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Throughout Africa all governments seem to be merely an extension of the relation of master and slave. Though possessed of strong and vigorous bodies, of considerable skill and industry in providing for bodily comforts, of courage as well as cunning in war, they are sadly deficient in social virtue. From the small weak tribe, struggling for existence against its enemies, to the powerful kingdoms like Uganda Unyoro, Dahomey and Abyssinia, all authority is exercised unchecked by law. Whatever the ruler does is in accordance with his individual will. Where the power is conceded the mode of its exercise is never questioned. When the king of Uganda sees fit to depose some one he has elevated to a high position, he sends a favorite with a sufficient following to "eat him up," which means that the obnoxious one is killed and his wives, slaves, cattle and property are confiscated and given to whomsoever the despot wills. The practice of polygamy is limited only by poverty. A great despot like the king of Dahomey may far outclass even the great Solomon in the number of his wives. The mode of administering the greatest of their governments is exceedingly simple. Whereever the king acts directly on his subjects, he rules as an absolute despot, enforcing his commands summarily by seizing property or person and taking life according to his humor. Where he acts through subordinates whom he cannot oversee, the same despotic power and discretion is exercised by the underling, who is only restrained by fear of displeasing the king. The horrible cruelty so often exhibited by these despots would seem such an intolerable evil that anarchy would be preferable. Yet, comparing the conditions of the people in the strong states with those of the scattered tribes, we find that even such a despotism exists because it is better than no government. Scattered villages, unprotected by any strong combination, are surprised and destroyed by some marauding tribe. Peace and plenty for a generation in some spot may be followed by partial or total destruction in a day. This has been the history of wild tribes everywhere from the earliest times of which we have any account. Tribe against tribe in battle to the death from generation to generation has
been the history of the race. The hunters of America, relying mainly on game and spontaneous products, were kept constantly reduced in numbers by fierce wars and frequent famines. The Africans with far better food supplies multiplied faster and developed more industry, yet bloody and devastating wars seem to have been not less frequent with them. The effect of organized government everywhere has been to check tribal wars, to encourage industry, and to increase population. Though a large country be at war, there is peace to all save those in and about the scene of the struggle. The great nation too is not likely to be more frequently at war than the small tribe and the percentage of destruction of those engaged generally increases in inverse ratio to numbers.
The African race throughout all ages has demonstrated its ability to survive and even increase in contact with the other races. Although northern Africa has been subject to the influence of European and Asiatic civilization from the earliest times, it still retains its distinctive characteristics, and the negro type dwelling south of the great desert exhibits scarcely a trace of intermixture with the whites. Along the eastern coast it is true that the Arabs have intermixed and modified the type to some extent, but the predominant characteristics are distinctly African. The civilization of ancient Egypt does not appear to have ever ascended the Nile far beyond the desert, but it is probable that knowledge of agriculture and the art of forging iron has spread over Africa from Egypt and Arabia.
In comparatively recent times European civilization has taken a firm hold in south Africa and is rapidly extending toward the north. To what extent the African will give way and vanish before the Caucasian in the Tropical regions remains to be seen. In America it has been demonstrated that the negro multiplies both while in the condition of a slave to the white and as a free man. Everywhere and under all conditions he exhibits strong attachment to his offspring and, while lecherous, is still warm in domestic and friendly attachments, and often exceedingly kindly in disposition when his passions are dormant. In physical development the black
man can not be classed as clearly inferior to the white. Though some tribes are dwarfed and illformed, the great majority are equal in size and strength to the best developed Caucasians. Why they should have made so little progress in constructing governments and enacting laws is an interesting subject of inquiry. Except where brought in direct contact with some superior race, they seem never to have learned any system of writing and, as we have seen, their only idea of government has been that of arbitrary personal authority, unrestrained by law or settled custom. Though in the region of the great lakes the natives cultivate the land, often to a high degree, Livingston, Stanley and other travelers fail to inform us of any system of laws governing land ten
The chief or king may decide disputes between conflicting claimants, but he does so according to his own caprice rather than by any settled law. The marvelous fertility of the soil, the extent of unoccupied land and the frequent destruction of communities by war, seem to afford a continual outlet for any increase of numbers. It may be that a close study by a careful observer would disclose more in the nature of settled principles of government among them than the writings of hasty travelers record, but it seems clear that their conceptions of rules of property and laws governing the conduct of individuals toward each other, except where modified by contact with other races, are not in advance if really equal to those of the American Indians.
Intermediate the prevailing tribal organizations of America and the highly developed governmental systems of the Mexicans and Peruvians, were many nations advanced somewhat above the common level of the rude tribes. The Comanches presented an advanced type of the Indians who occupied most of the North American contient, well formed and vigorous in physique, brave and warlike, hospitable in peace, fierce and cruel in war. They were nomads. They held public councils at regular intervals to discuss public matters, make laws and punish crime. The majority ruled.
The majority ruled. Laws were published hy a crier. Justice was administered by a council of the tribe whose sentence was carried into execution by the chiefs. A system of signals by fire and smoke was used to call their forces together in case of need. In war they were formidable and could bring to the field a force of several thousand. Crimes were punished rigorously and toward each other they were peaceable. Their treatment of women was in accordance with the usual customs of savages. Wives were bought and made drudges for their husbands and polygamy prevailed. No attention was paid to agriculture, but the vast herds of buffaloes on the plains afforded an ample supply of meat. The Navajos, Mojaves and Yumas were more peaceful and industrious in their habits. They cultivated the soil and raised corn, wheat, beans, pumpkins, melons and other vegetables. The Mojaves built substantial dwellings of very peculiar construction, and cylindrical granaries. Some tribes entered their dwellings from the top, having neither doors nor windows. The Navajos were shepherds, and their blankets have become noted. In the far northwest the natives showed a tendency to more settled modes of life and to class distinctions. The Nootkas, Chinnooks and Thlinkeets built large and substantial dwellings of wood, sufficient in size for many families occupying separate apartments. Property in these homes was recognized as vested in those who combined to build them. The villages of the Nootkas were regularly laid out. Something like hereditary rank was recognized, though the head chief had little real power except over his slaves. A sort of nobility existed, based on individual distinction in war or social liberality. Among the Thlinkeets and Haidahs the power of the chiefs is said to have been despotic at times. All the Northwestern tribes held slaves and had notions as to property rights. Though instances may be cited of arbitrary power exercised by Indian chiefs, the prevailing genius was that of liberty and equality. Personal prowess was the source of distinction, and recognized individual merit the commission of leadership. The cunning of the medicine man, working on the ignorance and superstition of the members of the tribe, gave him influence, but little real authority. No priestly class appears to have developed except in the advanced states of Mexico and Peru.
Authorities Schoolcraft: Indian Tribes of the U. S. Tacitus: Germany. David Livingston: Travels and Researches in Africa, Last
Journal. H. M. Stanley: Through the Dark Continent, In Darkest
Africa, Through the Great Forest. Elisee Reclus : Africa. Hugh Murray: The African Continent. Joseph Thomson: Through Masai Land. Caleb Atwater: Indians of the Northwest. Stephen Powers: Tribes of California. H. H. Bancroft: Native races of the Pacific States. John Thos. Short: The North Americans of Antiquity. S. G. Drake: Aboriginal Races of North America. S. G. Goodrich: History of the Indians of North America. Henry Alexander: New Light in Early History of North
west. Louis Hennepin.