Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/30

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Presidential Address.

So much will be admitted by most civilized persons. What, then, are these drawbacks? We have already had occasion to note the so-called "dualism" of primitive morals. As Spencer phrases it, the "ethics of enmity" and the "ethics of amity"[1] must coexist in the breast of the predatory savage as best they can. Now if the lion and the lamb are to flourish side by side, it is necessary to separate them by a wall of brass. Unfortunately, or, rather, fortunately, the human soul is a "unity in difierence," which as such cannot endure any absolute separation of its activities by brazen barriers or otherwise. The slightest acquaintance with the psychology of the predatory savage will convince us that, in his case, the lion tends to encroach on the lamb—with the usual result.

To put the matter less picturesquely, the predatory life as pursued by the savage imposes a decided check on the development of his sympathies. All this has been so well explained by Bagehot that it will be enough here to repeat his main contention. "War," he says, speaking more particularly of primitive war as waged at the "nation-making" stage of society, "both needs and generates certain virtues; not the highest, but what may be called the preliminary virtues, as valour, veracity, the spirit of obedience, the habit of discipline . . ."[2] "Humanity, charity, a nice sense of the rights of others, it certainly does not foster."[3] In short, the best that can be said for primitive war is that it provides the cure for that most deep-seated of savage failings, namely, the sleepy, listless apathy to which the innocuous kind of wild man, the "blameless Ethiopian," is so notoriously addicted. For these negative and passive virtues, if such a name can be given to them at all, the predatory life substitutes certain positive and active virtues—the "manly" virtues, as even the civilized man is wont by preference to regard them. In a similar vein old Charlevoix writes of

  1. H. Spencer, Principles of Ethics, i, 316.
  2. Bagehot, op. cit. 74.
  3. Bagehot, op. cit. 78.