Popular Science Monthly/Volume 14/November 1878/Evolution of Ceremonial Government VII

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THE undeveloped human intelligence does not initiate. Adhering tenaciously to whatever his fathers taught him, the primitive man deviates into novelty only through unintended modifications. That which every one now knows holds of languages, that they are not devised but evolve, equally holds of usages. To many proofs of this the foregoing chapters of this series have added further proofs.

The like holds of titles. Looked at as now existing, these appear artificial: there is suggested the idea that they were at some time or other consciously settled. But this is no more true than it is true that our common words were once consciously settled. Names of objects and qualities, and acts, are at first directly or indirectly descriptive; and the names we class as titles are in this respect like all others. Just as the deaf-mute who calls to mind a person he means by mimicking a peculiarity has no idea of introducing a symbol, so neither has the savage, when he recalls a place as the one where the kangaroo was killed or the one where the cliff fell down; so neither has he when he suggests an individual by referring to some marked trait in his appearance or fact in his life; and so neither has he when he gives those names, literally descriptive or metaphorically descriptive, which now and again develop into titles.

The very conception of a proper name grew up unawares. The fact that among the uncivilized a child is for years known as "Thunder-storm," or "New Moon," or "Father-come-home," shows us that there was originally nothing more than a reference to an event which occurred on its birthday, as a way of raising the thought the particular child meant. And if afterward it gets such a name as "Squash-head," or "Dirty-saddle" (Dakota names), this results from spontaneously using an alternative, and sometimes better, means of identification. Evidently the like has happened with such less needful names as titles. These must have differentiated from ordinary proper names, simply by being descriptive of some trait, or some deed, or some function, held in honor.


Various savage races give a man a name of renown in addition to, or in place of, the name by which he was previously known, on the occasion of a great achievement in battle. The Tupis furnish a good illustration. "The founder of the [cannibal] feast took an additional name as an honorable remembrance of what had been done, and his female relations ran through the house shouting the new title." And of these same people, Hans Stade says: "So many enemies as one of them slays, so many names does he give himself; and those are the noblest among them who have many such names." In North America, too, when a young Creek Indian brings his first scalp he is dubbed a man and a warrior, and receives a "war-name." Among the more advanced people of ancient Nicaragua, this practice had established a general name for such: they called one who had killed another in battle tapalique; and cobra was an equivalent title given by the Indians of the Isthmus.

How descriptive names of honor, thus arising during early militancy, become in some cases official names, we see on comparing evidence furnished by two sanguinary and cannibal societies in different stages of advance. In Feejee, "warriors of rank receive proud titles, such as 'the divider of' a district, 'the waster of' a coast, 'the depopulator of' an island—the name of the place in question being affixed." And then in ancient Mexico the names of offices filled by the king's brothers or nearest relatives were, one of them, "Cutter of men," and another, "Shedder of blood."

Where, as among the Feejeeans, the conceived distinction between men and gods is vague, and the formation of new gods by apotheosis of chiefs continues, we find the gods bearing names like those given during their lives to ferocious warriors. "The Woman-stealer," "the Brain-eater," "the Murderer," "Fresh-from-slaughter," are naturally such divine titles as arise from descriptive naming among ancestor worshiping cannibals. That sundry titles of the gods worshiped by superior races have originated in a kindred manner, is implied by the ascription of conquests to them. Be they the Egyptian deities, the Babylonian deities, or the deities of the Greeks, their power is represented as having been gained by battle; and with accounts of their achievements are in some cases joined congruous descriptive names, such as that of Mars—"the Blood-stainer," and that of the Hebrew god—"the Violent One;" which, according to Keunen, is the literal interpretation of Shaddai.


Very generally among primitive men, instead of the literally descriptive name of honor, there is given the metaphorically descriptive name of honor. Of the Tupis, whose ceremony of taking war-names is instanced above, we read that "they selected their appellations from visible objects, pride or ferocity influencing their choice." How such names, first spontaneously given by applauding companions, and afterward accorded in some more deliberate way, are apt to be acquired by men of the greatest prowess, and so to become names of rulers, is suggested by what Ximenez tells us respecting the more civilized peoples of Guatemala. Their king's names enumerated by him are—"Laughing Tiger," "Tiger of the Wood," "Oppressing Eagle," "Eagle's Head," "Strong Snake," etc. Throughout savage Africa there is a like genesis of royal titles. The King of Ashantee has among his glorifying names "Lion" and "Snake." In Dahomey, titles thus derived are made superlative: the king is "the Lion of Lions." And in a kindred spirit the King of Usambara is called "Lion of Heaven:" a title whence, should this king undergo apotheosis, myths of sundry kinds may naturally result. From Zulu-land, along with evidence of the same thing, there comes an illustration of the way in which names of honor derived from imposing objects, animate and inanimate, are joined with names of honor otherwise derived, and pass into certain of those forms of address lately dealt with. The titles of the king are—"The noble elephant," "Thou who art forever," "Thou who art as high as the heavens," "Thou who begettest the men," "The black one," "Thou who art the bird who eats other birds," "Thou who art as high as the mountains," "Thou who art the peacemaker," etc. Shooter shows us how these Zulu titles are used, by quoting part of a speech addressed to the king—"You mountain, you lion, you tiger, you that are black. There is none equal to you." Further, there is proof that names of honor thus originating pass into titles applied to the position occupied, rather than to the occupant considered personally; for Shooter says that a Caffre chief's wife "is called the Elephantess, while his great wife is called the Lioness."

Guided by such clews we cannot miss the inference that the use of animal-names as names of honor, traceable in the records of extinct historic races, similarly arose. If we find that now in Madagascar one of the king's titles is "Mighty Bull," and are reminded by this that to the conquering Rameses a like laudatory name is given by defeated foes, we can scarcely avoid suspecting that, from animal-names thus given to kings, there result the animal-names given as names of honor to deities; so that Apis in Egypt becomes an equivalent for Osiris and the Sun, and so that Bull similarly becomes an equivalent for the conquering hero and Sun-god Indra.

With titles derived from imposing natural objects and powers, it is the same. We have seen how among the Zulus the hyperbolic compliment to the king—"Thou art as high as the mountains"—passes from the form of a simile into the form of a metaphor when he is addressed as "you Mountain." And that the metaphorical name thus used sometimes becomes a proper name, proof comes to us from Samoa, where "the chief of Pango-Pango being now Maunga, or Mountain, that name must never be used in his presence." There is evidence that among the ruder ancestor-worshipers divine titles are similarly derived. The Chinooks and Navajos and Mexicans in North America, and the Peruvians in South America, regard certain mountains as gods; and since these gods have other names, the implication is that in each case an apotheosized man had received in honor either the general name Mountain, or the name of a particular mountain, as has happened in New Zealand. From complimentary comparisons to the sun, there result not only personal names of honor and divine names, but also official titles. On reading that the Mexicans distinguished Cortes as "the offspring of the Sun," that the Chibchas called the Spaniards in general "children of the Sun," and that in Tlascala Alvarado was named by the people "Sun"—on reading that "Child of the Sun" was the complimentary name often given to any one particularly clever in Peru, where the Incas, regarded as descendants of the Sun, successively enjoyed a title hence derived—we are enabled to understand how "Son of the Sun" came to be a title borne by the successive Egyptian kings, which was joined with proper names individually distinctive of them. And remembering how in Egypt, along with elaborate ancestor-worship, there went worship of living kings, we shall have no difficulty in seeing that as the kings, besides the solar title borne in common by them, took from the same original such special titles as "the Sun becoming victorious," "the Sun orderer of Creation," etc., there naturally resulted, among their gods arising by apotheosis, solar titles similarly specialized; as "the Cause of Heat," "the Author of Light," "the Power of the Sun," "the Vivifying Cause," "the Sun in the Firmament," and "the Sun in his Resting-place."

Given, then, the metaphorically-descriptive name and we have the germ from which grew up these primitive titles of honor; which, at first individual titles, become in some cases titles attaching to the offices filled.


To say that the words which in various languages are the equivalents of our word "God," are originally descriptive words, will be a startling proposition to those who, unfamiliar with the facts, credit the savage with thoughts like our own; and will be a repugnant proposition to those who, knowing something of the facts, yet persist in asserting that the conception of a universal creative power was possessed by man from the beginning. But whoever studies the evidence without bias will find proof that the general word for deity was at first simply a word expressive of superiority. Among the Feejeeans the name is applicable to anything great or marvelous; among the Malagasy to whatever is new, useful, or extraordinary; among the Toda, to everything mysterious—so that, as Marshall says, "it is truly an adjective noun of eminence." Applied alike to animate and inanimate things, as indicating some quality above the common, the word is in this sense applied to human beings, both living and dead; but as the dead are supposed to have acquired mysterious powers of doing good and evil to the living, the word comes to be more especially applicable to them. Though ghost and god have with us widely-distinguished meanings, yet they are originally equivalent words; or rather, originally, there is but one word for the supernatural being. Besides being shown this by missionaries who have found no native word for god which did not also mean ghost, demon, or devil; besides being shown this by the Greeks and Romans, who used for the spirits of deceased relatives the same word which they used for their great deities; and besides being shown it by the Egyptians, in whose hieroglyphics the same "determinative" means, according to the context, god, ancestor, august person—we are shown it by the Hebrews, who applied the word elohim not only to their supreme supernatural being but also to ghosts: indeed, giving as they did this same name to living persons of power, they show us, just as primitive peoples at large do, that superiority of one or other kind is the sole attribute ascribed. And since in early belief the other-self of the dead man is equally visible and tangible with the living man, so that it may be slain, drowned, or otherwise killed a second time; since the resemblance is such that it is difficult to learn what is the difference between a god and a chief among the Feejeeans; since the instances of theophany in the "Iliad" prove that the Greek god, capable of being wounded by men's weapons, was in all respects so like a man that special insight was required to discriminate him—we see how naturally it results that the title "god," given to a powerful being commonly thought of as invisible, is often given to a visible powerful being. the title being applied under the belief that he may be the other-self of some dreaded man come back, even if it is not applied because of his natural superiority. Indeed, as a sequence of this theory, it almost inevitably happens that men transcending in capacity those around them are suspected to be these returned ghosts or gods, to whom unusual powers are ordinarily ascribed. Hence the fact that Europeans, considered as the doubles of their own deceased people, are called ghosts by Australians, New-Caledonians, Darnley-Islanders, Kroomen, Calabar people, Mpongwe, etc. Hence the fact that they are called by the alternative name gods by Bushmen, Bechuanas, East Africans, Fulahs, Khonds, Feejeeans, Dyaks, ancient Mexicans, Chibchas, etc. Hence the fact that, using the word in the sense above explained, superior men among uncivilized peoples occasionally call themselves gods; as do the pâlâs, a kind of priests among the Todas, and as do some chiefs among the New-Zealanders and among the Feejeeans.

The original meaning and application of the word being thus understood, we need feel no surprise on finding "God" used as a title of honor. The King of Loango is so called by his subjects. Battel tells us; and Krapf says the like of the King of Msambara. At the present time among wandering Arabs, the name "God" is applied in no other sense than as the generic name of the most powerful living ruler known to them. This makes more credible than it might otherwise be, the statement that the Grand Lama, personally worshiped by the Tartars, is called by them "God, the Father." It is in harmony with such other facts as that Radama, King of Madagascar, is addressed by the women who sing his praises as "O our God;" and that to the Dahoman king the alternative word "Spirit" is used; so that, when he summons any one, the messenger says, "The Spirit requires you," and when he has spoken, all exclaim, "The Spirit speaketh true." All which facts make comprehensible that assumption of θεὸς as a title by ancient kings in the East which is to moderns so astonishing.

Descent of this name of honor into ordinary intercourse, though not common, does sometimes occur. After what has been said above, it will not appear strange that it should be applied to deceased persons; as, according to Motolinia, it was by the ancient Mexicans, who "called any of their dead teotl so and so—i. e., this or that god, this or that saint." And prepared by such an instance we shall understand the better its occasional use as a greeting between the living. Colonel Yule says of the Kasias, "The salutation at meeting is singular—'Kublé! O God!' "


The connection between "God" as a title and "Father" as a title becomes clear only on going back to those early forms of conception and language in which the two are undifferentiated. The fact that, even in so developed a language as Sanskrit, words which mean "making," "fabricating," "begetting," or "generating," are indiscriminately used for the same purpose, suggests how naturally in the primitive mind the living father, as begetter or visible causer of new beings, becoming at death a causer of new beings who is no longer visible, is associated in word and thought with dead and invisible causers at large, who, some of them acquiring preëminence, come to be regarded as causers in general—makers or creators. When Sir Rutherford Alcock remarks that "a spurious mixture of the theocratic and patriarchal elements forms the bases of all government, both in the Celestial and the Japanese Empires, under emperors who claim not only to be each the patriarch and father of his people, but also divine descent," he adds one to the many misinterpretations produced by descending from our high conceptions, instead of ascending from the low conceptions of the primitive man. For what he thinks a "spurious mixture" of ideas is, in fact, a normal union of ideas; which, in the cases named, has persisted longer than commonly happens in developed societies.

The Zulus show us this union very clearly. They have traditions of Unkulunkulu (literally, the old, old one), "who was the first man," "who came into being and begat man," "who gave origin to man and everything besides" (including the sun, moon, and heavens), and who is inferred to have been a black man because all his descendants are black. The original Unkulunkulu is not worshiped by them because he is supposed to be permanently dead; but instead of him the Unkulunkulus of the various tribes into which his descendants have divided are severally worshiped, and severally called "Father." Here, then, the ideas of a Creator and a Father are directly connected. Equally specific, or even more specific, are the kindred ideas conveyed in the answers which the ancient Nicaraguans gave to the question, "Who made heaven and earth?" After their first answers, "Tamagastad and Çipattoval," "our great gods whom we call teotes," cross-examination brought out the further answers—"Our fathers are these teotes;" "all men and women descend from them;" "they are of flesh and are man and woman;" "they walked over the earth dressed, and ate what the Indians ate." Gods and first parents being thus identified, fatherhood and divinity become allied ideas. The remotest ancestor supposed to be still existing in the other world to which he went, the creator of his descendants, "the old, old one," or "ancient of days," becomes the chief deity; and so "father" is not, as we suppose, a metaphorical equivalent for "god," but a literal equivalent.

Therefore it happens that among all nations we find it an alternative title. In the before-quoted prayer of the New-Caledonian to the ghost of his ancestor—"Compassionate father, here is some food for you; eat it; be kind to us on account of it"—we are shown that original identification of fatherhood and godhood to which all mythologies and theologies carry us back. We see the naturalness of the facts that the Peruvian Incas worshiped their father the Sun; that Ptah, the first of the dynasty of the gods who ruled Egypt, is called "the father of the father of the gods;" and that Zeus is "father of gods and men."

After contemplating these early beliefs in which the divine and the human are so little distinguished, or after studying the beliefs still extant in China and Japan, where the rulers, "sons of heaven," claim descent from these most ancient fathers or gods, it is easy to see how the name father, in its higher sense, comes to be applied to a living potentate. His proximate and remote ancestors being all spoken of as fathers, distinguished only by the prefixes grand, great-great, etc., it results that the name father, given to every member of the series, comes to be given to the last of the series still living. With this cause is joined a further cause. Where establishment of descent in the male line has initiated the patriarchal family, the name father, even in its original meaning, comes to be associated with supreme authority, and to be therefore a name of honor. Indeed, in nations formed by the compounding and recompounding of patriarchal groups, the two causes coalesce. The remotest known ancestor of each compounding group, at once the most ancient father and the god of the compound group, being continuously represented in blood, as well as in power, by the eldest descendant of the eldest, it happens that this patriarch, who is head not of his own group only but also of the compound group, stands to both in a relation analogous to that in which the apotheosized ancestor stands; and so combines in a measure the divine power, the paternal power, and the kingly power.

Hence the prevalence of this word as a royal title. It is used equally by American Indians and by New-Zealanders in addressing the rulers of the civilized. We find it in Africa, Of the various names for the king among the Zulus, the name father heads the list; and in Dahomey, when the king walked from the throne to the palace, "every inequality was pointed out, with finger-snappings, lest it might offend the royal toe, and a running accompaniment of 'Dadda! dadda! ' (Grandfather! grandfather!) and of 'Dedde! dedde!' (softly! softly!) was kept up." In Asia, we find cases in which the titles "Lord Raja and Lord Father" are joined together. In Europe, at the present time, father is applied to the czar; and in ancient times, under the form sire, it was the common name for potentates of various grades—feudal lords and king's: and still continues to be one of the names used in addressing a monarch.[1]

More readily than usual, perhaps from its double meaning, has this title been diffused. Everywhere we find it becoming the name for any kind of superior. Not to the king only among the Zulus is the word "baba," father, used; but also by inferiors of all ranks to those above them. In Dahomey a slave applies this name to his master, as his master applies it to the king. And Livingstone narrates how he was referred to as "our father" by his attendants, as also was Burchell by the Bachassins. It was the same of old in the East; as when "his servants came near, and spake unto Naaman, and said. My father," etc.; and it is the same in the remote East at the present time. A Japanese "apprentice addresses his patron as 'father.'" In Siam "children of the nobles are called ' father and mother 'by their subordinates;" and Hue narrates how he saw Chinese laborers prostrating themselves before a mandarin, exclaiming, "Peace and happiness to our father and mother!" Then, as a stage in the descent to more general use, may be noted its extension to those who, apart from their rank, have acquired the superiority ascribed to age: a superiority sometimes taking precedence of rank, as in Siam, and in certain ways in Japan and China. Such extension occurred in ancient Rome, where pater was at once a magisterial title and a title given by the younger to the elder, though not related; and in Russia, at the present time, the equivalent word is used to the czar, to a priest, and to any aged man. Eventually it spreads to young as well as old. Under the form sire, at first applied to feudal rulers, major and minor, the title of father originated our familar sir; once general among us in speech and still in letters.

A curious group of derivatives, common among uncivilized and semi-civilized peoples, must be named. The wish to compliment by ascribing that dignity which fatherhood implies, has in many places led to the practice of replacing a man's proper name by a name which, while it recalls this honorable paternity, distinguishes him by the name of his child. The Malays, says St. John, have "the same custom as the Dyaks of taking the name of their first-born, as Pa Sipi, the father of Sipi." Marsden names the usage as common in Sumatra; and Ellis illustrates it from Madagascar. It is so too among some Indian hill tribes: the Kasias "address each other by the names of their children, as Pabobon, father of Bobon!" Africa also furnishes instances. Bechuanas addressing Mr. Moffat used to say, "I speak to the father of Mary;" and in the Pacific States of North America there are people so solicitous to bear this primitive name of honor that, until a young man has children, his dog stands to him in the position of a son, and he is known as the father of his dog.


The supremacy associated with age in patriarchal groups and in societies derived by composition from patriarchal groups, shown primarily in that honoring of parents which, as in the Jewish commandments, is put next to the worship of God, and secondarily in the honoring of old men in general, gives rise to a kindred but divergent group of titles. Age being dignified, words indicating seniority become names of dignity.

The beginnings may be discerned among the uncivilized: councils being formed of the older men, there arises a connection between the local name for an older man and an office of power and therefore of honor. Merely noting this, it will suffice if we trace among European peoples the growth of titles hence resulting. Among the Romans, senator, or member of the senatus, words having the same root with senex, was the name for a member of the assembly of elders; and in early times these senators or elders, otherwise called patres, represented the component tribes: father and elder being thus used as equivalents. From the further cognate word senior, we have, in derived languages, signore, seigneur, senhor; first applied to head-men, rulers, or lords, and then by diffusion becoming names of honor for those of inferior rank. The same thing has happened with ealdor or aldor. This, says Max Müller, "like many other titles of rank in the various Teutonic tongues, is derived from an adjective implying age;" so that "earl" and "alderman," both diverging from this root, are names of honor, similarly resulting from that social superiority which went along with age.

Whether or not the German title Graf should be added, is a moot point. If Max Müller is right in considering the objections of Grimm to the current interpretation inadequate, then the word originally means gray; that is, gray-headed.


We may deal briefly with the remaining titles which re illustrate, in their respective ways, the general principle set forth.

Like other names of honor that grew up in very early times, the name "king" is one concerning the formation of which there are differences of opinion. By general agreement, however, its remote source is the Sanskrit ganaka; and "in Sanskrit, ganaka means producing, parent, then king." If this is the true derivation, we have simply an alternative title for the head of the family group, of the patriarchal group, and the cluster of patriarchal groups. The only further fact respecting it calling for remark is the way in which it becomes compounded to produce a higher title. Just as in Hebrew Abram, meaning "high father," came to be a compound used to signify the fatherhood and headship of many minor groups; and just as the Greek and Latin equivalents to our patriarch signified, by implication if not directly, a father of fathers—so in the case of the title "king" it has happened that a potentate recognized as dominant over numerous potentates has in many cases been descriptively called "king of kings." In Abyssinia this compound royal name is used down to the present time; ancient Egyptian monarchs assumed it; and it occurred also as a supreme title in Assyria. And here again we meet a correspondence between terrestrial and celestial titles. As "father" and "king" are applied in common to the visible and to the invisible ruler, so also is "king of kings."

This need for marking by a distinct or additional name the ruler who becomes head of many rulers leads to the introduction of other titles of honor. In France, for example, while the king was but a predominant feudal noble, he was addressed by the title of sire, which was a title borne by feudal nobles in general; but after the middle of the sixteenth century, when his supremacy became settled, the word "majesty" came into use as distinctively applicable to him. Similarly with the names of secondary potentates. In the earlier stages of the feudal period, the titles baron, marquis, duke, and count, were often confounded: the reason being that their attributes as feudal nobles, as guards of the marches, as military leaders, and as friends of the king, were so far common to them as to yield no clear grounds for distinction. But as the differentiation of functions progressed, these titles differentiated in their meanings.

"The name 'baron,' " says Chéruel, "appears to have been the generic term for every kind of great lord, that of duke for every kind of military chief, that of count and marquis for every ruler of a territory. These titles are used almost indiscriminately in the romances of chivalry. When the feudal hierarchy was constituted the name baron denoted a lord inferior in rank to a count and superior to a simple knight."

That is to say, with the progress of political organization, and the establishment of rulers over rulers, certain titles became specialized for the dignifying of the superiors, in addition to those which they had in common with the inferiors.

As is shown by the above cases, special titles, like general ones, are not made, but grow—they are at first descriptive. Further to exemplify this descriptive origin, and also to exemplify the undifferentiated use of titles in early days, let me enumerate the several styles by which, in the Merovingian period, the mayors of the palace were known, viz.: major domús regiæ, senior domús, princeps domús, and in other instances præpositus, prœfectus, rector, gubernator, moderator, dux, custos, subregulus. In which list (noting as we pass how our own title "mayor," said to be derived from the French maire, is originally derived from the Latin major, meaning either greater or elder) we are shown how further names of honor carry us back to words implying age as their originals; and how in place of these descriptive words the alternative words used are descriptive of functions.


Perhaps better in the case of titles than in any other case is illustrated the diffusion of ceremonial forms that are used to propitiate first the most powerful, then the less powerful, and, finally, all others.

Uncivilized and semi-civilized peoples, civilized peoples of past times, and existing civilized peoples, all furnish examples. Among Samoans "it is usual, in the courtesies of common conversation, for all to call each other chiefs. If you listen to the talk of little boys even, you will hear them addressing each other as chief this, that, and the other thing." In Siam, a man's children by any of his inferior wives address their father as "my lord, the king;" and the word Náï, which is the name for chief among the Siamese, "has become a term of civility which the Siamese give to one another." A kindred result has occurred in China, where sons speak of their father as "family's majesty," "prince of the family;" and China supplies a further instance, which is the more noteworthy because it is special. Here, where the supremacy of ancient teachers became so great, and where the titles 'tze or futze, signifying "great teacher," added to their names, were subsequently added to the names of distinguished writers, and where class distinctions based on intellectual eminence characterize the social organization, it has resulted that this name of honor, signifying teacher, has become an ordinary complimentary title. Ancient Rome furnishes other evidences. The spirit which led to the diffusion of titles is well exhibited by Mommsen in describing the corrupt giving of public triumphs that were originally accorded only to a "supreme magistrate who augmented the power of the state in open battle."

"In order to put an end to peaceful triumphators, . . . the granting of a triumph was made to depend on the producing proof of a pitched battle which had cost the lives of at least five thousand of the enemy; but this proof was frequently evaded by false bulletins. . . . Formerly the thanks of the community once for all had sufficed for service rendered to the state; now every meritorious act seemed to demand a permanent distinction. . . . A custom came into vogue, by which the victor and his descendants derived a permanent surname from the victories they had won. . . . The example set by the higher was followed by the humbler classes."

And under the influence thus illustrated, dominus and rex eventually became titles used to ordinary persons. Nor do modern European nations fail to exemplify the process. The prevalence of names of rank on the Continent, often remarked, reaches in some places great extremes. In Mecklenburg, says Captain Spencer, "it is computed that the nobility include one-half of the population. . . . At one of the inns I found a Herr Graf [count] for a landlord, a Frau Gräfin [countess] for a landlady, the young Herren Grafen filled the places of hostler, waiter, and boots, while the fair young Fräulein Gräfinnen were the cooks and chambermaids. I was informed that in one village. . . . the whole of the inhabitants were noble except four."

French history shows us more clearly perhaps than any other the stages of diffusion. Just noting that in early days, while madame was the title for a noble lady, mademoiselle was used to the wife of an advocate or physician, and that when, in the sixteenth century, madame descended to the married women of these middle ranks, mademoiselle descended from them to the unmarried women, let us look more especially at the masculine titles sire, seigneur, sieur, and monsieur. Setting out with sire, as an early title for a feudal noble, we find, from a remark of Montaigne, that in 1580, though still applicable in a higher sense to the king, it had descended to the vulgar, and was not used for intermediate grades. Seigneur, introduced later as a feudal title, while sire was losing its meaning by diffusion, and for a period used alternatively with it, became, in course of time, contracted into sieur. By-and-by sieur also began to spread to those of lower rank. Afterward, reëstablishing a distinction by an emphasizing prefix, there came into use monsieur, which, as applied to great seigneurs, was new in 1321, and which came also to be the title of sons of kings and dukes. And then by the time that monsieur also had become a general title among the upper classes, sieur had become a bourgeois title. Since which time, by the same process, the early sire and the later sieur, dying out, have been replaced by the universal monsieur. So that there appear to have been three waves of diffusion: sire, sieur, and monsieur, have successively spread downward.'

How by this process high titles eventually descend to the very lowest, we are shown most startlingly in Spain, where "even beggars address each other as Señor y Caballero—Lord and Knight."


For form's sake, though scarcely otherwise, it is needful to point out how we are taught here the same lesson as before. The title-giving among savages which follows victory over a foe, brute or human, and which literally or metaphorically distinguishes the individual by his achievement, unquestionably originates in militancy. Though the more general names father, king, lord, elder, and their derivatives, which afterward arise, are not directly militant in their implications, yet they are indirectly so; for they are the names of rulers evolved by militant activity, who habitually exercise militant functions: being in early stages always the commanders of their subjects in battle. Down to our most familiar titles we have this genesis implied. "Esquire" and "Mister" are derived the one from the name of a knight's attendant and the other from the name magister—originally a ruler or chief, who was a military head by origin and a civil head by development.

As in other cases, comparisons of societies of different types disclose this relation in another way. Remarking that in sanguinary and despotic Dahomey the personal name "can hardly be said to exist; it changes with every rank of the holder," Burton says: "The dignities seem to be interminable; except among the slaves and the canaille, 'handles' are the rule, not the exception, and most of them are hereditary." So, too, under Oriental despotisms. "The name of every Burman," says Yule, "disappears when he gets a title of rank or office, and is heard no more;" and in China "there are twelve orders of nobility, conferred solely on the members of the imperial house or clan," besides "the five ancient orders of nobility." In Europe it is the same. Travelers in both Russia and Germany, with their social organizations subordinated to the purposes of war, comment on the "insane rage for titles of every description:" the results being that in Russia "a police-office clerk belongs to the eighteenth grade, and has the right to the title of Your Honor;" while in Germany the names of ranks and names of office, so abundantly distributed, are habitually expected and studiously given, in both speech and writing. Meanwhile England, for ages past less militant in type of structure, has ever shown this trait in a smaller degree; and along with the recent growth of industrialism and accompanying changes of organization, the use of titles in social intercourse has greatly decreased.

With equal clearness is this connection shown within each society. Names of honor pertain to members of that regulative organization which militancy originates. By the thirteen grades in our army and the fourteen grades in our navy, we are shown that the exclusively militant structures still continue to be characterized in the highest degree by numerous and specific titular marks. To the ruling classes, descendants or representatives of those who in past times were heads of military forces, the higher distinctions of rank still mostly belong; and of remaining higher titles, the ecclesiastical and legal are also associated with the regulative organization. Meanwhile the producing and exchanging parts of the society, carrying on industrial activities, only in exceptional cases bear any titles beyond those which, descending and spreading, have almost lost their meanings.

It is indisputable, then, that, serving first to commemorate the triumphs of savages over their foes, titles have expanded, multiplied, and differentiated, as conquest has formed larger societies by consolidation and reconsolidation of small ones; and that, belonging to the type of social structure generated by habitual war, they tend to lose their meanings, their uses, and their values, in proportion as this structure is replaced by one fitted for carrying on the pursuits of peace.

  1. Though the disputes respecting the origins of sire and sieur have ended in the conclusion that they are derived from the same root, meaning originally elder, yet it has become clear that sire was a contracted form in use earlier than sieur (the contracted form of seigneur), and hence acquired a more general meaning, which became equivalent to father. Its applicability to various persons of dignity besides the seigneur, is evidence of its previous evolution and spread; and that it had a meaning equivalent to father, is shown by the fact that in early French grant-sire is used as an equivalent for grand-père, and also by the fact that sire was not applicable to an unmarried man.