Madison Grant, The Competition of Races

 

Where two races occupy a country side by side, it is not correct to speak of one type as changing into the other. Even if present in equal numbers one of the two contrasted types will have some small advantage or capacity which the other lacks toward a perfect adjustment to surroundings. Those possessing these favorable variations will flourish at the expense of their rivals and their offspring will not only be more numerous, but will also tend to inherit such variations. In this way one type gradually breeds the other out. In this sense, and in this sense only, do races change.

 

Man continuously undergoes selection through the operation of the forces of social environment. Among native Americans of the Colonial period a large family was an asset and social pressure and economic advantage counselled both early marriage and numerous children. Two hundred years of continuous political expansion and material prosperity changed these conditions and children, instead of being an asset to till the fields and guard the cattle, became an expensive liability. They now require support, education and endowment from their parents and a large family is regarded by some as a serious handicap in the social struggle.

 

These conditions do not obtain at first among immigrants and large families among the newly arrived population are still the rule, precisely as they were in Colonial America and are today in French Canada where backwoods conditions still prevail.

 

The result is that one class or type in a population expands more rapidly than another and ultimately replaces it. This process of replacement of one type by another does not mean that the race changes or is transformed into another. It is a replacement pure and simple and not a transformation.

 

The lowering of the birth rate among the most valuable classes, while the birth rate of the lower classes remains unaffected, is a frequent phenomenon of prosperity. Such a change becomes extremely injurious to the race if unchecked, unless nature is allowed to maintain by her own cruel devices the relative numbers of the different classes in their due proportions. To attack race suicide by encouraging indiscriminate reproduction is not only futile but is dangerous if it leads to an increase in the undesirable elements. What is needed in the community most of all is an increase in the desirable classes, which are of superior type physically, intellectually and morally and not merely an increase in the absolute numbers of the population.

 

The value and efficiency of a population are not numbered by what the newspapers call souls, but by the proportion of men of physical and intellectual vigor. The small Colonial population of America was, on an average and man for man, far superior to the present inhabitants, although the latter are twenty-five times more numerous. The ideal in eugenics toward which statesmanship should be directed is, of course, improvement in quality rather than quantity. This, however, is at present a counsel of perfection and we must face conditions as they are.

 

The small birth rate in the upper classes is to some extent offset by the care received by such children as are born and the better chance they have to become adult and breed in their turn. The large birth rate of the lower classes is under normal conditions offset by a heavy infant mortality, which eliminates the weaker children.

 

Where altruism, philanthropy or sentimentalism intervene with the noblest purpose and forbid nature to penalize the unfortunate victims of reckless breeding, the multiplication of inferior types is encouraged and fostered. Indiscriminate efforts to preserve babies among the lower classes often result in serious injury to the race. At the existing stage of civilization, the legalizing of birth control would probably be of benefit by reducing the number of offspring in the undesirable classes. Regulation of the number of children is, for good or evil, in full operation among the better classes and its recognition by the state would result in no further harm among them.

 

Mistaken regard for what are believed to be divine laws and a sentimental belief in the sanctity of human life tend to prevent both the elimination of defective infants and the sterilization of such adults as are themselves of no value to the community. The laws of nature require the obliteration of the unfit and human life is valuable only when it is of use the community or race.

 

It is highly unjust that a minute minority should be called upon to supply brains for the unthinking mass of the community, but it is even worse to burden the responsible and larger but still overworked elements in the community with an ever increasing number of moral perverts, mental defectives and hereditary cripples. As the percentage of incompetents increases, the burden of their support will become ever more onerous until, at no distant date, society will in self- defense put a stop to the supply of feebleminded and criminal children of weaklings.

 

The church assumes a serious responsibility toward the future of the race whenever it steps in and preserves a defective strain. The marriage of deaf mutes was hailed a generation ago as a triumph of humanity. Now it is recognized as an absolute crime against the race. A great injury is done to the community by the perpetuation of worthless types. These strains are apt to be meek and lowly and as such make a strong appeal to the sympathies of the successful. Before eugenics were understood much could be said from a Christian and humane viewpoint in favor of indiscriminate charity for the benefit of the individual. The societies for charity, altruism or extension of rights, should have in these days, however, in their management some small modicum of brains, otherwise they may continue to do, as they have sometimes done in the past, more injury to the race than black death or smallpox.

 

As long as such charitable organizations confine themselves to the relief of suffering individuals, no matter how criminal or diseased they may be, no harm is done except to our own generation and if modern society recognizes a duty to the humblest malefactors or imbeciles that duty can be harmlessly performed in full, provided they be deprived of the capacity to procreate their defective strain.

 

Those who read these pages will feel that there is little hope for humanity, but the remedy has been found, and can be quickly and mercifully applied. A rigid system of selection through the elimination of those who are weak or unfit - in other words, social failures - would solve the whole question in a century, as well as enable us to get rid of the undesirables who crowd our jails, hospitals and insane asylums. The individual himself can be nourished, educated and protected by the community during his lifetime, but the state through sterilization must see to it that his line stops with him or else future generations will be cursed with an ever increasing load of victims of misguided sentimentalism. This is a practical, merciful and inevitable solution of the whole problem and can be applied to an ever widening circle of social discards, beginning always with the criminal, the diseased and the insane and extending gradually to types which may be called weaklings rather than defectives and perhaps ultimately to worthless race types.

 

Efforts to increase the birth rate of the genius producing classes of the community, while most desirable, encounter great difficulties. In such efforts we encounter social conditions over which we have as yet no control. It was tried two thousand years ago by Augustus and his efforts to avert race suicide and the extinction of the old Roman stock were singularly prophetic of what some far seeing men are attempting in order to preserve the race of native Americans of Colonial descent.

 

Man has the choice of two methods of race improvement. He can breed from the best or he can eliminate the worst by segregation or sterilization. The first method was adopted by the Spartans, who had for their national ideals military efficiency and the virtues of self-control, and along these lines the results were completely successful. Under modern social conditions it would be extremely difficult in the first instance to determine which were the most desirable types, except in the most general way and even if a satisfactory selection were finally made, it would be in a democracy a virtual impossibility to limit by law the right to breed to a privileged and chosen few.

 

Interesting efforts to improve the quality as well as the quantity of the population, however, will probably be made in more than one country after the war has ended.

 

Experiments in limiting reproduction to the undesirable classes were unconsciously made in medieval Europe under the guidance of the church. After the fall of Rome social conditions were such that all those who loved a studious and quiet life were compelled to seek refuge from the violence of the times in monastic institutions and upon such the church imposed the obligation of celibacy and thus deprived the world of offspring from these desirable classes.

 

In the Middle Ages, through persecution resulting in actual death, life imprisonment and banishment, the free thinking, progressive and intellectual elements were persistently eliminated over large areas, leaving the perpetuation of the race to be carried on by the brutal, the servile and the stupid. It is now impossible to say to what extent the Roman Church by these methods has impaired the brain capacity of Europe, but in Spain alone, for a period of over three centuries from the years 1471 to 1781, the Inquisition condemned to the stake or imprisonment an average of 1,000 persons annually. During these three centuries no less than 32,000 were burned alive and 291,000 were condemned to various terms of imprisonment and other penalties and 7,000 persons were burned in effigy, representing men who had died in prison or had fled the country.

 

No better method of eliminating the genius producing strains of a nation could be devised and if such were its purpose the result was eminently satisfactory, as is demonstrated by the superstitious and unintelligent Spaniard of to-day.. A similar elimination of brains and ability took place in northern Italy, in France and in the Low Countries, where hundreds of thousands of Huguenots were murdered or driven into exile.

 

Under existing conditions the most practical and hopeful method of race improvement is through the elimination of the least desirable elements in the nation by depriving them of the power to contribute to future generations. It is well known to stock breeders that the color of a herd of cattle can be modified by continuous destruction of worthless shades and of course this is true of other characters. Black sheep, for instance, have been practically obliterated by cutting out generation after generation all animals that show this color phase, until in carefully maintained flocks a black individual only appears as a rare sport.

 

In mankind it would not be a matter of great difficulty to secure a general consensus of public opinion as to the least desirable, let us say ten per cent of the community. When this unemployed and unemployable human residuum has been eliminated together with the great mass of crime, poverty, alcoholism and feeblemindedness associated therewith it would be easy to consider the advisability of further restricting the perpetuation of the then remaining least valuable types. By this method mankind might ultimately become sufficiently intelligent to choose deliberately the most vital and intellectual strains to carry on the race.

 

In addition to selection by climatic environment man is now, and has been for ages, undergoing selection through disease. He has been decimated throughout the centuries by pestilences such as the black death and bubonic plague. In our fathers' days yellow fever and smallpox cursed humanity. These plagues are now under control, but similar diseases now regarded as mere nuisances to childhood, such as measles, mumps and scarlatina {scarlett fever?}, are terrible scourges to native populations without previous experience with them. Add to these smallpox and other white men's diseases and one has the great empire builders of yesterday. It was not the swords in the hands of Columbus and his followers that decimated the American Indians, it was the germs that his men and their successors brought over, implanting the white man's maladies in the red man's world. Long before the arrival of the Puritans in New England, smallpox had flickered up and down the coast until the natives were but a broken remnant of their former numbers.

 

At the present time the Nordic race is undergoing selection through alcoholism, a peculiarly Nordic vice, and through consumption. Both these dread scourges unfortunately attack those members of the race that are otherwise most desirable, differing in this respect from filth diseases like typhus, typhoid or smallpox. One has only to look among the more desirable classes for the victims of rum and tubercule to realize that death or mental and physical impairment through these two causes have cost the race many of its most brilliant and attractive members.

 

Madison Grant, The Passing of the Great Race, most recently published by Arno Press and the New York Times: New York, 1970, first edition published by Charles Scribner's Sons: New York, 1918. Part I "Race, Language and Nationality," Chapter IV, "The Competition of the Races," pp. 46-55.