Popular Science Monthly/Volume 13/May 1878/Evolution of Ceremonial Government IV

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WHEN we read that Cook "presented the king [of Otaheite] with two large hatchets, some showy beads, a looking-glass, a knife, and some nails;" or when Speke, describing his reception by the King of Uganda, narrates—"I then said I had brought the best shooting-gun in the world—Whitworth's rifle—which I begged he would accept, with a few other trifles"—we are reminded how travelers in general, coming in contact with strange peoples, propitiate them by gifts. Two concomitant results are achieved. There is the immediate gratification caused by the worth of the thing given, which tends to beget a friendly mood in those approached; and there is the tacit expression of a desire to please, which has a like effect. It is from the last of these that the development of gift-making as a ceremony proceeds.

The alliance between mutilations and presents—between offering a part of the body and offering something else—is well shown by a statement of Garcilasso, respecting the ancient Peruvians; which, at the same time, shows how present-making becomes a propitiatory act apart from the value of the thing presented. Describing people who carry burdens over the high passes, he speaks of them as unloading themselves on the top, and then severally saying to the god Pachacamac:

" 'I give thanks that this has been carried,' and in making an offering they pulled a hair out of their eyebrows, or took the herb called cuca from their mouths, as a gift of the most precious things they had. Or, if there was nothing better, they offered a small stick or piece of straw, or even a piece of stone or earth. There were great heaps of these offerings at the summits of passes over the mountains."

Though, coming to us in this unfamiliar form, these offerings of parts of themselves, or of things they prized, or else of worthless things, seem strange, they will seem less strange on remembering that at the foot of a way-side crucifix in France may any day be seen a heap of small crosses severally made of two bits of lath nailed together. Intrinsically of no more value than these straws, sticks, and stones, the Peruvians offered, they similarly force on our attention the truth that the act of presentation passes into a ceremony expressing the wish to conciliate. How natural is this substitution of a nominal giving for a real giving, where real giving is impracticable, we are shown even by intelligent animals. A retriever, accustomed to please his master by fetching killed birds, etc., will fall into the habit at other times of fetching something to show his desire to please. On first seeing in the morning, or after an absence, one he is friendly with, he will join, with the usual demonstrations of joy, the seeking and bringing in his mouth a dead leaf, a twig, or any small available object lying near. And this example, while serving to show the natural genesis of this propitiatory ceremony, serves also to show how deep down there begins the process of symbolization; and how, at the outset, the symbolic act is as near a repetition of the act symbolized as the circumstances allow.

Prepared, as we thus are, to trace the development of gift-making into a ceremony, let us now observe its several varieties, and the social arrangements eventually derived from them.


In headless tribes, and in tribes of which the headship is unsettled, and in tribes of which the headship though settled is feeble, the making of presents does not become an established usage. Australians, Tasmanians, Fuegians, are instances; and on reading through accounts of wild American races that are little organized, like the Esquimaux, Chinooks, Snakes, Comanches, Chippewas, etc., or organized in a democratic manner, like the Iroquois and the Creeks, we find, along with absence of strong personal rule, scarcely any mention of gift-making as a political observance.

In apt contrast come the descriptions of usages among those American races which in past times reached, under despotic governments, considerable degrees of civilization. Torquemada tells us that in Mexico, "when any one goes to salute the lord or king, he takes with him flowers and gifts." So too of the Chibchas we read that, "when they brought a present in order to negotiate or speak with the cazique (for no one went to visit him without bringing a gift), they entered with the head and body bent downward;" and among the ancient Yucatanese, "when there was hunting or fishing or salt-carrying, they always gave a part to the lord." People of other types, as the Malayo-Polynesians, living in kindred stages of social progress under the undisputed sway of chiefs, exemplify this same custom. Speaking of the things they bartered to the Tahitian populace for food, native cloth, etc., Forster says: "However, we found that after some time all this acquired wealth flowed as presents, or voluntary acknowledgments, into the treasure of the various chiefs; who, it seems, were the only possessors of all the hatchets and broad-axes." In Feejee, again, "whoever asks a favor of a chief, or seeks civil intercourse with him, is expected to bring a present."

In these last cases we may see how this making of presents to the chief passes from a voluntary propitiation into a compulsory propitiation; for, on reading that "the Tahitian chiefs plundered the plantations of their subjects at will," and that in Feejee "chiefs take the property and persons of others by force," it becomes manifest that present making has come to be the giving of a part to prevent loss of the whole. It is the policy at once to satisfy cupidity and to express submission. "The Malagasy, slaves as well as others, occasionally make presents of provisions to their chiefs, as an acknowledgment of homage." And it is inferable that, in proportion to the power of chiefs, will be the anxiety to please them, both by forestalling their greedy desires and by displaying loyalty.

In few if any cases, however, does the carrying of gifts to a chief become so developed a usage in a simple tribe. At first, the head-man, not much differentiated from the rest, and not surrounded by men ready to enforce his will, fails to impress other members of the tribe with a fear great enough to make present-giving an habitual ceremony. It is only in compound societies, formed by the overrunning of many tribes by a conquering tribe, of the same race or another race, that there comes a governing class, formed of head-chiefs and sub-chiefs, sufficiently distinguished from the rest, and sufficiently powerful to inspire the required awe. The above examples are all taken from societies in which kingship has been reached.


A more extended form is, of course, simultaneously assumed by this ceremony. For, where along with subordinate rulers there exists a chief ruler, he has to be propitiated both by the people at large and by the subordinate rulers. Hence two kinds of gift-making.

A case in which the usage has retained its primitive character is furnished by Timbuctoo. Here "the king does not levy any tribute 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 by two contrasted statements in the records of the Hebrews. Of Solomon it is said that "he reigned over all the kings from the river even unto the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt;" and also that "all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon. . . and they brought every man his present. . . a rate year by year." Conversely, it is written that, when Saul was chosen king, "the children of Belial said, How shall this man save us? And they despised him, and brought him no presents." Throughout the remote East, the bringing of presents to the chief ruler has still the same meaning. In Japan it was "a duty of each lord to visit and pay his respects at the imperial court once a year, when they offered presents;" and, further, "the secular monarch pays his respect and duty once a year to the mikado. . . by a solemn embassy and rich presents." In China the meaning of the act as expressing subordination is extremely marked. Along with the statement that "at the installation of the great khan four thousand messengers and embassadors who came loaded with presents assisted at the ceremony," we read that the Mongol officers asked the Franciscan friars dispatched by Innocent IV. "whether the pope knew that the grand-khan was Heaven's son, and that the dominion of the earth belonged of right to him. . . what present they had brought from the pope to the great khan." And equally pronounced is the interpretation put upon gift-making to the monarch in Burmah, where, according to Yule, strenuous efforts were made "on former occasions to introduce foreign envoys as suppliants on 'beg-pardon days' among the vassals and dependents of the empire: their presents being represented as deprecatory offerings to avert deserved punishment for offenses against their liege lord."

Nor does early European history fail to exemplify the meanings of present-giving, alike for general propitiation, for special propitiation, and as signifying loyalty. We learn that during the Merovingian period "on a fixed day, once a year, in the field of March, according to ancient custom, gifts were offered to the kings by the people;" and that this custom continued into the Carolingian period: the presents being of all kinds—food and liquor, horses, gold, silver, jewels, garments. We have the fact that they were made alike by individuals and communities: towns thus expressing their loyalty. And we have the fact that from the time of Gontram, who was overwhelmed with gifts by the inhabitants of Orleans on entering it, onward, it long continued the habit with towns thus to seek the good-will of monarchs who visited them, until eventually such presents became imperative. In ancient England too, when the monarch visited a town, present-making, at first by free-will but at length of necessity, entailed so heavy a loss that in some cases "the passing of the royal family and court was viewed as a great misfortune."


Grouped as above, the evidence will suggest to every reader the inference 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 conquered, that the gallant Mexicans might. . . cease to destroy them:" clearly showing that they were at first propitiatory presents. Further we read that "in Meztitlan the tribute was not paid at fixed times. . . but when the lord wanted it. . . . They did not think of heaping up the tribute, but they asked what was wanted at the moment for the temples, the festivals, or the lords." Of the tributes throughout the country of Montezuma, consisting of "provisions, clothing, and a great variety of miscellaneous articles," we are told that "some of these were paid annually, others every six months, and others every eighty days." And then of the gifts made at festivals by some "in tokens of their submission," Toribio says: "In this way it seems manifest that the chiefs, the merchants, and the landed proprietors, were not obliged to pay taxes, but did so voluntarily."

The transition from voluntary gifts to compulsory tribute is traceable in early European history. Among the sources of revenue of the Merovingian kings, Waitz enumerates the free-will gifts of the people on various occasions (especially marriage), besides the yearly presents made originally at the March gatherings, but afterward at other periods about the beginning of the year—voluntary when they began, but increasingly becoming a fixed tax. And then, speaking of these same yearly presents of the people in the Carolingian period, the same writer says they had long lost their voluntary character, and are even described as a tax by Hinckmar. They included horses, gold, silver, and jewels, and (from nunneries) garments, and requisitions for the royal palaces; and he adds that these dues, or tributa, were all of a more or less private character; though compulsory, they had not yet become taxes in the literal sense. There is evidence that the voluntary presents, made by towns to potentates on their entry, similarly passed from the voluntary to the compulsory. According to Leber, the express orders of the king were needed to make Paris give presents to the Duke of Anjou in 1584, as also on other occasions to embassadors and foreign monarchs.

In proportion as money-values became more definite, and payments in money became easier, commutation resulted: instance in the Carolingian period, "the so-called inferenda—a due originally paid in cattle, now in money;" instance in our own history, the giving of money instead of goods by towns to a king and his suite making a progress through them. The evidence may fitly be closed with the following passage from Stubbs:

"The ordinary revenue of the English king had been derived solely from the royal estates and the produce of what had been the Folkland, with such commuted payments of feormfultum, or provision in kind, as represented either the reserved rents fron ancient possessions of the crown, or the quasi-voluntary tribute paid by the nation to its chosen head."

In which passage are simultaneously implied the passage from voluntary gifts to involuntary tribute and the commutation of tribute into taxes. If voluntary gifts, made to propitiate the man who is supreme, by-and-by become tribute and eventually form a settled revenue, may we not expect that gifts made to subordinate men in power, when their aid is wished, will similarly become customary, and at length yield them maintenance? Will not the process above indicated in relation to the major state-functionary repeat itself with the minor state-functionaries? We find that it does so.

First, it is to be noted that, besides the periodic and ordinary presents made in propitiation and acknowledgment of his supremacy, the ruling man in early stages commonly has special presents made to him when called on to use his power in defense or aid of an aggrieved subject. Among the Chibchas, "no one could appear in the presence of a king, cazique, or superior, without bringing a gift, which was to be delivered before the petition was made." In Sumatra, a chief "levies no taxes, nor has any revenue,. . . or other emolument from his subjects, than what accrues to him from the determination of causes." There is a kindred usage in Northwestern India. Of Gulab Singh, a late ruler of Jummoo, Mr. Drew says: "With the customary offering of a rupee as nazar [present] any one could get his ear; even in a crowd one could catch his eye by holding up a rupee and crying out,. . . 'Maharajah, a petition!' He would pounce down like a hawk on the money, and, having appropriated it, would patiently hear out the petitioner." There is evidence that among ourselves in ancient days a like state of things existed. "We may readily believe," says Broom, referring to a statement of Lingard, "that few princes in those [Anglo-Saxon] days declined to exercise judicial functions when solicited by favorites, tempted by bribery, or stimulated by cupidity and avarice." And, on reading that in early Norman times "the first step in the process of obtaining redress was to sue out, or purchase, by paying the stated fees," the king's original writ, requiring the defendant to appear before him, we may suspect that the stated amount paid for this document represented what had originally been the present to the king for giving his judicial aid. There is support for this inference. Blackstone says, "Now indeed even the royal writs are held to be demandable of common right, on paying the usual fees:" implying a preceding time in which the granting of them was a matter of royal favor to be obtained by propitiation.

Naturally, then, when judicial and other functions come to be deputed, gifts will similarly be made to obtain the services of the functionaries; and these, originally voluntary, will become compulsory. Ancient records from the East yield evidence. Thus, in Amos ii. 6, it is implied that judges received presents; as are said to do the Turkish magistrates in the same regions down to our day: the assumption of the prophet, and of the modern observer, that this usage arose by a corruption, being one of those many cases in which the survival of a lower state is mistaken for the degradation of a higher state. Thus, again, in early times in France judges received "spices" as a mark of gratitude from those who had won a cause. By 1369, if not before, these were converted into money; and in 1402 they were recognized as a due. The usage continued till the Revolution. In our own history the case of Bacon exemplifies not a special and late practice, but the survival of an old and usual one; local records show the habitual making of gifts to officers of justice and their attendants; and the facts are summed up in the statement that "no approach to a great man, a magistrate, or courtier, was ever made without the Oriental accompaniment—a gift." That in past times the propitiatory presents made to state-functionaries formed, in some cases, their entire revenues, is inferable from the fact that in the twelfth century the great offices of the royal household were sold; the implication being that the value of the presents received was great enough to make the places worth buying. Russia in early days seems to have exemplified the state in which the dependents and deputies of the ruler subsisted chiefly, if not wholly, on presents. Karamsin "repeats the observations of the travelers who visited Muscovy in the sixteenth century. 'Is it surprising,' say these strangers, 'that the grand-prince is rich? He neither gives money to his troops nor his embassadors; he even takes from these last all the costly things they bring back from foreign lands. . . . Nevertheless these men do not complain.' " Whence we must infer that, lacking wages and salaries from above, they lived on gifts from below. Moreover, we are at once enlightened respecting the existing state of things in Russia; for it becomes manifest that what we now call the bribes, which the miserably salaried officials require before performing their duties, are the representatives of the presents which formed their sole maintenance in times when they had no salaries. And the like may be inferred respecting Spain, of which Rose says: "From judge down to constable, bribery and corruption prevail. . . . There is this excuse, however, for the poor Spanish official. His government gives him no remuneration, and expects everything of him."

So natural has habit now made to us the payment of fixed sums for specified services, that, as usual, we assume this relation to have existed from the beginning. But when we read how, in little organized societies, such as that of the Bechuanas, the chiefs allow their attendants "a scanty portion of food or milk, and leave them to make up the deficiency by hunting or by digging up wild roots;" and how, in societies considerably more advanced, as Dahomey, "no officer under government is paid"—we are shown that originally the subordinates of the chief man, not officially supported, have to support themselves. And since their positions give them powers of injuring and benefiting subject persons— since, indeed, it is often only by their aid that the chief man can be invoked—there arises the same motive to propitiate them by presents that there does to propitiate by presents the chief man himself; whence the parallel growth of an income. The inference that the sustentation of political officials begins in this way will presently find verification from its harmony with the inference more clearly to be established, that the sustentation of ecclesiastical officials thus originates.


Since at first the double of the dead man is conceived as being equally visible and tangible with the original, and as being no less liable to pain, cold, hunger, thirst; he is supposed similarly to want food, drink, clothing, etc., and to be similarly propitiated by providing them for him. So that, at the outset, presents to the dead differ from presents to the living neither in meaning nor motive.

All over the world, in lower forms of society, past and present, we find gifts to the dead paralleling gifts to the living. Food and drink are left with the unburied corpse by Papuans, Tahitians, Sandwich-Islanders, Malayans, Badagas, Karens, ancient Peruvians, Brazilians, etc. Food and drink are afterward carried to the grave in Africa, by the Sherbro people, the Loango people, the inland negroes, the Dahomans, etc.; throughout the Indian hills by Bhils, Santals, Kukis, etc.; in America, by Caribs, Chibchas, Mexicans; and the like usage was general among ancient races in the East. Clothes are periodically taken as presents to the dead by the Esquimaux. In Patagonia they annually open the sepulchral chambers and reclothe the dead; as did too the ancient Peruvians. When a potentate dies among the Congo people, the quantity of clothes given from time to time is so great "that, the first hut in which the body is deposited becoming too small, a second, a third, even to a sixth, increasing in dimensions, is placed over it." The motive for thus trying to please the dead man is the same as would have been the motive for trying to please the man while alive. When we read that a chief among the New Caledonians says to the ghost of his ancestor: "Compassionate father, here is some food for you; eat it; be kind to us on account of it;" or when the Veddah, calling by name a deceased relative, says: "Come and partake of this! Give us maintenance, as you did when living!" we see it to be undeniable that present-giving to the dead is the same as present-giving to the living, with the sole exception that the receiver is invisible.

Noting only that there is a like motive for a like propitiation of the undistinguished supernatural beings which primitive men suppose to be all around them—noting that whether it be in the fragments of bread and cake left for the elves, etc., by our Scandinavian ancestors, or in the eatables and drinkables which at their feasts the Dyaks place on the tops of the houses to feed the spirits, or in the small portions of food cast aside and of drink poured out for the ghosts before beginning their meals by various races throughout the world—let us go on to observe the developed present-making to the developed supernatural being. The things given and the motives for giving them remain the same; though the sameness is slightly disguised by the use of different words —oblations to a deity and presents to a person. The original identity is well shown by the words of Guhl concerning the Greeks: "Gifts, as an old proverb says, determine the acts of gods and kings;" and it is equally well shown by a verse in the Psalms (Ixxvi. 11): "Vow and pay unto the Lord your God: let all that be round about him bring presents unto him that ought to be feared." Moreover, we shall find a parallelism in the details that is extremely significant.

Food and drink, which constitute the earliest kind of propitiatory gift to a living person, and also the earliest kind of propitiatory gift to a ghost, remain everywhere the essential components of an oblation to a deity. As, where political power is evolving, the presents irregularly and then regularly sent to the chief, at first consist mainly of sustenance; so, where ancestor-worship, developing, has expanded the ghost into a god, the offerings, becoming habitual, have as elements common to them in all places and times, things to eat and drink. That this is so in low societies at large, no proof is needed; and that it is so in higher societies is also a familiar fact, though a fact ignored where its significance is most worthy to be marked. If a Zulu slays an ox to secure the good-will of his dead relative's ghost, who complains to him in a dream that he has not been fed—if among the Zulus this private act develops into a public act when a bullock is periodically killed as "a propitiatory offering to the spirit of the king's immediate ancestor"—we may, without impropriety, ask whether there do not thus arise such acts as those of an Egyptian king who by hecatombs of oxen hopes to please the ghost of his deified father; but it is not supposable that there was any kindred origin for the sacrifices of cattle to Jahveh, concerning which such elaborate directions are given in Leviticus. When we read that among the Greeks "it was customary to pay the same offices to the gods which men stand in need of—the temples were their houses, sacrifices their food, altars their tables"—it is permissible to observe the analogy between these presents of eatables made to gods and the presents of eatables made at graves to the dead, as being both derived from like presents made to the living; but that the presentation of meat, bread, fruits, and liquors, to Jahveh had a kindred derivation, is a thought not to be entertained—not even though we have a complete parallel between the cakes which Abraham bakes for the refreshment of the Lord when he comes to visit him in his tent on the plains of Mamre and the showbread kept on the altar and from time to time replaced by other bread fresh and hot. Here, however, recognizing these parallelisms, it may be added that though in later Hebrew times the original and gross interpretation of sacrifices became obscured, and though the primitive theory has since undergone gradual dissipation, yet the form survives. The offertory of our Church still retains the words, "accept our alms and oblations;" and at her coronation Queen Victoria offered on the altar, by the hands of the archbishop, "an altar-cloth of gold and an ingot of gold," a sword, then bread and wine for the commmunion, then a purse of gold, followed by a prayer "to receive these oblations."

Looked at without bias, the evidence coming from all parts of the world thus proves that oblations are at first literally presents. Animals are given to kings, slain on graves, sacrificed in temples; cooked food is furnished to chiefs, laid on tombs, placed on altars; first-fruits are presented alike to living rulers, to dead rulers, to gods; here beer, here wine, here chica, is sent to a visible potentate and poured out as libation to an invisible deity; incense, in some places burned before distinguished persons, is burned before gods in various places; and, besides such consumable things, valuables of every kind, given to secure goodwill, are accumulated in the treasures of kings and in the temples of gods.

There is one further remark of moment. We saw that the present to the visible ruler was at first propitiatory because of its intrinsic worth, but came afterward to have an extrinsic propitiatory effect as implying loyalty. Similarly, the presents to the invisible ruler, primarily considered as directly useful, secondarily come to signify obedience; and their secondary meaning gives that ceremonial character to sacrifice which still survives.


And now we come upon a remakable sequence. As the present to the ruler eventually develops into political revenue, so the present to the god eventually develops into ecclesiastical revenue.

Let us set out with that earliest stage in which no definite organization, either political or ecclesiastical, exists, and in which the last is represented by the medicine-man, whose function is more that of expelling malicious ghosts than propitiating ghosts regarded as placable. At this stage the present to the supernatural being is often shared between him and those who propitiate him: the supposition, commonly vague and unsettled, being either that the supernatural being takes a substantial part of the food offered, or else that he feeds on its supposed spiritual essence while the votaries consume the material shell. The meaning of this, already indicated in the case of some other early usages, is that while the supernatural being is propitiated by the present of food, there is, by eating together, established between him and his propitiators a bond of union: implying protection on the one side and allegiance on the other. The primitive notion that the nature of a thing, inhering in all its parts, is acquired by those who consume it, and that therefore those who consume two parts of one thing acquire from it some nature in common which binds them together—that same notion which initiates the practice of forming a brotherhood by partaking of one another's blood, which instigates the funeral rite of blood-offering, which suggests the practices of the sorcerer, and which gives strength to the claims established by joining in the same meal, originates this prevalent usage of consuming part of the present of food made to the ghost or the god. In some places the people at large participate in the offering; in some places the medicine-men or priests only; and in some places the last practice is habitual while the first is occasional, as in ancient Mexico, where communicants "who had partaken of the sacred food were engaged to serve the god during the subsequent year."

Here the fact which concerns us is that, from the presents thus used, there arises a maintenance for priests. When we read that the Chippewayan priests "are supported by voluntary contributions of provision," and that the priests of the Khonds have certain perquisites, and receive gifts, we vaguely see how in these rude societies there begins the support of a priesthood out of sacrifices; and in other cases we see this distinctly. Among the Kukis the priest, to pacify the angry deity who has made some one ill, takes, it may be a fowl, which he says the god requires, and, pouring its blood as an offering on the ground while muttering praises, "then deliberately sits down, roasts and eats the fowl, throws the refuse into the jungle, and returns home." In like manner the Battas of Sumatra sacrifice to the gods, horses, buffaloes, goats, dogs, fowls, "or whatever animal the wizard happens on that day to be most inclined to eat." And again we read that, by the Bustar tribes in the Mahadeva hills, Kodo Pen "is worshiped at a small heap of stones by every new-comer, through the oldest resident, with fowls, eggs, grain, and a few copper coins, which become the property of the officiating priest." More developed societies in Africa show us a kindred arrangement. Burton says that, in Dahomey, "those who have the 'cure of souls' receive no regular pay, but live well upon the benevolences of votaries;" and Forbes more specifically states that in their temples "small offerings are daily given by devotees, and removed by the priests." Similarly in the adjoining kingdom of Ashantee, "the revenue of the fetichmen is derived from the liberality of the people. A moiety of the offerings which are presented to the fetich belongs to the priests." It is the same in Polynesia. Ellis, describing the Tahitian doctor as almost invariably a priest, states that he received a fee, part of which was supposed to belong to the gods, before commencing operations. So, too, was it in the ancient states of America. A cross-examination, narrated by Oviedo, contains the passage:

"Fr. Do you offer anything else in your temples?
"Ind. Every one brings from his house what he wishes to offer—as fowls, fish, or maize, or other things—and the boys take it and put it inside the temple.
"Fr. Who eats the things thus offered?
"Ind. The father of the temple eats them, and what remains is eaten by the boys."


And then in Peru, where worship of the dead was a main occupation of the living, and where the ecclesiastical system was elaborately developed, the accumulated gifts to ghosts and gods had resulted in sacred estates, numerous and rich, out of which the priests of all kinds were maintained. A parallel genesis is shown us by ancient historic peoples. Among the Greeks "the remains of the sacrifice are the priests' fees," and "all that served the gods were maintained by the sacrifices and other holy offerings." Nor was it otherwise with the Hebrews. In Leviticus ii. 10 we read, "And that which is left of the meat-offering shall be Aaron's and his sons' " (the appointed priests); and other passages entitle the priest to the skin of the offering, and to the whole of the baked and fried offering. Neither does the history of early Christianity fail to exhibit the like development. "In the first ages of the Church, those deposita pietatis which are mentioned by Tertullian were all voluntary oblations." Afterward "a more fixed maintenance was necessary for the clergy; but still oblations were made by the people. . . . These oblations [defined as 'whatever religious Christians offered to God and the Church '], which were at first voluntary, became afterward, by continual payment, due by custom." In mediæval times a further stage in the transition is shown us: "Besides what was necessary for the communion of priests and laymen, and that which was intended for eulogies, it was at first the usage to offer all sorts of presents, which at a later date were taken to the bishop's house and ceased to be brought to the church." And then by continuation and enlargement of such donations, growing into bequests, nominally to God and practically to the Church, there grew up ecclesiastical revenues.


Doubtless sundry readers have made on the foregoing statements the running criticism that they represent all presents as made by inferiors to propitiate superiors; and that they ignore the presents having no such purpose, which are made by superiors to inferiors. These, though they do not enter into what can be called ceremonial government, must be noticed. The contrast between the two kinds of presents, in meaning, is well recognized where present-making is much elaborated, as in China. "At or after the customary visits between superiors and inferiors, an interchange of presents takes place: but those from the former are bestowed as donations, while the latter are received as offerings; these being the Chinese terms for such presents as pass between the emperor and foreign princes."

Naturally it happens that as the power of the political head develops, until at length, with little or no check, he assumes universal ownership, there results a state in which he finds it needful to give back to his dependents and subjects part of that which he has monopolized. And having been originally subordinated by giving, these are now, to a certain extent, further subordinated by receiving. People of whom it can be said, as of the Kukis, that "all the property they possess is by simple sufferance of the rajah," or people who, like the Dahomans, are owned in body and estate by their king, are obviously so conditioned that property having flowed in excess to the political centre must flow down again from lack of other use; and hence in Dahomey, though no state-functionary is paid, the king gives his ministers and officers royal bounty. Without traveling further a-field for illustrations, it will suffice if we note these relations of causes and effects from early European times downward. Of the ancient Germans, Tacitus says: "The chief must show his liberality, and the follower expects it. He demands at one time this war-horse; at another, that victorious lance imbrued with the enemy's blood. The prince's table, however inelegant, must always be plentiful; it is the only pay of his followers." That is, a monopolizing supremacy had, as its sequence, gratuities to dependents. Mediaeval times were characterized by modified forms of the same system. In the thirteenth century, "in order that the princes of the blood, the whole royal house, the great officers of the crown, and those. . . of the king's household, should appear with distinction, the kings gave them dresses according to the rank they held and suitably to the season at which these solemn courts were celebrated. These dresses were called liveries because they were delivered," as the king's free gifts; a statement showing clearly how the reception of such presents signified subordination. Down to the fifteenth century on a feast-day, the Duke of Burgundy gave to the knights and nobles of his household "presents of jewels and rich gifts. . . according to the custom of that day;" such presents, in addition to maintenance, house-room, and official dresses for themselves and their servants, probably constituting the sole acknowledgment for their attendance. It need scarcely be added that, throughout the same stages of progress in Europe, the scattering of largesse to the people by kings, dukes, and nobles, was similarly a concomitant of that servile position in which such return as they got for their labor in addition to daily sustenance was in the shape of gratuities rather than in the shape of wages. Moreover, we still have, down to our own day, in vails and Christmas-boxes to servants, etc., the remnants of a system under which fixed remuneration was eked out by gifts—a system itself sequent upon the earlier system under which gifts formed the only remuneration.

Thus it becomes tolerably clear that, while from presents offered by subject persons there eventually develop tribute, taxes, and fees, from donations made by ruling persons there eventually develop salaries.


Something must be added concerning presents passing between those who do not stand in acknowledged relations of superior and inferior. Consideration of these carries us back to the primitive form of present-making, as it occurs between strangers or members of alien societies; and, on looking at some of the facts, there is suggested a question of much interest: whether from the propitiatory gift made under these circumstances there does not originate another important kind of social action? Barter is not, as we are apt to suppose, universally understood. Cook, speaking of his failure to make any exchange of articles with the Australians of his day, says, "They had, indeed, no idea of traffic." And other statements suggest that, when exchange begins, there is little idea of equivalence between the things given and received. Speaking of the Ostiaks, who supplied them "with plenty of fish and wild-fowl," Bell says, "Give them only a little tobacco and a dram of brandy, and they ask no more, not knowing the use of money." Remembering that at first no means of measuring values exists, and that the conception of equality of value has to grow by use, it seems not impossible that mutual propitiation by gifts was the act from which barter arose; the expectation that the present received would be of like worth with that given being gradually established, and the exchanged articles simultaneously losing the character of presents. One may, indeed, see the intimate connection between the two in the familiar cases, instanced at the outset, of presents from European travelers to native chiefs; as where Mungo Park writes, "Presented Mansa Kussan [the chief man of Julifunda] with some amber, coral, and scarlet, with which he appeared to be perfectly satisfied, and sent a bullock in return." Such transactions show us both the original meaning of the initial present as propitiatory, and the idea that the responsive present should have an approximately-like value, implying informal barter.

Leaving this speculation, however, we have here to note the way in which the propitiatory present becomes a social observance. Like every other kind of ceremony which begins as an effort to gain the good-will of some feared being, visible or invisible, gift-making descends through successive stages, until it becomes an act of civility between those who, while not actually subordinate one to the other, please one another by simulating subordination. That along with the original form of it, signifying allegiance to a chief or king, there goes the spread of it as a means of insuring the friendship of powerful persons in general, we see in ancient Peru, where, as already said, "no one approached Atahuallpa without bringing a present in token of submission," and where also "the Indians. . . never thought of approaching a superior without bringing a present." And then in Yucatan the usage extended to equals. "At their visits the Indians always carry with them presents to be given away, according to their position; those visited respond by another gift." In Japan, so rigorously ceremonious, the stages of the descent are well shown: there are the periodic presents to the mikado, expressive of loyalty; there is the fact named by Mitford that "the giving of presents from inferiors to superiors is a common custom;" and there is the further fact he names that "it is customary on the occasion of a first visit to a house to carry a present to the owner, who gives something of equal value on returning the visit." Among other peoples we see this mutual propitiation between equals taking other forms. Markham, writing of Himalayan people, states that exchanging caps is "as certain a mark of friendship in the hills as two chiefs in the plains exchanging turbans." And, referring more especially to the Iroquois, Morgan says, "Indian nations, after treating, always exchanged belts, which were not only the ratification, but the memorandum of the compact."

How gift-making, first developed into a ceremony by fear of the ruler, and made to take a wider range by fear of the strong or the influential, is eventually rendered general by fear of equals who may prove enemies if they are passed over when others are propitiated, we may gather from European history. Thus, in Rome, "all the world gave or received New-Year's gifts." Clients gave them to their patrons; all the Romans gave them to Augustus. "He was seated in the entrance-hall of his house; they defiled before him, and every citizen, holding his offering in his hand, laid it, when passing, at the feet of that terrestrial god. These gifts consisted in silver money, and the sovereign gave back a sum equal or superior to their presents." Because of its association with pagan institutions, this custom, surviving into Christian times, was condemned by the Church. In 578 the Council of Auxerre forbade New-Year's gifts, which it characterized in strong words. Ives, of Chartres, says, "There are some who accept from others, and themselves give, devilish New-Year's gifts." In the twelfth century, Maurice, Bishop of Paris, preached against bad people who "put their faith in presents, and say that none will remain rich during the year if he has not had a gift on New-Year's-day." Notwithstanding ecclesiastical interdicts, however, the custom survived through the middle ages down to modern times; until now priests themselves, as well as others, participate in this usage of mutual propitiation. Moreover, there have simultaneously developed kindred periodic ceremonies; such as, in France, the giving of Easter-eggs. And present-makings of these kinds have undergone changes like those which we traced in other kinds of present-makings: beginning as moderate and voluntary, the presents have become extravagant and in a measure compulsory.


It thus appears that, spontaneously made among primitive men by one member of a tribe to another, or to an alien whose good-will is desired, the gift becomes, as society evolves, the originator of many things.

To the political head, as his power grows, the making of presents is prompted partly by fear of him and partly by the wish for his aid; and the presents made, at first propitiatory only from their intrinsic worth, come presently to be propitiatory as expressions of loyalty; from the last of which there results present-giving as a ceremonial, and from the first of which there results present-giving as tribute, eventually developing into taxes. Simultaneously, the supplies of food, etc., placed on the grave of the dead man to propitiate his ghost, developing into larger and repeated offerings at the grave of the distinguished dead man, and becoming at length sacrifices on the altar of the god, differentiate in an analogous way. The present of meat, drink, or clothes, at first supposed to propitiate because actually useful to the ghost or the god, becomes, by implication, significant of allegiance. Hence, making the gift grows into an act of worship irrespective of the value of the thing given; while in virtue of its substantial worth, the gift, affording sustenance to the priest, makes possible the agency by which the worship is conducted; from the oblation originate church revenues.

Thus we unexpectedly come upon further proof that the control of ceremony precedes the political and ecclesiastical controls; since it appears that from actions which the first initiates eventually result the funds by which the others are maintained.

When we ask what relations present-giving has to different social types, we note, in the first place, that there is little of it in simple societies, where chieftainship does not exist, or is unstable. In wandering, headless tribes it manifestly cannot become established and systematized; nor in simple settled tribes of which the headships are nominal. But we find it to prevail in compound and doubly-compound societies, as throughout the semi-civilized states of Africa, those of Polynesia, those of ancient America, etc., where the presence of stable headships, primary and secondary, gives both the opportunity and the motive; and, recognizing this truth, we are led to recognize the deeper truth that present-making, while but indirectly related to the social type as simple or compound, is directly related to it as more or less militant in organization. The desire to propitiate must be great in proportion as the person to be propitiated is feared; and therefore the conquering chief, and still more the king who has made himself, by force of arms, ruler over many chiefs, is one whose good-will is most anxiously sought by acts which simultaneously gratify his avarice and express submission. Hence, then, the fact that the ceremony of making gifts to the ruler prevails most in societies that are either actually militant, or in which chronic militancy during past times has evolved the despotic government appropriate to it. Hence the fact that throughout the East, where this social type exists everywhere, the making of presents to those in authority is everywhere imperative. Hence the fact that in early European ages, while the social activities were militant and the structures corresponded, loyal presents to kings from individuals and corporate bodies were universal; while largesse from superiors to inferiors, also growing out of that state of complete dependence which accompanied militancy, was common.

The like connection holds with the custom of making presents to deities. In the extinct militant states of the New World, sacrifices to gods were perpetual, and their shrines were being ever enriched by deposited valuables. Papyri, wall-paintings, and sculptures, show us that among ancient Eastern nations, highly militant in their activities and types of structure, the oblations to deities were large and continual; and that vast amounts of property were devoted to making glorious the places where they were worshiped. So, too, in early militant times throughout Europe, gifts to God and the Church were more general and extensive than they have become in later industrial times. It is observable, too, how, even now, that representative of the primitive oblation which we still have in the bread and wine of the mass and the sacrament (offered to God before being consumed by communicants) recurs less frequently here than in Catholic societies, which are relatively more militant in type of organization; while the offering of incense, which is one of the primitive forms of sacrifice among various peoples, and survives in the Catholic service, has disappeared from the authorized service in England. Nor in our own society do we fail to trace a kindred contrast; for, while within the Established Church, which forms part of that regulative structure developed by militancy, sacrificial observances still continue, they have ceased among those most unecclesiastical of dissenters, the Quakers; who, absolutely unmilitant, show us also by the absence of an established priesthood, and by the democratic form of their government, the type of organization most remote from militancy and most characteristic of industrialism.

The like holds even with the custom of present-giving for purposes of social propitiation. We see this on comparing European nations, which, otherwise much upon a par in their stages of progress, differ in the degrees to which industrialism has qualified militancy. In Germany, where periodic making of gifts among relatives and friends is a universal obligation, and in France, where the burden similarly entailed is so onerous that at Christmas and Easter people not unfrequently leave home to escape it, this social usage survives in greater strength than in England, less militant in organization.

Of this kind of ceremony, then, as of the kinds already dealt with, we may say that, taking shape with the establishment of that political headship which militancy produces, it develops with the development of the militant type of social structure, and declines with the development of the industrial type.

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