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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Baldwin   4 January 1873

Worcester, Massachusetts, U.S.A.,

January 4, 1873.

My Dear Sir,

Will you allow an American to address you without ceremony?

I have read and studied all your books, including the latest, that on “Expression of the Emotions,” and find no serious objection to your theory of Development or Evolution, except that it seems to me “not proven.” It may be the true theory. You say much to make it seem probable; and I could accept it without giving up my belief, that the first forms of life were created, and that the “variations,” without which “natural selection can do nothing,”1 may, also, be due to creative agency. The explanation of origins seems to me not within the scope of physical science. When reading your books, especially the “Origin of Species,” I sometimes desire to ask whether you admit this.

But I write this hoping to hear what you have to say of a suggestion that has occurred to me frequently. Supposing your theory of the “Descent of Man” to be correct, may it not be true that the unlike races of mankind arose from different offspring of an original progenitor, who were dispersed “long before they deserved to be called human,”2 but when development had advanced so far as to make them sure of becoming human? The dispersed offspring may have been sufficiently unlike to explain the unlikeness of different races, and yet so nearly human as to give all a common human nature.

I can not believe that all the races of mankind came originally from a single human pair. There are languages, such as the Chinese and the Sanskrit, which could not have had a common origin; and there are physical differences which my suggestion explains more readily than any other, save the theory that the different branches of the human family had their beginning, by creation, at different times and in different places.

If we suppose that the nearly human offspring of a common ancestor were dispersed, before the faculty of speech was developed, it can reasonably be assumed that they were sufficiently unlike to be developed, some into Negroes, some into Malays, some into Mongols, and some into Aryans or white men; and it will become easy to explain why all the human languages did not have a common origin.

I find your books exceedingly valuable without regard to any question relative to the tenability of your hypothesis of development. I wish to thank you for having written them. | Very respectfully yours, | John D. Baldwin.

Charles Darwin, Esq.


Baldwin quotes from Origin, p. 82.
Expression, pp. 361–2: ‘We may confidently believe that laughter … was practised by our progenitors long before they deserved to be called human.’


Expression: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

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.


Has studied CD’s books and accepts evolution without giving up belief in creation of first forms.

On theory in Descent, suggests offspring of the original [human] progenitor dispersed before a human stage arrived at; this would account for races and languages with no discernible common origin.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Denison Baldwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Worcester, Mass.
Source of text
DAR 160: 21
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8725,” accessed on 20 October 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21