Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/483

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earliest stages of civilization. The conquering chief, feared, marvelled at, for his strength or sagacity, distinguished from others by a quality thought of as supernatural (when the antithesis of this with natural becomes thinkable), ever excites a disproportionate faith and expectation. Having done or seen things beyond the power or insight of inferiors, there is no knowing what other such things he may not do or see. After death, his deeds become magnified by tradition; and his successor, inheriting his authority, executing his commands, and keeping up secret communication with him, acquires either thus, or by his own superiority, or by both, a like credit for powers that transcend the ordinary human powers. So there accumulates an awe of the ruler, with its correlative faith. As we trace the genealogy of the governing power, thus beginning as god, and descendant of the gods, and having titles and a worship in common with the gods, we see there clings to it, through all its successive metamorphoses, more or less of this same ascribed character, exciting this same sentiment. "Divinely descended" becomes presently "divinely appointed," "the Lord's anointed," "ruler by divine right," "king by the grace of God," etc. And then as fast as declining monarchical power brings with it decreasing belief in the supernaturalness of the monarch (which, however, long lingers in faint forms, as instance the supposed cure of kind's evil), the growing powers of the bodies that assume his functions bring to them a share of the still-surviving sentiment. The "divinity that doth hedge a king" becomes, in considerable measure, the divinity that doth hedge a Parliament. The superstitious reverence once felt toward the one is transferred, in a modified form, to the other, taking with it a tacit belief in an ability to achieve any end that may be wished, and a tacit belief in an authority to which no limits may be set.

This sentiment, inherited and cultivated in men from childhood upward, sways their convictions in spite of them. It generates an irrational confidence in all the paraphernalia and appliances and forms of State-action. In the very aspect of a law-deed, written in an archaic hand on dingy parchment, there is something which raises a conception of validity not raised by ordinary writing on paper. Around a Government-stamp there is a certain glamour which makes us feel as though the piece of paper bearing it was more than a mere mass of dry pulp with some indented marks. To any legal form of words there seems to attach an authority far greater than that which would be felt were the language free from legal involutions and legal technicalities. And so is it with all the symbols of authority, from royal pageants downward. That the judge's wig gives to his decisions a weight and sacredness they would not have were he bareheaded, is a fact familiar to every one. And, when we descend to the lowest agents of the executive organization, we find the same thing. A man in blue coat and white-metal buttons, which carry with them the thought