Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XI.: local governing agencies. - Political Institutions, being Part V of the Principles of Sociology
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CHAPTER XI.: local governing agencies. - 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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local governing agencies.
§ 507. This title is needed because the classes of facts to be here dealt with, cover a wider area than those comprehended under the title “Local Governments.”
We have to deal with two kinds of appliances for control, originally one but gradually becoming distinguished. Alike among peoples characterized by the reckoning of kinship through females, and among peoples characterized by descent of property and power through males, the regulative system based on blood-relationship is liable to be involved with, and subordinated by, a regulative system originating from military leadership. Authority established by triumph in war, not unfrequently comes into conflict with authority derived from the law of succession, when this has become partially settled, and initiates a differentiation of political headship from family headship. We have seen that, from primitive stages upwards, the principle of efficiency and the principle of inheritance are both at work in determining men’s social positions; and where, as happens in many cases, a war-chief is appointed when the occasion arises, notwithstanding the existence of a chief of acknowledged legitimacy, there is a tendency for transmitted power to be over-ridden by power derived from capacity. From the beginning, then, there is apt to grow up a species of government distinct from family-government; and the aptitude takes effect where many family-groups, becoming united, carry on militant activities. The growth of the family into the gens, of the gens into the phratry, of the phratry into the tribe, implies the multiplication of groups more and more remotely akin, and less and less easily subordinated by the head of some nominally-leading group; and when local aggregation brings interfusion of tribes which, though of the same stock, have lost their common genealogy, the rise of some headship other than the headships of family-groups becomes imminent. Though such political headship, passing through the elective stage, often becomes itself inheritable after the same manner as the original family-headships, yet it constitutes a new kind of headship.
Of the local governing agencies to which family-headships and political headships give origin, as groups become compounded and re-compounded, we will consider first the political, as being most directly related to the central governing agencies hitherto dealt with.
§ 508. According to the relative powers of conqueror and conquered, war establishes various degrees of subordination. Here the payment of tribute and occasional expression of homage, interfere but little with political independence; and there political independence is almost or quite lost. Generally, however, at the outset the victor either finds it necessary to respect the substantial autonomies of the vanquished societies, or finds it his best policy to do this. Hence, before integration has proceeded far, local governements are usually nothing more than those governments of the parts which existed before they were united into a whole.
We find instances of undecided subordination everywhere. In Tahiti “the actual influence of the king over the haughty and despotic district chieftains, was neither powerful nor permanent.” Of our own political organization in old English times Kemble writes:— “the whole executive government may be considered as a great aristocratic association, of which the ealdormen were the constituent earls, and the king little more than president.” Similarly during early feudal times; as, for example, in France. “Under the first Capetians, we find scarcely any general act of legislation.… Everything was local, and all the possessors of fiefs first, and afterwards all the great suzerains, possessed the legislative power within their domains.” This is the kind of relation habitually seen during the initial stages of those clustered groups in which one group has acquired power over the rest.
In cases where the successful invader, external to the cluster instead of internal, is powerful enough completely to subjugate all the groups, it still happens that the pre-existing local organizations commonly survive. Ancient American states yield examples. “When the kings of Mexico, Tezcuco, and Tacuba conquered a province, they used to maintain in their authority all the natural chiefs, the highest as well as the lower ones.” Concerning certain rulers of Chibcha communities, who became subject to Bogota, we read that the Zipa subdued them, but left them their jurisdiction and left the succession to the caziqueship in their families. And as was pointed out under another head, the victorious Yncas left outstanding the political headships and administrations of the many small societies they consolidated. Such is, in fact, the most convenient policy. As is remarked by Sir Henry Maine, “certain institutions of a primitive people, their corporations and village-communities, will always be preserved by a suzerain-state governing them, on account of the facilities which they afford to civil and fiscal administration;” and the like may be said of the larger regulative structures. Indeed the difficulty of suddenly replacing an old local organization by an entirely new one,is so great that almost of necessity the old one is in large measure retained.
The autonomies of local governments, thus sometimes scarcely at all interfered with and in other cases but partially suppressed, manifest themselves in various ways. The original independence of groups continues to be shown by the right of private war between them. They retain their local gods, their ecclesiastical organizations, their religious festivals. And in time of general war the contingents they severally furnish remain separate. Egyptian nomes, Greek cities, feudal lordships, yield illustrations.
§ 509. The gradual disappearance of local autonomies is a usual outcome of the struggle between the governments of the parts, which try to retain their powers, and the central government, which tries to diminish their powers.
In proportion as his hands are strengthened, chiefly by successful wars, the major political head increases his restraints over the minor political heads; first by stopping private wars among them, then by interfering as arbitrator, then by acquiring an appelate jurisdiction. Where the local rulers have been impoverished by their struggles with one another, or by futile attempts to recover their independence, or by drafts made on their resources for external wars—where, also, followers of the central ruler have grown into a new order of nobles, with gifts of conquered or usurped lands as rewards for services; the way is prepared for administrative agencies centrally appointed. Thus in France, when the monarch became dominant, the seigneurs were gradually deprived of legislative authority. Royal confirmation became requisite to make signorial acts valid; and the crown acquired the exclusive right of granting charters, the exclusive right of ennobling, the exclusive right of coining. Then with decline in the power of the original local rulers came deputies of the king overlooking them: provincial governors holding office at the king’s pleasure were nominated. In subsequent periods grew up the administration of intendants and their sub-delegates, acting as agents of the crown; and whatever small local powers remained were exercised under central supervision. English history at various stages yields kindred illustrations. When Mercia was formed out of petty kingdoms, the local kings became ealdormen; and a like change took place afterwards on a larger scale. “From the time of Ecgberht onwards there is a marked distinction between the King and the Ealdorman. The King is a sovereign, the Ealdorman is only a magistrate.” Just nothing that under Cnut, ealdormen became subordinated by the appointment of earls, and again that under William I. earldoms were filled up afresh, we observe that after the Wars of the Roses had weakened them, the hereditary nobles had their local powers interfered with by those of centrally-appointed lords-lieutenant. Not only provincial governing agencies of a personal kind come to be thus subordinated as the integration furthered by war progresses, but also those of a popular kind. The old English Scirgeréfa, who presided over the Sciregemot, was at first elective, but was afterwards nominated by the king. Under a later régime there occurred a kindred change: “9 Edward II. abolished the popular right to election” to the office of sheriff. And similarly, “from the beginning of Edward III.’s reign, the appointment of conservators” of the peace, who were originally elected, “was vested in the crown,” “and their title changed to that of justices.”
With sufficient distinctness such facts show us that, rapidly where a cluster of small societies is subjugated by an invader, and slowly where one among them acquires an established supremacy, the local rulers lose their directive powers and become executive agents only; discharging whatever duties they retain as the servants of newer local agents. In the course of political integration, the original governing centres of the component parts become relatively automatic in their functions.
§ 510. A further truth to be noted is that there habitually exists a kinship in structure between the general government and the local governments. Several causes conspire to produce this kinship.
Where one of a cluster of groups has acquired power over the rest, either directly by the victories of its ruler over them, or indirectly by his successful leadership of the confederation in war, this kinship becomes a matter of course. For under such conditions the general government is but a development of that which was previously one of the local governments. We have a familiar illustration furnished by old English times in the likeness between the hundred-moot (a small local governing assembly), the shire-moot (constituted in an analogous way, but having military, judicial, and fiscal duties of a wider kind, and headed by a chief originally elected), and the national witanagémot (containing originally the same class-elements, though in different proportions, headed by a king, also at first elected, and discharging like functions on a larger scale). This similarity recurs under another phase. Sir Henry Maine says:—
“It has often, indeed, been noticed that a Feudal Monarchy was an exact counterpart of a Feudal Manor, but the reason of the correspondence is only now beginning to dawn upon us, which is, that both of them were in their origin bodies of assumed kinsmen settled on land and undergoing the same transmutation of ideas through the fact of settlement.”
Of France in the early feudal period, Maury says, “the court of every great feudatory was the image, of course slightly reduced, of that of the king;” and the facts he names curiously show that locally, as generally, there was a development of servants into ministerial officers. Kindred evidence comes from other parts of the world—Japan, several African States, sundry Polynesian islands, ancient Mexico, Mediæval India, &c.; where forms of society essentially similar to those of the feudal system exist or have existed.
Where the local autonomy has been almost or quite destroyed, as by a powerful invading race bringing with it another type of organization, we still see the same thing; for its tendency is to modify the institutions locally as it modifies them generally. From early times eastern kingdoms have shown us this; as instance the provincial rulers, or satraps, of the Persians. “While…they remained in office they were despotic—they represented the Great King, and were clothed with a portion of his majesty.… They wielded the power of life and death.” And down to the present day this union of central chief-despot with local subdesposts survives; as is implied by Rawlinson’s remark that these ancient satraps had “that full and complete authority which is possessed by Turkish pashas and modern Persian khaus or beys—an authority practically uncontrolled.” Other ancient societies of quite other types displayed this tendency to assimilate the structures of the incorporated parts to that of the incorporating whole. Grecian history shows us that oligarchic Sparta sought to propagate oligarchy as a form of government in dependent territories, while democratic Athens propagated the democratic form. And, similarly, where Rome conquered and colonized, there followed the Roman municipal system.
This last instance reminds us that as the character of the general government changes, the character of the local government changes too. In the Roman empire that progress towards a more concentrated form of rule which continued militancy brought, spread from centre to periphery. “Under the Republic every town had, like Rome, a popular assembly which was sovereign for making the law and ‘creating’ magistrates;” but with the change towards oligarchic and personal rule in Rome, popular power in the provinces decreased: “the municipal organization, from being democratic, became aristocratic.” In France, as monarchical power approached absoluteness, similar changes were effected in another way. The government seized on municipal offices, “erecting them into hereditary offices, and…selling them at the highest price:…a permanent mayor and assessors were imposed upon all the municipalities of the kingdom, which ceased to be elective;” and then these magistrates began to assume royal airs—spoke of the sanctity of their magistracy, the veneration of the people, &c. Our own history interestingly shows simultaneous movements now towards freer, and now towards less free, forms, locally and generally. When, under King John, the central government was liberalized, towns acquired the power to elect their own magistrates. Conversely when, at the Restoration, monarchical power increased, there was a framing of the “municipalities on a more oligarchical model.” And then comes the familiar case of the kindred liberalizations of the central government and the local governments which have occurred in our own time.
§ 511. From those local governing agencies which have acquired a political character, we turn now to those which have retained the primitive family character. Though with the massing of groups, political organization and rule become separate from, and predominant over, family-organization and rule, locally as well as generally, yet family-organization and rule do not disappear; but in some cases retaining their orginal nature, in some cases give origin to other local organizations of a governmental kind. Let us first note how wide-spread is the presence of the family-cluster, considered as a component of the political society.
Among the uncivilized Bedouins we see it existing separately: “every large family with its relations constituting a small tribe by itself.” But, says Palgrave, “though the clan and the family form the basis and are the ultimate expression of the civilized Arab society, they do not, as is the case among the Bedouins, sum it up altogether.” That is, political union has left outstanding the family-organization, but has added something to it. And it was thus with Semitic societies of early days, as those of the Hebrews. Everywhere it has been thus with the Ayrans.
“The [Irish] Sept is a body of kinsmen whose progenitor is no longer living, but whose descent from him is a reality.… An association of this sort is well known to the law of India as the Joint Undivided Family.… The family thus formed by the continuance of several generations in union, is identical in outline with a group very familiar to the students of the older Roman law—the Agnatic Kindred.”
Not only where descent in the male line has been established, but also where the system of descent through females continues, this development of the family into gens, phratry, and tribe, is found. It was so with such ancient American peoples, as those of Yucatan, where, within each town, tribal divisions were maintained; and, according to Mr. Morgan and Major Powell, it is still so with such American tribes as the Iroquois and the Wyandottes.
After its inclusion in a political aggregate, as before its inclusion, the family-group evolves a government quasi-political in nature. According to the type of race and the system of descent, this family-government may be, as among ancient Semites and Ayrans, an unqualified patriarchal despotism; or it may be, as among the Hindoos at present, a personal rule arising by selection of a head from the leading family of the group (a selection usually falling on the eldest); or it may be, as in American tribes like those mentioned, the government of an elected council of the gens, which elects its chief. That is to say, the triune structure which tends to arise in any incorporated assembly, is traceable in the compound family-group, as in the political group: the respective components of it being variously developed according to the nature of the people and the conditions.
The government of each aggregate of kinsmen repeats, on a small scale, functions like those of the government of the political aggregate. As the entire society revenges itself on other such societies for injury to its members, so does the family-cluster revenge itself on other family-clusters included in the same society. This fact is too familiar to need illustration; but it may be pointed out that even now, in parts of Europe where the family-organization survives, the family vendettas persist. “L’Albanais vous dira froidement… Akeni-Dgiak? avez-vous du sang à venger dans votre famille;” and then, asking the name of your tribe, he puts his hand on his pistol. With this obligation to take vengeance goes, of course, reciprocal responsibility. The family in all its branches is liable as a whole, and in each part, for the injuries done by its members to members of other families; just as the entire society is held liable by other entire societies. This responsibility holds not alone for lives taken by members of the family-group, but also for damages they do to property, and for pecuniary claims.
“Dans les districts Albanais libres, les dettes sont contractées à terme. En cas de non-paiement, on a recours aux chefs de la tribu du débiteur, et si ceux-ci refusent de faire droit, on arrête le premier venu qui appartient à cette tribu, et on l’accable de mauvais traitements jusqu’à ce qu’il s’entende avec le véritable débiteur, ou qu’il paie luimême ses dettes, risque à se pouvoir ensuite devant les anciens de sa tribu ou de poursuivre par les armes celui qui lui a valu ce dommage.”
And of the old English mægth we read that “if any one was imprisoned for theft, witchcraft, &c., his kindred must pay the fine…and must become surety for his good conduct on his release.”
While, within the political aggregate, each compound family-group thus stood towards other such included groups in quasi-political relations, its government exercised internal control. In the gens as constituted among the American peoples above named, there is administration of affairs by its council. The gentile divisions among historic peoples were ruled by their patriarchs; as are still those of the Hindoos by their chosen elders. And then besides this judicial organization within the assemblage of kindred, there is the religious organization, arising from worship of a common ancestor, which entails periodic joint observances.
Thus the evidence shows us that while the massing together of groups by war, has, for its concomitant, development of a political organization which dominates over the organizations of communities of kindred, yet these communities of kindred long survive, and partially retain their autonomies and their constitutions.
§ 512. Social progress, however, transforms them in sundry ways—differentiating them into groups which gradually lose their family-characters. One cause is change from the wandering life to the settled life, with the implied establishment of definite relations to the land, and the resulting multiplication and interfusion.
To show that this process and its consequences are general, I may name the calpulli of the ancient Mexicans, which “means a district inhabited by a family…of ancient origin;” whose members hold estates which “belong not to each inhabitant, but to the calpulli;” who have chiefs chosen out of the tribe; and who “meet for dealing with the common interests, and regulating the apportionment of taxes, and also what concerns the festivals.” And then I may name as being remote in place, time, and race, the still-existing Russian mir, or village-commune; which is constituted by descendants of the same family-group of nomads who became settled; which is “a judicial corporation…proprietor of the soil, of which individual members have but the usufruct or temporary enjoyment;” which is governed by “the heads of families, assembled in council under the presidency of the starosta or mayor, whom they have elected.” Just noting these allied examples, we may deal more especially with the Teutonic mark, which was “formed by a primitive settlement of a family or kindred,” when, as said by Cæsar of the Suevi, the land was divided among “gentes et cognationes hominum.” In the words of Kemble, marks were—
“Great family-unions, comprising households of various degrees of wealth, rank, and authority; some in direct descent from the common ancestors, or from the hero of the particular tribe; others, more distantly connected…; some, admitted into communion by marriage, others by adoption, others by emancipation; but all recognizing a brotherhood, a kinsmanship or sibsceaft; all standing together as one unit in respect of other similar communities; all governed by the same judges and led by the same captains; all sharing in the same religious rites; and all known to themselves and to their neighbours by one general name.”
To which add that, in common with family-groups as already described, the cluster of kindred constituting the mark had, like both smaller and larger clusters, a joint obligation to defend and avenge its members, and a joint responsibility for their actions.
And now we are prepared for observing sundry influences which conspire to change the grouping of kindred into political grouping, locally as well as generally. In the first place, there is that admission of strangers into the family, gens, or tribe, which we have before recognized as a normal process, from savage life upwards. Livingstone, remarking of the Bakwains that “the government is patriarchal,” describes each chief man as having his hut encircled by the huts of his wives, relatives, and dependents, forming a kotla: “a poor man attaches himself to the kotla of a rich one and is considered a child of the latter.” Here we see being done informally, that which was formally done in the Roman household and the Teutonic mark. In proportion as the adopted strangers increase, and in proportion also as the cluster becomes diluted by incorporating with itself emancipated dependents, the links among its members become weakened and its character altered. In the second place, when, by concentration and multiplication, different clusters of kindred placed side by side, become interspersed, and there ceases to be a direct connexion between locality and kinship, the family or gentile bonds are further weakened. And then there eventually results, both for military and fiscal purposes, the need for a grouping based on locality instead of on relationship. An early illustration is furnished by the Kleisthenian revolution in Attica, which made a division of the territory into demes, replacing for public purposes tribal divisions by topographical divisions, the inhabitants of each of which had local administrative powers and public responsibilities.
We are here brought to the vexed question about the origin of tythings and hundreds. It was pointed out that the ancient Peruvians had civil as well as military divisions into tens and hundreds, with their respective officers. In China, where there is pushed to an extreme the principle of making groups responsible for their members, the clan-divisions are not acknowledged by the government, but only the tythings and hundreds: the implication being that these last were results of political organization as distinguished from family-organization. In parts of Japan, too, “there is a sort of subordinate system of wards, and heads of tens and hundreds, in the Otonos of towns and villages, severally and collectively responsible for each other’s good conduct.” We have seen that in Rome, the groupings into hundreds and tens, civil as well as military, became political substitutes for the gentile groupings. Under the Frankish law, “the tythingman is Decanus, the hundred-man Centenarius;“ and whatever may have been their indigenous names, divisions into tens and hundreds appear to have had (judging from the statements of Tacitus) an independent origin among the Germanic races.
And now remembering that these hundreds and tythings, formed within the marks or other large divisions, still answered in considerable degrees to groups based on kinship (since the heads of families of which they were constituted as local groups, were ordinarily closer akin to one another than to the heads of families similarly grouped in other parts of the mark), we go on to observe that there survived in them, or were re-developed in them, the family-organization, rights, and obligations. I do not mean merely that by their hundred-moots, &c., they had their internal administrations; but I mean chiefly that they became groups which had towards other groups the same joint claims and duties which family-groups had. Responsibility for its members, previously attaching exclusively to the cluster of kindred irrespective of locality, was in a large measure transferred to the local cluster formed but partially of kindred. For this transfer of responsibility an obvious cause arose as the gentes and tribes spread and became mingled. While the family-community was small and closely aggregated, an offence committed by one of its members against another such community could usually be brought home to it bodily, if not to the sinning member; and as a whole it had to take the consequences. But when the family-community, multiplying, began to occupy a wide area, and also became interfused with other family-communities, the transgressor, while often traceable to some one locality within the area, was often not identifiable as of this or that kindred; and the consequences of his act, when they could not be visited on his family, which was not known, were apt to be visited on the inhabitants of the locality, who were known. Hence the genesis of a system of suretyship which is so ancient and so widespread. Here are illustrations:—
“…in all the vills throughout the kingdom, all men are bound to be in a guarantee by tens, so that if one of the ten men offend, the other nine may hold him to right.”—Edw. Conf., xx.
Speaking generally of this system of mutual guarantee, as exhibited among the Russians, as well as among the Franks, Koutorga says—
“Tout membre de la société devait entrer dans une décanie, laquelle avait pour mission la défence et la garantie de tous en général et de chacun en particulier; c’est-à-dire que la décanie devait venger le citoyen qui lui appartenait et exiger le wehrgeld, s’il avait été tué; mais en même temps elle se portait caution pour tous les seins.”
In brief, then, this form of local governing agency, developing out of, and partially replacing, the primitive family-form, was a natural concomitant of the multiplication and mixture resulting from a settled life.
§ 513. There remains to be dealt with an allied kind of local governing agency—a kind which, appearing to have been once identical with the last, eventually diverged from it.
Kemble concludes that the word “gegyldan” means “those who mutually pay for one another…the associates of the tithing and the hundred;” and how the two were originally connected, we are shown by the statement that as late as the 10th century in London, the citizens were united into frithgylds, “or associations for the maintenance of the peace, each consisting of ten men; while ten such gylds were gathered into a hundred.” Prof. Stubbs writes:—
“The collective responsibility for producing an offender, which had lain originally on the mægth or kindred of the accused, was gradually devolved on the voluntary association of the guild; and the guild superseded by the local responsibility of the tithing.”
Here we have to ask whether there are not grounds for concluding that this transfer of responsibility originally took place through development of the family-cluster into the gild, in consequence of the gradual loss of the family-character by incorporation of unrelated members. That we do not get evidence of this in written records, is probably due to the fact that the earlier stages of the change took place before records were common. But we shall see reasons for believing in such earlier stages if we take into account facts furnished by extinct societies and societies less developed than those of Europe.
Of the skilled arts among the Peruvians, Prescott remarks:— “these occupations, like every other calling and office in Peru, always descended from father to son;” and Clavigero says of the Mexicans “that they perpetuated the arts in families to the advantage of the State:” the reason Gomara gives why “the poor taught their sons their own trades,” being that “they could do so without expense”—a reason of general application. Heeren’s researches into ancient Egyptian usages, have led him to accept the statement of early historians, that “the son was bound to carry on the trade of his father and that alone;” and he cites a papyrus referring to an institution naturally connected with this usage—“the guild or company of curriers or leather-dressers.” Then of the Greeks, Hermann tell us that various arts and professions were—
“peculiar to certain families, whose claims to an exclusive exercise of them generally ascended to a fabulous origin. We moreover find ‘pupil and son’ for many successive generations designated by the same term; and closely connected with the exclusiveness and monopoly of many professions, is the little respect in which they were, in some instances, held by the rest of the people: a circumstance which Greek authors themselves compare with the prejudice of caste prevalent among other nations.”
China, as at present existing, yields evidence:—
“The popular associations in cities and towns are chiefly based upon a community of interests, resulting either from a similarity of occupation, when the leading persons of the same calling form themselves into guilds, or from the municipal regulations requiring the householders living in the same street to unite to maintain a police, and keep the peace of their division. Each guild has an assembly-hall, where its members meet to hold the festival of their patron saint.”
And, as I learn from the Japanese minister, a kindred state of things once existed in Japan. Children habitually followed the occupations of their parents;. in course of generations there resulted clusters of relatives engaged in the same trade; and these clusters developed regulative arrangements within themselves. Whether the fact that in Japan, as in the East generally, the clustering of traders of one kind in the same street, arises from the original clustering of the similarly-occupied kindred, I find no evidence; but since, in early times, mutual protection of the members of a trading kindred, as of other kindred, was needful, this seems probable. Further evidence of like meaning may be disentangled from the involved phenomena of caste in India. In No. CXLII of the Calcutta Review, in an interesting essay by Jogendra Chandra Ghosh, caste is regarded as “a natural development of the Indian village-communities;” as “distinguished not only by the autonomy of each guild,” “but by the mutual relations between these autonomous guilds;” and as being so internally organized “that caste government does not recognize the finding or the verdict of any court other than what forms part of itself.” In answer to my inquiries, the writer of this essay has given me a mass of detailed information, from which I extract the following:—
“A Hindoo joint family signifies (1)that the members all mess together; (2)and live in the same house; (3)that the male members and unmarried girls are descended from a common ancestor; and (4)that the male members put their incomes together.… The integral character of the family is destroyed when the joint mess and common purse cease to exist. However, the branches thus disunited continue to observe certain close relations as gnatis up to some seven or fourteen generations from the common ancestor. Beyond that limit they are said to be merely of the same gotra.”
Passing over the detailed constitution of a caste as consisting of many such gotras, and of the groups produced by their intermarriages under restrictions of exogamy of the gotras and endogamy of the caste—passing over the feasts, sacrificial and other, held among members of the joint family when their groups have separated; I turn to the facts of chief significance. Though, under English rule, inheritance of occupation is no longer so rigorous, yet—
“the principle is universally recognized that every caste is bound to follow a particular occupation and no other.… The partition of the land, or the house as well, is governed by the law of equal succession; and as fresh branches set up new houses, they are found all clustered together, with the smallest space between them for roadway.… But when, as in bazaars, men take up houses for commercial purposes, the clustering is governed either by family and caste-relations, or by common avocations [which imply some caste-kinship] and facility of finding customers.”
In which facts we may see pretty clearly that were there none of the complications consequent on the intermarriage regulations, there would simply result groups united by occupation as well as by ancestry, clustering together, and having their internal governments.
Returning from consideration of these facts supplied by other societies, let us now observe how numerous are the reasons for concluding that the gild, familiar to us as a union of similarly-occupied workers, was originally a union of kindred. In the primitive compound family there was worship of the common ancestor; and the periodic sacrificial feasts were occasions on which all the descendants assembled. Describing the origin of gilds, Thierry writes:—
“Dans l’ancienne Scandinavie, ceux qui se réunissaient aux époques solennelles pour sacrifier ensemble terminaient la cérémonie par un festin religieux. Assis autour du feu et de la chaudière du sacrifice, ils buvaient à la ronde et vidaient successivement trois cornes remplies de bière, l’une pour les dieux, l’autre pour les braves du vieux temps, et la troisième pour les parents et les amis dont les tombes, marquées par des monticules de gazon, se voyaient cà et là dans la plaine; on appelait celle-ci la coupe de l’amitié. Le nom d’amitié (minne) se donnait aussi quelquefois à la réunion, de ceux qui offraient en commun le sacrifice, et, d’ordinaire, cette réunion était appelée ghilde.”
And Brentano giving a similar account, says— “‘Gild’ meant originally the sacrificial meal made up of the common contributions; then a sacrificial banquet in general; and lastly a society.” Here we find a parallelism with the observances of the Hindoo joint-family, consisting of clusters of relatives carrying on the same occupation, who meet at feasts which were primarily sacrificial to ancestors; and we find a parallelism with the religious observances of such clusters of similarly-occupied relatives as the Asklepiadæ among the Greeks; and we find a parallelism with the gildfeasts of the ancestor-worshipping Chinese, held in honour of the patron saint: all suggesting the origin of those religious services and feasts habitual in early gilds of our own society. To state briefly the further likeness of nature:—We have, in the primitive compound family, the obligation of blood-revenge for slain relatives; and in early gilds, as in ancient Sleswig, there was blood-revenge for members of the gild. We have, in the compound family, responsibility for transgressions of its members; and gilds were similarly responsible: the wergylds falling in part on them, after murders were compounded for by money. We have, in the compound family, joint claims to sustenance derived from the common property and labour; and in the gild we have the duty of maintaining incapable members. Within the family there was control of private conduct, either by a despotic head or by a council, as there is now within the local clusters of the Hindoo castes; and in like manner the ordinances of gilds extended to the regulation of personal habits. Lastly, this family or caste government, as still shown us in India, includes in its punishments excommunication; and so, too, was there outlawry from the gild.∗
It is inferable, then, that the gild was evolved from the family. Continuance of a business, art, or profession, among descendants, is, in early stages, almost inevitable. Acquisition of skill in it by early practice is easy; the cost of teaching is inappreciable; and retention of the “craft” or “mystery” within the family is desirable: there being also the reason that while family-groups are in antagonism, the teaching of one another’s members cannot usually be practicable. But in course of time there come into play influences by which the character of the gild as an assemblage of kindred is obscured. Adoption, which, as repeatedly pointed out, is practised by groups of all kinds, needs but to become common to cause this constitutional change. We have seen that among the Greeks, “pupil” and “son” had the same name. At the present time in Japan, an apprentice, standing in the position of son to his master, calls him “father;” and in our own craft-gilds “the apprentice became a member of the family of his master, who instructed him in his trade, and who, like a father, had to watch over his morals, as well as his work.” The eventual admission of the apprentice into the gild, when he was a stranger in blood to its members, qualified, in so far, its original nature; and where, through successive generations, the trade was a prosperous one, tempting masters to get more help than their own sons could furnish, this process would slowly bring about predominance of the unrelated members, and an ultimate loss of the family-character. After which it would naturally happen that the growing up of new settlements and towns, bringing together immigrants who followed the same calling but were not of the same blood, would lead to the deliberate formation of gilds after the pattern of those existing in older places: an appearance of artificial origin being the result; just as now, in our colonies, there is an apparently artificial origin of political institutions which yet, as being fashioned like those of the mother-country, where they were slowly evolved, are traceable to a natural origin.
Any one who doubts the transformation indicated, may be reminded of a much greater transoformation of allied kind. The gilds of London,—goldsmiths’, fishmongers’, and the rest,—were originally composed of men carrying on the trades implied by their names; but in each of these companies the inclusion of persons of other trades, or of no trade, has gone to the extent that few if any of the members carry on the trades which their memberships imply. If, then, the process of adoption in this later form, has so changed the gild that, while retaining its identity, it has lost its distinctive trade-character, we are warranted in concluding that still more readily might the earlier process of adoption into the simple family or the compound family practising any craft, eventually change the gild from a cluster of kindred to a cluster formed chiefly of unrelated persons.
§ 514. Involved and obscure as the process has been, the evolution of local governing agencies is thus fairly comprehensible. We divide them into two kinds, which, starting from a common root, have diverged as fast as small societies have been integrated into large ones.
Through successive stages of consolidation, the political heads of the once-separate parts pass from independence to dependence, and end in being provincial agents—first partially-conquered chiefs paying tribute; then fully-conquered chiefs governing under command; then local governors who are appointed by the central governor and hold power under approval: becoming eventually executive officers.
There is habitually a kinship in character between the controlling systems of the parts and the controlling system of the whole (assuming unity of race), consequent on the fact that both are ultimately products of the same individual nature. With a central despotism there goes local despotic rule; with a freer form of the major government there goes a freer form of the minor governments; and a change either way in the one is followed by a kindred change in the other.
While, with the compounding of small societies into large ones, the political ruling agencies which develop locally as well as generally, become separate from, and predominant over, the ruling agencies of family-origin, these last do not disappear; but, surviving in their first forms, also give origin to differentiated forms. The assemblage of kindred long continues to have a qualified semi-political autonomy, with internal government and external obligations and claims. And while family-clusters, losing their definiteness by interfusion, slowly lose their traits as separate independent societies, there descend from them clusters which, in some cases united chiefly by locality and in others chiefly by occupation, inherit their traits, and constitute governing agencies supplementing the purely political ones.
It may be added that these supplementary governing agencies, proper to the militant type of society, dissolve as the industrial type begins to predominate. Defending their members, held responsible for the transgressions of their members, and exercising coercion over their members, they are made needful by, and bear the traits of, a régime of chronic antagonisms; and as these die away their raison d’être disappears. Moreover, artificially restricting, as they do, the actions of each member, and also making him responsible for other deeds than his own, they are at variance with that increasing assertion of individuality which accompanies developing industrialism.
[∗]A friend who has read this chapter in proof, points out to me passages in which Brentano draws from these parallelisms a like inference. Referring to the traits of certain fully-developed gilds, he says:— “If we connect them with what historians relate about the family in those days, we may still recognize in them the germ from which, in later times, at a certain stage of civilization, the Gild had necessarily to develop itself…the family appears as the pattern and original type, after which all the later Gilds were formed.”