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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Alexander F. Boardman   26 January 1867

Brunswick Maine U.S.A.

January 26. 1867

Mr Charles Darwin

Dear Sir

Having written the accompanying letter about a week since1 & not having your address, and never having seen your work on the origin of Species although knowing something of its drift, I sent for the book partly to obtain your address and partly to get your precise views and partly to get a little acquainted with the man I had been writing to and who had done more than any one else, I suppose, to convince the world of the truth of a theory which has always since I have been old enough to have an opinion on the subject been a favorite with me and which I regard as the corner stone of a stupendous fabric reaching through the moon & planet & sun & perhaps suns suns, from the lowest organised matter to the great central sun or suns the capital of all things and the throne of the Almighty— I suppose electricity or something of that sort to pervade the whole line so that when a system is admitted to the union (I’m afraid that our system is what in the United States of America we call a territory) the lowest matter & of course all above is represented at the center of the universe. “The hairs of our head are all counted” or numbered I believe it is.

The Caspian Sea is a material isolation. The district of Columbia in this country and Switzerland in Europe appear to be mated isolations which in connection with the thousand other reasons which easily present themselves hint at least very strongly at Switzerland as the future Capital of Europe & its territories.

You have noticed I see the isolation of Paraguay in South A—a in one particular.2 Their present struggle against great odds look significant in this connection.3

Brazil & Siberia appear to be mates and I should expect some country in the interior of Africa where peaceful animals could roam at large unmolested by wild beasts or something similar to that. Is any thing of that kind known to exist there?

May not the destruction of the Alexandrian library in Egypt have cut us off from all written knowledge of our preadamite ancestry as the flood cut off the ancestry itself making a material and spiritual parralelism?4

The preponderance of land and of mind and of quality of mind is largely in favor of the northern hemisphere and the compass points to the north.

Other influences of course wholly or in part produced this but it is a parralellism and I am inclined to think that magnetism pitched the tune. In the accompanying letter I supposed that the impregnation of the Black Sea by the gulf stream took place previous to the flood. I don’t know that it is impossible that the flood might have been the effect of this rush of waters through the Mediteranean, in which case the Caspian Sea was reached of course.

I prefer however to suppose that the flood took place before this.

I dont know but your divine who “has gradually learnt to see that it is just as noble a conception &c” is fully up to and perhaps in advance of the times, which is encouraging,5 but to my mind, the comparison between the two would be something like this. If the old system is a stone thrown from a sling the new is a howitzer shell. If the old is a pebble the new is an acorn. If the old is the moon the new is the sun that gives it light—

I hope, Sir, that you have had patience to read this far and that I have not wearied you. I should write thus freely to but few. I was rather disappointed in finding so little reference to man in your work, but I see that you are driving the piles for a superstructure very thick and some of them very deep and I heartily bid you God Speed.

Yours | Alex F. Boardman

[Enclosure]

Brunswick Me Jany 17/66 Mr Charles Darwin Dear Sir

I wish to lay before you some thought on the theory (or perhaps more properly supplementary to the theory) of the origin of man which you have done so much to elucidate and which has been christened with your name.6 My idea is that one branch of the human race originated in the vicinity of Borneo, migrated north & west untill improved by change of climate food crossings &c it arrived at the vicinity of the Black Sea—

It there meets the more enterprising of (or a selection from) the African branch who have found their way through the isthmus of Suez— The two branches mingle. The waters of the Nile the Danube the D⁠⟨⁠o⁠⟩⁠n7 &c containing the fertilizing matter of their respective regions here meet & mingle, and through their evaporations affect the climate, the plants & the inhabitants, who are also crossing the breeds the while— While this is going on I suppose the straits of Gibraltar to have been closed (and I understand that their appearance warrants or gives color to this supposition)

The Caspian Sea, receiving & holding an (entirely different drainage, of course assisted also, and the Arabian & Baltic Seas are not too far off to have some slight influence—

I suppose all this to have resulted in a Black Man in the right state to be affected by another influence—when, the Black & Mediteranean seas being low & their waters concentrated by drought, the boistereous Atlantic bursts through the pillars of Hercules & rushes clear up to the Black Sea, bearing through the Gulf stream a selection from an entire Hemisphere.8

This influence from the to them unknown world I suppose to have had bleaching & other qualities & to have resulted in the white man, or Adam. From Adam to Noah the breed was fixed as much as possible or expedient in Noah— The flood sweeps all away & Noah & his family have a clear field—9 Some of his progeny go back to Asia & Africa & under those influences breed back to a more or less extent, others migrating to Europe & continuing to receive the influence of the gulf stream & finding other better influences & perhaps a virgin soil have resulted in what they are.

I suppose a similar operation to have gone on on this continent between the waters & inhabitants of the valley of the Amazon & Missisippi &c in and around the gulf of Mexico, resulting in a race of beings similar to that produced by a similar combination in Europe. I suppose also that every thing material & immaterial in nature is differently charged as positive & negative or male & female, that this Hemisphere in this connection is male (ie the male preponderates) & in the other the female preponderates.

I do not suppose this operation of the gulf stream through the Mediteranean Sea to be an imitation of sexual intercourse— The resemblance is very striking however— It is a means well adapted to an end. And the similarity in the means is probably paralell with the similarity in the materials used & the object to be attained, and the different wombs you will perceive correspond with the organizations resulting. I have long considered the name of Monkey (Mankey) as significant, and in this connection, although it may seem childish, Portugal, Spain & the Fortress of Gibraltar held by England look suspicious.

Hellespont, Marmora, Bosphorous &c do not require a very vivid imagination to perceive the hint if we are looking for one.10 Caucus is not a bad synonym for what is supposed to have transpired on & around the Caucasian mountains and there is the plain bald unquestioned fact that here, in the vicinity of the Black & Caspian Seas, Man (not what man was made of or from) but Man himself was made.11

There is man right where those tools would have made him if they did make him. Those tools could have made him I think, and in the very way in which God makes every thing which we know any thing about and there are even the signboards which (tho’ not absolutely necessary perhaps but convenient) we naturally expect to find on approaching a County Seat or similar place— And then & thus or similarly, I believe God did make him.

As intimated before I suppose this principle of opposites or (more properly perhaps) apposites to pervade all Nature, Government among the rest, that Monarchical & Democratical forms of government are both faulty, & both need an opposite as much as the male or female, in fact that they are one positive & the other negative or whatever you please to call it.

I believe that the Eastern continent or Hemisphere is and should be monarchically charged and that this Hemisphere is democratically charged. Two straight lines may always approach each other & never meet & thus I imagine that Monarchy & Democracy Good & Evil or any other two opposites may always approach each other, growing more & more like but never meeting or becoming the same.

Monarchy I conceive to be Adam and Democracy Eve or Adam or monarchy conseved or taken out of his rib.

God & Devil (Good & Evil) hold no feeble light on this Subject. Amazon & Mis Sippi & Miss Houri seem to be branded.12 In fact as you near the focus every thing seems to tell—

This play upon words may seem puerile to you (and the whole may for ought I know) but the more I meditate upon it (and its a regular Mediteranaen Sea) the more I am convinced that there is something and a good deal too in it. I should be glad to hear from you on the subject either in the way of objection or any other way.

Of course it is a theory only and I do not undertake to prove it, otherwise than as it speaks for itself or as I may elucidate it.

Of course to carry out the Governmental part of the theory, as per the chart, the Eastern Hemisphere should be gathered together under one head, the western under another head, we should have one man & one woman who ought at once to get married and behave themselves like a good husband & wife give us peace & the millenium and all the good things which must follow in its train.

Yours respecty | Alex F. Boardman | Brunswick | Maine | USA

Footnotes

See enclosure.
Boardman may refer to CD’s discussion in Origin, pp. 72–3, of insects checking the increase of cattle in Paraguay, but not in adjacent countries.
Paraguay’s War of the Triple Alliance against Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil had started in 1864 and would last until 1870 (EB).
The library of Alexandria was thought to have been finally destroyed in the seventh century (EB 8th ed.).
Boardman quotes in part an addition to the second edition, and the American edition, of Origin: ‘A celebrated author and divine has written to me that “he has gradually learnt to see that it is just as noble a conception of the Deity to believe that He created a few original forms capable of self-development into other and needful forms, as to believe that He required a fresh act of creation to supply the voids caused by the action of His laws’” (see Origin 2d ed., p. 481). The author CD quoted was Charles Kingsley (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter from Charles Kingsley, 18 November 1859). For publication of the American edition of Origin, see Correspondence vol. 8, Appendix IV.
Though CD did not discuss humans directly in Origin, he did write: ‘Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history’ (p. 488).
The Danube and Don rivers drain into the Black Sea from the north-west and north.
The pillars of Hercules are the rocks flanking the Strait of Gibraltar, with Calpé to the north, and Abyla (Ceuta) to the south (OED). For a contemporary account of ocean currents in the Mediterranean, including flow from the Gulf Stream and the Black Sea, see C. Lyell 1853, pp. 294, 333–6.
For the diminishing credibility in nineteenth-century Britain of the ‘Noachian Deluge’, and CD’s role in this, see Browne 1983.
The Hellespont (the Dardanelles) is the strait connecting the Aegean Sea and the western end of the Sea of Marmara; the Bosporus is the strait connecting the eastern end of the Sea of Marmara with the Black Sea.
The Caucasian Mountains lie between the Black and Caspian Seas. Charles Lyell had recently noted that at least seventy different languages had been spoken in the area, suggesting the intersection of different peoples over time (see C. Lyell 1863, pp. 460–1).
Boardman refers to the Amazon river in South America and the Mississippi and Missouri rivers in North America.

Bibliography

Browne, Janet. 1983. The secular ark. Studies in the history of biogeography. New Haven, Conn., and London: Yale University Press.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

EB 8th ed.: The Encyclopaedia Britannica: or, dictionary of arts, sciences, and general literature. 8th edition. 22 vols. Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black. 1853–60.

EB: The Encyclopædia Britannica. A dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information. 11th edition. 29 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1910–11.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

Origin 2d ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1860.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Summary

Encloses letter written a week ago. Letter and enclosure speculate on origins of human races in relation to geological and political changes, according to a theory of progressive development.

Was sorry CD wrote so little on man in Origin.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-5378
From
Alexander F. Boardman
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Brunswick, Maine
Source of text
DAR 160: 226, 226/1, 227
Physical description
ALS 4pp; encl 7pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5378,” accessed on 25 February 2024, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/?docId=letters/DCP-LETT-5378.xml

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15

letter