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Physics and Politics by Walter Bagehot

Part 2 out of 3

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conditions is overrated. 'Borneo,' he says 'closely resembles New
Guinea, not only in its vast size and freedom from volcanoes, but in
its variety of geological structure, its uniformity of climate, and
the general aspect of the forest vegetation that clothes its
surface. The Moluccas are the counterpart of the Philippines in
their volcanic structure, their extreme fertility, their luxuriant
forests, and their frequent earthquakes; and Bali, with the east end
of Java, has a climate almost as arid as that of Timor. Yet between
these corresponding groups of islands, constructed, as it were,
after the same pattern, subjected to the same climate, and bathed by
the same oceans, there exists the greatest possible contrast, when
we compare their animal productions. Nowhere does the ancient
doctrine--that differences or similarities in the various forms of
life that inhabit different countries are due to corresponding
physical differences or similarities in the countries themselves--
meet with so direct and palpable a contradiction. Borneo and New
Guinea, as alike physically as two distinct countries can be, are
zoologically as wide as the poles asunder; while Australia, with its
dry winds, its open plains, its stony deserts and its temperate
climate, yet produces birds and quadrupeds which are closely related
to those inhabiting the hot, damp, luxuriant forests which
everywhere clothe the plains and mountains of New Guinea.' That is,
we have like living things in the most dissimilar situations, and
unlike living things in the most similar ones. And though some of
Mr. Wallace's speculations on ethnology may be doubtful, no one
doubts that in the archipelago he has studied so well, as often
elsewhere in the world, though rarely with such marked emphasis, we
find like men in contrasted places, and unlike men in resembling
places. Climate is clearly not THE force which makes nations, for it
does not always make them, and they are often made without it.

The problem of 'nation-making'--that is, the explanation of the
origin of nations such as we now see them, and such as in historical
times they have always been--cannot, as it seems to me, be solved
without separating it into two: one, the making of broadly-marked
races, such as the negro, or the red man, or the European; and the
second, that of making the minor distinctions, such as the
distinction between Spartan and Athenian, or between Scotchman and
Englishman. Nations, as we see them, are (if my arguments prove
true) the produce of two great forces: one the race-making force
which, whatever it was, acted in antiquity, and has now wholly, or
almost, given over acting; and the other the nation-making force,
properly so called, which is acting now as much as it ever acted,
and creating as much as it ever created.

The strongest light on the great causes which have formed and are
forming nations is thrown by the smaller causes which are altering
nations. The way in which nations change, generation after
generation, is exceedingly curious, and the change occasionally
happens when it is very hard to account for. Something seems to
steal over society, say of the Regency time as compared with that of
the present Queen. If we read of life at Windsor (at the cottage now
pulled down), or of Bond Street as it was in the days of the
Loungers (an extinct race), or of St. James's Street as it was when
Mr. Fox and his party tried to make 'political capital' out of the
dissipation of an heir apparent, we seem to be reading not of the
places we know so well, but of very distant and unlike localities.
Or let anyone think how little is the external change in England
between the age of Elizabeth and the age of Anne compared with the
national change. How few were the alterations in physical condition,
how few (if any) the scientific inventions affecting human life
which the later period possessed, but the earlier did not! How hard
it is to say what has caused the change in the people! And yet how
total is the contrast, at least at first sight! In passing from
Bacon to Addison, from Shakespeare to Pope, we seem to pass into a
new world.

In the first of these essays I spoke of the mode in which the
literary change happens, and I recur to it because, literature being
narrower and more definite than life, a change in the less serves as
a model and illustration of the change in the greater. Some writer,
as was explained, not necessarily a very excellent writer or a
remembered one, hit on something which suited the public taste: he
went on writing, and others imitated him, and they so accustomed
their readers to that style that they would bear nothing else. Those
readers who did not like it were driven to the works of other ages
and other countries,--had to despise the 'trash of the day,' as they
would call it. The age of Anne patronised Steele, the beginner of
the essay, and Addison its perfecter, and it neglected writings in a
wholly discordant key. I have heard that the founder of the 'Times'
was asked how all the articles in the 'Times' came to seem to be
written by one man, and that he replied--'Oh, there is always some
one best contributor, and all the rest copy.' And this is doubtless
the true account of the manner in which a certain trade mark, a
curious and indefinable unity, settles on every newspaper. Perhaps
it would be possible to name the men who a few years since created
the 'Saturday Review' style, now imitated by another and a younger
race. But when the style of a periodical is once formed, the
continuance of it is preserved by a much more despotic impulse than
the tendency to imitation,--by the self-interest of the editor, who
acts as trustee, if I may say so, for the subscribers. The regular
buyers of a periodical want to read what they have been used to
read--the same sort of thought, the same sort of words. The editor
sees that they get that sort. He selects the suitable, the
conforming articles, and he rejects the non-conforming. What the
editor does in the case of a periodical, the readers do in the case
of literature in general. They patronise one thing and reject the

Of course there was always some reason (if we only could find it)
which gave the prominence in each age to some particular winning
literature. There always is some reason why the fashion of female
dress is what it is. But just as in the case of dress we know that
now-a-days the determining cause is very much of an accident, so in
the case of literary fashion, the origin is a good deal of an
accident. What the milliners of Paris, or the demi-monde of Paris,
enjoin our English ladies, is (I suppose) a good deal chance; but as
soon as it is decreed, those whom it suits and those whom it does
not all wear it. The imitative propensity at once insures
uniformity; and 'that horrid thing we wore last year' (as the phrase
may go) is soon nowhere to be seen. Just so a literary fashion
spreads, though I am far from saying with equal primitive
unreasonableness--a literary taste always begins on some decent
reason, but once started, it is propagated as a fashion in dress is
propagated; even those who do not like it read it because it is
there, and because nothing else is easily to be found.

The same patronage of favoured forms, and persecution of disliked
forms, are the main causes too, I believe, which change national
character. Some one attractive type catches the eye, so to speak, of
the nation, or a part of the nation, as servants catch the gait of
their masters, or as mobile girls come home speaking the special
words and acting the little gestures of each family whom they may
have been visiting. I do not know if many of my readers happen to
have read Father Newman's celebrated sermon, 'Personal Influence the
Means of Propagating the Truth;' if not, I strongly recommend them
to do so. They will there see the opinion of a great practical
leader of men, of one who has led very many where they little
thought of going, as to the mode in which they are to be led; and
what he says, put shortly and simply, and taken out of his delicate
language, is but this--that men are guided by TYPE, not by argument;
that some winning instance must be set up before them, or the sermon
will be vain, and the doctrine will not spread. I do not want to
illustrate this matter from religious history, for I should be led
far from my purpose, and after all I can but teach the commonplace
that it is the life of teachers which is CATCHING, not their tenets.
And again, in political matters, how quickly a leading statesman can
change the tone of the community! We are most of us earnest with Mr.
Gladstone; we were most of NOT so earnest in the time of Lord
Palmerston. The change is what every one feels, though no one can
define it. Each predominant mind calls out a corresponding sentiment
in the country: most feel it a little. Those who feel it much
express it much; those who feel it excessively express it
excessively; those who dissent are silent, or unheard.

After such great matters as religion and politics, it may seem
trifling to illustrate the subject from little boys. But it is not
trifling. The bane of philosophy is pomposity: people will not see
that small things are the miniatures of greater, and it seems a loss
of abstract dignity to freshen their minds by object lessons from
what they know. But every boarding-school changes as a nation
changes. Most of us may remember thinking, 'How odd it is that this
"half" should be so unlike last "half:" now we never go out of
bounds, last half we were always going: now we play rounders, then
we played prisoner's base;' and so through all the easy life of that
time. In fact, some ruling spirits, some one or two ascendant boys,
had left, one or two others had come; and so all was changed. The
models were changed, and the copies changed; a different thing was
praised, and a different thing bullied. A curious case of the same
tendency was noticed to me only lately. A friend of mine--a Liberal
Conservative--addressed a meeting of working men at Leeds, and was
much pleased at finding his characteristic, and perhaps refined
points, both apprehended and applauded. 'But then,' as he narrated,
'up rose a blatant Radical who said the very opposite things, and
the working men cheered him too, and quite equally.' He was puzzled
to account for so rapid a change. But the mass of the meeting was no
doubt nearly neutral, and, if set going, quite ready to applaud any
good words without much thinking. The ringleaders changed. The
radical tailor started the radical cheer; the more moderate
shoemaker started the moderate cheer; and the great bulk followed
suit. Only a few in each case were silent, and an absolute contrast
was in ten minutes presented by the same elements.

The truth is that the propensity of man to imitate what is before
him is one of the strongest parts of his nature. And one sign of it
is the great pain which we feel when our imitation has been
unsuccessful. There is a cynical doctrine that most men would rather
be accused of wickedness than of gaucherie. And this is but another
way of saying that the bad copying of predominant manners is felt to
be more of a disgrace than common consideration would account for
its being, since gaucherie in all but extravagant cases is not an
offence against religion or morals, but is simply bad imitation. We
must not think that this imitation is voluntary, or even conscious.
On the contrary, it has its seat mainly in very obscure parts of the
mind, whose notions, so far from having been consciously produced,
are hardly felt to exist; so far from being conceived beforehand,
are not even felt at the time. The main seat of the imitative part
of our nature is our belief, and the causes predisposing us to
believe this, or disinclining us to believe that, are among the
obscurest parts of our nature. But as to the imitative nature of
credulity there can be no doubt. In 'Eothen' there is a capital
description of how every sort of European resident in the East, even
the shrewd merchant and 'the post-captain,' with his bright, wakeful
eyes of commerce, comes soon to believe in witchcraft, and to assure
you, in confidence, that there 'really is something in it.' He has
never seen anything convincing himself, but he has seen those who
have seen those who have seen those who have seen. In fact, he has
lived in an atmosphere of infectious belief, and he has inhaled it.
Scarcely any one can help yielding to the current infatuations of
his sect or party. For a short time--say some fortnight--he is
resolute; he argues and objects; but, day by day, the poison
thrives, and reason wanes. What he hears from his friends, what he
reads in the party organ, produces its effect. The plain, palpable
conclusion which every one around him believes, has an influence yet
greater and more subtle; that conclusion seems so solid and
unmistakable; his own good arguments get daily more and more like a
dream. Soon the gravest sage shares the folly of the party with
which he acts, and the sect with which he worships.

In true metaphysics I believe that, contrary to common opinion,
unbelief far oftener needs a reason and requires an effort than
belief. Naturally, and if man were made according to the pattern of
the logicians, he would say, 'When I see a valid argument I will
believe, and till I see such argument I will not believe.' But, in
fact, every idea vividly before us soon appears to us to be true,
unless we keep up our perceptions of the arguments which prove it
untrue, and voluntarily coerce our minds to remember its falsehood.
'All clear ideas are true,' was for ages a philosophical maxim, and
though no maxim can be more unsound, none can be more exactly
conformable to ordinary human nature. The child resolutely accepts
every idea which passes through its brain as true; it has no
distinct conception of an idea which is strong, bright, and
permanent, but which is false too. The mere presentation of an idea,
unless we are careful about it, or unless there is within some
unusual resistance, makes us believe it; and this is why the belief
of others adds to our belief so quickly, for no ideas seem so very
clear as those inculcated on us from every side.

The grave part of mankind are quite as liable to these imitated
beliefs as the frivolous part. The belief of the money-market, which
is mainly composed of grave people, is as imitative as any belief.
You will find one day everyone enterprising, enthusiastic, vigorous,
eager to buy, and eager to order: in a week or so you will find
almost the whole society depressed, anxious, and wanting to sell. If
you examine the reasons for the activity, or for the inactivity, or
for the change, you will hardly be able to trace them at all, and as
far as you can trace them, they are of little force. In fact, these
opinions were not formed by reason, but by mimicry. Something
happened that looked a little good, on which eager sanguine men
talked loudly, and common people caught their tone. A little while
afterwards, and when people were tired of talking this, something
also happened looking a little bad, on which the dismal, anxious
people began, and all the rest followed their words. And in both
cases an avowed dissentient is set down as 'crotchety.' 'If you
want,' said Swift, 'to gain the reputation of a sensible man, you
should be of the opinion of the person with whom for the time being
you are conversing.' There is much quiet intellectual persecution
among 'reasonable' men; a cautious person hesitates before he tells
them anything new, for if he gets a name for such things he will be
called 'flighty,' and in times of decision he will not be attended

In this way the infection of imitation catches men in their most
inward and intellectual part--their creed. But it also invades men--
by the most bodily part of the mind--so to speak--the link between
soul and body--the manner. No one needs to have this explained; we
all know how a kind of subtle influence makes us imitate or try to
imitate the manner of those around us. To conform to the fashion of
Rome--whatever the fashion may be, and whatever Rome we may for the
time be at--is among the most obvious needs of human nature. But
what is not so obvious, though as certain, is that the influence of
the imitation goes deep as well as extends wide. 'The matter,' as
Wordsworth says, 'of style very much comes out of the manner.' If
you will endeavour to write an imitation of the thoughts of Swift in
a copy of the style of Addison, you will find that not only is it
hard to write Addison's style, from its intrinsic excellence, but
also that the more you approach to it the more you lose the thought
of Swift. The eager passion of the meaning beats upon the mild
drapery of the words. So you could not express the plain thoughts of
an Englishman in the grand manner of a Spaniard. Insensibly, and as
by a sort of magic, the kind of manner which a man catches eats into
him, and makes him in the end what at first he only seems.

This is the principal mode in which the greatest minds of an age
produce their effect. They set the tone which others take, and the
fashion which others use. There is an odd idea that those who take
what is called a 'scientific view' of history need rate lightly the
influence of individual character. It would be as reasonable to say
that those who take a scientific view of nature need think little of
the influence of the sun. On the scientific view a great man is a
great new cause (compounded or not out of other causes, for I do not
here, or elsewhere in these papers, raise the question of free-
will), but, anyhow, new in all its effects, and all its results.
Great models for good and evil sometimes appear among men, who
follow them either to improvement or degradation.

I am, I know, very long and tedious in setting out this; but I want
to bring home to others what every new observation of society brings
more and more freshly to myself--that this unconscious imitation and
encouragement of appreciated character, and this equally unconscious
shrinking from and persecution of disliked character, is the main
force which moulds and fashions men in society as we now see it.
Soon I shall try to show that the more acknowledged causes, such as
change of climate, alteration of political institutions, progress of
science, act principally through this cause; that they change the
object of imitation and the object of avoidance, and so work their
effect. But first I must speak of the origin of nations--of nation-
making as one may call it--the proper subject of this paper.

The process of nation-making is one of which we have obvious
examples in the most recent times, and which is going on now. The
most simple example is the foundation of the first State of America,
say New England, which has such a marked and such a deep national
character. A great number of persons agreeing in fundamental
disposition, agreeing in religion, agreeing in politics, form a
separate settlement; they exaggerate their own disposition, teach
their own creed, set up their favourite government; they discourage
all other dispositions, persecute other beliefs, forbid other forms
or habits of government. Of course a nation so made will have a
separate stamp and mark. The original settlers began of one type;
they sedulously imitated it; and (though other causes have
intervened and disturbed it) the necessary operation of the
principles of inheritance has transmitted many original traits still
unaltered, and has left an entire New England character--in no
respect unaffected by its first character.

This case is well known, but it is not so that the same process, in
a weaker shape, is going on in America now. Congeniality of
sentiment is a reason of selection, and a bond of cohesion in the
'West' at present. Competent observers say that townships grow up
there by each place taking its own religion, its own manners, and
its own ways. Those who have these morals and that religion go to
that place, and stay there; and those who have not these morals and
that religion either settle elsewhere at first, or soon pass on. The
days of colonisation by sudden 'swarms' of like creed is almost
over, but a less visible process of attraction by similar faith over
similar is still in vigour, and very likely to continue.

And in cases where this principle does not operate all new
settlements, being formed of 'emigrants,' are sure to be composed of
rather restless people, mainly. The stay-at-home people are not to
be found there, and these are the quiet, easy people. A new
settlement voluntarily formed (for of old times, when people were
expelled by terror, I am not speaking) is sure to have in it much
more than the ordinary proportion of active men, and much less than
the ordinary proportion of inactive; and this accounts for a large
part, though not perhaps all, of the difference between the English
in England, and the English in Australia.

The causes which formed New England in recent times cannot be
conceived as acting much upon mankind in their infancy. Society is
not then formed upon a 'voluntary system' but upon an involuntary. A
man in early ages is born to a certain obedience, and cannot
extricate himself from an inherited government. Society then is made
up, not of individuals, but of families; creeds then descend by
inheritance in those families. Lord Melbourne once incurred the
ridicule of philosophers by saying he should adhere to the English
Church BECAUSE it was the religion of his fathers. The philosophers,
of course, said that a man's fathers' believing anything was no
reason for his believing it unless it was true. But Lord Melbourne
was only uttering out of season, and in a modern time, one of the
most firm and accepted maxims of old times. A secession on religious
grounds of isolated Romans to sail beyond sea would have seemed to
the ancient Romans an impossibility. In still ruder ages the
religion of savages is a thing too feeble to create a schism or to
found a community. We are dealing with people capable of history
when we speak of great ideas, not with prehistoric flint-men or the
present savages. But though under very different forms, the same
essential causes--the imitation of preferred characters and the
elimination of detested characters--were at work in the oldest
times, and are at work among rude men now. Strong as the propensity
to imitation is among civilised men, we must conceive it as an
impulse of which their minds have been partially denuded. Like the
far-seeing sight, the infallible hearing, the magical scent of the
savage, it is a half-lost power. It was strongest in ancient times,
and IS strongest in uncivilised regions.

This extreme propensity to imitation is one great reason of the
amazing sameness which every observer notices in savage nations.
When you have seen one Euegian, you have seen all Fuegians--one
Tasmanian, all Tasmanians. The higher savages, as the New
Zealanders, are less uniform; they have more of the varied and
compact structure of civilised nations, because in other respects
they are more civilised. They have greater mental capacity--larger
stores of inward thought. But much of the same monotonous nature
clings to them too. A savage tribe resembles a herd of gregarious
beasts; where the leader goes they go too; they copy blindly his
habits, and thus soon become that which he already is. For not only
the tendency, but also the power to imitate, is stronger in savages
than civilised men. Savages copy quicker, and they copy better.
Children, in the same way, are born mimics; they cannot help
imitating what comes before them. There is nothing in their minds to
resist the propensity to copy. Every educated man has a large inward
supply of ideas to which he can retire, and in which he can escape
from or alleviate unpleasant outward objects. But a savage or a
child has no resource. The external movements before it are its very
life; it lives by what it sees and hears. Uneducated people in
civilised nations have vestiges of the same condition. If you send a
housemaid and a philosopher to a foreign country of which neither
knows the language, the chances are that the housemaid will catch it
before the philosopher. He has something else to do; he can live in
his own thoughts. But unless she can imitate the utterances, she is
lost; she has no life till she can join in the chatter of the
kitchen. The propensity to mimicry, and the power of mimicry, are
mostly strongest in those who have least abstract minds. The most
wonderful examples of imitation in the world are perhaps the
imitations of civilised men by savages in the use of martial
weapons. They learn the knack, as sportsmen call it, with
inconceivable rapidity. A North American Indian--an Australian even-
-can shoot as well as any white man. Here the motive is at its
maximum, as well as the innate power. Every savage cares more for
the power of killing than for any other power.

The persecuting tendency of all savages, and, indeed, of all
ignorant people, is even more striking than their imitative
tendency. No barbarian can bear to see one of his nation deviate
from the old barbarous customs and usages of their tribe. Very
commonly all the tribe would expect a punishment from the gods if
any one of them refrained from what was old, or began what was new.
In modern times and in cultivated countries we regard each person as
responsible only for his own actions, and do not believe, or think
of believing, that the misconduct of others can bring guilt on them.
Guilt to us is an individual taint consequent on choice and cleaving
to the chooser. But in early ages the act of one member of the tribe
is conceived to make all the tribe impious, to offend its peculiar
god, to expose all the tribe to penalties from heaven. There is no
'limited liability' in the political notions of that time. The early
tribe or nation is a religious partnership, on which a rash member
by a sudden impiety may bring utter ruin. If the state is conceived
thus, toleration becomes wicked. A permitted deviation from the
transmitted ordinances becomes simple folly. It is a sacrifice of
the happiness of the greatest number. It is allowing one individual,
for a moment's pleasure or a stupid whim, to bring terrible and
irretrievable calamity upon all. No one will ever understand even
Athenian history, who forgets this idea of the old world, though
Athens was, in comparison with others, a rational and sceptical
place, ready for new views, and free from old prejudices. When the
street statues of Hermes were mutilated, all the Athenians were
frightened and furious; they thought that they should ALL be ruined
because some one had mutilated a god's image, and so offended him.
Almost every detail of life in the classical times--the times when
real history opens--was invested with a religious sanction; a sacred
ritual regulated human action; whether it was called 'law' or not,
much of it was older than the word 'law;' it was part of an ancient
usage conceived as emanating from a superhuman authority, and not to
be transgressed without risk of punishment by more than mortal
power. There was such a solidarite then between citizens, that each
might be led to persecute the other for fear of harm to himself.

It may be said that these two tendencies of the early world--that to
persecution and that to imitation--must conflict; that the imitative
impulse would lead men to copy what is new, and that persecution by
traditional habit would prevent their copying it. But in practice
the two tendencies co-operate. There is a strong tendency to copy
the most common thing, and that common thing is the old habit. Daily
imitation is far oftenest a conservative force, for the most
frequent models are ancient. Of course, however, something new is
necessary for every man and for every nation. We may wish, if we
please, that to-morrow shall be like to-day, but it will not be like
it. New forces will impinge upon us; new wind, new rain, and the
light of another sun; and we must alter to meet them. But the
persecuting habit and the imitative combine to insure that the new
thing shall be in the old fashion; it must be an alteration, but it
shall contain as little of variety as possible. The imitative
impulse tends to this, because men most easily imitate what their
minds are best prepared for,--what is like the old, yet with the
inevitable minimum of alteration; what throws them least out of the
old path, and puzzles least their minds. The doctrine of development
means this,--that in unavoidable changes men like the new doctrine
which is most of a 'preservative addition' to their old doctrines.
The imitative and the persecuting tendencies make all change in
early nations a kind of selective conservatism, for the most part
keeping what is old, but annexing some new but like practice--an
additional turret in the old style.

It is this process of adding suitable things and rejecting
discordant things which has raised those scenes of strange manners
which in every part of the world puzzle the civilised men who come
upon them first. Like the old head-dress of mountain villages, they
make the traveller think not so much whether they are good or
whether they are bad, as wonder how any one could have come to think
of them; to regard them as 'monstrosities,' which only some wild
abnormal intellect could have hit upon. And wild and abnormal indeed
would be that intellect if it were a single one at all. But in fact
such manners are the growth of ages, like Roman law or the British
constitution. No one man--no one generation--could have thought of
them,--only a series of generations trained in the habits of the
last and wanting something akin to such habits, could have devised
them. Savages PET their favourite habits, so to say, and preserve
them as they do their favourite animals; ages are required, but at
last a national character is formed by the confluence of congenial
attractions and accordant detestations.

Another cause helps. In early states of civilisation there is a
great mortality of infant life, and this is a kind of selection in
itself--the child most fit to be a good Spartan is most likely to
survive a Spartan childhood. The habits of the tribe are enforced on
the child; if he is able to catch and copy them he lives; if he
cannot he dies. The imitation which assimilates early nations
continues through life, but it begins with suitable forms and acts
on picked specimens. I suppose, too, that there is a kind of
parental selection operating in the same way and probably tending to
keep alive the same individuals. Those children which gratified
their fathers and mothers most would be most tenderly treated by
them, and have the best chance to live, and as a rough rule their
favourites would be the children of most 'promise,' that is to say,
those who seemed most likely to be a credit to the tribe according
to the leading tribal manners and the existing tribal tastes. The
most gratifying child would be the best looked after, and the most
gratifying would be the best specimen of the standard then and there
raised up.

Even so, I think there will be a disinclination to attribute so
marked, fixed, almost physical a thing as national character to
causes so evanescent as the imitation of appreciated habit and the
persecution of detested habit. But, after all, national character is
but a name for a collection of habits more or less universal. And
this imitation and this persecution in long generations have vast
physical effects. The mind of the parent (as we speak) passes
somehow to the body of the child. The transmitted 'something' is
more affected by habits than, it is by anything else. In time an
ingrained type is sure to be formed, and sure to be passed on if
only the causes I have specified be fully in action and without

As I have said, I am not explaining the origin of races, but of
nations, or, if you like, of tribes. I fully admit that no imitation
of predominant manner, or prohibitions of detested manners, will of
themselves account for the broadest contrasts of human nature. Such
means would no more make a Negro out of a Brahmin, or a Red-man out
of an Englishman, than washing would change the spots of a leopard
or the colour of an Ethiopian. Some more potent causes must co-
operate, or we should not have these enormous diversities. The minor
causes I deal with made Greek to differ from Greek, but they did not
make the Greek race. We cannot precisely mark the limit, but a limit
there clearly is.

If we look at the earliest monuments of the human race, we find
these race-characters as decided as the race-characters now. The
earliest paintings or sculptures we anywhere have, give us the
present contrasts of dissimilar types as strongly as present
observation. Within historical memory no such differences have been
created as those between Negro and Greek, between Papuan and Red
Indian, between Esquimaux and Goth. We start with cardinal
diversities; we trace only minor modifications, and we only see
minor modifications. And it is very hard to see how any number of
such modifications could change man as he is in one race-type to man
as he is in some other. Of this there are but two explanations; ONE,
that these great types were originally separate creations, as they
stand--that the Negro was made so, and the Greek made so. But this
easy hypothesis of special creation has been tried so often, and has
broken down so very often, that in no case, probably, do any great
number of careful inquirers very firmly believe it. They may accept
it provisionally, as the best hypothesis at present, but they feel
about it as they cannot help feeling as to an army which has always
been beaten; however strong it seems, they think it will be beaten
again. What the other explanation is exactly I cannot pretend to
say. Possibly as yet the data for a confident opinion are not before
us. But by far the most plausible suggestion is that of Mr. Wallace,
that these race-marks are living records of a time when the
intellect of man was not as able as it is now to adapt his life and
habits to change of region; that consequently early mortality in the
first wanderers was beyond conception great; that only those (so to
say) haphazard individuals throve who were born with a protected
nature--that is, a nature suited to the climate and the country,
fitted to use its advantages, shielded from its natural diseases.
According to Mr. Wallace, the Negro is the remnant of the one
variety of man who without more adaptiveness than then existed could
live in Interior Africa. Immigrants died off till they produced him
or something like him, and so of the Esquimaux or the American.

Any protective habit also struck out in such a time would have a far
greater effect than it could afterwards. A gregarious tribe, whose
leader was in some imitable respects adapted to the struggle for
life, and which copied its leader, would have an enormous advantage
in the struggle for life. It would be sure to win and live, for it
would be coherent and adapted, whereas, in comparison, competing
tribes would be incoherent and unadapted. And I suppose that in
early times, when those bodies did not already contain the records
and the traces of endless generations, any new habit would more
easily fix its mark on the heritable element, and would be
transmitted more easily and more certainly. In such an age, man
being softer and more pliable, deeper race-marks would be more
easily inscribed and would be more likely to continue legible.

But I have no pretence to speak on such matters; this paper, as I
have so often explained, deals with nation-making and not with race-
making. I assume a world of marked varieties of man, and only want
to show how less marked contrasts would probably and naturally arise
in each. Given large homogeneous populations, some Negro, some
Mongolian, some Aryan, I have tried to prove how small contrasting
groups would certainly spring up within each--some to last and some
to perish. These are the eddies in each race-stream which vary its
surface, and are sure to last till some new force changes the
current. These minor varieties, too, would be infinitely compounded,
not only with those of the same race, but with those of others.
Since the beginning of man, stream has been a thousand times poured
into stream--quick into sluggish, dark into pale--and eddies and
waters have taken new shapes and new colours, affected by what went
before, but not resembling it. And then on the fresh mass, the old
forces of composition and elimination again begin to act, and create
over the new surface another world. 'Motley was the wear' of the
world when Herodotus first looked on it and described it to us, and
thus, as it seems to me, were its varying colours produced.

If it be thought that I have made out that these forces of imitation
and elimination be the main ones, or even at all powerful ones, in
the formation of national character, it will follow that the effect
of ordinary agencies upon that character will be more easy to
understand than it often seems and is put down in books. We get a
notion that a change of government or a change of climate acts
equally on the mass of a nation, and so are we puzzled--at least, I
have been puzzled--to conceive how it acts. But such changes do not
at first act equally on all people in the nation, On many, for a
very long time, they do not act at all. But they bring out new
qualities, and advertise the effects of new habits. A change of
climate, say from a depressing to an invigorating one, so acts.
Everybody feels it a little, but the most active feel it
exceedingly. They labour and prosper, and their prosperity invites
imitation. Just so with the contrary change, from an animating to a
relaxing place,--the naturally lazy look so happy as they do
nothing, that the naturally active are corrupted. The effect of any
considerable change on a nation is thus an intensifying and
accumulating effect. With its maximum power it acts on some prepared
and congenial individuals; in them it is seen to produce attractive
results, and then the habits creating those results are copied far
and wide. And, as I believe, it is in this simple but not quite
obvious way, that the process of progress and of degradation may
generally be seen to run.

No. IV.


All theories as to the primitive man must be very uncertain.
Granting the doctrine of evolution to be true, man must be held to
have a common ancestor with the rest of the Primates. But then we do
not know what their common ancestor was like. If ever we are to have
a distinct conception of him, it can only be after long years of
future researches and the laborious accumulation of materials,
scarcely the beginning of which now exists. But science has already
done something for us. It cannot yet tell us our first ancestor, but
it can tell us much of an ancestor very high up in the line of
descent. We cannot get the least idea (even upon the full assumption
of the theory of evolution) of the first man; but we can get a very
tolerable idea of the Paulo-prehistoric man, if I may so say--of man
as he existed some short time (as we now reckon shortness), some ten
thousand years, before history began. Investigators whose acuteness
and diligence can hardly be surpassed--Sir John Lubbock and Mr.
Tylor are the chiefs among them--have collected so much and
explained so much that they have left a fairly vivid result.

That result is, or seems to me to be, if I may sum it up in my own
words, that the modern pre-historic men--those of whom we have
collected so many remains, and to whom are due the ancient, strange
customs of historical nations (the fossil customs, we might call
them, for very often they are stuck by themselves in real
civilisation, and have no more part in it than the fossils in the
surrounding strata)--pre-historic men in this sense were 'savages
without the fixed habits of savages;' that is, that, like savages,
they had strong passions and weak reason; that, like savages, they
preferred short spasms of greedy pleasure to mild and equable
enjoyment; that, like savages, they could not postpone the present
to the future; that, like savages, their ingrained sense of morality
was, to say the best of it, rudimentary and defective. But that,
unlike present savages, they had not complex customs and singular
customs, odd and seemingly inexplicable rules guiding all human
life. And the reasons for these conclusions as to a race too ancient
to leave a history, but not too ancient to have left memorials, are
briefly these:--First, that we cannot imagine a strong reason
without attainments; and, plainly, pre-historic men had not
attainments. They would never have lost them if they had. It is
utterly incredible that whole races of men in the most distant parts
of the world (capable of counting, for they quickly learn to count)
should have lost the art of counting, if they had ever possessed it.
It is incredible that whole races could lose the elements of common
sense, the elementary knowledge as to things material and things
mental--the Benjamin Franklin philosophy--if they had ever known it.
Without some data the reasoning faculties of man cannot work. As
Lord Bacon said, the mind of man must 'work upon stuff.' And in the
absence of the common knowledge which trains us in the elements of
reason as far as we are trained, they had no 'stuff.' Even,
therefore, if their passions were not absolutely stronger than ours,
relatively they were stronger, for their reason was weaker than our
reason. Again, it is certain that races of men capable of postponing
the present to the future (even if such races were conceivable
without an educated reason) would have had so huge an advantage in
the struggles of nations, that no others would have survived them. A
single Australian tribe (really capable of such a habit, and really
practising it) would have conquered all Australia almost as the
English have conquered it. Suppose a race of long-headed Scotchmen,
even as ignorant as the Australians, and they would have got from
Torres to Bass's Straits, no matter how fierce was the resistance of
the other Australians. The whole territory would have been theirs,
and theirs only. We cannot imagine innumerable races to have lost,
if they had once had it, the most useful of all habits of mind--the
habit which would most ensure their victory in the incessant
contests which, ever since they began, men have carried on with one
another and with nature, the habit, which in historical times has
above any other received for its possession the victory in those
contests. Thirdly, we may be sure that the morality of pre-historic
man was as imperfect and as rudimentary as his reason. The same sort
of arguments apply to a self-restraining morality of a high type as
apply to a settled postponement of the present to the future upon
grounds recommended by argument. Both are so involved in difficult
intellectual ideas (and a high morality the most of the two) that it
is all but impossible to conceive their existence among people who
could not count more than five--who had only the grossest and
simplest forms of language--who had no kind of writing or reading--
who, as it has been roughly said, had 'no pots and no pans'--who
could indeed make a fire, but who could hardly do anything else--who
could hardly command nature any further. Exactly also like a shrewd
far-sightedness, a sound morality on elementary transactions is far
too useful a gift to the human race ever to have been thoroughly
lost when they had once attained it. But innumerable savages have
lost all but completely many of the moral rules most conducive to
tribal welfare. There are many savages who can hardly be said to
care for human life--who have scarcely the family feelings--who are
eager to kill all old people (their own parents included) as soon as
they get old and become a burden--who have scarcely the sense of
truth--who, probably from a constant tradition of terror, wish to
conceal everything, and would (as observers say) 'rather lie than
not'--whose ideas of marriage are so vague and slight that the idea,
'communal marriage' (in which all the women of the tribe are common
to all the men, and them only), has been invented to denote it. Now
if we consider how cohesive and how fortifying to human societies
are the love of truth, and the love of parents, and a stable
marriage tie, how sure such feelings would be to make a tribe which
possessed them wholly and soon victorious over tribes which were
destitute of them, we shall begin to comprehend how unlikely it is
that vast masses of tribes throughout the world should have lost all
these moral helps to conquest, not to speak of others. If any
reasoning is safe as to pre-historic man, the reasoning which
imputes to him a deficient sense of morals is safe, for all the
arguments suggested by all our late researches converge upon it, and
concur in teaching it.

Nor on this point does the case rest wholly on recent
investigations. Many years ago Mr. Jowett said that the classical
religions bore relics of the 'ages before morality.' And this is
only one of several cases in which that great thinker has proved by
a chance expression that he had exhausted impending controversies
years before they arrived, and had perceived more or less the
conclusion at which the disputants would arrive long before the
public issue was joined. There is no other explanation of such
religions than this. We have but to open Mr. Gladstone's 'Homer' in
order to see with how intense an antipathy a really moral age would
regard the gods and goddesses of Homer; how inconceivable it is that
a really moral age should first have invented and then bowed down
before them; how plain it is (when once explained) that they are
antiquities, like an English court-suit, or a STONE-sacrificial
knife, for no one would use such things as implements of ceremony,
except those who had inherited them from a past age, when there was
nothing better.

Nor is there anything inconsistent with our present moral theories
of whatever kind in so thinking about our ancestors. The intuitive
theory of morality, which would be that naturally most opposed to
it, has lately taken a new development. It is not now maintained
that all men have the same amount of conscience. Indeed, only a most
shallow disputant who did not understand even the plainest facts of
human nature could ever have maintained it; if men differ in
anything they differ in the fineness and the delicacy of their moral
intuitions, however we may suppose those feelings to have been
acquired. We need not go as far as savages to learn that lesson; we
need only talk to the English poor or to our own servants, and we
shall be taught it very completely. The lower classes in civilised
countries, like all classes in uncivilised countries, are clearly
wanting in the nicer part of those feelings which, taken together,
we call the SENSE of morality. All this an intuitionist who knows
his case will now admit, but he will add that, though the amount of
the moral sense may and does differ in different persons, yet that
as far as it goes it is alike in all. He likens it to the intuition
of number, in which some savages are so defective that they cannot
really and easily count more than three. Yet as far as three his
intuitions are the same as those of civilised people. Unquestionably
if there are intuitions at all, the primary truths of number are
such. There is a felt necessity in them if in anything, and it would
be pedantry to say that any proposition of morals was MORE certain
than that five and five make ten. The truths of arithmetic,
intuitive or not, certainly cannot be acquired independently of
experience nor can those of morals be so either. Unquestionably they
were aroused in life and by experience, though after that comes the
difficult and ancient controversy whether anything peculiar to them
and not to be found in the other facts of life is superadded to them
independently of experience out of the vigour of the mind itself. No
intuitionist, therefore, fears to speak of the conscience of his
pre-historic ancestor as imperfect, rudimentary, or hardly to be
discerned, for he has to admit much the same so as to square his
theory to plain modern facts, and that theory in the modern form may
consistently be held along with them. Of course if an intuitionist
can accept this conclusion as to pre-historic men, so assuredly may
Mr. Spencer, who traces all morality back to our inherited
experience of utility, or Mr. Darwin, who ascribes it to an
inherited sympathy, or Mr. Mill, who with characteristic courage
undertakes to build up the whole moral nature of man with no help
whatever either from ethical intuition or from physiological
instinct. Indeed of the everlasting questions, such as the reality
of free will, or the nature of conscience, it is, as I have before
explained, altogether inconsistent with the design of these papers
to speak. They have been discussed ever since the history of
discussion begins; human opinion is still divided, and most people
still feel many difficulties in every suggested theory, and doubt if
they have heard the last word of argument or the whole solution of
the problem in any of them. In the interest of sound knowledge it is
essential to narrow to the utmost the debatable territory; to see
how many ascertained facts there are which are consistent with all
theories, how many may, as foreign lawyers would phrase it, be
equally held in condominium by them.

But though in these great characteristics there is reason to imagine
that the pre-historic man--at least the sort of pre-historic man I
am treating of, the man some few thousand years before history
began, and not at all, at least not necessarily, the primitive man--
was identical with a modern savage, in another respect there is
equal or greater reason to suppose that he was most unlike a modern
savage. A modern savage is anything but the simple being which
philosophers of the eighteenth century imagined him to be; on the
contrary, his life is twisted into a thousand curious habits; his
reason is darkened by a thousand strange prejudices; his feelings
are frightened by a thousand cruel superstitions. The whole mind of
a modern savage is, so to say, tattooed over with monstrous images;
there is not a smooth place anywhere about it. But there is no
reason to suppose the minds of pre-historic men to be so cut and
marked; on the contrary, the creation of these habits, these
superstitions, these prejudices, must have taken ages. In his
nature, it may be said, pre-historic man was the same as a modern
savage; it is only in his acquisition that he was different.

It may be objected that if man was developed out of any kind of
animal (and this is the doctrine of evolution which, if it be not
proved conclusively, has great probability and great scientific
analogy in its favour) he would necessarily at first possess animal
instincts; that these would only gradually be lost; that in the
meantime they would serve as a protection and an aid, and that pre-
historic men, therefore, would have important helps and feelings
which existing savages have not. And probably of the first men, the
first beings worthy to be so called, this was true: they had, or may
have had, certain remnants of instincts which aided them in the
struggle of existence, and as reason gradually came these instincts
may have waned away. Some instincts certainly do wane when the
intellect is applied steadily to their subject-matter. The curious
'counting boys,' the arithmetical prodigies, who can work by a
strange innate faculty the most wonderful sums, lose that faculty,
always partially, sometimes completely, if they are taught to reckon
by rule like the rest of mankind. In like manner I have heard it
said that a man could soon reason himself out of the instinct of
decency if he would only take pains and work hard enough. And
perhaps other primitive instincts may have in like manner passed
away. But this does not affect my argument. I am only saying that
these instincts, if they ever existed, DID pass away--that there was
a period; probably an immense period as we reckon time in human
history, when pre-historic men lived much as savages live now,
without any important aids and helps.

The proofs of this are to be found in the great works of Sir John
Lubbock and Mr. Tylor, of which I just now spoke. I can only bring
out two of them here. First, it is plain that the first pre-historic
men had the flint tools which the lowest savages use, and we can
trace a regular improvement in the finish and in the efficiency of
their simple instruments corresponding to that which we see at this
day in the upward transition from the lowest savages to the highest.
Now it is not conceivable that a race of beings with valuable
instincts supporting their existence and supplying their wants would
need these simple tools. They are exactly those needed by very poor
people who have no instincts, and those were used by such, for
savages are the poorest of the poor. It would be very strange if
these same utensils, no more no less, were used by beings whose
discerning instincts made them in comparison altogether rich. Such a
being would know how to manage without such things, or if it wanted
any, would know how to make better.

And, secondly, on the moral side we know that the pre-historic age
was one of much licence, and the proof is that in that age descent
was reckoned through the female only, just as it is among the lowest
savages. 'Maternity,' it has been said, 'is a matter of fact,
paternity is a matter of opinion;' and this not very refined
expression exactly conveys the connection of the lower human
societies. In all slave-owning communities--in Rome formerly, and in
Virginia yesterday--such was the accepted rule of law; the child
kept the condition of the mother, whatever that condition was;
nobody inquired as to the father; the law, once for all, assumed
that he could not be ascertained. Of course no remains exist which
prove this or anything else about the morality of pre-historic man;
and morality can only be described by remains amounting to a
history. But one of the axioms of pre-historic investigation binds
us to accept this as the morality of the pre-historic races if we
receive that axiom. It is plain that the wide-spread absence of a
characteristic which greatly aids the possessor in the conflicts
between race and race probably indicates that the primary race did
not possess that quality. If one-armed people existed almost
everywhere in every continent; if people were found in every
intermediate stage, some with the mere germ of the second arm, some
with the second arm half-grown, some with it nearly complete; we
should then argue--'the first race cannot have had two arms, because
men have always been fighting, and as two arms are a great advantage
in fighting, one-armed and half-armed people would immediately have
been killed off the earth; they never could have attained any
numbers. A diffused deficiency in a warlike power is the best
attainable evidence that the pre-historic men did not possess that
power.' If this axiom be received it is palpably applicable to the
marriage-bond of primitive races. A cohesive 'family' is the best
germ for a campaigning nation. In a Roman family the boys, from the
time of their birth, were bred to a domestic despotism, which well
prepared them for a subjection in after life to a military
discipline, a military drill, and a military despotism. They were
ready to obey their generals because they were compelled to obey
their fathers; they centered the world in manhood because as
children they were bred in homes where the tradition of passionate
valour was steadied by the habit of implacable order. And nothing of
this is possible in loosely-bound family groups (if they can be
called families at all) where the father is more or less uncertain,
where descent is not traced through him, where, that is, property
does not come from him, where such property as he has passes to his
SURE relations--to his sister's children. An ill-knit nation which
does not recognise paternity as a legal relation, would be conquered
like a mob by any other nation which had a vestige or a beginning of
the patria potestas. If, therefore, all the first men had the strict
morality of families, they would no more have permitted the rise of
SEMI-moral nations anywhere in the world than the Romans would have
permitted them to arise in Italy. They would have conquered, killed,
and plundered them before they became nations; and yet semi-moral
nations exist all over the world.

It will be said that this argument proves too much. For it proves
that not only the somewhat-before-history men, but the absolutely
first men, could not have had close family instincts, and yet if
they were like most though not all of the animals nearest to man
they had such instincts. There is a great story of some African
chief who expressed his disgust at adhering to one wife, by saying
it was 'like the monkeys.' The semi-brutal ancestors of man, if they
existed, had very likely an instinct of constancy which the African
chief, and others like him, had lost. How, then, if it was so
beneficial, could they ever lose it? The answer is plain: they could
lose it if they had it as an irrational propensity and habit, and
not as a moral and rational feeling. When reason came, it would
weaken that habit like all other irrational habits. And reason is a
force of such infinite vigour--a victory-making agent of such
incomparable efficiency--that its continually diminishing valuable
instincts will not matter if it grows itself steadily all the while.
The strongest competitor wins in both the cases we are imagining; in
the first, a race with intelligent reason, but without blind
instinct, beats a race with that instinct but without that reason;
in the second, a race with reason and high moral feeling beats a
race with reason but without high moral feeling. And the two are
palpably consistent.

There is every reason, therefore, to suppose pre-historic man to be
deficient in much of sexual morality, as we regard that morality. As
to the detail of 'primitive marriage' or 'NO marriage,' for that is
pretty much what it comes to, there is of course much room for
discussion. Both Mr. M'Clennan and Sir John Lubbock are too
accomplished reasoners and too careful investigators to wish
conclusions so complex and refined as theirs to be accepted all in a
mass, besides that on some critical points the two differ. But the
main issue is not dependent on nice arguments. Upon broad grounds we
may believe that in pre-historic times men fought both to gain and
to keep their wives; that the strongest man took the best wife away
from the weaker man; and that if the wife was restive, did not like
the change, her new husband beat her; that (as in Australia now) a
pretty woman was sure to undergo many such changes, and her back to
bear the marks of many such chastisements; that in the principal
department of human conduct (which is the most tangible and easily
traced, and therefore the most obtainable specimen of the rest) the
minds of pre-historic men were not so much immoral as UNmoral: they
did not violate a rule of conscience, but they were somehow not
sufficiently developed for them to feel on this point any
conscience, or for it to prescribe to them any rule.

The same argument applies to religion. There are, indeed, many
points of the greatest obscurity, both in the present savage
religions and in the scanty vestiges of pre-historic religion. But
one point is clear. All savage religions are full of superstitions
founded on luck. Savages believe that casual omens are a sign of
coming events; that some trees are lucky, that some animals are
lucky, that some places are lucky, that some indifferent actions--
indifferent apparently and indifferent really--are lucky, and so of
others in each class, that they are unlucky. Nor can a savage well
distinguish between a sign of 'luck' or ill-luck, as we should say,
and a deity which causes the good or the ill; the indicating
precedent and the causing being are to the savage mind much the
same; a steadiness of head far beyond savages is required
consistently to distinguish them. And it is extremely natural that
they should believe so. They are playing a game--the game of life--
with no knowledge of its rules. They have not an idea of the laws of
nature; if they want to cure a man, they have no conception at all
of true scientific remedies. If they try anything they must try it
upon bare chance. The most useful modern remedies were often
discovered in this bare, empirical way. What could be more
improbable--at least, for what could a pre-historic man have less
given a good reason--than that some mineral springs should stop
rheumatic pains, or mineral springs make wounds heal quickly? And
yet the chance knowledge of the marvellous effect of gifted springs
is probably as ancient as any sound knowledge as to medicine
whatever. No doubt it was mere casual luck at first that tried these
springs and found them answer. Somebody by accident tried them and
by that accident was instantly cured. The chance which happily
directed men in this one case, misdirected them in a thousand cases.
Some expedition had answered when the resolution to undertake it was
resolved on under an ancient tree, and accordingly that tree became
lucky and sacred. Another expedition failed when a magpie crossed
its path, and a magpie was said to be unlucky. A serpent crossed the
path of another expedition, and it had a marvellous victory, and
accordingly the serpent became a sign of great luck (and what a
savage cannot distinguish from it--a potent deity which makes luck).
Ancient medicine is equally unreasonable: as late down as the Middle
Ages it was full of superstitions founded on mere luck. The
collection of prescriptions published under the direction of the
Master of the Rolls abounds in such fancies as we should call them.
According to one of them, unless I forget, some disease--a fever, I
think--is supposed to be cured by placing the patient between two
halves of a hare and a pigeon recently killed. [Footnote: Readers of
Scott's life will remember that an admirer of his in humble life
proposed to cure him of inflammation of the bowels by making him
sleep a whole night on twelve smooth stones, painfully collected by
the admirer from twelve brooks, which was, it appeared, a recipe of
sovereign traditional power. Scott gravely told the proposer that he
had mistaken the charm, and that the stones were of no virtue unless
wrapped up in the petticoat of a widow who never wished to marry
again, and as no such widow seems to have been forthcoming, he
escaped the remedy.] Nothing can be plainer than that there is no
ground for this kind of treatment, and that the idea of it arose out
of a chance hit, which came right and succeeded. There was nothing
so absurd or so contrary to common sense as we are apt to imagine
about it. The lying between two halves of a hare or a pigeon was a
priori, and to the inexperienced mind, quite as likely to cure
disease as the drinking certain draughts of nasty mineral water.
Both, somehow, were tried; both answered--that is. Both were at the
first time, or at some memorable time, followed by a remarkable
recovery; and the only difference is, that the curative power of the
mineral is persistent, and happens constantly; whereas, on an
average of trials, the proximity of a hare or pigeon is found to
have no effect, and cures take place as often in cases where it is
not tried as in cases where it is. The nature of minds which are
deeply engaged in watching events of which they do not know the
reason, is to single out some fabulous accompaniment or some
wonderful series of good luck or bad luck, and to dread ever after
that accompaniment if it brings evil, and to love it and long for it
if it brings good. All savages are in this position, and the
fascinating effect of striking accompaniments (in some single case)
of singular good fortune and singular calamity, is one great source
of savage religions.

Gamblers to this day are, with respect to the chance part of their
game, in much the same plight as savages with respect to the main
events of their whole lives. And we well know how superstitious they
all are. To this day very sensible whist-players have a certain
belief--not, of course, a fixed conviction, but still a certain
impression--that there is 'luck under a black deuce,' and will half
mutter some not very gentle maledictions if they turn up as a trump
the four of clubs, because it brings ill-luck, and is 'the devil's
bed-post.' Of course grown-up gamblers have too much general
knowledge, too much organised common sense to prolong or cherish
such ideas; they are ashamed of entertaining them, though,
nevertheless, they cannot entirely drive them out of their minds.
But child gamblers--a number of little boys set to play loo-are just
in the position of savages, for their fancy is still impressible,
and they have not as yet been thoroughly subjected to the confuting
experience of the real world and child gamblers have idolatries--at
least I know that years ago a set of boy loo-players, of whom I was
one, had considerable faith in a certain 'pretty fish' which was
larger and more nicely made than the other fish we had. We gave the
best evidence of our belief in its power to 'bring luck;' we fought
for it (if our elders were out of the way); we offered to buy it
with many other fish from the envied holder, and I am sure I have
often cried bitterly if the chance of the game took it away from me.
Persons who stand up for the dignity of philosophy, if any such
there still are, will say that I ought not to mention this, because
it seems trivial; but the more modest spirit of modern thought
plainly teaches, if it teaches anything, the cardinal value of
occasional little facts. I do not hesitate to say that many learned
and elaborate explanations of the totem--the 'clan' deity--the beast
or bird which in some supernatural way, attends to the clan and
watches over it--do not seem to me to be nearly akin to the reality
as it works and lives among--the lower races as the 'pretty fish' of
my early boyhood. And very naturally so, for a grave philosopher is
separated from primitive thought by the whole length of human
culture; but an impressible child is as near to, and its thoughts
are as much like, that thought as anything can now be.

The worst of these superstitions is that they are easy to make and
hard to destroy. A single run of luck has made the fortune of many a
charm and many idols. I doubt if even a single run of luck be
necessary. I am sure that if an elder boy said that 'the pretty fish
was lucky--of course it was,' all the lesser boys would believe it,
and in a week it would be an accepted idol. And I suspect the Nestor
of a savage tribe--the aged repository of guiding experience--would
have an equal power of creating superstitions. But if once created
they are most difficult to eradicate. If any one said that the
amulet was of certain efficacy--that it always acted whenever it was
applied--it would of course be very easy to disprove; but no one
ever said that the 'pretty fish' always brought luck; it was only
said that it did so on the whole, and that if you had it you were
more likely to be lucky than if you were without it. But it requires
a long table of statistics of the results of games to disprove this
thoroughly; and by the time people can make tables they are already
above such beliefs, and do not need to have them disproved. Nor in
many cases where omens or amulets are used would such tables be easy
to make, for the data could not be found; and a rash attempt to
subdue the superstition by a striking instance may easily end in
confirming it. Francis Newman, in the remarkable narrative of his
experience as a missionary in Asia, gives a curious example of this.
As he was setting out on a distant and somewhat hazardous
expedition, his native servants tied round the neck of the mule a
small bag supposed to be of preventive and mystic virtue. As the
place was crowded and a whole townspeople looking on, Mr. Newman
thought that he would take an opportunity of disproving the
superstition. So he made a long speech of explanation in his best
Arabic, and cut off the bag, to the horror of all about him. But as
ill-fortune would have it, the mule had not got thirty yards up the
street before she put her foot into a hole and broke her leg; upon
which all the natives were confirmed in their former faith in the
power of the bag, and said, 'You see now what happens to

Now the present point as to these superstitions is their military
inexpediency. A nation which was moved by these superstitions as to
luck would be at the mercy of a nation, in other respects equal,
which, was not subject to them. In historical times, as we know, the
panic terror at eclipses has been the ruin of the armies which have
felt it; or has made them delay to do something necessary, or rush
to do something destructive. The necessity of consulting the
auspices, while it was sincerely practised and before it became a
trick for disguising foresight, was in classical history very
dangerous. And much worse is it with savages, whose life is one of
omens, who must always consult their sorcerers, who may be turned
this way or that by some chance accident, who, if they were
intellectually able to frame a consistent military policy--and some
savages in war see farther than in anything else--are yet liable to
be put out, distracted, confused, and turned aside in the carrying
out of it, because some event, really innocuous but to their minds
foreboding, arrests and frightens them. A religion full of omens is
a military misfortune, and will bring a nation to destruction if set
to fight with a nation at all equal otherwise, who had a religion
without omens. Clearly then, if all early men unanimously, or even
much the greater number of early men, had a religion WITHOUT omens,
no religion, or scarcely a religion, anywhere in the world could
have come into existence WITH omens; the immense majority possessing
the superior military advantage, the small minority destitute of it
would have been crushed out and destroyed. But, on the contrary, all
over the world religions with omens once existed, in most they still
exist; all savages have them, and deep in the most ancient
civilisations we find the plainest traces of them. Unquestionably
therefore the pre-historic religion was like that of savages--viz.,
in this that it largely consisted in the watching of omens and in
the worship of lucky beasts and things, which are a sort of embodied
and permanent omens.

It may indeed be objected--an analogous objection was taken as to
the ascertained moral deficiencies of pre-historic mankind--that if
this religion of omens was so pernicious and so likely to ruin a
race, no race would ever have acquired it. But it is only likely to
ruin a race contending with another race otherwise equal. The
fancied discovery of these omens--not an extravagant thing in an
early age, as I have tried to show, not a whit then to be
distinguished as improbable from the discovery of healing herbs or
springs which pre-historic men also did discover--the discovery of
omens was an act of reason as far as it went. And if in reason the
omen-finding race were superior to the races in conflict with them,
the omen-finding race would win, and we may conjecture that omen-
finding races were thus superior since they won and prevailed in
every latitude and in every zone.

In all particulars therefore we would keep to our formula, and say
that pre-historic man was substantially a savage like present
savages, in morals, intellectual attainments, and in religion; but
that he differed in this from our present savages, that he had not
had time to ingrain his nature so deeply with bad habits, and to
impress bad beliefs so unalterably on his mind as they have. They
have had ages to fix the stain on them selves, but primitive man was
younger and had no such time.

I have elaborated the evidence for this conclusion at what may seem
needless and tedious length, but I have done so on account of its
importance. If we accept it, and if we are sure of it, it will help
us to many most important conclusions. Some of these I have dwelt
upon in previous papers, but I will set them down again.

First, it will in part explain to us what the world was about, so to
speak, before history. It was making, so to say, the intellectual
consistence--the connected and coherent habits, the preference of
equable to violent enjoyment, the abiding capacity to prefer, if
required, the future to the present, the mental pre-requisites
without which civilisation could not begin to exist, and without
which it would soon cease to exist even had it begun. The primitive
man, like the present savage, had not these pre-requisites, but,
unlike the present savage, he was capable of acquiring them and of
being trained in them, for his nature was still soft and still
impressible, and possibly, strange as it may seem to say, his
outward circumstances were more favourable to an attainment of
civilisation than those of our present savages. At any rate, the
pre-historic times were spent in making men capable of writing a
history, and having something to put in it when it is written, and
we can see how it was done.

Two preliminary processes indeed there are which seem inscrutable.
There was some strange preliminary process by which the main races
of men were formed; they began to exist very early, and except by
intermixture no new ones have been formed since. It was a process
singularly active in early ages, and singularly quiescent in later
ages. Such differences as exist between the Aryan, the Turanian, the
negro, the red man, and the Australian, are differences greater--
altogether than any causes now active are capable of creating in
present men, at least in any way explicable by us. And there is,
therefore, a strong presumption that (as great authorities now hold)
these differences were created before the nature of men, especially
before the mind and the adaptive nature of men had taken their
existing constitution. And a second condition precedent of
civilisation seems, at least to me, to have been equally inherited,
if the doctrine of evolution be true, from some previous state or
condition. I at least find it difficult to conceive of men, at all
like the present men, unless existing in something like families,
that is, in groups avowedly connected, at least on the mother's
side, and probably always with a vestige of connection, more or
less, on the father's side, and unless these groups were like many
animals, gregarious, tinder a leader more or less fixed. It is
almost beyond imagination how man, as we know man, could by any sort
of process have gained this step in civilisation. And it is a great
advantage, to say the least of it, in the evolution theory that it
enables us to remit this difficulty to a pre-existing period in
nature, where other instincts and powers than our present ones may
perhaps have come into play, and where our imagination can hardly
travel. At any rate, for the present I may assume these two steps in
human progress made, and these two conditions realized.

The rest of the way, if we grant these two conditions, is plainer.
The first thing is the erection of what--we may call a custom-making
power, that is, of an authority which can enforce a fixed rule of
life, which, by means of that fixed rule, can in some degree create
a calculable future, which can make it rational to postpone present
violent but momentary pleasure for future continual pleasure,
because it ensures, what else is not sure, that if the sacrifice of
what is in hand be made, enjoyment of the contingent expected
recompense will be received. Of course I am not saying that we shall
find in early society any authority of which these shall be the
motives. We must have travelled ages (unless all our evidence be
wrong) from the first men before there was a comprehension of such
motives. I only mean that the first thing in early society was an
authority of whose action this shall be the result, little as it
knew what it was doing, little as it would have cared if it had
known. The conscious end of early societies was not at all, or
scarcely at all, the protection of life and property, as it was
assumed to be by the eighteenth-century theory of government. Even
in early historical ages--in the youth of the human race, not its
childhood--such is not the nature of early states. Sir Henry Maine
has taught us that the earliest subject of jurisprudence is not the
separate property of the individual, but the common property of the
family group; what we should call private property hardly then
existed; or if it did, was so small as to be of no importance: it
was like the things little children are now allowed to CALL their
own, which they feel it very hard to have taken from them, but which
they have no real right to hold and keep. Such is our earliest
property-law, and our earliest life--law is that the lives of all
members of the family group were at the mercy of the head of the
group. As far as the individual goes, neither his goods nor his
existence were protected at all. And this may teach us that
something else was lacked in early societies besides what in our
societies we now think of.

I do not think I put this too high when I say that a most important
if not the most important object of early legislation was the
enforcement of LUCKY rites. I do not like to say religious rites,
because that would involve me in a great controversy as to the
power, or even the existence, of early religions. But there is no
savage tribe without a notion of luck; and perhaps there is hardly
any which has not a conception of luck for the tribe as a tribe, of
which each member has not some such a belief that his own action or
the action of any other member of it--that he or the others doing
anything which was unlucky or would bring a 'curse'--might cause
evil not only to himself, but to all the tribe as well. I have said
so much about 'luck' and about its naturalness before, that I ought
to say nothing again. But I must add that the contagiousness of the
idea of 'luck' is remarkable. It does not at all, like the notion of
desert, cleave to the doer. There are people to this day who would
not permit in their house people to sit down thirteen to dinner.
They do not expect any evil to themselves particularly for
permitting it or sharing in it, but they cannot get out of their
heads the idea that some one or more of the number will come to harm
if the thing is done. This is what Mr. Tylor calls survival in
culture. The faint belief in the corporate liability of these
thirteen is the feeble relic and last dying representative of that
great principle of corporate liability to good and ill fortune which
has filled such an immense place in the world.

The traces of it are endless. You can hardly take up a book of
travels in rude regions without finding 'I wanted to do so and so.
But I was not permitted, for the natives feared it might bring ill
luck on the "party," or perhaps the tribe.' Mr. Galton, for
instance, could hardly feed his people. The Damaras, he says, have
numberless superstitions about meat which are very troublesome. In
the first place, each tribe, or rather family, is prohibited from
eating cattle of certain colours, savages 'who come from the sun'
eschewing sheep spotted in a particular way, which those 'who come
from the rain' have no objection to. 'As,' he says, 'there are five
or six eandas or descents, and I had men from most of them with me,
I could hardly kill a sheep that everybody would eat;' and he could
not keep his meat, for it had to be given away because it was
commanded by one superstition, nor buy milk, the staple food of
those parts, because it was prohibited by another. And so on without
end. Doing anything unlucky is in their idea what putting on
something that attracts the electric fluid is in fact, you cannot be
sure that harm will not be done, not only to the person in fault,
but to those about him too. As in the Scriptural phrase, doing what
is of evil omen is 'like one that letteth out water.' He cannot tell
what are the consequences of his act, who will share them, or how
they can be prevented.

In the earliest historical nations I need not say that the corporate
liabilities of states is to a modern student their most curious
feature. The belief is indeed raised far above the notion of mere
'luck,' because there is a distinct belief in gods or a god whom the
act offends, But the indiscriminate character of the punishment
still survives; not only the mutilator of the Hermae, but all the
Athenians--not only the violator of the rites of the Bona dea, but
all the Romans--are liable to the curse engendered; and so all
through ancient history. The strength of the corporate anxiety so
created is known to every one. Not only was it greately than any
anxiety about personal property, but it was immeasurably greater.
Naturally, even reasonably we may say, it was greater. The dread of
the powers of nature, or of the beings who rule those powers, is
properly, upon grounds of reason, as much greater than any other
dread as the might of the powers of nature is superior to that of
any other powers. If a tribe or a nation have, by a contagious
fancy, come to believe that the doing of any one thing by any number
will be 'unlucky,' that is, will bring an intense and vast liability
on them all, then that tribe and that nation will prevent the doing
of that thing more than anything else. They will deal with the most
cherished chief who even by chance should do it, as in a similar
case the sailors dealt with Jonah.

I do not of course mean that this strange condition of mind as it
seems to us was the sole source of early customs. On the contrary,
man might be described as a custom-making animal with more justice
than by many of the short descriptions. In whatever way a man has
done anything once, he has a tendency to do it again: if he has done
it several times he has a great tendency so to do it, and what is
more, he has a great tendency to make others do it also. He
transmits his formed customs to his children by example and by
teaching. This is true now of human nature, and will always be true,
no doubt. But what is peculiar in early societies is that over most
of these customs there grows sooner or later a semi-supernatural
sanction. The whole community is possessed with the idea that if the
primal usages of the tribe be broken, harm unspeakable will happen
in ways you cannot think of, and from sources you cannot imagine. As
people now-a-days believe that 'murder will out,' and that great
crime will bring even an earthly punishment, so in early times
people believed that for any breach of sacred custom certain
retribution would happen. To this day many semi-civilised races have
great difficulty in regarding any arrangement as binding and
conclusive unless they can also manage to look at it as an inherited
usage. Sir H. Maine, in his last work, gives a most curious case.
The English Government in India has in many cases made new and great
works of irrigation, of which no ancient Indian Government ever
thought; and it has generally left it to the native village
community to say what share each man of the village should have in
the water; and the village authorities have accordingly laid down a
series of most minute rules about it. But the peculiarity is that in
no case do these rules 'purport to emanate from the personal
authority of their author or authors, which rests on grounds of
reason not on grounds of innocence and sanctity; nor do they assume
to be dictated by a sense of equity; there is always, I am assured,
a sort of fiction under which some customs as to the distribution of
water are supposed to have emanated from a remote antiquity,
although, in fact, no such artificial supply had ever been so much
as thought of.' So difficult does this ancient race--like, probably,
in this respect so much of the ancient world-find it to imagine a
rule which is obligatory, but not traditional.

The ready formation of custom-making groups in early society must
have been greatly helped by the easy divisions of that society. Much
of the world--all Europe, for example--was then covered by the
primeval forest; men had only conquered, and as yet could only
conquer, a few plots and corners from it. These narrow spaces were
soon exhausted, and if numbers grew some of the new people must
move. Accordingly, migrations were constant, and were necessary. And
these migrations were not like those of modern times. There was no
such feeling as binds even Americans who hate, or speak as if they
hated, the present political England--nevertheless to 'the old
home.' There was then no organised means of communication--no
practical communication, we may say, between parted members of the
same group; those who once went out from the parent society went out
for ever; they left no abiding remembrance, and they kept no abiding
regard. Even the language of the parent tribe and of the descended
tribe would differ in a generation or two. There being no written
literature and no spoken intercourse, the speech of both would vary
(the speech of such communities is always varying), and would vary
in different directions. One set of causes, events, and associations
would act on one, and another set on another; sectional differences
would soon arise, and, for speaking purposes, what philologists call
a dialectical difference often amounts to real and total difference:
no connected interchange of thought is possible any longer. Separate
groups soon 'set up house;' the early societies begin a new set of
customs, acquire and keep a distinct and special 'luck.'

If it were not for this facility of new formations, one good or bad
custom would long since have 'corrupted' the world; but even this
would not have been enough but for those continual wars, of which I
have spoken at such length in the essay on 'The Use of Conflict,'
that I need say nothing now. These are by their incessant fractures
of old images, and by their constant infusion of new elements, the
real regenerators of society. And whatever be the truth or falsehood
of the general dislike to mixed and half-bred races, no such
suspicion was probably applicable to the early mixtures of primitive
society. Supposing, as is likely, each great aboriginal race to have
had its own quarter of the world (a quarter, as it would seem,
corresponding to the special quarters in which plants and animals
are divided), then the immense majority of the mixtures would be
between men of different tribes but of the same stock, and this no
one would object to, but every one would praise.

In general, too, the conquerors would be better than the conquered
(most merits in early society are more or less military merits), but
they would not be very much better, for the lowest steps in the
ladder of civilisation are very steep, and the effort to mount them
is slow and tedious. And this is probably the better if they are to
produce a good and quick effect in civilising those they have
conquered. The experience of the English in India shows--if it shows
anything--that a highly civilised race may fail in producing a
rapidly excellent effect on a less civilised race, because it is too
good and too different. The two are not en rapport together; the
merits of the one are not the merits prized by the other; the
manner-language of the one is not the manner-language of the other.
The higher being is not and cannot be a model for the lower; he
could not mould himself on it if he would, and would not if he
could. Consequently, the two races have long lived together, 'near
and yet far off,' daily seeing one another and daily interchanging
superficial thoughts, but in the depths of their mind separated by a
whole era of civilisation, and so affecting one another only a
little in comparison with what might have been hoped. But in early
societies there were no such great differences, and the rather
superior conqueror must have easily improved the rather inferior

It is in the interior of these customary groups that national
characters are formed. As I wrote a whole essay on the manner of
this before, I cannot speak of it now. By proscribing nonconformist
members for generations, and cherishing and rewarding conformist
members, nonconformists become fewer and fewer, and conformists more
and more. Most men mostly imitate what they see, and catch the tone
of what they hear, and so a settled type--a persistent character--is
formed. Nor is the process wholly mental. I cannot agree, though the
greatest authorities say it, that no 'unconscious selection' has
been at work at the breed of man. If neither that nor conscious
selection has been at work, how did there come to be these breeds,
and such there are in the greatest numbers, though we call them
nations? In societies tyrannically customary, uncongenial minds
become first cowed, then melancholy, then out of health, and at last
die. A Shelley in New England could hardly have lived, and a race of
Shelleys would have been impossible. Mr. Galton wishes that breeds
of men should be created by matching men with marked characteristics
with women of like characteristics. But surely this is what nature
has been doing time out of mind, and most in the rudest nations and
hardest times. Nature disheartened in each generation the ill-fitted
members of each customary group, so deprived them of their full
vigour, or, if they were weakly, killed them. The Spartan character
was formed because none but people with, a Spartan make of mind
could endure a Spartan existence. The early Roman character was so
formed too. Perhaps all very marked national characters can be
traced back to a time of rigid and pervading discipline. In modern
times, when society is more tolerant, new national characters are
neither so strong, so featurely, nor so uniform.

In this manner society was occupied in pre-historic times,--it is
consistent with and explicable by our general principle as to
savages, that society should for ages have been so occupied, strange
as that conclusion is, and incredible as it would be, if we had not
been taught by experience to believe strange things.

Secondly, this principle and this conception of pre-historic times
explain to us the meaning and the origin of the oldest and strangest
of social anomalies--an anomaly which is among the first things
history tells us--the existence of caste nations. Nothing is at
first sight stranger than the aspect of those communities where
several nations seem to be bound up together--where each is governed
by its own rule of law, where no one pays any deference to the rule
of law of any of the others. But if our principles be true, these
are just the nations most likely to last, which would have a special
advantage in early times, and would probably not only maintain
themselves, but conquer and kill out others also. The characteristic
necessity of early society as we have seen, is strict usage and
binding coercive custom. But the obvious result and inevitable evil
of that is monotony in society; no one can be much different from
his fellows, or can cultivate his difference.

Such societies are necessarily weak from the want of variety in
their elements. But a caste nation is various and composite; and has
in a mode suited to early societies the constant co-operation of
contrasted persons, which in a later age is one of the greatest
triumphs of civilisation. In a primitive age the division between
the warrior caste and the priestly caste is especially advantageous.
Little popular and little deserving to be popular now-a-days as are
priestly hierarchies, most probably the beginnings of science were
made in such, and were for ages transmitted in such. An intellectual
class was in that age only possible when it was protected by a
notion that whoever hurt them would certainly be punished by heaven.
In this class apart discoveries were slowly made and some beginning
of mental discipline was slowly matured. But such a community is
necessarily unwarlike, and the superstition which protects priests
from home murder will not aid them in conflict with the foreigner.
Few nations mind killing their enemies' priests, and many priestly
civilisations have perished without record before they well began.
But such a civilisation will not perish if a warrior caste is tacked
on to it and is bound to defend it. On the contrary, such a
civilisation will be singularly likely to live. The head of the sage
will help the arm of the soldier.

That a nation divided into castes must be a most difficult thing to
found is plain. Probably it could only begin in a country several
times conquered, and where the boundaries of each caste rudely
coincided with the boundaries of certain sets of victors and
vanquished. But, as we now see, when founded it is a likely nation
to last. A party-coloured community of many tribes and many usages
is more likely to get on, and help itself, than a nation of a single
lineage and one monotonous rule. I say 'at first,' because I
apprehend that in this case, as in so many others in the puzzling
history of progress, the very institutions which most aid at step
number one are precisely those which most impede at step number two.
The whole of a caste nation is more various than the whole of a non-
caste nation, but each caste itself is more monotonous than anything
is, or can be, in a non-caste nation. Gradually a habit of action
and type of mind forces itself on each caste, and it is little
likely to be rid of it, for all who enter it are taught in one way
and trained to the same employment. Several non-caste nations have
still continued to progress. But all caste nations have stopped
early, though some have lasted long. Each colour in the singular
composite of these tesselated societies has an indelible and
invariable shade.

Thirdly, we see why so few nations have made rapid advance, and how
many have become stationary. It is in the process of becoming a
nation, and in order to become such, that they subjected themselves
to the influence which has made them stationary. They could not
become a real nation without binding themselves by a fixed law and
usage, and it is the fixity of that law and usage which has kept
them as they were ever since. I wrote a whole essay on this before,
so I need say nothing now; and I only name it because it is one of
the most important consequences of this view of society, if not
indeed the most important.

Again, we can thus explain one of the most curious facts of the
present world. 'Manner,' says a shrewd observer, who has seen much
of existing life, 'manner gets regularly worse as you go from the
East to the West; it is best in Asia, not so good in Europe, and
altogether bad in the western states of America.' And the reason is
this--an imposing manner is a dignified usage, which tends to
preserve itself and also all other existing usages along with
itself. It tends to induce the obedience of mankind. One of the
cleverest novelists of the present day has a curious dissertation to
settle why on the hunting-field, and in all collections of men, some
men 'snub and some men get snubbed;' and why society recognises in
each case the ascendancy or the subordination as if it was right.
'It is not at all,' Mr. Trollope fully explains, 'rare ability which
gains the supremacy; very often the ill-treated man is quite as
clever as the man who ill-treats him. Nor does it absolutely depend
on wealth; for, though great wealth is almost always a protection
from social ignominy, and will always ensure a passive respect, it
will not in a miscellaneous group of men of itself gain an active
power to snub others. Schoolboys, in the same way,' the novelist
adds, 'let some boys have dominion, and make other boys slaves.' And
he decides, no doubt truly, that in each case 'something in the
manner or gait' of the supreme boy or man has much to do with it. On
this account in early society a dignified manner is of essential
importance; it is, then, not only an auxiliary mode of acquiring
respect, but a principal mode. The competing institutions which have
now much superseded it, had not then begun. Ancient institutions or
venerated laws did not then exist; and the habitual ascendancy of
grave manner was a primary force in winning and calming mankind. To
this day it is rare to find a savage chief without it; and almost
always they greatly excel in it. Only last year a red Indian chief
came from the prairies to see President Grant, and everybody
declared that he had the best manners in Washington. The secretaries
and heads of departments seemed vulgar to him; though, of course,
intrinsically they were infinitely above him, for he was only 'a
plundering rascal.' But an impressive manner had been a tradition in
the societies in which he had lived, because it was of great value
in those societies; and it is not a tradition in America, for
nowhere is it less thought of, or of less use, than in a rough
English colony; the essentials of civilisation there depend on far
different influences.

And manner, being so useful and so important, usages and customs
grow up to develop it. Asiatic society is full of such things, if it
should not rather be said to be composed of them.

'From the spirit and decision of a public envoy upon ceremonies and
forms,' says Sir John Malcolm, 'the Persians very generally form
their opinion of the character of the country he represents. This
fact I had read in books, and all I saw convinced me of its truth.
Fortunately the Elchee had resided at some of the principal courts
of India, whose usages are very similar. He was, therefore, deeply
versed in that important science denominated "Kaida-e-nishest-oo-
berkhast" (or the art of sitting and rising), in which is included a
knowledge of the forms and manners of good society, and particularly
those of Asiatic kings and their courts.

'He was quite aware, on his first arrival in Persia, of the
consequence of every step he took on such delicate points; he was,
therefore, anxious to fight all his battles regarding ceremonies
before he came near the footstool of royalty. We were consequently
plagued, from the moment we landed at Ambusheher, till we reached
Shiraz, with daily almost hourly drilling, that we might be perfect
in our demeanour at all places, and under all circumstances. We were
carefully instructed where to ride in a procession, where to stand
or sit within-doors, when to rise from our seats, how far to advance
to meet a visitor, and to what part of the tent or house we were to
follow him when he departed, if he was of sufficient rank to make us
stir a step.

'The regulations of our risings and standings, and movings and
reseatings, were, however, of comparatively less importance than the
time and manner of smoking our Kellians and taking our coffee. It is
quite astonishing how much depends upon coffee and tobacco in
Persia. Men are gratified or offended, according to the mode in
which these favourite refreshments are offered. You welcome a
visitor, or send him off, by the way in which you call for a pipe or
a cup of coffee. Then you mark, in the most minute manner, every
shade of attention and consideration, by the mode in which he is
treated. If he be above you, you present these refreshments
yourself, and do not partake till commanded; if equal, you exchange
pipes, and present him with coffee, taking the next cup yourself; if
a little below you, and you wish to pay him attention, you leave him
to smoke his own pipe, but the servant gives him, according to your
condescending nod, the first cup of coffee; if much inferior, you
keep your distance and maintain your rank, by taking the first cup
of coffee yourself, and then directing the servant, by a wave of the
hand, to help the guest. 'When a visitor arrives, the coffee and
pipe are called for to welcome him; a second call for these articles
announces that he may depart; but this part of the ceremony varies
according to the relative rank or intimacy of the parties.

'These matters may appear light to those with whom observances of
this character are habits, not rules; but in this country they are
of primary consideration, a man's importance with himself and with
others depending on them.'

In ancient customary societies the influence of manner, which is a
primary influence, has been settled into rules, so that it may aid
established usages and not thwart them--that it may, above all,
augment the HABIT of going by custom, and not break and weaken it.
Every aid, as we have seen, was wanted to impose the yoke of custom
upon such societies; and impressing the power of manner to serve
them was one of the greatest aids.

And lastly, we now understand why order and civilisation are so
unstable even in progressive communities. We see frequently in
states what physiologists call 'Atavism'--the return, in part, to
the unstable nature of their barbarous ancestors. Such scenes of
cruelty and horror as happened in the great French Revolution, and
as happen, more or less, in every great riot, have always been said
to bring out a secret and suppressed side of human nature; and we
now see that they were the outbreak of inherited passions long
repressed by fixed custom, but starting into life as soon as that
repression was catastrophically removed and when sudden choice was
given. The irritability of mankind, too, is only part of their
imperfect, transitory civilisation and of their original savage
nature. They could not look steadily to a given end for an hour in
their pre-historic state; and even now, when excited or when
suddenly and wholly thrown out of their old grooves, they can
scarcely do so. Even some very high races, as the French and the
Irish, seem in troubled times hardly to be stable at all, but to be
carried everywhere as the passions of the moment and the ideas
generated at the hour may determine. But, thoroughly to deal with
such phenomena as these, we must examine the mode in which national
characters can be emancipated from the rule of custom, and can be
prepared for the use of choice.

No. V.


The greatest living contrast is between the old Eastern and
customary civilisations and the new Western and changeable
civilisations. A year or two ago an inquiry was made of our most
intelligent officers in the East, not as to whether the English
Government were really doing good in the East, but as to whether the
natives of India themselves thought we were doing good; to which, in
a majority of cases, the officers who wore the best authority,
answered thus: 'No doubt you are giving the Indians many great
benefits: you give them continued peace, free trade, the right to
live as they like, subject to the laws; in these points and others
they are far better off than, they ever were; but still they cannot
make you out. What puzzles them is your constant disposition to
change, or as you call it, improvement. Their own life in every
detail being regulated by ancient usage, they cannot comprehend a
policy which is always bringing something new; they do not a bit
believe that the desire to make them comfortable and happy is the
root of it; they believe, on the contrary, that you are aiming at
something which they do not understand--that you mean to "take away
their religion;" in a word, that the end and object of all these continual
changes is to make Indians not what they are and what they like to be,
but something new and different from what they are, and what they
would not like to be.' In the East, in a word, we are attempting to put
new wine into old bottles-to pour what we can of a civilisation whose
spirit is progress into the form of a civilisation whose spirit is fixity,
and whether we shall succeed or not is perhaps the most interesting
question in an age abounding almost beyond example in questions of
political interest.

Historical inquiries show that the feeling of the Hindoos is the old
feeling, and that the feeling of the Englishman is a modern feeling.
' Old law rests,' as Sir Henry Maine puts it, 'not on contract but
on status.' The life of ancient civilisation, so far as legal
records go, runs back to a time when every important particular of
life was settled by a usage which was social, political, and
religious, as we should now say, all in one--which those who obeyed
it could not have been able to analyse, for those distinctions had
no place in their mind and language, but which they felt to be a
usage of imperishable import, and above all things to be kept
unchanged. In former papers I have shown, or at least tried to show,
why these customary civilisations were the only ones which suited an
early society; why, so to say, they alone could have been first; in
what manner they had in their very structure a decisive advantage
over all competitors. But now comes the farther question: If fixity
is an invariable ingredient in early civilisations, how then did any
civilisation become unfixed? No doubt most civilisations stuck where
they first were; no doubt we see now why stagnation is the rule of
the world, and why progress is the very rare exception; but we do
not learn what it is which has caused progress in these few cases,
or the absence of what it is which has denied it in all others.

To this question history gives a very clear and very remarkable
answer. It is that the change from the age of status to the age of
choice was first made in states where the government was to a great
and a growing extent a government by discussion, and where the
subjects of that discussion were in some degree abstract, or, as we
should say, matters of principle. It was in the small republics of
Greece and Italy that the chain of custom was first broken.
'Liberty said, Let there be light, and, like a sunrise on the sea,
Athens arose,' says Shelley, and his historical philosophy is in
this case far more correct than is usual with him. A free state--a
state with liberty--means a state, call it republic or call it
monarchy, in which the sovereign power is divided between many
persons, and in which there is a discussion among those persons. Of
these the Greek republics were the first in history, if not in time,
and Athens was the greatest of those republics.

After the event it is easy to see why the teaching of history should
be this and nothing else. It is easy to see why the common
discussion of common actions or common interests should become the
root of change and progress. In early society, originality in life
was forbidden and repressed by the fixed rule of life. It may not
have been quite so much so in Ancient Greece as in some other parts
of the world. But it was very much so even there. As a recent writer
has well said, 'Law then presented itself to men's minds as
something venerable and unchangeable, as old as the city; it had
been delivered by the founder himself, when he laid the walls of the
city, and kindled its sacred fire.' An ordinary man who wished to
strike out a new path, to begin a new and important practice by
himself, would have been peremptorily required to abandon his
novelties on pain of death; he was deviating, he would be told, from
the ordinances imposed by the gods on his nation, and he must not do
so to please himself. On the contrary, others were deeply interested
in his actions. If he disobeyed, the gods might inflict grievous
harm on all the people as well as him. Each partner in the most
ancient kind of partnerships was supposed to have the power of
attracting the wrath of the divinities on the entire firm, upon the
other partners quite as much as upon himself. The quaking bystanders
in a superstitious age would soon have slain an isolated bold man in
the beginning of his innovations, What Macaulay so relied on as the
incessant source of progress--the desire of man to better his
condition--was not then permitted to work; man was required to live
as his ancestors had lived.

Still further away from those times were the 'free thought' and the
'advancing sciences' of which we now hear so much. The first and
most natural subject upon which human thought concerns itself is
religion; the first wish of the half-emancipated thinker is to use
his reason on the great problems of human destiny--to find out
whence he came and whither he goes, to form for himself the most
reasonable idea of God which he can form. But, as Mr. Grote happily
said--'This is usually what ancient times would not let a man do.
His GENS or his [word in Greek] required him to believe as they
believed.' Toleration is of all ideas the most modern, because the
notion that the bad religion of A cannot impair, here or hereafter,
the welfare of B, is, strange to say, a modern idea. And the help of
'science,' at that stage of thought, is still more nugatory.
Physical science, as we conceive it--that is, the systematic
investigation of external nature in detail--did not then exist. A
few isolated observations on surface things--a half-correct
calendar, secrets mainly of priestly invention, and in priestly
custody--were all that was then imagined; the idea of using a
settled study of nature as a basis for the discovery of new
instruments and new things, did not then exist. It is indeed a
modern idea, and is peculiar to a few European countries even yet.
In the most intellectual city of the ancient world, in its most
intellectual age, Socrates, its most intellectual inhabitant,
discouraged the study of physics because they engendered
uncertainty, and did not augment human happiness. The kind of
knowledge which is most connected with human progress now was that
least connected with it then.

But a government by discussion, if it can be borne, at once breaks
down the yoke of fixed custom. The idea of the two is inconsistent.
As far as it goes, the mere putting up of a subject to discussion,
with the object of being guided by that discussion, is a clear
admission that that subject is in no degree settled by established
rule, and that men are free to choose in it. It is an admission too
that there is no sacred authority--no one transcendent and divinely
appointed man whom in that matter the community is bound to obey.
And if a single subject or group of subjects be once admitted to
discussion, ere long the habit of discussion comes to be
established, the sacred charm of use and wont to be dissolved.
'Democracy,' it has been said in modern times, 'is like the grave;
it takes, but it does not give.' The same is true of 'discussion.'
Once effectually submit a subject to that ordeal, and you can never
withdraw it again; you can never again clothe it with mystery, or
fence it by consecration; it remains for ever open to free choice,
and exposed to profane deliberation.

The only subjects which can be first submitted, or which till a very
late age of civilisation can be submitted to discussion in the
community, are the questions involving the visible and pressing
interests of the community; they are political questions of high and
urgent import. If a nation has in any considerable degree gained the
habit, and exhibited the capacity, to discuss these questions with
freedom, and to decide them with discretion, to argue much on
politics and not to argue ruinously, an enormous advance in other
kinds of civilisation may confidently be predicted for it. And the
reason is a plain deduction from the principles which we have found
to guide early civilisation. The first pre-historic men were
passionate savages, with the greatest difficulty coerced into order
and compressed into a state. For ages were spent in beginning that
order and founding that state; the only sufficient and effectual
agent in so doing was consecrated custom; but then that custom
gathered over everything, arrested all onward progress, and stayed
the originality of mankind. If, therefore, a nation is able to gain
the benefit of custom without the evil--if after ages of waiting it
can have order and choice together--at once the fatal clog is
removed, and the ordinary springs of progress, as in a modern
community we conceive them, begin their elastic action.

Discussion, too, has incentives to progress peculiar to itself. It
gives a premium to intelligence. To set out the arguments required
to determine political action with such force and effect that they
really should determine it, is a high and great exertion of
intellect. Of course, all such arguments are produced under
conditions; the argument abstractedly best is not necessarily the
winning argument. Political discussion must move those who have to
act; it must be framed in the ideas, and be consonant with the
precedent, of its time, just as it must speak its language. But
within these marked conditions good discussion is better than bad;
no people can bear a government of discussion for a day, which does
not, within the boundaries of its prejudices and its ideas, prefer
good reasoning to bad reasoning, sound argument to unsound. A prize
for argumentative mind is given in free states, to which no other
states have anything to compare.

Tolerance too is learned in discussion, and, as history shows, is
only so learned. In all customary societies bigotry is the ruling
principle. In rude places to this day any one who says anything new
is looked on with suspicion, and is persecuted by opinion if not
injured by penalty. One of the greatest pains to human nature is the
pain of a new idea. It is, as common people say, so 'upsetting;' it
makes you think that, after all, your favourite notions may be
wrong, your firmest beliefs ill-founded; it is certain that till now
there was no place allotted in your mind to the new and startling
inhabitant, and now that it has conquered an entrance you do not at
once see which of your old ideas it will or will not turn out, with
which of them it can he reconciled, and with which it is at
essential enmity. Naturally, therefore, common men hate a new idea,
and are disposed more or less to ill-treat the original man who
brings it. Even nations with long habits of discussion are
intolerant enough. In England, where there is on the whole probably
a freer discussion of a greater number of subjects than ever was
before in the world, we know how much power bigotry retains. But
discussion, to be successful, requires tolerance. It fails wherever,
as in a French political assembly, any one who hears anything which
he dislikes tries to howl it down. If we know that a nation is
capable of enduring continuous discussion, we know that it is
capable of practising with equanimity continuous tolerance.

The power of a government by discussion as an instrument of
elevation plainly depends--other things being equal--on the
greatness or littleness of the things to be discussed. There are
periods when great ideas are 'in the air,' and when, from some cause
or other, even common persons seem to partake of an unusual
elevation. The age of Elizabeth in England was conspicuously such a
time. The new idea of the Reformation in religion, and the
enlargement of the MOENIA MUNDI by the discovery of new and singular
lands, taken together, gave an impulse to thought which few, if any,
ages can equal. The discussion, though not wholly free, was yet far
freer than in the average of ages and countries. Accordingly, every
pursuit seemed to start forward. Poetry, science, and architecture,
different as they are, and removed as they all are at first sight
from such an influence as discussion, were suddenly started onward.
Macaulay would have said you might rightly read the power of
discussion 'in the poetry of Shakespeare, in the prose of Bacon, in
the oriels of Longleat, and the stately pinnacles of Burleigh.' This
is, in truth, but another case of the principle of which I have had
occasion to say so much as to the character of ages and countries.
If any particular power is much prized in an age, those possessed of
that power will be imitated; those deficient in that power will be
despised. In consequence an unusual quantity of that power will be
developed, and be conspicuous. Within certain limits vigorous and
elevated thought was respected in Elizabeth's time, and, therefore,
vigorous and elevated thinkers were many; and the effect went far
beyond the cause. It penetrated into physical science, for which
very few men cared; and it began a reform in philosophy to which
almost all were then opposed. In a word, the temper of the age
encouraged originality, and in consequence original men started into
prominence, went hither and thither where they liked, arrived at
goals which the age never expected, and so made it ever memorable.

In this manner all the great movements of thought in ancient and
modern times have been nearly connected in time with government by
discussion. Athens, Rome, the Italian republics of the Middle Ages,
the COMMUNES and states-general of feudal Europe, have all had a
special and peculiar quickening influence, which they owed to their
freedom, and which states without that freedom have never
communicated. And it has been at the time of great epochs of
thought--at the Peloponnesian war, at the fall of the Roman
Republic, at the Reformation, at the French Revolution--that such
liberty of speaking and thinking have produced their full effect.

It is on this account that the discussions of savage tribes have
produced so little effect in emancipating those tribes from their
despotic customs. The oratory of the North American Indian--the
first savage whose peculiarities fixed themselves in the public
imagination--has become celebrated, and yet the North American
Indians were scarcely, if at all, better orators than many other
savages. Almost all of the savages who have melted away before the
Englishman were better speakers than he is. But the oratory of the
savages has led to nothing, and was likely to lead to nothing. It is
a discussion not of principles, but of undertakings; its topics are
whether expedition A will answer, and should be undertaken; whether
expedition B will not answer, and should not be undertaken; whether
village A is the best village to plunder, or whether village B is a
better. Such discussions augment the vigour of language, encourage a
debating facility, and develop those gifts of demeanour and of
gesture which excite the confidence of the hearers. But they do not
excite the speculative intellect, do not lead men to argue
speculative doctrines, or to question ancient principles. They, in
some material respects, improve the sheep within the fold; but they
do not help them or incline them to leap out of the fold.

The next question, therefore, is, Why did discussions in some cases
relate to prolific ideas, and why did discussions in other cases
relate only to isolated transactions? The reply which history
suggests is very clear and very remarkable. Some races of men at our
earliest knowledge of them have already acquired the basis of a free
constitution; they have already the rudiments of a complex polity--a
monarch, a senate, and a general meeting of citizens. The Greeks
were one of those races, and it happened, as was natural, that there
was in process of time a struggle, the earliest that we know of,
between the aristocratical party, originally represented by the
senate, and the popular party, represented by the 'general meeting.'
This is plainly a question of principle, and its being so has led to
its history being written more than two thousand years afterwards in
a very remarkable manner. Some seventy years ago an English country
gentleman named Mitford, who, like so many of his age, had been
terrified into aristocratic opinions by the first French Revolution,
suddenly found that the history of the Peloponnesian War was the
reflex of his own time. He took up his Thucydides, and there he saw,
as in a mirror, the progress and the struggles of his age. It
required some freshness of mind to see this; at least, it had been
hidden for many centuries. All the modern histories of Greece before
Mitford had but the vaguest idea of it; and not being a man of
supreme originality, he would doubtless have had very little idea of
it either, except that the analogy of what he saw helped him by a
telling object-lesson to the understanding of what he read. Just as
in every country of Europe in 1793 there were two factions, one of
the old-world aristocracy, and the other of the incoming democracy,
just so there was in every city of ancient Greece, in the year 400
B.C., one party of the many and another of the few. This Mr. Mitford
perceived, and being a strong aristocrat, he wrote a 'history,'
which is little except a party pamphlet, and which, it must be said,
is even now readable on that very account. The vigour of passion
with which it was written puts life into the words, and retains the
attention of the reader. And that is not all. Mr. Grote, the great
scholar whom we have had lately to mourn, also recognising the
identity between the struggles of Athens and Sparta and the
struggles of our modern world, and taking violently the contrary
side to that of Mitford, being as great a democrat as Mitford was an
aristocrat, wrote a reply, far above Mitford's history in power and
learning, but being in its main characteristic almost identical,
being above all things a book of vigorous political passion, written
for persons who care for politics, and not, as almost all histories
of antiquity are and must be, the book of a man who cares for
scholarship more than for anything else, written mainly if not
exclusively, for scholars. And the effect of fundamental political
discussion was the same in ancient as in modern times. The whole
customary ways of thought were at once shaken by it, and shaken not
only in the closets of philosophers, but in the common thought and
daily business of ordinary men. The 'liberation of humanity,' as
Goethe used to call it--the deliverance of men from the yoke of
inherited usage, and of rigid, unquestionable law--was begun in
Greece, and had many of its greatest effects, good and evil, on
Greece. It is just because of the analogy between the controversies
of that time and those of our times that some one has said,
'Classical history is a part of modern history; it is mediaeval
history only which is ancient.'

If there had been no discussion of principle in Greece, probably she
would still have produced works of art. Homer contains no such
discussion. The speeches in the 'Iliad,' which Mr. Gladstone, the
most competent of living judges, maintains to be the finest ever
composed by man, are not discussions of principle. There is no more
tendency in them to critical disquisition than there is to political
economy. In Herodotus you have the beginning of the age of
discussion. He belongs in his essence to the age which is going out.
He refers with reverence to established ordinance and fixed
religion. Still, in his travels through Greece, he must have heard
endless political arguments; and accordingly you can find in his
book many incipient traces of abstract political disquisition. The
discourses on democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy, which he puts
into the mouth of the Persian conspirators when the monarchy was
vacant, have justly been called absurd, as speeches supposed to have
been spoken by those persons. No Asiatic ever thought of such
things. You might as well imagine Saul or David speaking them, as
those to whom Herodotus attributes them. They are Greek speeches,

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