Page images


relations of Man to the mammalia. If we were to accept this meaning of the term Anthropology, we should still have a vast and important field of investigation. I, for one, am prepared to accept this as our first great duty; and what a vast leap will science have made when those relations are fully established! I do not hesitate to assert that the question of the relation of Man to the mammalia lies at the very root, and must be the basis, of the development of the science of Man. What time has not been wasted in idle speculations, assumptions, and theories respecting the history of Man! What volumes have not been poured forth from the press on the origin of the human family! and yet at this moment Man's place in nature is a matter of grave dispute. What a strange position for science in the nineteenth century, to be found ignoring the connection of Man with the physical universe by which he is surrounded! And yet I think I may say with truth, that nearly all the writers respecting the problem of Man's past life have ignored his connection with the lower animals, simply because they have not been able to see the exact relation. But is it not perfectly useless to go on longer, thus looking at Man as a being disconnected from the whole chain of organic life? I will not waste time in showing that progressive knowledge of Man's history was impossible, so long as we were working in such a fundamentally erroneous system of investigation.

But I would not have it supposed that the science of Anthropology has any right to be confined to such limits. Anthropology is, on the contrary, the science of the whole nature of Man. With such a meaning it will include nearly the whole circle of sciences. Biology, anatomy, chemistry, natural philosophy, and physiology must all furnish the anthropologist with materials from which he may make his deductions. While Ethnology treats of the history or science of nations or races, we have to deal with the origin and development of humanity. So while Ethnography traces the position and arts of the different races of Man, it is our business to investigate the laws regulating the distribution of mankind!

These are more or less philosophic questions, and the public may be disposed to ask us, in this matter-of-fact age, what practical bearing our investigation can have on human welfare. To such an inquiry I would most unhesitatingly reply that, not only must we look to the anthropologist for all the reliable accounts we can ever have of Man's origin or early history, but that there is no science which is destined to confer more practical good on humanity at large than the one which specially investigates the laws regulating our physical nature. We



shall not stop when we have discussed the mode of man's origin or his development into what he now is, but we shall go on to inquire what are the laws by which he is at present regulated. Why, for instance, a race of mankind is arrested in development, or perishes, in one region and in another flourishes ? What can be more practical than showing the causes which deteriorate or destroy the races of Europe, when removed to some other regions ? How many thousands of our soldiers' lives would be saved annually if we studied temperament in the selection of men suitable for hot and those for cold climates ? But I must not dwell on particulars. Suffice it to say that in whatever way we look on the study of the science of man we see good reason to believe that, as students of human nature, we cannot be dreaming theorists, but that every truth we discover must be for the benefit of humanity at large.

Whatever may be the conclusion to which our scientific inquiries may lead us, we should always remember, that by whatever means the Negro, for instance, acquired his present physical, mental, and moral character, whether he has risen from an ape or descended from a perfect man, we still know that the Races of Europe have now much in their mental and moral nature which the races of Africa have not got. We have hitherto devoted our attention almost exclusively to physical Anthropology, which Blumenbach first founded. We now require to investigate the mental and moral characteristics of mankind generally. The difference between the European and the African' is not so great physically as it is mentally and morally.* We must, therefore, not neglect the psychological investigation, but must pursue it hand in hand with our physical investigations. Perhaps the psychological distinctions proceed from physical causes alone, but we shall be more likely to get light thrown on this difficult question if we conduct both investigations at the same time.

A serious charge has been made against the American School of Anthropology, when it is affirmed that their interest in keeping up

In making this assertion I would not be understood as joining in the vulgar error that the Negro only differs from the European in the colour of bis skin and peculiar bair. On the contrary, the physical differences are neither few nor insignificant. From the researches of that accomplished anthropologist, M. Paul Broca, we now know that the white substance of the brain of the Negro is of a different colour to that of a European, and that the pia mater contains brown spots, which are never found in the European.. There are many other physical differences which our minute researcbes will bring to light. Whether all these physical differences, with the consequent mental and moral distinctions, combined with the asserted fact that nowhere does there exist a permanent hybrid Euro-African race, are of sufficient value to justify us in classifying the Negro as a distinct species, is a point on wbich, for the present, I hazard no positive opinion.

B 2



slavery induced the scientific men of that country to advocate a distinct origin for the African race. For myself, I believe such a charge to be a gross calumny. If it could be demonstrated that the Negro was descended from the ape only a few generations ago, it would not at all alter the fact that at present he is a man, and has enough in common with ourselves to make us know that his parentage can be no excuse for using him cruelly. Or supposing that the Oran-utan is, as the Dyaks believe, a degenerated species of man, it is equally certain that he is not now a man, and has not the same claims on our sympathy as the most degraded savage.

I would therefore express a hope that the objects of this Society will never be prostituted to such an object as the support of the slave-trade, with all its abuses ; but at the same time we must not shrink from the candid avowal of what we believe to be the real place in nature, or in society, of the African or any other race. It will be the duty of conscientious anatomists carefully to record all deviations from the human standard of organization and analogy with inferior types, which are frequently manifested in the negro race. These observations should be made solely as to the existence of the facts themselves, and without any reference to the theories that may be founded on them. Future generations will thank'us more for the establishment of good reliable facts than for any hap-hazard speculations. At the same time I would not say a word against the generalizer. In a society like ours we want thinkers as well as observers.

We should give every encouragement to the accurate reasoner, 'as it is to him we must look for the laws which can be deduced from our illustrations and accumulation of facts.

I should have liked to have given this evening a sketch of the present state of Anthropology; but I shall only be able just to touch on some points which may throw light on the best means for its future development. In the first place, I think it will be well if we can fully realize the exact position in which we now stand, as we shall then be better able to appreciate the amount of work that is before us. I beg, however, that no one will interpret my opinions to be in any way the opinion of the Society generally.

As far, then, as I am able to judge, the science of Anthropology is not only in its infancy, but as a science, it hardly yet has any existence. Why we should have good reliable facts and systematic collections of the remains of all animals except man, is a psychological phenomenon of great interest, but one which I must not stay to investigate : but there can be little or no doubt of the fact itself. Dr. Morton in America attempted to remedy this, and others have followed his example in this country, but what has really yet been done is comparatively useless for want of some general system and agreement between anthropologists. Without entering into the value of craniometry in elucidating some of the problems of man's physical nature, I would still insist that the facts are hardly yet at hand by which we can give any decided opinion on this point. During the last few years, much has been done, both in this country and on the continent, in illustrating the crania of different races; but no general system of measurement, based on some definite principle, has yet been successfully promulgated.

However valuable illustrations of crania may be, they are insignificant compared to the knowledge we derive from casts of the interior of the skull cavity. The importance of a collection of casts of the brain cavity of monkeys, anthropoid apes, and man, has induced Mr. Flower, of the Royal College of Surgeons, to undertake the duty of making such a series. Such a collection of casts will ere long bring about “the beginning of the end” of a very long controversy, which might be interminable without thus appealing to actual demonstration.

On such an occasion as the present, I think it will generally be admitted that we ought to consider the method which we should adopt in our investigation. The exact plan by which Anthropology should be studied has never yet been settled : but we must be all agreed on this point, or we shall fail to carry out the objects of the society. The great obstacle to the progress of Anthropology has been d priori assumption, not to say popular superstition. But if we are to make any progress with the science we are met to cultivate and develope, we must give up all such idle speculations as have been indulged in by nearly all ancient and modern writers on this subject. In the long-expected work “On the History of Human Folly," a most important chapter will be occupied in treating of the absurdity of the gratuitous assumptions and speculations on the origin of mankind. When we look back on the number of writers of learning and talent on the origin of humanity, it is perfectly wonderful to see the amount of ability which has been wasted, and all apparently from not investigating the subject by the only method that can lead us to any satisfactory result, viz., inductive and deductive reasoning. The metaphysician and others have attempted to prove the logical necessity of the unity of mankind. But is the origin of Man to be settled by the metaphysician? If so, we have nothing more to do. But what has been the result of such a state of things? Exactly what was to


be expected. While rapid progress has been made in every branch of science, the so-called “Science of Man" has remained exactly where Herder left it nearly one hundred years ago. It is evident, therefore, that as long as we continue to wildly speculate, no advance can be made, and we can never have a science of Man until we take the trouble to use a scientific method of investigation. We must, therefore, make up our minds to give up all assumptions and wild theories, and remember that the great problem of Anthropology can only be settled by facts, and not by abstract logic. It may be we shall have to wait for years before we shall get any true light as to the real origin of Man: but we must abide our time. We should always bear in mind that the man who believes nothing is nearer the truth than the one who believes in errors.

But judging from the researches that have been made during the last few years, there is some faint hope that we shall not have to wait long before a really rational theory of Man's origin can be advanced. The present time is most opportune for the formation of a society like ours. The question of the origin of Man which, owing to assumed vested interests, ignorance and superstition, had long been a forbidden subject of controversy, has now forced itself not only on the attention of men of science, but on that of the public generally. We have only to recall the episode of John Hunter and his “thousands of centuries," to see what a vast change has taken place during the last few years. Thanks to the geologist, we have facts to shew the existence of man at a period so remote that none dare assign even an approximative date. Indeed, in the present state of our knowledge, it were idle speculation to do so. The public mind is not accustomed to take sudden leaps, and we must, therefore, be content to wait for a time until the popular mind is prepared fully to understand the immense extent of time which the flint implements in the drift and other phenomena really indicate.

To show the absurdity of attempting to fix even an approximative date for the appearance of Man upon the earth, I quoted, in a paper read before the British Association at Oxford in 1860, the opinion of one of the most recent writers on the History of Mankind on this subject. Professor Waitz thinks to reconcile the hypothesis of the unity of origin of mankind (for which he is an advocate), that Man could not have been on the earth less than thirty-five thousand years, and that possibly he may have appeared as long ago as nine millions of years ! Of course, such an opinion created a hearty laugh from those who were assembled in the divinity schools on that day. But Professor

« PreviousContinue »