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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Heinrich Fick   26 July [1872]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

July 26th

Dear Sir

I am much obliged for your kindness in having sent me your Essay, which I have read with very great interest.2 Your view of the daughters of short-lived parents inheriting property at an early age, & thus getting married with its consequences, is an original & quite new idea to me.— So would have been what you say about soldiers, had I not read an article published about a year ago by a German (name forgotten just at present) who takes nearly the same view with yours, & thus accounts for great military nations having had a short existence.3

I much wish that you would sometimes take occasion to discuss an allied point, if it holds good on the continent,—namely the rule insisted on by all our Trades-Unions, that all workmen,—the good & bad, the strong & weak,—shd. all work for the same number of hours & receive the same wages. The unions are also opposed to piece-work,—in short to all competition.

I fear that Cooperative Societies, which many look at as the main hope for the future, likewise exclude competition.4

This seems to me a great evil for the future progress of mankind.— Nevertheless under any system, temperate & frugal workmen will have an advantage & leave more offspring than the drunken & reckless.—

With my best thanks for the interest which I have received from your Essay, & with my respect, I remain, Dear Sir | Yours faithfully | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the reference to Heinrich Fick 1872.
There is an annotated copy of Heinrich Fick 1872 in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
There is an annotated copy of Hermann Eberhard Richter’s Die Zukunft der Soldatenvölker (The future of the military class; Richter 1871) in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Fick argued that national vigour was sapped by policies that required strong young men to serve in the military but exempted the weak, who then gained a selective advantage in the struggle for existence. To counter this he suggested that marriage restrictions be placed on those ineligible for military service. Fick also believed that socioeconomic equality would benefit the weak and lead to degeneration. See Heinrich Fick 1872 and Weikart 1995. CD added a reference to Heinrich Fick 1872 in Descent 2d ed., p. 134.
The Trade Union Act of 1871 had legalised trade unions for the first time in Britain. From 1863, British co-operative societies began to come together to form the Co-operative Wholesale Society, which, by means of bulk purchases, provided cheaper goods to its members (Redfern 1938, p. 32).


Descent 2d ed.: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. London: John Murray. 1874.

Fick, Heinrich. 1872. Einfluss der Naturwissenschaft auf das Recht. Jahrbücher für Nationalökonomie und Statistik 18: 248–77.

Redfern, Percy. 1938. The new history of the C. W. S. London: J. M. Dent.

Richter, Hermann Eberhard. 1871. Die Zukunft der Soldatenvölker. Dresden: Hellmuth Henkler.

Weikart, Richard. 1995. A recently discovered Darwin letter on social Darwinism. Isis 86: 609–11.


Thanks HF for his essay ["Über den Einfluss der Naturwissenschaft auf das Recht", Jahrbücher für Nationalökonomie und Statistik 18 (1872): 248–77]. CD gives views favouring competition among trades unions and the working classes.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Heinrich Fick
Sent from
Source of text
Helene Fick ed. 1897–1908, 2: 314–15
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8427F,” accessed on 5 April 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20