“Noxious Vapors and Corrupt Juices”

in Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780226169149
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226169194 | DOI:
“Noxious Vapors and Corrupt Juices”

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The degeneracy argument that Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon presented in his book, Natural History: General and Particular (Histoire Naturelle), would be picked up and expanded by other European writers, who were often all too happy to buttress claims of Old World superiority. For this vociferous group—whose leading spokesmen were the Prussian clergyman Cornelius de Pauw and the French Abbé Guillaume-Thomas Raynal—Buffon's claims had not been bold enough. If the Count's arguments about climate and degeneracy applied to animals and Native Americans, then de Pauw and Raynal could see no logical reason to exclude Creoles—Europeans born in America—from the crippling effects of life in the New World. Thus, they extended Buffon's degeneration argument from animals and indigenous peoples to the more general case of Europeans and their descendants in the New World.

Keywords: degeneracy; Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon; animals; Old World; New World; Europeans; Cornelius de Pauw; Guillaume-Thomas Raynal; climate; Creoles

Chapter.  6665 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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