Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/40

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
30
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ference that from propitiatory presents, voluntary and exceptional to begin with, but becoming as political power strengthens less voluntary and more general, there eventually grow up universal and involuntary contributions—established tribute; and that with the rise of a currency this passes into taxation. How this transformation tends ever to take place, and what are the motives which continually press it on, and change extra voluntary gifts into extra involuntary ones, is well shown by Malcolm's account of the usages in Persia. Speaking of the "irregular and oppressive taxes to which they [the Persians] are continually exposed," he says: "The first of these extra taxes may be termed usual and extraordinary presents. The usual presents to the king are those made annually by all governors of provinces and districts, chiefs of tribes, ministers, and all other officers in high charge, at the feast of Nourouze, or vernal equinox. . . . The amount presented on this occasion is generally regulated by usage; to fall short is loss of office, and to exceed is increase of favor."

That under such kind of pressure regular tribute originated from irregular presents, is in various cases implied both by the nature of the things given and by the growing periodicity of the giving. Supposing them to be acceptable, gifts will naturally be made from among those things which people have that are at once the best and the most abundant. Hence it will happen that when they become regular in an extensive kingdom, they will represent the products of the respective districts; as in ancient Peru, where from one province the people sent fragrant woods, from another cotton, from another emeralds and gold, from another parrots, honey, and wax; or as in ancient Mexico, where the towns paid "what the country afforded, as fish, flesh, corn, cotton, gold, etc.; for they had no money." In other cases where the arrangements are less settled, the gifts from the same place are miscellaneous; as, for instance, those made by towns to early French kings—"oxen, sheep, wine, oats, game, wax-torches, confections, horses, arms, vessels of gold and silver, etc." Clearly, if the making of presents passes into tribute in kind, there will result these varieties of articles; determined sometimes by the character of the locality and sometimes by the abilities of individuals.

The passing of present-making into payment of tribute as it becomes periodic, is well exemplified in some comparatively small societies where governmental power is well established. In Tonga "the higher class of chiefs generally make a present to the king, of hogs or yams, about once a fortnight: these chiefs at the same time receive presents from those below them, and these last from others, and so on, down to the common people." Ancient Mexico, formed of provinces subjugated at various times and dependent in various degrees, exhibited several stages of the transition from presents to tribute. Speaking of the time of Montezuma I., Duran says: "The list of tributes included everything. . . . The provinces. . . made these contributions. . . since they were con-