Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/33

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23
Presidential Address.

rate, certain that the science of man is not in a position to oppose a downright "No" to such a possibility. On the other hand, just because it seeks to envisage the entire evolutionary history of man, anthropology is chary of doctrines that are based wholly or mainly on the study of recent phases of Western civilization—whether it be yesterday's phase of industrialism or to-day's phase of militancy. Thus it is apt to engender in the minds of its votaries the impression that we are closer in type to our forefathers than we care to think; and that racial evolution, like geological change, is a process so majestically slow as to evade the direct notice of the passing generations. Moreover, his natural bias apart, the anthropologist can point to three considerations at least that would seem to justify a belief in the likelihood of a warlike future for man, the heir of the ages.

The first of these considerations relates to the well-worn topic of the "wandering of peoples." The earth is occupied by man on a system of leasehold tenures. Whenever rents are revised, there is apt to be a flitting. If the racial gift of mobility takes the form of a moving-off in response to another's moving-on, the devil rarely forgets to claim the hindmost as his due. The delectable portions of the globe's surface are not so many that one may inhabit any of them on sufferance. Adverse possession, as the jurists say, provides the only charter that the rest of the world respects. Such possession may be ripened by the prescription of a hundred or a thousand years of undisputed ownership; but if once the ripeness turn to rottenness, if the watchman at the gate grow fat and sleepy, then the freebooters will flock together to their prey as surely as crows to a carcase. All this is written plain to read on every page of human history, perhaps even on the last.

The next consideration touches the subject of war itself, regarded as a specialized pursuit or industry which has a history of its own. It is a time-honoured view, and