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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 are 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 Hermæ 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 greater 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 or 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 semisupernatural 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 nowadays 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 semicivilized 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
*“Village Communities," Lecture iii.
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 existed from all antiquity, although in fact no artificial supply had been even 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 organized 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 forever ; 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-bre[e]d 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 civilization 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 civilizing those they have conquered. The experience of the English in India shows, if it shows anything, that a highly civilized race may fail in producing a rapidly excellent effect on a less civilized race because
Tennyson, “Morte d'Arthur."
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 mold 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[s] separated by a whole era of civilization, 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 conquered.
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 non-conformist members for generations, and cherishing and rewarding conformist members, non-conformists 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