of the writings of Confucius strengthens the philological inference that China, far from having reached an advanced stage of development, has been irrevocably fixed at a very low point. The nation whose greatest literary production is the “ SseChou” may perhaps be lingering in stunted infancy; it is certainly not enjoying a green old age. While with regard to Egypt and Hindustan, as well as Assyria, it may be said that the colossal monuments which have adorned those countries since prehistoric times bear witness to the former prevalence of a barbaric despotism totally incompatible with social mobility, and therefore with well-sustained progress.* The sculptures upon these monuments, moreover, betoken a very undeveloped condition of the artistic faculties. Space permitting, it would be easy to show that the caste-system of Hindustan has resulted from the crystallization of family relations peculiar to a quite infantine state of society.t And the social phenomena of Egypt, so far as they are known, have similar implications.

Not to dwell too long upon details of this sort, it may be observed that the hypothesis of old age is altogether inadequate to explain many striking phenomena of national decline. Marked evidences of a falling off in civilization have been found among the Tunguz, the Kalmucks, and some North American tribes, as well as in South Africa; † and no one will contend that, in the case of these archaically modelled communities, decline can be pronounced equivalent to senility. I do not attach much weight to the current opinion which ascribes the declension of higher communities to their conquest and absorption by less cultivated races; though the conquest of mediæval Russia by the Mongols may perhaps be cited in its support. For when a civilized nation is thus compelled to succumb to barbarians, it is usually owing to the presence of vital defects in its internal structure, which may safely be presumed to indicate spontaneous decline. Greece could not have been absorbed by Macedon, Rome would not have yielded to the Teutonic assault, the Spanish Moors would not have lost their empire, had not domestic decay preceded and invited foreign violence. But in neither of these three typical cases can the growing weakness be interpreted as an index of political old age. The Greeks were conquered because they had never attained political stability, though if Athens had been victorious in the Peloponnesian war they might have done so. Instead of gradually uniting to form an integral nation, their numerous civic communities had by mutual repulsion continually weakened each other. But the unsocial spirit of autonomy, to which this result was due, was at its maximum in the earliest period of authentic Grecian history, and cannot therefore be considered a symptom of old age. The fatal defects in Roman civilization were the draining away of the rural population of Italy for military purposes, and the consequent expansion of slave labor; the lack of a representative system of government, which, with territorial enlargement, rendered necessary an imperial despotism; and the ignorance of political economy which allowed C. Gracchus to establish a maximum price for corn, and which consigned the administration of the provincial revenues to the rapacity of private speculators. Moorish civilization perished, because it had no municipal, aristocratic, or ecclesiastic bodies interposed between the caliph and his equally enslaved subjects. None of these flaws in social organization have any special connection with overripe senility. They belong to the earlier rather than to the latter epochs of national life. And I believe that history, if narrowly scrutinized, will yield no support whatever to the statement that nations grow old and die.

* “ Ancient Egypt may be considered as a great latifundium, or plantation, cultvated by the entire population as the king's slaves." -Lewis, Astr. Anc., p. 435.

† M‘Lennan, Primitive Marriage, p. 255.
| Tylor, Early History of Mankind, pp. 184, 185.

Dr. Draper's theory that social life repeats the phases of individual life will not, therefore, bear a critical examination. Fragmentary as are the considerations which have been adduced, they still suffice to prove that his division of history into epochs is thoroughly fanciful, and they imply moreover that every similar division, sustained though it be by numerous facts, must surely be overthrown by other facts which are equally essential. Dr. Draper's arrangement is perhaps as good as any other which could be framed with equal minuteness; but all such attempts must ever be impracticable, because they rest upon an unproved and unprovable assumption. Against the assimilation of the social to the human organism may be urged two insurmountable objections. In the first place, a social aggregate has no definite form. It has no symmetry, either spherical, radial, or bilateral. It has not even the specific unsymmetry which characterizes the mollusks. Fluctuating and irregular to the last degree in its external shape, society might more fitly be compared to a polypdom than to anything higher in the scale. In the second place, the living units of society “ do not and cannot lose individual consciousness," while the community as a whole has no corporate consciousness.” “The corporate life must here be subservient to the lives of the parts; instead of the lives of the parts being subservient to the corporate life." * Of these distinctions, the second is the more important, but both are fundamental. Owing to the Protean changes undergone by society in its figure, it has been impossible for Dr. Draper clearly to determine the number of social biographies of which past history consists. Yet either the whole human race must, on his theory, be likened to one individual, — as was done by Pascal,

or its separate communities must be likened to several individuals. In the first case, we have an individual, of which some parts develop, while others do not; and in the second case, we have a company of individuals of whom, while some have attained various stages of maturity, others have lingered in perpetual infancy. With these last — the stationary savage tribes - Dr. Draper's theory cannot even pretend to deal. Their history presents not even a superficial resemblance to individual life. The human child either dies or grows to manhood. Seeds kept for centuries in an Egyptian sepulchre may flourish when exposed to sunlight, but with man such a suspension of development is out of the question.

* Spencer's Essays, 2d series, p. 154.

| Viewed as a formula for intellectual development alone, the slight amount of truth contained in Dr. Draper's theory has been much more accurately enunciatel by Comte, in his well-known doctrine of the three stages of mental progress. That the human mind advances from credulity through inquiry to knowledge is a marked instance, and probably the only one, of the alleged parallelism between the individual and the race. This kind of progression, together with a vast number of other striking conceptions, is expressed in Comte's statement that human thought has passed from the theological, through the metaphysical, into the positive stage. To these three periods Dr. Draper's ages of credulity, inquiry, and reason may be said roughly to correspond ; though the latter, far more than the former, partake of the nature of chronological epochs, and have accordingly a curtailed applicability and a diminished value.

But though Dr. Draper's theory does not express the truth, it nevertheless contains an approximation to the truth. A society cannot indeed be compared to a man, but it may still be treated as an organism. And the laws of social evolution will have been to a great extent determined, if they can be proved to be identical with the laws of organic evolution. The law according to which progress takes place in the animal and vegetable worlds, discovered by Von Baer, has been extended to the phenomena of human society by Herbert Spencer. A few illustrations of the general law of organic evolution will assist the reader in understanding the special laws next to be stated.

The researches of Harvey on generation established the truth that every animal has at some period of its existence consisted simply of a structureless and homogeneous germ. Whether this germ is detached from the parent organism at each generation, as in all the higher animals, or only at intervals of several generations, as in the Aphides, or plant-lice, matters not to the general argument. In every case the primitive state of an animal is a state of almost complete homogeneity. The germ-cell of a lion, for instance, possesses no obvious characteristic whereby it can be distinguished from the germ-cell of a horse or a dog. Moreover each part of it is as nearly as possible like every other part, in texture, in chemical composition, in temperature, and in specific gravity. Here, therefore, in two ways it is seen that homogeneity is the parent of heterogeneity. In the first place, all animal germs are homogeneous with respect to each other, while the animals developed from them present all kinds and degrees of diversity; and, in the second place, each germ is homogeneous with regard to itself, while the creature developed from it is extremely heterogeneous. The successive differentiations and integrations by which this change is brought about may be found described in any modern work on organic development, and need here be but briefly sketched. The first differentiation is that between the outer coating of the cell on the one hand, and its interior contents on the other hand. The outer coating is then differentiated into two layers, the outer layer being destined to become the nervo-muscular system, the inner layer to produce the digestive apparatus. Between these two, by a further differentiation, arises the rudiment of the circulatory system. Then are successively differentiated from the alimentary canal the liver, stomach, and various secreting glands, until the once homogeneous intestine becomes very complex. Along with this, a parallel process is going on in the outer layer: the nervous system, at first appearing as a mere groove upon the surface of the germ, finally exhibits an almost endless heterogeneity. First, there is the difference between white and gray tissue; then there are the differences between the cerebrum, the cerebellum, the medulla oblongata, the spinal cord, and the sympathetic system, each of which parts, moreover, is extremely heterogeneous in itself; and then there are the innumerable differences entailed by the highly complicated connections established between one nervous centre and another, by the inextricable crossings, interlacings, inosculations, and entanglements of different sets of nerves with each other, and by the circumstance that some nerves are distributed upon muscles, others upon glands, and others upon ganglia. These will suffice as examples of differentiation. Then, as cases of integration, may be cited the union of all the bile-cells, which are one after another differentiated from the surface of the alimentary canal, into one distinct organ, the liver ; and also the union of the anterior vertebræ to form the skull. It should be noted that integration is just as essential a part of the whole process as differentiation. If the latter alone took place, we should have simply a chaotic medley of organs and tissues. Both operations are requisite to produce a system of organs capable of working in concert. And if either process goes on alone, in any part of the body, disease, and often death, is the result. Cancers, lupi exedentes, and malignant tumors are merely vague differentiations, which, never becoming integrated in harmony with the rest of the organism, end by maiming and finally destroying it. To give a full list of the differentiations which take place in the course of the evolution of a single individual would be to write the entire history of the animal organism. This was done by Von Baer; and whoever will take the trouble to read his Entwickelungsgeschichte will have the truth thrust upon him at every page that organic evolution is a

« VorigeDoorgaan »