Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 16.djvu/464

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438
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

scantiness of property itself. If, however, through the prevalence of an especially quarrelsome disposition in any tribe, altercations and murders increase in numbers, the far greater calamities of retaliation are aggravated in the same proportion, and, where one life is taken in original altercation, whole families and generations are consumed in retaliatory feuds.

Hence, wherever we catch glimpses of societies before they have commenced to administer a general criminal justice, we find them already busy in devising expedients for the amelioration of feuds. Tacitus, in enumerating the affairs of state transacted at the great feasts of the Germans, mentions first in the order of business "the reconcilement of enemies."

The large place occupied by blood-feuds in ancient Semitic societies and the dark shadow which they cast over social life have been vividly portrayed by Michaelis in his work on the Mosaic laws. The notoriously blightful prevalence of such feuds among the American Indians is such as to prepare us for Schoolcraft's account of a tribe to the south of Lake Superior, which he found almost extinct through intestine feuds. Indeed, such instances are by no means uncommon. A passage in which Mr. Bellew describes the condition of the feud ridden Berdurani, or northeastern Afghan tribes, so forcibly illustrates the demoralization ensuing from feuds as to justify its quotation at length: "Indeed," he says, "the quarrelsome character of this people and the constant strife that they lead are declared by a mere glance at their villages and fields, which bristle in all directions with round towers. These are constantly occupied by men at enmity with their neighbors in the same or adjoining villages, who, perched up in their little shooting-boxes, watch the opportunity of putting a bullet into each other's body with the most persevering patience. The fields, even, are studded with these round towers, and the men holding them most jealously guard their lands from any one with whom they are at feud. Nothing belonging to their enemies is safe from their vengeance. If even a fowl strays from its owner into the grounds of another, it is sure to receive a bullet from the adversary's tower. So constant are their feuds that it is a well-known fact that the village children are taught never to walk in the center of the road, but always from force of early habit walk stealthily along under cover of the wall nearest to any tower." These, it must be conceded, are extreme cases; yet they are a perfectly logical outgrowth of unaided and unhampered private retaliation. If most nations have outgrown the system without suffering so extreme wretchedness from its prevalence among them, it is to be ascribed to the promptness and ingenuity with which they have applied themselves to its modification. Instead of being, as has been considered, a necessary though rude expedient of primitive communities for the suppression of crime, it was from the beginning and under all circumstances preeminent in its fruitfulness