« AnteriorContinuar »
to their habits of life and environments. The Indian was first and mainly a warrior, but to live he must hunt and fish. Though most of the eastern tribes raised a little corn and some few other vegetables, they still relied mainly on game for their subsistence.
Their only conception of title to land was for a hunting ground and temporary occupancy. This title each tribe was called on to maintain against the encroachments of hostile neighbors. With their habits of life, a dense population could not be maintained nor a large city be built. Their property consisted only of weapons, temporary movable lodges and spoils of the chase, supplemented by crude household utensils made from wood or stone. Moneys and revenues they did not know. In seeking to understand their government it is of first importance to know what could be governed. This ordinarily was a village of a few lodges, seldom more than one hundred. The people of the village were mostly related by blood and marriage. Whenever occasion required they could easily come together for consultation. Each was known to the other. Personal prowess in war and in the chase, as well as eloquence and wisdom in council, were quickly discerned and understood by all.
There was a strong tendency to community of enjoyment of game taken and crops gathered. Under these circumstances leadership was accorded to him who gained the approbation of his fellows. A chief was a natural leader, chosen by his comrades. As a ruler however he scarcely exercised any of the attributes of sovereign power.
He could not levy taxes, but was expected to generously distribute the game he secured. He had no lands yielding rent. He could not make laws for the people or declare war or make peace for them. All such matters were referred to grand councils. His war party as a rule was made up of such as chose to follow him. In battle much more depended on individual craft and bravery than on generalship. Here and there throughout history we learn of leaders who exhibited a capacity for organization and generalship, and who were able to impress on scattered tribes the advantages of combination and concert of action for mutual protection. These combinations usually fell in pieces at the death of the leader.
The famous Iroquois confederacy is an example of a more enduring and efficient combination, which enabled the six nations to maintain their hold on the rich hunting grounds and well stocked lakes and streams of New York against all hostile tribes. Their superiority over hostile tribes was due to their superior combination and nothing but the irresistible march of the whites was able to destroy them.
The Comanches also evidenced some capacity for organization and maintained a powerful confederacy. Neither of these confederacies however presents much semblance of a government. The levy of taxes and expenditure of the money by public officers, which plays so great a part in all advanced states, was unknown. The members of the tribes were all warriors with no other calling to interfere. A levy of forces was a levy en masse, and public sentiment was always sufficiently powerful to drive every ablebodied man to seek distinction in war. While the women and children were usually left in a place of comparative safety, when war parties were out the organization of society was not greatly changed. All drudgery was done by the women in peace as well as in war, and feasts and famines alternated, whether the males were on the war path or in the lodges.
The ancient Germans as described by Caesar and Tacitus present many points of resemblance to the Indians in customs and environments as well as in social organization, though in a much smaller territory. Tacitus says: "I concur in opinion with those who deem the Germans never to have intermarried with other nations; but to be a race pure, unmixed and stamped with a distinct character. Hence a family likeness pervades the whole though their numbers are so great; eyes stern and blue, ruddy hair, large bodies, powerful in sudden exertions, but impatient of toil and labor, least of all capable of sustaining thirst and heat, cold and hunger they are accustomed by their climate and soil to endure."'1
"It is well known that none of the German nations inhabit
Tacitus, Germany C 4.
cities or even admit of contiguous settlements. They dwell scattered and separate as a spring, a meadow or a grove chance to invite them. Their villages are laid out, not like ours in rows of adjoining buildings; but everyone surrounding his house with a vacant space either by way of security against fire or through ignorance of the art of building. For indeed they are unacquainted with the use of mortar and tiles, and for every purpose employ rude misshapen timbers, fashioned with no regard to pleasing the eye.” They also dug and inhabited caves.?
“In the election of kings they have regard to birth; in that of generals to valor. Their kings have not an absolute or unlimited power; and their generals command less through the force of authority than of example. If they are daring, adventurous, and conspicuous in action, they procure obedience from the admiration they inspire. None however but the priests are permitted to judge offenders, to inflict bonds or stripes, so that chastisement appears, not as an act of military discipline, but as the instigation of the god whom they suppose present with warriors.”3 They were great gamblers. "On affairs of small moment the chiefs consult; on those of greater importance the whole community, yet with this circumstance that what is referred to the decision of the people, is first maturely discussed by the chiefs."4
The real power seems at all times to have been in the general assembly which listened to orators and leaders and gave weight to the counsels of such as it chose to follow. Prowess in arms was always the main source of distinction and war was the only real business of life. Their scanty clothing was made largely from the skins of wild beasts and that of both men and women was fashioned substantially alike. They were extremely hospitable both to strangers and acquaintances.
As with all tribes which have not reached the commercial stage, they were fond of giving and receiving presents. In agriculture they do not appear to have progressed farther than the Creeks, Cherokees or Navajos at the time of the advent of the white man, nor in architecture or the manufacture of clothing and household utensils. The description so far given of the Germans in the time of Caesar and Tacitus would apply very well to most of the more idvanced and vigorous Indian tribes at the time of their first contact with the whites. Let us note the leading points of difference. The Germans had horses and cattle. They made beer and the tribes near the Rhine also used wine. They drank to excess. They used iron for their weapons. They had fixed customs with reference to the use of land for tillage, but which hardly amounted to an assertion of title even in the tribe. Though subject to the vicissitudes of war and sometimes driven from place to place, they were less migratory than the Indians. They were more cleanly and better fed, having the advantages of milk, cheese and the flesh of their cattle. The most marked and important characteristic of their manners, as described by Tacitus and concurred in by all the early writters, is the purity of their domestic relations, the care taken in rearing their young and preserving their strength. Chastity is seldom characteristic of barbarous races, but, in this particular, their manners were in striking contrast with those then prevailing in Rome. In the development of government it is apparent that the Germans at the time of our first introduction to them were in substantially the same stage as the Comanches, Iroquois and other more advanced tribes of the north at the time of the discovery of America.
?Id. C 16.
3 Id. C 7.
*Id. C u.
The incipient stages of government everywhere exhibit either voluntary association for a common purpose or the despotic rule of the strong. In the former case the authority terminates with the necessity calling it into existence, and in the latter is dependent on the capacity of the master to maintain his supremacy. In either case the authority exercised is arbitrary in character and not exercised in accordance with any established rules.
Among the American Indians the organizations were largely voluntary in character. In Africa despotic tendencies predominate. The savage tribes of Africa are not less given
to bloodshed than the Indians, but possibly a little less inclined to inflict cruel tortures on enemies, equally violent in temper, but rather warmer in attachment, equally warlike, but more inclined to fight in the open and on even terms.
In making provisions for the future, the African tribes are far superior to the Indians. Even the most fierce and independent tribes cultivate the soil to good purpose, raising large variety of vegetables and fruits and also keep cattle, goats, fowls, etc. from which they are supplied with meat, milk, butter, eggs, etc. This is especially true of the stalwart tribes and nations dwelling in the great lake region of equatorial Africa. The Hottentots, often mentioned as of a very low type, tilled the soil and kept their herds. In manufactures workers in iron are found by travelers in the heart of the continent.
The classification often made of the stages of progress of the race, based on the nature of the implements used, will not hold good to any degree whatever as a classification of social development. The stone age, the bronze age, the iron age, are supposed to name the successive stages of human progress, and in the development of the arts doubtless do, but in moral and social development they indicate nothing. Nor are the designations as hunters, shepherds and tillers of the soil more expressive in these respects. Along the great Congo and its tributaries are to be found many tribes which have passed all these stages, having their flocks and herds, their gardens, and fields of grain and fruits, which evidence considerable skill in the manufacture of household implements, hoats, nets, etc. and also forge iron, from which they make knives, spears and other weapons, yet morally these people are among the most depraved. They are horrible cannibals. They are thieves and robbers as well as murderers at all times. Domestic virtue is unknown. Some tribes eat the old people when they cease to be capable of taking care of themselves, if we may believe the accounts of travelers. With a great part of them the governmental growth does not extend farther than tribal organization with no substantial power in the chiefs.