The descendants of Puritans ca. 1935

Two reviews of an interesting book. Nathaniel Weyl has looked at achievement in America more recently using the same basic methodology. More on that later.
The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 42, No. 3, (Nov., 1936), pp. 435-437

S. Colum Gilfillan

After Three Centuries: A Typical New England Family. By Ellsworth Huntington and Martha Ragsdale. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins Co., 1935. Pp. viii+274. $2.50.

From eighteen thousand Puritans who painfully emigrated in 1620-1642 sprang a race, by multiplication almost without addition, that has molded modern civilization and made the name of Yankee to be "loved and feared thruout the world." One such obscure emigrant of 1633, Simon Huntington, died on the voyage, but his widow landed with her five children; and from these are descended at least nine-tenths of all the Huntingtons living in America today, numbering 5,500 born with that name, beside 1,500,000 Americans of other surnames. The 5,500 with the name today are the subject of this book, taken as a true sample of the whole Puritan, i.e. New England stock, and written up as a very interesting, novel, and valuable study in sociology and genetics, based on a new method--that of surname group--which should have wide utility to sociologists.

They are a great race, these Huntingtons and other Puritans. One in twenty-five of all the male Huntingtons who reach forty-five years gets in Who's Who. The most illustrious of them all, aided by the family association, the National Research Council genetists, and the vast researches of a southern lady outside the clan, have produced this book. It has originality, suggestiveness, pioneer quality, and caution not to claim more than it has proved.

Something was learned about 3,717 of the 5,500 living American Huntingtons, and the 1,085 families replied to questionnaires. Data were also secured on the frequency in various occupations and in high and low ranks, not only of the name Huntington, but of the exclusively Puritan names Trumbull, Lyman, Hooker, and Coolidge, the old Dutch Van Dyke, the widespread English Adams, Brown, Edwards, Stone, and Williams, and the newer-come Wagner, Schwartz, Flood (Scotch-Irish), O'Brien, Larsen, Cohen, Levine, and Russo. The Puritan names were naturally found to rank about the same. Always in proportion to their present numbers, the Puritans and Van Dykes surpass the common English names, although these include many Puritans, too, in the ratios of .5 for frequency of criminality and dependency, business ownership 1.3, government officials 1.6, lawyers 3, corporation directors 3.5, American Men of Science 4.9, authors 7.8, Notable Americans 9.6, etc. The harder the test, the more the Puritans shine forth, especially in scientific, literary, and philanthropic directions. The stocks who came later, although they settled in the better regions, are left far behind..

As to why the Puritan stock is so outstanding, particularly in pleasant and altruistic fields, the authors make no claim. But they present five chapters of evidence tending to the support of the heredity thesis. Like the Parsis, Maoris, and Icelanders the Puritans were highly selected at the start by their far and most difficult migration. Two centuries of eugenic survival and mating selection further improved them; and their migrations today are proved to be sifting out merit. The more-blue-eyed Huntingtons, and those known to be of pure English ancestry, are doing better today;

[. . .]

Long a separate race, the Yankee stock is now found to be rapidly intermarrying with others. Its birth-rate fell precipitously from 1810 to 1880, and it shows the usual most perverse tendency for the more children to be born and reared in the poorer stock and homes. But here, as elsewhere, bright harbingers appear while the night deepens, in the practical stop to their birth decline since 1880 and a tendency appearing for the most worth-while to increase their offspring and exceed the class below.

The New England Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 4, (Dec., 1935), pp. 613-617

Clifford K. Shipton

After Three Centuries: A Typical New England Family. By Ellsworth Huntington and Martha Ragsdale. (Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins Company. 1935. Pp. viii, 274. $2.50.)

This is the most interesting and thought-provoking book which has come into the reviewer's hands for a long time. It contains a thorough study of the Huntington family, which financed it, and comparative studies of other selected families, made with a view to determine the position of the descendants of the Puritans in American society.

[. . .]

The thesis of the book is that any racial group which has undergone a certain process of selection and segregation will prove markedly superior to the ordinary run of mankind. Brief accounts of the Maoris, of New Zealand; the Parsees, of India; and the Norse, of Iceland, are included to show that the rules illustrated by the Huntingtons and their Puritan group are of general application. The only weak part of the book is its utopian speculation as to what the United States would have been like had it been spared the post-revolutionary immigration and thus enjoyed a larger percentage of the descendants of the Puritans in its present social composition. The editors believe that "it is doubtful whether an institution like Tammany Hall or the Republican machine of Philadelphia could have arisen in a community composed wholly of descendants of the old New Englanders."

[. . .]

Having established the fact that the Huntingtons are typical of the Puritan group in being superior to the ordinary run of the population, the editors go into a more detailed study of that family. It appears that those branches of the family which have produced the most successful individuals have, unlike the Burrs and Edwardses, produced relatively few undesirables. The near relatives of leaders seem to be hundreds of times more likely to be leaders themselves than are people in general. These successful branches of the Huntingtons are neither the least nor the most prolific of the family, in which the birth-rate began its plunge in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Data based on the Yale faculty and other groups indicates that the birth-rate in successful families is again rising. Within these selected groups the number of children to the family is directly proportionate to the value of the head of the family to society.

There is much other interesting but less important data on the Huntingtons. Among the religious sects represented, the Congregationalists have dropped to fifth place. Episcopalians, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and people without church affiliation are most numerous among professional men and business executives; while Methodists and Baptists are most numerous among the laborers. Professional people, business executives, and farmers tend to be blue-eyed, but the amount of pigmentation increases progressively through the ranks of skilled laborers, clerks, salesmen, to predominately brown-eyed unskilled laborers.

The editors conclude by asserting that the average ability of the American people is declining because of the dilution of the Puritan stock, and pointing out the possibilities of artificially creating another such strain by selection and segregation.

Some more "utopion" speculation, from Kevin MacDonald:
One wonders what might have happened if the British colonial authorities had allowed the colony complete sovereignty and if it had ultimately become a nation-state. Such a state, based on a clearly articulated exclusivist group strategy, might have been extremely successful. Composed of a highly intelligent, educated, and industrious citizenry, and with a proneness to high fertility and strong controls promoting high-investment parenting, it might have become a world power. One can imagine that as the 19th century wore on Puritan intellectuals would have begun to see themselves as an ethnic-racial group and that Darwinism would have replaced Christianity as the ideological basis of the state, at least among the well-educated. The demise of Puritanism is likely a major event in the history of European peoples.

Related: Two maps

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