Excerpt 4: from Part IV (VI)


Excerpt from Part IV (Sec VI), pp.307-308

This excerpt is a single paragraph from the end of Section VI of Part IV of the book. This paragraph is not alluded to in the letter Matthew sent to the Gardeners’ Chronicle in April 1860, but it contains another clear reference to his circumstance-adaptive law. The paragraph is noteworthy firstly because it contains the phrase “natural process of selection”, which is very close in wording to “natural selection”; and secondly because Matthew also sees this law as applying to the races of Man. This section is given the title “The apparent use of the infinite seedling varieties of plants” in the book’s Contents.

The use of the infinite seedling varieties in the families of plants, even in those in a state of nature, differing in luxuriance of growth and local adaptation, seems to be to give one individual (the strongest best circumstance-suited) superiority over others of its kind around, that it may, by overtopping and smothering them, procure room for full extension, and thus affording, at the same time, a continual selection of the strongest, best circumstance-suited, for reproduction. Man’s interference, by preventing this natural process of selection among plants, independent of the wider range of circumstances to which he introduces them, has increased the difference in varieties, particularly in the more domesticated kinds; and even in man himself, the greater uniformity, and more general vigour among savage tribes, is referrible [sic] to nearly similar selecting law – the weaker individual sinking under the ill treatment of the stronger, or under the common hardship.