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Darwin Correspondence Project

From T. M. Coan   24 April 1875

THE “CENTURY” | 109 East 15th. Street. New York

Mr. Charles Darwin,

Dear Sir:

Since receiving your enquiries of last summer respecting infanticide I have met with two passages upon the subject which I here transcribe, thinking that they may interest you if you have not already come across them.1

The first is from the Journal of Sir James Mackintosh, in his Life (London, E. Moxon, 1834, vol. II, p. 86). “14th. (February, 1811, at Bombay I think:) Captain Williams … is just returned from an extensive survey of Guzzerat. He confirms the account of the destruction of almost all female children, by the Jarejahs, a tribe of Rajpoots, of considerable consequence. They drown them immediately after birth, in milk, poured into a hole in the ground. Some few have been preserved. They procure wives from other tribes of Rajpoots. The motive which produces this barbarous usage is not very satisfactorily explained. They allege, as an excuse, the same combination of pride & poverty which made nuns of all poor gentlewomen in Catholic countries. They say that they destroy these daughters because they are unable to defray those great expenses at marriage which their rank requires. It is observable that here, as in almost all other cases where children are murdered, it is immediately after birth. To kill a child of six months old, would require a barbarity, even in a stranger (not to speak of a mother), of which human nature is very rarely capable.”2

The other passage is from J. S. Polack’s “New Zealand”, (London, 1838,) vol. 1, p. 381. He says: “Boys are seldom or never destroyed, except in temporary fits of insane passion”; & in the same chapter, XI, he gives several items of information bearing indirectly upon your question.3 Mr. Polack was in New Zealand between 1831 & 1837.

Very sincerely yours | Titus M. Coan.

24th April 1875

Footnotes

CD’s original queries have not been found, but for Coan’s replies, see Correspondence vol. 22, letters from T. M. Coan, 14 February 1874 and 22 June 1874. CD used Coan’s information on infanticide in Hawaii in Descent 2d ed., p. 187.
The quotation is from Memoirs of the life of Sir James Mackintosh (Mackintosh 1835, 2: 86–7). Gujarat is a state on the north-west coast of India. Monier Williams was surveyor general of Bombay, and his observations of female infanticide in the Jarejars were recounted in Asiatic Quarterly Review 3d ser. 11 (1901): 260. The Jarejahs were a tribe of the Rajput (a caste claiming descent from the original Hindu military and ruling elite (Chambers)).
The reference is from Joel Samuel Polack’s New Zealand (Polack 1838). Infanticide is discussed on pp. 380–3.

Bibliography

Chambers: The Chambers dictionary. Edinburgh: Chambers Harrap Publishers. 1998.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Descent 2d ed.: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. London: John Murray. 1874.

Mackintosh, James. 1835. Memoirs of the life of the Right Honourable Sir James Mackintosh. Edited by his son, Robert James Mackintosh. 2 volumes. London: E. Moxon.

Polack, Joel Samuel. 1838. New Zealand; being a narrative of travels and adventures during a residence in that country between the years 1831 and 1837. 2 vols. London: R. Bentley.

Summary

Transcribes extracts from Sir James Mackintosh and J. S. Polack on infanticide.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-9949
From
Titus Munson Coan
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
New York
Source of text
DAR 161: 184
Physical description
3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9949,” accessed on 28 September 2021, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-9949.xml

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23

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