Primary Resource

"Mendel's Law: A Plea for a Better Race of Men"

Joseph Spencer DeJarnette wrote "Mendel's Law: A Plea for a Better Race of Men" sometime in the early 1920s. DeJarnette, a strong proponent of eugenics and a witness in the landmark case Buck v. Bell (1927), is known to be very proud of his composition, and recited and published this poem several times throughout the 1920s and 1930s.

Transcription from Original



  • Oh, why are you men so foolish —
  • You breeders who breed our men
  • Let the fools, the weaklings and crazy
  • Keep breeding and breeding again?
  • The criminal, deformed, and the misfit,
  • Dependent, diseased, and the rest —
  • As we breed the human family
  • The worst is as good as the best.
  • Go to the house of some farmer,
  • Look through his barns and sheds,
  • Look at his horses and cattle,
  • Even his hogs are thorough breds;
  • Then look at his stamp on his children,
  • Low browed with the monkey jaw,
  • Ape handed, and silly, and foolish —
  • Bred true to Mendel's law.
  • Go to some homes in the village,
  • Look at the garden beds,
  • The cabbage, the lettuce and turnips,
  • Even the beets are thoroughbreds;
  • Then look at the many children
  • With hands like the monkey's paw,
  • Bowlegged, flat headed, and foolish —
  • Bred true to Mendel's law.
  • This is the law of Mendel,
  • And often he makes it plain,
  • Defectives will breed defectives
  • And the insane breed insane.
  • Oh, why do we allow these people
  • To breed back to the monkey's nest,
  • To increase our country's burdens
  • When we should only breed the best?
  • Oh, you wise men take up the burden,
  • And make this you loudest creed,
  • Sterilize the misfits promptly —
  • All not fit to breed!
  • Then our race will be strengthened and bettered,
  • And our men and our women be blest,
  • Not apish, repulsive and foolish,
  • For the best will breed the best.