Eugenics as a Creed and the Last Decade of Calton's Life 405
These denunciations were called forth by letters to The Times, March 21 and 31, from Francis Galton and myself in regard to the reform of the House of Lords. Galton drew attention to the fact that a distinction must be drawn between the principles of primogeniture and of heredity. The latter does not involve the former, and whereas a strong stirp may show an adequate number of scions of marked ability, it does not follow that we shall catch able legislators by sending eldest son after eldest son to the House of Lords. My thesis was that the Upper House has been too often recruited by mere plutocrats, by political failures, or by the sons of men who have not taken the pains necessary to found or preserve an able stock-the mother of the eldest son may have been the sister of a Cecil, or a chorus-girl. The House of Lords wants more, rather than less of the hereditary principle. As Galton put it : " There seems to be a regrettable amount of ignorance among our legislators of the facts and statistical methods upon which Eugenics is based."
In The Times of May 21 appeared ' a summary of, the memoir on the Children of Alcoholic Parents, issued by the Eugenics Laboratory, and on the whole a favourable leader upon it. This led to an endless controversy, and somewhat violent statements* on the part of those The Times termed "the enthusiastic advocates of what they are pleased to call temperance." It is not my intention here to renew old controversies but to account for the feelings that were raised in Galton's mind with regard to the Eugenics Education Society in the last year of his life. One of Galton's chief missions in life had been to develop statistical theory, to obtain scientific measures of variation and correlation and thus to ascertain whether differences between classes were or were not significant. The development of his methods applied to living forms, including man, had been termed " biometry," and solely by means of such biometric or actuarial methods is it possible to answer many social and medical problems. " General impressions are never to be trusted. Unfortunately when they are of long standing they become fixed rules of life, and assume a prescriptive right not to be questioned. Consequently those who are not accustomed to original inquiry entertain a hatred and a horror of statistics t." Rightly or wrongly the ideas conveyed in the above sentences formed .Galton's method and his conception of scientific research ; to contemn them was to set at naught Galton himself.
Our statistics were good for the purpose we had in view and there was more than one series ; from them came indubitably for the relative health of children of school age the result expressed in the words " the balance turns as often in favour of the alcoholic as of the non-alcoholic parentage "-in short we were unable to state that by the time children reached the school age, those of the alcoholic were less healthy than those of the temperate.
The Chairman of the Eugenics Education Society, Mr Montague Crackanthorpe, wrote at once to The Times to state that the result was '' contrary to general experience"-but not a single datum did he bring forward. "General
It was confidently asserted that the staff of the Laboratory were "in the pay of the brewers " 1
t Galton : see our Vol. ii, p. 297.