Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 26.djvu/116

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106
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

enthronement of his successor. When the King of Ashantee dies, his women destroy his treasures, and general unrestricted license, robbery, and murder prevail in the country: and a similar season of disorder ensues on the death of the chief in Whydah, Benin, and other states. Waitz remarks, in his "Anthropology of Savages," concerning the duration and extent of this license: "Usage has limited the anarchy to a definite and short time, and it is admitted by all that the disorder in no way works a real dissolution of all social bonds, but is only to be regarded as a sudden relaxation of them which, notwithstanding that all sorts of outrage are let loose, is always controlled by custom, and induces no material damage to society." In Ashantee, the season of unrestraint may last for five days: in other states it may continue for a considerably longer time, as in Loango, where it prevails for several months. In Dahomey, the death of the king is not made known for eighteen months, while the heir, assisted by the two highest officers, reigns in his name during this whole period. The eighteen months seem to mark the time during which a legal anarchy formerly prevailed, though it may now have been done away with.

We have a right to conclude from these facts that a tolerated disorder is an accompaniment of the death of a ruler, and lasts until the accession of a new one. The eighteen months mentioned above were probably originally an interval of that kind: and, although the deceased ruler is now immediately succeeded by another, the latter still reigns, according to a custom transmitted from that time, not in his own name, but in that of his predecessor, who is not regarded as dead, but only as ineffective. A customary anarchy is also said to have prevailed as a form of mourning after the death of a sub-chief among the Maravis—a fact that agrees with the general explanation of the usage incidentally given by Waitz, who remarks that it "appears to be nothing more than the public mourning of the whole country, which inflicts wounds upon itself as individual relatives afflict themselves after the death of a private person." A similar motive possibly prompts the destruction of the king's jewels by his women in Ashantee, and is perhaps re-enforced by a view which has been observed to prevail in earlier stages of civilization, that all that he possesses dies with the owner. Livingstone speaks of a periodical lawlessness among the Banyai, which ceases upon the election of a new chief. A similar custom prevails among the Wahumas of the lake-region, who have in other respects made considerable advances in civilization. These African peoples stand as a rule at a far lower grade of civilization than the one which the people of the duchy of Carinthia had reached while the custom of legal anarchy as described still existed among them. We are able to study the practice more closely among the African peoples, and make a nearer approach to its origin. Among them it does not appear to be connected with the time when the newly chosen chief ascends the throne, but at an earlier period to have lasted