Legislators: the bullets and our national intelligence are in your hands. Charles Darwin's ghost is watching -- and he doesn't have a gun.Except this is patently false. Darwin's famous voyage on the Beagle was documented in his own book, "The Voyage of the Beagle." The Beagle was a British Naval vessel, a Brig-Sloop to be more exact, of 10 guns. The Cherokee class was first and foremost a ship of war, designed to be economical of manpower, have a high ratio of firepower-to-size (albeit with limited range), and they made excellent raiders.
Luckily, GoogleBooks has his entire work available. We don't have to guess what Darwin thought about firearms. We can just read his journal. A search for "firearms" yields at least five hits.
On South America:
"Police and justice are quite inefficient. If a man who is poor commits murder and is taken, he will be imprisoned, and perhaps even shot; but if he is rich and has friends, he may rely on it no very severe consequence will ensure... A traveller has no protection besides his firearms; and the constant habit of carrying them is hte main check to more frequent robberies."
On Warfare (p 381):
"The general introduction of firearms has changed the whole system of warfare..." He goes on to describe in some accurate detail the revolution in military affairs and some of the consequences thereof regarding fortifications, military tactics, etc. Darwin was aware of the tactical and military applications of the assault weapons of his day, apparently.
On Natives (198):
"An European labours under great disadvantages when treating with savages like these who have not the least idea of the power of firearms. In the very act of levelling his musket he appears to the savage far inferior to a man armed with a bow and arrow, a spear, or even a sling. Nor is it easy to teach them our superiority except by striking a fatal blow. .. Captain Fitz Roy, on one occasion being very anxious, from good reasons, to frighten away a small party, first flourished a cutlass near them, at which they only laughed; he then twice fired his pistol close to a native. The man both times looked astounded, and carefully but quickly rubbed his head; he then stared awhile, and gabbed to his companions, but he never seemed to think of runing away..."
He then goes on to explain how the ignorant savages had to be shot before they realized guns were dangerous. But apparently once that lesson has been learned, it is quite effective...
On Natives of Tierra del Fuego:
"Little accustomed to Europeans as they appeared to be, yet they knew and dreaded our firearms; nothing would tempt them to take a gun in their hands..."This intimidation value was probably good for Darwin, given that he talks about the "savages," favorably describes kidnapping natives and forcibly taking them to England to be experiments in "education," and benefits by trading with them and allowing his ship to resupply. In another incident on page 212, he talks about firing indiscriminately from a boat on savages in the woods to intimidate the natives.
"Having hired horses and a guide, we set out the morning of the 22nd. We had not proceeded far, before we were joined by a woman and two boys who were bent on the same journey. Every one on this road acts on a "hail fellow well met" fashion; and one may here enjoy the privilege, so rare in South America, of traveling without firearms."
That is, the normal state of affairs for Darwin appears to have been travelling with firearms. It was apparently a rare exception when he traveled disarmed or without bodyguards.
On Daily Carry:
"Two days afterwards I again rode to the harbour: when not far from our destination, my companion, the same man as before, spied three people hunting on horseback..." They conclude that they aren't Christians (or white) and feel threatened. The companion says, "We must now get on our horses; load your pistol!"
While they were mistaken -- and the "hostile" party was just women out hunting for eggs -- apparently Darwin made a regular practice of going armed.
On Hunting (45):
"During our stay at Maldonado I collected several quadrupeds... The deer is exceedingly abundent... one day I fired ten times from within eighty yards at one animal; and it was much more startled at the abll cutting up the ground than at the report of the rifle. My powder being exhausted, I was obliged to get up (to my shame as a sportsman be it spoken, though well able to kill birds on the wing) and halloo till the deer ran away."
We go back to the opening quote:
Charles Darwin's ghost is watching -- and he doesn't have a gun.
While I can't profess to know what Darwin's ghost is equipped with, I do know what Darwin carried on his expeditions while he was alive. Darwin's famous voyage occured on an armed sloop of war, which used its superior firepower to impress and intimidate native populations to facilitate the expedition. Darwin personally made a regular practice of carrying at least a pistol for the purpose of self defense. It was only a rare exception when he was not armed, apparently. He also regularly carried a rifle with at least ten rounds of ammo for purposes of both defense and hunting. He also talks about how some of the villages maintain a militia for defense.
The author of this quote is Bernard Starr, Ph.D., professor emeritus at the City University of New York (Brooklyn College). Maybe the good professor should stick to shrinking heads, and leave the study of history to people who can do a bit of reading and primary source research. Starr's thesis would never survive in any history journal without being ripped into shreds, but I suppose its good enough for an op-ed.