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Hereditary Genius
351
INFLUENCES THAT AFFECT THE NATURAL ABILITY
OF NATIONS.
BEFORE speaking of the influences which affect the natural ability
and intelligence of nations and races, I must beg the reader to bring
distinctly before his mind how reasonable it is that such influences
should be expected to exist. How consonant it is to all analogy and
experience to expect that the control of the nature of future
generations should be as much within the power of the living, as the
health and well-being of the individual is in the power of the guardians
of his youth.
We are exceedingly ignorant of the reasons why we exist, confident
only that individual life is a portion of some vaster system that
struggles arduously onwards, towards ends that are dimly seen or
wholly unknown to us, by means of the various affinities—the
sentiments, the intelligences, the tastes, the appetites—of innumerable
personalities who ceaselessly succeed one another on the stage of
existence.
There is nothing that appears to assign a more exceptional or sacred
character to a race, than to the families or individuals that compose it.
We know how careless Nature is of the lives of individuals; we have
seen how careless she is of eminent families—how they are built up,
flourish, and decay: just the same may be said of races, and of 
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