Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/17

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7
POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS—PRELIMINARY.

five hundred persons annually, in Mexico and adjacent towns alone, and of a far greater number throughout the country at large. Similarly, in the populous Central American states, sufficiently civilized to have a developed system of calculation, a regular calendar, books, maps, etc., there were like extensive sacrifices of prisoners, slaves, children, whose hearts were torn out and offered palpitating on altars, and who, in other cases, were flayed alive and their skins used as dancing dresses by the priests.

Nor need we seek in remote regions or among alien races for proofs that there does not exist a necessary connection between the social types classed as civilized and those higher sentiments which we commonly associate with civilization. The mutilations of prisoners exhibited on Assyrian sculptures are not surpassed in cruelty by any we find among the most bloodthirsty of wild races; and Rameses II, who delighted in having himself sculptured on temple-walls throughout Egypt as holding a dozen captives by the hair, and striking off their heads at a blow, slaughtered during his conquests more human beings than a thousand chiefs of savage tribes put together. The tortures inflicted on captured enemies by red Indians are not greater than were those inflicted of old on felons by crucifixion, or on suspected rebels by sewing them up in the hides of slaughtered animals, or on heretics by smearing them over with combustibles and setting fire to them. The Damaras, described as so utterly heartless that they laugh on seeing one of their number killed by a wild beast, are not worse than were the Romans, who made such elaborate provisions for gratifying themselves by watching wholesale slaughters in their arenas. If the numbers destroyed by the hordes of Attila were not equaled by the numbers which the Roman armies destroyed at the conquest of Selucia, and by the numbers of the Jews massacred under Hadrian, it was simply because the occasions did not permit. The cruelties of Nero, Gallienus, and the rest may compare with those of Genghis and Timour; and, when we read of Caracalla that, after he had murdered twenty thousand friends of his murdered brother, his soldiers forced the Senate to place him among the gods, we are shown that in the Roman people there was a ferocity not less than that which deifies the most sanguinary chiefs among the worst of savages. Nor. did Christianity greatly change matters. Throughout mediæval Europe political offenses and religious dissent brought on men carefully devised agonies equaling if not exceeding any inflicted by the most brutal of barbarians.

Startling as the truth seems, it is yet a truth to be recognized, that increase of humanity does not go on pari passu with civilization; but that, contrariwise, the earlier stages of civilization necessitate a relative inhumanity. Among tribes of primitive men, it is the more brutal rather than the more kindly who succeed in those conquests which effect the earliest social consolidations; and, through many subsequent