Full text: papers communicated to the first International Eugenics Congress held at the University of London, July 24th to 30th, 1912

J52Section II.C. B. Davenport. 
uncle and niece, or of aunt and nephew, are forbidden. When it comes to 
the mating of cousins, legislators have been in much greater doubt. About 
a third of the States forbid such marriages, and these are chiefly in the 
western, or more recently settled, territory. In most European States, I am 
informed, no legal limitation to the marriage of cousins exists 
Let us now consider in how far there is a biological justification for these 
laws. I know that there are those who hold that the mating even of brother 
and sister for generations may result in offspring without blemish. We are 
referred to the Incas of Peru, about whom we know little in detail, and to 
the Ptolomies, of whom we know a little more, but not as much as a well- 
trained field worker of the Eugenics Record Office would discover in two or 
three days. The last Cleopatra, the daughter of a brother and sister, is 
pointed out to us as the great argument against the evil effects of incestuous 
marriages. That she was the crowning flower of a beautiful race may be 
admitted, but is there any doubt that, were she living to-day, she would be 
placed in the manic-depressive ward of a hospital for the insane, with 
further history of paranoia and erotomania ? But we, too, have histories of 
incest, brought in by our field workers; histories of families brought up, 
not in palaces, but in hovels in the woods. For example, a criminalistic 
man had, by an unknown woman, a number of boys and girls. One of the 
boys, who was a drunken, feeble-minded fellow with criminalistic tendencies, 
has had by his own sister a daughter who is a drunken epileptic. This 
daughter by her own father has had four children of whom one is epileptic, 
two are imbecile, and the fourth was an encephalic monster who died at 
birth. I would undertake to produce two cases of this general sort for each 
case that may be offered of the “ romantic,” “ vivacious ” product of a 
brother and sister mating. And can we doubt that a sober minded people 
have been impressed by such cases as I have cited, have stored them up in 
their memory as part of experience, and have crystallized that experience in 
laws against incest? 
And how about the marriage of first cousins? Are the laws that forbid 
such marriages justifiable? Our modern knowledge of heredity leads to the 
conclusion that cousin marriages (like the marriage of sibs, possibly) is not 
injurious per se, but because such marriages enhance the probability that the 
same defect shall inhere in each of the two germ-oells that unite to start 
the development of the child. While the prohibition of cousin marriages 
is doubtless a rough eugenic measure, it were better if the prohibition were 
qualified somewhat as follows: “ The marriage of cousins is forbidden 
when in the parental fraternity that is common to both, there is a case of 
inability to learn at school, of dementia precox or manic depressive insanity 
in any of their forms, of epilepsy, of congenital deafness, of albinism, or 
of cleft palate/’ Such a restriction in the application of the law might 
well increase the difficulty of administering it, but the law would be 
rendered more significant and less unjust.
        

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