War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Cre

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Hunting the Unfit

The Carnegie Institution's Station for Experimental Evolution at Cold Spring Harbor opened for business in 1904. But in the beginning, little happened. The experimental station's first years were devoted to preparatory work, mostly because Davenport was fundamentally unsure of just how he would go about reshaping mankind in his image. "I have little notion of just what we shall do," Davenport confided in a note. "We shall reconnoiter the first year." [1]

So Davenport focused on the basics. Lab animals were purchased: a tailless Manx cat, long-tailed fowl, canaries and finches for breeding experiments. Hundreds of seeds were acquired for Mendelian exercises. A staff was hired, including an animal keeper from Chicago, several research associates, an expert in botany and entomology, plus a gardener and a librarian. The librarian assembled shelf after shelf of the leading English, German and French biology publications: 2,000 books, 1,500 pamphlets, and complete sets of twenty-three leading journals, including American Journal of Physiology, Canadian Entomologist, Der Zoologische Garten and L'Annee Biologique. Associates were recruited from the scholarly ranks of Harvard, the University of Chicago, Columbia University and other respected institutions to actively research and consult. Corresponding scientists were attracted from Cambridge, Zurich, Vienna, Leipzig and Washington, D.C. to share their latest discoveries from the fields of entomology, zoology and biology. [2]

Davenport was so busy getting organized that the Carnegie Institution did not issue its official announcement about the experimental station until more than a year later, in March of 1905. [3]

Indeed, only after Davenport had recruited enough scholars and amassed enough academic resources to create an aura of eugenic preeminence, did he dispatch a letter to Galton, in late October of 1905, inviting him to become a so-called "correspondent." Clearly, Davenport wanted Galton's name for its marquee value. "Acceptance of this invitation," Davenport wrote, "[is] implying only [a] mutual intention to exchange publications and occasionally ideas by letter." But Galton was reluctant. "You do me honor in asking," Galton scribbled back, " ... but I could only accept in the understanding that it is an wholly honorary office, involving no duties whatever, for I have already more on my head than I can properly manage." That said, Galton asked Davenport to "exercise your own judgment" before using his name "under such bald restriction." [4]

During the next two years, Davenport's new experimental station confined its breeding data to the lower life forms, such as mice, canaries and chickens, and he contributed occasional journal articles, such as one on hereditary factors in human eye color. [5]

But how could Davenport translate his eugenic beliefs into social action?

Talk and theories gave way to social intervention at the December 1909 American Breeders Association meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. Subcommittees had already been formed for different human defects, such as insanity, feeblemindedness, criminality, hereditary pauperism and race mongrelization. Davenport encouraged the ABA to escalate decisively from pure hereditary research into specific ethnic and racial investigation, propaganda and lobbying for legislation. He convinced his fellow breeders to expand the small Eugenics Committee to a full-fledged organizational section. ABA members voted yes to Davenport's ideas by a resounding 499 to 5. Among his leading supporters was Alexander Graham Bell, famous for inventing the telephone and researching deafness, but also a dedicated sheep breeder and ardent eugenicist. [6]

Now the real work began. Davenport and Bell had already devised a so-called "Family Record" questionnaire. Bell agreed to use his influence and circulate the forms to high schools and colleges. The ABA also agreed to distribute five thousand copies. Davenport's eugenic form asked pointed questions about eye defects, deafness and feeblemindedness in any of a suspect family's ancestry. Bell wondered why Davenport would not also trace the excellence in a suspect family, as well as its defects. [7]

But Davenport was only interested in documenting human defects in other races and ethnic groups, not their achievements. He believed that inferiority was an inescapable dominant Mendelian trait. Even if a favorable environment produced a superior individual, if that individual derived from inferior ethnic or racial stock, his progeny would still constitute a biological "menace." [8]

Davenport's scientific conclusion was already set in his mind; now he craved the justifying data. Even with the data, making eugenics a practical and governing doctrine would not be easy. American demographics were rapidly transforming. Political realities were shifting. Davenport well understood that as more immigrants filed into America's overcrowded political arena, they would vote and wield power. Race politics would grow harder and harder to legislate. It mattered not. Davenport was determined to prevail against the majority -- a majority he neither trusted nor respected.

The inspiration to persevere against a changing world of ethnic diversity would come weeks later, during a visit to Kent, England. Davenport called the experience "one of the most memorable days of my life." That morning, the weather was beautiful and Davenport could not help but walk several miles through the bracing English countryside. He found himself at Downe House, Darwin's longtime residence. For an hour, the American eugenicist pondered Darwin's secluded walking paths and gardens. "It is a wonderful place," Davenport wrote, "and seems to me to give the clue to Darwin's strength -- solitary thinking out of doors in the midst of nature. I would give a good deal for such a walk .... Then I would build a brick wall around it .... I know you will laugh at this," he continued, "but it means success in my work as opposed to failure. I must have a convenient, isolated place for continuous reflection." [9]

Davenport returned to America and began constructing his scientific bastion, impervious to outside interference. The first step would be to establish the so-called Eugenics Record Office to quietly register the genetic backgrounds of all Americans, separating the defective strains from the desired lineages. Borrowing nomenclature and charting procedures from the world of animal breeding, these family trees would be called pedigrees. Where would the ERO obtain the family details? "They lie hidden," Davenport told his ABA colleagues, "in records of our numerous charity organizations, our 42 institutions for the feebleminded, our 115 schools and homes for the deaf and blind, our 350 hospitals for the insane, our 1,200 refuge homes, our 1,300 prisons, our 1,500 hospitals and our 2,500 almshouses. Our great insurance companies and our college gymnasiums have tens of thousands of records of the characters of human bloodlines. These records should be studied, their hereditary data sifted out and properly recorded on cards, and [then] the cards sent to a central bureau for study ... [of] the great strains of human protoplasm that are coursing through the country." [10]

At the same time, Davenport wanted to collect pedigrees on eminent, racially acceptable families, that is, the ones worth preserving. [11]

The planned ERO would also agitate among public officials to accept eugenic principles even in the absence of scientific support. Legislation was to be pressed to enable the forced prevention of unwanted progeny, as well as the proliferation by financial incentives of acceptable families. Whereas the experimental station would concentrate on quotable genetic research, the ERO would transduce that research into governing policy in American society.

In early 1910, just after the impetus for the new eugenics section of the American Breeders Association, Davenport swiftly began making his Eugenics Record Office a reality. Once more, the undertaking would require a large infusion of money. So once again he turned to great wealth. Reviewing the names in Long Island's Who's Who, Davenport searched for likely local millionaires. Going down the list, he stopped at one name: "Harriman." [12]

E.H. Harriman was legendary. America's almost mythic railroad magnate controlled the Union Pacific, Wells Fargo, numerous financial institutions and one of the nation's greatest personal fortunes. Davenport knew that Harriman craved more than just power and wealth; he fancied himself a scientist and a naturalist. The railroad man had financed a famous Darwin-style expedition to explore Alaskan glaciers. The so-called "Harriman Expedition" was organized by famous botanist and ornithologist C. Hart Merriam, a strong friend of eugenics. In 1907, Merriam had singlehandedly arranged a private meeting between Davenport's circle of eugenicists and President Theodore Roosevelt at the president's Long Island retreat. [13]

Harriman died in 1909, leaving a fabulous estate to his wife, Mary. [14]

Everything connected in Davenport's mind. He remembered that three years earlier, Harriman's daughter, also named Mary, had enrolled in one of Cold Spring Harbor's summer biology courses. She was so enthusiastic about eugenics, her classmates at Barnard College had nicknamed her "Eugenia." Mrs. Harriman was the perfect candidate to endow the Eugenics Record Office to carry on her husband's sense of biological exploration, and cleanse the nation of racial and ethnic impurity. [15]

Quickly, Davenport began cultivating a relationship with the newly widowed Mrs. E.H. Harriman. Her very name invoked the image of wealth and power wielded by her late husband, but identified her as now possessing the power over that purse. Even though the railroad giant's wife was now being plagued by philanthropic overtures at every turn, Davenport knew just how to tug the strings. Skilled in the process, it only took about a month. [16]

In early 1910, just days after the ABA elected to launch the Eugenics Record Office, Davenport reconnected with his former student about saving the social and biologic fabric of the United States. Days later, on January 13, Davenport visited Mary to advance the cause. On February 1, Davenport logged an entry in his diary: "Spent the evening on a scheme for Miss Harriman. Probably time lost." Two days later, the diary read: "Sent off letter to Miss Harriman." By February 12, Davenport had received an encouraging letter from the daughter regarding a luncheon to discuss eugenics. On February 16, Davenport's diary entry recorded: "To Mrs. Harriman's to lunch" and then several hours later, the final celebratory notation: "All agreed on the desirability of a larger scheme. A Red Letter Day for humanity!" [17]

Mrs. E. H. Harriman had joined the eugenic crusade. She agreed to create the Eugenics Record Office, purchasing eighty acres of land for its use about a half mile from the Carnegie Institution's experimental station at Cold Spring Harbor. She also donated $15,000 per year for operations and would eventually provide more than a half million dollars in cash and securities. [18]

Clearly, the ERO seemed like an adjunct to the Carnegie Institution's existing facility. But in fact it would function independently, as a joint project of Mrs. Harriman and the American Breeders Association's eugenic section. "As the aims of the [ABA's] Committee are strongly involved," Davenport wrote Mrs. Harriman on May 23, 1910, "it is but natural that, on behalf of the Committee, I should express its gratitude at the confidence you repose in it." [19]

Indeed, all of Davenport's numerous and highly detailed reports to Mrs. Harriman were written on American Breeders Association eugenic section letterhead. Moreover, the ABA's eugenics committee letterhead itself conveyed the impression of a semiofficial U.S. government agency. Prominently featured at the top of the stationery were the names of ABA president James Wilson, who was also secretary of the Department of Agriculture, and ABA secretary W. M. Hays, assistant secretary of the Department of Agriculture. In fact, the words "U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington D.C." appeared next to Hays's name, as a credential. [20] The project must have seemed like a virtual partnership between Mrs. Harriman and the federal government itself. [21]

Although the establishment of the Eugenics Record Office created a second eugenics agency independent of the Carnegie Institution, the two facilities together with the American Breeders Association's eugenic section in essence formed an interlocking eugenic directorate headquartered at Cold Spring Harbor. Davenport ruled all three entities. Just as he scrupulously reported to Carnegie trustees in Washington about the experimental station, and ABA executives about its eugenic section, Davenport continuously deferred to Mrs. Harriman as the money behind his new ERO. Endless operational details, in-depth explanations regarding the use of cows to generate milk for sale at five cents per quart to defray the cost of a caretaker, plans to plant small plots of hay and com, and requests to spend $10 on hardware and $50 on painting -- they were all faithfully reported to Mrs. Harriman for her approval. [22] It gave her the sense that she was not only funding a eugenic institution, but micromanaging the control center for the future of humanity.

While the trivialities of hay and hardware consumed report after report to Mrs. Harriman, the real purpose of the facility was never out of anyone's mind. For example, in his May 23, 1910 report to Mrs. Harriman, Davenport again recited the ERO's mission: "The furtherance of your and its [the ABA's] ideal to develop to the utmost the work of the physical and social regeneration of our beloved country [through] the application ... of ascertained biological principles." Among the first objectives, Davenport added, was "the segregation of imbeciles during the reproductive period." No definition of "imbeciles" was offered. In addition, he informed Mrs. Harriman, "This office has addressed to the Secretary of State of each State a request for a list of officials charged with the care of imbeciles, insane, criminals, and paupers, so as to be in a position to move at once ... as soon as funds for a campaign are available. I feel sure that many states can be induced to contribute funds for the study of the blood lines that furnish their defective and delinquent classes if only the matter can be properly brought to their attention." [23]

Referring to the increase in "defective and delinquent classes" that worried so many of America's wealthy, Davenport ended his May 23 report by declaring, "The tide is rising rapidly; I only regret that I can do so little." [24]

Davenport could not do it alone. Fundamentally, he was a scientist who preferred to remain in the rarefied background, not a ground-level activist who could systemize the continuous, around-the-clock, county-by-county and state-by-state excavation of human data desired. He could not prod the legislatures and regulatory agencies into proliferating the eugenic laws envisioned. The eugenics movement needed a lieutenant to work the trenches -- someone with ceaseless energy, a driven man who would never be satisfied. Davenport had the perfect candidate in mind.

"I am quite convinced," Davenport wrote Mrs. Harriman, "that Mr. Laughlin is our man." [25]


Fifty-five miles west of where northeast Missouri meets the Mississippi River, rolling foothills and hickory woodlands veined with lush streams finally yield to the undulating prairie that seats the town of Kirksville. In colonial times, mound-building Indians and French trappers prowled this region's vast forests hunting beaver, bear and muskrat pelts. After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, only the sturdiest pioneers settled what became known as the state of Missouri. Kirksville was a small rural town in its northeast quadrant, serving as the intellectual and medical center of its surrounding agricultural community. [26]

In 1891, the Laughlin clan was among the tough middle-class pioneer families that settled in Kirksville, hoping to make a life. George Laughlin, a deeply religious college professor, migrated from Kansas to become pastor at Kirksville's Christian Church. The next year, the classically trained Laughlin was hired as chairman of the English Department of the Normal School, the area's main college. [27] Quickly, the Laughlins became a leading family of Kirksville.

In a modest home on East Harrison Street, the elder Laughlin raised ten children including five sons, one of whom was Harry Hamilton Laughlin. Young Harry was expected to behave like a "preacher's kid," even though his father was a college professor and no longer a clergyman. Preacher's kid or not, Harry was prone to youthful pranks and was endearingly nicknamed "Hi Yi" by his siblings. Once, on a sibling dare, Harry swung an axe at his younger brother Earl's hand, which was poised atop a chopping block. One of Earl's fingers was nearly severed, but was later reattached. [28]

Ancestry and social progress were both important in the Laughlin household. Reverend Laughlin could trace his lineage back to England and Germany, and it included U.S. President James Madison. His mother, Deborah, a Temperance League activist, acknowledged that her great-grandfather was a soldier in the English Light Dragoons during colonial times. [29]

When a well-educated Harry Laughlin graduated from college, he saw himself destined for greater things. Unfortunately, opportunity did not approach. So Laughlin became a teacher at a desolate one-room schoolhouse in nearby Livonia, Missouri. Life in Livonia was an unhappy one for Laughlin. He had to walk through a small stream just to reach the front door of the schoolhouse. Laughlin referred to his ramshackle school as being "20 miles from any civilized animal." Sneering at the locals, he wrote, "People here are 75 years behind the times." Laughlin denigrated his students as "very dull" and admitted to "a forced smile" when he wasn't grumbling. [30]

Laughlin returned to Kirksville at his first chance. Initially, he hired on as principal of the local high school in 1900. However, he soon advanced to the Department of Agriculture, Botany and Nature at his college alma mater, the Normal School. His wife Pansy had also graduated from there. Hence, it was where Laughlin felt most comfortable. Indeed, despite the wide travels and illustrious circles he ultimately attained, Laughlin always considered simple Kirksville his true home and refuge. [31]

Still, Laughlin was convinced his days at Normal were temporary. A political dreamer, Laughlin had already drafted the first of numerous outlines for a one-world government comprised of six continental jurisdictions, complete with an international parliament apportioning seats in favor of the hereditarily superior nations. In Laughlin's world scheme, the best stocks would rule. Laughlin submitted his detailed plans to heads of state and opinion makers, but to no avail. No one paid attention. [32]

Highfalutin proposals for a personally crafted world order were only the outward manifestations of a man who desperately sought to make a mark, and not just any mark, but an incandescent mark visible to all. In pursuit of this, Laughlin spent a lifetime submitting his writings on everything from politics to thoroughbred horseracing to world leaders and influential personalities, seeking favorable comments, approval and recognition. And if none of that was possible, just a simple "thank you" would do.

It was not unusual for Laughlin to mail an obscure journal article or scientific paper to dozens of perfect strangers in high places, soliciting any measure of written approbation. These reply letters typed on important letterheads were then filed and cherished. Many were little more than polite but depthless two-sentence acknowledgments written by well-placed people who scarcely understood why they had been contacted. For example, Laughlin sent one immigration study to dozens of embassies, newspaper editors, business tycoons and private foundation leaders seeking comment. The Columbian Ambassador to Washington formally wrote back: "I take pleasure in acknowledging receipt of ... the books ... which I will be glad to look over." The editor of Foreign Affairs magazine issued a curt two-sentence thank you, indicating, "It will be useful in our reference files." An assistant in Henry Ford's office dashed off a two-sentence pro forma note, "We ... wish to take this opportunity of thanking you on behalf of Mr. Ford for the copy of your work .... " [33]

Self-promotion was a way of life for Laughlin. [34] But no matter how high his station, it was never high enough. "If I can't be great," Laughlin once confessed to his mother, at least "I can certainly do much good." [35]

Laughlin's desperate quest for greatness turned a historic corner on May 17, 1907, when he wrote to Davenport asking to attend one of Cold Spring Harbor's continuing summer biology courses. His application was immediately approved. [36] The relationship between Davenport and Laughlin finally ignited in January of 1909 when both men attended the American Breeders Association meeting in Columbia, Missouri. [37] The next year, after Mrs. Harriman approved the ERO, Laughlin was Davenport's number one choice.

Within Davenport's grandiose ideas about reshaping mankind, Laughlin could both find a niche and secure personal gratification. Working in the eugenics movement, with his notions of a one-world government, Laughlin might achieve a destiny he could barely imagine in any other endeavor.

Davenport understood Laughlin's deeply personal needs. As such, he structured Laughlin's employment to be more than just a career. The Eugenics Record Office would become Laughlin's life-from morning to night and into the next morning. Laughlin found such rigor comforting; it represented a personal acceptance he'd never known. Davenport had certainly chosen the right man.

Stressing to Mrs. Harriman that the ERO's task was a long-term project, Davenport proposed that Laughlin be hired for at least ten years. Laughlin's residence would actually be on the grounds of the Eugenics Record Office, and his title would be "superintendent." Davenport understood human nature. The very title "superintendent" was reminiscent of railroad station managers, the kind who had catered to Mrs. Harriman's late husband's steel-tracked empire. "Do you wish first to see Mr. Laughlin," Davenport asked Mrs. Harriman with apparent deference, but quickly added, "or do you authorize me to offer Mr. Laughlin $2,400 for the first year?" [38]

Mrs. Harriman approved. Davenport notified Laughlin. The campaign to create a superior race would soon be launched.


By late 1910 the Laughlins had arrived at Cold Spring Harbor to open the facility. They lived on the second floor of the ERO's main building, where they enjoyed four large rooms and a fifth smaller one. Laughlin would have continuous access to the library, dining room and kitchen adjacent to the main business area on the first floor. He would eat and sleep eugenics. Working fastidiously on the smallest details of the ERO's establishment, it was not uncommon to find him in the office seven days a week including most holidays. [39]

The Eugenics Record Office went into high gear even before the doors opened in October of 1910. Its first mission was to identify the most defective and undesirable Americans, estimated to be at least 10 percent of the population. This 10 percent was sometimes nicknamed the "submerged tenth" or the lower tenth. At the time, this amounted to millions of Americans. When found, they would be subjected to appropriate eugenic remedies to terminate their bloodlines. Various remedies were debated, but the leading solutions were compulsory segregation and forced sterilization. [40]

No time was wasted. During the ERO's preparatory summer months, a dozen field workers, mainly women, were recruited to canvas prisons and mental institutions, establishing good working relationships with their directors. The first junket on July 15, 1910, proved to be typical. First, field workers visited the notorious prison at Ossining, New York, known as Sing Sing, where they were granted a complete tour of the "hereditary criminals" they would be studying. After Sing Sing, the group traveled to the State Asylum at Matteawan, New York, where Superintendent Lamb promised to open all patient records to help "demonstrate at once the hereditary basis of criminal insanity." An albino family was then examined in nearby Millerton, New York. The eugenic investigators ended their outing at a school for the feebleminded in Lakeville, Connecticut. In Lakeville, once again, "the records were turned over to us," Davenport reported to Mrs. Harriman, enabling the "plotting on a map of Connecticut the distribution of birth-places of inmates." None of the institutions hesitated to turn over their confidential records to the private ERO -- even before the agency opened its doors. [41]

After a few weeks of training in eugenic characteristics and principles, Laughlin's enthusiastic ERO field investigators swept across the eastern seaboard. Their mission was to identify those perceived as genetically inferior, as well as their extended families and their geographic concentrations. By pegging hotspot origins of defectives, eugenic cleansing priorities could be established. By no means was this a campaign directed solely against racial groups, but rather against any individual or group -- white or black -- considered physically, medically, morally, culturally or socially inadequate in the eyes of Davenport and Laughlin. Often there was no racial or cultural consistency to the list of those targeted. The genuinely lame, insane and deformed were lumped in with the troubled, the unfortunate, the disadvantaged and those who were simply "different," thus creating a giant eugenic underclass simply labeled "the unfit."

The hunt began.

ERO researcher A. H. Estabrook traveled to western Massachusetts and Connecticut to collect family trees on albino families. He was then "attached" to the State Asylum at Matteawan to research criminal insanity. Thereafter, Laughlin assigned him to search for "degenerates in the isolated valleys around the upper Hudson [River]." Estabrook developed 35 pages of pedigrees and 168 pages of personal descriptions in his first forays, but Laughlin became most interested in one "large family with much intermarriage that promises to be as interesting as the Juke or Zero family." [42]

Mary Drange-Graebe was assigned to Chicago where she worked with the Juvenile Psychopathic Institute under Dr. William Healy. After four months in Chicago, she was reassigned to track down the so-called Ishmael clan of nomadic criminals and vagabonds in and around Indianapolis. The tribe of racially mixed white gypsies, Islamic blacks and American Indians had been described years earlier in the study The Tribe of Ishmael: a Study in Social Degeneration, as a prime example of genetic criminality. This book had become a fundamental text for all eugenics. Now the ERO considered the book, written a generation earlier, as "too advanced for the times." So Drange-Graebe would resume tracing the family lineages of the infamous Ishmaelites. Within months, she had assembled 77 pages of family pedigrees and 873 pages of individual descriptions. [43]

Criminal behavior was hardly a prerequisite for the ERO's scrutiny. Field worker Amey Eaton was assigned to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to report on the Amish. Buggy-riding Amish folk, the most conservative wing of Mennonite Christians, were among the most law-abiding, courteous and God-fearing people in America. But they were also known for their unshakable pacifism, their peculiar refusal to adopt industrial technology and their immutable clannishness. This made them different. "In this small sect," Laughlin reported, "considerable intermarriage has occurred. These people kindly cooperated in our efforts to learn whether ... these consanguineous [family-linked] marriages had resulted in defective offspring." [44]

The ERO's sights were broad, so their workers continued fanning out. Helen Reeves sought records of so-called feebleminded patients in various New Jersey institutions. Another researcher was sent to trawl the files of the special genealogy collection of the New York Public Library, looking for family ties to unfit individuals. Various hospitals around the country were scoured, yielding records on eighty immigrant families with Huntington's chorea, a devastating disease of the central nervous system. Even when Davenport vacationed in Maine, he used the occasion to visit the area's islands and peninsulas to record the deleterious effects of intermarriage in groups considered unfit. Idyllic Washington and Hancock counties in Maine were of particular interest. [45]

Epileptics were a high-priority target for Laughlin and the ERO. Field worker Florence Danielson was dispatched to collect the family trees of epileptics at Monson State Hospital for Epileptics in Massachusetts. Monson had previously been an almshouse or poorhouse. In line with eugenic thought, Monson's administrators believed that epilepsy and poverty were genetically linked. [46]

Laughlin dispatched a second ERO investigator, Sadie Deavitt, to the New Jersey State Village for Epileptics at Skillman to chart individual pedigrees. At Skillman, Deavitt deftly interviewed patients and their families about the supposed traits of their relatives and ancestors. The ERO's scientific regimen involved ascribing various qualities and characteristics to epileptic patient family members, living or dead. These qualities included medical characteristics such as "deaf" or "blind," as well as strictly social factors such as "wanderer, tramp, confirmed runaway" and "criminal." [47] The definition of "criminal" was never delineated; it included a range of infractions from vagrancy to serious felony.

Miss Deavitt employed warmth and congeniality to extract family and acquaintance descriptions from unsuspecting patients, family members and friends. A New Jersey State instructive report explained, "The investigator visits the patients in their cottages. She does this in the way of a friendly visit and leads the patient on to tell all he can about his friends and relatives, especially as to addresses. Often they bring her their letters to read and from these she gleans considerable information. Then comes the visit to the [family's] home. It is the visitor's recent and personal knowledge of the patient that often assures her of a cordial welcome." By deftly gaining the confidence of one family member and friend after another, Miss Deavitt was able to map family trees with various social and medical qualities penned in with special codes. "Sx" meant "sexual pervert"; "im" stood for "immoral." [48] None of the hundreds of people interviewed knew they were being added to a list of candidates for sterilization or segregation in special camps or farms.

Laughlin and the ERO focused heavily on the epileptic menace because they believed epilepsy and "feeblemindedness" were inextricably linked in human nature. Indeed, they often merged statistics on epileptic patients with those of the feebleminded to create larger combined numbers. The term "feeblemindedness" was never quite defined; its meaning varied from place to place, and even situation to situation. The eugenically damning classification certainly included genuine cases of severely retarded individuals who could not care for themselves, but it also swept up those who were simply shy, stuttering, poor at English, or otherwise generally nonverbal, regardless of their true intellect or talent. [49] Feeblemindedness was truly in the eye of the beholder and frequently depended upon the dimness or brightness of a particular moment.

But there was little room for gray in Laughlin's world. To accelerate the campaign against epileptics, Laughlin distributed to hospital and institutional directors a special thirty-page bulletin, filled with dense scientific documentation, number-filled columns, family charts and impressive Mendelian principles warning about the true nature of epilepsy. The bulletin, entitled "A First Study of Inheritance of Epilepsy," and first published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases, was authored by Davenport and a doctor employed by New Jersey's epileptic village. The treatise asserted conclusively that epilepsy and feeblemindedness were manifestations of a common defect, due to "the absence of a protoplasmic factor that determines complete nervous development." The bulletin emphasized that the genetic menace extended far beyond the family into the so-called genetic "fraternity," or the lineages of everyone related to every person who was considered epileptic. The more such "tainted" defectives were allowed to reproduce, the more numerous their epileptic and feebleminded descendants would become. In one example, the research declared that "in 28 families of normal parents of epileptic children every one shows evidence of mental weakness." [50]

The ERO dismissed the well-known traumatic causes of epilepsy or insanity, such as a fall or severe blow to the head, in favor of hereditary factors. In one typical insanity case originally blamed on a fall, the bulletin explained, "This defect may be purely traumatic but, on the other hand, he has an epileptic brother and a feeble-minded niece so there was probably an innate weakness and the fall is invoked as a convenient 'cause.''' [51]

Strikingly, the ERO's definition of epilepsy itself was so sweeping that it covered not only people plagued by seizures, but also those suffering from migraine headaches and even brief fainting spells possibly due to exhaustion, heat stroke or other causes. "Epilepsy is employed in this paper," Davenport wrote, "in a wide sense to include not only cases of well-marked convulsions, but also cases in which there has been only momentary loss of consciousness." [52]

The prospect of epileptics in the population would haunt Laughlin for decades as he feverishly launched every effort to identify them. Once he identified them, Laughlin wanted to neutralize their ability to reproduce. The ERO's epilepsy bulletin concluded: "The most effective mode of preventing the increase of epileptics that society would probably countenance is the segregation during the reproductive period of all epileptics." [53]

America's geography was diverse. Since the western regions of the United States were still being settled, the ERO understood that many family trees in those regions would be incomplete. Indeed, many people moved out West precisely because they wanted to begin a new life detached from their former existence. Public records in western locales often lacked information about extended family and ancestry. Overcoming the challenge of documenting the population of a vast continent with only broken bits of family data, the ERO promised that "the office is now prepared to index any material, no matter how fragmentary or how extensive, concerning the transmission of biological traits in man; and it seeks to become the depository of such material." To that end, the ERO contacted "the heads of all institutions in the United States concerned with abnormal individuals." [54]

Extending beyond the reach of his field workers, Laughlin promised the eugenics movement that the ERO would register information on all Americans no matter where they lived to "[prevent] the production of defective persons." While defectives were to be eliminated, the superior families were to be increased. The eugenics movement would seek out and list "men of genius" and "special talents," and then advocate that those families receive special entitlements, such as financial rewards and other benefits for increased reproduction. [55] Eventually, the superior race would be more numerous and would control American society. At some point, they alone would comprise American society.

The eugenic visions offered by Davenport and Laughlin pleased the movement's wealthy sponsors. On January 19, 1911, Andrew Carnegie doubled the Carnegie Institution's endowment with an additional ten million dollars for all its diverse programs, including eugenics. Mrs. Harriman increased her enthusiastic grants. John D. Rockefeller's fortune also contributed to the funding. A Rockefeller philanthropic official became "much interested in eugenics and seems willing to help Dr. Davenport's work," reported one eugenic leader to Mrs. Harriman in a handwritten letter. "His preference is to give a small sum at first ... raising the amount as the work advances." Initial Rockefeller contributions amounted to just $21 ,650 in cash and were earmarked to defray field worker expenses. But the highly structured Rockefeller philanthropic entities donated more than just cash; they provided personnel and organizational support, as well as the visible name of Rockefeller. [56]

Clearly, eugenics and its goal of purifying America's population was already more than just a complex of unsupported racist theorems and pronouncements. Eugenics was nothing less than an alliance between biological racism and mighty American power, position and wealth against the most vulnerable, the most marginal and the least empowered in the nation. The eugenic crusaders had successfully mobilized America's strong against America's weak. More eugenic solutions were in store.


On May 2 and May 3, 1911, in Palmer, Massachusetts, the research committees of the ABA's eugenic section adopted a resolution creating a special new committee. "Resolved: that the chair appoint a committee commissioned to study and report on the best practical means for cutting off the defective germ-plasm of the American population." Laughlin was the special committee's secretary. He and his colleagues would recruit an advisory panel from among the country's most esteemed authorities in the social and political sciences, medicine and jurisprudence. The advisory panel eventually included surgeon Alexis Carrel, M.D., of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, who would months later win the Nobel Prize for Medicine; O. P. Austin, chief of the Bureau of Statistics in Washington, D.C.; physiologist W. B. Cannon and immigration expert Robert DeCourcy Ward, both from Harvard; psychiatrist Stewart Paton from Princeton; public affairs professor Irving Fisher from Yale; political economist James Field from the University of Chicago; renowned attorney Louis Marshall; and numerous other eminent men of learning. [57]

Commencing July 15, 1911, Laughlin and the main ABA committee members met at Manhattan's prestigious City Club on West Forty-fourth Street. During a number of subsequent conferences, they carefully debated the "problem of cutting off the supply of defectives," and systematically plotted a bold campaign of "purging the blood of the American people of the handicapping and deteriorating influences of these anti-social classes." Ten groups were eventually identified as "socially unfit" and targeted for "elimination." First, the feebleminded; second, the pauper class; third, the inebriate class or alcoholics; fourth, criminals of all descriptions including petty criminals and those jailed for nonpayment of fines; fifth, epileptics; sixth, the insane; seventh, the constitutionally weak class; eighth, those predisposed to specific diseases; ninth, the deformed; tenth, those with defective sense organs, that is, the deaf, blind and mute. In this last category, there was no indication of how severe the defect need be to qualify; no distinction was made between blurry vision or bad hearing and outright blindness or deafness. [58]

Not content to eliminate those deemed unfit by virtue of some malady, transgression, disadvantage or adverse circumstance, the ABA committee targeted their extended families as well. Even if those relatives seemed perfectly normal and were not institutionalized, the breeders considered them equally unfit because they supposedly carried the defective germ-plasm that might crop up in a future generation. The committee carefully weighed the relative value of "sterilizing all persons with defective germ-plasm," or just "sterilizing only degenerates." The group agreed that "defective and potential parents of defectives not in institutions" were also unacceptable. [59]

Normal persons of the wrong ancestry were particularly unwanted. "There are many others of equally unworthy personality and hereditary qualities," wrote Laughlin, "who have ... never been committed to institutions." He added, "There are many parents who, in many cases, may themselves be normal, but who produce defective offspring. This great mass of humanity is not only a social menace to the present generation, but it harbors the potential parenthood of the social misfits of our future generations." Davenport had consistently emphasized that "a person who by all physical and mental examinations is normal may lack in half his germ cells the determiner for complete development. In some respects, such a person is more undesirable in the community than the idiot, (who will probably not reproduce), or the low-grade imbecile who will be recognized as such." [60]

How many people did the eugenics movement target for countermeasures? Prioritizing those in custodial care -- from poor houses to hospitals to prisons -- the unfit totaled close to a million. An additional three million people were "equally defective, but not under the state's care." Finally, the group focused on the so-called "borderline," some seven million people, who "are of such inferior blood, and are so interwoven in kinship with those still more defective, that they are totally unfitted to become parents of useful citizens." Laughlin insisted, "If they mate with a higher level, they contaminate it; if they mate with the still lower levels, they bolster them up a little only to aid them to continue their unworthy kind." The estimated first wave alone totaled nearly eleven million Americans, or more than 10 percent of the existing population. [61]

Eleven million would be only the beginning. Laughlin readily admitted that his first aim was at "ten percent of the total population, but even this is arbitrary." Eugenics would then turn its attention to the extended families deemed perfectly normal but still socially unfit. [62] Those numbers would add many million more.

Indeed, the eugenicists would push further, attempting a constantly upward genetic spiral in their insatiable quest for the super race. The movement intended to constantly identify the lowest levels of even the acceptable population and then terminate those families as well. "It will always be desirable," wrote Laughlin on behalf of the committee, "in the interests of still further advancement to cut off the lowest levels, and encourage high fecundity among the more gifted." [63]

The committee was always keenly aware that their efforts could be deemed unconstitutional. Legal fine points were argued to ensure that any eugenical countermeasure not "be considered as a second punishment ... or as a cruel or unusual punishment." The eugenic committee hoped to circumvent the courts and due process, arguing that "sterilization of degenerates, or especially of criminals, [could] be legitimately effected through the exercise of police functions." In an ideal world, a eugenics board or commission would unilaterally decide which families would be the targets of eugenic procedures. The police would simply enforce their decisions. [64]

Human rights attorney Louis Marshall, the committee's main legal advisor, opined that eugenic sterilization might be legal if ordered by the original sentencing judge for criminals. But to venture beyond criminals, he wrote, targeting the weak, the diseased and their relatives, would probably be unconstitutional. "I understand that the operation of vasectomy is painless," wrote Marshall, "... other than to render it impossible for him to have progeny .... The danger, however, is that it might be inflicted upon one who is not a habitual criminal, who might have been the victim of circumstances and who could be reformed. To deprive such an individual of all hope of progeny would approach closely to the line of cruel and unusual punishment. There are many cases where juvenile offenders have been rendered habitual criminals who subsequently became exemplary citizens ... the very fact that they exist would require the exercise of extreme caution in determining whether such a punishment is constitutional." [65]

Marshall added with vagueness, "Unless justified by a conviction for crime, it [eugenical sterilization] would be a wanton and unauthorized act and an unwarranted deprivation of the liberty of the citizen. In order to justify it, the person upon whom the operation is to be performed has, therefore, the right to insist upon his right to due process of law. That right is withheld if the vasectomy is directed ... by a board or commission, which acts upon its own initiative .... I fear that the public is not as yet prepared to deal with this problem." [66]

But Laughlin and his fellow breeders envisioned eugenical measures beyond mere sterilization. To multiply the genetically desired bloodlines, they suggested polygamy and systematic mating. Additional draconian remedies that were proposed to cut off defective germ-plasm included restrictive marriage laws, compulsory birth control and forced segregation for life -- or at least until the reproductive years had passed. Davenport believed mass segregation or incarceration of the feebleminded during their entire reproductive years, if "carried out thoroughly" would wipe out most defectives within fifteen to thirty years. All the extra property acquired to incarcerate the inmates could be sold off for cash. As part of any long-term incarceration program, the patient could be released if he or she willingly submitted to sterilization "just prior to release." This was viewed as a central means of bypassing the need for a court order or even a commission decision. These sterilizations could then be called "voluntary." [67]

One option went further than any other. It was too early to implement. However, point eight of the American Breeders Association plan called for euthanasia. [68]

Despite the diversity of proposals, the group understood that of the various debated remedies, the American public was only ready for one: sterilization. The committee's tactic would be to convince America at large that "eugenics is a long-time investment" appealing to "far-sighted patriots." The agenda to terminate defective bloodlines was advocated and its underlying science was trumpeted as genuine, even as the committee confessed in their own summary report, "our knowledge is, as yet, so limited." Laughlin and his colleagues pursued their mission even as the original Galtonian eugenicists in London publicly declared they were "fully conscious of the slenderness of their data." American eugenicists pressed on even as Pearson of the Eugenics Laboratory openly quoted criticism by a fellow of the Royal Statistical Society, "The educated man and the scientist is as prone as any other to become the victim ... of his prejudices .... He will in defence thereof make shipwreck of both the facts of science and the methods of science ... by perpetrating every form of fallacy, inaccuracy and distortion." [69] America's eugenicists continued even as their elite leaders acknowledged, "public sentiment demanding action was absent." [70]

Laughlin and the American eugenics movement were undeterred by their own lack of knowledge, lack of scientific evidence, and even the profound lack of public support. The crusade would continue. In their eyes, the future of humanity -- or their version of it -- was at stake.

Moreover, America's eugenicists were not satisfied with merely cleansing the United States of its defectives. The movement's view was global. The last of eighteen points circulated by Laughlin's committee was entitled "International Cooperation." Its intent was unmistakable. The ERO would undertake studies "looking toward the possible application of the sterilization of defectives in foreign countries, together with records of any such operations." Point eighteen made clear that Laughlin's ERO and the American eugenics movement intended to turn their sights on "the extent and nature of the problem of the socially inadequate in foreign countries." [71]
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Re: War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to

Postby admin » Wed Jul 30, 2014 11:27 pm



Legitimizing Raceology

When Galton's eugenic principles migrated across the ocean to America, Kansas physician F. Hoyt Pilcher became the first in modern times to castrate to prevent procreation. In the mid-1890s, Dr. Pilcher, superintendent of the Kansas Home for the Feebleminded, surgically asexualized fifty-eight children. Pilcher's procedure was undertaken without legal sanction. Once discovered, Kansas citizens broadly condemned his actions, demanding he stop. The Kansas Home's embattled board of trustees suspended Pilcher's operations, but staunchly defended his work. The board defiantly proclaimed, "Those who are now criticizing Dr. Pilcher will, in a few years, be talking of erecting a monument to his memory." Later, Pilcher's national association of institution directors praised him as "courageous" and as a "pioneer, strong [enough] to face ignorance and prejudice." [1]

Enter Dr. Harry Clay Sharp, physician at the Indiana Reformatory at Jeffersonville. Sharp earned his medical degree in 1893. Two years later, he was hired by the Indiana Reformatory as its doctor. The Indiana Reformatory, the state's first prison, was proud of its progressive sanitation and medical policies. Sharp was already performing extralegal medical castrations to cure convicts of masturbation. In early 1899, he read an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) by distinguished Chicago physician Albert John Ochsner, who later cofounded the American College of Surgeons. Dr. Ochsner advocated compulsory vasectomy of prisoners "to eliminate all habitual criminals from the possibility of having children." In this way, Ochsner hoped to reduce not only the number of "born criminals" but also "chronic inebriates, imbeciles, perverts and paupers." [2]

Sharp combined Ochsner's idea with a second suggestion by another Chicago doctor, Daniel R. Brower. Brower read a paper before the American Medical Society, reprinted in JAMA, similarly urging that someone employ vasectomy on convicts to prevent the propagation of a criminal class. [3]

Sharp was willing to be that someone. In October of 1899, he became the first in the world to impose vasectomy on a person in custody. A nineteen- year-old Indiana Reformatory prisoner complained of excessive masturbation, and Sharp used the opportunity. After disinfecting the prisoner's scrotum, the doctor made a one-inch incision, severed the ducts, and then buried a stitch. Sharp was pleased with his work. During the next several years, he performed the same operation on scores of additional inmates, becoming the world expert in human sterilization. Each operation took about three minutes. Anesthetic was not used for subsequent operations. [4]

The Indiana prison doctor proudly lectured his colleagues about the procedure's advantages in a 1902 article in the New York Medical Journal. He presented the surgery strictly as a tool for human breeding. Quoting an old essay, Sharp railed: "We make choice of the best rams for our sheep ... and keep the best dogs ... how careful then should we be in begetting of children!" [5]

Sharp's article described his method in instructive, clinical detail. Yet involuntary sterilization was still not legal, and was thought by many to be unconstitutional. So he urged his fellow institutional doctors to lobby for both restrictive marriage laws and legal authority for every institutional director in every state to "render every male sterile who passes its portals, whether it be an almshouse, insane asylum, institute for the feeble minded, reformatory or prison." Sharp declared that widespread sterilization was the only "rational means of eradicating from our midst a most dangerous and hurtful class .... Radical methods are necessary." [6]

It is no wonder that the world was first prompted to embrace forced sterilization by Indiana. Within the state's mainly rural turn-of-the-century population existed a small but potent epicenter of radical eugenic agitation. For decades, Indiana law provided for the compulsory servitude of its paupers. They could be farmed out to the highest bidder. Unwashed homeless bands wandering through Indiana were reviled by many within charitable circles as genetically defective, and beyond help. [7]

Reverend Oscar McCulloch, pastor of Indianapolis's Plymouth Congregational Church, was known as a leading reformer and advocate of public charity. Ironically, McCulloch actually harbored an intense hatred of paupers and the displaced. He was greatly influenced by the publication of Dugdale's The Jukes, which traced a Hudson Valley family of paupers and criminals as a living example of the need to improve social conditions. But McCulloch was foremost among those who twisted Dugdale's work from a cry for social action into a vicious hereditary indictment. [8]

McCulloch went even farther, adding his own genealogical investigation of Indiana's thieving vagabonds, the so-called Tribe of Ishmael. He proffered their stories as further scientific proof of degeneration among the impoverished. McCulloch preached to his fellow reformers at the 1888 National Conference of Charities and Corrections that paupers were nothing more than biologically preordained "parasites" suffering from an irreversible hereditary condition. By 1891, McCulloch had become president of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections, further ingraining his degeneracy theories upon the nation's charity and prison officials, who were only too quick to accept. [9]

Reverend McCulloch's outspoken sermons and investigations of the Ishmael tribe drew the attention of another leading Indianian, biologist David Starr Jordan, president of the University of Indiana. Convinced that paupers were indeed parasites, as McCulloch so fervently claimed, Jordan lectured his students and faculty to accept that some men were "dwarfs in body and mind." Quickly, Jordan became America's first eminent eugenic theorist. His 1902 book, Blood of a Nation, first articulated the concept of "blood" as the immutable basis for race. He readily proclaimed, "The pauper is the victim of heredity, but neither Nature nor Society recognizes that as an excuse for his existence." Jordan left Indiana in 1891 to become the first president of the newly created Stanford University, founded by the estate of wealthy railroad entrepreneur Leland Stanford. While at Stanford, Jordan used his position to further champion the eugenic cause, damning paupers in his writings and leading the like-minded elite in national eugenic organizations. [10]

Among the staunchest of Indiana's radical eugenicists was Dr. J. N. Hurty, who quickly rose from his insignificant station as the proprietor of an Indianapolis drug store to become the secretary of Indiana's State Board of Health. A close colleague of Hurty's once recalled for a eugenic audience: "It was not until Hurty had become the State Health Officer and had observed the stupidity of mankind, the worthlessness and the filthiness of certain classes of people, that he became really greatly interested in the subject [eugenics]." Once, when a prominent minister argued that all human beings were God's children, subject not to the laws of Mendel, but to the laws of grace, Hurty retorted, "Bosh and nonsense! Men and woman are what they are largely because of the stock from which they sprang." Hurty was eventually elected president of the American Public Health Association. [11]

By 1904, Sharp had performed 176 vasectomies as a eugenic solution designed to halt bloodlines. But the procedure was still not legal. So for three years, Drs. Sharp and Hurty lobbied the Indiana legislature to pass a bill for mandatory sterilization of all convicts. No distinction was made between lesser or graver crimes. There was no groundswell of public support for the measure, just the private efforts of Sharp, aided by Hurty and a few colleagues. The men stressed the social cost to the state of caring for its existing degenerates, and promised the new procedure would save Indiana from caring for future degenerates. [12] Drs. Sharp and Hurty were not immediately successful. But they did not give up.

It was an uphill battle. Indiana was not the first state to consider reproductive intervention, but until now, the idea had been rebuffed. In 1897, in the wake of Dr. Pilcher's first castrations, Michigan's legislature rejected a proposed law to make such actions legal. From 1901 through 1905, a key Pilcher supporter, Dr. Martin Barr, director of the Pennsylvania Training School for the Feebleminded, pushed for compulsory sterilization of mental defectives and other degenerates. Barr was undoubtedly among those responding to Sharp's early call to seek legislation. In 1905, both houses of Pennsylvania's legislature finally passed an "Act for the Prevention of Idiocy." The bill mandated that if the trustees and surgeons of the state's several institutions caring for feebleminded children determined "procreation is inadvisable," then the surgeon could "perform such operation for the prevention of procreation as shall be decided safest and most effective." [13]

Pennsylvania Governor Samuel Pennypacker's veto message denounced the very idea: "It is plain that the safest and most effective method of preventing procreation would be to cut the heads off the inmates," wrote Pennypacker, adding, "and such authority is given by the bill to this staff of scientific experts .... Scientists, like all other men whose experiences have been limited to one pursuit ... sometimes need to be restrained. Men of high scientific attainments are prone ... to lose sight of broad principles outside their domain .... To permit such an operation would be to inflict cruelty upon a helpless class ... which the state has undertaken to protect." Governor Pennypacker ended his incisive veto with five words: "The bill is not approved." No effort was made to override. [14]

What failed in Michigan and Pennsylvania found greater success in Indiana. Throughout 1906, Sharp ramped up his campaign. But the Indiana legislature was still resistant. So Sharp reminded Indiana's governor, J. Frank Hanley, that he was constantly performing vasectomies anyway, and his total had by now surged to 206. "I therefore wish to urge you," Sharp wrote the governor, "to insist upon the General Assembly [that] passing such a law or laws ... will provide this as a means of preventing procreation in the defective and degenerate classes." [15]

On January 29, 1907, Indiana Representative Horace Reed introduced Sharp's bill. The measure's phrasing was an almost verbatim rendering of the previously vetoed Pennsylvania bill. Three weeks later, with little debate, Indiana's House approved the eugenic proposal, 59 in favor and 22 opposed. About two weeks later, again with virtually no debate, Indiana's Senate ratified the bill, 28 voting aye and 16 nay. This time, there was no governor's veto. [16] Indiana thereby made its mark in medical history, and became the first jurisdiction in the world to legislate forced sterilization of its mentally impaired patients, poorhouse residents and prisoners. Sharp's knife would now be one of a multitude, and the practice would crisscross the United States.


In 1907, most Americans were unaware that sterilization had become legal in Indiana. Nor did they comprehend that a group of biological activists were trying to replicate that legislation throughout the country. Frequently, the dogged state lobbying efforts were mounted by just one or two individuals, generally local physicians who carried the eugenic flame. [17]

In February of 1909, Oregon's first woman doctor, Bethenia Owens- Adair, promoted Bill 68, sporting provisions virtually identical to Indiana's law, but vesting the sterilization decision in a committee of two medical experts. Both Oregon houses ratified and Governor George Chamberlain had promised to sign the bill into law. But when Chamberlain finally comprehended the final text, he vetoed the bill. In a letter to Dr. Owens-Adair, the governor explained, "When I first talked to you about the matter, without knowing the terms of the Bill in detail, I was disposed to favor it." But, he added, there were too few safeguards to prevent abuse. [18]

In early 1909, several additional attempts in other states also failed. Illinois's Senate Bill 249 authorized either castration or sterilization of confirmed criminals and imbeciles when a facility doctor felt procreation was "inadvisable"; it failed to pass. Wisconsin's Bill 744 to sterilize the feebleminded, criminals, epileptics and the insane on the recommendation of two experts was also rejected despite an amendment. [19]

But three states did ratify eugenic sterilization in 1909. Washington targeted "habitual criminals" and rapists, mandating sterilization as additional punishment for the "prevention of procreation." Connecticut enacted a law permitting the medical staff at two asylums, Middletown and Norwich, to examine patients and their family trees to determine if feebleminded and insane patients should be sterilized; the physicians were permitted to perform either vasectomies on males or ovariectomies on women. [20]

California was the third state to adopt forced sterilization in 1909; Chapter 720 of the state's statutory code permitted castration or sterilization of state convicts and the residents of the California Home for the Care and Training of Feebleminded Children in Sonoma County. Two institutional bureaucrats could recommend the procedure if they deemed it beneficial to a subject's "physical, mental or moral condition." [21]

During the next two years, more states attempted to enact eugenic sterilization laws. Efforts in Virginia to pass House Bill 96, calling for the sterilization of all criminals, imbeciles and idiots in custody when approved by a committee of experts, died in the legislature. But efforts in other states were successful. Nevada targeted habitual criminals. Iowa authorized the operation for "criminals, idiots, feebleminded, imbeciles, drunkards, drug fiends, epileptics," plus "moral or sexual perverts" in its custody. The Iowa act was tacked onto a prostitution law. [22]

New Jersey's legislation was passed in 1911. Chapter 190 of its statutory code created a special three-man "Board of Examiners of Feebleminded, Epileptics and Other Defectives." The board would systematically identify when "procreation is inadvisable" for prisoners and children residing in poor houses and other charitable institutions. The law included not only the "feebleminded, epileptic [and] certain criminals" but also a class ambiguously referred to as "other defectives." New Jersey's measure added a veneer of due process by requiring a hearing where evidence could be taken, and a formal notice served upon a so-called "patient attorney." No provision permitted a family-hired or personally selected attorney, but only one appointed by the court. The administrative hearing was held within the institution itself, not in a courtroom under a judge's gavel. Moreover, the court-designated counsel for the patient was given only five days before the sterilization decision was sealed. Thus the process would be swift, and certainly beyond the grasp of the confused children dwelling within state shelters. New Jersey's governor, Woodrow Wilson, signed the bill into law on April 21, 1911. The next year, he was elected president of the United States for his personal rights campaign known as the "New Freedoms." Stressing individual freedoms, Wilson helped create the League of Nations. President Wilson crusaded for human rights for all, including the defenseless, proclaiming to the world the immortal words: "What we seek is the reign of law, based upon the consent of the governed, and sustained by the organized opinion of mankind." [23]

New York was next. In April of 1912, New York amended its Public Health Law with Chapter 445, which virtually duplicated New Jersey's eugenic legislation. New York law created its own "Board of Examiners for feebleminded, epileptics and other defectives," comprised of a neurologist, a surgeon and a general physician. Any two of the three examiners could rule whether family history, feeblemindedness, "inherited tendency" or other factors proved that procreation was inadvisable for the patients or prisoners they reviewed. Once again, a so-called "patient attorney" was to be appointed by the court. Vasectomies, salpingectomies (tubal ligations), and full castrations were authorized, at the discretion of the board. [24]

Despite the spreading patchwork of state eugenic sterilization laws, by late 1911 and early 1912, the Cold Spring Harbor stalwarts of the American Breeders Association, its Eugenic Record Office and the Carnegie Institution's Experimental Station remained frustrated. Their joint Committee to Study and Report the Best Practical Means of Cutting off the Defective Germ-plasm of the American Population knew that few Americans had actually undergone involuntary sterilization. True, in the years since 1907, when Indiana legalized such operations, Sharp had vasectomized scores of additional prisoners and even published open appeals to his professional colleagues to join his eugenic crusade. More than two hundred had been forcibly sterilized in California. Connecticut's Norwich Hospital had performed the operation on fewer than ten, mostly women. But only two eugenic sterilizations had been ordered in Washington state, and both were held in abeyance. An extralegal vasectomy had been performed on one Irish patient in a Boston hospital constituting a juridical test. However, none were authorized in Nevada, Iowa, New Jersey, or New York. [25]

Many state officials were clearly reluctant to enforce the laws precisely because the results were radical and irreversible. The legality of the operations and the question of due process had never been satisfactorily answered. The Eugenics Section of the American Breeders Association admitted in a report that the prior legislation had been pushed by "some very small energetic groups of enthusiasts, who have had influence in the legislatures ... [but] it was a new and untried proposition. Public sentiment demanding action was absent. Law officers of the state were not anxious to undertake defense of a law the constitutionality of which was questioned." [26]

Moreover, the whole concept of eugenic solutions, such as marriage restriction, forced segregation and involuntary sterilization was still disdained by most Americans. Catholics by and large considered the termination of reproductive capability to be an act against God. "It is evident," the report continued, "that active hostility and opposition will arise as soon as there is any attempt to carry out the laws in a through-going manner." The report concluded, "So we must frankly confess that ... this movement for race betterment is as yet little more than a hobby of a few groups of people." [27]

The Eugenics Section declared, "It is, therefore, easy to see why little has been actually done. The machinery of administration has to be created .... Much more extensive education of the public will be necessary before the practice of sterilization can be carried out to the extent which will make it a factor of importance." [28]

Clearly, the eugenics movement needed scientific validation, standards to identify exactly who was feebleminded and unfit, and most importantly, society's acceptance of the need to cut off defective families. Eugenicists in other countries, who had been corresponding together for some years, also felt the need to broaden acceptance of their beliefs. All of them wanted eugenic solutions to be applied on a global basis. Their mission, after all, was to completely reshape humanity, not just one corner of it. Toward this end, the Americans, working closely with their counterparts in Germany and England, scheduled an international conference in London. July of 1912 was selected because it coincided with a visit to London by Stanford University's Jordan and other eugenic leaders. [29]

Galton had died in January of 1911. By that time, his original theories of positive marriage, as well as his ideas on biometric study, had been circumvented by a more radical London group, the Eugenics Education Society. The Eugenics Education Society had adopted American attitudes on negative eugenics. By now, America's negative eugenics had also been purveyed to like-minded social engineers throughout Europe, especially in Germany and the Scandinavian nations, where theories about Nordic superiority were well received. Hence, this first conference was aptly called the First International Congress on Eugenics, bringing together some several hundred delegates and speakers from across America, Belgium, England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain and Norway. [30]

Not a few of the conferees would attend simply to investigate the emerging field of eugenics. But many of the Europeans attended because they harbored their own racial or ethnic biases against their nations' indigenous, immigrant or defective populations. For example, Jon Alfred Mj0en of Norway was that country's leading raceologist and eugenicist. He believed that crossing blond-haired Norwegians with native dark-haired Lapps produced a defective mulatto-like breed. Another major delegate was Alfred Ploetz, the spiritual father of Germany's race hygiene and eugenics movement. [31]

Organizers draped the conference with some of the most prestigious names in the world. Major Leonard Darwin, son of Charles Darwin, was appointed president. Britain's First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, would represent the king. Churchill was alarmed at Britain's growing population of "persons ... of mental defect" and advocated a eugenic solution. The vice presidents would include David Starr Jordan, Davenport, Ploetz and Alexander Graham Bell. To impress American governors and scientific organizations, the Eugenics Congress leadership wanted the U.S. State Department to send an official American delegate. Missouri's representative on the all-powerful House Appropriations Committee proffered the request. However, the State Department could not comply because the meeting was nongovernmental; therefore the U.S. government could not participate. [32]

Instead, Secretary of State P. C. Knox agreed to write the invitations on official letterhead and mail them to distinguished Americans in the realms of science, higher learning and state government all across the country. The U.S. State Department invitations would be officially extended on behalf of Alfred Mitchell Innes, the British Embassy's charge d'affaires in Washington, who in turn was submitting them on behalf of the Eugenics Education Society in London. Hence the invitations bore the clear imprimatur of the U.S. Secretary of State, yet technically Secretary Knox was merely conveying the invitation. The Knox letter also promised "to be the medium of communication to the Embassy" for any reply. [33]

Knox's official-looking invitations were each virtually alike. "At the request of the British Embassy at this capital, I have the honor to send you herewith an invitation extended to you by the Organizing Committee of the First International Eugenics Congress." Kansas Governor Walter Stubbs received one. Kentucky Governor James McCreary received one. Maryland Governor Phillip L. Goldsborough received one. Every governor of every state received one. Invitations were also sent to the presidents of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, the American Economic Association at Yale University, the American Philosophical Society, and many other esteemed organizations of science and academic study. Knox also mailed an invitation to every president of every leading medical society, including the American Gynecological Society, the American Neurological Association, the American Pediatric Society and, of course, the American Medical Association. Hundreds of such letters were posted on a single day -- June 20, 1912. [34]

Because the invitations were distributed just a few weeks before the London congress, few if any of the invitees could actually attend. This fact must have been understood in advance. After all, many received the invitation quite late, often only after their summer travels were complete. Nonetheless, nearly every recipient issued a gracious decline, and a personal note of thanks expressing their regret at missing an important event. All but one, that is. Secretary of War Henry Stimson dashed off a stern rebuff reminding Secretary of State Knox that such official involvement in a private conference was precluded by law. Stimson quoted the law in his reply: "No money ... shall be expended ... for expenses of attendance of any person at any meeting or convention of members of any society or association" unless authorized by statutory appropriation. [35]

The message was clear. Knox had, for all intents and purposes, turned the State Department into a eugenics post office and invitation bureau. From Knox's point of view, however, he was undoubtedly only too happy to help the eugenics program of the Carnegie Institution. Prior to his service as secretary of state, Knox had been an attorney for the Carnegie Steel Company, and was once called by Carnegie "the best lawyer I have ever had." [36]

Proper or not, eugenics had overnight been packaged into an officially recognized and prestigious science in the eyes of those who counted.


Some four hundred delegates from America and Europe gathered at the University of London in late July of 1912, where for five days a diverse assemblage of research papers were presented exploring the social science and heredity of man. Two French doctors reviewed Parisian insanity records for the previous half-century. Alcoholism as an inheritable trait was debated. But the proceedings were dominated by the U.S. contingent and their theories of racial eugenics. Galton's hope of finding the measurable physical qualities of man, an endeavor named biometrics, had become passe. One leading eugenicist reported, "'Biometry' ... might have never existed so far as the congress was concerned." Indeed, Galton's chief disciple, Karl Pearson, declined to even attend the congress. [37]

Instead, the racial biology of America's ERO, and its clarions for sterilization, dominated. The preliminary ABA report from what was dubbed "the American Committee on Sterilization" was heralded as a highlight of the meeting. One prominent British eugenicist, writing in a London newspaper, identified Davenport as an American "to whom all of us in this country are immensely indebted, for the work of his office has far outstripped anything of ours." [38]

One key British eugenicist added that if Galton were still alive and could "read the recent reports of the American Eugenics Record Office, which have added more to our knowledge of human heredity in the last three years than all former work on that subject put together, [he] would quickly seek to set our own work in this country upon the same sure basis." [39]

The medical establishment began to take notice as well, presenting eugenics as a legitimate medical concept. The Journal of the American Medical Association's coverage glowed. JAMA's headline rang out: "The International Eugenics Congress, An Event of Great Importance to the History of Evolution, Has Taken Place." Its correspondent enthusiastically portrayed the eugenicists' theory of social Darwinism, spotlighting the destructive quality of charity and stressing the value of disease to the natural order. "The unfit among men," the JAMA correspondent reported from a key congress speech, "were no longer killed by hunger and disease, but were cherished and enabled to reproduce their kind. It was true, they [society] could not but glory in this saving of suffering; but they must not blind themselves to the danger of interfering with Nature's ways. Cattle breeders bred from the best stocks .... Conscious selection must replace the blind forces of natural selection." [40]

Legitimacy, recognition and proliferation were only the beginning. In 1911, Davenport had authored a textbook entitled Heredity in Relation to Eugenics. It had been published by the prestigious Henry Holt & Co. The volume blended genuine biological observation with bizarre pseudoscientific postulations on personal habits and even simple preferences commanded by one's heredity. "Each 'family' will be seen to be stamped with a peculiar set of traits depending upon the nature of its germ plasm," wrote Davenport. "One family will be characterized by political activity, another by scholarship, another by financial success, another by professional success, another by insanity in some members with or without brilliancy in others, another by imbecility and epilepsy, another by larceny and sexual immorality, another by suicide, another by mechanical ability, or vocal talent, or ability in literary expression." [41]

Davenport's book promulgated a law of heredity that condemned the marriage of cousins as prohibited consanguinity, or marriage of close relatives. "[Should] a person that belongs to a strain in which defect is present ... marry a cousin or other near relative ... such consanguineous marriages are fraught with grave danger." Nonetheless, Davenport and his colleagues extolled the marriage of cousins among the elite as eugenically desired; for example, they commonly pointed to great men, such as Darwin, who married his first cousin. [42]

In the same textbook, Davenport insisted that if immigration from southeastern Europe continued, America would "rapidly become darker in pigmentation, smaller in stature, more mercurial, more attached to music and art, more given to crimes of larceny, kidnapping, assault, murder, rape and sex-immorality." He added a scholarly note about Jews: "There is no question that, taken as a whole, the horde of Jews that are now coming to us from Russia and the extreme southeast of Europe, with their intense individualism and ideals of gain at the cost of any interest, represent the opposite extreme from the early English and the more recent Scandinavian immigration with their ideals of community life in the open country, advancement by the sweat of the brow, and the uprearing of families in the fear of God and the love of country." [43]

Davenport's textbook concluded, "In other words, immigrants are desirable who are of 'good blood'; undesirable who are of 'bad blood.''' [44]

The volume declared that, without question, Mendel's laws governed all human character: "Man is an organism -- an animal; and the laws of improvement of corn and of race horses hold true for him also." In Davenport's mind, this axiom spawned far-reaching social consequences. Applying Mendelian formulas to pauperism, for example, Davenport cited "shiftlessness" as a genuine genetic trait, which could be rated for severity. On page 80 of his textbook, Davenport explained with mathematical authority, "Classifying all persons in these two families as very shiftless, somewhat shiftless, and industrious, the following conclusions are reached. When both parents are very shiftless, practically all children are very shiftless or somewhat shiftless .... When both parents are shiftless in some degree, about 15 percent of the known offspring are recorded as industrious." Not even the sudden onset of a prolonged disease incapacitating or killing the family breadwinner, and thereby creating financial woes for widows and orphans, was an excuse for poverty. "The man of strong stock," Davenport's textbook explained, "will not suffer from prolonged disease." [45]

As a solution to society's eugenic problem, Davenport's textbook strongly advocated for mass compulsory sterilization and incarceration of the unfit, a proliferation of marriage restriction laws, and plenty of government money to study whether intelligence testing would justify such measures against a mere 8 percent of America's children or as many as 38 percent. [46]
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Re: War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to

Postby admin » Wed Jul 30, 2014 11:27 pm


But could Davenport's eugenic textbook, and two or three others like it, become accepted doctrine at the nation's universities? American eugenicists were firmly entrenched in the biology, zoology, social science, psychology and anthropology departments of the nation's leading institutions of higher learning. Methodically, eugenic texts, especially Davenport's, were integrated into college coursework and, in some cases, actually spurred a standalone eugenics curriculum. The roster was long and prestigious, encompassing scores of America's finest schools. Harvard University's two courses were taught by Drs. East and Castle. Princeton University's course was taught by Dr. Schull and Laughlin himself. Yale's by Dr. Painter. Purdue's by Dr. Smith. The University of Chicago's by Dr. Bisch. Northwestern University, a hotbed of radical eugenic thought, offered a course by Dr. Kornhauser, who had interned at Cold Spring Harbor. [47]

Each school wove eugenics into its own academics. At the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Holmes's semester-long sociology course was simply named "Eugenics." At New York University, Dr. Binder's fifteen-week sociology course was named "Family and Eugenics," and was attended by some twenty-five male and female students. At Stanford University, Dr. v: L. Kellogg taught a course covering zoology and eugenics. Even tiny schools inaugurated eugenics courses. At Alma College in Michigan, the biology department offered Dr. MacCurdy's "Heredity and Eugenics" as an eighteen-week course. At tiny Bates College in Maine, Dr. Pomeroy's eighteen-week biology course was called "Genetics." [48]

Eugenics rocketed through academia, becoming an institution virtually overnight. By 1914, some forty-four major institutions offered eugenic instruction. Within a decade, that number would swell to hundreds, reaching some 20,000 students annually. [49]

High schools quickly adopted eugenic textbooks as well. Typical was George William Hunter's high school biology book, published by the nation's largest secondary school book publisher, the American Book Company. Hunter's 1914 textbook, A Civic Biology: Presented in Problems, echoed many of Davenport's principles. For example, in one passage Hunter railed against unfit families "spreading disease, immorality, and crime to all parts of this country." His text added, "Largely for them, the poorhouse and the asylum exist. They take from society but they give nothing in return. They are true parasites." Before long, the overwhelming majority of high schools employed eugenic textbooks that emphasized clear distinctions between "superior families" and "inferior families." [50]

But impeding Davenport and Laughlin's campaign for eugenic programs of sterilization, segregation and social restriction was the lack of easy-to-apply standards to earmark the inferior. Measuring man's intelligence had always been a eugenic pursuit. In 1883, Galton established what amounted to an intelligence test center in London, charging applicants three pence each to be evaluated. He measured physical response time to auditory, tactile and visual cues. In 1890, Galton's idea was refined by his associate, the psychologist James Cattell, who devised a series of fifty tests he called "Mental Tests and Measurements." Like Galton's intelligence examinations, these "mental tests" logged physical reaction time to sounds and pressures. [51]

French psychologist Alfred Binet was not a eugenicist; he believed that one's environment shaped one's mind. In 1905, at the request of the French education ministry, Binet and physician Theodor Simon published the first so-called "intelligence test" to help classify the levels of retarded children, allowing them to be placed in proper classes. The Binet-Simon Test offered students thirty questions of increasing difficulty from which the test grader could calculate a "mental level." But Binet insisted that his test did not yield fixed numbers. With assistance, special educational methods and sheer practice a child could improve his score, "helping him literally to become more intelligent than he was before." To this end, Binet developed mental and physical exercises designed to raise his students' intelligence levels. These exercises actually yielded improved scores. [52] Heredity was in no way a pre determiner of intelligence, he insisted.

But Binet's intent was turned upside down by American eugenicists. The key instrument of that distortion was psychologist Henry Goddard, an ardent eugenic crusader who became the movement's leading warrior against the feebleminded. In 1906, the year after Binet published his intelligence test, Goddard was hired to direct the research laboratory at the Vineland Training School for Feebleminded Girls and Boys in Vineland, New Jersey. When the ERO was created a few years later, Goddard routinely made his patients available for assessment and family tracing. [53]

In 1913, Goddard published an influential book in the eugenics world, The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeblemindedness. In the tradition of The Jukes and The Tribe of Ishmael, Goddard traced the ancestry, immorality and social menace of a large family he named the Kallikaks. He created the surname by combining the Greek words for "beauty" and "bad." The story of the Kallikaks presented more than just another defective genealogy. The book spun a powerful eugenic lesson and moral warning. [54]

Family patriarch Martin Kallikak, from the Revolutionary War era, was actually a splendid eugenic specimen who fathered an illustrious line of American descendants by his legitimate and eugenically sound Quaker wife. But Goddard claimed that the same Martin Kallikak had also engaged in an illicit affair with a feebleminded girl, which spawned "a race of defective degenerates." [55]

Foreshadowing a philosophy that low intelligence was a hereditary curse, Goddard wrote that the bad Kallikaks were "feebleminded, and no amount of education or good environment can change a feebleminded individual into a normal one, any more than it can change a red-haired stock into a black-haired stock." To drive his point home, Goddard included a series of photographs of nefarious-looking and supposedly defective Kallikak family members. These photos had been doctored, darkening and distorting the eyes, mouths, eyebrows, nose and other facial features to make the adults and children appear stupid. Although retouching published photos was common during this era, the consistent addition of sinister features allowed Goddard to effectively portray the Kallikaks as mental and social defectives. [56]

Added to the ominous photos were highly detailed descriptions of the Kallikak family tree. Goddard had anticipated that some might question how such meticulous biographical information about Kallikak ancestors -- often hailing back nearly a century and a half -- could be reliably extracted from feebleminded descendants. His answer: "After some experience, the field worker becomes expert in inferring the condition of those persons who are not seen, from the similarity of the language used in describing them to that used in describing persons whom she has seen." [57]

For example, Goddard's assistant asked one farmer, "Do you remember an old man, Martin Kallikak, who lived on the mountain edge yonder?" The book's text quotes the exchange: "'Do I?' he answered. 'Well, I guess! Nobody'd forget him. Simple,' he went on; 'not quite right here,' tapping his head, 'but inoffensive and kind. All the family was that.'" Goddard recited this documentation in a chapter entitled "Further Facts." [58]

Mass sterilization, in Goddard's view, was merely the first step in corralling the feebleminded. Sterilization did not diminish sexual function, just reproductive capability. Therefore, Goddard asked, "What will be the effect upon the community in the spread of debauchery and disease through having within it a group of people who are thus free to gratify their instincts without fear of consequences in the form of children? ... The feebleminded seldom exercise restraint in any case." [59]

His answer: mass incarceration in special colonies. "Segregation through colonization seems in the present state of our knowledge to be the ideal and perfectly satisfactory method." [60]

Davenport and Goddard both craved a more scientific measurement to identify the feebleminded they targeted. To that end, Goddard translated Binet's intelligence test into English to create a new American tool for intelligence testing. Binet had originally labeled the highest class of retarded child debile, French for "weak." Goddard changed that, coining a new word: moron. It was derived from moros, Greek for "stupid and foolish." [61]

Financing would be needed to prove Goddard's new test reliable in the field. "It would be very valuable for the general problem of Eugenics," Goddard outlined to Davenport in a July 25, 1912 letter, " ... in connection with the heredity of feeble-mindedness because ... we could judge the probable development of the child from the mental condition of the parents." The problem? "Our finances have failed us," wrote Goddard. "I trust you will be able to provide for some such work as this." [62]

Goddard was provided for. By 1913, he had taken his new intelligence test and a team of testers to Ellis Island to conduct experiments. American eugenicists long believed that the majority of immigrants, especially brown-haired Irish, Eastern European Jews and southeastern Italians, were genetically defective. As such, they could be expected to contribute a disproportionate number of feebleminded to American shores. At Ellis Island's massive intake centers, Goddard's staff initially selected just twenty Italians and nineteen Russians for assessment because they "appeared to be feebleminded." He believed in the "unmistakable look of the feebleminded," bragging that to spot the feebleminded, just "a glance sufficed." Ultimately, 148 Jews, Hungarians, Italians and Russians were chosen for examination. [63]

Predictably, Goddard's version of the Binet test showed that 40 percent of immigrants tested as feebleminded. Moreover, he wrote, "60 percent of the [Jewish immigrants] classify as morons." In reporting his results in the Journal of Delinquency, Goddard further argued that an improved test would reveal even greater numbers of feebleminded immigrants. "We cannot escape feeling," wrote Goddard, "that this method is too lenient ... too low for prospective American citizens." He explained, "It should be noted that the immigration of recent years is of a decidedly different character from the earlier immigration. It is no longer representative of the respective races. It is admitted on all sides that we are now getting the poorest of each race." [64]

Goddard's version of Binet's test, and the new term moron, began to proliferate throughout eugenic, educational, custodial, psychological and other scientific circles as a valid -- if still developing -- form of intelligence testing. Mental testing, under different names and on different scales, quickly emerged as a fixture of social science, frequently linked to eugenic investigation and sterilization efforts. Such tests were invariably exploited by the ERO for its eugenic agenda. In 1915, for example, Detroit's superintendent of schools tested 100 teenagers who had attended special classes. The Eugenics Record Office circulated a note in connection with the test: "It would be very interesting to secure the family history of those children who improve and did not markedly improve." Mental examinations as a condition of a marriage licenses were advocated by the president of New York's Association of County Superintendents of Poor and Poor Law Officers; moreover, the association president also urged the sterilization of any children who could be shown as feebleminded or epileptic by age twelve. [65]

Chicago's central jail, the House of Correction, studied the "practicality of the Binet Scale and the question of the border line case." By including the so-called "borderline," who tested near but not within the moron range, more persons could be classed as feebleminded or "nearly feebleminded." Chicago Municipal Chief Judge Harry Olson, responsible for sentencing prisoners to the House of Correction, was a revered leader of the eugenics movement. At the time of the House of Correction study, he reminded colleagues, "We have laid too great importance on the environmental factors and paid too little attention to the problem of heredity." [66]

Mental tests applied to Blacks led to an article in the Archives of Psychology reporting that when 486 whites and 907 Blacks were examined, Blacks scored only three-fourths as well as their white counterparts. The article noted that pure Blacks tested the lowest, about 60 percent lower than whites. But as the amount of white blood increased in their ancestry, so did the test scores. The authors concluded, "In view of all the evidence it does not seem possible to raise the scholastic attainments of the negro .... It is probable that no expenditure of time or of money would accomplish this end, since education cannot create mental power." [67]

In 1916, a conference on feeblemindedness and insanity assembled in Indiana to an overflowing attendance, where, as eugenicists reported, "The keynote of the whole conference was prevention rather then cure." The group heard many papers on "mental tests and their value." Even though many conferees claimed these mental tests were still in their infancy, eugenicists insisted the examinations did not need to be judged because they were merely "short-cuts" to "the final test of the person's mentality." [68]

Nonetheless, many openly disputed the validity of Goddard's intelligence test. In one case, the Magdalen Home for the Feebleminded commenced an involuntary commitment of a slow-learning twenty-one-year- old New York woman, based on her low Binet scores. The woman's fervent protest against incarceration was vindicated by a New York judge, who ruled in her favor, declaring: "All criteria of mental incapacity are artificial and the deductions therefrom must necessarily lack verity and be, to a great extent, founded on conjecture." [69]

More sophisticated tests than Goddard's began to appear. The Yerkes- Bridge Point Scale for Intelligence, for instance, was employed by ERO field workers "measuring the intelligence of members of pedigrees that are being investigated." The ERO printed special rating forms for the test. The test's creator, Harvard psychologist Robert Yerkes, was a leading eugenic theorist and a former student of Davenport's. Yerkes was a member of many elite eugenic committees, including the Committee on the Inheritance of Mental Traits and the Committee on the Genetic Basis of Human Behavior. Two years after helping invent the Point Scale, Yerkes became president of the American Psychological Association. [70]

Europe exploded into war in 1914. America did not join the fray until 1917, but when it did, Washington struggled to classify more than three million drafted and enlisted soldiers. American Psychological Association president Yerkes pleaded for intelligence testing. He gathered Goddard and Stanford University eugenic activist Lewis Terman and others to help develop standardized examinations. Working from May to July of 1917 at Goddard's laboratory at the Vineland Training School for Feebleminded Girls and Boys in New Jersey, these eugenic psychologists and others jointly developed what they portrayed as scientifically designed army intelligence tests. These were submitted to the army, and the surgeon general soon authorized mass testing. [71]

Two main tests were devised: the written Army Alpha test for English-speaking literate men, and the pictoral Army Beta test for those who could not read or speak English. The Alpha test's multiple-choice questions could certainly be answered by sophisticated urbanites familiar with the country's latest consumer products, popular art and entertainment. Yet most of America's draftees hailed from an unsophisticated, rural society. Large numbers of them had "never been off the farm." [72] Many came from insular religious families, which disdained theater, slick magazines and smoking. No matter, the mental capacity of everyone who could read and write was measured by the same pop culture yardstick.

Question: "Five hundred is played with ... " Possible answers: rackets, pins, cards, dice. Correct response: cards.

Question: "Becky Sharp appears in ... " Possible answers: Vanity Fair, Romola, The Christmas Carol, Henry IV Correct response: Vanity Fair.

Question: "The Pierce Arrow car is made in ... " Possible answers: Buffalo, Detroit, Toledo, Flint. Correct response: Buffalo.

Question: "Marguerite Clark is known as a ... " Possible answers: suffragist, singer, movie actress, writer. Correct response: movie actress.

Question: ''Velvet Joe appears in advertisements for ... " Possible answers: tooth powder, dry goods, tobacco, soap. Correct response: tobacco.

Question: '''Hasn't scratched yet' is used in advertising a ... " Possible answers: drink, revolver, flour, cleanser. Correct response: cleanser. [73]

Americans and naturalized immigrants who could neither read nor write English were administered the Beta picture exam. For example, Beta Test 6 offered twenty simple sketches with something missing. "Fix it," the subject was instructed. He was then expected to pencil in the missing element. Bowling balls were missing from a bowling lane. The center net was subtracted from a tennis court. The incandescent filament was erased from a lightbulb. A stamp was missing from a postcard. The upper left diamond was missing from a sketch of the jack of diamonds on a playing card. [74]

A third test was administered to those who could not score appreciably on either the Alpha or Beta tests. Dr. Terman of Stanford had created a so-called Stanford revision of the Binet test, later named the Stanford-Binet Test. This test was only an update of Goddard's work. [75]

Predictably, Yerkes's results from all three tests identified vast numbers of morons among the eugenically inferior groups -- so many that Yerkes asserted the army could not afford to reject all of them and still go to war. "It would be totally impossible to exclude all morons," reported Yerkes, because "47 percent of whites and 89 percent of Negroes" were shown to have a mental capacity below that of a thirteen-year-old. By contrast, the tests verified that feeblemindedness among eugenically cherished groups was indeed miniscule: Dutch people, a tenth of a single percent; Germans, just two-tenths of one percent; English, three-tenths; Swedes, less than half of one percent. [76]

In 1912, the German psychologist William Stern had begun referring to Binet's original "intelligence level" as an "intelligence age." Stern went further, dividing the intelligence age by the chronological age to create a ratio. In doing so, he coined the term intelligence quotient. Four years later, after Terman created the Stanford version of Goddard's Binet test, Terman and Yerkes wanted a more identifiable number, one that could be popularized. In 1916, using the Stanford-Binet test, Terman divided mental age by chronological age, and then multiplied by 100. This became the American version of the intelligence quotient. Terman nicknamed it IQ. The moniker became an instant icon of intelligence. Scales and rankings were devised. Those classified below a certain level, 70 scale points, were graded as either "morons," "imbeciles," or "idiots." [77]

Feeblemindedness now had a number. Soon everyone would receive one. Terman knew how such a number could be used. While studying California public school children, he argued, "If we would preserve our state for a class of people worthy to possess it, we must prevent, as far as possible, the propagation of mental degenerates." [78]

Yerkes's work was advanced by another eugenic activist, Princeton psychologist Carl Brigham. A radical raceologist, Brigham analyzed Yerkes's findings for the world at large, casting them as eugenic evidence of Nordic supremacy and the racial inferiority of virtually everyone else. Brigham's 1922 book, A Study of American Intelligence, published by no less than Princeton University Press, openly conceded that the volume was based on two earlier raceological books, Madison Grant's virulently racist Passing of the Great Race, and William Ripley's equally biased Races of Europe. Before Brigham's book was published, a team of prestigious colleagues from the surgeon general's office, Harvard, Syracuse University and Princeton pored over his manuscript, verifying his conclusions, as did Yerkes himself, who also wrote the foreword. [79]

"We still find tremendous differences between the non-English speaking Nordic group and the Alpine and Mediterranean groups," wrote Brigham. "The underlying cause of the nativity differences we have shown is race and not language." Moreover, "The decline in intelligence is due to two factors: the change in the races migrating to this country, and to the additional factor of the sending of lower and lower representatives of each race .... The conclusion [is] that our test results indicate a genuine intellectual superiority of the Nordic group over the Alpine and Mediterranean groups." [80]

According to Brigham, Negro intelligence was predestined by racial heredity, but could be improved by "the greater amount of admixture of white blood." [81]

Brigham concluded, "According to all evidence available, then, American intelligence is declining, and will proceed with an accelerating rate as the racial admixture becomes more and more extensive. The decline of American intelligence will be more rapid than the decline of the intelligence of European national groups," he warned, "owing to the presence here of the negro." He added, "The results which we obtain by interpreting the Army data support Mr. Madison Grant's thesis of the superiority of the Nordic type " [82]

Quickly, A Study of American Intelligence became a scientific standard. Shortly after its publication, Brigham adapted the Army Alpha test for use as a college entrance exam. It was first administered to Princeton freshman and applicants to Cooper Union. Later the College Board asked Brigham to head a committee to create a qualifying test for other private colleges in the Northeast and eventually across the country. Brigham's effort produced the Scholastic Aptitude Test, administered mainly to upper middle-class white students. The test quickly became known as the SAT and was eventually employed at colleges across the country. Over time, more and more colleges required high school students to take the test and score high enough to qualify for application. [83]

The deeply flawed roots of the IQ test, the SAT and most other American intelligence tests were more than apparent to many thinking people of the period. It became glaringly obvious that the tests were vehicles for cultural exclusion. Poor-scoring southern Italian immigrants would not have known who the latest Broadway stars were or which brands of flour were popular. They were, however, steeped in the arias of operatic masters, the arts in general, and had discovered the secrets of fine cooking centuries before. Jews -- who overwhelmingly scored as moronic -- were often only literate in Yiddish. But they enjoyed a rich tradition of Talmudic scholarship that debated to abstraction the very essence of life and God's will. Farm boys may not have been aware that Velvet Joe was a cigarette advertising character, but they grasped the intricate agrarian tenets of growing and curing tobacco leaves to produce the perfect smoke.

Blacks might not have been able to decipher the reading, writing and arithmetic denied to them by a discriminatory educational system intent on keeping them illiterate. They may not have been able to comprehend the first thing about tennis nets, bowling lanes or incandescent bulbs. But the descendants of men and women ripped from Africa had cultivated a rich oral storytelling tradition, an intense, almost enraptured scripture-quoting religion, and as a group they would originate the revolutionary music that would dominate the twentieth century. Perhaps most remarkably, they were smart enough to stay alive in a world where an uppity black man with too much on the ball, or too much spring in his step, could be lynched for looking in the wrong direction or asking too many questions. [84]

Brigham's book would be circulated to all the state legislatures, congressional committees and throughout the marble halls of Washington as proof positive that the inferior were not just poor or uneducated, but genetically defective. This notion was welcome news to many. Now the pages of polished scholarship could be held up as justification for the draconian measures the movement advocated.

But dissident schools of psychologists and social works emerged. Common sense rejected the numbers. Resistance grew.

The U.S. Army never acted on Yerkes's voluminous findings, declining to classify its inductees according to his data. Indeed, three independent investigations of the project were launched, one by the army's general staff, one by the surgeon general and one by the secretary of war. The general staff's investigation derisively concluded, "No theorist may ... ride it [the test scores] as a hobby [horse] for the purpose of obtaining data for research work and the future benefit of the human race." Nor would military planners utilize the information in the next war. [85]

Vituperative attacks upon the objectivity and credibility of the Alpha and Beta tests were widespread and highly publicized. Typical were the public denunciations of syndicated journalist Walter Lippmann in the New Republic. "The danger of the intelligence tests," warned Lippmann, "is that in a wholesale system of education, the less sophisticated or the more prejudiced will stop when they have classified and forget that their duty is to educate. They will grade the retarded child instead of fighting the causes of his backwardness. For the whole drift of the propaganda based on intelligence testing is to treat people with low intelligence quotients as congenitally and hopelessly inferior." Terman's answer to Lippmann was simply, "Some members of the species are much stupider than others." But Lippmann summed it up for many when he declared that the Stanford-Binet and other IQ tests were "a new chance for quackery in a field where quacks breed like rabbits, and ... doped evidence to the exponents of the New Snobbery." [86]

Eventually, even some of the architects of the IQ, SAT and kindred intelligence tests could no longer defend their creations from the growing rejection in their own professions. In 1928, Goddard grudgingly retreated from his hereditarian stance. "This may surprise you, but frankly when I see what has been made out of the moron by a system of education, which as a rule is only half right, I have no difficulty in concluding that when we get an education that is entirely right there will be no morons who cannot manage themselves and their affairs and compete in the struggle for existence. If we could hope to add to this a social order that would literally give every man a chance, I should be perfectly sure of the result." [87]

As for the compulsion to sterilize, Goddard eventually abandoned the eugenic creed entirely, at least publicly. "It may still be objected that moron parents are likely to have imbecile or idiot children. [But] there is not much evidence that this is the case. The danger is probably negligible." Aware he had recanted his whole life's work, Goddard confessed in exasperation, "As for myself, I think I have gone over to the enemy." [88]

In 1929, Brigham finally rejected those scholarly publications that asserted a racial basis for intelligence -- including his own. Whether out of shame or embarrassment, the Princeton scholar submitted, "Comparative studies of various national and racial groups may not be made with existing tests ... one the most pretentious of these comparative racial studies -- the writer's own -- was without foundation." [89]

Meaningful as they were to the history of science, the several quiet recantations were published in obscure medical and scholarly journals. Academia could relish the debate and savor the progress. But the system hewed in stone by the eugenics movement's intelligence warriors has stubbornly remained in place to this day. By the time some scientists saw the folly of their fiction, the politicians, legislators, educators and social workers who had adopted eugenic intelligence notions as firm science had enacted laws, procedures, systems and policies to enforce their tenets. Quiet apologies came too late for thousands of Americans who would be chased down by the quotients, scales and derisive labels eugenics had branded upon them.

No longer constrained by newness or lack of scientific proof, the eugenic crusade blitzed across America. The weak, the socially maligned, the defenseless and the scientifically indefensible of America's lowest biological caste would now be sterilized by the thousands, and in some cases euthanized.
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Re: War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to

Postby admin » Thu Jul 31, 2014 1:01 am



The United States of Sterilization

It didn't matter that the majority of the American people opposed sterilization and the eugenics movement's other draconian solutions. It didn't matter that the underlying science was a fiction, that the intelligence measurements were fallacious, that the Constitutionality was tenuous, or that the whole idea was roundly condemned by so many. None of that mattered because Davenport, Laughlin and their eugenic constellation were not interested in furthering a democracy -- they were creating a supremacy.

Of course, American eugenicists did not seek the approbation of the masses whose defective germ plasm they sought to wipe away. Instead, they relied upon the powerful, the wealthy and the influential to make their war against the weak a conflict fought not in public, but in the administrative and bureaucratic foxholes of America. A phalanx of shock troops sallied forth from obscure state agencies and special committees -- everyone from the elite of the academic world to sympathetic legislators who sought to shroud their racist beliefs under the protective canopy of science. In tandem, they would hunt, identify, label and take control of those deemed unfit to populate the earth.

During the years bracketing World War I, a potent, if unsound, intelligence classification system was taking root. A patchwork of largely inert state sterilization laws awaited greater validation. The elite thinkers of American medicine, science and higher education were busy expanding the body of eugenic knowledge and evangelizing its tenets. However, the moment had still not arrived for eugenic rhetoric to massively impact the country. During these percolating years, Davenport and Laughlin continued to prepare the groundwork. They knew humanity could not be recreated overnight. They were patient men.

During the war years, eugenic organizations proliferated in America. Like-minded citizens found ethnic solace and even self-vindication in the idea of biological superiority. The Race Betterment Foundation was among the leading eugenic organizations that sprouted around the country to augment the work at Cold Spring Harbor. The society was founded by yet another wealthy American, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg of Battle Creek, Michigan. Dr. Kellogg was a member of the state board of health and operated a health sanitarium renowned for its alternative and fanciful food regimens. He had developed for his patients a natural product, a cereal made of wheat flakes. In 1898, Dr. Kellogg's brother, Will, created the corn flake, and in 1906 he began selling it commercially through a company that would ultimately become the cereal giant known as Kellogg Company. In that same year, Dr. Kellogg founded the Race Betterment Foundation to help stop the propagation of defectives. [1]

The Race Betterment Foundation attracted some of the most radical elements of the eugenics community. The organization wanted to compile its own eugenic registry, listing the backgrounds of as many Americans as possible, this to augment the one being developed by the Eugenics Record Office. In 1914, Dr. Kellogg organized the First Race Betterment Conference in Battle Creek, Michigan. The conference's purpose was to lay the foundations for the creation of a super race, amid an atmosphere of lavish banquets, stirring calls to biological action, and scientific grandiloquence. "We have wonderful new races of horses, cows, and pigs," argued Dr. Kellogg. "Why should we not have a new and improved race of men?" He wanted the "white races of Europe ... to establish a Race of Human Thoroughbreds." [2]

Davenport told the Battle Creek conferees that this could be accomplished by working quietly with the heads of state institutions. "The superintendents of state institutions," he explained, "were very desirous of assistance. We were able to give it to them, and they to us." Davenport relied upon institutional figures to authenticate his findings. "We have found that a large proportion of the feeble-minded, the great majority of them, are such because they belong to defective stock." [3]

Whatever restraint Laughlin used in his formal writings was absent from his speeches to the eugenic vanguard. Laughlin boldly put the Battle Creek gathering on notice: "To purify the breeding stock of the race at all costs is the slogan of eugenics." His three-pronged program was based on sterilization, mass incarceration, and sweeping immigration restrictions. "The compulsory sterilization of certain degenerates," affirmed Laughlin, "is therefore designed as a eugenical agency complementary to the segregation of the socially unfit classes, and to the control of the immigration of those who carry defective germ-plasm." [4]

The mothers of unfit children should be relegated to "a place comparable to that of the females of mongrel strains of domestic animals," said Laughlin. He complained that although twelve states had enacted laws, only a thousand people had been sterilized. "A halfway measure will never strike deeply at the roots of evil," he railed. [5]

At the Second Race Betterment Conference held the next year, ERO Scientific Director Irving Fisher, a Yale University economist, was equally blunt. "Gentlemen and ladies," Fisher sermonized, "you have not any idea unless you have studied this subject mathematically, how rapidly we could exterminate this contamination if we really got at it, or how rapidly the contamination goes on if we do not get at it." [6]

Eugenic extremism enjoyed layer upon layer of scientific veneer not only because eminent scholars enunciated its doctrine and advocated its solutions, but also by virtue of its numerous respected "research bodies." The Eugenics Record Office had inaugurated a Board of Scientific Directors in December of 1912. The board was initially comprised of Davenport, plus eminent Harvard neuropathologist E. E. Southard, Alexander Graham Bell and renowned Johns Hopkins University pathologist William Welch. Welch enjoyed impeccable qualifications; he had served as both the first scientific director of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research and as a trustee of the Carnegie Institution. Moreover, before and during his term on the ERO's scientific board, Welch was also elected president of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, the American Medical Association and the National Academy of Science. Understandably, Laughlin and Davenport felt it only fitting that he should serve as chairman of the ERO's Board of Scientific Directors. [7]

Among the biological issues the board identified as vital were "the consequences of marriages between distinct races-miscegenation," "the study of America's most effective bloodlines," as well as "restricting the strains that require state care." The board also sought to examine the ancestral caliber of immigrants being allowed into the country. As usual, feeblemindedness took the spotlight. Several key regions of the East Coast were targeted for investigation. [8]

Among the directors, only Bell became uncomfortable with the ERO's direction. He immediately voiced consternation over eugenics' constant focus on inferior traits. "Why not vary a little from this program and investigate the inheritance of some desirable characteristics," Bell wrote Davenport on December 27, 1912, just days after the board's first meeting. For emphasis, Bell reiterated over and over in his letter that the ERO's substantial funding might be better" devoted to the study of ... desirable characteristics rather than undesirable. The whole subject of eugenics has been too much associated in the public mind with fantastical and impractical schemes for restricting marriage and preventing the propagation of undesirable characteristics, so that the very name 'Eugenics' suggests, to the average mind ... an attempt to interfere with the liberty of the individual in his pursuit of happiness in marriage." [9]

Perhaps the most militant of the eugenic research bodies was the Eugenics Research Association, created in June of 1913 at Cold Spring Harbor. Like many other eugenic groups, this association was also dominated by Davenport and Laughlin. But unlike the other eugenic bodies, the Eugenics Research Association was determined to go far beyond family investigations and position papers. The body was determined to escalate its "research" into legislative and administrative action, and public propaganda for the causes of eugenics, raceology and Nordic race supremacy. As such, the Eugenics Research Association brought together America's most esteemed eugenic medical practitioners, the field's most respected university professors, the movement's most intellectual theorists and the nation's most rabid eugenic racists. [10]

Only fifty-one charter members created the ERA, and its ranks did not exceed five hundred in later years. Those fifty-one charter members included men and women from the senior echelons of psychology, such as Yerkes and Adolf Meyer; later, Goddard, Brigham, Terman and other intelligence measurement authorities would join up. Professors from the medical schools and life science departments of Harvard, Columbia, Yale, Emory, Brown and Johns Hopkins were counted among the ranks. [11]

Two race hatred fanatics, Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard, achieved leadership roles within the organization. Grant was internationally known for his bestseller, The Passing of the Great Race, which promoted Nordic whites as the superior race. Grant's book, revered by eugenicists, lamented that America had been infested by "a large and increasing number of the weak, the broken and the mentally crippled of all races drawn from the lowest stratum of the Mediterranean basin and the Balkans, together with hordes of the wretched, submerged populations of the Polish Ghetto." Grant called these "human flotsam." Among America's genetic enemies, Grant singled out Irishmen, whom he insisted "were of no social importance." As a eugenic remedy, he preached: "A rigid system of selection through the elimination of those who are weak or unfit -- in other words, social failures-would solve the whole question in a century .... " Grant held numerous leadership roles in the Eugenics Research Association, including its presidency, and ultimately sat with Davenport on the three-man executive committee. [12]

Stoddard would write an equally belligerent bestseller, published by Scribner's, entitled The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy. Harvard-educated Stoddard defiantly summarized his science in these words: "You cannot make bad stock into good ... any more than you can turn a cart-horse into a hunter by putting it into a fine stable, or make a mongrel into a fine dog by teaching it tricks." He urged widespread segregation and immigration restrictions to combat the unfit races, which Stoddard compared to infectious bacteria. "Just as we isolate bacterial invasions and starve out the bacteria by limiting the area and amount of their food-supply, so we can compel an inferior race to remain in its native habitat ... [which will] as with all organisms, eventually limit ... its influence." Stoddard was one of the early members of the Eugenics Research Association, joining in response to the association's official invitation. [13]

The ranks of the ERA included eugenic activists of all sorts, but of the fifty-one original members, none was more enigmatic than charter member #14. His name was Dr. Edwin Katzen-Ellenbogen. [14]

Dr. Katzen-Ellenbogen had distinguished himself in the field of psychology, mostly though his work with epileptics. In the years just prior to his charter membership, Katzen-Ellenbogen served as the director of the Psychopathological Laboratory at New Jersey's State Village for Epileptics at Skillman. Before that he had been an assistant physician at Danvers Hospital in Massachusetts, as well as a clinical assistant at a medical school in New York and a lecturer in abnormal psychology at Harvard. Just a year before joining the ERA, he had presented a paper on the mental capacity of epileptics before the National Association for the Study of Epilepsy at Goddard's Vineland Training School for Feebleminded Girls and Boys in New Jersey. He was considered an up-and-coming talent. Although just twenty-seven years of age, Katzen- Ellenbogen was listed as a leading psychologist in the distinguished biographical volume, American Men of Science. [15]

Who was Katzen-Ellenbogen, really? He spelled his last name numerous ways, hyphenated and unhyphenated. He was an American citizen, but he was actually born in Stanislawow, in Austrian-occupied Poland; he immigrated to the United States in 1905. He settled in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Shortly after arriving in Fitchburg, the twenty-four-year-old Katzen-Ellenbogen married Marie A. Pierce, an American woman six years his junior. Two months later, he traveled to Paris for further studies, but returned to the U.S. in 1907 when he was naturalized. He boasted credentials from Harvard and was a member of that university's postgraduate teaching staff, but he had actually received his primary education in Poland and his secondary schooling in Germany. He assumed the middle name "Maria," perhaps after his wife's name, but his real middle name was Wladyslaw. He claimed to be Roman Catholic, but was actually Jewish. [16]

Long-skulled, with bushy eyebrows, a thin mustache and a semicircular receding hairline topped by a very high brow, Katzen-Ellenbogen's head seemed almost too large for his body. As one who had worked with epileptics, disturbed children and the insane, Katzen-Ellenbogen had become accustomed to tinkering with the extremes of human frailty and the limits of will. He was attracted to the mysteries of the mind, but was convinced that the field of psychology was still in its infancy as it probed those mysteries. "Psychology is a discipline of undue hopes and uncritical skepticism," he wrote, adding, "It has been a hard battle, which in forty years time has elevated psychology from a cinderella science domiciled in one room at the Leipzig University to palace-like institutions, such as for instance the Harvard Psychological Institute .... " [17]

In 1915, two years after he joined the Eugenics Research Association, Katzen-Ellenbogen sailed again to Europe. He would never return to America. He traveled first to Russia, but ended up in Germany. By then, Europe was embroiled in a bloody World War. But Katzen-Ellenbogen remained an "active member" of the organization even while abroad. Then America entered the war against Germany, and on March 21, 1918, the association's executive committee dropped Katzen-Ellenbogen from its rolls. [18]

Katzen-Ellenbogen studied troubled minds but was also familiar with intense personal pain and the fire of his own considerable mental anguish. In 1920, his only son, still in America, fell from a roof garden and was killed. The boy's death destroyed Katzen-Ellenbogen's sense of personal existence. There would be no male heir to carry on his bloodline, which contradicted the central aspiration of eugenics. But beyond any tenet of science, the untimely death would haunt Katzen-Ellenbogen for the rest of his life. He was in Europe when it occurred, yet he did not return for the funeral. The doctor's wife slid into profound depression. Katzen- Ellenbogen never forgave himself for staying away. Suicidal impulses would grip him for years. [19]

Bitter but also philosophical, purely scientific yet overwhelmingly ambitious, Katzen-Ellenbogen wandered from mental place to mental place. He emerged with the disconnected sense of a man with nothing to lose. Abortionist, drug peddler, informer, medical theorist, murderer -- Katzen-Ellenbogen eventually drifted into all of these realms. [20] This American eugenicist would disappear from America, but his biological vision of humanity would eventually shock the world. or would he be alone in his crimes.


Eugenics found allies not just among the nation's learned men, but also among the affluent and influential. In 1912, shortly before the Eugenics Record Office installed its board of scientific directors, the New York State legislature had created the Rockefeller Foundation, which boasted fabulous assets. John D. Rockefeller donated $35 million the first year, and $65 million more the next year. [21] Davenport was keen to funnel Rockefeller's money into eugenics. As he had done with Mrs. Harriman, Davenport cultivated a personal connection with Rockefeller's son, John D. Rockefeller Jr. The younger Rockefeller controlled the foundation's millions. [22]

Shy and intensely private, the oil heir seemed to enjoy corresponding with Davenport about sundry eugenic topics. On January 27, 1912, using his personal 26 Broadway stationery, the young Rockefeller wrote Davenport a letter about a plan to incarcerate feebleminded criminal women for an extra length of time, so they "would ... be kept from perpetuating [their] kind ... until after the period of child bearing had been passed." Two months later, Rockefeller Jr. sent Davenport a copy of a Good Housekeeping article referencing Pearson and British eugenicists. Rockefeller asked, "Will you be good enough to return the article with your reply, which I shall greatly appreciate." On April 2, Rockefeller sent Davenport a formal thank you for answering a letter just received. About a month later, Rockefeller sent another note of personal thanks, this time for answering questions about the Good Housekeeping article. [23]

At its first meeting, the ERO's board of scientific directors "voted to recommend to Mr. John D. Rockefeller the support of the following investigations." The ERO's board, chaired by William Welch (who doubled as Rockefeller's own scientific director), compiled a short list: first, "an analysis of feeblemindedness"; second, "a study of a center of heavy incidence of insanity in Worcester County, Massachusetts"; third, a well-financed "preliminary study of the sources of the better and the poorer strains of immigrants" to be conducted overseas. They also petitioned Rockefeller to fund a statistician who would compile the data. [24]

Welch found his work with the ERO satisfying, and did not mind becoming vice-chairman when Alexander Graham Bell was appointed to the top post. Two years after Welch joined the board of scientific directors, Davenport used the connection to secure additional Rockefeller financial support. On March 1, 1915, Davenport told Welch, "It seems to me a favorable time to approach the Rockefeller Foundation on the subject of giving a fund for investment to the Eugenics Record Office." Davenport skillfully played Mrs. Harriman's wealth against Rockefeller's vastly superior fortune. To date, Rockefeller's foundation had "given us $6,000 a year, whereas Mrs. Harriman has given us $25,000" as well as funds for construction and other general expenses. Davenport's new plan called for an annual investment fund, as well as money to establish a better indexing operation to link surnames, traits and geographic locales. After adding up the columns, itemizing the projects and totaling the results, Davenport wrote Welch, "1 would suggest that we should ask for $600,000 [$10.1 million in modern money] from the Rockefeller Foundation." [25]

If Rockefeller agreed to the $600,000 subvention, Davenport planned to go back to Mrs. Harriman and ask her to go one better. "We should then ask Mrs. Harriman to consider an endowment of $800,000 to $1 million." That would almost double her annual tithe. [26]

As expected, Davenport lunched with Mrs. Harriman just days later. Their discussion was fruitful. "She is, I understand, ready to turn over some property to [the Eugenics Record Office]''' Davenport happily reported to Bell. Mrs. Harriman's financial support would ultimately grow to hundreds of thousands of dollars. [27]

Big money made all the difference for eugenics. Indeed, biological supremacy, raceology and coercive eugenic battle plans were all just talk until those ideas married into American affluence. With that affluence came the means and the connections to make eugenic theory an administrative reality.

Providing her opulent 1 East Sixty-ninth Street home as a meeting place, Mrs. Harriman bestowed her prestige as well as her wealth on the eugenic crusade. At one meeting in her home on April 8, 1914, more than a dozen experts gathered to plan action against those considered feebleminded. Most offered short presentations. Goddard, fresh from his intelligence-testing accomplishments, began the meeting with a proposed definition of "feebleminded." Another outlined ideas on "segregation of the feebleminded." A third offered "new and needed legislation in re: the feebleminded." Laughlin presented a fifteen-minute talk on "sterilization of the feebleminded." Davenport spoke on county surveys of the feebleminded. [28]

Mrs. Harriman wielded great power. When she made a request of New York State officials, it was difficult for them to say no. Davenport's proposed county surveys in search of the unfit, for example, were implemented by state officials. Eugenic agencies were established, often bearing innocuous names. Robert Hebberd, secretary of the New York State Board of Charities, reported to Mrs. Harriman that "our Eugenics Bureau is known officially as the Bureau of Analysis and Investigation." In describing the agency's work, Hebberd's letter reflected the usual eugenic parlance, "The study of groups of defective individuals is so closely related to the welfare of future generations that the lessons drawn from the histories of abnormal families ... [can] prevent the continuance of conditions which foster social evils." He added that to this end, the records of some 300,000 people had already been tabulated in twenty-four of New York State's counties. Hebberd promised to coordinate his agency's work with privately financed eugenic field surveys "in Rockland County, under your direction." He deferentially added, "Permit me to say that it is gratifying to know of your deep interest in this branch of the work of the State Board of Charities." [29]

Rockefeller also financed private county surveys. His foundation would cover the $10,000 cost of a hunt for the unfit in New York's Nassau County. Davenport and several Nassau County appointees formed an impromptu "Committee on the Enumeration of Mental Defectives," which worked closely with local school authorities in search of inferior students. Eight field workers would assist the search. [30]

Some ordinary New York State agencies changed their focuses from benign to eugenic. One such agency operated under the innocuous-sounding name of the Bureau of Industries and Immigration. Originally established to protect disadvantaged immigrants, the bureau began employing investigators to identify "defectives," the feebleminded and the insane. One typical report on fifteen feebleminded newcomers began with Case #258, which focused on Teresa Owen, a forty-year-old woman from Ireland who was classified as insane. The case note on Owen read, "Has been released to her husband and is cohabiting with him, with what disastrous results to posterity ... no one can foretell. She is a menace ... [and] should be removed and segregated pending removal." Case #430 treated Eva Stypanovitz, an eighteen-year-old Russian Jew who was classified as feebleminded. The file on Stypanovitz noted, "Case diagnosed by relatives. Is of marriageable age, and a menace to the community." Case #918 dealt with Vittorio Castellino, a thirty-five-year-old from Italy, and recorded, "Such a case cannot be too extravagantly condemned from a eugenic and economic point of view." [31]

Another such agency was the organization that became known as the National Committee on Prison and Prison Labor, first organized in 1910 by the New York State Department of Labor to investigate the exploitation of convict-manufactured goods. Four years later, the body changed its name amid a "widening of its activities." Judge Olson, the stalwart eugenic activist who also directed the Municipal Court of Chicago Psychopathic Laboratory, steered his colleagues on the prison committee to create similar municipal psychopathic labs to document hereditary criminality in their cities. The New York City Police Department did indeed establish a psychopathic laboratory for eugenic investigations, utilizing Eugenics Record Office field workers supplied by Mrs. Harriman. Davenport himself headed up the prison group's special committee on eugenics, which was established "to get at the ... heredity factors in anti-social behavior ... with the aid of a careful family history." Prisoners at Sing Sing were the first to be examined by Davenport's researchers under a year-long joint project with the Eugenics Record Office. [32]

In 1916, New York's Senate Commission to Investigate Provision for the Mentally Deficient held hearings and published a 628-page special report, including a 109-page bibliography of eugenic books and articles. The commission's purview included imposed sterilization. Among its cited resources were eugenic county surveys in Westchester County supervised by Dr. Gertrude Hall, one of the eugenic experts in Mrs. Harriman's circle and the director of the Bureau of Analysis and Investigation. [33]

Many officials were easily swayed by the stacks of scientific documentation eugenicists could amass. New York's State Hospital Commission -- comprised of a coterie of leading physicians -- emerged from meetings with Davenport at the Eugenics Record Office in July of 1917 expressing a new determination to concentrate on the feebleminded -- even though there was not yet a definition for feeblemindedness. After the meeting, the commission announced it would recommend that the state legislature allocate $10 to $20 million during the next decade to eugenically address the insane and feebleminded. The ERO pledged its assistance in the effort. [34]

New York State was hardly alone. Indiana's legislature appropriated $10,000 for a Committee on Mental Defectives in 1917. Initial research was completed by ERO field workers Clara Pond (in Jasper, Wabash and Elkhart counties) and Edith Atwood (in Shelby, Vanderburgh and Warrick counties). A commission to investigate the feebleminded was empanelled in Utah. Arkansas did the same. One ERO field worker, Ethel Thayer, traveled some 10,000 miles during six months in 1917, interviewing 472 individuals to produce what the ERO termed "more or less complete histories of 84 [families]." [35]

There was no way for the public to know if a seemingly unrelated government agency was actively pursuing a eugenic agenda. The United States Department of Agriculture maintained an active role in America's eugenics movement by virtue of its quasi-official domination of the American Breeders Association. Various Department of Agriculture officials either sponsored or officially encouraged eugenic research. Agricultural department meetings went beyond the bounds of simple agronomy; they often encompassed human breeding as well. On November 14, 1912, Professor C.L. Goodrich, at the Washington office of the Department of Agriculture, was asked by a colleague in the USDA's Columbia, South Carolina, office whether two Tegro siblings, both with six fingers on each hand, should be brought to an ABA meeting at the National Corn Exposition for eugenic evaluation. Professor Goodrich, who controlled the presentations of the ABA's Eugenic Section, replied a few days later, "Have the children brought I will put you on the program for a paper before the Eugenics section...." [36]

On November 26, 1912, the USDA's Office of Farm Management wrote to Davenport on official government letterhead suggesting that the ERO assign "a eugenic worker on the case and develop the facts in relation to the negro's family by the time of the meeting of the Breeder's Association in Columbia [South Carolina] in February." Receptive to the idea, Davenport replied three days later, "Perhaps he can present one or more of the polydactyls to the eugenics section." [37]

On January 3, 1913, Davenport wrote to George W. Knorr at the USDA in Washington asking, "If not too late, please add two titles to the eugenics program." One of these would be Davenport's own last-minute entry, "A Biologist's View of the Southern Negro Problem." Knorr wrote back asking for a lecturer on eugenic immigration issues. On January 8, Davenport referred Knorr to a Harvard eugenicist specializing in immigration, and reminded the department to make sure "the meeting of the eugenics section [was all arranged] at the Insane Asylum." That same day, Davenport wrote his colleague at Harvard, asking him to contact the USDA to get on the program. On January 10, Davenport asked Knorr to approve yet another eugenics paper entitled "Heredity of Left-handedness." [38]

Secretary of Agriculture James Wilson doubled as president of the ABA. At the group's 1913 convention, he rallied the forces. In his presidential address, Wilson declared, "You have developed in your eugenics section a great experiment station and institution of research, with a splendid building called the Eugenics Record Office .... Your laboratory material is the heredity that runs through the veins of the good, bad, and indifferent families of our great country ... assembling the genetic data of thousands of families ... making records of the very souls of our people, of the very life essence of our racial blood .... Those families which have in them degenerate blood will have new reason for more slowly increasing their kind. Those families in whose veins runs the blood of royal efficiency, will have added reason for that pride which will induce them to multiply their kind." Wilson also encouraged the ERO to seek even greater funding. "I observe that you are publicly asking for a foundation of half a million dollars," he said. "Twenty times that sum, or ten millions, would come nearer the mark." [39]

The speeches presented at obscure agricultural meetings in South Carolina, the eugenic surveys in small Indiana counties or by major New York State agencies, the eugenics courses taught in small colleges or in prestigious universities -- none of this eugenic activity remained a local phenomenon. It quickly accumulated and became national news for a movement hungry for the smallest advance in its crusade. Therefore in January of 1916, the ERO launched a new publication, Eugenical News, which was edited by Laughlin and reported endless details of the movement's vicissitudes. Approximately 1,000 copies of each issue were distributed to activists. From the most important research to the most obscure minutia, an eager audience of committed eugenic devotees would read about it in Eugenical News. Almost every administrative proposal, every legislative measure, every academic course, every speech and organizational development was reported in this publication. [40]

When field worker Clara Pond began her eugenic duties at the New York Police Department on January 15, 1917, it was reported in the February issue. When the ERO received records of 128 family charts from Morgan County, Indiana, it was reported. When the Village for Epileptics at Skillman, New Jersey, contributed 798 pages of data on its patients, it was reported. When Laughlin spoke before the Illinois Corn Growers Convention at the University of Illinois, it was reported. When Dr. Walter Swift of the Speech Disorder Clinic wrote on inherited speech problems in the Review of Neurology and Psychiatry, his article was reviewed in depth. When Yerkes paid a courtesy visit to the Eugenics Record Office in Cold Spring Harbor, it was reported. When Congress overrode President Wilson's veto of an immigration bill, the vote tallies were reported. When the state of Delaware appropriated $10,000 for an institution for the feebleminded, it was reported. When eugenic field worker Elizabeth Moore took up gardening at her home in North Anson, Maine, this too was reported. [41]

No legislative development was too small, nor was any locale too obscure for coverage. Indeed, the more obscure the eugenic development, the more enthusiastic the reportage seemed. The more significant the research or legislative effort, the more readers looked to Eugenical News for information and guidance. In effect, Eugenical News offered the movement organizational, scientific, legislative and theoretical cohesion.

Eventually, the eugenics movement and its supporters began to speak a common language that crept into the general mindset of many of America's most influential thinkers. On January 3, 1913, former President Theodore Roosevelt wrote Davenport, "I agree with you ... that society has no business to permit degenerates to reproduce their kind .... Some day, we will realize that the prime duty, the inescapable duty, of the good citizen of the right type, is to leave his or her blood behind him in the world; and that we have no business to permit the perpetuation of citizens of the wrong type." Episcopalian Bishop John T. Dallas of Concord, New Hampshire, issued a public statement: "Eugenics is one of the very most important subjects that the present generation has to consider." Episcopalian Bishop Thomas F. Gailor of Memphis, Tennessee, issued a similar statement: "The science of eugenics ... by devising methods for the prevention of the propagation of the feebleminded, criminal and unfit members of the community, is ... one of the most important and valuable contributions to civilization." Dr. Ada Comstock, president of Radcliffe College, declared publicly, "Eugenics is 'the greatest concern of the human race.' The development of civilization depends upon it." Dr. Albert Wiggam, an author and a leading member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, pronounced his belief: "Had Jesus been among us, he would have been president of the First Eugenic Congress." [42]

While many of America's elite exalted eugenics, the original Galtonian eugenicists in Britain were horrified by the sham science they saw thriving in the United States and taking root in their own country. In a merciless 1913 scientific paper written on behalf of the Galton Laboratory, British scientist David Heron publicly excoriated the American eugenics of Davenport, Laughlin, and the Eugenics Record Office. Using the harshest possible language, Heron warned against "certain recent American work which has been welcomed in this country as of first-class importance, but the teaching of which we hold to be fallacious and indeed actually dangerous to social welfare." His accusations: "Careless presentation of data, inaccurate methods of analysis, irresponsible expression of conclusions, and rapid change of opinion." [43]

Heron lamented further, "Those of us who have the highest hopes for the new science of Eugenics in the future are not a little alarmed by many of the recent contributions to the subject which threaten to place Eugenics ... entirely outside the pale of true science .... When we find such teaching -- based on the flimsiest of theories and on the most superficial of inquiries -- proclaimed in the name of Eugenics, and spoken of as 'entirely splendid work,' we feel that it is not possible to use criticism too harsh, nor words too strong in repudiation of advice which, if accepted, must mean the death of Eugenics as a science." [44]

Heron emphasized "that the material has been collected in a most unsatisfactory manner, that the data have been tabled in a most slipshod fashion, and that the Mendelian conclusions drawn have no justification whatever. ... " He went so far as to say the data had been deliberately skewed. As an example, he observed that "a family containing a large number of defectives is more likely to be recorded than a family containing a small number of defectives." [45] In sum, he called American eugenics rubbish.

Davenport exploded.

He marshaled all his academic and rhetorical resources and the propagandists of the ERO. Davenport and A. ]. Rosanoff combined two defensive essays and a journal article denouncing Dr. Heron's criticism into a lengthy ERO Bulletin. The bulletin, entitled Reply to the Criticism of Recent American Work by Dr. Heron of the Galton Laboratory, was circulated to hundreds of public administrators, eugenic theorists and others whose minds needed to be swayed, assuaged or buttressed. [46]

As keeper of the eugenic flame and defender of its faithful, Davenport correctly portrayed Dr. Heron's assault to be against "my reputation [which] I regard as of infinitely less importance than the acquisition of truth; and if! resent these evil innuendoes it is not for myself at all, but only for the protection of the scientific interests which I am, for the time, custodian." In a rambling, point-by-point confutation, Davenport belittled Heron's attack as a vendetta by his Galtonian enemies in England. He explained away his faulty data as typographical. His rebuttal was rich with abstruse formulas in support of his subverted theses. [47]

In Davenport's mind, Mendel's laws hovered as the sacred oracle of American eugenics, the rigid determiner of everything tall and short, bright and dim, right and wrong, strong and weak. All that existed in the chaotic pool of life was subservient to Mendel's tenets as res pun by Davenport. Indeed, Davenport cherished those tenets as if chiseled by the finger of God. Come what may, Davenport declared he would never "deny the truth of Mendelism." He defiantly proclaimed, "The principles of heredity are the same in man and hogs and sun-flowers." [48]

But the attacks did not stop. True, eugenics had ascended to a scientific standard throughout the nation's academic and intellectual circles, becoming almost enshrined in the leading medical journals and among the most progressive bureaucrats. The word itself had become a catchphrase of the intelligentsia. But soon the sweeping reality of the eugenics movement's agenda started filtering down to the masses. Average people slowly began to understand that the ruling classes were planning a future America, indeed a future world, that would leave many of them behind. Sensational articles began to appear in the press.

"14 million to be sterilized" was the warning from the Hearst syndicate of newspapers in late September of 1915. Alexander Graham Bell, long queasy about Davenport's obsession with defectives, reacted at once, contacting Cold Spring Harbor for some reassurance. Davenport wrote back on September 25: "I am very sorry that ripples of a very sensational fake article about the plans of the Eugenics Record Office to sterilize 14 million Americans has rippled" -- he crossed out "has rippled" -- " ... have disturbed the placid waters about [Bell's vacation home in] Beinn Bhreagh [Nova Scotia]." Davenport assured Bell he would warn others "against believing things ... in the Hearst papers." Bell, only briefly comforted, wrote back, "Your note ... is a great relief to me, as I was naturally disturbed over the newspaper notices-even though I didn't believe them." [49]

The articles did not stop, however. Crusading journalists and commentators began to expose American eugenics as a war of the wealthy against the poor. On October 14, 1915, the Hearst newspapers syndicated a series of powerful editorials pulling no punches. Typical was an editorial in the San Francisco Daily News:


The millions of Mrs. Harriman, relict of the great railroad "promoter," assisted by other millions of Rockefeller and Carnegie, are to be devoted to sterilization of several hundred thousands of American "defectives" annually, as a matter of eugenics.

It is true that we don't yet know all that the millions of our plutocracy can do to the common folks. We see that our moneyed plutocrats can own the governments of whole states, override constitutions, maintain private armies to shoot down men, women and children, and railroad innocent men to life imprisonment for murder, or lesser crimes. And IF WE SUBMIT TO SUCH THINGS, we ought not to be surprised if they undertake to sterilize all those who are obnoxious to them.

Of course, the proposition depends much on who are to be declared "defective. "

The old Spartans, with war always in view, used to destroy, at birth, boys born with decided physical weakness. Some of our present-day eugenists go farther and damn children before their birth because of parents criminally inclined. Then we have eugenic "defectives" in the insane and the incurably diseased. The proposition is not wholly without justification. But isn't there another sort of "defective," who is quite as dangerous as any but whom discussion generally overlooks, especially discussion by the senile long-haired pathologists, and long-eared college professors involved in the Harriman-Rockefeller scheme to sterilize?

A boy is born to millions. He either doesn't work, isn't useful, doesn't contribute to human happiness, is altogether a parasite, or else he works to add to his millions, with the brutal, insane greed for more and more that caused the accumulation of the inherited millions. Why isn't such THE MOST DANGEROUS "DEFECTIVE" OF ALL? Why isn't the prevention of more such progeny THE FIRST DUTY OF EUGENICS? Such "defectives" directly attack the rights, liberties, happiness, and lives of millions.

Talk about inheriting criminal tendencies. Is there a ranker case of such than the inheritance of Standard Oil criminality as evidenced in the slaughter of mothers and their babes at Ludlow?

Sterilization of hundreds of thousands of the masses, by the Harrimans and Rockefellers? LET'S FIRST TRY OUT THE "DEFECTIVENESS" OF THE SONS OF BILLIONAIRES!

Let's first sterilize where sterilization will mean something immediate, far-reaching and thorough in the way of genuine eugenics! [50]

More letters flew across the country as leading scholars began assessing the movement's image. Davenport worked on damage control. He began writing letters. Among the first was to Thomas D. Eliot, a major eugenic activist then living in San Francisco. "The article upon which the editorial in the San Francisco Daily News was based was entirely without any foundation in fact," Davenport assured Eliot. "The writer for the Hearst syndicate supplied them with an absolutely baseless and basely false article about imaginary plans of the Eugenics Record Office. As a matter of fact, the Eugenics Record Office exists only for the purpose of making studies primarily in human heredity and has nothing whatsoever to do with propaganda for sterilization. After the printing of this false article in scores of papers in this country my attention was called to it, and I wrote a letter to the New York American and requested them to publish the letter. This they refused to do .... " [51]

Davenport scoffed, "We know the name of the unfortunate who wrote the article for the Hearst syndicate. To my protestation, he replies only that he proposes to publish a series of articles, intimating that he has worse ones in store [than] that already published. I tell you this so that you may be prepared for the future. It is quite within the range of possibility that he may state that the Rockefeller, Carnegie and Harriman millions are to be devoted to forcing the whites of the South to have children by the blacks in order to grade up the blacks. I can imagine even worse things." He dismissed Hearst readers as "paranoiacs and imbeciles," and urged his colleagues to stand fast. [52] But the press continued.

On February 17, 1916, a New York American reporter named Miss Hoffmann insisted on traveling up to New Haven, Connecticut, to interview the prominent Yale economist Irving Fisher about eugenics. Fisher, a leading raceologist, occupied a central role in the eugenics movement. The reporter had latched onto a sentence in a leading eugenic publication, which asserted, "Many women of the borderline type of feeblemindedness, where mental incapacity often passes for innocence, possess the qualities of charm felt in children, and are consequently quickly selected in marriage." Fisher did not know where the correct documentation was to support such a statement. "I should have turned her loose on you," he wrote to Davenport, "had I not known your sentiment on reporters especially of the Hearst journals! ... Much as I dislike the tone of their articles ... if we do not help them, they will do us positive injury ... [and yet] in spite of their sensationalism, we can utilize them to create respect for the eugenics idea in the mind of the public." [53]

Fisher appended a typical progress report to his letter. "You will be glad to know," he wrote, "that I have interested the Dean here in trying to secure something in eugenics. You will doubtless hear from him .... I am delighted to see how other colleges have taken the matter up. Yale seems to be a little behind in this matter." [54]

Davenport was relieved that Fisher had steered the New York American reporter elsewhere, admitting, "I might have reacted in a way which I should subsequently have regretted." [55] Such scandals in the press prompted Alexander Graham Bell to distance himself from the eugenics movement.

Davenport surely sensed Bell's apprehension. When it came time to call the Spring 1916 scientific board meeting, Davenport struggled with the phrasing of his letter to Bell. "Do you authorize call for meeting here April Eighth." Vigorously scratched out. Slight variation: "Do you authorize me to call meeting here on April Eighth." Vigorously scratched out. Start again: "Do you .... " Scratched out, starting once more: "Shall I issue call Director's meeting here on April Eighth." [56]

On the afternoon of April 8, 1916, too impatient for a letter to arrive, Bell telephoned a message to Cold Spring Harbor.

Dr. Davenport: Greatly regret inability to attend meeting of Eugenics Board as I had intended. Detained at last moment by important matters, demanding my immediate attention. I believe I have now served for three years as chairman. I would be much obliged if you would kindly present my resignation on the Board and say that it would gratify me very much to have some member now appointed to the position.

With best wishes for a successful meeting,

Alexander Graham Bell [57]

Davenport was surely shaken. He sent off a note asking if Bell would at least stay on until the end of the year as chairman of the board of scientific directors; at the same time, he assured Bell that in the future more emphasis would be placed on positive human qualities. Bell reluctantly agreed, but his connection to the movement was now permanently frayed.

On April 20, 1916, Bell agreed to chair just one more meeting, the December 15 session, but with "the understanding that I will then resign as Chairman of the Board." He added, "I am very much pleased to know from your letter that more attention is now to be paid to the Eugenic positive side than heretofore." [58]

Just before the meeting, Bell once again reminded Davenport that he would participate in the year-end meeting, but "I hope that you do not forget that I am to be allowed to resign from the chairmanship at this meeting." After that December meeting, Bell severed his relations with the movement altogether. In a polite but curt letter, Bell informed Davenport, "I will no longer be associated with yourself and the other directors. With best wishes for the continuance of the work, and kind regards." [59]

By the end of 1917, Mrs. Harriman's privately funded Eugenics Record Office had merged with the Carnegie Institution's Experimental Station. Both entities were headed by Davenport. They existed virtually side-by-side at Cold Spring Harbor, and to a large extent functioned as extensions of one another. This created a consolidated eugenic enterprise at Cold Spring Harbor. To facilitate the legal merger of what everyone knew was an operational fact, Mrs. Harriman deeded the ERO's existing assets plus a new gift of $300,000 to the Carnegie Institution, thus providing for the ERO's continued operation. As part of the merger, the ERO transferred its collection of 51,851 pages of family documentation and index cards on 534,625 individuals. Each card offered lines for forty personal traits. [60]

The science of eugenics was now consolidated under the sterling international name of the Carnegie Institution. Eugenics was stronger than ever.


Eugenics did not reform despite its public pillorying. The movement continued to amass volumes of data on families and individuals by combining equal portions of gossip, race prejudice, sloppy methods and leaps of logic, all caulked together by elements of actual genetic knowledge to create the glitter of a genuine science.

A statistical study found that fewer than 12 percent of Negro songs were in a minor key. "It tends to justify the general impression that the negro is temperamentally sunny, cheerful, optimistic," reported Eugenical News. As such, the study purveyed as scientific evidence that while "slave songs ... refer to 'hard trials and tribulations,'" the genetic constitution of Negroes under American apartheid nonetheless displayed a "dominant mood ... of jubilation .... " [61]

Eugenicists began compiling long lists of ship captains and their progeny to identify an invented genetic trait called "thalassophilia," that is, an inherited love of the sea. Eugenical News listed several captains who died or were injured in shipwrecks. "Such hardy mariners do not call for our sympathy," declared Eugenical News, "they were following their instinct." [62]
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Re: War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to

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Behaviors, mannerisms, and personal attributes that we now understand to be shaped by environment were all deemed eugenic qualities. "When we look among our acquaintances," Davenport wrote, "we are struck by their diversity in physical, mental, and moral traits ... they may be selfish or altruistic, conscientious or liable to shirk ... for these characteristics are inheritable .... " [63]

In painstakingly compiled family trait booklets, each numbered at the top right for tracking, the most personal and subjective measurements were recorded as scientific data. Family trait booklet #40688, of the Bohemian farmer Joseph Chloupek and his Irish wife Mary Sullivan, was typical. Question 12 asked for "special tastes, gifts or peculiarities of mind or body." For Chloupek, his traits were noted as "reading, affectionate, firm." His wife was noted as "very religious ... broad minded in her religious attitude toward others." The rest of the family was similarly assessed, including Chloupek's mother, Eugenia, who was marked as a "good mother." [64]

Approximations were frequently entered as authentic scientific measurements. Question 13 called for the height either in inches, or, if preferred, with any of four notations: "very short, short, medium tall, very tall." Question 15 recorded hair color as "albino, flaxen, yellow-brown, light brown, medium brown, dark hair, black." Question 17 asked for the individual's skin to be described as "blond, intermediate, brunette, dark brown, black Negro, yellow, yellow-brown or reddish-brown." Question 26 asked for visual acuity, and the choices were "blind, imperfect, strong, or color blind"; in the case of the Chloupek family, the most common response was "good." [65]

A second genealogical tool, the family folder, recorded such eugenic "facts" as "participation in church activities" and "early moral environment." Special areas were set aside for notations as to whether the individual was known for "interest in world events or neighborhood gossip," or "modesty," or whether the person "holds a grudge." Question fifty-six asked for an evaluation of the individual's "optimism, patriotism, care for the good opinion of others." [66]

In ERG Bulletin #13, How to Make a Eugenical Family Study, coauthored by Davenport and Laughlin, field workers and information recorders were informed that eugenic authorities would explain the "eugenical meaning of the facts recorded." [67]

Even within the accepted parameters, the data was often only approximated. Heights for several dozen Jewish children were charted in one report with a special entry, "These weights recorded by nurses ... are considered by Dr. Cohen as more accurate than those recorded on March 20." Physician Brett Ratner submitted extensive physical measurements of newborns, with a caveat. "The sheet ... [includes] the length," he explained, "which is taken by the attending doctor by suspending the child by its legs, which is of course very inaccurate, and the chest was also done by the attending physician. Therefore, I cannot vouch for the chest and length measurement. The weights, however, are all absolutely accurate." [68]

Often, the science was filtered through personal animus, colored language and even name-calling. Character flaws were frequently accentuated in clinical eugenic descriptions, almost as if to pass the reader a cue. "James Dack was commonly known as 'Rotten Jimmy,'" read one typical description. "The epithet was given because of the diseased condition of his legs ... although the term is said to have been equally applicable to his moral nature." No wonder Goddard admitted that in writing his revered eugenic text on the Kallikak family, "We have made rather dogmatic statements and have drawn conclusions that do not seem scientifically warranted by the data. We have done this because it seems necessary to make these statements and conclusions for the benefit of the lay reader .... " In Vermont, a careful and methodical statewide survey condemned one man as eugenically unfit based on the genetic datum that he was "a big hopeless good for nothing." [69]

Davenport and Laughlin brashly predicted, "The day will yet come when among the first questions, asked by an employer of the applicant for a position, will be those relating to the occupations of his kin and the success they have had in such occupations."

Correcting the American ethic with a eugenic voice, they promulgated the stunning admonishment, "There are those who adhere to the obviously false doctrine that men are born equal and therefore it really doesn't matter who marries whom." [70]

The men and women of eugenics wielded the science. They were supported by the best universities in America, endorsed by the brightest thinkers, financed by the richest capitalists. They envisioned millions of America's unfit being rounded up and incarcerated in vast colonies, farms or camps. They would be prohibited from marrying and forcibly sterilized. Eventually -- perhaps within several generation -- only the white Nordics would remain. When their work was done at home, American eugenicists hoped to do the same for Europe, and indeed for every other continent, until the superior race of their Nordic dreams became a global reality.

Yet the very first sentence of the United States Constitution protected future generations. "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice ... secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution." [71] Posterity would be the monumental issue over which the forces of eugenics struggled. To eugenicists, the future of America and humanity itself was at stake.

In 1924, they would wage a pitched battle against a lone adversary. This adversary would not be a crusading journalist or an outspoken politician, but rather a helpless Virginia teenager named Carrie Buck. Declared feebleminded, she was actually a good student in a family of good students. Called a menace to society and to the future of mankind, she was actually just poor white trash from the back streets of Charlottesville, Virginia. This simple yet often eloquent girl would make the perfect test case. She was selected for exactly this reason.


Carrie Buck's mother, Emma, was one of Charlottesville's least respected citizens. Widowed and worthless, living on the margins of society, Emma was deemed a perfect candidate for feeblemindedness. After World War I, Virginia had a well-established policy of sweeping its social outcasts into homes for the feebleminded and epileptic. In Virginia, the two conditions, feeblemindedness and epilepsy, were virtually synonymous. They were also synonymous with another diagnosis, shiftlessness, that is, the genetic defect of being worthless and unattached in life. [72]

On April 1, 1920, Emma was hauled before a so-called Commission on Feeblemindedness. Justice of the Peace C. D. Shackleford convened the very brief hearing required. Physician J. S. Davis conducted the examination, referred to on the form as "an inquisition." The state's form enumerated sixty pointed questions. Question two, under Social History and Reaction, asked if Emma had ever been convicted of a crime. Emma's response: "Prostitution." In those days any woman might be charged with prostitution, whether for actually selling her body or simply for conducting herself in a fashion morally repugnant to the local authorities or even to the cop on the beat. Question eighteen, under Personal and Developmental History, asked if Emma had any diseases. She responded that she had syphilis. Question eight, under Physical Condition, asked specifically if Emma had ever had syphilis, to which her response was yes. Question nine, also under Physical Condition, asked if any venereal disease was present, and for the third time Emma confirmed that she had had syphilis. As to her moral character, the hearing officials wrote "notoriously untruthful." Indeed, question five, under Social History and Reaction, asked whether she had "conducted ... herself in a proper conjugal manner." The examiners wrote "No." [73]

A few minutes later, Emma was officially deemed feebleminded. Shackleford signed the order of commitment, declaring she was "suspected of being feebleminded or epileptic." Five days later, Emma was driven to the Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded. There she was consigned to Ward Five. She would remain at the colony for the rest of her life. [74]

Years before, in 1906, when Emma was still married, she had given birth to a daughter, Carrie. When Emma's husband died, the widow drifted into the social fringes of Charlottesville. At age three, Carrie was removed from Emma's custody and placed with another family. There were no formal adoption proceedings. Charlottesville peace officer J.T. Dobbs and his wife simply took the child into their Grove Street house. The Dobbses had a child of their own, approximately Carrie's age. Mrs. Dobbs needed extra help with the chores. Carrie was good at her chores, and also did well in school. School records show her performance was "very good -- deportment and lessons." But when Carrie was in sixth grade, the Dobbses withdrew the girl from school so she could concentrate on the increasing load of housework -- not only for their home on Grove Street, but for others in the neighborhood that Carrie was "loaned" to. Although Carrie never felt like she was a part of the Dobbs family, she was happy to be there. She recalled being obedient, and always considered herself "a good girl." [75]

One day in the summer of 1923, seventeen-year-old Carrie was discovered to be pregnant. She explained that she had been raped. "He forced himself on me," Carrie later recollected, "he was a boyfriend of mine and he promised to marry me." Years later, she would accuse a Dobbs nephew of being the rapist. [76]

The Dobbses would not listen to her explanations. They wanted Carrie -- and her shame -- out of the house at once. As Dobbs was the local peace officer, and familiar with the legal workings of the county, he knew just what to do. He filed commitment papers with Justice Shackleford. Dobbs claimed the girl was feebleminded, epileptic or both, and anyway, the family could no longer afford to board her. Shackleford scheduled a commitment proceeding. [77]

On January 23, 1924, Shackleford convened a brief hearing. Two doctors attended to render their expert opinions. The Dobbses testified that Carrie had experienced "hallucinations and ... outbreaks of temper" and had engaged in "peculiar actions." Carrie was quickly declared "feebleminded" and transferred to the custody of the Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded. For Shackleford, it was the second generation of Bucks he had sent to the colony -- first the mother, Emma, and now her daughter, Carrie. [78]

It was not unusual for Virginia to use its Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded as a dumping ground for those deemed morally unsuitable. Classifying promiscuous women as morons was commonplace. The colony's superintendent, Dr. Albert Priddy, admitted as much in a report: "The admission of female morons to this institution has consisted for the most part of those who would formerly have found their way into the red-light district and become dangerous to society .... " [79]

But the numbers of morally condemned women were becoming economically daunting. "If the present tendency to place and keep under custodial care in State institutions all females who have become incorrigibly immoral [continues]," he argued, "it will soon become a burden much greater than the State can carry. These women are never reformed in heart and mind because they are defectives from the standpoint of intellect and moral conception and should always have the supervision by officers of the law and properly appointed custodians." Priddy's solution was the common eugenic remedy, sterilization. [80]

When Carrie was condemned, eugenical sterilizations were not yet legal in Virginia. Priddy's institution had certainly sterilized many women, but always as part of "therapeutic" treatment for unspecified types of "pelvic disease." [81] These therapeutic sterilizations on young, unsuspecting women were recorded as "voluntary," with informed consent transcripts to prove it. One such transcript read:

Doctor: Do you like movies?

Patient: Yes, sir.

Doctor: Do you like cartoons?

Patient: Yes, sir.

Doctor: You don't mind being operated on, do you?

Patient: No, sir.

Doctor: Then you can go ahead. [82]

Priddy well understood how far outside the law such sterilizations were. In 1916, he had been taken to court for sterilizing several members of another Virginia family. On September 23, 1916, while the hardworking George Mallory was on shift at a nearby sawmill, his wife Willie and nine of their dozen children were at home in Richmond. Two family friends were visiting. Suddenly, two Richmond policemen burst in and declared the Mallory home "a disorderly house," that is, a brothel. It was later alleged that one of the policemen actually "made an indecent proposal" to one of the daughters. [83]

No matter, the younger children were turned over to the juvenile court, which, citing "vicious and immoral influences," transferred them to the Children's Home Society. Willie and her two eldest daughters, Jessie and Nannie, were confined at the City Detention Home, and then on October 14 referred to the Commission for the Feebleminded. [84]

Willie later recalled her experience. "A doctor examined my mind," she recounted, "and asked if I could tell whether salt was in the bread or not, and did I know how to tie my shoes. There was a picture hanging on the wall of a dog. He asked me if it was a dog or a lady. He asked me all sorts of foolish questions, which would take too long for me to tell you .... Then the doctor took his pencil and scratched his head and said, 'I can't get that woman in.'" But the attending juvenile probation officer, Mrs. Roller, was determined to have the family institutionalized. She told the doctor to write "unable to control her nerves," and added, "We can get her in for that." [85] He did so.

Mrs. Mallory, Jessie and Nannie were committed for lack of nervous control. Priddy had them now. Willie and Jessie were sterilized first. In late 1917, Priddy was getting ready to operate on the other daughter, Nannie, when he received another in a series of letters from George Mallory. Proud and strong-willed, Mallory expressed himself in powerful, if simple, terms. His English was lousy and his spelling atrocious. But his outrage was palpable. Grammar and form did not matter for Mallory. His family had been ripped from his home, and he wanted them back. On November 5, 1917, after several earlier letters were ignored, Mallory wrote an angry final demand. [86]

Dr. Priddy

Dear sir one more time I am go write to you to ask you about my child I cannot here from her bye no means I have wrote three orfour times cant get hereing from her at all. We have sent her a box and I dont no wheather she recevied them or not. I want to know when can I get my child home again My family have been broked up on fake pertents same as white slavery. Dr what busneiss did you have opreatedeing on my wife and daughter with out my consent. I am a hard working man can take care of my family and can prove it and before I am finish you will find out that I am. I heard that some one told you lots of bad news but I have been living with her for twenty three years and cant no body prove nothing againts my wife they cant talk anything but cant prove nothing ... just to think my wife is 43 years old and to be treated in that way, you ought to be a shamed of your selft of opreateding on her at that age just stop and think of how she have been treated what cause did you have opreateding her please let me no for there is no law for such treatment I have found that out I am a poor man but was smart anuf to find that out I had a good home as any man wanted nine sweet little children now to think it is all broke up for nothing I want to no what you are go do I earn 75$ a month I dont want my child on the state I did not put her on there. if you don't let me have her bye easy term I will get her by bad she is not feeble minded over there working for the state for nothing now let me no at once I am a human been as well as you are I am tired of being treated this way for nothing I want my child that is good understanded let me know before farther notise. Now I want to know on return mail what are you go do wheather are go let my child come home Jet me here from her

Verly Truiley

Mr George Mallory

My last letter to you for my child with out trouble don't keep my child there I have told you not to opreated on my child if you do it will be more trouble .... [87]

Priddy was livid, and wrote Mallory back, threatening his own action. "Now, don't you dare write me another such letter or I will have you arrested in a few hours." Implying a threat of surgical consequences, he added, "If you dare to write me another such communication I will have you arrested and brought here too." Mallory's spelling was bad, but he retained an attorney who could spell quite correctly. He sued Priddy for sterilizing his wife and daughter Jessie. Mallory also filed a writ of habeas corpus, and by early 1918 his family was returned to him. Although Priddy's conduct was upheld on appeal, the judge warned Priddy not to sterilize any other patients until the law was changed. [88]

Enter Carrie Buck. She would be the test case.

Virginia's legislators had been reluctant to pass a eugenic sterilization law. "[We] were laughed at by the lawmakers who suggested they might fall victim to their own legislation," recalled Joseph Dejarnette, superintendent of the Western State Hospital in Staunton, Virginia. He added, "I really thought they ought to have been sterilized as unfit." [89]

In 1922, after numerous state laws had been vetoed or overturned by the courts on Constitutional grounds, Laughlin completed a massive 502- page compilation of state eugenical legislation. It was entitled Eugenical Sterilization in the United States. The dense volume, bristling with state-by-state legal analysis and precedent, included what lawyers and eugenicists unanimously declared to be a new "model sterilization law," updated since previous iterations of Laughlin's model legislation. It was indeed the complete legislator's guide. Laughlin was certain that a law that followed a rigid course of due process, proper notification to the patient, adversarial protection of the patient's rights, and a narrow, nonpunitive, health-based eugenical sterilization regimen could withstand a U.S. Supreme Court challenge. Burnishing the report's legal soundness was the fact that it was not issued by any of the Cold Spring Harbor entities, but was distributed as an official document of the Municipal Court of Chicago. Judge Olson, who headed Chicago's Municipal Court, concomitantly served as president of the Eugenics Research Association. Olson even wrote the introduction, saluting Laughlin, who "rendered the nation a signal service in the preparation of this work. ... " [90]

Laughlin personally sent a copy to Priddy. Now Priddy and his fellow Virginia eugenicists would carefully follow Laughlin's advice. In the fall of 1923, with a mandate from Virginia's State Hospital Board, Priddy and colony attorney Aubrey Strode authored comprehensive new legislation closely resembling the text and format of Laughlin's model statute. By March 30, 1924, Virginia's eugenics law, which now included numerous due process safeguards, was finally passed by both state houses and signed by the governor. It was to take effect on June 17, 1924. [91]

Although Carrie was condemned as feebleminded on January 23, 1924, she was not immediately admitted to the colony. Pregnant girls were not permitted in the facility. On March 28, Carrie gave birth to a daughter, Vivian. Since Carrie had been declared mentally incompetent, she could not keep the child. Ironically, the Dobbses took Vivian in. [92] Three generations of Bucks had intersected with J.T. Dobbs.

Carrie's arrival at the colony was delayed until June 4, just days before the new sterilization law took effect. A legal guardian, Robert Shelton, was properly appointed for her and properly paid $5 per day, just as the statute and due process required. On September 10, 1924, a colony review board properly met and ruled that Carrie "is feebleminded and by the laws of heredity is the probable potential parent of socially inadequate offspring, likewise afflicted ... , " and as such "she may be sexually sterilized ... and that her welfare and that of society will be promoted by her sterilization .... " [93]

Upon completion of the hearing, the board properly inquired if they could proceed. Colony attorney Strode properly advised that the Virginia act "had yet to stand the test of the Courts." Strode later recounted, "Whereupon, I was instructed to take to court a test case." [94]

Carrie's guardian, Shelton, was then asked by Strode to appeal the case "in order that we may test the constitutionality through our state courts, even to the Supreme Court of the United States." Shelton then secured ostensibly independent counsel to represent the eighteen-year-old in a legal challenge scheduled for November 18, 1924. Attorney Irving Whitehead was selected to represent Carrie. Whitehead was no stranger to the colony, however, and to many the arrangement seemed little more than a collusive defense. He was, after all, one of the original three directors appointed by the governor to manage the colony when it was established in 1910. Whitehead and his fellow trustees appointed Priddy as their first superintendent. Later, Whitehead had represented the institution on the State Board of Hospitals. In his official capacity, Whitehead had personally endorsed the sterilizations of some two dozen women, including the two Mallory women, and had even lobbied the Virginia legislature for broader legal authority. A building in the colony complex erected the year before was actually named after him. The Wednesday before the trial, Priddy recommended Whitehead for a government position. [95]

Yet it was Whitehead, a staunch eugenicist, founding father of the colony and an advocate of sterilization, who was to champion Carrie Buck's defense.

To bolster the argument that Carrie represented a biological menace, attention next fell on little Vivian. If the infant could somehow be deemed mentally defective, the Bucks would represent three generations of imbeciles -- a clear threat to the state. Priddy asked a Red Cross social worker to send evidence certifying the infant as feebleminded, and was almost certainly startled to hear back from the social worker: "I do not recall and am unable to find any mention in our files of having said that Carrie Buck's baby was mentally defected." [96]

Priddy dispatched a note to eugenic activist Dr. Joseph DeJarnette, superintendent of the State Hospital at Staunton. DeJarnette would be called as a state expert witness. "A special term of the Court of Amherst will be held ... November 18, 1924 to hear. .. the case of Carrie Buck's child, on which the constitutionality of the sterilization law depends. It is absolutely necessary that you be present and I would suggest you read up all you car, on heredity like [the] jukes, callikaks [sic] and other noted families of that stripe." Priddy added, "I want you to help me in this matter by going over to Charlottesville ... to get a mental test of Carrie Buck's baby.... The test you will make will be the usual one in line with the inclosed [sic] test sheet. We are leaving nothing undone in evidence to this case .... I am enclosing you a letter from Dr. Laughlin and think you will need it. Please return the inclosures [sic] as Col. Strode may want them for his files, he having had the correspondence with Dr. Laughlin." [97]

Priddy also assured DeJarnette that even though Vivian was only a few months old, she could still be deemed unfit. "We have an advantage," wrote Priddy, "in having both Carrie Buck and her mother, Emma, as inmates of this institution." Once more, the emphasis was on three generations. [98]

Shortly thereafter, Carrie's seven-month-old daughter Vivian was examined by a social worker. In a subsequent hearing the social worker was asked, "Have you any impression about the child?" Emphasizing the word probabilities, the social worker replied, "It is difficult to judge probabilities of a child as young as that, but it seems to me not quite a normal baby." In reply, she was led, "You don't regard her child as a normal baby?" The social worker cautiously responded, "In its appearance -- I should say that perhaps my knowledge of the mother may prejudice me in that regard, but I saw the child at the same time as Mrs. Dobbs' daughter's baby, which is only three days older than this one, and there is a very decided difference in the development of the babies." [99]

Once more, the social worker was prompted, "You would not judge the child as a normal baby?" The social worker answered, "There is a look about it that is not quite normal, but just what it is, I can't tell." That was enough for the judge. Vivian was deemed defective, like her mother and grandmother before her. [100]

Priddy also requested expert eugenical testimony from Laughlin, who would not be able to travel to Virginia for the trial but agreed to file a deposition. He asked Priddy for Carrie's genealogy to help him prepare a proper eugenical verdict. Priddy had nothing. "As to our test case," Priddy wrote Laughlin, "I am very sorry I cannot make you out a genealogical tree such as you would like to have, but this girl comes from a shiftless, ignorant and moving class of people, and it is impossible to get intelligent and satisfactory data .... " [101]

Laughlin's deposition simply echoed Priddy's offhand words. "These people belong to the shiftless, ignorant and moving class of anti-social whites of the South," wrote Laughlin. His expert opinion went on: "Carrie Buck: Mental defectiveness evidenced by failure of mental development, having a chronological age of 18 years with a mental age of 9 years, according to Stanford Revision of Binet-Simon Test; and of social and economic inadequacy; has record during life of immorality, prostitution and untruthfulness; has never been self-sustaining; has had one illegitimate child, now about six months old and supposed to be mental defective." [102]

Laughlin's deposition then dispatched the mother, Emma Buck. "Mental defectiveness evidenced by failure of mental development," Laughlin averred, "having a chronological age of 52 years, with a mental age, according to Stanford Revision of Binet-Simon Test, of seven years and eleven months (7 yrs. 11 mos.); and of social and economic inadequacy. Has record during life of immorality, prostitution and untruthfulness; has never been self-sustaining, was maritally unworthy; having been divorced from her husband on account of infidelity; has had record of prostitution and syphilis .... " [103]

Ultimately, Laughlin connected the dots, declaring that Carrie's "one illegitimate child, [was also] considered feeble-minded." [104] Three generations. The judge took the case under advisement. While awaiting a decision, Priddy died of Hodgkin's disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system. Priddy's assistant, J. H. Bell, replaced him as defendant. Thereafter the case became known as Buck v. Bell. [105]

On April 13, 1925, the Amherst County Circuit Court upheld the original decision of the colony's special board. Carrie's attorney, Whitehead, immediately appealed the decision to the Virginia Court of Appeals. He petitioned on three Constitutional points: first, deprivation, without due process, of a citizen's rights to procreate; second, violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, providing for due process; and third, a violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, proscribing cruel and unusual punishment. Whitehead's brief was brief indeed, just five pages long. On the other hand, colony attorney Strode filed a forty-page brief carefully documenting the state's police powers and its need to protect public health and safety. [106]

Virginia's Court of Appeals upheld the colony's decision to sterilize Carrie, denying all claims of cruel and unusual punishment or lack of due process. [107] For Carrie, and the future of sterilization, there was nowhere to go but up. The circle of friends staging a collusive Constitutional challenge, papered wall to wall with documented safeguards and procedural rectitude, were now ready for their final step. Carrie's case was appealed to the highest court in America, the United States Supreme Court. The colony was confident. The board minutes for December 7, 1925, record: "Colonel Aubrey E. Strode and Mr. I.P. Whitehead appeared before the Board and outlined the present status of the sterilization test case and presented conclusive argument for its prosecution though the Supreme Court of the United States, their advice being that this particular case was in admirable shape to go to the court of last resort, and that we could not hope to have a more favorable situation than this one." [108]

If the Supreme Court would uphold Carrie Buck's sterilization, the floodgates of eugenic cleansing would be opened across the United States for thousands. Carrie's destiny, and indeed the destiny of eugenics, rested upon nine men -- and most heavily on the one man who would ultimately write the court's opinion. That man was Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., considered by many to be America's clearest thinker and most important judicial authority. [109]


Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. lived a life innervated by the great men of literature, propelled by his personal acts of courage, and eventually gilded by the judicial preeminence thrust upon him. He was the best America had to offer. Born in Massachusetts in 1841, his father was a famous physician, poet, and essayist. He had achieved literary esteem from his satirical columns in the Atlantic Monthly, later collected for the anthology Autocrat of the Breakfast Table. Young Oliver grew up in the company of his father's circle of literati, including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Herman Melville was a neighbor at the Holmes' summerhouse. [110]

It was the law, however, that would capture the imagination of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Judges and attorneys had peopled the Holmes family tree for three centuries. A maternal grandfather had sat on the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. [111]

Holmes was a Harvard scholar, but he had been brave enough to join the rush to war in 1861, even before taking the final exams needed for graduation. He joined the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteers, known as the Harvard Regiment. He fought valiantly and was wounded three times, once in the chest at Ball's Bluff, once in the leg at Chancellorsville and once through the neck at Antietam during the single bloodiest day of the war. Some thought the scholar-turned-soldier fought to test his own manliness; others suggested it was for "duty and honor." [112] It was probably both.

Certainly, Holmes achieved hero status. One legend claims that when President Lincoln visited Fort Stevens, near Washington, D.C., Holmes had served as his escort. At some point the president stood up to get a better view of something, and a Confederate soldier promptly shot at his stovepipe hat. Holmes dragged the president down, admonishing, "Get down, you damn fool!" Far from insulted, a grateful Lincoln replied, "Goodbye, Captain Holmes. I'm glad to see you know how to talk to civilians." [113]

Even amid the wounds of war, Holmes never lost his fascination with the great thinkers. While recovering from injuries sustained at Chancellorsville, Holmes read the latest philosophical treatises. After the war, he returned to his beloved Harvard to earn a law degree and write legal theory. [114]

Soon, Holmes' rapier-like pronouncements on the purpose of American law as a champion of the people's will began to shape legal thought in the nation. He saw the law as a living, organic expression of the people, not just a sterile codex. "The life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience," Holmes lectured. "The felt necessities of the time, the prevalent moral and political theories, intuitions of public policy, avowed or unconscious, even the prejudices which judges share with their fellow men, have had a good deal more to do than the syllogism in determining the rules by which men should be governed. The law embodies the story of a nation's development through many centuries, and it cannot be dealt with as if it contained only the axioms and corollaries of a book of mathematics." [115]

His rise was rapid. In March of 1881, Holmes' provocative lectures on the nature of law were compiled into an anthology, The Common Law. It was an immediate success. Within ten months of the book's publication, in January of 1882, Holmes was elected a Harvard law professor by the university faculty. His reputation as an authority on jurisprudence widened. On December 8 of that same year, before serving his first full year as a professor, the governor of Massachusetts sent an urgent request for Holmes to leave Harvard and assume a seat as associate justice on the Massachusetts Supreme Court. So pressed was the governor that he implored Holmes to reply by 3:00 P.M. of the same day. Holmes replied on time and accepted the position. In 1899, Holmes was appointed chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court. [116]

In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt, impressed with Holmes' growing juridical prestige, appointed Holmes to the U.S. Supreme Court. There, Holmes assumed a legendary status as a defender of the Constitution and proud expositor of unpopular opinions that nonetheless upheld the rule of law. For more than a quarter century, his name was virtually synonymous with the finest principles of the legal system. During his tenure on the highest bench, he wrote nearly one thousand valued opinions. [117]

Holmes also became famous for powerful dissents, 173 in all. Many championed and clarified the most precious elements of free speech. In one such dissent, he argued "the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas-that the best of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market .... " In 1928, he enunciated the lasting precept: "If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought-not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought we hate." Yet Holmes was wise enough to assert that "the most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic." [118]

Indeed, in 1931, his ninetieth birthday celebration would be an event for the nation, broadcast over the Columbia Radio System. Speeches lauded him as "America's most respected man of law." [119]

Into the hands of Oliver Wendell Holmes, defender of the noblest ideal of American jurisprudence, was Carrie Buck commended.

Buck v. Bell would be decided in May of 1927. But the eighty-six-year-old Holmes was in many ways defined by the Civil War and ethically shaped by the nineteenth century. While recovering from the wounds of Chancellorsville, his reading included Spencer's Social Statics, the turning-point tract that advocated social Darwinism and so significantly influenced Galtonian thought. Spencer argued the strong over the weak, and believed that human entitlements and charity itself were false and against nature. Indeed, Holmes' 1881 lecture series in The Common Law also asserted that the idea of inherent rights was "intrinsically absurd." [120]

Moreover, the warrior-scholar seemed to believe that "might makes right." In his essay entitled "Natural Law," Holmes defined truth. "Truth," he declared, "was the majority vote of that nation that could lick all others." [121]In a graduation speech to Harvard's class of 1895, Holmes declared the sanctity of blindly following orders. "I do not know what is true," he told the audience. "I do not know the meaning of the universe. But in the midst of doubt, in the collapse of creeds, there is one thing I do not doubt ... that the faith is true and adorable which leads a soldier to throw away his life in obedience to a blindly accepted duty, in a cause he little understands, in a plan of a campaign of which he has no notion, under tactics of which he does not see the use." [122]

While Holmes' influential Supreme Court opinions and dissents exemplified and eloquently immortalized the highest virtues of American jurisprudence, his private exchanges reveal a different man. Holmes reviled "do-gooders" and in 1909 he quipped to a friend, "I doubt if a shudder would go through the spheres if the whole ant-heap were kerosened." In 1915, writing to John Wigmore, dean of Harvard Law School, Holmes sneered at "the squashy sentimentalism of a big minority" of people, who made him "puke." He was similarly nauseated by those "who believe in the upward and onward -- who talk of uplift, who think ... that the universe is no longer predatory. Oh, bring me a basin." [123]

In the years just prior to receiving Buck v. Bell, Holmes expressed his most candid opinions of mankind. In 1920, writing to English jurist Sir Frederick Pollack, Holmes confessed, "Man at present is a predatory animal. I think that the sacredness of human life is a purely municipal idea of no validity outside the jurisdiction. I believe that force, mitigated so far as it may be by good manners, is the ultima Tatio, and between two groups that want to make inconsistent kinds of world I see no remedy except force." [124]

He was fond of a certain slogan, and in June of 1922 he repeated it to British scholar and future Labor Party Chairman Harold J. Laski. "As I have said, no doubt, often, it seems to me that all society rests on the death of men. If you don't kill 'em one way you kill 'em another -- or prevent their being born." He added, "Is not the present time an illustration of Malthus?" [125]

In 1926, Holmes again confided to Laski, "In cases of difference between oneself and another there is nothing to do except in unimportant matters to think ill of him and in important ones to kill him." [126] Shortly thereafter, Holmes wrote Laski, "We look at our fellow men with sympathy but nature looks at them as she looks at flies .... " [127]

The other men of the Supreme Court included Justice Louis Brandeis, the eminent Jewish human rights advocate. Another was the racist and anti- Semite James Clark McReynolds, who refused to even sit or stand next to Brandeis. The chief justice was former president William Howard Taft. [128]

On May 2, 1927, in the plain daylight of the Supreme Court, with only Justice Pierce Butler dissenting, Justice Holmes wrote the opinion for the majority.

Carrie Buck is a feeble minded white woman who was committed to the State Colony above mentioned in due form. She is the daughter of a feeble minded mother in the same institution, and the mother of an illegitimate feeble minded child. She was eighteen years old at the time of the trial of her case in the circuit court, in the latter part of 1924. An Act of Virginia, approved March 20, 1924, recites that the health of the patient and the welfare of society may be promoted in certain cases by the sterilization of mental defectives, under careful safeguard ... without serious pain or substantial danger to life; that the Commonwealth is supporting in various institutions many defective persons who if now discharged would become a menace but if incapable of procreating might be discharged with safety and become self-supporting with benefit to themselves and to society; and that experience has shown that heredity plays an important part in the transmission of insanity, imbecility, &c. [129]

Holmes' opinion summarized the extensive procedural safeguards Virginia had applied, and concluded, "There is no doubt that in that respect the plaintiff in error has had due process of law." [130] He continued, and in many ways quoted Laughlin's model eugenical law verbatim.

The attack is not upon the procedure but upon the substantive law. It seems to be contended that in no circumstances could such an order be justified. It certainly is contended that the order cannot be justified upon the existing grounds. The judgment finds the facts that have been recited and that Carrie Buck "is the probable potential parent of socially inadequate offspring, likewise afflicted, that she may be sexually sterilized without detriment to her general health and that her welfare and that of society will be promoted by her sterilization," and thereupon makes the order .... We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the state for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. [131]

Then Holmes wrote the words that would reverberate forever.

It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes.

Three generations of imbeciles are enough. [132]

It was over. Carrie Buck was sterilized before noon on October 19, 1927. Her file was noted simply: "Patient sterilized this morning under authority of Act of Assembly .... " Her mother Emma, residing elsewhere in the same institution, ultimately died some years later, and was ignominiously buried in a colony graveyard beneath tombstone marker #575. Little Vivian, the third generation to be declared an imbecile, was raised by the Dobbses, and enrolled in school, where she earned a place on the honor roll. In 1932, however, Vivian died of an infectious disease at the age of eight. [133]

Eugenical sterilization was now the law of the land. The floodgates opened wide.


In the two decades between Indiana's pioneering eugenical sterilization law and the Carrie Buck decision, state and local jurisdictions had steadily retreated from the irreversible path of human sterilization. Of the twenty-three states that had enacted legislation, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, South Dakota and Utah had recorded no sterilizations at all. Idaho and Washington had performed only one procedure each, and Delaware just five. Even states with strong eugenics movements had only performed a small number: Kansas, for instance, had sterilized or castrated 335 men and women; Nebraska had sterilized 262 men and women; Oregon had sterilized 313; and Wisconsin had sterilized 144. [134]

Although some 6,244 state-sanctioned operations were logged from 1907 to July of 192 5, three-fourths of these were in just one state: California. California, which boasted the country's most activist eugenic organizations and theorists, proudly performed 4,636 sterilizations and castrations in less than two decades. Under California's sweeping eugenics law, all feebleminded or other mental patients were sterilized before discharge, and any criminal found guilty of any crime three times could be asexualized upon the discretion of a consulting physician. But even California's record was considered by leading eugenicists to be "very limited when compared to the extent of the problem." [135]

Many state officials were simply waiting for the outcome of the Carrie Buck case. Once Holmes' ruling was handed down, it was cited everywhere as the law of the land. New laws were enacted, bringing the total number of states sanctioning sterilization to twenty-nine. Old laws were revised and replaced. Maine, which had not performed such operations before, was responsible for 190 in the next thirteen years. Utah, which had also abstained, performed 252 in the next thirteen years. South Dakota, which had performed none, recorded 577 in the next thirteen years. Minnesota, which had previously declined to act on its legislation, registered 1,880 in the next thirteen years. [136]

The totals from 1907 to 1940 now changed dramatically. North Carolina: 1,017. Michigan: 2,145. Virginia: 3,924. California's numbers soared to 14,568. Even New York State sterilized forty-one men and one woman. The grounds for sterilization fluctuated wildly. Most were adjudged feebleminded, insane, or criminal; many were guilty of the crime of being poor. Many were deemed "moral degenerates." Seven hundred were classed as "other." Some were adjudged medically unacceptable. All told, by the end of 1940, no fewer than 35,878 men and woman had been sterilized or castrated-almost 30,000 of them after Buck v. Bell. [137]

And the men and women of eugenics had more plans. They even had a song, created on the grounds of the Eugenics Record Office in the summer of 1910, which they chanted to the rambunctious popular melodies of the day. They sang their lyrics to the rollicking jubilation of ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay.

We are Eu-ge-nists so gay,
And we have no time for play,
Serious we have to be
Working for posterity.

We're so happy, we're so gay,
We've been working all the day,
That's the way Eu-gen-ists play

Trips we have in plenty too,
Where no merriment is due.
We inspect with might and main,
Habitats of the insane.

Statisticians too are we,
In the house of Carnegie.
If to future good you list,
You must be a Eu-ge-nist. [138]
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Re: War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to

Postby admin » Thu Jul 31, 2014 1:23 am

CHAPTER 7: Birth Control

The American masses were not rising up demanding to sterilize, institutionalize and dehumanize their neighbors and kinfolk. Eugenics was a movement of the nation's elite thinkers and many of its most progressive reformers. As its ideology spread among the intelligentsia, eugenics cross-infected many completely separate social reform and health care movements, each worthwhile in its own right. The benevolent causes that became polluted by eugenics included the movements for child welfare, prison reform, better education, human hygiene, clinical psychology, medical treatment, world peace and immigrant rights, as well as charities and progressive undertakings of all kinds. The most striking of these movements was also one of the world's most overdue and needed campaigns: the birth control movement. The global effort to help women make independent choices about their own pregnancies was dominated by one woman: Margaret Sanger.

Sanger was a controversial rabble-rouser from the moment she sprang onto the world stage, fighting for a woman's most personal right in a completely male-dominated world order. In the early part of the twentieth century, when Sanger's birth control movement was in its formative stages, women were second-class citizens in much of America. Even the most powerful women in America, such as Mrs. Harriman, could not vote in a federal election, although the most uneducated coal miner or destitute pauper could. Many husbands treated their wives like baby machines, without regard for their health or the family's quality of life. Inevitably, in this state, many women could not expect any role in the world beyond a life of childbearing and child rearing. Sanger herself was the sixth of eleven children. [1]

Motherhood was to most civilizations a sacred role. Sanger, however, wanted women to have a choice in that sacred role, specifically if, when and how often to become pregnant. But under the strict morals laws of the day, even disseminating birth control information was deemed a pornographic endeavor. [2]

Sanger was not an armchair activist. She surrounded herself with the very misery she sought to alleviate. Working as a visiting nurse in New York City, Sanger encountered unwanted pregnancies and their consequences every day, especially in the teeming slums of lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. There, the oppressive reality of overpopulation and poverty cried out for relief. Without proper health care, poor women often died during pregnancy or in labor. Without proper prenatal care, children were often born malnourished, stunted or diseased, further straining family resources and subverting the quality of life for all. Infant mortality was high in the sooty slums of New York. [3]

In her autobiography, Sanger dramatized the moment that moved her to devote her life to the cause. It occurred one night in 1912 when she was called to the disheveled three-room flat of Jake and Sadie Sachs. The young couple already had three children and knew nothing about reproductive controls. Just months earlier, Sadie had lost consciousness after a self-induced abortion. Later, Sadie pleaded with Sanger for some information to help her avoid another pregnancy. Such information did exist, but it was not commonly available. One doctor advised that Sadie's husband "sleep on the roof." Now Sadie was pregnant again and in life-threatening physical distress. Sadie's frantic husband summoned nurse Sanger, who raced to the apartment and found the young woman comatose. Despite Sanger's efforts, Sadie died ten minutes later. Sanger pulled a sheet over the dead woman's face as her helpless, guilt-ridden husband shrieked, "My God! My God!" [4]

"I left him [Jake Sachs] pacing desperately back and forth," Sanger recounted in her autobiography, "and for hours I myself walked and walked and walked through the hushed streets. When I finally arrived home and let myself quietly in, all the household was sleeping. I looked out my window and down upon the dimly lighted city. Its pains and griefs crowded in upon me, a moving picture rolled before my eyes with photographic clearness: women writhing in travail to bring forth little babies; the babies themselves naked and hungry, wrapped in newspapers to keep them from the cold; six-year-old children with pinched, pale, wrinkled faces, old in concentrated wretchedness, pushed into gray and fetid cellars, crouching on stone floors, their small scrawny hands scuttling through rags, making lamp shades, artificial flowers; white coffins, black coffins, coffins, coffins interminably passing in never-ending succession. The scenes piled one upon another on another. I could bear it no longer." [5]

Sanger was never the same. A crusader at heart, she was thrust into a mission: to bring birth regulating information and options to all women. It was more than a health movement. It was women's liberation, intended to benefit all of society. Sanger and her circle of friends named the program "birth control." She traveled across the nation demanding the right to disseminate birth control information, which was still criminalized. She fought for access to contraception, and for the simple right of a woman to choose her own reproductive future. She herself became a worldwide cause celebre. Her various advocacy organizations evolved into the worldwide federation known as Planned Parenthood. Sanger eventually assumed legendary status as a champion of personal freedoms and women's rights. [6]

Because Sanger challenged the moral as well as the legal order, and antagonized many religious groups that understandably held the right to life an inviolable principle, Sanger made many enemies. They dogged her everywhere she went, and in every endeavor. [7]

Sanger-hatred never receded. Decades after her death, discrediting Sanger was still a permanent fixture in a broad movement opposed to birth control and abortion. Their tactics frequently included the sloppy or deliberate misquoting, misattributing or misconstruing of single out-of-context sentences to falsely depict Sanger as a racist or anti-Semite. [8] Sanger was no racist. Nor was she anti-Semitic.

But Sanger was an ardent, self-confessed eugenicist, and she would turn her otherwise noble birth control organizations into a tool for eugenics, which advocated for mass sterilization of so-called defectives, [9] mass incarceration of the unfit [10] and draconian immigration restrictions. [11] Like other staunch eugenicists, Sanger vigorously opposed charitable efforts to uplift the downtrodden and deprived, and argued extensively that it was better that the cold and hungry be left without help, so that the eugenically superior strains could multiply without competition from "the unfit." [12] She repeatedly referred to the lower classes and the unfit as "human waste" not worthy of assistance, and proudly quoted the extreme eugenic view that human "weeds" should be "exterminated." [13] Moreover, for both political and genuine ideological reasons, Sanger associated closely with some of America's most fanatical eugenic racists. [14] Both through her publication, Birth Control Review, and her public oratory, Sanger helped legitimize and widen the appeal of eugenic pseudoscience. [15] Indeed, to many, birth control was just another form of eugenics.

But why?

The feminist movement, of which Sanger was a major exponent, always identified with eugenics. The idea appealed to women desiring to exercise sensible control over their own bodies. Human breeding was advocated by American feminists long before Davenport respun Mendelian principles into twentieth century American eugenics. Feminist author Victoria Woodhull, for example, expressed the belief that encouraging positive and discouraging negative breeding were both indispensable for social improvement. In her 1891 pamphlet, The Rapid Multiplication of the Unfit, Woodhull insisted, "The best minds of to-day have accepted the fact that if superior people are desired, they must be bred; and if imbeciles, criminals, paupers and [the] otherwise unfit are undesirable citizens they must not be bred." [16]

Twenty years later, Sanger continued the feminist affinity for organized eugenics. Like many progressives, she applied eugenic principles to her pet passion, birth control, which she believed was required of any properly run eugenic society. Sanger saw the obstruction of birth control as a multitiered injustice. One of those tiers was the way it enlarged the overall menace of social defectives plaguing society. [17]

Sanger expressed her own sense of ancestral self-worth in the finest eugenic tradition. Her autobiography certified the quality of her mother's ancestors: "Her family had been Irish as far back as she could trace; the strain of the Norman conquerors had run true throughout the generations, and may have accounted for her unfaltering courage." [18] Sanger continued, "Mother's eleven children were all ten-pounders or more, and both she and father had a eugenic pride of race." [19]

Sanger always considered birth control a function of general population control and embraced the Malthusian notion that a world running out of food supplies should halt charitable works and allow the weak to die off. Malthus's ideals were predecessors to Galton's own pronouncements. Indeed, when Sanger first launched her movement she considered naming it "Neo-Malthusianism." She recounted the night the movement was named in these words: "A new movement was starting .... It did not belong to Socialism nor was it in the labor field, and it had much more to it than just the prevention of conception. As a few companions were sitting with me one evening, we debated in turn voluntary parenthood, voluntary motherhood, the new motherhood, constructive generation, and new generation. The terms already in use-Neo-Malthusianism, Family Limitation, and Conscious Generation seemed stuffy and lacked popular appeal. ... We tried population control, race control, and birth rate control. Then someone suggested 'Drop the [word] rate.' Birth control was the answer .... " [20]

Years later, Sanger still continued to see eugenics and birth control as adjuncts. In 1926, her organization sponsored the Sixth International Neo- Malthusian and Birth Control Conference. In a subsequent Birth Control Review article referencing the conference, Jewish crusader Rabbi Stephen Wise, president of the American Jewish Congress, declared, "I think of Birth Control as an item ... supremely important as an item in the eugenic program .... Birth control, I repeat, is the fundamental, primary element or item in the eugenic program." [21]

Indeed, Sanger saw birth control as the highest form of eugenics. "Birth control, which has been criticized as negative and destructive, is really the greatest and most truly eugenic method, and its adoption as part of the program of Eugenics would immediately give a concrete and realistic power to that science. As a matter of fact, Birth Control has been accepted by the most clear thinking and far seeing of the Eugenists themselves as the most constructive and necessary of the means to racial health." [22]

More than a Malthusian, Sanger became an outspoken social Darwinist, even looking beyond the ideas of Spencer. In her 1922 book, Pivot of Civilization, Sanger thoroughly condemned charitable action. She devoted a full chapter to a denigration of charity and a deprecation of the lower classes. Chapter 5, "The Cruelty of Charity," was prefaced by an epigraph from Spencer himself: "Fostering the good-for-nothing at the expense of the good is an extreme cruelty. It is a deliberate storing up of miseries for future generations. There is no greater curse to posterity than that of bequeathing them an increasing population of imbeciles." [23]

Not as an isolated comment, but on page after page, Sanger castigated charities and the people they hoped to assist. "Organized charity itself," she wrote, "is the symptom of a malignant social disease. Those vast, complex, interrelated organizations aiming to control and to diminish the spread of misery and destitution and all the menacing evils that spring out of this sinisterly fertile soil, are the surest sign that our civilization has bred, is breeding and is perpetuating constantly increasing numbers of defectives, delinquents and dependents. My criticism, therefore, is not directed at the 'failure' of philanthropy, but rather at its success." [24]

She condemned philanthropists and repeatedly referred to those needing help as little more than "human waste." "Such philanthropy ... unwittingly promotes precisely the results most deprecated. It encourages the healthier and more normal sections of the world to shoulder the burden of unthinking and indiscriminate fecundity of others; which brings with it, as I think the reader must agree, a dead weight of human waste. Instead of decreasing and aiming to eliminate the stocks that are most detrimental to the future of the race and the world, it tends to render them to a menacing degree dominant." [25]

Sanger added, "[As] British eugenists so conclusively show, and as the infant mortality reports so thoroughly substantiate, a high rate of fecundity is always associated with the direst poverty, irresponsibility, mental defect, feeble-mindedness, and other transmissible taints. The effect of maternity endowments and maternity centers supported by private philanthropy would have, perhaps already have had, exactly the most dysgenic tendency. The new government program would facilitate the function of maternity among the very classes in which the absolute necessity is to discourage it." [26]

She continued, "The most serious charge that can be brought against modern 'benevolence' is that it encourages the perpetuation of defectives, delinquents and dependents. These are the most dangerous elements in the world community, the most devastating curse on human progress and expression. Philanthropy is a gesture characteristic of modern business lavishing upon the unfit the profits extorted from the community at large. Looked at impartially, this compensatory generosity is in its final effect probably more dangerous, more dysgenic, more blighting than the initial practice of profiteering and the social injustice which makes some too rich and others too poor." [27]

Like most eugenicists, she appealed to the financial instincts of the wealthy and middle class whose taxes and donations funded social assistance. "Insanity," she wrote, "annually drains from the state treasury no less than $11,985,695.55, and from private sources and endowments another twenty millions. When we learn further that the total number of inmates in public and private institutions in the State of New York -- in alms-houses, reformatories, schools for the blind, deaf and mute, in insane asylums, in homes for the feeble-minded and epileptic -- amounts practically to less than sixty-five thousand, an insignificant number compared to the total population, our eyes should be opened to the terrific cost to the community of this dead weight of human waste." [28]

She repeated eugenic notions of generation-to-generation hereditary pauperism as a genetic defect too expensive for society to defray. "The offspring of one feebleminded man named Jukes," she reminded, "has cost the public in one way or another $1,300,000 in seventy-five years. Do we want more such families?" [29]

Sanger's book, Pivot of Civilization, included an introduction by famous British novelist and eugenicist H. G. Wells, who said, "We want fewer and better children ... and we cannot make the social life and the world-peace we are determined to make, with the ill-bred, ill-trained swarms of inferior citizens that you inflict upon US." [30]

Later, Sanger's magazine reprinted and lauded an editorial from the publication American Medicine, which tried to correct "the popular misapprehension that [birth control advocates] encourage small families. The truth is that they encourage small families where large ones would seem detrimental to society, but they advocate with just as great insistence large families where small ones are an injustice to society. They frown upon the ignorant poor whose numerous children, brought into the world often under the most unfavorable circumstances, are a burden to themselves, a menace to the health of the not infrequently unwilling mother, and an obstacle to social progress. But they frown with equal disapproval on the well-to-do, cultured parents who can offer their children all the advantages of the best care and education and who nevertheless selfishly withhold these benefits from society. More children from the fit, less from the unfit -- that is the chief issue in Birth Control." But on this last point, however, Sanger disagreed with mainstream eugenicists -- she encouraged intelligent birth control even for superior families. [31]

Sanger would return to the theme of more eugenically fit children (and fewer unfit) again and again. She preferred negative, coercive eugenics. "Eugenics seems to me to be valuable in its critical and diagnostic aspects, in emphasizing the danger of irresponsible and uncontrolled fertility of the 'unfit' and the feeble-minded establishing a progressive unbalance in human society and lowering the birth-rate among the 'fit.' But in its so-called 'constructive' aspect, in seeking to reestablish the dominance of [the] healthy strain over the unhealthy, by urging an increased birth-rate among the fit, the Eugenists really offer nothing more farsighted than a 'cradle competition' between the fit and the unfit." [32]

Sanger's solutions were mass sterilization and mass segregation of the defective classes, and these themes were repeated often in Pivot of Civilization. "The emergency problem of segregation and sterilization must be faced immediately. Every feeble-minded girl or woman of the hereditary type, especially of the moron class, should be segregated during the reproductive period. Otherwise, she is almost certain to bear imbecile children, who in turn are just as certain to breed other defectives. The male defectives are no less dangerous. Segregation carried out for one or two generations would give us only partial control of the problem. Moreover, when we realize that each feeble-minded person is a potential source of an endless progeny of defect, we prefer the policy of immediate sterilization, of making sure that parenthood is absolutely prohibited to the feeble-minded." [33]

Indeed, Sanger listed eight official aims for her new organization, the American Birth Control League. The fourth aim was "sterilization of the insane and feebleminded and the encouragement of this operation upon those afflicted with inherited or transmissible diseases .... " [34]

For her statistics and definitions regarding the feebleminded, Sanger subscribed to Goddard's approach. "Just how many feebleminded there are in the United States, no one knows," wrote Sanger in another book, U70man and the New Race, "because no attempt has ever been made to give public care to all of them, and families are more inclined to conceal than to reveal the mental defects of their members. Estimates vary from 350,000 at the present time to nearly 400,000 as early as 1890, Henry H. Goddard, Ph.D., of the Vineland, N.]., Training School, being authority for the latter statement." [35]

Similarly, she accepted the view that most feebleminded children descended from immigrants. For instance, she cited one study that concluded, "An overwhelming proportion of the classified feebleminded children in New York schools came from large families in overcrowded slum conditions, and ... only a small percentage were born of native parents." [36]

Steeped in eugenic science, Sanger frequently parroted the results of U.S. Army intelligence testing which asserted that as many as 70 percent of Americans were feebleminded. In January of 1932, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle sent Sanger a quote from a British publication asserting that one-tenth of England's population was feebleminded due to "random output of unrestricted breeding." In a letter, the Eagle editor asked Sanger, "Is that a fair estimate? What percentage of this country's population is deficient for the same reasons?" Sanger wrote her response on the letter: "70% below 15 year intellect." Her secretary then formally typed a response, "Mrs. Sanger believes that 70% of this country's population has an intellect of less than 15 years." [37] Her magazine, Birth Control Review, featured an article with a similar view. "The Purpose of Eugenics" stated, "Expert army investigators disclosed the startling fact that fully 70 per cent of the constituents of this huge army had a mental capacity below ... fourteen years." [38]

When lobbying against the growing demographics of the defective, Sanger commonly cited eugenic theory as unimpeachable fact. For example, she followed one fusillade of population reduction rhetoric by assuring, "The opinions which I summarize here are not so much my own, originally, as those of medical authorities who have made deep and careful investigations." [39]

Sanger was willing to employ striking language to argue against the inherent misery and defect of large families. In her book, Woman and the New Race, she bluntly declared, "Many, perhaps, will think it idle to go farther in demonstrating the immorality of large families, but since there is still an abundance of proof at hand, it may be offered for the sake of those who find difficulty in adjusting old-fashioned ideas to the facts. The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it." [40]

At times, she publicly advocated extermination of so-called human weeds to bolster her own views. For example, her August 15, 1925, Collier's magazine guest editorial entitled "Is Race Suicide Probable?" argued the case for birth control by quoting eminent botanist and radical eugenicist Luther Burbank, "to whom American civilization is deeply indebted." Quoting Burbank, Sanger's opinion piece continued, "America ... is like a garden in which the gardener pays no attention to the weeds. Our criminals are our weeds, and weeds breed fast and are intensely hardy. They must be eliminated. Stop permitting criminals and weaklings to reproduce. Allover the country to-day we have enormous insane asylums and similar institutions where we nourish the unfit and criminal instead of exterminating them. Nature eliminates the weeds, but we turn them into parasites and allow them to reproduce." [41]

Sanger surrounded herself with some of the eugenics movement's most outspoken racists and white supremacists. Chief among them was Lothrop Stoddard, author of The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy. Stoddard's book, devoted to the notion of a superior Nordic race, became a eugenic gospel. It warned: "'Finally perish!' That is the exact alternative which confronts the white race .... If white civilization goes down, the white race is irretrievably ruined. It will be swamped by the triumphant colored races, who will obliterate the white man by elimination or absorption .... Not to-day, nor yet to-morrow; perhaps not for generations; but surely in the end. If the present drift be not changed, we whites are all ultimately doomed." [42]

Stoddard added the eugenic maxim, "We now know that men are not, and never will be, equal. We know that environment and education can develop only what heredity brings." Stoddard's solution? "Just as we isolate bacterial invasions, and starve out the bacteria, by limiting the area and amount of their food supply, so we can compel an inferior race to remain in its native habitat ... [which will] as with all organisms, eventually limit ... its influence." [43]

Shortly after Stoddard's landmark book was published in 1920, Sanger invited him to join the board of directors of her American Birth Control League, a position he retained for years. Likewise, Stoddard retained a key position as a member of the conference committee of the First American Birth Control Conference. [44]

Another Sanger colleague was Yale economics professor Irving Fisher, a leader of the Eugenics Research Association. It was Fisher who had told the Second National Congress on Race Betterment, "Gentlemen and Ladies, you have not any idea unless you have studied this subject mathematically, how rapidly we could exterminate this contamination if we really got at it, or how rapidly the contamination goes on if we do not get at it." [45] Fisher also served on Sanger's Committee for the First American Birth Control Conference, and lectured at her birth control events. Some of these events were unofficial gatherings to discuss wider eugenic action. In a typical exchange before one such lecture in March of 1925, Laughlin wrote to Fisher, "I have received a letter from Mrs. Sanger verifying your date for the round-table discussion .... Dr. Davenport and I can meet you ... thirty minutes before Mrs. Sanger's conference opens ... so that we three can then confer on the business in hand in reference to our membership on the International Commission of Eugenics." [46]

Henry Pratt Fairchild served as one of Sanger's chief organizers and major correspondents. [47] Fairchild became renowned for his virulent anti-immigrant and anti-ethnic polemic, The Melting Pot Mistake. Fairchild argued, "Unrestricted immigration ... was slowly, insidiously, irresistibly eating away the very heart of the United States. What was being melted in the great Melting Pot, losing all form and symmetry, all beauty and character, all nobility and usefulness, was the American nationality itself." Like Stoddard, Fairchild compared ethnic minorities to a vile bacterium. "But in the case of a nationality," warned Fairchild, "the foreign particle does not become a part of the nationality until he has become assimilated to it. Previous to that time, he is an extraneous factor, like undigested, and possibly indigestible, matter in the body of a living organism. That being the case, the only way he can alter the nationality is by injuring it, by impeding its functions." [48] Like Fisher, Fairchild offered key speeches at Sanger's conferences, such as the 1925 Sixth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference and the 1927 World Population Conference. In 1929, he became vice president and board member of Sanger's central lobbying group, the National Committee for Federal Legislation on Birth Control; in 1931 he served on the advisory board of Sanger's Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau, and later he served as vice president of the Birth Control Federation of America. [49]

Stoddard, Fairchild and Fisher were just three of the many eugenicists working in close association with Sanger and her birth control movement. Therefore, even though Sanger was not a racist or an anti-Semite herself, she openly welcomed the worst elements of both into the birth control movement. This provided legitimacy and greater currency for a eugenics movement that thrived by subverting progressive platforms to achieve its goals of Nordic racial superiority and ethnic banishment for everyone else.


Because so many American eugenic leaders occupied key positions within the birth control movement, [50] and because so much of Sanger's rhetoric on suppressing defective immigration echoed standard eugenic vitriol on the topic, [51] and because the chief aims of both organizations included mass sterilization and sequestration, Sanger came to view eugenics and her movement as two sides of the same coin. She consistently courted leaders of the eugenics movement, seeking their acceptance, and periodically maneuvering for a merger of sorts.

The chief obstacle to this merger was Sanger's failure to embrace what was known as constructive eugenics. She argued for an aggressive program of negative eugenics, that is, the elimination of the unfit through mass sterilization and sequestration. [52] But she did not endorse constructive eugenics, that is, higher birth rates for those families the movement saw as superior. [53] Moreover, Sanger believed that until mass sterilization took hold, lower class women should practice intelligent birth control by planning families, employing contraception, and spacing their children. This notion split the eugenic leadership.

Some key eugenicists believed birth control was an admirable first step until more coercive measures could be imposed. However, other leaders felt Sanger's approach was a lamentable half-measure that sent the wrong message. A telling editorial in Eugenical News declared that the leaders of American eugenics would be willing to grant Sanger's crusade "hearty support" if only she would drop her opposition to larger families for the fit, and "advocate differential fecundity [reproductive rates] on the basis of natural worth." [54]

In other words, Sanger's insistence on birth control for all women, even women of so-called good families, made her movement unpalatable to the male-dominated eugenics establishment. But on this point she would not yield. In many ways this alienated her from eugenics' highest echelons. Even still, Sanger continued to drape herself in the flag of mainstream eugenics, keeping as many major eugenic leaders as close as possible, and pressing others to join her.

Typical was her attempt on October 6, 1921, to coax eugenicist Henry Osborn, president of the New York's Museum of Natural History, to join ranks with the First American Birth Control Conference. "We are most anxious to have you become affiliated with this group and to have your permission to add your name to the Conference Committee." When he did not reply, Sanger sent a duplicate letter five days later. Her answer came on October 21, not from Osborn, but from Davenport. Davenport, who vigorously opposed Sanger's efforts, replied that Osborn "believes that a certain amount of 'birth control' should properly be exercised by the white race, as it is by many of the so-called savage races. I imagine, however, that he is less interested in the statistical reduction in the size of the family than he is in bringing about a qualitative result by which the defective strains should have, on the average, very small families and the efficient strains, of different social levels, should have relatively larger families." Davenport declined on Osborn's behalf, adding, "Propaganda for birth control at this time may well do more harm than good and he is unwilling to associate himself with the forthcoming Birth Control Conference ... [since] there is grave doubt whether it will work out the advancement of the race." [55]

Sanger kept trying. On February 11, 1925, she wrote directly to Davenport, inviting him to become a vice president of the Sixth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference. Within forty-eight hours, America's cardinal eugenicist sharply declined. "As to any official connection on my part with the conference as vice president, or officially recognized participant or supporter, that is, for reasons which I have already expressed to you in early letters, not possible. For one thing, the confusion of eugenics (which in its application to humans is qualitative) with birth control (which as set forth by most of its propagandists, is quantitative) is, or was considerable and the association of the director of the Eugenics Record Office with the Birth Control Conference would only serve to confuse the distinction. I trust, therefore, you will appreciate my reasons for not wishing to appear as a supporter of the Birth Control League or of the conference." [56]

Not willing to take no for an answer, Sanger immediately wrote to Laughlin at Cold Spring Harbor, asking him to join a roundtable discussion at the conference. Among the conference topics devoted to eugenics was a daylong session entitled, "Sterilization, Crime, Eugenics, Biological Fertility and Sterility." Irving Fisher was considering participating, and by mentioning Fisher's name, Sanger hoped to entice Laughlin. When Laughlin did not reply immediately, Sanger sent him a second letter at the Carnegie Institution in Washington on March 23, and then a third to Cold Spring Harbor on March 24. Fisher finally accepted and then wired as much to Laughlin, who then also accepted for the afternoon portion of the eugenic program. [57]

Ironically, during one of the conference's sparsely attended administrative sessions, when Sanger was undoubtedly absent, conservative eugenic theorist Roswell Johnson took the floor to quickly usher through a special "eugenic" resolution advocating larger families for the fit. It was exactly what Sanger opposed. [58]

Johnson, coauthor of the widely used textbook Applied Eugenics, introduced the resolution and marshaled a majority from the slight attendance while Sanger's main organizers were presumably out of earshot. It read: "Resolved, that this Conference believes that persons whose progeny give promise of being of decided value to the community should be encouraged to bear as large families, properly spaced, as they feel they feasibly can." Newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic energetically pounced on the resolution. [59]

Outraged, Sanger immediately repudiated the resolution-unconcerned with whether or not she alienated her allies in the mainstream eugenics movement. "It is my belief," she declared in the next available volume of Birth Control Review, "that the so-called 'eugenic' resolution, passed at the final session of the Sixth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference, has created a lamentable confusion .... It was interpreted by the press as indicating that we believed we could actually increase the size of families among the 'superior' classes by passing resolutions recommending larger families." [60]

Despite the public row, Sanger continued to push for a merger with the Eugenics Research Association. The ERA had considered affiliation, but eventually declined. "For the time being ... [the organization] would not seek formal affiliation with the Birth Control Conference." [61] Yet the overlap between Sanger's organizations and the most extreme eugenic bodies continued. The American Eugenics Society, founded in 1922, was the key advocacy and propaganda wing of the movement. Its board of directors, which included Davenport and Laughlin, also included two men who served on Sanger's organizational and conference boards, University of Michigan president Clarence C. Little and racist author Henry Pratt Fairchild. Moreover, the American Eugenics Society's advisory council included a number of men who also served in official capacities with Sanger's various organizations, including Harvard sociologist Edward East, psychologist Adolf Meyer, and Rockefeller Foundation medical director William Welch. [62]

Therefore, it was only natural that the issue of merger continued to resurface, especially since Sanger's conferences and her publication, Birth Control Review, continued to trumpet the classic eugenic cause, often in the most caustic language. For example, a February 1924 birth control conference in Syracuse featured a paper entitled "Birth Control as Viewed by a Sociologist." The speech argued, "We need a eugenic program and by that I mean a program that seeks to improve the quality of our population, to make a stronger, brainier, and better race of men and women. This will require an effort to increase the number of superior and diminish that of the inferior and the weakling .... It is quite important that we cut down on the now large numbers of the unfit -- the physical, mental and moral subnormals." This speech was quickly reprinted in the May 1924 issue of Birth Control Review, with the eugenic remarks highlighted in a special subsection headlined "Eugenics and Birth Control." [63]

In the December 1924 Birth Control Review, another typical article, this one by eugenicist John C. Duvall, was simply titled "The Purpose of Eugenics." In a section subtitled "Dangerous Human Pests," Duvall explained, "We therefore actually subsidize the propagation of the Jukes and thousands of others of their kind through the promiscuous dispensation of charitable relief, thereby allowing these classes of degenerates to poison society with their unbridled prolific scum, so that at the present time there are about one-half million of this type receiving attention in publicly maintained institutions, while thousands of others are at large to the detriment of our finer elements." The article added thoughts about eradicating such a problem. "It is interesting to note that there is no hesitation to interfere with the course of nature when we desire to eliminate or prevent a superfluity of rodents, insects or other pests; but when it comes to the elimination of the immeasurably more dangerous human pest, we blindly adhere to the inconsistent dogmatic doctrine that man has a perfect right to control all nature with the exception of himself." [64] It was the second time that year that Sanger's magazine had published virtually the same phrases declaring lower classes to be more dangerous than rats and bugs. [65] Such denunciations were commonplace in Birth Control Review.

No wonder then that in 1928, leaders of the American Eugenics Society began to suggest that its own monthly publication of eugenic proselytism, Eugenics, merge with Sanger's Birth Control Review. Leon Whitney, executive secretary of the American Eugenics Society and a Sanger ally, wrote Davenport on April 3, 1928, "It would be an excellent thing if both the American Birth Control League and the American Eugenics Society used the same magazine as their official organ, especially since they were both interested so much in the same problems." Whitney took the liberty of meeting with Sanger on the question, and reported to colleagues, "She felt very strongly about eugenics and seemed to see the whole problem of birth control as a eugenical problem." As to combining their publications, he added, "Mrs. Sanger took very kindly to the idea and seemed to be as enthusiastic about it as I was." [66]

But most of the eugenics movement's senior personalities recoiled at the notion. Furious letters began to fly across the eugenics community. On April 13, Paul Popenoe, who headed up California's Human Betterment Society, reviewed the Whitney letter with racial theorist Madison Grant, who happened to be traveling in Los Angeles. The next day, his agitation obvious, Popenoe wrote Grant a letter marked "Confidential" at the top. "I have been considerably disquieted by the letter you showed me yesterday, suggesting a working alliance between the American Eugenics Society and the American Birth Control League. In my judgment we have everything to lose and nothing to gain by such an arrangement .... The latter society ... is controlled by a group that has been brought up on agitation and emotional appeal instead of on research and education. With this group, we would take on a large quantity of ready-made enemies which it has accumulated, and we would gain allies who, while believing that they are eugenists, really have no conception of what eugenics is.... " [67]

Popenoe reminded Grant that Sanger had personally repudiated the Johnson Resolution in favor of larger families. "If it is desirable for us to make a campaign in favor of contraception," stressed Popenoe in condescending terms, "we are abundantly able to do so on our own account, without enrolling a lot of sob sisters, grandstand players, and anarchists to help us. We had a lunatic fringe in the eugenics movement in the early days; we have been trying for 20 years to get rid of it and have finally done so. Let's not take on another fringe of any kind as an ornament. This letter is not for publication, but I have no objection to your showing it to Mr. Whitney or any other official of the American Eugenics Society .... " [68]

Grant dashed off an urgent missive to Whitney the next day, making clear, "I am definitely opposed to any connection with them .... When we organized the Eugenics Society, it was decided that we could keep clear of Birth Control, as it was a feminist movement and would bring a lot of unnecessary enemies .... I am pretty sure that Dr. Davenport and Prof. Osborn would agree with me that we had better go our own way indefinitely." Grant copied Davenport. [69]

Davenport was traveling when the letters started flying. On his return, he immediately began to rally the movement's leading figures against any "alliance with Mrs. Sanger." Davenport emphasized his feelings in a letter to Whitney. "Mrs. Sanger is a charming woman," he began, "and I have no doubt about the seriousness of her effort to do good. I have no doubt, also, that she may feel very strongly about eugenics. I have very grave doubts whether she has any clear idea of what eugenics is.... We have attached to the word, eugenics, the names of Mrs. E. H. Harriman and Andrew Carnegie-persons with an unsullied personal reputation, whose names connote good judgment and great means. Such valued associations have given to the word, eugenics, great social value and it is that which various organizations want to seize." [70]

He continued, "Now comes along Mrs. Sanger who feels that birth control does not taste in the mouth so well as eugenics and she thinks that birth control is the same as eugenics, and eugenics is birth control, and she would, naturally, seize with avidity a proposal that we should blend birth control and eugenics in some way, such as the proposed [joint] magazine .... The whole birth control movement seems to me a quagmire, out of which eugenics should keep." [71]

Davenport concluded with a clear threat to steer clear of any merger talk, or else. "I am interested in the work of the American Eugenics Society," he stated, "but I am more interested in preserving the connotation of eugenics unsullied and I should feel that if the Eugenics Society tied up with the birth control movement that it would be necessary for the Eugenics Record Office of the Carnegie Institution of Washington to withdraw its moral support." [72]

But the idea of a merger between eugenic and birth control groups never subsided. By the 1930s, both movements had fragmented into numerous competing and overlapping entities -- many with similar names. Sanger herself had resigned from the American Birth Control League to spearhead other national birth control organizations. In 1933, when the Depression financially crippled many eugenics organizations, a union was again suggested. This time the idea was to merge the American Birth Control League and the American Eugenics Society precisely because the concept of a birth control organization now free of Sanger's strong will -- but flush with funds -- was attractive. But as all learned, no organization associated with birth control, whether or not Sanger was still associated with it, could be free from the presence of the birth control movement's founder.

On February 9, 1933, Fairchild wrote to Harry Perkins, president of the American Eugenics Society. "For two or three days I have been meaning to write to you, to report on recent developments. Things are moving pretty fast. Miss Topping has been asked by the Board of the A.B.C.L. [American Birth Control League] to spend two weeks or so interviewing various people, especially those not connected with any of the organizations involved, about the desirability of a merger .... Last Sunday I had a chance to talk with Margaret Sanger, and found her enthusiastic and entirely ready to cooperate. So about the only thing that remains to make it unanimous is an assurance that a working majority of the Board of the League is favorably inclined. There is every evidence that that requirement can be met. When that point is reached the main remaining question at issue will be that of finances. The Eugenics Society has none anyway, so that is easily disposed of. The main question is whether the supporters of the League, particularly the Rockefeller interests, will continue, or enlarge their contributions in case a merger is carried out." [73]

Within a month, the idea was again dead. "It looks as if the merger, after all, will not materialize in the immediate future," Fairchild informed Perkins. "It is the same old difficulty. The majority of the Board of the League seems to be in favor of a merger ... a pet dream ... cherished for years. However, they absolutely balk at the mention of Margaret Sanger. They all profess to love her dearly, and admit that she is one of the biggest women in the world, but they say that it is utterly impossible to work with her, and that any association which had her on its Board would go to pieces in a very short time, etc., etc., etc." [74]

Refusals by eugenic stalwarts carried their own organizational dangers. Fairchild and others actually feared Sanger would try to absorb large parts of the eugenics movement into her own. "As you may know," Fairchild warned Perkins, "I think the League is going to try to get a large number of the members of our Board and Advisory Council on to their Board. I shall not assist them in this effort, as I do not think the League is now, or ever can be as an independent organization, competent to function effectively in the field of Eugenics, although that is now their great objective. If, however, they do succeed in getting several of our members on their Board, it may make it possible for us to over-ride the objections to Mrs. Sanger by force of ballots if this ever seems desirable." [75]

The Great Depression continued to nudge the causes together. Still pending was the question of which movement would absorb the other. Perkins received yet another frank letter in mid May of 1933 from Popenoe. "Regarding amalgamation with The American Birth Control League," Popenoe wrote, "all of us out here were opposed to such a move when Whitney took it up five or six years ago and got in some premature and unfavorable publicity. Since then, conditions have changed a good deal. Mrs. Sanger's withdrawal from the League, followed by that of many of her admirers and of her husband's financial support, has crippled the League very badly in a financial way and it has also lost prestige scientifically for these and other reasons and because other agencies are now actively in the field .... The Birth Control League now has much less bargaining power than it had five or six years ago and if a coalition were worked out it could not expect to get such favorable terms as it would have asked for at that time. The same unfortunately applies in still greater measure to The American Eugenics Society because of its present depressed finances." [76]

Popenoe added candidly, "In effect, I should be perfectly willing to see the Eugenics Society swallow the Birth Control League .... I should not like to see the reverse situation in which the Birth Control League would swallow the Eugenics Society and tie us all up with its slogans and campaign practices .... If it comes to definite negotiations, the Birth Control people will naturally hold out for all they can get, but I think that a good poker player could get some big concessions from them." [77]

But no amount of maneuvering or economic desperation or organizational necessity would allow the equally doctrinaire movements to find a middle ground. The old men of eugenics would not permit it so long as Sanger would not compromise. Each side believed they possessed the more genuine eugenic truth. Both movements roamed the biological landscape in perpetual parallel, following the same lines but never uniting. Moreover, the thin space between the groups was mined. Once, on May 22, 1936, the executive secretary of the American Eugenics Society, George Reid Andrews, circulated to the directors a list of prestigious names to consider adding to the board. Sanger's name appeared on page one. Two weeks later Perkins received a handwritten note from another society officer: "Mr. Andrews has been dismissed ... with no opportunity to present his case." [78]

Sanger went on to lead numerous reform and women's advocacy organizations around the world. Her crusades evolved from birth control and contraception into sex education and world population control. She championed the cause of women on all continents and became an inspiring figure to successive generations. Her very name became enshrined as a beacon of goodwill and human rights.

But she never lost her eugenic raison d'etre, nor her fiery determination to eliminate the unfit. For instance, years after Sanger launched birth control, she was honored at a luncheon in the Hotel Roosevelt in New York. Her acceptance speech harkened back to the original nature of her devotion to her cause. "Let us not forget," she urged, "that these billions, millions, thousands of people are increasing, expanding, exploding at a terrific rate every year. Africa, Asia, South America are made up of more than a billion human beings, miserable, poor, illiterate labor slaves, whether they are called that or not; a billion hungry men and women always in the famine zone yet reproducing themselves in the blind struggle for survival and perpetuation .... [79]

"The brains, initiative, thrift and progress of the self supporting, creative human being are called upon to support the ever increasing and numerous dependent, delinquent and unbalanced masses .... I wonder how many of you realize that the population of the British Isles in Shakespeare's time was scarcely more than six millions, yet out of these few millions came the explorers, the pioneers, the poets, the Pilgrims and the courageous founders of these United States of America. What is England producing today with her hungry fifty million human beings struggling for survival? She had then a race of quality, now it's merely quantity. One forgets that the Italy of the Renaissance, of the painters, the sculptors, the architects, was a loose collection of small towns -- a tiny population that was yet the nursery of geniuses. There again quality rises supreme above quantity. [80]

"This twentieth century of ours has seen the most rapid multiplication of human beings in our history, quantity without quality, however .... Stress quality as a prime essential in the birth and survival of our population .... [81]

"[The] suggestion I would offer as one worthy of national consideration is that of decreasing the progeny of those human beings afflicted with transmissible diseases and dysgenic qualities of body and mind. While our present Federal Governmental Santa Clauses have their hands in the taxpayer's pockets, why not in their generous giving mood be constructive and provide for sterilizing as well as giving a pension, dole -- call it what you may -- to the feebleminded and the victims of transmissible, congenital diseases? Such a program would be a sound future investment as well as a kindness to the couples themselves by preventing the birth of dozens of their progeny to become burdens, even criminals of another generation." [82]

Sanger did not deliver this speech in the heyday of Roaring Twenties eugenics, nor in the clutches of Depression-era desperation, nor even in a world torn apart by war. She was speaking at the Thirtieth Annual Meeting of the Planned Parenthood Federation on October 25, 1950. A transcript of her remarks was distributed to the worldwide press. A pamphlet was also distributed, entitled "Books on Planned Parenthood," which listed seven major topics, one of which was "Eugenics." The list of eugenic books and pamphlets included the familiar dogmatic publications from the 1930s covering such topics as "selective sterilization" and "the goal of eugenics." [83]

Almost three years later, on May 5, 1953, Sanger reviewed the goals of a new family planning organization -- with no change of heart. Writing on International Planned Parenthood Federation letterhead, Sanger asserted to a London eugenic colleague, "I appreciate that there is a difference of opinion as what a Planned Parenthood Federation should want or aim to do, but I do not see how we could leave out of its aims some of the eugenic principles that are basically sound in constructing a decent civilization." [84]

Margaret Sanger gave hope to multitudes. For many, she redefined hope. In the process, she split a nation. But when the smoke cleared on the great biological torment of the twentieth century, Margaret Sanger's movement stands as a powerful example of American eugenics' ability to pervade, infect and distort the most dedicated causes and the most visionary reformers. None was untouchable. If one who loved humanity as much as Sanger could only love a small fraction of it, her story stands as one of the saddest chapters in the history of eugenics.
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Re: War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to

Postby admin » Thu Jul 31, 2014 2:02 am

CHAPTER 8: Blinded

Why did blindness prevention rise to the top of the eugenic agenda in the 1920s?

Because mass sterilization, sequestration, birth control and scientific classifications of the mentally defective, socially unfit and racially inferior were just the leading edge of the war against the weak. Eugenic crusaders were keen to launch the next offensive: outlawing marriage to stymie procreation by those deemed inferior. To set a medicolegal precedent that could be broadly applied to all defectives, eugenicists rallied behind the obviously appealing issue of blindness. Who could argue with a campaign to prevent blindness?

Eugenicists, however, carefully added a key adjective to their cause: hereditary. Therefore, their drive was not to reduce blindness arising from accident or illness, but to prevent the far less common problem of "hereditary blindness." How? By banning marriage for individuals who were blind, or anyone with even a single case of blindness in his or her family. According to the plan, such individuals could also be forcibly sterilized and segregated -- even if they were already married. If eugenicists could successfully lobby for legislation to prevent hereditary blindness by prohibiting suspect marriages, the concept of marriage restriction could then be broadened to include all categories of the unfit. Marriage could then be denied to a wide group of undesirables, from the feebleminded and epileptic to paupers and the socially inadequate.

Lucien Howe was a legendary champion in the cause of better vision. He is credited with helping preserve the eyesight of generations of Americans. A late nineteenth-century pioneer in ophthalmology, he had founded the Buffalo Eye and Ear Infirmary in 1876. He also aided thousands by insisting that newborns' eyes be bathed with silver nitrate drops to fight neonatal infection; in 1890, this practice became law in New York State under a statute sometimes dubbed "The Howe Law." His monumental two-volume study, Muscles of the Eye (1907), became a standard in the field. In 1918, Howe was elected president of the American Ophthalmologic Society, and he enjoyed prestige throughout American and European ocular medicine. For his accomplishments, he would be awarded a gold medal by the National Committee for the Prevention of Blindness. Later, he helped fund the Howe Laboratory of Ophthalmology at Harvard University. Indeed, so revered was the handlebar-mustachioed eye doctor that the American Ophthalmological Society would create the Lucien Howe Medal to recognize lifetime achievement in the field. [1]

Howe became a eugenic activist early on. He quickly rose to the executive committee of the Eugenics Research Association, then became a member of the International Eugenic Congress's Committee on Immigration, and ultimately became president of the Eugenics Research Association. [2] It was Howe who led the charge to segregate, sterilize and ban marriages of blind people and their relatives as a prelude to similar measures for people suspected of other illnesses and handicaps.

Eugenic leaders understood their campaign was never about blindness alone. Blindness was only the test case to usher in sweeping eugenic marriage restrictions. Eugenicists had sought such laws since the days of Galton, who had encouraged eugenically sound marriage and discouraged unsound unions. Of course marriage prohibitions for cultural, religious, economic and health reasons had flourished throughout history. In modern times, many such traditions continued in law throughout Europe. These mainly banned marriage to partners of certain ages, close familial relationships and serious health conditions. But the United States, with its numerous overlapping jurisdictions, led the world in marriage restriction laws, based on various factors of age, kinship, race and health. For example, marriage between whites and persons of African ancestry was criminalized in many states, including California, Maryland and North Dakota, plus the entire South. Montana outlawed marriage between whites and persons of Japanese or Chinese descent. Nevada forbade unions between whites and Malays. Several states legislated against intermarriage between whites and Native Americans. [3]

Eugenicists saw America's marriage laws as ways of halting procreation between defectives, because in addition to broad laws against race mixing, many states prohibited marriage for anyone deemed insane, epileptic, feebleminded or syphilitic. Delaware even criminalized marriage between paupers. No wonder radical British eugenicist Robert Rentoul proudly enumerated American state laws in his 1906 book Race Culture; Or, Race Suicide?, commenting, "It is to these States we must look for guidance if we wish to ... lessen the chances of children being degenerates." [4]

In preparing to instigate eugenic marriage legislation, Davenport circulated a state-by-state survey in 1913. It was part of an ERO bulletin entitled State Laws Limiting Marriage Selection Examined in the Light of Eugenics. In 1915, the Journal of Heredity, the renamed American Breeders Magazine, published an in-depth article by U.S. Assistant Surgeon General W. C. Rucker castigating the existing marriage laws as insufficient from a eugenic perspective. Rucker admitted that the movement preferred "permanent isolation of the defective classes," and continued, "neither the science of eugenics nor public sentiment is ready for [purely eugenic marriage] legislation." Hence, the only laws that would be viable, he suggested, would be "strictly ... hygienic in intent." [5]

Enter the cause to prevent hereditary blindness.

In 1918, Howe began in earnest by compiling initial financial data from leading agencies serving the blind, tabulating an institution-by-institution cost per blind person. Cleveland's public school system spent $275 for each of its 153 blind pupils. The California School for the Deaf and Blind spent $396.90 per blind student. Maine's Workshop for the Blind topped the list, spending $865 for each of its forty individuals. [6]

Adding lost wages to custodial and medical care, Howe settled on the figure of$3.8 million as the national cost of blindness -- a number he advertised to press his point. But how many people actually suffered from hereditary blindness? Howe knew from the outset that the number was small, estimated at about 7 percent of the existing blind population. No one knew for sure because so much blindness at birth was caused by problem pregnancies or poor delivery conditions. Eugenical News reported that the 1910 census initially counted 57,272 blind individuals in America, but then came to learn that nearly 4,500 of these cases were erroneously recorded. After further investigation, the Census Bureau reported that more than 90 percent of blind people had no blind relatives at all. Indeed, of 29,242 blind persons questioned, only thirty-one replied that both parents were also blind. [7]

Yet Howe and the eugenics movement seized upon hereditary blindness as their cause du jour. Howe and Laughlin contracted with a Pennsylvania printer to publish a fifty-two-page Bibliography of Hereditary Eye Defects, which included numerous European studies. The pages of Eugenical News became filled with articles on hereditary blindness. One issue contained four articles in a row on the topic. Howe became chairman of a Committee on Hereditary Blindness within the Section on Ophthalmology of the American Medical Association. The AMA Section committee voted to add a geneticist -- Laughlin was chosen -- plus a practitioner "especially conversant with the good and also with the bad effects of sterilization." The sterilization expert chosen was Dr. David C. Peyton, of the Indiana Reformatory, who had succeeded eugenic sterilization pioneer Harry Clay Sharp. [8]

The AMA Section committee then began a joint program with the ERO to register family pedigrees of blind people. Four-page forms were printed. Each bore the distinct imprimatur of the "Carnegie Institution of Washington, Eugenics Record Office, founded by Mrs. E. H. Harriman," but at the top also declared official AMA cosponsorship. The subheadline read "in cooperation with the Committee on Hereditary Blindness, Section of Ophthalmology of the American Medical Association" and then credited Laughlin. [9]

Employing careful vagueness, the forms requested "any authentic family- record of what seem to be hereditary eye defects," and then explained how to "plot the family pedigree-chart." Ten thousand of these forms, entitled "Eye Defect Schedule," were printed at a cost of $91.76, half of which was defrayed by the ERO and half by the AMA Section. They were then mailed to America's leading institutions for the blind, as well as schools and help organizations, such as the Cleveland School for the Blind, the Blind Girls Home in Nashville, and the Illinois Industrial Home for the Blind. [10]

Even the ERO form admitted that delivering the family members' names could only hope to "lessen, to some extent at least, the frequency of hereditary blindness." But, cooperating with the request, many in the ophthalmologic community began handing over the names of those who were blind or related to blind people. "I am much interested in this investigation," Laughlin wrote to Howe, "and feel sure that under your leadership, the committee will be able to secure many interesting first-hand pedigrees which will not only throw light upon the manner of inheritance of the traits involved, but will as well provide first-hand information which may be used for practical eugenical purposes in cutting off the descent lines of individuals carrying the potentiality for offspring with seriously handicapping eye defects." [11]

The ERO now possessed yet another target list of unfit individuals.

By early 1921, ERO assistant director Howard Banker was able to brag to Ohio State University dean George Arps, "Records [have] already been collected of several hundred families, in which hereditary eye defects existed .... " Banker then confided, "In spite of evident reasons for drastic remedies, it does not seem advisable to recommend now any radical methods .... " [12]

Nonetheless, the outlines of anti-blind legislation were taking shape. Howe published a major article in the November 1919 edition of Journal of Heredity, entitled "The Relation of Hereditary Eye Defects to Genetics and Eugenics." The piece was not a clinical paper, but rather a call to legislative action. First, Howe guesstimated that the number of blind people in America had almost doubled to 100,000 since the 1910 census. (His own calculations of official reports from ten states, including the populous ones of New York, Massachusetts and Ohio, reported a total of only 23,630, indicating virtually no national increase.) Howe's article then addressed the entire blind population as though all of the exaggerated 100,000 suffered from a hereditary condition. Yet Howe knew that hereditary blindness constituted just a small percentage of the total, and even that fraction was falling fast. Because of medical and surgical advances, and as corrective lenses became more commonplace, estimates of hereditary blindness were constantly being reduced. [13]

As though his statistics and projections were authentic, Howe railed, "It is unjust to the blind to allow them to be brought into existence simply to lead miserable lives .... The longer we delay action to prevent this blindness, the more difficult the problem becomes." His plan? Give blind people and their families the option of being isolated or sterilized. "A large part, if not all, of this misery and expense," promised Howe, "could be gradually eradicated by sequestration or by sterilization, if the transmitter of the defect preferred the later." Howe suggested that authorities wait to discover a blind person, and then go back and get the rest of his family. [14]

Howe's article asked colleagues to carefully study sterilization laws applying to the feebleminded. "Where such eugenic laws have been enacted ... [they] could be properly amended." Under Howe's plan, incarcerated blind people would be required to labor at jobs commensurate with their intelligence; such work would lessen their "sense of restraint." In a final flourish, Howe asked, "What are we going to do about it? That is the question at last forced on ophthalmologists .... " [15]

By 1921, the ERO and AMA Section subcommittee had drafted sweeping legislation that pushed far beyond hereditary blindness or even general blindness. It targeted all people with imperfect vision. Under the proposal, any taxpayer could condemn such a person and his family as "defective." Such a measure would, of course, apply to anyone with blurry vision or even glasses, or any family that included someone with imperfect vision. According to the plan, one ophthalmologist and one eugenic practitioner, such as Laughlin, would render the official assessment. The ERO and AMA Section subcommittee's draft law was entitled, "An Act for the Partial Prevention of Hereditary Blindness." [16]

The draft law read: "When a man and woman contemplate marriage, if a visual defect exists in one or both of the contracting parties, or in the family of either, so apparent that any taxpayer fears that the children of such a union are liable to become public charges, for which that taxpayer would probably be assessed, then such taxpayer ... may apply to the County Judge for an injunction against such a marriage." The judge would then "appoint at least two experts to advise him concerning the probabilities of the further transmission of the eye defect." The experts were specified as a qualified ophthalmologist and "a person especially well versed in distinguishing family traits which are apt to reappear .... " Upon the advice of the two experts, the judge could then decide to prohibit any planned marriage, which might yield "at least one child who might have more or less imperfect vision .... " [17]

On January 6, 1921, the ERO distributed the draft law for review by several dozen of its core coterie. The mailing list of names was then marked with a plus next to those who approved, and a minus for those opposed. The people consulted included the leading psychologists of the day, such as Goddard, Terman, Yerkes, and Meyer. Apparently, not a few of the respondents either wore glasses or had a family member who did. The vote was divided. Many, such as psychologists Terman and Arps, voted in favor. Several were undecided, but at least half of those polled were opposed. [18]

Eugenicist Raymond Pearl, of Johns Hopkins University, promptly wrote back with his objections. "It makes the primary initiatory force any taxpayer," complained Pearl. "This opens the way at once for all sorts of busybodies to work out personal spite by holding up peoples' marriages pending an investigation .... Anyone who wore glasses contemplating getting married might under the terms of the law stated easily have their progress held up by some neighbor who wanted to make trouble .... Only busybodies would be likely to interest themselves in taking any action under it." [19]

Nonetheless, the ERO leadership sent the draft language to every fellow of the AMA's Ophthalmology Section. The nine-page list of ophthalmologists was similarly annotated with a plus or minus sign. Most of the doctors did not respond. But among those who did, not surprisingly, the yeas outpaced the nays. Dr. James Bach of Milwaukee was marked plus. Dr. Olin Barker of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, was marked plus, and was also noted for sending in a patient's family tree. Dr. David Dennis of Erie, Pennsylvania, was marked plus and noted for sending in three family trees. The ophthalmologist mailing list's adjusted tally: 88 yes, 40 no. [20] That level of support was enough for the ERO.

On April 5, 1921, a New York State senator sympathetic to the eugenic cause introduced Bill #1597. It would amend the state's Domestic Relations Law with Howe's measure. It required "the town clerk upon the application for a marriage license to ascertain as to any visual defects in either of such applicants, or in a blood relative of either party .... " The clerk or any taxpayer could then apply to the local county judge who would then appoint either two physicians, one an ophthalmologist and the other a eugenic doctor, or one person who could fulfill both roles. Based on their testimony, the clerk was then empowered to prohibit the marriage. [21]

To lobby for the bill, Howe and other eugenicists created a special advisory committee to the Committee to Prevent Hereditary Blindness. Howe was hardly alone within the ophthalmologic community. His advisory committee included some of the leading doctors in the field. The long list included Dr. Clarence Loeb of Chicago, associate editor of the Journal of Ophthalmology; Dr. Frank Allport of Chicago, former chairman of the AMA's Committee on Conservation of Blindness; Dr. G. F. Libby of Denver, author of the "Hereditary Blindness" entry in the Encyclopedia of Ophthalmology; William Morgan of New York, president of the National Committee for the Prevention of Blindness; Professor Victor Vaughan of Ann Arbor, former president of the AMA's Committee of Preventive Medicine; as well as many other vision experts. [22]

In September of 1921, Howe and the ERO tried to extend the advisory committee beyond the field of ophthalmology. They sent personalized form letters to prominent New York State doctors, judges and elected officials. The invitations requested permission to add their names to the advisory committee, couching membership as an honorary function. The goal was to create the appearance of a groundswell of informed support among the state's administrative and medical establishment for the marriage restriction measure. [23]

Usually, the prominent individuals solicited were only too happy to see their names added to prestigious letterhead advancing a good cause. Few had any understanding of hereditary blindness or the specifics of Howe's legislative proposal. Often, respondents stated that they knew little about the subject, but were only too happy to join the committee. Only rarely did an individual decline. One who did decline was Dr. H. S. Birkett, an ear, nose and throat doctor with no knowledge of ophthalmologic health; he wrote back, "As this seems to be associated largely with an Ophthalmologic Committee, I would feel myself rather out of place .... I hardly think that my name would be an appropriate one on such a Committee." ERO organizers routinely kept track of how many eminent people joined or refused. It was all for appearances. At one point, an ERO notation asked for "more judges." [24]

The ERO's sweeping anti-blindness measure did not succeed in 1921. [25] But Howe refused to give up. On January 12, 1922, Howe reminded Laughlin that the intent was to target a broad spectrum of defectives, but beginning with known medical diseases was still the best idea. "We tried to legislate against too many hereditary defects," Howe recounted, "It would be better to limit the legislation to hereditary blindness, insanity, epilepsy and possibly hereditary syphilis." Crafting such legislation required care. Howe conceded, "The phraseology as concocted by doctors and scientists is quite different from that which Constitutional lawyers would have recommended." [26]

Howe was relentless in keeping the idea alive. Lawyers associated with Columbia University were called upon to refine the text to pass Constitutional muster. In one reminder letter, Howe asked Laughlin, "Have you heard anything from our friends connected with the Law Department of Columbia, as to what progress they have made in their attempt to formulate that law for the prevention of hereditary blindness? ... When members of a committee are supposedly resting, that is the time to get work out of them." [27]

On July 22, 1922, Howe wrote to Laughlin from his New York estate, aptly named "Mendel Farm." Howe expressed his undying devotion to the Mendelian cause and his still-burning determination to "hunt" those with vision problems and subject them to eugenic countermeasures. "As today is ... the centenary of the birth of our 'Saint' Gregor," wrote Howe with some gaiety, "I feel like sending a word to you, to Drs. Davenport, Little -- indeed to every one of the earnest workers at Cold Spring Harbor .... If our good old Father Mendel is still counting peas grown in the celestial garden, he probably takes time on this anniversary, to lean over the golden bars, and as he rubs his glasses to look down on what is being done at Cold Spring Harbor and several other institutions like it, his mouth must stretch into a very broad grin when he thinks how little attention was paid to him on earth and what a big man he is now." [28]

Returning to the idea of hunting down the families of the visually impaired, Howe wrote, "Can you suggest any appeal which could be made to the State Board of Health so as to induce them to set one or two of their field workers to hunting up other defective members of certain families whose names appear so frequently among the pupils of schools for the blind? ... With remembrances to Mrs. Laughlin and best wishes always." [29]

Laughlin replied that he too wanted to "hunt" for those with imperfect vision. "A state survey hunting hereditary eye defects and other degeneracy, but laying principal emphasis on eye disorders, would constitute a splendid piece of work." Howe responded with a letter, eager as ever, declaring that the schools could easily provide the family trees. "Probably the director of almost every school of the blind can remember two or three pupils from branches of the same family who are there because of albinism, cataract, optic atrophy or some similar condition .... But," he cautioned, "superintendents have not been trained as field workers [to trace the extended families]." [30]

Therefore, Howe again pushed for the New York State Board of Health to undertake such a statewide hunt. Fortunately, New York State Commissioner of Public Health Hermann M. Biggs was already a member of Howe's advisory committee to prevent hereditary blindness. "I will ask one or two doctors in New York or elsewhere to send letters to you for Dr. Biggs advocating such an investigation," wrote Howe. He also offered to personally train the state's field workers. [31]

An official New York State hunt for the visually impaired never occurred. But Howe continued his pursuit of the names. In 1922, twenty of forty-two state institutions for the blind filled out forms on a total of 2,388 individuals in their care, constituting approximately half of America's institutionalized total. The numbers only further infuriated Howe. By his calculations, institutionalized blind people cost taxpayers $28 to $39 per inmate per month, higher than the feebleminded at $15.21 per month and prison inmates at $18.93 per month. No wonder that on February 10, 1923, Howe sent a letter jointly addressed to Davenport and Laughlin suggesting that any blindness-prevention law include a provision to imprison the visually impaired. In a list, Howe's second point read: "If the hereditary blind whose intended marriage has been adjudged to be dangerous, prefer to go to prison at the expense of the taxpayer that would probably be cheapest for the community and kindest to possible children ... and a better protection against future defectives." Howe repeated the idea twice more in that letter. [32]

In the same long February 10 letter, Howe promised to send a report to the secretary of the AMA's Section on Ophthalmology. But he was waiting for additional names of blind people to come in so he could forward the latest tally. Howe also assured that he was working closely with Columbia University law professor J. P. Chamberlain to revise the hoped-for legislation. [33]

Several months later, in July of 1923, Professor Chamberlain wrote an article for the American Bar Association Journal advocating what he called "repressive legislation" to restrict marriages. "The effect of the modern doctrine of eugenics is being felt in state legislative halls," Chamberlain began. "There is a growing tendency to segregate them [defective persons] in colonies for their own well being and to protect society ... and along with this repressive legislation is another trend ... legislation limiting the rights of certain classes of persons to marry and requiring preliminary evidence of the fitness of the parties to the ceremony." Professor Chamberlain assured the nation's attorneys that protecting future generations was sound public policy and within any state's police powers. Once a proper "standard of deficiency" could be written into the statutes, marriage restriction could be enforced against the defective as well. "The past record makes it appear probable that the law will not lag behind medical science." [34]

Howe floated another attempt at legislation to prevent hereditary blindness when on February 1, 1926, Bill #605 was introduced to the New York State Assembly. This time, the proposal required a sworn statement from any marriage applicants averring, "Neither myself nor, to the best of my knowledge and belief, any of my blood relatives within the second degree have been affected with blindness .... " No definition of blindness was offered. Once again, the bill empowered the town clerk to prohibit the marriage, and even made initial consultation with experts optional. Ironically, even Howe could not craft a definition for blindness. In a letter to another ophthalmologist, he confessed that in a conversation with a federal official, Howe had been called upon to define the condition; both had been at a loss for words. "He was as much in doubt as I," wrote Howe, adding, "Please tell me what better measure you can suggest." Bill #605 was never enacted. [35]

But Howe continued his crusade. Even as he was pushing his anti-blindness legislation, Howe was also orchestrating a second marriage restriction against not just the visually impaired, but anyone judged unfit. His idea was to require a large cash bond from any marriage applicant suspected of being "unfit." Again, no definitions or standards were set. The couple applying for a marriage license would be required to post a significant cash bond against the possibility that their defective children might be a cost to the state. Howe suggested bonds of as much as $14,000, equivalent to over $130,000 today. [36] In other words, marriage by those declared eugenically inferior would be made economically impossible by state law.

Howe had come up with his idea for a general marriage bond as early as 1921. At the time, Laughlin had praised Howe's concept. "Your plan for offering bond is, I believe, a practical one," Laughlin wrote Howe on March 30, 1921. He continued, "For one thing, it presents in very clear and clean cut manner to the average tax-payer the problem of paying for social inadequates from the purse of the tax payer. There is nothing like touching the purse of the tax payer in order to arouse his interest .... " Laughlin was pleased with the larger implications because Howe's idea represented a "feature in future eugenical control, not only of hereditary blindness but of hereditary defects of all sorts." Howe's bonding plan, wrote Laughlin, would "place the responsibility for the reproduction of defectives upon the possible parents of such." Moreover, Laughlin wrote, cash bonding would be most useful in "border-line" cases where no one could be sure. [37]

Within a year, Howe was asking Columbia University's Professor Chamberlain to draft legislative language to enforce bonding. In May of 1922, Laughlin sent yet another letter of encouragement to Howe, asserting that should any law to "bond parents against the production of defective children" withstand court challenge, "a great practical eugenical principle will have been established." [38]

In late December of 1922, in a letter inviting Mr. and Mrs. Howe to join the Laughlins for lunch at Cold Spring Harbor, Laughlin could not hide his continuing enthusiasm. "The bonding principle," wrote Laughlin, "... securing the state against the production of defectives has, I think, great possibilities. Perhaps the greatest single amendment which can be made to the present marriage laws for the prevention of the production of degenerates. If you can develop the principle and secure its adoption, you will have deserved the honor of the eugenical world." [39]

Eventually, the marriage bond proposal was introduced to the New York State Assembly as a part of Bill #605, Howe's amended anti-blindness effort. Under the proposal, any town clerk, depending on the severity of the suspected defectiveness, could set the bond, up to $14,000. The amount of $14,000 represented Howe's estimate for supporting and educating a blind child. The bond could be released once the wife turned forty-five years of age. Eugenicists were hopeful and even published the entire text of Bill #605 in Eugenical News. Marriage bonding legislation, however, died in New York when Bill #605 was voted down. [40]

Even still, the Eugenics Record Office wove the notion into the model eugenics legislation it distributed to the various states. In a memo, Laughlin asserted that the principle should be viewed "in reference not only to the blind, but also to all other types of social inadequacy (and this is the goal sought)." He added, "If this principle were firmly established it would doubtless become the most powerful force directed against the production of defectives and inadequates." [41]

During the 1920s, while Howe was trying to establish marriage prevention and marriage bonding, he and Laughlin were also wor1cing on a third concept. It was known by several names and was ultimately called "interstate deportation." Under this scheme, once a family was identified as unfit, family members could be uprooted and deported back to the state or town of their origin -- presumably at the expense of the original locale. This would create a financial liability for any town or state, forcing them to view any suspected defective citizens as an intolerable expense. The plan held open the possibility of mass interstate deportations to jurisdictions that would simply refuse the deportees, leading to holding pens of a sort. Some eugenicists called for "colonies." Margaret Sanger advocated "wide open spaces" for the unfit. After all, the United States government had already set the precedent by creating a system of reservations for Native Americans.

It was Howe's initiative for marriage prevention and bonding that opened the door. In a review of Howe's marriage restrictions, Laughlin wrote in the spring of 1921, "It is easy for the eugenicist to plan a step further and to urge further development of our deportation services which means only that the community which produces a non-supporting defective must maintain him ... it means more inter-state deportation and finally, within the state, deportation to counties in which defectives are born or have citizenship or long residence." [42]

By late 1922, Howe and other sympathetic ophthalmologic colleagues, along with Laughlin and the Carnegie Institution, were formulating deportation specifics. Howe was developing a eugenic "debit and credit" system to rank individuals. Towns, counties and states would then be charged when their defectives moved elsewhere in the nation. "Of course our national deportation system is based upon this theory," Laughlin acknowledged to Howe in a December 5, 1922, letter. A few weeks later, Laughlin again lauded a system of bonding "each state, community and family for its own degenerates." He adding that "the matter of deportation [is] only one other phase in the application of this greater principle." [43]

Once more, bonding marriages against hereditary blindness was to be the precedent for national deportation. "You have done a splendid service," Laughlin wrote Howe in March of 1925, "in directing the work of the Committee on Prevention of Hereditary Blindness. The whole thing appeals so strongly to me because I believe it is a step in the direction of working out ... the matter of placing responsibility for the production of hereditary inadequates upon families, towns, states and nations which produce them." [44]

Eventually, the eugenics movement developed a constellation of bonding, financial responsibility and deportation principles which it tried to implement based on precedents set by Howe's hereditary blindness countermeasures. The program's goal was to create enclaves of eugenically preferred citizens, which would be achieved when the unfit were systematically expelled from an area. It was defective cleansing. An outline of the measure was published as a lead essay in Eugenical News. The section headlined "Interstate Deportation" declared, "There is now, however, a substantial and growing movement for the inter-state and inter-town return of charity cases and ne'er-do-wells from the host communities to the communities which produced them." [45]

Setting up an argument for property confiscation, the Eugenical News outline explained that the cost of relocation and maintenance would be borne first by the community the family had come from, but then ultimately by the defective family itself. "In many communities the town or the county or the state has a legal claim upon any property of the producing family, particularly the parents .... " [46] The government would have the power to turn any family deemed unfit into a family of paupers.

The Eugenical News essay also challenged the concept of free movement within the United States. "It remains to be seen whether an individual inadequate can simply move in on a community and claim legal residence." Eugenical News asked, "Is there a legal recourse, for example, in the case of 'dumping' the undesirables of one community on another, of 'exiling' or 'driving out of town' undesirable persons? Perhaps the time will come when there will be no place where such undesirables can go, in which case the logical place for them is the community and family where they were produced." But in the end, after describing a thorough program of dislocation and deportation, the article made the final result clear: "Compulsory segregation or sterilization of potential parents of certain inadequates." [47]

Throughout the essay outlining the new set of eugenic responsibilities and countermeasures, Howe was credited for his tireless efforts. One article declared, "He threw the weight of his professional experience, as an ophthalmologist, into this particular field.... " [48]

But most of Howe's most radical plans never took root, in large part because the famed ophthalmologist died before he could complete his work. He died on December 17, 1928, at age eighty, in his Belmont, Massachusetts, home. The next month Eugenical News eulogized the man who had served as president of the Eugenics Research Association until shortly before his death. "Lucien Howe was a true gentleman, a broad scholar, and he loved his fellow men." This statement echoed the tribute of the American Ophthalmological Society, which adopted the following resolution: "A student of quality, an author of distinction, a scholar in the house of scientific interpretation and original research, Dr. Howe, a former president of this Society, has added to its reputation and has maintained its tradition." For eight decades, the American Ophthalmological Society has awarded the Lucien Howe Medal for service to the profession and mankind. [49]
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Re: War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to

Postby admin » Thu Jul 31, 2014 2:25 am


CHAPTER 9: Mongrelization

The U.S. Census Bureau would not cooperate with eugenics. No agency collected and compiled more information on individuals than the bureau. Its mission was clear: to count Americans and create a demographic portrait for policymakers. A fundamental principle of census taking is the confidentiality and sanctity of individual records. In the early twentieth century, American eugenics coveted this information.

For years, eugenic leaders tried -- with little result -- to convince the Census Bureau to change its ways. They targeted the 1920 census. In 1916, Alexander Graham Bell, representing the Eugenics Record Office, was among the first to formally suggest that the bureau add the father's name and the mother's maiden name to the data gathered on each individual.' The Census Bureau declined to make the addition.

But shortly after Bell's first entreaty, Laughlin proposed a survey of all those in state custodial and charitable facilities, as well as jails. The Census Bureau agreed, and soon thereafter its director of statistical research, Joseph A. Hill, granted Laughlin the assignment. Laughlin was credentialed as a "special agent of the Bureau of the Census." [2] This first joint program, however, would not lead to an alliance with the Census Bureau, but to a bureaucratic war.

Since the 1880s, the Census Bureau had compiled statistics on what it called "the defective, dependent and delinquent" population, referring to the insane as defective, the elderly and infirm as dependent, and prisoners as delinquent. Laughlin insisted on changing the Census Bureau's terminology to "the socially inadequate" and adding to its rolls large, stratified contingents of the unfit, especially along racial lines. Laughlin's concept of social inadequacy would encompass those who "entail a drag upon those members of the community who have sufficient insight, initiative, competence, physical strength and social instincts to enable them to live effective lives .... " [3]

The Census Bureau refused. It stubbornly claimed that Laughlin's newly concocted term, socially inadequate, if used publicly, would surely "call forth criticism and protest." Nor would it accept any of Laughlin's substitute categories, such as "submerged tenth" or "the sub-social classes." To adhere to the legal descriptions of the project -- and follow the most conservative line -- the Census Bureau insisted on its traditional appellations, "defective, dependent and delinquent." [4]

A war of nomenclature erupted, one Laughlin described as a "tempest in a teapot." It raged for more than two years. First, the Census Bureau polled its own stable of social science experts, who reacted with "caustic criticism." Unwilling to back down, Laughlin consulted his own bevy of experts, and then, disregarding any direction from the Census Bureau, employed the term socially inadequate anyway when he requested information from 576 state and federal institutions. To rub his point in the Census Bureau's face, Laughlin asked the institutions not only for data, but also for their opinions about his choice of terminology. All but three of the institutions endorsed his new term, and he eventually swayed those three as well, achieving unanimity. Laughlin saw this as more than vindication for his position. [5]

The Census Bureau did not. Although the outbreak of World War I interrupted the project, in May of 1919 the bureau finalized and then published Laughlin's work under the title it chose, Statistical Directory of State Institutions for the Defective, Dependent and Delinquent Classes. Determined to have the last word, Laughlin published a vituperative article in the Journal of Sociology, recounting the quarrel in detail. Quoting page after page of support for his position from prominent sociologists and officials he had worked with, Laughlin publicly castigated the Census Bureau for lack of leadership and scientific timidity. [6]

Following the irksome, years-long experience, the Census Bureau refused all but cosmetic cooperation with eugenicists. Laughlin, in his capacity as secretary of the Eugenics Research Association, wrote to Samuel Rogers, director of the census, in 1918, asking if the bureau planned to identify nine classes of "socially inadequate." Rogers formally replied that no such data would be gathered, except the names and addresses of the deaf and blind, as previously collected. [7]

At a 1919 conference, the ERA Executive Committee decided to try to convince the Census Bureau to conduct "an experimental genealogical survey of a selected community." Three days later, the ERA formally petitioned Census Bureau Director Rogers to add two additional columns titled Ancestry to the paper questionnaires or enumeration sheets. "In the interest of race betterment," the two new columns, to be situated between the existing columns eleven and twelve, would identify the mother, by maiden name, and the father. "Family ties would be established," explained the ERA request, "and thus all census enumeration records would become available for genealogical and family pedigree-studies." The ERA predicted that these records would "constitute the greatest and most valuable genealogical source in the world." Writing in the Journal of Heredity, Laughlin advocated the two additional columns so that any "individual could be located from census to census and generation to generation .... Such investigations would be of the greatest social and political value." [8]

The proposals became more and more grandiose as the government's capacity for data retrieval and analysis increased. But any cooperation between the Census Bureau and American eugenics was for all practical purposes destroyed by Laughlin's dogmatic insistence on employing charged terminology more pejorative than the Census Bureau was willing to adopt. [9]

Despite a year-to-year cascade of petitions, letters, scientific articles and eugenic rationales urging the agency to create a massive registry of American citizens that could be marked as fit or unfit, the Census Bureau stands out as one federal organization that simply refused to join the movement. [10]

Rebuffed by the Census Bureau, Laughlin turned his attention to other government agencies, using his official bureau contacts with hundreds of state and federal institutions. His goal was to create further classifications that other bureaus and agencies of the federal government could adopt. An official 1922 booklet distributed by the U.S. House of Representatives to administrators of state institutions was entitled "Classification Standards to be Followed in Preparing Data for the Schedule 'Racial and Diagnostic Records of Inmates of State Institutions', prepared by Harry Laughlin." It listed sixty-five racial classifications. Classification #15 was German Jew, #16 was Polish Jew, #17 was Russian Jew, #25 was North Italian, #26 was South Italian, #30 was Polish ("Polack"), #61 was Mountain White, #62 was American Yankee, #63 was American Southerner and #64 was Middle West American. [11] If the Census Bureau would not adopt his eugenic classifications, Laughlin hoped the states would.

Virginia was eager, thanks to its registrar of vital statistics, Walter Ashby Plecker. Plecker considered himself a product of the Civil War, even though he was born in Virginia in 1861, just as the conflict began. Memories of his youth in Augusta County, Virginia, during the turbulent Reconstruction years, were influenced greatly by a beloved Negro family servant called Delia. In many ways, Delia represented the emotional strength of the whole family. As was common, she essentially raised Plecker as a young boy, exercising "extensive control" over his activities and earning his lasting gratitude. Plecker's sister sobbed at Delia's wedding at the thought of losing the connection, and Delia broke down as well. When Plecker's mother fell ill for the last time, she sent for Delia to nurse her back to health if possible. In his mother's final hour, it was Delia who comforted her at her deathbed, and when the moment came, it was Delia who tenderly placed her fingers on the woman's eyelids and shut them for the last time. No wonder Delia was remembered in the mother's will. No wonder that Plecker, as executor of his mother's estate, warmly wrote the first bequest check to Delia. From Plecker's point of view, Delia was family. [12]

Fond memories of Delia did not prevent Walter A. Plecker from becoming a fervent raceologist and eugenicist, however. He detested the notion of racial and social mixing in any form. His obsession with white racial purity would turn him into America's preeminent demographic hunter of Blacks, American Indians and other people of color. In the process, Plecker fortified Virginia as the nation's bastion of eugenic racial salvation. Plecker's fanaticism propelled him into a lifelong crusade to codify the existence of just two races: white and everything else.

Plecker began his career in medicine, receiving a degree from the University of Maryland at Baltimore, and then continuing in obstetrics at the New York Polyclinic. He opened a practice in Virginia and quickly became involved with family records, at one point serving as a pension examiner. Plecker moved his practice to Birmingham, Alabama, for several years, but soon returned to his beloved Virginia. He settled in Elizabeth City County, one of the eight original Virginia shires created in 1634. Elizabeth City County was intensely proud of its genealogical heritage. The historic county's citizens included many so-called First Families of Virginia, that is, Colonial settlers. Meticulous family records had been kept, but were in large part destroyed during the numerous battles and town burnings of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War. After the Civil War, Elizabeth City County meticulously restored and reorganized its population records. [13]

In 1900, Elizabeth City County created a health department, along with a section of vital statistics to document births and death. A few years later, Plecker was hired as a county health officer, where he fastidiously recorded life cycle events. One triracial Hampton, Virginia, family that he first encountered in 1905 made quite an impact on him. After delivering their baby boy, Plecker at bedside registered the mother as "Indian and colored," and the husband as "Indian and white." Later, the woman's daughter ran off with a white man, marrying in another state. The young couple then returned to Hampton as a second-generation racially mixed marriage. [14] Plecker was appalled by the racial permissiveness of Virginia's system.

Later, when Plecker observed a local Negro death rate twice that of whites, he began to investigate, pursuing a goal of "near 100% registration of births and deaths." Population statistics and registration became more than a fascination; they became his mission. His proficiency at registering citizens made Plecker a natural pick in 1912 to help draft the state's new law creating the Bureau of Vital Statistics. At age fifty-one, Plecker was invited to head the new agency as registrar and to set his own salary. He was so dedicated to population registration that he magnanimously asked "for little more than subsistence." Virginia's 1912 statute established registration of the state's citizens by race -- without clear definitions. Yet for three hundred years Virginia had produced racially mixed citizens by virtue of the state's original Colonial settlement, its indigenous Indian population, a thriving slave system, and waves of European immigration. [15]

But a desire for general population registration was not what drove Plecker. He was hardly devoted to the statistical sciences or demographics. He was simply a racist. Plecker's passion was for keeping the white race pure from any possible mixture with Black, American Indian or Asian blood. The only real goal of bureaucratic registration was to prevent racially mixed marriages and social mixing -- to biologically barricade the white race in Virginia.

In an official Virginia State Health Bureau pamphlet, Plecker declared: "The white race in this land, is the foundation upon which rests its civilization, and is responsible for the leading position which we occupy amongst the nations of the world. Is it not, therefore, just and right that this race decide for itself what its composition shall be, and attempt, as Virginia has, to maintain its purity?" [16]

Plecker was no authority on eugenics, however. He was a proud member of the American Eugenics Society, but that required no real scientific expertise for membership. Nor did Plecker really comprehend the tenets of Mendelian genetics or heredity. Years after he became a leading exponent of eugenic raceology, Plecker wrote to Laughlin for advice on race mixing formulas, and confided, "I am not satisfied with the accuracy of my own knowledge as to the result of racial intermixture with repeated white crossings." He added that he just didn't understand Davenport's complex protoplasmic discussion of skin color, explaining, "I have never felt justified in believing that ... children of mulattoes are really white under Mendel's Law." [17]

Although he cloaked his crusade under the mantle of eugenic science, Plecker did not mind confessing his real motive to Laughlin. "While we are interested in the eugenical records of our citizens," Plecker wrote the ERa, "we are attempting to list only the mixed breeds who are endeavoring to pass into the white race." [18] In other words, Plecker could not be distracted with complex formulas and eugenic charts tracing a spectrum of racial and subraciallineages. In Virginia, you were either ancestrally white or you weren't.

Plecker introduced new techniques in registering births and deaths. In July of 1921, for instance, the Bureau of Vital Statistics mailed a special warning to each of Virginia's 2,500 undertakers. Plecker reminded them that under the law, death certificates could not simply be mailed, but must be delivered in person for verity's sake. Nor could a body be removed or buried without a proper burial permit. An extra permit was needed to ship a body. Moreover, Plecker demanded that coffin dealers provide monthly reports of "all sales of which there is any doubt, giving the address of purchaser, or head of the family, and name of deceased with place and date." [19] Under Plecker's rule, no one was permitted to die in Virginia without leaving a long racial paper trail.

Plecker would enforce similar regimens with midwives and obstetricians, town clerks and church clerics -- anyone who could attest to the racial makeup of those who lived and died in Virginia. Over the next several years, he created a cross-indexed system that recorded more than a million Virginia births and deaths since 1912. He also catalogued thousands of annual marriages, each filed under both husband's and wife's name. The data quickly became too voluminous for index cards. Plecker created a complicated but unique system to store the massive troves of information. Clerks would type all the names "on to sheets of the best linen paper, using unfading carbon ribbons," Plecker once explained in a flourish of braggadocio, adding, "We make these in triplicate and bind them in books. These [names] can be quickly referred to as easily as you can find a word in the dictionary." Eventually, Plecker hoped to secure state funding to reconstruct as many records as possible going back to 1630 and then "indexing these by our system." [20]

Plecker planned to add the names of all epileptics, insane, feebleminded and criminals, which would be gathered from the state's hospitals, prisons, city bureaus and county clerks, bestowing on Virginia a massive eugenical database that would reach back to the first white footfalls on Virginia soil. "The purpose will be to list degenerates and criminals," he assured. [21] Of course the ERO was also assembling hundreds of thousands of names, but its extensive rolls only amounted to a patchwork of lineages from counties speckled around the country. Plecker's vision would deliver America's first statewide eugenic registry -- a real one.

It is important to understand that while carrying the banner of eugenics, Plecker's true passion never varied. It was always about preserving the purity of the white race. Millions of inscribed linen pages and thousands of leather-bound volumes could be filled, but Plecker would never achieve his real goal without dramatic legislative changes. Existing state laws outlawing mixed-race marriages, including Virginia's, were simply too permissive. In the first place, most states varied on what exactly constituted a Negro or colored person. At least six states forbade whites from marrying half-Negroes or mulattoes. Nearly a dozen states prohibited whites from marrying those of one-quarter or even one-eighth Negro ancestry. Others were simply vague. Virginia's own blurred statutes had allowed extensive intermarriage through the generations: between whites and light-skinned Negroes, White-Indian- Negro triracials, mulattoes, and others. Plecker and the ERO called this process the "mongrelization" of Virginia's white race. [22]

To halt mongrelization, a coalition of Virginia's most powerful whites organized a campaign to create the nation's stiffest marriage restriction law. It would ban marriage between a certified white person and anyone with even "one drop" of non-Caucasian blood. The key would be mandatory statewide registration of all persons, under Plecker's purview as registrar of the Bureau of Vital Statistics. Leading the charge for the new legislation were Plecker and two friends, the musician John Powell and the journalist Earnest S. Cox. [23]

Powell was one of Virginia's most esteemed composers and concert pianists. Ironically, he built his musical reputation on performing his Rhapsodie Negre, which wove Negro themes and spirituals into a popular sonata form. Later, as Powell became more race conscious, he claimed that Negroes had stolen their music from the "compositions of white men." Powell decried the American melting pot as a "witch's cauldron." [24]

Cox led the White America Society, and authored the popular racist tome, White America (1923), which warned of the mongrelization of the nation. "[The] real problems when dealing with colored races," trumpeted Cox, "[is] the sub-normal whites who transgress the color line in practice and the super-normal whites who [only] oppose the color line in theory." Eugenical News effusively reviewed Cox's book, stating, "America is still worth saving for the white race and it can be done. If Mr. E.S. Cox can bring it about, he will be a greater savior of his country than George Washington. We wish him, his book and his 'White America Society' god-speed." Plecker, Cox and Powell created a small but potent white supremacist league known as the Anglo-Saxon Clubs, which would become pivotal in the registration crusade. [25]

Despite their virulent racism, the Anglo-Saxon Clubs claimed they harbored no ill will toward Negroes. Why? Because now it was just science -- eugenic science. The Anglo-Saxon Clubs could boast, "'One drop of negro blood makes the negro' is no longer a theory based on race pride or color prejudice, but a logically induced, scientific fact." As such, even the group's constitution proclaimed its desire "for the supremacy of the white race in the United States of America, without racial prejudice or hatred." [26] This was the powerful redefining nature of eugenics-in action.

The Anglo-Saxon Clubs and their loose confederation of local branches successfully petitioned the Virginia General Assembly and quickly brought about Senate Bill #219 and House Bill #311, each captioned "An Act to Preserve Racial Integrity." The legislation would require all Virginians to register their race and defined whites as those with "no trace whatsoever of any blood other than Caucasian." As one Norfolk editorialist described the proposal, "Each person, not already booked in the Vital Statistics Bureau will be required to take out a sort of passport correctly setting forth his racial composition .... " This passport or certificate would be required before any marriage license could be granted. Pure whites could only marry pure whites. All other race combinations would be allowed to intermarry freely. [27]

The Anglo-Saxon Clubs found a powerful ally in their campaign. The state's leading newspaper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, allowed its pages to become a megaphone for the legislation. In July of 1923, for example, Cox and Powell published side-by-side articles entitled "Is White America to Become a Negroid Nation?" The men claimed their proposed legislation was based on sound Mendelian eugenics that now conclusively proved that when two human varieties mixed, "the more primitive ... always dominates in the hybrid offspring." The Richmond Times-Dispatch supported the idea in an editorial. [28]

On February 12, 1924, Powell enthralled a packed Virginia House of Delegates with his call to stop Negro blood from further mongrelizing the state's white population. "POWELL ASKS LAW GUARDING RACIAL PURITY" proclaimed the Richmond Times-Dispatch's page one headline. Subheads read "Rigid Registration System is Needed" and "Bill Would Cut Short Marriage of Whites with Non-Whites." The newspaper's lead paragraph called the address "historic." Leaving little to doubt, the article made clear that a "rigid system of registration" would halt the race mixing and mongrelization arising from centuries of procreation by whites with Negro slaves and their descendants. Such preeminent eugenic raceologists as Madison Grant were quoted extensively to reaffirm the scientific necessity underpinning the legislative effort. Lothrop Stoddard, a member of Margaret Sanger's board of advisors, was also quoted, declaring, "I consider such legislation ... to be of the highest value and greatest necessity in order that the purity of the white race be safeguarded from possibility of contamination with nonwhite blood .... This is a matter of both national and racial life and death." [29]

Virginia's legislature, in Richmond, was soon scheduled to debate what was now dubbed the "Racial Integrity Act." It was the same 1924 session of the legislature that had enacted the law for mandatory sterilization of mental defectives that was successfully applied to Carrie Buck. On February 18, 1924, with the forthcoming debate in mind, the Richmond Times-Dispatch published a rousing editorial page endorsement that legislators were sure to read. Employing eugenic catchphrases, the newspaper reminded readers that when "amalgamation" between races occurred, "one race will absorb the other. And history shows that the more highly developed strain always is the one to go. America is headed toward mongrelism; only ... measures to retain racial integrity can stop the country from becoming negroid in population .... Thousands of men and women who pass for white persons in this state have in their veins negro blood ... it will sound the death knell of the white man. Once a drop of inferior blood gets in his veins, he descends lower and lower in the mongrel scale." [30]

Despite the bill's popular appeal, legislators were unwilling to ratify the measure without two adjustments. First, the notion of mandatory registration was considered an "insult to the white people of the state," as one irritated senator phrased it. Plecker confided to a minister, "The legislature was about to vote the whole measure down when we offered it making registration optional." Mandatory registration was deleted from the bill. Second, a racial loophole was permitted (over Plecker's objection), this to accommodate the oldest and most revered Virginia families who proudly boasted of descending from pre-Colonial Indians, including Pocahontas. Plecker's original proposal only allowed those with one-sixty-fourth Indian blood or less to be registered as white. This was broadened by the senators to one-sixteenth Indian blood, with the understanding that many of Virginia's finest lineages included eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Indian ancestors. [31]

Virginia's Racial Integrity Act was ratified on March 8, 1924, and became effective on June 15. Falsely registering one's race was defined as a felony, punishable by a year in prison. [32]

As soon as the law was enacted, Plecker began circulating special bulletins. The first went out in March of 1924, even before the effective date of the law. Under the insignia of the Virginia Department of Health, a special "Health Bulletin," labeled "Extra #1" and entitled "To Preserve Racial Integrity," laid out strict instructions to all local registrars and other government officials throughout the state. "As color is the most important feature of this form of registration," the instructions read, "the local registrar must be sure that there is no trace of colored blood in anyone offering to register as a white person. The penalty for willfully making a false claim as to color is one year in the penitentiary .... The Clerk must also decide the question of color before he can issue a marriage license .... You should warn any person of mixed or doubtful color as to the risk of making a claim as to his color, if it is afterwards found to be false." Health Bulletin Extra #1 defined various levels of white-Negro mixtures, such as mulatto, quadroon, octoroon, colored and mixed. Along with the bulletin, Plecker distributed the first 65,000 copies of State Form 59, printed on March 17, "Registration of Birth and Color -- Virginia." [33]

Health Bulletin #2 was mailed several days later and warned, "It is estimated that there are in the state from 10,000 to 20,000, possibly more, near white people, who are known to possess an intermixture of colored blood, in some cases to a slight extent, it is true, but still enough to prevent them from being white. In the past, it has been possible for these people to declare themselves as white .... Then they have demanded the admittance of their children into the white schools, and in not a few cases have intermarried with white people .... Our Bureau has kept a watchful eye upon the situation." Bulletin #2 reminded everyone that a year of jail time awaited anyone who violated the act. [34]

Plecker quickly began using his office, letterhead and the public's uncertainty about the implications of the new law to his advantage. His letters and bulletins informed and sometimes hounded new parents, newlyweds, rnidwives, physicians, funeral directors, ministers, and anyone else the Bureau of Vital Statistics suspected of being or abetting the unwhite. [35]

April 30, 1924 Mrs. Robert H. Cheatham Lynchburg, Virginia

We have a report of the birth of your child, July 30th, 1923, signed by Mary Gildon, midwife. She says that you are white and that the father of the child is white. We have a correction to this certificate sent to us from the City Health Department at Lynchburg, in which they say that the father of this child is a negro. This is to give you warning that this is a mulatto child and you cannot pass it off as white. A new law passed by the last legislature says that if a child has one drop of negro blood in it, it cannot be counted as white. You will have to do something about this matter and see that this child is not allowed to mix with white children. It cannot go to white schools and can never marry a white person in Virginia.

It is an awful thing.

Yours very truly, WA. Plecker STATE REGISTRAR [36]

Plecker followed this with a short note to the midwife, Mary Gildon.

This is to notify you that it is a penitentiary offense to willfully state that a child is white when it is colored. You have made yourself liable to very serious trouble by doing this thing. What have you got to say about it?

Yours very truly, WA. Plecker STATE REGISTRAR [37]

Plecker's friend Powell of the Anglo-Saxon Clubs was copied on both letters. A small handwritten notation at the top left read, "Dear Mr. Powell: This is a specimen of our daily troubles and how we are handling them." [38]

Plecker acted on rumor, consulted arcane tax and real estate documents, and of course whatever records were available from various eugenic sources. On July 29,1924, Plecker wrote to W H. Clark, who lived at Irish Creek in Rockbridge County. "I do not know you personally and have no positive assurance as to your racial standing, but I do know that an investigation made some time ago by the Carnegie Foundation of the people of mixed descent in Amherst County found the Clark family one of those known to be thus mixed. We learned also that members of this family and of other mixed families have crossed over from Amherst County and are now living on Irish Creek." After informing Clark that his ancestors included "three Indians who mixed with white and negro people," Plecker asserted that the man was now one of five hundred individuals who would be removed from the list of white people. [39]

Adding a threat of prosecution, Plecker warned, "We do not expect to be easy upon anyone who makes a misstatement and we expect soon to be in possession of facts which we can take into court if necessary." Plecker seemed to enjoy taunting the racially suspect. He sardonically added that he looked forward to tarring even more of Clark's extended family. "I will be glad to hear what you have to say," quipped Plecker, "and particularly to have the dates and places of the births and marriages of yourself, your parents and grandparents." [40]

Plecker was equally ruthless with his own registrars. One was Pal S. Beverly, a registrar in Pera, Virginia. Beverly had bitterly complained that registration of his own family as white had been overruled by Plecker. Records unearthed by Plecker showed Beverly to be a so-called "Free Issue" egro, that is, a class of freed slave. "Because of your constant agitation," Plecker wrote him on October 12, 1929, "of the question that you are a white man and not a member of the 'Free Issue' group of Amherst, as you and your ancestors have been rated, we wrote to you recently asking for the names of your father and of his father and your grandfather's mother." [41]

Plecker had probed Beverly's family tree for generations. The registrar laid it out for him in stunning and damning detail. "The certificate of death of your mother Leeanna (or Leander) Francis Beverly, Nov. 5, 1923, states that she was the wife of Adolphus Beverly," informed Plecker. "This certificate was signed by you when you were our local registrar." Plecker then checked Adolphus Beverly's 1881 marriage license and discovered that Beverly's father was listed as colored. Plecker then investigated Adolphus Beverly's father, Frederick. In the Personal Property Tax Book for the years 1846 through 1851, Frederick was listed as a freed slave. Frederick was born in 1805 and was recorded in the census along with his older brother, Samuel -- and on and on. [42]

"I am notifying you finally," Plecker informed Beverly, "that you can have no other rating in our office under the Act of 1924 than that of a mulatto or colored man, regardless of your personal appearance, voting list, or statements which any persons may make to petitions in your behalf .... I want to notify you further that any effort that you make to register yourself or your family in our office as white is, under the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, a felony making you liable to a penalty of one year in the penitentiary." For extra measure, he added that the bureau had identified numerous other mixed-race individuals in the county named Beverly. [43]

As promised, Plecker began decertifying the extended family members of Pal Beverly. Among them was Mascott Hamilton of Glasgow, in Rockbridge County, Virginia. After Plecker's ruling, Hamilton's children were thrown out of the white school they attended. When Hamilton threatened to sue, Plecker gleefully replied, "I am glad to learn from you the fact that your children are kept out of the white schools .... " He presented the point-by-point documentation: "You and your wife belong to the group of people known as 'free issues' who are classed in Amherst County where they started as of free Negro stock, the name they were called by before the War Between the States to distinguish them from slave Negroes .... Your wife's mother married Price Beverly, a grandson of Frederick Beverly, who was a son of Bettie Buck or (Beverly) who was a slave and set free and sent to Amherst by her owner Peter Rose of Buckingham County, together with her sons Frederick and Samuel. Your wife's grandmother, Aurora Wood married Richard, a son of the freed negro, Frederick Beverly." [44]
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Re: War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to

Postby admin » Thu Jul 31, 2014 2:26 am


The litany continued. "The children which you refer to were probably your wife's by her divorced husband Sam Roberts, who is shown to be an illegitimate son of Jennie Roberts. You did not marry Dora till 1925. The Roberts family is also of true 'free issue' stock. Your wife gave birth to one child two months after she was married to Sam Roberts. Does she say that the father was a white man and not her husband? What a mess -- trying to be white!!" [45]

Plecker scoffed, "Your wife's history shows a complete line of illegitimacy and she claims this as the ground upon which she hopes to be classified as white. It would be difficult to find a white family except of feebleminded people in the state with such a record." Ending with his standard threat, Plecker warned, "It is a penitentiary offense to try to register as white a child with any ascertainable trace of negro blood, and that when you go into court you will have this charge to face." [46]

Similarly denigrating correspondence was mailed across the state. In May of 1930, Plecker notified the wife of Frank C. Clark, of rural Alleghany County, that her protestations of a white appearance and years of living as white were meaningless. "The question of whether or not there is any trace of negro blood present is determined by the record of ancestors and not by the appearance of an individual at the present day after securing crossings of white blood. either does the securing of marriage licenses, and registering children falsely as white establish the racial origin." Her father-in-law's colored marriage license, and the state's pre-Civil War tax records, "establishes the colored ancestry of your husband Frank C. Clark." [47]

Plecker then enumerated the genealogical details of Mrs. Clark's mother, Elena, her grandmother, Ella, and even her great-great-grandmother, Creasy, "who was said to have been 'a little brown-skinned Negro who lived to be nearly one hundred years old.''' In closing, Plecker admonished, "All descendants of the people referred to above are colored and will be so considered in our office. They cannot legally marry into the white race nor attend white schools. Anyone who registers the births of descendants of the above as white ... makes himself or herself liable to one year in the penitentiary." [48]

In one case, four mulattoes from one family married white spouses, two in Washington, D.C., one in a distant Virginia town, and one in an undetermined location. When they returned to their hometown, Plecker tracked them all down and called the police. The couples "fled before the warrants issued for their arrest were served," Plecker recounted to a friend. [49]

In another case, Plecker investigated a Grayson County couple married five years earlier. The couple had just given birth to a son. After a review of the birth certificate and other records, the man was found to be white, but Plecker determined his wife to be of Negro descent. Plecker essentially unmarried the couple. He ruled, "They were married illegally and under the laws of Virginia, they are not legally married. Both are liable to the State Penitentiary." That ruling and any attendant information was forwarded to the Commonwealth Attorney for prosecution. [50]

Plecker's relentless crusade continued for years. His typical workday began at 8:30 in the morning and ended at 5:00, and he usually put in a half-day on Saturdays. Two assistants, Miss Marks and Miss Kelly, helped him manage his constant correspondence as he probed for clues about individuals' racial composition and then consummated his investigations with elaborate, combative missives. [51]

More than just prohibiting marriage and school admittance, he also tried to keep everyone but certified whites from riding in the white railroad coaches. He even pressured white cemeteries. When Riverview Cemetery in Charlottesville tried to bury someone of suspected Negro bloodline, Plecker protested, "This man is of negro ancestry .... To the white owner of a lot, it might prove embarrassing to meet with negroes visiting at one of their graves on the adjoining lot." [52]

When he didn't possess actual documentation, the registrar was more than willing to fake it. In 1940, fifteen citizens in Pittsylvania County had petitioned Plecker to bar the five children of the King Family from attending white school "on account of being of negroid mixture." Plecker contacted the chairman of the Pittsylvania County school board seeking information on the five students admitting "we have no information in regard to them ... [and] no way of proving facts from the record." Plecker explained, "We are particularly desirous of knowing whether a negro man is the reputed father of these children, and if possible, his name." Until that time, Plecker assured the school official, "We will preserve [the petitions of the fifteen people] in our files as evidence ... and upon that information we will designate any of these children found in our records as colored -- regardless." [53]

In one episode, the Bedford County clerk, Mr. Nichols, contacted Plecker to confirm the racial status of a young man seeking to marry a white girl. The young man's complexion was one of mixed parentage. Plecker wrote back, "We do not know whether we can establish his racial descent until we have had further information as to his family .... [But] if this young man has the appearance of being mulatto and cannot prove the contrary, I would suggest that no license be granted to him." Two days later, the young couple went to the next county, Roanoke County, and successfully secured their marriage license. Plecker discovered it after the fact, haranguing the issuing clerk, "We have no positive information as to the man's pedigree, we can only surmise it from Mr. Nichols' observation as to his appearance. [But] shall this man ... be turned loose upon the community to raise more mulatto children?" [54]

Plecker proselytized and chastised anyone who would listen. His Bureau of Vital Statistics regularly published radical racist and eugenic literature, which was distributed to thousands of doctors, ministers, teachers, morticians and racial integrity advocates. One series of official tracts, entitled the "New Family Series," was aimed at youngsters to heighten their awareness of "dangers threatening the integrity and supremacy of the white race." The bureau's 1925 annual report to the governor was itself widely disseminated as a special health bulletin. In that report, Plecker lamented, "Not a few white women are giving birth to mulatto children. These women are usually feebleminded, but in some cases they are simply depraved. The segregation or sterilization of feebleminded females is the only solution to the problem." [55]

The 1924 state publication, Eugenics and the New Family, insisted, "The variation in races is not simply a matter of color of skin, eyes, and hair and facial and bodily contour, but goes through every cell of the body. The mental and moral characteristics of a black man cannot even under the best environments and educational advantages become the same as those of a white man. But even if the negro's attainments should be considerable, these could not be transmitted to his offspring since personally acquired qualities are not inheritable. Neither can the descendents of the union of the two races if left to their own resources, be expected to develop or maintain the highest type of civilization." [56]

When Virginia's Racial Integrity Act was passed in 1924, Plecker became an immediate hero among raceologists and eugenicists across America. He addressed major eugenic conferences and authored special articles on the topic for Eugenical News, the American Eugenics Society's Eugenics, and various eugenic research anthologies. Laughlin was so impressed that he cited Plecker's work in the 1929 edition of the American Year Book "for leadership in establishing new racial integrity laws in the American states." [57]

Plecker's audience expanded beyond eugenic circles. The American Public Health Association invited him to read a paper before its fifty-third Annual Meeting in October of 1924, in Detroit. At the event, Plecker preached to the nation's most important public health officials that whites and nonwhites could not "live in close contact without injury to the higher [whites], amounting in many cases to absolute ruin. The lower [nonwhites] never has been and never can be raised to the level of the higher." The association was so taken with Plecker's advocacy that it reprinted much of his speech in the American Journal of Public Health. The journal praised Virginia's law as "the most perfect expression of the white ideal, and the most important eugenical effort that has been made in the past 4,000 years." Such platforms only served to legitimize Plecker's views. [58]

Soon Plecker was pushing for similar "one drop" racial integrity laws in other states. Exporting such legislation was essential to his strategy since Virginians of any complexion could easily cross state lines to marry. In one article Plecker complained, "White and coloreds ... quietly move to Washington or northern States and become legally married. In some instances, they even return to their home State and live in marriage relations .... " [59]

To help make Virginia's race law a national standard, Virginia Governor E. Lee Trinkle proudly distributed copies of the Racial Integrity Act to every governor in America, with a personal letter requesting that they propose similar legislation in their own states. John Powell reported to one interested Midwestern legislator, "He [Trinkle] received thirty-one replies. Nineteen of these, most of them from southern governors, were noncommittal; eleven, the majority from the north and west, strongly approved; the only disapproval came from the governor of Minnesota." [60]

Powell added, "Of course, laws against intermarriage cannot solve the negro problem in any of its aspects -- industrial, economic, political, social, biological or eugenical. They can, however, delay the evil day and give time for the evolvement of an effective solution ... a real and final solution." [61]

Even if some governors were hesitant, legislators and activists across the nation were eager to replicate the law. Ohio senator Harry Davis requested more information, which Plecker provided along with a detailed briefing on the difficulties of lobbying such a bill. A Maryland lawmaker, John R. Blake, asked for a copy of the law plus a recommendation for a speaker to address the legislature. When the race-minded Reverend Wendell White of South Carolina wrote for more information on such a law, Plecker gladly sent it, bemoaning the vague response of that state's governor. Plecker encouraged the clergyman, "If such men as you and others will get behind him [the governor of South Carolina] and the legislature, you can get this or a better law across." [62]

To help, Plecker's Bureau of Vital Statistics mailed literature to legislators in "all of the States, appealing to them to join Virginia in a united move to preserve America as a White Nation." The first two states to emulate Virginia's statute were Alabama and Georgia. Wisconsin attempted to follow suit. Other states were slow to approve "one drop" measures, in part because of increasing civil rights activism. With methodical lobbying, however, the eugenics movement hoped to spur more such laws. To that end, Laughlin asked Plecker to compile a special chart for Eugenical News entitled "Amount of Negro Blood Allowed in Various States for Marriage to Whites." [63]

Plecker's bureaucratic ire did not confine itself to white and Negro unions. Asians were also barred from marrying whites. For instance, on February 28, 1940, Spotsylvania Circuit Court Clerk A. H. Crismond issued a marriage license to a local couple, Philip N. Saure and Elsie M. Thomas. Upon checking, Plecker discovered that the groom was a native of the Philippines and the bride an Italian-American born in Pittsburgh. Assuming the woman was white, Plecker chided, "You as Clerk were not authorized to issue a marriage license to a person of any of the colored races, including Filipinos." He lectured the clerk parenthetically in typical eugenic prose, "The Italians from the Island of Sicily are badly mixed with former negro slaves, and if this woman is from there, it is ... [possible] she herself would have a trace of negro blood." [64]

At about the same time, Plecker informed a California researcher that Virginia was also disallowing marriages between whites and Hindus because they were "of the colored races ... who are considered either Mongolian or Malay, I am not sure which." He told a South Boston, Virginia, contact that Portuguese were admixed with Negroes, and equally disqualified. His eugenic tracts bemoaned the presence of 500,000 to 750,000 Mexicans in Texas and called for their expulsion south of the border. [65]

But Plecker harbored a special animus toward one ethnic group. He despised Native Americans. Because he believed that American Indian tribes had intermixed for generations with whites and some Negroes, Plecker was satisfied that pure Indians no longer existed. To him, they were all mongrels. Worse, because Virginia's Racial Integrity Act contained a historic loophole for those with no more than one-sixteenth Indian ancestry, Plecker saw the exemption as a demographic escape tunnel for those of mixed Negro lineage. From the outset, Plecker embarked upon a furious campaign to eradicate American Indian identity.

Virginia's fabled history of settlement began with Indians. Years before any European landed in America, the Algonquin ruled the wooded lands which later became known as Virginia. Dashing Stream and his wife, Scent Flower, gave birth to Powhatan, who rose to become a noble chief ruling a federation of Algonquin tribes. Powhatan's daughter was the beautiful Pocahontas, who in legend and perhaps in fact saved Captain John Smith by persuading her father to spare Smith's life when he was Powhatan's captive. Ultimately, in a well-documented saga, she married John Rolfe and sailed for England, where in 1617 she died of smallpox at the age of twenty-two. Their Virginia descendants included the Randolphs, the Bollingses, the Rolfes, the Pendletons, the Smiths, the Wynnes, the Yateses, and many others who helped build Virginia during the earliest Colonial times and eventually constituted Virginia's aristocracy. [66]

But three hundred years of population admixture, genocide and oppressive living conditions for those who remained had reduced the continent's many once proud tribes to a decimated remnant. The U.S. Census Bureau counted Indians in varying ways at various times, employing an array of definitions, all subject to local discretion, throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Partially as a result of these inconsistencies, Indian demographic statistics ebbed and flowed in American population records, and their legal status was complex and troubled. But on June 2, 1924, Congress finally granted citizenship to all Indians not already naturalized under its Indian Citizenship Act. This law was ratified less than two weeks before the effective date of Virginia's own Racial Integrity Act. The new federal Indian law, together with Virginia's one-sixteenth Indian exemption, outraged Plecker. [67]

He embarked on a systematic effort to identify the lower class descendants of American Indians who had intermarried with whites and Negroes, and to reclassify them from Indian or white to mongrel. Among his main targets were the Monacan Indians, mainly of Amherst County, who descended from the Monacan Confederacy and dated back to Pocahontas's day. Others he pursued included the Rappahannock, Chickahominy and Pamunkey tribes. These Indian communities were small and often cloistered. Some two hundred dwelled in Rockbridge County. In King William County there were probably fewer than 250. In another county, there were just forty individuals who called themselves Indians but whom Plecker claimed derived instead from the illegitimate daughter of a Negro and a white. [68] All were targets for the registrar.

American Indians throughout the state vigorously objected when the Bureau of Vital Statistics attempted to reclassify them as Negro, or mongrel, or even nonwhite. "We had considerable trouble," Plecker admitted in a correspondence, "in establishing the position of the American Indian, and admitted those with one-sixteenth or less of Indian blood, to accommodate our Pocahontas descendants and one or two other cases known to us in the State. That clause, however, has given us much trouble, as a number of groups who have but a trace of Indian blood, the rest being negro and white, are claiming exemption under that clause. In at least one county, some who are descendent of antebellum 'free negroes' with a considerable admixture of illegitimate white blood, are claiming themselves Indians and seem to have been meeting with success." [69]

Most of Virginia's Indians were rural poor, living in modest cabins near mission churches. It was easy to marginalize them as unfit. Physically, most of them bore only the strong, classically handsome features of American Indians, including high cheekbones, thick black hair and their traditional complexion. Some, however, did possess blond hair, reflecting clear Anglo-Saxon parentage. A few, presumably descended from intermarriages with free Negroes in the prior century, possessed darker skin. [70]

Virginia's registrar, however, only allowed for two classifications, white and nonwhite. All 1,300 of Virginia's local registrars were under orders to watch for Indians with any trace of Negro ancestry registering as white. In at least one case, the local registrar consulted a hair comb hanging inside a Monacan church. "If it passes through the hair of an applicant," explained Plecker, "he is an Indian. If not, he is a negro." In a private letter, Plecker described the hair comb as being "about as reliable as some of their [the Indians'] other tests." In Eugenical News, he bragged that his "systematic effort to combat" what he called "near-whites" included utilizing "living informants" as well as the state's oldest tax and registration records. [71] If he couldn't get them one way he would get them another way.

Plecker employed his usual pejorative tactics in erasing "Indian" as a racial category from the state's records. He sarcastically accused one Indian family in Rockbridge County of having a bloodline that included several Indians who had intermarried with some whites and Negroes. He instructed local registrar Aileen Goodman to change their classification to "colored" and brashly notified the accused individual that, "In the future, no clerk in Virginia is permitted to issue a marriage license ... [to] persons of mixed descent with white people and our Bureau expects to make it very plain to clerks that this law must be absolutely enforced." The Rockbridge family members were no longer Indians. [72]

Even when no Negro bloodline was apparent, Plecker was adamant. He identified one man in Lexington, Virginia, as "one-fourth Indian, three-fourths white, who cannot be distinguished from a white man. He attended one of the colleges of Virginia, studied law, and married into a good family in Rockbridge County. There are several similar cases in Southwest Virginia where Indians ... have married white women and their children are passing as white." He informed the local registrar, "You see [to it] that the mixed people of your territory are registered either as colored or 'free issue.''' Disallowing even the category "mixed Indian," Plecker instructed, "the term 'mixed' without the word 'Indian' after it might be acceptable but we would prefer one of the other terms." The Lexington, Virginia, family members were no longer Indians. [73]

At one point Plecker visited an Indian church following its Sunday service, and after two hours sternly informed the assembled that no matter how they protested, they would be registered as "colored and would continue to be so and that none of them would be considered anything else." Some years later, when the clerk of Charles City tried to issue a marriage license to a member of the church, Reable Adkins, and even included the birth certificate attesting to the man's white lineage, Plecker simply changed the records. "We received this certificate for this birth with both parents given as white," he acknowledged. "Of course we will not accept the certificate in that way.... All of the Adkins group and others associated with them under their Chickahominy Charter are classed in our office as colored and never as white or Indian. In reply to your inquiry as to whether a marriage license should be issued to them other than colored, when they present birth certificates stating that they are Indian, I wish to state emphatically that this should not be done .... They are negroes and should always be classed as negroes, regardless of any birth certificate they present .... When the certificates come in to us we index and classify them as negroes." A special form was usually attached to the back of the certificate nullifying the category. Adkins family members were no longer Indians. [74]

Plecker's interference even extended beyond Virginia. For example, Plecker wrote to William Bradby of Detroit, Michigan, advising that his birth certificate claiming to be of "half-breed Indian" parentage would be disallowed. Leaving no room for argument, Plecker declared simply, "We do not recognize any native-born Indian as of pure Indian descent unmixed with negro blood." Bradby's family members were no longer Indians. [75]

To bolster his assertion that Indians simply no longer existed, only mongrel mixtures, Plecker turned for scientific support to the Carnegie Institution and its Eugenics Record Office. For years prior to the passage of Virginia's Racial Integrity Act, the ERO had focused on the Indians of Virginia as examples of the unfit. In 1926, the Carnegie Institution financed and published the results of extensive fieldwork by two of its Virginia researchers who had examined some five hundred tribal members in one area. The Carnegie Institution's book, printed under its own imprimatur with Davenport's close supervision, was entitled Mongrel Virginians. [76]

Mongrel Virginians was heralded for its academic completeness. It asserted that all living descendants of the several hundred Indians in question "have been visited time and again by one or both of the authors. In addition every known white, colored or Indian person in the county, state or nation who could furnish information concerning the deceased or living has been consulted and asked to give any material of value to the investigation." The Carnegie report lumped all of these Indians into one new group, which they called the "Win Tribe." Indeed, the subtitle of Mongrel Virginians was The Win Tribe. No one had ever heard of a Win Tribe prior to this volume. The book explained "Win" stood for "White- Indian-Negro." [77]

"The Wins themselves claim to be of Indian descent," the book asserted. "They are described variously as 'low down' yellow negroes, as Indians, [and] as 'mixed.' No one, however, speaks of them as white. The Wins themselves in general claim the Indian descent although most of them realize they are 'mixed,' preferring to speak of the 'Indian' rather than of a possibility of a negro mixture in them." [78]

The Carnegie report assessed their usefulness to society as follows: "It is evident from this study that the intellectual levels of the negro and the Indian race as now found is below the average for the white race. In the Wins, the early white stock was probably at least of normal ability, i.e. for the white .... [Today, however,] the whole Win tribe is below the average, mentally and socially. They are lacking in academic ability, industrious to a very limited degree and capable of taking little training. Some of them do rather well the few things they know, such as raising tobacco or corn -- a few as carpenters or bricklayers, but this has been the result of years of persistent supervision by the white landlords. Less than a dozen men work even reasonably well without a foreman .... Very few could tell the value of either twenty-five or seventy-five cents." [79]

Nor did the Carnegie report find redeeming qualities in the Indian culture it described. "There is practically no music among them," the study reported, "and they have no sense of rhythm even in the lighter mulatto mixtures. As is well known, the negro is 'full' of music. Some of them [the mulattoes] have been given special training in music, but no Win has ever shown any semblance of ability in this line." [80] No mention was made of the Indians' legendary rhythmic dances or songs and their many drums and other musical instruments.

Mongrel Virginians was accorded credibility because of its prestigious authorship, and its touted academic rigor. "Amidst the furor of newspaper and pamphlet publicity on miscegenation which has appeared since the passage of the Virginia Racial Integrity Law of 1924," the report assured, "this study is presented not as a theory or as representing a prejudiced point of view, but as a careful summary of the facts of history." [81]

Plecker seized on Mongrel Virginians to prove his point and help him reclassify Indians. He helped popularize the book around the state with his own enthusiastic reviews. Eugenical News extolled the study to the movement at large. [82]

Despite Mongrel Virginians, Indians and others fought back. Several sued Plecker from the beginning and made substantial progress in the courts. Plaintiffs' attorneys were often unyielding in their objections. One such attorney, J.R. Tucker, demanded that Plecker stop interfering with a birth certificate and threatened, "I find nowhere in the law any provision which authorizes the Registrar to constitute himself judge and jury for the purpose of determining the race of a child born and authorizing him to alter the record .... I desire and demand a correct copy of the record ... without comment from you and without additions or subtractions, and I hereby notify you that unless I obtain a prompt compliance ... I shall apply to a proper court for a mandamus to compel you." [83]

In a candid note, Plecker admitted to his cohort Powell that his bureau's strategy was based in no small way on simple intimidation. Tucker's ultimatum had rattled Plecker. "In reality," he conceded, "I have been doing a good deal of bluffing, knowing all the while that it could not be legally sustained. This is the first time my hand has absolutely been called." [84]

As early as November of 1924, one judge by the name of Henry Holt ruled against Plecker, setting the stage for a test case. "In twenty-five generations," wrote the judge in an incisive opinion, "one has thirty-two millions of grandfathers, not to speak of grandmothers, assuming there is no intermarriage. Half of the men who fought at Hastings were my grandfathers. Some of them were probably hanged, and some knighted. Who can tell? Certainly in some instances there was an alien strain. Beyond peradventure, I cannot prove that there was not." Nor could the judge find any two ethnologic authorities who could agree on the definition of pure Caucasian. [85]

Powell and Plecker worried about the judge's ruling. The commonwealth attorney was willing to pursue an appeal as a test case, but he also warned that the entire Racial Integrity Act might be struck down. They decided not to pursue the appeal. Plecker in turn assisted efforts to get the legislature to reduce the Pocahontas exemption, causing raucous debate within the state house and in the newspapers of Virginia. [86]

Plecker continued his crusade even after retiring in 1946 at the age of eighty-four. To the last day he was publishing racist pamphlets decrying mongrelization, defending the purity of the white race, decreeing demographic status family-by-family in a state and in an era when demographic status defined one's existence. In a final flourish, Plecker submitted his resignation with the declaration, "I am laying down this, my chief life work, with mingled feeling of pleasure and regret." He hoped to be dubbed "Registrar Emeritus." [87]

During his tenure, Walter A. Plecker dictated the nature of existence for millions of Americans, the living, the dead and the never born. His verdicts, often just his suspicions, in many ways defined the lives of an entire generation of Virginians -- who could live where, who could attend what school and obtain what education, who could marry whom, and even who could rest in peace in what graveyard. It was not achieved with an army of soldiers, but rather with a legion of registrars and millions of registration forms. He was able to succeed because his campaign was not about racism, nor mere prejudice, nor even white supremacy. It was about science.

Now that science was ready to spread across the seas.
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Re: War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to

Postby admin » Thu Jul 31, 2014 2:44 am

PART TWO: Eugenicide

CHAPTER 10: Origins

One morning in June of 1923, John C. Merriam, the Carnegie Institution's newly installed president, telephoned Charles Davenport at Cold Spring Harbor. Anticipation was in the air. A long-awaited eugenic countermeasure, loosely called "the plan," finally seemed within reach. "The plan" would create an American eugenic presence throughout the world even as inferior strains were eliminated in the United States. It was now important to be politically careful. Merriam, however, was worried about the behavior of Harry H. Laughlin. [1]

Merriam's hopeful phone call to Davenport had been years in the making. American eugenics had always sought a global solution. From the beginning, ERO leaders understood all too well that America was a nation of immigrants. But American eugenicists considered most of the immigrants arriving after 1890 to be genetically undesirable. This was because the 1890s witnessed the onset of the great Eastern and Southern European exodus to the United States, with throngs of non-English-speaking families crowding into the festering slums of New York and other Atlantic seaboard cities. [2]

Eugenicists viewed continued immigration as an unending source of debasement of America's biological quality. Sterilizing thousands of the nation's socially inadequate was seen as a mere exercise, that is, fighting "against a rising tide," unless eugenicists could also erect an international barrier to stop continuing waves of the unfit. Therefore the campaign to keep defective immigrants out of the country was considered equally important to the crusade to cleanse America of its genetic undesirables. This meant injecting eugenic principles into the immigration process itself -- both in the U.S. and abroad.

Immigration had always been a complex, emotionally-charged concept in the United States. A thousand valid arguments encompassing economics, health conditions, overcrowding, demographics and humanitarianism perpetually fed competing passions to either increase or decrease immigration. Moreover, the public and political mood twisted and turned as conditions in the country changed. Between 1880 and 1920, more than twenty million immigrants had flooded into the United States, mainly fleeing Europe's upheaval. More than eight million of that number arrived between 1900 and 1909. [3]

America's turn-of-the-century welcome was once poetically immortalized with the injunction: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore." [4] But after World War I, American society was in ethnic, economic and demographic turmoil. Now-curtailed war industries laid off millions. Returning "dough boys" needed work as well, only adding to widespread joblessness. Inflation ate into wages. African-Americans who had gone to war now expected employment as well; they had fought for their country, and now they wanted their sliver of the American dream. Dislocation bred discontent. Massive labor strikes paralyzed much of America during 1919, with some 22 percent of the workforce joining a job action at some point during that year. [5]

Moreover, demographic upheaval was reweaving the very fabric of American social structure. Boy soldiers raised on the farm suddenly turned into hardened men during trench warfare; upon returning they often moved to cities, ready for a new life. Postwar immigration boomed -- again, concentrated in the urban centers. The 1920 census revealed that for the first time in American history, the population majority had shifted from rural to urban areas. America was becoming urbanized, and mainly by immigrants. The 1920 census meant wrenching Congressional reapportionment, that is, a redrawing of district lines for seats in the House of Representatives. Eleven rural states were set to lose seats to more urbanized states. The House had expanded its available seats to 435 to preserve as much district status quo as possible. [6] But immigration remained the focal point of a political maelstrom.

To further inflame the day, race riots and ethnic strife ripped through the cities. African-Americans, back from soldiering, were tired of racism; they wanted a semblance of rights. At the same time, the Ku Klux Klan rose to never before seen prominence. The threat of Bolshevism worried the government and the average man. The Red Scare in the summer of 1919 pitted one ism against another. Marxism, communism, Bolshevism, and socialism sprang into the American consciousness, contending with capitalism. Race riots against African-Americans and mob violence against anarchistic Italians and perceived political rabble-rousers ignited throughout the nation. A man named]. Edgar Hoover was installed to investigate subversives, mainly foreign-born. [7]

As the twenties roared, they also growled and groaned about immigration. Along with the most recent huddled masses came widespread vexation about the future of American society. Legitimate social fears, ethnic combat and economic turmoil stimulated a plethora of restrictive reforms, some sensible, some extreme.

The best and worst of the nation's feelings about immigration were exploited by the eugenicists. They capitalized on the country's immigration stresses, as well as America's entrenched racism and pervasive postwar racial anxiety. Seizing the moment, the men of the Carnegie Institution injected a biological means test into the very center of the immigration morass, dragging yet another field of social policy into the sphere of eugenics.

As early as 1912, the eugenics movement's chief immigration strategist, Harvard professor Robert DeCourcy Ward, advocated eugenic screening of immigrant candidates before they even reached U.S. shores. Davenport enthusiastically wrote a colleague, "I thoroughly approve of the plan which Ward urges of inspection of immigrants on the other side." [8] Bolstered by other eugenic immigration activists, such as ophthalmologist Lucien Howe, Laughlin became the point man in the movement's efforts. Their goals were to rewrite immigration laws to turn on eugenic terminology, and to install an overseas genetic surveillance network.

Key to any success was Albert Johnson. Johnson was an ambitious small-town personage who would eventually acquire international potency. Born in 1869 in Springfield, Illinois, on the northern edge of the Mason- Dixon Line, Johnson grew up during the tempestuous Reconstruction years. His high school days were spent in provincial Kansas communities, including the newly created village of Hiawatha, and later Atchison, the state's river and railroad center. But Johnson was an urban newspaperman at heart, working first as a reporter on the Herald in St. Joseph, Missouri, and then the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. Within a few years he had joined the ranks of east coast journalists, becoming managing editor of Connecticut's New Haven Register in 1896, and two years later serving as a news editor of the Washington Post. After his stint with the Post, Johnson moved to Tacoma, Washington, where he worked as editor of the Tacoma News. Johnson then returned to his small-town roots as editor and publisher of the local newspaper in Hoquiam, Washington. In 1912, while publisher, he successfully ran for Congress. Johnson chaired the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization for twelve years, beginning in 1919. In that pivotal position, Johnson would shape American immigration policy for decades to come. [9] During his tenure, Johnson acted not only as a legislator, but also as a fanatic raceologist and eugenicist.

Even before Johnson rose to chair the Immigration Committee, Congress had enacted numerous immigration restrictions that were reactive, not eugenic, in nature, even if the legislation employed much of the same terminology. For example, a 1917 statute barred immigration for "all idiots, imbeciles, feebleminded persons, epileptics, insane persons ... [and] persons of constitutional psychopathic inferiority." Laughlin and his colleagues wanted to rewrite these classifications along strictly biological and racial lines. His idea? New legislation to create a corps of eugenic "immigration attaches" stationed at American consulates across Europe and eventually the entire world. These consuls would exclude "all persons sexually fertile ... who cannot ... demonstrate their eugenical fitness ... mental, physical and moral." Laughlin's proposed law was of paramount importance to eugenic stalwarts. As a leading immigration activist told Davenport in an October 1, 1920, letter, any new system would need to "heavily favor the Nordics" and ensure that "Asiatics, Alpines and Meds ... [are] diminished." [10]

The Journal of Heredity, formerly the American Breeders Magazine, trumpeted one of the movement's rationales for overseas screening in an article entitled "Immigration Restriction and World Eugenics." The article declared, "Just as we isolate bacterial invasions, and starve out the bacteria by limiting the area and amount of their food supply, so we can compel an inferior race to remain in its native habitat ... [which will] as with all organisms, eventually limit ... its influence." [11]

Premier racial theorist Madison Grant, president of the Eugenics Research Association and vice president of the Immigration Restriction League, was a close ally and confidant of Johnson's. Grant's influence with Congress on immigration was a recognized asset for the eugenics movement, and was well utilized. Davenport would periodically send him materials, including confidential reports done by social workers on individual New York immigrants deemed defective, "which you may be able to use with Congress." As far as Johnson was concerned, any immigration was too much immigration. In fact, Johnson had already introduced without success an emergency measure to suspend all immigration for two years. [12]

It wasn't long before Laughlin became the designated eugenic authority for Johnson's committee. Laughlin began in 1920 by offering Johnson the same definition of the "socially inadequate" previously rejected by the Census Bureau, together with the same flawed data. Unlike the Census Bureau, however, Johnson readily accepted these notions. He invited Laughlin to testify before a full House committee to formally espouse his raceology and lobby for the new legislation. [13]

Laughlin enthusiastically testified for two mornings, on April 16 and 17, 1920, invoking a gamut of eugenic arguments, from the history of the Jukes to the Tribe of Ishmael to the high cost of institutionalizing defective stock. At one point, when Laughlin was explaining one of his new terms for mental incompetence, a committee member interrupted and asked him how to spell it. Laughlin replied: "M-O-R-O-N. It is a Greek word meaning a foolish person." [14]

To stem the supply of morons and stymie further degeneracy, Laughlin asked Johnson to allow him to enable "testing the worth of immigrants ... in their home towns, because that is the only place where one can get eugenical facts .... For example, whether he comes from an industrious or shiftless family." But just as the terms feeblemindedness and blindness were vague and fundamentally undefined, the exact nature of shiftlessness was also unclear. Laughlin assured Johnson that this could be remedied. "General shiftlessness could easily be made into a technical term," he explained, "by a little definition in the law. It could be made a technical term by describing it by a 50-word paragraph .... " [15]

Laughlin emphasized that the quality and character of the individual candidate for immigration were not as important as his ancestral pedigree. "If the prospective immigrant is a potential parent, that is, a sexually fertile person," testified Laughlin, "then his or her admission should be dependent not merely upon present literacy, social qualifications and economic status, but also upon the possession in the prospective immigrant and in his family stock of such physical, mental, and moral qualities as the American people desire .... The lesson," he emphasized, "is that ... the family stock should be investigated, lest we admit more degenerate 'blood.''' [16]

Johnson, a proud champion of immigration quotas, was greatly impressed with Laughlin's expertise and saw its usefulness in drafting any restrictive legislation. The chairman promised to invite Laughlin back as an expert to help the committee deliberate on his proposal for eugenic attaches. Laughlin's two-day testimony and proposed law were published by the House under the title "The Biological Aspects of Immigration." [17]

When Laughlin came back to consult, an encouraged Johnson created a new title for him: "Expert Eugenics Agent." Laughlin was now empowered to conduct wide-ranging racial and immigration studies, and to present them as reliable Congressional data. His new authority included the power to print and circulate official committee correspondence and questionnaires, and mail them en masse at House expense. The first of these was a survey entitled "Racial and Diagnostic Record of State Institutions." It was printed on official House letterhead, with the committee members' names routinely listed at the top, but now with Laughlin's name added as "Expert Eugenics Agent." The form asked 370 state institutions -- hospitals, prisons, asylums -- in the forty-eight states to report the nationalities, races and problematic natures of their residents. Perhaps intentionally, private institutions were not queried, limiting the survey and its resulting data to the most needy and troubled within immigrant groups. [18]

Laughlin's target for the survey data was the 1924 legislative session. This was when temporary immigration quotas, enacted under Johnson's baton in 1921, were scheduled to be revised. Those restrictive quotas had calculated the percentages of the foreign born nation-by-nation, as enumerated by the 1910 census, and then limited each nation's new annual immigration to only 3 percent of that number. This had the effect of turning America's demographic clock back to 1910. But to eugenicists, this restrictive quota was not restrictive enough. Laughlin and his colleagues wanted to turn the clock back to 1890, before mass influxes from Eastern and Southern Europe had begun. Laughlin's study of "Racial and Diagnostic Records of State Institutions" would statistically prove that certain racial and national types were criminalistic and amoral by genetic nature. [19]

But the hundreds of state hospitals, prisons and other institutions spread across the United States all saw their residents' ancestries through different eyes using different terminology. To guide institutions in standardizing their responses, Laughlin circulated a supplemental Congressional publication entitled "Classification Standards to be Followed in Preparing Data for the Schedule 'Racial and Diagnostic Records of Inmates of State Institutions.'" His title, "Expert Eugenics Agent," was printed on the cover. The booklet listed sixty-five racial classifications to be employed. Classification #15 was German Jew, #16 was Polish Jew, #17 was Russian Jew, #18 was Spanish-American (Indian), #19 was Spanish- American (White), #25 was North Italian, #26 was South Italian, #29 was Russian, #30 was Polish (Polack), #61 was Mountain White, #62 was American Yankee, #63 was American Southerner, and #64 was Middle West American. Crimes to be classified for genetic purposes included several dozen categories ranging from homicide and arson to driving recklessly, disorderly conduct, and conducting business under an assumed name. The data collected would all go into one mammoth Mendelian database to help set race-based immigration quotas. [20]

The Carnegie Institution was no bystander to Laughlin's operation. Laughlin regularly kept Carnegie president John Merriam briefed on the special Congressional privileges and testing regimens placed at the disposal of the eugenics movement. Merriam authorized Carnegie statistician J. Arthur Harris to validate the reliability of the data Laughlin would offer Congress. However, Laughlin's derogatory raceological assertions were now becoming more public, and Merriam feared that his views would not be popular with America's vocal minorities. [21]

In November of 1922, Laughlin's statistics-filled presentation to Congress was published as "Analysis of America's Modern Melting Pot." It contained copious racial and ethnic denigrations. Johnson declared that the entire session would be published officially with the pejorative subtitle "Analysis of the Metal and Dross in America's Modern Melting Pot." The dross was the human waste in American society. Laughlin's testimony insisted, "Particularly in the field of insanity, the statistics indicate that America, during the last few years, has been a dumping ground for the mentally unstable inhabitants of other countries." [22]

During his testimony about the melting pot, Laughlin told the House, "The logical conclusion is that the differences in institutional ratios, by races and nativity groups ... represents real differences in social values, which represent, in turn, real differences in the inborn values of the family stocks from which the particular inmates have sprung. These degeneracies and hereditary handicaps are inherent in the blood." Laughlin asked for authority to conduct additional racial studies of "Japanese and Chinese ... Indians ... [and] Negroes." He appended a special statistical qualification for Jews, explaining, "The Jews are not treated as a separate nation, but are accredited to their respective countries of birth." As such, he urged a separate "study of the Jew as immigrant with special reference to numbers and assimilation." [23]

Laughlin's constant racial and ethnic derogations were no longer confined to scholarly journals, but were now echoing in Congressional hearing rooms. Indeed, a graphic raceological immigration exhibit from a recent eugenics conference had been installed for public examination in the Immigration Committee's hearing rooms. All these ethnic and racial revilements in turn opened Carnegie and the movement to increasingly vituperative attacks from the large immigrant groups that were becoming ever more entrenched in the country. But Laughlin was unbending. "If immigration is to be made a biological or racial asset to the American people," he railed, "radical statutory laws must be enforced." At one point he authored an immigration treatise under the Carnegie Institution's credential, which concluded that America was being infested by defective immigrants; as its prime illustration, the treatise offered "The Parallel Case of the House Rat," which traced rodent infestation from Europe to the rats' ability "to travel in sailing ships." [24]

Incendiary or not, Laughlin's rhetoric and eugenic data were producing results with Congress. It was exactly the scientific justification Johnson and other government figures needed to implement greater quotas and deploy the overseas network they wanted. Johnson was increasingly becoming not just a congressman favoring racial immigration quotas, but a eugenic organizational leader in his own right. In 1923, while chairing Congress's House Immigration and Naturalization Committee, Johnson also joined an elite new private entity with a Congressional-sounding name. The new seven-man ad hoc panel was called the "Committee on Selective Immigration." Chaired by Johnson's friend, raceologist Madison Grant, and vice-chaired by immigration specialist Robert DeCourcy Ward, the body also included Laughlin as secretary and eugenic ophthalmologist Lucien Howe. [25]

The Committee on Selective Immigration's first report concluded that America needed the Nordic race to thrive. "Immigrants from northwestern Europe furnish us the best material for American citizenship and for the future up building of the American race. They have higher living standards than the bulk of southeastern Europeans; are of higher grade of intelligence; better educated; more skilled; better able to understand, appreciate and support our form of government." In contrast, the committee concluded, "Southern and eastern Europe ... have been sending large numbers of peddlers, sweatshop workers, fruit-stand keepers [and] bootblacks .... " [26]

Citing the research on "inferiors" produced by Laughlin and other experts, the eugenic committee assured, "Had mental tests been in operation [years ago] ... over 6 million aliens now living in this country, free to vote, and to become the fathers and mothers of future Americans, would have never been admitted." Relying on Laughlin and other commonly accepted eugenic principles, the ad hoc committee advocated passage of Laughlin's overseas surveillance laws and declared that racial quotas "based on the 1890 census [are] sound American policy .... " [27] Because Johnson functioned as both a member of the elite eugenic panel and as chairman of the House Immigration Committee, eugenic immigration quotas based on 1890 demographics now seemed assured.

Suddenly, in June of 1923, Johnson was thrust into new importance within the eugenics movement. On June 16, he was elected president of the Eugenics Research Association. Prior to this he hadn't even been a member of the organization. Nonetheless, this now positioned Johnson, with all his governmental powers, at the narrow pinnacle of eugenic organizational leadership. At the same time, Secretary of Labor James J. Davis, whose department was responsible for the domestic aspects of immigration, had signaled his willingness to cooperate in creating the overseas eugenic network to investigate immigrant families. The battle for negative eugenics -- prevention -- could now be waged at its source. [28]

No wonder that four days later, on June 20, Merriam anxiously telephoned Davenport. Secretary Davis had just sent a letter to President Warren Harding supporting the eugenic immigration legislation, and Davis was eager to secure any scientific underpinnings to justify it. Davis was due to sail to Europe on July 4, and now he contacted Merriam to ask if Laughlin might accompany him. Merriam answered that the Carnegie Institution would of course cooperate. That was the exciting part of Merriam's telephone conversation with Davenport. But then Merriam expressed his concerns about Laughlin. [29]

Laughlin was unpracticed in politics and was now expostulating scientific conclusions that were provoking reproach. Merriam told Davenport that the Carnegie Institution was quite aware of Laughlin's shortcomings and wanted to ensure that nothing stood in the way of a quiet success for "the plan" and its incorporation into the expected 1924 immigration reforms. Laughlin did not merely verbalize extremist views; many saw him as a eugenic zealot who would do anything to accomplish his goals. Yet in this situation, some political caution was necessary. "It is understood," Merriam repeated to Davenport moments later, "that the desire to have Dr. Laughlin associated with the Secretary is not for the purpose of changing our plans but is rather due to the fact that the Secretary recognizes that our work ... can be useful to him .... It is not expected that there will be any modification of our plan, but rather that the Secretary will help to carry out the plans which you and Dr. Laughlin have worked out." [30]

Minutes later, Merriam went to the unusual extreme of dictating a letter to Davenport explicitly reiterating his concerns. "In order that there may be no misunderstanding ... regarding Dr. Laughlin's work," Merriam wrote, "I wish to be frank and say that I have heard a number of quite different criticisms" -- he scratched out the word different and penned in the word frank --" ... quite frank criticisms of Dr. Laughlin's conclusions drawn from his recent studies .... Because the genetics and eugenics work is so important it is necessary that we be exceedingly guarded, lest conclusions go beyond the limits warranted by the facts and therefore ultimately diminish the effectiveness of our scientific work." Merriam closed with a warning, "I am sure that neither you nor Dr. Laughlin will underestimate my interest in this problem or my recognition of its very great importance." [31]

Davenport in turn spoke to Laughlin, advising him that Secretary Davis had invited Laughlin to join him in sailing to Europe. Davenport also verbalized Merriam's concerns about Laughlin. When Merriam's letter arrived in Cold Spring Harbor a few days later, Davenport issued a pointed memorandum to Laughlin driving home Merriam's censure by quoting verbatim: "In order that there may be no misunderstanding ... regarding Dr. Laughlin's work I wish to be frank and say that I have heard a number of quite frank criticisms of Dr. Laughlin's conclusions drawn from his recent studies .... Because the genetics and eugenics work is so important, it is necessary that we be exceedingly guarded lest conclusions go beyond the limits warranted by the facts and therefore ultimately diminish the effectiveness of our scientific work .... I am sure that neither you nor Dr. Laughlin will underestimate my interest in this problem or my recognition of its very great importance." [32]

The next Monday, Davis appointed Laughlin "Special Immigration Agent to Europe," making it official with a certificate. Laughlin had a penchant for titles that used the word agent. First he was retained as a "Special Agent of the Bureau of the Census." Then Johnson dubbed him the House's "Expert Eugenics Agent." [33] Now in his latest agent capacity he would tour Europe for six months, quietly investigating the family trees of aspiring immigrant families.

If he could establish the scientific numbers necessary to pronounce certain ethnic and racial groups as either eugenically superior or inferior, America's whole system of immigration could change. Laughlin wanted all potential immigrants to be ranked in one of three classes. "Class 1: Not sexually fertile, now or potentially, and not debarred on account of cacogenesis [genetic dysfunction]. Class 2: Sexually fertile, now or potentially, and not debarred on account of cacogenesis. Class 3: Sexually fertile, now or potentially, and debarred on account of cacogenesis." [34] Laughlin now found himself the syndic of America's genetic future.

Despite the urgings of the Carnegie Institution, Laughlin was unwilling to sail with Davis in July. He needed more time. Instead, he and his wife departed aboard the S.S. Belgoland about a month later, in time to attend an international eugenics meeting in Lund, Sweden. For the next six months, Laughlin would travel throughout Europe, setting up shop at American consulates and rallying logistical support from like-minded European eugenics groups. [35]

Scandinavia was first. In Sweden, he contacted the American embassy in Stockholm, as well as consular officials in Uppsala and Goteborg. In Denmark, he visited the consulate in Copenhagen. Laughlin concluded that Sweden was actually hoarding its superior strains by discouraging emigration through such groups as the Society for the Prevention of Emigration and an investigation undertaken by the government's Emigration Commission. Working with Sweden's official State Institute of Race- Biology, Laughlin launched ancestral verifications of four immigrant candidates, all young men, one from Kalmartan, one from Valhallavagen, and two from Stockholm. The American consul was to provide a social worker to undertake the field work along the lines of an earlier Laughlin study that was being translated into Swedish. [36]

He was sure his work in Sweden would yield scientific proof that Nordics were superior human beings. Writing from Europe, he expressed his elation to Judge Harry Olson of Chicago. "It seems that the Swedish stock has been selected for generations by a very hard set of national conditions -- severe climate, relatively poor soil. The strenuous struggle for existence seems to have eliminated the weaklings .... Of course, the original Nordic stock was sound, else it would have died out entirely ... [and] could not have made a good stock." Indeed, Laughlin thought that Swedish emigrants "must be considered her finest product in international commerce." [37]

His optimism faded as he traveled south. In Belgium, Laughlin contacted the American consul in Brussels to initiate investigations of four applicants whose visas had not yet been approved -- two men and a woman from Brabant, and a woman from Brussels. His fellow eugenic activist Dr. Albert Govaerts, who had studied the previous year in Cold Spring Harbor, helped Laughlin get organized and performed the physical examinations. The Solvay Institute, with the consent of Vrije University, provided desk space. [38]

In Italy, he liaised with that country's Commissioner General of Emigration who agreed to help prepare field studies of four Italians seeking to emigrate to the U.S. Laughlin was convinced Italy had "an excess of population" and that the Italian government was "desirous of finding an outlet for their 'unemployed.'" With this in mind, he began investigating the four Italians. [39]

In England, an office was set up for Laughlin in the Eugenics Education Society headquarters outside London. Four Britons who had applied to emigrate were selected for familial examination. They included two Middlesex Jews (a teenage man named Morris and a woman in her twenties), plus a young woman from Devonshire and a young man from Hampshire. U.S. Public Health Service officers stationed in England were to perform the medical examinations. [40]

Laughlin reported back to Davenport that the various investigations "were made by a field worker ... in much the same fashion as similar individual and family histories are made by eugenical field workers in the United States." The help of U.S. consuls was indispensable to "securing the most intimate individual and family histories of would-be emigrants to America ... awaiting visas." Indeed, the individuals themselves were actually selected by the consuls, "who are giving their full cooperation in the work," Laughlin added. He hoped consular officials would go further and glean confidential family character information from local priests. If immigrant candidates felt the questions were too intrusive or offensive, Laughlin explained, field workers would "simply withdraw to the American Consulate, and announce that if the would-be immigrant desires to have his passport vised [issued a visa], he must provide the information concerning his own 'case history' and 'family pedigree.'" Laughlin boasted that the consuls would "smooth the way for perfecting these field studies." [41]

Mental tests to identify feeblemindedness were of course part of the investigation, although Laughlin did not indicate what language was being used in the various non-English-speaking countries. Where U.S. Public Health staff was not available for medical examinations, Laughlin proposed contract nurses or physicians. Secretaries and stenographers stationed around the Continent would be employed to type up the results. [42]

The purpose of Laughlin's family probes was not to help the United States properly ascertain the intellectual, economic, political or social caliber of individual immigrants, which fell well within any government's prerogative, but rather to determine how much tainted blood an applicant had received from his forebears. Ancestral blood, not individual worth, would be Laughlin's sole determinant.

He was receiving excellent cooperation until he arrived in Paris in late November of 1923. There he set up a mailing account at the local American Express office at 11 Rue Scribe, and was then ready to begin work. But when he contacted American Consul General A. M. Thackera to begin his local probes, the embassy balked. Someone at the embassy checked Regulation 124, dating back to 1896. It was against regulations for American consuls to correspond with officials of other American departments. Laughlin, as Special Immigration Agent to Europe, was officially a representative of the Department of Labor. Obviously, the rule would not allow them to collaborate with Laughlin. [43]

To resolve the problem, a conference was held in Paris on Sunday, December 2,1923, attended not only by Consul General Thackera, but also by his British counterpart, Consul General Robert Skinner, as well as Consul General-at-Large Robert Frazer. They could find no way around the regulations. So they cabled Washington for instructions. By the end of the week, the State Department sent notice that the rule had been waived, so long as the diplomats "confined themselves to facts and did not render opinion or try to outline policy," as Laughlin reported it. The project proceeded unimpeded, mainly because the consuls were eager to cooperate. [44]

Before he was done, Laughlin had visited twenty-five U.S. consular offices in ten countries: Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Italy, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, England, Spain and France, as well as the French colony of Algiers. Not only did Laughlin proudly establish eugenic testing procedures and precedents wherever he went, he created a network of friendly American consuls throughout the Continent, a feat he bragged about to the ERO. In fact, going beyond on-site work with the twenty-five consulates, Laughlin also mass-mailed every American consulate in Europe and the Near East -- 128 consulates in all -- advising them of his project and seeking detailed local demographic data. Within months, two consulates had already provided partial reports directly to Laughlin, and more than two dozen others had sent the requested information to the State Department to be forwarded to Laughlin, who was still traveling. Eventually eighty-seven consulates supplied the requested population and ethnic information directly to Laughlin. Only eleven did not respond. [45]

During his whirlwind tour, Laughlin found little time for sightseeing. Moreover, as he traveled from city to city and incurred mounting expenses for stenographers, field investigators, report printing and other general living expenses, he was advancing his own money. He was still collecting a salary as ERO assistant director, but he complained more than once, "I am bearing my own expense." He was uncertain if he would ever be reimbursed. In late 1923, Laughlin petitioned Davenport, "If these studies prove profitable, and I am permitted to continue them beyond the first of January [1924], I respectfully request that provision be made for my expenses." [46]

Assistant Secretary of Labor Henning had promised a $500 stipend, and Laughlin had applied to receive it, but Henning's secretary then notified Laughlin that the department had "no means of sending you cash in advance .... " Laughlin confided to Davenport, "I am a little uneasy about the 500 Dollars. The Department of Labor promised, but did not deliver." [47]

Carnegie and the ERO were not helpful, still apprehensive about Laughlin's growing reputation for outlandish race science. Even the prestigious scientific journal Nature had publicly castigated Laughlin in a review of his 1922 study on eugenic sterilization. For Laughlin, the tension with his own organization was palpable. To counter the bad reviews, he began sending a disenchanted Merriam as many complimentary European reviews of his work as he could. He also dispatched frequent optimistic reports back home justifying his investment of time, but noted that, in return, "I have not heard very many times from Cold Spring Harbor." [48]

At one point in late November of 1923, an almost desperate Laughlin admitted that the British and Belgian family case studies had already exhausted the anticipated $500 Labor Department reimbursement, and "the Swedish and Italian studies will need additional funds." He asked for financial assistance from the Carnegie Institution, and also mentioned this request to Davenport, so formally as to almost be provocative. "I ... do not feel like going into the matter any further without authorization for expenses from the director of the Eugenics Record Office," Laughlin wrote to Davenport, who was, of course, the director of the ERO. He added, "I should also like the assurance that in case the Department of Labor does not supply the money which I have actually spent for field assistance, I should be reimbursed [by the ERO]." [49]

Finally, on December 21, the Carnegie Institution decided to be more forthcoming with support for Laughlin's European endeavors. Davenport dispatched a letter to Laughlin in Belgium assuring him that the Department of Labor would reimburse all legitimate expenses. At the end of the letter he casually appended exactly what he knew Laughlin most wanted to hear: "Did I tell you that $300 has been appropriated for your traveling expenses in the budget of this Department [at Carnegie], and a check will be made out to you for it January first?" [50]

In mid-February of 1924, Laughlin sailed into New York Harbor after an exhausting six-month eugenic mission to Europe. Now it was time for the special immigration agent to compile his ideas and data into a scientific report to Congress. His government allies were more than ready. Several weeks before Laughlin sailed home, the seven-man ad hoc Committee on Selective Immigration published a detailed endorsement of his conclusions and proposed legislation, including overseas eugenic screening. Signing on to that report was House Immigration Committee Chairman Johnson, acting in his alter ego as member of the seven-man committee. The published report noted that although Laughlin was still in Europe, they knew he would agree with its contents. [51]

On February 17, 1924, just after Laughlin returned, Davis in his capacity as secretary of labor also advocated Laughlin's ideas in a special editorial in the New .York Times. Davis declared that the program suggested by Laughlin must be enacted "so that America may not be a conglomeration of racial groups ... but a homogenous race striving for the fulfillment of the ideals upon which this Government was founded." [52]

On March 8, Laughlin again testified before Johnson's immigration committee, this time presenting a massive table- and chart-bedecked report bearing the charged title "Europe as An Emigrant-Exporting Continent and the United States as an Immigrant-Receiving Nation." True to form, Laughlin declared the existence of an "American Race." He admitted that America was created by "a transplanted people," but that the "nation was established by its founders. The pioneers 'got in on the ground floor.'" As such, this new American race "is a race of white people." Therefore, he summarized, the nation's racial character "is being modified to some degree by the changed racial character of the immigration of the last two generations." [53]

His voluminous charts and reports displayed samplings of the twelve family pedigrees he had assembled in Europe, as well as abundant columns of immigrant data and U.S. population trends. In exhibit after exhibit, Laughlin piled racial ratio upon racial ratio and population percentage upon population percentage, offering copious scientific reinforcement of his conclusions. The majority of Johnson's committee expressed complete support for both Laughlin and his research. At one point a congressman asked Laughlin to respond to denunciations of his work. "I decline to get into controversy with any heckler-critics," he retorted, "... I shall answer criticisms by supplying more first-hand facts." Johnson piped in, "Don't worry about criticism, Dr. Laughlin, you have developed a valuable research and demonstrated a most startling state of affairs." [54]

Johnson's committee was also willing to lobby within other government agencies in support of Laughlin's work. For example, when it became obvious that the State Department itself was now balking at releasing the confidential information that twenty-five consulates had submitted for Laughlin, immigration committee members bristled. "I think we ought to have a show-down on this," snapped one congressman. [55]

The issue was finally decided some weeks later in a private meeting. On June 17, Carnegie president Merriam and Laughlin met at Washington's elite Cosmos Club with Assistant Secretary of State Wilbur Carr, who headed up the consular service. Carnegie officials correctly believed that Carr had become "very favorably inclined toward cooperation with the Institution in this matter." At their meeting, Merriam explained the ERO's interest and Carr agreed to share the information, so long as Laughlin abided by a working understanding. Inasmuch as Laughlin held multiple government positions, any Carnegie Institution activities on the topic inside the United States would continue under the purview of the Department of Labor, the House Immigration Committee or any other domestic agency. But any overseas activity would need both general State Department approval and prior agreement by the ranking diplomat in the foreign locale. As part of the arrangement, Laughlin also agreed that any future demographic publications gleaned from consular data would be submitted in advance to the State Department "to prevent any possible embarrassment of the Federal Government." [56]

Two days later, with the arrangement sealed, Secretary of Labor Davis delivered a formal, interdepartmental request directly to Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes asking that the confidential consular data be made available to Laughlin. Laughlin was prepared to assemble a detailed, highly personal, multifolder case study of immigrant candidates and their ancestry. Folder D, section 2b, for example, catalogued the family's "moral qualities." With the new information, Laughlin could offer vivid examples of his new system of human "filtering." [57]

The State Department sought to "prevent any possible embarrassment of the Federal Government" by Laughlin for the same reason the Carnegie Institution and Merriam expressed jitters. By this time Laughlin was more than a controversial pseudoscientist increasingly challenged by immigrant groups and others; he was in some quarters a complete laughingstock. And when Laughlin was excoriated in the popular press, all of eugenics and the Carnegie Institution itself were also opened to ridicule. [58]

Perhaps no better example of the ridicule directed at Laughlin at the time was a forty-seven-page lampoon written under the pseudonym Ezekiel Cheever, who in reality was probably either the irreverent Baltimore Sun commentator H. L. Mencken or one of his associates. Cheever's booklet, a special edition of his School Issues, was billed on its cover as a "Special Extra Eugenics Number" in which Cheever "wickedly squeals on Doctor Harry H. Laughlin of the Carnegie Institution and other Members of the Eugenics Committee of the United States of America for feeding scientifically and biologically impure data to Honorable Members of the House of Representatives concerning the Immigration Problem." In page after page of satirical jabs, Laughlin's statistics were cited verbatim and then dismembered for their preposterousness. [59]

For example, Cheever deprecated Laughlin's reliance on IQ testing to gauge feeblemindedness. "Undoubtedly, one of the greatest blunders made by scientific men in America the past fifty years," he wrote, "was the premature publication of the results of the Army [intelligence] tests." Mocking Laughlin's scientific racism, Cheever titled one section "Nigger in the Wood-Pile," which charged, "If the opinions advanced by Doctor Laughlin and based upon this same unscientific rubbish, are as unreliable as they appear when the rubbish is revealed in a true light, then it would seem that the Carnegie Institution of Washington must either disclaim any part of the job or confess that the job, despite Carnegie Institution's part is a rotten one, provided Carnegie Institution does not wish to be regarded as on a par with the Palmer Institute of Chiropractic." [60]

Cheever scolded "Honorable Albert Johnson, Chairman of the House's Committee on Immigration and Naturalization and a member of the Eugenics Committee, [who] announced at the hearings: 'I have examined Doctor Laughlin's data and charts and find that they are both biologically and statistically thorough, and apparently sound.' It is now in order for Congress to examine Honorable Albert Johnson and ascertain if as much can be said about him." [61]

In a section titled "Naughty Germ Plasms," referring to Laughlin's race-based state institution surveys, Cheever jeered, "If the reader will examine the schedules sent out to cooperating institutions he will get a new and somewhat startling view as to what constitutes 'the more serious crimes or felonies.' Under adult types of crime there were listed: Drunkenness, Conducting business under an assumed name, Peddling without license, Begging, and Reckless driving. Among the serious crimes or felonies of the juvenile type he will find: Trespass, Unlawful use of automobiles, Begging, Truancy, Running away, Being a stubborn and disobedient child. If Doctor Laughlin can devise a means for locating germ plasms that are responsible for such heinous crimes, his fame will overshadow that of Pasteur." [62]

Often, the booklet used Laughlin's own words against him. Cheever quoted from one passage in Laughlin's testimony that confessed, "At the beginning of this investigation there were in existence no careful or extended studies of this particular subject; the figures that were generally given were either guesswork or based upon very small samples of the population." [63]

"Either Doctor Laughlin is exceedingly stupid," scorned Cheever, "or else he is merely a statistical legerdemain [sleight of hand artist]." [64]

Extracts from Cheever's booklet were syndicated in the Baltimore Sun. Other attacks followed. One severe assessment of his work by a reviewer named Jennings, writing in Science Magazine, caused eugenic circles particular distress because it appeared in a scholarly publication. "Can't you get out some sort of reply to Jennings," immigration guru Robert DeCourcy Ward wrote Laughlin. "He has been making a lot of trouble about your Melting Pot Report .... I hate to have that man talk and write without getting any real come-back from you." Impervious as always, Laughlin shrugged off Jennings, and also dismissed Cheever as "more of a political attack trying to answer scientific data." [65]

Davenport had no choice but to also deflect complaints arising from the steady stream of critical articles. Not a few of these were sent directly to the Carnegie Institution. Writing on Carnegie Institution letterhead, Davenport defensively replied to one man who had read Cheever's pieces in the Baltimore Sun, asserting that Laughlin had been unduly libeled. Indeed, Davenport's rebuttal likened the Cheever articles to the ridicule launched against Davenport himself years earlier by Galtonian eugenicists in England. He closed by saying that Cheever was so "out for blood" that he should be imprisoned. [66]

But no amount of public rebuke would dissuade Johnson, and that was all Laughlin cared about. Johnson continued to publish Laughlin's testimony as though it were solid scientific truth. Using Laughlin's biological data as a rationale, he pressed for new immigration quotas keyed to the national ancestral makeup reflected in the 1890 census. During April and May of 1924, the House and Senate passed the Immigration Act of 1924, and President Calvin Coolidge signed the sweeping measure into law on May 26. This legislation would radically reduce non-Nordic immigration, since the representation of Eastern and Southern Europeans was radically less in 1890 than it had been in 1910. The Italian quota, for example, would be slashed from 42,000 per year to just 4,000. Many called the new legislation the "National Origins Act" because it limited new immigration to a quota of just 2 percent of the "national origins" present in America according to the 1890 census. [67]

But tempestuous debate still surrounded the statistical validity of the 1890 census, and no one knew how reliable its reporting had been. Statisticians quarreled over just who was Irish or German or Italian, and/or whose name sounded sufficiently Irish or German or Italian to be counted as such. Quotas could not be established until the disputed 1890 percentages were settled. So the 1924 law charged the Census Bureau with the duty of studying the numbers and reporting their conclusions to a so-called "Quota Board," which would be comprised of the three relevant cabinet secretaries: Davis of Labor, Herbert Hoover of Commerce, and Frank Kellogg of State. Quotas were to be announced by the president himself in 1927. [68]

Eugenicists tried mightily to influence the Quota Board's deliberations. Just how the quotas were set would dictate the success or failure of this latest eugenic legislative crusade. A common rallying cry was expressed in A. p. Schultz's raceological tome, Race or Mongrel, which proclaimed, "The principle that 'all men are created equal' is still considered the chief pillar of strength of the United States .... Only one objection can be raised against it, that it does not contain one iota of truth." [69]

Constant permutations and reevaluations of the demographic data were bandied back and forth throughout 1926. Politically-spun rhetoric masked true feelings. One senator, for example, staunchly announced he would not permit the new quotas to discriminate against Jews, Italians or Poles, but he concluded with the traditional eugenic view that any quota system must stop discriminating against Northwestern Europeans, that is, Nordics. As ethnic groups ramped up their pressure, however, some of the most stalwart quota crusaders began to falter. [70]

In the second half of 1926, the quota champion himself, Albert Johnson, came up for reelection. By now the immigrants in his district had come together in opposition to further restrictions. He began to equivocate. In August of 1926, Johnson gave a campaign speech opposing the "national origins" provisions because too many foreign elements would vote for repeal anyway. At one point he publicly declared in a conciliatory tone, "If the national origins amendment ... is going to breed bad feeling in the United States ... and result in friction at home, you may rest assured it will not be put into effect." He added that his own "inside information" was that the quotas would never be instituted. [71] Disheartened eugenicists sadly concluded that Johnson and his allies had completely succumbed to the influence of foreign groups.

Johnson's inside information proved somewhat prophetic. On January 3, 1927, Secretaries Davis, Hoover and Kellogg delivered to President Coolidge country-by-country quota recommendations, accompanied by a carefully crafted cover letter declaring that they could come to no reliable consensus about the true percentages of national origins in 1890. "It may be stated," the joint letter cautioned, "that the statistical and historical information available from which these computations were made is not entirely satisfactory." On January 6, Congress requested the official letter and its recommendations. The White House delivered them the next day. Eugenicists assumed that although there was room for argument, some form of quotas would be enacted at once. [72]

But before the sun set that day, the White House delivered a replacement cover letter to the Senate. This one was similar, bearing the same January 3 date, again addressed to President Calvin Coolidge and again signed by all three cabinet secretaries. But the key phrase warned the President more forcefully: "Although this is the best information we have been able to secure, we wish to call attention to the reservations made by the committee and to state that, in our opinion, the statistical and historical information available raises grave doubts as to the whole value of these computations as a basis for the purposes intended. We therefore cannot assume responsibility for such conclusions under these circumstances." [73]

In other words, within hours the demographic information went from merely problematic to absolutely worthless. Quotas could not be reliably ordained under the circumstances. On the last day of the 1927 session, Congress passed Senate Joint Resolution 152 postponing implementation of the new quotas for one year. House debate on the question ran less than thirty minutes. A year later, in 1928, quotas were once more postponed, again after a protracted statistical and political standoff replete with Congressional letter-writing campaigns and fractious newspaper editorials. Eugenicists were outraged and saw it as a triumph by organized foreign elements. [74]

Even before the first postponement, Laughlin began investigating the heritage of the individual senators themselves. "We are working on the racial origin study of present senators," Laughlin reported to a eugenic immigration activist, "and will line the study up with the data which you sent on members of the [original] Constitutional Convention. It will make an exceedingly interesting comparison," he added, "showing the drift of composition in the racial make-up of the American people, or at least of their leaders." [75]

Finally, in 1929, after indecisive demographic scuffles between census scholars and eugenic activists trying to preserve Nordic preference, compromise quotas were agreed upon by scholars formally and informally advising Congress and the president. Admitting that the numbers were "tainted" and "far from final," binding quotas were nonetheless created. The new president, Herbert Hoover, promulgated the radical reductions based on the accepted analysis of the 1890 census. Even those quotas did not last long. Two years later they succumbed to redistricting pressures, political concerns and the momentum of the coming 1930 census. Finally, the quotas were revised based on national percentages from the 1920 census. [76]

Laughlin's quest for an overseas network of eugenic investigators achieved only brief success. The system was installed in Belgium, Great Britain, the Irish Free State, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Holland and Poland, and for a time the system eugenically inspected some 80 percent of the would-be emigrants from those countries. On average, 88 of every 1,000 applicants were found to be mentally or physically defective. Laughlin aimed to have one eugenicist stationed in each capital. But overseas examination was short-lived for lack of the extraordinary funding and complicated bilateral agreements required. Moreover, too many foreign governments ultimately objected to such examinations of their citizens. [77] Long after the examinations ceased, however, America's consuls remained eugenically aware of future immigrants and refugees as never before. Their biological preferences and prejudices would become insurmountable barriers to many fleeing oppression in the world of the 1930s.

Quotas and the National Origins Act ruled immigration until 1952. Only the 1952 McCarran-Walter Immigration and Naturalization Act amended almost a century of racial and eugenic American law to finally declare: "The right of a person to become a naturalized citizen ... shall not be denied or abridged because of race or sex or because such person is married." [78]

American eugenics felt it had secured far less than half a loaf. For this reason, it was important that inferior blood be wiped away worldwide by analogous groups in other countries. An international movement would soon emerge. During the twenties, the well-funded eugenics of Laughlin, Davenport and so many other American raceologists would spawn, nurture and inspire like-minded individuals and organizations across Europe.
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