But the reason for the fact that the African Natives have never thought as hard and as long as the ancient and modern peoples of other lands lies not, I think, in a lack of inherent capacity but in a lack of opportunity, the meaning of which now comes to be considered.
We have now come to the point where an answer must be given to the question: If the African Natives are on the whole endowed with a mental capacity equal to that possessed by the Europeans why have they never achieved any civilisation at all comparable with those cultures which have been successively set up by the people of Europe, Asia and Ancient America?
If we take it for granted that the Africans have never achieved a civilisation similar to those that date back beyond the limits of history, a premiss by no means assured seeing that there are signs of cycles of civilisations coming before those of which we have written or monumental records and of whose ethnic origin there is no certain knowledge, then the question may appear to have no other answer than the assumed lack of inherent capacity in the black race, but let us consider the matter closely.
The question asked depends upon the proposition that achievement is the sole test of capacity or, in other words, that achievement must necessarily follow capacity, and this is a proposition by no means free from doubt. It is plain that a desire to achieve is a condition precedent to achievement but it is equally plain that there may well be ability without ambition. The question why civilisation has not followed apparent capacity may with equal propriety be asked about races whose mental abilities have never been doubted. Consider, for instance, two such widely separated races as the Red Indians of our own times and the Northmen who roamed over the seas in the days of Alfred the Great.