Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Man is the Father of the Child. January 27, 1870, Chicago Weekly Republican

Weekly Republican
Chicago, Thursday January 27, 1870


It has come down to us from Hebrew story that the sins of the parents are visited upon the children; that the fathers eat sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge. It was considered a just reproach by the Jews to say, “Ye are the children of them which killed the prophets: Fill ye up, then, the measure of your fathers.” And they afterward lamented, “Our fathers have sinned, and are not; and we have borne their iniquities.” These broad recognitions of moral heritage by the ancient Jews are most strongly opposed by those trace the origin of their religion to the same source. But, whatever the objections, it seems to be true that many, if not all, of many physical, intellectual, and moral qualities come to him by the way of natural heritage.

Unity in diversity and diversity in unity is a law of nature and a law of God. Beauty sometimes, indeed, produces uniformity, and uniformity beauty. Genius has arisen from mediocrity, and virtue from vice. And it is a popular notion that great men frequently have fools for their children, and many distinguished names have been used as illustrations, among others Socrates of ancient times, and Henry IV., and Louis XIV., Oliver Cromwell, and napoleon of our own age. Indeed, so striking have been some of these instances, that it has sometimes been considered that diversity is the one law and uniformity the exception. But a greater weight of testimony can be adduced in support of the opposite view. An English physician, in a recent work, has gathered a large amount of evidence on this problem of natural heritage, from an examination of which one must conclude that children inherit, not only the general form and appearance of their parents, but also their mental and moral constitutions, even in those acquired habits of life, of intellect, of virtue, or of vice, for which their parents have been remarkable. And the saddest fact of all is that, while external form and color are subject to variations and while intellectual or moral qualities may not always be transmitted, an acquired or habitual vice will rarely fail to leave its trace upon the offspring. This influence of heritage over constitution and character has been recognized by the thoughtful men of all times. Nut the consequences have been so serious that the doctrine has been opposed by both legislator and theologian; the former, because a recognition of this doctrine woul d introduce difficulties into criminal legislation; the latter, because it is inconsistent with his dogmas. But, whatever the objections, there is conclusive proof that the fact exists. Besides, the theologians may possess themselves in peace, for whatever impulses may be hereditary, the will and conscience still exist.

The direct transmission of physical qualities none will question. Men see their own resemblance, their habits, their temperament and impulses, their intellectual tendencies and aptitudes, too frequently in their own children to deny this fact. This personal resemblance has become proverbial. The children of Abraham find easy recognition throughout the world. The gypsy tribes preserve a distinctive physiognomy. The reigning houses of Europe have nearly all some hereditary characteristic. The Bourbons have an aquiline nose. The House of Austria is distinguished by a thick lip. Stature is hereditary, as are also fecundity and idiosyncrasies, and not infrequently the deformities of parents. But the inheritance of intellectual and moral qualities has been most strenuously denied. The physician to whose treatise we have referred argues that the weight of evidence, both direct and analogical, is strongly in favor of this supposition. Of animals, it is true beyond doubt that their habits are transmitted. It seems to be equally true as regards men. The child of Indian parents brought up with white children will find it natural to adopt forest habits. “Our education begins with our forefathers.” It has been observed that children of wholly illiterate parentage and ancestry find great difficulty in learning languages, while the children of classical scholars acquire them with great facility.

The children of idiots are always idiots and no man of ability ever had an idiot for his father. Imbecility is likewise hereditary, even further than the “third or fourth generation.” And as a general rule the intellectual capacity of children are the same as those of their parents, although their education may be very different. There are innumerable instances which show that wise fathers do not hav foolish sons, and thet genuys in hereditary. There were two Pitts aned Two Foxes, two Scaligers and two Herschels, two COleridges, a family of malesherbes, and of Kembles, two Sheridans , and Mireabeau, father and son.

*** not finished. Seems opposite to the 2007 popular belief.

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