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In his Huxley Lecture of 1901, Galton had quite explicitly declared: 'The possibility of improving the race of a nation depends on the power of increasing the productivity of the best stock. This is far more important than that of repressing the productivity of the worst . . .n Even at the end of his life, while admitting that the Report of the Royal Commission on the Feeble-Minded had made 'negative eugenics' quite the most 'pressing' task facing the eugenist,2 he never came to share the interest of his followers in diseased and pathological families and cases of 'morbid inheritance'. Galton continued rather to work along the lines established in his earlier books, Hereditary Genius and English Men of Science, in which he examined families containing a large number of exceptionally gifted individuals.
The hope that at some future time the human race might be largely composed of men and women possessing the illustrious qualities of Shakespeare and Darwin was a continuing source of inspiration to eugenists. After quoting Nietzsche on the 'Superman', R. A. Fisher told the Cambridge University Eugenics Society: 'We can set no limit to human potentialities, all that is best in man can be bettered; it is not a question of producing a highly efficient machine, or a paragon of the negative virtues, but of quickening all the distinctively human features, all that is best in man, all the different qualities, some obvious, some infinitely subtle, which we recognise as humanly excellent'.3 Bernard Shaw was fond of asking what hope existed for the species when it was clear that there had been no advance on Socrates and Plato. Even Beatrice Webb, after seeing a performance of Shaw's Man and Superman, was moved to write in her diaries:
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'We cannot touch the subject of human breeding—it is not ripe for the mere industry of induction, and yet I realise that it is the most important of all questions, this breeding of the right sort of man .. .**
Breeding experiments were never, of course, envisaged by any responsible eugenist. Galton himself feared that in man's present state of ignorance, 'he might possibly even do more harm than good to the race' by attempting to arrange eugenic marriages.5 Moreover, as Major Darwin admitted, 'the paramount necessity of maintaining a moral code introduces vast difficulties in the case of man which are unknown in the stock yard, and unquestionably the possibilities open to us are thus greatly limited'.6 The eugenists would have been less liable to misconstruction if they themselves had not so frequently drawn analogies between human procreation and stock breeding. Essentially, however, they were doing no more than pointing out that the human race was a part of the organic world and thus, from the biological point of view, subject to the same laws of selection and variation. This was also what Pearson meant when he wrote that 'were we the "superman" we could breed a race of abnormally shy men, as we could breed a race of abnormally tall men; and we could breed a race in which six fingers were the rule or one in which nearly every members was a deaf-mute'.7 Not for one moment was he suggesting that such crazy experiments should be mounted.
Galton perfectly well understood that, apart from the obvious ethical objections against 'breeding for points', it was ruled out of account by the variegated character of any complex human society, which required for its efficient functioning very different kinds of skill and personality, all contributing to the fullness and richness of life. In deciding on how best the breed could be improved, Galton therefore suggested that special aptitudes would have to be assessed by those who possessed them. 'Thus the worth of soldiers would be such as it would be rated by respected soldiers, students by students, business men by business men, artists by artists, and so on'. Criminals, however, were not to be permitted to form their own associations, with similar voting rights, nor were other occupational groups which society deemed undesirable.8 This scheme, however, had obvious limitations. It was also controversial in that it assumed both the continuance and the legitimacy of the existing social order. There are
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many other examples of Galton's habit of treating classes and occupational groupings as something fixed and immutable.
But Galton also believed that there was, beside professional aptitude, a more general quality, or rather a complex of qualities, which society could and should promote. He described what he meant by the phrases 'civic worth' or 'worth'. By this he hoped to describe those human beings who possessed an above-average share of 'at least goodness of constitution, of physique, and of mental capacity'.9 If this was somewhat vague, Galton's followers were unable to improve much on it. Crackanthorpe suggested that 'sound health, a sufficient amount of energy, a well-balanced brain [were] obviously desirable, nay, necessary ingredients'.10 Robert Ewart defined the excellence for which eugenists were striving in terms of height, scholastic aptitude, and power of survival.11
It will be noted that Crackanthorpe and Ewart both followed Galton's lead in giving priority to the physical attributes. This was not because Galton did not value man's spiritual and intellectual qualities. However, he believed that there was a very close correlation between all these attributes, and physique had the advantage of being more precisely and objectively measurable than, say, intelligence. 'The youths who became judges, bishops, statesmen, and leaders of progress in England', he asserted, 'could have furnished formidable athletic teams in their time. There is a tale, I know not how far founded on fact, that Queen Elizabeth had an eye to the calves of the legs of those she selected for bishops. There is something to be said in favour of selecting men by their physical characteristics for other than physical purposes. It would decidedly be safer to do so than to trust to pure chance.'12 This belief in a correlation between physical health and intellectual ability was held by many eugenists, including Ewart and the Whethams.13 In their understandable irritation against the fashionable notion that 'genius' was a pathological condition, a form of abnormality, often going hand in hand with insanity and disease, eugenists often went to the opposite extreme; thus, James B arr, on the subject of the 'consumptive poet', said: 'Robert Louis Stevenson was a beautiful writer, and many of his epigrams are very fine, but much of his writings will not bear analysis according to the hard rules of facts, and I am convinced that if he had not been phthisical he would have
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written better and much more sanely'.14 If eugenists wanted to point to a living embodiment of their ideal of the mens sana in corpore sano they had no need to look further than Galton himself, who provided an especially apt example in that he came from precisely the kind of 'eugenic' family he had taken pains to investigate.15
Unfortunately, Galton's belief that physical health and strength were an outward and visible sign of man's inward grace was soon to take a hard knock at the hands of his own biometric disciples. The statistical investigations undertaken by Karl Pearson on material furnished by L.C.C. schoolteachers suggested that, although both physical and 'psychical' characters were inherited to a marked degree, the correlation between them was not high. As he put it in a latter summary of his researches: 'Taking an all-round view of the matter, it is surprising how small is the relationship of general health to the psychical characters. It would seem that far too much weight has been attributed to the health factor in dealing with mental characteristics'. In retrospect, Pearson felt that this exaggerated view of the importance of health had come about because of an excessive concentration on poor children in elementary schools, whose poor physique was in many cases the result of defective environment, want of medical care, and even deficiency of food. In the more normal state of affairs encountered among middle-class schoolchildren, these 'interfering factors' were absent.16 Pearson, nevertheless, continued to set great store by physical health and vigour, which he thought should be considered, along with the more narrowly intellectual qualities, when selections were being made for secondary schools and universities. The picture he attempted to conjure up was one of weedy scholarship boys entering institutions of higher education when they lacked the physical stamina (and perhaps the moral character) to benefit from the instruction they were about to receive.17 Pearson's advocacy of a 'muscular intellectuality' throws an interesting light on the values cherished by many eugenists of his day. But it matters very little compared with his damaging admission that health and intelligence were not closely correlated.
For this went along way to undermining Galton's arguments about 'civic worth'. And back once more came the old conundrum about what eugenists were going to do about the consumptive poet and the
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sickly 'genius'. Galton, who had not seen this as a serious problem at all, had suggested that inferiority under any of the three heads of ability, physique, and character should outweigh superiority in the other two.18 But it was easy to compile a long list of 'famous men' who would have failed to pass this eugenic test; and opponents of the movement had an enjoyable time in pointing out that eugenists might have 'predicted' the ill-health of a Carlyle, Ruskin, Keats, or Stevenson, without also predicting their remarkable qualities. Major Darwin could only get out of this fix by suggesting that 'perhaps marked excellence in any desirable quality ought to go very far towards outweighing any undesirable qualities', an inversion of Galton's scale of priorities.19 But Bateson was not alone in wondering whether 'by the exercise of continuous eugenic caution the world might have lost Beethoven and Keats, perhaps even Francis Bacon', and whether 'civic worth' might not exclude the 'unbusinesslike Bohemians', artists, musicians, authors, discoverers, and inventors, 'literally the salt of the earth'. 'Civic worth', he warned, might become a mere synonym for mediocrity, dullness and conformity.20
It is clear in retrospect that the eugenists should have left the question of 'genius' strictly alone. To talk as though they had some blueprint for creating new Shakespeares and Newtons was to invite ridicule. Professor Lindsay, who admitted that genius had 'a somewhat sorry record from the strictly Eugenist point of view', claimed that eugenics was essentially concerned 'with the production of talent, ability... the qualities which make a man or a woman a serviceable social unit'.21 There were, perhaps, three reasons why 'genius' should have so frequently been discussed. Firstly, the critics of the movement and innocent enquirers after truth persisted in raising the issue. Secondly, the title of Galton's first major work, Hereditary Genius, gave a misleading idea of what he and his followers were setting out to do. Thirdly, there was so much loose talk current in the immediate pre-war years about the superman, that half-understood Nietzschean concepts became entangled in the eugenics debate, though few serious eugenists desired this.22 An example of the way in which the New Biology and Nietzsche were fused is provided by Eder's articles on eugenics in the New Age in 1908, in which the superman was described as a mutation or giant variation comparable
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to the mutations discovered by de Vries in his work on the evening primrose.23 Shaw added to the confusion by linking Nietzsche to Lamarck's evolutionary views, which no self-respecting eugenist and few biologists now thought had any validity.
However, Lindsay's suggestion that eugenics, far from having anything to do with these Utopian speculations, was about fostering those qualities which made men and women 'serviceable social units' raised fresh difficulties of its own. It drew attention to Galton's indecision about whether specialized aptitude or 'all-round ability', social usefulness or a versatile individuality, were the more important to the future of the race. Most eugenists, including Galton, favoured general excellence and individualism; and none did so with such fervour as 'reform eugenists', like Lowes Dickinson, who thought that a 'high average of capacity' was a necessary concomitant of democracy.24 It was this emphasis on individuality which goaded Benjamin Kidd into protesting that the struggle for existence would select that nation which had the highest 'social efficiency', something that was different from, and even opposed to, individual efficiency.25 Similarly, Chiozza Money felt obliged to put in a kind word for the 'decent duffer'.26 Money obviously did not share Kidd's political philosophy, but both men were agreed that it made no sense to discuss individual excellence without reference to the society of which these individuals formed a part.
It was precisely here that Galton's conception of 'civic worth' was most vulnerable to criticism. It defined particular social or moral qualities as worthy of propagation, without supplying a political philosophy that justified these preferences. Indeed, Galton once conceded that 'the goodness or badness of character is not absolute, but relative to the current form of civilization'.27 This was precisely the problem which he should have confronted head-on. Instead he largely evaded it. One disillusioned eugenist complained of this in a letter to The Times; sound organization, he argued, rested on ideas, ideals, and beliefs, but 'Sir Francis Galton in the paper in which he first outlined his new science of race improvement, proposed to leave morals out of account on the ground that it was too complex a subject. The truth, I am afraid, is that the eugenist so far has mistaken the problem. He is dealing at present only with a problem of individuals and not with the
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problems of society and race improvement'.28
L. T. Hobhouse made the same point when he defined Progress as 'the realization of an ethical order'; but, on their own admission, eugenists had no clear idea of what they meant by 'social worth'; only philosophy, he argued, could supply the necessary ethical goals, which biology alone was powerless to do.29 Urwick had some fun by pointing out the disagreements between eugenists over what human attributes were to be most highly esteemed. More seriously, he observed that 'society ... is always trying to get people "good" and to get good people,—without ever knowing clearly what it means by "good"; for it means something far too complex to be defined, and something, too, which changes as the social ideals change'; eugenics was distinctive in defining goodness quite simply in terms of certain physical and mental qualities and prescribing precise methods for attaining it; but society would never accept this restriction of its ethical outlook.30 In vain did the Oxford philosopher, Schiller, attempt to defend eugenics from criticisms of this kind; no-one, said Schiller, proposed to carry out a eugenical coup d'etat; being aware of their liability to err, the proponents of eugenics would guard against this danger by incorporating into their actions provision for detecting and correcting any possible errors; the ideals of the eugenist, like the ideals of other people, were not 'prior to the particular experiences they profess to "explain", but are built up out of suggestions derived from the latter'.31 Schiller's line of reasoning, unfortunately, was too sophisticated for most eugenists to follow, and even if it might have removed some of the animosities which eugenics aroused, it also blunted its attractiveness.
Finally, leaving aside the ethical question for the moment, there was the objection, which Galton himself felt to have some force, that knowledge about the mechanism of heredity had not advanced anything like far enough for scientists to be able to predict the probable characteristics of the offspring of a given pair of parents. Despite Pearson's rhetorical flourishes, it seemed improbable that a race of 'shy men' could have been bred, though a race of 'exceptionally tall men' would have presented fewer difficulties. The Nation caricatured 'Positive Eugenics' as the belief that race progress could be achieved by 'selecting the good, and breeding Beethovens or
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Shakespeares as a pigeon fancier breeds fantails'. The writer concluded that 'if we suppose adequate knowledge of all we wish to breed for—that is to say, of all the elements of real value to a society on the one hand, or if we grant further a power existing in society impartial enough to apply this knowledge without fear or favour, and strong enough to impose acceptance on individual men and women, we should admit that eugenics would become a very important branch of applied social science'. But at present all this was mere wishful thinking. 'Until the biologists have settled among themselves what heredity is and how it works', wrote the Nation, 'they cannot intervene with much effect outside their own province'.32
Moreover, the qualities that were generally admired in 'great men' were often far too complex to be easily comprehended, still less to be scientifically produced. Hobhouse suggested that 'it is quite possible .. . that two strains, each sound in itself, should when united produce a bad result', and that, conversely, 'some stocks desirable in themselves contain strains that suitably blended with others are of value to the rational character as a whole'.33 H. G. Wells, like Hobhouse, stressed that even those qualities which most people thought to be worth cultivating amongst human beings, health, energy, beauty, were not simple qualities as at first sight they might appear to be, but a harmonious balance of elements that arranged in a somewhat different manner would produce quite a different result. These were not 'points' that the scientist could breed for.34 Finally, there was the problem, which many eugenists rather glossed over, of social circumstance. Galton singled out for especial praise the quality of energy, but the very impulses which brought one man eminence might lead another, less fortunately circumstanced, to gaol.
If all these difficulties were taken into account, what was there left to be salvaged from 'positive eugenics'? In the eyes of most of Galton's followers, comparatively little. When Saleeby showed Galton an article on eugenics shortly to be published in the Sociological Review, the latter commented that the section on 'positive Eugenics' was very short; 'so, indeed, it was', observed Saleeby, 'but at that date we had no knowledge of the exact inheritance of valuable qualities'.35 Thus, a common view among eugenists was that again expressed by Saleeby: 'we may not know
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what worth is, but we can all recognize "unworth"' ;36 hence, it was better to concentrate on 'negative eugenics'.
But this new concern with pathological stocks necessarily involved eugenists in attempting to capture political power or at least influence governments, something which Galton himself had never seriously intended. Galton's hope was that of winning over strategically placed individuals, so as to alter the state of public opinion on questions of marriage, reproduction and race-improvement. His lack of interest in the political process itself is revealed in the one and only address which he made to the E.E.S. in October 1908. Already local associations were coming into existence, affiliated to the central body. Galton, therefore, mused aloud before this audience about what functions these new organizations could most usefully serve. In brief, his proposal was that men of standing and importance in the local community, like doctors, clergymen, Medical Officers of Health, and lawyers, should be persuaded to join together in social gatherings where knowledge of heredity could be disseminated, pedigrees of local families of note compiled, and means found of enabling promising young people to make their start in life. Members of the local associations would probably be those who considered themselves or were considered by others to be 'the possessors of notable eugenic qualities'.82 Galton added: 'It ought not to be difficult to arouse in the inhabitants a just pride in their own civic worthiness, analogous to the pride which a soldier feels in the good reputation of his regiment or a lad in that of his school. By this means a strong local eugenic opinion might easily be formed . . .'37
Galton's audience listened, as always, with respect to their patron's views, and then proceeded to ignore them. The local branches of the E.E.S. did, along with the central organization, go in for some desultory drawing up of pedigrees. Occasionally, an article appeared in the Eugenics Review, such as J. F. Tocher's 'The Necessity for a National Eugenic Survey', of July 1910, with its odd proposal for eugenic clans and septs, which attempted to extend Galton's line of reasoning.38 But far from forming social clubs of self-conscious, practicing eugenes, these branches soon took on the role of local propaganda organizations, concerned with the same sort of polemical and political work that largely preoccupied the parent body in London. No
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doubt many of the men and women drawn into the movement did take a complacent view of their own genetic endowment. On rare occasions the membership was even exhorted from the platform to see itself as the forerunners of the superior species which scientists could now predict. R. A. Fisher apostrophised the Cambridge University audience who attended his lecture in November 1912 as 'agents of a new phase of evolution', who had the mission of spreading abroad, 'not by precept only, but by example, the doctrine of a new natural ability of worth and blood'.39 But this note was not often struck.
Neither was the emphasis that Galton placed upon private philanthropy a characteristic of the eugenics movement as a whole. Galton, as we have seen, has been sometimes criticized, and not without reason, for identifying eugenic classes with social classes. Nevertheless, he was not so naive as to suppose that economic status by itself denoted civil worth. In fact, he was disturbed by the discrepancy that often appeared between the two conditions. Hence, Galton devised ingenious and detailed plans for providing financial incentives to 'eugenic' couples to marry early in life, so that they might be permitted to start having a family while the wife still had many years of child-bearing ahead of her. 'The means that might be employed to compass these ends', wrote Galton, 'are dowries, especially for those to whom moderate sums are important, assured help in emergencies during the early years of married life, healthy homes, the pressure of public opinion, honours, and above all else the introduction of motives of religous or quasi-religious character.' He also sketched out a plan for 'the provision to exceptionally promising young couples of healthy and convenient houses at low rentals', which might develop into settlements complete with self-selected fellowships and rooms of residence, with something of the atmosphere of a socially prestigious club: 'The tone of the place would be higher than elsewhere, on account of the high quality of the inmates, and it would be distinguished by an air of energy, intelligence, health and self-respect and by mutual helpfulness'.40 That this imaginary set-up derives from a rather rosy view of Oxford and Cambridge seems highly probable, and is confirmed by Galton's unpublished Utopian novel, 'Kantsaywhere', in which the analogies between a eugenic community and a university college are explicitly
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Who would be selected for this favoured treatment? Galton allots the task of selecting young men of promise to an independent committee connected with the universities, which would have evidence about the candidates' athletic ability as well as their academic performance; there would, in addition, be personal interviews and a study of the family history of all the candidates. The social groups upon which Galton hoped to draw for his 'Eugenes' were obviously somewhat restricted; he seems to have been thinking mainly of young people from 'good' families whose members had, through no fault of their own and through no want of merit, fallen on hard times.42 The same impression is conveyed by his advocacy of a rejuvenated patronage system, 'a kindly and honourable relation between a wealthy man who had made his position in the world and a youth who is avowedly his equal in natural gifts, but who has yet to make it'. In a naive analogy, Galton spoke of noble families getting 'fine specimens of humanity around them', rather as they 'procure and maintain fine breeds of cattle and so forth, which are costly, but repay in satisfaction'.43 Putting the trust that he did in enlightened eugenic action by the well-to-do, he had little, however, to say about the role of State aid and State legislation, matters which engrossed a later generation of eugenists, many of whom must have thought, though they were too polite to say so, that Galton was blinkered by his mid-Victorian political philosophy, and was merely proposing to tinker with the forces that threatened national decay.
What Galton really wanted was for there to be continuous enquiries into the facts of heredity, together with the construction of biographies and pedigrees which would provide 'an exact stocktaking of our worth as a nation'. Once the implication of these researches had sunk in, he seems to have supposed, much else would follow as a matter of course. Ties of friendship would grow up among the gifted families; they would tend to intermarry, and in time there would be 'a "golden book" of natural nobility'.44 Whetham later took up this last suggestion and envisaged a future 'when an aristocracy of Eugenic families [would] arise, who [would] guard their inborn inheritance as carefully as ever the older aristocracies [had] kept the purity of blood which could boast of Seize Quartiers'.45
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In the hands of the 'reform eugenists' this emphasis upon the desirability of replacing an artificial nobility, based upon wealth and tradition, by a natural nobility whose qualities were inborn, could be used as a way of attacking the rottenness of contemporary society. The Whethams by no means intended to create this effect. Nor did the conservative Galton, who, although anxious to create a new 'sentiment of caste among those who [were] naturally gifted', said he did not propose 'to begin by breaking up old feelings of social status, but to build up a caste within each of the groups into which rank, wealth and pursuits already divide society, mankind being quite numerous enough to admit of this sub-classification'.46
Nevertheless, Galton admitted that in a society dominated by a 'false' theory of democracy, the members of the eugenic caste, even if scattered throughout society, might attract jealousy and persecution; in self-defence they might decide to form colonies of their own, engage in co-operative enterprises of various kinds, and lead an exclusive self-contained life; if they were still exposed to harassment, wrote Galton, 'let them take ship and emigrate and become the parents of a new state, with a glorious future'.47 Over thirty years after penning these words, Galton allowed his mind to play over the question of how such a Eugenic State might be organized, in his projected book, 'Kantsaywhere'.
Similar ideas were quite widespread around the turn of the century. In 1891, Charles Wicksteed Armstrong published a novel depicting a eugenic community, and in the 1920s he returned to the subject of creating a settlement, with its location, perhaps, in the South-Eastern Pyrenees, to be peopled by men and women whose 'worth' had been attested by an expert 'council of management'.48 This scheme remained as visionary as the fictional 'Arlington Community', described by the anonymous author of the Essays in Buff (1903): a community in which controlled breeding experiments were conducted, rather along the lines of those which John Noyes had once supervised in the Oneida Settlement.49 But was it sensible for eugenists even to aspire to forming colonies of their own? Major Darwin thought not. Apart from the probability of 'regression' over a number of generations, such a community, he suggested, would arouse fierce resentment among the excluded, and it would soon face
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the threat of annihilation at the hands of the 'unfit'.50 In any case, eugenists were, as a body, now committed to seeking reforms within existing society, not withdrawing from it into exclusive little sects. If the human race were to be saved from deterioration through the multiplication of the unfit, withdrawal from the mainstream of society was not the best way to arrest this decay.
The only concrete recommendations in the sphere of positive eugenics to find much support were marriage certificates and financial bonuses from the State to parents of fit offspring. Galton himself had proposed that at some future time it might prove practical to start a formal system of 'eugenic certificates', which could be granted by an appropriate authority to those applicants who could prove that they had at least an average share of good health, physique, and mental capacity.51 Havelock Ellis was quick to see that here was a possible device for encouraging eugenic marriages. No one would be compelled to submit himself to an examination in the hope of receiving one of these certificates, argued Ellis, just as no one was compelled to seek a university degree; but its possession would greatly increase a man's or woman's chances of making a 'good' marriage.52 Dr Slaughter's thoughts were running along the same lines: 'As courtship is a process of suggesting or displaying qualities and possessions, it may be that part of its regular routine will be the exhibition of the life insurance policy; fond parents should be at least as interested in this as in the young man's actual or prospective balance at the bank'.53 On Galton's suggestion, Ellis actually tried to work out a practical scheme for the issuing of eugenic certificates; Galton was disappointed at how costly it would prove to administer.54 Perhaps for this reason, the idea subsequently fell somewhat into the background. Although marriage certificates often feature in eugenical literature, they usually appear within the context of 'negative eugenics', being presented rather as a means of discouraging unsuitable marriages than as a device for stimulating the fertility of the 'fit'.
In any case, the problem was not so much one of engineering 'suitable' marriages, but one of encouraging fit parents to go back to the large families of their grandparents' days. This brings one logically on to a consideration of what was currently called, 'the endowment of motherhood', that is to say, family allowances. The Fabian Society
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was busily engaged in promoting this reform, and some eugenists gave it their support. For example, Dr Slaughter is reported as saying on one occasion that working women might have to be paid by the State during the time of child rearing and be given a sum to provide towards the child's upbringing,55 and even the Whethams once supported this proposal, at least as an interim measure.56
But a more common response was that of Montague Crack-anthorpe, who, noting that the Webb's endowment of motherhood scheme made no distinction between 'good' and 'bad' parentage, commented: 'The old, old story, this, of quantity versus quality'.57 Professor Lindsay was similarly sceptical about whether the eugenist should endorse the 'endowment of motherhood': 'Not motherhood as such, but good motherhood, is his ideal. Large families may be either a boon or a burden to the State, according to the quality of the offspring. The subsidising of marriage without due precautions, might tend to accentuate existing evils'.58 Lowes Dickinson might believe that public opinion would soon be ready to accept a system of State payments for children only in the case of parents whose union was approved of by society.59 But most eugenists, including those with a progressive social outlook, like Sidney Herbert, thought that such a discrimination was a practical impossibility. It was also Herbert who noted that 'the very classes who are lowest in the economic scale, and are most in need of such aid, have already the highest birth-rate'.60 Most eugenists were aghast at the prospect of still further stimulating the fertility of those social groups who, in their eyes, constituted the 'unfit'.
Refinements could be made to the Webbs' proposals.61 But there would still be the sceptics who doubted (and with good reason) whether financial inducements of a direct kind would ever achieve their avowed purpose. The Whethams, for example, pointed to France, where the State, the municipalities, and some big commercial concerns were all hoping to stimulate the birth rate in this way, so far without any observable effect.62 From the 'conservative' wing of the movement came two further attacks on the kind of 'endowment of motherhood' scheme favoured by the Webbs. Firstly, such a piece of 'meddling socialism', they said, would be extremely costly; already, according to one contributor to the Eugenics Review, the feeding of
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necessitous schoolchildren was putting 'a heavy and increasing burden' on the ratepayer: 'To impose on him the further burden of an "Endowment of Motherhood" rate or tax would well-nigh break his back'.63 Secondly, there was the argument that a fixed bonus for every child, ignoring differences of living standards in working and middle class families, would be 'unfair'; 'the only sound principle', wrote the Whethams, 'would be to make for each child an allowance which rose in proportion to the income of the parents till a limit was reached depending on the amount reasonably to be spent on the maintenance and education of children in the upper classes'.64 This proposal anticipated the position adopted by the E.E.S. after the First World War. But the perpetuation and strengthening of class divisions and income differentials was, of course, the very opposite of what the Fabian proponents of the endowment of motherhood hoped to achieve.
Rather surprisingly, even Saleeby declared himself 'opposed to the principle of bribing a woman to become a mother, whether overtly or covertly, whether in the guise of State-aid or in the form of eugenic premiums for maternity ... I do not see what service it renders to motherhood in its psychical aspects'.65 He added, 'the so-called endowment of motherhood, by the State, proposes to serve motherhood by discharging fatherhood from its duties. On whatever round the feet of Progress and Eugenics may fare, this is none of them. It is not progress, but full retreat, helter-skelter back to the beast'. But Saleeby had no objection to the provisions for maternity benefit in Lloyd George's National Insurance Scheme, since this compelled the father to set aside money for the care of his wife when she became pregnant.66 Moreover, said Saleeby, the government should at least stop penalizing marriage. Eugenists instanced the now defunct celibacy regulations of Oxford and Cambridge Colleges as the sort of folly that must at all costs be avoided in the future.67
On the positive side, Karl Pearson suggested that the State might follow the example of the Indian Civil Service and take parenthood into account in the determination of the salaries of public employees.68 William McDougall had been one of the pioneers of this idea, suggesting in a contribution to the Sociological Society in 1906 that the salaries of higher civil servants could be adjusted according to the number of their children, and perhaps a similar system applied to
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certain grades of inspector, local government officials, and occupants of university chairs.69 This might still have seemed to Saleeby an objectionable sort of 'bribe'. But at least it avoided the danger of encouraging an indiscriminate rise in the birth-rate. The same is true of Pearson's vague advocacy of a system of insurance in which employer, State, and workmen would combine to insure against invalidity, motherhood, and the nurture of offspring—all provision being differentiated by the fitness of the parentage.70
The most favoured expedient, however, was an alteration of the tax system, so as to discriminate in favour of married couples with dependent children. The beauty of this idea, in the eyes of most eugenists, was that it could not possibly encourage the multiplication of the unfit, since, broadly speaking, only the middle classes paid income tax. The Liberal Government, for reasons of its own, began to move in the direction favoured by eugenists when, in the People's Budget, it introduced an allowance of £10 a year for every child below sixteen years of age in the case of income tax payers whose income fell below £500 a year. In the 1914 Budget, Lloyd George doubled the rebate (popularly called, 'the Brat'). This not only delighted the Webbs, who hailed this action as the first timid government recognition of the desirability of the endowment of motherhood,71 but it also encouraged the eugenists proper; Karl Pearson, for example, observed, 'It will be the fault of eugenic workers if the thin edge of the wedge thus inserted be not driven home'.72
The only complaint of the E.E.S. was that Lloyd George's concessions did not go far enough. In the spring of 1914, the Society lobbied sympathetic M.P.s, and tried without success to inspire amendments to the Finance Bill. Eugenists were able to do this since, for once, they had previously worked out something that could be called an agreed policy on the whole issue of child rebates. William Marshall, the leading spirit in the Haslemere branch of the E.E.S., had persuaded the Council of the Society, in 1911, to hold an inquiry into the issue.73 By 1914, Darwin had worked out a eugenic scheme; the substance of it can be discerned from a memorandum, which survives in the Arnold White Papers,74 but it can be most conveniently studied in the evidence submitted by Darwin to the Royal Commission on the Income Tax in October 1919.75
7 Positive Eugenics
As an interim measure, Darwin wanted to ease the burden of parenthood by allowing income-tax payers a rebate which would partly offset the cost of educating their children. Another way of giving relief to the professional man with a large family, he argued, would be to make the fixed child rebate allowance payable to people earning more than the existing maximum (which had risen to £1,000 by 1919). This last suggestion had been brusquely rejected by Lloyd George in 1914,76 but the Royal Commission caused pleasure among eugenists by recommending the extension of child abatements to all income-tax payers, whatever their income.77 But the most radical of Darwin's suggestions was that the income of a family should 'count as a number of separate incomes, the number being equal to or dependent on the number in the family'. He insisted that this drastic reform could be carried out in such a way that each economic stratum would continue to make the same contribution to the revenue of the State, although within the income-tax paying class the burden would be partly transferred from the shoulders of parents of large families to childless adults.78
This last recommendation was, among other things, a way of meeting a demand which had loflg been urged by eugenists: that bachelors should be punished for neglecting their racial responsibilities. Professor Edgar, of St Andrews University, told the International Eugenics Congress in 1912 that 'something should be done to encourage or compel the bachelors to undertake some of the responsibility of life. The shirking was exceedingly selfish, and it made things harder socially for the married'.79 But Edgar's remedy, a tax on bachelors, might, Darwin feared, have racially undesirable consequences, since he believed that those 'who now remain unmarried are likely on the average to be somewhat inferior to the married'.80 On the other hand, calculating income-tax liabilities on a 'family basis' would be a good way of stimulating the fertility of the sound stocks in the community, and would have no accompanying disadvantages.
But Darwin failed to convince the Royal Commission on the Income Tax that his main proposal was either desirable or workable.81 Some of his suggestions were, indeed, adopted, in whole or in part, but this had little to do with the memorandum he submitted, and still less to do with eugenic considerations. The debate about child rebates
7 Positive Eugenics
had developed into a confrontation between differing conceptions of social justice. In this situation the ideas emanating from the E.E.S. were bound to appear, however strenuously Major Darwin sought to combat this impression, as yet another piece of special pleading from one more middle-class defence organization.
But by the 1920s, Darwin, along with most other eugenists, was less concerned with measures of positive eugenics than with restraining the multiplication of the unfit. What in practice did this demand involve ?
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