100 per cent American

karl h schwerin (schwerin@UNM.EDU)
Mon, 14 Oct 1996 09:00:45 -0600

Linton's classic diffusionist paper "One Hundred Per Cent American" (The
American Mercury 40:427-429. 1937) has been discussed on this list
before. Seth Wood, one of my graduate students, has brought to my
attention an earlier version of this published by James McClelland. 1877.
Journal of a visit to India and the East. Glasgow: James Maclehose.

On the occasion of the visit of the Prince of Wales to India, Baboo Malik
delivered a lecture at the Family Literary Club of Calcutta. "After various
allusions to the magnificence of India...the lecturer pointed out the vast
indebtedness which Europe owed to Asia, and stated that since the crusades
had brought Europe in Contact with Asia, the institutions of the former
country, with its manufactures, arts, luxuries, and pleasures had received
a degree of polish and refinement unknown in the days of her proudest
kings." The lecturer praised the Prince's liberal education which he was
certain would lead the Prince to "admit the debt of gratitude which the
European owed to Asiatic genius, and in proof of his position the
lecturer quoted...the following remarkable sentences" from John W.
Draper's _A Text-book on Physiology_ (1866. New York: Harper & Bros.):-

"'The clock which summons him from his bed in the morning was the
invention of the East, as were also clepsydras and sundials. The prayer
for his daily bread, which he has said from his infancy, first rose from
the side of a Syrian mountain. The linens and cottons with which he
clothes himself, though they may be very fine, are inferior to those
which have been made from time immemorial in the looms of India. The
silk was stolen by some missionaries for his benefit from China. He
could buy better steel than that with which he shaves himself in the old
city of Damascus where it was first invented. The coffee, he expects at
breakfast, was first grown by the Arabians, and the natives of upper
India prepared the sugar with which he sweetens it. A school-boy can
tell the meaning of the Sanscrit words saccharacanda. If his tastes are
light, and he prefers tea, the virtues of that excellent leaf were first
pointed out by the industrious Chinese. They also taught him how to make
and use of the cup and saucer in which to serve it. His breakfast tray
was lacqured in Japan. There is a tradition that leavened bread was
first made of the waters of the Ganges. The egg, he is breaking, was
laid by a fowl, whose ancestors were domesticated by the Malaccans,
unless she may have been, though that will not alter the case, a modern
Shanghai. If there are preserves and fruits on his board, let him
remember with thankfulness that Persia first gave him the cherry, the
peach, the plum. If in any of those delicate preparations he detects the
flavour of alcohol, let it remind him that that substance was first
distilled by the Arabians who have set him the praiseworthy example,
which it will be for his benefit to follow, of abstaining from its use.
When he talks about coffee and alcohol, he is using Arabic words. We
gratify our taste for personal ornaments in the way that Orientals have
taught us, with pearls, rubies, sapphires, diamonds. Of public
amusements it is the same. The most magnificent fireworks are still to
be seen in India and China; and, as regards the pastimes of private life,
Europe has produced no invention which can rival the game of chess. We
have no hydraulic constructions as great as the Chinese canal, no
fortifications as extensive as the Chinese wall; we have no Artesian
wells that can at all approach in depth to some of theirs; we have not
yet resorted to the practice of obtaining coal-gas from the interior of
the earth; they have borings for that purpose more than 3,000 feet deep'"
(McClelland 1877:137-139).

Karl Schwerin SnailMail: Dept. of Anthropology
Univ. of New Mexico Albuquerque, NM 87131
e-mail: schwerin@unm.edu

Much charitable endeavor is motivated by an unconscious
desire to peer into lives that one is glad to be unable
to share. . . . . Edward Sapir