Page images

bution, has, like other branches of know- | fulfil the purport of the larger title before ledge, been continually enlarged by the us. The philosopher, living in the compaaccession of new facts and new methods of rative seclusion of one community, may research. It has become more copious in indeed, like Blumenbach and Prichard, conits details, more exact in all its conclusions. struct & science from the labours of those Aided and emboldened by its growing con- cosmopolite travellers who have studied nexion with other sciences, and by the num- mankind on a bold and broad scale, under ber of eminent men who have given their every diversity of region and race. But, labours this direction, it has of late years generally speaking, the tendency of common especially made rapid progress; embracing, life and habitual pursuits in the most civiltogether with the kindred subject of ethno. [ized communities is to narrow, by division logy, some of the most curious questions and refinement, all great views of the human which come within the range of human race. The social pictures of man, found in inquiry.

What we have said thus generally is well illustrated by the course of Dr. Prichard's own researches. A Latin thesis, De Humani Generis Varietate, written and printed at Edinburgh in 1809, when he took his degree there, forms the basis of all that he has since so elaborately performed. It is a bold and able treatise, considering the materials he then had in his hands. The theme, pursued with unremitting zeal, grew into a large volume published in 1821, entitled Researches into the Physical History of Mankind; and it is the third edition of this work, enlarged gradually to five volumes by a perseverance in the same diligent inquiry, which we now have before us. The volume entitled The Natural History of Man, is a sort of summary of it, suggested probably by the need of comprising the new materials which had accrued while the other volumes successively appeared.*

poetry, history, essay, or romance, will explain our meaning. They are for the most part individualities of character or custom, which tend rather, to curtail than enlarge the outline of inquiry, and in truth have little relation to the Natural History of Man, as a part of creation at large. Even the moral and religious feelings are concerned in giving their tone and temper to such investigations, differently defining the objects and pursuing them by separate routes. And further, these objects are in themselves so numerous, and their natural aspects of such endless variety, that we can scarcely wonder at the vague understanding of the questions which lie at the bottom of the wholequestions well worthy, nevertheless, of all the learning and ingenuity given to their solution.

Whatever may be the causes, certain it is that the physical history of man has only recently taken its place as a definite branch We are further justified in presenting this of science. The ancient philosophers dealt subject to our readers, from the conviction with it loosely, imperfectly, and erroneousthat the great questions it involves are still ly. Their limited knowledge of the surface only partially appreciated, by those familiar with other branches of science. The history of Man, as a denizen of the earth, has indeed been conceived and pursued in many different ways, according to the objects, genius, or opportunity of those engaged in the study; but these portraitures which have severally presented him as

of the earth, their entire ignorance of whole existing races of mankind-the prejudices of their mythology-and their general want of appreciation of scientific evidence, the preference of the doğa to the iriornun-these difficulties which, in their totality, even the genius of Aristotle could not surmount, may readily be admitted in explanation of the fact we have stated. Passing over the earlier but ambiguous researches of Camper, we may affirm that the true foundation of the science was laid by Professor Blumenbach of Göttingen, whose long life of honourable labour clos* Dr. Prichard's other writings, whether philo-ed not many years ago. His celebrated collogical or medical, warrant further what we have said of his merits as a philosophical inquirer. His lection of skulls (which we have ourselves character was one of great simplicity, zealous in examined under his guidance) obtained by the pursuit of everything true and useful in science. unwearied perseverance from every part of His death may well be termed premature, inas- the globe, suggested new relations, and more much as the peculiar subject of his successful re-extended and exact inquiries in prosecution

The glory, jest and riddle of the world, are partial and subordinate, and in nowise

search was before him to the last. We are indebt

ed to Dr. Symonds of Bristol for a very interesting of one branch of the subject. The researchmemoir on his life and writings, and find every es and writings of Cuvier, Humboldt, Lawcause to wish it had extended to greater length. rence, Owen, Tiedeman, Rudolfi, and other The events indeed are few, but it is always agree-physiologists, while differing in certain conclusions, have continually enlarged the

able and useful to trace the workings of an ingenuous mind steadily devoted to one great object.

we may add, the difficulty of the theme, depend mainly on his condition as an intellectual being, whereby his whole existence on earth is defined, and the relations of races and communities of men created and maintained.

scope of the science, and concentrated the re- | mark man as the head of the animal creasults obtained by travellers and naturalists- tion. The peculiarity, the grandeur, and thus augmenting the means upon which the removal of these differences and the certainty of all conclusions must eventually depend. Philology, meanwhile, has come largely in aid of the inquiry, and the study and classification of languages, indicated more remotely by Scaliger, Bacon, and Leibnitz, has grown into a vast body of authentic knowledge, ministering through new and unexpected relations to the history of the races and communities of mankind. The names of Adelung, Schlegel, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Remusat, Grimm, Klaproth, Rask, Bunsen, Meyer, &c. indicate the more conspicuous of those who have advanced this science abroad. In our own country we may cite Harris, Horne Tooke, Sir W. Jones, Wilkins, Marsden, Young, Prichard, Latham, &c., as worthy

associates in the same learned career.

The physical history of mankind, derived from these sources, has now assumed its place as one of the most eminent branches of natural science-assuredly one of the most interesting, in expounding to man his natural relations to the rest of creation on the globe, and those progressive causes of change which have unceasingly modified his condition here, and may continue to affect and alter it in ages yet to come.

For what are we fitly to understand as comprised in the titles of the works before us? In stating it to be the natural history of man, as a branch of that larger science which includes the physical history of all organized life on the globe, we give but a meagre conception of the subject. Vegetable life, individually fixed to one spotgenerically distributed into different regions so as to form an especial science of botanical geography-limited by climate, soil, and other circumstances, though capable of vast changes by culture-all this, while furnishing much of curious illustration and analogy, can only slightly represent to us what pertains to the physical history of the human race. When we rise in the scale of creation through the innumerable forms and gradations of animal life, and reach those wonderful instincts, and yet higher functions of intelligence and feeling in certain animals, which Aristotle well calls punuara rns avApwrivns was, though finding some of the analogies to approach more closely, still are we far below the level of those great questions which regard the human species-the origin, dispersion, and mutual relation of the various races of mankind. To mere physical evidence are here added other and higher methods of proof, connected with the exercise of those mental faculties which

And here we touch upon the question which may be said to govern the whole subject, and which we cannot better or more briefly define than in Dr. Prichard's own words:

'It will be the principal object of the following work to collect data for elucidating the inquiry, whether all the races of men scattered over the surface of the earth, distinguished as they are from each other in structure of body, in features, and in colour, and differing in languages and have descended respectively from several original manners, are the offspring of a single stock, or families? This problem is so extensive in its bearings, and in many particulars so intricate and complex, that I can scarcely hope to discover evidence conclusive in respect to every part of the investigation. I shall endeavour to collect and throw upon it all the light that can be obtained from different sources.'

We have said that this question, as to the unity and single origin of the human race, governs the whole subject; and it does so in the obvious sense, that if the fact be admitted or proved (as far as proof is attainable), certain other collateral questions at once disappear. If, for instance, it can be rendered our belief that all mankind, certain to throughout all ages of human existence on the globe-in all their innumerable varieties of form, colour, customs, and languagehave been derived from one single pair, nothing remains but to investigate the causes, physical and moral, which have produced from this unity of origin the wonderful diversities everywhere visible. A subject wide enough in truth to satisfy the most eager speculator! yet well defined in its limits, and even in many of the lines through which research must be pursued. But this simpler form of the question is not permitted to us: the point is one upon which naturalists of eminence have held very different opinions. It has been contended not only that there is no proof of the derivation of mankind from a single pair, but that the probability is against it.

Some have adventured to suppose an absolute difference of species in the beings thus placed by the Creator on the earth. Many have adopted the idea of detached acts of creation, through which certain of the more prominent races had their separate origin in different localities-interblending afterwards, so as to give rise to those subor. dinate varieties which we see so numerously

around us. Others again, putting aside the notion of the immutability of species, have boldly hazarded the belief that inferior animal organizations, either fortuitously or by necessities or latent laws of nature, may have risen into the human form: and this under conditions so far unlike, as to give origin to the more remarkable diversities which have perplexed our ideas of unity, and puzzled both philosopher and physiologist to explain.

Before going further, we may briefly advert to a point which must already have occurred to every reader. Has not this question been long ago settled on the authority of Scripture so as to preclude all further discussion upon it? Are we entitled to go beyond, and to risk any portion of our faith, upon statements or inductions derived from other sources, if contradicting the interpretations commonly given to this higher authority?

In doing this we shall not bind ourselves closely to Dr. Prichard's arrangement, but seek in the shorter space at our disposal to put forward those points which bear most cogently on the conclusion just denoted. On some of these points we think that neither he, nor other writers, have been explicit enough, or given them their full weight in the argument. We shall endeavour to place the evidence in as clear a form as possible, and to aid those unacquainted with the subject in comprehending its relative value and effect.

What then are the sources of knowledge, what the methods of research, through which to arrive at, or approximate to, the solution of this inquiry? They may best, we believe, be classed under three heads :-First, the Physiological, including all that relates to the physical conformation of Man-his mental endowments-the question of the unity or plurality of species-and the laws which license or limit the deviations from a common standard. Secondly, the Philological, including all that relates to human languages-their connexions, diversities, the theory of the changes they undergo, and the history of such actual changes, as far as we can follow it. Thirdly, the Historicaltaking the term in its largest sense, as including all written history, inscriptions, traditions, mythology, and even the more common usages which designate and distinguish the different communities of mankind.

The question is one not new to modern science. In reply to it, and to vindicate that right of reason and inquiry which Man has received as one of the greatest gifts from his Creator, it might be enough for us to cite passages from the writings of several distinguished geologists, who have weighed this point with all the seriousness and candour befitting their reputation as men of piety and truth. The difference of the subject does in no wise affect the argument, which applies alike and with equal force to both cases. We might further cite what Dr. Prichard This, too, seems the natural course and himself, in his Introduction, has clearly order of the inquiry. Man is first to be conand forcibly written in vindication of the sidered as a part of the animal creation at research he is about to commence. Take, large, and under the many points of close indeed, what course we may, these ques- and unalterable likeness to other forms of tions, from their very nature, must needs animal life, in all that relates to his procreainfix themselves deeply in the minds of think-tion, nutriment, growth, decay, and death, as ing men, and become in one way or other the matter of earnest inquiry. That the cause of truth will assuredly gain in the end, we can affirm with the greater satisfaction in this case, because it is our conviction, in common with Dr. Prichard, that the conclusions of reason and science, unaided by Scripture, concur mainly with those derived from the latter source. We think there are sufficient grounds, without reference to the sacred writings, for arriving at the conclusion that all races and diversities of mankind are really derived from a single pair; placed on the earth for the peopling of its surface, both in the times before us, and during the ages which it may please the Creator yet to assign to the present order of existence here. The arguments for such belief we shall now state; and they will be found to comprise, directly or indirectly, every part of this great subject.

well as in regard to the modifications of which the species is susceptible and the diversities it actually exhibits. Various instincts-belonging especially to the early stage of life, before his higher faculties have risen into action-further attest this great natural relation, which human pride can neither deny nor discard. But beyond and above this comes in the peculiar condition of Man as an intellectual being, richly provided by his Maker with those endowments which, in their highest elevation from nature or culture, have bequeathed to the admiration of all ages names made immortal by their genius and attainments-Homer, Aristotle, Dante, Bacon, Shakspeare, Milton, Newton, Leibnitz, Pascal, Laplace, and others which crowd on the memory-and gifted yet further with that moral sense, those faculties and sensibilities of feeling and passion, to which, duly guarded and go

verned, we owe our understanding of virtue | such as may obviate misconceptions as to the and conscience, and of all that is beautiful bearing and value of this part of the evi and sublime in the world around-forming dence. In placing them here, we deviate what Milton has well called a piece of from the order of arguments just laid down; divinity within us; something that was be- but we do this purposely, that the attention fore the elements, and owing no homage to of our readers may be better concentrated the sun.' afterwards on the two other topics, on which the solution of the inquiry chiefly depends.

The consideration of these higher attributes of man, and of the organs adapted to the faculty of speech, carries us naturally to the second or philological part of the inquiry. Human language, derived from these conditions, has become a main index to the history of mankind. Its numerous forms, as we find them in existence and maturity among different communities of men-forms, in many cases, so remote in the roots of words, in grammatical structure and idiom, that the doubt may well arise whether they can have any common origin-these very diversities, as well as the connexions of languages, are all subservient to the inquiry before us. We have already spoken of the many eminent men who have devoted themselves to this part of the subject; collating on philosophical principles the detached records of the numerous languages which crowd the globe; and giving to the history of races and nations, irrespectively of all other tradition, a new and wider basis than heretofore. The progress of such researches of late years is the best exponent, as we shall see, of what may be attained by their future prosecution.

To the physiological and philological succeeds the historical part of the argument. It might seem on superficial view that this would be the most copious source of knowledge as to the physical history of man, and his original dispersion over the earth. We might expect here to verify and extend the conclusions derived from the former methods af inquiry, and to give to the whole science more certainty and completeness. And so it is, whenever we can obtain concurrence, or even approximation of results, from these different sources. But, pursuing the investigation on this principle, we shall find ourselves speedily and continually at fault. History, as we have it in our hands, is rarely capable of conducting us to the heights of this great argument, seen dimly through the mists of time, and often rather obscured than enlightened by human tradition. Its line, broken and interrupted even before, stops where the more arduous part of the ascent begins, and gives us no guidance into the earlier ages beyond.

We might much enlarge, were it needful, on this incapacity of History to satisfy our just curiosity as to the primitive condition of the human race on earth. But we shall confine ourselves to a few general remarks,

We have already spoken generally of the bearing of sacred history on this subject. In the Old Testament we have a record of the creation of man upon the earth, and of a line of successive generations down to the period of the great Deluge; from which we are led to date a second growth and dispersion of mankind. But it would wrong the proper objects and influence of the sacred volume to regard it as a physical history of man, or to seek in its pages for the facts with which this science has especial concern. A few passages only can be brought to bear directly on the conclusions we seek to obtain; and there is constant danger, as well as difficulty, in tampering with words and phrases so alien in their objects and manner of use. The Mosaic writings are the record of the origin and progress of one people, wonderful in every age of its history, and by the dispensation of Providence signal in its influence on the whole human race. All that is given to us, apart from this main object, is incidental, brief, and obscure; and the chronology of the Jewish people itself rendered ambiguous by the recognized differences of the Hebrew, Samaritan, and Septuagint texts; amounting in the whole to a period longer than that which has elapsed from the beginning of the Anglo-Saxon monarchy to the present day. Even in an early part of these books we find allusion to nations which had grown into existence and power; but without any sign to mark their origin beyond some single name, or the general statement of the multiplication of man on the earth. It is, however, this affirmation of the origin and multiplication of mankind from a single pair of created beings which forms the great link between the Scripture narrative and the subject before us. We have already stated this as the basis of the inquiry-the question to which all others are subordinate; and expressed our belief that the evidence derived from other sources concurs with what is thus delivered to us in the Mosaic history. We must not look to Scripture for description of the primitive physical characters of the human species, or for details as to the origin of human languages. But it is much to arrive at the same point through paths thus diverse; and we shall do well for the cause of truth to hold the sacred vo

lume ever in our hands, seeing where it fairly comes into contact with other knowledge, but never forcing its peculiar objects and phraseology into conclusions with which it has no concern.

far short of the origin of the remarkable nation on whose history they have bestowed so much learning and toil.

The history of the Assyrian Empire, contemporary with that of Egypt, has been more deeply sunk in obscurity. Fragmentary notices in Scripture and in Greek authors have told us of its greatness and conquests, the magnitude and decorations of its capital. But we have only just begun to disentomb the great Nineveh, and can only partially decipher the peculiar cuneiform characters which designate and give date to its wonderful works of art. The intrepid zeal and ability of Mr. Layard, already redirected to the spot, will, we doubt not, achieve further successes on the same fertile soil; but when all is done, there will yet remain the void of time beyond, in which genius and diligence are alike lost and fruitless.

certain astronomical periods ascertained; and a chronology of much exactness carried back to a remote antiquity. But antiquity is a relative term; and the researches of Bunsen and Lepsius, the latest labourers in Passing from the Scriptural to other his- this great field, though stretching backwards tory, whether of writings, tradition, or my-nearly 5000 years, are arrested at a period thology, we lose this distinct affirmation of the unity of mankind, without any equivalent in the more certain record of the primitive state of the species. The notices indeed multiply as to the growth and spread of particular tribes; but even if possessing much more authority than belongs to them, they would go short way to satisfy our seeking for knowledge of that mysterious period, which intervenes between the creation of man and the formation of nations and empires. We lose ourselves in utter darkness when we seek to go beyond certain epochs, remarkable in the ancient world as the periods of great movements and migrations among the people best known to us. One of these may especially be denoted, as comprising within a very brief time the record of six migrations and settlements, each containing some germ of future history.* Yet even this period, in which were sown the seeds that ripened into Grecian genius and civilization, how vaguely and scantily is it known to us! How much more obscurely still those vast Celtic, Teutonic, and Sclavonic migrations which have given cast and colour to all the succeeding destinies of Europe! Here we have hardly the ground of tradition to stand upon all measure of time is lost we are obliged to come at once to the relations of language, as the only index we possess to these mysteries of the ancient world.

The vast empires of China and India offer yet more striking examples of this imperfection of history, as bearing on the early condition and diffusion of the human race. Native records, aided here also by astronomy, carry us obscurely back to dates as remote as those of Egypt and Assyria; but beyond this all is lost in the depths of time, or in the still darker depths of mythology. And to take another instance, from a different source, but not less cogent for our object, where do we find the faintest authentic trace of those maritime migrations, seemingly not single, but successive, which peopled the great American continent; giving birth to nume rous nations and languages, and to various monuments of power and civilization still only partially explored? Here only one or two vague traditions float before us, which poetry may adopt, but which history refuses to appropriate to its graver purposes.

Of the grandeur of Egypt at a remote period we have numerous proofs; and the genius and industry of the present age have derived from its sublime monuments, its hieroglyphics and paintings, the evidences of vast extent of power, of various refinements of policy and civilization. But in this very point lies the deficiency of history. Whence, and how, this growth of grandeur, unrevealed in its origin, and so faintly traced in These few examples will show how scantily its earlier progress? Long series of sove- we can draw from ancient history the peculiar reigns have been determined through hiero-information required. We nowhere get high glyphic inscriptions, compared with the fragments of history; the founders and dates of many of the great monuments-those wild enormities of ancient magnanimity,' as Sir T. Browne calls them-similarly fixed;

[blocks in formation]

enough. The regions of tradition or mythology are reached; but it is still the selva oscura, the basso loco of the poet, and we do not obtain access to the clear sky above. It may even be affirmed that we gain less certain knowledge of the early races of mankind from direct history than from those relations and resemblances of custom which often remain infixed for ages, when all other connexions are lost-the usages pertaining

« PreviousContinue »