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more part in it than the fossils in the surrounding strata), prehistoric 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, prehistoric 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.
See note to Vol. ii., page 226.
A single Australian tribe really capable of such a habit, and really practicing 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 insure 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 prehistoric 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 sav. ages 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 prehistoric 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 civilized countries, like all classes in uncivilized 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 readily and easily count more than three, yet as far as three their intuitions are the same as those of civilized 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
VOL. IV.- 33
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 vigor of the mind itself. No intuitionist, therefore, fears to speak of the conscience of his prehistoric 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 prehistoric 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 prehistoric man- at least
the sort of prehistoric man I am treating of, the man some few thousand years before history began, and