In the period from 1801 to 1924, 306 persons held cabinet offices. Table I gives the salient particulars about them:

Table I Number
Sons of nobility 182
Sons of other parents 124
Educated at Oxford 118
Educated at Cambridge 81
Educated at Eton 83
Educated at Harrow 36
Educated at other Public Schools 53
Educated at other Universities 26
Lawyers 42
Soldiers and Sailors 8
Business men 23
Civil Servants 3
Men of Letters and Journalists 9
Trade Unionists 8

The interest of this table is considerable. Nearly sixty per cent of Cabinet ministers were born of immediately aristocratic parentage; sixty-five per cent were either at Oxford or Cambridge . . . . Thirty per cent only were dependent upon their own effort for a livelihood . . . . It is noticeable that very few civil servants have ever attained the eminence of cabinet rank; and that, thus far, the number of trade unionists is very small. Had this analysis, indeed, ended in 1905, it would have contained the name of no working man.

Broadly speaking, the aristocracy with which we are concerned consists of a thousand families, but the actual number from which cabinet ministers have been drawn is much smaller. The Cecil family and its relatives, for example, have contributed six cabinet ministers to the total; the House of Grey five; the House of Stanley four; four families have three cabinet ministers each, and twenty-seven families two each. Among commoners, not unnaturally, no such persistent attainment of office exists. Two Gladstones, three Chamberlains, two Harcourts and two Balfours exhaust the list. The explanation, of course, is largely personal and economic. A considerable section of the English aristocracy enters Parliament at an early age; and they are thus able to take advantage both of family prestige and freedom from material care.

Social class transmission.
It is exceedingly doubtful that the mechanisms of biological heredity can account for the retention of high social status or for the more spectacular instances of social mobility as well as can the mechanisms of social contacts, social class endogamy, special training, education, and general home atmosphere. The following account of an engagement in a recent newspaper does not call to mind notions of genetics but does remind one strongly of the nature of social class rigidity.

June Rossbach, grandniece of Gov. Lehman will be married next month to Jonathan Brewster Bingham, son of Hiram Bingham, former United States Senator from Connecticut . . . .
Miss Rossbach, now a senior at Barnard College, attended Rosemary Hall, Greenwich Conn., and Vassar College.
Mr. Bingham is a graduate of Groton School, Yale University and Yale Law School . . . .
The seventh son of Senator Bingham, he was the sixth to attend Yale.
His mother is Mrs. Henry Gregor of Salem, Conn., and Miami, Fla. He is a descendant of Elder Brewster, one of the founders of Plymouth Colony, and a great-grandson of Charles Tiffany.

The recent death of Mr. William D. Vanderbilt called up a list of names of those related to her or associated with her during her lifetime. In the New York Times the following persons, among others, were mentioned in that announcement: 36

Princess Murat, Mrs. Lillie Harriman Havemeyer, Oliver Harriman, William C. Whitney, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, O. H. P. Belmont, William H. Vanderbilt, Mrs. William Astor, Ogden L. Mills, Sir Paul Dukes, Miss Anne Morgan, Miss Elizabeth Marbury, the Duchess of Marlborough, William D. Vanderbilt, Jr., Harold Stiring Vanderbilt.

This is the nature of social class. These persons, as the English nobility, are of varied talents, but they stick together and their descendants receive from them much more than mere human form; they receive social class itself, directly.

The rule of social life is not that the intelligent associate with the intelligent but rather that social class associates with social class: 37

Gladys Jenkins found a correlation of plus 0.82 between the socio-economic status of the families of children and that of the families of their friends. The correlation was not significantly influenced by proximity of home, since only 25 per cent of the children stated that they had made their friends in the home neighborhood. Her subjects were 280 boys and girls representing a cross section of the junior high schools of Riverside, California.

Concerning Bossard's study in proximity, wherein people marry in their own neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Folsom remarks: "It must be remembered, however, that geographic proximity in cities usually means also social similarity." 38

Cooley summarizes the social class explanation (here contrasted with the genetic) of high standing in terms of "inherited associations, opportunities, and culture." He states: 39

On every side we may see that differences arise, and that they tend to be perpetuated through inherited associations, opportunities, and culture. The endeavor to secure for one's children whatever desirable thing one has gained for oneself is a perennial source of caste, and this endeavor flows from human nature and the moral unity of the family . . . . [If man has] a good handicraft, he wishes his boys to learn it. And so with the less tangible goods -- education, culture, religious and moral ideas -- there is no good parent but desires his children to have more than the common inheritance of what is best in these things.

Modern theory can safely be said to have veered far from the easy "blood theory" of social stratification, and from the still more mystical theory of "he had in him what his parents didn't; he was born different, born to rise." The idea that there is much social class continuity of a hereditary nature, however, has never been well stated as a substitute for the genetic theory of heredity popularized by Galton and Davenport.

Next Page


36. New York Times, April 21, 1940.
37. Joseph Kirk Folsom, The Family, section entitled "Social Classes are Largely Endogamous" (New York, 1934) pp. 446 - 447.
38. Ibid., p. 447.
39. Charles Horton Cooley, Social Organization (New York, 1909) pp. 211 - 212.