Popular Science Monthly/Volume 44/January 1894/Ethics of Tribal Society
|THE ETHICS OF TRIBAL SOCIETY.|
THE world of the primitive man was bounded by the circle of his vision. He regarded the horizon as a fixed line which separated the earth from the sky, and which it would be possible for him to reach by going far enough. He did not deem it less real because it unfortunately always eluded his search, like the fabulous pot of gold which, according to popular superstition, lies buried at the point where the rainbow rests on the ground. In like manner the barbarian of to-day has no conception of the fact that the line of junction of earth and sky has no real existence, but is "all in his eye."
Indeed, it is but recently that man has learned to appreciate aright the wholly subjective character and significance of the terms north, south, east, and west as applied to places on the globe, and to recognize the relativity of all his geographical ideas, inasmuch as these are dependent for their accuracy and exactness upon the position of the speaker. It is one of the rare achievements of high culture, and has always been the prerogative of exceptionally thoughtful minds, to be able to distinguish between the apparent and the actual, to keep mental conceptions free from the influences of optical illusions, and not to be deceived by the surprises and sophistries of the senses.
An old English legend entitled The Lyfe of Adam, which has been preserved in a manuscript of the fourteenth century, relates how "Adam was made of oure lord god in the place that Jhesus was borne in, that is to seye in the cite of Bethleem, which is the myddel of the erthe." It then goes on to state that the first man was made out of dust taken from the four corners of the earth, which meet in Bethlehem, and that he was called by a name composed of the four principal planets: thus he was formed as a microcosm, the miniature counterpart and organic epitome of the universe, the synopsis and symbol of all created things.
There is a tendency in every savage tribe and isolated people to regard the portion of the earth which it happens to inhabit, and especially the spot which is the cradle of the race or around which its sacred traditions cluster, as not only the political and religious but also as the physical center of the world. Such were Jerusalem to the Jews and imperial and papal Rome, urbs et orbis, to the ancient Romans and mediæval Romanists; such has Benares been from time immemorial to multitudes of Hindus, and such is Mecca to-day to millions of Moslems. Before the discoveries of the Western hemisphere, made by Columbus and his compeers, not even the most enlightened peoples had any proper sense of their relations to the rest of mankind, either morally or geographically. International ethics and comities began with the growth of clearer and more correct ethnical notions, and have always kept pace with it. The knowledge of the rotundity of the earth gave a strong and permanent impulse in this direction, and has contributed not a little to the recognition of the equal rights of all races of mankind.
The language of every civilized nation contains curious survivals of the primitive conceptions which sprung out of what might be called the self-conceited and self-centered spirit of the savage. It is interesting to note how a single people, emerging from barbarism and taking the lead in civilization at an early period, imposes its forms of speech, and especially its geographical terms, upon after ages and upon remote races of men for whom they have really no meaning. We still speak of certain countries as the Levant and the Orient, the 'Ανατολή' of the Greeks, but these designations have no significance except for the dwellers on the shores of the Mediterranean, with whom they originated. So, too, Asia means etymologically the land of the rising sun and Europe the land of the setting sun, and these names expressed the actual position of the two continents in their relation to the Greeks. But to an American, and especially to a Californian, Europe is an Eastern and Asia a Western continent, and these strictly ethnocentric appellations would be wholly unsuitable and extremely confusing were it not for the fact that their etymology has become obscured and their primitive signification been forgotten, or is at least lost sight of and ignored, so that they are now mere arbitrary terms or distinguishing signs, with no suggestion of the geographical direction or situation of the regions to which they are applied, just as we speak of Chester, Edinburgh, Oxford, Berlin, or Munich without thinking of a Roman camp. King Edwin's castle, a ford for oxen, a frontier fortress, or a community of monks; and christen a child George, Albert, or Alexander without intending him to be a tiller of the soil, or wishing to imply that he is of noble birth, or will distinguish himself as a defender of men. All such proper names denote particular places or persons, but have wholly ceased to connote, as the scholastic philosophers were wont to say, the qualities or attributes which were at first associated with them and brought them into use.
The Chinese call their country the middle realm (Chung-kuë) or the flower of the middle (Chang-hua), thus characterizing it as the central and choicest portion of the earth, in distinction from the savage wastes inhabited by savage men outside of the Great Wall (Wan-li-ch'ang-ch'ing). The Jews looked upon themselves as the chosen people, set apart as Yisráêl, or champions of the true God, and lumped all other tribes of men together as goïm, gentiles, poor pagan folks, who had no rights which a child of Abraham was bound to respect. The Greeks divided all mankind into two classes, Hellenes and barbarians; the latter were also called ἅγλωττοι—i. e., tongueless—because they did not speak Greek. Aristophanes applied the term βαρβαροι even to birds, on account of the inarticulateness and unintelligibleness of their chirpings and chatterings. It is from Greek usage that we have come to designate any corruption of our own language by the introduction of foreign or unfit words as a barbarism. The persistence of this primitive tribal conceit is shown by the fact that a people in many respects so cosmopolitan as the English can pronounce no severer censure and condemnation of the manners, customs, and opinions of other nations than to call them un-English, and really fancy that an indelible stigma attaches itself to this epithet. Not long since several British tourists in Italy actually protested against some foolish, perhaps, but otherwise harmless features of the Roman carnival, and demanded their suppression on the ground that they were "thoroughly un-English," thus virtually assuming that no amusements should be tolerated on the Tiber which were not customary on the Thames. It is due to the same feeling that the word "outlandish" has gradually grown obsolete in its original sense, and is now used exclusively as an expression of contempt. Slavonic (slovene) is derived from slovo (speech), and means people with articulate language; whereas the Slavic nations call the Germans Nĕmĭcĭ, which signifies speechless, dumb, and therefore barbarian.
Geocentric astronomy and ethnocentric geography have been relegated long ago to that "limbo large and broad" which is the predestined receptacle of all exploded errors and illusions engendered by human vanity and ignorance; but from the bondage of ethnocentric ethics, manifesting itself in national prejudices and prepossessions, and often posing as a paragon of virtue in the guise of patriotism, even the most advanced and enlightened peoples have not yet fully emancipated themselves. The Hebrews thought they were doing the will of their tribal god (the personification of the tribal conscience) by borrowing jewels and fine raiment from their too-obliging Egyptian acquaintances and then running away with them. That this mean abuse of neighborly confidence and civility was not a mere momentary freak of fraudulence or sudden succumbing to temptation, but the outcome of settled principles of morality and a general rule of policy, is evident from the approval with which it is recorded, as well as from the laws subsequently enacted, which permitted them to take usury of aliens and to sell murrain meat to the strangers in their gates.
This is the kind of ethics which finds expression in the legislation of all barbaric and semi-civilized races, from the Eskimos to the Hottentots. The Balantis of Africa punish with death a theft committed to the detriment of a tribesman, but encourage and reward thievery from other tribes. According to Cæsar's statement (De Bello Gallico, lib. vi, c. 23), the Germans did not deem it infamous to steal outside of the precincts of their own village, but rather advocated it as a means of keeping the young men of the community in training and rendering them vigilant and adroit. But we need not go to African kraals or American wigwams or primeval Teutonic forests for illustrations of this rule of conduct. Quite recently a Frenchman succeeded as commis-voyageur in swindling a number of German tradesmen out of large sums of money, and was applauded for his exploit by Parisian shopkeepers, who readily condoned his similar but slighter offenses against themselves on account of the satisfaction they derived from the more serious injury done to their hereditary foes on the Rhine. This incident proves how easy it is for the primitive feeling of clanship, euphemistically styled patriotic sentiment, to put in abeyance all the acquisitions of culture and set the most elementary principles of honesty and morality at defiance. International conscience is a product of modern civilization, but it is still a plant of very feeble growth—a sickly shrub, whose fruits are easily blasted, and for the most part drop and decay before they ripen.
Sir Henry Sumner Maine, in his Lectures on the Early History of Institutions, has shown with admirable force and suggestiveness that rude and savage tribes uniformly regard consanguinity as the only basis of friendship and moral obligation and the sole cement of society. The original human horde was held together by the same tie of blood-relationship that produces and preserves the consciousness of unity in the animal herd or causes ants and bees to lead an orderly and mutually helpful life in swarms. In all these communities the outsider is looked upon as an outlaw; whoever is not a kinsman is a foe, and may be assailed, despoiled, enslaved, or slain with impunity. Indeed, it is considered not only a right but also an imperative duty to injure the alien by putting him to death or reducing him to servitude. The instinct of self-preservation asserts itself in this form with gregarious mammals and insects; and all primitive associations of men are founded upon this principle and cohere by force of this attraction.
A superstitious regard for blood pervades all early ideas and institutions of mankind. The ancient Hebrews were forbidden to eat the blood of a slaughtered animal, because the blood is the life; and the orthodox Israelite still clings to this notion and will not partake of butcher's meat that is not gosh or ceremonially clean—i. e., from which the blood has not been carefully drained off, although he knows that this process of ritual purification deprives the flesh of much of its succulence and nutritive value as food.
It is a widely diffused belief among aboriginal and lower races that the blood is the seat of the soul; hence blood-relationship is synonymous with soul-relationship. The child was also recognized as a blood-relation of the mother, but not of the father. Out of this conception of consanguinity arose the custom of descent in the female line, whereby the children of a man's sister became his heirs to the exclusion of his own offspring. Curiously enough this notion is confirmed, to some extent, by modern science, which would ascribe to the female the function of conserving and transmitting the permanent qualities and typical characteristics of the race, whereas the influence of the male in propagation is variable, innovating, and revolutionary, and tends to produce deviations from the hereditary norm.
Cannibalism, too, as a tribal rite, originated in the belief that the soul resides in the blood, and that by drinking the blood of the bravest foemen their courage, cunning, and other distinctive and desirable traits may be acquired and thus serve to increase the fighting force and efficiency of the tribe.
Brotherhood was also created artificially or ceremonially by mingling a few drops of the blood of two persons in a cup of wine and drinking it. Each received into his veins a portion of the other's blood, and thus they became blood-related and were bound by the same mutual obligations as they would have been if the same mother had given them birth. The heroes of old German sagas are represented as drinking brotherhood in this manner; it is thus that Gunther and Siegfried swear inviolable friendship and fidelity in Wagner's Götterdämmerung; and German students, in the festive enthusiasm of a Commers, are fond of imitating their mythical forefathers in the solemn celebration of this mystic rite.
It is interesting to note the rhetorical and metaphorical survivals of this once strong conviction. In referring to political parties in France the Journal des Débats recently remarked: "It is not true that our nation consists of two nations—the heirs of the Emigration and those of the Revolution. This distinction no longer exists. The last vestiges of it have been obliterated on the battlefields, where all Frenchmen have mingled their blood. France is henceforth one and indivisible."
The noble sentiment expressed by the Greek comic poet Menander and handed down to us in the language of Terence, his Roman imitator, "I am a man, and regard nothing human as alien to me," was doubtless shared by many individual thinkers of antiquity, especially among the Greek Stoics and their Roman disciples. Cicero, who may be taken as one of the most eminent representatives of this ethical school, lays great stress upon "love of mankind" (caritas generis humani), in distinction from the love of kindred or countrymen. "A man," he says, "should seek to promote the welfare of every other man, whoever he may be, for the simple reason that he is a man"; and declares that this principle is the bond of universal society and the foundation of all law. He returns to this topic again and again, and never tires of enforcing this doctrine as fundamental in his treatises on duties (De Officiis), on the highest good and evil (De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum), and on laws (De Legibus). That he regarded this broad, cosmopolitan view as a new departure in ethics is evident from his remark that "he whom we now call a foreigner (peregrinum) was called an enemy (hostis) by our ancestors."
The distinguished Christian apologist Lucius Lactantius bases the duty of human kindness upon the hypothesis of human kinship, thus reviving and amplifying the old tribal notion which limits moral obligation to those who can claim a common progenitor. "For, if we all derive our origin from one man, whom God created, we are plainly of one blood; and therefore it must be deemed the greatest wickedness to hate a man, even though he be guilty." He adds that "we are to put aside enmities and to soothe and allay the anger of those who are inimical to us by reminding them of their relationship. . . . On account of this bond of brotherhood God teaches us never to do evil, but always to do good." He also quotes a passage from the Epicurean Lucretius to the effect that "we are all sprung from a heavenly seed and have all of us the same father"; and draws from this statement the conclusion that "they who injure men are to be accounted as savage beasts."
Lactantius has been surnamed the Christian Cicero, but the fundamental principle of his ethics, as formulated in his Divine Institutions, is in its motive character and moral elevation far below the height attained four centuries earlier by his pagan prototype. The results of their teachings, practically applied, were equally cosmopolitan; inasmuch as Lactantius based his theory of duty on the Hebrew legend of the origin and descent of man, and thus enlarged his essentially tribal system of ethics so as to embrace the whole human race.
Marcus Aurelius defines his own ethical and humanitarian standpoint with his wonted epigrammatic terseness: "As an Antonine, my country is Rome; as a man, it is the world." Unfortunately, the liberal spirit of the philosopher, even when he happens to sit upon a throne, seldom exerts any direct and decisive influence in liberalizing the minds of the masses of mankind. Homer praises the kind and sympathetic heart of him who treats the stranger as a brother. But this fine sentiment does not change but rather confirms the fact that, as a rule, strangers were not thus treated in the Homeric age. As a general statement it remains true that in ancient times aliens had no legal rights whatsoever, and that international relations, so far as they existed at all, were relations of hostility.
But this outlawry de jure was mitigated de facto by investing the rite of hospitality with a certain sacredness. Such is still the case with all savage and semi-civilized tribes, as, for example, with the Bedouins, who hold the person of a guest inviolable, even though he may be their deadliest foe. This custom originated in the defenseless and helpless condition of the stranger, whose alienage placed him beyond the pale of law and the sphere of sympathy; it furnished a sort of compensation for the lack of all natural or conventional claims to protection, and thus supplied a temporary modus vivendi, without which intertribal intercourse would have been absolutely impossible.
We have an indication and illustration of this peculiarity of primitive society in the story of Cain, who, as a fratricide, was not only guilty of murder (a matter of comparatively small moment in the eyes of the aboriginal man), but also of treason against the tribe by violating the law of brotherhood fundamental to its constitution and essential to its existence; and when, by reason of this crime, he was driven out of the sheltering circle and sanctuary of his own kith and kin and became a fugitive and vagabond in the earth, his first feeling was the fear lest he should be slain by any stranger who might chance to meet him. The Lord is also represented as recognizing the possibility of such a catastrophe, and as setting a mark upon him in order to avert it.
The stipulation contained in the Hebrew code, as well as in the code of other Eastern nations, which made it the duty of a man to wed his brother's widow, provided the first union was childless, and to raise up seed to the deceased, was only a modification of polyandry and differed from the conjugal relations still in vogue among the Thibetans in the fact that the possession of the same wife was successive instead of simultaneous. Both of these matrimonial customs are survivals of the earliest form of marriage, which was not individual, but tribal. We have a relic of this primitive kind of wedlock among the Californian Indians, who practiced promiscuous sexual intercourse, so far as the members of the same tribe were concerned; the woman was regarded as faithless or adulterous only when she cohabited with a man belonging to another tribe.
The Greeks, with all their superior culture, never became as a people sufficiently enlightened to lay aside their deep distrust and depreciation of foreigners. Sparta was notoriously hostile to strangers (ἐχθρόξενος, or guest-hating), and how impossible it was for even a cultivated Athenian to look at the world at large from any but a strictly Hellenic point of view is curiously and comically illustrated in the drama in which Æschylus glorifies the battle of Salamis, where the Persians are made to speak of themselves as barbarians balked of their purpose, and to describe their lamentations over their defeat as dismal barbaric wailings.
It is a somewhat surprising and quite significant concession to Greek arrogance that Plautus should use the phrase vortere barbare in the sense of turning or translating into Latin. It is possible, however, that he may have borrowed this phrase from Philemon and other Greek playwrights, whose comedies he imitated with more or less freedom, but always with a touch of native genius. Still, we know that the Romans were uniformly called barbarians, and seem to have recognized the correctness of this appellation down to the age of Augustus, when the term began to be applied chiefly, if not exclusively, to the Germans. As our earliest information concerning the Germanic peoples was derived from Greek and Roman sources, we have been misled by the use of this depreciatory designation to think of them as wild and lawless hordes, and to form a wholly false conception of the grade and quality of their civilization.
When individuals of different race or nationality formed friendships they were wont to confirm the pact by an exchange of tokens, which remained as heirlooms in their respective families, and were prized by their descendants as pledges of mutually kind and hospitable treatment. The duty of helpfulness was, in such cases, quite as imperative as is the vow of vendetta, which passes as a precious inheritance of hatred from Corsican father to son. These tokens were called by the Greeks σύμβολα, and by the Romans tesseræ hospitales, and, although they were eventually superseded by better and more comprehensive methods and ended by playing only the frivolous part of a sentimental pastime in social life, like the modern philopena, they had originally a more serious purpose and were of no small importance as means of promoting intertribal intercourse and thus encouraging trade and leading to the establishment of commercial treaties.
Another step toward the realization of the conception of human brotherhood was the custom established at a very early period whereby chiefs of tribes came to address each other as kinsmen and members of one family. This assumption of consanguinity, which originated in the desire of dynasties to strengthen their position and to perpetuate their power, naturally led to increase of friendly intercourse and to frequent intermarriages, so that they finally became in fact what they at first claimed to be by a polite and politic fiction. Traces of this usage are found in the oldest records of royalty. Among the treasures of the Berlin and British Museums are preserved two hundred and forty-one tablets of cuneiform inscriptions containing letters written to Amenophis III and Amenophis IV of Egypt by Burnaburiash, King of Babylonia, and Dushratta, King of Mesopotamia, which show that, at least sixteen centuries before the Christian era, "dear brother" was the ceremonial title of salutation which monarchs were wont to use in their epistolary correspondence. This feigning of a common lineage still survives among crowned heads, and the vilest plebeian adventurer who, by force or fraud, gets himself proclaimed king or emperor is admitted to the select circle of sovereigns and greeted as "dear cousin."
Principles, once grown obsolete, are denounced as prejudices; religious beliefs, which have been supplanted by superior creeds, are scoffed at as superstitions; and dethroned deities haunt the imagination of their former worshiper as demons. In like manner, the lower classes of civilized communities correspond, in a measure, to the lower races, and reflect atavistically the ideas and passions of primitive man; and in periods of great social and political upheaval we are often rudely brought face to face with tumultuous masses of these strata of palæozoic humanity violently and unpleasantly thrown to the surface. It crops out in the English boor, who at the sight of a stranger is ever ready to "'eave 'arf a brick at 'im," and would deem the neglect of this duty a treasonable lack of local patriotism and loyalty to time-honored tradition; in the Cretan herdsman, who instinctively seizes his cudgel whenever a traveler in trousers passes by; and in the Egyptian fellah, who teaches his children to spit at every man with a hat on and cry out: "Yâ nasrânîy! Yâ khinzîr! O you Nazarene! O you pig!"
The publican, in some parts of southern Italy, is still disposed to reckon with the foreigner as a foe, a forlorn vagabond, whom it is his native-born privilege to spoil. The blood of his ancestor, the brigand, courses in his veins, and his first impulse is to plunder the wayfarer. Prudence and the police may curb this progenital, predatorial proclivity; but the self-restraint always costs an effort, and, as a compromise with his instinctive feelings, instead of relieving the guest of his purse by force, he robs him of an undue portion of its contents by adding two or three hundred per cent to the usual price of fare and lodgment.
In many cantons of Switzerland, and especially in the Bernese highlands, we have the spectacle of a whole people apparently born and bred to consider mountain passes, romantic valleys, glaciers, and waterfalls as so many traps for curious and unwary tourists, and to prize sublime scenery merely as a ready-made snare to catch coots, dupes, gulls, boobies, and other varieties of too confiding summer birds of passage, which the categorizing mind of the German has reduced to two essentially distinct but closely connected classes, Bergfexen and Sommerfrischler.
This clannish spirit even invades and desecrates the courts of justice, and the Helvetian Themis is especially notorious for her propensity to blink the legal rights of the case and to tip the balance in favor of her cantonal or federal compatriots as opposed to the stranger within her gates.
In France the droit d'aubaine or jus albinagii confiscated to the crown the property of all aliens who died within the limits of the realm, to the exclusion of the natural heirs, unless these happened to be the king's subjects. This barbarous law was abolished by a decree of the National Assembly on the 6th of August, 1790, but was re-enacted twelve years later and incorporated in the Code. Napoléon, modified, however, by a clause making the testamentary capacity of aliens dependent upon reciprocity; in other words, it was stipulated that the will of a foreigner should be declared valid in France, provided the laws of the said foreigner's country placed on the same footing the will of a Frenchman deceased within its jurisdiction. On the 14th of July, 1819, the droit d'aubaine was finally abrogated throughout the entire kingdom, after having been already considerably mitigated and partially annulled by the municipal authorities of Lyons and other industrial and commercial cities, which found this relic of mediæval legislation a serious obstruction to foreign trade.
Akin to this system of right was the German Wildfangsrecht or jus wildfangiatus, also known as jus kolbekerlii, which, as the term implies, accorded to human beings the privilege which game laws guarantee to the quarry, namely, that of being legally hunted. Kolbenrecht is equivalent to club law. An old and often quoted proverb, Kolbengericht und Faustrecht ward nie schlecht—the law of the strong was never yet wrong—is the cynical expression of protesting submission to the inevitable, recognized as outrageous. It is the same bitter sarcasm that mocks at unjust and irresistible power in the popular saying, "Might makes right"; it is despair taking refuge and finding relief in ironical humor, which turns the first principles of ethics topsy-turvy.
Wildfangsrecht was originally applied to fugitive serfs and to strangers, but was soon extended to bastards and bachelors, gleemen and professional champions in ordeals by battle, all of whom lived more or less in a state of outlawry as to their persons and property, and could, under certain circumstances, be reduced to the condition of chattels. Foreigners who could prove the place of their nativity were subjected to a poll tax (cherage) for the protection vouchsafed to them by the reeve or Vogt, and were therefore called Vogtleute. In the Canton de Vaud and elsewhere in Switzerland this pollage is still levied as permis d'établissement, a lingering vestige of mediæval extortion which the most enlightened European governments have now abolished. Persons of unknown origin were treated as waifs (epaves), the mere flotson and waveson on the drifting tide of humanity, and were liable to be seized and envassaled by any petty lord on whose territory they chanced to strand. Perhaps a diligent study of these old laws might suggest to American legislators some drastic means of purging the country of tramps.
In "the good old time" in England any alien could be arrested and punished for the crimes and misdemeanors of other aliens, although having no complicity with them. They were all lumped together as a class, any individual of which was liable to be apprehended and held accountable for the debts incurred or for the offenses committed by any other individual of the class.
The idea of justice implied by such a proceeding corresponds to that entertained by the aboriginal Australian or American, who, when his wife dies, feels himself in duty bound to kill the wife of some member of another tribe, and avenges an injury inflicted upon him by a white man by slaying the first white man he happens to meet. The loss or offense, whatever it may be, is tribal, and is satisfied with tribal expiation or retaliation.
A case of this kind occurred quite recently in Dakota. A Sioux Indian, on the death of his squaw, went forth from his lodge with his gun and shot a missionary who was passing by. The red man had no grudge against the white man as an individual; on the contrary, he was personally fond of his victim, from whom he had received many acts of kindness; but the vow of vengeance was as sacred as that made by Jephthah the Gileadite, and had to be as religiously kept.
The old English custom, just referred to as a survival of the earliest and crudest conception of tribal ethics, prevailed at least as late as the reign of Edward III—i. e., till about the middle of the fourteenth century; and long after this period it was exceedingly difficult to enact and almost impossible to enforce laws for the protection of foreigners, so deeply rooted and intense was the prejudice against them. Even far down into the eighteenth century they continued to be regarded with extreme suspicion, and were often subjected to gross indignities, independently of any personal qualities or any peculiar conduct on their part. The mere fact of their alienage sufficed to kindle against them the anger of the populace and turn the masses into an unruly mob. This is still the mental attitude of the cockney, and cockneyism is only a local form of philistinism by no means confined to the precincts of Bow Bells.
The laws of Venice, as expounded by Portia in the case of Shylock vs. Antonio, discriminated against aliens as opposed to citizens in a manner extremely fatal to the plaintiff and exceedingly characteristic of mediæval legislation.
Under the influence of the political panic caused by the excesses of the French Revolution, Lord Grenville succeeded, in 1793, in persuading the British Parliament to pass an alien bill, in which the spirit of feudalism reasserted itself; and since the abolition of this retrogressive law, which was effected chiefly through the enlightened energy of George Canning, the leaders of the Tory party have repeatedly endeavored to re-enact it. In every age and every country landed aristocracies have always shown a marked tendency to narrowness, provincialism, and distrust in their international relations. Indeed, from time immemorial, agricultural communities have been excessively conservative in this respect and hostile to progress; whereas commercial states and cities, whose prosperity is in proportion to their cosmopolitanism and dependent upon it, are naturally philallogeneal (to coin a word from the Greek of the Alexandrian patriarch Cyril, who unfortunately seldom exemplified in his conduct the virtue expressed by the epithet), or friendly to foreigners and easily accessible to influences from without.
Even in America, where all portions of the population are more mobile and undergo more rapid and radical changes than in other lands, the farmers are notoriously tenacious of old ideas and suspicious of reformatory movements of all kinds, following their traditions and clinging to their prejudices long after artisans and other handworkers of the manufacturing centers and large cities have cast aside these notions as obsolete and injurious.
All European governments appear to be periodically or epidemically affected with spasms of antipathy to aliens. France suffered from a particularly severe attack of this sort just before the Napoleonic coup d'état, and now betrays serious symptoms of a relapse, which it is to be hoped do not portend an imperial restoration. As a rule, such manifestations may be regarded as evidences of internal derangement, which is pretty sure to break out sooner or later in some violent disorder. Knownothingism in the United States was the symptom of such a crisis, although its indications were at that time only partially understood.
It is but recently, in fact, that civilized nations have rid themselves of the most obnoxious relics of ethnocentric prejudice in their legislation—such, for example, as the gabella hereditaria, which discriminated against foreigners in matters of inheritance; and the detractus personalis, which virtually punished emigration by the imposition of a heavy fine. These vestiges of vassalage were removed from the statute-books of the German states in relation to each other by the acts of federation of 1815, and have been successively abolished between Germany and other countries by independent treaties.
The English law of extradition with other European powers still refuses to deliver up or to prosecute an Englishman who has committed a felony in a foreign land, unless the crime has been committed against one of his own countrymen. Some years ago a case of this kind occurred in Zurich, and still more recently in Munich. In the latter instance, one of the burglars, although residing in London, proved to be an American by birth, and was therefore handed over to the Bavarian police, and finally sentenced to ten years' imprisonment, while his English confederate in crime was set at liberty. Here we have, as the result of insularism, a survival of ethnocentric ethics in its crassest and most offensive form, such as one would expect to find only among a people still in the tribal stage of development.
In the volume already cited. Sir Henry Sumner Maine not only shows kinship to have been the original basis of society, but also indicates the process by which mankind may have gradually grown out of this primitive condition. The head of the family soon became through natural increase the head of a clan or tribe. The patriarch possessed the authority and exercised the functions of a chieftain over his lineal and collateral descendants, who were known as his men and were called by his name. He was honored and obeyed as their first man, Fürst, or prince, their stem-sire or king, an appellation which has nothing to do with personal "canning" or cunning, as Carlyle, in his excessive admiration of human force and faculty, would fain make us believe, but refers solely to race (kuni). The ruler was an ethnarch in the strictest sense of the term, and held his position by virtue of his primogenitureship or procreative seniority.
The correctness of this theory, so far as the genetic connection 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 but communal. It was the realization, to some extent, of the socialistic ideal of collective or governmental ownership of landed property, the return to which a modern school of reformers would fain persuade themselves and others to regard as a step in advance.
It is also interesting to note that this most important and epoch-making transition from pasturage to tillage was due to the initiative and activity of woman. Everywhere in the growth of society women have been the first agriculturists. While the men were leading the life of hunters or herdsmen, with frequent episodes of pillage and predatory warfare, women began to cultivate the soil and to rear domestic fowls, to spin and to weave, and to develop, in a rude way, various kinds of industry. This is the condition in which we still find all savage and semi-civilized tribes. Herodotus (vol. vi) says of the Thracians, "They regard tillage as the most degrading and pillage as the most honorable occupation." The savage looks upon all forms of manual labor, and especially husbandry, as ignoble, and therefore leaves such work to his squaw.
At first, her efforts in this direction were quite ignored and often thwarted by the sudden removal of the tribe to another place before she could reap the fruits of her toil. The little patch of ground which she had planted was deemed of small account, compared with the pleasures and products of the chase, and was frequently abandoned without hesitation before the meager harvest was ripe. For this reason barley was the earliest grain cultivated, because it is the hardiest of all grains and matures soonest. It was a long time before the fields tilled by women became of sufficient importance, as supplying means of subsistence, to keep the tribe settled for a whole season in one spot, or even to induce them to return thither in the autumn and remain there until the crop was gathered. This semi-nomadism was the first step toward a sedentary life and the starting point of a higher civilization, and woman was the chief agent in its accomplishment, although unconscious of the immense change which her humble efforts were effecting.
For a similar reason the weakest male members of the tribe were the first artificers and mechanical inventors. Men who were crippled or otherwise incapable of waging war and following the chase, if they had not been left to perish at their birth, remained at home and made hunting implements and weapons of war for their more vigorous and valorous tribesmen, and thus acquired skill in handicraft, sharpened their wits, and developed their inventive faculties. In mythology, the gods of the smithy, Hephaestus, Vulcan, and Veland, are represented as lame, and the experts in ores and workers in metals are dwarfs, gnomes, and creatures of stunted growth. These physical peculiarities are not mere mythopœic whimseys and creations of the fancy, but correspond to real facts in the primitive history of the race, and point to the class of persons who were the earliest promoters of the arts.
The supersession of tribal by territorial sovereignty, although radical and permanent, was gradual and scarcely perceptible in its character, and did not begin to express itself in language till many centuries after the change had been fully accomplished. Mediæval and modern history furnish numerous illustrations of this process of social evolution and the manner of its operation. As Mr. Maine has remarked, there had been kings of England and of France long before John the Landless and Henry IV assumed respectively these official titles; although their predecessors had always been styled kings of the English and of the French. The Czar, who, while bearing sway as a territorial sovereign, preserves more than any other European ruler the peculiarities of a tribal chieftain, still calls himself Samodérshez, or Autocrat of all the Russias, and it was perfectly in keeping with the character and career of Napoleon I, as a condottiere on a colossal scale, that he took the title of "Emperor of the French." His interest was centered wholly in the army, which he loved and fostered in the same spirit that Tamerlane cherished his Mongolian hordes and Fra Diavolo his band of brigands. The King of Prussia bears the title of "German Emperor" (Deutscher Kaiser), not Emperor of Germany, since the latter would be inconsistent with the political existence and integrity of the other German states and a manifest usurpation of the rights and prerogatives (Hoheitsrechte) of the confederated princes and potentates. His imperial sovereignty is, therefore, essentially tribal; he is, so to speak, the chief of the German confederated monarchs, and exercises territorial sovereignty only as King of Prussia. There has been a long succession of Roman-German and German emperors, but never an Emperor of Germany.
A nomadic people, wandering from place to place, is not associated in any sense with the soil; the tribe remains the same, but not the territory it occupies. With the beginning of agriculture and sedentariness this relation is reversed. The conception of a nation, nowadays, implies fixed or at least well-defined geographical boundaries. Changes may take place in the character of the inhabitants and in the constitution of the government as the result of emigration and revolution; individuals and families may disappear and be superseded by others of a different stock, but the nation remains, as it were, adscripta glebæ within certain territorial limits and is not destroyed by any admixture of foreign with native elements in the population. Mr. Maine states this point very clearly and concisely when he says: "England was once the country which Englishmen inhabited. Englishmen are now the people who inhabit England." An East Indian by blood may be an Englishman in the modern sense of the term as well as an Anglo-Saxon of purest lineage, however earnestly Lord Salisbury may deprecate the idea that a Hindu or any other "black man," even though he may be, like Dadabhoi Naoroji, a gentleman and a scholar, and the peer of the Tory premier himself in political wisdom and ability, should be sent to the British Parliament by an English constituency. It would seem, therefore, that, even at this late day, a man may be her British Majesty's first minister of state and yet entertain the notion, which prevailed in the days of Warren Hastings and still lingers among the subalterns of the colonial service, that an East Indian is a "nigger."
Nowhere is national feeling stronger and race feeling weaker than in the United States, where the negro, notwithstanding the prejudice growing out of his former condition of servitude, is as truly an American and as fully sensible of this fact as any scion of the Pilgrim fathers. It is unquestionable that the old Puritan stock is rapidly disappearing from New England, partly through natural extinction and partly through westward migration, and is being supplanted by Irish and Canadian French; but this circumstance does not blot New England from the map nor convert it into New Ireland or New France. On the contrary, the descendants of the Celtic immigrant are assimilated and transmuted by their environment and become New-Englanders. The consciousness of what might be called common territoriality tends not only to bind together and to blend diverse races into that "unity of a people" which constitutes a nation, but also to attenuate and to loosen the social and political unions, which are based upon common descent, and finally ruptures them altogether.
The aborigines of British America, who can not regard human beings otherwise than from a tribal point of view, still speak of the English as King George's men; but the inhabitants of Canada consider themselves Canadians irrespectively of their ancestral origin, and the same readiness to sink the claims of lineage when they conflict with territorial interests manifests itself even in the miore recent colonies of Australia and New Zealand. Geographical contiguity proves, in such cases, stronger than genealogical connections; the old proverb, that blood is thicker than water, does not hold true of oceans.
The appeals that have been made in recent times to ethnic antipathies and ethnic sympathies for the purposes of political propagandism or the promotion of personal ambition are anachronistic attempts to resuscitate the tribal spirit under new forms and on a larger scale by a perverse and pseudo-scientific application of the results of comparative philology to public affairs. The hobby of Napoleon III concerning the unity of the Latin nations, and the necessity of their closer confederation under the hegemony of France, was, like his Life of Cæsar, an act of historical self-justification, a desperate endeavor to explain his own raison d'être, and thus set up a temporary prop to a rickety and rootless dynasty.
Panslavism may continue, for a time, to please the imagination and to fire the zeal of a people so peculiarly subjected, in many respects, to primitive social conditions and so powerfully swayed by primitive ideas as are the Russians; but Germany has long since outgrown the swaddling-clout of Panteutonism, and no ranting of anti-Semitic agitators and men of that ilk about ur-deutsch and rein-deutsch can permanently affect the public mind or elicit a favorable response in legislative enactments.
There is no cry so foolish or pernicious that it will not find a ringing echo in the empty brain-pan of some fanatic, no whimsey so silly and absurd that it will not be caught up and preached as a new gospel of universal redemption by a few pamphleteering demagogues or ill-balanced apostles of reform. Impecunious owners of poorly furnished and tenantless garrets are only too ready to let them to the first vagrant that knocks at the door, however seedy his appearance and doubtful his repute. Even the anti-Semitic crusade, so far as it has succeeded in getting a hearing and making any headway among sensible persons, has done so by appealing to the liberal spirit of the age and representing itself as a protest against the tribal exclusiveness of Judaism.
The constitution of the aboriginal tribe as a compact body of kinsmen, animated by feelings of hostility toward all other tribes, necessitated the intermarriage of blood-relations. If, on account of scarcity of females, or for any other reason, a man desired to wed a woman of another tribe, instead of wooing her as a friend, he waylaid her as a foe, stunned her with a blow of his war-club, and carried her off as booty rather than beauty to his camp, where she served him henceforth, not so much as his companion and helpmate as his slave and beast of burden.
Even after this tribal exclusiveness and isolation had ceased and a certain amount of amicable intertribal intercourse had grown up, it was still deemed more virtuous or, as we would say, more patriotic for a man to marry his own kin than to take his wife or wives from an alien people. The tribal religion also lent its special sanction to such nuptials. Survivals of this sentiment are found in the ancient customs and in the sacred scriptures and traditions of many nations, especially in the Orient.
Thus, in the Avesta, a marriage of next of kin (quaêtvadatha) is declared to be particularly praiseworthy and well-pleasing to Ahuramazda, the Good Spirit (Visparad, iii, 18). This "kinship-union" is a prominent article of faith in the Mazdayasnian creed (Yasna, xiii, 38); and in the Book of Ardâ Vîrâf (ii, 1, 2) Viraf is said to have had seven sisters, who were to him as wives (chîgun nêshman), and this circumstance is adduced as evidence of his extraordinary piety. The connubial relations of this model of a religious man were both polygamous and incestuous.
Herodotus states (iii, 88) that Cambyses, the son and successor of Cyrus, was wedded to his own sister Atossa; and when, in the Hebrew story, Tamar rebukes Amnon for his guilty passion and tells him that "no such thing ought to be done in Israel," she refers solely to her brother's folly and wickedness in seeking a secret and illicit connection, and suggests that, if he will only speak to the king on the subject, there would be no obstacle to their union. That such marriages were common in the earlier history of the Jews is evident from the fact that Abram took to wife his half-sister Sarah, and this event is not recorded as an unusual occurrence.
Among the Persians this custom seems to have been confined, for the most part, to priests and kings, who constitute always and everywhere the two most conservative classes of society. Thus it came to be regarded as a mark of distinction or an enviable privilege, of which wealthy persons of inferior rank sometimes endeavored to avail themselves; but there is no evidence that it remained, within historical times, a law for the entire nation or was generally practiced by the people at large. The Magians continued to wive their sisters in conformity to ancient usage and holy tradition, for the same reason that stone knives and hatchets are used in sacrificial rites and fire for the altar is kindled by laboriously rubbing two sticks together long after these clumsy methods have been superseded in secular life by steel implements and lucifer matches.
Darwin's theory of the formation of coral reefs is not as near obsolete as some students have supposed. It had several friends in the discussion of the subject at the recent meeting of the British Association.