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Mr. Wallace have described, among the rude Papuans of the Eastern Archipelago, a habitual truthfulness, rightfulness, and kindliness which it would be hard to match in the general moral life of Persia or India, to say nothing of many a civilized European district. Such tribes may count as the 'blameless Ethiopians' of the modern world, and from them an important lesson may be learnt. Ethnographers who seek in modern savages types of the remotely ancient human race at large, are bound by such examples to consider the rude life of primæval man under favourable conditions to have been, in its measure, a good and happy life. On the other hand, the pictures drawn by some travellers of savagery as a kind of paradisiacal state may be taken too exclusively from the bright side. It is remarked as to these very Papuans, that Europeans whose intercourse with them has been hostile become so impressed with the wild-beast-like cunning of their attacks, as hardly to believe. in their having feelings in common with civilized men. Our Polar explorers may well speak in kindly terms of the industry, the honesty, the cheerful considerate politeness of the Esquimaux; but it must be remembered that these rude people are on their best behaviour with foreigners, and that their character is apt to be foul and brutal where they have nothing to expect or fear. The Caribs are described as a cheerful, modest, courteous race, and so honest among themselves that if they missed anything out of a house they said quite naturally: 'There has been a Christian here.' Yet the malignant ferocity with which these estimable people tortured their prisoners of war with knife and fire-brand and red pepper, and then cooked and ate them in solemn debauch, gave fair reason for the name of Carib (Cannibal) to become the generic name of man-eaters in European languages. So when we read descriptions of the hospitality, the gentleness, the bravery, the deep religious feeling of the
1 G. W. Earl, ‘Papuans,' p. 79 ; A. R. Wallace, ' Eastern Archipelago.' 2 Rochefort, Iles Antilles,' pp. 400-480.
North American Indians, we admit their claims to our sincere admiration ; but we must not forget that they were hospitable literally to a fault, that their gentleness would pass with a flash of anger into frenzy, that their bravery was stained with cruel and treacherous malignity, that their religion expressed itself in absurd belief and useless ceremony. The ideal savage of the 18th century may be held up as a living reproof to vicious and frivolous London ; but in sober fact, a Londoner who should attempt to lead the atrocious life which the real savage may lead with impunity and even respect, would be a criminal only allowed to follow his savage models during his short intervals out of gaol. Savage moral standards are real enough, but they are far looser and weaker than ours. We may, I think, apply the often-repeated comparison of savages to children as fairly to their moral as to their intellectual condition. The better savage social life seems in but unstable equilibrium, liable to be easily upset by a touch of distress, temptation, or violence, and then it becomes the worse savage life, which we know by so many dismal and hideous examples. Altogether, it may be admitted that some rude tribės lead a life to be envied by some barbarous races, and even by the outcasts of higher nations. But that any known savage tribe would not be improved by judicious civilization, is a proposition which no moralist would dare to make ; while the general tenour of the evidence goes far to justify the view that on the whole the civilized man is not only wiser and more capable than the savage, but also better and happier, and that the barbarian stands between.
It might, perhaps, seem practicable to compare the whole average of the civilization of two peoples, or of the same people in different ages, by reckoning each, item by item, to a sort of sum-total, and striking a balance between them, much as an appraiser compares the value of two stocks of merchandise, differ as, they may both in quantity and quality. But the few remarks here made will have shown how loose must be the working-out of these rough-and-ready
estimates of culture. In fact, much of the labour spent in investigating the progress and decline of civilization has been mis-spent, in premature attempts to treat that as a whole which is as yet only susceptible of divided study. The present comparatively narrow argument on the development of culture at any rate avoids this greatest perplexity. It takes cognizance principally of knowledge, art, and custom, and indeed only very partial cognizance within this field, the vast range of physical, political, social, and ethical considerations being left all but untouched. Its standard of reckoning progress and decline is not that of ideal good and evil, but of movement along a measured line from grade to grade of actual savagery, barbarism, and civilization. The thesis which I venture to sustain, within limits, is simply this, that the savage state in some measure represents an early condition of mankind, out of which the higher culture has gradually been developed or evolved, by processes still in regular operation as of old, the result showing that, on the whole, progress has far prevailed over relapse.
On this proposition, the main tendency of human society during its long term of existence has been to pass from a savage to a civilized state: Now all must admit a great part of this assertion to be not only truth, but truism. Referred to direct history, a great section of it proves to belong not to the domain of speculation, but to that of positive knowledge. It is mere matter of chronicle that modern civilization is a development of mediæval civilization, which again is a development from civilization of the order represented in Greece, Assyria, or Egypt. Thus the higher culture being clearly traced back to what may be called the middle culture, the question which remains is whether this middle culture may be traced back to the lower culture, that is, to savagery. To affirm this, is merely to assert that the same kind of development in culture which has gone on inside our range of knowledge has also gone on outside it, its course of proceeding being unaffected by our
having or not having reporters present. If any one holds that human thought and action were worked out in primæval times according to laws essentially other than those of the modern world, it is for him to prove by valid evidence this anomalous state of things, otherwise the doctrine of permanent principle will hold good, as in astronomy or geology. That the tendency of culture has been similar throughout the existence of human society, and that we may fairly judge from its known historic course what its prehistoric course may have been, is a theory clearly entitled to precedence as a fundamental principle of ethnographic research.
Gibbon in his ‘Roman Empire' expresses in a few vigorous sentences his theory of the course of culture, as from savagery upward. Judged by the knowledge of nearly a century later, his remarks cannot, indeed, pass unquestioned. Especially he seems to rely with misplaced confidence on traditions of archaic rudeness, to exaggerate the lowness of savage life, to underestimate the liability to decay of the ruder arts, and in his view of the effect of high on low civilization, to dwell too exclusively on the brighter side. But, on the whole, the great historian's judgment seems so substantially that of the unprejudiced modern student of the progressionist school, that I gladly quote the passage here at length, and take it as a text to represent the development theory of culture :-*The discoveries of ancient and modern navigators, and the domestic history, or tradition, of the most enlightened nations, represent the human savage naked both in mind and body, and destitute of laws, of arts, of ideas, and almost of language. From this abject condition, perhaps the primitive and universal state of man, he has gradually arisen to command the animals, to fertilise the earth, to traverse the ocean, and to measure the heavens. His progress in the improvement and exercise of his mental and corporeal faculties has been irregular and various ; infinitely slow in the beginning, and increasing by degrees with redoubled velocity : ages of laborious ascent have been
followed by a moment of rapid downfall ; and the several climates of the globe have felt the vicissitudes of light and darkness. Yet the experience of four thousand years should enlarge our hopes, and diminish our apprehensions : we cannot determine to whạt height the human species may aspire in their advances towards perfection ; but it may safely be presumed, that no people, unless the face of nature is changed, will relapse into their original barbarism. The improvements of society may be viewed under a threefold aspect. 1. The poet or philosopher illustrates his age and country by the efforts of a single mind; but these superior powers of reason or fancy are rare and spontaneous productions; and the genius of Homer, or Cicero, or Newton, would excite less admiration, if they could be created by the will of a prince, or the lessons of a preceptor. 2. The benefits of law and policy, of trade and manufactures, of arts and sciences, are more solid and permanent; and many individuals may be qualified, by education and discipline, to promote, in their respective stations, the interest of the community. But this general order is the effect of skill and labour ; and the complex machinery may be decayed by time, or injured by violence. 3. Fortunately for mankind, the more useful, or, at least, more necessary arts, can be performed without superior talents, or national subordination; without the powers of one, or the union of many.
. Each village, each family, each individual, must always possess both ability and inclination, to perpetuate the use of fire and of metals; the propagation and service of domestic animals; the methods of hunting and fishing; the rudiments of navigation; the imperfect cultivation of corn, or other nutritive grain; and the simple practice of the mechanic trades. Private genius and public industry may be extirpated; but these hardy plants survive the tempest, and strike an everlasting root into the most unfavourable soil. The splendid days of Augustus and Trajan were eclipsed by a cloud of ignorance; and the barbarians subverted the laws and palaces of Rome. But the scythe, the invention, or