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Consanguinity means blood relationship, and consanguineous marriages
are marriages between near blood relatives. The physician is
frequently consulted as to the permissibility or danger of marriages
between near relations. The question generally concerns first cousins,
second cousins, uncle and niece, and nephew and aunt.
The popular idea is that consanguineous marriages are bad _per se_.
The children of near relatives, such as first cousins, are apt to be
defective, deaf and dumb, blind, or feebleminded, and what not. This
popular idea, as so many popular ideas are, is wrong. And still there
is of course, as there always is, some foundation for it. The matter,
however, is quite simple.
We know that many traits, good and bad, are transmitted by heredity.
And naturally when traits are possessed by both father and mother they
stand a much greater chance of being transmitted to the offspring than
if possessed by one of the parents alone. Now then, if a certain bad
trait, such as epilepsy or insanity, is present in a family that trait
is present in both cousins, and the likelihood of children from such a
marriage inheriting that trait is much greater than when the parents
are strangers, the taint being present in the family of only one of
the parents. But if there be no hereditary taint in the cousins'
family, and, still more, if the family is an intelligent one, if there
are geniuses in the family, then there cannot be the slightest
objection to marriage between cousins, and the children of such
marriages are apt to inherit in a strong degree the talents or genius
of their ancestors. In short, if the family is a bad one, one below
par, then marriage between cousins or between uncle and niece should
be forbidden. If the family is a good one, above par, then marriage
between relatives of that family should be encouraged.
The idea that the children from consanguineous marriages are apt to be
deaf and dumb has no foundation in fact. Recent statistics from
various asylums in Germany, for instance, have shown that only about
five per cent. of the deaf and dumb children were the offspring of
consanguineous marriages. If 95 per cent, of the deaf and dumb had
_non_-consanguineous parents, how could one say that even in the other
five per cent, the consanguinity was the cause? If it were the other
way around, then of course we could blame consanguinity. As it is, we
can assume even in this five per cent, a mere coincidence, and we have
no right to say that consanguinity and deaf and dumbness stand in the
relation to each other of cause and effect.
It is interesting to know that among the Egyptians, Persians, and
Incas of Peru close consanguineous marriages were very common. The
Egyptian kings generally married their sisters. This was common custom
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