National Geographic : 1903 Oct
378 THE NATIONAL GE syphilis, and tuberculosis, without the element of mental stress is well illus trated by the condition of the American Indian. Sorely afflicted as he is by the diseases and vices of civilization, his tendency is to an outdoor life, and as his land has disappeared and he has become physically incapacitated, the government has supported him, so that his sufferings have been in the main physical and not mental. Careless, slovenly, and improvident, he does not know much of worry for the morrow, and so we find that among his race " insanity is of rare occurrence." * Without wearying you with further figures I will simply call your attention to the new light in which our conclu sions now appear. Insanity is most fre quent in the older civilizations, in the more thickly settled communities, in urban centers-in short, where competi tion is most active. Here the weakling, the man whose mental faculties are not quite up to grade, who enters in the struggle handicapped by a poorly equili brated mind, goes to the wall. He is the victim of heredity. Here are bred all the vices which only a high grade of intelligence can call into being; stimu lants, narcotics, drugs of all kinds are available to help the overburdened on their way, until at last they react and bring ruin and desolation. The victims who fall a prey to these temptations are the victims of an acquired predisposi tion. Of these two varieties of causes he redity is by far the more important. While civilization furnishes the envi ronment that makes a bad heredity doubly dangerous, still it is the hered ity which is the prepotent factor and not the environment. A bad heritage is always a source of danger, and its possessor can never know when the environmental conditions may appear * "The Civilized Indian, His Physical Charac teristics and Some of His Diseases", by A. D. Lake, M. D. Trans. N . Y . Med. Soc., 1902. ,OGRAPHIC MAGAZINE which will make its latent activity ki netic. No people in the world are freer than we are from the taints of vicious inheritance. Inhabitants of the most glorious country on earth, a country whose future for greatness and power and good seems to have no limit, let us see that we make the best possible use of the bounties nature has showered upon us with so prodigal a hand. But power and greatness are double edged; they cut both ways; and already we are threatened with the dangers they have brought in their wake. The off scourings of all Europe are hastening to our shores for that wealth they ex pect to find ready at hand, and today 50 per cent of the nearly 25,000 insane of New York State are foreign-born. The result of this great influx of de fectives must of necessity have a con stant leavening effect on the whole population. The danger from this source, however, is as nothing com pared to that from war, the greatest curse that can afflict a nation. In war it is not the defective that goes down to death, but the flower of a nation's manhood, and if modern theories of heredity are correct, their place can never be filled. Once gone, they are gone forever, while the maimed, the diseased, the imbeciles and degen erates, unable to sustain the hardships of campaigning, stay at home and help populate the country with their ilk. I believe one of the principal reasons for this country's great prosperity lies in its freedom from foreign wars, and I am convinced that no more terrible calam ity could happen to it than to be en gaged in one. If we can control these two sources of evil successfully, I am sure that in ternal affairs will so shape themselves as not to seriously interfere with a fu ture which, I believe, can today only be dimly imagined, a future which will outshine the glory of ancient Rome as good outshines evil.