“A Eugenics Catechism”, American Eugenics Society, Inc.. 1926

 In my reading recently, I’ve seen two references to A Eugenics Catechism and was able to find an OCRed version online, but not the scans of the original. I was curious to read the work in its entirety, so this is certainly good enough. I’ve reset the type from the source to that it’s more readable.

The document was published by the American Eugenics Society

Wikipedia: “The founders included Madison Grant, Harry H. Laughlin, Irving Fisher, Henry Fairfield Osborn, andHenry Crampton. The organization started by promoting racial betterment, eugenic health, and genetic education through public lectures, exhibits at county fairs ea., but under the direction ofFrederick Osborn, started to place greater focus on issues of population control, genetics, and, later, medical genetics.”

One source states that it was the Committee on Cooperation with Clergymen that “distributed thousands of copies of A Eugenics Catechism to ministers and college professors”.

What I find odd and frustrating is that an excerpt given in the book I’m reading differs significantly from the same answer below.

In “Defending the Master Race” the author provides the following Q & A:

Q. What makes slums?
A. People. Slums have been cleaned up and the people move on and make other slums.

But the University of Vermont’s website where I pulled the text below from states it as:

Q. What makes slums?
A. Inferior people in inferior places. To do away with slums requires improvement of both.

The most obvious answer is that there were at least two editions, with significant revisions. This is highly plausible, but frustrating nonetheless.



Q. What is eugenics?
A. Eugenics is the study of those agencies under social control which may improve or impair the inborn qualities of future generations of man either physically or mentally.


Q. Is eugenics sex hygiene?
A. No.
Q. Is eugenics birth control?
A. No, not in the sense in which the term is commonly used. The conception of fewer inferiors is eugenic, but such birth control as reduces the conception of superiors is opposed to eugenics.
Q. Is eugenics prenatal culture?
A. No.
Q. Is eugenics public health?
A. No.
Q. Is eugenics free love?
A. No.
Q. Is eugenics trial marriage?
A. No.
Q. Is eugenics a vice campaign?
A. No.
Q. Is eugenics government‐made marriage?
A. No.
Q. Is eugenics physical culture?
A. No.
Q. Is eugenics Spartan infanticide?
A. No.
Q. Is eugenics a plan for producing genius to order?
A. No, but it is a plan to increase the number of geniuses and to raise the general average.
Q. Is eugenics a plan for making supermen?
A. No, it is a plan to raise the general average.
Q. Is eugenics scientific love making?
A. No, but it fosters more selective love making.
Q. Is eugenics equivalent to breeding human beings like animals?
A. No.
Q. Does eugenics mean less love in marriage?
A. No, more.
Q. Does eugenics contradict the Bible?
A. The Bible has much to say for eugenics. It tells us that men do not gather grapes from thorns and figs from thistles.
Q. Is eugenics antagonistic to the Bible?
A. No. The aim of eugenics is to insure the totality of human welfare in the long run.
Q. Does eugenics mean less sympathy for the unfortunate?
A. It means a much better understanding of them, and a more concerted attempt to alleviate their suffering, by seeing to it that everything possible is done to have fewer hereditary defectives.
Eugenics does not mean less sympathy for the unfortunate; it does mean fewer unavoidable unfortunates with which to divide a sympathy which should be more fully and effectively expended on the inevitable unfortunates. At the same time that sympathy and remedial treatment are being extended, something effective should be done to prevent a recurrence of such cases where heredity is to blame. This is a true kindness, both to the victims and to society.
Q. Must one who believes in eugenics believe in evolution?
A .Yes, that evolution is a present and a continuing process. It is not necessary to believe that the original or ancestral man evolved from apes. All admit that there has been an evolution in the differentiation of the races, and from fossil man to modern man. Should we not want more of such evolution?


Q. Who is called “The father of eugenics”?
A. Sir Francis Galton, who invented the word and was the first outstanding student of the subject proper.
Q. What is the history of eugenics in brief?
A. Common sense has recognized that traits are inherited from very early times. Chinese, Greek, Roman and Jewish histories abound with eugenic references. Some landmarks in the modern history of eugenics, however, are as follows: In 1858 Darwin gave to the world the theory of natural selection.
In 1865 Mendel framed his theory of alternative inheritance.
In 1869 Galton gave to the world his idea of eugenics, although he did not propose the name until later.
Q. Who was Gregor Mendel?
A. A Moravian monk who lived at Bruun, Moravia.
Q. What did he discover?
A. That pea vines were not just pea vines, but bundles of innumerable units shown in such characters as color of seed, height, etc. In each plant two ancestral factors or determinants unite to determine each unit. Where the two corresponding determinants are different, one, which he called dominant is apparent to the observer, and one, which he called recessive, gives way to the other so that it is not apparent, but may appear in the next generation. These determinants are not influenced ordinarily by their association with their partners, but reappear unchanged in future generations. The frequency with which they appear is governed by the law of chances as was shown by Mendel. Since then this relatively simple plan is found to be more complicated than he supposed.


Q.Does everyone believe in the inheritance of physical characteristics ?
A. Everyone who has investigated the subject.
Q. Does everyone believe in the inheritance of mental or moral characteristics ?
A. Most students of biology conclude that structure of the nervous system accounts in a large part for the way one thinks, and influences the results of that training which in part determines what we do. Special abilities result from the training of special capacities. Special training is of little value for those who have not the special capacity that it is sought to train.
Q. What chance of having a son listed in Who’s Who have thefamilies of men of the following occupations?
A. Unskilled laborers 1 in 48,000 Skilled laborers 1 in 1,600 Farmers 1 in 680 Engineers 1 in 161 Physicians 1 in 105 Business men 1 in 80 Lawyers 1 in 52 Professional men with the exception of clergymen (including teachers, literary men, etc.) 1 in 46 Clergymen (all denominations) 1 in 20
Q. Are acquired characters inherited?
A. Nearly all students of heredity believe that acquired somatic (bodily) variations, due to exertion on the part of the parents or due to outside influences such as sunburn, etc., are not inherited as such.
Q. Is there anything to the old theories of pre‐natal influence?
A. Probably nothing. So far, there has been nothing to prove that there are any prenatal influences on such things as temperament, specific physical defects and the like. Nevertheless, certain conditions such as proper food, absence of poisons, and a happy disposition or environment during pregnancy in order to avoid harmful substances in the blood supplied the embryo and hence impair its growth or health, are undoubtedly desirable.
Q. What is there to the old birth mark theory?
A. No proof, to date, to substantiate it.
Q. Can the germ cells be affected by any outside influence?
A. Poisons such as alcohol can weaken or kill some of the germ cells. The capacity of the germ cells to resist modification is necessarily very great. Efforts to accomplish change by selection where the trait is already variable are, therefore, far more worthwhile. Even where the germ cells are apparently modified, the change is often only temporary, and not in the direction desired.


Q. Which counts for more, heredity or environment?
A. They are interdependent. This question is almost the equivalent of “Which is more important, the seed or the soil ?“ We may well call it “a 50‐50 proposition.”
Q. What makes slums?
A. Inferior people in inferior places. To do away with slums requires improvement of both.
Q. Do eugenics and social work disagree?
A. They stress different things; one, heredity, and the other environment. Improving environment will help some, but the same environment cannot in the same way help all of diverse mankind. Heredity gives potentialities. It does not determine, willy nilly, the course of development. A good environment affords a great opportunity for those who can take advantage of it.
Q. How much has been spent within the last few years by 23 of the most generous philanthropists for the environmental improvement of the human race?
A. $1,385,220,000.
Q. How much for hereditary improvement?
A. Scarcely anything.
Q. How much does the government spend annually on the genetical improvement of domestic animals?
A. Over $300,000 outside of poultry. The separate states also spend great sums.


Q.In what way is crime a concern of eugenics?
A. The elements of personality‐‐ e.g. lack of strong social instincts or lack of self‐control‐‐which lie at the bottom of many crimes have an hereditary element. To understand the recidivist it is important to know his constitution as it may be inferred from a study of his family as a whole.
Q. Are the crimes against person and property the acts of a normal individual?
A. Frequently not. A person with strong social instincts and self‐control is rarely given to repeated antisocial acts. The recidivist generally has a constitutional make‐up which is not readily moulded by ordinary training.
Q. How many persons are in penal institutions in the United States?
A. 109,075. Jan. 1, 1923. (World Almanac for 1926).
Q. How many paupers are there in the United States?
A. 78,090 in almshouses, Jan. 1, 1923. (World Almanac for 1926).
Q. How many commitments to jail in the United States per year?
A. Over 650,000.
Q. How many insane are in institutions in the United States?
A. 290,456 in hospitals for mental diseases, and many more in psychopathic wards in general hospitals.
Q. How many are so feebleminded that they need institutional care?
A. Estimates vary from 300,000 to over 1,000,000. There recently were 43,349 in state institutions for feebleminded.


Q. How can the object of eugenics be obtained?
A. This has been answered in many ways. Some believe that eugenics can be legislated into usefulness, others, that education is the only thing. No doubt the last is most important, especially the education of children to realize that there is such a thing as inheritance. It is very difficult to break up a match after the boy and the girl have fallen in love. Many dysgenic (harmful to the race) matches can be prevented by the teaching of eugenics to children. Education can also influence the number of children in families of good and of bad stock. The Eugenics Society has answered this question in this way:
1. By the promotion of eugenic research
2. By the promotion of eugenic education
3. By the promotion of conservative eugenic legislation
4. By the promotion of eugenic administration


Q. What is meant by negative eugenics?
A. This deals with the elimination of the dysgenic elements from society. Sterilization, immigration, legislation, laws preventing the fertile unfit from marrying, etc., come under this head.


Q. Why sterilize?
A. To rid the race of those likely to transmit the dysgenic tendencies to which they are subject. To decrease the need for charity of a certain form. To reduce taxes. To help alleviate misery and suffering. To do what Nature would do under natural conditions, but more humanely. Sterilization is not a punitive measure. It is strictly protective.
Q. Who should be sterilized?
A. Such criminals, paupers, insane, feebleminded, epileptics, rapists, and other defectives who can be proved to have inherited such defects as make them incapable of leading ordinarily normal lives, and who, unless sterilized, are likely to transmit their defects to their children.
Q. How is sterilization accomplished?
A. In males by vasectomy: namely, by severing the tiny tube which carries the sperm from the seminal gland. In females, by an abdominal operation, closing the Fallopian tubes (the tubes which carry the ova to the uterus.) Also by a method of searing the tubes where they enter the uterus so that the contracting scar will close the opening, thus preventing the ova from reaching the uterus and preventing the sperm from entering the Fallopian tubes. This method is as yet difficult and less frequently used.
Q. Is vasectomy a serious operation?
A. No, very slight, about like pulling a tooth.
Q. Is the closing of the Fallopian tubes a serious operation?
A. Yes, about equivalent to an operation for appendicitis.
Q. Is the sealing of the tubes by searing serious?
A. Much less than closing the Fallopian tube by tying as the abdomen is not opened.
Q. Do any of the above operations interfere with the normal life of the individual in any way?
A. No. They do not even interfere with his or her sex activity. They merely make it impossible for the persons to reproduce.
Q. How does sterilization affect sex immorality?
A. It decreases the number of illegitimate children.
Q. Is voluntary sterilization likely to become a menace to America?
A. It may, but that does not interfere with its value as applied to the cases considered.
Q. Who decides the question of legally sterilizing any given person?
A. A committee of experts, board of trustees of the institution in which the patient is confined, State Board of Charities and Corrections, State Board of Eugenics or similar body. A State Eugenist whose duty is to investigate and then bring the matter before a court is recommended. An appeal to the courts is always possible.
Q. How many states have sterilization laws?
A. Twenty‐three states have at one time or another enacted sterilization laws, but repeal or court action has reduced the number of states where it is in operation.
Q. Are all of these laws effective?
A. No, but they are rapidly being replaced by new laws, which are effective.
Q. In what states are they most successful?
A. California, where about 5,000 persons have been sterilized since 1909; Kansas, 335 since 1913; Nebraska, 260 since 1917; Oregon, 313 since 1917; Wisconsin, 144 since 1913. For further information, send for H. H. Laughlin’s booklet “Eugenical Sterilization: 1926,” (price 50 cents) published by the American Eugenics Society, Inc.


Q. What is another method of protecting society against the socially inadequate?
A. Segregation.
Q. How much does segregation cost?
A. It has been estimated that to have segregated the original “Jukes” for life would have cost the State of New York about $25,000.
Q. Is that a real saving?
A. Yes. It has been estimated that the State of New York, up to 1916 spent over $2,000,000 on the descendants of these people.
Q. How much would it have cost to sterilize the original Jukes pair?
A. Less than $150.
Q. What are segregation farms good for?
A. These farms have been recommended instead of jails for persons actively or potentially a menace to society and not requiring unusual restraint. Many of these people need custodial care for their own benefit as well as for that of the state by preventing their reproduction and other damage to society.


Q. Is immigration an economic consideration?
A. It should be first of all considered a long time investment in family stocks.
Q. How may immigration regulation be used to improve our stock?
A. By a rigid exclusion of all idiots, imbeciles, feebleminded persons, epileptics, insane persons, persons of constitutional psychopathic inferiority, and similar groups, and by admitting only those who are shown by tests to be superior to the American average.


Q. What is meant by positive eugenics?
A. This deals with the forces which tend upward, or with the furtherance of human evolution. Encouraging the best endowed to produce four or more children per family, encouraging the study of eugenics by all, etc., are positive eugenics.
Q. How can we most quickly raise the hereditary level of the United States?
A. By encouraging reproduction among the superior, and discouraging reproduction among the inferior. By eliminating immigrants who are not above the average American standard. Tests must be developed to determine which are the superior and which the inferior.
Q. Why is eugenics interested in birth control?
A. The control of births is the principal means of improving the stock. The term, “Birth Control,” has of late been taken by some to mean the limitation of birth on an economic and war prevention basis, or an anti‐baby strike. Sterilization of defectives or segregation is in one sense a form of birth control. Conception of children whenever the couple wants them is birth control. The movement in question should really be called “conception control.” Control after conception is a medical, not a eugenic problem. Abortion except on strict medical grounds is murder and eugenists do not advocate it except to save the life or serious injury of the mother.
Q. How do the different churches stand on the question of birth control?
A. The Protestant and Jewish Churches have taken no definite position. The Roman Catholic Church tolerates birth control accomplished by marital continence, or the use of the “safe period,” but opposes the use of contraceptives.
Q. What is the most precious thing in the world?
A. The human germ plasm.
Q. How may one’s germ plasm become immortal?
A. Only by perpetuation through children.
Q. What is a person’s eugenical duty to civilization?
A. To see that his own good qualities are passed on to future generations provided they exceed his bad qualities. If he has, on the whole, an excess of dysgenic qualities, they should be eliminated by letting the germ plasm die out with the individual.
Q. How many children must a family bear on the average in order to perpetuate the race, that is, just balance itself between life and death?
A. The latest figures for the registration area of the United States is between three and four. In other words, three children will not suffice and four will increase the “line.”
Q. How may my children know all they now are able to about their own pedigree?
A. If the parents have filed as complete a family pedigree as possible at the Eugenics Record Office, Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, the children may have the information at any time by applying there for it.
Q. How much does it cost to file a family pedigree?
A. Not a cent except the postage. Even the blanks are furnished free of charge.
Q. Is the pedigree then open to the public?
A. Absolutely no. It is held confidential.
Q. What may I do to spread eugenical information?
A. Learn, speak and write. The American Eugenics Society will be glad to help by sending you suggestions on reading, lists of speakers, and a leaflet, “Suggested Program for Clubs.”
Q. What are the Fitter Families Competitions which are conducted by the Eugenics Society?
A. These competitions are held at fairs, and will be extended to other appropriate places. Whole families compete for the trophies offered, on the basis of heredity, physique and mentality. The idea is to inculcate in those interested in taking the examinations, and in those who hear about it, the idea that heredity is the important thing, and that proper attention to the laws of heredity and hygiene will be decidedly worth while.
Q. How may I bring one of these competitions to my town?
A. Write to the American Eugenics Society, which has now standardized the contests and simplified them so that a few doctors and a supervisor can easily handle them. The American Eugenics Society is anxious to extend the competitions to all who are interested.
Q. Where may I get information on what to read in eugenics, without having to go through the library, and then not find just what I want?
A. Ask the American Eugenics Society for their condensed bibliography on eugenics.