Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/314

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
302
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

of the tribe with the family is concerned, may be questioned. Instead of the former being an aggregation or expansion of the latter, it is highly probable that the primitive tribe is older than the family and the product of promiscuous sexual relations, and that families originated in a subsequent process of domestic differentiation. Polyandry and the custom of tracing descent exclusively in the female line would seem to point in this direction. The institution of the family, even in its polygamous form, presupposes a certain ethical element, which can hardly be predicated of primeval barbarism.

So, too, the most prominent feature in the social organization of the anthropoid apes and in all simian communities is the troop or tribe under the leadership of the most powerful male. A band of orang-outangs is doubtless an association of blood-relations, but there is no recognition of patriarchal authority as such and no evidence of distinct divisions into families. The community is a gregarious group of individuals joined in affinity, but not yet separated into single pairs with clearly recognized and jealously defended conjugal rights; and sovereignty is simply the assertion of superior force, although this constitution of the simian tribe does not entirely exclude the existence and exercise of moral qualities in the mutual relations of its members.

It is, however, a matter of no moment for the further evolution of society, whether, at the beginning, the family expanded into the tribe or was gradually differentiated out of it. The fact remains that the tribe was held together by the cement of consanguinity, and that the authority of the tribal head was derived primarily from the respect and reverence due to him as common progenitor, aided, of course, by his ability to enforce his claims to rulership in case an ambitious and rebellious Absalom should be disposed to question them. So strong and persistent is this sentiment that, even now, the number of a man's noble ancestors is supposed to entitle him, by the grace of God, to sovereignty, or to confer upon him some exceptional privilege and power.

With the transition from a nomadic to a sedentary social state, an important change takes place. No sooner has a people acquired fixed habitations and established permanent settlements than there arises the idea of ownership in the soil, and the chief of the tribe becomes the lord of the land. He is no longer merely the head of an organized body of roving men, but he also claims and exercises jurisdiction over a more or less definitely circumscribed district or domain and over all persons dwelling within its borders. Tribal sovereignty or chieftainship is thus superseded by territorial sovereignty or dominion, and with this transformation the state, in the modern sense of the term, really begins.

At this early stage, however, proprietorship in land was not