In the rudest groups, resistance to the assumption of supremacy by any individual habitually prevents the establishment of settled headship, though some influence is commonly acquired by superiority of strength, or courage, or sagacity, or possessions, or the experience which accompanies age.
In such groups, and in tribes somewhat more advanced, two kinds of superiority conduce more than all others to predominance—that of the warrior and that of the medicine-man. Often separate, but sometimes united in the same person, and then greatly strengthening his hands, both these superiorities, tending to initiate political headship, continue thereafter to be important factors in the development of it.
At first, however, the supremacy acquired by a great natural power, or supposed supernatural power, or both, is transitory—ceases with the life of one who has acquired it. So long as the principle of efficiency alone operates, political headship does not become settled. It becomes settled only when there coöperates the principle of inheritance.
The custom of reckoning descent through females, which characterizes many rude societies and survives in others that have made considerable advances, is less favorable to establishment of permanent political headship than is the custom of reckoning descent through males; and, in sundry semi-civilized societies distinguished by permanent political headships, inheritance through males has been established in the ruling house, while inheritance through females survives in the society at large.
Beyond the fact that reckoning descent through males conduces to a more coherent family, to a greater culture of subordination, and to a more probable union of inherited position with inherited capacity, there is the more important fact that it fosters ancestor-worship and the consequent reënforcing of natural authority by supernatural authority. Development of the ghost-theory, leading as it does to special fear of the ghosts of powerful men, until, where many tribes have been welded together by a conqueror, his ghost acquires in tradition the preeminence of a god, produces two effects. In the first place, his descendant, ruling after him, is supposed to partake of his divine nature; and, in the second place, by propitiatory sacrifices to him, is supposed to obtain his aid. Rebellion hence comes to be regarded as alike wicked and hopeless.
The processes by which political headships are established repeat themselves at successively higher stages. In simple groups chieftainship is at first temporary—ceases with the war which initiated it. When simple groups that have acquired permanent political heads unite for military purposes, the general chieftainship is but temporary. As in simple groups chieftainship is at the outset habitually elective, and becomes hereditary at a later stage, so chieftainship of the compound group is at the outset habitually elective, and only later passes