Prof. Agassiz, in his recent course of lectures, delivered in Charleston, S. C, taught and proclaimed his disbelief in all men having discended by ordinary generation from Adam, or from one pair, or two or three pairs, of created originators of races. He believes, as we learn from the " Charleston Mercury," that not only was there an original diversity in races—m the five races, as they are sometimes termed—but that men were created in separate nations, each distinct nationality, which has played an important part in history, having had a separate origin. The Prof, says:— "My own views on this subject differ widely from those of others who have before maintained an original diversity of races. In my opinion, not only did different races, or types of mankind, as the five races, so called, have a distinct origin, but each distinct nationality, which has played an important part in history, had a separate origin—men Were created in nations. We may trace in detail how far diversity is manifest in even lees prominent shades. We will instance Spain on account of its isolation. A Greek writer, 700 years before Christ, spoke of the fine, soft wool, brought from Spain by the Phoenicians. So the horses of Spain are mentioned as different from any known to the writer—doubtless the original stock of the Andelusian horses—as the sheep mentioned are the modem merino sheep.— These were their only domesticated animals. They had no cattle till long after. It there was such a community of origin among men, why had each region peculiar animals ? why did they not transmit the same domestic animals which they had already subdued ? On the contrary, those animals are distinct as the races among whom they were found. In early times there was little intercourse bet ween nations; there was no mixture of national character. Their means of communication were next to none. Nations made up of mingled elements are a peculiar phenomenon." With respect to the languages of nations, the Prof, says :—" Of all the languages which have been supposed to have sprung from a common source, and diffused and changed by tradition or transmission, we are referred to the Sanscrit, the Persian, the German, the Italian, the Greek, and the Latin, and others, as constituting one family. But these as far back as their history or tradition reaches, were distinct languages. Many were spoken simultaneously. The oldest Chinese monuments exhibit the same Chinese language which is spoken to-day; so of the ancient Egyptian, the Hebrew, the old Greek, which presents the same characteristics as modern Greek—they were always within the reach of tradition separate and distinct. These cases are very similar to sets of notes characteristic of different families of animals. How, then, arose those languages so intimately allied, as for instance, the Spanish and Italian ? They evidently grew from an admixture—a foreign invasion superadded to the original stock. Modern mixed nationalities are evident examples of the process. The Professor next argues that the further back we go in our studies of archaeology the more distinct do the human races become." Prof. Agassiz has been bearding the lion in his den, we mean the Rev. Dr. Smyth, of Charleston, who has written a very able work on the unity of the human race—the Bible doctrine of all men being descended Irom a single pair—Adam and Eve. This is a scientific question, which, within a few years, has created no small amount of discussion among the lovers of the natural sciences. So far as it regards the different languages of men, the arguments of Prof. Agassiz are not very strong, for all the knowledge which we have historically of the languages of different nations is dated from a period later than the record of the confusion of tongues at Babel. Communication between the nations of old was greater than he would lead us to believe; the Phoenecians came to Wales for tin long before the Christian era, and the tradition (no doubt a true one) of the Romans being descended from the Trojans, is one which completely nullifies all he has advanced about separate nations having separate created progenitors, men being created in nations. As a question of science, this one possesses a peculiar interest, and we may revert to it at some other time.
This article was originally published with the title "Unity of the Human Race" in Scientific American 8, 36, 282 (May 1853)