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Matthew (1864-08-10)

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“Extension of the Principle of Selection to Emigrants”. Dundee Courier, Wednesday 10 August 1864, p.3 col.1 (pdf image).

(Letter written August 8, published August 10 1864)
Matthew writes about the need for selection to act upon emigrants, in order to allow the best stock to be the progenitors of the new colonizing population: “the elite of the species should certainly be the coloniser”, and this “seems to be the especial vocation of the Germanized British”. To do otherwise would be unfair to the “poor untameable savage” who is to be “crushed out of existence”: “it is right that the savage should be superseded by the very best selected colonists”. Thus, Matthew supports the “crimping” (tricking into military service) of newly arrived emigrants, as this will weed out the weak-minded who “would not be what a wise and beneficent Providence would select or think fit to lay the foundations of future empires”. Very similar ideas were expressed by Matthew in On Naval Timber and Arboriculture (Note C, p.373).

The letter contains a succinct summary of Matthew’s views on selection: “Selection is a principle which, more than thirty-three years ago, I pointed out as the great law of nature, calculated to bring every form of organic life to the highest perfection of being in accommodation to circumstances, maintaining it so while circumstances remain unchanged, and, in case of change, gradually remodelling species to befit the change — that is where man does not interfere to turn nature from her law.”

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR.

EXTENSION OF THE PRINCIPLE OF SELECTION TO EMIGRANTS.

Sir,— The public owe thanks to you for your very able article of last week describing the crimping system to which emigrants are subjected upon their arrival in the Northern States. In this article you, however, have not entered upon the philosophy — the utility, the expediency of this selecting practice upon emigrants. Selection is a principle which, more than thirty-three years ago, I pointed out as the great law of nature, calculated to bring every form of organic life to the highest perfection of being in accommodation to circumstances, maintaining it so while circumstances remain unchanged, and, in case of change, gradually remodelling species to befit the change — that is where man does not interfere to turn nature from her law.

Colonizing materiel, the seed of future empires, ought to be highly select, and, in the present condition of man, ought especially to be so far Teutonic blood, a race the most provident, steady, and sagacious existing, yet even in this race there are degenerate families and individuals. A large portion of our emigrants are the outcasts of society, detective mentally and physically —men incapable of obtaining a subsistence in the struggle of life, in a densely peopled country, least, in a condition of high development, that is intellectually elevated as a reasoning moral being. It would be a pity that defective varieties of the human species, kinds not worth cultivating, should go to be the founders of future empires. For this the elite of the species should certainly be the coloniser, and such hitherto has been the greater portion our British colonization, proved to be the most expansive, the most enterprising, the most successful that has hitherto appeared. To replenish the earth, to subdue the wilderness, seems to be the especial vocation of the Germanized British. No other people, unless Germanized, have the stamina and steady unflagging industry to render the wilderness productive, and rapidly people it up. Civilized man is not to be debarred from extending into those waste regions where only a few wandering savages that have sunk back to or never risen from the hunter stage are found, in number not amounting to one individual to the square mile, a space which under cultivation would maintain several hundreds. Such waste of the earth’s surface, fitted for the support of a dense population of the highest type, is not good husbandry. No one of common understanding would say that the foremost race existing should be curbed in the means of extension and increase, should be cribbed up in a small island writhing under the prudential checks to population, while so much of the habitable globe remains a forest hunting ground. It cannot be tolerated that one savage in the condition of the ferae naturae should have precedence in existence in occupying as much space as a thousand of the most advanced of the species. But, if the poor untameable savage is to be crushed out of existence by the civilised man, to make amends as much as possible to nature for so severe a doom it is right that the savage should be superseded by the very best selected colonists.

To colonize being the vocation of Britain, you, upon considering what some of the material is, will, I think, admit of the utility of a selecting power being exerted to winnow the weeds and light grains from out the more weighty better developed seed. Every good farmer attends carefully to this, as well as to choose the very best kinds for being winnowed. In the case of man, the alcoholic-drugged cup is the established lure to effect human selection and separation. By this the simple, the sensuous, the idle, the wanting in self-control, the unprincipled, are trapped by the crimp, and after a little struggling in his toils are induced by bunkum, and tempting hire to engage to join the invading armies and murder people that never injured them; themselves eventually to be shot down or killed off by climate-fever, exposure, and hardship. Surely those who would hire to do this worse than hangman’s work, would not be what a wise and beneficent Providence would select or think fit to lay the foundations of future empires. To colonize without winnowing out such material would, to considerable extent, be transplanting weeds or degenerate types.

PATRICK MATTHEW.
Gourdiehill, August 8, 1864.

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