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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/652

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

of public feeling, present and past, seems at variance with the many facts showing how great may be the power of a ruling man himself. Saying nothing of a tyrant's ability to take lives for nominal reasons or none at all, to make groundless confiscations, to transfer subjects bodily from one place to another, to exact contributions of money and labor without stint, we are apparently shown by his ability to begin and carry on wars which sacrifice his subjects wholesale, that his single will may override the will of the nation. In what way, then, must the original statement be qualified?

While holding that, in unorganized groups of men, the feeling manifested as public opinion controls political conduct, just as it controls the conduct distinguished as ceremonial and religious; and, while holding that governing agencies, during their early stages, are at once the products of aggregate feeling, derive their powers from it, and are restrained by it, we must admit that these primitive relations become complicated when, by war, small groups are compounded and recompounded into great ones. Where the society is largely composed of subjugated people held down by superior force, the normal relation above described no longer exists. We must not expect to find, in a rule coercively established by an invader, the same traits as in a rule that has grown up from within. Societies formed by conquest may be, and frequently are, composed of two societies, which are in large measure, if not entirely, alien; whence it results that there is no longer anything like such united feeling as can embody itself in a political force derived from the whole community. Under such conditions the political head either derives his power exclusively from the feeling of the dominant part of the community, or else, setting the diverse masses of feeling originated in the upper and lower societies one against the other, is enabled so to make his individual will the chief factor.

After making which qualifications, however, it may still be contended that, ordinarily, nearly all the force exercised by the governing agency originates from the feelings, if not of the whole community, yet of the part which is able to manifest its feelings. Though the opinion of the subjugated and unarmed lower society becomes of little account as a political factor, yet the opinion of the dominant and armed part continues to be the main cause of political action. What we are told of the Congo people, that "the king who reigns as a despot over the people is often disturbed in the exercise of his power, by the princes his vassals"—what we are told of the despotically-governed Dahomans, that "the ministers, war-captains, and feticheers may be, and often are, individually punished by the king: collectively they are too strong for him, and without their cordial cooperation he would soon cease to reign"—is what we recognize as having been true, and as being still true, in various better-known societies, where the power of the supreme head is nominally absolute. From the time when the Roman emperors were chosen by the soldiers and slain when they did