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Civilisation: Its Cause and Cure

by Edward Carpenter

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[Pg 267]


As the author's attacks in the body of this book upon the Civilisation peoples have sometimes been regarded as extreme and unjustified, it has been thought appropriate, here in the Appendix, to collect a few notes from reliable authorities on the characteristics and customs of pre-civilised men—not so much of course with the object of proving the latter always superior to the former, as of bringing to light the many admirable virtues of the early peoples, which a cheap modern civilisation has neglected or somewhat contemptuously ignored.

No one would deny that there are many cases of primitive folk—folk unclean and ignorant and absurdly superstitious—who can hardly be said to command our admiration. On the other hand there are a vast number of cases of an opposite sort—cases which present to us the realisation of some remarkable human characteristic or social capacity well worthy of consideration or even of imitation. If our Civilisation is ever to move on to some form better than the present, it is these latter cases which ought to be of assistance; for they not only direct our attention to human possibilities, but by showing what has been realised in the past assure us that such ideals are by no means unattainable now.

It is therefore with a view to cases of this kind that the following Appendix has been framed.

E. C.

[Pg 268]

Civilisation does not Engross all the Virtues.

Quotations from Herman Melville's Typee, pp. 225, etc. (John Murray, 1861.)

"Civilisation does not engross all the virtues of humanity: she has not even her full share of them. They flourish in greater abundance and attain greater strength among many barbarous people. The hospitality of the wild Arab, the courage of the North American Indian, and the faithful friendships of some of the Polynesian nations, far surpass anything of a similar kind among the polished communities of Europe. If truth and justice, and the better principles of our nature, cannot exist unless enforced by the statute-book, how are we to account for the social condition of the Typees? So pure and upright were they in all the relations of life, that entering their valley, as I did, under the most erroneous impressions of their character, I was soon led to exclaim in amazement: 'Are these the ferocious savages, the bloodthirsty cannibals of whom I have heard such frightful tales! They deal more kindly with each other, and are more humane, than many who study essays on virtue and benevolence, and who repeat every night that beautiful prayer breathed first by the lips of the divine and gentle Jesus.' I will frankly declare, that after passing a few weeks in this valley of the Marquesas, I formed a higher estimate of human nature than I had ever before entertained. But alas! since then I have been one of the crew of a man-of-war, and the pent-up wickedness of five hundred men has nearly overturned all my previous theories.

*         *         *         *         *         *

"How little do some of these poor islanders comprehend, when they look around them, that no inconsiderable part[Pg 269] of their disasters originate in certain tea-party excitements, under the influence of which benevolent-looking gentlemen in white cravats solicit alms, and old ladies in spectacles, and young ladies in sober russet low gowns, contribute sixpences towards the creation of a fund, the object of which is to ameliorate the spiritual condition of the Polynesians, but whose end has almost invariably been to accomplish their temporal destruction!

"Let the savages be civilised, but civilise them with benefits, and not with evils; and let heathenism be destroyed, but not by destroying the heathen. The Anglo-Saxon hive have extirpated Paganism from the greater part of the North American continent; but with it they have likewise extirpated the greater portion of the Red race. Civilisation is gradually sweeping from the earth the lingering vestiges of Paganism, and at the same time the shrinking forms of its unhappy worshippers.

"Among the islands of Polynesia, no sooner are the images overturned, the temples demolished, and the idolaters converted into nominal Christians, than disease, vice, and premature death make their appearance. The depopulated land is then recruited from the rapacious hordes of enlightened individuals who settle themselves within its borders, and clamorously announce the progress of the Truth. Neat villas, trim gardens, shaven lawns, spires, and cupolas arise, while the poor savage soon finds himself an interloper in the country of his fathers, and that too on the very site of the hut where he was born.

*         *         *         *         *         *

"During my whole stay on the island I never witnessed a single quarrel, nor any thing that in the slightest degree approached even to a dispute. The natives appeared to form one household, whose members were bound together by the ties of strong affection. The love of kindred I[Pg 270] did not so much perceive, for it seemed blended in the general love; and where all were treated as brothers and sisters, it was hard to tell who were actually related to each other by blood.

"Let it not be supposed that I have overdrawn this picture. I have not done so. Nor let it be urged that the hostility of this tribe to foreigners, and the hereditary feuds they carry on against their fellow-islanders beyond the mountains, are facts which contradict me. Not so: these apparent discrepancies are easily reconciled. By many a legendary tale of violence and wrong, as well as by events which have passed before their eyes, these people have been taught to look upon white men with abhorrence. The cruel invasion of their country by Porter has alone furnished them with ample provocation; and I can sympathize in the spirit which prompts the Typee warrior to guard all the passes to his valley with the point of his levelled spear, and, standing upon the beach, with his back turned upon his green home, to hold at bay the intruding European."

Influences of "Civilisation"

From R. L. Stevenson's In the South Seas, p. 43. (Chatto and Windus, 1908.)

[It is asked] "Was not the Polynesian always unchaste? Doubtless he was so always: doubtless he is more so since the coming of his remarkably chaste visitors from Europe. Take the Hawaiian account of Cook: I have no doubt it is entirely fair. Take Krusenstern's candid, almost innocent description of a Russian man-of-war at the Marquesas; consider the disgraceful history of missions in Hawaii itself ... add the practice of whaling fleets to call at the Marquesas and carry off a complement of[Pg 271] women for the cruise ... and bear in mind how it was the custom of the adventurers, and we may almost say the business of the missionaries, to deride and infract even the most salutary tapus (taboos)."

Captain Cook at Owyhee in 1799

From his Life and Voyages, p. 379. (George Newnes, 1904.)

"In the progress of the intercourse which was maintained between our voyagers and the natives, the quiet and inoffensive behaviour of the latter took away every apprehension of danger, so that the English trusted themselves among them at all times and in all situations. The instances of kindness and civility which our people experienced from them were so numerous that they could not easily be recounted. A society of priests, in particular, displayed a generosity and munificence of which no equal example had hitherto been given: for they furnished a constant supply of hogs and vegetables to our navigators, without ever demanding a return, or even hinting at it in the most distant manner." Of the island of Wateeoo (p. 309), "the inhabitants are very numerous, and many of the young men were perfect models in shape."

Natives of Tahiti

From Havelock Ellis' Sex in relation to Society, p. 148. (1910.)

"The example of Tahiti is instructive as regards the prevalence of chastity among peoples of what we generally consider low grades of civilisation. An early explorer,[Pg 272] J. R. Forster (Observations made on a voyage round the World, 1778), speaks of the fine climate and the beauty of the females, as inviting powerfully to the enjoyments and pleasures of love. Yet he is over and over again impelled to set down facts which bear testimony to the virtues of these people. Though rather effeminate in build they are athletic, he says. Moreover in their wars they fight with great bravery and valour. They are, for the rest, hospitable. He remarks that they treat their married women with great respect, and that women generally are nearly the equals of men, both in intelligence and social position; he gives a charming description of the women. 'In short their character,' he concludes, 'is as amiable as that of any nation that ever came unimproved out of the hands of Nature'[!]"...

"When Cook," continues Ellis, "who visited Tahiti many times, was among this 'benevolent, humane' people, he noted their esteem for chastity, and found that not only were betrothed girls strictly guarded before marriage, but that men also who had refrained from sexual intercourse for some time before marriage were believed to pass at death immediately into the abode of the blessed."

Radack—one of the Caroline Islands

From Chamisso's Reise um die Welt, p. 183. (Leipzig.)

"Thus we made acquaintance with a people who have endeared themselves to me more than any others of the children of Earth. The very weaknesses of the Radack folk removed mistrust on our side; their very gentleness and goodness caused them to be trustful towards us, the all-powerful strangers; we became declared friends. I found among them simple, unsophisticated manners, charm,[Pg 273] natural grace, and the pleasant bloom of modesty. In the matter, certainly, of strength and manly independence the O-Waihier [Owyhees] are greatly their superiors. My friend, Kadu, who, though not belonging to this island-group, attached himself to us, was one of the finest characters I have ever met and one of the most dear to me of human beings; and he afterwards became my instructor with regard to Radack and the Caroline Islands."

Adaptation of Early Peoples to Surroundings

The Dinkas (Central Africa): from Grogan's Cape to Cairo, p. 278. (Hurst & Blackett, 1900.)

"Every one in Dinka-land carries a long spear, or pointed fish-spear, and a club made of a heavy purple wood, while the more important gentlemen wear enormous ivory bracelets round their upper arm; strict nudity is the fashion, and a marabout feather in the hair is the essence of chic. They are all beautifully built, having broad shoulders, small waist, good hips, and well-shaped legs. The stature of some is colossal. It was most curious to see how these Dinkas, living as they do in the marshes, approximate to the type of the waterbird. They have much the same walk as a heron, picking their feet up very high and thrusting them well forward; while their feet are enormous. Their colossal height is indeed a great advantage in the reed grown country in which they live. The favourite pose of a Dinka (on one foot, with the other foot resting on the knee) is in reality the favourite pose of a water bird.... They are the complete antithesis of the pigmy, as the country in which they live is the complete antithesis of the dense forest which is the home of the dwarfs.... Our camp was near a large village[Pg 274] where there were at least 1,500 head of cattle, besides sheep and goats, and the chief brought me a fine fat bull-calf—which settled the nervous question of food for two days.... The rambling village with its groups of figures and long lines of home-coming cattle, dimly seen in the smoke of a hundred fires as I approached at sunset, was very picturesque."

The Pigmies: from Cape to Cairo, pp. 144 and 161.

"The pigmies have no settled villages, nor do they cultivate anything. They live the life of the brute in the forests, perpetually wandering in search of honey or in pursuit of elephant; when they succeed in killing anything, they throw up a few grass shelters and remain there till all the meat is either eaten or dried. They depend upon the other natives for the necessary grain, which they either steal or barter for elephant meat or honey. All their knives, spearheads and arrow-heads they likewise purchase from other people, but they make their own bows and arrows. So well are these made that they are held in great esteem by the surrounding people." ... "An hour later I met an elderly pigmy in the forest and managed to induce him to talk. He was a splendid little fellow, full of self-confidence, and gave me most concise information, stating that the white man with many belongings had passed near by two days before, and had then gone down to the lake-shore, where he was camped at that moment. These people must have a wonderful code of signs and signals, as despite their isolated and nomadic existence they always know exactly what is happening everywhere. He was a typical pigmy as found on the volcanoes—squat, gnarled, proud, and easy of carriage. His beard hung down over his chest, and his thighs and chest were covered with wiry hair. He carried the usual pigmy bow made of two pieces of cane spliced together[Pg 275] with grass, and with a string made of a single strand of a rush that grows in the forests. The pigmies are splendid examples of the adaptability of Nature to her surroundings; the combination of strength and conciseness enabling them to move with astonishing rapidity in the pig-runs that form the only pathway through the impenetrable growth, and to endure the fatigue of elephant-hunting."

Natives in Ruanda (near Lake Kivu): Cape to Cairo, p. 118.

"Society in Ruanda is divided into two castes, the Watusi and the Wahutu. The Watusi are the descendants of a great wave of Galla invasion that reached even to Tanganyika. They still retain their pastoral instincts, and refuse to do any other work than the tending of cattle; and so great is their affection for their beasts, that rather than sever company they will become slaves, and do the menial work of their beloved cattle for the benefit of their conquerors. This is all the more remarkable when one takes into account their inherent pride of race and contempt for other peoples, even for the white man.... Many signs of superior civilisation, observable in the peoples with whom the Watusi have come into contact, are traceable to this Galla influence.

"The hills are terraced, thus increasing the area of cultivation, and obviating the denudation of fertile slopes by torrential rains. In many cases irrigation is carried out on a sufficiently extensive scale, and the swamps are drained by ditches. Artificial reservoirs are built with side troughs for watering cattle. The fields are in many cases fenced in by planted hedges of euphorbia and thorn, and similar fences are planted along the narrow parts of the main cattle tracks, to prevent the beasts from straying or trampling down the cultivation.

[Pg 276]

"There is also an exceptional diversity of plants cultivated, such as hungry rice, maize, red and white millet, several kinds of beans, peas, bananas, and the edible arum. Some of the higher growing beans are even trained on sticks planted for the purpose. Pumpkins and sweet potatoes are also common; and the Watusi own and tend enormous herds of cattle, goats and sheep. Owing to the magnificent pasturage the milk is of excellent quality, and they make large quantities of butter. They are exceedingly clever with their beasts, and have many calls which the cattle understand. At milking time they light smoke-fires to keep the flies from irritating the beasts.... They are tall slightly built men of graceful nonchalant carriage, and their features are delicate and refined. I noticed many faces that, bleached and set in a white collar, would have been conspicuous for character in a London drawing-room. The legal type was especially pronounced." ...

"The Wahutu are their absolute antithesis. They are the aborigines of the country, and any pristine originality or character has been effectually stamped out of them. Hewers of wood and drawers of water, they do all the hard work, and unquestioning in abject servility give up the proceeds on demand. Their numerical proportion to the Watusi must be at least a hundred to one, yet they defer to them without protest; and in spite of the obvious hatred in which they hold their over lords, there seems to be no friction."

Natives of the Andaman Islands

The following extracts, about the Andaman-islanders of the Bay of Bengal, the Bushmen of South Africa, and the Eskimo tribes of Northern latitudes, are specially [Pg 277]interesting because they deal with peoples whose present-day culture is undoubtedly on a par with, and in all probability directly inherited from, the peoples of a long-past Stone Age. Thus we get indirectly a glimpse of what the culture of the Stone Ages was—both in its material acquisitions and its grade of social and psychological evolution.

From In the Andamans and Nicobars, p. 184, by C. Boden Kloss. (Murray, 1903.)

"The Andaman Islands are inhabited by people of pure Negrito blood, members of perhaps the most ancient race remaining on the earth, and standing closest to the primitive human type.... It would be impossible to find anywhere a race of purer descent than the Andamanese, for ever since they peopled the islands in the Stone Age, they have remained secluded from the outer world.... In stature they are far below the average height; but although they have been called dwarfs and pygmies, these words must not be understood to imply anything in the nature of a monstrosity. Their reputation for hideousness, like their poisoned arrows and cannibalism, has long been a fallacy which, though widely popular, should now be exploded. The average heights of the men and women are found to be 4 feet 10¾ inches, and 4 feet 7¼ inches respectively, and their figures, which are proportionately built, are very symmetrical and graceful. Although not to be described as muscular, they are of good development, the men being agile, yet sturdy, with broad chests and square shoulders."

From E. H. Man on The Aborigines of the Andaman Islands, p. 14. (Trübner, 1883.)

"No idiots, maniacs or lunatics have ever yet been observed among them, and this is not because those so[Pg 278] afflicted are killed or confined by their fellows, for the greatest care and attention are invariably paid to the sick, aged and helpless."

Mr. Man also remarks (Journ. Anthrop. Inst. XII, 92): "It has been observed with regret by all interested in the race, that intercourse with the alien population has, generally speaking, prejudicially affected their morals; and that the candour, veracity, and self-reliance they manifest in their savage and untutored state are, when they become associated with foreigners, to a great extent lost, and habits of untruthfulness, dependence and sloth engendered."

The Bushmen

Extract from F. C. Selous' African Nature-Notes, pp. 344 and 347. (1908.)

"When I met with the first Bushmen I ever saw, on the banks of the Orange River in 1872, I was a very young man, and, regarding them with some repugnance, wrote in my diary that they appeared to be removed by a very few steps from the brute creation. That was a very foolish and ignorant remark to make, and I have since found out that though Bushmen may possibly be to-day in the same backward state of material development and knowledge as once were the palæolithic ancestors of the most highly cultured European races in prehistoric times, yet fundamentally there is very little difference between the natures of primitive and civilised men, so that it is quite possible for a member of one of the more cultured races to live for a time quite happily and contentedly amongst beings who are often described as degraded savages, and from whom he is separated by thousands of years in all that is implied by the word 'civilisation.' I have hunted a great deal with Bushmen, and during 1884 I lived amongst these[Pg 279] people continuously for several months together. On many and many a night I have slept in their encampments without even any Kafir attendants, and though I was entirely in their power I always felt perfectly safe among them. As most of the men spoke Sechwana I was able to converse with them, and found them very intelligent, good-natured companions, full of knowledge concerning the habits of all the wild animals inhabiting the country in which they lived.... I have never seen their women and children ill-treated by them, and I have seen both the men and the women show affection for their children."

Elsewhere Selous speaks of "John"—a member of the close-related Korana clan—who was in his service, as "of a pale yellow-brown colour, beautifully proportioned, with small delicately made hands and feet."

From preface by Henry Balfour to the book Bushmen Paintings Copied, by Helen Tongue.

"It is certain that the designs representing animals, etc., which are painted upon the walls of their caves and rock-shelters, frequently exhibit a realism and freedom in treatment which are quite remarkable in the art of so primitive a people. The skill with which many of the characteristic South African animals are portrayed testifies not only to unusual artistic efficiency, but also to a close observance of and an intimate acquaintanceship with the habits and peculiarities of the animals themselves.... The paintings are remarkable not only for the realism exhibited by so many, but also for a freedom from the limitation to delineation in profile which characterises for the most part the drawings of primitive peoples, especially where animals are concerned. Attitudes of a kind difficult to render were ventured upon without hesitation, and an appreciation even of the rudiments of perspective is occasionally to be noted."

[Pg 280]

Note from the same book, by S. Bleek, daughter of the well-known Dr. Bleek, of the Grey Library at Cape Town (1870).

"Bushmen are called liars and thieves all over the Colony, but all those who stayed with us were truthful and very honest. On no occasion did they steal even a pocket-knife lost in the garden, or fruit from the trees. They might have taken sheep from hostile farmers, but they would never rob a friend or neighbour. They were cleanly in their habits, and most particular about manners.... As a people they were grateful and revengeful, independent in spirit, excellent fighters—who preferred death to captivity.... Captives were sometimes made servants, but not often well-treated, nor did they take to a settled life easily. Even kind masters found their longing for freedom hard to conquer."

The Nechilli Eskimo

From Amundsen's North West Passage, vol. i, p. 294. (Constable, 1908.)

"We were suddenly brought face to face here with a people from the Stone Age: we were abruptly carried back several thousand years in the advance of human progress, to people who as yet knew no other method of procuring fire than by rubbing two pieces of wood together, and who with great difficulty managed to get their food just lukewarm, over the seal-oil flame on a stone slab, while we cooked our food in a moment with our modern cooking apparatus. We came here, with our most ingenious and most recent inventions in the way of firearms, to people who still used lances, bows and arrows of reindeer horn.... However, we should be wrong if from the[Pg 281] weapons, implements, and domestic appliances of these people we were to argue that they were of low intelligence. Their implements, apparently so very primitive, proved to be as well adapted to their existing requirements and conditions as experience and the skilful tests of many centuries could have made them."

Ugpi, an Eskimo

From Amundsen vol. i, p. 190.

"Ugpi or Uglen (the 'Owl') as we always called him, attracted immediate attention by his appearance. With his long black hair hanging over his shoulders, his dark eyes and frank honest expression, he would have been good-looking if his broad face and large mouth had not spoilt his beauty from a European standpoint. There was something serious, almost dreamy, about him. Honesty and truthfulness are unmistakably impressed on his features, and I would never have hesitated for a moment to entrust him with anything. During his association with us he became an exceptionally clever hunter both for birds and reindeer. He was about thirty years old and was married to Kabloka, a very small girl of seventeen."

Eskimo and Civilisation

From Amundsen vol. ii, p. 48.

"During the voyage of the Gjoa, we came into contact with ten different Eskimo tribes in all ... and I must state it as my firm conviction that the Eskimo living absolutely isolated from civilisation of any kind are undoubtedly[Pg 282] the happiest, healthiest, most honorable and most contented among them. It must therefore be the bounden duty of civilised nations who come into contact with the Eskimo to safeguard them against contaminating influences, and by laws and stringent regulations protect them against the many perils and evils of so-called civilisation. Unless this is done they will inevitably be ruined.... My sincerest wish for our friends the Nechilli Eskimo is that Civilisation may never reach them."

High Standard of Tribal Morality among the Aleoutes

Witnessed to by the Russian missionary, Veniaminoff. See Mutual Aid, pp. 99 and 100, by P. Kropotkin.

The high standard of the tribal morality of the Eskimos has often been mentioned in general literature. Nevertheless the following remarks upon the manners of the Aleoutes—nearly akin to the Eskimos—will better illustrate savage morality as a whole. They were written, after a ten years' stay among the Aleoutes, by a most remarkable man—the Russian missionary, Veniaminoff. I sum them up, mostly in his own words:—

Endurability (he wrote) is their chief feature. It is simply colossal. Not only do they bathe every morning in the frozen sea, and stand naked on the beach, inhaling the icy wind, but their endurability, even when at hard work on insufficient food, surpasses all that can be imagined. During a protracted scarcity of food, the Aleoute cares first for his children; he gives them all he has, and himself fasts. They are not inclined to stealing; that was remarked even by the first Russian immigrants. Not that they never steal; every Aleoute would confess having sometime[Pg 283] stolen something, but it is always a trifle; the whole is so childish. The attachment of the parents to their children is touching, though it is never expressed in words or pettings. The Aleoute is with difficulty moved to make a promise, but once he has made it he will keep it whatever may happen. (An Aleoute made Veniaminoff a gift of dried fish, but it was forgotten on the beach in the hurry of the departure. He took it home. The next occasion to send it to the missionary was in January; and in November and December there was a great scarcity of food in the Aleoute encampment. But the fish was never touched by the starving people, and in January it was sent to its destination.)

Home Life of the Eskimo

By Villialm Stefansson. From Harper's Monthly, October, 1908.

Stefansson lived for thirteen months in the household of a Chief, Ovaynak, on the Mackenzie River, and knew his subject well. He says:—

"With their absolute equality of the sexes and perfect freedom of separation, a permanent union of uncongenial persons is well-nigh inconceivable. But if a couple find each other congenial enough to remain married a year or two, divorce becomes exceedingly improbable, and is much rarer among the middle-aged than among us. People of the age of twenty-five and over are usually very fond of each other, and the family—when once it becomes settled—appears to be on a higher level of affection and mutual consideration than is common among us. In an Eskimo home I have never heard an unpleasant word between a[Pg 284] man and his wife, never seen a child punished, nor an old person treated inconsiderately. Yet the household affairs are carried on in an orderly way, and the good behaviour of the children is remarked by practically every traveller.

"These charming qualities of the Eskimo home may be largely due to their equable disposition and the general fitness of their character for the communal relations; but it seems reasonable to give a portion of the credit to their remarkable social organisation; for they live under conditions for which some of our best men are striving—conditions that with our idealists are even yet merely dreams."

Religious Beliefs among the Eskimos

From Rasmussen's People of the Polar North, pp. 125 and 127. (1908.)

"Their religious opinions do not lead them to any sort of worship of the supernatural, but consist—if they are to be formulated in a creed—of a list of commandments and rules of conduct controlling their relations with unknown forces hostile to man."

"A wise and independent thinking Eskimo, Otag the Magician, said to me of death: 'You ask, but I know nothing of death; I am only acquainted with life. I can only say what I believe: either death is the end of life, or else it is the transition into another mode of life. In neither case is there anything to fear. Nevertheless I do not want to die, because I consider that it is good to live.' This calm way of envisaging death is not unusual; I have seen many pagan Eskimos go to meet certain death without a trace of fear."

[Pg 285]

Periodical Distributions to Obviate Accumulations of Wealth

From Kropotkin's Mutual Aid, p. 97. (Heinemann, 1908.)

"(The Eskimos) have an original means for obviating the inconveniences arising from a personal accumulation of wealth—which would soon destroy their tribal unity. When a man has grown rich he convokes the folk of his clan to a great festival, and after much eating, distributes among them all his fortune. On the Yukon river Dall saw an Aleoute family distributing in this way ten guns, ten full fur dresses, two hundred strings of beads, numerous blankets, ten wolf furs, two hundred beavers and five hundred zibellines. After that they took off their festival dresses, and putting on old ragged furs, addressed a few words to their kinsfolk, saying that, though they are now poorer than any one of them, they have won their friendship.[50] Like distributions of wealth appear to be a regular habit with the Eskimos, and to take place at a certain season, after an exhibition of all that has been obtained during the year. In my (Kropotkin) opinion, these distributions reveal a very old institution, contemporaneous with the first apparition of personal wealth; they must have been a means for re-establishing equality among the members of the clan, after it had been disturbed by the enrichment of the few. The periodical redistribution of land and the periodical abandonment of all debts, which took place in historical times with so many different races (Semites, Aryans, etc.), must have been a survival of that old custom."

[Pg 286]

The Samoyedes

From Icebound on the Kolguev, p. 384, by A. Trevor-Battye. (Constable, 1895.)

"Family affection among the Samoyeds is very strongly developed. It would be impossible to find greater evidence of this among any people. Another extremely marked character among them is family order. All everyday offices and occupations are carried out by a well-defined method and subdivision of labour. I never saw a single instance of anything approaching a family quarrel.... They are very handy sailors, patient and successful hunters and fishermen, and admirable workmen with such tools as they understand. No man can repair a damaged boat more quickly than a Samoyed, and from the roughest drift-wood (such as an English carpenter would throw on the fire), they fashion bows, arrows, sleighs, spoons, drinking-cups, bullet-moulds, and a variety of articles of everyday use."

The Belle of Kolguev

From Icebound on the Kolguev, p. 130.

"Her sister-in-law Ustynia was really, if you accept the type, a pretty girl.... Her eyes were bright, and a pleasant smile played about her lips. When she laughed—and these people are always laughing—she betrayed the most perfectly beautiful teeth it is possible to imagine. Indeed all these people, even old Uano, had most wonderful teeth—white, regular and perfectly shaped. On her fingers Ustynia wore heavy rings of white and yellow metal, and her hands, like those of all Samoyeds, were faultless in[Pg 287] shape and extraordinarily supple. If you add to this a dress reaching to the knees, formed of young reindeer skin, worked in many stripes of white and brown, the skirt banded with scarlet cloth and dogskin fur, and foot and leg coverings of soft patterned skin reaching above the knee—there you have Ustynia, the belle of Kolguev."

The Todas

Quoted from The Todas, by W. H. Rivers (1906).

These people live on a very lofty and isolated plateau of the Nilgiri Hills in South India; and are especially interesting to us because till 1812 "they were absolutely unknown to Europeans," and developed their own customs untouched by Western civilisation. "They are a purely pastoral people, limiting their activities almost entirely to the care of their buffaloes and to the complicated ritual which has grown up in association with these animals." (p. 6) ... They have a completely organised and definite system of polyandry. When a woman marries a man, it is understood that she becomes the wife of his brothers at the same time. When a boy is married to a girl, not only are his brothers usually regarded as also the husbands of the girl, but any brother born later will similarly be regarded as sharing his older brother's rights." (p. 515.)

"The men are strong and very agile; the agility being most in evidence when they have to catch their infuriated buffaloes at the funeral ceremonies. They stand fatigue well, and often travel great distances.... In going from one part of the hills to another a Toda always travels as nearly as possible in a straight line, ignoring altogether the influence of gravity, and mounting the steepest hills with no apparent effort. In all my work with the men[Pg 288] it seemed to me they were extremely intelligent. They grasped readily the points of any enquiry on which I entered, and often showed a marked appreciation of complicated questions.... I can only record my impression, after several months' intercourse with the Todas, that they were just as intelligent as one would have found any average body of educated Europeans.... The characteristic note in their demeanour is their absolute belief in their own superiority over the surrounding races. They are grave and dignified, and yet thoroughly cheerful and well-disposed towards all." (pp. 18-23.)


The Pelew Islands: from J. G. Wood (vol. America, p. 447). See Captain H. Wilson, who was wrecked there in 1783.

"The inhabitants are of a dark copper colour, well-made, tall, and remarkable for their stately gait. They employ the tattoo in rather a curious manner, pricking the patterns thickly on their legs from the ankles to a few inches above the knees, so that they look as if their legs were darker in colour than the rest of their bodies. They are cleanly in their habits, bathing frequently and rubbing themselves with coco-nut oil, so as to give a soft and glossy appearance to the skin.... The men wear no clothing, not even the king himself having the least vestige of raiment, the tattoo being supposed to answer the purposes of dress.... In spite, however, of the absence of dress, the deportment of the sexes towards each other is perfectly modest. For example, the men and women will not bathe at the same spot, nor even go near a bathing place of the opposite sex unless it be deserted."

[Pg 289]

Natives of the Amazon Region

Alfred Russell Wallace, in his Travels on the Amazon (1853), speaks most warmly about the aborigines of that district—both as to their grace of form, their quickness of hand, and their goodnatured inoffensive disposition. He says (chap. xvii): "Their figures are generally superb; and I have never felt so much pleasure in gazing at the finest statue as at these living illustrations of the human form." In his My Life, vol. ii, p. 288, he says: "Their whole aspect and manner were different (from the semi-civilised tribes); they walked with the free step of the independent forest-dweller ... original and self-sustaining as the wild animals of the forest ... living their own lives in their own way, as they had done for countless generations before America was discovered. The true denizen of the Amazonian forests, like the forest itself, is unique and not to be forgotten."

From The Putumayo, or Devil's Paradise. By W. E. Hardenburg (1912).

"The Huitotos are a well-formed race, and although small, are stout and strong, with a broad chest and a prominent bust; but their limbs, especially the lower, are but little developed.... That repugnant sight, a protruding abdomen, so common among the 'whites' and half-breeds on the Amazon, is very rare among these aborigines.... Notwithstanding some defects it is not rare to find among these women many who are really beautiful—so magnificent are their figures, and so free and graceful their movements." (p. 152).

"Unions are considered binding among the Huitotos, and it is very rarely that serious disagreements arise between[Pg 290] husband and wife. The women are naturally chaste, and it was not till the advent of the rubber collectors that they began to lose this primitive virtue—so generally met with among people not yet in contact with white men" (p. 154).

[N.B.—These were some of the people so villainously tortured—men, women and children—for the collection of rubber, by commercial scoundrels, whose atrocities were exposed by Roger Casement and others. E.C.]

Fine Figures and Features of the Dyaks

Quotations from Beccar's In the Forests of Borneo, pp. 325 and 329. (Constable 1904.)

"On the morning of October 19, as previously arranged, Ladja, with eight other Dyaks, came to the fort duly equipped for the journey. Ladja was a handsome young man, tall like most of his companions, slender, and beautifully made. His profile was nearly regular, the nose perfectly straight, but the cheek bones rather too prominent and the chin rather pointed. His complexion was very light." ... "Our Arno boatmen in Florence always pole where the river is shallow, and use their poles exactly as the Dyaks do theirs, only they certainly cannot compare with the latter in the length of the journeys thus performed with their light canoes. Ours literally flew over the water handled with incomparable dexterity by my six young savages. There is to my mind no lighter and more pleasant mode of progression, and certainly no kind of work displays so well the elegant movements and perfect proportions of these young Dyaks, who, practically unencumbered with clothing, are truly splendid specimens of humanity."

[Pg 291]

From Ida Pfeiffer's book Meine zweite Weltreise, vol. i, p. 116. (Vienna, 1856.)

"I must confess that I would gladly have journeyed longer among the free Dayaks. I found them wonderfully honourable, gentle and modest; indeed in these respects I put them above any people that I have as yet become acquainted with. I could leave all my things about, and go away for hours together, and never was the least thing missing. They begged me occasionally for many an object they saw, but immediately gave way when I explained that I needed it myself. They were never over-pressing or tiresome. It will be said, in denial of this, that the beheading of corpses and preservation of skulls does not look exactly like gentleness; but it must be remembered that this sad custom is chiefly the result of rude and ignorant superstition. I stick to my opinion, and as a further proof, would cite their domestic and thoroughly patriarchal mode of life, their morals and manners, the love that they have for their children, and the respect their children show to them."

A Rodiya Boy

Ernst Haeckel in his Visit to Ceylon, describes the devotion to him of his Rodiya serving-boy at Belligam near Galle. The keeper of the rest-house there was an old man whom Haeckel, from his likeness to a well-known head, called by the name of Socrates. And Haeckel continues: "It really seemed as though I should be pursued by the familiar aspects of classical antiquity from the first moment of my arrival at my idyllic home. For as Socrates led me up the steps of the open central hall of the rest-house, I saw before me, with uplifted arms in an attitude[Pg 292] of prayer, a beautiful naked brown figure, which could be nothing else than the famous statue of the 'Youth Adoring.' How surprised I was when the graceful bronze statue suddenly came to life, and dropping his arms fell on his knees, and after raising his black eyes imploringly to mine bowed his handsome face so low at my feet that his long black hair fell on the floor! Socrates informed me that this boy was a Pariah, a member of the lowest caste, the Rodiyas, who had lost his parents at an early age. He was told off to my exclusive service, and in answer to the question what I was to call my new body-servant, the old man informed me that his name was Gamameda. Of course I immediately thought of Ganymede, for the favorite of Jove himself could not have been more finely made, or have had limbs more beautifully proportioned and moulded.

"Among the many beautiful figures which move in the foreground of my memories of the Paradise of Ceylon, Ganymede remains one of my dearest favorites. Not only did he fulfil his duties with the greatest attention and conscientiousness, but he developed a personal attachment and devotion to me which touched me deeply. The poor boy, as a miserable outcast of the Rodiya caste, had been from his birth the object of the deepest contempt of his fellow-men, and subjected to every sort of brutality and ill-treatment. He was evidently as much surprised as delighted to find me willing to be kind to him from the first.... I owe many beautiful and valuable contributions to my museum to Ganymede's unfailing zeal and dexterity. With the keen eye, the neat hand, and the supple agility of the Cinghalese youth, he could catch a fluttering moth or a gliding fish with equal promptitude; and his nimbleness was really amazing when, out hunting, he climbed the tall trees like a cat, or scrambled through the densest jungle to recover the prize I had killed." (p. 200.)

[Pg 293]

Second Sight

Native "diviners" in South Africa, from The Spiritualism of the Zulu, by C. H. Bull, of Durban.

"Many years ago I was riding transport between Durban and the Umzimkulu. I checked my loads at Durban and found them correct with the waybill, but when I reached my destination I discovered that I was one case short, for which I had to pay. On my return to my farm, I mentioned the fact to my brother, who proposed, more in the spirit of fun than anything else, that we should visit a diviner, and endeavour to discover what had become of it. I consented, and together we repaired to a native diviner. He immediately informed us of the object of our visit, although, so far as I can tell, it was morally impossible for him to have known it through any ordinary channels, and then he went on speaking as though in a dream: 'I see a waggon loaded with cases climbing up the Umgwababa Hill; there has been a lot of rain and the roads are slippery. Half way up the hill the rains have washed a gully; into this the waggon lurches, displacing a small case, which falls to the ground, but the driver, who is busy urging his team up the hill, does not notice it. Now the waggon has passed out of sight, but I see a Kaffir coming up the hill. When he reaches the spot where the case is lying, he stops for a few moments to examine it, and then proceeds to the top of the hill, where he stands for a few moments shading his eyes with his hand, as though looking beyond. Now he returns to where the case is lying, and lifting it up, crosses the road, and pushing his way through some tall tambootie grass, he reaches a large indonie tree; under the tree there is a stunted clump of wild bananas. He places the case in the centre of the clump, and after concealing it[Pg 294] with some of the dry leaves, he goes on his way. The case is still there.'

"Though wholly incredulous of the truth of the vision, I sent two 'boys' to the spot indicated, and they returned bringing with them the lost case, having found it exactly where the diviner said that he saw it."

The Zulus

The Zulus: Quotations from General Sir W. Butler's Naboth's Vineyard, p. 263 (given in Blyden's African Life and Customs, p. 43).

"In all the sad history of South Africa few things are sadder than the Zulu question. Where the Zulu came (in those days), no lock or key were necessary. No man who knew the Zulu—not even the white colonist, whose rage was largely the result of his being unable to get servile labour from him—could say that he had not found the Zulu honest, truthful, faithful; that the white wife and child had not been entirely safe from insult or harm at the hands of this black man; or that money and property were not immeasurably more secure in Zulu charge than in that of Europeans or Asiatics."

From Blyden's African Life and Customs, p. 37.

"There are to-day hundreds of so-called civilised Africans who are coming back to themselves. They have grasped the principles underlying the European social and economic order and reject them as not equal to their own as means of making adequate provision for the normal needs of all members of society both present and future—from birth all through life to death. They have discovered all the[Pg 295] waste places, all the nakedness of the European system, both by reading and travel. The great wealth can no longer dazzle them, or conceal from their view the vast masses of the population living under what they once supposed to be the ideal system—who are of no earthly use to themselves or to others.... Under the African system of communal property and co-operative effort, every member of a community has a home and a sufficiency of food and clothing and other necessaries of life—and for life; and his children after him have the same advantages. In this system there is no workhouse and no necessity for such an arrangement."


From Wallace's Malay Archipelago, p. 336. (1894 edition.)

"This motley, ignorant, bloodthirsty, thievish population (Papuans, Javanese, Chinese, etc.), live here without the shadow of a government, with no police, no courts, and no lawyers; yet they do not cut each other's throats; do not plunder each other day and night; do not fall into the anarchy such a state of things might be supposed to lead to. It is very extraordinary! It puts strange thoughts into one's head about the mountain-load of government under which people exist in Europe, and suggests the idea that we may be over-governed. Think of the hundred Acts of Parliament annually enacted to prevent us, the people of England, from cutting each other's throats, or from doing to our neighbours as we would not be done by. Think of the thousands of lawyers and barristers whose whole lives are spent in telling us what the hundred Acts of Parliament mean, and one would be led to infer that if Dobbo has too little law England has too much."

[Pg 296]

Society without Government

From Morley's Rousseau, vol. ii, p. 227, note. (Eversley edition, 1910.)

"Jefferson, who was American minister in France from 1784 to 1789, and absorbed a great many of the ideas then afloat, writes in words that seem as if they were borrowed from Rousseau: 'I am convinced that those societies (as the Indians), which live without government, enjoy in their general mass an infinitely greater degree of happiness than those who live under European governments. Among the former public opinion is in the state of law, and restrains morals as powerfully as laws ever did anywhere. Among the latter, under pretence of government, they have divided the nation into two classes, wolves and sheep. I do not exaggerate; this is a true picture of Europe.'" (From Tucker's Life of Jefferson, vol. i, p. 255.)

Security without Government

From Tafilet, p. 353. By W. B. Harris. (Blackwood, 1895.)

"The Moors have a proverb, and it is a very true one, that safety and security can only be found in the districts where there is no government—that is to say, where the government is a tribal one."

Degradation through "Civilisation"

From The Spiritualism of the Zulu. By C. H. Bull, of Durban.

"Thirty-two years ago, I lived for some time in a district in Natal, then thickly populated with natives, still [Pg 297]conforming to the primitive customs of their race, yet honest, manly and intelligent people, with very definite ideas in regard to moral questions. After an absence of thirty years, just prior to my sailing for England, I again visited the district and was amazed to observe the change which had taken place in the people; their habits, characters and physique. Sordid poverty, dressed in mean rags or tawdry finery, suggestive of service to vice, had displaced the old dignity, born of conscious physical strength and symmetry of form, which once, though attired only in the trappings that simple art could devise from the rough products of nature, was characteristic; whilst drunkenness, dishonesty and immorality sought shelter under the meagre cloaks of the religion dispensed by the different sections of belief, established in the little iron, or wattle and daub churches, which everywhere disfigured the country side. The change was complete and deplorable, nor were the natives unconscious of their degradation, or without regret for the passing of the old days."


From Waitz's Anthropologie der Naturvölker, vol. ii, p. 281. (Leipzig, 1860.)

"One finds that the fate of Slaves among the ruder peoples is much happier than among the civilised; indeed it seems to grow worse and worse in proportion to the civilisation of the ruling folk. Strange and incredible as at first sight this seems, the following facts establish it beyond doubt. And indeed it is not difficult to explain. The chief reason is that with the increase of merely material culture, Time and Labour-force are more and more prized, and consequently always more violently and[Pg 298] unscrupulously exploited, while on the contrary among primitive people in general a lesser value is placed on these things."

The Fraud of Western Civilisation

Extract from "A Letter to a Chinese Gentleman," by Leo Tolstoy. (Published in Saturday Review, December 1, 1906.)

"Amongst all these Western nations there unceasingly proceeds a strife between the destitute exasperated working people and the government and wealthy, a strife which is restrained only by coercion on the part of deceived men who constitute the army; a similar strife is continually waging between the different states demanding endlessly increasing armaments, a strife which is any moment ready to plunge into the greatest catastrophes. But however dreadful this state of things may be, it does not constitute the essence of the calamity of the Western nations. Their chief and fundamental calamity is that the whole life of these nations who are unable to furnish themselves with food is entirely based on the necessity of procuring means of sustenance by violence and cunning from other nations, who like China, India, Russia and others still preserve a rational agricultural life.

"Constitutions, protective tariffs, standing armies, all this together has rendered the Western nations what they are—people who have abandoned agriculture and become unused to it, occupied in towns and factories in the production of articles for the most part unnecessary, people who with their armies are adapted only to every kind of violence and robbery. However brilliant their position may appear at first sight it is a desperate one, and they must inevitably perish if they do not change the whole structure of their[Pg 299] life founded as it now is on deceit and the plunder and pillage of the agricultural nations."

From O'Brien's White Shadows in the South Seas. (New York, 1919.)

"A hundred years ago there were 160,000 Marquesans in these [South Sea] Islands. To-day their total number does not reach 2,100." O'Brien describes the bad effects of Christianity on these "savages." For he says the so-called superstitions of these races had a great vitalising influence. Their dancing, their tattooing, their religious rites, their chanting and their warfare gave them a zest in life. But "to-day all Polynesians from Hawaii to Tahiti are dying because of the suppression of the play-instinct that had its expression in most of their customs and occupations." And they are now "nothing but joyless machines" and "tired of life."

Failure of Our Civilisation

For a searching comparison between our social conditions and those of the many savage communities visited by him—and much to the general advantage of the latter—see A. R. Wallace's Malay Archipelago (1st ed. 1869), pp. 456, 7 (ed. 1894). And he ends the book by saying:

"Until there is a more general recognition of this failure of our civilisation—resulting mainly from our neglect to train and develop more thoroughly the sympathetic feelings and moral faculties of our nature, and to allow them a larger share of influence in our legislation, our commerce, and our whole social organisation—we shall never, as regards the whole community, attain to any real or important superiority over the better class of savages. This is the lesson I have been taught by my observations of uncivilised man.

"I now bid my readers—Farewell!"


[50] Dall, Alaska and its Resources, Cambridge, U.S., 1870.

[Pg 300]

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