The line between the two types of eugenics is so thin, that Francis Galton, who is widely known to be a positive eugenicist, wrote the following in his autobiographical work, Memories of My Life (Galton, 1908), clearly prescribing a negative eugenicist implementation of the eugenics agenda before (and not after) prescribing a positive eugenicist implementation:
This is precisely the object of Eugenics. Its first object is to check the birth rate of the Unfit, instead of allowing them to come into being, though doomed in large numbers to perish prematurely. The second object is the improvement of the race by furthering the productivity of the Fit by early marriages and healthful rearing of their children. Natural Selection rests upon excessive production and wholesale destruction; eugenics on bringing no more individuals into the world than can be properly cared for; and those only of the best stock. (italics mine)One thing to be noted about the population control agenda of early eugenicists such as Francis Galton, is that it was confined within the boundaries of whichever state or kingdom they belonged to. Thus, Galton was mostly concerned about checking the birth rate of the "unfit" in England only. In that sense, Galton is a classical Malthusian.
Eugenics became an important method for imperial nations to build populations which helped them further their colonial and racist agendas with maximum force. Eugenics was looked at as a way of ensuring that the population of a nation was kept "fresh, energetic, efficient and productive" (Rao, 2004). Thus, England, Germany and the USA openly practised eugenics.
Adolf Hitler described Madison Grant's Passing of the great race (Grant, 1922), a book on what's now called as "scientific racism", as his bible. In the book, Grant very clearly extended the theory of elimination of the "unfit" in any community (not that that's ethical to begin with!) to "worthless race types". Readers will note that the smooth operation of removing the unwanted by way of pleasure (instead of pain) is the exact same as what was practised by invading Europeans in America (the concept of Indian Removal, on which more here). Here's a passage from Grant's book summarising his prescription for removing unwanted classes and by extension, races:
A rigid system of selection through the elimination of those who are weak or unfit—in other words, Social failures would solve the whole question in a century, as well as enable us to get rid of the undesirables who crowd our jails, hospitals and insane asylums. The individual himself can be nourished, educated and protected by the community during his lifetime, but the state through sterilization must see to it that his line stops with him or else future generations will be cursed with an ever increasing load of victims of misguided sentimentalism. This is a practical, merciful and inevitable solution of the whole problem and can be applied to an ever widening circle of social discards, beginning always with the criminal, the diseased and the insane and extending gradually to types which may be called weaklings rather than defectives and perhaps ultimately to worthless race types. (italics mine)Hitler, heavily influenced by the eugenics programme in America, and a big fan of Madison Grant, wrote in Mein Kampf (Hitler, 1926):
Because the inferior are always numerically superior to the better, the former would multiply so much faster---if they have the same possibility to survive and reproduce---that the better necessarily would be placed in the background. Therefore a correction has to be made to the advantage of the better.Germany passed a Eugenic Sterilization Law in 1933, which made sterilization compulsory for all those who suffered from allegedly hereditary disabilities. While this was not targeted at a specific community, religion, or race in the beginning, that is what it became as time rolled on. With his hatred for the jews unable to contain itself, Hitler's Nazi regime simply couldn't help target jews as victims of population control. In less than two years after passing the eugenic sterilization law, the Nuremberg laws of 1935 were passed, placing strict bans on the fertility of jews. And, of course, this was followed by the infamous Nazi euthanasia programme.
In the US, eugenic principles informed immigration policies as well as sterilization and abortion of the "unfit". Leon F Whitney, an American Eugenicist, wrote (quoted in Rao, 2004):
We cannot but admire the foresight of the (German) plan (of sterilizing 4,00,000 people) and realise [that] by this action Germany is going to make herself a stronger nation.Whitney also observed that:
the Negroes furnished six times as many sub-normals as did the native-born whites.If you put two and two together, it is clear who the victims of eugenic principles were, and continue to be, in the USA: the blacks. Thus, national eugenics and racial hatred slowly merged into one worldwide. England, Germany and the USA were the pioneers of both the component concepts as well as the merged concept. Not only that, these countries basically worked with each other to improve this science of hatred.
In the next essay, I wish to touch upon another twist in the tale, wherein the rather innocent-looking concept - of women's rights - became the torchbearer of the racist eugenicist agenda which had earned a lot of disrepute among the intelligentsia mainly because of Hitler's open and violent adoption of the idea.
Galton, 1908: Memories of my life, Francis Galton, Methuen, 1908. Available on galton.org at this link.
Grant, 1922: The passing of the great race: or, The racial basis of European history, Madison Grant, 1922. Google books link.
Hitler, 1926: Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler, Wikipedia link.
Rao, 2004: From population control to reproductive health - Malthusian airthmetic, Mohan Rao, Sage publications, New Delhi.