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Charles Darwin Descent Of Man Chapter 05


Descent of Man [ 1871 ]

Charles Darwin [ 1809 – 1882 ]


Chapter V – On the Development of the Intellectual and Moral Faculties

THE subjects to be discussed in this chapter are of the highest
interest, but are treated by me in an imperfect and fragmentary
manner. Mr. Wallace, in an admirable paper before referred to,* argues
that man, after he had partially acquired those intellectual and moral
faculties which distinguish him from the lower animals, would have
been but little liable to bodily modifications through natural
selection or any other means. For man is enabled through his mental
faculties "to keep with an unchanged body in harmony with the changing
universe." He has great power of adapting his habits to new conditions
of life. He invents weapons, tools, and various stratagems to
procure food and to defend himself. When he migrates into a colder
climate he uses clothes, builds sheds, and makes fires; and by the aid
of fire cooks food otherwise indigestible. He aids his fellow-men in
many ways, and anticipates future events. Even at a remote period he
practised some division of labour.

* Anthropological Review, May, 1864, p. clviii.

The lower animals, on the other hand, must have their bodily
structure modified in order to survive under greatly changed
conditions. They must be rendered stronger, or acquire more
effective teeth or claws, for defence against new enemies; or they
must be reduced in size, so as to escape detection and danger. When
they migrate into a colder climate, they must become clothed with
thicker fur, or have their constitutions altered. If they fail to be
thus modified, they will cease to exist.
The case, however, is widely different, as Mr. Wallace has with
justice insisted, in relation to the intellectual and moral
faculties of man. These faculties are variable; and we have every
reason to believe that the variations tend to be inherited. Therefore,
if they were formerly of high importance to primeval man and to his
ape-like progenitors, they would have been perfected or advanced
through natural selection. Of the high importance of the
intellectual faculties there can be no doubt, for man mainly owes to
them his predominant position in the world. We can see, that in the
rudest state of society, the individuals who were the most
sagacious, who invented and used the best weapons or traps, and who
were best able to defend themselves, would rear the greatest number of
offspring. The tribes, which included the largest number of men thus
endowed, would increase in number and supplant other tribes. Numbers
depend primarily on the means of subsistence, and this depends
partly on the physical nature of the country, but in a much higher
degree on the arts which are there practised. As a tribe increases and
is victorious, it is often still further increased by the absorption
of other tribes.* The stature and strength of the men of a tribe are
likewise of some importance for its success, and these depend in
part on the nature and amount of the food which can be obtained. In
Europe the men of the Bronze period were supplanted by a race more
powerful, and, judging from their sword-handles, with larger
hands;*(2) but their success was probably still more due to their
superiority in the arts.

* After a time the members of tribes which are absorbed into another
tribe assume, as Sir Henry Maine remarks (Ancient Law, 1861, p.
131), that they are the co-descendants of the same ancestors.
*(2) Morlot, Soc. Vaud. Sc. Nat., 1860, p. 294.

All that we know about savages, or may infer from their traditions
and from old monuments, the history of which is quite forgotten by the
present inhabitants, shew that from the remotest times successful
tribes have supplanted other tribes. Relics of extinct or forgotten
tribes have been discovered throughout the civilised regions of the
earth, on the wild plains of America, and on the isolated islands in
the Pacific Ocean. At the present day civilised nations are everywhere
supplanting barbarous nations, excepting where the climate opposes a
deadly barrier; and they succeed mainly, though not exclusively,
through their arts, which are the products of the intellect. It is,
therefore, highly probable that with mankind the intellectual
faculties have been mainly and gradually perfected through natural
selection; and this conclusion is sufficient for our purpose.
Undoubtedly it would be interesting to trace the development of each
separate faculty from the state in which it exists in the lower
animals to that in which it exists in man; but neither my ability
nor knowledge permits the attempt.
It deserves notice that, as soon as the progenitors of man became
social (and this probably occurred at a very early period), the
principle of imitation, and reason, and experience would have
increased, and much modified the intellectual powers in a way, of
which we see only traces in the lower animals. Apes are much given
to imitation, as are the lowest savages; and the simple fact
previously referred to, that after a time no animal can be caught in
the same place by the same sort of trap, shews that animals learn by
experience, and imitate the caution of others. Now, if some one man in
a tribe, more sagacious than the others, invented a new snare or
weapon, or other means of attack or defence, the plainest
self-interest, without the assistance of much reasoning power, would
prompt the other members to imitate him; and all would thus profit.
The habitual practice of each new art must likewise in some slight
degree strengthen the intellect. If the new invention were an
important one, the tribe would increase in number, spread, and
supplant other tribes. In a tribe thus rendered more numerous there
would always be a rather greater chance of the birth of other superior
and inventive members. If such men left children to inherit their
mental superiority, the chance of the birth of still more ingenious
members would be somewhat better, and in a very small tribe
decidedly better. Even if they left no children, the tribe would still
include their blood-relations; and it has been ascertained by
agriculturists* that by preserving and breeding from the family of
an animal, which when slaughtered was found to be valuable, the
desired character has been obtained.

* I have given instances in my Variation of Animals under
Domestication, vol. ii., p. 196.

Turning now to the social and moral faculties. In order that
primeval men, or the apelike progenitors of man, should become social,
they must have acquired the same instinctive feelings, which impel
other animals to live in a body; and they no doubt exhibited the
same general disposition. They would have felt uneasy when separated
from their comrades, for whom they would have felt some degree of
love; they would have warned each other of danger, and have given
mutual aid in attack or defence. All this implies some degree of
sympathy, fidelity, and courage. Such social qualities, the
paramount importance of which to the lower animals is disputed by no
one, were no doubt acquired by the progenitors of man in a similar
manner, namely, through natural selection, aided by inherited habit.
When two tribes of primeval man, living in the same country, came into
competition, if (other circumstances being equal) the one tribe
included a great number of courageous, sympathetic and faithful
members, who were always ready to warn each other of danger, to aid
and defend each other, this tribe would succeed better and conquer the
other. Let it be borne in mind how all-important in the
never-ceasing wars of savages, fidelity and courage must be. The
advantage which disciplined soldiers have over undisciplined hordes
follows chiefly from the confidence which each man feels in his
comrades. Obedience, as Mr. Bagehot has well shewn,* is of the highest
value, for any form of government is better than none. Selfish and
contentious people will not cohere, and without coherence nothing
can be effected. A tribe rich in the above qualities would spread
and be victorious over other tribes: but in the course of time it
would, judging from all past history, be in its turn overcome by
some other tribe still more highly endowed. Thus the social and
moral qualities would tend slowly to advance and be diffused
throughout the world.

* See a remarkable series of articles on "Physics and Politics,"
in the Fortnightly Review, Nov., 1867; April 1, 1868; July 1, 1869,
since separately published.

But it may be asked, how within the limits of the same tribe did a
large number of members first become endowed with these social and
moral qualities, and how was the standard of excellence raised? It
is extremely doubtful whether the offspring of the more sympathetic
and benevolent parents, or of those who were the most faithful to
their comrades, would be reared in greater numbers than the children
of selfish and treacherous parents belonging to the same tribe. He who
was ready to sacrifice his life, as many a savage has been, rather
than betray his comrades, would often leave no offspring to inherit
his noble nature. The bravest men, who were always willing to come
to the front in war, and who freely risked their lives for others,
would on an average perish in larger numbers than other men.
Therefore, it hardly seems probable that the number of men gifted with
such virtues, or that the standard of their excellence, could be
increased through natural selection, that is, by the survival of the
fittest; for we are not here speaking of one tribe being victorious
over another.
Although the circumstances, leading to an increase in the number
of those thus endowed within the same tribe, are too complex to be
clearly followed out, we can trace some of the probable steps. In
the first place, as the reasoning powers and foresight of the
members became improved, each man would soon learn that if he aided
his fellow-men, he would commonly receive aid in return. From this low
motive he might acquire the habit of aiding his fellows; and the habit
of performing benevolent actions certainly strengthens the feeling
of sympathy which gives the first impulse to benevolent actions.
Habits, moreover, followed during many generations probably tend to be
But another and much more powerful stimulus to the development of
the social virtues, is afforded by the praise and the blame of our
fellow-men. To the instinct of sympathy, as we have already seen, it
is primarily due, that we habitually bestow both praises and blame
on others, whilst we love the former and dread the latter when applied
to ourselves; and this instinct no doubt was originally acquired, like
all the other social instincts, through natural selection. At how
early a period the progenitors of man in the course of their
development, became capable of feeling and being impelled by, the
praise or blame of their fellow-creatures, we cannot of course say.
But it appears that even dogs appreciate encouragement, praise, and
blame. The rudest savages feel the sentiment of glory, as they clearly
show by preserving the trophies of their prowess, by their habit of
excessive boasting, and even by the extreme care which they take of
their personal appearance and decorations; for unless they regarded
the opinion of their comrades, such habits would be senseless.
They certainly feel shame at the breach of some of their lesser
rules, and apparently remorse, as shewn by the case of the
Australian who grew thin and could not rest from having delayed to
murder some other woman, so as to propitiate his dead wife's spirit.
Though I have not met with any other recorded case, it is scarcely
credible that a savage, who will sacrifice his life rather than betray
his tribe, or one who will deliver himself up as a prisoner rather
than break his parole,* would not feel remorse in his inmost soul,
if he had failed in a duty, which he held sacred.

* Mr. Wallace gives cases in his Contributions to the Theory of
Natural Selection, 1870, p. 354.

We may therefore conclude that primeval man, at a very remote
period, was influenced by the praise and blame of his fellows. It is
obvious, that the members of the same tribe would approve of conduct
which appeared to them to be for the general good, and would reprobate
that which appeared evil. To do good unto others- to do unto others as
ye would they should do unto you- is the foundation-stone of morality.
It is, therefore, hardly possible to exaggerate the importance
during rude times of the love of praise and the dread of blame. A
man who was not impelled by any deep, instinctive feeling, to
sacrifice his life for the good of others, yet was roused to such
actions by a sense of glory, would by his example excite the same wish
for glory in other men, and would strengthen by exercise the noble
feeling of admiration. He might thus do far more good to his tribe
than by begetting offspring with a tendency to inherit his own high
With increased experience and reason, man perceives the more
remote consequences of his actions, and the self-regarding virtues,
such as temperance, chastity, &c., which during early times are, as we
have before seen, utterly disregarded, come to be highly esteemed or
even held sacred. I need not, however, repeat what I have said on this
head in the fourth chapter. Ultimately our moral sense or conscience
becomes a highly complex sentiment- originating in the social
instincts, largely guided by the approbation of our fellow-men,
ruled by reason, self-interest, and in later times by deep religious
feelings, and confirmed by instruction and habit.
It must not be forgotten that although a high standard of morality
gives but a slight or no advantage to each individual man and his
children over the other men of the same tribe, yet that an increase in
the number of well-endowed men and an advancement in the standard of
morality will certainly give an immense advantage to one tribe over
another. A tribe including many members who, from possessing in a high
degree the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage, and
sympathy, were always ready to aid one another, and to sacrifice
themselves for the common good, would be victorious over most other
tribes; and this would be natural selection. At all times throughout
the world tribes have supplanted other tribes; and as morality is
one important element in their success, the standard of morality and
the number of well-endowed men will thus everywhere tend to rise and
It is, however, very difficult to form any judgment why one
particular tribe and not another has been successful and has risen
in the scale of civilisation. Many savages are in the same condition
as when first discovered several centuries ago. As Mr. Bagehot has
remarked, we are apt to look at the progress as normal in human
society; but history refutes this. The ancients did not even entertain
the idea, nor do the Oriental nations at the present day. According to
another high authority, Sir Henry Maine, "The greatest part of mankind
has never shewn a particle of desire that its civil institutions
should be improved."* Progress seems to depend on many concurrent
favourable conditions, far too complex to be followed out. But it
has often been remarked, that a cool climate, from leading to industry
and to the various arts, has been highly favourable thereto. The
Esquimaux, pressed by hard necessity, have succeeded in many ingenious
inventions, but their climate has been too severe for continued
progress. Nomadic habits, whether over wide plains, or through the
dense forests of the tropics, or along the shores of the sea, have
in every case been highly detrimental. Whilst observing the
barbarous inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego, it struck me that the
possession of some property, a fixed abode, and the union of many
families under a chief, were the indispensable requisites for
civilisation. Such habits almost necessitate the cultivation of the
ground and the first steps in cultivation would probably result, as
I have elsewhere shewn,*(2) from some such accident as the seeds of
a fruit-tree falling on a heap of refuse, and producing an unusually
fine variety. The problem, however, of the first advance of savages
towards civilisation is at present much too difficult to be solved.

* Ancient Law, 1861, p. 22. For Mr. Bagehot's remarks, Fortnightly
Review, April 1, 1868, p. 452.
*(2) The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, vol.
i., p. 309.

Natural Selection as affecting Civilised Nations.- I have hitherto
only considered the advancement of man from a semi-human condition
to that of the modern savage. But some remarks on the action of
natural selection on civilised nations may be worth adding. This
subject has been ably discussed by Mr. W. R. Greg,* and previously
by Mr. Wallace and Mr. Galton.*(2) Most of my remarks are taken from
these three authors. With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon
eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state
of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check
the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the
maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men
exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last
moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved
thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have
succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies
propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of
domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to
the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care
wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but
excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as
to allow his worst animals to breed.

* Fraser's Magazine, Sept., 1868, p. 353. This article seems to have
struck many persons, and has given rise to two remarkable essays and a
rejoinder in the Spectator, Oct. 3 and 17, 1868. It has also been
discussed in the Quarterly Journal of Science, 1869, p. 152, and by
Mr. Lawson Tait in the Dublin Quarterly Journal of Medical Science,
Feb., 1869, and by Mr. E. Ray Lankester in his Comparative
Longevity, 1870, p. 128. Similar views appeared previously in the
Australasian, July 13, 1867. I have borrowed ideas from several of
these writers.
*(2) For Mr. Wallace, see Anthropological Review, as before cited.
Mr. Galton in Macmillan's Magazine, Aug., 1865, p. 318; also his great
work, Hereditary Genius, 1870.

The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly
an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally
acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered,
in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely
diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of
hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our
nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation,
for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if
we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could
only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil.
We must therefore bear the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak
surviving and propagating their kind; but there appears to be at least
one check in steady action, namely that the weaker and inferior
members of society do not marry so freely as the sound; and this check
might be indefinitely increased by the weak in body or mind refraining
from marriage, though this is more to be hoped for than expected.
In every country in which a large standing army is kept up, the
finest young men are taken by the conscription or are enlisted. They
are thus exposed to early death during war, are often tempted into
vice, and are prevented from marrying during the prime of life. On the
other hand the shorter and feebler men, with poor constitutions, are
left at home, and consequently have a much better chance of marrying
and propagating their kind.*

* Prof. H. Fick (Einfluss der Naturwissenschaft auf das Recht, June,
1872) has some good remarks on this head, and on other such points.

Man accumulates property and bequeaths it to his children, so that
the children of the rich have an advantage over the poor in the race
for success, independently of bodily or mental superiority. On the
other hand, the children of parents who are short-lived, and are
therefore on an average deficient in health and vigour, come into
their property sooner than other children, and will be likely to marry
earlier, and leave a larger number of offspring to inherit their
inferior constitutions. But the inheritance of property by itself is
very far from an evil; for without the accumulation of capital the
arts could not progress; and it is chiefly through their power that
the civilised races have extended, and are now everywhere extending
their range, so as to take the place of the lower races. Nor does
the moderate accumulation of wealth interfere with the process of
selection. When a poor man becomes moderately rich, his children enter
trades or professions in which there is struggle enough, so that the
able in body and mind succeed best. The presence of a body of
well-instructed men, who have not to labour for their daily bread,
is important to a degree which cannot be over-estimated; as all high
intellectual work is carried on by them, and on such work, material
progress of all kinds mainly depends, not to mention other and
higher advantages. No doubt wealth when very great tends to convert
men into useless drones, but their number is never large; and some
degree of elimination here occurs, for we daily see rich men, who
happen to be fools or profligate, squandering away their wealth.
Primogeniture with entailed estates is a more direct evil, though it
may formerly have been a great advantage by the creation of a dominant
class, and any government is better than none. Most eldest sons,
though they may be weak in body or mind, marry, whilst the younger
sons, however superior in these respects, do not so generally marry.
Nor can worthless eldest sons with entailed estates squander their
wealth. But here, as elsewhere, the relations of civilised life are so
complex that some compensatory checks intervene. The men who are
rich through primogeniture are able to select generation after
generation the more beautiful and charming women; and these must
generally be healthy in body and active in mind. The evil
consequences, such as they may be, of the continued preservation of
the same line of descent, without any selection, are checked by men of
rank always wishing to increase their wealth and power; and this
they effect by marrying heiresses. But the daughters of parents who
have produced single children, are themselves, as Mr. Galton* has
shewn, apt to be sterile; and thus noble families are continually
cut off in the direct line, and their wealth flows into some side
channel; but unfortunately this channel is not determined by
superiority of any kind.

* Hereditary Genius, 1870, pp. 132-140.

Although civilisation thus checks in many ways the action of natural
selection, it apparently favours the better development of the body,
by means of good food and the freedom from occasional hardships.
This may be inferred from civilised men having been found, wherever
compared, to be physically stronger than savages.* They appear also to
have equal powers of endurance, as has been proved in many adventurous
expeditions. Even the great luxury of the rich can be but little
detrimental; for the expectation of life of our aristocracy, at all
ages and of both sexes, is very little inferior to that of healthy
English lives in the lower classes.*(2)

* Quatrefages, Revue des Cours Scientifiques 1867-68, p. 659.
*(2) See the fifth and sixth columns compiled from good authorities,
in the table given in Mr. E. R. Lankester's Comparative Longevity,
1870, p. 115.

We will now look to the intellectual faculties. If in each grade
of society the members were divided into two equal bodies, the one
including the intellectually superior and the other the inferior,
there can be little doubt that the former would succeed best in all
occupations, and rear a greater number of children. Even in the lowest
walks of life, skill and ability must be of some advantage; though
in many occupations, owing to the great division of labour, a very
small one. Hence in civilised nations there will be some tendency to
an increase both in the number and in the standard of the
intellectually able. But I do not wish to assert that this tendency
may not be more than counterbalanced in other ways, as by the
multiplication of the reckless and improvident; but even to such as
these, ability must be some advantage.
It has often been objected to views like the foregoing, that the
most eminent men who have ever lived have left no offspring to inherit
their great intellect. Mr. Galton says, "I regret I am unable to solve
the simple question whether, and how far, men and women who are
prodigies of genius are infertile. I have, however, shewn that men
of eminence are by no means so."* Great lawgivers, the founders of
beneficent religions, great philosophers and discoverers in science,
aid the progress of mankind in a far higher degree by their works than
by leaving a numerous progeny. In the case of corporeal structures, it
is the selection of the slightly better-endowed and the elimination of
the slightly less well-endowed individuals, and not the preservation
of strongly-marked and rare anomalies, that leads to the advancement
of a species.*(2) So it will be with the intellectual faculties, since
the somewhat abler men in each grade of society succeed rather
better than the less able, and consequently increase in number, if not
otherwise prevented. When in any nation the standard of intellect
and the number of intellectual men have increased, we may expect
from the law of the deviation from an average, that prodigies of
genius will, as shewn by Mr. Galton, appear somewhat more frequently
than before.

* Hereditary Genius, 1870, p. 330.
*(2) Origin of Species.(OOS)

In regard to the moral qualities, some elimination of the worst
dispositions is always in progress even in the most civilised nations.
Malefactors are executed, or imprisoned for long periods, so that they
cannot freely transmit their bad qualities. Melancholic and insane
persons are confined, or commit suicide. Violent and quarrelsome men
often come to a bloody end. The restless who will not follow any
steady occupation- and this relic of barbarism is a great check to
civilisation* - emigrate to newly-settled countries; where they
prove useful pioneers. Intemperance is so highly destructive, that the
expectation of life of the intemperate, at the age of thirty for
instance, is only 13.8 years; whilst for the rural labourers of
England at the same age it is 40.59 years.*(2) Profligate women bear
few children, and profligate men rarely marry; both suffer from
disease. In the breeding of domestic animals, the elimination of those
individuals, though few in number, which are in any marked manner
inferior, is by no means an unimportant element towards success.
This especially holds good with injurious characters which tend to
reappear through reversion, such as blackness in sheep; and with
mankind some of the worst dispositions, which occasionally without any
assignable cause make their appearance in families, may perhaps be
reversions to a savage state, from which we are not removed by very
many generations. This view seems indeed recognised in the common
expression that such men are the black sheep of the family.

* Hereditary Genius, 1870, p. 347.
*(2) E Ray Lankester, Comparative Longevity, 1870, p. 115. The table
of the intemperate is from Neison's Vital Statistics. In regard to
profligacy, see Dr. Farr, "Influence of Marriage on Mortality," Nat.
Assoc. for the Promotion of Social Science, 1858.

With civilised nations, as far as an advanced standard of
morality, and an increased number of fairly good men are concerned,
natural selection apparently effects but little; though the
fundamental social instincts were originally thus gained. But I have
already said enough, whilst treating of the lower races, on the causes
which lead to the advance of morality, namely, the approbation of
our fellow-men- the strengthening of our sympathies by habit-
example and imitation- reason- experience, and even self-interest-
instruction during youth, and religious feelings.
A most important obstacle in civilised countries to an increase in
the number of men of a superior class has been strongly insisted on by
Mr. Greg and Mr. Galton,* namely, the fact that the very poor and
reckless, who are often degraded by vice, almost invariably marry
early, whilst the careful and frugal, who are generally otherwise
virtuous, marry late in life, so that they may be able to support
themselves and their children in comfort. Those who marry early
produce within a given period not only a greater number of
generations, but, as shewn by Dr. Duncan,*(2) they produce many more
children. The children, moreover, that are borne by mothers during the
prime of life are heavier and larger, and therefore probably more
vigorous, than those born at other periods. Thus the reckless,
degraded, and often vicious members of society, tend to increase at
a quicker rate than the provident and generally virtuous members. Or
as Mr. Greg puts the case: "The careless, squalid, unaspiring Irishman
multiplies like rabbits: the frugal, foreseeing, self-respecting,
ambitious Scot, stern in his morality, spiritual in his faith,
sagacious and disciplined in his intelligence, passes his best years
in struggle and in celibacy, marries late, and leaves few behind
him. Given a land originally peopled by a thousand Saxons and a
thousand Celts- and in a dozen generations five-sixths of the
population would be Celts, but five-sixths of the property, of the
power, of the intellect, would belong to the one-sixth of Saxons
that remained. In the eternal 'struggle for existence,' it would be
the inferior and less favoured race that had prevailed- and
prevailed by virtue not of its good qualities but of its faults."

* Fraser's Magazine, Sept., 1868, p. 353. Macmillan's Magazine,
Aug., 1865, p. 318. The Rev. F. W. Farrar (Fraser's Magazine, Aug.,
1870, p. 264) takes a different view.
*(2) "On the Laws of the Fertility of Women," in Transactions of the
Royal Society, Edinburgh, vol. xxiv., p. 287; now published separately
under the title of Fecundity, Fertility, and Sterility, 1871. See,
also, Mr. Galton, Hereditary Genius pp. 352-357, for observations to
the above effect.

There are, however, some checks to this downward tendency. We have
seen that the intemperate suffer from a high rate of mortality, and
the extremely profligate leave few offspring. The poorest classes
crowd into towns, and it has been proved by Dr. Stark from the
statistics of ten years in Scotland,* that at all ages the
death-rate is higher in towns than in rural districts, "and during the
first five years of life the town death-rate is almost exactly
double that of the rural districts." As these returns include both the
rich and the poor, no doubt more than twice the number of births would
be requisite to keep up the number of the very poor inhabitants in the
towns, relatively to those in the country. With women, marriage at too
early an age is highly injurious; for it has been found in France
that, "Twice as many wives under twenty die in the year, as died out
of the same number of the unmarried." The mortality, also, of husbands
under twenty is "excessively high,"*(2) but what the cause of this may
be, seems doubtful. Lastly, if the men who prudently delay marrying
until they can bring up their families in comfort, were to select,
as they often do, women in the prime of life, the rate of increase
in the better class would be only slightly lessened.

* Tenth Annual Report of Births, Deaths, &c., in Scotland, 1867,
p. xxix.
*(2) These quotations are taken from our highest authority on such
questions, namely, Dr. Farr, in his paper "On the Influence of
Marriage on the Mortality of the French People," read before the
Nat. Assoc. for the Promotion of Social Science, 1858.

It was established from an enormous body of statistics, taken during
1853, that the unmarried men throughout France, between the ages of
twenty and eighty, die in a much larger proportion than the married:
for instance, out of every 1000 unmarried men, between the ages of
twenty and thirty, 11.3 annually died, whilst of the married, only 6.5
died.* A similar law was proved to hold good, during the years 1863
and 1864, with the entire population above the age of twenty in
Scotland: for instance, out of every 1000 unmarried men, between the
ages of twenty and thirty, 14.97 annually died, whilst of the
married only 7.24 died, that is less than half.*(2) Dr. Stark
remarks on this, "Bachelorhood is more destructive to life than the
most unwholesome trades, or than residence in an unwholesome house
or district where there has never been the most distant attempt at
sanitary improvement." He considers that the lessened mortality is the
direct result of "marriage, and the more regular domestic habits which
attend that state." He admits, however, that the intemperate,
profligate, and criminal classes, whose duration of life is low, do
not commonly marry; and it must likewise be admitted that men with a
weak constitution, ill health, or any great infirmity in body or mind,
will often not wish to marry, or will be rejected. Dr. Stark seems
to have come to the conclusion that marriage in itself is a main cause
of prolonged life, from finding that aged married men still have a
considerable advantage in this respect over the unmarried of the
same advanced age; but every one must have known instances of men, who
with weak health during youth did not marry, and yet have survived
to old age, though remaining weak, and therefore with a lessened
chance of life or of marrying. There is another remarkable
circumstance which seems to support Dr. Stark's conclusion, namely,
that widows and widowers in France suffer in comparison with the
married a very heavy rate of mortality; but Dr. Farr attributes this
to the poverty and evil habits consequent on the disruption of the
family, and to grief. On the whole we may conclude with Dr. Farr
that the lesser mortality of married than of unmarried men, which
seems to be a general law, "is mainly due to the constant
elimination of imperfect types, and to the skilful selection of the
finest individuals out of each successive generation"; the selection
relating only to the marriage state, and acting on all corporeal,
intellectual, and moral qualities.*(3) We may, therefore, infer that
sound and good men who out of prudence remain for a time unmarried, do
not suffer a high rate of mortality.

* Dr. Farr, ibid. The quotations given below are extracted from
the same striking paper.
*(2) I have taken the mean of the quinquennial means, given in the
Tenth Annual Report of Births, Deaths, &c., in Scotland, 1867. The
quotation from Dr. Stark is copied from an article in the Daily
News, Oct. 17, 1868. which Dr. Farr considers very carefully written.
*(3) Dr. Duncan remarks (Fecundity, Fertility, &c., 1871, p. 334) on
this subject: "At every age the healthy and beautiful go over from the
unmarried side to the married, leaving the unmarried columns crowded
with the sickly and unfortunate."

If the various checks specified in the two last paragraphs, and
perhaps others as yet unknown, do not prevent the reckless, the
vicious and otherwise inferior members of society from increasing at a
quicker rate than the better class of men, the nation will retrograde,
as has too often occurred in the history of the world. We must
remember that progress is no invariable rule. It is very difficult
to say why one civilised nation rises, becomes more powerful, and
spreads more widely, than another; or why the same nation progresses
more quickly at one time than at another. We can only say that it
depends on an increase in the actual number of the population, on
the number of men endowed with high intellectual and moral
faculties, as well as on their standard of excellence. Corporeal
structure appears to have little influence, except so far as vigour of
body leads to vigour of mind.
It has been urged by several writers that as high intellectual
powers are advantageous to a nation, the old Greeks, who stood some
grades higher in intellect than any race that has ever existed,*
ought, if the power of natural selection were real, to have risen
still higher in the scale, increased in number, and stocked the
whole of Europe. Here we have the tacit assumption, so often made with
respect to corporeal structures, that there is some innate tendency
towards continued development in mind and body. But development of all
kinds depends on many concurrent favourable circumstances. Natural
selection acts only tentatively. Individuals and races may have
acquired certain indisputable advantages, and yet have perished from
failing in other characters. The Greeks may have retrograded from a
want of coherence between the many small states, from the small size
of their whole country, from the practice of slavery, or from
extreme sensuality; for they did not succumb until "they were
enervated and corrupt to the very core."*(2) The western nations of
Europe, who now so immeasurably surpass their former savage
progenitors, and stand at the summit of civilisation, owe little or
none of their superiority to direct inheritance from the old Greeks,
though they owe much to the written works of that wonderful people.

* See the ingenious and original argument on this subject by Mr.
Galton, Hereditary Genius, pp. 340-342.
*(2) Mr. Greg, Fraser's Magazine, Sept., 1868, p. 357.

Who can positively say why the Spanish nation, so dominant at one
time, has been distanced in the race? The awakening of the nations
of Europe from the dark ages is a still more perplexing problem. At
that early period, as Mr. Galton has remarked, almost all the men of a
gentle nature, those given to meditation or culture of the mind, had
no refuge except in the bosom of a Church which demanded celibacy;*
and this could hardly fail to have had a deteriorating influence on
each successive generation. During this same period the Holy
Inquisition selected with extreme care the freest and boldest men in
order to burn or imprison them. In Spain alone some of the best men-
those who doubted and questioned, and without doubting there can be no
progress- were eliminated during three centuries at the rate of a
thousand a year. The evil which the Catholic Church has thus
effected is incalculable, though no doubt counterbalanced to a
certain, perhaps to a large, extent in other ways; nevertheless,
Europe has progressed at an unparalleled rate.

* Hereditary Genius, 1870, pp. 357-359. The Rev. F. W. Farrar
(Fraser's Magazine, Aug., 1870, p. 257) advances arguments on the
other side. Sir C. Lyell had already (Principles of Geology, vol. ii.,
1868, p. 489), in a striking passage, called attention to the evil
influence of the Holy Inquisition in having, through selection,
lowered the general standard of intelligence in Europe.

The remarkable success of the English as colonists, compared to
other European nations, has been ascribed to their "daring and
persistent energy"; a result which is well illustrated by comparing
the progress of the Canadians of English and French extraction; but
who can say how the English gained their energy? There is apparently
much truth in the belief that the wonderful progress of the United
States, as well as the character of the people, are the results of
natural selection; for the more energetic, restless, and courageous
men from all parts of Europe have emigrated during the last ten or
twelve generations to that great country, and have there succeeded
best.* Looking to the distant future, I do not think that the Rev. Mr.
Zincke takes an exaggerated view when he says:*(2) "All other series
of events- as that which resulted in the culture of mind in Greece,
and that which resulted in the empire of Rome- only appear to have
purpose and value when viewed in connection with, or rather as
subsidiary to... the great stream of Anglo-Saxon emigration to the
west." Obscure as is the problem of the advance of civilisation, we
can at least see that a nation which produced during a lengthened
period the greatest number of highly intellectual, energetic, brave,
patriotic, and benevolent men, would generally prevail over less
favoured nations.

* Mr. Galton, Macmillan's Magazine, August, 1865, p. 325. See
also, Nature, "On Darwinism and National Life," Dec., 1869, p. 184.
*(2) Last Winter in the United States, 1868, p. 29.

Natural selection follows from the struggle for existence; and
this from a rapid rate of increase. It is impossible not to regret
bitterly, but whether wisely is another question, the rate at which
man tends to increase; for this leads in barbarous tribes to
infanticide and many other evils, and in civilised nations to abject
poverty, celibacy, and to the late marriages of the prudent. But as
man suffers from the same physical evils as the lower animals, he
has no right to expect an immunity from the evils consequent on the
struggle for existence. Had he not been subjected during primeval
times to natural selection, assuredly he would never have attained
to his present rank. Since we see in many parts of the world
enormous areas of the most fertile land capable of supporting numerous
happy homes, but peopled only by a few wandering savages, it might
be argued that the struggle for existence had not been sufficiently
severe to force man upwards to his highest standard. Judging from
all that we know of man and the lower animals, there has always been
sufficient variability in their intellectual and moral faculties,
for a steady advance through natural selection. No doubt such
advance demands many favourable concurrent circumstances; but it may
well be doubted whether the most favourable would have sufficed, had
not the rate of increase been rapid, and the consequent struggle for
existence extremely severe. It even appears from what we see, for
instance, in parts of S. America, that a people which may be called
civilised, such as the Spanish settlers, is liable to become
indolent and to retrograde, when the conditions of life are very easy.
With highly civilised nations continued progress depends in a
subordinate degree on natural selection; for such nations do not
supplant and exterminate one another as do savage tribes. Nevertheless
the more intelligent members within the same community will succeed
better in the long run than the inferior, and leave a more numerous
progeny, and this is a form of natural selection. The more efficient
causes of progress seem to consist of a good education during youth
whilst the brain is impressible, and of a high standard of excellence,
inculcated by the ablest and best men, embodied in the laws, customs
and traditions of the nation, and enforced by public opinion. It
should, however, be borne in mind, that the enforcement of public
opinion depends on our appreciation of the approbation and
disapprobation of others; and this appreciation is founded on our
sympathy, which it can hardly be doubted was originally developed
through natural selection as one of the most important elements of the
social instincts.*

* I am much indebted to Mr. John Morley for some good criticisms
on this subject: see, also Broca, "Les Selections," Revue
d'Anthropologie, 1872.

On the evidence that all civilised nations were once barbarous.- The
present subject has been treated in so full and admirable a manner
by Sir J. Lubbock,* Mr. Tylor, Mr. M'Lennan, and others, that I need
here give only the briefest summary of their results. The arguments
recently advanced by the Duke of Argyll*(2) and formerly by Archbishop
Whately, in favour of the belief that man came into the world as a
civilised being, and that all savages have since undergone
degradation, seem to me weak in comparison with those advanced on
the other side. Many nations, no doubt, have fallen away in
civilisation, and some may have lapsed into utter barbarism, though on
this latter head I have met with no evidence. The Fuegians were
probably compelled by other conquering hordes to settle in their
inhospitable country, and they may have become in consequence somewhat
more degraded; but it would be difficult to prove that they have
fallen much below the Botocudos, who inhabit the finest parts of

* "On the Origin of Civilisation," Proceedings of the Ethnological
Society, Nov. 26, 1867.
*(2) Primeval Man, 1869.

The evidence that all civilised nations are the descendants of
barbarians, consists, on the one side, of clear traces of their former
low condition in still-existing customs, beliefs, language, &c.; and
on the other side, of proofs that savages are independently able to
raise themselves a few steps in the scale of civilisation, and have
actually thus risen. The evidence on the first head is extremely
curious, but cannot be here given: I refer to such cases as that of
the art of enumeration, which, as Mr. Tylor clearly shews by reference
to the words still used in some places, originated in counting the
fingers, first of one hand and then of the other, and lastly of the
toes. We have traces of this in our own decimal system, and in the
Roman numerals, where, after the V, which is supposed to be an
abbreviated picture of a human hand, we pass on to VI, &c., when the
other hand no doubt was used. So again, "When we speak of
three-score and ten, we are counting by the vigesimal system, each
score thus ideally made, standing for 20- for 'one man' as a Mexican
or Carib would put it."* According to a large and increasing school of
philologists, every language bears the marks of its slow and gradual
evolution. So it is with the art of writing, for letters are rudiments
of pictorial representations. It is hardly possible to read Mr.
M'Lennan's work*(2) and not admit that almost all civilised nations
still retain traces of such rude habits as the forcible capture of
wives. What ancient nation, as the same author asks, can be named that
was originally monogamous? The primitive idea of justice, as shewn
by the law of battle and other customs of which vestiges still remain,
was likewise most rude. Many existing superstitions are the remnants
of former false religious beliefs. The highest form of religion- the
grand idea of God hating sin and loving righteousness- was unknown
during primeval times.

* Royal Institution of Great Britain, March 15, 1867. Also,
Researches into the Early History of Mankind, 1865.
*(2) Primitive Marriage, 1865. See, likewise, an excellent
article, evidently by the same author, in the North British Review,
July, 1869. Also, Mr. L. H. Morgan, "A Conjectural Solution of the
Origin of the Class, System of Relationship," in Proc. American
Acad. of Sciences, vol. vii., Feb., 1868. Prof. Schaaffhausen(Anthropolog. Review, Oct., 1869, p. 373) remarks on "the vestiges
of human sacrifices found both in Homer and the Old Testament."

Turning to the other kind of evidence: Sir J. Lubbock has shewn that
some savages have recently improved a little in some of their
simpler arts. From the extremely curious account which he gives of the
weapons, tools, and arts, in use amongst savages in various parts of
the world, it cannot be doubted that these have nearly all been
independent discoveries, excepting perhaps the art of making fire.*
The Australian boomerang is a good instance of one such independent
discovery. The Tahitians when first visited had advanced in many
respects beyond the inhabitants of most of the other Polynesian
islands. There are no just grounds for the belief that the high
culture of the native Peruvians and Mexicans was derived from
abroad;*(2) many native plants were there cultivated, and a few native
animals domesticated. We should bear in mind that, judging from the
small influence of most missionaries, a wandering crew from some
semi-civilised land, if washed to the shores of America, would not
have produced any marked effect on the natives, unless they had
already become somewhat advanced. Looking to a very remote period in
the history of the world, we find, to use Sir J. Lubbock's
well-known terms, a paleolithic and neolithic period; and no one
will pretend that the art of grinding rough flint tools was a borrowed
one. In all parts of Europe, as far east as Greece, in Palestine,
India, Japan, New Zealand, and Africa, including Egypt, flint tools
have been discovered in abundance; and of their use the existing
inhabitants retain no tradition. There is also indirect evidence of
their former use by the Chinese and ancient Jews. Hence there can
hardly be a doubt that the inhabitants of these countries, which
include nearly the whole civilised world, were once in a barbarous
condition. To believe that man was aboriginally civilised and then
suffered utter degradation in so many regions, is to take a pitiably
low view of human nature. It is apparently a truer and more cheerful
view that progress has been much more general than retrogression; that
man has risen, though by slow and interrupted steps, from a lowly
condition to the highest standard as yet attained by him in knowledge,
morals and religion.

* Sir J. Lubbock, Prehistoric Times, 2nd ed., 1869, chaps. xv. and
xvi. et passim. See also the excellent 9th chapter in Tylor's Early
History of Mankind, 2nd ed., 1870.
*(2) Dr. F. Muller has made some good remarks to this effect in
the Reise der Novara: Anthropolog. Theil, Abtheil. iii., 1868, s. 127.
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