Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/33

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23
THE DOCTRINE OF NATURAL SELECTION.

istence. In those early days war was perhaps the most powerful means of forcing men to combined action, and might therefore have been necessary for the ultimate development of civilization. Freedom of opinion was then a positive evil, for it would lead to independent action, the very thing it was most essential to get rid of. In early times isolation was an advantage, in order that these incipient societies might not be broken up by intermixture, and it was only after a large number of such little groups, each with its own idiosyncrasies, habits, and beliefs, had been formed, that it became advantageous for them to meet to intermingle or to struggle together, and the stronger to drive out or exterminate the weaker. Out of the great number of petty tribes thus formed, only a few had the qualities which led to a further advancement. The rest were either exterminated or driven out into remote and inaccessible or inhospitable districts, and some of those are the "savages" which still exist on the earth, serving as a measure of the vast progress of the human race. Yet even these never show us the condition of the primitive man; they are men who advanced up to a certain point and then became stationary:

"Their progress was arrested at various points; but nowhere, not even in the hill-tribes of India, not even in the Andaman Islands, not even in the savages of Terra del Fuego, do we find men who have not got some way. They have made their little progress in a hundred different ways; they have framed with infinite assiduity a hundred curious habits; they have, so to say, screwed themselves into the uncomfortable corners of a complex life, which is odd and dreary, but yet is possible. And the corners are never the same in any two parts of the world. Our record begins with a thousand unchanging edifices, but it shows traces of previous building. In historic times there has been but little progress, in prehistoric times there must have been much."

Again our author shows how valuable must have been the institution of caste in a certain stage of progress. It established the division of labor, led to great perfection in many arts, and rendered government easy. Caste nations would at first have a great advantage over non-caste nations, would conquer them, and increase at their expense. But a caste nation at last becomes stationary; for a habit of action and a type of mind which it can with difficulty get rid of are established in each caste. When this is the case, non-caste nations soon catch them up, and rapidly leave them far behind.

This outline will give some idea of the way in which Mr. Bagehot discusses an immense variety of topics connected with the progress of societies and nations, and the development of their distinctive peculiarities. The book is somewhat discursive and sketchy, and it contains many statements and ideas of doubtful accuracy, but it shows an abundance of ingenious and original thought. Many will demur to the view that mere accident and imitation have been the origin of marked national peculiarities; such as those which distinguish the German, Irish, French, English, and Yankees: "The accident of some predominant