Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/22

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Presidential Address.

beasts."[1] It is no less true of the member of a relatively advanced community, as, for example, the native of East Central Africa, of whom Drummond with a word-painter's licence writes: "One stick, pointed, makes him a spear; two sticks rubbed together make him a fire; fifty sticks together make him a home. The bark he peels from them makes his clothes; the fruits which hang on them form his food."[2] If, then, we construe "forest" as equivalent to anykind of natural waste, whether it be tangled jungle or bare mountain-side, variegated park-land or monotonous desert, we may find in it a sufficiently accurate differentia of savagery as compared with civilization, when the two are considered primarily as opposed conditions of the economic order. As Buckle puts it not unfairly: "Looking at the history of the world as a whole, the tendency has been, in Europe to subordinate nature to man; out of Europe to subordinate man to nature."[3]

Can we, however, proceed to assume offhand that the conquest of nature involves the conquest of self? It would certainly be unscientific to accept it as a dogma that morality is but a function of the economic life. Let us beware of a priori judgments coloured by the "historical materialism" of Marx and his school of thought. Only the study of the facts of human history can reveal how far material prosperity and righteousness go together; and these facts do not on the face of them tell a plain tale. It was no less a historian than Gibbon who returned the dubious verdict: "Every age of the world has increased, and still increases, the real wealth, the happiness, the knowledge, and perhaps the virtue, of the human race."[4]

  1. Pliny, Philemon Holland's Trans., London, 1635, VI. xxx.
  2. H. Drummond, Tropical Africa, 55.
  3. H. T. Buckle, History of Civilization in England {%S7), 138.
  4. Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, xxxviii., ap. Sir E. B. Tylor, Primitive Culture,4 i. 35.