Classic Essays

The Blood of the Nation: A Study of the Decay of Races Through the Survival of the Unfit (Part 2 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 THE ANIMAL WORLD, progress comes mainly through selection, natural or artificial, the survival of the fittest to become the parent of the new generation. In the world of man similar causes produce similar results. The word “progress” is, however, used with a double meaning, including the advance of civilization as well as race improvement. The first of these meanings is entirely distinct from the other. The results of training and education lie outside the scope of the present discussion. By training the force of the individual man is increased. Education gives him access to the accumulated stores of wisdom built up from the experience of ages. The trained man is placed in a class relatively higher than the one to which he would belong on the score of heredity alone. Heredity carries with it possibilities for effectiveness. Training makes these possibilities actual. Civilization has been defined as “the sum total of those agencies and conditions by which a race may advance independently of heredity.” But while education and civilization may greatly change the life of individuals, and through them that of the nation, these influences are spent on the individual and the social system of which he is a part. So far as science knows, education and training play no part in heredity. The change in the blood which is the essence of race-progress, as distinguished from progress in civilization, finds its cause in selection only. . .

In heredity there can be no tendency downward or upward. Nature repeats, and that is all. From the actual parents actual qualities are received, the traits of the man or woman as they might have been, without regard, so far as we know, to the way in which these qualities have been actually developed. . .

No race as a whole can be made up of “degenerate sons of noble sires.” Where decadence exists, the noble sires have perished, either through evil influences, as in the slums of great cities, or else through the movements of history or the growth of institutions. If a nation sends forth the best it breeds to destruction, the second best will take their vacant places. The weak, the vicious, the unthrifty will propagate, and in default of better will have the land to themselves.

We may now see the true significance of the “Man of the Hoe” as painted by Millet and as pictured in Edwin Markham’s verse. This is the Norman peasant, low-browed, heavy-jawed, “the brother of the ox,” gazing with lack-lustre eye on the things about him. To a certain extent, he is typical of the French peasantry. Every one who has travelled in France knows well his kind. If it should be that his kind is increasing, it is because his betters are not. It is not that his back is bent by centuries of toil. He was not born oppressed. Heredity carries over not oppression, but those qualities of mind and heart which invite or which defy oppression. The tyrant harms those only that he can reach. The new generation is free-born, and slips from his hands, unless its traits be of the kind which demand new tyrants. . .

“The Man with the Hoe” Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans / Upon his hoe and gazes on the ground, / The emptiness of ages in his face, / And on his back the burden of the world.

The survival of the fittest in the struggle for existence is the primal cause of race-progress and race-changes. But in the red field of human history the natural process of selection is often reversed. The survival of the unfittest is the primal cause of the downfall of nations. Let us see in what ways this cause has operated in the history of France.

First, we may consider the relation of the nobility to the peasantry, the second to the third estate.

The feudal nobility of each nation was in the beginning made up of the fair, the brave, and the strong. By their courage and strength their men became the rulers of the people, and by the same token they chose the beauty of the realm to be their own.

In the polity of England this superiority was emphasized by the law of primogeniture. On “inequality before the law” British polity has always rested. Men have tried to take a certain few, to feed these on “royal jelly” as the young queen bee is fed, and thus to raise them to a higher class, distinct from all the workers. To take this leisure class out of the struggle and competition of life, so goes the theory, is to make of the first-born and his kind harmonious and perfect men and women, fit to lead and control the social and political life of the state. In England the eldest son is chosen for this purpose, — a good arrangement, according to Samuel Johnson, “because it insures only one fool in the family.” For the theory of the leisure class forgets that men are made virile by effort and resistance, and the lord developed by the use of “royal jelly” has rarely been distinguished by perfection of manhood.

The gain of primogeniture came in the fact that the younger sons and the daughters’ sons were forced constantly back into the mass of the people. Among the people at large this stronger blood became the dominant strain. The Englishmen of to-day are the sons of the old nobility, and in the stress of natural selection they have crowded out the children of the swineherd and the slave. The evil of primogeniture has furnished its own antidote. It has begotten democracy. The younger sons in Cromwell’s ranks asked on their battle-flags why the eldest should receive all and they nothing. Richard Rumbold, whom they slew in the Bloody Assizes, “could never believe that Providence had sent into the world a few men already booted and spurred, with countless millions already saddled and bridled for these few to ride.” Thus these younger sons became the Roundhead, the Puritan, the Pilgrim. They swelled Cromwell’s army, they knelt at Marston Moor, they manned the “Mayflower,” and in each generation they have fought for liberty in England and in the United States. Studies in genealogy show that all this is literally true. All the old families in New England and Virginia trace their lines back to nobility, and thence to royalty. Almost every Anglo-American has, if he knew it, noble and royal blood in his veins. The Massachusetts farmer, whose fathers came from Plymouth in Devon, has as much of the blood of the Plantagenets, of William and of Alfred, as flows in any royal veins in Europe. But his ancestral line passes through the working and fighting younger son, not through him who was first born to the purple. The persistence of the strong shows itself in the prevalence of the leading qualities of her dominant strains of blood, and it is well for England that her gentle blood flows in all her ranks and in all her classes. When we consider with Demolins “what constitutes the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon,” we shall find his descent from the old nobility, “Saxon and Norman and Dane,” not the least of its factors.

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