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Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/110

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78
Part II.
HISTORY OF ARCHITECTURE.

unchanged and unchangeable institutions, and neither despotism nor anarchy has been able to alter them. They alone have saved India from sinking into a state of savage imbecility, under the various hordes of conquerors who have at times overrun her; and they, with the Vedas and the laws afterward embodied by Menu, alone remain as records of the old Aryan possessors of the Indian peninsula.

Municipalities, which are merely an enlargement of the Indian village system, exist wherever the Romans were settled, or where the Aryan races exist in Europe; and though guilds are fast losing their significance, it was the Teutonic guilds that alone checked and ultimately supplanted the feudal despotisms of the Celts.

Caste is another institution of these races, which has always more or less influenced all their actions. Where their blood has become so impure as it is in India, caste has degenerated into an abuse; but where it is a living institution, it is perhaps as conducive to the proper regulation of society as any with which we are acquainted. The one thing over which no man can have any control is the accident of his birth; but it is an immense gain to him that he should be satisfied with the station in which he finds himself, and content to do his duty in the sphere in which he was born. Caste, properly understood, never interferes with the accumulation of wealth or power within the limits, of the class, and only recognizes the inevitable accident of birth; while the fear of losing caste is one of the most salutary checks which has been devised to restrain men from acts unworthy of their social position. It is an enormous gain to society that each man should know his station and be prepared to perform the duties belonging to it, without the restless craving of a selfish ambition that would sacrifice everything for the sake of the personal aggrandizement of the individual. It is far better to acknowledge that there is no sphere in life in which man may not become as like unto the gods as in any other sphere; and it is everywhere better to respect the public good rather than to seek to gratify personal ambition.

The populations of modern Europe have become so mixed that neither caste nor any other Aryan institution now exists in its pristine purity; but in the ratio in which a people is Aryan do they possess an aristocracy and municipal institutions; and, what is almost of more importance, in that ratio are the people prepared to respect the gradations of caste in society, and to sacrifice their individual ambition to the less brilliant task of doing all the good that is possible in the spheres in which they have been placed.

It is true and so has been found, that an uncontrolled despotism is a sharper, a quicker, and a better tool for warlike purposes, or where national vanity is to be gratified by conquest or the display of power; but the complicated, and it may be clumsy, institutions of the Aryans are far more lasting and more conducive to individual self-respect, and