James Bryce Bryce.

The relations of the advanced and the backward races of mankind : delivered in the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, June 7, 1902 online

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Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe relations of the advanced and the backward races of mankind : delivered in the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, June 7, 1902 → online text (page 3 of 3)
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higher race than of gain to the lower.

Where the contact already exists, a further question
arises : Can the evils incident to it be mitigated through
leading the Advanced and the Backward races to blend
by intermarriage, a method slow but sure, and one by
which many nations have been brought to unity and
strength out of elements originally hostile ? This is
a question which Nature usually answers, settling the
matter by the attractions or repulsions she implants.
Yet legislation may so far affect it as to make it deserve
to be pondered by those who are confronted by such
a problem.

Backward Races of Mankind 35

We have already noted that races which are near one
another in physical aspect and structure tend to mix,
and that the race produced by their mixture is equal or
superior to either of the progenitors.

We have also noted that where races are dissimilar
in aspect, and especially in colour, one at least is
generally repelled by the other, so that there is little
admixture by intermarriage. This is more plainly the
case as regards whites (especially North European
whites) and blacks than it is as regards other races.

We have further been led to conclude, though more
doubtfully, for the data are imperfect, that the mixture
of races very dissimilar, and especially of European
whites with blacks, tends rather to lower than to
improve the resultant stock. That it should be lower
than the higher progenitor seems natural. But does
it show a marked improvement upon the inferior pro-
genitor? May not the new mixed race stand, not
halfway between the two parent stocks, but nearer the
lower than the higher ?

Should this view be correct, it dissuades any attempt
to mix races so diverse as are the white Europeans
and the negroes. The wisest men among the coloured
people of the Southern States of America do not desire
the intermarriage of their race with the whites. They
prefer to develop it as a separate people, on its own
lines, though of course by the help of the whites. The
negro race in America is not wanting in intelligence.
It is fond of learning. It has already made a con-
siderable advance. It will cultivate self-respect better
by standing on its own feet than by seeking blood


36 The Relations of the Advanced and

alliances with whites, who would usually be of the
meaner sort 1 .

In India, some sections of the native population are
equal in intellectual aptitude to their European rulers,
and may pride themselves upon even longer traditions
of intellectual culture. One cannot call this part of
the population a Backward race. Yet it does not seem
desirable that they and the whites should become fused
by intermarriage; nor do they themselves appear to
desire that result.

The matter ought to be regarded from the side
neither of the white nor of the black, but of the future
of mankind at large. Now for the future of mankind
nothing is more vital than that some races should be
maintained at the highest level of efficiency, because
the work they can do for thought and art and letters,
for scientific discovery, and for raising the standard
of conduct, will determine the general progress of
humanity. If therefore we were to suppose the blood
of the races which are now most advanced to be
diluted, so to speak, by that of those most backward,
not only would more be lost to the former than would
be gained to the latter, but there would be a loss,
possibly an irreparable loss, to the world at large.

It may therefore be doubted whether any further
mixture of Advanced and Backward races is to be
desired. In some regions, however, that mixture seems
probable. Brazil may see the Portuguese whites and
the blacks blent into one after some centuries. The

1 Intermarriage is forbidden by law in all the old Slave States.

Backward Races of Mankind 37

Spaniards of Central and South America (except per-
haps Uruguay and Argentina, where there are very
few natives, and Chile) may be absorbed into the Indian
population, who will have then become a sort of
Spaniards. In the Far East there may be a great
mixing of Chinese and Malays, and in Central Africa
a further mixture of the Sudanese Arabs with the
negroes. But the Teutonic races, as well as the
French,! seem likely to keep their blood quite distinct
from all the coloured races, whether in Asia, in Africa,
or in America.

It remains to consider what can be done to minimize
the evils and reduce the friction which are incident
to the contact of an Advanced and a Backward race,
and which may sometimes become more troublesome
with the forward movement of the latter.

On the legal side of this question, one thing is clear.
The Backward race ought to receive all such private
civil rights as it can use for its own benefit. It ought
to have as full a protection in person and property, as
complete an access to all professions and occupations,
as wide a power of entering into contracts, as ready
an access to the courts, as the more advanced race
enjoys. The only distinctions should be those which
may be needed for its own defence against fraud, or
to permit the continuance of the old customs (so far
as harmless) to which it clings. This is the policy
which the Romans followed in extending citizenship
over their dominions. It has been followed with ad-
mirable consistency and success by the English in
India, as well as by the French in Algeria, and by

38 The Relations of the Advanced and

the Americans when they liberated the slaves during
and after the Civil War. It has the two great merits of
creating a respect for the lower race among the higher
one, and of soothing the lower one by the feeling that
in all that touches the rights of private life they are
treated with strict justice.

When we pass to the sphere of politics more de-
batable questions emerge. Equality of rights might
seem to be here also that which is fairest and most
likely to make for unity and peace. But the Backward
race may be really unfit to exercise political power,
whether from ignorance, or from an indifference that
would dispose it to sell its votes, or from a propensity
to sudden and unreasoning impulses. The familiar
illustration of the boy put to drive a locomotive engine
might in some communities be no extreme way of de-
scribing the risks a democracy runs when the suffrage
is granted to a large mass of half-civilized men.

Those who rule subject races -on despotic methods,
as the Russians rule Transcaucasia and the English
India, or as the Hispano-American minorities virtually
rule the native Indians in most of the so-called re-
publics of Central and South America, do not realize
all the difficulties that arise in a democracy. The capital
instance is afforded by the history of the Southern
States since the Civil War. Those States have passed
through four stages. The first was that of leaving
the political status of the coloured people to be dealt
with by State laws, coupled with a measure of military
authority. This proved unsatisfactory; so a second
stage was ushered in by the grant to the coloured

Backward Races of Mankind 39

population of full political rights. Disorders and
outrages on the negroes became frequent, which the
State Governments, though based on negro suffrage,
and the Federal army could not repress. After a time
the Federal troops were withdrawn/ and the white
population regained control of the State Governments.
The outrages diminished, but the coloured citizens
were henceforth, in this third stage, prevented, at
first chiefly by force, and afterwards chiefly by fraud,
from exercising their right of suffrage. And now
a fourth stage has arrived, in which several State
Constitutions have been so altered as practically to
exclude the vast majority of the negro voters, evading
the amendment of 1870 to the Federal Constitution
which was enacted for their benefit. These voters
have now generally acquiesced in their position : and
the political side of the question attracts less notice
than the frequent cases in which negroes are lynched,
sometimes with circumstances of hideous cruelty, for
offences (not always proved) which excite peculiar

The_jnorarto_be _drawn_from Mthe case of the Southern
States seems to be that youjnust not, however excellent
your intentiona^ji^e^^

legislate in the teeth of facts. The great bulk of the
negfoes~"were not fit for the suffrage; nor under the
American Federal system was it possible (without
incurring other grave evils) to give them effective
protection in the exercise of the suffrage. It would,
therefore, have been better to postpone the bestowal
of this dangerous boon. True it is that rocks and

40 The Relations of the Advanced and

shoals were set thick round every course : true that
it is easier to perceive the evils of a course actually
taken than to realize other evils that might have
followed some other course. Nevertheless, the general
opinion of dispassionate men has come to deem the
action taken in A. D. 1870 a mistake.

The social relations of two races which cannot be
fused raise problems even more difficult, because in-
capable of being regulated by law. Law may attempt
to secure equal admission to public conveyances or
public entertainments. But the look of scorn/ the
casual blow, the brutal oath thrown at one "who dare
not resent it these are injuries which cannot be pre^
vented where the sentiment of the dominant race allows
them. Impunity corrupts the ordinary man ; and even
the better sort suffer from the consciousness of their
own superiority not merely in rank, but also in strength
and volition. One must have lived among a weaker
race in order to realize the kind of irritation which
its defects produce in those who deal with it, and how
temper and self-control are strained in resisting
temptations to harsh or arbitrary action. It needs
something more than the virtue of a philosopher it
needs the tenderness of a saint to preserve the same
courtesy and respect towards the members of a back-
ward race as are naturally extended to equals.

Where ordinary virtue fails, one may ask, Why
does not religion come in to bridge the gulf between
two races, both of whom, as in the Southern States,
worship the same God? Christianity has proclaimed
in the most solemn and exalted terms the absolute

Backward Races of Mankind 41

equality and brotherhood of all men. 'There is
neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircum-
cision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free : but Christ is
all and in all.' The precepts Christianity delivers might
have been expected to soften the feelings and tame
the pride of the stronger race. It must, however,
be admitted that in all or nearly all the countries
where white men and black men dwell together,
Christianity, though it has brought from without not
only devoted missionaries but such a band of noble
and self-sacrificing women as went after the war to
the Southern States to teach the newly liberated
negroes, has failed to impress the lesson of human
equality and brotherhood upon the whites established
in the country. Their sense of scornful superiority
resists its precepts. This seems the more strange
when one remembers how successful Islam has been
in creating a sentiment of equality in those who obey
it. The common faith of Muslims not only unites
them against all who stand outside, but extinguishes
distinctions of personal status among them, softening
slavery, and making the free negro the equal of Arab
or Persian or Turk. To what causes is this difference
between the influence of the two great faiths to be
ascribed ? Can one of those causes be that Christianity
achieved less because it aimed at more ? It said, ' Love
your fellow man, for God is his Father and your
Redeemer died for him/ Islam said, 'Recognize as
an equal every one who worships God and acknow-
ledges His Prophet/ Christians, of course with many
noble exceptions, have failed to rise to the level of

42 The Relations of the Advanced and

the higher teaching, while Muslims have risen to the
level of the lower.

It is worth remarking that in respect if not of their
practical treatment of the Backward races, yet of
their attitude towards them, Roman Catholics have
been more disposed to a recognition of equality than
have Protestants. The Spaniard is the proudest of
mankind. He treated the aborigines of the New
World as harshly as ever the Teutonic peoples have
done. But he does not look down upon, nor hold
himself aloof from, the negro or the Indian as
the Teutons do. May this be partly owing to the
powers of the Catholic priesthood and the doctrine
of Transubstantiation ? An Indian or a negro priest
and in Mexico the priests are mostly Indians is raised
so high by the majesty of his office that he lifts his
race along with him.

The tremendous problem presented by the Southern
States of America, and the likelihood that similar pro-
blems will have to be solved elsewhere, as, for instance,
in South Africa and the Philippine Isles, bid us ask,
What should be the duty and the policy of a dominant
race where it cannot fuse with a backward race ? Duty
and policy are one, for it is equally to the interest of
both races that their relations should be friendly *.

1 New Zealand seems to have handled the problem of its Maori
population with remarkable success. The Maoris have received
political rights, and are at present on friendly terms with the
whites. They are represented in both houses of the legislature.
It is however to be observed that they are comparatively few
in number (though now increasing), that they live pretty much

Backward Races of Mankind 43

The answer seems to be that as regards political \
rights, race and blood_should not_bejnade the ground \
^^discrimination. Where the bulk of the coloured race
are obviously unfit for politicaT^poweiy a qualification
based on property and education_might be established
whic!Tshmiia~^rmiFlhe]upper section of that race to
enjoy the suffrage.^ Such" a qualification would doubt-
less exclude some of the poorest and most ignorant
whites, and might on that ground be resisted. But it
is better to face this difficulty than to wound and
alienate the whole of the coloured race by placing
them without the pale of civic functions and duties.

As regards social relations, law can do but little
save in the way of expressing the view the State
takes of how its members should behaVe to one another.
Good feeling and good manners cannot be imposed
by statute. The best hope lies in the slow growth
of a better sentiment. When the educated sections
of the dominant race have come to realize how essen-
tial it is to the future of their country that the back-
ward race should be helped forward and rendered
friendly, their influence will by degrees filter down
through the masses of the people and efface the scorn
they feel for the weaker race. The philosopher may
say, 'Let who will make the laws if I make the
manners ' ; for where manners are wholesome, the laws
will be just, and will be justly administered. Manners
depend upon sentiment, and sentiment changes slowly.

by themselves on their own reserved lands, and that they are
a race which has always inspired respect.

44 The Relations of the Advanced and

Still it changes. It has changed as regards torture.
It has changed as regards slavery.

Let me sum up the conclusions to which we have
been led:

The races of mankind have been and are being
reduced in number by Extinction, by Absorption, and
by Admixture.

The races that remain, fewer in number, but nearly
every one of them larger, are being brought into a
closer contact with one another, and the lower races
are being raised in the arts of life, in knowledge, and in

The various races may, if friendly, help one another,
more than ever before, and so accelerate the progress
of the world.

But closer contact and the increase of population
bring with them a more severe economic struggle for
life between races, and may bring hostile conflicts, in
which the Backward races may prove less conspicuously
weaker than heretofore.

What can be done to mitigate antagonism and to
reduce the risks of collision?

A larger philosophy may do much. A deeper and
more earnest faith, which should strive to carry out
in practice that sense of human brotherhood which
Christianity inculcates, might do still more.

In dealing with the topic which has occupied us
to-day, I have proceeded upon the basis of the con-
ditions which now actually prevail in the world. But,
before closing, a word or two needs to be said as
to the changes in those conditions which may come

Backward Races of Mankind 45

about within the next few generations, and which may
materially affect the existing relations of races, by
making their contact, especially in the tropics, either
more or less general and close than it is now. I will
mention a few of these possible changes.

The power of white races to work and to multiply
in tropical countries may be increased by discoveries
in medical science extinguishing or providing more
effective remedies for certain diseases. The recent
expulsion of yellow fever from Cuba by the American
physicians and officers opens a wide and interesting
field of hope. So, too, the rate of the increase or
decrease of population among races inhabiting countries
into which they have recently come may rise or fall.
The South European races may be found capable of
settling North Africa or parts of the torrid zone ;
some of the tropical races may maintain their prolific
quality in climates more severe than they have hitherto

Scientific discovery and mechanical inventions may
enable the forces of Nature to be more effectively
and cheaply used to supersede manual labour in
countries hitherto deemed too hot for white men to
work in, and may thus increase the afflux of white
work-people to those countries. .

Some of the races now deemed backward may
show a capacity for intellectual and moral progress
greater than they have been credited with. The
differences between them and the advanced races lie not
so much in intelligence as in force of will and tenacity
of purpose. How far these latter qualities can be

46 The Relations of the Advanced and

developed with a developing intellect is still doubtful,
for the future will bring new opportunities.

The present system of great States and the desire
of such States to acquire and rule territories beyond
their national limits may not be permanent factors.
That the chief world-languages will extend their range,
that the number of nationalities will diminish, that the
population of such countries as Britain, Germany, and
Italy will continue, for a good while to come, to spread
out into new lands, and that a keen commercial rivalry
between producing countries will continue these things
may perhaps be assumed. But it is not safe to assume
that the process by which the huge political aggregates
we now see have been built up during the last few
centuries will also continue. Causes may even be
imagined which would break up existing nations into
smaller political units.

Questions relating to the future of the great religions
lead us into a still vaster and still darker field of
uncertainty, a field in which forces reign whose action
we can neither calculate nor foretell. Conceive what
a difference it might make if Islam were within two
centuries to disappear from the earth! The thing is
not impossible: perhaps not even improbable,

I have sought to call your attention to a great secular
process in the history of the world, a process the steps
in which are reckoned by centuries, and whose mag-
nitude transcends the political or commercial questions
that claim our thoughts from day to day. It is a pro-
cess which has now entered a critical phase, and we
see opening before us a long vista in which there

Backward Races of Mankind 47

appear possibilities of an immense increase in the
productive powers of the earth and man, possibilities
also of trouble and strife between races now being
brought into a closer and more general contact. As
always, elements of peril are balanced by elements
of hope. The sentiment of race-pride, the keenness of
race-rivalry, have been intensified. But the sense of a
common humanity has grown stronger. When we
think of the problems which are now being raised by
the contact of races, clouds seem to hang heavy on
the horizon of the future ; yet light streams in when
we remember that the spirit in which civilized States
are preparing to meet those problems is higher and
purer than it was when, four centuries ago, the great
outward movement of the European peoples began.





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Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe relations of the advanced and the backward races of mankind : delivered in the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, June 7, 1902 → online text (page 3 of 3)