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Are We A Dying Race?

Creator: J.H. Kellogg (author)
Date: 1897
Source: Wellesley College Archives


It is the prevailing fashion at the present time, as it has perhaps been in all previous times, for men to congratulate themselves upon their superiority over their predecessors. That the present generation is superior to all others in its wealth of knowledge is, without doubt, true. It could scarcely be otherwise, since knowledge is naturally cumulative by inheritance. Libraries are inherited, as are horses, lands, and bank accounts. Observation shows that intelligence is transmitted in like manner; and there is abundant reason to believe that health, endurance, and longevity might be increased by the same method of natural accretion.


The practical question to which I wish to call attention is this: While we are evidently growing wealthier and wiser, are we growing stronger or weaker? "Weaker and wiser" the adage runs, and unfortunately the facts sustain the popular impression. Notwithstanding our marvelous accumulations of wealth and wisdom, we are certainly going down physically toward race extinction. This assertion will doubtless appear in the highest degree reckless, and perhaps absurd, in view of the well-known fact that the average length of human life has been doubled within the last two centuries, as is clearly shown by reliable vital statistics. In defense of the position taken, it may be said that vital statistics are not the true measure of the constitutional vigor of the race; the average length of life does not represent the vital capacity of the race. The true measure of vital endurance is not the average longevity, but the number of individuals per thousand or million who attain great age.


Another measure of racial vigor is the power to resist degenerative changes in the individual, as shown by the number of organic diseases; that is, such maladies as result from tissue degeneration. The fact that the average length of life in the city of Geneva two hundred years ago was only about twenty years, while at the present time, in civilized countries, the average longevity is more than forty years, does not indicate that the vigor of the race has doubled. The sole indication is that a sufficient number of persons have been kept alive to double the average.


Sanitarians pride themselves in having saved millions of lives, thus doubling the average length of human existence; and the credit claimed for sanitary science is justly its due. Nevertheless, we must not see in this great increase in the average length of human life an indication that by a continuation of the same method human longevity may be indefinitely or even very greatly increased. Sanitary science is practically a modern innovation. Two hundred years ago artificial means for limiting the natural operation of epidemics, plagues, and pestilences were almost altogether unknown, and consequently these death-dealing agencies operated as a means of natural selection, -- a weeding out of weak, weazened, puny, constitutionally tainted, and feebly resistant individuals, and a keeping alive of the strong, vigorous, pure-blooded, strong-lunged.


When cholera invades a community, although all may be exposed, not all suffer from the disease. The same is true of typhoid fever and similar maladies. The man who has a sound stomach is able to digest cholera germs as well as other vegetables; thus they are rendered incapable of doing him harm. The gastric juice of a healthy man readily destroys typhoid fever germs, and, in fact, germs of every description. The man whose liver is sound, whose hepatic vigor has not been consumed in the disinfection of the blood rendered impure by the absorption of poisons from infected food or the decomposing contents of an overloaded stomach and bowels, is able to combat successfully the poisons generated within the body by the invading microbes of typhoid or yellow fever or malignant malarial parasites, and so to bring the possessor of such a well-kept liver safely through the vital cyclone which we denominate cholera, typhoid fever, or a pernicious malarial attack; whereas the man whose liver has been spoiled by whisky, tobacco, gormandizing, excessive consumption of effete meats, or blistering condiments, succumbs to the onslaught of these disease germs, which would be powerless to injure a perfectly sound man, or one whose vital organs had been maintained measurably intact.


The plagues and pestilences of the Middle Ages acted as a measure of securing the "survival of the fittest," the result of which was a race of men many of whom were capable of living to more than three times the present average span of human existence, -- a fact which is partly obscured by the low average length of life. But this low average was simply the natural result of a high death-rate due to pestilence, which sometimes carried off millions in a single year, and actually depopulated whole cities and provinces; while at the present day sanitary science has shown us how to hold at bay such death-dealing agencies as cholera, yellow fever, smallpox, and other epidemic disorders which are found knocking at the door of our seaports almost weekly, by the erection of a sanitary cordon. The same principle applies to such maladies as scarlet fever, diphtheria, measles, and we may also say pulmonary tuberculosis, or consumption, although the latter has as yet been only to a small degree brought within the pale of sanitary restrictions.


Every one who has studied the subject of centenarianism must have been struck with the fact that examples of great age have rapidly diminished within the last century. Going back to the early ages, it is interesting to notice the uniformity with which men lived to advanced years. For instance, Abraham lived to the age of 175; his son Isaac died at the age of 180; Jacob, 147; and Ishmael, 137. Still farther back in the history of the world we find the same uniformity, with a far greater extension of life. Pliny tells us that in the time of the Emperor Vespasian, a little more than eighteen hundred years ago, there lived in the portion of Italy lying between the Apennines and the Po, one hundred and thirty-four persons who were more than one hundred years of age. Of those persons, three had reached the age of 140; four, 135; four, 130; two, 125; and fifty-seven, 110. At the present time, where could such a collection of supra-centenarians be found ? Henry Jenkins, an Englishman, was born in 1501 and died in 1670, aged 169 years, his age being proved from the registers of the Chancery Court. Old Parr, another Englishman, born in 1463, lived 152 years and nine months, and then died from high living while on a visit to the king at London. Jean Korin, a Hungarian peasant lived to the age of 172 years. It is said that at the present time the greatest number of persons above one hundred years is found in Hungary. One Hungarian peasant, born in 1537, lived to the age of 185 or 187 and was able to walk a mile only a few days before his remarkable age, which was ten years greater than Abraham and five years more than that of Isaac, was attributed to the simplicity of his diet, which consisted of simple cake of grain, with milk. There was living in Moscow in 1848 a woman aged 168 years. Van Owen tabulated ninety-one cases of death at the advanced age of 120 to 130 years, thirty-seven between 130 and 140, and twenty-eight at 160 and beyond. Lord Raleigh made famous historically the Countess Desmond, who appeared in court in the year 16l4, at the age of 140, still in the full possession of all her faculties, both mental and physical. A Dane, born in 1623, lived until his 146th year. Jean Effingham died in Cornwall in 1757, aged 144 years. Numerous other similar instances might be cited, in which persons in the centuries immediately preceding the present, have lived to an extreme age, although it must be noted that for examples of very extraordinary longevity it is necessary to go back a century or two.


Some who have studied the subject of longevity have exhibited considerable skepticism respecting the extraordinary ages recorded, notwithstanding the reliability of the evidence presented, asserting that since the Christian era no person of royal blood or of noble lineage, the length of whose life is recorded in history, has reached the age of one hundred years. This observation is easily accounted for by the fact that so-called noble blood is not conducive to long life. History records the names of very few rulers who have attained the age fourscore. Of three hundred popes, only five reached eighty years. The examples of great longevity are all to be found in the lowly ranks of life, among peasants and common laborers and a study of the habits of centenarians has shown them to be without exception, persons of simple habits of life. The majority of them used neither spirits nor tobacco, and many have abstained even from meat and stimulating foods of all kinds, living upon the simplest and most frugal fare.


The German government has recently collected some interesting statistics relating to longevity in that country. From these it appears that in 1888 there were ninety-one persons in Prussia who were over a hundred years old. Between 1864 and 1886, upwards of 7,000 persons over one hundred years of age died, and of these 155 were more than 109 years old. A study of these statistics will develop a very interesting and significant fact. If between 1864 and 1886, 7,000 persons died at the age of over 100 years, the number of deaths of this age in each year may be ascertained by dividing 7,000 by 34. The result is nearly 300, which represents the minimum average number of persons of this age alive in each year between 1864 and 1888. This does not represent the total average number of persons alive in each year between these periods, since 155 persons died who were more than 109 years of age, and there must have been at least nine times that number who were over 100 years of age, as it is not at all unlikely that there were more deaths of persons at each age less than 109 and upwards of 100 than persons over 109. Multiplying 155 by 9 and dividing by 24, gives us 58, which, added to 292, gives exactly 350 as the minimum average number of persons over 100 years of age alive each year between 1864 and 1888. In 1888, however, there were but ninety-one persons alive in Prussia who were over 100 years of age, indicating a very great decrease in longevity within twenty-four years, the total number of persons alive upwards of one hundred years being only one fourth of the average number alive at that age during the whole period of twenty-four years. The actual decline from 1864 to 1888, must, however, be much greater, since 330 represents not the number of persons alive in 1864, but the average for the entire period from 1864 to 1888.


Taking this fact into consideration, the number of persons upwards of 100 years of age alive in Prussia in 1864 must have been more than six hundred. Such a dropping off in longevity within less than a quarter of a century is certainly a most appalling and significant circumstance. This fact is one which sanitarians who write respecting the possible improvement of the human race under the influence of improved sanitation, would do well to consider. Public sanitation, quarantine laws, and general hygienic regulations serve a most useful purpose in the prevention of epidemic and endemic diseases; but the result of this protection is the keeping alive of a great number of poorly organized, constitutionally weak, hereditarily feeble individuals who would otherwise die, and so the death-rate is diminished and the average length of life is increased; but the race is not thereby benefited, but is, instead, weakened, for these defective individuals are kept alive only to intermarry with the well, and by the inexorable law of heredity their weaknesses and deficiencies are transmitted, and thus the actual constitutional vigor of the race is diminished. It thus appears that our modern boasted sanitation is not an altogether unmixed good; it is, indeed, a source of racial deterioration, since it negatives the operation of the natural law of selection. Nevertheless the writer is heartily in favor of public as well as private sanitation and would not for a moment suggest less attention to public hygiene, but more earnest attention to the hygiene of the individual, physically, mentally, and morally.


"And there were giants in those days." That the human race is degenerating in stature as well as in longevity may be clearly inferred from analogy, since the study of the fossil remains of both animals and plants shows that the earth was once peopled by gigantic beasts, -- mammals, birds, and reptiles, -- compared with which the animals living at the present time are mere pigmies. The mammoth redwoods of California are almost the only living representatives of the magnificent monarchs which once sheltered mammoths, mastodons, megatheriums, and their prodigious neighbors, but which are now buried in the measureless coal-fields of this and other countries.


The same causes which have been in operation to diminish the size of other animals have likewise affected man; in fact, the dwarfing influences to which the latter has been exposed are tenfold more numerous and potent than those which have operated upon the lower animals. Putting aside the fabulous accounts of giants twenty or thirty feet high, which are doubtless based upon the bones of extinct animals, we find authentic records of measurements of many men more than eight feet in height who lived during the two or three centuries prior to the present. In 1555 three brothers, surnamed Og, Gog, and Magog, who were each over eight feet in height, guarded the Tower of London. The Duke of Hanover had in his court in the seventeenth century, a yeoman who measured eight feet six inches in height. The famous commentator, Dr. Adam Clarke, measured a man who was eight feet six inches tall. O'Brien, the Irish giant, whose skeleton stands in the museum in the Royal College of Surgery in London, measured eight feet four inches in height. It is not probable that there could be collected at the present time from the whole world such a company of men as Frederick the Great's regiment, one of whom, the Scotch giant, measured eight feet three inches. Men who are at the present time exhibited as giants, although said to measure eight feet, are rarely found to be more than seven and a half feet, and very frequently less. Great statures are not usually found at the present time to coexist with great longevity, but rather the reverse. The vigor of the race seems to have deteriorated to such a degree as to render impossible the co-existence of these two marked evidences of extraordinary vitality.


We are developing various defective varieties of the human race; by keeping our blind and deaf and dumb in asylums by themselves they are led to intermarry, and so their defects are propagated by heredity. The great number of men, women, and children confined in counting-rooms, stores, factories, and at various sedentary employments, is developing a deformed creature which might be termed "the sedentary man," who is known by his round shoulders, his flat, hollow, feeble chest, his weak heart, his sunken stomach, his lax and puny muscles, his sallow, sunken, and lusterless eye. This class is already many hundred thousand strong, and is growing daily, through the mad rush of young men and women from the country into the cities and towns, attracted by the unhealthful amusements and so-called advantages of city life. The consumptive variety of the genus homo is so rapidly increasing in numbers that at the present time one seventh of all who die, die of that one dread disease, "the great white plague," -- consumption. More numerous still is an enormous class of individuals who may properly be denominated "the disinherited."


A philosopher has said, "It is the greatest of a felicities to be well born." Unfortunately, not all human beings enjoy this felicity. Indeed, it is yearly becoming more and more apparent that an increasing proportion of human beings are badly born. In every large city are to be found thousands who belong to what are known as the vicious, the criminal, or the indigent or pauper classes. For the most part, these persons are born into the condition in which they are destined to spend their lives, and are little more responsible for the unhappy situation in which they find themselves than are the deaf and dumb, the blind, or those who are in other respects congenitally deformed. The only difference between the infirmities from which these persons suffer and those with which the cripple, the blind, or the deaf are afflicted, is that their physical deficiencies are less conspicuous. They are, nevertheless, as real. Their deformities consist in bad or abnormal construction of the brain, although a minute examination will reveal, in the majority of persons belonging to these inferior classes, external deformities of a very pronounced character.


Another class of deformities which may be recognized, perhaps more commonly among the so-called "upper" classes, include such congenital defects as flat or narrow chest, weakness of the heart, feeble digestive powers, a neurotic temperament, and various idiosyncrasies of mind and body. Heredity is a force which operates in the most thoroughgoing manner. Every human being is the product of a principle which has been taking notes of the lives and habits, the neglects, the excesses, and the abuses, of every crime against the body through all the generations from Adam down to the individual man in question. The living man or woman is simply the material representation, the focus or vortex, so to speak, of the myriad of influences which have been operating from the earliest ages of man's history down to the moment of inspection.


Man's physical, mental, and moral character is as much a matter of heredity as is the capital of wealth with which he starts out in life. The man who lives the life of the spendthrift and dies bankrupt, leaves his children penniless. Sometimes it takes a series of generations to consume completely the accumulated earnings of preceding generations. So it is with bodily and mental health. The complete mental and physical bankruptcy which lands a man in the insane asylum or alms-house infirmary may be simply the result of two or three generations of sins against the body and the soul on the part of profligate ancestors. "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge."


The world looks with disdain upon the money spendthrift. The man who recklessly squanders the family inheritance and leaves his children penniless is regarded by the world as little short of a criminal, a thief, a robber. What does society say about the man who by a process exactly identical, disinherits his children of that most valuable of all possessions - soundness of body and mind ? Society ignores the sins of this class of criminals, never asking a man to consider the consequences of his course of life upon his possible progeny, but allows him to squander, without questioning his right, the constitutions of unborn children, in open violation of the law by which nature has protected the well-being of the human race.


One of the most conclusive evidences of the degeneration of the race is to be found in the astonishing rate at which insanity and imbecility have increased within the last forty or fifty years. According to Dr. Wines, the number of insane per million persons in the United States increased between 1850 and 1890 from 673 to 1,700 ; and the number of feeble-minded persons or imbeciles per million increased from 681 to 1,527. In other words, the number of feeble-minded per thousand or million at the present time is nearly three times as great as fifty years ago; and the same is true with reference to the insane in Great Britain and Ireland, older countries, and in which certain causes of degeneracy have been even more active than in this country, the number of insane per million having increased in thirty years -- that is, between 1862 and 1891 -- from 1,810 to 3,070. From these facts, for which I am indebted to Dr. Arthur McGugan, of the Michigan Asylum for the Insane, it appears that the process of degeneracy going on in this country is likewise proceeding at a similar rate in other countries.


That this great increase of individuals who are mentally deficient is largely owing to the influence of heredity cannot be questioned, since it has been shown by careful observations made by Dr. Hurd, of the Eastern Michigan Hospital for Insane, that the evil effects of intemperance are to be recognized most clearly in the extraordinary frequency of insanity and mental deficiency in the children of drunkards.


An increase of ten per cent in the proportion of defectives occurring within fifty years would be an appalling fact. It would mean, if continued long enough, complete race demoralization and extinction; it would be an unmistakable indication of progress downward instead of upward, of retrogression instead of real race progression. A-ten-per cent. increase in the proportion of defectives in fifty years would mean at least a doubling in five hundred years, and starting with ten defectives of all classes per thousand (the number is much larger than this) and doubling every five hundred years, it would require only three or four thousand years to render the whole population defective, provided there was no increase in the rate of downward progress, and we know perfectly well that race degeneration gains momentum like a falling body.


But it is not so small an increase as a gain of ten per cent in fifty years to which we call attention; instead, it is an increase of nearly three hundred per cent., or thirty times the small ratio named. Let us look for a moment at the significance of this enormous rate of racial deterioration. Suppose, for example, that defectives should continue to increase at the rate of three hundred per cent. every fifty years, as during the last fifty years; starting with the supposition that there are to be found in our population at the present time at least thirty defectives to every one thousand persons (the number is doubtless greater than this), let us see where we should land a few centuries hence. In fifty years the number of defectives per thousand would be three times thirty, or ninety; fifty years later, or at the end of the twenty-first century, the number would be three times ninety, or two hundred and seventy; fifty years later, or about the year 2050, the number of defectives would have increased to eight hundred and ten per thousand; and long before another half century -- even before the lapse of another quarter of a century, or somewhere about the year 2060, the number of defectives would be one thousand to the thousand, or, in other words, the whole population would be degenerates.


These facts show beyond controversy that the human race, even in the most civilized lands, and where are afforded the greatest freedom and the best conditions for physical, mental, and moral health which any country offers, as in the United States, is going downward at a most appallingly rapid pace. And this deterioration is not simply physical, as shown by the number of physically weak individuals, but it is mental and moral as well. A few are recognizing these facts, and it is this recognition which is giving rise to the erection of gymnasia, the organization of gymnastic clubs, health associations, and various societies which have for their purpose the physical, mental, and moral improvement of the race; but unfortunately these influences affect but a very small percentage of the population. Probably not more than two or three per cent. of the entire population of any of our great cities are to any considerable extent benefited by the efforts which are thus made in behalf of the physical improvement of the individual.


The increasing use of tobacco and of intoxicating liquors, the increase of sexual vices, and the operation of various other deteriorating causes, far outweigh the little that is being done in the opposite direction; and hence it is apparent that without the adoption of some more radical and thoroughgoing measures than those in operations, there is nothing before the race but degeneration and ultimate extinction, and that not many hundred years ahead.


What will be the condition of civilized nations four or five centuries hence, when society is entirely composed of degenerates, and when the whole lump of humanity is permeated with the leaven of physical, mental, and moral perversion? How much longer time will be retired for complete race extinction? My figures may not be exact, and I am not disposed to set a particular date at which the last puny, weazened, infirm specimen of the genus homo shall expire "without medical assistance" and "without benefit of clergy;" but the awful fact stares us in the face that we are going down at a rate which, unless materially diminished, will at a time not many centuries distant, bury the race in oblivion, and that this rapid rate of decay is more likely to be accelerated than diminished, unless some new and powerful agency is set in operation whereby the downward progress shall be stayed.


Through the almost universal ignoring of the duty devolving upon every human being to preserve intact, as far as possible, the natural powers transmitted to him from his ancestors, and by training and painstaking development make the most of them, we find the human race deteriorating in physical stamina, and a rapidly growing multitude of "disinherited" individuals who are born into physical, mental, and moral bankruptcy. It is high time that society gave more serious attention to this great class of bankrupts by heredity, from which springs the greater share of crimes and criminals, cranks, lunatics, fanatics, and imbeciles.


Public health measures protect the weak, not the strong: the strong man is able to take care of himself. The perfectly healthy man, adhering to the divinely appointed laws of his being, is able to cope successfully with any germ which he is likely to encounter under the natural conditions of life. Barbarous nations maintain the standard of racial vigor by destroying the weak and feeble. The ancient Romans tolerated, and at one time even encouraged, infanticide, making it the duty of the midwife to strangle at birth deformed or puny infants. But the spirit of our modern Christian civilization is to succor the weak, to protect and preserve the feeble. The hard-hearted medical editor who recently argued at great length in favor of the proposition to kill all idiots, received no support from his medical brethren, it being evident that any argument which would justify the killing of idiots would make equally proper the killing of incurably insane persons and the helpless, blind, and aged, -- perhaps also the crippled and deformed, the cancerous, and other incurables.


The genius of Christianity, however, is not the dominance of the strong, but the protection of the weak: he is greatest who serves most. Here seem to be two principles at war with each other, -- a principle in the natural world tending to the weeding out of the feeble and weakly, and the principle in the spiritual world demanding the sacrifice of the strong for the weak. If to be perfectly natural is to be truly spiritual, as the writer believes, there ought to be some way of reconciling these conflicting principles. It certainly will not do to maintain that quarantine laws shall be abolished, and that cholera, typhus, and the black death be allowed to ravage the densely populated cities of today as they did those of the Middle Ages.


The remedy is to be found, not in the abolition of public hygiene, but in the cultivation of private hygiene. More attention must be given to the training of the individual: men and women must be made to see that the prevalent conditions of our modern civilization are anti-natural, and tend to the deterioration of the vital powers and the development of disease.


This subject is too large to be treated exhaustively in a brief paper, and I shall undertake only to mention what seem to me to be some of the most important deteriorating forces which, operating in connection with public sanitation, are tending slowly but surely toward final race extinction.


First in importance, because of its wide-spread character and the profound mischief which it works in the human organism, must be mentioned the narcotic habit. Whatever may be the particular poison to which the individual is addicted, whether alcohol, tobacco, opium, cocaine, tea or coffee, chloral, absinth or hashish, the vice is one and the same. It is the gratification of the desire for artificial stimulation, the craving for unearned felicity. While alcohol, tobacco, opium, cocaine, and chloral must be placed at the head of the formidable list of drugs which are capable of producing a temporary exhilaration at the expense of subsequent depression and ultimate degeneration, the other drugs named, if less potently mischievous, are nevertheless evil and only evil in their tendency, a fact which is steadily forcing itself more and more upon public attention, after having long been recognized by the observing and sagacious medical man.


The recent studies of Andriesen, Tuke, Hodge, and others have shown how these drugs destroy man, soul and body, by producing degeneration of the delicate fibers by means of which nerve-cells communicate with one another, thus isolating the individual units of the cerebrum, and so destroying memory, co-ordination, will, and judgment, and wrecking the individual physically, mentally, and morally. Nine Hundred million dollars spent annually for drink and an almost equal amount expended for other poisons is a thunder-voiced fact telling of race degeneration proceeding at a hurricane pace.


Next in the category of destructive forces, I must enumerate the slavery to conventional dress, which binds or holds our mothers, sisters, and daughters in a grip so strong that a quarter of a century of earnest agitation has only just begun the work of emancipation. A careful study of this subject during the last twenty-five years has convinced me that, aside from the liquor and tobacco habits, there is no deteriorating force which deals such destructive blows against the constitution of the race as the unphysiological customs in dress which prevail among civilized American women. Scarcely a woman can be found who has reached the age of twenty-five or thirty, and has worn the conventional dress, who is not suffering from dislocation of the stomach, the kidneys, the bowels, or some other important internal organ, the displacement of which is a far greater calamity than the dislocation of a shoulder, a hip, or any other joint. The present outlook is, however, somewhat hopeful. The bicycle has forever delivered women from the thraldom of long skirts, and gives encouragement that the necessity for breathing capacity may yet banish the corset and its accompanying tight bands.


Next in the list I will venture to mention a cause which decency usually seeks to keep out of sight, but which duty forbids me to ignore; namely, sensualism. Physicians, perhaps better than any others, understand how deep this evil strikes into the vitals of society, and how wide-spread it is in all ranks and conditions of life. Public prostitution is certainly the grossest, but it is by no means the largest nor the most pernicious, phase of this evil. Its full meaning can only be appreciated by the physiologist who comprehends the fact that the functions on which depend the divine possibilities of fatherhood and motherhood also embrace the potency of physical and mental manhood and womanhood. The secret forces which operate to perpetuate the race, at the same time serve in a marvelous way, first, to develop in the individual manly or womanly traits and instincts, second, to supply an ever-needed source of vital force and energy. The diversion and abuse of the most sacred of all the bodily functions must be held responsible for a vast amount of individual incapacity and a large share of the growing racial weakness.


Another mischief-working influence to which the attention of physicians is constantly drawn is that to which the eminent Darwin forcibly calls attention in the following words: "A man scans with scrupulous care the character and pedigree of his horses, cattle, and dogs before mating them; but when it comes to his own marriage, he rarely or never takes any such care." In a paper read before the Academy of Medicine at Buffalo, a few months ago, Dr. Rulison gave statistics showing clearly that the criminal, the insane, and the defective classes are increasing at a most alarming rate. To use his own words: "The unhealthy and vicious class is increasing more rapidly than the desirable one. In the days of Malthus the danger lay in the population's increasing more rapidly than the means of subsistence; this danger no longer threatens, but a more serious one, in the survival and overwhelming increase of imperfect physical and mental beings."


Dr. Rulison suggests as a remedy that in every community a medical examining board should be constituted, and that society should be divided into three classes: first, those who are physically, mentally, and morally sound, having good habits and no hereditary disease for at least three preceding generations; second, those having the same physical qualifications, but with a family history extending back only to their grandparents; third, those not included in the preceding classes. He would have such laws enacted as would prohibit the intermarriage of persons of different classes. The effect of this would be to create an aristocracy of health. The inquiry would be, not, "How much is the young man or young woman worth in bonds, bank stock, or real estate?" but, "How much is he worth within himself?" not, "How much gold does he expect to inherit?" but, "What sort of a constitution has he inherited?" Royal blood would thus be red blood, and not blue blood. When the importance of these facts, to both the individual and to the race, comes to be recognized fully, it will result in the establishment of a nobility of health, rather than a nobility based upon wealth or position.


Dr. Rulison's idea respecting the regulation of marriage by law is doubtless Utopian and impracticable, but this is true only because the importance of this matter is neither understood nor appreciated, and is not likely to receive due recognition for a long time to come.


So-called luxuries and unhealthful recreations are certainly chargeable with no inconsiderable share of the damage inflicted upon our degenerating race. Superfluities in diet, so-called dainty foods, rich, complicated, and consequently indigestible dishes, -- pies and desserts, the rich sauces and entrées innumerable in name and composition, but nearly uniform in indigestibility, -- are just about as well adapted to the making of bones and brains and muscles as to the making of a house.


Some years ago an itinerant clergyman, traveling through a Western State, spent the night with a farmer, and in the morning sat down with the rest around the breakfast table, to prepare for the long horseback journey which lay before him. The host invited him to ask a blessing upon the food about to be eaten. The reverend gentleman glanced over the table, taking a mental inventory of the food prepared for the dozen hungry mouths awaiting it. There were hot biscuits steaming from the oven, semitransparent with lard and yellow with saleratus; there were savory mince-pies, rich preserves, pickles green as grass, coffee black as ink, fried pork, fried eggs, fried potatoes, and a generous supply of doughnuts on the sideboard. Pausing a moment, after his survey of the indigestible viands, with a solemn voice the clergyman said, "Friends, this breakfast is not worth a blessing," and concluding that a breakfast not worth a blessing was not worth eating, he went on his journey without it. The farmer doubtless considered the blunt preacher a very ungrateful guest, and it is doubtful whether the lesson was of any practical value to him; but certain it is that a great share of the breakfasts and dinners eaten are not fit to be blessed or to be swallowed.


Theater-going, fashionable parties, and the giddy round of so-called pleasures furnish another cause which has ruined the constitutions of thousands of men and women. The wholesome, simple, sensible measures of our grandparents are no longer tolerated by the precocious youth of the present day.


Another most important factor in the deterioration of civilized races is to be found in the unnatural conditions imposed during the school-going period of life, -- many long hours spent in poring over books, sitting in an unnatural posture in an overheated and ill-ventilated schoolroom, the cramming system too much in vogue in all public schools, the distaste which the cultivated habit of inactivity develops for vigorous muscular work, together with wrong conceptions of life which are the natural result of our medieval system of education, turn out, every year, at the season for college and university commencements, a growing army of school cripples, lean, cadaverous young men and women, "sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought," and maimed for life unless an unusually vigorous constitution or extraordinarily favorable circumstances enable them to recover from the damaging influences to which they have been subjected.


The writer is in full accord with the New York professor who believes that our universities ought to build up an aristocracy; but he differs widely from that learned gentleman in the sort of aristocracy which a university education ought to produce. What we want is an aristocracy of Christian manhood and womanhood, an aristocracy of men and women who believe that the body is the temple of the Holy Ghost; that man was made in God's image, and that God himself dwells in the human form divine; that to abuse it is to insult God; that to squander one's vital forces is as much a sin as to break open a safe or execute a forgery. Our race deterioration will not cease until we again write over our sanctuaries of learning and of worship the motto the ancient Greeks carved above the portals of their temples, "A sound mind in a sound body." We must recognize as a solemn reality that religion includes the body, and that the laws which govern the healthful performance of the bodily functions are as much the laws of God as those of the decalogue. So long as man regards his body as a harp of pleasure, to be played upon as long as its strings can be made to vibrate, so long will he continue to travel down the hill of physical decadence and degeneration in spite of quarantine laws and the most minute sanitary regulations. But when he recognizes his divine origin and obligations, and himself as the crowning masterpiece of creation, his body a precious thing, to be sacredly preserved, developed, expanded, and purified for service to humanity, in this world, and a never-ending opportunity for development and joyous existence in the world to come, -- then only will he begin to climb toward the heights from which he has fallen, where he may once more stand forth as the crowning glory of creation, the masterpiece of God, "the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals."




The facts to which the writer called attention in the above paper, read before the Civic, Hygienic, and Philanthropic Conference held at Battle Creek, Mich., seem to have stirred up quite a tempest among the newspapers of the country, hundreds of which have printed the paper or copious extracts from it, with or without comments.


With very few exceptions, the comments made have indicated a recognition of the startling truth to which we have undertaken to call attention; viz., that in spite of our boasted advantages, and the marvelous progress which has been made in sanitary science along many different lines, we are going down both physically and mentally.


That we are not improving physically is shown by the increase of diseases of degeneracy, such as Bright's disease, chronic nervous disorders, insanity, imbecility, and epilepsy, as well as by the patent fact that the capacity for great age is rapidly disappearing, as shown by the rapidly decreasing proportion of individuals who attain the age of one hundred years and upward.


That we are not improving mentally is clearly shown by the increase of crime, which statistics show to be going on at a most appalling rate. Confirmation of this statement may be found in the police court records of any large city. The proportion of city population is steadily increasing. The number of murders committed every year per thousand inhabitants is far greater than a hundred years ago, the number of inebriates many times greater.


The increasing frequency of lynchings, not only in the more recently settled and unorganized portions of the country, but in our older communities, in which it would seem that civilization had had an opportunity to accomplish in the most thorough manner its work of physical and moral improvement, is a matter which is coming to be a cause of grave concern to thousands of serious-minded people. Whether this growing frequency in the application of mob law is due to the increasing frequency of crime and the boldness of criminals or to an increase of disrespect for the civil authorities on the part of the people does not matter much, since the indication is clear in either case that morality is, on the whole, not increasing.


Still another evidence of race deterioration is the extinction of instinct, especially among the civilized branches of the human race. Instinct is the natural means by which an animal is warned of threatened danger. A monkey in a forest knows instinctively what he should eat, and what he must avoid. A savage Indian is almost equally protected by his native instincts. But the civilized man has cultivated perverse tastes and unnatural appetites for so long a time and to so great an extent that the natural protective instincts have been almost wholly obliterated, and the evil practises which grow out of these abnormal appetites and desires are rapidly destroying the civilized races in all parts of the world. Even the savage tribes, which, under the influence of missionary enterprises, are led to adopt the habits of civilization, are thereby soon led into rapid decay and degeneracy, as is illustrated in the rapidly disappearing Sandwich Islanders, and the complete extinction of the natives of Tasmania within a generation.


It is doubtless the case that there is a class of intelligent men and women who, recognizing the moral obligation to obey the laws of health, are seeking to lead physiological lives, and are thereby improving physically. But this class is very small compared with the great mass of the whole community.


The same may be said with reference to morals. There are doubtless a considerable number of good people who are growing better. At the same time there is a vast multitude of evil persons who are becoming worse.


It is perfectly true that the world is moving forward in the way of discovery, invention, and various other lines of progress and it would be very delightful indeed to believe that in physical and moral improvement we are keeping pace with intellectual and material advancement; but unfortunately the facts do not conform to this view.


What the world needs is a John the Baptist to proclaim the gospel of health, -- a voice crying in the wilderness of disease, degeneracy, and death, and pointing the way upward and away from the awful fate which threatens the race, to a healthier, nobler life, -- a life based upon a recognition of the fact that the body is a temple of God, a divine gift, which we are under sacred obligations to preserve. The door of salvation stands open for all who will enter it. This door leads into the highway of righteousness, which means not simply church-going, contributions to charity, religious formalism, but a recognition of the claims of the great decalogue which, if followed, leads man to right-doing in all his relations to life, physical, mental, and moral.


The only thing that can stay the downward progress of the race is the practical recognition of our obligation to obey all the precepts of the great decalogue which God has established for the physical, mental, and moral well being of man. The only way in which men and women can be led to do this is by the wide dissemination of the true principles of normal and healthful living. Schools of health ought to be established in every community, to give instruction in healthful cookery, healthful dress, physical training, domestic sanitation, and all that pertains to the physical well-being of the home and the individual, and the principles of right living.