Изображения страниц


perhaps be found equal [to] or greater than the single host or the fewer hosts of previous centuries which were more united. Taken as a whole, and allowing for possible exceptions, the aggregate fighting power of mankind has grown immensely, and has been growing continuously since we knew anything about it.

Again, this force has tended to concentrate itself more and more in certain groups which we call “civilized nations.” The literati of the last century were forever in fear of a new conquest of the barbarians, but only because their imagination was overshadowed and frightened by the old conquests : a very little consideration would have shown them that since the monopoly of military inventions by cultivated states, real and effective military power tends to confine itself to those states. The barbarians are no longer so much as vanquished competitors : they have ceased to compete at all.

The military vices, too, of civilization seem to decline just as its military strength augments. Somehow or other, civilization does not make men effeminate or unwarlike now as it once did; there is an improvement in our fiber, - moral, if not physical. In ancient times city people could not be got to fight, seemingly could not fight; they lost their mental courage, perhaps their bodily nerve: but nowadays in all countries the great cities could pour out multitudes wanting nothing but practice to make good soldiers, and abounding in bravery and vigor. This was so in America, it was so in Prussia, and it would be so in England too. The breed of ancient times was impaired for war by trade and luxury, but the modern breed is not so impaired.

A curious fact indicates the same thing probably, if not certainly: savages waste away before modern civilization, they seem to have held their ground before the ancient; there is no lament in any classical writer for the barbarians. The New Zealanders say that the land will depart from their children; the


Australians are vanishing; the Tasmanians have vanished.* If anything like this had happened in antiquity, the classical moralists would have been sure to muse over it, for it is just the large solemn kind of fact that suited them; on the contrary, in Gaul, in Spain, in Sicily,- everywhere that we know of, - the barbarian endured the contact of the Roman and the Roman allied himself to the barbarian. Modern science explains the wasting away of savage men : it says that we have diseases which we can bear though they cannot, and that they die away before them as our fatted and protected cattle died out before the rinderpest, which is innocuous, in comparison, to the hardy cattle of the steppes. Savages in the first year of the Christian era were pretty much what they were in the 1800th : and if they stood the contact of ancient civilized men and cannot stand ours, it follows that our race is presumably tougher than the ancient; for we have to bear and do bear the seeds of greater diseases than those the ancients carried with them. We may use, perhaps, the unvarying savage as a meter to gauge the vigor of the constitutions to whose contact he is exposed.

Particular consequences may be dubious, but as to the main fact there is no doubt : the military strength of man has been growing from the earliest time known to our history, straight on till now.

And we must not look at times known by written records only: we must travel back to older ages, known to us only by what lawyers call real evidence, – the evidence of things. Before history began, there was at least as much progress in the military art as there has been since. The Roman legionaries or Homeric Greeks were about as superior to the men of the shell mounds and the flint implements as we are superior to them. There has been a constant acquisition of military strength by man since we know anything of him, either by the documents he has composed or the indications he has left.

*A curious illustration : the Tasmanians were largely corralled and shot down like wild beasts. - ED.

The cause of this military growth is very plain : the strongest nation has always been conquering the weaker; sometimes even subduing it, but always prevailing over it. Every intellectual gain, so to speak, that a nation possessed was in the earliest times made use of -- was invested and taken out-in war; all else perished. Each nation tried constantly to be the stronger, and so made or copied the best weapons ; by conscious and unconscious imitation each nation formed a type of character suitable to war and conquest. Conquest improved mankind by the intermixture of strengths; the armed truce which was then called peace improved them by the competition of training and the consequent creation of new power. Since the long-headed men first drove the short-headed men out of the best land in Europe, all European history has been the history of the superposition of the more military races over the less military, of the efforts - sometimes successful, sometimes unsuccessful

- of each race to get more military; and so the art of war has constantly improved.

But why is one nation stronger than another ? In the answer to that, I believe, lies the key to the principal progress of early civilization and to some of the progress of all civilization. The answer is, that there are very many advantages - some small and some great - every one of which tends to make the nation which has it superior to the nation which has it not; that many of these advantages can be imparted to subjugated races or imitated by competing races; and that though some of these advantages may be perishable or inimitable, yet on the whole the energy of civilization grows by the coalescence of strengths and by the competition of strengths.



By far the greatest advantage is that on which I observed before, that to which I drew all the attention


I was able by making the first of these essays an essay on the Preliminary Age. The first thing to acquire is, if I may so express it, the legal fiber: a polity first, - what sort of polity is immaterial; a law first, - what kind of law is secondary; a person or set of persons to pay deference to, – though who he is or they are, by comparison scarcely signifies.

“ There is,” it has been said, “hardly any exaggerating the difference between civilized and uncivilized men; it is greater than the difference between a tame and a wild animal,” because man can improve more. But the difference at first was gained in much the same way.

The taming of animals as it now goes on among savage nations, and as travelers who have seen it describe it, is a kind of selection: the most wild are killed when food is wanted ; and the most tame and easy to manage kept, because they are more agreeable to human indolence and so the keeper likes them best. Captain Galton, who has often seen strange scenes of savage and of animal life, had better describe the process :

“ The irreclaimably wild members of every flock would escape and be utterly lost; the wilder of those that remained would assuredly be selected for slaughter whenever it was necessary that one of the flock should be killed. The tamest cattle - those which seldom ran away, that kept the flocks together, and those which led them homeward – would be preserved alive longer than any of the others; it is therefore these that chiefly become the parents of stock and bequeath their domestic aptitudes to the future herd. I have constantly witnessed this process of selection among the pastoral savages of South Africa : I believe it to be a very important one on account of its rigor and its regularity; it must have existed from the earliest times, and have been in continuous operation, generation after generation, down to the present day."*

Man, being the strongest of all animals, differs from the rest: he was obliged to be his own domesticator; he had to tame himself. And the way in which it happened was, that the most obedient, the

*"Ethnological Society's Transactions," Vol. iii., page 147.

[ocr errors]

tamest tribes are, at the first stage in the real struggle of life, the strongest and the conquerors. All are very wild then : the animal vigor, the savage virtue of the race has died out in none, and all have enough of it. But what makes one tribe - one incipient tribe, one bit of a tribe - to differ from another is their relative faculty of coherence. The slightest symptom of legal development, the least indication of a military bond, is then enough to turn the scale; the compact tribes win, and the compact tribes are the tamest. Civilization begins because the beginning of civilization is a military advantage.

Probably if we had historic records of the antehistoric ages, - if some superhuman power had set down the thoughts and actions of men ages before they could set them down for themselves, - we should know that this first step in civilization was the hardest step : but when we come to history as it is, we are more struck with the difficulty of the next step. All the absolutely incoherent men - all the “Cyclopes” – have been cleared away long before there was an authentic account of them; and the least coherent only remain in the “protected” parts of the world, as we may call them. Ordinary civilization begins near the Mediterranean Sea ; the best, doubtless, of the ante-historic civilizations were not far off: from this center the conquering swarm — for such it is— has grown and grown, has widened its subject territories steadily though not equably, age

But geography long defied it: an Atlantic Ocean, a Pacific Ocean, an Australian Ocean, an unapproachable interior Africa, an inaccessible and undesirable hill India were beyond its range. In such remote places there was no real competition, and on them inferior half-combined men continued to exist: but in the regions of rivalry – the regions where the better man pressed upon the worse man such half-made associations could not last; they died out, and history did not begin till after they were

by age.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »