Classic Essays

The Blood of the Nation: A Study of the Decay of Races Through the Survival of the Unfit (Part 1 of 2)

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 version of David Starr Jordan’s pioneering treatise The Blood of the Nation: A Study of the Decay of Races Through the Survival of the Unfit, which was originally published in book form by the American Unitarian Association in 1902.

To appreciate the significance of this work, one must understand that in his time Jordan was one of the most prominent naturalists and educators in the country and even served as the founding president of Stanford University, which remains one of the most prestigious schools in the world to this day. Moreover, Jordan’s essay The Blood of the Nation notably preceded the more infamous tracts of racial and eugenic thought which would be published by Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard in the following decades. — Dissident Millennial

by David Starr Jordan

IN THIS PAPER I shall set forth two propositions: the one self-evident; the other not apparent at first sight, but equally demonstrable. The blood of a nation determines its history. This is the first proposition. The second is, The history of a nation determines its blood. As for the first, no one doubts that the character of men controls their deeds. In the long run and with masses of mankind this must be true, however great the emphasis we may lay on individual initiative or on individual variation.

Equally true is it that the present character of a nation is made by its past history. Those who are alive to-day are the resultants of the stream of heredity as modified by the vicissitudes through which the nation has passed. The blood of the nation flows in the veins of those who survive. Those who die without descendants can not color the stream of heredity. It must take its traits from the actual parentage.

The word “blood” in this sense is figurative only, an expression formed to cover the qualities of heredity. Such traits, as the phrase goes, “run in the blood.” In the earlier philosophy it was held that blood was the actual physical vehicle of heredity, that the traits bequeathed from sire to son as the characteristics of families or races ran literally in the literal blood. We know now that this is not the case. We know that the actual blood in the actual veins plays no part in heredity, that the trans- fusion of blood means no more than the transposition of food, and that the physical basis of the phenomena of inheritance is found in the structure of the germ cell and its contained germ-plasm.

But the old word well serves our purposes. The blood which is “thicker than water” is the symbol of race unity. In this sense the blood of the people concerned is at once the cause and the result of the deeds recorded in their history. For example, wherever an Englishman goes, he carries with him the elements of English history. It is a British deed which he does, British history that he makes. Thus, too, a Jew is a Jew in all ages and climes, and his deeds everywhere bear the stamp of Jewish individuality. A Greek is a Greek; a Chinaman remains a Chinaman. In like fashion the race traits color all history made by Tartars, or negroes, or Malays.

The climate which surrounds a tribe of men may affect the activities of these men as individuals or as an aggregate, education may intensify their powers or mellow their prejudices, oppression may make them servile or dominion make them overbearing; but these traits and their resultants, so far as science knows, do not “run in the blood,” they are not “bred in the bone.” Older than climate or training or experience are the traits of heredity, and in the long run it is always “blood which tells.”

On the other hand, the deeds of a race of men must in turn determine its blood. Could we with full knowledge sum up the events of the past history of any body of men, we could indicate the kinds of men destroyed in these events. The others would be left to write the history of the future. It is the “man who is left” in the march of history who gives to history its future trend. By the “man who is left” we mean simply the man who remains at home to become the father of the family as distinguished from the man who in one way or another is sacrificed for the nation’s weal or woe. If any class of men be destroyed by political or social forces or by the action of institutions, they leave no offspring, and their like will cease to appear.

“Send forth the best ye breed.” This is Kipling’s cynical advice to a nation which happily can never follow it. But could it be accepted literally and completely, the nation in time would breed only second-rate men. By the sacrifice of their best or the emigration of the best, and by such influences alone, have races fallen from first-rate to second-rate in the march of history.

For a race of men or a herd of cattle are governed by the same laws of selection. Those who survive inherit the traits of their own actual ancestry. In the herd of cattle, to destroy the strongest bulls, the fairest cows, the most promising calves, is to allow those not strong nor fair nor promising to become the parents of the coming herd. Under this influence the herd will deteriorate, although the individuals of the inferior herd are no worse than their own actual parents. Such a process is called race-degeneration, and it is the only race-degeneration known in the history of cattle or men. . . .

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25 July, 2019 8:07 am

Simpson’s Which Way Western Man? has a good amount of information to impart on this topic as well and in addition places that topic within a greater (dare I say proto-Cosmotheist) context.