The Fruit of the Family Tree

by Albert Edward Wiggam. Indianapolis: Hobbs-Merrill Co. 1924, 8vo. viii+391 pp. Illustrated. $3.00.
THIS latest book by the distinguished author of The New Decalogue of Science is dedicated to the health, intelligence, and beauty of the unborn. Its concern is the welfare and happiness of future generations, but its message is to the parents of to-day, and not only to the parents, but to all those who by their activities may influence the trend of the social and economic forces by which our civilization is being shaped. Its central theme is the unescapable predominance of heredity in determining the physical, intellectual, and moral quality of the race. Acquired characteristics are not inherited, curing this generation does not make the next generation any stronger, and you make environment to a greater extent than it makes you. A family tree is, therefore, a fine thing to have, ‘if it is not too shady,’ and the unforgivable sin is that of marrying lower or meaner stock. The only hope of race improvement lies in the concentration of good strains and the elimination of bad strains.
Mr. Wiggam develops his thesis from the standpoint of the biologist, but with the reverence and spiritual insight which characterize much of the best, scientific writing of to-day. He visualizes for the lay reader the mighty drama of the life stream as it has flowed for millions of years and may yet flow for other millions, and he describes the amazing mechanism by which heredity is controlled by the chromosomes within the germ cells. By means of these latest findings of biology man is, for the first time, in position to direct the course of his evolution. We can have, the author promises, almost any kind of human race we want.
The daily record of misery and crime, with which we are confronted at the breakfast table, supplies ample evidence that the life stream of the race is still contaminated with many elements that are a present burden and a future menace to humanity. Mr. Wiggam gives impressive figures to demonstrate the awful cost of our continued breeding of the defective, the feeble-minded, and the criminal, and reaches the conclusion that three-fourths of the misery in the world is due to the simple fact that the wrong people married. Marriage, where children are expected, should be a privilege bestowed by society solely upon the fit. Great strains of blood are a people’s richest inheritance; bad strains make only for destruction. From Jonathan Edwards and his noble wife, Sarah Pierpont, have descended 12 college presidents, 265 college graduates, 65 college professors, 60 physicians, 100 clergymen, 75 army officers, 60 prominent authors, 100 lawyers, 30 judges, 80 public officers,— state governors, city mayors, and state officials, — 3 Congressmen, 2 United States Senators, and a Vice-President of the United States.
Blood tells indeed, but it oflen tells another story. About two hundred years ago the world was cursed by the advent of Max Jukes, a lazy New England vagabond. The melancholy record of his descendants includes 1220 social scourges — diseased, feeble-minded, and short-lived children, thieves, prostitutes, and murderers. Those who regard marriage as merely a personal matter would do well to study the two lines of descent from Martin Kallikak, a young soldier of the Revolution, One, through a nameless feeble-minded girl, has contributed nothing but wickedness and woe; the other, through a young Quaker woman of heroic ancestry, has blessed the earLli with beauty and achievement.
The Fruit of the Family Tree obviously has eugenics as its central theme, but the author is at pains to impress upon the reader that eugenics is by no means what it is commonly thought to be. He throws overboard the ' junk and nonsense’ with which eugenics has been associated in the public mind, and shows the science to include ‘almost the whole range of economic, educational, social, political, moral, and religious agencies,’ which lift it to the rank of ‘the last great political programme of the human race.’ It is a programme that may well appeal to all concerned with these activities — to the professional man, the business man, the legislator; but its more direct, and compelling message is to men and women simply because they are men and women.