Popular Science Monthly/Volume 18/February 1881/The Development of Political Institutions IV

Popular Science Monthly Volume 18 February 1881  (1881) 
The Development of Political Institutions IV by Herbert Spencer








THE general law, that like units exposed to like forces tend to integrate, was in the last chapter exemplified by the formation of social groups. The clustering of men who are similar in kind, when similarly subject to hostile actions from without, and similarly reacting against them, we saw to be the first step in social evolution. Here the correlative general law, that in proportion as the like units of an aggregate are exposed to unlike forces they tend to form differentiated parts of the aggregate, has to be observed in its application to such groups, as the second step in social evolution.

The primary political differentiation originates from the primary family differentiation. Men and women being, by the unlikenesses of their functions in life, exposed to unlike influences, begin from the first to assume unlike positions in the social group as they do in the family group: very early they respectively form the two political classes of rulers and ruled. And, how truly such dissimilarity of social positions as arises between them is caused by dissimilarity in their relations to surrounding actions, we shall see, on observing that the one is small or great according as the other is small or great. When treating of the status of women, it was pointed out that to a considerable degree among the Chippewas, and to a still greater degree among the Clatsops and Chinooks, "who live upon fish and roots, which the women are equally expert with the men in procuring, the former have a rank and influence very rarely found among Indians." We saw also that in Cueba, where the women join the men in war, "fighting by their side," their position is much higher than usual among rude peoples; and, similarly, that in Dahomey, where the women are as much warriors as the men, they are so regarded that, in the political organization, "the woman is officially superior." On contrasting these exceptional cases with the ordinary cases, in which the men, solely occupied in war and the chase, have unlimited authority, while the women, occupied in gathering miscellaneous small food and carrying burdens, are abject slaves, it becomes manifest that diversity of relations to surrounding actions initiates diversity of social positions. And, as we before saw, this truth is further illustrated by those few uncivilized societies which are habitually peaceful, such as the Bodo and Dhimáls of the Indian hills, and the ancient Pueblos of North America—societies in which the occupations are not, or were not broadly divided into fighting and working, and severally assigned to the two sexes; and in which, along with a comparatively small difference in the activities of the sexes, there goes, or went, small difference of social status.

So is it when we pass from the greater or less political differentiation which accompanies difference of sex to that which is independent of sex—to that which arises among men. Where the life is permanently peaceful, definite class-divisions do not exist. One of the Indian Hill-tribes, to which I have frequently referred as exhibiting the honesty, truthfulness, and amiability accompanying a purely industrial life, may be instanced. Hodgson says, "All Bodo and all Dhimáls are equal—absolutely so in right or law—wonderfully so in fact." The like is said of another peaceful and amiable Hill-tribe: "The Lepchas have no caste distinctions." And among a different race, the Papuans, may be named the peaceful Arafuras as displaying a "brotherly love with one another," and as having no divisions of rank.

As, at first, the domestic relation between the sexes passes into a political relation, such that men and women become, in militant groups, the ruling class and the subject class, so does the relation between master and slave, originally a domestic one, pass into a political one as fast as, by habitual war, the making of slaves becomes general. It is with the formation of a slave-class that there begins that political differentiation between the regulating structures and the sustaining structures which continues throughout all higher forms of social evolution.

Kane remarks that "slavery in its most cruel form exists among the Indians of the whole coast from California to Behring's Straits, the stronger tribes making slaves of all the others they can conquer. In the interior, where there is but little warfare, slavery does not exist." And this statement does but exhibit, in a distinct form, the truth everywhere obvious. Evidence suggests that the practice of enslavement diverged by small steps from the practice of cannibalism. Concerning the Nootkas, we read that "slaves are occasionally sacrificed and feasted upon"; and if we contrast this usage with the usage common elsewhere, of slaying and devouring captives as soon as they are taken, we may infer that the keeping of captives too numerous to be immediately eaten, with the view of eating them subsequently, leading, as it would, to the employment of them in the mean time, led to the discovery that their services might be of more value than their flesh, and so initiated the habit of preserving them as slaves. Be this as it may, however, we find that very generally, among tribes to which habitual militancy has given some slight degree of the appropriate structure, the enslavement of prisoners becomes an established habit. That women and children taken in war, and such men as have not been slain, naturally fall into unqualified servitude is manifest. They belong absolutely to their captors, who might have killed them, and who retain the right afterward to kill them, if they please. They become property, of which any use whatever may be made.

The acquirement of slaves, which is at first an incident of war, becomes presently an object of war. Of the Nootkas we read that "some of the smaller tribes at the north of the island are practically regarded as slave-breeding tribes, and are attacked periodically by stronger tribes"; and the like happens among the Chinooks. It was thus in ancient Vera Paz, where periodically they made "an inroad into the enemy's territory, . . . and captured as many as they wanted"; and it was so in Honduras, where, in declaring war, they gave their enemies notice that "they wanted slaves." Similarly with various existing peoples. St. John says that "many of the Dyaks are more desirous to obtain slaves than heads, and in attacking a village kill only those who resist or attempt to escape." And that in Africa slave-making wars are common needs no proof.

The class-division, thus initiated by war, afterward maintains and strengthens itself in sundry ways. Very soon there begins the custom of purchase. The Chinooks, besides slaves who have been captured, have slaves who were bought as children from their neighbors; and, as we saw when dealing with the domestic relations, the selling of their children into slavery is by no means uncommon with savages. Then the slave-class, thus early enlarged by purchase, comes afterward to be otherwise enlarged. There is voluntary acceptance of slavery for the sake of protection; there is enslavement for debt; there is enslavement for crime.

Leaving details, we need here note only that this political differentiation which war begins is effected, not by the bodily incorporation of other societies, or whole classes belonging to other societies, but by the incorporation of single members of other societies, and by like individual accretions. Composed of units who are detached from their original social relations and from one another, and absolutely attached to their owners, the slave-class is, at first, but indistinctly separated as a social stratum. It acquires separateness only as fast as there arise some restrictions on the powers of the owners. Ceasing to stand in the position of domestic cattle, slaves begin to form a division of the body-politic, when their personal claims begin to be distinguished as limiting the claims of their masters.

It is commonly supposed that serfdom arises by mitigation of slavery; but examination of the facts shows that it arises in a different way. While, during the early struggles for existence between them, primitive tribes, growing at one another's expense by incorporating separately the individuals they capture, thus form a class of absolute slaves, the formation of a servile class, considerably higher, and having a distinct social status, accompanies that later and larger process of growth under which one society incorporates other societies bodily. Serfdom originates along with conquest and annexation.

For whereas the one implies that the captured people are detached from their homes, the other implies that the subjugated people continue in their homes. Thomson remarks that, "among the New-Zealanders, whole tribes sometimes became nominally slaves when conquered, although permitted to live at their usual places of residence, on condition of paying tribute, in food, etc."—a statement which shows the origin of kindred arrangements in allied societies. Of the Sandwich Islands government when first known, described as consisting of a king with turbulent chiefs, who had been subjected in comparatively recent times, Ellis writes, "The common people are generally considered as attached to the soil, and are transferred with the land from one chief to another." Before the late changes in Feejee, there were enslaved districts; and of their inhabitants we read that they had to supply the chiefs' houses "with daily food, and build and keep them in repair." Though conquered peoples, thus placed, differ widely in the degrees of their subjection—being at the one extreme, as in Feejee, liable to be eaten when wanted, and at the other extreme called on only to give specified proportions of produce or labor—yet they remain alike as being undetached from their original places of residence. That serfdom in Europe originated in an analogous way there is good reason to believe. In Greece we have the case of Crete, where, under the conquering Dorians, there existed a vassal population, formed, it would seem, partly of the aborigines and partly of preceding conquerors, of which the first were serfs attached to lands of the state and of individuals, and the others had become tributary land-owners. In Sparta the like relations were established by like causes: there were the helots, who lived on, and cultivated, the lands of their Spartan masters, and the periæci, who had probably been, before the Dorian invasion, the superior class. So was it also in the Greek colonies afterward founded, such as Syracuse, where the aborigines became serfs. Similarly in later times and nearer regions. When Gaul was overrun by the Romans, and again when Romanized Gaul was overrun by the Franks, there was little displacement of the actual cultivators of the soil, but these simply fell into lower positions: certainly lower political positions, and M. Guizot thinks lower industrial positions. Our own country, too, furnishes good illustrations. In ancient British times, writes Pearson, "it is probable that, in parts at least, there were servile villages, occupied by a kindred but conquered race, the first occupants of the soil." More trustworthy, but to the like effect, is the evidence which comes to us from old English days and Norman days. Professor Stubbs says: "The ceorl had his right in the common land of his township; his Latin name, villanus, had been a symbol of freedom, but his privileges were bound to the land, and when the Norman lord took the land he took the villein with it. Still the villein retained his customary rights, his house and land and rights of wood and hay; his lord's demesne depended for cultivation on his services, and he had in his lord's sense of self-interest the sort of protection that was shared by the horse and the ox." And of kindred import is the following passage from Innes: "I have said that, of the inhabitants of the Grange, the lowest in the scale was the ceorl, bond, serf, or villein, who was transferred like the land on which he labored, and who might be caught and brought back if he attempted to escape, like a stray ox or sheep. Their legal name of nativus, or neyf, which I have not found but in Britain, seems to point to their origin in the native race, the original possessors of the soil. . . . In the register of Dunfermline are numerous 'genealogies,' or stud-books, for enabling the lord to trace and reclaim his stock of serfs by descent. It is observable that most of them are of Celtic names."

Clearly, a subjugated territory, useless without cultivators, was left in the hands of the original cultivators because nothing was to be gained by putting others in their places, even could an adequate number of others be had. Hence, while it became the conqueror's interest to tie each original cultivator to the soil, it also became his interest to let him have such an amount of produce as to maintain him and enable him to rear offspring, and also to protect him against injuries which would incapacitate him for work.

To show how fundamental is the distinction between bondage of the primitive type and the bondage of serfdom, it needs but to add that, while the one can and does exist among savages and pastoral tribes, the other becomes possible only after the agricultural stage is reached; for only then can there occur the bodily annexation of one society by another, and only then can there be any tying to the soil.

Associated men, who live by hunting, and to whom the area occupied is of value only as a habitat for game, can not well have anything more than a common participation in the use of this occupied area: such ownership of it as they have must be joint ownership. Naturally, then, at the outset, all the adult males, who are at once hunters and warriors, are the common possessors of the undivided land, encroachment on which by other tribes they resist. Though, in the earlier pastoral state, especially where the barrenness of the region involves wide dispersion, there is no definite proprietorship of the tract wandered over; yet, as is shown us in the strife between-the herdsmen of Abraham and those of Lot respecting feeding-grounds, some claims to exclusive use tend to arise; and at a later half-pastoral stage, as among the ancient Germans, the wanderings of each division fall within prescribed limits. I refer to these facts by way of showing the identity established at the outset between the militant class and the land-owning class. For, whether the group is one which lives by hunting or one which lives by feeding cattle, any slaves its members possess are excluded from land-ownership—the freemen, who are all fighting men, become, as a matter of course, the proprietors of their territory. This connection, in variously modified forms, long continues through subsequent stages of social evolution, and could scarcely do otherwise. Land being, in early settled communities, the almost exclusive source of wealth, it happens inevitably that, during times in which the principle that might is right remains unqualified, personal power and possession of land go together. Hence the fact that, where, instead of being held by the whole society, land comes to be parceled out among component village communities, or among families, or among individuals, possession of it habitually goes along with the bearing of arms. In ancient Egypt "every soldier was a land-owner"—"had an allotment of land of about six acres." In Greece the invading Hellenes, wresting the soil from its original holders, joined military service with the land-ownership. In Rome, too, "every freeholder, from the seventeenth to the sixtieth year of his age, was under obligation of service, . . . so that even the emancipated slave had to serve, who, in an exceptional case, had come into possession of landed property." The like happened in the early Teutonic community. Joined with professional warriors, its army included "the mass of freemen, arranged in families, fighting for their homesteads and hearths": such freemen, or markmen, owning land partly in common and partly as individual proprietors. Similarly with the ancient English: "Their occupation of the land as cognationes resulted from their enrollment in the field, where each kindred was drawn up under an officer of its own lineage and appointment"; and so close was this dependence that "a thane forfeited his hereditary freehold by misconduct in battle."

Beyond the original connection between militancy and land-owning, which naturally arises from the joint interest which those who own the land and occupy it, either individually or collectively, have in resisting aggressors, there arises later a further connection. As, along with successful militancy, there progresses a social evolution which gives to a dominant ruler increased power, it becomes his custom to reward his leading soldiers by grants of land. Early Egyptian kings "bestowed on distinguished military officers" portions of the crown domains. When the barbarians were enrolled as Roman soldiers, "they were paid also by assignments of land according to a custom which prevailed in the imperial armies. The possession of these lands was given to them on condition of the son becoming a soldier like his father." And that kindred usages were general throughout the feudal period is a familiar truth: feudal tenancy being, indeed, thus constituted, and inability to bear arms being a reason for excluding women from succession. To exemplify the nature of the relation established, it will suffice to name the facts that "William the Conqueror. . . distributed this kingdom into about sixty thousand parcels, of nearly equal value, from each of which the service of a soldier was due," and that one of his laws requires all owners of land to "swear that they become vassals or tenants," and will "defend their lord's territories and title as well as his person" by "knight service on horseback."

That this original relation between land-owning and militancy long survived, we are shown by the armorial bearings of county families, as well as by their portraits of ancestors who are mostly represented in military costume.

Setting out with the class of warriors, or men bearing arms, who in primitive communities are owners of the land, collectively or individually, or partly one and partly the other, there arises the question, How does this class differentiate into nobles and freemen?

The most general reply is, of course, that since the state of homogeneity is by necessity unstable, time inevitably brings about inequality of positions among those whose positions were at first equal. Before the semi-civilized state is reached the differentiation can not become decided, because there can be no large accumulations of wealth, and because the laws of descent do not favor maintenance of such accumulations as are possible. But in the pastoral and still more in the agricultural community, especially where descent through males has been established, several causes of differentiation come into play. There is first that of unlikeness of kinship to the head-man. Obviously, in course of generations, the younger descendants of the younger become more and more remotely related to the eldest descendant of the eldest, and social inferiority arises: as the obligation to execute blood-revenge for a murdered member of the family does not extend beyond a certain degree of relationship (in ancient France not beyond the seventh), so neither does the accompanying distinction. From the same cause comes inferiority in point of possessions. Inheritance by the eldest male from generation to generation brings about the result that those who are the most distantly connected in blood with the head of the group are also the poorest. And then there coöperates with these factors a consequent factor—namely, the extra power which the greater, wealth gives. For when there arise disputes within the tribe, the richer are those who, by their better appliances for defense and their greater ability to purchase aid, naturally have the advantage over the poorer. Proof that this is a potent cause is found in a fact named by Sir Henry Maine: "The founders of a part of our modern European aristocracy, the Danish, are known to have been originally peasants who fortified their houses during deadly village struggles, and then used their advantage." Such superiorities of power and position once initiated are increased in another way. Already in the last chapter we have seen that communities are to a certain extent increased by the addition of fugitives from other communities—sometimes criminals, sometimes those who are oppressed. While, in places where such fugitives belong to races of superior type, they often become rulers (as among many Indian Hill-tribes, whose rajahs are of Hindoo extraction), in places where they are of the same race, and can not do this, they attach themselves to those of chief power in their adopted tribe. Sometimes they yield up their freedom for the sake of protection: a man will make himself a slave by breaking a spear in the presence of his wished-for master, as among the East Africans, or by inflicting some small bodily injury upon him, as among the Fulahs. And in ancient Rome the semi-slave class distinguished as clients originated by this voluntary acceptance of servitude with safety. But, where his aid promises to be of value as a warrior, the fugitive offers himself in that capacity in exchange for maintenance and refuge. Other things equal, he joins himself to some one marked by superiority of power and property, and thus enables the man already dominant to become more dominant. Such armed dependents, having as aliens no claims to the lands of the group, and bound to its head only by fealty, answer in position to the comites as found in the early German communities, and as exemplified in old English times by the "Huscarlas" (house-carls), with whom nobles surrounded themselves. Evidently, too, followers of this kind, having certain interests in common with their protector, and no interests in common with the rest of the community, become, in his hands, the means of usurping communal rights and elevating himself while depressing the rest.

Step by step the contrast strengthens. Beyond such as have voluntarily made themselves slaves to a head-man, others have become enslaved by capture in the wars meanwhile going on, others by staking themselves in gaming, others by purchase, others by crime, others by debt. And of necessity the possession of many slaves, habitually accompanying wealth and power, tends still further to increase that wealth and power, and to mark off still more the higher rank from the lower.

Certain concomitant influences generate differences of nature, physical and mental, between those members of a community who have attained superior positions, and those who have remained inferior. Unlikenesses of status once initiated lead to unlikenesses of life, which, by the constitutional changes they work, presently make the unlikenesses of status more difficult to alter.

First there comes difference of diet and its effects. In the habit, common among primitive tribes, of letting the women subsist on the leavings of the men, and in the accompanying habit of denying to the younger men certain choice viands which the older men eat, we see exemplified the inevitable proclivity of the strong to feed themselves at the expense of the weak; and, when there arise class-divisions, there habitually results better nutrition of the superior than of the inferior. Forster remarks that in the Society Islands the lower classes often suffer from a scarcity of food which never extends to the upper classes. In the Sandwich Islands the flesh of such animals as they have is eaten principally by the chiefs. Of cannibalism among the Feejeeans, Seeman says, "The common people throughout the group, as well as women of all classes, were by custom debarred from it." These instances sufficiently indicate the contrast that everywhere arises between the diets of the ruling few and of the subject many. And then by such differences of diet, and accompanying differences in clothing, shelter, and strain on the energies, are eventually produced physical differences. Of the Feejeeans we read that "the chiefs are tall, well made, and muscular; while the lower orders manifest the meagerness arising from laborious service and scanty nourishment." The chiefs among the Sandwich-Islanders "are tall and stout, and their personal appearance is so much superior to that of the common people that some have imagined them a distinct race." Ellis, verifying Cook, says of the Tahitians, that the chiefs are, "almost without exception, as much superior to the peasantry. . . in physical strength as they are in rank and circumstances"; and Erskine notes a parallel contrast among the Tongans. That the like holds among the African races may be inferred from Reade's remark that "the court lady is tall and elegant; her skin smooth and transparent; her beauty has stamina and longevity. The girl of the middle classes, so frequently pretty, is very often short and coarse, and soon becomes a matron; while, if you descend to the lower classes, you will find good looks rare, and the figure angular, stunted, sometimes almost deformed."[1]

Simultaneously there arise, between the ruling and subject classes, unlikenesses of bodily activity and skill. Occupied, as those of higher rank commonly are, in the chase when not occupied in war, they have a life-long discipline of a kind conducive to various physical superiorities; while, contrariwise, those occupied in agriculture, in carrying of burdens, and in other drudgeries, partially lose what agility and address they naturally had. Class-predominance is, therefore, thus further facilitated.

And then there are the respective mental traits produced by daily exercise of power, and by daily submission to power. The ideas, and sentiments, and modes of behavior, perpetually repeated, generate on one side an inherited fitness for command, and on the other side an inherited fitness for obedience; with the result that, in course of time, there arises on both sides the belief that the established relations of classes are the natural ones.

By implying habitual war among settled societies, the foregoing interpretations have implied the formation of compound societies. The rise of such class-divisions as have been described is, therefore, complicated by the rise of further class-divisions determined by the relations from time to time established between those conquerors and conquered whose respective groups already contain class-divisions.

This increasing differentiation which accompanies increasing integration is clearly seen in certain semi-civilized societies, such as that of the Sandwich-Islanders. Ellis enumerates their ranks as—"1. King, queens, and royal family, along with the councilor or chief minister of the king. 2. The governors of the different islands, and the chiefs of several large divisions. Many of these are descendants of those who were kings of the respective islands in Cook's time, and until subdued by Kamehameha. 3. Chiefs of districts or villages, who pay a regular rent for the land, cultivating it by means of their dependents, or letting it out to tenants. This rank includes also the ancient priests. 4. The laboring classes—those renting small portions of land, those working on the land for food and clothing, mechanics, musicians, and dancers." And, as shown by other passages, the laboring classes here grouped together are divisible into—artisans, who are paid wages; serfs, attached to the soil; and slaves. Inspection makes it tolerably clear that the lowest chiefs, once independent, were reduced to the second rank when adjacent chiefs conquered them and became local kings; and that they were reduced to the third rank at the same time that these local kings became chiefs of the second rank, when, by conquest, a kingship of the whole group was established. Other societies in kindred stages show us kindred divisions similarly to be accounted for. Among the New-Zealanders there are six grades; there are six among the Ashantees; there are five among the Abyssinians; and other more or less compounded African states present analogous divisions. Perhaps ancient Peru furnishes as clear a case as any of the superposition of ranks resulting from subjugation. The petty kingdoms which were massed together by the conquering Incas were severally left with the rulers and their subordinates undisturbed; but over the whole empire there was a superior organization of Inca rulers of various grades. That kindred causes produced kindred effects in early Egyptian times is inferable from traditions and remains which tell us both of local struggles which ended in consolidation and of conquests by invading races; whence would naturally result the numerous divisions and subdivisions which Egyptian society presented: an inference justified by the fact that under Roman dominion there was a recomplication caused by superposing of Roman governing agencies upon native governing agencies. Passing over other ancient instances, and coming to the familiar case of our own country, we may note how, from the followers of the conquering Norman, there arose the two ranks of the greater and lesser barons, holding their land directly from the king, while the old English thanes were reduced to the rank of sub-feudatories. Of course, where perpetual wars produce, first, small aggregations, and then larger ones, and then dissolutions, and then reaggregations, and then unions of them, various in their extents, as happened in mediæval Europe, there result very numerous divisions. In the Merovingian kingdoms there were slaves having seven different origins; there were serfs of more than one grade; there were freedmen—men who, though emancipated, did not rank with the fully free; and there were two other classes less than free—the liten and the coloni. Of the free there were three classes—independent land-owners; freemen in relations of dependence with other freemen, of whom there were two kinds; and freemen in special relations with the king, of whom there were three kinds.

And here, while observing in these various cases how greater political differentiation is made possible by greater political integration, we may also observe that in early stages, while social cohesion is small, greater political integration is made possible by greater political differentiation. For the larger the mass to be held together, while incoherent, the more numerous must be the agents standing in successive degrees of subordination to hold it together.

The political differentiations which militancy originates, and which for a long time acquire increasing definiteness, so that intermixture of ranks by marriage is made a crime, are at later stages and under other conditions interfered with, traversed, and partially or wholly destroyed.

Where, throughout long periods and in ever-varying degrees, war has been producing aggregations and dissolutions, the continual breaking up and reforming of social bonds obscures the original divisions established in the ways described: instance the state of things in the Merovingian kingdoms just named. And where, instead of conquests by kindred adjacent societies, which in large measure leave standing the social positions and properties of the subjugated, there are conquests by alien races carried on more barbarously, the original grades may be practically obliterated, and in place of them there may arise grades originating entirely by appointment of the despotic conqueror. In parts of the East, where such overrunnings of race by race have been going on from the earliest recorded times, we see this state of things substantially realized: there is little or nothing of hereditary rank, and the only rank recognized is that of official position. Besides the different grades of appointed state functionaries, there are no class distinctions, or none having political meanings.

A tendency to subordination of the original ranks and a substitution of new ranks is otherwise caused: it accompanies the progress of political consolidation. The change which has occurred in China well illustrates this effect. Gutzlaff says: "Mere title was afterward (on the decay of the feudal system) the reward bestowed by the sovereign, . . . and the haughty and powerful grandees of other countries are here the dependent and penurious servants of the Crown. . . . The revolutionary principle of leveling all classes has been carried in China to a very great extent. . . . This is introduced for the benefit of the sovereign, to render his authority supreme."

The causes of such changes are not difficult to see. In the first place, the subjugated local rulers losing, as integration advances, more and more of their power, lose, consequently, more and more of their actual if not of their nominal rank, passing from the condition of tributary rulers to the condition of subjects. Indeed, jealousy on the part of the monarch sometimes prompts positive exclusion of them from influential positions; as in France, where "Louis XIV systematically excluded the nobility from ministerial functions." Presently their distinction is further diminished by the rise of competing ranks created by state authority. Instead of the titles inherited by the land-possessing military chiefs, which were descriptive of their attributes and positions, there come to be titles conferred by the sovereign. Certain of the classes thus established are still of militant origin; as the knights made on the battle-field, sometimes in large numbers before battle, as at Agincourt, when five hundred were thus created, and sometimes afterward in reward for valor. Others of them arise from the exercise of political functions of different grades; as in France, where, in the seventeenth century, hereditary nobility was conferred on officers of the great council and officers of the chamber of accounts—officers who had habitually been of bourgeois extraction. The administration of law, too, presently originates titles of honor. In France, in 1607, nobility was granted to doctors, regents, and professors of law; and "the superior courts obtained, in 1644, the privileges of nobility of the first degree." "So that," as Warnkoenig remarks, "the original conception of nobility was in the course of time so much widened that its primitive relation to the possession of a fief is no longer recognizable, and the whole institution seems changed." These, with kindred instances, which our own country and other European countries furnish, show us both how the original class-divisions become blurred and how the new class-divisions are distinguished by being delocalized. They are strata which run through the integrated society, having, many of them, no reference to the land, and no more connection with one place than another. It is true that, of the titles artificially conferred, the higher are habitually derived from the names of districts and towns: so simulating, but only simulating, the ancient feudal titles expressive of actual lordship over territories. The other modern titles, however, which have arisen with the growth of political, judicial, and other functions, have not even nominal references to localities. This change naturally accompanies the growing integration of the parts into a whole, and the rise of an organization of the whole which disregards the divisions among the parts.

More effective still, in weakening those primitive political divisions initiated by militancy, is increasing industrialism. This acts in two ways, firstly, by creating a class having power derived otherwise than from territorial possessions or official position; and, secondly, by generating ideas and sentiments at variance with the ancient assumptions of class-superiority. As we have already seen, rank and wealth are at the outset habitually associated. Existing uncivilized people still show us this relation. The chief of a kraal among the Koranna Hottentots is "usually the person of greatest property." In the Bechuana language "the word kosi. . . has a double acceptation, denoting either a chief or a rich man." Such small authority as a Chinook chief has, "rests on riches, which consists in wives, children, slaves, boats, and shells." So was it originally in Europe. In ancient Spain the title ricos hombres, applied to the barons, definitely identified the two attributes. Indeed, it is manifest that before the development of commerce, and while possession of land could alone give largeness of means, lordship and riches were directly connected; so that, as Sir Henry Maine remarks, "the opposition commonly set up between birth and wealth, and particularly wealth other than landed property, is entirely modern." When, however, with the arrival of industry at that stage in which wholesale transactions bring large profits, there arise traders who vie with, and exceed, many of the landed nobility in wealth, and when, by conferring obligations on kings and nobles, such traders gain social influence, there comes an occasional removal of the barrier between them and the titled classes. In France the progress began as early as 1271, when there were issued letters ennobling Raoul, the goldsmith—"the first letters conferring nobility in existence." The precedent, once established, is followed with increasing frequency, and sometimes, under pressure of financial needs, there grows up the practice of selling titles, in disguised ways or openly. In France, in 1702, the king ennobled two hundred persons at three thousand livres a head; in 1706, five hundred at six thousand a head. And then, the breaking down of the ancient political divisions thus caused, is furthered by that weakening of them consequent on the growing spirit of equality fostered by industrial life. In proportion as men are daily habituated to maintain their own claims while respecting the claims of others, which they do in every act of exchange, whether of goods for money or of services for pay, there is produced a mental attitude at variance with that which accompanies subjection; and, as fast as this happens, such political distinctions as imply subjection lose more and more of that respect which gives them strength.

Class-distinctions, then, date back to the beginnings of social life. Omitting those small wandering assemblages which are so incoherent that their component parts are ever changing their relations to one another and to the environment we see that, wherever there is some coherence and some permanence of relation among the parts, there begin to arise political divisions. Relative superiority of power, first causing a differentiation at once domestic and social, between the activities and positions of the sexes, presently begins to cause a differentiation among males, shown in the bondage of captives; a master-class and a slave-class are formed.

Where men continue the wandering life in pursuit of wild food for themselves or their cattle, the groups they form are debarred from doing more by war than appropriate one another's units individually; but, where men have passed into the agricultural or settled state, it becomes possible for one community to take possession bodily of another community, along with the territory it occupies. When this happens, there arise additional class-divisions. The conquered and tribute-paying community, besides having its head-men reduced to subjection, has its people reduced to a state such that, while they continue to live on their lands, they yield up, through the intermediation of their chiefs, part of the produce to the conquerors; so foreshadowing what eventually becomes a serf-class.

From the beginning the militant class, being by force of arms the dominant class, becomes the class which owns the source of food—the land. During the hunting and pastoral stages, the warriors of the group hold the land collectively. On passing into the settled state, their tenures become partly collective and partly individual in sundry ways, and eventually almost wholly individual. But, throughout long stages of social evolution, land-owning and militancy continue to be associated.

The class-differentiation, of which militancy is the active cause, is furthered by the establishment of definite descent, and especially male descent, and the transmission of position and property to the eldest son of the eldest continually. This conduces to inequalities of position and wealth between near kindred and remote kindred; and such inequalities of wealth, once initiated, strengthen themselves by giving to the superior increased means of maintaining their power by accumulating appliances for offense and defense.

Such differentiation is increased, at the same time that a new differentiation is initiated, by the immigration of fugitives who attach themselves to the most powerful member of the group, now as dependents who work, and now as armed followers—armed followers who form a class bound to the dominant man, and unconnected with the land. And since, in clusters of such groups, fugitives ordinarily flock most to the strongest group, and become adherents of its head, they are instrumental in furthering those subsequent integrations and differentiations which conquests bring about.

Inequalities of social position, bringing inequalities in the supplies and kinds of food, clothing, and shelter, tend to establish physical differences, to the further advantage of the rulers and disadvantage of the ruled. And, beyond the physical differences, there are produced, by the respective habits of life, mental differences, emotional and intellectual, strengthening the general contrast of nature.

When there come the conquests which produce compound societies, and, again, doubly compound ones, there come superpositions of ranks. And the general effect is that, while the ranks of the conquering society become respectively higher than those which existed before, those of the conquered become respectively lower.

The class-divisions thus formed during the earlier stages of militancy are traversed and obscured as fast as the many small societies are consolidated into one large society. Ranks referring to local organization are gradually replaced by ranks referring to general organization. Instead of deputy and sub-deputy governing agents who are the militant owners of the subdivisions they rule, there come governing agents who more or less clearly form strata running throughout the society as a whole—a concomitant of developed political administration.

Chiefly, however, we have to note that, while the higher political evolution of large social aggregates tends to break down the divisions of rank which grew up in the small component social aggregate, by substituting other divisions, these original divisions are still more broken down by growing industrialism. Generating a wealth that is not connected with rank, this initiates a competing power; and at the same time, by establishing the equal positions of citizens before the law in respect of trading transactions, it weakens those divisions which at the outset expressed inequalities of position before the law.

As verifying these interpretations, I may add that they harmonize with the interpretations of ceremonial institutions recently given. As the primary differences of rank result from victories, and as the primary forms of propitiation originate in the behavior of the vanquished to the vanquishers, so the later differences of rank result from differences of power which, in the last resort, express themselves in physical coercion, and so the observances between ranks are recognitions of such differences of power. When the conquered enemy is made a slave, and mutilated by taking a trophy from his body, we see simultaneously originating the deepest political distinction and the ceremony which marks it; and, with the continued militancy that compounds and recompounds social groups, there goes at once the development of political distinctions and the development of ceremonies marking them. And, as we before saw that growing industrialism diminishes the rigor of ceremonial rule, so here we see that it tends to destroy those class-divisions which militancy originates, and to establish others which indicate differences of position consequent on differences of aptitude for the various functions which an industrial society needs.

  1. While writing, I find in the recently issued "Transactions of the Anthropological Institute" proof that, even now in England, the professional classes are both taller and heavier than the artisan classes.