Page images
PDF
EPUB

resulting from domestication and civilization,—that we have, says Wiseman, “almost a right to argue from one's actual to the other's possible modifications.” The geographic distribution of inferior animals as connected with that of man, is deemed of importance, on the presumption that the great di. versity and the dispersion of the human race are regulated by some general plan, analogous to that which is apparent in the distribution of the former.

But as regards the dispersion of animals, we are unwillingly obliged wholly to forego its discussion; and as respects the phenomena of variation among plants and animals, which are most remarkably displayed in the cultivated tribes of the former, and the domesticated races of the latter, we are only permitted to take a glance. The best authenticated examples of the effects produced upon animals by a change of external circumstances, are afforded by the modifications developed in certain breeds transported to the new world. As our space will not allow us to present any details, we cannot do better than give the inferences deduced by Prichard upon this subject.

“1. That tribes of animals which have been domesticated by man and carried into regions where the climates are different from those of their native abodes, undergo, partly from the agency of climate, and in part from the change of external circumstances connected with the state of domesticity, great variations.

“ 2. That these variations extend to considerable modifications in external properties, color, the nature of the integument, and of its covering, whether hair or wool; the structure of limbs, and the proportional size of parts; that they likewise involve certain physiological changes or variations as to the laws of the animal economy; and lastly, certain psychological alterations or changes in the instincts, habits, and powers of perception and intellect

“3. That these last changes are in some cases brought about by training, and that the progeny acquires an aptitude to certain habits which the parents have been taught; that psychical characters, such as new instincts, are developed in breeds by cultivation.

“ 4. That these varieties are sometimes permanently fixed in the breed so long as it remains unmixed.

“5. That all such variations are possible only to a limited extent, and always with the preservation of a particular type, which is that of the species. Each species has a definite or definable character, comprising certain undeviating phenomena of exter. nal structure, and likewise constant and unchangeable characteristics in the laws of its animal economy and in its physiological nature. It is only within these limits that deviations are produced by external circumstances.”

Admitting, then, that these phenomena of variation are analogous to the diversities which distinguish the various races of the human family, it follows that the latter should present still greater differences; for, while each species of animals inferior to man is mostly confined to a limited region and to a mode of existence that is simple and uniform, the human races are scattered over the whole face of the earth, under every variety of physical circumstances, in addition to the influences arising from a moral and intellectual nature. It was long ago remarked by Blumenbach, that the difference between the skull of our swine and that of the primitive wild boar, is quite equal to that observed between ihe crania of the Negro and of the European. That swine were unknown in America until carried hither from Europe, is a conceded point; and, notwithstanding the comparatively short period that has intervened, there now exist many breeds, exhibiting the most striking peculiarities as compared with one another or with the original stock. The pigs carried in 1509 from Spain to Cuba degenerated, according to Herera, into a monstrous race, with toes half a span long. They here became more than twice as large as their European progenitors. Again, we find the breed of domestic swine in France, with a high convex spine and hanging head, just the reverse of that of England, with a straight back and pendulous belly. In Hungary and Sweden, we meet with a solidungular race. It is also observed by Blumenbach, “that there is less difference in the form of the skull in the most dissimilar of mankind, than between the elongated head of the Neapolitan horse and the sku!l of the Hungarian breed, which is remarkable for its shortness and the extent of the lower jaw."

Returning to the characteristics of the American Aboriginal, we find, as regards physiological laws, no deviation from the rest of mankind. As respects the duration of human life, it is evident that there exists no well marked difference among

the different families of men. As all nations have the tendency to exist for a given time, the three-score-and-ten of the Hebrew being also allotted to our Indian,--they appear thus also as one species. The duration of human life, however, varies from the influence of external causes in different climates upon the animal economy; but, at the same time, individuals removed to a new climate acquire in successive generations a gradual physical adaptation to its local conditions. Thus the natives of the western coast of Africa and of the West Indies, notwithstanding the destructiveness of these climates to Europeans, sustain comparatively little inconvenience. As the cells of the camel's stomach, as already remarked, show a wonderful adaptation of organic structure to local conditions, without being referred to climatic agency, so the system of the Negro, as his skin is a much more active organ of depuration than that of the white man, is better adapted, let the remote cause be what it may, to the warm, moist, and miasmial climates of the tropics.

If the comparison as regards the duration of human life, however, is extended to the simiæ, notwithstanding their very close approximation to man in physical structure, the contrast is very great. As the greatest longevity of the troglodyte is no more than thirty years, we thus perceive, more especially when also we consider that all the monkey tribes, in their natural state, are confined almost wholly to the intertropical zone, the close relation of what are generally regarded as extreme diversities among the human races. As we discover no difference in this respect among the three races of the European, our Indian, and the Negro, there is little ground for introducing, as was done by Linnæus, Buffon, Helvetius, and Monboddo, the ourang-outang into the human family. Moreover, we find as attributes common to the three races just mentioned, the erect attitude, the two hands, the slow development of the body, and the exercise of reason. On the other hand, the whole structure of the monkey, who is four-handed, proves that to him the erect attitude is not natural. The striking characteristics of the predominance of the fore armi over the upper arm, and the great length of the upper and the shortness of the lower limbs, are peculiarly adapted to his climbing habits. How beautifully is the majestic attitude of man, which announces to all the other inhabitants of the globe his superiority, described in the words of Ovid:

Pronaque cum spectent animalia cetera terram,
Os homini sublime dedit; cælumque lueri
Jussit; et erectos ad sidera tollere vultus.
And while all other creatures to the dust
Bend their low look, to man a front sublime
He gave, and bade him ever scan the skies,
And to the stars lift up his losty gaze.

As regards the progress of physical development and the periodical changes of the constitution, such as the frequency of the pulse, the period appointed by nature for marriage, or any other of the vital functions, it appears that mankind, whether aboriginal to the old or the new world, present little diversity; and this little is of course attributable to difference of climate.

The pathological history of the different races constitutes as much a part of their physical description, as any feature in their anatomical structure; for there are certain diseases peculiar to man, a list of which has been made out by Blumenbach. From a survey of the facts connected with this question, it

appears that the whole human family, making due allowance for endemic influences, are equally subject to those ills which“ flesh is heir to,” thus confirming the doctrine that a common nature pertains to all human kind.

But there are other facts on the ground of physical characteristics tending to show that the American Aboriginal does not stand" isolated." The affinity of the Americans with the people of Eastern Asia, notwithstanding the very remote period at which man, in his gradual diffusion, reached our continent, is confirmed by a striking physiognomical resemblance, as well as by many customs, arts, and religious observances. As regards a resemblance in physical characteristics, the evidence of many travellers, who were competent judges, might be introduced with much point. “The American race,” says Humboldt,“ has a striking resemblance to the Mongol nations, which include those formerly called Huns, Kulans, and Kalmucks.”—“ We observed,” says Barrow, speaking of the Brazilian Indians, “the Tartar or Chinese features, particularly the eye, strongly marked in the countenance of these Indians." of the Chiriguanos, a Peruvian tribe, Mr. Temple speaks thus :“Had I seen them in Europe, I should have supposed them to be Chinese, so closely do they resemble those people in their features.” The testimony of many others equally decisive might be preSented, but it will suffice to adduce one more, viz., Mr. Ledyard, who speaks from extensive personal knowledge. Writing from Siberia to Mr. Jefferson, he says—“ I shall never be able without seeing you in person, and perhaps not then, to inform you how universally and circunstantially the Tartars resemble the Aborigines of America. They are the same people them

ancient and the most numerous of any other; and had not a small sea divided them, they would all bave been still known by the same name.” Among the numerous facts that might be adduced in illustration of the same affinity, on the score of customs, a single one must suffice. The Scythians, like our Indians, were in the habit of scalping their enemies slain in battle, both regarding these scalps as their proudest trophies. This is related by Herodotus, (Melpomene, LXIV.,) who also describes the mode of stripping the skin from the head. Besides, the Thracians are described by Homer as having their hair only on the crown of the head ; and this custom, as among our Indians, prevails generally among the Mongol nations, the head being shaved, and only a tuft or tress of hair left on the crown. The Caucasian nations, on the other hand, have, in all ages, cherished an abundant growth of hair.

Let us now consider the mental endowments of the American Aborigines. As regards their moral traits, Dr. Morton thinks the characteristics quite distinctive; and of these, the following may be considered the strongest. “One nation,” he says, “ is in almost perpetual hostility with another, tribe against tribe, man against man; and with this ruling passion are linked a merciless revenge and an unsparing destructiveness.” But these characteristics can be considered merely as the extreme of passions common to all mankind, not only in the savage state, but, under certain circuinstances, in the condition of the highest civilization. Without referring to the barbarous excesses of nations equally uncivilized, behold Rome, even in her most palmy day, when she was wont to drag in chains her barbarian captives from the remotest frontier, to swell the triumphal pomp of a successful general! Britain and Thrace thus yielded up their noblest spirits, that spurned the yoke in vain, to die for the amusement of Roman ladies! Compelled to enter the amphitheatre of wild beasts and the arena of the gladiator, the captives were

“Butchered to make a Roman holiday.” Behold next the historic page of not only civilized, but Christianized man. But we would not bring to the light of day the deeds of a nation belonging to our own enlightened age, a people who, pretending to wisdom and philosophy, established a "reign of terror,"--cannibals who drank the blood and ate the hearts of their victims! These moral convulsions which tear up the elements of society, throw a fearful light on the ferocity of human nature, hidden under the arts and pleasures of civilized nations. They are like the convulsions of

« PreviousContinue »