Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/38

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
28
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

on his subjects or on foreign merchants, but he receives presents." But Caillié adds: "There is no regular government. The king is like a father ruling his children." When disputes arise, he "assembles a council of the elders." That is to say, present-giving remains voluntary where the kingly power is not great. Among another African people, the Caffres, we see gifts losing their voluntary character. "The revenue of the king consists of an annual contribution of cattle, first fruits, etc.;" and "when a Koossa [Caffre] opens his granary he must send a little of the grain to his neighbors, and a larger portion to the king." In Abyssinia, too, there is a like mixture of exactions and voluntary gifts: besides settled contributions taking the form of pieces of cloth and corn, the prince of Tigré receives annual presents. And a kindred system of partially-settled and partially-unsettled donations from people to kings is general throughout East Africa. How, in addition to presents which, having become customary, cease in so far to be propitiatory, there is a tendency to make presents that are propitiatory because unexpected, will be understood on remembering that, where the kingly power has become great, subjects hold their property only on sufferance. When Burton tell us that, in Dahomey, "there is scant inducement to amass riches, of which the owner would assuredly be 'squeezed' as often as he could support the operation;" and when we read of the ancient kings of Bogotá that, "besides the ordinary tributes paid several times a year and other numberless donations, they were absolute. . . lords of the property and life of their subjects"—we may see why, beyond donations which at first voluntary and irregular have become compulsory and regular, there tend ever to grow up new voluntary donations.

If, when a private person brings an offering to his chief or king, the act implies submission, still more does the bringing of an offering by a subordinate ruler to a supreme ruler; here, where disloyalty is more to be feared, the significance of the ceremony as proving loyalty becomes greater. Hence the making of presents grows into a formal recognition of supremacy. In ancient Vera Paz, "as soon as some one was elected king. . . all the lords of the tribes appeared or sent relations of theirs. . . with presents. . . . They declared [at the proclamation] that they agreed to his election and accepted him as king." Among the Chibchas, when a new king came to the throne, "the chief men then took an oath that they would be obedient and loyal vassals, and as a proof of their loyalty each one gave him a jewel and a number of rabbits, etc." Of the Mexicans, Toribio says: "Each year, at certain festivals, those Indians who did not pay taxes, even the chiefs. . . made gifts to the sovereigns. . . in token of their submission." And so in Peru. "No one approached Atahuallpa without bringing a present in token of submission; and, though those who came were great nobles, they entered with the presents on their own backs, and without shoes." The significance of gift-making as implying allegiance is well shown