensfreunde" of Germany. The writer was present at Nürnberg in 1913, at a great mass meeting in which the Baron D'Estournelles de Constant spoke warmly and eloquently for international friendship. France was becoming ready to forgive if not to forget. But this the Prussian military system in Alsace-Lorraine would not permit. They had left the united province of Elsass-Lothringen without citizens' rights as "Reichsland" or Imperial territory, it being an "Eroberung" or conquest. They had subjected it to the process of "Entwelschung" or deforeignization, by means of trivial and burdensome "Abwehrgesetze" or special statutes directed mainly against the use of the French language. The people of Alsace-Lorraine, those of Germanic and French stock alike, could not forget. And for this reason France could not. Had the united provinces been given full autonomy within the German Empire and their people been made full citizens instead of "Deutsche Zweiter Classe," "the nightmare of Europe," the question of Alsace-Lorraine would long ago have vanished from European politics.
It is a common saying in France, that the Frenchmen of to-day are small because our tall ancestors were killed in our victorious wars.
The statistics behind this statement have been made the basis of a critical study by Professor Vernon L. Kellogg. A synopsis of the results of this study is given in Social Hygiene, December, 1914. German officials have claimed that military service "provides a special advantage to developing manhood in its compulsory exercise, enforced habits of discipline, unescapable stimulus to patriotism and general moral control." In the words of a German general, quoted by Professor Kellogg,
Some of these alleged virtues will not appear as such under other and perhaps more truthful names. But admitting all that may be said, the armies exist for war; their members "especially selected and zealously cared for" are chosen for sacrifice, and the more worthy the sacrifice the greater the permanent loss to the nation. When a man of character and ability, says Professor Kellogg,
The most economical and most positive factor in human progress is good breeding. Race deterioration comes chiefly from its opposite, bad breeding. Militarism encourages bad breeding.
Despite all delusive phrases to the contrary, the maintenance of an army is a preparation for war and a step toward war and not toward peace. Do governments, or will they, maintain this blessing of military service for the health and eugenic advantage of their people? Is it not done solely from the stimulus of expected war? Is it not done solely with the full expectancy and deliberate intention of offering this particularly selected and cared for part of the population to the exposure of wholesale mutilation and death? This death is to come, if at all, before this extra-rigorous part of the population has taken its part in race propagation, the precise function the performance of which the race most needs from it.
The Spain of to-day is not the Spain of 1493 to whom the Pope assigned half the seas of the world. Old Spain drooped long ago, exhausted with intolerance, sea power and empire. Now that modern Spain has been deprived of the last vestige of imperial control, she is slowly recuperating on a foundation of industry and economy.
In 1630, the Augustinian friar, La Puente, thus wrote of the fate of Spain:
In fact, the modern humane war against disease has made life much safer for the soldier. That is to be admitted. But there has occurred so far but one conspicuous radical exception to the general rule of a much greater percentage of deaths from disease than from bullets and bayonets in war time. That, of course, is the record of the Japanese armies in the Russo-Japanese war. The records of the recent war in the Balkan States are like those of a century ago.
Against the credit for redeemed souls I set the cost of armadas and the sacrifice of soldiers and friars sent to the Philippines. And this I count the chief loss; for mines give silver, and forests give timber, but only Spain gives Spaniards, and she may give so many that she may be left desolate, and constrained to bring up strangers' children instead of her own.
Said a Spanish knight:
Says Captain Carlos Gilman Calkins:
Says Havelock Ellis:
It is a question whether Spain suffered most from the scattering of her strong men over seas, from her perpetual struggles in Europe or from the Inquisition. This sinister institution was more wasteful and more cruel in Spain than anywhere else, leading to the extinction of independent minds and of virile intellectuality.
In Spain as in France, the continuance of peace with the cessation of the loss and waste over seas is bringing a financial and industrial recuperation, which must be slowly followed by a physical and moral advance. It is claimed that Spain now enjoys "an intellectual and artistic renaissance that will make her memorable when her heroes are forgotten."
Germany suffered perhaps scarcely less than France from the wars of Louis XIV. and of the two Napoleons. German writers, however, have been much less frank than the French and also less lucid in discussing their national disabilities. They have given but scanty records of the racial waste their wars have involved. Moreover, the organization of modern Germany, a socialist state under military domination, has tended to minimize the visible distinctions among racial strains. Every man has his place. It is not easy to fall below one's class, corespondingly difficult to rise. Universal compulsory education, technical as well as academic, saves even the feeble from absolute incompetence. The three duties of the citizen, "Soldat sein; Steuer; Mund halten" (be a soldier; pay taxes; hold your tongue), are simple and do not encourage initiative. Universal conscription binds the individual into subjection to the central power. He has the choice between docile acceptance of a fate not wholly intolerable, and revolt with probable misery or death. Forms of insurance against poverty, unemployment or old age guard him against total failure. The difficulties which beset the common man in trying to enter the "learned proletariat" of the universities or the sublimated caste of the army deter all but the most gifted from ambition for advancement. Only real genius for scholarship or for money-getting can break the bonds of caste. This system minimizes the miseries of poverty, while at the same time it checks initiative in the mass of the people.
In general, it subordinates individual freedom to a prearranged discipline of efficiency. This has culminated in the development of the army and navy. To those who regard the dominance of militarism as a survival of savagery, the recrudescence of military ideals in Germany seems one of the saddest results of modern scientific advance.
The victory over France in 1871 has had the effect of intensifying the military spirit of Germany, and of making its extension appear an integral part of the nation's commercial and industrial growth. This fact operates toward final disaster, for whether successful or not in the struggle with the allied powers, the aggregate result will be of the nature of terrible defeat. When the record is summed up it may appear that Germany rather than France is the final sufferer from the Franco-Prussian war and the "blood and iron" policy of Bismarck and his successors.
In England, before the Great War, one often heard complaints of the decadence of the nation. This is a habit of the British press in the summer months in the intervals between sensations. The yeomanry were disappearing. The slums of London, Manchester, Liverpool were centers of sweat-shops and child labor, of wasting overwork, of infant mortality, and malnutrition, of sodden drunkenness and helpless old age. And in the higher classes, we were told of "flannelled oafs" and heedless sportsmen, men to whom a cricket match was of more worth than the conservation of empire. Much of this complaint was complacent self-criticism, a favorite amusement with the wealthy unemployed of England. Some of it had the political purpose of discrediting the government, but behind it all rests a certain neglected residuum of truth.
Great Britain has accomplished much in the last century, and much of this has permanent value to the world. She has permeated its thoughts, modified its action and strengthened its character as no other race or nation ever could.
In the Norse mythology, it was the Mitgard serpent which reached around the world, swallowed its own tail and held the world together. England has been the Mitgard-Serpent of history. She has made this a British planet. Her young men have gone into all regions where freemen can live. They have built up free institutions held together by the British cement of cooperation and compromise. She has carried her Pax Britannica, the British peace, with its semblance of order and decency, to all barbarous lands, and she has mixed with it enough of freedom to give her rule permanence. She has made it possible for Englishmen to trade and to prey with savages. "What does he know of England, who only England knows?" For the activities of the Greater Britain, of which we of the republic of America form an integral part, are greater by far than those confined to the little island from which the British people set forth to inherit the earth.
What has it all cost? For such great race exertion must take some toll in race exhaustion. This loss will not appear in the decline in ability of statesmen or scholars. It means a decline in their numbers, and the relative increase in numbers of those types of men whom empire can not use.
Much of the force of England has gone out to America and to those self-governing commonwealths no longer to be called colonies, which have spread British traditions over forceful young democracies, who have escaped Britain's greatest evil, the legalization of privilege. But a man is a man, wherever he may live, and we can hardly count the occupation of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa as loss to the motherland.
But with India the case is not so clear. Men have asked, What has Britain done for India? We may admit that she has done much, and her work, improving with experience, grows more helpful and humane as time goes on. What has India done for Britain? This is a parallel problem little considered, and there is much harm mixed with the good which enters into the calculation. For India has enriched England—a small part of England engaged in overseas trade. The men whom India has made wealthy, men like the Sassoons of the opium trade are not, as a rule, those who share their fortunes with the people, taxed to make these fortunes possible. India has furnished employment for thousands of young Englishmen ("outdoor relief for sons of good families") and it has furnished graves for thousands of British yeomen and British gentlemen, men of spirit whom Britain could ill afford to spare.
A British officer once said to me,
The methods by which Great Britain, in haphazard fashion, built up her imperial domain have not always been those which conscientious British can defend. They have brought Great Britain into disrepute and they have been used as precedents by rival nations who make no pretense to British scruples. The Great War in Europe has been called the "nemesis of Lord Beaconsfield." Were it not for the imperial chicanery of Lord Beaconsfield's period of unscrupulous glory, the Balkans might never have been fanned into the flames which set all Europe on fire.
England is very rich, if you look at her from above, but her wealth through tradition and through legalization of privilege and abuse is in very few hands. The landholding dukes and the lords of commerce and finance hold the resources of England in their grasp. One fourth the population of Great Britain hold virtually nothing at all. One tenth of them are persistently submerged, and with the waste and havoc of the present war, another tenth will be found to have fallen with them. Says Franklin:
But the profits of the trade obtained through compulsion go to the undeserving few. The cost of compulsion in blood and in gold falls on the body of the nation.
The governments of the world take the risks of imperialism. The great trading, mining, and exploiting corporations receive the gains. In almost every large transaction of any government, there is this constant source of confusion. What the nation expends should be balanced by what the nation receives. It is not enough to estimate "our outgoes" on the one hand and "our receipts" on the other when the outgoes are drains on the public funds, and the receipts are private gains. This fallacy of administration may be found on every hand in connection with almost every item of public expenditure. Public expenditure turned to private gain is the very essence of privilege, and privilege wherever found is the betrayer of justice, the antithesis of democracy. Where privilege exists it violates the principle of equality before the law. In Imperial exploitation a thousand little streams lead from home activities to swell the wealth drawn from overseas.
We admit, says Professor J. Arthur Thomson,
- "Land, money, tradition and prestige," says Professor Albert Léon Guerard ("French Civilization in the Nineteenth Century," 1912), "would be naught if the people had lost its. soul. Their wealth would pass into stronger hands, and their prestige to contempt. Once, about twenty years ago, the French themselves wondered if it had not come to that. The cry of a decadence was raised by malevolent rivals, by sensationalists, by esthetics in quest of a new pose, by earnest patriots who had lost their star. When a belated echo of this reaches us now, how faint and strange and silly it sounds. For the one great asset of the French is their indomitable vitality. Even in wasteful conflict one can not fail to admire the evidence of power. In the twentieth century as ever before the French are among the pioneers.
"I do not see France as a goddess, austere and remote. I see her intensely human, stained with indecencies and blasphemies, scarred with innumerable battles, often blinded and stumbling on the way, but fighting on undismayed, for ideals which she can not always define. An old nation? A wounded nation? Perhaps, but her mighty heart is throbbing with unconquerable life."
- "La cauchemar de l'Europe."
- It should be clearly noted that a mere decline in stature is in itself of little racial significance, save as an index in decline in other and more vital regards. Tall stature has been sought for in recruiting armies and so have qualities of boldness and dash. The decline in stature can be measured; the other qualities can not, but we may fairly assume that all soldierly traits have suffered together and the measure of the one serves in some degree as the measure of all.
France has kept for over a century an interesting set of official records which offers most valuable data for the scrutiny of the biologic student of war. They are the records of the physical examination of all the male youths of France as these youths reach their twentieth year of age, and offer themselves, compulsorily, for conscription. To determine who realize the condition of minimum height, weight, chest measurement, and the freedom from infirmity and disease necessary for actual service, all are examined and the results recorded. These records show, therefore, for each year very clearly and precisely the physical status of the new generation of Frenchmen.
The minimum physical condition for actual enlistment has varied much with the varying needs of the nation for men of war. In certain warring periods of her history France has had to drain to the very limit her resources in men able to bear arms. Most notably this condition obtained during the nearly continuous twenty-year period of the Napoleonic Wars.
Louis XIV. in 1701 fixed the minimum height of soldiers at 1,624 mm. But Napoleon reduced it in 1799 to 1,598 mm. (an inch lower) and in 1804 he lowered it two inches further, namely to 1,544 mm. It remained at this figure until the Restoration, when (1818) it was raised by an inch and a quarter, that is, to 1,570 mm. In 1830, at the time of the war with Spain, it was lowered again to 1,540 mm., and finally, in 1832 again raised to 1,560 mm. Napoleon had also to reduce the figure of minimum age.
The death list, both in actual numbers and in percentage of all men called to the colors, during the long and terrible wars of the Revolution and Empire, was enormous. And the actual results in racial modification due to the removal from the breeding population of France of its able-bodied male youth, leaving its feeble-bodied youth and senescent maturity at home to be the fathers of the new generation, is plainly visible in the condition of the conscripts of later years.
From the recruiting statistics, as officially recorded, it may be stated with confidence that the average height of the men of France began notably to decrease with the coming of age in 1813 and on, of the young men born in the years of the Revolutionary Wars (1792-1802), and that it continued to decrease in the following years with the coming of age of youths born during the Wars of the Empire. Soon after the cessation of these terrible man-draining wars, for the maintenance of which a great part of the able-bodied male population of France had been withdrawn from their families and the duties of reproduction, and much of this part actually sacrificed, a new type of boys began to be born, boys that had in them an inheritance of stature that carried them by the time of their coming of age in the late 1830's and 40's to a height an inch greater than that of the earlier generations born in war time. The average height of the annual conscription contingent born during the Napoleonic Wars was about 1,625 mm.; of those born after the war it was about 1,655 mm.
The fluctuation of the height of the young men of France had as obvious result a steady increase and later decrease in the number of conscripts exempted in successive wars from military service because of undersize. Immediately after the Restoration, when the minimum height standard was raised from 1,544 mm. to 1,570 mm., certain French departments were quite unable to complete the number of men which they ought to furnish as young soldiers of sufficient height and vigor according to proportion of their population.
Running nearly parallel with the fluctuation in number of exemptions for undersize is the fluctuation in number of exemptions for infirmities. These exemptions increased by one third in twenty years. Exemptions for undersize and infirmities together nearly doubled in number. But the lessening again of the figure of exemptions for infirmities was not so easily accomplished as was that of the figure for undersize. The influence of the Napoleonic Wars was felt by the nation, and revealed by its recruiting statistics, for a far longer time in its aspect of producing a racial deterioration as to vigor than in its aspect of producing a lessening stature.
It is sometimes claimed that military selection is of biological advantage to the race as a purifier by fire. This might indeed be true if it were the whole population that was exposed. But it is only a certain part of it that is so exposed, a part chosen on a basis of conditions very pertinent to racial integrity. For in the first place it is composed exclusively of men, its removal thus tending to disturb the sex-equilibrium of the population, and to prevent normal and advantageous sexual selection. Next, these men are all of them of greatest sexual vigor and fecundity. Finally they are all men, none of whom fall below and most of whom exceed a certain desirable standard of physical vigor and freedom from infirmity and disease.
War's selection is exercised on an already selected part of the population. And every death in war means the death of a man physically superior to at least some other man retained in the civil population. For the actual figures of present-day recruitment in the great European states show that of the men gathered by conscription, as in France and Germany, or by voluntary enlistment, as in Great Britain, from 40 to 50 per centum are rejected by the examining boards as unfit for service because of undersize, infirmities, or disease. Nor is it necessary that these selected men be actually removed by death in order that militarism may effect its deplorable racial hurt. For this removal even for a comparatively short time of a considerable body of these men from the reproductive duties of the population, and their special exposure to injury and disease—disease, we shall see, of a particularly dangerous character to the race—is in itself a factor sufficient to make military selection a real and dangerous thing.
Death in war comes not always nor even most often in battle. It comes more often from disease. And disease, until very recent years, and even now except in the armies of certain few countries, has stricken and still strikes soldiers not only in war time but in the pipingest time of peace. And, what is almost worse for the individual and decidedly so for the race, its stroke is less often death than permanent infirmity. The constant invaliding home of the broken-down men to join the civil population is one of the most serious dysgenic features of militarism.
In the French army in France, Algeria, and Tunis in the thirteen-year period 1872-1884, with a mean annual strength of 413,493 men, the mean annual cases of typhoid were 11,640, or one typhoid case to every 36 soldiers! In the middle of the last century the mortality among the armies on peace footing in France, Prussia, and England was almost exactly 50 per cent, greater than among the civil population. When parts of the armies were serving abroad, especially if in the tropics, the mortality was greatly increased. In 1877 the deaths from phthisis in the British army were two to one in the civil population. And how suggestive this is, when we recall that the examining boards reject all obviously phthisis-tainted men from the recruits. The proportion was still three to two as late as 1884. In the last war of our own
- In this connection, Mr. Ellis extolls the beauty, grace and spirit of the Spanish women and suggests the theory that so far as feminine traits go, there has been no reversal of selection. "The women of Spain," he thinks, "are on the average superior to the men."
- "To glorify the state is to glorify war, for there is no collective operation which can be so effectively achieved as war, and none which more conspicuously illustrates the sacrifice of the individual to the nation" (Havelock Ellis).