Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER VI.: political heads—chiefs, kings, etc. - Political Institutions, being Part V of the Principles of Sociology
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CHAPTER VI.: political heads—chiefs, kings, etc. - Herbert Spencer, Political Institutions, being Part V of the Principles of Sociology 
Political Institutions, being Part V of the Principles of Sociology (The Concluding Portion of Vol. II) (London: Williams and Norgate, 1882).
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political heads—chiefs, kings, etc.
§ 471. Of the three components of the tri-une political structure traceable at the outset, we have now to follow the development of the first. Already in the last two chapters something has been said, and more has been implied, respecting that most important differentiation which results in the establishment of a headship. What was there indicated under its general aspects has here to be elaborated under its special aspects.
“When Rink asked the Nicobarians who among them was the chief, they replied laughing, how could he believe that one could have power against so many?” I quote this as a reminder that there is, at first, resistance to the assumption of supremacy by one member of a group—resistance which, though in some types of men small, is in most considerable, and in a few very great. To instances already given of tribes practically chiefless may be added, from America, the Haidahs, among whom “the people seemed all equal;” the Californian tribes, among whom “each individual does as he likes;” the Navajos, among whom “each is sovereign in his own right as a warrior;” and from Asia the Angamies, who “have no recognized head or chief, although they elect a spokesman, who, to all intents and purposes, is powerless and irresponsible.”
Such small subordination as rude groups show, occurs only when the need for joint action is imperative, and control is required to make it efficient. Instead of recalling beforenamed examples of temporary chieftainship, I may here give some others. Of the Lower Californians we read—“In hunting and war they have one or more chiefs to lead them, who are selected only for the occasion.” Of the Flatheads’ chiefs it is said that “with the war their power ceases.” Among the Sound Indians the chief “has no authority, and only directs the movements of his band in warlike incursions.”
As observed under another head, this primitive insubordination has greater or less play according as the environment and the habits of life hinder or favour coercion. The Lower Californians, above instanced as chiefless, Baegert says resemble “herds of wild swine, which run about according to their own liking, being together to-day and scattered tomorrow, till they meet again by accident at some future time.” “The chiefs among the Chipewyans are now totally without power,” says Franklin; and these people exist as small migratory bands. Of the Abipones, who are “impatient of agriculture and a fixed home,” and “are continually moving from place to place,” Dobrizhoffer writes—“they neither revere their cacique as a master, nor pay him tribute or attendance as is usual with other nations.” The like holds under like conditions with other races remote in type. Of the Bedouins Burckhardt remarks “the sheikh has no fixed authority;” and according to another writer “a chief, who has drawn the bond of allegiance too tight, is deposed or abandoned, and becomes a mere member of a tribe or remains without one.”
And now, having noted the original absence of political control, the resistance it meets with, and the circumstances which facilitate evasion of it, we may ask what causes aid its growth. There are several; and chieftainship becomes settled in proportion as they cooperate.
§ 472. Among the members of the primitive group, slightly unlike in various ways and degrees, there is sure to be some one who has a recognized superiority. This superiority may be of several kinds which we will briefly glance at.
Though in a sense abnormal, the cases must be recognized in which the superiority is that of an alien immigrant. The headmen of the Khonds “are usually descended from some daring adventurer” of Hindoo blood. Forsyth remarks the like of “most of the chiefs” in the highlands of Central Asia. And the traditions of Bochica among the Chibchas, Amalivaca among the Tamanacs, and Quetzalcoatl among the Mexicans, imply kindred origins of chieftainships. Here, however, we are mainly concerned with superiorities arising within the tribe.
The first to be named is that which goes with seniority. Though age, when it brings incapacity, is often among rude peoples treated with such disregard that the old are killed or left to die, yet, so long as capacity remains, the greater experience accompanying age generally insures influence. The chiefless Esquimaux show “deference to seniors and strong men.” Burchell says that over the Bushmen, old men seem to exercise the authority of chiefs to some extent; and the like holds true with the natives of Australia. Among the Fuegians “the word of an old man is accepted as law by the young people.” Each party of Rock Veddahs “has a headman, the most energetic senior of the tribe,” who divides the honey, &c. Even with sundry peoples more advanced the like holds. The Dyaks in North Borneo “have no established chiefs, but follow the counsels of the old man to whom they are related;” and Edwards says of the ungoverned Caribs that “to their old men, indeed, they allowed some kind of authority.”
Naturally, in rude societies, the strong hand gives predominance. Apart from the influence of age, “bodily strength alone procures distinction among” the Bushmen. The leaders of the Tasmanians were tall and powerful men: “instead of an elective or hereditary chieftancy, the place of command was yielded up to the bully of the tribe.” A remark of Sturt’s implies a like origin of supremacy among the Australians. Similarly in South America. Of people on the Tapajos, Bates tells us that “the footmarks of the chief could be distinguished from the rest by their great size and the length of the stride.” And in Bedouin tribes “the fiercest, the strongest, and the craftiest obtains complete mastery over his fellows.” During higher stages physical vigour long continues to be an all-important qualification; as in Homeric Greece, where even age did not compensate for decline of strength: “an old chief, such as Pêleus and Laërtes, cannot retain his position.” Everyone knows that throughout Mediæval Europe, maintenance of headship largely depended on bodily prowess. And even but two centuries ago in the Western Isles of Scotland, “every Heir, or young Chieftain of a Tribe, was oblig’d in Honour to give a publick Specimen of his Valour, before he was own’d and declar’d Governor.”
Mental superiority, alone or joined with other attributes, is a common cause of predominance. With the Snake Indians, the chief is no more than “the most confidential person among the warriors.” Schoolcraft says of the chief acknowledged by the Creeks that “he is eminent with the people only for his superior talents and political abilities;” and that over the Comanches “the position of a chief is not hereditary, but the result of his own superior cunning, knowledge, or success in war.” A chief of the Coroados is one “who by his strength, cunning, and courage had obtained some command over them.” And the Ostiaks “pay respect, in the fullest sense of the word, to their chief, if wise and valiant; but this homage is voluntary, and not a prerogative of his position.”
Yet another source of governmental power in primitive tribes is largeness of possessions: wealth being at once an indirect mark of superiority and a direct cause of influence. With the Tacullies “any person may become a miuty or chief who will occasionally provide a village feast.” “Among the Tolewas, in Del Norte Country, money makes the chief.” The Spokanes have “no regularly recognized chief,” “but an intelligent and rich man often controls the tribe by his influence.” Of the chiefless Navajos we read that “every rich man has many dependants, and these dependants are obedient to his will, in peace and in war.” And to other evidence that it is the same in Africa, may be added the statement of Heuglin that “a Dōr chief is generally the richest and most reputable man of the village or neighbourhood.”
But, naturally, in societies not yet politically developed, acknowledged superiority is ever liable to be competed with or replaced by superiority arising afresh.
“If an Arab, accompanied by his own relations only, has been successful on many predatory excursions against the enemy, he is joined by other friends; and if his success still continues, he obtains the reputation of being ‘lucky;’ and he thus establishes a kind of second, or inferior agydship in the tribe.”
So in Sumatra—
“A commanding aspect, an insinuating manner, a ready fluency in discourse, and a penetration and sagacity in unravelling the little intricacies of their disputes, are qualities which seldom fail to procure to their possessor respect and influence, sometimes, perhaps, superior to that of an acknowledged chief.”
And supplantings of kindred kinds occur among the Tongans and the Dyaks.
At the outset then, what we before distinguished as the principle of efficiency is the sole principle of organization. Such political headship as exists, is acquired by one whose fitness asserts itself in the form of greater age, superior prowess, stronger will, wider knowledge, quicker insight, or larger wealth. But evidently supremacy which thus depends exclusively on personal attributes is but transitory. It is liable to be superseded by the supremacy of some more able man from time to time arising; and if not superseded, is ended by death. We have, then, to inquire how permanent chieftainship becomes established. Before doing this, however, we must consider more fully the two kinds of superiority which especially conduce to chieftainship, and their modes of operation.
§ 473. As bodily vigour is a cause of predominance within the tribe on occasions daily occurring, still more on occasions of war is it, when joined with courage, a cause of predominance. War, therefore, tends to make more pronounced any authority of this kind which is incipient. Whatever reluctance other members of the tribe have to recognize the leadership of any one member, is likely to be over-ridden by their desire for safety when recognition of his leadership furthers that safety.
This rise of the strongest and most courageous warrior to power is at first spontaneous, and afterwards by agreement more or less definite: sometimes joined with a process of testing. Where, as in Australia, each “is esteemed by the rest only according to his dexterity in throwing or evading a spear,” it is inferable that such superior capacity for war as is displayed, generates of itself such temporary chieftainship as exists. Where, as among the Comanches, any one who distinguishes himself by taking many “horses or scalps, may aspire to the honours of chieftaincy, and is gradually inducted by a tacit popular consent,” this natural genesis is clearly shown. Very commonly, however, there is deliberate choice; as by the Flatheads, among whom, “except by the war-chiefs no real authority is exercised.” Skill, strength, courage, and endurance are in some cases deliberately tested. The King of Tonga has to undergo a trial: three spears are thrown at him, which he must ward off. “The ability to climb up a large pole, well-greased, is a necessary qualification of a fighting chief among the Sea Dyaks;” and St. John says that in some cases, “it was a custom in order to settle who should be chief, for the rivals to go out in search of a head: the first in finding one being victor.”
Moreover, the need for an efficient leader tends ever to re-establish chieftainship where it has become only nominal or feeble. Edward says of the Caribs that “in war, experience had taught them that subordination was as requisite as courage; they therefore elected their captains in their general assemblies with great solemnity;” and “put their pretensions to the proof with circumstances of outrageous barbarity.” Similarly, “although the Abipones neither fear their cacique as a judge, nor honour him as a master, yet his fellow-soldiers follow him as a leader and governor of the war, whenever the enemy is to be attacked or repelled.”
These and like facts, of which there are abundance, have three kindred implications. One is that continuity of war conduces to permanence of chieftainship. A second is that, with increase of his influence as successful military head, the chief gains influence as civil head. A third is that there is thus initiated a union, maintained through subsequent phases of social evolution, between military supremacy and political supremacy. Not only among the uncivilized Hottentots, Malagasy, and others, is the chief or king head of the army— not only among such semi-civilized peoples as the ancient Peruvians and Mexicans, do we find the monarch one with the commander-in-chief; but the histories of extinct and surviving nations all over the world exemplify the connexion. In Egypt “in the early ages, the offices of king and general were inseparable.” Assyrian sculptures and inscriptions represent the despotic ruler as also the conquering soldier; as do the records of the Hebrews. Civil and military headship were united among the Homeric Greeks; and in primitive Rome “the general was ordinarily the king himself.” That throughout European history it has been so, and partially continues so even now in the more militant societies, needs no showing.
How command of a wider kind follows military command, we cannot readily see in societies which have no records: we can but infer that along with increased power of coercion which the successful head-warrior gains, naturally goes the exercise of a stronger rule in civil affairs. That this has been so among peoples who have known histories, there is proof. Of the primitive Germans Sohm remarks that the Roman invasions had one result:—
“The kingship became united with the leadership (become permanent) of the army, and, as a consequence, raised itself to a power [institution] in the State. The military subordination under the king-leader furthered political subordination under the king.… Kingship after the invasions is a kingship clothed with supreme rights—a kingship in our sense.”
In like manner it is observed by Ranke that during the wars with the English in the fifteenth century—
“The French monarchy, whilst struggling for its very existence, acquired at the same time, and as the result of the struggle, a firmer organization. The expedients adopted to carry on the contest grew, as in other important cases, to national institutions.”
And modern instances of the relation between successful militancy and the strengthening of political control, are furnished by the career of Napoleon and the recent history of the German Empire.
Headship of the society, then, commonly beginning with the influence gained by the warrior of greatest power, boldness, and capacity, becomes established where activity in war gives opportunity for his superiority to show itself and to generate subordination; and thereafter the growth of civil governorship continues primarily related to the exercise of militant functions.
§ 474. Very erroneous, however, would be the idea formed if no further origin for political headship were named. There is a kind of influence, in some cases operating alone and in other cases cooperating with that above specified, which is all-important. I mean the influence possessed by the medicine-man.
That this arises as early as the other, can scarcely be said; since, until the ghost-theory takes shape, there is no origin for it. But when belief in the spirits of the dead becomes current, the medicine-man, professing ability to control them, and inspiring faith in his pretensions, is regarded with a fear which prompts obedience. When we read of the Thlinkeets that the “supreme feat of a conjuror’s power is to throw one of his liege spirits into the body of one who refuses to believe in his power, upon which the possessed is taken with swooning and fits,” we may imagine the dread he excites, and the sway he consequently gains. From some of the lowest races upwards we find illustrations. Fitzroy says of the “doctor-wizard among the Fuegians” that he is the most cunning and most deceitful of his tribe, and that he has great influence over his companions. “Though the Tasmanians were free from the despotism of rulers, they were swayed by the counsels, governed by the arts, or terrified by the fears, of certain wise men or doctors. These could not only mitigate suffering, but inflict it.” A chief of the Haidahs “seems to be the principal sorcerer, and indeed to possess little authority save from his connexion with the preter-human powers.” The Dakota medicine-men—
“Are the greatest rascals in the tribe, and possess immense influence over the minds of the young, who are brought up in the belief of their supernatural powers.… The war-chief, who leads the party to war, is always one of these medicine-men, and is believed to have the power to guide the party to success, or save it from defeat.”
Among more advanced peoples in Africa, supposed abilities to control invisible beings similarly give influence—strengthening authority otherwise gained. It is so with the Amazulu: a chief “practises magic on another chief before fighting with him;” and his followers have great confidence in him if he has much repute as a magician. Hence the sway acquired by Langalibalele, who, as Bishop Colenzo says, “knows well the composition of that intelezi [used for controlling the weather]; and he knows well, too, the war-medicine, i.e., its component parts, being himself a doctor.” Still better is seen the governmental influence thus acquired in the case of the king of Obbo, who in time of drought calls his subjects together and explains to them—
“how much he regrets that their conduct has compelled him to afflict them with unfavourable weather, but that it is their own fault.… He must have goats and corn. ‘No goats, no rain; that’s our contract, my friends,’ says Katchiba.… Should his people complain of too much rain, he threatens to pour storms and lightning upon them for ever, unless they bring him so many hundred baskets of corn, …c., …c… His subjects have the most thorough confidence in his power.”
And the king is similarly supposed to exercise control over the weather among the people of Loango.
A like connexion is traceable in the records of various extinct peoples in both hemispheres. Of Huitzilopochtli, the founder of the Mexican power, we read that “a great wizard he had been, and a sorcerer;” and ever Mexican king on ascending the throne had to swear “to make the sun go his course, to make the clouds pour down rain, to make the rivers run, and all fruits to ripen.” Reproaching his subjects for want of obedience, a Chibcha ruler told them they knew “that it was in his power to afflict them with pestilence, small-pox, rheumatism, and fever, and to make to grow as much grass, vegetables, and plants as they wanted.” Ancient Egyptian records yield indications of a similar early belief. Thothmes III., after being deified, “was considered as the luck-bringing god of the country, and a preserver against the evil influence of wicked spirits and magicians.” And it was thus with the Jews:—
“Rabbinical writings are never weary of enlarging upon the magical power and knowledge of Solomon. He was represented as not only king of the whole earth, but also as reigning over devils and evil spirits, and having the power of expelling them from the bodies of men and animals and also of delivering people to them.”
The traditions of European peoples furnish kindred evidence. As before shown (§ 198) stories in the Heims-kringla saga imply that the Scandinavian ruler, Odin, was a medicineman; as were also Niort and Frey, his successors. And after recalling the supernatural weapons and supernatural achievements of early heroic kings, we can scarcely doubt that with them were in some cases associated those ascribed magical characters whence have descended the supposed powers of kings to cure diseases by touching. We shall the less doubt this on finding that like powers were attributed to subordinate rulers of early origin. There existed certain Breton nobles whose spittle and touch were said to have curative properties.
Thus one important factor in the genesis of political headship, originates with the ghost-theory, and the concomitant rise of a belief that some men, having acquired power over ghosts, can obtain their aid. Generally the chief and the medicine-man are separate persons; and there then exists between them some conflict: they have competing authorities. But where the ruler joins with his power naturally gained, this ascribed supernatural power, his authority is necessarily much increased. Recalcitrant members of his tribe who might dare to resist him if bodily prowess alone could decide the struggle, do not dare if they think he can send one of his posse comitatus of ghosts to torment them. That rulers desire to unite the two characters, we have, in one case, distinct proof. Canon Callaway tells us that among the Amazulu, a chief will endeavour to discover a medicine-man’s secrets and afterwards kill him.
§ 475. Still there recurs the question—How does permanent political headship arise? Such political headship as results from bodily power, or courage, or sagacity, even when strengthened by supposed supernatural aid, ends with the life of any savage who gains it. The principle of efficiency, physical or mental, while it tends to produce a temporary differentiation into ruler and ruled, does not suffice to produce a permanent differentiation. There has to cooperate another principle, to which we now pass.
Already we have seen that even in the rudest groups, age gives some predominance. Among both Fuegians and Australians, not only old men, but also old women, exercise authority. And that this respect for age, apart from other distinction, is an important factor in establishing political subordination, is implied by the curious fact that, in sundry advanced societies characterized by extreme governmental coercion, the respect due to age takes precedence of all other respect. Sharpe remarks of ancient Egypt that “here as in Persia and Judæa the king’s mother often held rank above his wife.” In China, notwithstanding the inferior position of women socially and domestically, there exists this supremacy of the female parent, second only to that of the male parent; and the like holds in Japan. As supporting the inference that subjection to parents prepares the way for subjection to rulers, I may add a converse fact. Of the Coroados, whose groups are so incoherent, we read that—
“The pajé, however, has as little influence over the will of the multitude as any other, for they live without any bond of social union, neither under a republican nor a patriarchial form of government. Even family ties are very loose among them… there is no regular precedency between the old and the young, for age appears to enjoy no respect among them.”
And, as re-inforcing this converse fact, I may call attention to § 317, where it was shown that the Mantras, the Caribs, the Mapuchés, the Brazilian Indians, the Gallinomeros, the Shoshones, the Navajos, the Californians, the Comanches, who submit very little or not at all to chiefly rule, display a filial submission which is mostly small and ceases early.
But now under what circumstances does respect for age take that pronounced form seen in societies distinguished by great political subordination? It was shown in § 319 that when men, passing from the hunting stage into the pastoral stage, began to wander in search of food for their domesticated animals, they fell into conditions favouring the formation of patriarchal groups. We saw that in the primitive pastoral horde, the man, released from those earlier tribal influences which interfere with paternal power, and prevent settled relations of the sexes, was so placed as to acquire headship of a coherent cluster: the father became by right of the strong hand, leader, owner, master, of wife, children, and all he carried with him. There were enumerated the influences which tended to make the eldest male a patriarch; and it was shown that not only the Semites, Aryans, and Turanian races of Asia have exemplified this relation between pastoral habits and the patriarchal organization, but that it recurs in South African races.
Be the causes what they may, however, we find abundant proof that this family-supremacy of the eldest male, common among pastoral peoples and peoples who have passed through the pastoral stage into the agricultural stage, develops into political supremacy. Of the Santáls Hunter says—
“The village government is purely patriarchial. Each hamlet has an original founder (the Manjhi-Hanan), who is regarded as the father of the community. He receives divine honours in the sacred grove, and transmits his authority to his descendants.”
Of the compound family among the Khonds we read in Macpherson that—
“There it [paternal authority] reigns nearly absolute. It is a Khond’s maxim that a man’s father is his god, disobedience to whom is the greatest crime; and all the members of a family live united in strict subordination to its head until his death.”
And the growth of simple groups into compound and doubly-compound groups, acknowledging the authority of one who unites family headship with political headship, has been made familiar by Sir Henry Maine and others as common to early. Greeks, Romans, Teutons, and as still affecting social organization among Hindoos and Sclavs.
Here, then, we have making its appearance, a factor which conduces to permanence of political headship. As was pointed out in a foregoing chapter, while succession by efficiency gives plasticity to social organization, succession by inheritance gives it stability. No settled arrangement can arise in a primitive community so long as the function of each unit is determined exclusively by his fitness; since, at his death, the arrangement, in so far as he was a part of it, must be recommenced. Only when his place is forthwith filled by one whose claim is admitted, does there begin a differentiation which survives through successive generations. And evidently in the earlier stages of social evolution, while the coherence is small and the want of structure great, it is requisite that the principle of inheritance should, especially in re- spect of the political headship, predominate over the principle of efficiency. Contemplation of the facts will make this clear.
§ 476. Two primary forms of hereditary succession have to be considered. The system of kinship through females, common among rude peoples, results in descent of property and power to brothers or to the children of sisters; while the system of kinship through males, general among advanced peoples, results in descent of property and power to sons or daughters. We have first to note that succession through females is less conducive to stable political headships than is succession through males.
From the fact named when treating of the domestic relations, that the system of kinship through females arises where unions of the sexes are temporary or unsettled, it is to be inferred that this system characterizes societies which are unadvanced in all ways, political included. We saw in § 294, that irregular connexions involve paucity and feebleness of known relationships, and a type of family the successive links of which are not strengthened by so many collateral links. A common consequence is that along with descent through females there either goes no chieftainship, or such chieftainship as exists is established by merit, or, if hereditary, is usually unstable. The Australians and Tasmanians supply typical instances. Among the Haidahs and other savage peoples of Columbia, “rank is nominally hereditary, for the most part by the female line;” and actual chieftainship “depends to a great extent on wealth and ability in war.” Of other North American tribes the Chippewas, Comanches, and Snakes, show us the system of kinship through females joined with either absence of established headship or very feeble development of it. Passing to South America, the Arawaks and the Waraus may be instanced as having female descent and almost nominal, though hereditary, chiefs; and the same may be said of the Caribs.
A group of facts having much significance may now be noted. In many societies where descent of property and rank in the female line is the rule, an exception is made in the case of the political head; and societies exemplifying this exception are societies in which political headship is relatively stable. Though in Fiji there is kinship through females, yet, according to Seemann, the ruler, chosen from the members of the royal family, is “generally the son” of the late ruler. In Tahiti, where the two highest ranks follow the primitive system of descent, male succession to rulership is so pronounced that, on the birth of an eldest son the father becomes simply a regent on his behalf. And among the Malagasy, along with a prevailing kinship through females, the sovereign either nominates his successor, or, failing this, the nobles appoint, and “unless positive disqualification exists, the eldest son is usually chosen.” Africa furnishes evidence of varied kinds. Though the Congo people, the Coast Negroes, and the Inland Negroes have formed communities of some size and complexity, notwithstanding that kinship through females obtains in the succession to the throne, yet we read of the first that allegiance is “vague and uncertain;” of the second that, save where free in form, the government is “an insecure and short-lived monarchic despotism;” and of the third that, where the government is not of mixed type, it is “a rigid but insecure despotism.” Meanwhile, in the two most advanced and powerful states, stability of political headship goes along with departure, incipient or entire, from succession through females. In Ashantee, claims to the crown stand in this order—“the brother, the sister’s son, the son;” and in Dahomey there is male primogeniture. Further instances of this transition are yielded by extinct American civilizations. The Aztec conquerors of Mexico brought with them the system of kinship through females, and consequent law of succession; but this law of succession was partially, or completely, changed to succession through males. In Tezcuco and Tlacopan (divisions of Mexico) the eldest son inherited the kingship; and in Mexico the choice of a king was limited to the sons and brothers of the preceding king. Then, of ancient Peru, Gomara says—“nephews inherit, and not sons, except in the case of the Yncas:” this exception in the case of the Yncas, having the strange peculiarity that “the first-born of this brother and sister [i.e., the Ynca and his principal wife] was the legitimate heir to the kingdom”: an arrangement which made the line of descent unusually narrow and definite. And here we are brought back to Africa by the parallelism between the case of Peru and that of Egypt. “In Egypt it was maternal descent that gave the right to property and to the throne. The same prevailed in Ethiopia. If the monarch married out of the royal family the children did not enjoy a legitimate right to the crown.” When we add the statement that the monarch was “supposed to be descended from the gods, in the male and female line;” and when we join with this the further statement that there were royal marriages between brother and sister; we see that like causes worked like effects in Egypt and in Peru. For in Peru the Ynca was of supposed divine descent; inherited his divinity on both sides; and married his sister to keep the divine blood unmixed. And in Peru, as in Egypt, there resulted royal succession in the male line, where, otherwise, succession through females prevailed. Ancient Ceylon, where “the form of government was at all times an unmitigated despotism,” appears to have furnished a parallel case; for Sir J. E. Tennant tells us that “the Singhelese kings frequently married their sisters.”
With this process of transition from the one law of descent to the other, implied by these last facts, may be joined some processes which preceding facts imply. In New Caledonia a “chief nominates his successor, if possible, in a son or brother:” the one choice implying descent in the male line and the other being consistent with descent in either male or female line. And in Madagascar, where the system of female kinship prevailed, “the sovereign nominated his successor— naturally choosing a son.” Further it is manifest that where, as in these cases, when no nomination has been made the nobles choose among members of the royal family, and are determined in their choice by eligibility, there may be, and naturally is, a departure from descent in the female line; and this system of descent once broken through is likely for several reasons to be abolished. We are also introduced to another transitional process. For some of these cases are among the many in which succession to rulership is fixed in respect of the family, but not fixed in respect of the member of the family—a stage implying a partial but incomplete stability of the political headship. Several instances occur in Africa. “The crown of Abyssinia is hereditary in one family, but elective in the person,” says Bruce. “Among the Timmanees and Bulloms, the crown remains in the same family, but the chiefs or head men of the country, upon whom the election of a king depends, are at liberty to nominate a very distant branch of that family.” And a Kaffir “law requires the successor to the king should be chosen from amongst some of the youngest princes.” In Java and Samoa, too, while succession to rulership is limited to the family, it is but partially settled with respect to the individual. And the like held in Spain (Aragon) before the 12th century; where “a small number of powerful barons elected their sovereign on every vacancy, though, as usual in other countries, out of one family.”
That stability of political headship is secured by establishment of descent in the male line, is, of course, not alleged. The allegation simply is that succession after this mode conduces better than any other to its stability. Of probable reasons for this, one is that in the patriarchal group, as developed among those pastoral races from which the leading civilized peoples have descended, the sentiment of subordination to the eldest male, fostered by circumstances in the family and in the gens, becomes instrumental to a wider subordination in the larger groups eventually formed. Another probable reason is, that with descent in the male line there is more frequently a union of efficiency with supremacy. The son of a great warrior, or man otherwise capable as a ruler, is more likely to possess kindred traits than is the son of his sister; and if so, it will happen that in those earliest stages when personal superiority is requisite as well as legitimacy of claim, succession in the male line will conduce to maintenance of power by making usurpation more difficult.
There is, however, a more potent influence which aids in giving permanence to political headship, and which operates more in conjunction with descent through males than in conjunction with descent through females—an influence probably of greater importance than any other.
§ 477. When showing, in § 475, how respect for age generates patriarchal authority where descent through males has arisen, I gave cases which incidentally showed a further result; namely, that the dead patriarch, worshipped by his descendants, becomes a family deity. In sundry chapters of Vol. I. were set forth at length the proofs, past and present, furnished by many places and peoples, of this genesis of gods from ghosts. Here there remains to be pointed out the strengthening of political headship which inevitably results.
Descent from a ruler who impressed men by his superiority, and whose ghost, specially feared, is propitiated in so unusual a degree as to distinguish it from ancestral ghosts at large, exalts and supports the living ruler in two ways. He is assumed to inherit from his great progenitor more or less of the power, apt to be thought supernatural, which characterized him; and, making sacrifices to this great progenitor, he is supposed to maintain such relations with him as insure divine aid. Passages in Canon Callaway’s account of the Amazulu, show the influence of this belief. It is said, “the Itongo [ancestral ghost] dwells with the great man, and speaks with him;” and then it is also said (referring to a medicine-man), “the chiefs of the house of Uzulu used not to allow a mere inferior to be even said to have power over the heaven; for it was said that the heaven belonged only to the chief of that place.” These facts yield a definite interpretation of others, like the following, which show that the authority of the terrestrial ruler is increased by his alleged relation to the celestial ruler; be the celestial ruler the ghost of the remotest known ancestor who founded the society, or of a conquering invader, or of a superior stranger.
Of the chiefs among the Kukis, who are descendants of Hindoo adventurers, we read:—
“All these Rajahs are supposed to have sprung from the same stock, which it is believed originally had connection with the gods themselves; their persons are therefore looked upon with the greatest respect and almost superstitious veneration, and their commands are in every case law.”
Of the Tahitians Ellis says:—
“The god and the king were generally supposed to share the authority over the mass of mankind between them. The latter sometimes impersonated the former.… The kings, in some of the islands, were supposed to have descended from the gods. Their persons were always sacred.”
According to Mariner, “Toritonga and Veachi (hereditary divine chiefs in Tonga,) are both acknowledged descendants of chief gods who formerly visited the islands of Tonga.” And, in ancient Peru “the Ynca gave them [his vassals] to understand that all he did with regard to them was by an order and revelation of his father, the Sun.”
This re-inforcement of natural power by supernatural power, becomes extreme where the ruler is at once a descendant of the gods and himself a god: a union which is familiar among peoples who do not distinguish the divine from the human as we do. It was thus in the case just instanced— that of the Peruvians. It was thus with the ancient Egyptians: the monarch “was the representative of the Divinity on earth, and of the same substance.” Not only did he in many cases become a god after death, but he was worshipped as a god during life; as witness this prayer to Rameses II.
“When they had come before the king…they fell down to the ground, and with their hands they prayed to the king. They praised this divine benefactor…speaking thus:— ‘We are come before thee, the lord of heaven, lord of the earth, sun, life of the whole world, lord of time … lord of prosperity, creator of the harvest, fashioner and former of mortals, dispenser of breath to all men; animater of the whole company of the gods…thou former of the great, creator of the small…thou our lord, our sun, by whose words out of his mouth Tum lives…grant us life out of thy hands…and breath for our nostrils.’”
This prayer introduces us to a remarkable parallel. Rameses, whose powers, demonstrated by his conquests, were regarded as so transcendant, is here described as ruling not only the lower world but also the upper world; and a like royal power is alleged in two existing societies where absolutism is similarly unmitigated—China and Japan. As shown when treating of Ceremonial Institutions (§ 347) both the Emperor of China and the Japanese Mikado, have such supremacy in heaven that they promote its inhabitants from rank to rank at will.
That this strengthening of political headship, if not by ascribed godhood then by ascribed descent from a god (either the apotheosized ancestor of the tribe or one of the elder deities), was exemplified among the early Greeks, needs not be shown. It was exemplified, too, among the Northern Aryans. “According to the old heathen faith, the pedigree of the Saxon, Anglian, Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish kings—probably also those of the German and Scandinavian kings generally—was traced to Odin, or to some of his immediate companions or heroic sons.”
It is further to be noted that a god-descended ruler who is also chief priest of the gods (as he habitually is), obtains a more effective supernatural aid than does the ruler to whom magical powers alone are ascribed. For in the first place the invisible agents invoked by the magician are not conceived to be those of highest rank; whereas the divinely-descended ruler is supposed to get the help of a supreme invisible agent. And in the second place, the one form of influence over these dreaded superhuman beings, tends much less than the other to become a permanent attribute of the ruler. Though among the Chibchas, we find a case in which magical power was transferred to a successor—though “the cazique of Sogamoso made known that he [Bochica] had left him heir of all his sanctity, and that he had the same power of making rain when he liked,” and giving health or sickness (an assertion believed by the people); yet this is an exceptional case. Speaking generally, the chief whose relations with the other world are those of a sorcerer does not transmit his relations; and he does not therefore establish a supernatural dynasty, as does the chief of divine descent.
§ 478. And now, having considered the several factors which cooperate to establish political headship, let us consider the process of cooperation through its ascending stages. The truth to be noted is that the successive phenomena which occur in the simplest groups, habitually recur in the same order in compound groups, and again in doubly-compound groups.
As, in the simple group, there is at first a state in which there is no headship; so, when simple groups which have acquired political heads possessing slight authorities, are associated, there is at first no headship of the cluster. The Chinooks furnish an example. Describing them Lewis and Clarke say:—“As these families gradually expand into bands, or tribes, or nations, the paternal authority is represented by the chief of each association. This chieftain, however, is not hereditary.” And then comes the further fact, which here specially concerns us, that “the chiefs of the separate villages are independent of each other:” there is no general chieftain.
As headship in a simple group, at first temporary, ceases when the war which initiates it ends; so in a cluster of groups which severally have recognized heads, a common headship at first results from a war, and lasts no longer than the war. Falkner says—“In a general war, when many nations enter into an alliance against a common enemy,“the Patagonians “chose an Apo, or Commander-in-chief, from among the oldest or most celebrated of the Caciques.” The Indians of the Upper Orinoco live “in hordes of forty or fifty under a family government, and they recognize a common chief only in times of war.” So is it in Borneo. “During war the chiefs of the Sarebas Dyaks give an uncertain allegiance to a head chief, or commander-in-chief.” It has been the same in Europe. Seeley remarks that the Sabines “seem to have had a central government only in war time.” Again, “Germany had anciently as many republics as it had tribes. Except in time of war, there was no chief common to all, or even to any given confederation.”
This recalls the fact, indicated when treating of Political Integration, that the cohesion within compound groups is less than that within simple groups, and that the cohesion within the doubly compound is less than that within the compound. What was there said of cohesion may here be said of the subordination conducing to it; for we find that when, by continuous war, a permanent headship of a compound group has been generated, it is less stable than the headships of the simple groups are. Often it lasts only for the life of the man who achieves it; as among the Karens and the Maganga, instanced in § 226, and as among the Dyaks, of whom Boyle says—
“It is an exceptional case if a Dyak chief is raised to an acknowledged supremacy over the other chiefs. If he is so raised he can lay no claim to his power except that of personal merit and the consent of his former equals; and his death is instantly followed by the disruption of his dominions.”
Even where there has arisen a headship of the compound group which lasts beyond the life of its founder, it remains for a long time not equal in stability to the headships of the component groups. Pallas, while describing the Mongol and Kalmuck chiefs as having unlimited power over their dependants, says that the khans had in general only an uncertain and weak authority over the subordinate chiefs. Concerning the Araucanians, Thompson says “the ulmenes are the lawful judges of their vassals, and for this reason their authority is less precarious than that of the higher officers” —the central rulers. Of the Kaffirs we read:—“They are all vassals of the king, chiefs, as well as those under them; but the subjects are generally so blindly attached to their chiefs, that they will follow them against the king.” Europe has furnished kindred examples. Of the Homeric Greeks Mr. Gladstone writes:—“It is probable that the subordination of the sub-chief to his local sovereign was a closer tie than that of the local sovereign to the head of Greece.” And during the early feudal period in the West, allegiance to the minor but proximate ruler was stronger than that to the major but remote ruler.
In the compound group, as in the simple group, the progress towards stable headship is furthered by transition from succession by choice to succession by inheritance. During early stages of the independent tribe, chieftainship when not acquired by individual superiority tacitly yielded to, is acquired by election. In North America it is so with the Aleuts, the Comanches, and many more; in Polynesia it is so with the Land Dyaks; and, before the Mahommedan conquest, it was so in Java. Among the hill-peoples of India it is so with the Nagas and others. In sundry regions the change to hereditary succession is shown by different tribes of the same race. Of the Karens we read that “in many districts the chieftainship is considered hereditary, but in more it is elective.” Some Chinook villages have chiefs who inherit their powers, though mostly they are chosen. Similarly, the compound group is at first ruled by an elected head. Several examples come to us from Africa. Bastian tells us that “in many parts of the Congo region the king is chosen by the petty princes.” The crown of Yariba is not hereditary: “the chiefs invariably electing, from the wisest and most sagacious of their own body.” And the king of Ibu, says Allen, seems to be “elected by a council of sixty elders, or chiefs of large villages.” In Asia it is thus with the Kukis.
“One, among all the Rajahs of each class, is chosen to be the Prudham or chief Rajah of that clan. The dignity is not hereditary, as is the case with the minor Rajahships, but is enjoyed by each Rajah of the clan in rotation.”
So has it been in Europe. Though by the early Greeks hereditary right was in a considerable measure recognized, yet the case of Telemachus implies “that a practice, either approaching to election, or in some way involving a voluntary action on the part of the subjects, or of a portion of them, had to be gone through.” The like is true of ancient Rome. That its monarchy was elective “is proved by the existence in later times of an office of interrex, which implies that the kingly power did not devolve naturally upon a hereditary successor.” Later on it was thus with Western peoples. Up to the beginning of the tenth century “the formality of election subsisted…in every European kingdom; and the imperfect right of birth required a ratification by public assent.” And it was once thus with ourselves. Among the early English the Bretwaldship, or supreme headship over the minor kingdoms, was at first elective; and the form of election continued long traceable in our history. Moreover, it is observable that the change to hereditary succession is by assent, as in France. “The first six kings of this dynasty [the Capetian] procured the co-optation of their sons, by having them crowned during their own lives. And this was not done without the consent of the chief vassals.”
The stability of the compound headship, made greater by efficient leadership in war and by establishment of hereditary succession, is further increased when there cooperates the additional factor—supposed supernatural origin or supernatural sanction. Everywhere, up from a New Zealand king, who is strictly tapu, or sacred, we may trace this influence; and occasionally, where divine descent or magical powers are not claimed, there is a claim to origin that is extraordinary. Asia yields an example in the Fodli dynasty, which reigned 150 years in South Arabia—a six-fingered dynasty, regarded with awe by the people because of its con- tinuously-inherited malformation. Europe of the Merovingian period yields an example. In pagan times the king’s race had an alleged divine origin; but in Christian times, says Waitz, when they could no longer mount back to the gods, a more than natural origin was alleged: “a sea-monster ravished the wife of Chlogio as she sat by the sea-shore, and from this embrace Merovech sprang.” Later days show us the gradual acquisition of a sacred or semi-supernatural character, where it did not originally exist. Divine assent to their supremacy was asserted by the Carolingian kings. During the later feudal age, rare exceptions apart, kings “were not far removed from believing themselves near relatives of the masters of heaven. Kings and gods were colleagues.” In the 17th century this belief was endorsed by divines. “Kings,” says Bossuet, “are gods, and share in a manner the divine independence.”
So that the headship of a compound group, arising temporarily during war, then becoming, with frequent cooperation of the groups, settled for life by election, passing presently into the hereditary form, and gaining permanence as fast as the law of succession grows well-defined and undisputed, acquires its greatest stability only when the king is regarded as a deputy god, or when, if he is not supposed to inherit a divine nature, he is supposed to have a divine commission.
§ 479. Ascribed divine nature, or divine descent, or divine commission, naturally gives to the political head unlimited sway. In theory, and often to a large extent in practice, he is owner of his subjects and of the territory they occupy.
Where militancy is pronounced, and the claims of a conqueror unqualified, it is indeed to a considerable degree thus with those uncivilized peoples who do not ascribe supernatural characters to their rulers. Among the Zulu Kaffirs the chief “exercises supreme power over the lives of his people;” the Bheel chiefs “have a power over the lives and property of their own subjects;” and in Fiji the subject is property. But it is still more thus where the ruler is considered more than human. Astley tells us that in Loango the king is “called samba and pongo, that is, god;” and, according to Proyart, the Loango people “say their lives and goods belong to the king.” In Wasoro (East Africa) “the king has unlimited power of life and death…in some tribes…he is almost worshipped.” In Msambara the people say “we are all slaves of the Zumbe (king), who is our Mulungu” [god].“By the state law of Dahomey, as at Benin, all men are slaves to the king, and most women are his wives;” and in Dahomey the king is called “the spirit.” The Malagasy speak of their king as “our god;” and he is lord of the soil, owner of all property, and master of his subjects. Their time and services are at his command.” In the Sandwich Islands the king, personating the god, utters oracular responses; and his power “extends over the property, liberty, and lives of his people.” Various Asiatic rulers, whose titles ascribe to them divine descent and nature, stand in like relations to their peoples. In Siam “the king is master not only of the persons but really of the property of his subjects: he disposes of their labour and directs their movements at will.” Of the Burmese we read—“their goods likewise, and even their persons are reputed his [the king’s] property, and on this ground it is that he selects for his concubine any female that may chance to please his eye.” In China “there is only one who possesses authority—the Emperor.… A wang, or king, has no hereditary possessions, and lives upon the salary vouchsafed by the Emperor.… He is the only possessor of the landed property.” And the like is alleged of the divinely-descended Japanese Mikado: “his majesty, although often but a child a few years old, still dispensed ranks and dignities, and the ownership of the soil always in reality resided in him.”
Of course, where the political head has unlimited power—where, as victorious invader, his subjects lie at his mercy, or where, as divinely descended, his will may not be questioned without impiety, or where he unites the characters of conqueror and god, he naturally absorbs every kind of authority. He is at once military head, legislative head, judicial head, ecclesiastical head. The fully developed king is the supreme centre of every social structure and director of every social function.
§ 480. In a small tribe it is practicable for the chief personally to discharge all the duties of his office. Besides leading the other warriors in battle, he has time to settle disputes, he can sacrifice to the ancestral ghost, he can keep the village in order, he can inflict punishments, he can regulate trading transactions; for those governed by him are but few, and they live within a narrow space. When he acquires the headship of many united tribes, both the increased amount of business and the wider area covered by his subjects, put difficulties in the way of exclusively personal administration. It becomes necessary to employ others for the purposes of gaining information, conveying commands, seeing them executed; and in course of time the assistants thus employed grow into established heads of departments with deputed authorities.
While this development of governmental structures increases the ruler’s power, by enabling him to deal with more numerous affairs, it, in another way, decreases his power; for his actions are more and more modified by the instrumentalities through which they are effected. Those who watch the working of administrations, no matter of what kind, have forced upon them the truth that a head regulative agency is at once helped and hampered by its subordinate agencies. In a philanthropic association, a scientific society, or a club, those who govern find that the organized officialism which they have created, often impedes, and not unfrequently defeats, their aims. Still more is it so with the immensely larger administrations of the State. Through deputies the ruler receives his information; by them his orders are executed; and as fast as his connexion with affairs becomes indirect, his control over affairs diminishes; until, in extreme cases, he either dwindles into a puppet in the hands of his chief deputy or has his place usurped by him.
Strange as it seems, the two causes which conspire to give permanence to political headship, also, at a later stage, conspire to reduce the political head to an automaton, executing the wills of the agents he has created. In the first place, when hereditary succession is finally settled in some line of descent rigorously prescribed, the possession of supreme power becomes independent of capacity for exercising it. The heir to a vacant throne may be, and often is, too young for discharging its duties; or he may be, and often is, too feeble in intellect, too deficient in energy, or too much occupied with the pleasures which his position offers in unlimited amounts. The result is that in the one case the regent, and in the other the chief minister, becomes the actual ruler. In the second place, that sacredness which supposed divine origin gives, makes him inaccessible to the ruled. All intercourse between him and them must be through the agents he surrounds himself with. Hence it becomes difficult or impossible for him to learn more than they choose him to know; and there follows inability to adapt his commands to the requirements, and inability to discover whether his commands have been fulfilled. His authority is consequently used to give effect to the purposes of his agents.
Even in so relatively simple a society as that of Tonga, we find an example. There is an hereditary sacred chief who “was originally the sole chief, possessing temporal as well as spiritual power, and regarded as of divine origin,” but who is now politically powerless. Abyssinia shows us something analogous. Holding no direct communication with his subjects, and having a sacredness such that even in council he sits unseen, the monarch is a mere dummy. In Gondar, one of the divisions of Abyssinia, the king must belong to the royal house of Solomon, but any one of the turbulent chiefs who has obtained ascendancy by force of arms, becomes a Ras—a prime minister or real monarch; though he requires “a titular emperor to perform the indispensable ceremony of nominating a Ras,” since the name, at least, of emperor “is deemed essential to render valid the title of Ras.” The case of Thibet may be named as one in which the sacredness of the original political head is dissociated from the claim based on hereditary descent; for the Grand Llama, considered as “God the Father,” incarnate afresh in each new occupant of the throne, is discovered among the people at large by certain indications of his godhood. But with his divinity, involving disconnexion with temporal matters, there goes absence of political power. A like state of things exists in Bhotan.
“The Dhurma Raja is looked upon by the Bhotanese in the same light as the Grand Lama of Thibet is viewed by his subjects—namely as a perpetual incarnation of the Deity, or Bhudda himself in a corporeal form. During the interval between his death and reappearance, or, more properly speaking, until he has reached an age sufficiently mature to ascend his spiritual throne, the office of Dhurma Raja is filled by proxy from amongst the priesthood.”
And then along with this sacred ruler there co-exists a secular ruler. Bhotan “has two nominal heads, known to us and to the neighbouring hill-tribes under the Hindoostanee names of the Dhurma and the Deb Rajas.… The former is the spiritual head, the latter the temporal one.” Though in this case the temporal head has not great influence (probably because the priest-regent, whose celibacy prevents him from founding a line, stands in the way of unchecked assumption of power by the temporal head), still the existence of a temporal head implies a partial lapsing of political functions out of the hands of the original political head. But the most remarkable, and at the same time most familiar, example, is that furnished by Japan. Here the supplanting of inherited authority by deputed authority is exemplified, not in the central government alone, but in the local governments.
“Next to the prince and his family came the karos or ‘elders.’ Their office became hereditary, and, like the princes, they in many instances became effete. The business of what we may call the clan would thus fall into the hands of any clever man or set of men of the lower ranks, who, joining ability to daring and unscrupulousness, kept the princes and the karos out of sight, but surrounded with empty dignity, and, commanding the opinion of the bulk of the samarai or military class, wielded the real power themselves. They took care, however, to perform every act in the name of the fain´ants, their lords, and thus we hear of…daimios, just as in the case of the Emperors, accomplishing deeds…of which they were perhaps wholly ignorant.”
This lapsing of political power into the hands of ministers was, in the case of the central government, doubly illustrated. Successors as they were of a god-descended conqueror whose rule was real, the Japanese Emperors gradually became only nominal rulers; partly because of the sacredness which separated them from the nation, and partly because of the early age at which the law of succession frequently enthroned them. Their deputies consequently gained predominance. The regency in the ninth century “became hereditary in the Fujiwara [sprung from the imperial house], and these regents ultimately became all-powerful They obtained the privilege of opening all petitions addressed to the sovereign, and of presenting or rejecting them at their pleasure.” And then, in course of time, this usurping agency had its own authority usurped in like manner. Again succession by fixed rule was rigorously adhered to; and again seclusion entailed loss of hold on affairs. “High descent was the only qualification for office, and unfitness for functions was not regarded in the choice of officials.” Besides the Shôgu’s four confidential officers, “no one else could approach him. Whatever might be the crimes committed at Kama Koura, it was impossible, through the intrigues of these favourites, to complain of them to the Seogoun.” The result was that “subsequently this family…gave way to military commanders, who,” however, often became the instruments of other chiefs.
Though less definitely, this process was exemplified during early times in Europe. The Merovingian kings, to whom there clung a tradition of supernatural origin, and whose order of succession was so far settled that minors reigned, fell under the control of those who had become chief ministers. Long before Childeric, the Merovingian family had ceased to govern.
“The treasures and the power of the kingdom had passed into the hands of the prefects of the palace, who were called ‘mayors of the palace,’ and to whom the supreme power really belonged. The prince was obliged to content himself with bearing the name of king, having flowing locks and a long beard, sitting on the chair of State, and representing the image of the monarch.”
§ 481. From the Evolution-standpoint we are thus enabled to discern the relative beneficence of institutions which, considered absolutely, are not beneficent; and are taught to approve as temporary that which, as permanent, we abhor. The evidence obliges us to admit that subjection to despots has been largely instrumental in advancing civilization. Induction and deduction alike prove this.
If, on the one hand, we group together those wandering headless hordes which are found here and there over the Earth, they show us that, in the absence of political organization, little progress has taken place; and if we contemplate those settled simple groups which have but nominal heads, we are shown that though there is some development of the industrial arts and some cooperation, the advance is but small. If, on the other hand, we glance at those ancient societies in which considerable heights of civilization were first reached, we see them under autocratic rule. In America, purely personal government, restricted only by settled customs, characterized the Mexican, Central American, and Chibcha states; and in Peru, the absolutism of the divine king was unqualified. In Afica, ancient Egypt exhibited very conspicuosly this connexion between despotic control and social evolution. Throughout the distant past it was repeatedly displayed in Asia, from the Accadian civilization downwards; and the still extant civilizations of Siam, Burmah, China, and Japan, re-illustrate it. Early European societies, too, where not characterized by centralized despotism, were still cha- racterized by diffused patriarchal despotism. Only among modern peoples, whose ancestors passed through the discipline given under this social form, and who have inherited its effects, is civilization being dissociated from subjection to individual will.
The necessity there has been for absolutism is best seen on observing that, during inter-tribal and inter-national conflicts, those have conquered who, other things equal, were the more obedient to their chiefs and kings. And since in early stages, military subordination and social subordination go together, it results that, for a long time, the conquering societies continued to be the despotically-governed societies. Such exceptions as histories appear to show us, really prove the rule. In the conflict between Persia and Greece, the Greeks, but for a mere accident, would have been ruined by that division of councils which results from absence of subjection to a single head. And their habit of appointing a dictator when in great danger from enemies, implies that the Romans had discovered that efficiency in war requires undivided control.
Thus, leaving open the question whether, in the absence of war, wandering primitive groups could ever have developed into settled civilized communities, we conclude that, under such conditions as there have been, those struggles for existence among societies which have gone on consolidating smaller into larger, until great nations have been produced, necessitated the development of a social type characterized by personal rule of a stringent kind.
§ 482. To make clear the genesis of this leading political institution, let us set down in brief the several influences which have conspired to effect it, and the several stages passed through.
In the rudest groups, resistance to the assumption of supremacy by any individual, usually prevents the establishment of settled headship; though some influence is commonly acquired by superiority of strength, or courage, or sagacity, or possessions, or the experience accompanying age.
In such groups, and in tribes somewhat more advanced, two kinds of superiority conduce more than all others to predominance—that of the warrior and that of the medicineman. Usually separate, but sometimes united in the same person, and then greatly strengthening him, both of these superiorities tending to initiate political headship, continue thereafter to be important factors in developing it.
At first, however, the supremacy acquired by great natural power, or supposed supernatural power, or both, is transitory—ceases with the life of one who has acquired it. So long as the principle of efficiency alone operates, political headship does not become settled. It becomes settled only when there cooperates the principle of inheritance.
The custom of reckoning descent through females, which characterizes many rude societies and survives in others that have made considerable advances, is less favourable to establishment of permanent political headship than is the custom of reckoning descent through males; and in sundry semicivilized societies distinguished by permanent political headships, inheritance through males has been established in the ruling house while inheritance through females survives in the society at large.
Beyond the fact that reckoning descent through males conduces to a more coherent family, to a greater culture of subordination, and to a more probable union of inherited position with inherited capacity, there is the more important fact that it fosters ancestor-worship, and the consequent reinforcing of natural authority by supernatural authority. Development of the ghost-theory, leading as it does to special fear of the ghosts of powerful men, until, where many tribes have been welded together by a conqueror, his ghost acquires in tradition the pre-eminence of a god, produces two effects. In the first place his descendant, ruling after him, is supposed to partake of his divine nature; and in the second place, by propitiatory sacrifices to him, is supposed to obtain his aid. Rebellion hence comes to be regarded as alike wicked and hopeless.
The processes by which political headships are established repeat themselves at successively higher stages. In simple groups chieftainship is at first temporary—ceases with the war which initiated it. When simple groups that have acquired permanent political heads, unite for military purposes, the general chieftainship is originally but temporary. As in simple groups chieftainship is at the outset habitually elective, and becomes hereditary at a later stage; so chieftainship of the compound group is habitually elective at the outset, and only later passes into the hereditary. Similarly in some cases where a doubly-compound society is formed. Further, this later-established power of a supreme ruler, at first given by election and presently gained by descent, is commonly less than that of the local rulers in their own localities; and when it becomes greater, it is usually by the help of ascribed divine origin or ascribed divine commission.
Where, in virtue of supposed supernatural genesis or authority, the king has become absolute, and, owning both subjects and territory, exercises all powers, he is obliged by the multiplicity of his affairs to depute his powers. There follows a reactive restraint due to the political machinery he creates; and this machinery ever tends to become too strong for him. Especially where rigorous adhesion to the rule of inheritance brings incapables to the throne, or where ascribed divine nature causes inaccessibility save through agents, or where both causes conspire, power passes into the hands of deputies. The legitimate ruler becomes an automaton and his chief agent the real ruler; and this agent, again, in some cases passing through parallel stages, himself becomes an automaton and his subordinates the rulers.
Lastly, by colligation and comparison of the facts, we are led to recognize the indirectly-achieved benefits which have followed the directly-inflicted evils of personal government. Headship of the conquering chief has been a normal accompaniment of that political integration without which any high degree of social evolution would probably have been impossible. Only by imperative need for combination in war were primitive men led into cooperation. Only by subjection to imperative command was such cooperation made efficient. And only by the cooperation thus initiated were made possible those other forms of cooperation characterizing civilized life.