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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;

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7139. RACE, Improvement of human.—
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7139. RACE, Improvement of human.—

The passage you quote from Theognis, I
think has an ethical rather than a political object.
The whole piece is a moral exhortation, * * * and this passage particularly seems to
be a reproof to man, who, while with his domestic
animals he is curious to improve the
race, by employing always the finest male, pays
no attention to the improvement of his own
race, but intermarries with the vicious, the ugly
or the old, for considerations of wealth or ambition.
It is in conformity with the principle
adopted afterwards by the Pythagoreans, and
expressed by Ocellus in another form * * * which, as literally as intelligibility will admit,
may be thus translated, “concerning the interprocreation
of men, how, and of whom it shall
be, in a perfect manner, and according to the
laws of modesty and sanctity, conjointly, this is
what I think right. First, to lay it down that
we do not commix for the sake of pleasure, but
of the procreation of children. For the powers,
the organs and desires for coition have not been
given by God to man for the sake of pleasure,
but for the procreation of the race. For as it
were incongruous, for a mortal born to partake
of divine life, the immortality of the race being


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taken away, God fulfilled the purpose by making
the generations uninterrupted and continuous.
This, therefore, we are especially to lay down
as a principle, that coition is not for the sake
of pleasure”. But nature, not trusting to this
moral and abstract motive, seems to have provided
more securely for the perpetuation of the
species, by making it the effect of the oestrum implanted in the constitution of both sexes.
And not only has the commerce of love been
indulged on this unhallowed impulse, but made
subservient also to wealth and ambition by marriage,
without regard to the beauty, the healthiness,
the understanding, or virtue of the subject
from which we are to breed. The selecting
the best male for a harem of well chosen females
also, which Theognis seems to recommend
from the example of our sheep and asses, would
doubtless improve the human, as it does the
brute animal, and produce a race of veritable
αριςτοι. For experience proves that the
moral and physical qualities of man, whether
good or evil, are transmissible in a certain degree
from father to son. But I suspect that the
equal rights of man will rise up against this
privileged Solomon and his harem, and oblige
us to continue acquiescence under the “Αμαμρωςις
γενεος αςτων
” which Theognis complains
of, and to content ourselves with the accidental
aristoi produced by the fortuitous concourse
of breeders.—
To John Adams. Washington ed. vi, 222. Ford ed., ix, 424.
(M. 1813)