Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
(?-1899)
BIO
Display paragraphs in this book containing:
Editor/Trans.
First Pub. Date
1881
Publisher/Edition
New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
Pub. Date
1899
Comments
Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
Start PREVIOUS
889 of 1105
NEXT End

R


RACES OF MANKIND

III.116.1

RACES OF MANKIND. Formerly an article on races would with difficulty have found place in a political encyclopædia, for men had not then come to consider this question as anything more than one of anthropology and natural history, and did not imagine that the differences which they noticed in the different tribes of the great human family could possess as much interest for the historian and the moralist as for the naturalist or the physiologist. It is only in our own day that general ethnology has become an important branch of the historical sciences, and that men have conceived the idea of seeking, in the physical origin of peoples, for the secret of their destinies and an explanation of the results which they have accomplished, or in which they have participated. Until very recently, historians acknowledged in the history of humanity but one sole physical influence, that of climate, and, as is well known, it is to this incontestable influence alone, that Montesquieu attributed the differences of character which are found among peoples, and, as a consequence, the differences of the laws and institutions that govern them. This notion of climate, formerly so important, is to-day reckoned among the secondary causes, and plays only a secondary part, in the explanation of historical phenomena. The theory of races has taken its place completely. There are those who take alarm at this, and pretend that we have merely exchanged one materialistic theory for another more materialistic still; but such alarm is ill-founded, and true spiritualism, on the contrary, achieved an undeniable victory the day that the theory of races replaced that of the influence of climate in historical science; for it then ceased seeking in the external influences of matter alone for the secret of human destiny, and applied itself to the study of man himself for the explanation of man's moral and political life. Fatality, it is true, ever rules in the theory of races as in the theory of climate, but this fatality has at least the merit of being so intimately united to the being which it governs, that it is mingled with the very fact of his existence, and for man to rebel against it would be as if he were to rebel against himself.

III.116.2

—This notion of races is, moreover, moral, and, so to speak, spiritual, in its origin. In fact, it was not the progress of the natural sciences and of physiology that led the philosophers and historians of our time to adopt this theory, which holds that every tribe of the great human family carries within itself its own destiny, but rather the progress of the science of philology. From the modern science of comparative philology is drawn, among other general results, this important conclusion, that all the nations that speak languages which can be traced back to a common source, exhibit analogous faculties and aptitudes, and that, with some shades of difference, they have had the same historical development. It is not, therefore, merely physical characteristics, a yellow, black or white skin, smooth or wooly hair, oblique or horizontal eyes, that constitute race: it is language as well. Now, what is language if it be not the expression of the inner man, the instrument of the moral man? It is therefore the mind, which is thus reached through the medium of language, as well as the physical conformation of the body, that determines race. In fact, how can we understand that nations having the same physical characteristics should manifest such unequal abilities and such dissimilar instincts, and should follow such contrary ideals of civilization, if, despite their external points of resemblance, their minds were not radically different? The flesh relationship, which seemed so conclusive, was, after all, but superficial. This is especially true of the white or Caucasian race, which philologists have been obliged to divide into two great families: the Indo-Germanic and the Semitic races. Thus this historical theory of races, which has been subjected to so many accusations of materialism, has resulted from the most profound meditation upon language, the noblest of man's attributes. We have just seen, however, that it sought its principle and starting point far beyond physical man, in invisible and moral man.

III.116.3

—Mankind is divided, physically, into three great races, entirely distinct in appearance, color, and even in anatomical structure: the black or Ethiopian race, the yellow or Mongolian race, and the white or Caucasian race. These are the only three pure and simple types of man. All the other races, the red race, the Malayan-Polynesian races, etc., are but varieties and mixtures of these three primitive races. The particular characteristics that distinguish each of these three types are so marked that many of the learned have considered them, not as different modes, so to speak, of the same human type, but as three distinct types, as three patterns of the human form. Here naturally arises the great question of the unity of the human species. Is there but one, or are there several types of humanity? We shall not presume to analyze this question, which belongs more especially to naturalists and physiologists, but we do not hesitate to declare our belief in the unity of the species. The opinion which admits several human types seems at first sight to render a more rational account of the existence of the different races, than the opinion which admits only one; but even after a superficial examination, we perceive that, if it is difficult to explain how the different human races sprung from the same primitive source, it is still more difficult to explain the existence of three primitive types; in other words, it is easier to admit that nature performed her work after one pattern, which she modified according to climate and time, than to admit that she followed three different patterns. In fact, in order to establish the theory which recognizes several human types, we would have to admit that these types are rigorously immutable, that they were settled once and forever at the time of their origin, that they are permanent and essential, that they existed before all mixture of them, and that they will resist all such mixture. But the physics of life and nature do not recognize the scientific rigor and exclusive precision of physics of learned men. Nature is not angular; it waves and floats; and the limits of its provinces are singularly uncertain and difficult to determine. To be sure, it is very easy to distinguish the black race and the yellow race from the white race; but where does the black race end? Where does the yellow race end? These races, so clearly marked, melt at their extremes into, and are confounded with, our own, spite of the fact that they seem so entirely distinct from it. The Berber, the Abyssinian and the Nubian differ from the white race only in the color of their skin; men hesitate to rank them with the black race by the same title as the Kafirs, or the negroes of Congo. The Turks are unquestionably of Mongolian origin; must we, however, continue to class them as belonging to the yellow race, or grant them the right to be numbered among Caucasians?

III.116.4

—Whatever may be the solution of this difficult and perhaps insoluble question of the unity of the human species, this one thing is incontestably true, viz., that history proves the coexistence of these three races upon the earth from the earliest period, and that the oldest legends show them to us contending with one another in that part of the Asiatic continent which is regarded as the cradle of the human race. The primitive population of India, that impure and bestial people which was conquered by the noble race of the Aryas, our ancestors, was of the black race, and very probably of the same blood as the natives of Australia; and the land of Turan, the land of darkness and evil spirits, which the Persian legends oppose to Iran, or the land of light, was occupied by peoples of the Mongolian race. But the three races which we thus see in juxtaposition, so to speak, in the infancy of the world, have singularly separated each from the other, although they have frequently and in numerous cases intermingled, and thus given birth to new peoples. Each of these three races inhabits more especially some one continent, which may be considered as its legitimate country. Africa belongs to the black race; Asia, with the exception of Hindostan, of Persia, Arabia and Armenia, to the Mongolian race; and Europe, entirely to the Caucasian. Each of these continents seems so especially intended for the race which inhabits it, that the other races could not retain their purity in it. Thus, the Africans of the north have received the impress of the black race; the Caucasian peoples of Asia have undergone a greater or less admixture of Mongolian or Finnish blood; and the Caucasian race dissolved and appropriated the foreign races which established themselves upon its own continent, the Hungarians, the Turks, etc.

III.116.5

—But if history shows us the three great human races coexisting from the earliest antiquity, it is far from assigning them the same rank and attributing to them the same importance. All three are possessed of aptitudes for civilization, but these aptitudes, which are rudimentary and purely instinctive in the negro, and strong, but narrow and restricted, in the Mongolian, have an almost infinite power of expansion in the Caucasian. To speak correctly, history belongs to the white race, and to no other. Civilization is its true work, and all the societies, political or other, formed by the men of the other races, are but imperfect, gross or repulsive figures of those which had their origin in the white race. It is through the Caucasian race that man has taken possession of the earth; it is through it that he has broken and every day breaks the net-work of external fatalities with which nature surrounded him. All the different religions of mankind sprung up under the pressure of the force of sympathy of that race; all the literatures of the world were produced by the glow of its imagination; its power of invention seems inexhaustible, and its fertility of combination infinite. Only its labor has been blessed, for only its labor has been truly fruitful. When we take a rapid glance at all that has been accomplished by our race, we experience a feeling similar to that experienced by the traveler, who, from a mountain height, sees spread before his eyes cultivated fields and rich cities, and we feel ourselves taken hold of by veneration and respect.

III.116.6

—We do not experience entirely the same feeling when we survey the aggregate of the works of the Mongolian race. As far as the eye can reach, we behold only immense steppes, cut here and there by gigantic swarms of human beings. We no longer feel veneration and respect, but wonder, fear, and, to some extent, contempt. We feel as though we were in the presence of an enemy, and we fear to see these swarms scattered, broken and fall upon the rich fields which we contemplated awhile before. The Mongolian race is the great obstacle that opposes the development of real civilization. When we endeavor to discover what benefits it has conferred upon humanity, we are filled with dismay at the conviction we must come to, that it has conferred none, unless it be that it has afforded an asylum to Buddhism, when the latter was driven from India, and that it developed Buddhism within its boundaries. It developed it, but it did not create it. A truly atheistical race, devoid of all noble instincts, it was necessary for a man of the Aryan race to give it the only religion suited to its instincts, and to teach it the only truly efficacious consolation in the miseries of this life, toward which its avaricious, acrid and strong mind is incessantly turned. The part played in history by the Mongolian race has ever been merely accidental, and has always been fatal. The Mongolians have figured as conquerors and devastators, and in this quality have caused some of the greatest movements recorded in the annals of mankind. Their aptitude for civilization is real, but singularly narrow and limited. The Mongolian race believes only in force, and the sabre driven into the ground, which the hordes of Attila adored, is its real god. The most perfect, most moral and most peaceful of the political communities it has produced, the Chinese nation, forms no exception to this general rule, much as it may be believed that it does worship anything but force; it has no idea of the value of human life, of the true dignity of man, or of real law. This innate belief in force, however, gives to the peoples of the Mongolian race eminent political capacity, which renders them singularly formidable, the capacity for domination. Wherever they pass, life dries up and becomes extinct, it is true, but they establish themselves in such places, and last. The societies which they form, though old and decrepit, still maintain themselves with a strength of resistance that is truly extraordinary: but if their civilization lasts a long time, it also attains its limit very rapidly, and never renews itself. The old age of Mongolian states is infinitely longer than their youth or maturity. Their force soon reaches the limit of its expansion, and soon finds its point of equilibrium and rest, which is immobility. This is a perfect résumé of the history of the Mongolian races. They overflow like a furious torrent; but, this moment of destructive expansion once passed, they enter again into the repose of stagnation, and maintain themselves by the bare volume and weight of their population.

III.116.7

—The black race ranks last in the scale of races. This unfortunate race shows us man approaching almost to the brute species. Down to the present time the negro race has produced nothing, has done nothing, for humanity, either for good or evil. So far as any political society is concerned, it is made up of a collection of hostile tribes perpetually warring with one another; its religion consists of ridiculous, infamous or bloody fetichism; and when we have said this, we have told the history of the black race. It is only in our own times that a moral ray has begun to enlighten this African continent, in consequence of the expansion of the Caucasian race on the one hand, and, on the other, of the spread of Islamism, which, though stagnant everywhere else, has cast itself upon Africa, which it is about to civilize by means of the sword and the Koran. The bestial appearance of the negro, his instincts, at once childish and fierce, his ridiculous vanity and superstitious credulity, his virtues, which may be compared to those of the dog and his vices, which resemble only those of the feline species, have at all times excited the horror of the other human races, which have refused almost to allow him the name of man, and which have made the abhorrence which they feel toward him a reason for denying him all justice, and for pitilessly compelling him to serve the ends of their cupidity. Slavery seemed the natural condition of this miserable race, and servitude the only means of bringing them under the influence of civilization. The negro is not, however, without an aptitude for civilization; but this aptitude seems to be limited to only one faculty, extreme sociability. Bestial or not, the negro, if he is not, as many pretend, capable of great culture, is, however, capable of tenderness, love and devotion; if it is difficult to develop his mind, it is very easy, on the other hand, to develop his heart. His sensibility leaves nothing to be desired, and even surpasses that of the other races. If he is not the white man's equal, he can live with him: he has nothing of the haughty and taciturn manner of those savage races that fly before the face of civilization and pine a way solitary and silent in the society of men of the white race. Far from perishing, he, on the contrary, flourishes in the bosom of Caucasian civilization. This sociability of the negro is a very great moral fact, which pleads loudly in favor of his race, and refutes the opinion which holds that he is incapable of civilization. Whether he is inferior to the other races or not, it is evident that he accommodates himself perfectly to civilization, and finds in it nothing hostile to his instincts.

III.116.8

—The other human races, the red race (the North American Indians), the Malay-Polynesian race, the boreal race (Finlanders, Laplanders, Esquimaux, etc.), may be considered as mixtures of the three great races, or as degenerations of the three primitive types. These races have in general shown themselves singularly barren in a moral sense. They live in the savage state or in an extremely rude state of society; the Mexicans and Peruvians, however, reached a very advanced state of civilization, and different peoples of Finnish and boreal origin have mingled in the civilization of Europe, and become thoroughly amalgamated with it. The boreal race possesses a peculiar characteristic: it is a sort of physiological cross-road, and the peoples that compose it serve as a passage from one race to another. On the one hand, it is related to the Caucasian race, and on the other, to the red race of America; and it reminds us, by the traits of most of the tribes which compose it, of the Mongolian race, of which it is probably a degeneration.

III.116.9

—The Caucasian or white race is divided into two great branches: the Semitic race, and the Indo-European or Japhetic race. All the civilization of modern humanity has come from these two races; to the Semitic race we owe our religious and moral life, our life of conscience; to the Japhetic race we owe our intellectual, political and social life.

III.116.10

—The Semitic race, which is now singularly reduced in numbers, disseminated and mixed by the dispersion of the Jews over the whole surface of the globe, and by the extension of the conquests of Islamism, comprised, in olden times, the Hebrews, the Arabs, the Phœnicians; and the numerous tribes which the Bible mentions as perpetually warring against their neighbors the Israelites, such as the Canaanites, the Amalekites, etc. Despite the exclusive spirit of this race, which endeavored, more than any other, to preserve its purity, and which always considered the nation as the family enlarged, it did not escape the happy fatality of crossing and admixture, and even from the very earliest antiquity, it seems to have received a very strong infusion of Hamitic blood. The tribes of Canaan were but a mixed race, half Hamitic, half Semitic, and the Hamitic element manifests itself in an unmistakable manner in the civilization of Phœnicia. The Semitic element is also met with, in proportions which it is rather difficult to state exactly, in those first mighty attempts at civilization which ancient history presents to us under the names of Babylon and Nineveh. The Egyptians themselves were also, in all probability, but a mixture of Semitic and Hamitic peoples, and their civilization, which, even to this day, excites our wonder and admiration, was the result of the combined genius of these two great races. No matter what may be said of these admixtures, the true Shemite would not have recognized them, and would not recognize them to-day. For him, the true race of Shem was to be found in Israel, and he admitted but one brother, Ishmael, and even branded that one as a bastard. The Jews and Arabs, therefore, to-day, compose the entire Semitic family; the ancient spirit of exclusion and the ancient prejudice have triumphed, for the fatality of history has brought about the successive disappearance of all these civilizations and all these peoples which the descendants of the patriarchs rejected as impure and tainted with idolatry.

III.116.11

—The moral life of the Semitic race has been at once the most exalted and the simplest known to man. Born under a tent, reared in the desert, and grown up in the habits of nomadic life, it has ever ignored the complicated methods of life of other races. It knows but one sentiment, religious sentiment; but one life, the life of conscience. This simplicity of soul has engendered an extraordinary social simplicity: the ties which bind men to one another among the Semitic races are at once the closest and the freest which the mind can conceive. The Shemite does not know the meaning of the political state, he has no idea of a civil power distinct from the religious power, of a society distinct from the family, of rights and duties proceeding from any other source than God. Man has no master above him but God, and on earth he owes obedience only to those to whom he owes his life, and who are subject to the same master as himself. Religion, therefore, is everything in this Semitic society; the fatherland is the temple, the nation is the family, the king is God, the law which punishes crime is the same as that which admonishes the conscience. Theocracy is the natural form of government of such a race; and this it has never abandoned either in the most brilliant or the most perilous moments of its history. The same genius everywhere attends the Shemite, whether he be nomadic or sedentary; whether he live under a tent or in a city, whether he be a shepherd or conqueror, whether he lead a patriarchal life or be the founder of empires. The Hebrew monarchy never was a monarchy after the oriental fashion, and the kings of Israel endeavored in vain to prevail over the power of Jehovah, the ancient master of their people. The Arabian conquest and the establishment of the societies introduced by Islamism wrought no change in the simplicity of the Semitic intellect, and failed to teach it to distinguish between political power and religious power, between the citizen and the believer. The caliphate was the grand expression of this genius, powerless to conceive the idea of a state under any but a theocratic form.

III.116.12

—This synthetic genius of a single shoot, this inability to divide man, enabled the Semitic race to conceive and preserve their religion free from all alteration, which religion became that of the human race. All the feelings of the Semitic race concentrating into one, that one acquired extraordinary depth, elevation and power. The men of the Semitic race not serving two masters, God took entire possession of them, and while the sojourn in the desert separated them from the brilliant, voluptuous or terrible visions of nature, the vision of their sovereign master was revealed to them in all his majesty and all his grandeur. The Shemite, therefore, was able, for all these reasons, to conceive God as an infinite and all-powerful Being, immutable and eternal, one and perfect, as a pure spirit, master of the world, with which he has no affinity of nature or of substance. This idea, which some of our modern metaphysicians may even consider narrow and arid but which astonishes us by its moral elevation and its abstract grandeur and purity, when we contrast it with the imaginative conceptions and the coarse and deformed symbols of other peoples, impressed the Semitic tribes themselves, just as it has impressed the rest of the Caucasian race, which has finally adopted it as the basis of its faith, and inspired the Shemites with a pride which has always manifested itself in the exclusion of other races, and in a contempt for other religions. They exerted their every power to preserve their religion pure from all idolatry, and they found powerful auxiliaries for the accomplishment of this task in the simplicity of their social state and in their proximity to the desert.

III.116.13

—Nearly all the nations of modern Europe belong to the Japhetic or Indo-Germanic races. This name of Indo-Germanic has been given them by comparative philology, which has established the relationship of nearly all the European nations by the analogy of their different languages with the sacred language of India, the Sanscrit. This analogy once established, the consequence was easily drawn; since the Sanscrit was the common source of the languages of the different peoples of Europe, these peoples must evidently have sprung from a common source, and are all but branches of the race whose language the Sanscrit was. What was this race? and what country did it first inhabit? The most recent researches in ethnology and philology have established the fact that this part of the great Caucasian family from which the Indo-Germanic races have sprung, inhabited that part of Asia which extends from the Caucasus to Bactriana, and was divided into two great tribes, the Aryans and the Iranians. The Aryans are the source of the superior classes of Hindostan, which country they conquered; the Iranians have continued even to the present time almost without admixture in Persia, of which country they still form the chief population. Everything that is of any capital importance to us, in the civilizations of the ancient east, everything that interests our imagination in the history of Asia, everything of oriental origin that has contributed, either directly or indirectly, to our modern life, comes to us from these ancestors of our race. The aristocratic system of caste, Brahmanism, and later on, Buddhism, are the work of men of the Aryan race; the vast undertaking of the military and administrative monarchy of ancient Persia, and the religion of the two principles, are the work of men of the Iranian race.

III.116.14

—The Japhetic race, the most enterprising, the most movable and the most inventive of all the races, seems to have early felt the love of enterprise and adventure. If we would present, under a brief and poetic form, what our imagination perceives confusedly in these remote ages, we must take as symbols of the genius of our ancestors, two characters in the great tragedy of Æschylus, who knew some of the secrets of some of the origins of our race, Prometheus and Io, two victims of ambition, adventure and enterprise. Prometheus admirably symbolizes the boldness of invention of the Japhetic race; and the wild course of Io, goaded by the breeze-fly, their longing for emigration and travel; and, if the word be not too mean to use in speaking on such a subject, I would freely add, the mania for change of place which seems to have possessed our barbarous ancestors. The same love of conquest which urged on the Aryans in India, impelled, at different times, other tribes of the Japhetic race into Europe, and many successive emigrations, the dates of which are uncertain, landed them upon that continent, until at length they gained entire possession of it. The actual descendants of the peoples who effected these old migrations are divided into innumerable families, but they may be all ranked under five principal heads: the Celtic race, the Germanic race, the Slavic race, the Latin race, and the Greek race.

III.116.15

—None of these races is to-day free from admixture, and in some of them the primitive type and genius of the race have almost entirely disappeared before the frequency and violence of crossings with other races. Thus, the Latin race, the stock from which the Italian nation of to-day has come, has been singularly changed for the worse by the admixture of Greek, German, Ligurian and Gallic blood which it underwent in the course of its long history; in France the Celtic blood has been intermingled with Roman and German blood; in Spain the Iberian, with Gothic and Moorish blood, the Germanic tribes, especially in the extreme limits of the vast country which they inhabit, have received a strong infusion of Slavic blood; and the Slaves, subject to an influx of German and Greek blood, mingled with Mongolian and Ougro-Finnish, can scarcely be said to be any purer than the others, although they are the latest comers among the civilized nations, and their primitive type should, in consequence, be less worn out than that of their sister races, by the fatigues of history and the labor of centuries.

III.116.16

—The oldest in the civilization of the races of Europe, is the Greek or Ionian race, the sons of Javan (Ionians), as the Bible calls them, a race which succeeded, on Hellenic soil, to a race called Pelasgic. Next after the Semitic race, this race has rendered the greatest services to civilization. If humanity owes all its religious development to the Semitic race, it owes all its intellectual development to the Greek race. It truly deserves the name of the chosen race among the Japhetic nations, as did the Jewish people among the descendants of Shem. They are the true sons of Io and Prometheus, and when we see the mighty gifts which their imperishable works still present to our admiration, we are almost inclined to believe that their emigration carried off the cream of the entire youth of the great Japhetic family. It is to them we owe that religion of polytheism, that brilliant invention of poetic and graceful minds, which subdued and humanized the old natural religions, and which, by confounding the mysterious forces of the world with human force, produced that conception of the poetic ideal which has since become the true religion of all poets; for this conception holds the same place in literature that the dream of moral perfection does in religion. It was the Greek race that transformed the barbarous industries of primitive times, and developed the fine arts out of the useful trades, just as it had developed the literary ideal from the religion of nature. In all intellectual matters we reap to-day the benefits of Greek civilization; we are indebted to it for our knowledge of the rules of architecture and sculpture; we have received from it our philosophy; and half the literature of modern Europe is but an offshoot of the literature of Greece. Finally, when Christianity appeared in the world, it was Greece that undertook to form its dogmas for it, to construct its metaphysics, and to define its mysteries. Christianity owes the speculative part of its character to the Greek race, as it owes its political organization to the Roman race. It was the Greek race also that instilled civilization into the barbaric races, against which it defended the Byzantine empire during a thousand years, so that the civilization of the future, as well as that of the past, belongs to Greece; for the Slaves, who threaten Europe with a renewal or making over again, represent the Byzantine civilization, and consequently the Greek mind. Crushed by three centuries of oppression, invaded by barbarism which has incessantly flowed in upon it for fifteen centuries, marred by admixtures of Slavic and Turkish blood, the Greek race of to-day is not what it was; nevertheless, we still recognize in the modern Greeks the traits of the ancient type, and the qualities of the ancient genius of the race, just as we recognize the beauty of a statue, despite the mutilations which it has received, and the distinctness of a likeness, spite of the rust which covers it.

III.116.17

—The Latins, who are the source from which the Italian people sprang, present a most marked contrast to the Greek race, a contrast which must have been peculiarly striking in the beginning, and which is attested by the differences of the civilizations of the Greeks and the Romans. As the Greek race is lively, pliable, made for labor and intelligence, so the Latin race is strong, serious, heavy, made for conquest domination and practical interests. If the Greek race has the appearance of being made up of the youth of the Japhetic race, the Latin race has the appearance of being composed of an emigration of sedate men, who had reached the age of serious interests, and know no other sentiment than ambition, half sacerdotal and half warlike. This twofold character is found in the origin of the Latin race; through Etruria it is sacerdotal, through Rome it is warlike; but neither religion nor glory is its end; with it everything speedily takes a worldly and practical turn. It knows only force and interest; but how well it knows these! It was Rome that created the organization of force called conquest, and that organization of interests called administration. But it did not stop here. Inspired by its rugged and powerful genius, it raised its concrete notions of force and interest to the height of absolute abstractions; it created the metaphysics of force, and called it politics, and the metaphysics of interest, to which it gave the name of jurisprudence. This instinct is so strong that it does not overlook even things which seem most opposed to it, literature and religion. Sacerdotal rather than truly religious, as soon as Christianity was presented to it, it hastened to organize it, and gave to it, in the Catholic church and the papacy, its own political institutions. The essential traits of this profoundly positive genius and of this character made for domination and the enjoyment of earthly goods, are found again in the Italians of the middle ages and of modern times, but with important modifications, brought about by time, the accidents of history and the intermingling of races. The centre of the Latin race was changed during the middle ages, and transferred to Tuscany; the Italian genius gained by this change a flexibility and aptitude for ideality which it did not possess in ancient times, and because of this change, Europe is indebted to Italy more than to any other nation for the revival of arts and letters at the end of the middle ages known as the renaissance.

III.116.18

—The Celtic race, which formerly occupied all of Gaul and Great Britain, and a great part of the territories of Belgium and Helvetia, can not now be found anywhere in a pure state except in Armorica, or French Brittany, in Wales, in Scotland, particularly in the Highlands, in the Shetland and Hebrides islands, and finally, in Ireland. The domain of this valiant, imaginative, sensitive and adventurous race, once so extensive, is now reduced to this mere remnant of territory. The Celts are the most interesting and unfortunate of all the barbaric races. Their conquerors, exasperated by their stubborn resistance, never spared them, but always pitilessly tracked them, and exterminated them without mercy. This race owes its cruel destiny in part to its very qualities: its extreme sensitiveness often turned into harmful rage, imprudent, hasty hatred, and capricious sallies of contempt, while it on the other hand, easily engendered despair, discouragement and silent melancholy. This sensibility explains why the Celts have never been able, despite their valor, to preserve their independence, and why, after having lost it, they have never been able to cause their masters to bid them welcome, or to make their subjection the starting point of a new destiny. Conquered races have been known to govern their conquerors, like the Greeks, or to use the masters which fate had given them, like the Italians generally; but the Celts have never been capable of such miracles. The Celt does not know how to control his emotions: when victorious, he abandons himself to the proud intoxication of triumph; when vanquished, he falls into a mournful despair, or becomes the prey of a frantic rage which injures only himself and deprives him of all sympathy. To this extreme sensibility is added a fine and charming imagination, which renders him the slave of fancies and of habit, and thus forms a new source of danger. He is slow to accord his esteem or love to political or religious innovations; but once he has given it, it is given for centuries, and he will not abandon anything which he has set his heart on, even when experience has condemned it. Thus he is always behind the general progress of civilization, and figures in history as the champion of lost causes. Of all the barbaric races, the Celts were the last to submit to Christianity, and the difficulty of their conversion seems surprising when we consider the prompt submission of the Germanic races to the new religion. The papacy encountered in them its first adversaries, and, later, its most devoted defenders; the French monarchy was kept constantly at war defending itself against their revolts down to the very outbreak of the revolution of 1789; yet this revolution met with no more irreconcilable enemies than the Vendeans and Bretons; and it is a well-known fact that the obstinate resistance of the Highlanders prolonged the contest entered into in England between the monarchy of the Stuarts and the Protestant dynasty.

III.116.19

—The Celtic race is not the only one which preserves itself pure and unmixed only in certain provinces or portions of territory; the same is true of the Iberian race, which is the basis of the population of Spain and probably of Portugal, and which has continued in its purity only within the narrow confines of the Basque provinces. Are the Iberians an Indo-Germanic or an Ougrian or Finnish race? Opinions are divided, and the question is a doubtful one. Some ethnologists, basing their opinion on the characters of the Basque language, say that the Iberians belong to the Finnish race; others see in them a separate branch of the Celtic race. However this may be, frequent interminglings seem to have occurred at an early period between the Iberians and the Celts, and the mixed race thus produced, the Celtiberians, constitutes, to a great extent the basis of the population of Ireland. In truth, the genius of the Iberian race is very different from that of the Celts; the two races have little more than one trait in common, a fierce valor; but this valor manifested itself among the Iberians from the earliest ages with a gloomy energy and a firmness of resistance entirely unknown to the adventurous and brilliant courage of the Celtic race.

III.116.20

—The mixture of the Latin race with the Celtic and Iberian races produced the nations of central Europe, which are without distinction called Latin nations, notwithstanding the well-defined differences of their inhabitants. France, Spain, Portugal and Italy constitute this class. The basis of the population of Spain has remained Iberian, and that of the population of France, Gallic; the admixture of Roman or Germanic blood has not so changed the characteristics of the two nations as to render them unrecognizable, and it is easy to observe in the soldiers of modern France the descendants of those Galatians who raised their swords aloft when it thundered to hold up the heavens if they should fall, as it is also easy to recognize the descendants of the defenders of Numantia in the defenders of Saragossa. The action of the Latin race upon the two nations has been more moral than physical; it has rendered them capable of discipline, initiated them into a higher civilization, and neutralized and even destroyed the fatality of blood and the obstacles of instinct. Thanks to this initiation, the Celtic genius especially, crushed or impotent everywhere else, developed in France, and gave to the world all that it contained. At once adventurous and fond of routine, utopist and retrograde, violently revolutionary, and conservative to the extreme, the enemy of tradition and the slave of habit, idealistic and skeptical, quick to undertake and easily discouraged, the French clearly manifest all the principal characteristics of the Celtic race. But what a marvelous transformation these characteristics have undergone! The lively sensibility of the Celt has been changed into a spirit of humanity and justice; his love of habit has become a sentiment of patriotism; his lively, pure, moral, elevated imagination, the most moral, most elevated and most truly religious of all the barbaric races, has translated itself into a literature of a noble, moral, abstract, refined and idealistic character, disdaining the pleasures of the flesh and of the blood, and loving the pleasures of the mind, to such a point as to forget their reality. Thus the least carnal of the barbaric races has produced, under the influence of Latin discipline, the most idealistic nation in the world. France is the champion par excellence of absolute causes and of moral interests. She has successively given to the world the ideal of all the institutions and the moral theory of all the governments which have appeared, one after another, during the past fifteen hundred years. She has been the champion par excellence of the papacy, that moral ideal of the Catholic church; she drew from the feudal system the ideal of chivalry, she conceived the ideal of monarchy, she produced in Calvinism the most absolute and most metaphysical form of reformed Christianity; finally, she conceived, by the French revolution, the ideal of the government of human societies based upon absolute right and abstract reason, and not upon the fatality of circumstances and the contingency of human events. After Greece and Rome, no country has done more for humanity than France.

III.116.21

—The Germanic race is the most powerful, materially, of all the races. It not only occupies all the vast territory known in Europe as Germany, but it embraces also, under the name of the Scandinavian race, Denmark and Sweden and under the name of the Anglo-Saxon race, England, and the United States of North America. It has ever been a remarkable peculiarity of this race, that it has manifested more life at its extremities than at its centre, and, to use the language of its metaphysicians, realized itself outside itself. This peculiarity is an essentially distinctive mark of its political, if not of its intellectual and moral, history. If any one desires an expression of the political genius of the Germanic race, he should seek it, not in Germany, but in the nations which have sprung from it, in the branches which its great trunk has put forth, England and the United States, for instance. The idea of individual liberty, of self-government and the sentiment of self-reliance, which are the most valuable contributions the Germanic race has made to the world, have found their full and entire realization in England and the United States. The material conquest of the globe belongs more to this race than to any other: in the barbaric ages they were the most intrepid conquerors, the best founders of kingdoms, and displayed faculties which distinguished them as rulers and governors; in modern times they make the most active merchants, the most adventurous colonizers the most energetic explorers and pioneers. Moral civilization owes more to other races; material civilization owes as much to none; for no other has done so much in the way of discovery, in the conquest and transformation of our globe. Its profound genius seems to be in contradiction with this political destiny; but upon close consideration, the contradiction disappears. This genius seems to be unreal and mystic; at bottom, it studies only man and nature, and, profoundly practical even in metaphysical revery and speculation, it seeks only to penetrate into hidden realities, to separate real from apparent truth, and to comprehend the inner structure of objects. The end of Germanic speculation is to penetrate the soil of thought to its very tufa in order to explain the brilliant vegetation that appears at its surface. Thus it is that Germany, of all nations, has best explained man to man, has best demonstrated how he thinks, what instinctive methods he employs, what are the unconscious processes of his logic, by what concatenation his visions become facts, his ideas civilizations, his phantoms doctrines; how the conditions of his existence force him to imagine the truth, and, as a consequence, to express himself by symbols. The practice of self-government, the conquest of the material world and the revelation of the internal structure of the moral man: such is the magnificent part of the Germanic race in general civilization.

III.116.22

—The Slavic race is the most widely diffused race of modern Europe. It comprises nearly all the peoples subject to the dominion of Austria, with the exception of the Magyars, who belong to the Ougrian race, and of a few Wallachians scattered here and there, especially in Transylvania, who belong to the Danubian principalities, and are the descendants of Latin colonies of the empire established in Dacia; the Dalmatians, the Illyrians, the Serbians, the Croatians, the Czechs, etc.; the peoples of the Turkish empire, known as Greco-Slaves, of Poland and Russia. Although the youngest of the European races, it has not escaped intermixture any more than the others; in Russia there has been an influx of Mongolian and Finnish blood; in Poland, of Sarmatian blood; and in other parts, of Turkish, Greek and Germanic blood. Some peoples, the Cossacks for example, are a mixture of several races. The Slavic race has penetrated very far, and in the middle ages was the warlike and invading race par excellence. It required all the strength of Germany to check its inroads; and the history of the German empire for several centuries is merely a history of the resistance of the west to this permanent inundation of the Slaves, who, at the same time that they threatened the young civilization of Latin Europe, overran and destroyed the old civilization of eastern Europe. Prussia, for example, is the product of an inundation of Slaves restrained by Germanic barriers, and the German empire became powerful only after the two great Slavic monarchies of the middle ages, Bohemia and Poland, were conquered or enfeebled. The Slaves are the last comers into history, which they ardently aspire to take full possession of, in order to inscribe their name on its pages with the names of their elder brothers in civilization. Each of the nations of modern Europe has aspired to political preponderance, and has obtained it for a greater or less length of time. This is now the ambition of the Slaves, who have begun, in Russia, the realization of their mighty dream. The Slavic genius is remarkably mild, social, subtle, imaginative, mystical, and entirely distinct from the genius of the other European races. It is impossible to tell for what benefits civilization will be indebted to this latent genius in posse, but we may, however, foresee, that, if the idea of fraternity is to be transformed into institutions and introduced into the political life of nations as those of equality and liberty have been already introduced, humanity will owe this result to the Slavic race, which understands this sentiment more profoundly than any of the other races, just as the Celtic and Latin races best understand equality, and the Saxon race liberty.

III.116.23

—We have now reached the end of this long description of the various races of the human family. What conclusions shall we draw from what we have stated? Shall we admit that these families, irremediably separated by their genius, are condemned by the fatality of their instincts to continue to the end of time in a state of aggression, or that they are destined to be melted into a closer and a closer union? History, which we have just consulted, teaches us that the mixture of the races is a law of humanity, that they do not preserve their purity but in the barbarous state and for a very short time, and that, on the other hand, the moral barriers of their different genius are not more difficult to break through than the physical barriers of blood. The races understand one another, when crossed one with another, and thus discover that the differences which constitute race are but secondary, and that men have the same souls just as they have the same bodies. What difference does it make that the Shemite was the only one that conceived the idea of one God? If all the rest were capable of understanding that great idea, we must conclude that their instincts very closely resemble those of the Shemite. Buddhism clearly bears the impress of the Hindoo mind, and the Mongolian genius is certainly earthly and hard; but we must admit that this genius possessed at least some predisposition that destined it to understand the religion of Buddha; in what, therefore, is the Mongolian race irremediably separated from the race which conceived the religion which it adopted? Christianity is of Hebrew origin, and still the nations of Indo Germanic origin have found it conformable to their nature, since they have embraced it. Chivalry is undoubtedly conformable to the instincts of all nations, since all nations recognized it in the middle ages. Self-government is of Germanic origin; still, we see that to-day all nations have an equal inclination to adopt, practice and love it. There are differences, however, but if we examine them closely, we will find that they exist more especially in the secondary faculties or inferior part of the genius of nations; after all, men are separated only by the evil instincts and vices of their natures. They are all united and understand one another by the superior part of their souls. Thus, this great question of race is reduced to a question of morals; the differences in the genius of different nations are reduced to mere shades; and history proclaims the moral unity of the human race with still greater certainty than science proclaims its unity of flesh and blood.

ÉMILE MONTÉGUT.

Start PREVIOUS
889 of 1105
NEXT End

Return to top