Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/367

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

mony with this implication are such facts as that, after a comparatively settled state has been reached, the power of the assembled people is limited to accepting or rejecting the proposals made, and that the members of the consultative body, summoned by the ruler, who is also the general, give their opinions only when invited by him to do so.

Nor do we lack clews to the process by which the primitive war council grows, consolidates, and separates itself. Within the warrior class, which is also the land-owning class, war produces increasing differences of wealth, as well as increasing differences of status; so that, along with the compounding and recompounding of groups which war brings about, the military leaders come to be distinguished as large land-owners and local rulers. Hence, members of the consultative body become contrasted with the freemen at large, not only as leading warriors are contrasted with their followers, but, still more, as men of wealth and authority.

This increasing contrast between the second and third elements of the triune political body ends in separation when, in course of time, war consolidates large territories. Armed freemen scattered over a wide area are deterred from attending the periodic assemblies by cost of travel, by cost of time, by danger, and also by the experience that multitudes of men, unprepared and unorganized, are helpless in presence of an organized few, better armed and mounted, and with bands of retainers. So that, passing through a time during which only the armed freemen living near the place of meeting attend, there comes a time when even these, not being summoned, are considered as having no right to attend; and thus the consultative body becomes completely differentiated.

Changes in the relative powers of the ruler and the consultative body are determined by obvious causes. If the king retains or acquires the repute of supernatural origin or authority, and the law of hereditary succession is so settled as to exclude election, those who might else have formed a consultative body having co├Ârdinate power become simply appointed advisers. But, if the king has not the prestige of supposed sacred origin or commission, and continues to be elective, then the consultative body retains power, and is liable to become an oligarchy.

Of course, it is not alleged that all consultative bodies have arisen in the way described, or are constituted in like manner. Societies, broken up by wars or dissolved by revolutions, may preserve so little of their primitive organizations that there remain no classes of the kinds out of which such consultative bodies as those described arise. Or, as we see in our own colonies, societies may have been formed in ways which have not fostered classes of land-owning militant chiefs, and therefore do not furnish the elements out of which the consultative body, in its primitive shape, is composed. Under conditions of