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Harvard Classics Volume 28

Or nation by artificial adoption only


The

usage of all language shows that community of blood was the leading idea in forming the greater and smaller groups of mankind. Words like _phylon, genos, gens, natio, kin,_ all point to the natural family as the origin of all society. The family in the narrower sense, the children of one father in one house, grew into a more extended family, the _gens_. Such were the Alkmaionidai, the Julii, or the Scyldingas, the real or artificial descendants of a real or supposed forefather. The nature of the _gens_ has been set forth often enough. If it is a mistake to fancy that every Julius or Cornelius was the natural kinsman of every other Julius or Cornelius, it is equally a mistake to think that the _gens Julia_ or _Cornelia_ was in its origin a mere artificial association, into which the idea of natural kindred did not enter. It is indeed possible that really artificial _gentes_, groups of men of whom it might chance that none were natural kinsmen, were formed in later times after the model of the original _gentes_. Still such imitation would bear witness to the original conception of the _gens_. It would be the doctrine of adoption turned the other way; instead of a father adopting a son, a number of men would agree to adopt a common father. The family then grew into the _gens_; the union of _gentes_ formed the State, the political community, which in its first form was commonly a tribe. Then came the nation, formed of a union of tribes. Kindred, real or artificial, is the
one basis on which all society and all government have grown up.

Now it is plain, that as soon as we admit the doctrine of artificial kindred--that is, as soon as we allow the exercise of the law of adoption--physical purity of race is at an end. Adoption treats a man as if he were the son of a certain father; it cannot really make him the son of that father. If a brachycephalic father adopts a dolichocephalic son, the legal act cannot change the shape of the adopted son's skull. I will not undertake to say whether, not indeed the rite of adoption, but the influences and circumstances which would spring from it, might not, in the course of generations, affect even the skull of the man who entered a certain _gens_, tribe, or nation by artificial adoption only. If by any chance the adopted son spoke a different language from the adopted father, the rite of adoption itself would not of itself change his language. But it would bring him under influences which would make him adopt the language of his new _gens_ by a conscious act of the will, and which would make his children adopt it by the same unconscious act of the will by which each child adopts the language of his parents. The adopted son, still more the son of the adopted son, became, in speech, in feelings, in worship, in everything but physical descent, one with the _gens_ into which he was adopted. He became one of that _gens_ for all practical, political, historical purposes. It is only the physiologist who could deny his right to his new position. The nature of the process is well expressed by a phrase of our own law. When the nation--the word itself keeps about it the remembrance of birth as the groundwork of everything--adopts a new citizen, that is, a new child of the State, he is said to be naturalized. That is, a legal process puts him in the same position, and gives him the same rights, as a man who is a citizen and a son by birth. It is assumed that the rights of citizenship come by nature--that is, by birth. The stranger is admitted to them only by a kind of artificial birth; he is naturalized by law; his children are in a generation or two naturalized in fact. There is now no practical distinction between the Englishman whose forefathers landed with William, or even between the Englishman whose forefathers sought shelter from Alva or from Louis XIV, and the Englishman whose forefathers landed with Hengest. It is for the physiologist to say whether any difference can be traced in their several skulls; for all practical purposes, historical or political, all distinction between these several classes has passed away.


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