Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/358

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Even apart from such evidence, there is ample reason to infer that the council of war originated the consultative body, and gave outlines to its structure. Defense against enemies was everywhere the need which originally prompted joint deliberation. For other purposes individual action, or action in small parties, might suffice; but for insuring the general safety combined action of the whole horde or tribe was necessary; and to secure this combined action must have been the first motive for a political gathering. Moreover, certain constitutional traits of early assemblies, among the civilized, point to councils of war as having initiated them. If we ask what must happen when, in a tribe, the predominant few debate military measures in presence of the many, the reply is that, in the absence of a developed political organization, the assent of the many to any decision must be obtained before it can be acted upon; and the like must at first happen when many tribes are united. As Gibbon says of the Diet of the Tartars, formed of chiefs of tribes and their martial trains, "the monarch who reviews the strength, must consult the inclination, of an armed people." Even if, under such conditions, the predominant few could impose their will upon the many, armed like themselves, it would clearly be impolitic to do so, since success in war would be endangered by dissension. Hence would arise the usage of putting to the surrounding mass of armed men the question whether they agreed to the course which the council of chiefs had decided upon. There would grow up a form such as that which had become established for governmental purposes at large among the early Romans, whose king or general asked the assembled burgesses or "spear-men" whether they approved of the proposal made; or like that ascribed by Tacitus to the primitive Germans, who, now with murmurs and now with brandishing of spears, rejected or accepted the suggestions of their leaders. Moreover, there would naturally come just that restricted expression of popular opinion which we are told of. The Roman burgesses were allowed to answer only "Yes" or "No" to any question put to them; and this is exactly the simple answer which the chief and head warriors would require from the rest of the warriors when war or peace had to be determined upon. A kindred restriction existed among the Spartans. In addition to the senate and coordinate kings, there was "an Ekklesia, or public assembly of citizens, convened for the purpose of approving or rejecting propositions submitted to them, with little or no liberty of discussion"—a usage quite explicable if we assume that in the Homeric Agora, from which the Spartan constitution descended, the assembled chiefs had to gain the assent of their surrounding followers before important actions could be undertaken.

Concluding, then, that war originates political deliberation, and that the select body which especially carries on this deliberation first takes shape on occasions when the public safety has to be provided