Classic Essays

The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Underman (Part 14)

As part of our commitment to the celebration of forgotten classics—i.e., great works of the past which have been intentionally flushed down the memory hole by our Orwellian overlords—National Vanguard is proud to present a condensed edition of Lothrop Stoddard’s pioneering treatise The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Underman, originally published in 1922.

To appreciate the significance of this work, one must understand that in his day Stoddard was a certified member of America’s (now-former) WASP establishment. An old-stock Yankee from Brookline, Massachusetts, Stoddard held a Ph.D. in History from Harvard University and was one of the most prominent intellectuals in the country prior to the Second World War. It is only because of the triumph of Jewish propaganda from that war that racialists like Stoddard have since been relegated to obscurity.

By Lothrop Stoddard

ONE DANGEROUS FALLACY we must get out of our heads; the fallacy of judging human populations by what we see among wild varieties of plants and animals. Among these latter we observe a marked stability of type, and we are apt to conclude that, for man as for other life forms, “evolution is a slow process” in which a few generations count for little, and therefore that we need not worry overmuch about measures of race betterment because we have “plenty of time.”

A perilous delusion, this! and a further indication of our unsound thinking and superficial knowledge of the laws of life. A trifle more intelligent reflection would show us the profound unlikeness of the two cases. Animals and plants (where not “domesticated” by man) live in the “state of nature,” where they are subjected to the practically unvarying action of “natural selec- tion.” Their germ-plasm varies in quality just like human germ-plasm (as skilful breeders like Luther Burbank have conclusively proved); but with them natural selection eliminates all but a narrow range of characteristics which keeps the breed at a fixed level; whereas civilized man, living largely under self-made conditions, replaces natural selection by various social selections which pro- duce the most profound — and rapid modifications.

There is a point which we must keep in mind: the rapidity with which the qualities of a species can be altered by a change in the character of biological selection. It is literally amazing to observe how mankind has for ages been wasting its best efforts in the vain attempt to change existing individuals, instead of changing the race by determining which existing individuals should, and should not, produce the next generation.

Of course, racial change by means of social selection have not waited for man to discover them; they have been going on from time immemorial. The trouble is that, instead of lifting humanity to the heights, as they might have done if intelligently directed, they have been working haphazard and have usually wrought decadence and ruin.

The startling rapidity with which a particular stock may be either bred into, or out of, a given population can be accurately determined by discovering its rate of increase compared to that of the rest of the population. And the ultimate factor in this rate of increase is what is known as the “differential birth-rate.” It has long been known that populations breeding freely tend to increase extremely fast. But what is true of a population as a whole applies equally to any of its constituent elements. Thus, in any given population, those elements which reproduce themselves the fastest will dominate the average character of the nation–and will do so at an increasing rate. Let us take a rather moderate example of a differential birth-rate to show how differences barely noticeable from year to year may in a few generations entirely transform the racial scene. Take two stocks each consisting of 1,000 individuals, the one just failing to reproduce itself while the other increases at, say, the rate of the general English population — by no means an extreme level of fecundity. At the end of a year the first stock will have become 996, at the end of a century it will have declined to 687, while after two centuries it will number only 472. On the other hand, the second stock will after a year number 1,013, in a century 3,600, and in two centuries about 13,000. In other words, at the end of a hundred years (from three to four generations) the more prolific stock would outnumber the less prolific by 6 to 1, and in two centuries by 3 to 1. Assuming that the decreasing stock possessed marked ability while the prolific stock was mediocre or inferior, the impoverishment of the race and the setback to civilization can be estimated.

Now the example above offered has been purposely simplified by combining other factors like differential death and marriage rates which should be separately considered in estimating the relative rates of increase between different groups or stocks. But it does give a fairly accurate idea of the present average difference in net fecundity between the very superior and the mediocre elements in the leading nations of the civilized world, while it greatly understates the fecundity of the distinctly inferior elements. The alarming truth is that in almost all civilized countries the birth-rate of the superior elements has been declining rapidly for the past half century, until to-day, despite a greatly lowered death-rate, they are either stationary or actually decreasing in numbers; whereas the other elements are increasing at rates proportionate to their mediocrity and inferiority. These facts have been conclusively proved by a multitude of scientific researches conducted throughout Europe and in the United States [39].

We can accurately determine the point at which a group should just reproduce itself by discovering its death and marriage rates end then estimating the average number of children that should be born to those persons who marry. Taking the civilized world as a whole, it has been found that about four children should be born per marriage if a stock is to reproduce itself. In a few countries like Australia and New Zealand, and in certain high-grade groups, where the death-rates are very low, an average of three children per marriage may be enough to reproduce the stock, but that seems to be about the absolute minimum of fecundity which will ever suffice.

Now bearing in mind these reproductive minima, what do we actually find? We find that in Europe (excluding the more backward countries) the superior elements of the population average from two to four children per marriage; that the mediocre elements average from four to six children per marriage, that the inferior elements, considered as a whole, average from six to seven and one- half children per marriage; while the most inferior elements like casual laborers, paupers, and feeble-minded defectives, considered separately, average about seven to eight children (illegitimate births of course included). The differential birth-rates in the different quarters of the great European cities are typical. Some years before the late war, the French sociologist Bertillon found that in Paris and Berlin the births in the slum quarters were more than three times as numerous as the births in the best residential sections, while in London and Vienna they were about two and one-half times as numerous.

In the United States conditions are no better than in Europe — in some respects they seem to be rather worse. Outside of the South and parts of the West the old native American stock is not reproducing itself, the birth-rates of immigrant stocks from northern and western Europe are rapidly falling, while the birth-rates among the immigrant stocks from southern and eastern Europe remain high and show comparatively slight diminution. The American intellectual groups are much less fertile than similar European groups. The average number of children per married graduate of the leading American colleges like Harvard and Yale is about two, while among the leading women’s colleges it is about one and one-half. Furthermore, the marriage-rates of college men and women are so low that, considering married and single graduates together, the statistical average is about one and one-half children per college man and something less than three-fourths of a child per college woman. Professor Cattell has investigated the size of families of 440 American men of science, choosing only those cases in which the ages of the parents indicated that the family was completed. Despite a very low death-rate, the birth-rate was so much lower that, as he himself remarks:

[I]t is obvious that the families are not self-perpetuating. The scientific men under fifty, of whom there are 261 with completed families, have on the average 1.88 children, about 12 per cent of whom die before the age of marriage. What proportion will marry we do not know; but only about 75 per cent of Harvard and Yale graduates marry; only 50 per cent of the graduates of colleges for women marry. A scientific man has on the average about seven-tenths of an adult son. If three-fourths of his sons and grandsons marry, and their families continue to be of the same size, 1,000 scientific men will leave about 350 grandsons to marry and transmit their names and their hereditary traits. The extermination will be still more rapid in female lines.

In sharp contrast to these figures, note the high birth-rates in the tenement districts of America’s great cities. In New York, for example, the birth-rate on the East Side is over four times the birth-rate in the smart residential districts. Commenting on similar conditions in Pittsburg, where the birth-rate in the poorest ward is three times that of the best residential ward, Messrs. Popenoe and Johnson remark:

The significance of such figures in natural selection must be evident. Pittsburgh, like probably all large cities in civilized countries, breeds from the bottom. The lower a class is in the scale of intelligence, the greater is its reproductive contribution. Recalling that intelligence is inherited, that like begets like in this respect, one can hardly feel encouraged over the quality of the population of Pittsburgh a few generations hence. [40]

Furthermore, it must not be forgotten that such differential birth-rates imply for America problems more complex even than those in Europe; because, whereas in Europe they involve mainly shifts in group-intelligence, in America they mean also changes of race with all that that implies in modifications of fundamental national temperaments, ideals, and institutions. And that is precisely what is taking place in many parts of America to-day. New England, for example, once the prolific nursery of the ambitious, intelligent “Yankee stock,” the birth-rate of foreign-born women is two and one-half times as high as the birth-rate among the native-born; in New Hampshire two times; in Rhode Island one and one-half times — the most prolific of the alien stocks being Poles, Polish and Russian Jews, South Italians, and French-Canadians. What this may mean after a few generations is indicated by a calculation made by the biologist Davenport, who stated that, at present rates of reproduction, 1000 Harvard graduates of to-day would have only fifty descendants two centuries hence, whereas 1,000 Rumanians to-day in Boston, at their present rate of breeding, would have 100,000 descendants in the same space of time.

To return to the more general aspect of the problem, it is clear that both in Europe and America the quality of the population is deteriorating, the more intelligent and talented strains being relatively or absolutely on the decline. Now this can mean nothing less than a deadly menace both to civilization and the race. Let us consider how the psychological experts who formulated the American army intelligence tests characterized the upper intelligence grades. “A” men were described as possessed of “the ability to make a superior record in college”; “B” men “capable of making an average record in college”; “C” men “rarely capable of finishing a high-school course,” and, on the basis of the army ratings, nearly 75 per cent of the whole population of the United States is to-day below the C+ level!

Since the American population (with the exception of its south and east European immigrant stocks and its negroes) probably average about as high in intelligence as do the north European peoples, it is not difficult to foresee that if intelligence continues to be bred out of the race at its present rate, civilization will either slump or crash from sheer lack of brains. The fatal effects of a brain famine are well described by Professor McDougall in the following lines:

The civilization of America depends on your continuing to produce A and B men in fair numbers. And at present the A men are 4 per cent, the B men 8 per cent, and you are breeding from the lower part of the curve. The A men and B men, the college-bred, do not maintain their numbers, while the population swells enormously. If this goes on for a few generations, will not the A men, and even the B men, become rare as white elephants, dropping to a mere fraction of 1 per cent? It is only too probable.

The present tendency seems to be for the whole carve to shift toward the wrong end with each successive generation. And this is probably true of moral qualities, as well as intellectual stature. If the time should come when your A and B men together are no more than 1 per cent, or a mere fraction of 1 per cent, of the population what will become of your civilization?

Let me state the case more concretely, in relation to one of the great essential professions of which I have some inside knowledge; namely, the medical profession. Two hundred or one hundred years ago, the knowledge to be acquired by the medical student, before entering upon the practice of his profession, was a comparatively small body of empirical rules. The advance of civilization has enormously multiplied this knowledge, and the very existence of our civilized communities depends upon the continued and effective application of this vast body of medical art and science. The acquiring and the judicious application of this mass of knowledge makes very much greater demands upon the would-be practitioner than did the mastery of the body of rules of our forefathers. Accordingly the length of the curriculum prescribed for our medical students has constantly to be drawn out, till now its duration is some six years of post-graduate study.

The students who enter upon this long and severe course of study are already a selected body; they have passed through high school and college successfully. We may fairly assume that the great majority of them belong to the A or B or at least the C+ group in the army scale of intelligence.

What proportion of them, do you suppose, prove capable of assimilating the vast body of medical knowledge to the point that renders them capable of applying it intelligently and effectively? If I may venture to generalize from my own experience, I would say that a very considerable proportion, even of those who pass their examinations, fail to achieve such effective assimilation. The bulk of modern medical knowledge is too vast for their capacity of assimilation, its complexity too great for their power of understanding. Yet medical science continues to grow in bulk and complexity, and the dependence of the community upon it becomes ever more intimate.

In this one profession, then, which makes such great and increasing demands on both the intellectual and the moral qualities of its members, the demand for A and B men steadily increases; and the supply in all probability is steadily diminishing with each generation.

And what is taking place in this one profession is, it would seem, taking place in all the great professions and higher callings. Our civilization, by reason of its increasing complexity, is making constantly increasing demands upon the qualities of its bearers; the qualities of those bearers are diminishing or deteriorating, rather than improving. [41]

The larger aspects of the problem are ably stated by Whetham, who writes:

When we come to consider the birth-rate as at present affecting our social structure, we find that it is highest in those sections of the community which, like the feebleminded and the insane, are devoid of intelligent personality, or, like many of the unemployed and casual laborers, seem to be either without ideals or without any method of expressing them. In all the social groups which have hitherto been distinguished for coherence, for industry, for good mental and physical capacity, for power of organization and administration, the birth-rate has fallen below the figures necessary to maintain the national store of these qualities. Great men are scarce; the group personality is becoming indistinct and the personality of the race, by which success was attained in the past, is therefore on the wane, while the force of chaos are once more being manufactured in our midst ready to break loose and destroy civilization when the higher types are no longer sufficient in numbers and effectiveness to guide, control or subdue them. [42]

The unprecedented rapidity of our racial impoverishment seems due, as already stated, to many causes, some old and others new. We have seen that the stressful complexity of high civilizations has always tended to eliminate superior stocks by diverting their energy from racial ends to individual or social ends, the effects showing in an increase of celibacy, late marriage, and few children. Most of the phenomena underlying these racially destructive phenomena can be grouped under two heads: the high cost of living and the cost of high living. Behind those two general phrases stand a multitude of special factors, such as rising prices, higher standards, desire for luxury, social emulation, inefficient government, high taxation, and (last but not least) the pressure of ever-multiplying masses of low-grade, incompetent humanity, acting like sand in the social gears and consuming an ever-larger portion of the national wealth and energy for their charitable relief, doctoring, educating, policing, etc.

Now all these varied factors, whatever their nature, have this in common: they tend to make children more and more of a burden for the superior individual, however necessary such children may be for civilization and the race. The fact is that, under present conditions, comparatively few people of the right sort can afford to raise large families of well-born, well-cared-for, and well-educated children. This is the basic reason for that sharp drop in the birth-rates of the upper and middle classes of all civilized lands which has occurred during the past half century. Of course, the drop has been hastened by the simultaneous discovery of various methods for preventing conception which are collectively termed “birth-control.” However, it was not so much the new methods as the insistent economic and social pressure to employ them which accounts for the rapidity in the fecundal decline. Under the conditions of modern life a pronounced decline in the birth-rate was inevitable. To cite only one of several reasons, the progress of medical science had greatly reduced the death-rate and had thus made possible an enormous net increase of population. To have maintained an unchecked birth-rate would have meant for the Western nations congested masses of humanity like those of Asia, dwelling on a low level of poverty.

To escape this fate, the more intelligent and farsighted elements in every civilized land began quickly to avail themselves of the new contraceptive methods and to limit the size of their families in this manner. That raised a great public outcry (largely on religious grounds), and in most countries the imparting of contraceptive knowledge was legally prohibited [43]. Such action was extremely stupid — and very disastrous. To farsighted communities it should have been evident that with the appearance of new social factors like lowered death-rates, higher living costs, and rising standards, a lower birth-rate was simply inevitable; that civilized peoples could not, and would not, go on breeding like animals, as they had done in the old days of cheap living and low standards, when a high birth-rate was offset by the unchecked ravages of death.

But, a reduced birth-rate being inevitable, the only questions which remained were: How, and by whom, should it be reduced? Should it be by the traditional methods of celibacy (tempered by illicit sex-relations and prostitution), deferred marriage, infanticide, and abortion; [44] or should it be by the new contraceptive methods? Again: Should all sections of the population lower their birth-rates, or should only the more intelligent classes? Unfortunately for the race, it was the latter alternative which prevailed. Instead of spreading contraceptive knowledge among the masses and thus mitigating as far as possible the evils of a racially destructive differential birth-rate, society succeeded in keeping the masses in ignorance and high fecundity, whereas it emphatically did not succeed in keeping contraceptive knowledge from the more intelligent, who increasingly practised birth-control — and diminished their contributions to the population.

Here, then, was a great potential instrument of race betterment perverted into an agent of race decadence. With blind insistence upon mere numbers and an utter disregard of quality, society deliberately fettered the inferior elements at the expense of the superiors. The results are such as we have already examined in our study of the differential birthrates of to-day.

So ends our survey of the general factors of race impoverishment. Before closing, however, we must note one special factor of the most melancholy significance — the Great War. The Great War was unquestionably the most appalling catastrophe that ever befell mankind. The racial losses were certainly as grave as the material losses. Not only did the war itself destroy immeasurable racial values, but its aftermath is proving only slightly less unfavorable to the race. Bad social conditions and the frightfully high cost of living continue to depress the birth-rates of all save the most reckless and improvident elements, whose increase is a curse rather than a blessing.

To consider only one of the many causes that to-day keep down the birth-rate of the superior elements of the population, take the crushing burden of taxation throughout Europe, which hits especially the increase of the upper and middle classes. The London Saturday Review explained this very clearly when it wrote editorially:

From a man with £2,000 a year the tax-gatherer takes £600. The remaining £1,400, owing to the decreased value of money, has a purchasing power about equal to £700 a year before the war. No young man will, therefore, think of marrying on less than £2,000 a year. We are thinking of the young man in the upper and middle classes. The man who starts with nothing does not, as a rule, arrive at £2,000 a year until he is past the marrying age. So the continuance of the species will be carried on almost exclusively by the class of manual workers of a low average caliber of brain.

In similar vein the London Times describes in the following words what it terms “The Death of the Middle Classes”:

The fact is, that with the present cost of living, the present taxation, the present price of houses, a ‘family,’ as that term used to be understood, is impossible. It means, not discomfort, but privation, with consequent deterioration of health. It is, therefore, far better to bring up one healthy child and afford it a reasonable education than to attempt to bring up three children on insufficient food and without the hope of being able to afford them a training for their life’s work. But the mischief does not stop there by any means. It is common knowledge that marriages, especially middle-class marriages being postponed at present on account of housing and food difficulties, and there can be no doubt that many men are avoiding marriage altogether because of the severe financial strain which it imposes. The world is in a gay mood; the attractions of domestic life on a salary barely enough for two are not conspicuous. As a bachelor, a man may indulge his tastes, preserve his freedom of action, and can afford to amuse himself with his friends. He shrinks from the alternative of stern hard work, frugal living, a minimum of pleasure, and a maximum of anxiety.

Although the war did not hit America as hard as it did Europe, its racially evil effects are evident here also. A recent editorial of the New York Times well describes not merely some of the effects of war, but likewise some of the results of that short-sighted philanthropy which penalizes the thrifty and the self-respecting elements to coddle the charity-seeking and the improvident. Says this editorial:

Health Commissioner Copeland’s statement that the birth-rate of native Americans is declining in comparison with that of the foreign element in our population contains nothing new, except it be his remark that the decline has been accelerated by the war. That such a result was inevitable has long been evident. A vast preponderance of the foreign element are wage-earners, whose incomes rose doggedly, step by step, with the cost of living. Natives of native parentage are preponderantly brain workers, whose salaries remained much what they had been. The result was a sharp lowering of their standard of living, which could only have checked their already low birth-rate. During the war the Commissioner of Charities, Bird S. Coler, reported that, for the first time in the history of his commission, educated people who had hitherto been self-sustaining and self-respecting members of the middle class brought him their children, saying that they could no longer provide food and clothing.

Doctor Copeland’s statistics of infant mortality tell a similar story. Among infants of native-born mothers the rate is 90 per 1,000 — as against 79 for French mothers, 75 for Bohemian, 69 for Austro-Hungarian, 64 for Russian, 58 for Swedish, and 43 for Scotch. This difference Doctor Copeland attributes to the fact that American mothers are less inclined to make use of the Baby Health Stations which are conducted by his department. Foreign-born mothers are ‘accustomed to depend on these and other governmental agencies.’ It is only under the bitterest compulsion, such as led middle-class parents to bring their children to the Commissioner of Charities, that Americans apply for public aid in their family life. Meantime, these people of native birth pay largely in taxes for the many ‘governmental agencies’ that aid the immigrant laborer and his family. During the war Henry Fairfield Osborn protested against this inequity on the ground that it was making life impossible for the educated American, whose home is the stronghold of our national traditions.

How serious the situation has become is evident in the statistics of our population. In 1910, there were in New York 921,318 native Americans of native parentage. Of natives of foreign or mixed parentage there were 1,820,141, and of the foreign-born 1,927,703 — a total of 3,747,844, as against the 921,318 natives of native parentage. Complete figures for 1920 are not yet available, but Doctor Copeland is authority for the statement that the proportion of those whose traditions are of foreign origin is rapidly increasing. His statement ends with an exhortation against birth-control, the spirit of which is admirable though its logic is not clear. What he has in mind, evidently, is not birth-control but birth-release among Americans of the older immigrations. That, as he apparently believes, is a merely moral matter, but his own statement shows that it has a deeper basis in modern economic conditions. These were doubtless emphasized by the war, but they had been operating for many decades before it and continue to exercise their influence with increasing force.

That is precisely it. The war, terrible as it was, merely hastened a racial impoverishment which had been long at work; wore somewhat thinner the life-line of civilization which was already wearing thin, and spurred to fiercer energy those waxing powers of barbarism and chaos which we shall now directly consider…


39. For many of these researches, including reproductions of statistical tables and other data, see Holmes, pg. 118-180, 231-234; Whetham, pg. 59-73; McDougall, pg. 154-168.

40. Popenoe and Johnson, pg. 139

41. McDougall, pg. 163-168

42. Whetham, pg. 72

43. In a few enlightened communities, notably Australia, Holland, and New Zealand, contraceptive methods were welcomed and birth-control knowledge is freely imparted to all classes. The social and racial results have been excellent, particularly in minimizing differential birth-rates and thus averting sudden group shifts in the population.

44. Abortion must be carefully distinguished from prevention of conception. Methods of preventing conception are recent discoveries; abortion has been practised since very ancient times. Some of the most primitive surviving peoples, like the Australian blacks and the South African bushmen, are highly skilled in procuring abortions.

* * *

Source: Dissident Millennial

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  1. NR
    September 20, 2017 at 11:28 am — Reply

    “…the more prolific stock would outnumber the less prolific by 6 to 1, and in two centuries by 3 to 1.”

    That should be 30 to 1, I guess.

  2. ReverendT
    September 23, 2017 at 11:33 am — Reply

    Oh how I wish the USA still had the problem of Polish, Southern Italians, and French Canadians breeding too much! Like the rest of the Whites, they barely breed at all now.

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