The Antiquity of Man
by Charles Lyell
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If at some future period all the above-mentioned species should be united with their allied congeners, it cannot fail to enlarge our conception of the modifications which a species is capable of undergoing in the course of time, although the same form may appear absolutely immutable within the narrow range of our experience.


In the "Principles of Geology," in 1833,* (* 1st edition volume 3 pages 48 and 140.) I stated that the longevity of species in the class mollusca exceeded that in the mammalia. It has been since found that this generalisation can be carried much farther, and that in fact the law which governs the changes in organic being is such that the lower their place in a graduated scale, or the simpler their structure, the more persistent are they in form and organisation. I soon became aware of the force of this rule in the class mollusca, when I first attempted to calculate the numerical proportion of Recent species in the Newer Pliocene formations as compared to the Older Pliocene, and of them again as contrasted with the Miocene; for it appeared invariably that a greater number of the lamellibranchs could be identified with living species than of the gasteropods, and of these last a greater number in the lower division, that of entire-mouthed univalves, than in that of the siphonated. In whatever manner the changes have been brought about, whether by variation and natural selection, or by any other causes, the rate of change has been greater where the grade of organisation is higher.

It is only, therefore, where there is a full representation of all the principal orders of mollusca, or when we compare those of corresponding grade, that we can fully rely on the percentage test, or on the proportion of Recent to extinct species as indicating the relation of two groups to the existing fauna.

The foraminifera which exemplify the lowest stage of animal existence exhibit, as we learn from the researches of Dr. Carpenter and of Messrs. Jones and Parker, extreme variability in their specific forms, and yet these same forms are persistent throughout vast periods of time, exceeding, in that respect, even the brachiopods before mentioned.

Dr. Hooker observes, in regard to plants of complex floral structure, that they manifest their physical superiority in a greater extent of variation and in thus better securing a succession of race, an attribute which in some senses he regards as of a higher order than that indicated by mere complexity or specialisation of organ.* (* "Introductory Essay to the Flora of Australia" page 7.)

As one of the consequences of this law, he says that species, genera, and orders are, on the whole, best limited in plants of higher grade, the dicotyledons better than the monocotyledons, and the Dichlamydeae better than the Achlamydeae.

Mr. Darwin remarks, "We can, perhaps, understand the apparently quicker rate of change in terrestrial, and in more highly organised productions, compared with marine and lower productions, by the more complex relations of the higher beings to their organic and inorganic conditions of life."* (* "Origin of Species" 3rd edition page 340.)

If we suppose the mammalia to be more sensitive than are the inferior classes of the vertebrata, to every fluctuation in the surrounding conditions, whether of the animate or inanimate world, it would follow that they would oftener be called upon to adapt themselves by variation to new conditions, or if unable to do so, to give place to other types. This would give rise to more frequent extinction of varieties, species, and genera, whereby the surviving types would be better limited, and the average duration of the same unaltered specific types would be lessened.


But if mammalia vary upon the whole at a more rapid rate than animals lower in the scale of being, it must not be supposed that they can alter their habits and structures readily, or that they are convertible in short periods into new species. The extreme slowness with which such changes of habits and organisation take place, when new conditions arise, appears to be well exemplified by the absence even of small warm-blooded quadrupeds in islands far from continents, however well such islands may be fitted by their dimensions to support them.

Mr. Darwin has pointed to this absence of mammalia as favouring his views, observing that bats, which are the only exceptions to the rule, might have made their way to distant islands by flight, for they are often met with on the wing far out at sea. Unquestionably, the total exclusion of quadrupeds in general, which could only reach such isolated habitations by swimming, seems to imply that nature does not dispense with the ordinary laws of reproduction when she peoples the earth with new forms; for if causes purely immaterial were alone at work, we might naturally look for squirrels, rabbits, polecats, and other small vegetable feeders and beasts of prey, as often as for bats, in the spots alluded to.

On the other hand, I have found it difficult to reconcile the antiquity of certain islands, such as those of the Madeiran Archipelago, and those of still larger size in the Canaries, with the total absence of small indigenous quadrupeds, for, judging by ancient deposits of littoral shells, now raised high above the level of the sea, several of these volcanic islands (Porto Santo and the Grand Canary among others) must have existed ever since the Upper Miocene period. But, waiving all such claims to antiquity, it is at least certain that since the close of the Newer Pliocene period, Madeira, and Porto Santo have constituted two separate islands, each in sight of the other, and each inhabited by an assemblage of land shells (Helix, Pupa, Clausilia, etc.), for the most part different or proper to each island. About thirty-two fossil species have been obtained in Madeira, and forty-two in Porto Santo, only five of the whole being common to both islands. In each the living land-shells are equally distinct, and correspond, for the most part, with the species found fossil in each island respectively.

Among the fossil species, one or two appear to be entirely extinct, and a larger number have disappeared from the fauna of the Madeiran Archipelago, though still extant in Africa and Europe. Many which were amongst the most common in the Pliocene period, have now become the scarcest, and others formerly scarce, are now most numerously represented. The variety-making force has been at work with such energy—perhaps we ought to say, has had so much time for its development—that almost every isolated rock within gun-shot of the shores has its peculiar living forms, or those very marked races to which Mr. Lowe, in his excellent description of the fauna, has given the name of "sub-species."

Since the fossil shells were embedded in sand near the coast, these volcanic islands have undergone considerable alterations in size and shape by the wasting action of the waves of the Atlantic beating incessantly against the cliffs, so that the evidence of a vast lapse of time is derivable from inorganic as well as from organic phenomena.

During this period no mammalia, not even of small species, excepting bats, have made their appearance, whether in Madeira and Porto-Santo or in the larger and more numerous islands of the Canarian group. It might have been expected, from some expressions met with here and there in the "Origin of Species," though not perhaps from a fair interpretation of the whole tenor of the author's reasoning, that this dearth of the highest class of vertebrata is inconsistent with the powers of mammalia to accommodate their habits and structures to new conditions. Why did not some of the bats, for example, after they had greatly multiplied, and were hard pressed by a scarcity of insects on the wing, betake themselves to the ground in search of prey, and, gradually losing their wings, become transformed into non-volant Insectivora? Mr. Darwin tells me that he has learnt that there is a bat in India which has been known occasionally to devour frogs. One might also be tempted to ask, how it has happened that the seals which swarmed on the shores of Madeira and the Canaries, before the European colonists arrived there, were never induced, when food was scarce in the sea, to venture inland from the shores, and begin in Teneriffe, and the Grand Canary especially, and other large islands, to acquire terrestrial habits, venturing first a few yards inland, and then farther and farther until they began to occupy some of the "places left vacant in the economy of nature." During these excursions, we might suppose some varieties, which had the skin of the webbed intervals of their toes less developed, to succeed best in walking on the land, and in the course of several generations they might exchange their present gait or manner of shuffling along and jumping by aid of the tail and their fin-like extremities, for feet better adapted for running.

It is said that one of the bats in the island of Palma (one of the Canaries) is of a peculiar species, and that some of the Cheiroptera of the Pacific islands are even of peculiar genera. If so, we seem, on organic as well as on geological grounds, to be precluded from arguing that there has not been time for great divergence of character. We seem also entitled to ask why the bats and rodents of Australia, which are spread so widely among the marsupials over that continent, have never, under the influence of the principle of progression, been developed into higher placental types, since we have now ascertained that that continent was by no means unfitted to sustain such mammalia, for these when once introduced by Man have run wild and become naturalised in many parts. The following answers may perhaps be offered to the above criticisms of some of Mr. Darwin's theoretical views.

First, as to the bats and seals: they are what zoologists call aberrant and highly specialised types, and therefore precisely those which might be expected to display a fixity and want of pliancy in their organisation, or the smallest possible aptitude for deviating in new directions towards new structures, and the acquisition of such altered habits as a change from aquatic to terrestrial or from Volant to non-volant modes of living would imply.

Secondly, the same powers of flight which enabled the first bats to reach Madeira or the Canaries, would bring others from time to time from the African continent, which, mixing with the first emigrants and crossing with them, would check the formation of new races, or keep them true to the old types, as is found to be actually the case with the birds of Madeira and the Bermudas.

This would happen the more surely, if, as Mr. Darwin has endeavoured to prove, the offspring of races slightly varying are usually more vigorous than the progeny of parents of the same race, and would be more prolific, therefore, than the insular stock which had been for a long time breeding in and in.

The same cause would tend in a still more decided manner to prevent the seals from diverging into new races or "incipient species," because they range freely over the wide ocean, and, may therefore have continual intercourse with all other individuals of their species.

Thirdly, as to peculiar species, and even genera of bats in islands, we are perhaps too little acquainted at present with all the species and genera of the neighbouring continents to be able to affirm, with any degree of confidence, that the forms supposed to be peculiar do not exist elsewhere: those of the Canaries in Africa, for example. But what is still more important, we must bear in mind how many species and genera of Pleistocene mammalia have everywhere become extinct by causes independent of Man. It is always possible, therefore, that some types of Cheiroptera, originally derived from the main land, have survived in islands, although they have gradually died out on the continents from whence they came; so that it would be rash to infer that there has been time for the creation, whether by variation or other agency, of new species or genera in the islands in question.

As to the Rodents and Cheiroptera of Australia, we are as yet too ignorant of the Pleistocene and Pliocene fauna of that part of the world, to be able to decide whether the introduction of such forms dates from a remote geological time. We know, however, that, before the Recent period, that continent was peopled with large kangaroos, and other herbivorous and carnivorous marsupials, of species long since extinct, their remains having been discovered in ossiferous caverns. The preoccupancy of the country by such indigenous tribes may have checked the development of the placental Rodents and Cheiroptera, even were we to concede the possibility of such forms being convertible by variation and progressive development into higher grades of mammalia.


When treating in the eighth chapter of the dearth of human bones in alluvium containing flint implements in abundance, I pointed out that it is not part of the plan of Nature to write everywhere, and at all times, her autobiographical memoirs. On the contrary, her annals are local and exceptional from the first, and portions of them are afterwards ground into mud, sand, and pebbles, to furnish materials for new strata. Even of those ancient monuments now forming the crust of the earth, which have not been destroyed by rivers and the waves of the sea, or which have escaped being melted by volcanic heat, three-fourths lie submerged beneath the ocean, and are inaccessible to Man; while of those which form the dry land, a great part are hidden for ever from our observation by mountain masses, thousands of feet thick, piled over them.

Mr. Darwin has truly said that the fossiliferous rocks known to geologists consist, for the most part, of such as were formed when the bottom of the sea was subsiding. This downward movement protects the new deposits from denudation, and allows them to accumulate to a great thickness; whereas sedimentary matter, thrown down where the sea-bottom is rising, must almost invariably be swept away by the waves as fast as the land emerges.

When we reflect, therefore, on the fractional state of the annals which are handed down to us, and how little even these have as yet been studied, we may wonder that so many geologists should attribute every break in the series of strata and every gap in the past history of the organic world to catastrophes and convulsions of the earth's crust or to leaps made by the creational force from species to species, or from class to class. For it is clear that, even had the series of monuments been perfect and continuous at first (an hypothesis quite opposed to the analogy of the working of causes now in action), it could not fail to present itself to our eyes in a broken and disconnected state.

Those geologists who have watched the progress of discovery during the last half century can best appreciate the extent to which we may still hope by future exertion to fill up some of the wider chasms which now interrupt the regular sequence of fossiliferous rocks. The determination, for example, of late years of the true place of the Hallstadt and St. Cassian beds on the north and south flanks of the Austrian Alps, has revealed to us, for the first time, the marine fauna of a period (that of the Upper Trias) of which, until lately, but little was known. In this case, the palaeontologist is called upon suddenly to intercalate about 800 species of Mollusca and Radiata, between the fauna of the Lower Lias and that of the Middle Trias. The period in question was previously believed, even by many a philosophical geologist, to have been comparatively barren of organic types. In England, France, and northern Germany, the only known strata of Upper Triassic date had consisted almost entirely of fresh or brackish-water beds, in which the bones of terrestrial and amphibious reptiles were the most characteristic fossils. The new fauna was, as might have been expected, in part peculiar, not a few of the species of Mollusca being referable to new genera; while some species were common to the older, and some to the newer rocks. On the whole, the new forms have helped greatly to lessen the discordance, not only between the Lias and Trias, but also generally between Palaeozoic and Mesozoic formations. Thus the genus Orthoceras has been for the first time recognised in a Mesozoic deposit, and with it we find associated, for the first time, large Ammonites with foliated lobes, a form never seen before below the Lias; also the Ceratites, a family of Cephalopods never before met with in the Upper Trias, and never before in the same stratum with such lobed Ammonites.

We can now no longer doubt that should we hereafter have an opportunity of studying an equally rich marine fauna of the age of the Lower Trias (or Bunter Sandstein), the marked hiatus which still separates the Triassic and Permian eras would almost disappear.

Archaeopteryx macrurus, Owen.

I could readily add a copious list of minor deposits, belonging to the Primary, Secondary and Tertiary series, which we have been called upon in like manner to intercalate in the course of the last quarter of a century into the chronological series previously known; but it would lead me into too long a digression. I shall therefore content myself with pointing out that it is not simply new formations which are brought to light from year to year, reminding us of the elementary state of our knowledge of palaeontology, but new types also of structure are discovered in rocks whose fossil contents were supposed to be peculiarly well known.

The last and most striking of these novelties is "the feathered fossil" from the lithographic stone of Solenhofen.

Until the year 1858, no well-determined skeleton of a bird had been detected in any rocks older than the Tertiary. In that year, Mr. Lucas Barrett found in the Cambridge Greensand of the Cretaceous series, the femur, tibia, and some other bones of a swimming bird, supposed by him to be of the gull tribe. His opinion as to the ornithic character of the remains was afterwards confirmed by Professor Owen.

The Archaeopteryx macrurus, Owen, recently acquired by the British Museum, affords a second example of the discovery of the osseous remains of a bird in strata older than the Eocene. It was found in the great quarries of lithographic limestone at Solenhofen in Bavaria, the rock being a member of the Upper Oolite.

It was at first conjectured in Germany, before any experienced osteologist had had an opportunity of inspecting the original specimen, that this fossil might be a feathered Pterodactyl (flying reptiles having been often met with in the same stratum), or that it might at least supply some connecting links between a reptile and a bird. But Professor Owen, in a memoir lately read to the Royal Society (November 20, 1862), has shown that it is unequivocally a bird, and that such of its characters as are abnormal are by no means strikingly reptilian. The skeleton was lying on its back when embedded in calcareous sediment, so that the ventral part is exposed to view. It is about 1 foot 8 inches long, and 1 foot across, from the apex of the right to that of the left wing. The furculum, or merry-thought, which is entire, marks the fore part of the trunk; the ischium, scapula, and most of the wing and leg bones are preserved, and there are impressions of the quill feathers and of down on the body. The vanes and shafts of the feathers can be seen by the naked eye. Fourteen long quill feathers diverge on each side of the metacarpal and phalangial bones, and decrease in length from 6 inches to 1 inch. The wings have a general resemblance to those of gallinaceous birds. The tarso-metatarsal, or drumstick, exhibits at its distal end a trifid articular surface supporting three toes, as in birds. The furculum, pelvis, and bones of the tail are in their natural position. The tail consists of twenty vertebrae, each of which supports a pair of plumes. The length of the tail with its feathers is 11 1/2 inches, and its breadth 3 1/2. It is obtusely truncated at the end. In all living birds the tail-feathers are arranged in fan-shaped order and attached to a coccygean bone, consisting of several vertebrae united together, whereas in the embryo state these same vertebrae are distinct. The greatest number is seen in the ostrich, which has eighteen caudal vertebrae in the foetal state, which are reduced to nine in the adult bird, many of them having been anchylosed together. Professor Owen therefore considers the tail of the Archaeopteryx as exemplifying the persistency of what is now an embryonic character. The tail, he remarks, is essentially a variable organ; there are long-tailed bats and short-tailed bats, long-tailed rodents and short-tailed rodents, long-tailed pterodactyls and short-tailed pterodactyls.

The Archaeopteryx differs from all known birds, not only in the structure of its tail, but in having two, if not three, digits in the hand; but there is no trace of the fifth digit of the winged reptile.

The conditions under which the skeleton occurs are such, says Professor Owen, as to remind us of the carcass of a gull which has been a prey to some Carnivore, which had removed all the soft parts, and perhaps the head, nothing being left but the bony legs and the indigestible quill-feathers. But since Professor Owen's paper was read, Mr. John Evans, whom I have often had occasion to mention in the earlier chapters of this work, seems to have found what may indicate a part of the missing cranium. He has called our attention to a smooth protuberance on the otherwise even surface of the slab of limestone which seems to be the cast of the brain or interior of the skull. Some part even of the cranial bone itself appears to be still buried in the matrix. Mr. Evans has pointed out the resemblance of this cast to one taken by himself from the cranium of a crow, and still more to that of a jay, observing that in the fossil the median line which separates the two hemispheres of the brain is visible.

To conclude, we may learn from this valuable relic how rashly the existence of Birds at the epoch of the Secondary rocks has been questioned, simply on negative evidence, and secondly, how many new forms may be expected to be brought to light in strata with which we are already best acquainted, to say nothing of the new formations which geologists are continually discovering.



Aryan Hypothesis and Controversy. The Races of Mankind change more slowly than their Languages. Theory of the gradual Origin of Languages. Difficulty of defining what is meant by a Language as distinct from a Dialect. Great Number of extinct and living Tongues. No European Language a Thousand Years old. Gaps between Languages, how caused. Imperfection of the Record. Changes always in Progress. Struggle for Existence between rival Terms and Dialects. Causes of Selection. Each Language formed slowly in a single Geographical Area. May die out gradually or suddenly. Once lost can never be revived. Mode of Origin of Languages and Species a Mystery. Speculations as to the Number of original Languages or Species unprofitable.

The supposed existence, at a remote and unknown period, of a language conventionally called the Aryan, has of late years been a favourite subject of speculation among German philologists, and Professor Max Muller has given us lately the most improved version of this theory, and has set forth the various facts and arguments by which it may be defended, with his usual perspicuity and eloquence. He observes that if we know nothing of the existence of Latin—if all historical documents previous to the fifteenth century had been lost—if tradition even was silent as to the former existence of a Roman empire, a mere comparison of the Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Wallachian, and Rhaetian dialects would enable us to say that at some time there must have been a language from which these six modern dialects derive their origin in common. Without this supposition it would be impossible to account for their structure and composition, as, for example, for the forms of the auxiliary verb "to be," all evidently varieties of one common type, while it is equally clear that no one of the six affords the original form from which the others could have been borrowed. So also in none of the six languages do we find the elements of which these verbal and other forms could have been composed; they must have been handed down as relics from a former period, they must have existed in some antecedent language, which we know to have been the Latin.

But, in like manner, he goes on to show, that Latin itself, as well as Greek, Sanscrit, Zend (or Bactrian), Lithuanian, old Sclavonic, Gothic, and Armenian are also eight varieties of one common and more ancient type, and no one of them could have been the original from which the others were borrowed. They have all such an amount of mutual resemblance as to point to a more ancient language, the Aryan, which was to them what Latin was to the six Romance languages. The people who spoke this unknown parent speech, of which so many other ancient tongues were off-shoots, must have migrated at a remote era to widely separated regions of the old world, such as Northern Asia, Europe, and India south of the Himalaya.* (* Max Muller, "Comparative Mythology" Oxford Essays 1856.)

The soundness of some parts of this Aryan hypothesis has lately been called in question by Mr. Crawfurd, on the ground that the Hindoos, Persians, Turks, Scandinavians, and other people referred to as having derived not only words but grammatical forms from an Aryan source, belong each of them to a distinct race, and all these races have, it is said, preserved their peculiar characters unaltered from the earliest dawn of history and tradition. If, therefore, no appreciable change has occurred in three or four thousand years, we should be obliged to assume a far more remote date for the first branching off of such races from a common stock than the supposed period of the Aryan migrations, and the dispersion of that language over many and distant countries.

But Mr. Crawfurd has, I think, himself helped us to remove this stumbling-block, by admitting that a nation speaking a language allied to the Sanscrit (the oldest of the eight tongues alluded to), once probably inhabited that region situated to the north-west of India, which within the period of authentic history has poured out its conquering hordes over a great extent of Western Asia and Eastern Europe. The same people, he says, may have acted the same part in the long, dark night which preceded the dawn of tradition.* (* Crawfurd, "Transactions of the Ethnological Society" volume 1 1861.) These conquerors may have been few in number when compared to the populations which they subdued. In such cases the new settlers, although reckoned by tens of thousands, might merge in a few centuries into the millions of subjects which they ruled. It is an acknowledged fact that the colour and features of the Negro or European are entirely lost in the fourth generation, provided that no fresh infusion of one or other of the two races takes place. The distinctive physical features, therefore, of the Aryan conquerors might soon wear out and be lost in those of the nations they overran; yet many of the words, and, what is more in point, some of the grammatical forms of their language, might be retained by the masses which they had governed for centuries, these masses continuing to preserve the same features of race which had distinguished them long before the Aryan invasions.

There can be no question that if we could trace back any set of cognate languages now existing to some common point of departure, they would converge and meet sooner in some era of the past than would the existing races of mankind; in other words, races change much more slowly than languages. But, according to the doctrine of transmutation, to form a new species would take an incomparably longer period than to form a new race. No language seems ever to last for a thousand years, whereas many a species seems to have endured for hundreds of thousands. A philologist, therefore, who is contending that all living languages are derivative and not primordial, has a great advantage over a naturalist who is endeavouring to inculcate a similar theory in regard to species.

It may not be uninstructive, in order fairly to appreciate the vast difficulty of the task of those who advocate transmutation in natural history, to consider how hard it would be even for a philologist to succeed, if he should try to convince an assemblage of intelligent but illiterate persons that the language spoken by them, and all those talked by contemporary nations, were modern inventions, moreover that these same forms of speech were still constantly undergoing change, and none of them destined to last for ever.

We will suppose him to begin by stating his conviction, that the living languages have been gradually derived from others now extinct, and spoken by nations which had immediately preceded them in the order of time, and that those again had used forms of speech derived from still older ones. They might naturally exclaim, "How strange it is that you should find records of a multitude of dead languages, that a part of the human economy which in our own time is so remarkable for its stability, should have been so inconstant in bygone ages! We all speak as our parents and grandparents spoke before us, and so, we are told, do the Germans and French. What evidence is there of such incessant variation in remoter times? and, if it be true, why not imagine that when one form of speech was lost, another was suddenly and supernaturally created by a gift of tongues or confusion of languages, as at the building of the Tower of Babel? Where are the memorials of all the intermediate dialects, which must have existed, if this doctrine of perpetual fluctuation be true? And how comes it that the tongues now spoken do not pass by insensible gradations the one into the other, and into the dead languages of dates immediately antecedent?

"Lastly, if this theory of indefinite modifiability be sound, what meaning can be attached to the term language, and what definition can be given of it so as to distinguish a language from a dialect?"

In reply to this last question, the philologist might confess that the learned are not agreed as to what constitutes a language as distinct from a dialect. Some believe that there are 4000 living languages, others that there are 6000, so that the mode of defining them is clearly a mere matter of opinion. Some contend, for example, that the Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish form one Scandinavian tongue, others that they constitute three different languages, others that the Danish and Norwegian are one—mere dialects of the same language, but that Swedish is distinct.

The philologist, however, might fairly argue that this very ambiguity was greatly in favour of his doctrine, since if languages had all been constantly undergoing transmutation, there ought often to be a want of real lines of demarcation between them. He might, however, propose that he and his pupils should come to an understanding that two languages should be regarded as distinct whenever the speakers of them are unable to converse together, or freely to exchange ideas, whether by word or writing. Scientifically speaking, such a test might be vague and unsatisfactory, like the test of species by their capability of producing fertile hybrids; but if the pupil is persuaded that there are such things in nature as distinct languages, whatever may have been their origin, the definition above suggested might be of practical use, and enable the teacher to proceed with his argument.

He might begin by undertaking to prove that none of the languages of modern Europe were a thousand years old. No English scholar, he might say, who has not specially given himself up to the study of Anglo-Saxon, can interpret the documents in which the chronicles and laws of England were written in the days of King Alfred, so that we may be sure that none of the English of the nineteenth century could converse with the subjects of that monarch if these last could now be restored to life. The difficulties encountered would not arise merely from the intrusion of French terms, in consequence of the Norman conquest, because that large portion of our language (including the articles, pronouns, etc.), which is Saxon has also undergone great transformations by abbreviation, new modes of pronunciation, spelling, and various corruptions, so as to be unlike both ancient and modern German. They who now speak German, if brought into contact with their Teutonic ancestors of the ninth century, would be quite unable to converse with them, and, in like manner, the subjects of Charlemagne could not have exchanged ideas with the Goths of Alaric's army, or with the soldiers of Arminius in the days of Augustus Caesar. So rapid indeed has been the change in Germany, that the epic poem called the Nibelungen Lied, once so popular, and only seven centuries old, cannot now be enjoyed, except by the erudite.

If we then turn to France, we meet again with similar evidence of ceaseless change. There is a treaty of peace still extant a thousand years old, between Charles the Bald and King Louis of Germany (dated A.D. 841), in which the German king takes an oath in what was the French tongue of that day, while the French king swears in the German of the same era, and neither of these oaths would now convey a distinct meaning to any but the learned in these two countries. So also in Italy, the modern Italian cannot be traced back much beyond the time of Dante, or some six centuries before our time. Even in Rome, where there had been no permanent intrusion of foreigners, such as the Lombard settlers of German origin in the plains of the Po, the common people of the year 1000 spoke quite a distinct language from that of their Roman ancestors or their Italian descendants, as is shown by the celebrated chronicle of the monk Benedict, of the convent of St. Andrea on Mount Soracte, written in such barbarous Latin, and with such strange grammatical forms, that it requires a profoundly skilled linguist to decipher it.* (* See G. Pertz, "Monumenta Germanica" volume 3.)

Having thus established the preliminary fact, that none of the tongues now spoken were in existence ten centuries ago, and that the ancient languages have passed through many a transitional dialect before they settled into the forms now in use, the philologist might bring forward proofs of the great numbers both of lost and living forms of speech.

Strabo tells us that in his time, in the Caucasus alone (a chain of mountains not longer than the Alps, and much narrower), there were spoken at least seventy languages. At the present period the number, it is said, would be still greater if all the distinct dialects of those mountains were reckoned. Several of these Caucasian tongues admit of no comparison with any known living or lost Asiatic or European language. Others which are not peculiar are obsolete forms of known languages, such as the Georgian, Mongolian, Persian, Arabic, and Tartarian. It seems that as often as conquering hordes swept over that part of Asia, always coming from the north and east, they drove before them the inhabitants of the plains, who took refuge in some of the retired valleys and high mountain fastnesses, where they maintained their independence, as do the Circassians in our time in spite of the power of Russia.

In the Himalayan Mountains, from Assam to its extreme north-western limit, and generally in the more hilly parts of British India, the diversity of languages is surprisingly great, impeding the advance of civilisation and the labours of the missionary. In South America and Mexico, Alexander Humboldt reckoned the distinct tongues by hundreds, and those of Africa are said to be equally numerous. Even in China, some eighteen provincial dialects prevail, almost all deviating so much from others that the speakers are not mutually intelligible, and besides these there are other distinct forms of speech in the mountains of the same empire.

The philologist might next proceed to point out that the geographical relations of living and dead languages favour the hypothesis of the living ones having been derived from the extinct, in spite of our inability, in most instances, to adduce documentary evidence of the fact or to discover monuments of all the intermediate and transitional dialects which must have existed. Thus he would observe that the modern Romance languages are spoken exactly where the ancient Romans once lived or ruled, and the Greek of our days where the older classical Greek was formerly spoken. Exceptions to this rule might be detected, but they would be explicable by reference to colonisation and conquest.

As to the many and wide gaps sometimes encountered between the dead and living languages, we must remember that it is not part of the plan of any people to preserve memorials of their forms of speech expressly for the edification of posterity. Their manuscripts and inscriptions serve some present purpose, are occasional and imperfect from the first, and are rendered more fragmentary in the course of time, some being intentionally destroyed, others lost by the decay of the perishable materials on which they are written; so that to question the theory of all known languages being derivative on the ground that we can rarely trace a passage from the ancient to the modern through all the dialects which must have flourished one after the other in the intermediate ages, implies a want of reflection on the laws which govern the recording as well as the obliterating processes.

But another important question still remains to be considered, namely, whether the trifling changes which can alone be witnessed by a single generation, can possibly represent the working of that machinery which, in the course of many centuries, has given rise to such mighty revolutions in the forms of speech throughout the world. Everyone may have noticed in his own lifetime the stealing in of some slight alterations of accent, pronunciation or spelling, or the introduction of some words borrowed from a foreign language to express ideas of which no native term precisely conveyed the import. He may also remember hearing for the first time some cant terms or slang phrases, which have since forced their way into common use, in spite of the efforts of the purist. But he may still contend that "within the range of his experience," his language has continued unchanged, and he may believe in its immutability in spite of minor variations. The real question, however, at issue is, whether there are any limits to this variability. He will find on farther investigation, that new technical terms are coined almost daily in various arts, sciences, professions, and trades, that new names must be found for new inventions, that many of these acquire a metaphorical sense, and then make their way into general circulation, as "stereotyped," for instance, which would have been as meaningless to the men of the seventeenth century as would the new terms and images derived from steamboat and railway travelling to the men of the eighteenth.

If the numerous words, idioms, and phrases, many of them of ephemeral duration, which are thus invented by the young and old in various classes of society, in the nursery, the school, the camp, the fleet, the courts of law and the study of the man of science or literature, could all be collected together and put on record, their number in one or two centuries might compare with the entire permanent vocabulary of the language. It becomes, therefore, a curious subject of inquiry, what are the laws which govern not only the invention, but also the "selection" of some of these words or idioms, giving them currency in preference to others?—for as the powers of the human memory are limited, a check must be found to the endless increase and multiplication of terms, and old words must be dropped nearly as fast as new ones are put into circulation. Sometimes the new word or phrase, or a modification of the old ones, will entirely supplant the more ancient expressions, or, instead of the latter being discarded, both may flourish together, the older one having a more restricted use.

Although the speakers may be unconscious that any great fluctuation is going on in their language—although when we observe the manner in which new words and phrases are thrown out, as if at random or in sport, while others get into vogue, we may think the process of change to be the result of mere chance—there are nevertheless fixed laws in action, by which, in the general struggle for existence, some terms and dialects gain the victory over others. The slightest advantage attached to some new mode of pronouncing or spelling, from considerations of brevity or euphony, may turn the scale, or more powerful causes of selection may decide which of two or more rivals shall triumph and which succumb. Among these are fashion, or the influence of an aristocracy, whether of birth or education, popular writers, orators, preachers—a centralised government organising its schools expressly to promote uniformity of diction, and to get the better of provincialisms and local dialects. Between these dialects, which may be regarded as so many "incipient languages," the competition is always keenest when they are most nearly allied, and the extinction of any one of them destroys some of the links by which a dominant tongue may have been previously connected with some other widely distinct one. It is by the perpetual loss of such intermediate forms of speech that the great dissimilarity of the languages which survive is brought about. Thus, if Dutch should become a dead language, English and German would be separated by a wider gap.

Some languages which are spoken by millions, and spread over a wide area, will endure much longer than others which have never had a wide range, especially if the tendency to incessant change in one of these dominant tongues is arrested for a time by a standard literature. But even this source of stability is insecure, for popular writers themselves are great innovators, sometimes coining new words, and still oftener new expressions and idioms, to embody their own original conceptions and sentiments, or some peculiar modes of thought and feeling characteristic of their age. Even when a language is regarded with superstitious veneration as the vehicle of divine truths and religious precepts, and which has prevailed for many generations, it will be incapable of permanently maintaining its ground. Hebrew had ceased to be a living language before the Christian era. Sanscrit, the sacred language of the Hindoos, shared the same fate, in spite of the veneration in which the Vedas are still held, and in spite of many a Sanscrit poem once popular and national.

The Christians of Constantinople and the Morea still hear the New Testament and their liturgy read in ancient Greek, while they speak a dialect in which Paul might have preached in vain at Athens. So in the Catholic Church, the Italians pray in one tongue and talk another. Luther's translation of the Bible acted as a powerful cause of "selection," giving at once to one of many competing dialects (that of Saxony) a prominent and dominant position in Germany; but the style of Luther has, like that of our English Bible, already become somewhat antiquated.

If the doctrine of gradual transmutation be applicable to languages, all those spoken in historical times must each of them have had a closely allied prototype; and accordingly, whenever we can thoroughly investigate their history, we find in them some internal evidence of successive additions by the invention of new words or the modification of old ones. Proofs also of borrowing are discernible, letters being retained in the spelling of some words which have no longer any meaning as they are now pronounced—no connection with any corresponding sounds. Such redundant or silent letters, once useful in the parent speech, have been aptly compared by Mr. Darwin to rudimentary organs in living beings, which, as he interprets them, have at some former period been more fully developed, having had their proper functions to perform in the organisation of a remote progenitor.

If all known languages are derivative and not primordial creations, they must each of them have been slowly elaborated in a single geographical area. No one of them can have had two birthplaces. If one were carried by a colony to a distant region, it would immediately begin to vary unless frequent intercourse was kept up with the mother country. The descendants of the same stock, if perfectly isolated, would in five or six centuries, perhaps sooner, be quite unable to converse with those who remained at home, or with those who may have migrated to some distant region, where they were shut out from all communication with others speaking the same tongue.

A Norwegian colony which settled in Iceland in the ninth century, maintained its independence for about 400 years, during which time the old Gothic which they at first spoke became corrupted and considerably modified. In the meantime the natives of Norway, who had enjoyed much commercial intercourse with the rest of Europe, acquired quite a new speech, and looked on the Icelandic as having been stationary, and as representing the pure Gothic original of which their own was an offshoot.

A German colony in Pennsylvania was cut off from frequent communication with Europe for about a quarter of a century, during the wars of the French Revolution between 1792 and 1815. So marked had been the effect even of this brief and imperfect isolation, that when Prince Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar travelled among them a few years after the peace, he found the peasants speaking as they had done in Germany in the preceding century,* (* "Travels of Prince Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar, in North America, in 1825 and 1826", page 123.) and retaining a dialect which at home had already become obsolete.

Even after the renewal of the German emigration from Europe, when I travelled in 1841 among the same people in the retired valleys of the Alleghenies, I found the newspapers full of terms half English and half German, and many an Anglo-Saxon word, which had assumed a Teutonic dress, as "fencen," to fence, instead of umzaunen, "flauer" for flour, instead of mehl, and so on. What with the retention of terms no longer in use in the mother country, and the borrowing of new ones from neighbouring states, there might have arisen in Pennsylvania in five or six generations, but for the influx of newcomers from Germany, a mongrel speech equally unintelligible to the Anglo-Saxon and to the inhabitants of the European fatherland.

If languages resemble species in having had each their "specific centre" or single area of creation, in which they have been slowly formed, so each of them is alike liable to slow or to sudden extinction. They may die out very gradually in consequence of transmutation, or abruptly by the extermination of the last surviving representatives of the unaltered type. We know in what century the last Dodo perished, and we know that in the seventeenth century the language of the Red Indians of Massachusetts, into which Father Eliot had translated the Bible, and in which Christianity was preached for several generations, ceased to exist, the last individuals by whom it was spoken having at that period died without issue.* (* Lyell, "Travels in North America" volume 1 page 260 1845.) But if just before that event the white man had retreated from the continent, or had been swept off by an epidemic, those Indians might soon have repeopled the wilderness, and their copious vocabulary and peculiar forms of expression might have lasted without important modification to this day. The extinction, however, of languages in general is not abrupt, any more than that of species. It will also be evident from what has been said, that a language which has once died out can never be revived, since the same assemblage of conditions can never be restored even among the descendants of the same stock, much less simultaneously among all the rounding nations with whom they may be in contact.

We may compare the persistency of languages, or the tendency of each generation to adopt without change the vocabulary of its predecessor, to the force of inheritance in the organic world, which causes the offspring to resemble its parents. The inventive power which coins new words or modifies old ones, and adapts them to new wants and conditions as often as these arise, answers to the variety-making power in the animate creation.

Progressive improvement in language is a necessary consequence of the progress of the human mind from one generation to another. As civilisation advances, a greater number of terms are required to express abstract ideas, and words previously used in a vague sense, so long as the state of society was rude and barbarous, gradually acquire more precise and definite meanings, in consequence of which several terms must be employed to express ideas and things, which a single word had before signified, though somewhat loosely and imperfectly.

The farther this subdivision of function is carried, the more complete and perfect the language becomes, just as species of higher grade have special organs, such as eyes, lungs, and stomach, for seeing, breathing, and digesting, which in simple organisms are all performed by one and the same part of the body.* (* See Herbert Spencer's "Psychology" and "Scientific Essays.")

When we had satisfied ourselves that all the existing languages, instead of being primordial creations, or the direct gifts of a supernatural Power, have been slowly elaborated, partly by the modification of pre-existing dialects, partly by borrowing terms at successive periods from numerous foreign sources, and partly by new inventions made some of them deliberately, and some casually and as it were fortuitously—when we have discovered the principal causes of selection, which have guided the adoption or rejection of rival names for the same things and ideas, rival modes of pronouncing the same words and provincial dialects competing one with another—we are still very far from comprehending all the laws which have governed the formation of each language.

It was a profound saying of William Humboldt, that "Man is Man only by means of speech, but in order to invent speech he must be already Man." Other animals may be able to utter sounds more articulate and as varied as the click of the Bushman, but voice alone can never enable brute intelligence to acquire language.

When we consider the complexity of every form of speech spoken by a highly civilised nation, and discover that the grammatical rules and the inflections which denote number, time, and equality are usually the product of a rude state of society—that the savage and the sage, the peasant and man of letters, the child and the philosopher, have worked together, in the course of many generations, to build up a fabric which has been truly described as a wonderful instrument of thought, a machine, the several parts of which are so well adjusted to each other as to resemble the product of one period and of a single mind—we cannot but look upon the result as a profound mystery, and one of which the separate builders have been almost as unconscious as are the bees in a hive of the architectural skill and mathematical knowledge which is displayed in the construction of the honeycomb.

In our attempts to account for the origin of species, we find ourselves still sooner brought face to face with the working of a law of development of so high an order as to stand nearly in the same relation as the Deity himself to man's finite understanding, a law capable of adding new and powerful causes, such as the moral and intellectual faculties of the human race, to a system of nature which had gone on for millions of years without the intervention of any analogous cause. If we confound "Variation" or "Natural Selection" with such creational laws, we deify secondary causes or immeasurably exaggerate their influence.

Yet we ought by no means to undervalue the importance of the step which will have been made, should it hereafter become the generally received opinion of men of science (as I fully expect it will), that the past changes of the organic world have been brought about by the subordinate agency of such causes as "Variation" and "Natural Selection." All our advances in the knowledge of Nature have consisted of such steps as these, and we must not be discouraged because greater mysteries remain behind wholly inscrutable to us.

If the philologist is asked whether in the beginning of things there was one or five, or a greater number of languages, he may answer that, before he can reply to such a question, it must be decided whether the origin of Man was single, or whether there were many primordial races. But he may also observe, that if mankind began their career in a rude state of society, their whole vocabulary would be limited to a few words, and that if they then separated into several isolated communities, each of these would soon acquire an entirely distinct language, some roots being lost and others corrupted and transformed beyond the possibility of subsequent identification, so that it might be hopeless to expect to trace back the living and dead languages to one starting point, even if that point were of much more modern date than we have now good reason to suppose. In like manner it may be said of species, that if those first formed were of very simple structure, and they began to vary and to lose some organs by disuse and acquire new ones by development, they might soon differ as much as so many distinctly created primordial types. It would therefore be a waste of time to speculate on the number of original monads or germs from which all plants and animals were subsequently evolved, more especially as the oldest fossiliferous strata known to us may be the last of a long series of antecedent formations, which once contained organic remains. It was not till geologists ceased to discuss the condition of the original nucleus of the planet, whether it was solid or fluid, and whether it owed its fluidity to aqueous or igneous causes, that they began to achieve their great triumphs; and the vast progress which has recently been made in showing how the living species may be connected with the extinct by a common bond of descent, has been due to a more careful study of the actual state of the living world, and to those monuments of the past in which the relics of the animate creation of former ages are best preserved and least mutilated by the hand of time.



Whether Man can be regarded as an Exception to the Rule if the Doctrine of Transmutation be embraced for the rest of the Animal Kingdom. Zoological Relations of Man to other Mammalia. Systems of Classification. Term Quadrumanous, why deceptive. Whether the Structure of the Human Brain entitles Man to form a distinct Sub-class of the Mammalia. Intelligence of the lower Animals compared to the Intellect and Reason of Man. Grounds on which Man has been referred to a distinct Kingdom of Nature. Immaterial Principle common to Man and Animals. Non-discovery of intermediate Links among Fossil Anthropomorphous Species. Hallam on the compound Nature of Man, and his Place in the Creation. Great Inequality of mental Endowment in different Human Races and Individuals developed by Variation and ordinary Generation. How far a corresponding Divergence in physical Structure may result from the Working of the same Causes. Concluding remarks.

Some of the opponents of transmutation, who are well versed in Natural History, admit that though that doctrine is untenable, it is not without its practical advantages as a "useful working hypothesis," often suggesting good experiments and observations and aiding us to retain in the memory a multitude of facts respecting the geographical distribution of genera and species, both of animals and plants, the succession in time of organic remains, and many other phenomena which, but for such a theory, would be wholly without a common bond of relationship.

It is in fact conceded by many eminent zoologists and botanists, as before explained, that whatever may be the nature of the species-making power or law, its effects are of such a character as to imitate the results which variation, guided by natural selection, would produce, if only we could assume with certainty that there are no limits to the variability of species. But as the anti-transmutationists are persuaded that such limits do exist, they regard the hypothesis as simply a provisional one, and expect that it will one day be superseded by another cognate theory, which will not require us to assume the former continuousness of the links which have connected the past and present states of the organic world, or the outgoing with the incoming species.

In like manner, many of those who hesitate to give in their full adhesion to the doctrine of progression, the other twin branch of the development theory, and who even object to it, as frequently tending to retard the reception of new facts supposed to militate against opinions solely founded on negative evidence, are nevertheless agreed that on the whole it is of great service in guiding our speculations. Indeed it cannot be denied that a theory which establishes a connection between the absence of all relics of vertebrata in the oldest fossiliferous rocks, and the presence of man's remains in the newest, which affords a more than plausible explanation of the successive appearance in strata of intermediate age of the fish, reptile, bird, and mammal, has no ordinary claims to our favour as comprehending the largest number of positive and negative facts gathered from all parts of the globe, and extending over countless ages, that science has perhaps ever attempted to embrace in one grand generalisation.

But will not transmutation, if adopted, require us to include the human race in the same continuous series of developments, so that we must hold that Man himself has been derived by an unbroken line of descent from some one of the inferior animals? We certainly cannot escape from such a conclusion without abandoning many of the weightiest arguments which have been urged in support of variation and natural selection considered as the subordinate causes by which new types have been gradually introduced into the earth. Many of the gaps which separate the most nearly allied genera and orders of mammalia are, in a physical point of view, as wide as those which divide Man from the mammalia most nearly akin to him, and the extent of his isolation, whether we regard his whole nature or simply his corporeal attributes, must be considered before we can discuss the bearing of transmutation upon his origin and place in the creation.


In order to qualify ourselves to judge of the degree of affinity in physical organisation between Man and the lower animals, we cannot do better than study those systems of classification which have been proposed by the most eminent teachers of natural history. Of these an elaborate and faithful summary has recently been drawn up by the late Isidore Geoffroy St. Hilaire, which the reader will do well to consult.* (* "Histoire Naturale Generale des Regnes organiques" Paris volume 2 1856.)

He begins by passing in review numerous schemes of classification, each of them having some merit, and most of them having been invented with a view of assigning to Man a separate place in the system of Nature, as, for example, by dividing animals into rational and irrational, or the whole organic world into three kingdoms, the human, the animal, and the vegetable—an arrangement defended on the ground that Man is raised as much by his intelligence above the animals as are these by their sensibility above plants. Admitting that these schemes are not unphilosophical, as duly recognising the double nature of Man (his moral and intellectual, as well as his physical attributes), Isidore G. St. Hilaire observes that little knowledge has been imparted by them. We have gained, he says, much more from those masters of the science who have not attempted any compromise between two distinct orders of ideas, the physical and psychological, and who have confined their attention strictly to Man's physical relation to the lower animals.

Linnaeus led the way in this field of inquiry by comparing Man and the apes, in the same manner as he compared these last with the carnivores, ruminants, rodents, or any other division of warm-blooded quadrupeds. After several modifications of his original scheme, he ended by placing Man as one of the many genera in his order Primates, which embraced not only the apes and lemurs, but the bats also, as he found these last to be nearly allied to some of the lowest forms of the monkeys. But all modern naturalists, who retain the order Primates, agree to exclude from it the bats or Cheiroptera; and most of them class Man as one of several families of the order Primates. In this, as in most systems of classification, the families of modern zoologists and botanists correspond with the genera of Linnaeus.

Blumenbach, in 1779, proposed to deviate from this course, and to separate Man from the apes as an order apart, under the name of Bimana, or two-handed. In making this innovation he seems at first to have felt that it could not be justified without calling in psychological considerations to his aid, to strengthen those which were purely anatomical; for, in the earliest edition of his "Manual of Natural History," he defined Man to be "animal rationale, loquens, erectum, bimanum," whereas in later editions he restricted himself entirely to the two last characters, namely, the erect position and the two hands, or "animal erectum, bimanum."

The terms "bimanous" and "quadrumanous" had been already employed by Buffon in 1766, but not applied in a strict zoological classification till so used by Blumenbach. Twelve years later, Cuvier adopted the same order Bimana for the human family, while the apes, monkeys, and lemurs constituted a separate order called Quadrumana.

Respecting this last innovation, Isidore G. St. Hilaire asks, "How could such a division stand, repudiated as it was by the anthropologists in the name of the moral and intellectual supremacy of Man; and by the zoologists, on the ground of its incompatibility with natural affinities and with the true principles of classification? Separated as a group of ordinal value, placed at the same distance from the ape as the latter from the carnivore, Man is at once too near and too distant from the higher mammalia—too near if we take into account those elevated faculties, which, raising Man above all other organised beings, accord to him not only the first, but a separate place in the creation—too far if we merely consider the organic affinities which unite him with the quadrumana; with the apes especially, which, in a purely physical point of view, approach Man more nearly than they do the lemurs."

"What, then, is this order of Bimana of Blumenbach and Cuvier? An impracticable compromise between two opposite and irreconcilable systems—between two orders of ideas which are clearly expressed in the language of natural history by these two words: the human KINGDOM and the human FAMILY. It is one of those would-be via media propositions which, once seen through, satisfy no one, precisely because they are intended to please everybody; half-truths, perhaps, but also half-falsehoods; for what, in science, is a half-truth but an error?"

Isidore G. St. Hilaire then proceeds to show how, in spite of the great authority of Blumenbach and Cuvier, a large proportion of modern zoologists of note have rejected the order Bimana, and have regarded Man simply as a family of one and the same order, Primates.


Even the term "Quadrumanous" has lately been shown by Professor Huxley, in a lecture delivered by him in the spring of 1860-61, which I had the good fortune to hear, to have proved a fertile source of popular delusion, conveying ideas which the great anatomists Blumenbach and Cuvier never entertained themselves, namely, that in the so-called Quadrumana the extremities of the hind-limbs bear a real resemblance to the human hands, instead of corresponding anatomically with the human feet.

As this subject bears very directly on the question, how far Man is entitled, in a purely zoological classification, to rank as an order apart, I shall proceed to cite, in an abridged form, the words of the lecturer above alluded to.* (* Professor Huxley's third lecture "On the Motor Organs of Man compared with those of other Animals," delivered in the Royal School of Mines, in Jermyn Street (March 1861) has been embodied with the rest of the course in his work entitled "Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature.")

"To gain," he observes, "a precise conception of the resemblances and differences of the hand and foot, and of the distinctive characters of each, we must look below the skin, and compare the bony framework and its motor apparatus in each.

"The foot of Man is distinguished from his hand by:—

"1. The arrangement of the tarsal bones.

"2. By having a short flexor and a short extensor muscle of the digits.

"3. By possessing the muscle termed peronaeus longus.

"And if we desire to ascertain whether the terminal division of a limb in other animals is to be called a foot or a hand, it is by the presence or absence of these characters that we must be guided, and not by the mere proportions, and greater or lesser mobility of the great toe, which may vary indefinitely without any fundamental alteration in the structure of the foot. Keeping these considerations in mind, let us now turn to the limbs of the Gorilla. The terminal division of the fore-limb presents no difficulty—bone for bone, and muscle for muscle, are found to be arranged precisely as in Man, or with such minute differences as are found as varieties in Man. The Gorilla's hand is clumsier, heavier, and has a thumb somewhat shorter in proportion than that of Man; but no one has ever doubted its being a true hand.

"At first sight, the termination of the hind-limb of the Gorilla looks very hand-like, and as it is still more so in the lower apes, it is not wonderful that the appellation 'Quadrumana,' or four-handed creatures, adopted from the older anatomists by Blumenbach, and unfortunately rendered current by Cuvier, should have gained such wide acceptance as a name for the ape order. But the most cursory anatomical investigation at once proves that the resemblance of the so-called 'hindhand' to a true hand is only skin deep, and that, in all essential respects, the hind-limb of the Gorilla is as truly terminated by a foot as that of Man. The tarsal bones, in all important circumstances of number, disposition, and form, resemble those of Man. The metatarsals and digits, on the other hand, are proportionally longer and more slender, while the great toe is not only proportionally shorter and weaker, but its metatarsal bone is united by a far more movable joint with the tarsus. At the same time, the foot is set more obliquely upon the leg than in Man.

"As to the muscles, there is a short flexor, a short extensor, and a peronaeus longus, while the tendons of the long flexors of the great toe and of the other toes are united together and into an accessory fleshy bundle.

"The hind-limb of the Gorilla, therefore, ends in a true foot with a very movable great toe. It is a prehensile foot, if you will, but is in no sense a hand: it is a foot which differs from that of Man in no fundamental character, but in mere proportions—degree of mobility—and secondary arrangement of its parts.

"It must not be supposed, however, that because I speak of these differences as not fundamental, that I wish to underrate their value. They are important enough in their way, the structure of the foot being in strict correlation with that of the rest of the organism; but after all, regarded anatomically, the resemblances between the foot of Man and the foot of the Gorilla are far more striking and important than the differences."* (* Professor Huxley, ibid.)

After dwelling on some points of anatomical detail, highly important, but for which I have not space here, the Professor continues—"Throughout all these modifications, it must be recollected that the foot loses no one of its essential characters. Every monkey and lemur exhibits the characteristic arrangement of tarsal bones, possesses a short flexor and short extensor muscle, and a peronaeus longus. Varied as the proportions and appearance of the organ may be, the terminal division of the hind-limb remains in plan and principle of construction a foot, and never in the least degree approaches a hand."* (* Ibid.) For these reasons, Professor Huxley rejects the term "Quadrumana," as leading to serious misconception, and regards Man as one of the families of the Primates. This method of classification he shows to be equally borne out by an appeal to another character on which so much reliance has always been placed in classification, as affording in the mammalia the most trustworthy indications of affinity, namely, the dentition.

"The number of teeth in the Gorilla and all the Old World monkeys, except the lemurs, is thirty-two, the same as in Man, and the general pattern of their crowns the same. But besides other distinctions, the canines in all but Man project in the upper or lower jaws almost like tusks. But all the American apes have four more teeth in their permanent set, or thirty-six in all, so that they differ in this respect more from the Old World apes than do these last from Man."

If therefore, by reference to this character, we place Man in a separate order, we must make several orders for the apes, monkeys, and lemurs, and so, in regard to the structure of the hands and feet before alluded to, "the Gorilla differs far more from some of the quadrumana than he differs from Man." Indeed, Professor Huxley contends that there is more difference between the hand and foot of the Gorilla and those of the Orang, one of the anthropomorphous apes, than between those of the Gorilla and Man, for "the thumb of the Orang differs by its shortness and by the absence of any special long flexor muscle from that of the Gorilla more than it differs from that of Man." The carpus also of the Orang, like that of most lower apes, contains nine bones, while in the Gorilla, as in Man and the Chimpanzee, there are only eight." Other characters are also given to show that the Orang's foot separates it more widely from the Gorilla than that of the Gorilla separates that ape from Man. In some of the lower apes, the divergence from the human type of hand and foot, as well as from those of the Gorilla, is still greater, as, for example, in the spider-monkey and marmoset."* (* Huxley, ibid. page 29.)

If the muscles, viscera, or any other part of the animal fabric, including the brain, be compared, the results are declared to be similar.


In consequence of these and many other zoological considerations, the order Bimana had already been declared, in 1856, by Isidore G. St. Hilaire in his history of the science above quoted "to have become obsolete," even though sanctioned by the great names of Blumenbach and Cuvier. But in opposition to the new views Professor Owen announced, the year after the publication of G. St. Hilaire's work, that he had been led by purely anatomical considerations to separate Man from the other Primates and from the mammalia generally as a distinct SUB-CLASS, thus departing farther from the classification of Blumenbach and Cuvier than they had ventured to do from that of Linnaeus.

The proposed innovation was based chiefly on three cerebral characters belonging, it was alleged, exclusively to Man and thus described in the following passages of a memoir communicated to the Linnaean Society in 1857, in which all the mammalia were divided, according to the structure of the brain, into four sub-classes, represented by the kangaroo, the beaver, the ape, and Man respectively:—

"In Man, the brain presents an ascensive step in development, higher and more strongly marked than that by which the preceding sub-class was distinguished from the one below it. Not only do the cerebral hemispheres overlap the olfactory lobes and cerebellum, but they extend in advance of the one and farther back than the other. Their posterior development is so marked that anatomists have assigned to that part the character of a third lobe; it is peculiar to the genus Homo, and equally peculiar is the 'posterior horn of the lateral ventricle' and the 'hippocampus minor' which characterises the hind-lobe of each hemisphere. The superficial grey matter of the cerebrum, through the number and depth of its convolutions, attains its maximum of extent in Man.

"Peculiar mental powers are associated with this highest form of brain, and their consequences wonderfully illustrate the value of the cerebral character; according to my estimate of which I am led to regard the genus Homo as not merely a representative of a distinct order, but of a distinct sub-class of the mammalia, for which I propose the name of 'Archencephala.'"* (* Owen, "Proceedings of the Linnaean Society" London volume 8 page 20.)

The above definition is accompanied in the same memoir by the following note:—"Not being able to appreciate, or conceive, of the distinction between the psychical phenomena of a chimpanzee and of a Boschisman, or of an Aztec with arrested brain-growth, as being of a nature so essential as to preclude a comparison between them, or as being other than a difference of degree, I cannot shut my eyes to the significance of that all-pervading similitude of structure—every tooth, every bone, strictly homologous—which makes the determination of the difference between Homo and Pithecus the anatomist's difficulty; and therefore, with every respect for the author of the Records of Creation,* (* The late Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Sumner.) I follow Linnaeus and Cuvier in regarding mankind as a legitimate subject of zoological comparison and classification."


A. Left cerebral hemisphere. B. Right cerebral hemisphere. C. Cerebellum displaced.)


e. The extension of the displaced cerebellum beyond the cerebrum at d.)

(FIGURE 56. CORRECT SIDE VIEW OF CHIMPANZEE'S BRAIN (FROM GRATIOLET). Scale half the diameter of the natural size.

d. Backward extension of the cerebrum, beyond the cerebellum at e. f. Fissure of Sylvius.)

(FIGURE 57. CORRECT VIEW OF UPPER SURFACE OF CHIMPANZEE'S BRAIN (FROM GRATIOLET), in which the cerebrum covers and conceals the cerebellum. Scale half the diameter of the natural size.)


A. Left cerebral hemisphere. C. Cerebellum. ff. Fissure of Sylvius.)

To illustrate the difference between the human and Simian brain, Professor Owen gave figures of the negro's brain as represented by Tiedemann, an original one of a South American monkey, Midas rufimanus, and one of the chimpanzee (Figure 54), from a memoir published in 1849 by MM. Schroeder van der Kolk and M. Vrolik.* (* "Comptes rendus de l'Academie Royale des Sciences" Amsterdam volume 13.)

The selection of Figure 54 was most unfortunate, for three years before, M. Gratiolet, the highest authority in cerebral anatomy of our age, had, in his splendid work on "The Convolutions of the Brain in Man and the Primates" (Paris, 1854), pointed out that, though this engraving faithfully expressed the cerebral foldings as seen on the surface, it gave a very false idea of the relative position of the several parts of the brain, which, as very commonly happens in such preparations, had shrunk and greatly sunk down by their own weight.* (* Gratiolet's words are: "Les plis cerebraux du chimpanze y sont fort bien etudies, malheureusement le cerveau qui leur a servi de modele etait profondement affaisse, aussi la forme generale du cerveau est-elle rendue, dans leurs planches, d'une maniere tout-a-fait fausse." Ibid. page 18.)

Anticipating the serious mistakes which would arise from this inaccurate representation of the brain of the ape, published under the auspices of men so deserving of trust as the two above-named Dutch anatomists, M. Gratiolet thought it expedient, by way of warning to his readers, to repeat their incorrect figures (Figures 54 and 55), and to place by the side of them two correct views (Figures 56 and 57) of the brain of the same ape. By reference to these illustrations, as well as to Figure 58, the reader will see not only the contrast of the relative position of the cerebrum and cerebellum, as delineated in the natural as well as in the distorted state, but also the remarkable general correspondence between the chimpanzee brain and that of the human subject in everything save in size. The human brain (Figure 58) here given, by Gratiolet, is that of an African bushwoman, called the Hottentot Venus, who was exhibited formerly in London, and who died in Paris.

Respecting this striking analogy of cerebral structure in Man and the apes, Gratiolet says, in the work above cited: "The convoluted brain of Man and the smooth brain of the marmoset resemble each other by the quadruple character of a rudimentary olfactory lobe, a posterior lobe COMPLETELY COVERING THE CEREBELLUM, a well-defined fissure of Sylvius (ff, Figure 56), and lastly a posterior horn in the lateral ventricle. These characters are not met with together except in Man and the apes."* (* Gratiolet, ibid. Avant-propos page 2 1854.)

In reference to the other figure of a monkey given by Professor Owen, namely, that of the Midas, one of the marmosets, he states, in 1857 as he had done in 1837, that the posterior part of the cerebral hemispheres "extends, as in most of the quadrumana, over the greater part of the cerebellum."* (* "Proceedings of the Linnaean Society" 1857 page 18 note, and "Philosophical Transactions" 1837 page 93.) In 1859, in his Rede Lecture, delivered to the University of Cambridge, the same illustrations of the ape's brain were given, namely, that of the Midas and the distorted one of the Dutch anatomists already cited (Figure 54).* (* See Appendix M.)

Two years later, Professor Huxley, in a memoir "On the Zoological Relations of Man with the Lower Animals," took occasion to refer to Gratiolet's warning, and to cite his criticism on the Dutch plates; * (* Huxley, "Natural History Review" January 7, 1861 page 76.) but this reminder appears to have been overlooked by Professor Owen, who six months later came out with a new paper on "The Cerebral Character of Man and the Ape," in which he repeated the incorrect representation of Schroeder van der Kolk and Vrolik, associating it with Tiedemann's figure of a negro's brain, expressly to show the relative and different extent to which the cerebellum is overlapped by the cerebrum in the two cases respectively.* (* "Annals and Magazine of Natural History" volume 7 1861 page 456 and Plate 20.) In the ape's brain as thus depicted, the portion of the cerebellum left uncovered is greater than in the lemurs, the lowest type of Primates, and almost as large as in the rodentia, or some of the lowest grades of the mammalia.

When the Dutch naturalists above mentioned found their figures so often appealed to as authority, by one the weight of whose opinion on such matters they well knew how to appreciate, they resolved to do their best towards preventing the public from being misled. Accordingly, they addressed to the Royal Academy of Amsterdam a memoir "On the brain of an Orang-outang" which had just died in the Zoological Gardens of that city.* (* This paper is reprinted in the original French in the "Natural History Review" volume 2 1862 page 111.) The dissection of this ape, in 1861, fully bore out the general conclusions at which they had previously arrived in 1849, as to the existence both in the human and the simian brain of the three characters, which Professor Owen had represented as exclusively appertaining to Man, namely, the occipital or posterior lobe, the hippocampus minor, and the posterior cornu. These last two features consist of certain cavities and furrows in the posterior lobes, which are caused by the foldings of the brain, and are only visible when it is dissected. MM. Schroeder van der Kolk and Vrolik took this opportunity of candidly confessing that M. Gratiolet's comments on the defects of their two figures (Figures 54 and 55) were perfectly just, and they expressed regret that Professor Owen should have overstated the differences existing between the brain of Man and the Quadrumana, "led astray, as they supposed, by his zeal to combat the Darwinian theory respecting the transformation of species," a doctrine against which they themselves protested strongly, saying that it belongs to a class of speculations which are sure to be revived from time to time, and are always "peculiarly seductive to young and sanguine minds."* (* Ibid. page 114.)

As the two memoirs before alluded to by us, the one by Mr. Darwin on "Natural Selection," and the other by Mr. Wallace "On the Tendency of Varieties to depart indefinitely from the original Type," did not appear till 1858, a year after Professor Owen's classification of the mammalia, and as Darwin's "Origin of Species" was not published till another year had elapsed, we cannot accept the explanation above offered to us of the causes which led the founder of the sub-class Archencephala to seek for new points of distinction between the human and simian brains; but the Dutch anatomists may have fallen into this anachronism by having just read, in the paper by Professor Owen in the "Annals," some prefatory allusions to "the Vestiges of Creation," "Natural Selection, and the question whether man be or be not a descendant of the ape."

The number of original and important memoirs to which this discussion on the cerebral relations of Man to the Primates has already given rise in less than five years, must render the controversy for ever memorable in the history of Comparative Anatomy.* (* Rolleston, "Natural History Review" April 1861. Huxley, on "Brain of Ateles" "Proceedings of the Zoological Society" 1861. Flower, "Posterior Lobe in Quadrumana" etc., "Philosophical Transactions" 1862. Id. "Javan Loris" "Proceedings of the Zoological Society" 1862. Id. on "Anatomy of Pithecia" ibid. 1862.)

In England alone, no less than fifteen genera of the Primates (the subjects having been almost all furnished by that admirable institution the Zoological Gardens of London) have been anatomically examined, and they include nearly all the leading types of structure of the Old and New World apes and monkeys, from the most anthropoid form to that farthest removed from Man; in other words, from the Chimpanzee to the Lemur. These are:—

Troglodytes (Chimpanzee). Pithecus (Orang). Hylobates (Gibbon).

Semnopithecus. Cercopithecus. Macacus. Cynocephalus (Baboon). Ateles (Spider Monkey).

Cebus (Capuchin Monkey). Pithecia (Saki). Nyctipithecus (Douricouli).

Hapale (Marmoset).

Otolicnus. Stenops. Lemur.

In July 1861 Mr. Marshall, in a paper on the brain of a young Chimpanzee, which he had dissected immediately after its death, gave a series of photographic drawings, showing that when the parts are all in a fresh state, the posterior lobe of the cerebrum, instead of simply covering the cerebellum, is prolonged backwards beyond it even to a greater extent than in Gratiolet's figure, 56, and, what is more in point, in a greater degree relatively speaking (at least in the young state of the animal) than in Man. In fact, "the projection is to the extent of about one-ninth of the total length of the cerebrum, whereas the average excess of overlapping is only one-eleventh in the human brain."* (* Marshall, "Natural History Review" July 1861. See also on this subject Professor Rolleston on the slight degree of backward extension of the cerebrum in some races of Man. "Medical Times" October 1862, page 419.)

The same author gives an instructive account of the manner in which displacement and distortion take place when such brains are preserved in spirits as in the ordinary preparations of the anatomist.

Mr. Flower, in a recent paper on the posterior lobe of the cerebrum in the Quadrumana,* (* "Philosophical Transactions" 1862 page 185.) remarks, that although Tiedemann had declared himself unable in 1821 to detect the hippocampus minor or the posterior cornu of the lateral ventricle in the brain of a Macacus dissected by him, Cuvier, nevertheless, mentions the latter as characteristic of Man and the apes, and M. Serres in his well-known work on the brain in 1826, has shown in at least four species of apes the presence of both the hippocampus minor and the posterior cornu.

Tiedemann had expressly stated that "the third or hinder lobe in the ape covered the cerebellum as in Man,"* (* Tiedemann, "Icones cerebri Simiarum" etc. page 48.) and as to his negative evidence in respect to the internal structure of that lobe, it can have no weight whatever against the positive proofs obtained to the contrary by a host of able observers. Even before Tiedemann's work was published, Kuhl had dissected, in 1820, the brain of the spider-monkey (Ateles beelzebuth), and had given a figure of a long posterior cornu to the lateral ventricle, which he had described as such.* (* "Beitrage zur Zoologie" etc. Frankfurt am Main 1820.)

The general results arrived at by the English anatomists already cited, and by Professor Rolleston in various papers on the same subject, have thus been briefly stated by Professor Huxley:—

"Every lemur which has yet been examined has its cerebellum partially visible from above, and its posterior lobe, with the contained posterior cornu and hippocampus minor, more or less rudimentary. Every marmoset, American monkey, Old World monkey, baboon, or man-like ape, on the contrary, has its cerebellum entirely hidden, and possesses a large posterior cornu, with a well-developed hippocampus minor.

"In many of these creatures, such as the Saimiri (Chrysothrix), the cerebral lobes overlap and extend much farther behind the cerebellum in proportion than they do in Man."* (* Huxley, "Evidence as to Man's place in Nature" page 97.)

It is by no means pretended that these conclusions of British observers as to the affinity in cerebral structure of Man and the Primates are new, but on the contrary that they confirm the inductions previously made by the principal continental teachers of the last and present generations, such as Tiedemann, Cuvier, Serres, Leuret, Wagner, Schroeder van der Kolk, Vrolik, Gratiolet, and others.

At a late meeting of the British Association (1862), Professor Owen read a paper "On the brain and limb characters of the Gorilla as contrasted with those of Man "* (* Medical Times and Gazette" October 1862 page 373.) in which, he observes, that in the gorilla the cerebrum "extends over the cerebellum, not beyond it." This statement, although slightly at variance with one published the year before (1861) by Professor Huxley, who maintains that it does project beyond, is interesting as correcting the description of the same brain given by Professor Owen in that year, in a lecture to the Royal Institution, in which a considerable part of the cerebellum of the gorilla was represented as uncovered.* (* "Athenaeum" Report of Royal Institution Lecture, March 23, 1861, and reference to it by Professor Owen as to Gorilla, ibid. March 30 page 434.) In the same memoir, it is remarked that in the Maimon Baboon the cerebrum not only covers but "extends backwards even beyond the cerebellum."* (* For Report of Professor Owen's Cambridge British Association paper see "Medical Times" October 11, 1862 page 373.) This baboon, therefore, possesses a posterior lobe, according to every description yet given of such a lobe, including a new definition of the same lately proposed by Professor Owen. For the posterior lobe was formerly considered to be that part of the cerebrum which covers the cerebellum, whereas Professor Owen defines it as that part which covers the posterior third of the cerebellum, and extends beyond it.

We may, therefore, consider the attempt to distinguish the brain of Man from that of the ape on the ground of newly-discovered cerebral characters, presenting differences in kind, as virtually abandoned by its originator, and if the sub-class Archencephala is to be retained, it must depend on differences in degree, as, for example, the vast increase of the brain in Man, as compared with that of the highest ape, "in absolute size, and the still greater superiority in relative size to the bulk and weight of the body."* (* Owen, ibid. page 373.)

If we ask why this character, though well known to Cuvier and other great anatomists before our time, was not considered by them to entitle Man, physically considered, to claim a more distinct place in the group called Primates than that of a separate order, or, according to others, a separate genus or family only, we shall find the answer thus concisely stated by Professor Huxley in his new work, before cited:—

"So far as I am aware, no human cranium belonging to an adult man has yet been observed with a less cubical capacity than 62 cubic inches, the smallest cranium observed in any race of men, by Morton, measuring 63 cubic inches; while on the other hand, the most capacious gorilla skull yet measured has a content of not more than 34 1/2 cubic inches. Let us assume for simplicity's sake, that the lowest man's skull has twice the capacity of the highest gorilla's. No doubt this is a very striking difference, but it loses much of its apparent systematic value, when viewed by the light of certain other equally indubitable facts respecting cranial capacities.

"The first of these is, that the difference in the volume of the cranial cavity of different races of mankind is far greater, absolutely, than that between the lowest man and the highest ape, while, relatively, it is about the same; for the largest human skull measured by Morton contained 114 cubic inches, that is to say, had very nearly double the capacity of the smallest, while its absolute preponderance of over 50 cubic inches is far greater than that by which the lowest adult male human cranium surpasses the largest of the gorillas (62 minus 34 1/2 = 27 1/2). Secondly, the adult crania of gorillas which have as yet been measured, differ among themselves by nearly one-third, the maximum capacity being 34.5 cubic inches, the minimum 24 cubic inches; and, thirdly, after making all due allowance for difference of size, the cranial capacities of some of the lower apes fall nearly as much relatively below those of the higher apes, as the latter fall below Man."* (* Huxley, "Evidence as to Man's place in Nature" London 1863 page 78. )

Are we then to conclude that differences in mental power have no intimate connection with the comparative volume of the brain? We cannot draw such an inference, because the highest and most civilised races of Man exceed in the average of their cranial capacity the lowest races, the European brain, for example, being larger than that of the negro, and somewhat more convoluted and less symmetrical, and those apes, on the other hand, which approach nearest to Man in the form and volume of their brain being more intelligent than the Lemurs, or still lower divisions of the mammalia, such as the Rodents and Marsupials, which have smaller brains. But the extraordinary intelligence of the elephant and dog, so far exceeding that of the larger part of the Quadrumana, although their brains are of a type much more remote from the human, may serve to convince us how far we are as yet from understanding the real nature of the dependence of intellectual superiority on cerebral structure.

Professor Rolleston, in reference to this subject, remarks, that "even if it were to be proved that the differences between Man's brain and that of the ape are differences entirely of quantity, there is no reason, in the nature of things, why so many and such weighty differences in degree should not amount to a difference in kind.

"Differences of degree and differences of kind are, it is true, mutually exclusive terms in the language of the schools; but whether they are so also in the laboratory of Nature, we may very well doubt."* (* Report of a Lecture delivered at the Royal Institution by Professor George Rolleston "On the Brain of Man and Animals" "Medical Gazette" March 15, 1862 page 262.)

The same physiologist suggests, that as there is considerable plasticity in the human frame, not only in youth and during growth, but even in the adult, we ought not always to take for granted, as some advocates of the development theory seem to do, that each advance in psychical power depends on an improvement in bodily structure, for why may not the soul, or the higher intellectual and moral faculties, play the first instead of the second part in a progressive scheme?


Ever since the days of Leibnitz, metaphysicians who have attempted to draw a line of demarcation between the intelligence of the lower animals and that of Man, or between instinct and reason, have experienced difficulties analogous to those which the modern anatomist encounters when he tries to distinguish the brain of an ape from that of Man by some characters more marked than those of mere size and weight, which vary so much in individuals of the same species, whether simian or human.

Professor Agassiz, after declaring that as yet we scarcely possess the most elementary information requisite for a scientific comparison of the instincts and faculties of animals with those of Man, confesses that he cannot say in what the mental faculties of a child differ from those of a young chimpanzee. He also observes, that "the range of the passions of animals is as extensive as that of the human mind, and I am at a loss to perceive a difference of kind between them, however much they may differ in degree and in the manner in which they are expressed. The gradations of the moral faculties among the higher animals and Man are, moreover, so imperceptible, that to deny to the first a certain sense of responsibility and consciousness would certainly be an exaggeration of the difference between animals and Man. There exists, besides, as much individuality within their respective capabilities among animals as among Man, as every sportsman, or every keeper of menageries, or every farmer and shepherd can testify, who has had a large experience with wild, or tamed, or domesticated animals. This argues strongly in favour of the existence in every animal of an immaterial principle, similar to that which, by its excellence and superior endowments, places Man so much above animals. Yet the principle exists unquestionably, and whether it be called soul, reason, or instinct, it presents, in the whole range of organised beings, a series of phenomena closely linked together, and upon it are based not only the higher manifestations of the mind, but the very permanence of the specific differences which characterise every organ. Most of the arguments of philosophy in favour of the immortality of Man apply equally to the permanency of this principle in other living beings."* (* Contributions to the "Natural History of the United States of North America" volume 1 part 1 pages 60 and 64.)

Professor Huxley, when commenting on a passage in Professor Owen's memoir, above cited, argues that there is a unity in psychical as in physical plan among animated beings, and adds, that although he cannot go so far as to say that "the determination of the difference between Homo and Pithecus is the anatomist's difficulty," yet no impartial judge can doubt that the roots, as it were, of those great faculties which confer on Man his immeasurable superiority above all other animate things are traceable far down into the animate world. The dog, the cat, and the parrot, return love for our love and hatred for our hatred. They are capable of shame and of sorrow, and though they may have no logic nor conscious ratiocination, no one who has watched their ways can doubt that they possess that power of rational cerebration which evolves reasonable acts from the premises furnished by the senses—a process which takes fully as large a share as conscious reason in human activity.* (* "Natural History Review" Number 1 January 1861 page 68.)


Few if any of the authors above cited, while they admit so fully the analogy which exists between the faculties of Man and the inferior animals, are disposed to underrate the enormous gap which separates Man from the brutes, and if they scarcely allow him to be referable to a distinct order, and much less to a separate sub-class, on purely physical grounds, it does not follow that they would object to the reasoning of M. Quatrefages, who says, in his work on the "Unity of the Human Species," that Man must form a kingdom by himself if once we permit his moral and intellectual endowments to have their due weight in classification.

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