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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Alexander F. Boardman   29 January 1868

Brunswick Maine U.S.

January 29. 1868

Mr Charles Darwin

Dear Sir

A few weeks since, I sent to Mr Grindon Author of “Sexuality of Nature” some views in continuation of those which I submitted to you some time since. I requested him to send them to you.1

I wish now to add a little to what was there advanced. I don’t know positively that he, or if he has, that you have received them.

I will therefore outline them here—

If there was a developement from something lower culminating into man, as per my theory, in Asia Minor, it is certainly reasonable to suppose that an African & Asiatic developement met there. In order to afford as much scope as possible for developement it is to be presumed that the exodus from the water to the land took place near the southern extremities of those continents.

Striking coincidences of name & adaptation tho’ of little or no consequence singly, may be strong in considerable combination, as well as the cotton or flax fibre. After noticing Monkey (Man-Key) S-pain—Port-u-gal—the fortress of Gibraltar held by England, Marmora as indicating the point to be reached by gulf stream in order to render the hemisphere a mother, ie to finally produce man, &c &c,2 if we are satisfied that the gulf stream & the Mediteranean Sea are sexual articles, we may be led to allow weight to the names of Borneo & Natal as landing places. South America being the oldest continent, as supposed, and plants the oldest life, if we assume that Borneo and Natal are the points where the sea brought forth, where our progenitors were borne from the Sea, is it unreasonable to conclude that the sea conceived from the plant life of the respective sides of the Andes at Conception in Paraguay & Conception in Chili3—Chili being the chillier of the two. It is certainly of a piece with the rest and mates admirably the supposition in regard to Asia & Africa— And this mating I conceive to be the key stone of the whole matter. I rather suppose that sea life originated from the decayed plants in the water rather than from a transmutation direct, but this is immaterial at this stage of the discussion and is more the province, I suppose, of the Scientific Naturalist. I suppose that the beings which originated from the plants at the Conceptions following the shores respectively of the Atlantic & Pacific, land at Natal & Borneo and meet at Asia Minor, having precisely encircled the globe in a serpentine course reaching far towards either pole—

That they should step into manhood at the presise point at which they complete their circuit of the globe is of weight in my mind.

They have been exposed to every influence in the world of which the nature of the case would admit. They have made great head way while the atmosphere was unfit for higher animals to exist. They and the atmosphere probably advanced with equal step, the gradual change of atmosphere assisting the developement; “Natural Selection” also of course had very great influence.

An amphibious state it appears to me affords great facilities for developement.

It gains time. It requires no abrupt transitions. It admits theoretically of any desirable number, few or many, of germs or transmutations at the Conceptions.

I incline to the opinion that there were many of these, even that there were several perhaps many original plants.

My idea is that this world is compounded of many, or more probably, parts of many preceeding existences. That the first existences of matter as worlds had no plants or only one or very few plants; they ran their race, were destroyed & scattered through space, mixed together & from the mixed matter were compounded other worlds of a higher order which had more & higher vegetable & animal life—

From the scattered & mixed residuum of these, still higher worlds were formed with a greater variety of life & of a higher grade of life vegetable & animal.

In what part of the gradation our world is, of course, I don’t pretend to speculate.

I should suppose however that it was high enough to give us a variety of vegetable & animal life to start with.

Of course the world, when S America emerged, contained the elements of all its preceeding existences purified & compounded by the tremendous conflagration of its early existence—vegetable life started— All agree upon that, I presume, and it is of little or no consequence to this theory whether part of its matter impregnated other parts or whether meteors comets or imperceptible matter in space was instrumental in the impregnation. As plant life developed in South America and reached the Conceptions from the Andes, higher and still higher organisms were produced in the water at those points, landing, after a while, in animal producing forms, untill at last our ancestral organisms brought up the rear.

While talking some time ago with a friend on the sexuality of the E & W hemispheres, he remarked rather sarcastically, that if my views were true the Mediteranean sea ought to have the regular female monthly flow.

It at once occoured to me that I had seen it stated, I did not, & do not now, remember where, that it did.

Its extreme length from East to West ought to give it one, and I presume it does.

Did it ever occur to you that the Nations of the earth are advanced in about the proportion of their exposure to the influence of the gulf stream except where as in Ireland they have not been intimately mixed & crossed with different peoples—

The Eastern United States of course receives it with every easterly wind and it is always damp & usually rains with the wind east—

The ancient Gauls & Britons at the time of the Roman Empire had probably not arrived at the right stage for the gulf stream to have its best effect on them as it is likely that developing influences, to have their best effect, should be exerted when the subject is in a particular state. A purer faith &c has doubtless exerted much influence in human developement, but why did not the purer faith spread south & East? Obviously because the peoples were not prepared for it.

Is not the preeminence of the commercial nations due partly to the fact that they gather their food from every variety of soil & clime, thereby stimulating themselves to greater activity & energy?

After reaching a certain point, a crossing with a less developed or less forced race may be of advantage. The precise time when this intermixture will be of advantage to an individual or a nation is of course known only to an overruling Providence. Effeteness however would seem to indicate that it is needed— I imagine that a decided advantage both to the male & female adults in point of health will arise from a proper mating. Their progeny, of course, will be benefited and I imagine that the parents themselves will be decidedly benefited by a proper marriage, or injured in health by an improper one— The proper mating of the governments of the two hemispheres I therefore consider a point of great importance to the welfare of the whole— Divine Providence of course has this matter in charge, and therein lies our salvation, but of course, an appreciation by mankind of what is good for them would oil the ways.

I lay great stress on the isolation of the drainage of Central Asia into the Caspian and Aral Seas. This drainage covers according to a Geography before me 5,000,000 square miles. The evaporation from this isolated area is mixed with the evaporation from another large section over the Caucasian Mountains. The waters of this other section have been impregnated by a solution from the carefully collected drainage of the whole world stamped with the masculine seal in the gulf of Mexico (Mixico).

On the Causasian mountains originated our highest type of man— Near them mankind originated. Why this immense pains thus to play off this isolated area against all the rest of the world? I have never realized untill very lately how completely a selection from the drainage of the entire world is carried into the gulf of Mexico & how completely it is there mixed under a high temperature. Its main current, according to a map before me, has traversed the hottest possible and therefore the most concentrated waters from the Asiatic archipelago before entering the gulf—

I can’t consider all these coincidences accidental.

I am not sure that English Borneo & Latin Natal are not significant of a merging of all peoples into the Anglo Saxon & Latin races. I have exhausted my spare time now but by no means the subject.

It would afford me great pleasure to hear from you how much or how little, if any, weight you attach to these views—

Yours respecty | Alex. F. Boardman

CD annotations

1.1 I sent … to you 1.3] scored red crayon


The references are to Leopold Hartley Grindon and Grindon 1853. Boardman’s earlier views were stated in his letter of 26 January 1867 (Correspondence vol. 15). No letter from Grindon to CD has been found.
The Sea of Marmara is an inland sea between the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea. Boardman alluded to the significance of these place names in his letter of 26 January 1867 (Correspondence vol. 15).
Boardman refers to Concepción, Paraguay, and Concepción, Chile.


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

Grindon, Leopold Hartley. 1853. The sexuality of nature: an essay proposing to shew that sex and the marriage union are universal principes:–fundamental alike in physics, physiology and psychology. London: Fred. Pitman. Manchester: Fletcher and Tubbs; Dunnill and Palmer.


Gives his speculative thoughts on geographical, political, and biological factors in the origin and development of human races.

Letter details

Letter no.
Alexander F. Boardman
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Brunswick, Maine
Source of text
DAR 160: 228
Physical description
ALS 6pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5811,” accessed on 4 March 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16