Page images

tunately, little of all these writings and observations are of any value to science. While men at home were dealing in assumptions, and performing the part of special pleaders for their own pet dogmas, we could not expect anything else from travellers. It must be our object to get travellers to give up all theories, and simply collect reliable facts. Another cause of the comparative uselessness of the accounts of travellers is the want of honesty in telling what they really saw. Some fear shocking public opinion, while others indulge in exaggerations for the sake of the excitement which their narrative produces in the reading public. Missionaries have had grand opportunities of studying the characteristics of uncultivated nations, but their narratives are proverbially useless to science by reason of the self-glorifying accounts of the results of their own labours. Some of the mildest people in the world have been called “cannibals” and “ lowest savages,” when there has not been a shadow of truth in the charge. But, generally speaking, travellers have not been to blame; the fault lies with the cultivators of science at home.

And here I must touch on a subject of deep importance. We have to found a great science, and we shall want labourers abroad as well as at home. These labourers to be of any real service to science must receive some preliminary training. They must have all nursery tales eradicated from their minds, and be taught seek for facts and search for truth. The Anthropologist requires training, like the botanist, the zoologist, or the geologist. But this training can never be effected by a society like our own. Indeed such a scheme does not come within our object. It must, therefore, be done by the public. The Government must give to Anthropologists the same aid which it renders to the geologist. Surely it is not reasonable that we should care more for the extinct than for living forms of animal life. While it is the duty of Government to aid the study of the Anthropologist, it is also the duty of our Universities to make the Science of Mankind a special subject of study. I look forward to the day when all our Universities shall have professors whose sole study shall be the philosophy of mankind. In the political world the subject of "race" has been playing so prominent a part that the dullest legislator must begin to see that political institutions are not simply the result of the statesman's genius, but that there are higher laws in operation, to counteract which all his efforts are useless. It is true that in the present state of our science we can offer no positive dogmas to the politician; but we see enough to know that laws are secretly working for the development of some nations and the destruction of others; which it is both the province and the duty of the politician to assist in

discovering. We must go on working as best we can, and ere long the public will see that it is for their own interest, and for the benefit of humanity at large, that the scientific study of Man shall be made a part of national education.

While, however, State aid is certain to come in time, we must at present appeal to private enterprize to assist in carrying out what is, to a great extent, national work. And one of the best means of helping to do this is by the establishment of a good and reliable museum. In this country there is really no ethnographical museum which is at all worthy of the British nation. With better opportunities than any other people, our ethnographical museums are still very inferior and imperfect. It will be our duty not to care so much for collecting a museum of our own, as to assist in forming one that shall be worthy of the country. How this can best be carried out must always be a matter for earnest consideration. In the meantime this society will commence forming a museum; but I think we ought always to be ready to give up anything that will be for the benefit of the public or the cause of science.

But there are other duties which will demand our more immediate attention; and I will briefly touch on some of these, as it may serve to illustrate how we purpose to carry out the work we have undertaken.

Much of the future success of the Society will perhaps depend on the character of the papers read at our meetings. I suggest, therefore, that, as far as possible, it will be advisable, in the present confused state of our science, that we should give preference to such papers which have for their object the removal of some of these mysteries. To-night we will discuss whether we shall go on playing with the so-called science of man, or whether we shall be content to give up all dogmas, confess our ignorance as to knowing anything about the laws regulating man's origin or development, and be willing to begin de novo, only basing our opinions on actual demonstrable facts, and arguing solely from the logical inference from such data. If we decide on our method to-night, we can then go on to discuss at our next meeting the terms we agree to use. There is an absolute necessity we should endeavour to agree on this point, for science can make no advance, while hardly two persons use snch an important word as “race" in the same sense. As a new science, which we hope to see popular, I trust that an endeavour will be made to render the terms we use as simple as possible. We had better spend the whole of this session in debating this subject, in order to come to some general agreement, than rush madly on to the discussion of the subject, which we cannot argue with any profit, until we have settled the meaning we each attach to the terms we shall use in our warfare. Various subjects will be brought under consideration, and amongst others the question as to how far it would be advisable to make use of the terms of the phrenologists in our minute descriptions of the crania of races of man. We, of course, cannot accept any such dogmatic system as a basis of work; but we must see how far it will be advisable to adopt the nomenclature of the phrenologist for describing human crania. The Manual of Ethnological Inquiry, put forth by the British Association, has already recommended the expediency of using the terminology of the phrenologist, and such a recommendation has, some think, tended to retard the rapid progress of cranioscopy. Phrenology, as a system, we cannot accept; but we are bound to inquire how far it is founded on true principles. I presume that we shall nearly all be disposed to admit fully that the form and quality of the brain in some way indicates the intellectual and moral character of the man; but we must not rush hurriedly and build

up a system, or accept any system which is founded on this general admission. The phrenologists have hitherto paid too much attention to mere form, and not enough to quality, which is quite as important. Nor must we accept such a dogma as that propounded by Liebig, that the cerebral action must be proportionate to the mass of the brain. On the contrary, we must seek for a solution of many of the contradictions which surround this subject, in the minute histological anatomy, or in the chemical constituents of the brain of the different families of man and the lower animals. Schlossberger has already affirmed that there is less fat and more water in the brain of children than of adults. If we take this with the dogma of Moleschott, that “Without phosphorus there is no thought,” we shall see the value of chemical and microscopical investigation on this subject. The exact relation which thought bears to some form, quantity, and quality of the brain, is as yet uncertain; all we now know is, that they are connected: but it is left for us to discover the exact relations.

It is not a little remarkable, that amongst all the journals devoted to different branches of science, there has as yet been no independent journal for the interchange of communications from anthropologists in different parts of the world. The advent of our Society will enable such a journal to be founded. This journal will, however, not be under the influence of the Society, further than engaging to print our official reports. It will be for the use of, and a medium of communication between all anthropologists. I need hardly say how valuable such a journal will be to us as a Society, and indeed for science generally, if it is only conducted in that spirit of moderation, fairness, and freedom from all party or personal bias, which is at this time demanded.

In this Journal the reports of our meetings will be published quarterly; and it is hoped that by so doing there will be a constant and sustained interest taken in the works of the Society. Long memoirs will be only given in abstract in the journal, but they will be published at length at the discretion of the council, and delivered to the fellows in a separate publication.

In selecting works to be translated, we shall be guided by a desire to introduce books into this country, which, while being useful to the student and teacher, will at the same time help to give the reading public a better appreciation of the object and extent of anthropological science. The council will not simply favour the translations of works, in the opinions of which they agree, but will aim at introducing those works which best represent the prevailing opinions respecting Anthropology on the Continent. The importation of foreign ideas and modes of treating our science cannot fail to produce beneficial results.

Another important feature in our plan is the appointment of local secretaries in different parts of the world. It is well known that there are many who are anxious to render some assistance to science, but do not know what to do, as they are ignorant what sort of information science requires. If our local secretaries are carefully selected, and proper questions and instructions are sent to them, I look forward with much hope to the benefit that will accrue to science from such a plan. The council invite the Fellows of the Society to nominate any gentlemen for local secretaries whom they believe willing to render service to the society and to science.

Such, then, are a few of the most important self-imposed duties we bave undertaken. I have heard it stated that there are societies now existing in the metropolis who do the same work. But such a statement is made in ignorance of what we intend to do. I do not hesitate to affirm that we propose to do work which is not even attempted by any existing society. Whether such existing societies could have been moulded to do the work we have undertaken is another matter. The question as to whether we have done well to found this society is one which cannot be answered at this time. We must be content to leave that to the future historian. We ask for judgment, not on the promises we make, but on the work we perform. Whatever be our future, I believe that the founders of this Society are fully sensible of the vast work they have undertaken, as well as of

its importance. They are fully conscious that to carry out their duty well, it is necessary to have a very considerable number of members. The first meeting of the friends of this society only took place about six weeks ago, and now we have 120 members. So far, therefore, all has gone well. More yet remains to be done; but the council trust that the members will make the society known amongst their friends Support will be sure to come when it is seen that we really mean work and in the meantime let all strive to gain the number of members by which we can work the society with effect and with benefit to the cause of truth and science.

It is true that some who were naturally thought to be interested in our work have not yet joined; but nearly, without exception, every one who has been asked to help us has admitted that, if we carry out our prospectus, we shall be supplying what is one of the great wants of the age. Nearly all have admitted the desirability of our plan; but some have contended that we should never gain support enough to carry out what we propose. By the prospectus it will be seen that we are essentially a publishing society. The translation of foreign works alone is an undertaking of immense importance in the present state of science. We shall endeavour to print works of such value that no public or private scientific library will be complete without them. What a vast impetus will these works, with a quarterly journal, give to the study of Anthropology! Whether this be so or not, our reward will be that we give to the public an opportunity of studying Anthropology, which they have never get had. The more support we gain the greater will be the success of our labourg. .

I know only of one serious objection (if such it can be called) which has been made to our work, and it is “ That the time has not yet come for the formation of such a society; and that we should wait until the public mind was ready to take more interest in what we do." But are scientific men to wait for the public to take an interest, before they begin to clear away the misty traditions in which their science is enveloped ? Are scientific men to wait patiently until antiquated prejudice is removed, by some supernatural agency, from the public mind, before they begin to study questions which are of interest, not to the few initiated, but to the whole civilized and indeed uncivilized world? No! it is our duty to clear away the encumbrances with which dogmatism and ignorance have enveloped the study of Man, and we must show the public that the origin of Man is a question of physical science which can have no light thrown on it by authority or tradition.

We shall then bare to go on to show that the attempt to discuss

« PreviousContinue »