Madison Grant’s The Passing of the Great Race, published in 1916, is a classic in race studies. Below, a few excerpts from “The Competition of Races” (no ellipsis added):
Man continuously undergoes selection through the operation of the forces of social environment. Among native Americans of the Colonial period a large family was an asset and social pressure and economic advantage counselled both early marriage and numerous children. Two hundred years of continuous political expansion and material prosperity changed these conditions and children, instead of being an asset to till the fields and guard the cattle, became an expensive liability. They now require support, education and endowment from their parents and a large family is regarded by some as a serious handicap in the social struggle.
These conditions do not obtain at first among immigrants, and large families among the newly arrived population are still the rule, precisely as they were in Colonial America and are to-day in French Canada where backwoods conditions still prevail.
The result is that one class or type in a population expands more rapidly than another and ultimately replaces it. This process of replacement of one type by another does not mean that the race changes or is transformed into another. It is a replacement pure and simple and not a transformation.
The lowering of the birth rate among the most valuable classes, while the birth rate of the lower classes remains unaffected, is a frequent phenomenon of prosperity. Such a change becomes extremely injurious to the race if unchecked, unless nature is allowed to maintain by her own cruel devices the relative numbers of the different classes in their due proportions. To attack race suicide by encouraging indiscriminate reproduction is not only futile but is dangerous if it leads to an increase in the undesirable elements. What is needed in the community most of all is an increase in the desirable classes, which are of superior type physically, intellectually and morally and not merely an increase in the absolute numbers of the population.
The value and efficiency of a population are not numbered by what the newspapers call souls, but by the proportion of men of physical and intellectual vigor. The small Colonial population of America was, on an average and man for man, far superior to the present inhabitants, although the latter are twenty-five times more numerous. The ideal in eugenics toward which statesmanship should be directed is, of course, improvement in quality rather than quantity. This, however, is at present a counsel of perfection and we must face conditions as they are.
Where altruism, philanthropy or sentimentalism intervene with the noblest purpose and forbid nature to penalize the unfortunate victims of reckless breeding, the multiplication of inferior types is encouraged and fostered. Indiscriminate efforts to preserve babies among the lower classes often result in serious injury to the race.
Mistaken regard for what are believed to be divine laws and a sentimental belief in the sanctity of human life tend to prevent both the elimination of defective infants and the sterilization of such adults as are themselves of no value to the community. The laws of nature require the obliteration of the unfit and human life is valuable only when it is of use to the community or race.
The church assumes a serious responsibility toward the future of the race whenever it steps in and preserves a defective strain. Before eugenics were understood much could be said from a Christian and humane viewpoint in favor of indiscriminate charity for the benefit of the individual. The societies for charity, altruism or extension of rights, should have in these days, however, in their management some small modicum of brains, otherwise they may continue to do, as they have sometimes done in the past, more injury to the race than black death or smallpox.
Efforts to increase the birth rate of the genius producing classes of the community, while most desirable, encounter great difficulties. In such efforts we encounter social conditions over which we have as yet no control. It was tried two thousand years ago by Augustus and his efforts to avert race suicide and the extinction of the old Roman stock were singularly prophetic of what some far seeing men are attempting in order to preserve the race of native Americans of Colonial descent.
Under modern social conditions it would be extremely difficult in the first instance to determine which were the most desirable types, except in the most general way and even if a satisfactory selection were finally made, it would be in a democracy a virtual impossibility to limit by law the right to breed to a privileged and chosen few.
Experiments in limiting reproduction to the undesirable classes were unconsciously made in mediaeval Europe under the guidance of the church. After the fall of Rome social conditions were such that all those who loved a studious and quiet life were compelled to seek refuge from the violence of the times in monastic institutions and upon such the church imposed the obligation of celibacy and thus deprived the world of offspring from these desirable classes.
In the Middle Ages, through persecution resulting in actual death, life imprisonment and banishment, the free thinking, progressive and intellectual elements were persistently eliminated over large areas, leaving the perpetuation of the race to be carried on by the brutal, the servile and the stupid. It is now impossible to say to what extent the Roman Church by these methods has impaired the brain capacity of Europe. No better method of eliminating the genius producing strains of a nation could be devised and if such were its purpose the result was eminently satisfactory, as is demonstrated by the superstitious and unintelligent Spaniard of to-day. A similar elimination of brains and ability took place in northern Italy, in France and in the Low Countries, where hundreds of thousands of Huguenots were murdered or driven into exile.
Under existing conditions the most practical and hopeful method of race improvement is through the elimination of the least desirable elements in the nation by depriving them of the power to contribute to future generations. It is well known to stock breeders that the color of a herd of cattle can be modified by continuous destruction of worthless shades and of course this is true of other characters. Black sheep, for instance, have been practically obliterated by cutting out generation after generation all animals that show this color phase, until in carefully maintained flocks a black individual only appears as a rare sport.