RECORD: Ward, C. O. 1895. [Recollection of a visit to Darwin, 1868]. The equilibration of human aptitudes and powers of adaptation. Washington, D.C.: National Watchman Company, pp. [vii]-viii.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed and edited by John van Wyhe 10.2022. RN1

NOTE: See the record for this item in the Freeman Bibliographical Database by entering its Identifier here. Cyrenus Osborne Ward (1831-1902) was an American socialist and Marxist. No correspondence between him and Darwin is known to survive. During his stay in Europe, he also met Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill. No further accounts of his meeting with Darwin have been found.

[page vii]


The writer of these pages received his earliest and best conceptions of the subject of an economic adjustment of Human Aptitudes from a personal interview with Charles Darwin in 1868, when that gentleman was considered by many as meriting much less esteem and credit than he was actually earning for his name and for humanity. It was before his great thoughts and profound wisdom were fully known, even to himself.

The confessed object of the writer in calling on him was to acquire more knowledge of truth underlying the then little respected labor problem. Through this physicist and keen, analytical master the keys were found, to the height on which one must stand in order to perceive society as a panorama, and realize that it can progress little or no farther on competitive lines in which the selfevident theory of natural selections has been reasoned out. At that interview Mr. Darwin answered questions for light on the labor problem, by meekly declaring that

[page] viii

he knew nothing of human development as restricted to mind; his whole study being based on life, both plant and animal, in its simpler and non-reasoning form. He acknowledged that when he viewed this competition, whose cruel characteristics and cudgel-urged vicissitudes forced into science the awful anathema of survival of the fittest, he studied it only as a factor in nature of simple, reagonless biologic force; and admitted that he had to gather his examples and specimens from among the clams, the ferns, the barnyard fowl.

The arising turmoils of the great, forthcoming labor movement which he clearly foresaw and encouraged us to study, were pronounced by the great savant to be enentirely above his sphere and life-work. They must be solved by others. It was a symptom of the growth of quite another factor in nature than the purely competitive one which consigned him to a field of lower investigations. He saw in it the ominous foreshadowings of a new, a nobler and infinitely vaster power yet scarcely known— the power of concrete reason.

The fact is, that man from the start, has, with his reason been gradually revolutionizing the competitive system that is rooted into his society; and the stage of this sullen, ominous revolution is now far advanced. The advent of man upon the earth changed the methods of obtaining historical truths. The palæontologist finds that so long as man is not found in the geological formations it is comparatively easy to study the history of the an-

[page] ix

cient world by the position of the fossils remaining, every one of which went through life under purely competitive conditions. But as soon as man appears he seizes the species by force of his concrete reason, takes them from their native habitat and transplants them in new places. He confuses students by making exotic of indigenous and indigenous of exotic species. It is his power of reason which, even in such remote ages as the tertiary, had begun the social revolution still raging. Clews to the existence of prehistoric life of plants and animals are only to be had in the discovery of their remains. The most cunning of them possessed, and possess to this day, no higher form of intelligence than abstract reason. It is this wonderful concrete, alone possessed by man, that launches him out upon a new plane.

Great writers there have been; and studying them from their own points of view, we shall in these pages advance nothing against their greatness; but Adam Smith who found popularity and wealth in his musings, wrote of man only in the domain of competition with his reason abstractly and selfishly applied. He created the Manchester school already crumbling away before the inexorable rodents of failure whose toothprints are more and more visible under the newer torch of associate intelligence. Ricardo, Bastiat, Say, Hume, Levasseur and a host of others have done and are doing the same. SaintSimon, Owen, Fourier, Marx and others have seen things from a higher plane and have contemplated man and his

[page] x

rising powers of reason, from another standpoint than that of the clawing and destructive brute and vegetable kingdoms.

They saw him as a collectivity, an individual with millions of co-operating, harmonious organs, each working fraternally for itself and the common whole. They saw his reason applying itself against the partial and timeserving selection of one from many and making him divine, because fittest, by means of his cunning or prowess, so true of the animal and of the vegetable, with at best but the abstract reasoning powers, to which the scholar wisely confined his lifework of study. We shall devote these pages to a study and explanation of the higher and nobler plane of civilization.

About the same time, another valuable interview was had with Mr. John Stuart Mill, on the same subject. This eminent thinker who, unlike Mr. Darwin, had given his life to the study of political economy, acknowledged that the competitive system was coming to an end; and he freely gave it as his opinion that manufacture and distribution would follow the co-operative idea and gradually settle into the control of governments when their citizens became intelligent and numerous enough to assume management in the common interest. He fortified this statement before he died, by writing his celebrated essay on socialism.

For man, the competitive system is already descendant and moribund. It has been attacked by reason in its

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most powerful and formidable armor. The harmonies of the universe are in the ascendant. For our purposes therefore, the great naturalist's lifework—a wonderful drawing of the competitive system which holds dominion over reasonless beings-was a generation too early. That generation has now nearly elapsed; and with much hesitancy we bring it forth, humbly hoping that it may contribute toward filling the gap that yawns between Darwin and the millennium.

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Citation: John van Wyhe, ed. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (

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