Other studies. Woods made a study similar to that of Galton. He found that the forty-six Americans in the Hall of Fame have from 500 to 1,000 times as many distinguished relatives as the ordinary person. This shows clearly that even the famous and eminent descend from or are related to those in positions of prestige, honor, and dignity. This close interrelationship between honored families strongly suggests that there is an upper class in America, whose sons have been the heroes in every hour of crisis.Next Page
On the other side of the controversy is the study of inventive genius and the manner in which publicity and national propaganda have built up certain "great men" as "first" inventors. Ogburn's Social Change removes all doubt as to the lack of a biological explanation for this kind of eminence -- there have been far too many simultaneous inventions for one any longer to look for inventions in the brain flashes of supermen.
Some day a comprehensive study is likely to show the purely ethereal nature of the word "genius" itself. Edison is no genius in Japan, nor is Lincoln in the South, nor is Hitler in Warsaw. Genius is perhaps as much a matter of being born at the right place at the right time and of having a good publicity agent as it is of having genes arranged in a particular series.
The story of the Edwards family (the story itself now has a history) deserves mention for the manner in which social science must be on its guard against the unrealistic imputations regarding cause and effect. Of Elizabeth Tuttle it is boldly stated: "The evil trait was in her blood, for one of her sisters murdered her own son,, and a brother murdered his own sister." 32
One line of Elizabeth Tuttle's descendants included a son who received an MA. at Harvard, and a grandson named Jonathan, whose descendants included presidents of Union College, Hamilton College, Yale College, Amherst College, a general in the Civil War, a present of Yale University, the founder and warden of the Columbia Law School, the wife of Eli Whitney, etc. 33 Other descendants of Elizabeth Tuttle included two presidents of the United States and the wife of a president. Other illustrious persons descended from Elizabeth Tuttle, but two 34
have been purposely omitted from the foregoing catalogue, because they inherited also the defects of Elizabeth's character. These two were Pierrepont Edwards . . . acute jurist, eccentric, and licentious; and Aaron Burr . . . . Here the lack of control of the six-impulse in the germ plasm of this wonderful woman has reappeared with imagination and other talents in certain of her descendants.
One wonders if the vagaries of Elizabeth Tuttle's germ plasm were still carrying on their pernicious influence in causing Grant to love hard liquor and Cleveland to forget propriety and produce an illegitimate child -- they were also descendants of this same "wonderful woman." And what of all the sins that are to be committed by all the descendants for two more centuries to come? The whole story is beginning to appear ludicrous. It does show two things, however: (1) that there was much intermarriage among the "educated fringe" of early America; (2) that there are ghosts in many closets. It has long since been pointed out that if all the descendants of Jonathan Edwards were brought before the footlights and the microphone, they would present a scene of heterogenous talents. More social rigidity is proved in the selected cases offered in the usual accounts of the Edwards family than is shown about the wonders of vagaries of germ plasms.
A study of the modern political scientist, Harold J. Laski, of the backgrounds of the 306 persons who held cabinet posts in Britain between 1801 and 1924 is on a different level of understanding and interpretation from those of Galton, Woods, and Davenport. Laski says: 35
For the purposes, therefore, of this study the category [aristocracy] has been defined as containing those cabinet ministers who have been the sons of men possessing hereditary titles. On this definition, Sir Robert Peel was an aristocrat, and Lord Brougham was not; the first Lord Selborne was not an aristocrat, while his son, the second Lord Selborne, was. It follows that the tables below are to some extent weighted against the aristocracy; for there are men who belong to ancient families, like Mr. Chichester Fortescue and Sir William Harcourt,, who are excluded from that class.
32. Herbert Woodrow, Brightness and Dullness in Children (Philadelphia, 1923) p. 248.
33. Ibid., p. 250.
34. Ibid., p. 251.
35. Quoted in Norman L. Hill and Harold W. Stoke, The Background of European Governments (New York, 1935) pp. 47 - 49.