Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/359

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

for, we shall be prepared the better to understand the traits which characterize the consultative body in later stages of its development.


Already we have seen that at the outset the militant class was of necessity the land-owning class. In the savage tribe there are no owners of the tract occupied, save the warriors who use it in common for hunting. During pastoral life, good regions for cattle-feeding are jointly held against intruders by force of arms. And, where the agricultural stage has been reached, communal possession, family possession, and individual possession, have from time to time to be defended by the sword. Hence, as was shown, the fact that in early stages the bearing of arms and the holding of land habitually go together.

While, as among hunting-peoples, land continues to be held in common, the contrasts which arise between the few and the many are such only as result from actual or supposed personal superiority of one kind or other. It is true that, as pointed out, differences of wealth, in the shape of chattels, boats, slaves, etc., cause some class-differentiations; and that thus, even before private land-owning begins, quantity of possessions aids in distinguishing the governing from the governed. When the pastoral state is arrived at and the patriarchal type established, such ownership as there is vests in the eldest son of the eldest; or if, as Sir Henry Maine says, he is to be considered trustee for the group, still his trusteeship joins with his military headship in giving him supremacy. At a later stage, when lands come to be occupied by settled families and communities, and land-ownership gains definiteness, this union of traits in each head of a group becomes more marked; and, as was shown when treating of the differentiation of nobles from freemen, several influences conspire to give the eldest son of the eldest superiority in extent of landed possessions, as well as in degree of power. Nor is this fundamental relation changed when a nobility of service replaces a nobility of birth, and when, as presently happens, the adherents of a conquering invader are rewarded by portions of the subjugated territory, granted on condition of continued military service. Throughout, the tendency continues to be for the class of military superiors to be identical with the class of large land-owners.

It follows, then, that, beginning with the general assemblage of armed freemen, all of them holding land individually or in groups, whose council of leaders, deliberating in presence of the rest, are distinguished only as being the most capable warriors, there will, through frequent wars and progressing consolidations, be produced a state in which this council of leaders becomes further distinguished from the rest by the larger possessions, and consequent greater powers, of its members. Becoming more and more contrasted with the general mass of armed freemen, the consultative body will tend gradually to subordinate it, and, eventually separating itself, will become independent.