Abbildungen der Seite

this principle, if it be admitted, those only are to be esteemed of different species whose distinctive properties are so essential to each respectively, and so inherent in them, that they cannot be changed, or their differences accounted for, by the known operation of any physical, or moral causes. If this, then, be received as the acknowledged criterion of diver. sity of species, I doubt not being able to demon-: strate, in the progress of this essay, that all the vari. eties of men may have sprung from the same original stock. To whichever criterion, therefore, we appeal, the same conclusion will result. *

* It is amusing to see the critical reviewers in England, in their remarks on the first edition of this essay, attach so much importance, as they do, to a frivolous and dubious disquisition respecting the proper criterion of a distinct species, which could lead to no other result, by their own confession, than this, that no accurate criterion has ever been discovered by philosophers. If that be so, surely a discussion of the question, merely as an exhibition of learning in Natural Science, could have been of little importance towards an elucidation of the subject.

So loose and inconclusive is his reasoning, say they, that he has never enquired what really constitutes a different species. In botany, it is preserving the general and essential characters in changes of situation, and losing, in time, the accidental differences which climate and culture have produced. In animals, where the distinction ought to have begun, it has been neglected, (viz. by Naturalists). If the production of a fertile off


The hypothesis that the human kind is divided into various species, radically different from one ano. ther, is commonly connected in the systems of philosophers with another opinion, which, however

gen. eral the assent be which it has obtained, is equally contrary to true philosophy, and to the sacred history; I mean the primitive and absolute savagism of all the tribes of men. A few observations on this opinion calculated to demonstrate its utter improbability, if not its obvious falsehood, will not, I presume,

spring be the criterion of the sameness of the species, men are, undoubtedly, of the same species. But this distinction is found to be fallacious, particularly in domestic animals. And, if carefully examined, we shall find that, in zoology, the species are not, in reality, ascertained with accuracy. We must, then, at last, refer to the botanical distinction.”-Now what elucidation could my subject have received from such learned remarks, which leave the question in the same uncertainty in which they found it? “ In zoology, they say, no criterion has been ascertained with accuracy;"—therefore they will apply to animals that which botanists have fixed for plants. Be it so. It differs not much from that which Dr. Blumenbach proposes both for plants and animals. And, agreeably to this criterion, it is the whole object of the essay to deduce the varieties of men, or to account for them, from what the Doctor calls degenerating cauSES ;-or, to shew, according to the botanical standard of the Reviewers, that men in all climates, “preserve the general and essential characters of the race, and will lose, in time, the accidental differences which climate, and culture, or the habits of living, and various states of society, have produced in them." With what success this has been done I cheerfully leave to the philosophic reader to determine.

be deemed impertinent to the object of the following essay; which is to confirm the doctrine of the unity of the human race, by pointing out the causes of its variety. As this argument, however, rests on an entirely different kind of proof, and is only incidentally related to my principal design, I shall present it to the reader with the greatest brevity. And I trust it will not be found to be an argument so trite, or so unimportant, as to render it, on either account, unworthy his serious attention.

The original, and absolute savagism of mankind, then, is a principle which appears to me to be contradicted equally by sound reason, and by the most authentic documents which remain to us of ancient history.* All the earliest monuments of nations, as far as we can trace them, fix their origin about the middle regions of Asia, and present man to us in a state already civilized. From this centre we perceive the radiations of the race gradually shooting themselves towards every quarter of the globe. Savage life seems to have arisen only from idle, or restless spirits, who, shunning the fatigues of labor, or spurning the restraints and subordinations of civil society, sought, at once, liberty, and the pleasures of the chace, in wild, uncultivated regions remote from their original habitations. Here, forgetting the arts of civilized life, they, with their posterity, degenerated, in a course of time, into all the ignorance and rudeness of savagism, and furnished ample materials to the imagination of the poets for the pictures they have presented to us of the abject condition of tle primitive men. But let us consult reason, as well as history, for the truth, or probability of their pictures.

* The argument from history will be found handsomely illustrated by Mr. David Doig of Sterling in Scotland, in three letters addressed to Lord Kaims, and published in one small duodecimo volume.

Hardly is it possible that man, placed on the surface of the new world, in the midst of its forests and marshes, capable of reason, indeed, but without having formed principles to direct its exercise, should have been able to preserve his existence, unless he had received from his Creator, along with his being, some instructions concerning the use and employment of his faculties, for procuring his subsistence, and in




venting the most necessary arts of life. Nature has
furnished the inferior animals with many and
ful instincts to direct them in the choice of their food,
and with natural instruments peculiarly adapted to
enable them, either by climbing the forest tree for its
fruits, or by digging in the earth for nutricious roots,
to obtain it, in sufficient quantities forthe sustenance of
life. But man, destitute of the niceandaccurate instincts
of other animals, as well as of the effectual means
which they possess of procuring their provision, must
have been the most forlorn of all creatures, although
destined to be lord of the creation; unless we can
suppose him, like the primitive man of the sacred
scriptures, to have been placed in a rich garden
which offered him, at hand, its abundant and spon.
taneous fruits. Cast out, an orphan of nature, naked
and helpless, into the savage forest, he must have
perished before he could have learned how to supply
his most immediate and urgent wants. Suppose him
to have been created, or to have started into being,
we know not how, in the full strength of his bodily
powers, how long must it have been before he could
have known the proper use of his limbs, or how to
apply them to climb the tree, and run out upon its
limbs to gather its fruit, or to grope in the earth for

« ZurückWeiter »