Type: Analysis
Pages: 9 | Words: 2473
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In his book, Better for All the World, Harry Brunius highlighted the main idea of the eugenics movement in America that emerged at the beginning of the 20th century. As a result, more than 65,000 Americans were forcefully sterilized. The main idea of eugenics was to keep reproduction under control in order to improve the racial, mental, and physical abilities of humans. It aimed to prevent biologically inferior and immoral women from having children by cutting their Fallopian tubes. According to the available research, society has to stop poverty and prevent degeneration and reproduction of unfit (Bruinius 307). The author tells the story of two poor women, Emma and Carrie Buck, who were chosen as a test case to make sterilization constitutionally valid in 1927. Those who supported the idea of sterilization and keeping America free from people of immoral behavior included Theodore Roosevelt, Rockefeller foundations, scholars from Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, as well as New England Protestants. The act of sterilization was adopted by the Supreme Court, and it became constitutionally valid to protect America from poverty, criminals, and undesired immigration. The available research indicates that Harry Bruinius discussed the issue of eugenics, which was little known to the public due to its anti-human character. In my opinion, the book of Harry Bruinius is of great importance to the current and future generations due to its philosophical underpinnings. According to the Bible, people were created by God, and nobody can conduct experiments on them, nor decide whether they can have children or not. With the help of this book, people can estimate and evaluate the idea of eugenics and prevent such anti-human ideas in the future.

The founder of the eugenics movement. Intellectual discoveries that led to the eugenics ideas. The central ideas of the eugenics movement.

Sir Francis Galton, Charles Darwin’s cousin, is considered the founding father of eugenics. In 1883, he introduced the term eugenics and based it on Darwin`s theory of natural selection, thus making an attempt to supplant it with human selection (Bruinius 203). Eugenics deals with human genetics by concentrating on methods of improving inherited physical and mental characteristics of humans. The notion of race plays an essential role in this theory, too.

Galton asserts that talent and intellect are hereditary; therefore, foolish and weak members of society should not be allowed to reproduce, as it may lead the nation to its degradation. The development of Darwinism undermined racial equality, which was the underlying foundation of the traditional Christian worldview. Galton hoped to implant the idea of eugenics into people’s minds, making it the main religion of the 20th century (Black 315). Thus, he came to the conclusion that intellectual humans are more humane than those who are weak and foolish; in other words, they are supposed to have more rights and be treated like superhumans. All the rest will have to be sterilized with the aim of keeping the nation clean from undesired elements. The eugenics theory and its ideas changed the intellectual landscape due to the arrival of Darwinist thought. The central ideas of the eugenics movement had an impact on American society and drew support from many people. Like any other idea, which was propagated by the government it captured the minds of the American elite and was rather popular during that period of time. Despite the fact that Charles Darwin strongly supported eugenics, it was later found to be anti-human and anti-religious.

Harry Laughlin and Charles Davenport.

Harry Laughlin and Charles Davenport were leading American eugenicists and members of the American Breeders Association. Charles Davenport established the Eugenics Record Office (ERO) in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, which was the center of the American eugenics movement. Later on, he was joined by Harry Laughlin who became ERO’s director. Harry Laughlin was the leading and most active American eugenicist of the 20th century. He produced a great impact on the development of the eugenics movement in the United States in the first half of the 20th century. His two main ideas of eugenics consisted in compulsory sterilization of the unfit and restriction of immigration. Due to Laughlin`s efforts, compulsory sterilization of the unfit became constitutional in different American states. In the 1930s, Laughlin established close contact with Nazi Germany, where his ideas were very popular. Within twelve years, 350,000 people were sterilized under Laughlin`s model sterilization law. Charles Davenport urged the rich to support the eugenics movement in order to save the American nation from future degeneracy. Both Harry Laughlin and Charles Davenport based their view of eugenics on the agricultural model of breeding the most capable and strongest species while preventing the weakest members from reproduction (Bruinius 245). Therefore, it is obvious that both eugenicists attempted to apply Darwin`s idea of natural selection to humans. It is also worth noting that Harry Laughlin and Charles Davenport were the main American proponents of eugenics at the time.

Why did Americans support the eugenics idea? Who supported the eugenics idea? Connection of the eugenics movement in America and Europe.

Initially, the eugenics idea was cultivated by the American Breeders Association. It was an agricultural organization concerned with improving animals and plants. In the first three decades of the 20th century, three International Eugenics Congresses were held in 1911, 1922 and 1932. The first congress took place in London, but after WWI, the International Eugenics Congresses moved to NYC, where it was held at the American Museum of Natural History. The eugenics idea captured the minds of Americans because of its intention to purify the nation from the unfit. The idea of eugenics was supported by many sociologists, politicians, economists and intellectuals due to its innovative approach to the development of the American society. The eugenics movement strongly supported the idea of controlling increasing human degeneracy that spoiled the nation. In their quest to make the US a superpower, many Americans considered the eugenics movement an effective weapon for combating poverty, crime, diseases and other social problems. All these factors ensured the support and protection of the eugenics movement among the American public. As a result, 60,000 Americans were sterilized during this campaign.

Available research indicates that there was a connection between the eugenics movement in America and Europe. In 1924, Hitler published his book Mein Kampf, in which he laid out his model of racial purification. In the same year, the US government adopted the Immigration Restriction Act, which restricted the immigration of individuals with hereditary illnesses, criminal records, illiterate individuals, etc. After Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, sterilization and marriage control were declared mandatory. American scientists supported Hitler`s idea of racial hygiene and genetic control. Therefore, Americans and Germans demonstrated their support for the eugenics idea internationally.

Interaction between the law and the eugenics movement.

Eugenicists pushed for the enactment of laws aimed at sterilizing the so-called ‘unfit’ Americans. Active campaigning for such laws started at the end of the last decade of the 19th century. In 1905, Pennsylvania became the first US state to have passed a compulsory sterilization law. Dr. Martin W. Barr was a leader of the agitation campaign in Pennsylvania. In 1907, Indiana legalized involuntary sterilization. The leaders of the eugenics movement there were physicians Dr. Harry Sharp and Albert J. Ochsner. According to the available information, Dr. Harry Sharp made 206 illegal sterilizations (Black 326). Albert J. Ochsner insisted on criminal behavior being hereditary and claimed that the only way to eliminate crime is to sterilize criminals, thus preventing them from reproducing. The establishment of the American Breeders Association in 1903 gave more rights to the eugenics movement.

Established by Harry Laughlin and Charles Davenport, the Eugenics Record Office concerned itself with collecting data about American citizens in order to determine who should or should not be permitted to leave offspring (Black 218). Laughlin gathered 750,000 note cards containing information on thousands of US individuals and their families. In his book Heredity in Relation to Eugenics, Davenport wrote that governments in each American state should take into account the fact that collecting information about every American family was their primary duty. Actually, Davenport and Laughlin became advocates of the eugenics sterilization law. According to this law, individuals who were found unfit should be forcefully sterilized. Davenport argued that every American citizen had the right and duty to help in the purification of the nation. Those individuals who strongly supported the eugenics movement were doing their best to realize the eugenics idea.

What organizations and individuals opposed the eugenics movement and why?

According to the available research, certain organizations and individuals opposed the eugenics movement for various reasons (Bruinius 302). The Church strongly criticized the eugenics movement, and many religious communities were in opposition to eugenicists. According to Christian belief, all humans were created by God as equal. From the religious point of view, all individuals that were considered by eugenicists as unfit due to their illnesses cannot be sterilized, because it is the human spirit that is important, and not the body. Religious communities, especially Catholics, reasoned that God created Adam and Eve perfect. They also asserted that people should not be estimated by their IQs. The only attribute, which is worth estimating, is the human spirit. Religious leaders opposed the eugenics movement because they considered the eugenics idea a sin. Furthermore, they saw the causes of mental degeneracy in society, which was not perfect. Many scholars considered the eugenics idea as population control or a scientific basis for mass genocide plans implemented by Nazi Germany. Others argued that people cannot be compared with animals and plants, because they have a spiritual connection with God.

Many anthropologists believed that the eugenics movement was invalid. Scientists, such as Herbert Jennings, J. B. S. Haldane, Herman J. Muller, Julian Huxley, opposed the eugenics movement by claiming that most of the eugenics ideas were invalid or wrong.

Positive and negative aspects of eugenics in the United States.

There is a difference between positive and negative eugenics. It is important to understand the difference to be able to give an objective evaluation of this historical phenomenon. It should be taken into consideration those positive eugenics aimed to improve the nation and the genetic stock of the human race. Eugenicists were trying to devise a plan, which would allow future generations to achieve prosperity. They were searching for methods that could help protect future generations from degeneracy. Therefore, many political, economic, historical, and scientific authorities supported the eugenics idea. Negative eugenics introduced the idea of sterilization, which was anti-human and later recognized as invalid. It is obvious that eugenics cannot be judged in terms of being only positive or negative. As any other historical and societal phenomenon, it has its advantages and disadvantages, which should be taken into consideration. Many Americans supported the eugenics ideas for individual, economic or political reasons. On the other hand, there were a lot of Americans, as well as people from other countries, who strongly opposed it.

The influence of the American eugenics movement on the eugenics idea in Europe.

It is worth noting that the American eugenics movement strongly influenced the European eugenics idea, and especially in Germany. It was one of the main ideologies of Nazis who came to power in Germany in the early 1930s. After WWI, Germany, as well as Great Britain and France, were rather weak. Therefore, the eugenics idea seemed the only remedy capable of cleansing their nations from unfit individuals. During WWII, Hitler used the eugenics idea against the Soviet Union and Jewish population of Western European countries. They conducted a policy of sterilization among certain groups of the population, such as Jews, communists, the mentally sick, and some others. Hitler and his henchmen believed that they could improve their life and protect future generations from degeneracy, crime, communist threat and mentally sick individuals. They also believed that eugenics could solve social, economic, and political problems. Being strong enough to compete with the ‘Old World’ and having achieved major accomplishments in different spheres of life, the USA had the reputation of having the greatest influence on the rest of the world.

It is worth mentioning the Eugenic Education Society, founded in England in 1908, the British Control Campaign, and the Voluntary Euthanasia Society. All these organizations were established as a reflection of the American eugenics movement.

Why did the eugenics movement become less popular and/or less valid over time?

Although many prominent historians, anthropologists, scientists and biologists in the United States remained committed to the eugenics principals and ideas, the eugenics movement became less popular and less valid over time. Many supporters of eugenics died and the new ones did not see the idea of a pure race as popular as before. As a result, the eugenics program lost its popularity and significance among people. Over time, it became evident that many eugenics ideas were wrong and invalid. The eugenics idea did not capture people’s minds anymore, and, therefore, it failed. Besides, new ideas and social experiences emerged, which caused increasingly fewer people to be interested in eugenics. It was revised and later found to be no more than utopia.

My personal feelings about eugenics.

My personal feelings about eugenics are rather controversial. I support the idea of purification the human race from degeneracy. It is obvious that degradation of any nation occurs due to the presence of mentally deprived individuals and criminals, who are considered “unfit”. These individuals do not improve the nation, but, on the other hand, they cannot be sterilized. Human beings cannot be compared with plants and animals. Teachers should explain to their students that in order to keep the nation strong, they should improve themselves mentally and physically. There are a lot of other methods, such as education, sports, as well as different activities and movements, which can lead a nation to prosperity. The eugenics movement is a historical phenomenon, which is worth studying, because it captured the minds of thousands of people in the United States and Europe. However, students should understand that the eugenics idea was anti-human and anti-religious. After the eugenics idea was proved invalid, doubts were also raised about the validity of Darwin`s theory of natural selection.

Most individuals, whom I asked questions about eugenics, had hardly any idea about it. Of the five people I interviewed, only one person supported the idea of eugenics. But he was very knowledgeable about the subject and considered degeneracy the main threat to future generations. During my research, I have visited several websites, such as eugenicsarchive.org, where I observed a great number of photos, as well as read letters and articles on the American eugenics movement of the 20th century. Another website that provided a lot of useful information about eugenics, racism, and abortions was www.emmerich1.com/EUGENICS.htm. www.facinghistory.org/resources/rm focused on the history of the eugenics movement in the United States in the 1930s. Having done extensive research on the subject, I was able to gain knowledge about a lot of events and ideas I was previously unaware of.

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