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NATURAL HISTORY OF MAN.
In a work of this kind, it may be deemed proper to give a short sketch of the Natural History of Man, though I cannot pretend to give any thing like a complete view of the subject, as it would swell this volume far beyond the limits I have assigned it.
It is remarkable, that the description and arrangement of the various productions of the globe have occupied numerous observations in all ages of the world, and every insect and plant of common occurrence has been described with minute accuracy, while the human subject has been almost entirely neglected, and, the natural history of man yet remains in its infancy.
It is but of late that this subject has begun to receive its due share of attention; and I shall venture to assert, that, whether we regard the intrinsic importance of the question, or merely advert to the pleasure that arises from the research, no subject will be found more deserving minute investigation. Nothing can more usefully engage our attention than human nature, and human life.
“ The proper study of mankind is man." His origin and his end; the structure of his body and the powers of his mind; his situation on the earth; the probable cause of the difference in colour, hair, structure, &c. are all capable of yielding us boundless and edifying instruction.
The differences which exist between the inhabitants of different regions of the globe, both in bodily conformation and in the faculties of the mind, are so striking, that they must have attracted the notice of the most superficial observer. There are two ways of explaining these. First, by referring the different races of men to different original families; according to which supposition they will form, in the language of naturalists, different species:-or, secondly, we may suppose them all to have sprung from one family, and account for the diversity which is observable in them by the influence of physical and moral causes; in which case, they will only form different varieties of the same species. Before, however, we enter upon this discussion, it will be
necessary to dispose of a previous question, viz. what are the most prominent characteristics that distinguish man from all other animals; or, those which constitute him a distinct gen us? Some writers who have pleased themselves with descriving what they call a regular gradation or chain of beings, represent man as only a superior kind of monkey, and place the unfortunate African as the connecting link between the superior races of mankind and the ourang-outang: they deny, in short, that he is generically distinguished from monkeys. Such an opinion might reasonably be expected from the slave-merchant who traffics in human blood; or from a West-Indian negro-driver who uses his creatures worse than brutes; but we must not expect to find it defended by the natural historian, whose only search is after truth, and we do not hesitate to assert that it is as false, philosophically, as the moral and political consequences to which it would lead, are shocking and detestable.
We set out with this position, that man has numerous distinctive marks, by which, under every circumstance of roughness and uncivilization, and every variety and race, he is separate at a broad and clearly defined interval from every other animal, even of those classes which, from their general resemblance to the human subject, have been called anthropomorphus. We cannot, indeed, by any means conclude with those moderns who have indulged their imaginations in painting a certain continuity or gradation of created beings; and who fancy they have discovered great wisdom of the Creator in this respect, that nature makes no leaps, but has connected the various articles of the three kingdoms with each other, like the steps of a stair-case or the links of a chain. The circumstances which distinguish man from other animals. may be considered under three divisions:1st, differences in the structure of the body; 2d, in the animal economy; 3d, in the faculties of the mind.
Under the first head we remark, as the most distinguishing peculiarity of man, bis erect stature; that majestic attitude which announces his superiority over all the other inbabitants of the globe. He is the only being adapted by his natural formation to the upright position. Enslaved to their senses, and partaking merely of physical enjoyments, other animals have their heads directed towards the earth. Man, whose elevated nature is connected to surrounding objects by moral relations, can embrace in bis mind the system of the universe, and follow the cornections of effects and causes into their most hidden recesses, and directs his sight even into the starry heavens.
The physical cause of this noble prerogative will be found in the length and breadth of the feet, in the length and strength of the lower extremities, and in the number and size of the muscles which extend the trunk upon the lower extremities. No animal is so long in gaining the power of supporting the body on its limbs, nor in acquiring its full growth. To none is there allotted such a length of life, compared with the bulk of the body; and this extension of existence must be regarded as an ample compensation for the greater length of infancy. But it is in the mind, that nobler part of man, that we find him most remarkably differing from the brute creation. And all philosophers refer, with one accord, to the enjoyment of reason as the most important prerogative of the human subject. If we enquire, however, more particularly into the meaning of this word, we shall be surprised to find what various ideas different individuals affix to the same expression. According to some, reason is a peculiar faculty of the mind, belonging exclusively to man: others consider it as a more enlarged and exquisite developement of a pow. which exists in a less degree in other animals. Some decribe it as the combination of all the higher faculties of the mind; while others assert that it is only a peculiar direction of the powers of the human mind, &c. But the subject may, perhaps, be more shortly and safely explained by considering it a posteriori, and pla- 7 cing the prerogative of man in the circumstance of his having brought all other animals under subjection to himself. That he has effected this is obvious; and it is equally clear that his dominion has has not been acquired by superior bodily strength; it can, therefore, only be referred to the powers of his mind; and to these, whatever be their nature, we give the name of reasons Man is designed to use all kinds of food; and to inhabit every climate of the world. The unlimited power which he possesses in these respects gives rise to various wants, from the infinite variety of climates, soil, and other circumstances..
Man receives, therefore, from his Creator the power of invention and of reason, which supply his wants. Hence, in the most ancient times, and by the wisest nations, the genius of invention has been honoured with divine worship. It forms the Thoth of the Egyptians, and the Hermes of the Greeks. Thus, to give a few instances, man has made tools for assisting his labour; and hence, Franklin sagaciously defined man wa tool-making animal”; he has formed arms and weapons; he has devised various means of procuring fire; and, lastly for the purpose of communicating with his fellows, he has invented speech. This, is to be accounted a most important characteristic of man, since it is not born with him, like the voices of animals, but' has been framed and brought into use by himself, as the arbitrary variety of different languages incontestably proves.
Our next point, is the consideration of the varieties of the human species and their most probable causes.
This disquisition will perhaps appear superfluous to the devout believer, whose philosophy on this point will be derived from the writings composed with the assistance of Divine Inspiration, and therefore, commanding our implicit assent. The account of the creation of the human race, and of its dispersion over the face of the globe, contained in the book of Genesis, will supercede, in his mind, the necessity of having recourse to any argument on the subject. We shall venture to submit, that the Mosaic account does not make it quite clear that the inhabitants of all the world descended from Adam and Eve., We are told, indeed, that “ Adam called his wife's name Eve because she was the mother of all living," but in the first chapter of Genesis we learn, that “God created man; male and female, created he them;" and this appears to have been previous to the formation of Eve, which did not take place until after the garden of Eden had been made. Again, we are informed in the 5th chapter of Genesis that in the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.” We find also that Cain after slaying his brother, was married, although it does not appear yet that Eve had produced any daughters; therefore, the field is open for discussion on this subject: at all events, if the descent of mankind from one stock can be proven independently of the holy writings, the conclusion will establish the authority, of these inspired annals. If we fail in tracing the succession of the human race from above downwards, much less are we able to trace any particular tribe back to their first origin, from the
present stock. To use the words of an elegant modern historian,“ neither the annals nor tradition of nations reach back to those remote ages, in which the different descendants of the first pair took possession of the different countries where they are now settled. We cannot trace the branches of this first family, nor point out with certainty the time and manner in which they divided and spread over the face of the globe. Even most enlightened people, the period of authentic history is extremely short, and every thing prior to that is fabulous and ob
We must, therefore, in tracing variations from the original stock, assign those causes, which are well known to have great influence on mankind, such as climate, manner of life, state of society, &c. occasionally deriving assistance from the analogies which are to be met with in the natural history of other animals.
In considering the cause by the operation of which species degenerate into varieties, we shall be contented with stating the facts which
the influence of such causes, without attempting to explain how they produce their effects. As there is very little of a satisfactory nature ascertained respecting this matter, we should be afraid of disgusting the sensible reader by substituting speculation in the place of more solid information. A very slight consideration will show that there is no point of difference between the several races of mankind, which has not been found to arise, in at least an equal degree, among other animals, as a mere variety, from the usual cause of degeneration. The instances of this kind are derived chiefly from domesticated animals, as they are exposed to all those causes which can produce such effects. By living with man they lead an unnatural and artificial kind of life, and are taken with him into climates and situations, and exposed to various other circumstances, altogether different from their original destination; hence they run into numerous varieties of colour, form, size, &c. which, when they are established as permanent breeds, would be considered by a person uninformed on these subjects to be originally of a different species. Wild animals on the contrary, remaining constantly in the state for which they were originally framed, retain permanently their first character. Man, the inhabitant of every climate and soil, partaking of every kind of food, and of every variety in mode of life, must be exposed still more than any other animal to the causes of degeneration.
Climate is one of the causes which seems to exercise a powerful influence on the animal economy, and the formation of the body. To this we must ascribe the white colour of several animals in the northern regions which possess other colours in more temperate countries, and why not ascribe this to man!) viz. the fox, the hare, falcon, crow, &c. That this whiteness must be ascribed to the cold of the climate is rendered probable, by the analogy of those animals which change their colour in the same country at the winter season to white or grey; as the ermine, weasel, squirrel, rein-deer, &c. &c.
The common bear is very differently coloured in different countries. Hence, also, we account for the pecular blackness of the fowls and dogs on the coast of Guinea, and for the change of the woolly covering of the sheep into hair in the same situation. The African sheep is stated to change the texture of the hair from the coarse nature of that of the camel to considerable soft ness and fineness in a few years after being brought to England which is evidently the effect of food and climate. As food, cli mate, and manner of life, are well known to produce such won