Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/486

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ages; or if, at the present time, we observe how the least advanced European nations show a superstitious awe of the ruler, which, in the more advanced, has become conventional respect; we shall perceive that decrease of the feeling goes on, and can normally go on, only as fast as the fitness of men for social coöperation increases. Manifestly, throughout all past time, assemblages of men in whom the aggressive selfishness of the predatory nature existed without this feeling, which induces obedience to a controlling power, dissolved and disappeared, leaving the world to be peopled by those who had the required emotional balance. And it is manifest that, even in civilized society, if the sentiment of subordination becomes enfeebled without self-control gaining in strength proportionately, there arises a danger of social dissolution—a truth of which France supplies an illustration.

Hence, as above said, the conceptions of sociological phenomena, or, at least, of those all-important ones relating to governmental structures and actions, must now, and for a long time to come, be rendered more or less untrue by this perturbing emotion. Here, in the concrete, may be recognized the truth before stated in the abstract, that the individual citizen, embedded, as it were, in the social organism as one of its units, mainly moulded by its influences, and aiding reciprocally to remould it, furthering its life while enabled by it to live, cannot so emancipate himself as to see things around him in their real relations. Unless the mass of citizens have sentiments and beliefs in something like harmony with the social organization in which they are incorporated, this organization cannot continue. These sentiments proper to each type of society will inevitably sway the sociological conclusions of its units. And, among other sentiments, this awe of embodied power will take a large share in doing this.

How large a share it takes, we shall see on contemplating the astonishingly perverted estimates of rulers it has produced, and the resulting perversions of history. Recall the titles of adoration given to emperors and kings; the ascription to them of capacities, beauties, powers, virtues, transcending those of mankind in general; the fulsome flatteries used when commending them to God in prayers professing to utter the truth. Now, side by side with these, put records of their deeds throughout all past times in all nations; notice how thickly these records are sprinkled with crimes of all orders; and then dwell a while on the contrast. Is it not manifest that the conceptions of State-actions that went along with these profoundly untrue conceptions of rulers must also have been profoundly untrue? Take, as a single example, King James, who, as described by Mr. Bisset in agreement with other historians, was "in every relation of life in which he is viewed .... equally an object of aversion or contempt;" but to whom, nevertheless, the English translation of the Bible is dedicated in sentences beginning, "Great and manifold were the blessings, most