Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/36

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Presidential Address.

For example, he is bound to have paid special attention to the sort of savagery that is displayed by the ruder peoples during war. He might well be asked, therefore, by the judge of the high court of ethics whether in the long run such savagery appears to pay—whether he would recommend it to future ages as something that might in some fashion be rationalized, and so might be brought within the scope of some sound scheme of what we may call "civilized dominancy." Without venturing further afield, then, let us by way of conclusion shortly inquire how an anthropological witness would be likely to reply to this question.

The judge, we may suppose, might think fit to inform the witness that the court was anxious to retain in use the old-fashioned "manly" virtues in so far as they did not unduly hamper the development of humanitarian feeling; and that, in particular, it desired to find a place among these for the virtue described by Bishop Butler under the name of "righteous indignation," namely, the trained capacity to react forcibly and repressively upon all unfair aggression and all gross violation of the rights of others. Would the witness be kind enough to say whether those special characteristics of the manlier variety of wild folk which have given the word "savagery" its unfavourable sense, namely, their bloodthirstiness and indiscriminate cruelty, contain, or do not contain, the germ and promise of that stern yet disciplined mood in which the best of civilized men may be expected to fight against injustice and oppression?

The answer of the anthropologist would, surely, be that the savagery of the primitive warrior is the accident, not the essence, of his fighting quality. His is a "hair-trigger organization" of soul, deficient in those controls which turn the passions into servants of the will.[1] Consequently, he is apt to "see red," and play the mad dog, not because his purposes are thereby consciously advanced, but simply

  1. Cf. W. James, Principles of Psychology, ii. 538.