"The Cave-Man"
August 1903
Saturday Evening Post
Unsigned editrial

Dublin Core


"The Cave-Man"
August 1903
Saturday Evening Post
Unsigned editrial



The Cave-Man

In the great chalk deposits of France were found, a few years ago, two skeletons, probably the oldest in the world. At the back of a cave lay the bones of a woman who had been done to death by a huge stone mallet; while lying across the entrance was the skeleton of a gigantic man who still held in the bones of his hand the weapon with which he had killed her. There was the tragedy of love, jealousy and death spelled out long before the flood. Ages ago this cave-man hated and killed. He has not died. Whenever murder comes into the world, there is the black soul of him. He was Cain reeking with blood in the freshly-made world; he was Brutus when he stabbed; he was Judas on the night of the betrayal; [1] wherever war has degenerated into vengeance and slaughter, there he comes to life again. He is the spirit of lust, of hate, of murder. You find him at work in our own wars, in our criminal courts, in the lynchers and in the lynched.

There is a popular tradition of the Wandering Jew, who, because he reviled Christ on Calvary, was cursed by ever-lasting life on this earth. But the cave-man is the real miserable, undying one. He has crept into the hearts of all of us, and so beslimed and cankered them that we cry out, “Who can deliver me from the body of this death?”

This is only another way of saying that the man of to-day is born the twin brother of the man before the flood. He may be changed afterward; but we repeat, he is born with the same flesh and passions as Adam’s first children, dead for ages. If he has a relish for blood, it is just the same appetite as that of Nero[2] or the chieftain of our own red Indians. The men who lighted the stakes in Delaware or Georgia, or the brutes who were burned at them, were of precisely the same quality of human stuff as any cannibal or Jew burner of the past centuries.

Now the one question which concerns us all is—how are we to change this human stuff? How are we to make merciful, clear-minded, God-loving men and women out of these tainted and murderous kinsfolk of the old cave-man?

Will schools do it? Will the new flood of reading—endless books and newspapers—do it? Will churches do it? And if so, by what methods? This is a question of greater importance than who shall be President or Pope, or how long will the slaughter of stocks go on.[3]

For thousands of years the world has been trying to answer it. So far there has come only a confusion of tongues.

What is the answer?

Christ’s religion? And if that is the remedy, is it to be clothed in the old dogmas, or in some singular form which goes direct to the universal soul of the cave-man?


1. References to acts of betrayal: Cain’s murder of his brother in the “Genesis” chapter of the Bible; the Roman senator Brutus’s murder of Julius Caeser; and the Biblical disciple Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Christ.

2. Roman emperor known for his brutal consolidation of power.

3. Reference to the stock market crash of 1901-1903.


S. M. Harris



S. M. Harris, “"The Cave-Man"August 1903Saturday Evening PostUnsigned editrial,” Rebecca Harding Davis: Complete Works, accessed February 20, 2019, http://rebeccahardingdaviscompleteworks.com/items/show/21.