Anniversary Address of the President of the Ethnological Society

The Journal of the Ethnlogical Society of London (1870)
Scientific Memoirs III

[553] When, on the lamented death of the late Mr. Crawfurd in the spring of 1866, the Chair of this Society became vacant, I attended the Meeting of the Council upon which it devolved to elect Mr. Crawfurd's successor, for the purpose of asking to be relieved of my duties as Councillor, on the ground that other occupations rendered it very difficult for me to discharge those duties in the manner in which I considered they ought to be discharged.

The Council, however, did me the honour to request me to accept the Presidency of the Society; and they urged their wishes with so much unanimity, that I did not feel at liberty to persist in declining it. But I ventured to make one condition, and this was that the Council should heartily agree to, and assist in, an endeavour to bring about an amalgamation between the Ethnological and the Anthropological Societies, and thereby put an end to a state of affairs which, in my judgment, was not creditable to the Members of either Society

The Council readily agreed to this condition, and I was nominated President. The day after, while I was yet considering in what way best to commence the negotiations with the Anthropological Society, the late Mr. Hunt, at that time President of the Anthropological Society, called upon me; and (being evidently fully informed of what lad taken place in our Council) expressed his readiness to cooperate n bringing about the union of the two Societies. In the course of cur conversation, Dr. Hunt informed me that Dr. King proposed to take some steps in this direction at the Anniversary Meeting on the 26th of May. However, nothing was done, and Dr. Hunt [555] commences the following letter, which I received from him three days afterwards, by an allusion to this circumstance:–

The House, near Hastings,
May 28, 1869

My dear Sir,–Dr. R. King writes to inform me that, after consulting with his friends in the Ethnological Society, it was thought best not to make any proposal at the Meeting on Tuesday. It was thought best that such a resolution should come from the Council. On the whole there is no reason to regret this; but, after our conversation last week, I have thought it my duty to write to inform you why the subject was not brought before the Society, as I believed (when I had the pleasure of seeing you) would have been done.

Col. Lane Fox writes to me, to say that he has suggested to you the desirability of having a department for Prehistoric archaeology, as he translates

"Palèo-anthropologie." With reference to this suggestion, I may mention that last year I prepared a scheme for a union of the two Societies on such a basis.

This question is, however, worth discussing, and I think at some future time such a scheme might be worthy of full consideration.

On the whole, however, I do not think such a scheme is at present either practicable or desirable. I think it is a great pity to separate the different branches of the same science. The Geological Society is an instance of the good effect of the union of different branches of one large science.

I shall be in London on Tuesday next, and if you would ere then consult with your friends, I shall be ready to call on you at 12 o'clock on that day. If there is any chance of a union being effected, I can then bring the subject before our Council the same afternoon. I mention this because I go away for my vacation the end of June. I think that if a union can be effected, it should be decided on before the meeting of the Association at Norwich, in August. If this is to be done, the subject must be discussed at once. We usually print our cards for each year's meetings in July, and this is another reason why action should be taken in the matter at once, or the whole subject left over until the beginning of the next Session or next year. I have been trying to effect this union for the last five or six years, and as I firmly believe that the longer it is delayed the better will it be for my own wishes, I shall not raise any objections to a delay in this matter.

Both Societies will soon have to give up their rooms at 4, St. Martin's Place, and we each have to give six months' notice. We may [556] have to leave at three months' notice; but we have to give six if we wish to leave.

I think, therefore, that, on the whole, it will be desirable if we can meet and see if we can agree on terms.

Our original rules were based on those of the Geological Society. We changed this for those of the Society of Antiquaries and Asiatic Society.

These details might be settled by a special committee.

It will, however, be advisable, if possible, that the general scheme should be settled before the subject is brought before the Councils. Each Society can then nominate a committee to officially negotiate terms of union on the basis proposed.

I shall be glad to have a line from you as soon as convenient, and I shall then know what my plans for Tuesday next will be.

Believe me,
Yours very faithfully,
James Hunt.

Professor Huxley, F.R.S.

President of the Ethnological Society

My reply to Dr. Hunt's letter was as follows:–

Jermyn Street,
May 29, 1868.

My dear Sir,–I quite agree with you that whatever is done in the way of fusing, or attempting to fuse, our two Societies into one should be done quickly. There is not much time between now and Tuesday; but if you will, as you propose, do me the favour to call here at noon on that day, on the chance of my having been able to get things into some sort of shape, I shall be very happy to see you.

The Ethnological Council meet on the 9th of June, and it would be very convenient for me to be in a position to put before them some scheme of union which I could be sure would have the assent of your Society.

Yours very faithfully,
T. H. Huxley.

Dr. Hunt,

President of the Anthropological Society of London

To this letter Dr. Hunt rejoined:–

One House, near Hastings,
May 30, 1868.

My dear Sir,–In reply to your letter of yesterday's date, I have put on paper a few proposals which, if they receive your assent, I will undertake to submit to a meeting of the Council of the Anthropological Society on Tuesday.

[557] In reference to proposal No. V., I had better explain that we cannot at present say how our finances will stand at the end of the year. Our defaulters' list amounts to far more than our debts, and we have a stock of translations. If these books are suddenly thrown on the market, we shall get little for them, and there may be a loss–hence the insertion of this proposal.

I am alone responsible for these proposals. In drawing them up I have only been guided by a desire to suggest what is practicable.

I shall myself enter into negotiations for the union solely anxious to make the best and most useful Society we can. I do not think that there are two interests in such a matter.

If you think it advisable to propose that the future Council shall consist of an equal number of each existing councils, or to suggest any other proposals based on scientific considerations, I shall be very glad to discuss the same.

Believe me,
Yours very faithfully,
James Hunt

Professor Huxley, F.R.S.

Dr. Hunt's Proposals.

Preliminary Terms of Union, which have received the sanction of the Presidents of the Ethnological and Anthropological Societies, and submitted by them to their respective Councils.

I. That it is highly desirable in the interests of science, that the Ethnological and Anthropological Societies should be united.

II. That with a view to effect such union, a Committee of six (three) Members of each Council be nominated to draw up terms of union and regulations, and nominate Officers and Council.

III. That on receipt of such terms of union and regulations, by the respective Presidents of the two Societies, a General Meeting of each Society shall be called within fourteen days to consider the same.

IV. That, with a view of facilitating the proposed amalgamation, and of removing obstacles from its accomplishment, the Committee be instructed to base the rules of the United Society, as far as possible, on those of the Ethnological Society; while the name of the United Society be assimilated to that of (adopt the name of) the Anthropological Society, unless a better can be found.


V. That a sum, not exceeding one-third of the annual income derived from present Fellows of either Society, shall be put aside to defray any debts that may exist in such Society.

VI. That when the terms of Union agreed on by the Joint Committee have been accepted by a General Meeting of each Society, a Meeting of the Councils of the Existing Societies be called to nominate Officers and Council for the United Society, and to fix a day for a General Meeting of the Fellows of both Societies.

VII. That such (a) General Meeting (of each Society) shall consider and decide on the organization and name of the United Society (be called for the purpose of accepting the terms of union agreed upon by the before-named Committee).

VIII. That Professor Huxley be President of the Amalgamated Society and do preside at such Meeting, and the Officers nominated conduct the business of the same.

IX. That the Councils of the respective Societies undertake to use their best efforts to carry out the recommendations of the Committee.

The document submitted to me by Dr. Hunt is here printed so as to show what alterations took place in it during a long conference which Dr. Hunt had with me in Jermyn Street. What remained unaltered is in ordinary type; what was struck out is in capitals; and such additions as were made by myself, and stand in my handwriting, are in italics.

It will be observed that at the end of the fourth proposition Dr. Hunt's words ran as follows:–

"While the name of the United Society be assimilated to that of the Anthropological Society."

It is clear that I might have accepted this proposition as it stood, without in any way committing myself to the acceptance of the name "Anthropological" for the united Societies. Strictly construed, in fact, the word "assimilated" excludes the notion of the acceptance of the very name itself.

But seeing the ambiguity of the phrase, I told Dr. Hunt, in the plainest and most distinct manner, that whatever my personal opinions might be, I was sure that any proposition, even to "assimilate" the name of the conjoined societies to that of the Anthropological Society, would probably meet with a negative from [559] the Ethnological Council; and that, in fact, I could not go to the Ethnological Council with a proposition so worded.

We nearly came to a dead lock upon this point; and the difficulty was only got over by Dr. Hunt's acceptance of my suggestion, to add the words "unless a better can be found."

I fully explained to Dr. Hunt why I chose this form of words. I imagined (and I must confess I still imagine) that reasonable men upon both sides would see that "the best name which could be found" would be one which would enable the Societies to unite; and that any name which should be an obstacle to that union would be ipso facto not "the best name which could be found."

Dr. Hunt was perfectly well aware that these words were added on no other ground than the strong objection entertained by Members of the Council of the Ethnological Society to the adoption of the name of the Anthropological Society.

A Meeting of the Council of the Ethnological Society was held on the 9th of June, having been summoned as soon as I knew that the propositions, as amended, had been agreed to by the Council of the Anthropological Society.

It will be observed that the propositions are silent respecting any confirmation of the acts of the delegates by the respective Councils. Both Dr. Hunt and I agreed that it would be better that the Councils should give their delegates full powers; but it was obviously impossible that either he, or I, should do more than attempt to bring this about.

In my case the Council required the delegates to report and receive confirmation of their acts, while the Anthropological Council gave its delegates full powers.

Under these circumstances, I felt bound to put our position clearly before Dr. Hunt, before the meeting of the delegates took place. I did so in the following letter, dated the l0th (not 11th) June 1868, in order that Dr. Hunt might judge for himself how far the understanding between us had been kept; and that if he were dissatisfied, he might say so.

Jermyn Street,
June 10, I868.

My dear Sir,–I had no time to write to you yesterday after the meeting of the Council of the Ethnological Society, but I gave Mr. Collingwood a copy of the Resolution which the Council passed, the names of the Committee-men appointed, and the day and hour of meeting, viz., to-morrow (Thursday, 11th of June) at 4 P.M.

[560] After a very long discussion the Council (which was a very full one) determined on accepting the principle of the terms which you and I had discussed. But the Committee appointed to confer with yours was requested to report to the Council before finally pledging the Council to any particular line of action.

I think the Council were mainly led to take this course (in the advisableness of which, after all that was stated, I fully agree) by certain facts which were brought forward tending to show that the Anthropological Society is in a very unsatisfactory financial condition; and unless your Committee come to the meeting fully prepared to satisfy ours upon this point, I am afraid the prospects of amalgamation are not very bright.

I am, yours very faithfully,
T. H. Huxley

Dr. Hunt,

President of the Anthropological Society.

When the delegates met on the 11th of June, Dr. Hunt referred to the contents of my letter, but he did not make the change any ground of objection to the opening of the negotiations, which accordingly proceeded. By this course, Dr. Hunt barred himself from raising any objection on that score afterwards. There is no allusion in my letter to the question of name, the obvious reason being that the propositions which I had read to the Ethnological Council, and which had received their general approval, left the question of name entirely open.

But so far from there being "no anticipation of the slightest objection to the word Anthropology," as has been asserted, I appeal to every one of the delegates to say whether this was not felt to be the great and prominent difficulty,–a difficulty so great that it was referred to Dr. Hunt and myself to deal with at a separate interview on the following day. Dr. Hunt, in fact, spent somewhat more than two hours with me on the 12th of June, in discussing this knotty question; and, at length, he himself suggested "The Society for the Promotion of the Science of Man," as the title of the new Society. I accepted the name at once; and that there should be no mistake, wrote it down and asked Dr. Hunt to put his signature to the paper. The paper so signed lies before me.

I then, at Dr. Hunt's request, accompanied him to see Mr. Braybrook, who at once assented to the proposed name.

The Council of the Ethnological Society met on the 15th of June.

[561] After the meeting I wrote to Dr. Hunt as follows:–

26 Abbey Place, N.W.,
June 15, 1868.

My dear Sir,–I am glad to be able to inform you that at the meeting of the Council of the Ethnological Society to-day, Major-General Balfour, Mr. Hyde Clarke, and myself were furnished with full power to arrange the terms of union of the Ethnological and Anthropological Societies, and to organize the resulting new Society under the title of "The Society for the Promotion of the Science of Man."

We have arranged with Mr. Braybrook to meet your Committee at 5 o'clock to-morrow afternoon, in order to arrive at a final settlement with respect to sundry points which still require discussion.

I am, yours very faithfully,
T. H. Huxley

Dr. Hunt,

President of the Anthropological Society.

It will be obvious, from the tone of this letter, that I imagined the business was practically settled, the "sundry points which still require discussion" being matters of detail about which I was sure that our side would make no difficulty.

But when our meeting took place, the delegates of the Anthropological Society placed in our hands a resolution just passed by the Council, which rejected the one stipulation upon which the delegates of both sides had absolutely agreed.

The Council of the Anthropological Society had, undoubtedly, a legal right to act in this manner; but that it did thus, without any provocation on our part, break off a treaty which we considered to be virtually concluded, is clear; and that it disavowed the acts of its delegates is perfectly obvious from the fact that Dr. Hunt and Mr. Braybrook thought right to resign their offices.

Considering the circumstances under which the negotiations were broken off by the Council of the Anthropological Society, the Council of the Ethnological Society could hardly take the initiative in any further movement towards amalgamation, though they have always expressed the utmost readiness to re-open the negotiations. However, when Dr. Beddoe, the present President of the Anthropological Society, was elected, I thought the opportunity a good one for bringing the state of affairs privately under his notice, and I [562] therefore took the liberty of addressing the following letter to Dr. Beddoe:–

Jermyn Street,
May 18, 1869.

Dear Sir,–, I have not the good fortune to be personally known to you, but, as President of the Ethnological Society, I take the liberty of addressing you, as President of the Anthropological Society.

It must be obvious to every one that the existence of two Societies having identical objects is a waste of power; and when I became President of the Ethnological Society, it was on the clear understanding that the Council of that Society would heartily cooperate with me in endeavouring to bring about an amalgamation of the two Societies. The Council fully acted up to this understanding. As you are doubtless aware, delegates were appointed on the part of both Societies, and these delegates agreed upon terms of union. But the treaty was virtually repudiated by the Council of the Anthropological Society.

Without presuming to challenge the right of the Council of the Anthropological Society to take this step, I very much regretted it, for two reasons,–the first, that it put an end to an arrangement which, I think, would have worked very well; the second, that it precluded any further advances on the part of the Ethnological Society.

Thrown back upon its own resources, the Ethnological Society has passed through a session which, I think I may venture to say, shows that it is in full health and vigour, and quite capable of taking care of itself; but this gratifying fact, so far from leading me to wish to perpetuate the present state of affairs, rather causes me to lament more than ever the division of energies which would gain so much by combination and strengthens my desire for a speedy union of the two Societies. I expressed these views in a brief address which I delivered at the Anniversary Meeting of the Ethnological Society on Tuesday last; and as the Anniversary Meeting of the Anthropological Society is at hand, and will take place before my address can be published, I write to inform you that I have done so, and to express the hope that you will see fit to exercise your own influence in the same direction.

Honourable as I feel the position to be, the Presidency of a Society is one which makes such inroads upon the time of its holder that, as soon as union is effected, my great desire will be to withdraw from office, and to see the Chair of the new Society occupied by some[563]one who can devote to its duties the time and the attention they deserve.

I hope, therefore, that it is quite clear that I have no personal interest to serve in advocating amalgamation.

I am, yours very faithfully,
T. H. Huxley.

Dr. Beddoe,

President of the Anthropological Society.

I received a courteous reply from Dr. Beddoe, expressive of general good-will; but I am not aware that any other result has followed my communication. On our side we are ready and willing, as we always have been, to discuss terms of union.

So much for an earnest but fruitless endeavour to bring about an amalgamation directly with the Anthropological Society. But it may be worthy of consideration whether it is wise thus to limit our efforts. The Anthropological Society is only one of several Societies, the spheres of activity of which all more or less coincide with those of the Ethnological Society. For example, I need only name the Society of Antiquaries, the Archæological Institute, the Archæological Association, and the Geographical Society. The loss of time, money, and energy involved in the absence of any cooperation or harmonious action among these Societies in respect of the ground common to all of them is very lamentable, and I should be very glad to see something done to prevent the occurrence of this waste in future.

I am glad to be able to inform you that, in accordance with the practice which has now prevailed for some years, ample provision has been made for the full representation of Ethnological and Anthropological science at the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, at Liverpool, in September next; and I trust that the Department of Section D, which will meet under the Presidency of Mr. J. Evans, F.R.S., will be well supplied with papers.



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Gratitude and Permissions

C. Blinderman & D. Joyce
Clark University

§ 1. THH: His Mark
§ 2. Voyage of the Rattlesnake
§ 3. A Sort of Firm
§ 4. Darwin's Bulldog
§ 5. Hidden Bond: Evolution
§ 6. Frankensteinosaurus
§ 7. Bobbing Angels: Human Evolution
§ 8. Matter of Life: Protoplasm
§ 9. Medusa
§ 10. Liberal Education
§ 11. Scientific Education
§ 12. Unity in Diversity
§ 13. Agnosticism
§ 14. New Reformation
§ 15. Verbal Delusions: The Bible
§ 16. Miltonic Hypothesis: Genesis
§ 17. Extremely Wonderful Events: Resurrection and Demons
§ 18. Emancipation: Gender and Race
§ 19. Aryans et al.: Ethnology
§ 20. The Good of Mankind
§ 21.  Jungle Versus Garden