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THE PHYSIOLOGICAL CHARACTERS OF RACES OF MANKIND
CONSIDERED IN THEIR RELATIONS TO HISTORY; Being a Letter to M. Amédée Thierry, Author of the History of the Gauls. By W. F. EDWARDS, M. D.; F. R. S. L. &c. &c. Paris, 1829.'
The very interesting work of the title of which a translation is prefixed, may be divided into two parts. In the first, the author endeavours, and we think successfully, to prove that a race, if not extirpated, continues, however it may be mixed with others, to present its characteristic features, and may thus be recognised after the lapse of many ages; and, in the second, he gives some examples of the application of this important principle in discovering, among modern nations, the descendants and representatives of various ancient races, commonly supposed to have been lost in the mixture of tribes which followed the various conquests and settlements which have taken place in Europe.
Dr Edwards justly observes, that, “ When a people is conquer. ed, and has lost its independence, as it no longer forms a nation, it ceases to exist in history; and we are tempted to believe that in such revolutions each disaster annihilates the previously existing races. But an attentive study of languages enables us to detect, in those spoken at the present day, the ancient idioms which have formed them, and thus to trace, in countries where otherwise we should never have suspected it, an uninterrupted connexion between the ancient and the modern inbabitants.' If, then, the forms of speech leave traces which betray their ancient origin, what are we to think of the physical characters of the race? Are they less permanent ? Do we retain nothing of the features of our ancestors ? Has climate so changed them that they can no longer be recognised ? Has the mixture of races confounded every thing? Has civilization regenerated every thing? Has decay degraded every thing ? Has force exterminat
VOL. X.NO. XLII.
ed or expelled entire peoples ? Such are the questions which must be briefly examined, before coming to the observations which are the subject of this work.”
On the question of THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE, the author observes, that we must attend not to extraordinary and perhaps isolated instances, but to the general results when large masses of beings are exposed to this cause. He shews that the greater number of plants, when brought into a new climate, retain their peculiar character, if they survive; and the same is the case with animals, with the remarkable exception of the well known changes in their fur and other coverings; but here the essential characters remain unaltered.
All the European nations have sent portions of their population into distant countries; and, as many of the colonies thus formed have existed very long, we can judge by them of the effect of the prolonged influence of climate. Now, asks Dr Edwards, do England, France, or Spain, find it difficult to recognise the descendants of the original colonists? Do not these colonists, on the contrary, exhibit the proper characters of their mother country ? But as these characters, in the European nations, are not single and uniform, but mixed to a considerable extent, and consequently admit of some hesitation in pronouncing upon them, let us take, says he, an example which will leave no doubt on the subject. The physiognomy of the Jews is so marked, that it is universally known and recognised. They may be considered as colonists in all countries and climates ; and, as they have preserved their customs, and have mixed little with the surrounding tribes, they are in the most favourable circumstances for shewing the real effect of climate.
In the first place, then, Jews in all countries resemble each other, and differ from the people among whom they live. Secondly, at distant periods, they had the same external characters. In the Last Supper of Leonardo da Vinci, this painter, who was an excellent naturalist and close observer, has painted faces which might be portraits of living Jews. This was 300 years ago ; but we have evidence, that 3000 years ago the Jews had the same characters.
In the copy of the paintings adorning the tomb of an Egyptian king, exhibited in London about ten years ago, there are representations of four different races in procession :- 1st, The natives, very numerous, of a dark brown tint, but without the woolly hair of the Negro; 2d, Negroes, with the black skin, thick lips, and woolly hair of that race ; 3d, Persians; and, 4th, Jews, distinguished, says Belzoni, by their complexion and physiognomy. Dr Edwards says, “ I had seen on the previous
I day, Jews in the streets of London ; I thought that I now saw their portraits."
Here, then, is a people, existing with the same type in every variety of climate, and for ages. . We could not desire a better experiment to ascertain the effect of climate. Even supposing that other nations might not so powerfully resist its influence, we must admit that such is the tendency of nature, and that, if no other cause were in operation, races of men would preserve the characteristic features of their ancestors, during a long course of ages, in every climate.
Next, as to THE MIXTURE OF RACES. This cause, to which all modern nations have been more or less subjected, seems likely to effect more important changes. If the mixture of races were unlimited, perhaps it might confound all ; but it has evident limits. The differences of caste and rank, originating often in difference of race, oppose to it a barrier which is now and then overleaped, notwithstanding the force of laws and prejudices, but which long restrains the mass. Let us, however, suppose all artificial restrictions removed, and observe the result.
First, we must consider the relative number of the two races. Supposing a very great disproportion, the type of the smaller number will finally disappear. If a Negro and a white produce a mulatto, this mulatto with a white produces an individual nearer to the white; and after five and sometimes even four crossings with white blood, the black taint can no longer be perceived. The same is observed in domesticated animals. This conclusion, at first, appears unfavourable to the search after ancient races among modern nations; and it would be so in the case of such races as had formed but a minute fraction of the mass ; but where the mass has been great and preponderating, this principle shews, on the contrary, that the type of the race must still exist. If, then, where no restrictions as to mixture of races exist, the least numerous, if the disproportion be great, finally disappears, still less will the type of the more numerous be altered, if, as in most cases occurs, such restrictions do exist.
Let us now take the other extreme case, namely, where the two races are equal in number. What is required, that both should disappear, and form only one intermediate type ?
Each individual of the one race must unite with an individual of the other, or at least each race must have nearly an equal share in the amalgamation of physical characters. Such are the conditions absolutely necessary ; and if their occurrence be not impossible, it is, at least
, in the highest degree improbable. When animals of different species are crossed, they produce an animal of an intermediate type, or a mule ; but when different varieties of the same species are mixed, the result is often quite different. M. Coladon of Geneva made a very striking experiment, which bears strongly on this point. He procured a great number of white mice, as well as of common brown mice, i studied their habits, and found means to cause them to breed. In his experiments he always put together mice of different colours, expecting a mixed race; but this did not occur in one instance. All the
All the young mice were either white or brown, but each type was produced always in a state of purity.
Even in the case of varieties of the same species, we have an intermediate type or mule, but this is when the varieties differ most from each other: when, as in the case of the mice, they approach very nearly, mules are not produced. In both cases we see one common principle, namely, that the mother often produces a being of a type different from her own,-less so, however, in the latter case. The same principle is seen even in the same variety; for here also the mother, in producing a male, gives birth to a being whose type differs, and in some cases differs very much, from her own.
Now, the same is observed in man. The varieties which differ most strongly, such as the Negro and white, when crossed, produce mules; and when varieties more nearly resembling each other are crossed, the descendants sometimes resemble one parent, sometimes the other, sometimes both. This is the cause of the great variety observable in modern nations ; among which, however, we can always observe specimens of the pure types which have entered into their composition. Thus, even if two races having considerable resemblance to each other, and in equal numbers, were to mix without limitation, the original types would still frequently occur in their descendants.
Another cause which prevents the disappearance of the original types, where there has been no great disproportion of numbers, is the geographical distribution of the races. They cannot be so thoroughly mixed that the one or the other shall not predominate in some district, where, of course, the type of the race so predominating must exist.
A type may occasionally disappear by extermination. Thus the Guanches, savages who inhabited the Canary Isles, have dis
, appeared ; but their number was small, and they were confined to small islands. The Caribs, likewise, for the same reason, have almost disappeared from the Caribbee Islands, although they are said still to exist on the continent. But it is impossible to extirpate a numerous nation, more especially when they have attained a certain degree of civilization. In that case, it becomes the interest of the conquerors to preserve the conquered people as slaves, and not to destroy them; and we have no example in history of a whole people sacrificing themselves rather than submit to such slavery. On the other hand, we must suppose an incredible rage and cruelty on the part of the conquerors, if a whole people is to be exterminated. When it was proposed to Genghis Khan, by some of his counsellors, to extirpate the Chi
nese whom he had conquered in the north of China, as being useless to the conquerors, one of his ministers, Yeliu-thou-tsai, made the emperor observe, that in advancing towards the south, his armies would be in want of many things which it would be easy to procure by imposing on the conquered people contributions, not oppressive, of money and provisions.—How then could it be said that such a people was useless to the state ? This reasoning prevailed, alihough the cruelty of the Mongols was atrocious; and such reasons will always oppose the extermination of populous nations, possessed of some civilization.
A nation, that is, a numerous people, may be dispossessed of a large territory. This, however, has rarely happened, and only in the case of savages.
It has occurred in America, but not in Hindostan. Where industry exists, the chiefs cannot induce a nation to emigrate in a body; and if conquered by a new tribe, the latter expels a portion to obtain room, if nomadic, but preserves the rest, as slaves, as auxiliaries, or as tributaries. These conclusions are confirmed by history; and M. Abel Remusat has even been able, by comparing language with history, to discover nearly all the nomadic tribes of Asia in their primitive seats, notwithstanding the numerous revolutions and conquests which have occurred in that quarter of the globe. As to the infl
nce of civilization on physical characters, we know nothing, either one way or the other ; but its effect cannot be great, as it is commonly confined to the higher classes, except to a very small extent; and besides, wherever distinct types are seen, they will be found to pervade all classes of society.
Having now considered the chief causes,-climate, mixture of races, and civilization,—that might affect the physical characters of a race, and found that these causes are not capable, in ordinary cases, of annihilating the original type, we are prepared to find among modern nations the types of those tribes which have formerly occupied the soil.
We have seen that, if the accession of new tribes increases the number of types, it does not destroy them. The number increases by those which the new people brings, and by those which it creates by mixture ; but the old ones remain, and exist along with the new, except where a particular tribe has been small. in number, in which case the type of such a tribe may have disappeared ; but it may have also been preserved, for obvious reasons.
Of course we will naturally expect to find the descendants of the most numerous nations.
In reading the historical accounts of the destruction of the Roman empire by barbarous tribes, we are apt to imagine that their numbers were immense, and that there was scarcely room