The Inequality of Human Races, by Arthur De Gobineau

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

The Inequality of Human Races, by Arthur De Gobineau

Postby admin » Fri Apr 09, 2021 7:58 am

The Inequality of Human Races
by Arthur De Gobineau
Translated by Adrian Collins, M.A.
Introduction by Dr. Oscar Levy, Editor of the Authorised Englished Version of Nietzsche's Works




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Re: The Inequality of Human Races, by Arthur De Gobineau

Postby admin » Fri Apr 09, 2021 8:02 am


Though many people have accused this age of irreligion, there is at least one point of similarity between modern Europe and that pre-Christian Era to which our present religion is due. Just as in ancient Palestine, there are living amongst us two kinds of prophets — the prophets of evil and disaster, and those of bliss, or, as Europe likes to call it, of "progress." As in Palestine of old the public usually sides with the lighter, the optimistic, the more comfortable sort of people, with the prophets of bliss, while Time and Fate invariably decide in favour of the sterner and gloomier individuals, the prophets of evil. In the world to-day as well as in Palestine of old, the prophets of bliss are the false prophets; the prophets of evil, to-day as of yore, are the true ones. Such a true prophet was Count Arthur de Gobineau.

Even his friends — those few friends whom he gained at the end of his life — still thought him unduly pessimistic. Old Wagner, who introduced him to the German public, thought of brightening his gloom by a little Christian faith, hope, and charity, in order to make the pill more palatable to that great public, which he, the great Stage-manager, knew so well. Other Germans — Chamberlain, Schemann, and the Gobineau school — poured a great deal of water into his wine, sweetened it with patriotic syrups, adulterated it with their own pleasant inventions, which were all too readily swallowed by a gullible and credulous generation. But stern old Gobineau knew the world better than his young and cheerful offspring. He had seen through all that boisterous gaiety of the age, all its breathless labour, all its technical advancement, all its materialistic progress, and had diagnosed, behind it that muddle of moral values which our forefathers have bequeathed to us and which in our generation has only become a greater muddle still. The catastrophe which Gobineau had prophesied to an Aristocracy which had forgotten its tradition, to a Democracy which had no root in reality, to a Christianity which he thought entirely inefficient, is now upon us.

Under the stress of the present misfortunes, we frequently hear that all our previous opinions need revision, that we have to forget many things and to learn afresh still more, that we must try to build up our civilization on a safer basis, that we must reconsider and re-construct the values received from former ages. It is therefore our duty, I think, to turn back to those prophets who accused our forefathers of being on the road to destruction, all the more so as these prophets were likewise true poets who tried as such to point out the right road, endeavouring to remedy, as far as their insight went, the evil of their time. This is the best, and I trust a perfectly satisfactory, reason for the translation of "The Inequality of Human Races."

This book, written as early as 1853, is no doubt a youthful and somewhat bewildering performance, but it gives us the basis of Gobineau's creed, his belief in Race and Aristocracy as the first condition of civilization, his disbelief in the influence of environment, his distrust in the efficacy of religion and morality. The latter kind of scepticism brings him into relationship with Nietzsche, who has even accentuated Count Gobineau's suspicions and who has branded our morality as Slave-Morality, and consequently as harmful to good government. What a Europe without Masters, but with plenty of Half-masters and Slaves, was driving at, Gobineau foresaw as well as Nietzsche.

I sincerely hope that no intelligent reader will overlook this sceptical attitude of Gobineau towards religion, because that is a point of great importance at the present time, when our faith will certainly thrive again on a misfortune, which, by the propagation of slave-values, it indirectly has caused. It is this scepticism against the Church and its Semitic values, which separates a Gobineau from Disraeli, to whom otherwise — in his rejection of Buckle, Darwin, and their science, in his praise of Race and Aristocracy, and in his prophecy of evil — he is so nearly related. Disraeli still believed in a Church based upon a revival of the old principles, Gobineau, like Nietzsche, had no hope whatever in this respect. It is the great merit of both Nietzsche and Gobineau, that they were not, like Disraeli, trying to revive a corpse, but that they frankly acknowledged, the one that the corpse was dead, the other that it was positively poisoning the air. The occasional bows which Gobineau makes to the Church cannot, I repeat, mislead any serious critics of his work, especially if they likewise consult his later books, about which, by the way, I have spoken at greater length elsewhere.* [See my Introduction to Count Gobineau's "Renaissance" (Heinemann).] Both Spinoza and Montaigne had the same laudable habit, and they did not mean it either. For the first business of a great free-thinker is not to be mistaken for a little one ; his greatest misfortune is to be "understood " by the wrong class of people, and thus an occasional bow to the old and venerable Power — apart from the safety which it procures — protects him from an offensive handshake with enthusiastic and unbalanced disciples and apostles.

Geneva, July 1915

Gobineau's [unlike Chamberlain's] was an honest Antisemitism, it was, like Nietzsche's, an historical Antisemitism: it had nothing whatever to do with modern Antisemitism, that movement born from fear, envy, and impotence ... [i]t is an upright, a genuine, a gentlemanly Antisemitism, it is the Antisemitism of the aristocrat, who sees his very blood threatened by revolutionary religions.

-- Oscar Levy, from "Breeding Superman: Nietzsche, Race and Eugenics in Edwardian and Interwar Britain", by Dan Stone
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Re: The Inequality of Human Races, by Arthur De Gobineau

Postby admin » Fri Apr 09, 2021 8:08 am


(1854)* [This dedication and the following preface apply to the whole work, of which the present volume contains the first book. The remaining books are occupied by a detailed examination of the civilizations mentioned at the end of this volume, and it is of these as well as the present book that the author is thinking, in his preface, when speaking of his imitators. A few passages in the dedication that relate exclusively to these books have been omitted. — Tr.]


The great events — the bloody wars, the revolutions, and the breaking up of laws — which have been rife for so many years in the States of Europe, are apt to turn men's minds to the study of political problems. While the vulgar consider merely immediate results, and heap all their praise and blame on the little electric spark that marks the contact with their own interests, the more serious thinker will seek to discover the hidden causes of these terrible upheavals. He will descend, lamp in hand, by the obscure paths of philosophy and history; and in the analysis of the human heart or the careful search among the annals of the past he will try to gain the master-key to the enigma which has so long baffled the imagination of man.

Like every one else, I have felt all the prickings of curiosity to which our restless modern world gives rise. But when I tried to study, as completely as I could, the forces underlying this world, I found the horizon of my inquiry growing wider and wider. I had to push further and further into the past, and, forced by analogy almost in spite of myself, to lift my eyes further and further into the future. It seemed that I should aspire to know not merely the immediate causes of the plagues that are supposed to chasten us, but also to trace the more remote reasons for those social evils which the most meagre knowledge of history will show to have prevailed, in exactly the same form, among all the nations that ever lived, as well as those which survive to-day — evils that in all likelihood will exist among nations yet unborn.

Further, the present age, I thought, offered peculiar facilities for such an inquiry. While its very restlessness urges us on to a kind of historical chemistry, it also makes our labours easier. The thick mists, the profound darkness that from time immemorial veiled the beginnings of civilizations different from our own, now lift and dissolve under the sun of science. An analytic method of marvellous delicacy has made a Rome, un- known to Livy, rise before us under the hands of Niebuhr, and has unravelled for us the truths that lay hid among the legendary tales of early Greece. In another quarter of the world, the Germanic peoples, so long misunderstood, appear to us now as great and majestic as they were thought barbarous by the writers of the Later Empire. Egypt opens its subterranean tombs, translates its hieroglyphs, and reveals the age of its pyramids. Assyria lays bare its palaces with their endless inscriptions, which had till yesterday been buried beneath their own ruins. The Iran of Zoroaster has held no secrets from the searching eyes of Burnouf, and the Vedas of early India take us back to events not far from the dawn of creation. From all these conquests together, so important in themselves, we gain a larger and truer understanding of Homer, Herodotus, and especially of the first chapters of the Bible, that deep well of truth, whose riches we can only begin to appreciate when we go down into it with a fully enlightened mind.

These sudden and unexpected discoveries are naturally not always beyond the reach of criticism. They are far from giving us complete lists of dynasties, or an unbroken sequence of reigns and events. In spite, however, of the fragmentary nature of their results, many of them are admirable for my present purpose, and far more fruitful than the most accurate chronological tables would be. I welcome, most of all, the revelation of manners and customs, of the very portraits and costumes, of vanished peoples. We know the condition of their art. Their whole life, public and private, physical and moral, is unrolled before us, and it becomes possible to reconstruct, with the aid of the most authentic materials, that which constitutes the personality of races and mainly determines their value.

With such a treasury of knowledge, new or newly understood, to draw upon, no one can claim any longer to explain the complicated play of social forces, the causes of the rise and decay of nations, in the light of the purely abstract and hypothetical arguments supplied by a sceptical philosophy. Since we have now an abundance of positive facts crowding upon us from all sides, rising from every sepulchre, and lying ready to every seeker's hand, we may no longer, like the theorists of the Revolution, form a collection of imaginary beings out of clouds, and amuse ourselves by moving these chimeras about like marionettes, in a political environment manufactured to suit them. The reality is now too pressing, too well known; and it forbids games like these, which are always unseasonable, and sometimes impious. There is only one tribunal competent to decide rationally upon the general characteristics of man, and that is history — a severe judge, I confess, and one to whom we may well fear to appeal in an age so wretched as our own.

Not that the past is itself without stain. It includes everything, and so may well have many faults, and more than one shameful dereliction of duty, to confess. The men of to-day might even be justified in flourishing in its face some new merits of their own. But suppose, as an answer to their charges, that the past suddenly called up the gigantic shades of the heroic ages, what would they say then? If it reproached them with having compromised the names of religious faith, political honour, and moral duty, what would they answer? If it told them that they are no longer fit for anything but to work out the knowledge of which the principles had already been recognized and laid down by itself; that the virtue of the ancients has be- come a laughing-stock, that energy has passed from man to steam, that the light of poetry is out, that its great prophets are no more, and that what men call their interests are confined to the most pitiful tasks of daily life; — how could they defend themselves?  

They could merely reply that not every beautiful thing is dead which has been swallowed up in silence; it may be only sleeping. All ages, they might say, have beheld periods of transition, when life grapples with suffering and in the end arises victorious and splendid. Just as Chaldaa in its dotage was succeeded by the young and vigorous Persia, tottering Greece by virile Rome, and the degenerate rule of Augustulus by the kingdoms of the noble Teutonic princes, so the races of modern times will regain their lost youth.

This was a hope I myself cherished for a brief moment, and I should like to have at once flung back in the teeth of History its accusations and gloomy forebodings, had I not been suddenly struck with the devastating thought, that in my hurry I was putting forward something that was absolutely without proof. I began to look about for proofs, and so, in my sympathy for the living, was more and more driven to plumb to their depths the secrets of the dead.

Then, passing from one induction to another, I was gradually penetrated by the conviction that the racial question overshadows all other problems of history, that it holds the key to them all, and that the inequality of the races from whose fusion a people is formed is enough to explain the whole course of its destiny. Every one must have had some inkling of this colossal truth, for every one must have seen how certain agglomerations of men have descended on some country, and utterly trans- formed its way of life; how they have shown themselves able to strike out a new vein of activity where, before their coming, all had been sunk in torpor. Thus, to take an example, a new era of power was opened for Great Britain by the Anglo-Saxon invasion, thanks to a decree of Providence, which by sending to this island some of the peoples governed by the sword of your Majesty's illustrious ancestors, was to bring two branches of the same nation under the sceptre of a single house — a house that can trace its glorious title to the dim sources of the heroic nation itself.

Recognizing that both strong and weak races exist, I preferred to examine the former, to analyse their qualities, and especially to follow them back to their origins. By this method I convinced myself at last that everything great, noble, and fruitful in the works of man on this earth, in science, art, and civilization, derives from a single starting-point, is the development of a single germ and the result of a single thought; it belongs to one family alone, the different branches of which have reigned in all the civilized countries of the universe.
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Re: The Inequality of Human Races, by Arthur De Gobineau

Postby admin » Fri Apr 09, 2021 8:13 am



The fall of civilizations is the most striking, and, at the same time, the most obscure, of all the phenomena of history. It is a calamity that strikes fear into the soul, and yet has always something so mysterious and so vast in reserve, that the thinker is never weary of looking at it, of studying it, of groping for its secrets. No doubt the birth and growth of peoples offer a very remarkable subject for the observer; the successive development of societies, their gains, their conquests, their triumphs, have something that vividly takes the imagination and holds it captive. But all these events, however great one may think them, seem to be easy of explanation; one accepts them as the mere outcome of the intellectual gifts of man. Once we recognize these gifts, we are not astonished at their results; they explain, by the bare fact of their existence, the great stream of being whose source they are. So, on this score, there need be no difficulty or hesitation. But when we see that after a time of strength and glory all human societies come to their decline and fall — all, I say, not this or that; when we see in what awful silence the earth shows us, scattered on its surface, the wrecks of the civilizations that have preceded our own — not merely the famous civilizations, but also many others, of which we know nothing but the names, and some, that lie as skeletons of stone in deep world-old forests, and have not left us even this shadow of a memory; when the mind returns to our modern States, reflects on their extreme youth, and confesses that they are a growth of yesterday, and that some of them are already toppling to their fall: then at last we recognize, not without a certain philosophic shudder, that the words of the prophets on the instability of mortal things apply with the same rigour to civilizations as to peoples, to peoples as to States, to States as to individuals; and we are forced to affirm that every assemblage of men, however ingenious the network of social relations that protects it, acquires on the very day of its birth, hidden among the elements of its life, the seed of an inevitable death.

But what is this seed, this principle of death? Is it uniform, as its results are, and do all civilizations perish from the same cause?

At first sight we are tempted to answer in the negative; for we have seen the fall of many empires, Assyria, Egypt, Greece, Rome, amid the clash of events that had no likeness one to the other. Yet, if we pierce below the surface, we soon find that this very necessity of coming to an end, that weighs imperiously on all societies without exception, presupposes such a general cause, which, though hidden, cannot be explained away. When we start from this fixed principle of natural death — a principle unaffected by all the cases of violent death, — we see that all civilizations, after they have lasted some time, betray to the observer some little symptoms of uneasiness, which are difficult to define, but not less difficult to deny; these are of a like nature in all times and all places. We may admit one obvious point of difference between the fall of States and that of civilizations, when we see the same kind of culture sometimes persisting in a country under foreign rule and weathering every storm of calamity, at other times being destroyed or changed by the slightest breath of a contrary wind; but we are, in the end, more and more driven to the idea that the principle of death which can be seen at the base of all societies is not only inherent in their life, but also uniform and the same for all.

To the elucidation of this great fact I have devoted the studies of which I here give the results.

We moderns are the first to have recognized that every assemblage of men, together with the kind of culture it produces, is doomed to perish. Former ages did not believe this. Among the early Asiatics, the religious consciousness, moved by the spectacle of great political catastrophes, as if by some apparition from another world, attributed them to the anger of heaven smiting a nation for its sins; they were, it was thought, a chastisement meet to bring to repentance the criminals yet unpunished. The Jews, misinterpreting the meaning of the Covenant, supposed that their Empire would never come to an end. Rome, at the very moment when she was nearing the precipice, did not doubt that her own empire was eternal.* [Amedee Thierry, La Gaule sous l' administration romaine, vol. i, p. 244. ] But the knowledge of later generations has increased with experience; and just as no one doubts of the mortal state of humanity, because all the men who preceded us are dead, so we firmly believe that the days of peoples are numbered, however great the number may be; for all those who held dominion before us have now fallen out of the race. The wisdom of the ancients yields little that throws light on our subject, except one fundamental axiom, the recognition of the finger of God in the conduct of this world; to this firm and ultimate principle we must adhere, accepting it in the full sense in which it is understood by the Catholic Church. It is certain that no civilization falls to the ground unless God wills it; and when we apply to the mortal state of all societies the sacred formula used by the ancient priesthoods to explain some striking catastrophes, which they wrongly considered as isolated facts, we are asserting a truth of the first importance, which should govern the search for all the truths of this world. Add, if you will, that all societies perish because they are sinful — and I will agree with you; this merely sets up a true parallel to the case of individuals, finding in sin the germ of destruction. In this regard, there is no objection to saying that human societies share the fate of their members; they contract the stain from them, and come to a like end. This is to reason merely by the light of nature. But when we have once admitted and pondered these two truths, we shall find no further help, I repeat, in the wisdom of the ancients.

That wisdom tells us nothing definite as to the ways in which the Divine will moves in order to compass the death of peoples; it is, on the contrary, driven to consider these ways as essentially mysterious. It is seized with a pious terror at the sight of ruins, and admits too easily that the fallen peoples could not have been thus shaken, struck down, and hurled into the gulf, except by the aid of miracles. I can readily believe that certain events have had a miraculous element, so far as this is stated by Scripture; but where, as is usually the case, the formal testimony of Scripture is wanting, we may legitimately hold the ancient opinion to be incomplete and unenlightened. We may, in fact, take the opposite view, and recognize that the heavy hand of God is laid without ceasing on our societies, as the effect of a decision pronounced before the rise of the first people; and that the blow falls according to rule and foreknowledge, by virtue of fixed edicts, inscribed in the code of the universe by the side of other laws which, in their rigid severity, govern organic and inorganic nature alike.

We may justly reproach the philosophy of the early sacred writers with a lack of experience; and so, we may say, they explain a mystery merely by enunciating a theological truth which, however certain, is itself another mystery. They have not pushed their inquiries so far as to observe the facts of the natural world. But at least one cannot accuse them of misunderstanding the greatness of the problem and scratching for solutions at the surface of the ground. In fact, they have been content to state the question in lofty language; and if they have not solved it, or even thrown light upon it, at least they have not made it a breeder of errors. This puts them far above the rationalistic schools and all their works.

The great minds of Athens and Rome formulated the theory, accepted by later ages, that States, civilizations, and peoples, are destroyed only by luxury, effeminacy, misgovernment, fanaticism, and the corruption of morals. These causes, taken singly or together, were declared to be responsible for the fall of human societies; the natural corollary being that in the absence of these causes there can be no solvent whatever. The final conclusion is that societies, more fortunate than men, die only a violent death; and if a nation can be imagined as escaping the destructive forces I have mentioned, there is no reason why it should not last as long as the earth itself. When the ancients invented this theory, they did not see where it was leading them; they regarded it merely as a buttress for their ethical notions, to establish which was, as we know, the sole aim of their historical method. In their narrative of events, they were so taken up with the idea of bringing out the admirable influence of virtue, and the deplorable effects of vice and crime, that anything which marred the harmony of this excellent moral picture had little interest for them, and so was generally forgotten or set aside. This method was not only false and petty, but also had very often a different result from that intended by its authors; for it applied the terms "virtue" and "vice" in an arbitrary way, as the needs of the moment dictated. Yet, to a certain extent, the theory is excused by the stern and noble sentiment that lay at the base of it; and if the genius of Plutarch and Tacitus has built mere romances and libels on this foundation, at any rate the libels are generous, and the romances sublime.

I wish I could show myself as indulgent to the use that the authors of the eighteenth century have made of the theory. But there is too great a difference between their masters and themselves. The former had even a quixotic devotion to the maintenance of the social order; the latter were eager for novelty and furiously bent on destruction. The ancients made their false ideas bear a noble progeny; the moderns have produced only monstrous abortions. Their theory has furnished them with arms against all principles of government, which they have reproached in turn with tyranny, fanaticism, and corruption. The Voltairean way of "preventing the ruin of society" is to destroy religion, law, industry, and commerce, under the pretext that religion is another name for fanaticism, law for despotism, industry and commerce for luxury and corruption. Where so many errors reign, I certainly agree that we have "bad government."

I have not the least desire to write a polemic; my object is merely to show how an idea common to Thucydides and the Abbe Raynal can produce quite opposite results. It makes for conservatism in the one, for an anarchic cynicism in the other — and is an error in both. The causes usually given for the fall of nations are not necessarily the real causes; and though I willingly admit that they may come to the surface in the death-agony of a people, I deny that they have enough power, enough destructive energy, to draw on, by themselves, the irremediable catastrophe.
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Re: The Inequality of Human Races, by Arthur De Gobineau

Postby admin » Fri Apr 09, 2021 8:25 am


I must first explain what I understand by a "society." I do not mean the more or less extended sphere within which, in some form or other, a distinct sovereignty is exercised. The Athenian democracy is not a "society" in our sense, any more than the Kingdom of Magadha, the empire of Pontus, or the Caliphate of Egypt in the time of the Fatimites. They are fragments of societies, which, no doubt, change, coalesce, or break up according to the natural laws that I am investigating; but their existence or death does not imply the existence or death of a society. Their formation is usually a mere transitory phenomenon, having but a limited or indirect influence on the civilization in which they arise. What I mean by a "society" is an assemblage of men moved by similar ideas and the same instincts; their political unity may be more or less imperfect, but their social unity must be complete. Thus Egypt, Assyria, Greece, India, and China were, or still are, the theatre where distinct and separate societies have played out their own destinies, save when these have been brought for a time into conjunction by political troubles. As I shall speak of the parts only when my argument applies to the whole, I shall use the words "nation" or "people" either in the wide or the narrow sense, without any room for ambiguity. I return now to my main subject, which is to show that fanaticism, luxury, -corruption of morals, and irreligion do not necessarily bring about the ruin of nations.

All these phenomena have been found in a highly developed state, either in isolation or together, among peoples which were actually the better for them — or at any rate not the worse.

The Aztec Empire in America seems to have existed mainly "for the greater glory" of fanaticism. I cannot imagine anything more fanatical than a society like that of the Aztecs, which rested on a religious foundation, continually watered by the blood of human sacrifice. It has been denied,* [By C. F. Weber, Lucani Pharsalia (Leipzig, 1828), vol. i, pp. 122-3, note.] perhaps with some truth, that the ancient peoples of Europe ever practised ritual murder on victims who were regarded as innocent, with the exception of shipwrecked sailors and prisoners of war. But for the ancient Mexicans one victim was as good as another. With a ferocity recognized by a modern physiologist * [Prichard, "Natural History of Man." Dr. Martius is still more explicit. Cf. Martius and Spix, Reise in Brasilien, vol. i, pp. 379-80.] as characteristic of the races of the New World, they massacred their fellow citizens on their altars, without pity, without flinching, and without discrimination. This did not prevent their being a powerful, industrious, and wealthy people, which would certainly for many ages have gone on flourishing, reigning, and throat-cutting, had not the genius of Hernando Cortes and the courage of his companions stepped in to put an end to the monstrous existence of such an Empire. Thus fanaticism does not cause the fall of States.

Luxury and effeminacy have no better claims than fanaticism. Their effects are to be seen only in the upper classes; and though they assumed different forms in the ancient world, among the Greeks, the Persians, and the Romans, I doubt whether they were ever brought to a greater pitch of refinement than at the present day, in France, Germany, England, and Russia — especially in the last two. And it is just these two, England and Russia, that, of all the States of modern Europe, seem to be gifted with a peculiar vitality. Again, in the Middle Ages, the Venetians, the Genoese, and the Pisans crowded their shops with the treasures of the whole world; they displayed them in their palaces, and carried them over every sea. But they were certainly none the weaker for that. Thus luxury and effeminacy are in no way the necessary causes of weakness and ruin.

Again, the corruption of morals, however terrible a scourge it may be, is not always an agent of destruction. If it were, the military power and commercial prosperity of a nation would have to vary directly with the purity of its morals; but this is by no means the case. The curious idea that the early Romans had all the virtues* [Balzac, Lettre a madame la duchess e de Montausier.] has now been rightly given up by most people. We no longer see anything very edifying in the patricians of the early Republic, who treated their wives like slaves, their children like cattle, and their creditors like wild beasts. If there were still any advocates to plead their unrighteous cause by arguing from ,an assumed " variation in the moral standard of different ages," it would not be very hard to show how flimsy such an argument is. In all ages the misuse of power has excited equal indignation. If the rape of Lucrece did not bring about the expulsion of the kings, if the tribunate* [The power of the Tribunate was revived after Appius's decemvirate in 450 B.C., but the office had been founded more than forty years before. On the other hand, consular tribunes were first elected after 450 (in 445); but the consular tribunate could hardly be described as a "great revolution." The author may be confusing the two tribunates. — Tr.] was not established owing to the attempt of Appius Claudius, at any rate the real causes that lay behind these two great revolutions, by cloaking themselves under such pretexts, reveal the state of public morality at the time. No, we cannot account for the greater vigour of all early peoples by alleging their greater virtue. From the beginning of history, there has been no human society, however small, that has not contained the germ of every vice. And yet, however burdened with this load of depravity, the nations seem to march on very comfortably, and often, in fact, to owe their greatness to their detestable customs. The Spartans enjoyed a long life and the admiration of men merely owing to their laws, which were those of a robber-state. Was the fall of the Phoenicians due to the corruption that gnawed their vitals and was disseminated by them over the whole world? Not at all; on the contrary, this corruption was the main instrument of their power and glory. From the day when they first touched the shores of the Greek islands,* [Cp. Homer, "Odyssey," xv, 415 sqq.] and went their way, cheating their customers, robbing their hosts, abducting women for the slave-market, stealing in one place to sell in another — from that day, it is true, their reputation fell not unreasonably low; but they did not prosper any the less for that, and they hold a place in history which is quite unaffected by all the stories of their greed and treachery.

Far from admitting the superior moral character of early societies, I have no doubt that nations, as they grow older and so draw nearer their fall, present a far more satisfactory appearance from the censor's point of view. Customs become less rigid, rough edges become softened, the path of life is made easier, the rights existing between man and man have had time to become better defined and understood, and so the theories of social justice have reached, little by little, a higher degree of delicacy. At the time when the Greeks overthrew the Empire of Darius, or when the Goths entered Rome, there were probably far more honest men in Athens, Babylon, and the imperial city than in the glorious days of Harmodius, Cyrus the Great, and Valerius Publicola.

We need not go back to those distant epochs, but may judge them by ourselves. Paris is certainly one of the places on this earth where civilization has touched its highest point, and where the contrast with primitive ages is most marked; and yet you will find a large number of religious and learned people admitting that in no place and time were there so many examples of practical virtue, of sincere piety, of saintly lives governed by a fine sense of duty, as are to be met to-day in the great modern city. The ideals of goodness are as high now as they ever were in the loftiest minds of the seventeenth century; and they have laid aside the bitterness, the strain of sternness and savagery— I was almost saying, of pedantry — that sometimes coloured them in that age. And so, as a set-off to the frightful perversities of the modern spirit, we find, in the very temple where that spirit has set up the high altar of its power, a striking contrast, which never appeared to former centuries in the same consoling light as it has to our own.

I do not even believe that there is a lack of great men in periods of corruption and decadence; and by "great men" I mean those most richly endowed with energy of character and the masculine virtues. If I look at the list of the Roman Emperors (most of them, by the way, as high above their subjects in merit as they were in rank) I find names like Trajan, Antoninus Pius, Septimius Severus, and Jovian; and below the throne, even among the city mob, I see with admiration all the great theologians, the great martyrs, the apostles of the primitive Church, to say nothing of the virtuous Pagans. Strong, brave, and active spirits filled the camps and the Italian towns; and one may doubt whether in the time of Cincinnatus, Rome held, in proportion, so many men of eminence in all the walks of practical life. The testimony of the facts is conclusive.

Thus men of strong character, men of talent and energy, so far from being unknown to human societies in the time of their decadence and old age, are actually to be found in greater abundance than in the days when an empire is young. Further, the ordinary level of morality is higher in the later period than in the earlier. It is not generally true to say that in States on the point of death the corruption of morals is any more virulent than in those just born. It is equally doubtful whether this corruption brings about their fall; for some States, far from dying of their perversity, have lived and grown fat on it. One may go further, and show that moral degradation is not necessarily a mortal disease at all; for, as against the other maladies of society, it has the advantage of being curable; and the cure is sometimes very rapid.

In fact, the morals of any particular people are in continual ebb and flow throughout its history. To go no further afield than our own France, we may say that, in the fifth and sixth centuries, the conquered race of the Gallo-Romans were certainly better than their conquerors from a moral point of view. Taken individually, they were not always their inferiors even in courage and the military virtues.* [Augustin Thierry, Recits des temps mirovingiens; see especially the story of Mummolus.] In the following centuries, when the two races had begun to intermingle, they seem to have deteriorated; and we have no reason to be very proud of the picture that was presented by our dear country about the eighth and ninth centuries. But in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth, a great change came over the scene. Society had succeeded in harmonizing its most discordant elements, and the state of morals was reasonably good. The ideas of the time were not favourable to the little casuistries that keep a man from the right path even when he wishes to walk in it. The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were times of terrible conflict and perversity. Brigandage reigned supreme. It was a period of decadence in the strictest sense of the word; and the decadence was shown in a thousand ways. In view of the debauchery, the tyranny, and the massacres of that age, of the complete withering of all the finer feelings in every section of the State — in the nobles who plundered their villeins, in the citizens who sold their country to England, in a clergy that was false to its professions — one might have thought that the whole society was about to crash to the ground and bury its shame deep under its own ruins. . . . The crash never came. The society continued to live; it devised remedies, it beat back its foes, it emerged from the dark cloud. The sixteenth century was far more reputable than its predecessor, in spite of its orgies of blood, which were a pale reflection of those of the preceding age. St. Bartholomew's day is not such a shameful memory as the massacre of the Armagnacs. Finally, the French people passed from this semi-barbarous twilight into the pure splendour of day, the age of Fenelon, Bossuet, and the Montausier. Thus, up to Louis XIV, our history shows a series of rapid changes from good to evil, from evil to good; while the real vitality of the nation has little to do with its moral condition. I have touched lightly on the larger curves of change; to trace the multitude of lesser changes within these would require many pages. To speak even of what we have all but seen with our own eyes, is it not clear that in every decade since 1787 the standard of morality has varied enormously? I conclude that the corruption of morals is a fleeting and unstable phenomenon: it becomes sometimes worse and sometimes better, and so cannot be considered as necessarily causing the ruin of societies.

I must examine here an argument, put forward in our time, which never entered people's heads in the eighteenth century; but as it fits in admirably with the subject of the preceding paragraph, I could not find a better place in which to speak of it. Many people have come to think that the end of a society is at hand when its religious ideas tend to weaken and disappear. They see a kind of connexion between the open profession of the doctrines of Zeno and Epicurus at Athens and Rome, with the consequent abandonment (according to them) of the national cults, and the fall of the two republics. They fail to notice that these are virtually the only examples that can be given of such a coincidence. The Persian Empire at the time of its fall was wholly under the sway of the Magi. Tyre, Carthage, Judaea, the Aztec and Peruvian monarchies were struck down while fanatically clinging to their altars. Thus it cannot be maintained that all the peoples whose existence as a nation is being destroyed are at that moment expiating the sin they committed in deserting the faith of their fathers. Further, even the two examples that go to support the theory seem to prove much more than they really do. I deny absolutely that the ancient cults were ever given up in Rome or Athens, until the day when they were supplanted in the hearts of all men by the victorious religion of Christ. In other words, I believe that there has never been a real breach of continuity in the religious beliefs of any nation on this earth. The outward form or inner meaning of the creed may have changed; but we shall always find some Gallic Teutates making way for the Roman Jupiter, Jupiter for the Christian God, without any interval of unbelief, in exactly the same way as the dead give up their inheritance to the living. Hence, as there hats never been a nation of which one could say that it had no faith at all, we have no right to assume that " the lack of faith causes the destruction of States."

I quite see the grounds on which such a view is based. Its defenders will tell us of "the notorious fact" that a little before the time of Pericles at Athens, and about the age of the Scipios at Rome the upper classes became more and more prone, first to reason about their religion, then to doubt it, and finally to give up all faith in it, and to take pride in being atheists. Little by little, we shall be told, the habit of atheism spread, until there was no one with any pretensions to intellect at all who did not defy one augur to pass another without smiling.

This opinion has a grain of truth, but is largely false. Say, if you will, that Aspasia, at the end of her little suppers, and Laelius, in the company of his friends, made a virtue of mocking at the sacred beliefs of their country; no one will contradict you. But they would not have been allowed to vent their ideas too publicly; and yet they lived at the two most brilliant periods of Greek and Roman history. The imprudent conduct of his mistress all but cost Pericles himself very dear; we remember the tears he shed in open court, tears which would not of themselves have secured the acquittal of the fair infidel. Think, too, of the official language held by contemporary poets, how Sophocles and Aristophanes succeeded ^Eschylus as the stern champions of outraged deity. The whole nation believed in its gods, regarded Socrates as a revolutionary and a criminal, and wished to see Anaxagoras brought to trial and condemned. . . . What of the later ages? Did the impious theories of the philosophers succeed at any time in reaching the masses? Not for a single day. Scepticism remained a luxury of the fashionable world and of that world alone. One may call it useless to speak of the thoughts of the plain citizens, the country folk, and the slaves, who had no influence in the government, and could not impose their ideas on their rulers. They had, however, a very real influence; and the proof is that until paganism was at its last gasp, their temples and shrines had to be kept going, and their acolytes to be paid. The most eminent and enlightened men, the most fervent in their unbelief, had not only to accept the public honour of wearing the priestly robe, but to undertake the most disagreeable duties of the cult — they who were accustomed to turn over, day and night, manu diurna, manu nocturna, the pages of Lucretius. Not only did they go through these rites on ceremonial occasions, but they used their scanty hours of leisure, hours snatched with difficulty from the life-and-death game of politics, in composing treatises on augury. I am referring to the great Julius.* [Caesar, the democrat and sceptic, knew how to hold language contrary to his opinions when it was necessary. His funeral oration on his aunt is very curious: "On the mother's side," he said, "Julia was descended from kings; on her father's, from the immortal gods: for the Marcian Reges, whose name her mother bore, were sprung from Ancus Marcius, while Venus is the ancestress of the Julii, the clan to which belongs the family of the Caesars. Thus in our blood is mingled at the same time the sanctity of kings, who are the mightiest of men, and the awful majesty of the gods, who hold kings themselves in their power " (Suetonius, "Julius," p. 6). Nothing could be more monarchical; and also, for an atheist, nothing could be more religious.] Well, all the emperors after him had to hold the office of high-priest, even Constantine. He, certainly, had far stronger reason than all his predecessors for shaking off a yoke so degrading to his honour as a Christian prince; yet he was forced by public opinion, that blazed up for the last time before being extinguished for ever, to come to terms with the old national religion. Thus it was not the faith of the plain citizens, the country folk, and the slaves that was of small account; it was the theories of the men of culture that mattered nothing. They protested in vain, in the name of reason and good sense, against the absurdities of paganism; the mass of the people neither would nor could give up one belief before they had been provided with another. They proved once more the great truth that it is affirmation, not negation, which is of service in the business of this world. So strongly did men feel this truth in the third century that there was a religious reaction among the higher classes. The reaction was serious and general, and lasted till the world definitely passed into the arms of the Church. In fact, the supremacy of philosophy reached its highest point under the Antonines and began to decline soon after their death. I need not here go deeply into this question, however interesting it may be for the historian of ideas; it will be enough for me to show that the revolution gained ground as the years went on, and to bring out its immediate cause.

The older the Roman world became, the greater was the part played by the army. From the emperor, who invariably came from the ranks, down to the pettiest officer in his Praetorian guard and the prefect of the most unimportant district, every official had begun his career on the parade-ground, under the vine-staff of the centurion; in other words they had all sprung from the mass of the people, of whose unquenchable piety I have already spoken. When they had scaled the heights of office, they found confronting them, to their intense annoyance and dismay, the ancient aristocracy of the municipalities, the local senators, who took pleasure in regarding them as upstarts, and would gladly have turned them to ridicule if they had dared. Thus the real masters of the State and the once predominant families were at daggers drawn. The commanders of the army were believers and fanatics — Maximin, for example, and Galerius, and a hundred others. The senators and decurions still found their chief delight in the literature of the sceptics; but as they actually lived at court, that is to say among soldiers, they were forced to adopt a way of speaking and an official set of opinions which should not put them to any risk. Gradually an atmosphere of devotion spread through the Empire; and this led the philosophers themselves, with Euhemerus at their head, to invent systems of reconciling the theories of the rationalists with the State religion — a movement in which the Emperor Julian was the most powerful spirit. There is no reason to give much praise to this renaissance of pagan piety, for it caused most of the persecutions under which our martyrs have suffered. The masses, whose religious feelings had been wounded by the atheistic sects, had bided their time so long as they were ruled by the upper classes. But as soon as the empire had become democratic, and the pride of these classes had been brought low, then the populace determined to have their revenge. They made a mistake, however, in their victims, and cut the throats of the Christians, whom they took for philosophers, and accused of impiety. What a difference there was between this and an earlier age! The really sceptical pagan was King Agrippa, who wished to hear St. Paul merely out of curiosity.* [Acts xxvi, 24, 28, 31.] He listened to him, disputed with him, took him for a madman, but did not dream of punishing him for thinking differently from himself. Another example is the historian Tacitus, who was full of contempt for the new sectaries, but blamed Nero for his cruelty in persecuting them. Agrippa and Tacitus were the real unbelievers. Diocletian was a politician ruled by the clamours of his people; Decius and Aurelian were fanatics like their subjects.

Even when the Roman Government had definitely gone over to Christianity, what a task it was to bring the different peoples into the bosom of the Church! In Greece there was a series of terrible struggles, in the Universities as well as in the small towns and villages. The bishops had everywhere such difficulty in ousting the little local divinities that very often the victory was due less to argument and conversion than to time, patience, and diplomacy. The clergy were forced to make use of pious frauds, and their ingenuity replaced the deities of wood, meadow, and fountain, by saints, martyrs, and virgins. Thus the feelings of reverence continued without a break; for some time they were directed to the wrong objects, but they at last found the right road. . . . But what am I saying? Can we be so certain that even in France there are not to be found to this day a few places where the tenacity of some odd superstition still gives trouble to the parish priest? In Catholic Brittany, in the eighteenth century, a bishop had a long struggle with a village- people that clung to the worship of a stone idol. In vain was the gross image thrown into the water; its fanatical admirers always fished it out again, and the help of a company of infantry was needed to break it to pieces. We see from this what a long life paganism had — and still has. I conclude that there is no good reason for holding that Rome and Athens were for a single day without religion.

Since then, a nation has never, either in ancient or modern times, given up one faith before being duly provided with another, it is impossible to claim that the ruin of nations follows from their irreligion.

I have now shown that fanaticism, luxury, and the corruption of morals have not necessarily any power of destruction, and that irreligion has no political reality at all; it remains to discuss the influence of bad government, which is well worth a chapter to itself.
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Re: The Inequality of Human Races, by Arthur De Gobineau

Postby admin » Fri Apr 09, 2021 8:29 am


I know the difficulty of my present task. That I should even venture to touch on it will seem a kind of paradox to many of my readers. People are convinced, and rightly convinced, that the good administration of good laws has a direct and powerful influence on the health of a people; and this conviction is so strong, that they attribute to such administration the mere fact that a human society goes on living at all. Here they are wrong.

They would be right, of course, if it were true that nations could exist only in a state of well being; but we know that, like individuals, they can often go on for a long time, carrying within them the seeds of some fell disease, which may suddenly break out in a virulent form. If nations invariably died of their sufferings, not one would survive the first years of its growth; for it is precisely in those years that they show the worst administration, the worst laws, and the greatest disorder. But in this respect they are the exact opposite of the human organism. The greatest enemy that the latter has to fear, especially in infancy, is a continuous series of illnesses — we know beforehand that there is no resisting these; to a society, however, such a series does no harm at all, and history gives us abundant proof that the body politic is always being cured of the longest, the most terrible and devastating attacks of disease, of which the worst forms are ill-conceived laws and an oppressive or negligent administration.* [The reader will understand that I am not speaking of the political existence of a centre of sovereignty, but of the life of a whole society, or the span of a whole civilization. The distinction drawn at the beginning of chap, ii must be applied here.]

We will first try to make clear in what a "bad government" consists.

It is a malady that seems to take many forms. It would be impossible even to enumerate them all, for they are multiplied to infinity by the differences in the constitutions of peoples, and in the place and time of their existence. But if we group these forms under four main headings, there are very few varieties that will not be included.

A government is bad when it is set up by a foreign Power. Athens experienced this kind of government under the Thirty Tyrants; they were driven out, and the national spirit, far from dying under their oppressive rule, was tempered by it to a greater hardness.

A government is bad when it is based on conquest, pure and simple. In the fourteenth century practically the whole of France passed under the yoke of England. It emerged stronger than before, and entered on a career of great brilliance. China was overrun and conquered by hordes of Mongols; it managed to expel them beyond its borders, after sapping their vitality in a most extraordinary way. Since that time China has fallen into a new servitude; but although the Manchus have already enjoyed more than a century of sovereignty, they are on the eve of suffering the same fate as the Mongols, and have passed through a similar period of weakness.

A government is especially bad when the principle on which it rests becomes vitiated, and ceases to operate in the healthy and vigorous way it did at first. This was the condition of the Spanish monarchy. It was based on the military spirit and the idea of social freedom; towards the end of Philip II's reign it forgot its origin and began to degenerate. There has never been a country where all theories of conduct had become more obsolete, where the executive was more feeble and discredited, where the organization of the church itself was so open to criticism. Agriculture and industry, like everything else, were struck down and all but buried in the morass where the nation was decaying. . . . But is Spain dead? Not at all. The country of which so many despaired has given Europe the glorious example of a desperate resistance to the fortune of our arms; and at the present moment it is perhaps in Spain, of all the modern States, that the feeling of nationality is most intense.

Finally, a government is bad when, by the very nature of its institutions, it gives colour to an antagonism between the supreme power and the mass of the people, or between different classes of society. Thus, in the Middle Ages, we see the kings of England and France engaged in a struggle with their great vassals, and the peasants flying at the throats of their overlords. In Germany, too, the first effects of the new freedom of thought were the civil wars of the Hussites, the Anabaptists, and all the other sectaries. A little before that, Italy was in such distress through the division of the supreme power, and the quarrel over the fragments between the Emperor, the Pope, the nobles, and the communes, that the masses, not knowing whom to obey, often ended by obeying nobody. Did this cause the ruin of the whole society? Not at all. Its civilization was never more brilliant, its industry more productive, its influence abroad more incontestable.

I can well believe that sometimes, in the midst of these storms, a wise and potent law-giver came, like a sunbeam, to shed the light of his beneficence on the peoples he ruled. The light remained only for a short space; and just as its absence had not caused death, so its presence did not bring life. For this, the times of prosperity would have had to be frequent and of long duration. But upright princes were rare in that age, and are rare in all ages. Even the best of them have their detractors, and the happiest pictures are full of shadow. Do all historians alike regard the time of King William III as an era of prosperity for England? Do they all admire Louis XIV, the Great, without reserve? On the contrary; the critics are all at their posts, and their arrows know where to find their mark. And yet these are, on the whole, the best regulated and most fruitful periods in the history of ourselves and our neighbours. Good governments are so thinly sown on the soil of the ages, and even when they spring up, are so withered by criticism; political science, the highest and most intricate of all sciences, is so incommensurate with the weakness of man, that we cannot sincerely claim that nations perish from being ill-governed. Thank heaven they have the power of soon becoming accustomed to their sufferings, which, in their worst forms, are infinitely preferable to anarchy. The most superficial study of history will be enough to show that however bad may be the government that is draining away the life-blood of a people, it is often better than many of the administrations that have gone before.
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Re: The Inequality of Human Races, by Arthur De Gobineau

Postby admin » Fri Apr 09, 2021 8:36 am


However little the spirit of the foregoing pages may have been understood, no one will conclude from them that I attach no importance to the maladies of the social organism, and that, for me, bad government, fanaticism, and irreligion are mere unmeaning accidents. On the contrary I quite agree with the ordinary view, that it is a lamentable thing to see a society being gradually undermined by these fell diseases, and that no amount of care and trouble would be wasted if a remedy could only be found. I merely add that if these poisonous blossoms of disunion are not grafted on a stronger principle of destruction, if they are not the consequences of a hidden plague more terrible still, we may rest assured that their ravages will not be fatal and that after a time of suffering more or less drawn out, the society will emerge from their toils, perhaps with strength and youth renewed.

The examples I have brought forward seem to me conclusive, though their number might be indefinitely increased. Through some such reasoning as this the ordinary opinions of men have at last come to contain an instinctive perception of the truth. It is being dimly seen that one ought not to have given such a preponderant importance to evils which were after all merely derivative, and that the true causes of the life and death of peoples should have been sought elsewhere, and been drawn from a deeper well. Men have begun to look at the inner constitution of a society, by itself, quite apart from all circumstances of health or disease. They have shown themselves ready to admit that no external cause could lay the hand of death on any society, so long as a certain destructive principle, inherent in it from the first, born from its womb and nourished on its entrails, had not reached its full maturity; on the other hand, so soon as this destructive principle had come into existence, the society was doomed to certain death, even though it had the best of all possible governments — in exactly the same way as a spent horse will fall dead on a concrete road.

A great step in advance was made, I admit, when the question was considered from this point of view, which was anyhow much more philosophic than the one taken up before. Bichat,* [The celebrated physiologist (1771-1802), and author of L'Anatomie generate. — Tr.] as we know, did not seek to discover the great mystery of existence by studying the human subject from the outside; the key to the riddle, he saw, lay within. Those who followed the same method, in our own subject, were travelling on the only road that really led to discoveries. Unfortunately, this excellent idea of theirs was the result of mere instinct; its logical implications were not carried very far, and it was shattered on the first difficulty. "Yes," they cried, "the cause of destruction lies hidden in the very vitals of the social organism; but what is this cause?" "Degeneration," was the answer; "nations die when they are composed of elements that have degenerated." The answer was excellent, etymologically and otherwise. It only remained to define the meaning of "nation that has degenerated." This was the rock on which they foundered; a degenerate people meant, they said, "A people which through bad government, misuse of wealth, fanaticism, or irreligion, had lost the characteristic virtues of its ancestors." What a fall is there! Thus a people dies of its endemic diseases because it is degenerate, and is degenerate because it dies. This circular argument merely proves that the science of social anatomy is in its infancy. I quite agree that societies perish because they are degenerate, and for no other reason. This is the evil condition that makes them wholly unable to withstand the shock of the disasters that close in upon them; and when they can no longer endure the blows of adverse fortune, and have no power to raise their heads when the scourge has passed, then we have the sublime spectacle of a nation in agony. If it perish, it is because it has no longer the same vigour as it had of old in battling with the dangers of life; in a word, because it is degenerate. I repeat, the term is excellent; but we must explain it a little better, and give it a definite meaning. How and why is a nation's vigour lost? How does it degenerate? These are the questions which we must try to answer. Up to the present, men have been content with finding the word, without unveiling the reality that lies behind. This further step I shall now attempt to take.

The word degenerate, when applied to a people, means (as it ought to mean) that the people has no longer the same intrinsic value as it had before, because it has no longer the same blood in its veins, continual adulterations having gradually affected the quality of that blood. In other words, though the nation bears the name given by its founders, the name no longer connotes the same race; in fact, the man of a decadent time, the degenerate man properly so called, is a different being, from the racial point of view, from the heroes of the great ages. I agree that he still keeps something of their essence; but the more he degenerates the more attenuated does this "something" become. The heterogeneous elements that henceforth prevail in him give him quite a different nationality — a very original one, no doubt, but such originality is not to be envied. He is only a very distant kinsman of those he still calls his ancestors. He, and his civilization with him, will certainly die on the day when the primordial race-unit is so broken up and swamped by the influx of foreign elements, that its effective qualities have no longer a sufficient freedom of action. It will not, of course, absolutely disappear, but it will in practice be so beaten down and enfeebled, that its power will be felt less and less as time goes on. It is at this point that all the results of degeneration will appear, and the process may be considered complete.

If I manage to prove this proposition, I shall have given a meaning to the word "degeneration." By showing how the essential quality of a nation gradually alters, I shift the responsibility for its decadence, which thus becomes, in a way, less shameful, for it weighs no longer on the sons, but on the nephews, then on the cousins, then on collaterals more or less removed. And when I have shown by examples that great peoples, at the moment of their death, have only a very small and insignificant share in the blood of the founders, into whose inheritance they come, I shall thereby have explained clearly enough how it is possible for civilizations to fall — the reason being that they are no longer in the same hands. At the same time I shall be touching on a problem which is much more dangerous than that which I have tried to solve in the preceding chapters. This problem is: "Are there serious and ultimate differences of value between human races; and can these differences be estimated? "

I will begin at once to develop the series of arguments that touch the first point; they will indirectly settle the second also.

To put my ideas into a clearer and more easily intelligible form I may compare a nation to a human body, which, according to the physiologists, is constantly renewing all its parts; the work of transformation that goes on is incessant, and after a certain number of years the body retains hardly any of its former elements. Thus, in the old man, there are no traces of the man of middle age, in the adult no traces of the youth, nor in the youth of the child; the personal identity in all these stages is kept purely by the succession of inner and outer forms, each an imperfect copy of the last. Yet I will admit one difference between a nation and a human body; in the former there is no question of the "forms" being preserved, for these are destroyed and disappear with enormous rapidity. I will take a people, or better, a tribe, at the moment when, yielding to a definite vital instinct, it provides itself with laws and begins to play a part in the world. By the mere fact of its wants and powers increasing, it inevitably finds itself in contact with other similar associations, and by war or peaceful measures succeeds in incorporating them with itself.

Not all human families can reach this first step; but it is a step that every tribe must take if it is to rank one day as a nation. Even if a certain number of races, themselves perhaps not very far advanced on the ladder of civilization, have passed through this stage, we cannot properly regard this as a general rule.

Indeed, the human species seems to have a very great difficulty in raising itself above a rudimentary type of organization; the transition to a more complex state is made only by those groups of tribes, that are eminently gifted. I may cite, in support of this, the actual condition of a large number of communities spread throughout the world. These backward tribes, especially the Polynesian negroes, the Samoyedes and others in the far north, and the majority of the African races, have never been able to shake themselves free from their impotence; they live side by side in complete independence of each other. The stronger massacre the weaker, the weaker try to move as far away as possible from the stronger. This sums up the political ideas of these embryo societies, which have lived on in their imperfect state, without possibility of improvement, as long as the human race itself. It may be said that these miserable savages are a very small part of the earth's population. Granted; but we must take account of all the similar peoples who have lived and disappeared. Their number is incalculable, and certainly includes the vast majority of the pure-blooded yellow and black races.

If then we are driven to admit that for a very large number of human beings it has been, and always will be, impossible to take even the first step towards civilization; if, again, we consider that these peoples are scattered over the whole face of the earth under the most varying conditions of climate and environment, that they live indifferently in the tropics, in the temperate zones, and in the Arctic circle, by sea, lake, and river, in the depths of the forest, in the grassy plains, in the arid deserts, we must conclude that a part of mankind, is in its own nature stricken with a paralysis, which makes it for ever unable to take even the first step towards civilization, since it cannot overcome the natural repugnance, felt by men and animals alike, to a crossing of blood.

Leaving these tribes, that are incapable of civilization, on one side, we come, in our journey upwards, to those which understand that if they wish to increase their power and prosperity, they are absolutely compelled, either by war or peaceful measures, to draw their neighbours within their sphere of influence. War is undoubtedly the simpler way of doing this. Accordingly, they go to war. But when the campaign is finished, and the craving for destruction is satisfied, some prisoners are left over; these prisoners become slaves, and as slaves, work for their masters. We have class distinctions at once, and an industrial system: the tribe has become a little people. This is a higher rung on the ladder of civilization, and is not necessarily passed by all the tribes which have been able to reach it; many remain at this stage in cheerful stagnation.

But there are others, more imaginative and energetic, whose ideas soar beyond mere brigandage. They manage to conquer a great territory, and assume rights of ownership not only over the inhabitants, but also over their land. From this moment a real nation has been formed. The two races often continue for a time to live side by side without mingling; and yet, as they become indispensable to each other, as a community of work and interest is gradually built up, as the pride and rancour of conquest begin to ebb away, as those below naturally tend to rise to the level of their masters, while the masters have a thousand reasons for allowing, or even for promoting, such a tendency, the mixture of blood finally takes place, the two races cease to be associated with distinct tribes, and become more and more fused into a single whole.

The spirit of isolation is, however, so innate in the human race, that even those who have reached this advanced stage of crossing refuse in many cases to take a step, further. There are some peoples who are, as we know positively, of mixed origin, but who keep their feeling for the clan to an extraordinary degree. The Arabs, for example, do more than merely spring from different branches of the Semitic stock; they belong at one and the same time to the so-called families of Shem and Ham, not to speak of a vast number of local strains that are intermingled with these. Nevertheless, their attachment to the tribe, as a separate unit, is one of the most striking features of their national character and their political history. In fact, it has been thought possible to attribute their expulsion from Spain not only to the actual breaking up of their power there, but also, to a large extent, to their being continually divided into smaller and mutually antagonistic groups, in the struggles for promotion among the Arab families at the petty courts of Valentia, Toledo, Cordova, and Grenada.* [This attachment of the Arab tribes to their racial unity shows itself sometimes in a very curious manner. A traveller (M. Fulgence Fresnel, I think) says that at Djiddah, where morals are very lax, the same Bedouin girl who will sell her favours for the smallest piece of money would think herself dishonoured if she contracted a legal marriage with the Turk or European to whom she contemptuously lends herself.]

We may say the same about the majority of such peoples. Further, where the tribal separation has broken down, a national feeling takes its place, and acts with a similar vigour, which a community of religion is not enough to destroy. This is the case among the Arabs and the Turks, the Persians and the Jews, the Parsees and the Hindus, the Nestorians of Syria and the Kurds. We find it also in European Turkey, and can trace its course in Hungary, among the Magyars, the Saxons, the Wallachians, and the Croats. I know, from what I have seen with my own eyes, that in certain parts of France, the country where races are mingled more than perhaps anywhere else, there are little com- munities to be found to this day, who feel a repugnance to marrying outside their own village.

I think I am right in concluding from these examples, which cover all countries and ages, including our own, that the human race in all its branches has a secret repulsion from the crossing of blood, a repulsion which in many of the branches is invincible, and in others is only conquered to a slight extent. Even those who most completely shake off the yoke of this idea cannot get rid of the few last traces of it; yet such peoples are the only members of our species who can be civilized at all.

Thus mankind lives in obedience to two laws, one of repulsion, the other of attraction; these act with different force on different peoples. The first is fully respected only by those races which can never raise themselves above the elementary completeness of the tribal life, while the power of the second, on the contrary, is the more absolute, as the racial units on which it is exercised are more capable of development.

Here especially I must be concrete. I have just taken the example of a people in embryo, whose state is like that of a single family. I have given them the qualities which will allow them to pass into the state of a nation. Well, suppose they have become a nation. History does not tell me what the elements were that constituted the original group; all I know is that these elements fitted it for the transformation which I have made it undergo. Now that it has grown, it has only two possibilities. One or other of two destinies is inevitable. It will either conquer or be conquered.

I will give it the better part, and assume that it will conquer. It will at the same time rule, administer, and civilize. It will not go through its provinces, sowing a useless harvest of fire and massacre. Monuments, customs, and institutions will be alike sacred. It will change what it can usefully modify, and replace it by something better. Weakness in its hands will become strength. It will behave in such a way that, in the words of Scripture, it will be magnified in the sight of men.

I do not know if the same thought has already struck the reader; but in the picture which I am presenting — and which in certain features is that of the Hindus, the Egyptians, the Persians and the Macedonians — two facts appear to me to stand out. The first is that a nation, which itself lacks vigour and power, is suddenly called upon to share a new and a better destiny — that of the strong masters into whose hands it has fallen; this was the case with the Anglo-Saxons, when they had been subdued by the Normans. The second fact is that a picked race of men, a sovereign people, with the usual strong propensities of such a people to cross its blood with another's, finds itself henceforth in close contact with a race whose inferiority is shown, not only by defeat, but also by the lack of the attributes that may be seen in the conquerors. From the very day when the conquest is accomplished and the fusion begins, there appears a noticeable change of quality in the blood of the masters. If there were no other modifying influence at work, then — at the end of a number of years, which would vary according to the number of peoples that composed the original stock — we should be confronted with a new race, less powerful certainly than the better of its two ancestors, but still of considerable strength. It would have developed special qualities resulting from the actual mixture, and unknown to the communities from which it sprang. But the case is not generally so simple as this, and the intermingling of blood is not confined for long to the two constituent peoples.

The empire I have just been imagining is a powerful one . and its power is used to control its neighbours. I assume that there will be new conquests; and, every time, a current of fresh blood will be mingled with the main stream. Henceforth, as the nation grows, whether by war or treaty, its racial character changes more and more. It is rich, commercial, and civilized. The needs and the pleasures of other peoples find ample satisfaction in its capitals, its great towns, and its ports; while its myriad attractions cause many foreigners to make it their home. After a short time, we might truly say that a distinction of castes takes the place of the original distinction of races.

I am willing to grant that the people of whom I am speaking is strengthened in its exclusive notions by the most formal commands of religion, and that some dreadful penalty lurks in the background, to awe the disobedient. But since the people is civilized, its character is soft and tolerant, even to the contempt of its faith. Its oracles will speak in vain; there will be births outside the caste-limits. Every day new distinctions will have to be drawn, new classifications invented; the number of social grades will be increased, and it will be almost impossible to know where one is, amid the infinite variety of the subdivisions, that change from province to province, from canton to canton, from village to village. In fact, the condition will be that of the Hindu countries. It is only, however, the Brahman who has shown himself so tenacious of his ideas of separation; the foreign peoples he civilized have never fastened these cramping fetters on their shoulders, or any rate have long since shaken them off. In all the States that have made any advance in intellectual culture, the process has not been checked for a single moment by those desperate shifts to which the law-givers of the Aryavarta were put, in their desire to reconcile the prescriptions of the Code of Manu with the irresistible march of events. In every other place where there were really any castes at all, they ceased to exist at the moment when the chance of making a fortune, and of be- coming famous by useful discoveries or social talents, became open to the whole world, without distinction of origin. But also, from that same day, the nation that was originally the active, conquering, and civilizing power began to disappear; its blood became merged in that of all the tributaries which it had attracted to its own stream.

Generally the dominating peoples begin by being far fewer in number than those they conquer; while, on the other hand, certain races that form the basis of the population in immense districts are extremely prolific — the Celts, for example, and the Slavs. This is yet another reason for the rapid disappearance of the conquering races. Again, their greater activity and the more personal part they take in the affairs of the State make them the chief mark for attack after a disastrous battle, a proscription, or a revolution. Thus, while by their very genius for civilization they collect round them the different elements in which they are to be absorbed, they are the victims, first of their original smallness of number, and then of a host of secondary causes which combine together for their destruction.

It is fairly obvious that the time when the disappearance takes place will vary considerably, according to circumstances. Yet it does finally come to pass, and is everywhere quite complete, long before the end of the civilization which the victorious race is supposed to be animating. A people may often go on living and working, and even growing in power, after the active, generating force of its life and glory has ceased to exist. Does this contradict what I have said above? Not at all; for while the blood of the civilizing race is gradually drained away by being parcelled out among the peoples that are conquered or annexed, the impulse originally given to these peoples still persists. The institutions which the dead master had invented, the laws he had prescribed, the customs he had initiated — all these live after him. No doubt the customs, laws, and institutions have quite forgotten the spirit that informed their youth; they survive in dishonoured old age, every day more sapless and rotten. But so long as even their shadows remain, the building stands, the body seems to have a soul, the pale ghost walks. When the original impulse has worked itself out, the last word has been said. Nothing remains; the civilization is dead.

I think I now have all the data necessary for grappling with the problem of the life and death of nations; and I can say positively that a people will never die, if it remains eternally composed of the same national elements. If the empire of Darius had, at the battle of Arbela, been able to fill its ranks with Persians, that is to say with real Aryans; if the Romans of the later Empire had had a Senate and an army of the same stock as that which existed at the time of the Fabii, their dominion would never have come to an end. So long as they kept the same purity of blood, the Persians and Romans would have lived and reigned. In the long run, it might be said, a conqueror, more irresistible than they, would have appeared on the scene; and they would have fallen under a well-directed attack, or a long siege, or simply by the fortune of a single battle. Yes, a State might be overthrown in this way, but not a civilization or a social organism. Invasion and defeat are but the dark clouds that for a time blot out the day, and then pass over. Many examples might be brought forward in proof of this.

In modern times the Chinese have been twice conquered. They have always forced their conquerors to become assimilated to them, and to respect their customs; they gave much, and took hardly anything in return. They drove out the first invaders, and in time will do the same with the second.

The English are the masters of India, and yet their moral hold over their subjects is almost non-existent. They are themselves influenced in many ways by the local civilization, and cannot succeed in stamping their ideas on a people that fears its conquerors, but is only physically dominated by them. It keeps its soul erect, and its thoughts apart from theirs. The Hindu race has become a stranger to the race that governs it to-day, and its civilization does not obey the law that gives the battle to the strong. External forms, kingdoms, and empires have changed, and will change again; but the foundations on which they rest, and from which they spring, do not necessarily change with them. Though Hyderabad, Lahore, and Delhi are no longer capital cities, Hindu society none the less persists. A moment will come, in one way or another, when India will again live publicly, as she already does privately, under her own laws; and, by the help either of the races actually existing or of a hybrid proceeding from them, will assume again, in the full sense of the word, a political personality.

The hazard of war cannot destroy the life of a people. At most, it suspends its animation for a time, and in some ways shears it of its outward pomp. So long as the blood and institutions of a nation keep to a sufficient degree the impress of the original race, that nation exists. Whether, as in the case of the Chinese, its conqueror has, in a purely material sense, greater energy than itself; whether, like the Hindu, it is matched, in a long and arduous trial of patience, against a nation, such as the English, in all points its superior; in either case the thought of its certain destiny should bring consolation — one day it will be free. But if, like the Greeks, and the Romans of the later Empire, the people has been absolutely drained of its original blood, and the qualities conferred by the blood, then the day of its defeat will be the day of its death. It has used up the time that heaven granted at its birth, for it has completely changed its race, and with its race its nature. It is therefore degenerate.

In view of the preceding paragraph, we may regard as settled the vexed question as to what would have happened if the Carthaginians, instead of falling before the fortunes of Rome, had become masters of Italy. Inasmuch as they belonged to the Phoenician stock, a stock inferior in the citizen-virtues to the races that produced the soldiers of Scipio, a different issue of the battle of Zama could not have made any change in their destiny. If they had been lucky on one day, the next would have seen their luck recoil on their "heads; or they might have been merged in the Italian race by victory, as they were by defeat. In any case the final result would have been exactly the same. The destiny of civilizations is not a matter of chance; it does not depend on the toss of a coin. It is only men who are killed by the sword; and when the most redoubtable, warlike, and successful nations have nothing but valour in their hearts, military science in their heads, and the laurels of victory in their hands, without any thought that rises above mere conquest, they always end merely by learning, and learning badly, from those they have conquered, how to live in time of peace. The annals of the Celts and the Nomadic hordes of Asia tell no other tale than this.

I have now given a meaning to the word degeneration; and so have been able to attack the problem of a nation's vitality. I must next proceed to prove what for the sake of clearness I have had to put forward as a mere hypothesis; namely, that there are real differences in the relative value of human races. The consequences of proving this will be considerable, and cover a wide field. But first I must lay a foundation of fact and argument capable of holding up such a vast building; and the foundation cannot be too complete. The question with which I have just been dealing was only the gateway of the temple.
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Re: The Inequality of Human Races, by Arthur De Gobineau

Postby admin » Sat Apr 10, 2021 5:04 am


The idea of an original, clear-cut, and permanent inequality among the different races is one of the oldest and most widely held opinions in the world. We need not be surprised at this, when we consider the isolation of primitive tribes and communities, and how in the early ages they all used to "retire into their shell"; a great number have never left this stage. Except in quite modern times, this idea has been the basis of nearly all theories of government. Every people, great or small, has begun by making inequality its chief political motto. This is the origin of all systems of caste, of nobility, and of aristocracy, in so far as the last is founded on the right of birth. The law of primogeniture, which assumes the pre-eminence of the first born and his descendants, is merely a corollary of the same principle. With it go the repulsion felt for the foreigner and the superiority which every nation claims for itself with regard to its neighbours. As soon as the isolated groups have begun to intermingle and to become one people, they grow great and civilized, and look at each other in a more favourable light, as one finds the other useful. Then, and only then, do we see the absolute principle of the inequality, and hence the mutual hostility, of races questioned and undermined. Finally, when the majority of the citizens have mixed blood flowing in their veins, they erect into a universal and absolute truth what is only true for themselves, and feel it to be their duty to assert that all men are equal. They are also moved by praiseworthy dislike of oppression, a legitimate hatred towards the abuse of power; to all thinking men these cast an ugly shadow on the memory of races which have once been dominant, and which have never failed (for such is the way of the world) to justify to some extent many of the charges that have been brought against them. From mere declamation against tyranny, men go on to deny the natural causes of the superiority against which they are declaiming. The tyrant's power is, to them, not only misused, but usurped. They refuse, quite wrongly, to admit that certain qualities are by a fatal necessity the exclusive inheritance of such and such a stock. In fact, the more heterogeneous the elements of which a people is composed, the more complacently does it assert that the most different powers are, or can be, possessed in the same measure by every fraction of the human race, without exception. This theory is barely applicable to these hybrid philosophers themselves; but they extend it to cover all the generations which were, are, and ever shall be on the earth. They end one day by summing up their views in the words which, like the bag of AEolus, contain so many storms — "All men are brothers."* [The man -- Of virtuous soul commands not, nor obeys; Power, like a desolating pestilence, Pollutes whate'er it touches; and obedience, Bane of all genius, virtue, freedom, truth, Makes slaves of men, and of the human frame A mechanized automaton. -- Shelley, "Queen Mab."]

This is the political axiom. Would you like to hear it in its scientific form? "All men," say the defenders of human equality, "are furnished with similar intellectual powers, of the same nature, of the same value, of the same compass." These are not perhaps their exact words, but they certainly give the right meaning. So the brain of the Huron Indian contains in an undeveloped form an intellect which is absolutely the same as that of the Englishman or the Frenchman! Why then, in the course of the ages, has he not invented printing or steam power? I should be quite justified in asking our Huron why, if he is equal to our European peoples, his tribe has never produced a Caesar or a Charlemagne among its warriors, and why his bards and sorcerers have, in some inexplicable way, neglected to become Homers and Galens. The difficulty is usually met by the blessed phrase, "the predominating influence of environment." According to this doctrine, an island will not see the same miracles of civilization as a continent, the same people will be different in the north from what it is in the south, forests will not allow of developments which are favoured by open country. What else? the humidity of a marsh, I suppose, will produce a civilization which would inevitably have been stifled by the dryness of the Sahara! However ingenious these little hypo- theses may be, the testimony of fact is against them. In spite of wind and rain, cold and heat, sterility and fruitfulness, the world has seen barbarism and civilization flourishing everywhere, one after the other, on the same soil. The brutish fellah is tanned by the same sun as scorched the powerful priest of Memphis; the learned professor of Berlin lectures under the same inclement sky that once beheld the wretched existence of the Finnish savage.

The curious point is that the theory of equality, which is held by the majority of men and so has permeated our customs and institutions, has not been powerful enough to overthrow the evidence against it; and those who are most convinced of its truth pay homage every day to its opposite. No one at any time refuses to admit that there are great differences between nations, and the ordinary speech of men, with a naive inconsistency, confesses the fact. In this it is merely imitating the practice of other ages which were not less convinced than we are — and for the same reason — of the absolute equality of races.

While clinging to the liberal dogma of human brotherhood, every nation has always managed to add to the names of others certain qualifications and epithets that suggest their unlikeness from itself. The Roman of Italy called the Graeco-Roman a Graeculus, or "little Greek," and gave him the monopoly of cowardice and empty chatter. He ridiculed the Carthaginian settler, and pretended to be able to pick him out among a thousand for his litigious character and his want of faith. The Alexandrians were held to be witty, insolent, and seditious. In the Middle Ages, the Anglo-Norman kings accused their French subjects of lightness and inconstancy. To-day, every one talks of the " national characteristics " of the German, the Spaniard, the Englishman, and the Russian. I am not asking whether the judgments are true or not. My sole point is that they exist, and are adopted in ordinary speech. Thus, if on the one hand human societies are called equal, and on the other we find some of them frivolous, others serious; some avaricious, others thriftless; some passionately fond of fighting, others careful of their lives and energies; — it stands to reason that these differing nations must have destinies which are also absolutely different, and, in a word, unequal. The stronger will play the parts of kings and rulers in the tragedy of the world. The weaker will be content with a more humble position.

I do not think that the usual idea of a national character for each people has yet been reconciled with the belief, which is just as widely held, that all peoples are equal. Yet the contradiction is striking and flagrant, and all the more serious because the most ardent democrats are the first to claim superiority for the Anglo-Saxons of North America over all the nations of the same continent. It is true that they ascribe the high position of their favourites merely to their political constitution. But, so far as I know, they do not deny that the countrymen of Penn and Washington, are, as a nation, peculiarly prone to set up liberal institutions in all their places of settlement, and, what is more, to keep them going. Is not this very tenacity a wonderful characteristic of this branch of the human race, and the more precious because most of the societies which have existed, or still exist, in the world seem to be without it?

I do not flatter myself that I shall be able to enjoy this inconsistency without opposition. The friends of equality will no doubt talk very loudly, at this point, about " the power of customs and institutions." They will tell me once more how powerfully the health and growth of a nation are influenced by "the essential quality of a government, taken by itself," or the fact of despotism or liberty." But it is just at this point that I too shall oppose their arguments.

Political institutions have only two possible sources. They either come directly from the nation which has to live under them, or they are invented by a powerful people and imposed on all the States that fall within its sphere of influence.

There is no difficulty in the first hypothesis. A people obviously adapts its institutions to its wants and instincts; and will beware of laying down any rule which may thwart the one or the other. If, by some lack of skill or care, such a rule is laid down, the consequent feeling of discomfort leads the people to amend its laws, and put them into more perfect harmony with their express objects. In every autonomous State, the laws, we may say, always emanate from the people; not generally because it has a direct power of making them, but because, in order to be good laws, they must be based upon the people's point of view, and be such as it might have thought out for itself, if it had been better informed. If some wise lawgiver seems, at first sight, the sole source of some piece of legislation, a nearer view will show that his very wisdom has led him merely to give out the oracles that have been dictated by his nation. If he is a judicious man, like Lycurgus, he will prescribe nothing that the Dorian of Sparta could not accept. If he is a mere doctrinaire, like Draco, he will draw up a code that will soon be amended or repealed by the Ionian of Athens, who, like all the children of Adam, is incapable of living for long under laws that are foreign to the natural tendencies of his real self. The entrance of a man of genius into this great business of law-making is merely a special manifestation of the enlightened will of the people; if the laws simply fulfilled the fantastic dreams of one individual, they could not rule any people for long. We cannot admit that the institutions thus invented and moulded by a race of men make that race what it is. They are effects, not causes. Their influence is, of course, very great; they preserve the special genius of the nation, they mark out the road on which it is to travel, the end at which it must aim. To a certain extent, they are the hothouse where its instincts develop, the armoury that furnishes its best weapons for action. But they do not create their creator; and though they may be a powerful element in his success by helping on the growth of his innate qualities, they will fail miserably whenever they attempt to alter these, or to extend them beyond their natural limits. In a word, they cannot achieve the impossible.

Ill-fitting institutions, however, together with their consequences, have played a great part in the world. When Charles I, by the evil counsels of the Earl of Strafford, wished to force absolute monarchy on the English, the King and his minister were walking on the blood-stained morass of political theory. When the Calvinists dreamed of bringing the French under a government that was at once aristocratic and republican, they were just as far away from the right road.

When the Regent* [Anne of Austria, mother of Louis XIV. — Tr.] tried to join hands with the nobles who were conquered in 1652, and to carry on the government by intrigue, as the co-adjutor and his friends had desired.* [The Comte de Saint-Priest, in an excellent article in the Revue des Deux Mondes, has rightly shown that the party crushed by Cardinal Richelieu had nothing in common with feudalism or the great aristocratic methods of government. Montmorency, Cinq-Mars, and Marillac tried to overthrow the State merely in order to obtain favour and office for themselves. The great Cardinal was quite innocent of the " murder of the French nobility," with which he has been so often reproached.] her efforts pleased nobody, and offended equally the nobility, the clergy, the Parliament, and the Third Estate. Only a few tax-farmers were pleased. But when Ferdinand the Catholic promulgated against the Moors of Spain his terrible, though necessary, measures of destruction; when Napoleon re-established religion in France, flattered the military spirit, and organized his power in such a way as to protect his subjects while coercing them, both these sovereigns, having studied and understood the special character of their people, were building their house upon a rock. In fact, bad institutions are those which, however well they look on paper, are not in harmony with the national qualities or caprices, and so do not suit a particular State, though they might be very successful in the neighbouring country. They would bring only anarchy and disorder, even if they were taken from the statute-book of the angels. On the contrary, other institutions are good for the opposite reason, though they might be condemned, from a particular point of view or even absolutely, by the political philosopher or the moralist. The Spartans were small in number, of high courage, ambitious, and violent. Ill-fitting laws might have turned them into a mere set of pettifogging knaves; Lycurgus made them a nation of heroic brigands.

There is no doubt about it. As the people is born before the laws, the laws take after the people; and receive from it the stamp which they are afterwards to impress in their turn. The changes made in institutions by the lapse of time are a great proof of what I say.

I have already mentioned that as nations become greater, more powerful, and more civilized, their blood loses its purity and their instincts are gradually altered. As a result, it becomes impossible for them to live happily under the laws that suited their ancestors. New generations have new customs and tendencies, and profound changes in the institutions are not slow to follow. These are more frequent and far-reaching in proportion as the race itself is changed; while they are rarer, and more gradual, so long as the people is more nearly akin to the first founders of the State. In England, where modifications of the stock have been slower and, up to now, less varied than in any other European country, we still see the institutions of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries forming the base of the social structure. We find there, almost in its first vigour, the communal organization of the Plantagenets and the Tudors, the same method of giving the nobility a share in the government, the same gradations of rank in this nobility, the same respect for old families tempered with the same love of low-born merit. Since James I, however, and especially since the Union under Queen Anne, the English blood has been more and more prone to mingle with that of the Scotch and Irish, while other nations have also helped, by imperceptible degrees, to modify its purity. The result is that innovations have been more frequent in our time than ever before, though they have always remained fairly faithful to the spirit of the original constitution.

In France, intermixture of race has been far more common and varied. In some cases, by a sudden turn of the wheel, power has even passed from one race to another. Further, on the social side, there have been complete changes rather than modifications, and these were more or less far-reaching, as the groups that successively held the chief power were more or less different. While the north of France was the preponderating element in national politics, feudalism — or rather a degenerate parody of feudalism — maintained itself with fair success; and the municipal spirit followed its fortunes. After the expulsion of the English, in the fifteenth century, and the restoration of national independence under Charles VII, the central provinces, which had taken the chief part in this revolution and were far less Germanic in race than the districts beyond the Loire, naturally saw their Gallo-Roman blood predominant in the camp and the council-chamber. They combined the taste for military life and foreign conquest — the heritage of the Celtic race — with the love of authority that was innate in their Roman blood; and they turned the current of national feeling in this direction. During the sixteenth century they largely prepared the ground on which, in 1599, the Aquitanian supporters of Henry IV, less Celtic though still more Roman than themselves, laid the foundation stone of another and greater edifice of absolute power. When Paris, whose population is certainly a museum of the most varied ethnological specimens, had finally gained dominion over the rest of France owing to the centralizing policy favoured by the Southern character, it had no longer any reason to love, respect, or understand any particular tendency or tradition. This great capital, this Tower of Babel, broke with the past — the past of Flanders, Poitou, and Languedoc — and dragged the whole of France into ceaseless experiments with doctrines that were quite out of harmony with its ancient customs.

We cannot therefore admit that institutions make peoples what they are in cases where the peoples themselves have invented the institutions. But may we say the same of the second hypothesis, which deals with cases where a nation receives its code from the hands of foreigners powerful enough to enforce their will, whether the people like it or not?

There are a few cases of such attempts; but I confess I cannot find any which have been carried out on a great scale by governments of real political genius in ancient or modern times. Their wisdom has never been used to change the actual foundations of any great national system. The Romans were too clever to try such dangerous experiments. Alexander the Great had never done so; and the successors of Augustus, like the conqueror of Darius, were content to rule over a vast mosaic of nations, all of which clung to their own customs, habits, laws, and methods of government. So long as they and their fellow-subjects remained racially the same, they were controlled by their rulers only in matters of taxation and military defence.

There is, however, one point that must not be passed over. Many of the peoples subdued by the Romans had certain features in their codes so outrageous that their existence could not be tolerated by Roman sentiment; for example, the human sacrifices of the Druids, which were visited with the severest penalties. Well, the Romans, for all their power, never succeeded in completely stamping out these barbarous rites. In Narbonese Gaul the victory was easy, as the native population had been almost entirely replaced by Roman colonists. But in the centre, where the tribes were wilder, the resistance was more obstinate; and in the Breton Peninsula, where settlers from England in the fourth century brought back the ancient customs with the ancient blood, the people continued, from mere feelings of patriotism and love of tradition, to cut men's throats on their altars as often as they dared. The strictest supervision did not succeed in taking the sacred knife and torch out of their hands. Every revolt began by restoring this terrible feature of the national cult; and Christianity, still panting with rage after its victory over an immoral polytheism, hurled itself with shuddering horror against the still more hideous superstitions of the Armorici. It destroyed them only after a long struggle; for as late as the seventeenth century shipwrecked sailors were massacred and wrecks plundered in all the parishes on the seaboard where the Cymric blood had kept its purity. These barbarous customs were in accordance with the irresistible instincts of a race which had not yet become sufficiently mixed, and so had seen no reason to change its ways.

It is, however, in modern times especially that we find examples of institutions imposed by a conqueror and not accepted by his subjects. Intolerance is one of the chief notes of European civilization. Conscious of its own power and greatness, it finds itself confronted either by different civilizations or by peoples in a state of barbarism. It treats both kinds with equal contempt; and as it sees obstacles to its own progress in everything that is different from itself, it is apt to demand a complete change in its subjects' point of view. The Spaniards, however, the English, the Dutch, and even the French, did not venture to push their innovating tendencies too far, when the conquered peoples were at all considerable in number. In this they copied the moderation that was forced on the conquerors of antiquity. The East, and North and West Africa, show clear proof that the most enlightened nations cannot set up institutions unsuited to the character of their subjects. I have already mentioned that British India lives its ancient life, under its own immemorial laws. The Javanese have lost all political independence, but are very far from accepting any institutions like those of the Netherlands. They continue to live bound as they lived free; and since the sixteenth century, when Europe first turned her face towards the East, we cannot find the least trace of any moral influence exerted by her, even in the case of the peoples she has most completely conquered.

Not all these, however, have been so numerous as to force self-control on their European masters. In some cases the persuasive tongue has been backed by the stern argument of the sword. The order has gone forth to abolish existing customs, and put in their place others which the masters knew to be good and useful. Has the attempt ever succeeded?

America provides us with the richest field for gathering answers to this question. In the South, the Spaniards reigned without check, and to what end? They uprooted the ancient empires, but brought no light. They founded no race like themselves.

In the North the methods were different, but the results just as negative. In fact, they have been still more unfruitful, still more disastrous from the point of view of humanity. The Spanish Indians, are, at any rate, extremely prolific,* [ A. von Humboldt, Examen critique de l'histoire de la geographie du nouveau continent, vol. ii, pp. 129-30.] and have even transformed the blood of their conquerors, who have now dropped to their level. But the Redskins of the United States have withered at the touch of the Anglo-Saxon energy. The few who remain are growing less every day; and those few are as uncivilized, and as incapable of civilization, as their forefathers.

In Oceania, the facts point to the same conclusions; the natives are dying out everywhere. We sometimes manage to take away their arms, and prevent them from doing harm; but we do not change their nature. Wherever the European rules, they drink brandy instead of eating each other. This is the only new custom which our active minds have been quite successful in imposing; it does not mark a great step in advance.

There are in the world two Governments formed on European models by peoples different from us in race; one in the Sandwich Islands, the other at San Domingo. A short sketch of these two Governments will be enough to show the impotence of all attempts to set up institutions which are not suggested by the national character.

In the Sandwich Islands the representative system is to be seen in all its majesty. There is a House of Lords, a House of Commons, an executive Ministry, a reigning King; nothing is wanting. But all this is mere ornament. The real motive power that keeps the machine going is a body of Protestant missionaries. Without them, King, Lords, and Commons would not know which way to turn, and would soon cease to turn at all. To the missionaries alone belongs the credit of furnishing the ideas, of putting them into a palatable form, and imposing them on the people; they do this either by the influence they exert on their neophytes, or, in the last resort, by threats. Even so, I rather think that if the missionaries had nothing but King and Parliament to work with, they might struggle for a time with the stupidity of their scholars, but would be forced in the end to take themselves a large and prominent part in the management of affairs. This would show their hand too obviously; and so they avoid it by appointing a ministry that consists simply of men of European race. The whole business is thus a matter of agreement between the Protestant mission and its nominees; the rest is merely for show.

As to the King, Kamehameha III, he appears to be a prince of considerable parts. He has given up tattooing his face, and although he has not yet converted all the courtiers to his views, he already experiences the well-earned satisfaction of seeing nothing on their faces and cheeks but chaste designs, traced in thin outline. The bulk of the nation, the landed nobility and the townspeople, cling, in this and other respects, to their old ideas. The European population of the Sandwich Islands is, however, swollen every day by new arrivals. There are many reasons for this. The short distance separating the Hawaiian Kingdom from California makes it a very interesting focus for the clear-sighted energy of the white race. Deserters from the whaling vessels or mutinous sailors are not the only colonists; merchants, speculators, adventurers of all kinds, flock to the islands, build houses, and settle down. The native race is gradually tending to mix with the invaders and disappear. I am not sure that the present representative and independent system of administration will not soon give place to an ordinary government of delegates, controlled by some great power. But of this I am certain, that the institutions that are brought in will end by establishing themselves firmly, and the first day of their triumph will necessarily be the last for the natives.

At San Domingo the independence is complete. There are no missionaries to exert a veiled and absolute power, no foreign ministry to carry out European ideas; everything is left to the inspiration of the people itself. Its Spanish part consists of mulattoes, of whom I need say nothing. They seem to imitate, well or badly, all that is most easily grasped in our civilization. They tend, like all hybrids, to identify themselves with the more creditable of the races to which they belong. Thus they are capable, to a certain extent, of reproducing our customs. It is not among them that we must study the question in its essence. Let us cross the mountains that separate the Republic of San Domingo from the State of Hayti.

We find a society of which the institutions are not only parallel to our own, but are derived from the latest pronouncements of our political wisdom. All that the most enlightened liberalism has proclaimed for the last sixty years in the deliberative assemblies of Europe, all that has been written by the most enthusiastic champions of man's dignity and independence, all the declarations of rights and principles — these have all found their echo on the banks of the Artibonite. Nothing African has remained in the statute law. All memories of the land of Ham have been officially expunged from men's minds. The State language has never shown a trace of African influence. The institutions, as I said before, are completely European. Let us consider how they harmonize with the manners of the people.

We are in a different world at once. The manners are as depraved, brutal, and savage as in Dahomey or among the Fellatahs.* [See the articles of Gustave d'Alaux in the Revue des deux Mondes.] There is the same barbaric love of finery coupled with the same indifference to form. Beauty consists in colour, and so long as a garment is of flaming red and edged with tinsel, the owner does not trouble about its being largely in holes. The question of cleanliness never enters anyone's head. If you wish to approach a high official in this country, you find yourself being introduced to a gigantic negro lying on his back, on a wooden bench. His head is enveloped in a torn and dirty handkerchief, surmounted by a cocked hat, all over gold lace. An immense sword hangs from his shapeless body. His embroidered coat lacks the final perfection of a waistcoat. Our general's feet are cased in carpet slippers. Do you wish to question him, to penetrate his mind, and learn the nature of the ideas he is revolving there? You will find him as uncultured as a savage, and his bestial self-satisfaction is only equalled by his profound and incurable laziness. If he deigns to open his mouth, he will roll you out all the commonplaces which the newspapers have been inflicting on us for the last half-century. The barbarian knows them all by heart. He has other interests, of course, and very different interests; but no other ideas. He speaks like Baron Holbach, argues like Monsieur de Grimm, and has ultimately no serious preoccupation except chewing tobacco, drinking alcohol, disembowelling his enemies, and conciliating his sorcerers. The rest of the time he sleeps.

The State is divided among two factions. These are separated from each other by a certain incompatibility, not of political theory, but of skin. The mulattoes are on one side, the negroes on the other. The former have certainly more intelligence and are more open to ideas. As I have already remarked in the case of San Domingo, the European blood has modified the African character. If these men were set in the midst of a large white population, and so had good models constantly before their eyes, they might become quite useful citizens. Unfortunately the negroes are for the time being superior in strength and numbers. Although their racial memory of Africa has its origin, in many cases, as far back as their grandfathers, they are still completely under the sway of African ideals. Their greatest pleasure is idleness; their most cogent argument is murder. The most intense hatred has always existed between the two parties in the island. The history of Hayti, of democratic Hayti, is merely a long series of massacres; massacres of mulattoes by negroes, or of negroes by mulattoes, according as the one or the other held the reins of power. The constitution, however enlightened it may pretend to be, has no influence whatever. It sleeps harmlessly upon the paper on which it is written. The power that reigns unchecked is the true spirit of these peoples. According to the natural law already mentioned, the black race, belonging as it does to a branch of the human family that is incapable of civilization, cherishes the deepest feelings of repulsion towards all the others. Thus we see the negroes of Hayti violently driving out the whites and forbidding them to enter their territory. They would like to exclude even the mulattoes; and they aim at their extermination. Hatred of the foreigner is the mainspring of local politics. Owing, further, to the innate laziness of the race, agriculture is abolished, industry is not even mentioned, commerce becomes less every day. The hideous increase of misery prevents the growth of population, which is actually being diminished by the continual wars, revolts, and military executions. The inevitable result is not far off. A country of which the fertility and natural resources used to enrich generation after generation of planters will become a desert; and the wild goat will roam alone over the fruitful plains, the magnificent valleys, the sublime mountains, of the Queen of the Antilles.* [The colony of San Domingo, before its emancipation, was one of the places where the luxury and refinement of wealth had reached its highest point. It was, to a superior degree, what Havana has become through its commercial activity. The slaves are now free and have set their own house in order. This is the result!]

Let us suppose for a moment that the peoples of this unhappy island could manage to live in accordance with the spirit of their several races. In such a case they would not be influenced, and so (of course) overshadowed, 1 by foreign theories, but would found their society in free obedience to their own instincts. A separation between the two colours would take place, more or less spontaneously, though certainly not without some acts of violence.

The mulattoes would settle on the seaboard, in order to keep continually in touch with Europeans. This is their chief wish. Under European direction they would become merchants (and especially money-brokers), lawyers, and physicians. They would tighten the links with the higher elements of their race by a continual crossing of blood; they would be gradually improved and lose their African character in the same proportion as their African blood.

The negroes would withdraw to the interior and form small societies like those of the runaway slaves in San Domingo itself, in Martinique, Jamaica, and especially in Cuba, where the size of the country and the depth of the forests baffle all pursuit. Amid the varied and tropical vegetation of the Antilles, the American negro would find the necessities of life yielded him in abundance and without labour by the fruitful earth. He would return quite freely to the despotic, patriarchal system that is naturally suited to those of his brethren on whom the conquering Mussulmans of Africa have not yet laid their yoke. The love of isolation would be at once the cause and the result of his institutions. Tribes would be formed, and become, at the end of a short time, foreign and hostile to each other. Local wars would constitute the sole political history of the different cantons; and the island, though it would be wild, thinly peopled, and ill-cultivated, would yet maintain a double population. This is now condemned to disappear, owing to the fatal influence wielded by laws and institutions that have no relation to the mind of the negro, his interests, and his wants.

The examples of San Domingo and the Sandwich Islands are conclusive. But I cannot leave this part of my subject without touching on a similar instance, of a peculiar character, which strongly supports my view. I cited first a State where the institutions, imposed by Protestant preachers, are a mere childish copy of the British system. I then spoke of a government, materially free, but spiritually bound by European theories; which it tries to carry out, with fatal consequences for the unhappy population. I will now bring forward an instance of quite a different kind; I mean the attempt of the Jesuits to civilize the natives of Paraguay.* [Consult, on this subject, Prichard, d'Orbigny, A. von Humboldt, &c.]

These missionaries have been universally praised for their fine courage and lofty intelligence. The bitterest enemies of the Order have not been able to withhold a warm tribute of admiration for them. If any institutions imposed on a nation from without ever had a chance of success, it was certainly those of the Jesuits, based as they were on a powerful religious sentiment, and supported by all the links of association that could be devised by an exact and subtle knowledge of human nature. The Fathers were persuaded, as so many others have been, that barbarism occupies the same place in the life of peoples as infancy does in the life of a man; and that the more rudeness and savagery a nation shows, the younger it really is.

In order, then, to bring their neophytes to the adult stage, they treated them like children, and gave them a despotic government, which was as unyielding in its real aims, as it was mild and gracious in its outward appearance. The savage tribes of America have, as a rule, democratic tendencies; monarchy and aristocracy are rarely seen among them, and then only in a very limited form. The natural character of the Guaranis, among whom the Jesuits came, did not differ in this respect from that of the other tribes. Happily, however, their intelligence was relatively higher, and their ferocity perhaps a little less, than was the case with most of their neighbours; they had, too, in some degree, the power of conceiving new needs. About a hundred and twenty thousand souls were collected together in the mission villages, under the control of the Fathers. All that experience, unremitting study, and the living spirit of charity had taught the Jesuits, was now drawn upon; they made un- tiring efforts to secure a quick, though lasting, success. In spite of all their care, they found that their absolute power was not sufficient to keep their scholars on the right road, and they had frequent proofs of the want of solidity in the whole structure.

The proof was complete, when in an evil hour the edict of the Count of Aranda ended the reign of piety and intelligence in Paraguay. The Guaranis, deprived of their spiritual guides, refused to trust the laymen set over them by the Crown of Spain. They showed no attachment to their new institutions. They felt once more the call of the savage life, and to-day, with the exception of thirty-seven straggling little villages on the banks of the Parana, the Paraguay, and the Uruguay — villages in which the population is, no doubt, partly hybrid — the rest of the tribes have returned to the woods, and live there in just as wild a state as the western tribes of the same stock, Guaranis and Cirionos. I do not say that they keep all the old customs in their original form, but at any rate their present ones show an attempt to revive the ancient practices, and are directly descended from them; for no human race can be unfaithful to its instincts, and leave the path that has been marked out for it by God. We may believe that if the Jesuits had continued to direct their missions in Paraguay, their efforts would, in the course of time, have had better results. I admit it; but, in accordance with our universal law, this could only have happened on one condition — that a series of European settlements should have been gradually made in the country under the protection of the Jesuits. These settlers would have mingled with the natives, have first modified and then completely changed their blood. A State would have arisen, bearing perhaps a native name and boasting that it had sprung from the soil; but it would actually have been as European as its own institutions.

This is the end of my argument as to the relation between institutions and races.
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Re: The Inequality of Human Races, by Arthur De Gobineau

Postby admin » Sat Apr 10, 2021 5:13 am


I must now consider whether the development of peoples is affected (as many writers have asserted) by climate, soil, or geographical situation. And although I have briefly touched on this point in speaking of environment,* [See above, p. 38.] I should be leaving a real gap in my theory if I did not discuss it more thoroughly.

Suppose that a nation lives in a temperate climate, which is not hot enough to sap its energies, or cold enough to make the soil unproductive; that its territory contains large rivers, wide roads suitable for traffic, plains and valleys capable of varied cultivation, and mountains filled with rich veins of ore — we are usually led to believe that a nation so favoured by nature will be quick to leave the stage of barbarism, and will pass, with no difficulty, to that of civilization.* [Compare [Carl Gustav] Carus, Uber ungleiche Befahigung der verschiedenen Menschkeitstamme fur hohere geistige Entwickelung (Leipzig, 1849), p. 96 et passim.] We are just as ready to admit, as a corollary, that the tribes which are burnt by the sun or numbed by the eternal ice will be much more liable to remain in a savage state, living as they do on nothing but barren rocks. It goes without saying, that on this hypothesis, mankind is capable of perfection only by the help of material nature, and that its value and greatness exist potentially outside itself. This view may seem attractive at first sight, but it has no support whatever from the facts of observation.

Nowhere is the soil more fertile, the climate milder, than in certain parts of America. There is an abundance of great rivers. The gulfs, the bays, the harbours, are large, deep, magnificent, and innumerable. Precious metals can be dug out almost at the surface of the ground. The vegetable world yields in abundance, and almost of its own accord, the necessaries of life in the most varied forms; while the animals, most of which are good for food, are a still more valuable source of wealth. And yet the greater part of this happy land has been occupied, for centuries, by peoples who have not succeeded, to the slightest extent, in exploiting their treasures.

Some have started on the road to improvement. In more than one place we come upon an attenuated kind of culture, a rudimentary attempt to extract the minerals. The traveller may still, to his surprise, find a few useful arts being practised with a certain ingenuity. But all these efforts are very humble and uncoordinated; they are certainly not the beginnings of any definite civilization. In the vast territory between Lake Erie and the Gulf of Mexico, the River Missouri and the Rocky Mountains,* [Prichard, "Natural History of Man," sec. 37. See also Squier, " Observations on the Aboriginal Monuments of the Mississippi Valley."] there certainly existed, in remote ages, a nation which has left remarkable traces of its presence. The remains of buildings, the inscriptions engraved on rocks, the tumuli,* [The special construction of these tumuli and the numerous instruments and utensils they contain are occupying the attention of many eminent American antiquaries. It is impossible to doubt the great age of these monuments. Squier is perfectly right in finding a proof of this in the mere fact that the skeletons discovered in the tumuli fall to pieces when brought into the slightest contact with the air, although the conditions for their preservation are excellent, so far as the quality of the soil is concerned. On the other hand, the bodies which lay buried under the cromlechs of Brittany, and which are at least 1 800 years old, are perfectly firm. Hence we may easily imagine that there is no relation between these ancient inhabitants of the land and the tribes of the present day — the Lenni-Lenapes and others. I must not end this note without praising the industry and resource shown by American scholars in the study of the antiquities of their continent. Finding their labours greatly hindered by the extreme brittleness of the skulls they had exhumed, they discovered, after many abortive attempts, a way of pouring a preparation of bitumen into the bodies, which solidifies at once and keeps the bones from crumbling. This delicate process, which requires infinite care and quickness, seems, as a rule, to be entirely successful.] the mummies, show that it had reached an advanced state of mental culture. But there is nothing to prove a very close kinship between this mysterious people and the tribes that now wander over its tombs. Suppose, if you will, that there was some relation between them, whether by way of blood or of slavery, and that thus the natives of to-day did learn from the ancient lords of the country, the first rudiments of the arts they practise so imperfectly; this only makes us wonder the more that they should have found it impossible to carry any further what they had been taught. In fact, this would supply one more reason for my belief that not every people would be capable of civilization, even if it chose the most favoured spot on earth as its settlement.

Indeed, civilization is quite independent of climate and soil, and their adaptability to man's wants. India and Egypt are both countries which have had to be artificially fertilized;* [Ancient India required a vast amount of clearing on the part of the first white settlers. See Lassen, Indische Altertumskunde, vol. i. As to Egypt, compare Bunsen, Agyptens Stelle in der Weltgesohichte , as to the fertilization of the Fayoum, a vast work executed by the early kings.] yet they are famous centres of human culture and development. In China, certain regions are naturally fertile; but others have needed great labour to fit them for cultivation. Chinese history begins with the conquest of the rivers. The first benefits conferred by the ancient Emperors were the opening of canals and the draining of marshes. In the country between the Euphrates and the Tigris, that beheld the splendour of the first Assyrian empire, and is the majestic scene of our most sacred recollections — in this region, where wheat is said to grow of its own accord,* [They say that it spontaneously produces wheat, barley, beans, and sesame, and all the edible plants that grow in the plains" (Syncellus).] the soil is naturally so unproductive that vast works of irrigation, carried out in the teeth of every difficulty, have been needed to make it a fit abode for man. Now that the canals are destroyed or filled up, sterility has resumed its ancient reign. I am therefore inclined to believe that nature did not favour these regions as much as we are apt to think. But I will not discuss the point. I will grant, if you like, that China, Egypt, India, and Assyria, contained all the conditions of prosperity, and were eminently suited for the founding of powerful empires and the development of great civilizations. But, we must also admit, these conditions were of such a kind that, in order to receive any 'benefit from them the inhabitants must have reached beforehand, by other means, a high stage of social culture. Thus, for the commerce to be able to make use of the great waterways, manufactures, or at any rate agriculture, must have already existed; again, neighbouring peoples would not have been attracted to these great centres before towns and markets had grown up and prospered. Thus the great natural advantages of China, India, and Assyria, imply not only a considerable mental power on the part of the nations that profited by them, but even a civilization going back beyond the day when these advantages began to be exploited. We will now leave these specially favoured regions, and consider others.

When the Phoenicians, in the course of their migration, left Tylos, or some other island in the south-east, and settled in a portion of Syria, what did they find in their new home? A desert and rocky coast, forming a narrow strip of land between the sea and a range of cliffs that seemed to be cursed with everlasting barrenness. There was no room for expansion in such a place, for the girdle of mountains was unbroken on all sides. And yet this wretched country, which should have been a prison, became, thanks to the industry of its inhabitants, a crown studded with temples and palaces. The Phoenicians, who seemed for ever condemned to be a set of fish-eating barbarians, or at most a miserable crew of pirates, were, as a fact, pirates on a grand scale; they were also clever and enterprising merchants, bold and lucky speculators. "Yes," it may be objected, "necessity is the mother of invention; if the founders of Tyre and Sidon had settled in the plains of Damascus, they would have been content to live by agriculture, and would probably have never become a famous nation. Misery sharpened their wits, and awakened their genius."

Then why does it not awaken the genius of all the tribes of Africa, America, and Oceania, who find themselves in a similar condition? The Kabyles of Morocco are an ancient race; they have certainly had a long time for reflection, and, what is more striking still, have had every reason to imitate the customs of their betters; why then have they never thought of a more fruitful way of alleviating their wretchedness than mere brigandage on the high seas? Why, in the Indian archipelago, which seems created for trade, and in the Pacific islands, where intercommunication is so easy, are nearly all the commercial advantages in the hands of foreigners — Chinese, Malays, and Arabs? And where half-caste natives or other mixed races have been able to share in these advantages, why has the trade at once fallen off? Why is the internal exchange of commodities carried on more and more by elementary methods of barter? The fact is, that for a commercial state to be established on any coast or island, something more is necessary than an open sea, and the pressure exerted by the barrenness of the land — something more, even, than the lessons learned from the experience of others; the native of the coast or the island must be gifted with the special talent that alone can lead him to profit by the tools that lie to his hand, and alone can point him the road to success.

It is not enough to show that a nation's value in the scale of civilization does not come from the fertility — or, to be more precise, the infertility — of the country where it happens to live. I must also prove that this value is quite independent of all the material conditions of environment. For example, the Armenians, shut up in their mountains — the same mountains where, for generations, so many other peoples have lived and died in barbarism — had already reached a high stage of civilization in a very remote age. Yet their country was almost entirely cut off from others; it had no communication with the sea, and could boast of no great fertility.

The Jews were in a similar position. They were surrounded by tribes speaking the dialects of a language cognate with their own, and for the most part closely connected with them in race; yet they outdistanced all these tribes. They became warriors, farmers, and traders. Their method of government was extremely complicated; it was a mixture of monarchy and theocracy, of patriarchal and democratic rule (this last being represented by the assemblies and the prophets), all in a curious equilibrium. Under this government they lived through long ages of prosperity and glory, and by a scientific system of emigration they conquered the difficulties that were put in the way of their expansion by the narrow limits of their territory. And what kind of territory was it? Modern travellers know what an amount of organized effort was required from the Israelite farmers, in order to keep up its artificial fertility. Since the chosen race ceased to dwell in the mountains and the plains of Palestine, the well where Jacob's flocks came down to drink has been filled up with sand, Naboth's vineyard has been invaded by the desert, and the bramble flourishes in the place where stood the palace of Ahab. And what did the Jews become, in this miserable corner of the earth? They became a people that succeeded in everything it undertook, a free, strong, and intelligent people, and one which, before it lost, sword in hand, the name of an independent nation, had given as many learned men to the world as it had merchants.* [Salvador, Histoire des Juifs.]

The Greeks themselves could not wholly congratulate themselves on their geographical position. Their country was a wretched one, for the most part. Arcadia was beloved of shepherds, Boeotia claimed to be dear to Demeter and Triptolemus; but Arcadia and Boeotia play a very minor part in Greek history. The rich and brilliant Corinth itself, favoured by Plutus and Aphrodite, is in this respect only in the second rank. To which city belongs the chief glory? To Athens, where the fields and olive-groves were perpetually covered with grey dust, and where statues and books were the main articles of commerce; to Sparta also, a city buried in a narrow valley, at the foot of a mass of rocks which Victory had to cross to find her out.

And what of the miserable quarter of Latium that was chosen for the foundation of Rome? The little river Tiber, on whose banks it lay, flowed down to an almost unknown coast, that no Greek or Phoenician ship had ever touched, save by chance; was it through her situation that Rome became the mistress of the world? No sooner did the whole world lie at the feet of the Roman eagles, than the central government found that its capital was ill-placed; and the long series of insults to the eternal city began. The early emperors had their eyes turned towards Greece, and nearly always lived there. When Tiberius was in Italy he stayed at Capri, a point facing the two halves of the empire. His successors went to Antioch. Some of them, in view of the importance of Gaul, went as far north as Treves. Finally, an edict took away even the title of chief city from Rome and conferred it on Milan. If the Romans made some stir in the world, it was certainly in spite of the position of the district from which their first armies issued forth.

Coming down to modern history I am overwhelmed by the multitude of facts that support my theory. I see prosperity suddenly leaving the Mediterranean coasts, a clear proof that it was not inseparably attached to them. The great commercial cities of the Middle Ages grew up in places where no political philosopher of an earlier time would have thought of founding them. Novgorod rose in the midst of an ice-bound land; Bremen on a coast almost as cold. The Hanseatic towns in the centre of Germany were built in regions plunged, as it seemed, in immemorial slumber. Venice emerged from a deep gulf in the Adriatic. The balance of political power was shifted to places scarcely heard of before, but now gleaming with a new splendour. In France the whole strength was concentrated to the north of the Loire, almost beyond the Seine. Lyons, Toulouse, Narbonne, Marseilles, and Bordeaux fell from the high dignity to which they had been called by the Romans. It was Paris that became the important city, Paris, which was too far from the sea for purposes of trade, and which would soon prove too near to escape the invasions of the Norman pirates. In Italy, towns formerly of the lowest rank became greater than the city of the Popes. Ravenna rose from its marshes, Amalfi began its long career of power. Chance, I may remark, had no part in these changes, which can all be explained by the presence, at the given point, of a victorious or powerful race. In other words, a nation does not derive its value from its position; it never has and never will. On the contrary, it is the people which has always given — and always will give — to the land its moral, economic, and political value.

I add, for the sake of clearness, that I have no wish to deny the importance of geographical position for certain towns, whether they are trade-centres, ports, or capitals. The arguments that have been brought forward,* [M. Saint -Marc Girardin, in the Revue des Deux Mondes.] in the case of Constantinople and especially of Alexandria, are indisputable. There certainly exist different points which we may call "the keys of the earth." Thus we may imagine that when the isthmus of Panama is pierced, the power holding the town that is yet to be built on the hypothetical canal, might play a great part in the history of the world. But this part will be played well, badly, or even not at all, according to the intrinsic excellence of the people in question. Make Chagres into a large city, let the two seas meet under its walls, and assume that you are free to fill it with what settlers you will. Your choice will finally determine the future of the new town. Suppose that Chagres is not exactly in the best position to develop all the advantages coming from the junction of the two oceans; then, if the race is really worthy of its high calling, it will remove to some other place where it may in perfect freedom work out its splendid destiny.* [We may cite, on the subject treated in this chapter, the opinion of a learned historian, though it is rather truculent in tone: "A large number of writers are convinced that the country makes the people; that the Bavarians or the Saxons were predestined by the nature of the soil to become what they are to-day; that Protestantism does not suit the South, nor Catholicism the North, and so on. Some of the people who interpret history in the light of their meagre knowledge, narrow sympathies, and limited intelligence would like to show that the nation of which we are speaking (the Jews) possessed such and such qualities — whether these gentlemen understand the nature of the qualities or not — merely from having lived in Palestine instead of India or Greece. But if these great scholars, who are so clever in proving everything, would condescend to reflect that the soil of the Holy Land has contained in its limited area very different peoples, with different ideas and religions, and that between these various peoples and their successors at the present day there have been infinite degrees of diversity, although the actual country has remained the same — they would then see how little influence is exerted by material conditions on a nation's character and civilization." Ewald, Geschichte des Volkes Israel, vol. i, p. 259.
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Re: The Inequality of Human Races, by Arthur De Gobineau

Postby admin » Sat Apr 10, 2021 5:23 am


After my arguments on the subject of institutions and climates, I come to another, which I should really have put before all the rest; not that I think it stronger than they are, but because the facts on which it is based naturally command our reverence. If my conclusions in the preceding chapters are admitted, two points become increasingly evident: first, that most human races are for ever incapable of civilization, so long as they remain unmixed; secondly, that such races are not only without the inner impulse necessary to start them on the path of improvement, but also that no external force, however energetic in other respects, is powerful enough to turn their congenital barrenness into fertility. Here we shall be asked, no doubt, whether the light of Christianity is to shine in vain on entire nations, and whether some peoples are doomed never to behold it at all.

Some writers have answered in the affirmative. They have not scrupled to contradict the promise of the Gospel, by denying the most characteristic feature of the new law, which is precisely that of being accessible to all men. Their view merely restates the old formula of the Hebrews, to which it returns by a little larger gate than that of the Old Covenant; but it returns all the same. I have no desire to follow the champions of this idea, which is condemned by the Church, nor have I the least difficulty in admitting that all human races are gifted with an equal capacity for being received into the bosom of the Christian Communion. Here there is no impediment arising from any original difference between races; for this purpose their inequalities are of no account. Religions and their followers are not, as has been assumed, distributed in zones over the surface of the earth. It is not true that Christianity must rule from this meridian to that, while from such and such a point Islam takes up the sceptre, holding it only as far as a certain impassable frontier, and then having to deliver it into the hands of Buddhism or Brahmanism, while the fetichists of the tribe of Ham divide among themselves the rest of the world.

Christians are found in all latitudes and all climates. Statistics, inaccurate perhaps, but still approximately true, show us a vast number of them, Mongols wandering in the plains of Upper Asia, savages hunting on the tableland of the Cordilleras, Eskimos fishing in the ice of the Arctic circle, even Chinese and Japanese dying under the scourge of the persecutor. The least observation will show this, and will also prevent us from falling into the very common error of confusing the universal power of recognizing the truths of Christianity and following its precepts, with the very different faculty that leads one human race, and not another, to understand the earthly conditions of social improvement, and to be able to pass from one rung of the ladder to another, so as to reach finally the state which we call civilization. The rungs of this ladder are the measure of the inequality of human races.

It was held, quite wrongly, in the last century, that the doctrine of renunciation, a corner-stone of Christianity, was essentially opposed to social development; and that people to whom the highest virtue consists in despising the things here below, and in turning their eyes and hearts, without ceasing, towards the heavenly Jerusalem, will not do much to help the progress of this world. The very imperfection of man may serve to rebut such an argument. There has never been any serious reason to fear that he will renounce the joys of earth; and though the counsels of religion were expressly directed to this point, we may say that they were pulling against a current that they knew to be irresistible, and were merely demanding a great deal in order to obtain a very little. Further, the Christian precepts are a great aid to society; they plane away all roughness, they pour the oil of charity on all social relations, they condemn violence, force men to appeal to the sole authority of reason, and so gain for the spirit a plenitude of power which works in a thousand ways for the good of the flesh. Again, religion elevates the mind by the metaphysical and intellectual character of its dogmas, while through the purity of its moral ideal it tends to free the spirit from a host of corrosive vices and weaknesses, which are dangerous to material progress. Thus, as against the philosophers of the eighteenth century, we are right in calling Christianity a civilizing power — but only within certain limits; if we take the words in too wide a sense, we shall find ourselves drawn into a maze of error.

Christianity is a civilizing force in so far as it makes a man better minded and better mannered; yet it is only indirectly so, for it has no idea of applying this improvement in morals and intelligence to the perishable things of this world, and it is always content with the social conditions in which it finds its neophytes, however imperfect the conditions may be. So long as it can pull out the noxious weeds that stifle the well-being of the soul, it is indifferent to everything else. It leaves all men as it finds them — the Chinese in his robes, the Eskimo in his furs, the first eating rice, and the second eating whale-blubber. It does not require them to change their way of life. If their state can be improved as a direct consequence of their conversion, then Christianity will certainly do its best to bring such an improvement about; but it will not try to alter a single custom, and certainly will not force any advance from one civilization to another, for it has not yet adopted one itself. It uses all civilizations and is above all. There are proofs in abundance, and I will speak of them in a moment; but I must first make the confession that I have never understood the ultra-modern doctrine which identifies the law of Christ and the interests of this world in such a way that it creates from their union a fictitious social order which it calls "Christian civilization."

There is certainly such a thing as a pagan civilization, just as there is a Brahman, Buddhist, or Jewish civilization. Societies have existed, and still exist, which are absolutely based on religion. Religion has given them their constitution, drawn up their laws, settled their civic duties, marked out their frontiers, and prescribed their foreign policy. Such societies have only been able to persist by placing themselves under a more or less strict theocracy. We can no more imagine their living without their rites and creeds than we can imagine the rites and creeds existing by themselves, without the people. The whole of antiquity was more or less in this condition. Roman statesmanship certainly invented the legal tolerance of creeds, and a decadent theology produced a vast system of fusion and assimilation of cults; but these belonged to the latest age of paganism, when the fruit was already rotten on the tree. While it was young and flourishing, there were as many Jupiters, Mercuries, and Venuses, as there were towns. The god was a jealous god, in a sense quite different from the jealousy of the Jewish God; he was still more exclusive, and recognized no one but his fellow-citizens in this world and the next. Every ancient civilization rose to greatness under the aegis of some divinity, of some particular cult. Religion and the State were united so closely and inseparably that the responsibility for all that happened was shared between them. We may speak, if we will, of "finding traces of the cult of the Tyrian Heracles in the public policy of Carthage"; but I think that we can really identify the effects of the doctrines taught by the priests with the policy of the suffetes and the trend of social development. Again, I have no doubt that the dog-headed Anubis, Isis Neith, and the Ibises taught the men of the Nile valley all that they knew and practised. Christianity, however, acted in this respect quite differently from all preceding religions; this was its greatest innovation. Unlike them, it had no chosen people. It was addressed to the whole world, not only to the rich or the poor. From the first it received from the Holy Ghost the gift of tongues,* [Acts ii, 4, 8, 9-11.] that it might speak to each man in the language of his country, and proclaim the Gospel by means of the ideas and images that each nation could best understand. It did not come to change the outward part of man, the material world; it taught him to despise this outward part, and was only concerned with his inner self. We read in a very ancient apocryphal book, "Let not the strong man boast of his strength, nor the rich man of his riches; but let him who will be glorified glorify himself in the Lord."* [Apocryphal Gospels: "The Story of Joseph the Carpenter," chap. i.] Strength, riches, worldly power, and the way of ambition — all these have no meaning for our law. No civilization whatever has excited its envy or contempt; and because of this rare impartiality, and the consequences that were to flow from it, the law could rightly call itself "Catholic," or universal. It does not belong exclusively to any civilization. It did not come to bless any one form of earthly existence; it rejects none, and would purify all.

The canonical books, the writings of the Fathers, the stories of the missionaries of all ages, are filled with proofs of this in- difference to the outward forms of social life, and to social life itself. Provided that a man believes, and that none of his daily actions tend to transgress the ordinances of religion, nothing else matters. Of what importance is the shape of a Christian's house, the cut and material of his clothes, his system of government, the measure of tyranny or liberty in his public institutions? He may be a fisherman, a hunter, a ploughman, a sailor, a soldier — whatever you like. In all these different employments is there anything to prevent a man — to whatever nation he belong, English, Turkish, Siberian, American, Hottentot — from receiving the light of the Christian faith? Absolutely nothing; and when this result is attained, the rest counts for very little. The savage Galla can remain a Galla, and yet become as staunch a believer, as pure a "vessel of election," as the holiest prelate in Europe. It is here that Christianity shows its striking superiority to other religions, in its peculiar quality of grace. We must not take this away, in deference to a favourite idea of modern Europe, that something of material utility must be found everywhere, even in the holiest things.

During the eighteen centuries that the Church has existed, it has converted many nations. In all these it has allowed the political conditions to reign unchecked, just as it found them at first. It began by protesting to the world of antiquity that it did not wish to alter in the slightest degree the outward forms of society. It has been even reproached, on occasion, with an excess of tolerance in this respect; compare, for example, the attitude of the Jesuits towards the Chinese ceremonies. We do not, however, find that Christianity has ever given the world a unique type of civilization to which all believers had to belong. The Church adapts itself to everything, even to the mud-hut; and wherever there is a savage too stupid even to understand the use of shelter, you are sure to find a devoted missionary sitting beside him on the hard rock, and thinking of nothing but how to impress his soul with the ideas essential to salvation. Christianity is thus not a civilizing power in the ordinary sense of the word; it can be embraced by the most different races without stunting their growth, or making demands on them that they cannot fulfil.

I said above that Christianity elevates the soul by the sublimity of its dogmas, and enlarges the intellect by their subtlety. This is only true in so far as the soul and intellect to which it appeals are capable of being enlarged and elevated. Its mission is not 'to bestow the gift of genius, or to provide ideas for those who are without them. Neither genius nor ideas are necessary for salvation. Indeed the Church has expressly declared that it prefers the weak and lowly to the strong. It gives only what it wishes to receive. It fertilizes but does not create. It supports but does not lift on high. It takes the man as he is, and merely helps him to walk. If he is lame, it does not ask him to run.

If I open the "Lives of the Saints," shall I find many wise men among them? Certainly not. The company of the blessed ones whose name and memory are honoured by the Church consists mainly of those who were eminent for their virtue and devotion; but, though full of genius in all that concerned heaven, they had none for the things of earth. When I see St. Rosa of Lima honoured equally with St. Bernard, the intercession of St. Zita valued no less than that of St. Teresa; when I see all the Anglo-Saxon saints, most of the Irish monks, the unsavoury hermits of the Egyptian Thebaid, the legions of martyrs who sprang from the dregs of the people and whom a sudden flash of courage and devotion raised to shine eternally in glory — when I see all these venerated to the same extent as the cleverest apologists of dogma, as the wisest champions of the faith, then I find myself justified in my conclusion that Christianity is not a civilizing power, in the narrow and worldly sense of the phrase. Just as it merely asks of every man what he has himself received, so it asks nothing of any race but what it is capable of giving, and does not set it in a higher place among the civilized races of the earth than its natural powers give it a right to expect. Hence I absolutely deny the egalitarian argument which identifies the possibility of adopting the Christian faith with that of an unlimited intellectual growth. Most of the tribes of South America were received centuries ago into the bosom of the Church; but they have always remained savages, with no understanding of the European civilization unfolding itself before their eyes. I am not surprised that the Cherokees of North America have been largely converted by Methodist missionaries; but it would greatly astonish me if this tribe, while it remained pure in blood, ever managed to form one of the States of the American Union, or exert any influence in Congress. I find it quite natural also that the Danish Lutherans and the Moravians should have opened the eyes of the Eskimos to the light of faith; but I think it equally natural that their disciples should have remained in the social condition in which they had been stagnating for ages. Again, the Swedish Lapps are, as we might have expected, in the same state of barbarism as their ancestors, even though centuries have passed since the gospel first brought them the message of salvation. All these peoples may produce — perhaps have produced already — men conspicuous for their piety and the purity of their lives; but I do not expect to see learned theologians among them, or skilful soldiers, or clever mathematicians, or great artists. In other words they will for ever exclude the select company of the fine spirits who clasp hands across the ages and continually renew the strength of the dominant races. Still less will those rare and mighty geniuses appear who are followed by their nations, in the paths they mark out for themselves, only if those nations are themselves able to understand them and go forward under their direction. Even as a matter of justice we must leave Christianity absolutely out of the present question. If all races are equally capable of receiving its benefits, it cannot have been sent to bring equality among men. Its kingdom, we may say, is in the most literal sense "not of this world."

Many people are accustomed to judge the merits of Christianity in the light of the prejudices natural to our age; and I fear that, in spite of what I have said above, they may have some difficulty in getting rid of their inaccurate ideas. Even if they agree on the whole with my conclusions, they may still believe that the scale is turned by the indirect action of religion on conduct, of conduct on institutions, of institutions on the whole social order. I cannot admit any such action. My opponents will assert that the personal influence of the missionaries, nay, their mere presence, will be enough to change appreciably the political condition of the converts and their ideas of material well-being. They will say, for example, that these apostles nearly always (though not invariably) come from a nation more advanced than that to which they are preaching; thus they will of their own accord, almost by instinct, change the merely human customs of their disciples, while they are reforming their morals. Suppose the missionaries have to do with savages, plunged in an abyss of wretchedness through their own ignorance. They will instruct them in useful arts and show them how men escape from famine by work on the land. After providing the necessary tools for this, they will go further, and teach them how to build better huts, to rear cattle, to control the water-supply — both in order to irrigate their fields, and to prevent inundations. Little by little they will manage to give them enough taste for matters of the intellect to make them use an alphabet, and perhaps, as the Cherokees have done,* [Prichard, Natural History of Man," sec. 41.] invent one for themselves. Finally, if they are exceptionally successful, they will bring their cultivated disciples to imitate so exactly the customs of which the missionaries have told them, that they will possess, like the Cherokees and the Creeks on the south bank of the Arkansas, flocks of valuable sheep, and even a collection of black slaves to work on their plantations. They will be completely equipped for living on the land.

I have expressly chosen as examples the two races which are considered to be the most advanced of all. Yet, far from agreeing with the advocates of equality, I cannot imagine any more striking instances than these of the general incapacity of any race to adopt a way of life which it could not have found for itself.

These two peoples are the isolated remnant of many nations which have been driven out or annihilated by the whites. They are naturally on a different plane from the rest, since they are supposed to be descended from the ancient Alleghany race to which the great ruins found to the north of the Mississippi are attributed.* [Ibid.] Here is already a great inconsistency in the arguments of those who assert that the Cherokees are the equals of the European races; for the first step in their proof is that these Alleghany tribes are near the Anglo-Saxons precisely because they are themselves superior to the other races of North America! Well, what has happened to these chosen peoples? The American Government took their ancient territories from both the tribes, and, by means of a special treaty, made them emigrate to a definite region, where separate places of settlement were marked out for them. Here, under the general superintendence of the Ministry of War and the direct guidance of Protestant missionaries, they were forced to take up their present mode of life, whether they liked it or not. The writer from whom I borrow these details — and who has himself taken them from the great work of Gallatin* ["Synopsis of the Indian Tribes of North America."] —says the number of the Cherokees is continually increasing. His argument is that at the time when Adair visited them, their warriors were estimated at 2300, while to-day the sum-total of their population is calculated to be 15,000; this figure includes, it is true, the 1200 negro slaves who have become their property. He also adds, however, that their schools are, like their churches, in the hands of the missionaries, and that these missionaries, being Protestants, are for the most part married men with white children or servants, and probably also a sort of general staff of Europeans, acting as clerks, and the like. It thus becomes very difficult to establish the fact of any real increase in the number of the natives, while on the other hand it is very easy to appreciate the strong pressure that must be exerted by the European race over its pupils.* [I have discussed Prichard's facts without questioning their value. I might, however, have simply denied them, and should have bad on my side the weighty authority of A. de Tocqueville, who in his great work on "Democracy in America" refers to the Cherokees in these words: "The presence of half-breeds has favoured the very rapid development of European habits among the Indians. The half-breed shares the enlightenment of his father without entirely giving up the savage customs of his mother's race. He is thus a natural link between civilization and barbarism. Wherever half-breeds exist and multiply we see the savages gradually changing their customs and social conditions" ("Democracy in America," vol. iii). Do Tocqueville ends by prophesying that although the Cherokees and the Creeks are half-breeds and not natives, as Prichard says, they will nevertheless disappear in a short time through the encroachment of the white race.]

The possibility of making war is clearly taken away from them; they are exiled, surrounded on all sides by the American power, which is too vast for them to comprehend, and are, I believe, sincerely converted to the religion of their masters. They are kindly treated by their spiritual guides and convinced of the necessity for working, in the sense in which work is understood by their masters, if they are not to die of hunger. Under these conditions I can quite imagine that they will become successful agriculturists, and will learn to carry out the ideas that have been dinned into them, day in, day out, without ceasing.

By the exercise of a little patience and by the judicious use of hunger as a spur to greed, we can teach animals what they would never learn by instinct. But to cry out at our success would be to rate much lower than it is the intelligence even of the humblest member of the human family. When the village fairs are full of learned animals going through the most complicated tricks, can we be surprised that men, who have been submitted to a rigorous training and cut off from all means of escape or relaxation, should manage to perform those functions of civilized life which, even in a savage state, they might be able to understand, without having the desire to practise them? The result is a matter of course; and anyone who is surprised at it is putting man far below the card-playing dog or the horse who orders his dinner! By arbitrarily gathering one's premises from the " intelligent actions " of a few human groups, one ends in being too easily satisfied, and in coming to feel enthusiasms which are not very flattering even to those who are their objects.

I know that some learned men have given colour to these rather obvious comparisons by asserting that between some human races and the larger apes there is only a slight difference of degree, and none of kind. As I absolutely reject such an insult to humanity, I may be also allowed to take no notice of the exaggerations by which it is usually answered. I believe, of course, that human races are unequal; but I do not think that any of them are like the brute, or to be classed with it. The lowest tribe, the most backward and miserable variety of the human species, is at least capable of imitation; and I have no doubt that if we take one of the most hideous bushmen, we could develop — I do not say in him, if he is already grown up, but in his son or at any rate his grandson — sufficient intelligence to make his acts correspond to a certain degree of civilization, even if this required some conscious effort of study on his part. Are we to infer that the people to which he belongs could be civilized on our model? This would be a hasty and superficial conclusion. From the practice of the arts and professions invented under an advanced civilization, it is a far cry to that civilization itself. Further, though the Protestant missionaries are an indispensable link between the savage tribe and the central civilizing power, is it certain that these missionaries are equal to the task imposed on them? Are they the masters of a complete system of social science? I doubt it. If communications were suddenly cut off between the American Government and its spiritual legates among the Cherokees, the traveller would find in the native farms, at the end of a few years, some new practices that he had not expected. These would result from the mixture of white and Indian blood; and our traveller would look in vain for anything more than a very pale copy of what is taught at New York.

We often hear of negroes who have learnt music, who are clerks in banking-houses, and who know how to read, write, count, dance, and speak, like white men. People are astonished at this, and conclude that the negro is capable of everything! And then, in the same breath, they will express surprise at the contrast between the Slav civilization and our own. The Russians, Poles, and Serbians (they will say), even though they are far nearer to us than the negroes, are only civilized on the surface; the higher classes alone participate in our ideas, owing to the continual admixture of English, French, and German blood. The masses, on the other hand, are. invincibly ignorant of the Western world and its movements, although they have been Christian for so many centuries — in many cases before we were converted ourselves! The solution is simple. There is a great difference between imitation and conviction. Imitation does not necessarily imply a serious breach with hereditary instincts; but no one has a real part in any civilization until he is able to make progress by himself, without direction from others.* [In discussing the list of remarkable negroes which is given in the first instance by Blumenbach and could easily be supplemented, [Carl Gustav] Carus well says that among the black races there has never been any politics or literature or any developed ideas of art, and that when any individual negroes have distinguished themselves it has always been the result of white influence. There is not a single man among them to be compared, I will not say to one of our men of genius, but to the heroes of the yellow races — for example, Confucius. (Carus, op. cit.)] What is the use of telling me how clever some particular savages are in guiding the plough, in spelling, or reading, when they are only repeating the lessons they have learnt? Show me rather, among the many regions in which negroes have lived for ages in contact with Europeans, one single place where, in addition to the religious doctrines, the ideas, customs, and institutions of even one European people have been so completely assimilated that progress in them is made as naturally and spontaneously as among ourselves. Show me a place where the introduction of printing has had results, similar to those in Europe, where our sciences are brought to perfection, where new applications are made of our discoveries, where our philosophies are the parents of other philosophies, of political systems, of literature and art, of books, statues, and pictures!

But I am not really so exacting and narrow-minded as I seem. I am not seriously asking that a people should adopt our whole individuality at the same time as our faith. I am willing to admit that it should reject our way of thinking and strike out quite a different one. Well then! let me see our negro, at the moment when he opens his eyes to the light of the Gospel, suddenly realizing that his earthly path is as dark and perplexed as his spiritual life was before. Let me see him creating for himself a new social order in his own image, putting ideas into practice that have hitherto rusted unused, taking foreign notions and moulding them to his purpose. I will wait long for the work to be finished; I merely ask that it may be begun. But it has never been begun; it has never even been attempted. You may search through all the pages of history, and you will not find a single people that has attained to European civilization by adopting Christianity, or has been brought by the great fact of its conversion to civilize itself when it was not civilized already.

On the other hand, I shall find, In the vast tracts of Southern Asia and in certain parts of Europe, States fused together out of men of very different religions. The unalterable hostility of races, however, will be found side by side with that of cults; we can distinguish the Pathan who has become a Christian from the converted Hindu, just as easily as we separate to-day the Russian of Orenburg from the nomad Christian tribes among which he lives.

Once more, Christianity is not a civilizing power, and has excellent reasons for not being so.
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