From Francis Galton, Memories of My Life

Chapter XXI. Race Improvement

Eugenics -- Passages from my early writings -- Original sin -- Breeding dogs for intelligence -- Great extension of my work by Professor Karl Pearson -- Eugenics laboratory -- Duty towards race improvement

THE subject of Race Improvement, or Eugenics, with which I have much occupied myself during the last few years, is a pursuit of no recent interest. I published my views as long ago as 1865, in two articles written in Macmillan's Magazine [20], while preparing materials for my book, Hereditary Genius. But I did not then realise, as now, the. powerful influence of Small Causes upon statistical results. I was too much disposed to think of marriage under some regulation, and not enough of the effects of self-interest and of social and religious sentiment, Popular feeling was not then ripe to accept even the elementary truths of hereditary talent and character, upon which the possibility of Race Improvement depends. Still less was it prepared to consider dispassionately any proposals for practical action. So I laid the subject wholly to one side for many years. Now I see my way better, and an appreciative audience is at last to be had, though it be small. As in most other cases of novel views, the wrong-headedness of objectors to Eugenics has been curious.

The most common misrepresentations now are that its methods must be altogether those of compulsory unions, as in breeding animals. It is not so. I think that stern compulsion ought to be exerted to prevent the free propagation of the stock of those who are seriously afflicted by lunacy, feeble- mindedness, habitual criminality, and pauperism, but that is quite different from compulsory marriage. How to restrain ill-omened marriages is a question by itself, whether it should be effected by seclusion, or in other ways yet to be devised that are consistent with a humane and well-informed public opinion. I cannot doubt that our democracy will ultimately refuse consent to that liberty of propagating children which is now allowed to the undesirable classes, but the populace has yet to be taught the true state of these things. A democracy cannot endure unless it be composed of able citizens; therefore it must in self-defence withstand the free introduction of degenerate stock.

What I desire is that the importance of eugenic marriages should be reckoned at its just value, neither too high nor too low, and that Eugenics should form one of the many considerations by which marriages are promoted or hindered, as they are by social position, adequate fortune, and similarity of creed. I can believe hereafter that it will be felt as derogatory to a person of exceptionally good stock to marry into an inferior one as it is for a person of high Austrian rank to marry one who has not sixteen heraldic quarterings. I also hope that social recognition of an appropriate kind will be given to healthy, capable, and large families, and that social influence will be exerted towards the encouragement of eugenic marriages.

Confusion is often made between statistical and individual results. It sometimes seems to be held seriously that if the effect of a particular union cannot be accurately foretold, the application of the rules of Eugenics is vain. This is not the case. Statistics give us assurance concerning the fate of such or such a ;percentage of a large number of people which, when translated into other terms, is the probability of each of them being affected by it. From the statesman's point of view, where lives are pawns in the game and personal favour is excluded, this information is sufficient. It tells how large a number of undesirables or of desirables can be introduced or not into a population by such and such measures. Whether their names be A, B, or C, or else X, Y, or Z, is of no importance to the "Statistician,"a term that is more or less equivalent to that of "Statesman."

In accordance with one principal purpose of these pages, which is to show the fundamental coherence of most of my many inquiries, I will quote several Passages from the above-mentioned articles written in 1865. They expressed then, as clearly as I can do now, the leading principles of Eugenics. They will each be followed by a remark as to how I should wish to modify them.

"The power of man over animal life, in producing whatever varieties of form he pleases, is enormously great. It would seem as though the physical structure of future generations was almost as plastic as clay, under the control of the breeder's will. It is my desire to show, more pointedly than, so far as I am aware, has been attempted before, that mental qualities are equally under control."

Then follows a discussion of inherited abilities, of the same character as that which was afterwards developed more fully in Hereditary Genius. If I were to re-write the above passage, it would be modified by limiting the power of the breeder to perpetuating and intensifying qualities which have already appeared in the race. The possibility would at the same time be recognised of the unforeseen appearance of "sports" or "mutations" of a kind not hitherto observed, but which for all that may become hereditary. Such in past times may have been the electric organs of certain eels and rays, the illuminating capacity of glow-worms, fire-flies, and inhabitants of deep waters, the venom in certain snakes, and the power of speech in man.

After some pages of remarks, the latter of them on the physical attributes of very able men, the article continues :--

"Most notabilities have been great eaters and excellent digesters, on literally the same principle that the furnace which can raise more steam than is usual for one of its size must burn more freely and well than is common. Most great men are vigorous animals with exuberant powers and an extreme devotion to a cause. There is no reason to suppose that in breeding for the highest order of intellect we should produce a sterile or a feeble race."

I should now alter the last sentence to "There is no reason to doubt that a very high order of intellect might be bred with little, if any, sacrifice of fertility or vigour."

"Many forms of civilisation have been peculiarly unfavourable to the hereditary transmission of rare talent. None of them were more prejudicial to it than that of the Middle Ages, when almost every youth of genius was attracted into the Church and enrolled in the rank of a celibate clergy."

This argument was largely developed in Hereditary Genius.

"Another great hindrance to it is a Costly tone of society, like that of our own, where it becomes a folly for a rising man to encumber himself with domestic expenses, which custom exacts, and which are larger than his resources are able to meet. Here also genius is celibate, at least during the best period of manhood.

"A spirit of clique is not bad. I understand that in Germany it is very much the custom for professors to marry the [sisters] or daughters of other professors, and I have some reason to believe, but am anxious for fuller information before I can feel sure of it, that the enormous intellectual digestion of German literary men, which far exceeds that of the corresponding Class of our own countrymen, may, in some considerable degree, be due to this practice."

I have not even yet obtained the information desired in the last paragraph, the correspondents who partly promised to give it not having done so. As many members of our House of Lords marry the daughters of millionaires, it is quite conceivable that our Senate may in time become characterised by a more than common share of shrewd business capacity, possibly also by a lower standard of commercial probity, than at present.

"So far as beauty is concerned . . . it is not so very long ago in England that it was thought quite natural that the strongest lance at the tournament should win the fairest or the noblest lady. The lady was the prize to be tilted for. She rarely Objected to the arrangement, because her vanity was gratified by the gclal of the proceeding. Now history is justly charged with a tendency to repeat itself. We may therefore reasonably look forward to the possibility, I do not say the probability, of some such practice of competition. What an extraordinary effect might be produced on our race if its object was to unite in marriage those who possessed the finest and most Suitable natures, mental, moral, and physical!"

The last paragraph must of course be interpreted in the semi-jocular sense in which it was written.

I may here speak of some attempts by myself, made hitherto in too desultory a way, to obtain materials for a "Beauty-Map" of the British Isles. Whenever I have occasion to classify the persons I meet into three classes, "good, medium, bad," I use a needle mounted as a pricker, wherewith to prick holes, unseen, in a piece of paper, torn rudely into a cross With a long leg. I use its upper end for "good," the cross-arm for "medium," the lower end for "bad." The prick-holes keep distinct, and are easily read off at leisure. The object, place, and date are written On the paper. I used this plan for my beauty data, classifying the girls I passed in streets or elsewhere as attractive, indifferent, or repellent. Of course this was a purely individual estimate, bat it was consistent, judging from the conformity of different attempts in the same population. I found London to rank highest for beauty; Aberdeen lowest.

In another article, after some further discussion, I say :

"I hence conclude that the improvement of the breed of mankind is no insuperable difficulty. If everybody were to agree on the improvement of the race of man being a matter of the very utmost importance, and if the theory of the hereditary transmission of qualities in men was as thoroughly understood as it is in the case of our domestic animals, I see no absurdity in supposing that, in some way or other, the improvement would be carried into effect.

"Most persons seem to have an idea that a new element, specially fashioned in heaven, and not transmitted by simple descent, is introduced into the body of every new-born infant. It is impossible this should be true, unless there exists some property or quality in man that is not transmissible by descent. But the terms talent and character are exhaustive; they include the whole of man's spiritual nature, so far as we are able to understand it. No other class of qualities is known to exist, that we might suppose to have been interpolated from on high."

The article concludes as follows :--

"It is a common theme of moralists of many creeds, that man is born with an imperfect nature. He has lofty aspirations, but there is a weakness in his disposition that incapacitates him from carrying his nobler purposes into effect. He sees that some particular course of action is his duty, and should be his delight; but his inclinations are fickle and base, and do not conform to his better judgment. The whole moral nature of man is tainted with sin, which prevents him from doing the things he knows to be right.

"I venture to offer an explanation of this apparent anomaly which seems perfectly satisfactory from a scientific point of view. It is neither more nor less than that the development of our nature, under Darwin's law of Natural Selection, has not yet overtaken the development of our religious civilisation. Man was barbarous but yesterday, and therefore it is not to be expected that the natural aptitudes of his race should already have become moulded into accordance with his very recent advance. We men of the present centuries are like animals suddenly transplanted among new conditions of climate and of food; our instincts fail us under the altered circumstances.

"My theory is confirmed by the fact that the members of old civilisations are far less sensible than those newly converted from barbarism, of their nature being inadequate to their moral needs. The conscience of a Negro is aghast at his own wild impulsive nature, and is easily stirred by a preacher; but it is scarcely possible to ruffle the self-complacency of a steady-going Chinaman.

"The sense of Original Sin would show, according to my theory, not that man was fallen from a high estate, but that he was rapidly rising from a low one. It would therefore confirm the conclusion that has been arrived at by every independent line of ethnological research, that our forefathers were utter savages . . . and that after myriads of years of barbarism our race has but very recently grown to be civilised and religious."

The above paragraphs appeared also in Hereditary Genius.

These views published by me forty-five years ago are still up to date, owing to the slow advance of the popular mind in its appreciation of the force of heredity. My fault in other parts of these articles was a tendency to overrate the speed with which a great improvement of the race of mankind might, theoretically, be effected. I had not then made out the law of Regression. With this qualification the above extracts express my present views.

Before concluding with these magazine articles, I will make yet another extract in reference to a subject which a friend urged upon me quite recently as a worthy subject of experiment, namely, the breeding of animals for intelligence. The following extract shows that I considered it long ago. I have frequently since thought of making an attempt to carry it out, but it would have occupied more time and money than I could have spared. As it is just possible that the
idea may now catch the fancy of some one, and induce him to make a trial, I reprint the passage here :-

''So far as I am aware, no animals have ever been bred for general intelligence. Special aptitudes are thoroughly controlled by the breeder. He breeds Dogs that point, that retrieve, that fondle or that bite; but no one has ever yet attempted to breed for high general intellect, irrespective of all other qualifications. It would be a most interesting subject for an attempt.

"We hear constantly of prodigies of dogs, whose very intelligence makes them of little value as slaves. When they are wanted, they are apt to be absent on their own errands. They are too critical of their master's conduct. For instance, an intelligent dog shows marked contempt for an unsuccessful sportsman. He will follow nobody along a road that leads to a well-known tedious errand. He does not readily forgive a man who wounds his self-esteem. He is often a dexterous thief and a sad hypocrite. For these reasons an over-intelligent dog is not an object of particular desire, and therefore I suppose no one has ever thought of encouraging a breed of wise dogs. But it would be a most interesting occupation for a country philosopher to pick up the cleverest dogs he could hear of, and mate them together, generation after generation--breeding purely for intellectual power, and disregarding shape, size, and every other quality."

The phrase "regardless of every other quality" is too strong, some regard should be paid to the physique and to the character of the dogs. Perhaps twenty females, ten males, and a fluctuating population of puppies would be enough for an experiment. The cost of this would not be very great, and would be sensibly diminished in time by money derived from the sale of pups.

The idea of the improvement of the human race was again mooted in 1884, and the term Eugenics was then first applied to it in my Human Faculty. Afterwards it was strongly emphasised in my "Huxley Lecture" before the Anthropological Institute in 1901 [161], on the "Possible Improvement of the Human Breed under the existing conditions of Law and Sentiment."

Great steps towards estimating the values of the influences concerned in effecting it had been made in the meantime by Professor Karl Pearson. 'He took up my work on Correlation [104], vastly extending its theory, and adding largely to the data. I had gone no further than to obtain simple results based on the Gaussian law of distribution; he worked out those results with great mathematical skill and elaboration. He also generalised them so as to deal with other laws of distribution than the Gaussian.

Moreover, Professor Karl Pearson established a Biometric Laboratory in University College, where accurate computations are made, and whence a quarterly publication, Biometrika, is issued. It was established by him and Professor Weldon, whose untimely death has been a deep sorrow to many friends and a serious loss to the science of heredity. I also was nominally connected with Biometrika as "Consulting Editor."

The ground had thus become more or less prepared for further advance; so, after talking over the matter with the authorities of the University of London, and obtaining their ready concurrence, I supplied sufficient funds to allow of a small establishment for the furtherance of Eugenics. The University provided rooms, and gave the sanction of their name and various facilities, and I provided the salaries for a Research Fellow and for a Research Scholar. The Eugenics Laboratory of the University of London is now situated in University College, in connection with Professor Karl Pearson's biometric laboratory, and 'I am glad to say he has consented to take it, for the present at least, under his very able superintendence; as I am too old and infirm now to be able to look properly after it. Valuable memoirs are being published by the Laboratory from time to time, and the young institution promises to be a permanent success.

The authorities of the newly established Sociological Society were disposed to take up the subject of Race Improvement, so I gave lectures at two of their meetings in 1904 and 1905, which are published in Vols I. and II. of the Sociological Papers [169]. The subjects were on, "Eugenics, its Scope and Aims," "Restrictions in Marriage," "Studies in National Eugenics," and "Eugenics as a Factor in Religion." Eugenics is officially defined in the Minutes of the University of London as "the study of agencies under social control that may improve or impair the racial qualities of future generations, either physically or mentally."

Skilful and cautious statistical treatment is needed in-most of the many inquiries upon whose results the methods of Eugenics will rest. A full account of the inquiries is necessarily technical and dry, but the results are not, and a "Eugenics Education Society" has been recently established to popularise those results. At the request of its Committee I have lately joined it as Hon. President, and hope to aid its work so far as the small powers that an advanced age still leaves intact may permit.

A true philanthropist concerns himself not only with society as a whole, but also with as many of the individuals who compose it as the range of his affections can include. If a man devotes himself solely to the good of a nation as a whole, his tastes must be impersonal and his conclusions so far heartless, deserving the ill title of "dismal" with which Carlyle labelled statistics. If, on the other hand, he attends only to certain individuals in whom' he happens to take an interest, he becomes guided by favouritism and is oblivious of the rights of others and of the futurity of the race. Charity refers to the individual; Statesmanship to the nation; Eugenics cares for both.

It is known that a considerable part of the huge stream of British charity furthers by indirect and unsuspected ways the production of the Unfit; it is most desirable that money and other attention bestowed on harmful forms of charity should be diverted to the production and well-being of the Fit. For clearness of explanation we may divide newly married couples into three classes, with respect to the probable civic worth of their offspring. There would be a small class of "desirables," a large class of "passables," of whom nothing more will be said here, and a small class of "undesirables." It would clearly be advantageous to the country if social and moral support as well as timely material help were extended to the desirables, and not monopolised as it is now apt to be by the undesirables.

I take Eugenics very seriously, feeling that its principles ought to become one of the dominant motives in a civilised nation, much as if they were one of its religious tenets. I have often expressed myself in this sense, and will conclude this book by briefly reiterating my views.

Individuals appear to me as partial detachments from the infinite ocean of Being, and this world as a stage on which Evolution takes place, principally hitherto by means of Natural Selection, which achieves the good of the whole with scant regard to that of the individual.

Man is gifted with pity and other kindly feelings; he has also the power of preventing many kinds of suffering. I conceive it to fall well within his province to replace Natural Selection by other processes that are more merciful and not less effective.

This is precisely the aim of Eugenics. Its first object is to check the birth-rate of the Unfit, instead of allowing them to come into being, though doomed in large numbers to perish prematurely. The second object is the improvement of the race by furthering the productivity of the Fit by early marriages and healthful rearing of their children. Natural Selection rests upon excessive production and wholesale destruction; Eugenics on bringing no more individuals into the world than can be properly cared for, and those only of the best stock.